Tag Archives: film

Lucy

Dixie and I watched Luc Besson’s new film Lucy a couple of days ago.

The philosophical question behind it is interesting: what would humans be like if we used more of our brains? This question is based on the suggestion (which my oldest daughter tells me is false) that humans only use about 10% of their brain capacity.

Lucy addresses this question with the story of Lucy, who unwittingly and against her will finds herself involved with a Chinese drug ring, who surgically implants a bag of a powerful new drug in her stomach. The bag is unintentionally punctured and the high concentration of the drug entering her blood stream begins to “awaken” her brain to its full capacity.

Besson’s answer to this question is, unfortunately, the standard fare. In film, more of our brains for some reason always means what we (in our current state of minimal brain usage) would consider superpowers—telekinesis, telepathy, etc. I’ve never understood why such an assumption is made. I suppose it makes for a more “exciting” film, but what possible connection could there be between neural synapses and moving inanimate objects from a distance?

Even more curious, in Besson’s vision a human with increased brain usage becomes increasingly robotic. This gift—if it can be called that—is ultimately about gaining knowledge, even to the point of omniscience and a godlike status. At the same time, this “super”-human is almost completely without compassion. This new god-creature is only interested in passing on its vast newly-gained knowledge, even as people are dying violently around it.

Beyond the superpower clichés, the film lacks direction. It’s never clear exactly what Lucy is doing or why: is she saving the world? is she seeking vengeance for this unwanted gift of brains? or is it really unwanted? Who knows. There are interesting hints at a new stage of evolution/new creation, which have potential, but they are never explained or explored.

I found it to be quite a bleak vision. Perhaps that was the point. Or perhaps Besson simply needed an interesting plot-line to fuel some CGI fun. I’m not sure. I’d like to see a film in which increased brain power results in more compassion and a human simply becoming more human.

To Rome with Love (Review in a Nutshell)

Dixie and I saw Woody Allen’s new film, To Rome with Love, tonight. The film spans a day or two in the lives of four couples who live in or are visiting Rome. It’s not getting great reviews: its metascore is 55 and Rotten Tomatoes has declared it rotten with a 45% rating. I can see why. It was funny throughout, and the story lines are clever at several points, but the film lacks the energy and edginess of Allen’s best work. To Rome seems somewhat meandering and slapped-together.

But I’m with Roger Ebert on this one. He gives it 3 stars out of a possible 4 and says:

“To Rome With Love isn’t great Woody Allen. Here is a man who has made a feature every year since 1969, give or take a few, and if they cannot all be great Woody, it’s churlish to complain if they’re only good Woody.”

It’s a poor film when compared to other Woody Allen films; that it comes on the heels of last year’s wonderful Midnight in Paris doesn’t help.

And as I watched the film, I began to realize something. The plots of the four independent stories, some of which border on the absurd, are closer in feel to the material in Allen’s books of short stories, essays, and plays from the 70s and early 80s than to what one has historically found in his films. For instance, the Roberto Benigni’s story line, in which his character, who is a normal, almost dull individual, becomes famous for no other reason than having become famous, put me immediately in mind of “The Metterling Lists,” a satirical essay analyzing the laundry lists of a man named Metterling. Those books were a delight, but that kind of thing may not translate well into film.

Project Grizzly

I didn’t realize that Project Grizzly, one of my favourite documentaries, was a National Film Board production.  It is, and it’s available in full, for free, online.  In fact, here it is:

It’s just over 70 minutes long. It’s a documentary about one man’s mission to build a bear-proof suit (for the purposes of study at close proximity). The guy, evidently some kind of bushman, seems just a little crazy. It’s very entertaining.

Some things you will see in this documentary: some impressive footage of two grizzlies fighting; the guy, besuited, getting hit by a half-ton at 40mph. Good times.

(via Jordoncooper.com)

Easter Roundup and Miscellany

» Sunday I was up at 5:30a.m. to lead our sunrise service at the river at 6:00a.m.  That went well, I think.  It’s traditionally a short service–20 minutes or so–but it felt particularly short this year, as I prepared for (with Linea‘s input and Randall‘s blueprint) and led the service.  Seemed short for the effort of getting up at such an hour and just about freezing our butts off–just like that, it’s over.  It was nice, though: mist rising from the river; the sun breaking over the clouds right around the time I read from a Psalm, “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

» Preached on Easter Sunday morning as well.  For some reason this was a really difficult sermon to prepare for, trying to come to terms with the scripture and what’s inside me and what might be expected of the Easter Sunday service from within my tradition.  I felt good about what I was saying (but unhappy about how I said it), but I wasn’t sure how it would come across.  I tried to level the intellectual playing field a bit (e.g. we all make leaps of faith) and took a  “What if it’s true?” angle.

I see I wasn’t totally alone going that route, which is comforting:

What looks like madness to the mind

Makes absolute sense to the eyes of faith.

“He is not here. He has risen!”  (link)

and

It’s easy enough to get into the spirit of Easter, especially if the sun is shining, the church bells are ringing and there are plenty of flowers about adding to the sense of spring and new life.  But stop and think about it for a moment, and – especially if life is not unbounded joy for you at the moment – resurrection is an extraordinary idea, truly beyond belief.  (Link)

Received a positive response afterwards, too, which is nice.  (Though I need to keep my eagerness for approval in check.)

» On Saturday I finished reading the 500-page Early Christian Doctrines, which was good to get through.  Now I just have to type out the answers to the reading questions (which I’ve marked in the book) and that’ll be another assignment done.

» With all the Easter services done and a major reading assignment complete (well, the reading part, anyway) I decided to take the rest of the weekend ‘off’ from schoolwork (I got Monday off as well).

» Sunday night we finally watched The Dark Knight.  I’d give it a solid 4 out of 5.  I confess, though, to having an increasing distaste for violence in film.  I don’t know where this is coming from (maybe having children?), but I’ve noticed it quite a bit lately.  Last week Dixie and I watched Kill Bill Vol 1 again.  Last time I could handle the violence of that film (which was helped by its intentionally campy, B-grade tone), but for some reason it made me uncomfortable this time ’round.  With The Dark Knight I started wondering about who these people are that sit around thinking up these diabolical film characters and their horrible ideas for death and mayhem.  Seriously.  Who are these people?

» When Heath Ledger killed himself, it seems to me the media suggested that he got so into character when playing The Joker in The Dark Knight that it affected his mental health.  Maybe, but I didn’t find The Joker nearly as dark as I had expected the character to be.  It’s been a while since I’ve seen the first (Michael Keaton) Batman film, but, as I recall, Ledger’s Joker wasn’t a great deal darker than Jack Nicholson’s.  (But then memory may not be serving well.)

» Purchased the Tragically Hip’s new album, We Are the Same.  I like it so far.  It’s a quiet album with plenty of melody, which is something which has been distinctly lacking from their last couple of albums.  Being somewhat of a completist, I also bought In Between Evolution at a highly discounted price and remembered as soon as I put it on why I didn’t buy it when it was originally released.  Noisy, melodyless.

On answered prayer…

My favourite moment in Evan Almighty, in which God (Morgan Freeman) tells Evan Baxter (Steve Carrell in a reprise of his Bruce Almighty role) to build an ark.  Early on in the film, Evan is obsessed with his career, so his wife prays for the family to become closer.  Soon after God’s call to Evan, however, she feels Evan’s bizarre behaviour is pulling them apart.

So she takes the kids to stay with a relative so that Evan can seek help.  On the way, they stop for a meal and God appears to her as a waiter.  This is part of their conversation:

Joan: But my husband says God told him to do it [build the ark]. What do you do with that?

God: Sounds like an opportunity. Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, do you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If they pray for courage, does God give them courage, or does he give them opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for their family to be closer, you think God zaps them with warm, fuzzy feelings? Or does he give them opportunities to love each other?…Well, I got to run. A lot of people to serve…

Appaloosa

Hey, thanks for showing up for the movie, nobody.

I kid.  I announced my attendance at the the-yay-ter too late in the day for anyone to notice.

Well, what of Appaloosa?  I’m trying to decide what to rate it, so I’m looking through my archives to see what I’ve rated the other westerns I’ve seen in the last couple of years.  My ratings of previous westerns;

  • 3:10 to Yuma a 4/5
  • The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford 3.5/5
  • Seraphim Falls 2.5/5
  • It looks like I never gave Open Range a rating, but it would definitely be lower than what I rated Yuma or Ford and at least as high as Seraphim Falls.

(In retrospect, I’m wondering if I was a little too generous with 3:10 to Yuma and not generous enough with The Assassination of Jesse James.)

I love the myth of the American West—dusty little towns and dusty, grizzled, gun-toting men with sun-baked faces who stare death in the eye on a daily basis.  In this respect, Appaloosa filled the bill, as it were.

And for once I didn’t think of Aragorn when Viggo Mortensen was in the scene.  He did well in his role.  And Ed Harris, who I often find too stiff and brooding as an actor, was quite open and loose from time to time in this film.  And it’s hard to go wrong with Jeremy Irons.  Renee Zellweger’s face seems to get tighter with every film she does (one of these days she’ll close her mouth and her face will rip off—nothing personal, that’s just how it looks to me), but she did well as well.

It’s a standard western: bad guy ruthlessly runs town, his posse flaunting all law and order; good guys with dark side (but no posse) come to clean up town; there is a lady; there is some shooting (or a whole lot of it); there are some scenic vistas; there is a showdown; it looks like the good guys have won; oh, but wait, the bad guy is back; no, now the good guys have actually won; and off into the sunset.

Mind you, this is not a bad formula.  In fact, it’s one of the things I love about westerns—you kind of know what to expect going in.  However, it’s nice for it to be freshened up every now and then, which is one of the reasons Unforgiven was so good.  Appaloosa did not really freshen up the western, as far as I can tell—except maybe the Renee Zellweger-Ed Harris “love story”.  The film reminded me quite a bit of Open Range and 3:10 to Yuma.

I did enjoy the film.  It had a nice pace and a great cast.  I’m reluctant to compare it to the films I mentioned in the last post, although I can see a bit of the relationship between Robert Duvall and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove” in the relationship between Viggo and Ed.

Since ratings are expected now, I’ll give it a…um…aargh.  I hate this part.  (I’m looking back at my archives and my ratings are all over the place, lacking any consistency.)  Umm…3/5 3.5/5

UPDATE: I’m too much of an indecisive softy to rate films effectively.  I just changed my rating to 3.5/5 and now I’m thinking possibly even a 4/5, but I daren’t up it by a full point.

I also felt bad about my comment about Renee Zellweger’s face since I clicked “publish”.  It is purely an observation of her facial progression through several movies and not meant to cut her down.  Of course, I immediately think crazy thoughts such as, What if Renee Zellweger reads this post. Which doesn’t really matter…except…What if I meet her some day!

I wonder about myself sometimes.

Want to go to a movie tonight?

I’m going to the 6:50 showing of Appaloosa.  Care to join me?  Please do.

I’ve seen it compared to High Noon, Unforgiven (the Clint Eastwood western) and the “Lonesome Dove” TV miniseries.  Those three comparisons are more than enough to pique my interest.  In fact, they almost make it a Must See film.

Besides, I love a good western.  The recent westerns Open Range, Seraphim Falls and 3:10 to Yuma, while entertaining, did not match my Unforgiven or “Lonesome Dove” experience.  Hopefully Appaloosa will come closer.  I’ll tell you later.

Once again I am boggled by the disparity between U.S. and Canadian ratings, with Canadian standards clearly being more “liberal” in terms of what is seen as appropriate for children.  Appaloosa is rated R in the U.S., for violence and language, which means children age 17 or younger must be accompanied by an adult to see the film.  In Canada it is rated PG, meaning parental guidance is advised, but there is no age restriction.  Isn’t that a strangely wide gulf between the U.S. and Canadian rating?