Average User Score: 6.1Jun 21, 2015In December 1987, I saw Into the Woods on Broadway with Bernadette Peters. The musical had just opened the month before, and it was charming,In December 1987, I saw Into the Woods on Broadway with Bernadette Peters. The musical had just opened the month before, and it was charming, original, and entertaining. Translating the musical and stage format to the screen expands the spatial representation to the world of reality, or pseudo-reality, given that the story is a fairy tale, and that expansion is problematic for it dilutes the concentrated power of the original format.
The most innovative aspect of the original effort was the clever intertwining of several prominent fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. A baker (James Corden) and his young wife (Emily Blunt), who cannot conceive, live next door to a nasty, old lady (Meryl Streep), who looks exactly like a witch and turns out to be a real one—she has a vegetable garden that grows magic beans, and she cursed the couple long ago when the baker’s father stole some of the beans from her. In order to lift the curse, the couple has to provide the witch with a milky-white cow, a golden slipper, a red cape, and corn-yellow hair in three days before midnight. In the meantime, the old witch visits her adopted daughter, who has very long hair and lives in a tower. That would be Rapunzel (Mackenzie Mauzy). The magic beans, of course, grow a giant stalk that is climbed by a young boy named Jack (Daniel Huttlestone), and the kingdom is ruled by a handsome prince (Chris Pine) who is seeking a wife and who meets a young woman named Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) at the ball. The woods of the small kingdom contain wolves and a hut occupied by a grandmother—a little girl visits granny wearing a red cape with a hood (Lilla Crawford).
As per the original story, there are dilemmas and scenarios that would have shocked the Grimm Brothers. For example, the baker’s wife has a one-night stand with Prince Charming, and that takes place after he has had his happily-ever-after wedding with Cinderella. And Cinderella is very frustrated about life with the prince because everything is too perfect. The witch is actually just an overprotective mother who can’t accept that her daughter’s childhood has ended. They all come together in the last act to fight a common foe, which is a giant who has descended by way of the stalk and wants revenge upon little Jack for stealing from her and accidentally killing her husband.
Live theatre creates its own microcosmic reality; thus, the stage version is not as jarring when the characters are constantly breaking out into song. Generally speaking, in a musical stage production the singing is well integrated. On film, the integration of the singing has to be more nuanced, and it is very difficult to achieve just the right timing in a film setting that appears to occupy a realistic landscape. There is a constant air of “I feel a song coming on...” that can weary the audience.
Streep makes for a good witch, albeit maybe a bit too exaggerated if one is to believe she is also a loving mother. Blunt has the strongest role as the baker’s wife. All the actors seem to be desperately seeking their character, including Anna Kendrick as a petite, brunette Cinderella, a description which doesn’t quite fit the profile. (Blunt’s plaintive line, “I’m in the wrong story,” strikes a chord in more ways than one.) The two princes, Cinderella’s prince and Rapunzel’s prince (Billy Magnussen) are as handsome as princes can be, but they are overly fickle and shallow. If the reasons behind their fickleness are complex, that complexity is never explored. And the film is overly long.
Although the visual representation of the fairy-tale kingdom is brilliantly magical, if not positively supernatural, it is not clear that this is the fairy-tale version that the children want to see. The Broadway version was more openly cynical, and it was also strictly for grown-ups.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.9May 28, 2015The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences must have a soft spot for films that are about their own industry, for how else do you explainThe Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences must have a soft spot for films that are about their own industry, for how else do you explain that Birdman snatched up the highest honors at the Oscars this year? The cast is filled with veteran actors whose reputation precedes them—Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Andrea Riseborough, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Zach Galifianakis are the featured players, and they are all well-known stars. Keaton plays an actor whose heyday is long over. It has been over twenty years since he was famous for being a comic book character named Birdman. Now determined to make a comeback as a serious actor, Riggan Thomson (Michael Keaton) has written, produced and is starring in his own Broadway play, based on a short story by Raymond Carver, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”
Broadway is the dream destination for many a serious actor, but director/writer Alejandro Inarritu sees the seedy side of the glamour. The backstage fitting rooms are cluttered, dark, and depressing. Actors are all psychologically damaged. They are obsessed with sexuality; they are angry and frustrated; and they have broken families and broken lives. Riggan himself is functional but psychotic—he thinks he has superpowers, he has auditory hallucinations where he hears the voice of Birdman, his old character, who is constantly berating him. And most dangerously, he thinks he can fly.
As the show’s producer, Riggan is depending on his male lead, Mike Shiner (Edward Norton), to attract large audiences. Shiner is famous but he is an alcoholic who believes that his devotion to his art has elevated him to a priesthood that makes him an untouchable demigod. When Shiner gets drunk on stage in previews and disrupts the show so that the curtain has to come down on a shocked audience, he merely excuses himself with the arrogant belief that previews are not that important. Riggan’s daughter Samantha (Emma Stone) works for her father as his assistant, a job she hates, but she is fresh out of rehab and is lucky to be employed. She is disheveled, lost, and spiritually battered as is every member of the play’s cast.
The theatricality of the stage is a different kind of acting from film acting. One has to exaggerate one’s gestures, project one’s voice, and pretend that you are unaware of the hundreds of people sitting in the audience. We see Keaton and company practicing their craft on stage, but when they leave the stage, they are unable to leave behind the theatricality. We have actors playing actors, who then must be actors playing actors who are acting in a play; then they exit the stage and go back to actors playing actors. There are fifty shades of subtlety involved, and they can’t identify all the hues. They simply keep acting like they are on a stage the whole time. It makes for an eccentric artificiality, which starts to become tedious by the end of the film.
Theater critics do not fare well in this film. The most powerful critic in New York City admits to Riggan that she is going to close down the play with a scathing review, even though the play hasn’t opened yet, and she has not seen a single preview. She is described by Riggan and Shiner as a woman who looks like she just licked the derriere of a homeless person, an imbecile insult that boggles the mind.
In general, magical realism is an interesting genre, but when the “magic” part is actually a manifestation of symptoms of mental illness, it’s not that interesting.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.3May 14, 2015This is a new take on the Count Dracula story, and it gives actor Luke Evans in the title role a good opportunity to carry an entire film,This is a new take on the Count Dracula story, and it gives actor Luke Evans in the title role a good opportunity to carry an entire film, playing a strange admixture of good and evil. Unlike most Faustian types who make a pact with the devil because they lust for power, money and knowledge, this would-be Faust is forced to seek out the devil to protect his countrymen and his family, particularly his son. His motives are noble and lofty—he has to keep the evil Turks out of his Romanian province, where he is a prince, actually Vlad the Impaler, so named because he grew up as a hostage of the Ottoman Empire , where he was trained to be a soldier who was famous for killing thousands pitilessly.
After repenting of such a lifestyle, he becomes a loving husband and father, and comes home to reign in his castle as the prince of Wallachia. Finding out that the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed (Dominic Cooper), to whom Vlad pays taxes, has come to town to recruit a thousand young men from Wallachia, including Vlad’s own young son, causes a crisis of faith. Vlad returns to a cave where he knows there is a monstrous presence, a vampire trapped in the shadows, who awaits someone to discover him, then come back to him willingly and agree to trade places with him in exchange for the powers of darkness.
Vlad returns to the cave willingly after he realizes he cannot defeat the Ottoman Empire without help. He makes a deal with the grotesque vampire—he can enjoy the powers of darkness for three days; if he resists drinking blood for that period, he will be restored to himself; if not, his vampirism will become a permanent state, and he will become the vampire trapped in the shadows. Thus begins Vlad’s challenge. He acquires fantastic strength and the ability to turn himself into a swarm of bats, but like all vampires, he is sensitive to sunlight and pure silver. Single-handedly he walks into a small army of Turkish troops and destroys them, much to the shock of his compatriots. His wife begins to notice some suspicious changes, and he confesses to her the pact that he made. Will the new Dracula win the war in three days?
The landscapes are dramatically dark and eerie, and Luke Evans seems to have mastered this persona, having just played a heroic leader and a protective father in the last Hobbit installment. Dialogue is ridden with clichés and character sketches are weak—self-sacrificing wife, evil sultan, horrific demon, handsome child, trusting associates, and robotic enemy armies. It’s all there, the difference being that this Dracula has to control his thirst for blood, which is the only plot line that lends the story some depth and complexity, since the eternal battle of the soul to choose either good or evil will always generate some interest. Evans is classically handsome and athletically fit, and his charisma alone is enough to make the film, in spite of everything, highly watchable.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.4May 7, 2015It is always entertaining to see a lot of young people on a stage singing and dancing their hearts out, especially when they are always inIt is always entertaining to see a lot of young people on a stage singing and dancing their hearts out, especially when they are always in synchronization and in perfect harmony—as long as one ignores the odd circumstance where the group leader vomits on stage because of nerves. This is a film about a cappella singing, which is group or solo singing without any accompaniment. To compensate, the performers can mimic percussion and other instruments with their voices. In other words, they “make music with their mouths.” It is depicted as a subculture on college campuses, with a series of national competitions that result in a grand prize for the ultimate winners.
All actors can sing, dance, and fence, as well as act, and this movie is a good excuse to let them do all those things (minus the fencing). The film is almost a showcase for Anna Kendrick, who plays Beca, a disgruntled undergraduate who would rather be DJ'ing in LA, but who has promised her professorial dad to at least give higher education a chance. She arrives on campus and the very same day is approached by The Bellas, an all-female a cappella group that desperately needs to beef up their membership and to repair their damaged reputation. Although Beca has expressed no interest in singing and performance art, she joins the group and becomes the star performer almost immediately. A petite brunette, she is physically slender and beautiful, as is the red-headed Chloe (Brittany Snow) and blond Aubrey (Anna Camp). Beca's soulful eyes are always professionally made up with black eyeliner that must be waterproof, because her make-up is perfect even when she's in the shower and when she's crying.
In case this kind of blond, brunette, and red-headed perfection is sending the wrong message to anorexic undergraduates, the group (in desperation) accepts Fat Amy (Rebel Wilson) as a new addition. They also welcome an African-American (Ester Dean) to their ensemble. However, these less conventional characters are presented as parodies. Even the one Asian in the group (Hana Mae Lee) has some kind of exaggerated speech defect that renders her almost inaudible when she is speaking; it is not clear how she is able to project her voice as a singer in the group.
It all comes together when the group starts their sassy, sashaying stage numbers, which are all excellent. The producers have forged ahead with Pitch Perfect II, which is opening in another week as of this writing. At this point, the actors who are playing undergraduates are in their late 20's; Kendrick and Snow are 29, and Camp is 32, which is only going to strain credulity even more.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.0Apr 7, 2015The 3-part series concludes with the characters who have become so familiar, they feel like old friends—Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, Galadriel,The 3-part series concludes with the characters who have become so familiar, they feel like old friends—Gandalf, Bilbo, Thorin, Galadriel, Tauriel, Legolas, and others. Martin Freeman as Bilbo has to carry the entire film with his dwarvish friends, which are King Thorin (Richard Armitage) and the rest of the motley crew. The third installment wraps up the prequel to The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and just in time, because although as charming as ever, The Hobbit was beginning to wear just a bit thin.
The murderous talking dragon, Smaug, who possesses the baritone voice of none other than a distant relative of Richard III (Benedict Cumberbatch), was awakened at the end of Part II. Now the vile, sadistic, and rather intelligent beastie, who acts suspiciously Norse, is set on death, suffering, and destruction. The fire-breathing creature relishes the helplessness of his victims; nevertheless, he is not immune to a long iron arrow that is bravely aimed at his heart by Bard of Laketown (Luke Evans), thus bringing a long reign of terror to an end. The gold and jewel-filled mountain is no longer guarded by the sleeping monster, and the Dwarves can reclaim their ancient home. The only problem is that news of Smaug’s death spreads, and a lot of creatures feel they have a claim to the pile of gold in the mountain, thus forming five armies—Dwarves, Elves, the good citizens of Laketown, Orcs heralded by Were-worms, and a fusion army of Orcs and goblins from Gundabad.
The influence of Old English is notable but not always consistent, as there is the occasional glaring anachronism, such as “Come on!” and “We’ve got this.” The focus of the plot is on war, with respect to the military logistics and strategy of the final battle. The film is most entertaining when it is not overly centered on the five armies of the title squaring off and vowing to annihilate each other. There are intriguing subplots, such as Smaug’s deadly rampage and Bard’s bravado. Thorin’s temporary insanity and his duel with Azog (Manu Bennett) provide for some tension as well as a classic encounter between good and evil. The Romeo and Juliet dilemma between Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and Legolas (Orlando Bloom), son of the Elven King, becomes more complicated when it is clear that Tauriel is in love with Kili the Dwarf (Aidan Turner). If Legolas is off limits to Tauriel because she is a lowly Silvan Elf while Legolas is an Elven prince, there is clearly a conflict when Taureil is tempted to switch species and run off with Kili. Another subplot involves Gandalf the Wizard (Ian McKellen) and the loyalty he inspires in Galadriel (Cate Blanchett).
Azog , like Smaug, is conspicuous for being a brutal incarnation of evil, although Azog is a big dumb lug and lacks Smaug’s eloquence. Subtitles are used to translate his ancient Orkish, where he issues orders that sound something like, “Schmool la boole!”
The uneven but still riveting film takes the viewer up to the spot where the Lord of the Rings trilogy begins.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.7Mar 31, 2015The Theory of Everything refers to the elusive resolution to the paradox that faces all physicists. This is the fact that there are two majorThe Theory of Everything refers to the elusive resolution to the paradox that faces all physicists. This is the fact that there are two major theories in physics—the theory of general relativity, which is used to make very accurate predictions about the behavior of massive objects in space, such as planets, stars and galaxies, and the theory of quantum mechanics, which predicts, also with great accuracy, the behavior of invisible particles such as protons, neurons, and quarks. The problem is that the two theories contradict each other, but since they are employed in completely different realms, there is usually no conflict; however, there are a few situations where the two theories are both applicable and stand in opposition to each other. Therefore, another more integrating and all-encompassing mathematical equation is needed to unify the two theories and reconcile all the forces of the universe, and this is called the Theory of Everything, sought in vain by Albert Einstein himself for the last thirty years of his life.
As critic Mike Scott pointed out about the film, Hawking’s preoccupation with the Theory of Everything appears as a background process, superficially discussed in conversations and occasionally depicted on blackboards filled with mathematical formulas. A layman’s version of the theoretical quest is given by Hawking’s wife, Jane (Felicity Jones) when she tells a dinner guest that there are two major theories of physics to be reconciled, one dealing with the large objects (“potatoes”) and one dealing with the small objects (“peas”).
Since the film is based on Jane Hawking’s autobiography (Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen), the emphasis is on the romance between Jane and Stephen Hawking (played by Eddie Redmayne), their subsequent marriage and raising of children, their heartbreaking but in many ways triumphant struggle with his ALS, and their ultimate break-up. It is actually a fascinating aspect of his life, perhaps almost as fascinating as the Theory of Everything. Through sheer determination, a young man who was given two years to live not only survived for fifty years (and counting), but he resolutely sought to have all the experiences he would have had as an able-bodied adult—career, romance, marriage, children, and even divorce and remarriage, and then another divorce. As a friend who picks up the young Hawking to carry him up a flight of stairs asks rather pointedly, “Stephen, is everything affected?” And Hawking replies, “No, it’s a different system—it’s automatic.” Eddie Redmayne comes as close to becoming his subject as is possible for any actor to get.
Despite the intrigue and complications in his personal life, Hawking was always obsessively at work on brilliant ideas that included the discovery of Hawking radiation, his theories about the origin and boundaries of the universe, and his best-selling popular science books, among other projects and theories, making him one of the most famous physicists in the world. The details of this ongoing intellectual process would have made for an interesting portrayal in the film, since his work is the most fascinating and most important part of the miracle of Stephen Hawking’s life.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.1Mar 29, 2015On the surface, this is a lovely, and perhaps, somewhat facile foodie movie, but it has to be seen as much more than that. This film isOn the surface, this is a lovely, and perhaps, somewhat facile foodie movie, but it has to be seen as much more than that. This film is actually a foodie fairy tale. Like a typical fairy tale, it has a prince, a princess, a king and a queen. (The queen is evil at first but then she turns good.) There is also a palace and a lush fairy-tale landscape in the countryside of France. The plot starts with a warlike battle where there is a senseless death of a loving mother, leaving an indelible mark of grief on a family headed up by a wise king. The tragedy sends the royal family wandering into the wilderness, seeking a Promised Land, which they eventually find in a small French village. And then the royal family finally gets their happy ending after they can settle in and resume the family business, which of course, is an Indian restaurant.
That last part might not sound like your typical fairy tale, but then foodie fairy tales are a genre unto themselves. And like a good fairy tale, underneath the saccharine plot devices there are profound universal truths to be mined and extracted. The Journey of the title is only a hundred feet because the wise, widowed, and elderly king (Om Puri) sets up his Indian eatery directly opposite a house of haute cuisine (one hundred feet away) that specializes in the most exquisite French fare and has earned a royal mark of distinction—a Michelin star. Of course, Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren), as the ambitious queen/restaurant owner, is not satisfied and covets the acquisition of her second Michelin star. Every star is a Holy Grail, and three stars would mean that the food served at such a place is nothing less than a menu for the gods. In the beginning, Madame Mallory regards the new Indian restaurant as a competitor to be roundly defeated and shut down.
But beyond the 100 feet, there is a greater Journey described in this film, as the Indian family leaves their home turf and migrates into uncharted territory, where there are dragons and sea monsters, as well as those uncouth pirates who would wish them harm. The family’s presence in a strange land acts as a catalyst and an irritant, teaching a small town tolerance and acceptance, and introducing a foreign cuisine that eventually becomes a fusion of French and Indian fare. At first the wise king/Indian restaurant owner will not let the prince (Manish Dayal), his adult son and a brilliant chef, work for Madame across the road. The protective father tells the elegant Madame Mallory unequivocally, “French food is French food, and Indian food is Indian food.” And referring to the racist graffiti that she washed off the wall with her own hands, she replies, “Monsieur, I think I just spent the whole morning washing those words off your wall.”
Appearing a little more subtly than the other plot devices is a Rousseauian back-to-nature philosophy, with a call to eat more carefully and to respect the produce of your local region. In this film, olives are picked from nearby groves, mushrooms are found in the woods, and the milk for the cheese comes from the cows in neighboring fields. After seeing this film, you will shop more selectively for your food, and you will vow to be more creative when you cook dinner the next evening.
As for the saccharine happy ending, such is the stuff of fairy tales.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.9Mar 11, 2015This film seeks to explore, reductio ad absurdum, the difficulties imposed on the time-travel genre by a phenomenon generally known as “theThis film seeks to explore, reductio ad absurdum, the difficulties imposed on the time-travel genre by a phenomenon generally known as “the grandfather paradox.” This is the problem that arises if one goes back into time and commits an action that prevents one’s own birth, such as killing one’s own grandfather, but it can also be more liberally applied to any action committed after traveling back into time that may affect the initial action that was taken to go back into time. So, if I travel back before my birth and kill my grandfather before my mother is conceived, I won’t be born; therefore I was not present to make the decision to go back into time to kill my grandfather. Not being there to commit that crime means my mother was born, after all, which means I was born and the loop starts all over again.
Many scientists, novelists, and filmmakers have sought to work around and somehow resolve the grandfather paradox. The only explanations that make sense are the ones that claim we can only back into time to a parallel universe, where we change history in the parallel universe, but the universe we live in stays the same. However, the Spierig Brothers, who wrote and directed the film, have decided to go to Hades in a handbasket and to fly in the face of everyone whoever had a logical thought about cause and effect. Their hero, the bartender played by Ethan Hawke, works for a company that sends him into the past at regular intervals to prevent heinous crimes. They can only make short time jumps, because long jumps damage the mind and cause insanity. Hawke’s character has already made one jump too many, and has taken an unauthorized jump outside the allotted zone, so his mind is warped by time, so to speak, and he is trying to find out the identity of a man called the Fizzle Bomber, who in 1975 kills 10,000 people in New York City with one bomb.
I would yell spoiler alert, but the spoiler is so bizarre, that as one critic put it, you’re left at the end yelling, WTF??? So here’s the spoiler—the bartender/time agent is awaiting the entrance of someone he knows is coming in for a drink, because it’s John, his younger self. John is a transsexual, who was once a girl named Jane who was a baby left on the doorstep of an orphanage. She was born with weird internal wiring, both male and female, but was only aware of her female parts. Then Jane met a stranger one night, who was John traveling in time, lost her virginity, and had the baby alone because John suddenly left her sitting forever on a park bench. After a C-section, complications demanded that the female parts be taken out and the male parts extended. Jane became John. And John comes in the bar telling Ethan Hawke (who is John’s older self looking much different because of facial reconstruction after almost being burned to death) about how the mysterious male left him to have a baby that was later stolen from the hospital. That same baby was delivered to the orphanage, and was named Jane. Yes, that’s right, John, Jane, the baby and the bartender are all the same person, traveling through time, meeting up with each other, and having unorthodox relationships with themselves.
I know you’re asking why didn’t Jane recognize herself after she became John as her own lover who deserted her? There she was, clearly looking at John in the mirror after her sex conversion, but he/she is sitting in the bar telling Ethan Hawke she never saw John again after he left her on the park bench. Her transsexual conversion turned her into John, and she didn’t notice? She apparently had no recollection of what time-traveling John, her future self and past lover, looked like. Maybe memory loss occurs after gender conversion. Anyway, Ethan Hawke’s bartender keeps reliving this scenario because he’s continually going back into time to find the Fizzle Bomber. Finally, he retires from the firm to the year 1975 in NYC, just before the Fizzle Bomber pulls off his major coup, and he finds the Fizzle Bomber, looking very aged and very crazy, sitting in a laundry mat. And guess who it is?
I think the Spierig Brothers are poking fun at the grandfather paradox. At one point, Ethan Hawke’s character bounds down the stairs to the bar’s basement, and he sings a line from a rather tuneless song: “I’m my own grandfather...” That was a clue. Instead of being his own grandfather, he’s actually his own mother, father, and grandfather. Who spawned the first version of Ethan Hawke’s character? No one knows. They’re stuck in an endless loop like “a snake eating its own tail.”
Ethan Hawke does a remarkable job at making this senseless scenario interesting, and Sarah Snook is equally brilliant at playing both Jane and John. And all those physicists out there who are working hard to resolve the grandfather paradox can clearly stick it in their ear, courtesy of the Spierig Brothers.… Expand
Average User Score: 7.5Mar 8, 2015Brendan Gleeson’s portrayal of Father James, the tormented priest, is what saves this film from being a confusing morass of conflictingBrendan Gleeson’s portrayal of Father James, the tormented priest, is what saves this film from being a confusing morass of conflicting philosophies. Father James, a priest in a small countryside parish in Ireland, is haunted, lonely, and struggling with a number of demons. He still mourns his late wife, whose death drove him to become a priest; he has a disaffected relationship with his adult daughter (Kelly Reilly) who visits him after having recently attempted suicide; and he is a borderline alcoholic. His most intimate relationship is with Bruno, his dog.
The film starts out with Father James in the confession box. A parishioner, whom Father James recognizes by voice, confesses to him a long childhood history of being sexually abused by a priest, who is now deceased. The abuse went on for several years, involving a number of children, and caused a scandal that had been reported in the news long ago. The parishioner has a bizarre plan to rectify the injustice that he suffered—he wants to kill a priest, not an abusive priest, but a good priest like Father James, and he makes a date to meet him on the beach in a week.
Father James does not overreact, to say the least. He discusses the case with a superior, who tells him to report it to the police, but he is reluctant. He says he knows who the parishioner is, but he does not want to take impulsive action. During the week that transpires, which is marked day by day on the screen, Father James gives evidence of being deeply depressed, perhaps suicidal. In fact, the entire film is about death and suicide. The daughter visits him after a suicide attempt. Then Father James has to visit a prisoner who committed a grisly murder; the prisoner requests the death sentence even though there is no death sentence in Ireland. An elderly novelist who lives alone asks Father James to get him a gun, preferably a Walther PPK, so that when the time comes, he can kill himself rather than succumb to the frailties of dementia. Father James himself is suspiciously casual about the death threat he experienced in the confession box.
During the week, the priest has arguments and one fist fight with other villagers. He drinks himself silly. He tells off a lot of people. A rich villager offers him a dubious financial scheme, and insanely ends up urinating on a classic masterpiece that he owns. The only point taken is that the millionaire is mentally ill. Father James goes to the police inspector to talk, but the police inspector is distracted by his young, gay lover with the thick New York City accent, who is so hyperactive that he clearly is suffering from mental problems as well. A young wife in the village is promiscuous and currently cheating on her husband with an African car mechanic. She doesn’t check in as being completely normal either.
The most depressing part of the job is administering last rites, which Father James says is never easy, although with the aged, “it’s not any easier but it’s more understandable.” At the hospital, he is called in to give last rites to an accident victim. The Emerg doctor (Aidan Gillen) is smoking outside the building; he is jaded, callous, and militantly atheistic. He tells the priest, “I know the atheistic doctor is a cliché.” In short, there’s not one pollyanna to be found in the entire village. And during that troublesome week, the priest’s church is burned down by an arsonist, and someone viciously kills Bruno, presumably the same villager who wants to kill the priest on Sunday. In one last phone call to his daughter, Father James declares what he says is the hardest part of humanity—forgiveness.
This film isn’t about faith, more like using faith to escape reality, and even then, faith is not very effective. Father James only becomes a priest to escape the pain of widowhood, and he continues to drink himself into oblivion. And he never officially reports the death threat delivered in the confession box, for apparently, it’s a sin for a priest to commit suicide, but it’s not a sin if someone volunteers their services and does the dirty work for him. In the end, there’s no redemption for the believer or the atheist, just a glimmer of hope for those who can forgive.… Expand
Average User Score: 6.2Mar 1, 2015The Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” the acronym for which was LSD, comes to mind in this film where the drug of choice is calledThe Beatles song “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” the acronym for which was LSD, comes to mind in this film where the drug of choice is called CPH4. It’s not clear that this drug puts the addict in a pleasurable state of mind since it appears to cause much suffering, angst, and if overdosed, death or molecule disintegration and an omnipresence that is usually only attributed to God.
Scarlett Johansson in the title role captures just the right balance of female vulnerability and steely superpowers that make her a force to be reckoned with. She is abducted in Taiwan by Korean bad guys, who sew a bag of the blue crystal-like substance into her abdomen with the plan to send her home and have the bag removed by the drug dealers. But first she is roughed up in a holding area, again by Korean hoodlums, who accidentally cause the bag to rupture and leak into her system. The drug has thus been administered to her, and she starts to obtain extrasensory powers and phenomenal strength because CPH4 allows the recipient to start using more than 10% of her brain. This is the primary theme of the plot, and all else hangs from this premise; it justifies the supporting role of Morgan Freeman, the neuroscience professor who has based his career and about 6,000 pages of publications on the study of how humans can use more of their brain matter.
Unfortunately, this nineteenth-century belief has been dismissed long ago, but if one keeps up with the controversy about the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), this dilemma is not as far-fetched as it would seem. We use 100% of our brain, but our intellect, reason, logic and enormous creative powers are based on only a tiny portion of our DNA that is different from that of a chimpanzee. We share about 96% of the same genetic material as a chimpanzee. That last bit is enormously powerful and is what makes us human. It has been hypothesized that if we can make a robot that emulates a human brain and then perhaps wire it to be just a little more evolved than a human brain, we are in danger of making a robot that can evolve by itself into something that may be omniscient, omnipresent, and dangerous, which is to say, we may unleash forces that we cannot control. Billionaire inventor Elon Musk and others are raising the alarm about the unpredictable dangers of AI. Lucy, if she were actually a human or a robot whose brain has been tampered with to jump ahead on the evolutionary ladder, may be a sample of what we would be dealing with.
Just a slight revision in the film’s explanation behind how the fictional drug works changes the implausible premise of the film to a realistic one. Johannson is superb in the rendering of her transition from human to demigod. And Egyptian-born Amr Waked is excellent as the French police officer who feebly offers her protection even though she could wipe the floor with him. And it seems that Hollywood has found a new source for evil—Koreans. Russians used to be the bad guys, and then the Cold War ended. And many ethnic groups get offended if they are portrayed as stereotypical thugs; by the time The Lion King was produced, the only acceptable bad guy was a Brit (Jeremy Irons as the evil uncle) since Englishmen cannot claim to be ethnic. (They are the standard by which all ethnicity is measured.) Director Luc Besson did not overlook this option—Julian Rhind-Tutt is a bad guy who is also an English twit. In any case, some excellent Korean actors like Min-sik Choi (as Mr. Jang) will now be more employable.… Expand