Monthly Archives: September 2014

Lucy Sucks

Lucy, a recent film directed by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson, did all right at the box office, beating Hercules in the week of July 27th.  But the tired and uninspired story is not much more than theater filler at the end of the day [insert joke about the molecules of the universe here].

Lucy_(2014_film)_poster

Lucy is an unknown but scrappy street urchin who we meet on the streets of Taiwan, arguing with her shady and very greasy boyfriend.  She’s messy and hungover and wearing a tight dress.  She is maybe a prostitute.  Shady boyfriend convinces her, eventually through force, to take a suitcase into a fancy looking office building and drop it off.  Of course things go terribly wrong, and she quickly finds herself in the midst of a drug smuggling operation that needs a mule.

Besson cuts these first scenes of Lucy being dragged into the situation with wildlife videos of jungle cats stalking and eating gazelles.  It’s not exactly groundbreaking but it’s at least interesting.  I imagine Besson shrugging modestly and going “eh, I was trying something new.”  Unfortunately it’s really one of the very few interesting touches in the entire film.

“Lucy” slugs along to a number of improbable and seemingly unimportant plot points, asking an extreme amount of suspension of disbelief from the audience while giving nothing.  Lucy ingests large amounts of this experimental drug on accident and becomes a Neo-esque god, making the internet really fast and tapping into cellphone conversations that for some reason look like lines of code.  For some reason: Lucy becomes less empathetic and more prone to senseless violence the more she ingests the drug.  For some reason: the entire knowledge of the universe can fit on a flash drive that sparkles.  For some reason: we are supposed to care about any of the characters in this film.

Morgan Freeman has an odd stint as a professor of chemistry (??) who also does research on the brain and touts the awful and untrue “Humans only use 10% of their brain” theory that is literally the reasoning of the entire film.  He gives a lecture on the subject at the beginning of the film that drags on way too long and loses points for having engaged and interested students.  We know they are all really on their smartphones through class.  He stumbles through the lecture like reading off of queue cards and can’t seem to muster up any excitement through the rest of the film.

The film grinds through an endless number of cliches that just seem shameful at this point.  The most recent influence is “Limitless” (2011) and then we’ll stretch back to the “Matrix “(1999) all the way to “Akira” which was TWENTY-SIX fucking years ago.  What I’m saying is: this story has been told already, lots of times, and why are you doing it again, Besson?  For reasons not very clear and that happen incredibly quickly, Lucy can control all communication waves, can move people about with her mind, and can travel through time.  Any of this would be very interesting if even an attempt were made at explaining it, or if we truly dug into some fascinating stuff about physics, time, and the mutability of matter.  I am genuinely interested in these things!  Sadly, “Cosmos” invokes a sense of wonder and possibility far better than “Lucy” can even dream.

Confession: I really liked “Limitless”!  It is a movie that knows EXACTLY what it is and gains strength from that.  The humor is great and understated, the problems are human and understandable, the wish-fulfillment feels real.  They actually try to give explanations as to why certain things happen in the movie’s own universe.  It is good enough that we can actually get to an interesting discussion about the bigger themes, to start: let’s compare Eddie’s pre-medication self with his final, realized, ideal self.  What does shlubby wannabe writer say about us in the 21st century?

“Lucy” doesn’t even begin to get there.  We have no idea who she is and why she’s hanging out in Taiwan for most of the movie.  Johansson tries this horrible affectation of a, well, affected person, maybe somewhere on the autism spectrum, who doesn’t make eye contact, talks in monotone, and has weird tics while explaining her new god-like state.  Compelling stuff, George Lucas can’t wait to hire her.

The only good parts of the film come from the small moments of humor: a bumbling padre of French cops (led by Amr Waked whose character seems to be left on the cutting room floor), a nurse’s face as she backs out of Lucy’s hospital room, a mob boss rushing the opening of a bomb because he has other things to do.  I wish Besson would stick to these small, humorous moments instead of wading into scifi cliches.  He should know better.

That’s really what truly has my ire: I wanted to like it so much!  I love “The Professional” and acknowledge that “The Fifth Element” is beloved, and Besson has great style.  I keep giving Johansson a chance, I don’t know why.  This movie had potential to be good.  There is no reason it should end up an uninteresting, jumbled mess of a story with no real heart.

Here are some interesting things to do with a story like this.  Actually give me an interesting theory on the beginning of the universe and the cause of the big bang.  Draw parallels between Lucy’s capacity as a woman to have a baby versus “reproducing” on a cellular/god-like level.  Have the protagonist become MORE attuned to humanity and human emotions as they gain powers, instead of becoming a murdering automaton.  Last: write actual interesting characters.

I guess “Lucy” isn’t a bad way to pass an afternoon watching cable, but I personally wouldn’t  waste the time.  The world itself is far too fascinating and marvelous to tell boring stories.  Shame on Besson.  I’m off to rewatch “Limitless.”

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Outlander S1E1 Recap

Outlander!  OUT-LAN-DER!  I have the fever.  Not quite in the Game of Thrones area yet but it’s more in my nether regions, you know?  I have a Scot thing.  You should meet my husband, he has dark curly red-brown hair and a deep barrel chest.  I’m a slave to myself.

Due to technical difficulties I am JUST NOW getting access to the new episodes, being that I am poor and do not have tv.  Thrifty, let’s say.  I realize I am late but we’re still gonna talk about OUTLANDER!  Here is my season 1 recap and review.

I am going to talk about the books in my recaps so don’t be a dick about it.  Like 18 different crazy storylines happen in each book, they last an eternity, you don’t even know.

OK: We’re talking about Outlander.  I started the books like, a month ago, and now I’m in the middle of book 3.  The writing is…pretty bad.  The story is addicting like, up at 3:30am on a work night reading with my kindle plugged in for backup battery addicting.  The romance is awesome.  The sexual politics kind of suck.  I am so excited for this show I can’t stand it.

I am on board with every part of this equation (except for the creepy sex and sometimes abusive relationship stuff).  Battlestar, Scotland, kilts, cheesecake, castles, magic ruins, witches, hot sex, good romance, annnnd…just hot Scottish dude, not gonna lie.  That’s like the number one, with the scifi/history element being a close second.  This show was made for me and I appreciate it.

*phew*
*phew*

I am curious how they’re gonna handle some of the more questionable parts of the book, namely (in book one) Jaimie whipping Claire and the overall acceptance of this kind of thing as something good that clears the air between everybody.  But we’ll get to that later.

So now: Outlander premiere recap!

I am going to admit that narration without purpose is one of my number one greatest hates in the world.  I do lead a sheltered life.  But narration in film is lazy – film is a visual medium and simply telling the audience what is going on is the absolute least use of the medium or talents.

Also, people disappear all the time?  Is there a rash of children wandering from their parents and never been seen again?  BAD narration, bad!

Ok: Claire is a trauma nurse in WWII.  She’s right in the thick of it, gets a face full of blood and doesn’t even care.  This is Claire the Mary Sue at her best.  She’s badass and swigs from champagne bottles like a mofo!  It’s a bit over the top for me, but I also like them emphasizing all the shit she must have gone through in the war as a nurse, which the book only lightly touches on with suggestion.  I do think it creates a good parallel between the war and the violent past she goes back to.

I do have to say: it feels pretty awesome to see Claire there, in the center of the shot, covered in blood and just being badass and the star of her own show and shit.  She’s not being sexy or being filmed as sexy.  She’s dirty and tired and covered in blood and she’s just dealing with that like a person.  Feels good.

Claire if your 1940’s life can be encapsulated in a vase then I say BORING.

I am way into the bagpipe Renfaire theme and so is my 14 year old self.  If there was a unicorn in this it would literally be perfection.

I think I love Tobias Menzies.  He was such a doddering idiot in Game of Thrones, his face was just so good!  And now he’s got the “I can’t perceive if anyone cares what I’m talking about” academic thing down along with some swagger and British repression.  Good is what I’m saying!  Good at being boring and also maybe more understandable than in the books.

Now Claire and Frank are in the streets of Inverness on their second honeymoon after the war.  “I think I should know the look of blood by now.”  Claire’s snappiness sometimes is overly snarky teenager but that’s part of her character and I just need to deal with that.

Claire’s “oh god this again” face as Frank yammers on about Scottish Halloween is very apt.  Sorry husband.

Claire and Frank jumping on the bed and sharing war stories is a very good moment and very well written scene.  Ending on the squeaky mattress and the smiling grandmotherly B&B lady is a bit gauche I think but I guess that’s where we’re going with this.

It’s interesting to see how light and playful Claire is around Frank.  I do think if things had been different, she probably would have taken a back seat to his teaching and have faded into the role of Frank’s charming wife.  Compare Claire in the Reverend’s study with her in the woods with Jaimie and we see who she really is.

This lady is way too dramatic about this tea leaf reading.  Let’s skip over this scene.

Yeah, Claire’s “Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ” needs some work.  It sounds off.  Hopefully Caitriana gets the hang of it.

OMG ghost Jaimie TEARS.  I spent all of book two crying about them being separated.  CRYING.  ALL THE TEARS for true love.  The way he reaches out his hand to steady himself!  It’s Mr. Darcy wet shirt level.

But we are also banning, as of this moment, anyone uttering “You look like you’ve seen a ghost” from all tv and movies forever, thanks.

“Sex was our bridge back to one another” UGH VOICEOVER DIE NOW.

The druid ruins dance scene was definitely brought to you by the Scotland Tourism Board.

The transition scene, of Claire in the car accident as a comparison to time travel, is beautifully done.  I am a huge sucker for the “gasp before the impact” sort of scene, where it builds up and then gets very quiet.  My favorite example is in Batman Begins and the many cuts to the “why do we fall” scene

Now we are in the 18th century, FINALLY.  I’m just skipping over the rest until we get to HOT JAMIE YES.  Pop that arm Claire!  You can always count on Jamie getting ridiculously injured every five minutes.

Yesssss Jaimie wrap your manly kilt around me, you’re so thoughtful, and also have a kilt.  And also feed me whiskey.  Perfect.

Hating this overlong flashback intercut with them discovering the ambush rock and Frank’s history lesson is too much.  We haven’t forgotten the scene that happened 10 minutes prior.  This makes me worried for ongoing voiceover: they don’t trust the audience.

Jamie is hurt AGAIN.  I have to warn you all that the entire book is just Jamie getting hurt in new and more interesting ways and Claire treating him tearfully.  About 50% of the time I am hearing Britta Perry talk about her “trembling feminine fingers.”

Claire’s sass with Jamie does seem to hearken back to how she would’ve been treating soldiers, keeping them tough and awake.  What I love about this is you can kind of tell how young Jamie is, he’s only like 22 or something, and he’s totally instantly smitten with Claire.  He’s being all cheeky but kind of bashful and she is just giving it right back to him and he liiiiikes it.

And we’re at Castle Leoch!  Now we can finally get to the good stuff, I hope.