RSS

Lucy

by Jon Olsen

Innocent Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a foreign exchange student in China who gets forced into delivering a package to a Chinese mob boss with sinister intentions, but things go from bad to worse when Lucy unwittingly comes into contact with a chemical substance that unlocks the full potential of her brain, allowing for insane and incredible abilities. She goes on a quest for revenge and meaning (in that order), and the 90-minute running time is filled with equal parts action and nonsensical exposition.

The most jarring thing about this film is the scope it attempts to capture, seemingly asking questions about life, history, the result of human evolution and the true purpose of life. This is all mirrored with a story of a one-note blonde woman walking calmly through corridors and rooms, shooting multiple people, devoid of emotion. The director seems to want us to wrestle with what it means to be human, even going so far as to dedicate a good section of the movie to Lucy and Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) discussing that very topic openly and outwardly (it’s also the first conversation the two characters ever have).

Lucy manually moves and isolates data signals against a windshield. I wish I was making that up.

Aside from the lopsided message of the film, it’s tone is equally as confusing. Lucy and the rest of the characters in her movie can’t seem to decide if they are in a serious, gritty sci-fi thriller or in a B-movie that wants to be the bastard child of Limitless and The Matrix. Life-pondering questions are being asked out loud by one character as another slides down a hallway in the middle of a firefight, screaming and firing a bazooka. At one point, Lucy gets into a car with Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), telepathically moves him from the drivers seat to the passenger seat, starts driving down the wrong side of the road in Paris at full speed, and calmly tells him, “I’ve never driven before.” The audience laughed, but both characters were stone-faced and serious. Del Rio never reacts with surprise or wonder, even as Lucy begins to do all sorts of wild things with her brain.

Lucy and Norman, with the exact expressions the have on their faces for the vast majority of the movie.

Scarlett Johansson is really trying with the script she was given, but there wasn’t a lot to work with, and it shows. Morgan Freeman’s Professor Norman, largely onscreen to explain to Lucy or other scientists what is happening in layman’s terms, does what is expected of him from an acting standpoint but brings absolutely no charm or charisma to his character; something we know he is capable of doing. The tertiary characters are all very one-note, and as such none of them really stand out.

Wait a minute… Lucy is The Mandarin?!

It should be noted that the action in the movie isn’t bad. It’s handled well onscreen and was even fun in some moments. But the rest of the film really kills any fun that the movie could be. Lucy is hard to root for, particularly because her emotions literally exit her body as her brain’s capacity begins to increase. She even tells Del Rio “We never really die” at one point, essentially telling the audience, “Don’t waste your time caring about me.” In a particularly cringe-worthy scene, Lucy is speaking to her mother on the phone, trying to explain what is happening to her. She recounts memories she could possibly remember from her childhood, and at one point actually begins to describe in detail the experience of breastfeeding. To her mother. It was one of the many times throughout the movie where I muttered under my breath, “…What on earth is going on?

Lucy is not worth your time. I wish I could say that it was, but then I’d be lying to you. It’s plot, over-exposition, poor characters and emotionless heroine combine into a lackluster movie experience that could have been so much better. Here’s hoping they never greenlight a sequel.

GRADE: C-

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2

By Jon Olsen

This a guest review by a snarky student of mine whom I like a great deal. Great review, Corinne!

Jon Olsen

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 4, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Skyfall

By Ken Whitney III

James Bond 007 (Daniel Craig)

When do we become obsolete? At what point do you feel that who you are has not (or never has) been in your control?

We welcome back the best secret agent in the business, celebrating 50 years of saving the world in style, with SKYFALL – and BOY is it a doozy of a birthday celebration.

James Bond (played consistently and better with every film by Daniel Craig) is on the hunt for a hard drive containing a list of all undercover operatives in terrorist cells around the world. Things begin to spiral out of control and M (returning Dame Judi Dench) has Bond’s field partner (Naomi Harris) take a shot that ends up hitting Bond and sends him to a watery grave… or so it seems (like you needed me to tell you that).

Months later a cyber-terrorist begins to bring the list out into the open, endangering the lives of countless agents; all the while Taunting M by pushing and prodding her with clues and messages that do nothing but shame MI6 and call into question the efficiency of British Intelligence. 007 is pulled back into the crosshairs of a mission he honestly may not be ready to take on, against a villain with nothing to lose and an uncanny ability to stay ahead of them all.

THE PROS: 23 Movies. Seriously? Let’s give the Bond franchise a nice round of applause *clapping*! The longest running franchise in film history has created one of the most thrilling, relevant, and rejuvenating chapters in it’s canon and it does so not only by looking forward to the future, but respecting the source of it’s origins. Sam Mendes enters the directing chair for the first time with Bond (his second though, with Craig *cough* Road To Perdition *cough*) and he owns it. Not just driving the sense of action and suspense needed to be on par with the best of 007’s films, Mendes brings the locations and scenery to life in the most breathtaking ways. From the bustling markets of Turkey to the cascading, desolate hills of Scotland, the camera finds its mark perfectly and gives us cinematic ‘eye candy’ we can’t get enough of.

Daniel Craig started out as a risk for the studios to replace Pierce Brosnan, but after Casino Royale audiences were convinced he held the Walther PPK rather nicely. Now on his third film, it is safe to say that Craig has made it into the arguable class of ‘best Bond behind Connery’. Craig encompasses every part of Bond we love most and rides it all the way home. From cold-hearted killing to delicate seduction, from simple one-liners and witty banter to a sense of genuine vulnerability, 007 hasn’t felt this fresh since Goldfinger. The script is strong and current, reflecting on the concept we’ve all been feeling since Tomorrow Never Dies: Is Bond outdated? Should we finally ‘put him out to pasture’? As M once put it; 007 is a ‘relic of The Cold War’, secret missions and shadowy ‘hits’ have become a thing of the past. We live in a world where being honest and frank about the world and it’s dangers is not only common, it’s expected by the people that are being protected. Even when it’s things we’d rather not know.

The supporting cast is top-notch as well. Judi Dench returns as M and the ‘mother’ figure-type role is expanded even further between herself and Bond. Ralph Fiennes adds his wonderful talent as Gareth Mallory, another high-ranking member of British Intelligence working to fix what’s gone wrong under M’s watch. A great treat we’ve all been wanting to come back has finally arrived: Q Branch is in. Played wonderfully tepid and to-the-point by Ben Whishaw, Q is Bond’s overdue access to his gadgets and a welcome, younger perspective in the discussion of how hard the ‘young man’s game’ of espionage and covert operations really is. And our Bond Girl is a treat of exotic mystery and distress. Severine (pronounced ‘Sev-er-eene’ and played very well by Berenice Marlohe) is the tempting and tainted link to Bond’s greatest enemy yet.

The real treat of Skyfall definitely comes to rest in the hands of none other than Javier Bardem. The Oscar-winning actor continues to add strange, twisted, new roles to his resume and this one is no different (and perhaps, one of his best). Bardem is Raoul Silva; the cyberterrorist that threatens not only the lives of countless agents but their leader as well. He is everything we love about Bond Villains. Wonderfully warped; he is a pleasure and horror to watch work, Silva encompasses revenge in all it’s morbid beauty. He chuckles and heartily laughs at the ineptitude of British Intelligence and Bond’s ‘misguided’ devotion to M. When all signs no longer look in his favor, that is when he is the most cunning and terrifying (that’s really all I can say without giving away the assured awesomeness of it all).

Bond (Craig) & Silva (bardem)

Bond (Craig) & Silva (Bardem)

CONS: The only real drag to the film is an odd sense of pacing that occurs in the middle half. Though still pushing forward, there is a sense of uneven storytelling that exposits without necessarily giving us reason to want and rest in the moment. The speed in which we begin almost moves us into gear too soon; causing Skyfall to stall slightly and slowly accelerate to a thrilling and lasting pace.

Q (Whishaw) & Bond (Craig)

Q (Whishaw) & Bond (Craig)

THE BOTTOM LINE: Bond has never felt more alive! Doing what he does best with all that we know and love about him, Bond is stirred even more with Craig adding his own sense of style to the mix. Skyfall is an exercise in refreshing storytelling of a classic medium. The old with the new and all the unexpected in between. 007 revels in the mystery of his inner self and untold past. The mystery is what helps us claim him as our favorite in our own, personal way. After 5 decades, you begin to wonder if the romance is still there. Can we learn to love this secret agent with a heart of ice again? Skyfall shows us that we can.

GRADE: A

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Looper

By Jon Olsen

 

 

Looper is one of those rare films that deals with well-trodden material (organized crime, time travel, self-preservation) but in such a fresh and unique way that all the concepts feel new again. In the year 2044, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a Looper, a hitman who executes people for the mob. The twist, however, is that these people are from 2074, sent thirty years into the past at an exact time and place, where they technically don’t exist and can be easily killed and disposed of by Joe. Loopers are paid well for their services, but a stipulation looms in the distance of every Looper’s life: when they kill a mark with gold strapped to their back (instead of the usual silver payment), they know they’ve just killed their future self. It’s understood as a contract-ending kill; you’re free to enjoy the next thirty years, as they’ll be your last. But when Joe’s older self (a grizzled and methodical Bruce Willis) is sent back to 2044 for execution, a chain of events begins that challenges the notion of free will and life as Joe knows it.

 

 

PROS: First off, it is very difficult to review this film’s story without giving anything away, and it’s so worth experiencing fresh in the theater that I’ll only say this about it: I’ve seen a lot of movies, but I’ve never seen anything like this. The story told by writer-director Rian Johnson (who previously directed JGL in 2005’s Brick) is so engrossing and powerful that it feels like a whirlwind of critical choices, power, and violence. If the trailer for this film doesn’t make you wince (i.e. you don’t hate violence enough to let it distract you from the incredible narrative within), then the story told here is beyond worth the price of your ticket. Gordon-Levitt proved his acting chops to me and many others seven years ago when Brick was released, but he is on another level here. If you thought his acting was great in Dark Knight Rises, trust me: you haven’t seen anything yet. Bruce Willis is also in fine form here in one of his most humanizing roles in years; his world-weary tone and cautionary harshness is a stark and intriguing contrast to young Joe’s rebellion and tunnel-vision. All the supporting roles are nicely filled, particularly with a strong showing from Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine, There Will Be Blood) as a fellow Looper who plays the veritable soothsayer to JGL’s Julius Caesar. The tone and grittiness of Johnson’s 2044 Kansas is bleak and captivating; you can see the affect of the failed promise of clean energy, prosperity and wealth as the world around these people has slowly imploded. The basics of western civilization remain; drug use, gunplay, adult entertainment and getting paid at any cost, contrasted later in the film with simple farm-living and attempting to raise a family in such a dark and complicated world. You at once understand the necessity for Joe’s environment and situation and also lament it’s existence. Simply put, the films premise, setting, characters and tone tie together in a strong bond that needs every strand to function. Thankfully, Johnson’s vision is realized here, and in fine form. As a final high point, without giving away one of the most jaw-dropping moments in the film (yes, mine literally dropped for about a minute straight), the way causality and violence are tied together in Looper was fantastically done. (So you know what I’m referencing, when you see someone about to climb a barbed wire fence, pay attention.)

 

 

CONS: Imagine walking into a cool, hip burger joint and ordering a standard burger. You know it’ll be good, and you have an expectation of it as well; you think you know what you’re getting. But as soon as you bite into it, you realize there’s balsamic aioli and garlic embedded in the grass-fed beef and carmelized onions and the bun is butter-encrusted ciabatta bread. It’s excellent, better than what you expected, but it was not what you were anticipating. That’s how I felt with Looper. There’s star power (sometimes to the point where it feels out of place) in Looper, but if there wasn’t, it would fall firmly and decidedly in the “breakout independent film” category, similar to this year’s Chronicle, which boasted excellent special effects but was clearly an independent production. As a viewer this didn’t bother me, but as a reviewer, it felt difficult to categorize what I had seen. I felt like I shouldn’t hold it to the same standards as a big-budget Hollywood film, but it feels so much like one sometimes that it was hard not to go there mentally. There are a few other minor gripes, like character tie-ins that were wholly unnecessary and story concepts that at first seem under-explained and under-developed, but those were more confusing for a moment or two than actual cons. The film honestly thrilled me and I have no other issues with it besides these.

 

 

THE BOTTOM LINELooper is, as many other reviewers have said, the standout sci-fi movie of the year. It’s dark, gripping, powerful, and haunting in a way few will expect. If violence is a hurdle for you and has the tendency to ruin your movie-going experience, then you should probably skip it; if not, then see this film. Today. Right now, if possible. It’s that good.

GRADE: A

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Audio Review: The Bourne Legacy

By Jon Olsen, Ken Whitney & Christine Whitney

We done did it again, folks! We got to see another movie together. This time, it was the reboot/continuation of the Bourne films: The Bourne Legacy. Enjoy!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Celeste & Jesse Forever

By Jon Olsen

Well folks, this is a first! I actually get to write a review of a film that most of you may see, but you haven’t seen yet. This is very exciting for me. (I’m not hooked up with some fancy Hollywood producer, mind you; this film was in limited release in LA and I drove up to see it.) My joy doesn’t simply come from telling you my opinion of a movie you don’t yet have an opinion of, but from telling you my opinion of such a lovely, funny, and heartfelt film as this: Celeste & Jesse Forever.

As the opening credits roll, we see snapshots of a brimming friendship/relationship with overlaid text; not horribly original, but something that works perfectly for this film. Celeste & Jesse are incredibly close and have an absolute blast together; there’s no doubt about that. They also happen to be lovers, and as the montage fades and the real film begins, we have learned much about the characters: they met in college, fell in love, became incredibly close, got married, began fighting, and have now been separated for six months and working their way through the divorce process. Celeste is a successful trend forecaster for a Vogue-like magazine and image firm, while Jesse’s graphic design career is faltering due to his sluggishness and inaction. They both want to believe they can be the most mature adults on the planet about their predicament, continuing to hang out constantly and support each other emotionally through the breakup and fully intending on being friends on the other side. But when Jesse gets mixed up with another woman, Celeste has to rediscover who she is without Jesse attached at her hip.

PROS: The moment I saw the trailer for Celeste & Jesse Forever about a month ago, I knew it was going to be something special, and it is. The trailer (seen above) perfectly casts the tone of the film to the average person: This is a story of modern love involving two people living in Los Angeles; one who appears to be a fully stable adult and another who appears to be coasting. As the film goes on and you see the lines blur between these two definitions, you truly enter into the painful, crazy, and the hilariously awkward world of Celeste & Jesse’s breakup. This is the best thing about the film, which is fortunate because it takes the entire 91-minute runtime to tell the story. The story that Rashida Jones, who plays Celeste, has written with her best friend/ex/writing partner Will McCormack is so grounded, so real, and so true-to-life that becomes charming simply by existing at all. The icing on the cake, in this sense, is the fact that the story is told so well. This could have easily become a Judd Apatow-produced, Seth Rogen-acted sex comedy, but instead it takes you from laughing to uncomfortable to brokenhearted and all the way back again. Jones is truly at her best in this film, getting to showcase her acting range far more than Parks & Recreation or The Office would ever have given her the chance to. After seeing her smiling face so much in other roles, seeing her crying and screaming and fighting is not only refreshing, but raw in a way that another actress may not have been able to achieve. Andy Samberg, best known for his zany Digital Shorts on the much-beloved Saturday Night Live, carefully and convincingly subdues his goofy side to give Jesse a wise-cracking exterior with a broken heart, an archetype we can all immediately recognize and relate to. The film is shot in a very skillful way, making Los Angeles appear far more beautiful and clean than it actually is. The world that Celeste and Jesse occupy is a real one, albeit a fake version of a real one. The dialogue you’re treated to in the film is not stiff or trite; characters talk over each other, interrupt each other, and offer truly golden lines that resonate on a deeper level than expected (“Do you want to be right, or do you want to be happy?”). The story of two people having to learn who they are without the other, all while dealing with the pressures and responsibilities of being adults, is truly a story for our age. With adolescence extending out into the late 20’s and early 30’s, people are growing older and older without fully-formed identities, and Celeste & Jesse Forever tackles the relationship side of that reality head-on, to fantastic and heartfelt effect.

CONS: As hilarious and joyful as this movie can be, sometimes that comes with a cost. One particular running joke that “C & J” have involving lip balm is pretty uncomfortable to watch in a dark room full of people, and it happens multiple times in the film. The drug dealer/wisdom-spouting friend Celeste & Jesse both get equal custody of in the breakup is often hilarious and tends to steal whatever scene he’s in, but they had no reason to make him a drug dealer. The fact that both Celeste & Jesse get high on the weekends without a second thought makes me respect them less as characters, and the drug dealer could have easily just been drinking a beer with them instead. Also, the Riley Banks B-story fell a little flat among all the other interesting things that were going on the film (played by Emma Roberts, niece of Julia Roberts, RIley Banks is a Ke$ha-like musical bad girl and client of Celeste’s firm, who turns out to be just a teenager in makeup at the end of the day).

THE BOTTOM LINE: Celeste & Jesse Forever is beautiful. It speaks to this generation loudly and clearly, and can still be enjoyed as two people’s journey of introspective observation. If the trailer appeals to you, the movie is more of the same, and better. If this opens anywhere near where you live, go see it. it’s worth your time, if only to see that young Hollywood can turn in a heartfelt, real romantic dramedy.

GRADE: B+

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Step Up: Revolution

By Jon Olsen

Image

Ok, first off, this will be a mini review. There’s no need for anything more than that. This also marks the first time I forego the “grade” portion of the review. It’s unnecessary, and you’ll see why.

Plot summary: Guy loves dancing, also lives in Miami. Dancing. Works at big hotel. Girl’s dad owns hotel. Dancing. Dad decides to tear down Guy’s neighborhood (Dancing) to build profitable new hotel (Dancing). Girl is conflicted. Dances to express feelings of conflict. How does it end? You figure it out. (Hint: what word did I use more than any other in this (Dancing) plot summary?)

PROS: The dancing. It’s great. It always is in Step Up movies. The movie also shot well. The music is solid. There’s returning characters from other Step Up movies, which is fun for a few minutes. Channing Tatum was nowhere to be seen, possibly due to his lucrative stripping career.

CONS: Everything else. The story is trite and completely predictable. At one point I started to guess which scene I would see next, and I was right for the last half of the film. The acting is passable at best, cringe-worthy at worst.

THE BOTTOM LINE: See this movie if you like street dancing. I do, so I saw it. If you don’t like street dancing, you already know you’re not going to see this. No one sees these movies to be moved dramatically. They know what they are and that’s why people like me like them. Bottom Line is this: If you like the dancing you see in the trailer, see the movie. If not, don’t. Simple as that.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

 
 
%d bloggers like this: