“Lucy” Movie Review

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Review by Saumya Chandra

Science fiction movies are a rapidly trending genre in Hollywood made even more fascinating when paired with some action and adventure. This time it comes in the form of a new thriller by Luc Besson, a veteran French filmmaker, who is known for his unconventional and rather adventurous creative efforts. Although well-intentioned, his movies are known to range from daring to disappointing with the movie Lucy falling somewhere midway in the spectrum.

An action movie predicated on a scientific fallacy, Lucy revolves around the concept that human beings use a mere ten percent of their total brain capacity. Besson wonders that if humans were to unlock the entire hundred percent of their brain capacity, what would the result be? This forms the plot of the action thriller Lucy which stars prominent actors like Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi and Amr Waked.

The film starts off by presenting Lucy, played by Scarlett Johansson, as an average and innocent schoolgirl who is manipulated by her nasty boyfriend into taking a locked case to a high-end hotel asking for a Mr. Jang. Mr. Jang turns out to be an evil drug dealer who literally washes his opponent’s blood off his hands after dispensing some rough justice. Unfortunately for Lucy, the locked case is full of several bags containing a newly created drug of unbelievable power. Lucy is forced into being a drug mule and has to submit to a bag of the drugs being sewn into her stomach.

Meanwhile, a Paris based professor, Samuel Norman, who appears to be one of the leading experts on human brain, is shown to be giving lectures about how humans use so little of their brain capacity. On the other side, the bag of drugs breaks open in Lucy’s stomach and the overdose stimulates her brain into an evolutionary process that enhances all her senses as well as her cognition and memory to superhuman levels. However this comes at a price and Lucy quickly becomes aware that the drug overdose will kill her in 24 hours. Amidst the various action sequences and revenge confrontations that follow, Lucy turns to Professor Norman to find some meaning of her rapidly dwindling life.

While the psychedelic action thriller, Lucy, may not have the best plot, Scarlett Johansson’s charismatic presence as well as effortless acting carries the film well and goes so far as to bridge Beson’s narrative and logical lapses. Fully embracing the character, Scarlett very realistically depicts the psychological transformation of Lucy from an average schoolgirl to a girl with superhuman abilities and acquiring audience’s empathy in the process.

Besson, as a director, has a core of sincerity that drives his films. That coupled with his appreciation for strong female characters has led to the creation of Lucy. In spite of his best efforts though, Lucy falls short of its goal as science fiction and remains firmly in the realm of science fantasy. It may not win any prizes, but for those willing to accept the idea that humans use only 10% of their mental capacity, Lucy is certainly fun and engaging. It is certainly recommendable for a one-time watch!

The Giver Movie Review

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The Giver Review
By Rob Jefchak

In a slew of teen focused fantasy books being rapidly bought and adapted for the big screen, it’s hard to tell where a film like “The Giver” really stands because it’s crutches are made almost entirely out of the recycled imagery and essences of past “Hunger games” copy cats like “The Maze Runner”, “Divergent” and “The Host.” I didn’t even have to see the title sequence in the trailer where it says “based on the hit novel series” to know this was based off a teen fantasy book series, the movie is literally shot the same way as every other teen fantasy formed flick. So does “The Giver” actually have anything different to give to book fans and movie goers at all? That’s what were about to find out as we delve into everything “The Giver” has to give us.

Set in yet ANOTHER dystopian future, this world is “perfect” where everyone here is happy, peaceful and is completely at ease with everything the way it is without any kind of negative emotions to emerge…or any emotions for that matter. When Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) turns 18, he is chosen to become the “receiver of memories” and undergoes secretive training with a man known only as the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Through the Giver, Jonas learns about real emotions such as fear, war, hate and all the secret unhappy truths about this “perfect world.” Once he realizes his world is an illusion, he goes on the run to escape this false life and the puppet master like control of the Chief Elder (Meryl Streep); who wishes to capture Jonas because of what he knows.

While at the core “The Giver” rings the same kind of bells we’ve all heard a thousand times before, in certain key areas there are quite a few interesting aspects that I actually found rather likable. While the teen leads act like they were picked just because they happen to look the parts (especially the boorish Thwaites), the cast you expect quality from thankfully deliver and give you someone worth looking at. Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges are powerhouse actors; they are scene stealers, grand standers and they know how to make the best of each moment and line on screen. Usually big name celebrities only appear in these kind of films to boost non book fans interest and then are barely even shown in the film despite their name power (like Diane Krueger in “The Host” or Timothy Olyphat in “I am Number Four”.)

Here though, Streep and Bridges deliver actual characters and prove they are here for more than just generating popularity buzz. Another one of the few elements that actually intrigued me was the use of the camera work and unique color/visual schemes. When Jonas starts to see the world for all its actual real worth, the use of color and black and white use create a stark contrast that helps bring the audience to the striking conflict these two realities have when seen through the main character’s eyes. I feel I got a better sense of actual depth and understanding to the core of this film’s theme more so than any other teen book-to-film series before.

Even some of the smaller roles filled by the likes of Katie Holmes, Alexander Skarsgard and more serve well in this film’s casting choices. I can’t help but point out though that there is still far more materials in here that you have seen than there is of material of you have not seen before. The copycat tracks from other teen series are still fresh and are clearly (and painfully) structuring certain elements in the world of “The Giver”; even though this is supposed to be its own unique universe. It’s hard to say where this series will go and if it really deserves to be continued and expanded upon like “Twilight” did; there’s an equal balance of good and bad elements that constantly tip toe into different directions.

“The Giver” overall is a decent effort with a little bit of above average tossed into an otherwise adequate mix. The visuals are interesting, great performances and I appreciate the deeper and more complicated approach to the character’s roles. But it’s still in desperate need of a fresh scented bath to wash off the smell of teen copycat drama in order to come out creatively clean and crips.
I give “The Giver” 2 stars out of 4.

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For Review

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By Rob Jefchak

Robert Rodriguez turned visual effects inside out and blackened it out with the truly spectacular, eye stunning adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel; “Sin City.” Now an astonishingly 7 long years later, a sequel arrives in a new film with multiple stories and characters bringing us back to the gritty gore soaked streets of Sin City in “A dame to kill for.” It’s been a long time since this film was first announce to arrive and since then, several actors in the first film have either declined to return (Clive Owen and Michael Madson: Dwight and Bob respectively) or passed away (Michael Clarke Duncan and Brittany Murphy: Manute and Shellie respectively). Has all this turmoil affected the film’s quality as well as the release? We’ll see.

The story takes place not too long after the first film (at least most of the stories do), where Nancy (Jessica Alba) is plotting revenge against Senator Roark (Powers Boothe) for causing the death of her beloved hero Hartigan (Bruce Willis). Marv (Mickey Rourke) joins forces with a love scorn Dwight (Josh Brolin) to stop a crazed man eater (Eva Green) and Johnny (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) challenges the senator in a live or die card game for glory. For the most part, the film logically follows the events of the first film and shows us how our previous “heroes” have fared since the last film’s events. However, due to the lengthy gap between films and replacing certain members; it becomes difficult to follow certain events in the film’s jumbled trilogy.

New comers like Eva Green, Ray Liotta and Joseph Gordon-Levitt bust their caps and bullets off creating new characters and they end up fitting into this dark world perfectly. The effort is there, the passion and silvery flare is all there and it keeps eyes and attention gloriously glued to the characters. Jessica Alba shines far beyond her stripper role and creates an even more dark and compelling personality that proves she is capable of deeper and darker material. Her entire segment in this film (like the first one) was the best tale out of the bunch and definitely made watching this film worthwhile. The gore and violence is indeed intense but oddly enough, the level of the gore has been toned down since the first film’s splatter spread.

Or perhaps the gruesomeness has been saturated in our systems long enough that it just doesn’t seem as barbarically bloody as it once did. I think that’s the biggest flaw with “A Dame to kill for”: we’ve kind of seen this before. When “Sin City” first came out; it was new and daring and completely different than anything we had seen before. Rodriguez created a whole new visual style of cinematic magic and reinvented certain actors in brand new forms that the audience never expected to see. But with “A dame to kill for”, nothing really feels as awe inspiring as it did the first time. The film feels confident relying on its original trick to be blinding enough that you won’t want to see any new tricks; despite the fact the film has had 7 long years to craft a new cinematic arsenal.

This is a sequel that should have been held at higher standards considering the time it took to make it and the obviously large shadow the first film left that still holds power by today’s standards. However, in reality this film just falls under “meh…it was okay”; the effort just feels half-assed and lacks any bite or ballsiness the first film so brazenly embraced. “A dame to kill for” continues the stories from before but does NOT reenergize them; it’s like riding a bike you haven’t used in 10 years and still expect it to be in tip top shape without applying any maintenance whatsoever. There’s still a lot of visual fantastical content, great performances and oodles of bloody body chopping to enjoy…it’s just not quite the same as it was the first time around. “A dame to kill for” still entertains but I can’t help wondering what it could have REALLY done if Rodriguez had put just a bit more bang for our bucks.

I give “Sin City: A Dame to kill for” 2 ½ stars out of 4.

Guardians of the Galaxy

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Review by Rob Jefchak

Marvel has created an unbeatable franchise foundation upon its film’s comic book titans, overshadowing the embarrassingly weak films from DC and even making Fox pictures shake in their corporate boots. With enough fame and fans, Marvel feels confident enough to bring one of its strangest and lesser known titles to the big screen in a very big way: “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Can dark comedy director James Gunn (Slither, Super) turn one of the biggest unknowns into a new Marvel juggernaut for their universe of supremacy? Let’s find out. The film follows Peter Quill (Christ Pratt), a trouble making; wanna be outlaw who was abducted from Earth when he was a child and has been traveling outer space as a smart mouthed wild card, by the name of Star Lord.
Quill comes across a powerful orb sought after by the villainous, power packing alien known as Ronan (Lee Pace). In order to stay alive along with the rest of the galaxy, Quill joins forces with an unusual bad of smart mouthed, space scum like an alien assassin (Zoe Saldana), a vengeance seeking warrior (David Bautista), a talking/gun toting raccoon and a talking tree who can only say his name (Vin Diesel). Now I know comic book heroes fairly well but even I was scratching at my head when Marvel announced this title getting a green light when so many other famous super heroes are still waiting for their big screen debut. “Guardians” is a different kind of movie in every possible way; it’s a risky new type of story for Marvel but thankfully it paid off BIG time.
This film is a like a mix of “Star wars”, “Animal House” and “The Avengers” all rolled into one. The director wisely took this film’s approach in a comedic direction, there are too many silly things that would have turned people off or made them laugh negatively at the outright lunacy this film was trying to take seriously. With the comical tone, everything feels natural and it gave audiences an idea of what kind of tone this movie was setting. There’s something to be said about a film that knows how to have fun and people foolishly think that means the movie requires your brain to be turned off or dumbed down to appreciate or enjoy what’s going on. This movie is not only about fun but it is WELL made fun, it’s a good time drenched in gallons of enthusiastic awesome that always leaves the best kind of lingering flavors in your mouth.
Not only is the film’s comic idea unusual but so is the casting; there is a very odd mix of actors (some famous, others are rising) that thankfully mixes perfectly well with the movie’s scope and feel. Pratt is hilariously perfect as the film’s lead, charming and amusing yet able to take on action and physical roles with perfect transitioning. Zoe Saldana once again embraces the world of Sci-fi with her role as the alien warrior Gamorra; she’s serious, seductive and a perfect role model for female Marvel fans. Much praise goes to MMA star and new rising actor Bautista; he has a deadpan delivery that produces some of the film’s most hilarious one liners and reactions. But easily, the film’s stand out roles belongs to two CGI critters: Bradley Cooper as Rocket Raccoon and Vin Diesel as Groot.
I really can’t speak enough good things about the film’s cast and there’s still so MANY great names attached to this: John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Karen Gillian, Benecio Del Toro and more. You don’t need to know comics, Marvel films or have any kind of knowledge prepared to see this movie; the only thing you need to prepare for is to have a lot of laughs coming your way. “Guardians” is a treasure trove of unexpected wonders, laughs and unforgettable characters from a seemingly forgotten comic book title. The minute this film ended, my wife and I immediately wanted to sneak into the next showing to see it again; that’s the highest compliment I can pay to any movie.
I give “Guardians of the galaxy” 4 stars out of 4.