Sunday, August 10, 2014

TIME FOR SOME MOVIE REVIEWS: "LUCY" and "GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY"

OK kids, this is a new feature for readmyopinion, a movie review! I will warn you when there is a potential spoiler.

Lucy had the potential to be interesting science fiction, but I will say up front - don't waste your time and money. I don't love LucyLucy is a predictable how-many-guns-can-we-shoot, how-many-cars-can we-crash overly loud so-called action film with a pseudo-intellectual premise, and a handful of big stars to try to recoup the cost of making it. They could have saved a lot of money, and saved the audience by throwing the script in the trash bin.

Let's start with those damned car chase scenes, shall we. There is really only one question that needs to be asked - why? The car chase scene has absolutely nothing to do with the story (to be fair, these gratuitous scenes of car derby destruction almost always have no relationship to the story). Where is it written that every movie has to have a car chase scene where hundreds of people are likely injured or killed, cars go flying through the air - usually the cars of the hapless police (see below) - and the heroes walk away unscratched. This scene in Lucy was totally absurd and a major distasteful distraction from the tiny shred of story line.

Oh yes, there was a story line, posed as a scientific theory lectured about by renowned Professor Morgan Freeman: what would happen if humans used more than the 10 percent of their brains that is actually used (and this number, by the way, is not scientific fact)?

Another very bothersome device used by these film makers is stereotyping. The police are hapless. They never seem to be around when people are being killed. When they are called to protect the university building where Professor Freeman and company are located, they walk right by and don't notice a fleet of big black SUVs across the street with a mob of Asian thugs dressed in all black unloading enough assault rifles and bazookas to fight a war! And of course, the army of thugs walks right in to the building and starts killing people. Oy.

Want some violence? Want some blood - lots and lots of blood? Blood squirting all over peoples faces who happen to be too close to the butchering? Random and senseless shootings, stabbings, and other truly gruesome forms of death? Lucy has a lot of it, go for it! We truly don't know why so many people are simply murdered in such seemingly casual ways. The bad guys are really bad guys, and to prove it, each one must have a quota of senseless murders to pull off per hour. The story thread involving the horrifically terrible bad-ass killer gang lord has nothing much to do with the plot of the film, except as a device in the beginning that creates the Lucy character. The rest of that thread is nothing more than gratuitous blood and guts violence for the sake of showing a lot of blood and guts violence. Meh!  

And then there are the scientists. Professor Freeman is dressed in university tweed. His lecture to a university audience (we have to assume) is one of the high points of the film; it is actually educational as well as entertaining, with terrific slide-show graphics and animations and simply beautiful nature video. The group of colleagues he gathers to meet Lucy (Scarlett Johansson)  are all in long white laboratory coats (and dark-rimmed glasses?). Why? They all look like Gene Barry's Dr. Clayton Forrester in the 1953 War of the Worlds! They are just there to talk to someone named Lucy. They stand in a group, in their white lab coats, and simply look incredulous as Lucy performs a bunch of magic tricks for them. "Ooh," "Aah," "What is she doing?" they say in science-geek unison. Ridiculous!

This movie actually goes nowhere in the 89 minutes of ridiculousness the audience has to endure. [POTENTIAL SPOILER ALERT] The ending is a poor copy of the ending in 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968 Stanley Kubrick), and made me want to yell out to director Luc Besson, in as much pain as I could, the immortal words of the HAL 9000 computer:  I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Luc. Luc, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a... fraid.

I guess if I need to say at least one positive thing, it would be that Ms. Johansson does a good job with her character, and she is, of course, pleasant to look at. 


OK, so the supposed sci-fi film wasn't worth the time and money (we were in beautiful downtown Burbank, where matinee movies were very expensive compared to my small town of Portland - and no senior discount!). But a few nights ago I walked down the street with a grandson and my favorite granddaughter to the Bagdad Theater, got some pizza and beer (they had pizza without beer), and settled in for Guardians of the Galaxy

First, you have to understand that this is a Marvel comic book movie. You have to say this to yourself before you walk in; it's a movie based on a comic book. If you don't like comic books, well, I suggest you go anyway.

I LOVE THIS MOVIE! I will see it again at least once. I laughed my ass off, loudly and frequently. The writing is brilliant, the characters are sublime, the actors, including those doing voice-overs, nail their roles spot on. A lot of the actors looked and sounded familiar, but I'm sure most of you readers know them better than I. Chris Pratt, as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, brings it with perfect comic timing. That's correct, he brings the "comic" to the "comic book." Quill is instantly lovable due to his preference in music - a 1980's mix tape; however, his boy-as-man manner, complete with puppy dog eyes when needed, his rapid quips, his seeming nonchalance with a hair-trigger violence switch all add up to one very likable character indeed. 

The script is replete with one-liners that almost made me pee my pants from laughter, they are that good. One reason I need to go again is to catch all of these sometimes obtuse historic lines and references to previous movies. Usually when the film makers mix a bunch of beings from different places in the universe into one crew, we ignore not only that they all speak English, but that they all understand everything each is saying. Not so in Guardians. Star Lord Quill uses a lot of Earth colloquialisms, which cause various other characters to stop and ask the obvious question. When Quill mentions that someone has a stick up his ass, Gamora (beautifully played by Zoe Saldana) stops, and asks with a puzzled look: "who put a stick up his ass, and why?"  

The Guardians is a group of sketchy characters who are thrown together despite their desires to kill each other. They are an interesting crew; an Earthling, a blue-skinned warrior lady, a kind-of tattood hulk of a humanoid, a raccoonish animal named Rocket (not Rocky), and a very talented tree named Groot that has a 3-word vocabulary. It turns out that, in spite of all the dislike between them, they actually work well together when they need to.

Yes, there are chase scenes in this movie, using spacecraft instead of cars. But the chases fit the story perfectly, good guys running from bad guys for a reason. 

The five Guardians have a knack for getting into and out of a lot of tricky situations, and gradually grow to respect and trust each other. And maybe that's the big take-away of this movie. We see each character learning some lesson about him- or herself, and also about the value of having comrades you can rely on. It actually gets a bit sappy (no, not dripping from the tree creature) at the end, but in a good way. How great is it that you can watch, and be sucked into, a comic book movie with absolutely terrific action sequences, dialogue, character development, cinematography and special effects, and walk out thinking about the lessons the characters learned? Lessons that we Earthlings better learn ourselves, and soon! 

The setups in this movie for sequels and prequels are obvious, and I can't wait, if they are as well done as this one.

All thumbs up for Guardians of the Galaxy. We are Groot! 

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