Tagged: Scarlett Johansson

Review – Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Director: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Paul Rudd, Jeremy Renner, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffallo, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Gwyneth Paltrow

Endgame

“Part of the journey is the end,” says Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) into a recording for his wife as he floats through space in a powerless ship with food and water supplies depleted and oxygen not far behind. While Avengers: Endgame by no means marks the closing of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – Disney is not walking away from that cash cow any time soon – there is a sense in which  it marks the end of something. Endgame is not a movie. This cinematic event is the culmination of the boldest experiment in big screen, long-form narrative the cinema has ever seen. That claim may sound hyperbolic, but we are talking about twenty-two interwoven films released over an eleven year period. Episodes in an ongoing narrative featuring upwards of ninety recurring characters, which have grossed a combined US$20.9 billion dollars and counting. As such, any attempt to critique Endgame in isolation, as a singular text, is almost as pointless as it is futile. The success or failure of this film is determined entirely by its ability to pay off that eleven year journey that invested fans have been on. In that regard, Anthony and Joe Russo’s film is an unqualified success. Continue reading

Review – Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Starring: Robert Downey Jr. Chris Hemsworth, Josh Brolin, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Mark Ruffalo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bradley Cooper, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, Chadwick Boseman, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Benedict Wong, Karen Gillan, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Peter Dinklage, Idris Elba

Avengers

With the incredible success of Black Panther, which is the year’s top grossing film by some margin and Marvel’s third highest grossing film ever, 2018 was already a winner for Marvel Studios before they had even played their trump card. Avengers: Infinity Wars is, by most any measure, one of the biggest movies in history. The film that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been building to for a decade now, it is a crossover epic 18 films in the making, and promises to be the blockbuster movie event of the year.

When Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo), who has been missing from Earth since Avengers: Age of Ultron, comes crashing down into Doctor Strange’s (Benedict Cumberbatch) Sanctum Sanctorum he brings with him an ominous warning. The titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) is gathering the infinity stones. These six gems forged in the big bang each control an elemental power and if he gets his hand on all six, and he already has three, he will become all powerful. His ultimate goal? Genocide on an unimaginable scale. Continue reading

Review – Rough Night (2017)

Director: Lucia Aniello

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Jillian Bell, Kate McKinnon, Zoe Kravitz, Ilana Glazer

Rough NightLucia Aniello’s Rough Night takes a comedy sub-genre that is usually male dominated, the massive party/night out that goes terribly wrong, and flips the genders. The thing is though, that aside from a few notable exemptions the majority of films in this particular sub-genre are terrible. So, true to form, Rough Night is too. Borrowing its central premise – a party derailed by the accidental death of a stripper – from Peter Berg’s 1998 film Very Bad Things, Rough Night is a derivative mashing together of The Hangover, Bridesmaids and Weekend at Bernie’s.

A group of old college friends whose lives have taken them in different directions are reunited after almost a decade for a bachelorette weekend blowout in Miami. The bride to be, Jess (Scarlett Johansson), is in the midst of running for state senate in South Carolina, so isn’t exactly in the mood for a party weekend, but her possessive best friend, now school teacher, Alice (Jillian Bell) is insistent. Continue reading

Review – The Jungle Book (2016)

Director: Jon Favreau

Starring: Neel Sethi, Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong’o, Christopher Walken, Scarlett Johansson, Giancarlo Esposito

Jungle Book 2016

Disney has always had a knack for squeezing every last dollar out of their intellectual property. Their most recent endeavour has been to recreate their classic animations as live action films for a new generation. We’ve had Maleficent (a reimagining of Sleeping Beauty), Cinderella and now The Jungle Book. But to call Jon Favreau’s film live action would seem a bit of a stretch when Mowgli himself is the only live element on screen.

Scripted by Justin Marks, this Jungle Book draws in equal parts from Rudyard Kipling’s original stories and the 1967 Disney animation which is, for so many people, the definitive version. Bagheera the panther (Ben Kingsley) narrates the tale of Mowgli (Neel Sethi), a man-cub raised by wolves in the jungles of India. While a much loved member of the pack, Mowgli develops slower than his brothers and sisters. Behaviours that are to them second nature need to be learned by him, and he is constantly being scolded for his tricks – using tools to solve problems rather than doing things the wolf way. Continue reading

Review – Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Director: Joss Whedon

Starring: Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, James Spader, Elizabeth Olsen, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Samuel L Jackson

Avengers Age of UltronThe 2012 superhero team up movie The Avengers, the culmination of Phase One of Marvel Studios plan for blockbuster world domination, was an enormous success taking $1.5 billion worldwide and becoming the third highest grossing film of all time. So naturally expectation is sky high for their next gathering, Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) is still haunted by the events of New York which concluded The Avengers. Knowing what forces exist in the universe he is acutely aware of the limitations of the Avengers. They can only protect the world from so much. With the help of Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) he has been secretly working at a plan he calls Ultron, which he imagines as “a suit of armour around the world.” After the Avengers reclaim Loki’s sceptre from a Hydra bunker, Stark and Banner try and harness its artificial intelligence and plant it in Ultron. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so sure enough this plan backfires. Designed to keep the peace, the sentient Ultron (James Spader) sees allowing the Earth to evolve through the elimination of the human race as key to achieving that peace. Continue reading

Review – Lucy (2014)

Director: Luc Besson

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Min-sik Choi, Amr Waked

LucyIt is a commonly believed myth that humans only engage 10% of their brain’s capacity. It is a favourite of science fiction speculation; just imagine what could be achieved if we could tap into that dormant 90%. The latest and most outrageous film to ponder this question is Luc Besson’s Lucy.

Lucy is an American student living in Taiwan who, thanks to her new loser boyfriend, falls in with the wrong crowd. Abducted by a Korean drug cartel, they surgically implant a pouch of their new super-drug CPH4 into her stomach for her to smuggle into America. But the pouch springs a leak, and as the synthetic drug floods into her body it starts to unlock the full potential of her mind.

While a number of films have previously toyed with the 10% idea, Lucy must be the most far-fetched exploration we have seen. As Lucy’s brain function increases, rather than becoming an ultra-high functioning human, she becomes almost godlike. She can read minds, manipulate time and space, and defy gravity. This is quite a leap to take, and the film does not offer adequate justification for what we are seeing. Usually a movie like this would engage some sort of pseudo-science (i.e. the DeLorean can travel through time because it has a ‘flux-capacitor’), but even Morgan Freeman’s character Prof. Norman, whose lecture on the potential of a fully functioning human brain is intercut with Lucy’s experiences, admits his theories are just hypotheses with no actual scientific proof supporting them.

The silliness of this premise wouldn’t be such a problem if the film didn’t take itself so seriously. Lucy seems to believe it is making profound philosophical points about the very nature of existence, but it is not. There are moments of humour in Lucy, and it is surprisingly simple humour. Were the rest of the film delivered in the same tone, embracing its silliness, it could be quite a fun movie. But because the majority of the time it takes its premise so seriously, it is hard to enjoy.

The other problem Lucy’s godlike powers create is that with every action sequence there is less at stake. The more powerful she becomes the less legitimate tension can be created by the illusion that she is in danger.

Despite all this, one cannot deny that Besson certainly had a clear vision. For all its faults, Lucy is a bold and interestingly executed film. Besson employs an almost impressionist montage style to bring his themes to the fore. When we first meet Lucy, as her boyfriend is trying to convince her to deliver a suitcase to the mysterious Mr. Jang for him, we momentarily cut away to an image of a mouse carefully approaching a sprung trap. As Lucy enters the hotel with the case, the scene is intercut with footage of a gazelle on the savannah being circled by cheetahs. This stylistic approach – far and away the most interesting thing about the film – continues throughout, being used to illustrate Prof. Norman’s theories, and results in film which feels like Tree of Life spliced with Salt.

Misrepresented in advertising so as to look like an all-out action movie with a butt-kicking heroine, this will undoubtedly help its box office takings but result in a number of miffed customers. Part science fiction, part action movie, part philosophical rumination, Lucy does not really satisfy as any of them, and for a film about unlocking the potential of the human brain, it manages to be quite dumb.

Rating: ★★

Review by Duncan McLean

Have you seen Lucy? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought.

Review – Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Directors: Anthony Russo & Joe Russo

Starring: Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Samuel L. Jackson, Anthony Mackie, Robert Redford, Sebastian Stan

Captain America - The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The First Avenger was the most divisive of the first phase of Marvel’s Avengers movies. While some people really liked its war-time narrative and the old-fashioned heroism the character represented, others, more drawn to the charismatic egotism of Favreau’s Iron Man or the brooding menace of Nolan’s The Dark Knight,struggled to get behind it.

After being frozen for half a century, thawed out in the modern day, and having played a key role in The Avengers, Cap is back for his second solo outing. Still trying to get his head around the changed world he now finds himself in, Steve Rogers carries around a notebook in which he lists things he needs to catch up on. This list is different for different cinematic markets, with Australian audiences seeing a list that includes ACDC, Tim Tams and Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. With no family and few friends, he immerses himself in his work, protecting his country as SHIELD’s most devastating soldier. But when it becomes apparent that SHIELD has been compromised, and it looks like Nick Fury is involved, Rogers finds himself on the outer, not knowing who he can trust. Alexander Pierce, the Secretary of SHIELD, employs the full force of the organisation to try and bring Captain America in. This includes the mysterious Winter Soldier, a super-soldier who for decades has been believed to be the stuff of legend.

Captain America: The Winter Soldier is an interesting blend of the new and the old. It is very much a film for the post-9/11, war on terror world. Its central thematic discussion concerns the appropriateness of forfeiting freedom in the name of security, and the morality of pre-emptive strike justice, eliminating threats before they become threats. Yet while dealing with these quite current themes, the movie has the feel of a 1970s paranoid conspiracy thriller like Three Days of the Condor (which also starred Robert Redford) thanks to its narrative about the criminal infiltration of government institutions.

This blend of the new and the old is also evident in the characters. Steve Rogers is a man of the 1940s, confronted by a world which is more complex than the one into which he was born. It is not just culture and technology which he has to catch up with. His sense of morality is also challenged. Rogers is a moral absolutist. For him there is a clear right and wrong, and this causes him to butt heads with moral relativists like Nick Fury and Natasha Romanoff, for whom the ends tend to justify the means.

Where this film really stands out compared to some of the others in the franchise is in the chemistry between its stars. Evans, Johansson, Jackson and newcomer Anthony Mackie all play off each other quite well. The film also continues to develop those characters returning from previous adventures. In particular Scarlett Johansson’s Natasha ‘the Black Widow’ Romanoff, who has been a supporting character in Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, is really made a focus of the film and is fleshed out into quite an interesting character and a great foil for Captain America.

As is to be expected from these movies, the action sequences are top notch. Evenly scattered through the film, they never drag and are different enough from each other that they capture your interest. The film contains the expected nods to the other characters from the Avengers franchise, but where once these moments were cause for excitement, since The Avengers they only serve to make you wonder why it is those heroes being alluded to are not choosing to get involved in this particular international disaster. More interesting are a couple of nods to other films. In particular there is a little something in there for the observant Pulp Fiction fan which is really top notch.

In all though, the combination of good action, strong characters and a decent storyline makes Captain America: The Winter Soldier one of the better Marvel movies and ensures the franchise will continue to motor along.

Rating: ★★★★

Review by Duncan McLean

Have you seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought.