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Mark Suszko
on Jul 26, 2014 at 10:39:06 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Jul 26, 2014 at 10:43:40 pm

Luc Besson's visual story-telling sense, plus a simple but effective sci fi plot, plus the incredibly magnetic Scarlett Johansson, equals a sort of girl-version Neo/Matrix romp that I quite enjoyed.

Playful editing, inter-twining stock footage with the action, adds a narrative overlay that comments visually on the emotional subtext of key scenes. This was a much more elegant way to add that kind of commentary than the voice-overs in Blade Runner. I really felt like I was watching a book's narrative form come to visual life.

The visual style echoes the fun parts of Besson's The Fifth Element, and Scarlett echoes much of Milla Jovovich's character and motivations from that film, though her being the hero of the film is completely accidental and random. Lucy is definitely in control of this film, from the moment she gains her powers, and all the male characters are pointedly secondary.

Quite a fun ride. The R rating is for some gooey and casual gunplay. There's plenty of interesting stunt work, the apparently obligatory car chase was well-executed but I thought, unnecessary.

Johansson just radiates an eye-melting heat off the screen. Her voice here is sexier than it was even in "Her". I am admittedly smitten. If you've seen "Her", it's kind of interesting that Lucy's character arc and development has some parallels with Samantha, in terms of emotional growth versus intellectual attainments.

Anyhow, a fun SF action film where the female lead is tough and not just brave, but beyond concepts like bravery.

The film was shot all over the planet, with a lot of action set in Taipei, but the bad guys are Korean, instead of Chinese or Japanese, which would have been the common trope. I wonder if the film makers went that way so as to make "Lucy" more marketable in mainland China. The bad guys are not as strongly written here; but there's not much time left in the movie to develop them.

Maybe I'm using a few percent more of my brain, or something, but this is the first movie where I caught two typos in the end credits. ( "Aircraft Carrier" and "Space Telescope").

With the inclusion of "Under the Skin" making a trifecta, this is definitely a Scarjo-Sci-Fi year.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Lucy
on Jul 28, 2014 at 9:01:17 pm

NOBODY in this place went to see LUCY yet? I can't believe it. It kicked box office butt this weekend.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Lucy
on Jul 28, 2014 at 9:26:32 pm

I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THIS...but I have to. I've been wanting to see it from the second I saw the first trailer, and my interest went sky-high when I saw that Luc Besson wrote and directed...which, INCROYABLE, was not included in the first trailer I saw. Sacre bleu!

But I would have thought Scott would have joined you by now, even if nobody else. :-)

One cool thing to watch is that the first projection was for a $30 million weekend, and they just kept revising the numbers upward as audiences poured in faster than anticipation.....

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Scott Roberts
Re: Lucy vs. Under the Skin: An Important FAQ
on Jul 28, 2014 at 10:04:40 pm

Hold on, guys, I was just finishing up my write up!

Seeing as though two somewhat similar new Scarlett Johansson science fiction projects came out this year within a few months of each other; one being Lucy, coming out this week, and the other being Under the Skin, which came out a few months ago but is now making its run on rental and streaming, I thought I'd do everyone a service and write an FAQ. So no one gets confused.

What's the premise of these here movies?

Lucy is about a girl named Stacy who, wait... Maybe it was Lucy? Anyway, she gets mixed up with a drug dealer, and he puts a pouch of super drugs in her "lower tummy" (quote from the movie), and it starts leaking, causing her to gain access to percentages of her brain that no human ever has before. Under the Skin is about an alien (or something) that goes to Scotland and seduces dudes into her feeding room (or something), where they die in the most symbolic kind of ways. Then she starts questioning things about herself, and yes, we eventually do get to see what's under the skin.

First thing I noticed, these are both rated R, do you see Scarlett Johansson's boobs?

Oh, c'mon. That's an awful, misogynistic question. You should be ashamed of yourself. Grow up, buddy... People like you are what gives people like me a bad name. Have some respect, for the first time in your life. For shame.

Ok, sorry. Does she tastefully get naked, for the betterment of the film?

TOTALLY. She gets tastefully naked about six times in Under the Skin. IN LIKE THE FIRST SCENE, TOO! Then later on she gets tastefully naked again, and then like two scenes after that, and then another three scenes after that. SO TASTEFUL. She keeps her shirt on in Lucy, though.

How's the rest of the cast? Follow up question: do you see *their* boobs?

A couple of dudes "show everything" in Under the Skin, and the acting from the weird faced guy was kind of intriguing. Nobody bothers to get naked in Lucy. But I did read an article that Morgan Freeman had a full-frontal scene where he just dances seductively in front of a mirror for 45 seconds, but it got cut from the final film because it "took away from the story." (rolls eyes)

What movies would you closely compare these to? So the common man can relate! Do that things where you say it's "[this] meets [this]"! People love reading that!

Lucy is kind of like The Matrix meets Limitless, except now Bradley Cooper has boobs. If you refer to the previous question, you don't see Bradley Cooper's boobs in this particular picture. Under the Skin is kind of like Species meets Drive. An alien is seducing humans for her own gain; but done with the slow, brooding style that makes it so you can't recommend it to anyone.

How do the movies look? Like, cinematography wise?

They both look great! And in totally different ways! Lucy is very colorful and vibrant, and that plays nicely with the fast paced editing and goofy atmosphere. Under the Skin uses black space to its advantage, having some downright beautiful and haunting photography in the process. The two couldn't have more contrast, while each having their own merits. They're both very pretty to look at.

The metaphors! Are they obvious?!

Under the Skin makes you wonder what the hell is going on the entire time, while Lucy literally splices in footage of a cheetah hunting an antelope during an equivalently tense scene with the human characters. A film theory student's entire basis for a term paper vs. "HEY THIS IS WHAT THAT IS LIKE".

Under the Skin looks kind of like a smarmy indie movie, and Lucy seems like an overblown special effects picture... Are these accusations true?

Under the Skin is pretty smarmy. It leaves a lot to the viewer's discretion through gloomy, almost silent imagery. I could imagine a student film attempting to do something like this, but much worse. Lucy actually has some worthy special effects, except for that one scene where she's rolling around on the ceiling and her hair isn't falling downward as gravity intended. ILLUSION BROKEN.

Yeah, but are they overblown, though?

Nah, the effects fit the story pretty well.

They both take place overseas? Please tell me ScarJo doesn't try to do any accents...

Thankfully in Lucy she plays an American abroad, but in Under the Skin she attempts to do, uh, some kind of accent. (tugs collar of shirt)

Will these stories make sense to the audience? Or to clarify, will they make sense to my Uncle Jerry? His favorite movies include Batman '89, Training Day, and Grown Ups 2.

Lucy might be alright for him. Though, as the movie ended and a bro was walking out of the theater past us, he made a fart noise with his mouth to his girlfriend; and a couple of other bro-y dudes in the bathroom didn't care for it either. Maybe it went over their heads? I don't know. Everyone else I've talked to who has seen it thought it was fine though. Under the Skin on the other hand, I would not recommend to Uncle Jerry, and would just forward him a link to the relevant Mr. Skin page instead. That's all he cares about anyway. You aren't going to have a serious discussion with Uncle Jerry on the alien's overriding humanity in the face of countless emotionless relationships next Thanksgiving dinner, I imagine.

I know these are both science fiction, but how's the science hold up?

Luc Besson has stated himself that Lucy's science doesn't actually hold up very well, but it does in the universe of the film and/or for what works for the story, so I guess that's all that matters, right? Look, if it was a boring movie that dribbled on and on trying to explain the science, everyone would have hated it. It offered simplified, entertaining science. No, I wouldn't argue with a single person on the validity of any of what the movie was trying to say in that regard, but I would argue with them on the film's entertainment value. On the other side, Under the Skin is about an alien, so yeah, if you want to debate alien science with me I'll start making you a tin foil hat right now.

You always complain about movies being too long... So are these movies long, or what?

Lucy is only 90 minutes, and that's awesome. It doesn't wear out its welcome, and ends at about the right time. For Under the Skin, to be honest, I hit "display" a few times in the second half to see how close it was to being over. Little too long. The deliberately slow pacing doesn't help either.

You saw them both on Friday, did either of them leave a lasting impact in your brain?

There were a couple of moments in Under the Skin that still are kind of haunting me today. And I don't mean the tastefulness. That underwater feeding pod scene was, um... so god damn weird and mesmerizing. Lucy as a whole, though, was probably more impactful to me. It was a collection of weird imagery that actually seemed somewhat coherent.

Are there lots of closeups of eyeballs in these movies?


Are they empowering movies for women?

Uh, yeah. Sure. Why not?

Most important question: Are there dinosaurs?

Lucy has dinosaurs. Under the Skin does not.

Would you recommend these movies? Would you watch them again? What scores would you give them?

I wanted to like Under the Skin more than I actually did, I commend the effort, and I guess I'd have it on the background while I did other stuff if it's ever free later. I'd give it a 6 out of 10. Lucy was very entertaining, and while I wouldn't pay full price for a Blu-ray when it comes out, I would consider picking it up from a Best Buy $7.99 Blu-ray bin in 2016, and I'd definitely watch it again for free on HBO or the like. I'd give it an 8 out of 10. (or a 7 out of 10 due to Tim's Snowpiercer reduction) :)

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Tim Wilson
Re: Lucy vs. Under the Skin: An Important FAQ
on Jul 29, 2014 at 5:33:31 pm

[Scott Roberts] "8 out of 10. (or a 7 out of 10 due to Tim's Snowpiercer reduction) :)"

I may have to give you back the point and add a half for seeing both in one day!

Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Wesley Morris at pointed out that Lucy is the third album in a row where Scarlett isn't quite human. (In his mind, as she becomes more Lucy, she becomes less human.) An interesting idea, especially with Black Widow representing her as SUPER human.

That's my big takeaway from the numbers for Lucy, though. ScarJo is the ONLY reason for most people to see the movie, and even with middling ratings and a middling Cinemascore, they kept revising the b.o. numbers upward as the weekend went on. People WANT to see her do ACTION. Right now, really, who else is there? And even if Angelina gets around to the Salt sequel (and I really wish she would), there are ways that Scarlett is playing a different game.

If I was at Marvel, my takeway would be, let's move Black Widow up in the schedule. We'd be morons to wait until 2017 or 18 to put her front and center. She's tough enough to be doing action for another 10 or 15 years, easy...but really, why wait? It's leaving money on the table...and I like money in my pocket way more than I like it on the table.

BTW, I've been mentioning Besson in the context of The Fifth Element. He also did Leon The Professional (just The Professional in the US), which was AMAZING, Transporter (the first one and a half of which was amazing, if not "all caps" amazing), and La Femme Nikita (not genius, but a lot of fun). Oh yeah, and TAKEN, which was a GAS. Even the sequel was fun.

Definitely looking forward to Lucy, and will probably have to check out Under the Skin too....

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Mark Suszko
Re: Lucy vs. Under the Skin: An Important FAQ
on Jul 29, 2014 at 6:52:26 pm
Last Edited By Mark Suszko on Jul 29, 2014 at 6:53:31 pm

I they ever did a movie of Bester's "The Stars, My Destination", I would want Luc Besson to direct it.

(Once cosplayed Gully Foyle, back before the term "cosplay" was a thing)

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