Posts Tagged ‘Scarlett Johansson’


Director: Luc Besson

Writer: Luc Besson

France 2014

Runtime: 89 mins

Scarlett Johansson develops superpowers in a movie that’s as enjoyable as it’s preposterous

Lucy is a big dumb action flick that features the world’s biggest female star right now. Ironically, though, the plot revolves around an intellectual conceit, the idea that people only use ten per cent of their brain’s capacity. As any psychologist can tell you this is baloney, but as long as you don’t mind overlooking such nonsense then Lucy is a lot of fun.

The story begins at a Taipei hotel where the title character finds herself coerced by a dodgy boyfriend into delivering a package to some terrifying Korean gangsters. At gunpoint Lucy ends up having some sort of packages inserted into her stomach, one of which bursts following an assault by a guard. The chemicals released into her bloodstream lead to some dramatic changes whereby Lucy begins to utilise previously dormant cerebral capacity. Fortuitously, these changes turn Lucy into a kick-ass warrior, enabling her to escape her captors.

Meanwhile, in the world of academia one Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) is giving a presentation on the next steps in human evolution which, he tells us, will hinge upon accessing the brain’s hitherto untapped capabilities. Once again, scientists in the cinema audience will be holding their heads in their hands as the Professor’s powerpoint slides depict the entirely fallacious “Great Chain of Being” – the idea of an evolutionary progression from beings crawling on the ground to humans standing upright (contrary to the idea of linear progression we did not, for example, evolve from the Great Apes; rather we share a common ancestor with them).

Professor Norman speculates on what human abilities will be untapped if and when we are able to use twenty per cent of the brain’s capacity. Elsewhere, Lucy is already going beyond this figure. She is heading towards using one hundred per cent of her brain’s capacity, but the downside is that her body will not be able to survive beyond twenty-four hours. Whilst fending off the bad guys who are hunting her down Lucy needs to contact the Professor and find a way to transfer her newly-acquired knowledge for the benefit of humankind.

In essence, Lucy is The Matrix meets Lawnmower Man via 2001: A Space Odyssey. Scarlett Johansson’s is, as ever, a magnetically watchable presence. Her performance here as the otherworldly Lucy, who has abilities no-one else can even fathom, is not a million miles from the alien she plays in Under The Skin. Happily, the potential for the film to be overwhelmingly portentous is offset by some moments of fine humour. In one such moment Lucy is driving a car at breakneck speed through oncoming traffic. In the passenger seat a terrified police officer, Pierre Del Rio (Amr Waked), cries out “You’ll get us killed!” Channeling her brain’s expanded wisdom, Lucy says in a throwaway manner: “We never really die”.

Lucy is a straightforward summer action movie. Don’t expect too much. Leave your brain at the door, sit back, and enjoy.

Rating: 7/10


USA 2014

Director: Jon Favreau

Writer: Jon Favreau

Runtime: 114 minutes

Chef is a culinary feelgood movie that lacks bite

Jon Favreau’s Chef is a mildly enjoyable feelgood movie that doesn’t entirely make sense. Favreau plays Carl Casper, a respected chef at a restaurant run by Riva (Dustin Hoffman). When he learns that the restaurant is going to be visited by prominent food critic/blogger Ramsey Michel (the name presumably a blend of Gordon Ramsey and Michel Roux), Casper decides it is time to give their menu a bit of an overhaul. However, this is frustrated by Riva who insists that they should stick with what they know works. Unfortunately, the supposedly reliable offering receives a lacerating online review that is then retweeted by hundreds of people.

Casper responds by getting into a Twitter flame war with Michel (played by Oliver Platt), followed by another dispute with his boss which leads to him losing his job. Following a trip to Miami with his ex-wife Inez (Sofia Vergara) Casper is inspired to set up a mobile food van selling cubanos (a kind of Cuban sandwich). His son Percy (Emjay Anthony) gets involved, enabling them to bond, as does Martin (John Leguizamo), a friend from the old restaurant.

It’s all good-natured fun, but lacks any real drama. Once they get the van on the road the story stays on an upward trajectory until the end. It is a staple of feelgood movies that the characters should experience some major setback on the road to goal achievement (think of the police raiding the rehearsal and taking Robert Carlyle’s son away in The Full Monty). I was therefore waiting to see whether Casper would fall foul of child labour laws or if his van would be declared unroadworthy, but in fact there was no such issue to give the story some bite.

It also did not quite make sense that Casper should have blown a fuse with Ramsey Michel in the first place, when he knew full well that the real problem was his boss’s conservatism. But possibly Chef‘s worst sin is the complete wasting of two star actors. For the brief time that she is onscreen, Scarlett Johansson (playing the restaurant hostess) does little more than tell Casper how talented he is. Robert Downey Jr. plays a former husband/boyfriend of Casper’s ex-wife, who is in a position to give Casper some help at the point when he needs it. There is the potential for some tension to be thrown into the mix here, but unfortunately such tension that there is gets resolved in nanoseconds.

Chef seems to have done quite well at the box office, which I can only assume is the result of good timing – perhaps in the middle of a hot summer people want something undemanding that will maintain their positive mood. But really this seems to be the cinematic equivalent of the “playing it safe” approach that led to Carl Casper’s stinking review.

Rating: 6/10