Thursday, July 31, 2014


Lucy - 90m - R

I have followed Luc Besson’s career for a long time. I fell in love with his writing from the film La Femme Nikita (1990). He never disappoints in making action films that are balanced with a good, interesting and engaging stories. Lucy is a big “what if” story that urges us to think about what we have done with our time here on the planet. Well, I have spent 90 min of my time watching a visually stunning story about the possible capacity for the human evolution. I am green lighting this film. Mr. Besson does not disappoint.

Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is a girl who is studying in China. Her boyfriend needs her to drop off a package at a hotel for Mr. Jang (Min-sikChoi). This quick drop off sweeps her up into the darker side of the underground drug trafficking business in China. She gets shanghaied into being a drug mule. The drug runners rough her up and she gets a dose of the drug she is smuggling. Her reaction to the drug gives her access to 20% of her brain, this gives her control over her body and she starts down an accelerated evolutionary track. During her journey she gets the help of a Paris Detective, Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), and Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman). Her evolution takes her to 100% control over her brain and the next phase of human evolution.

The trailer leads one to believe there were going to be more crunchy bits to the film—the kind of graphic violence where you hear the “crunch” of broken bones and dislocated joints. It’s graphic but very little in the way of hand to hand fighting. The action focuses more on the use of guns and superhuman abilities. Action move directors need to learn the balance that Luc Besson employs in his films. Action is there to enhance the story, not be the focus. If the action becomes a distraction, it needs to be dialed back. Cough… Michael Bay.. cough, cough.

This film brings up questions of where we are going, what we are doing with this incredible gift we take for granted. A good story brings up these concepts without giving you the answers. This movie is one that makes for some good conversations over pie.

Scarlett Johansson’s performance during this film starts out as one character and then her evolution requires her to embody a being that transcends our existence. She becomes more and more distant as the film continues. Morgan Freeman always does a good job and this is not his first Besson film. They have worked together a number of times. The first memorable role this collaboration had was in Unleashed. As always his characters are all spectacularly done.

The last film I saw with Amr Waked he played a royal prince in the film Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. His portrayal of a gritty Paris Detective comes off without a hitch showing off his range of characters. He also plays Lucy’s connection to humanity. Her journey takes her so far beyond our existence that she needs something to remind her of what she once was. This is the only criticism I have. He was supposed to be an anchor for her but he was more like a pet or a trinket that she brought with her. We never really understand what is so special about him that makes him her touchpoint.

Min-sik Choi wears the bad guy role well. He reminds me of a Korean Gary Oldman from the other Besson film, The Professional. A wonderful touch in this film is the lack of sub titles in the initial scenes with Lucy’s abduction. This brings the viewer into the feeling of not knowing what is going on and adds to the tension between the characters. It is a wonderful performance from Min-Sik Choi, his cold lifeless eyes are the icing on the scene. He has also lost touch with humanity for a completely different reason.

Luc Besson writes strong characters and all of them have a rich depth to give them savory believability. He writes with a firm balance between the ugliness and the beauty that humanity has. Getting people to feel for your characters is the hardest thing to do as a writer. His keen sense of how to bring that out in the script and on screen is masterful.

The take away I get most is how the film focuses on how much of a gift life is. I am sitting in a coffee shop reflecting on the 90 min ride I just got out of and I am feeling like I could be doing a whole lot more with my time. I can’t use 20 % of my brain, hell sometimes I don’t even use the 10% I am supposed to. I can’t change the world or my molecules.

I can change what I choose to spend my 10% on. I think I am going to focus on doing more on the things I enjoy doing that bring me closer to the things I want in my life. This kind of thinking is not necessarily what you would expect a person to be thinking walking out of an action film. It is what you walk away with when you walk out of a good film. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Maleficent - Posted on WebWombat

Maleficent - 97min - PG

Here is my review of Maleficent a new spin on an old classic. You can read it on Web Wombat. I took my son to it and he loved it.  Robert Stromberg has worked in the visual effects department so he knows how the shots should look and he also has an excellent eye for substance for his visually stunning film. 


Friday, June 20, 2014

22 Jump Street - Posted on WebWombat

22 Jump Street - 112 min - R 

My contact over at Web Wombat and I disagree on the rating for this film. I said it was only 2 and half wombats but half a wombat is gross so we rounded up. Take a look at the Web Wombat Article. They did better this round than last time, if they keep going the next one might even be a Green light.  But it would require a move to the other side of the street and up a block. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Chef - 114min – R

There is something wonderful about watching a true master of a craft doing what they love. It doesn’t matter what that skill is, watching someone put so much passion into their work is a wonder to see. The same can be said about this movie. It was kind of mind bending to see a movie about a person who is doing what he loves being played by the person who is also doing what he loves and doing it well. I am completely satisfied at the tasty meal that is this movie. I give it a green light and want it to add it to my menu of great movies.

The Chef is Carl (Jon Favreau) and he works for Riva (DustinHoffman). Riva owns the restaurant and has absolutely no imagination or ambition. He has a menu that has worked for the past 10 years and he has no desire to change. The largest critic (Oliver Platt) in the city is going to be reviewing their restaurant. Carl wants to wow the critic but Riva orders him to stick to the tired menu. The critic pans the meal and Carl has words with the Critic. Well in this age of modern technology and instant access to the world, his rant goes viral and Carl loses his job.

Carl and his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), and his Ex-wife, Inez (Sofia Vergara), plan a trip to go back to Miami to get in touch with Carl’s roots, the birth of his career. Cal decides to get a Food Truck and reinvent himself and start simple. He wants to just get back to cooking. With the help of his son and his line cook, Martin (John Leguizamo) they get the truck ready and drive it back to LA.

This film is marinated in talent. The characters’ honesty and genuine love of the story come through in every scene. The dash of personality that is added to small but important roles of Scarlett Johansson as the wise hostess who pushes Carl in the right direction and the completely loony performance by Robert Downey Jr. as Inez’s ex-husband are spectacular.

The blend of comedy and drama complement each other.  The story of a father and son reestablishing their relationship adds to this balance as well as the relationship between Carl and Martin.  There is not one overpowering flavor that drowns out the rest of the story elements.

Reality show chefs always say good ingredients presented cleanly will win over flashy overly complicated dishes. This movie takes that same direction with good story elements to let the viewer savor the truth about life we can relate to.  The story of a person who’s lost in the rut of life and finding their way to a new life is a great story that I think I needed. I have seen a few bad movies recently I needed some cinematic comfort food.

Carl talks to Percy at one point in the film and says that the work he does touches people. I can see the duality of what he was saying: he not only touches them as the character in the movie, but also as a filmmaker who will touch the lives of anyone who sees this film.

The interaction between Carl and Ramsey, the food critic, did bring out something that I struggle with. My natural tendency to be diplomatic comes from knowing how hard people work on the movies I see.  I have helped out on a feature film. I’ve had a glimpse at the difficult nature of how a movie is made.

When a movie is bad I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. I can still be respectful of the person but still be accurate about the view I have. If something that a director I have loved in the past does not live up to the quality that they are capable of I am going to say it. I am going keep it entertaining but also pointed, but with the absolute understanding of how hard it is to make a movie and what a labor of love it is.

I am encouraged by a film that has next to no budget but gives everything it can, and I am disappointed in a movie that has millions of money but no soul. The film medium is way too important to treat it like a fast food chain that just bangs out movies. Movies are best when in the hands of a person who is passionate about their craft.

Go and see this movie. If you go in hungry it will satisfy your need for an enriching story. 

Trailer from JoBlo Movie Trailers via YouTube