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Posts Tagged ‘Scarlett Johansson’

Well, I’ve almost finished my “summer” week off, so it’s time for the movie review.  Over the last couple of days I’ve watched: “Salt (the Director’s Cut)“, “Ted (Unrated)“, “The Judge“, “Don Jon“, and “Road House“.  Reader’s caution: spoilers and this is a long post, so if you’re not interested in my movie reviews, you should move on to another post / blog.  You’ve been warned…
Salt (the Director’s cut) – movie review
This is a spy / action movie – pure and simple.  The interesting (different) thing is that it has Angelina Jolie as the female lead who plays a Russian mole in the CIA.  Basically, there are sleeper agents planted in America meant to bring the country down at some unknown point in the future.  The agents are generally switched in at a young age after an accident is staged to eliminate their target’s family.  Blah, blah, blah…  A whole lotta action and kickin’ butt and while the story isn’t over (there has to be an opening for sequels), this round is won by the good guys.  (Was there ever any doubt?)
I’m not sure why, but I’m still not a BIG AJ fan.  I can’t think of anything I’ve seen her in which I completely hated, but, on the other hand, I’ve never seen her in anything and thought: “Wow!  That was brilliant!”  Having said that, I don’t go out of my way to see her work and she’s pretty good, maybe even VERY good in this role.  So, yeah, I guess she’s growing on me.  Final recommendation: highly recommended!  An action / spy-thriller which delivers.  Just don’t ask yourself: “How did they change the kids’ fingerprints?“, and sit back and enjoy the film.  Rated “R” – mostly for violence, but also for language.
Ted (Unrated) – movie review
Rated “R” for language and suggestive situations.  Perhaps the regular version of this movie was edited for TV and/or has a lower rating.  In this version, you can’t go five minutes without cursing, non-PC humor or “suggestive” situations.  There!  That’s that, up front…  This movie is seriously funny.  It stars  Mark Wahlberg as John Bennett (the child without friends and later man),  Mila Kunis as Lori Collins (John’s girl friend) and Ted (the Teddy Bear, voiced by Seth MacFarlane) who comes to life and becomes John’s best friend for life.
The great thing about this movie (aside from the animation and special effects) is that Ted becomes a celebrity instead of “the family’s little secret”.  Ted has his few moments of fame, and then he’s old news and nobody really cares about a “living” Teddy Bear.  Think about that for a second…  What would have happened if the Clark’s had simply announced Kal-El had landed on Earth and here he is??  Would we have a Superman character as we understand him today?  Can we “really” get used to almost anything?
Anyway, aside from the “rad” premise, for me, the real big surprise was that Mark Wahlberg can both act and can do comedy.  Don’t get me wrong.  I am a fan of Wahlberg and buy movies just because he’s in them.  But, I never “really” thought of him as an actor – just a guy playing tough-guy roles, just like John Wayne always used to play the quiet, strong, American cowboy hero.  At least that’s what I’ve always thought.  I’m struck that I may have to go back and examine some of his roles for actual acting.  Oh, what a burden!  Now, I have to go back and watch a bunch of action films…
Final recommendation: strong recommendation.  I have a feeling a good deal (maybe most) of the material will seem dated in a few years as many of the humor references are timely / current, but for now, this is a funny movie with a surprising amount of heart (again unexpected) in it.  Again, this movie is NOT appropriate for minors due to language and if you are sensitive about “Politically Correct” humor you will find this movie extremely offensive and not funny.
The Judge – movie review
The Judge” stars one of my all-time favorite actors (Robert Duvall) as a small town Indiana judge who’s been arrested for murder.  His estranged son (Robert Downey Jr.), a big-city attorney returns to defend  his father.  This is a powerful movie about the law, the justice system and (but) mostly about family.
Final recommendation: highly recommended movie!  If you like well acted, powerful drama about law and about family, this is a movie for you.  The movie is rate “R” for language and sexual references.  I don’t really remember any of that, but it is definitely a movie for mature audiences.
Don Jon – movie review
This is a movie about a young man – a “player” – who is (also) obsessed with viewing on-line pornography.   His obsession results in an inability to relate to women as real people, so the real women who shuffle through his bed are never as good as the imagined lover(s) he finds on-line.  The film was written, directed by, and stars  Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Jon; Scarlett Johansson plays his girl friend Barbara Sugarman; and, Julianne Moore plays Esther, an older woman / widow whom Jon eventually falls in love with.  Well, at least he ends the movie with her.
This movie, (like “Ted” above) contains frequent use of cursing and (unlike “Ted“) brief flashes of actual pornography (mostly uncovered frontal views).  It is clearly inappropriate for minors.  But, is it any good?  Yes.  Yes, it is a good movie about a serious social issue we are facing in this country (pornography) and it deals with perhaps the two serious issues of the problem: 1) the objectification and marketing of women (and products) into purely sexual roles (in and out of pornography), and 2) the effect of constant (maybe consistent is the correct word) viewing of pornography on a group of society.   I simply don’t know what long term effect the viewing of porn will have on a generation of young males who begin watching porn while under 10 years of age and continue on through puberty.   Of course this second issue isn’t actually dealt with or even mentioned directly in the movie, but I feel it is implied by Jon’s struggle to find meaning in his relationships.
Esther “helps” Jon find meaning.  Essentially, the risk of giving yourself (your emotions, not just your body) to another person allows you to transcend the sexual act and gives it (the act) and your relationship “meaning”.  Clearly, traditional morality holds to establishing the “meaning” in a relationship before the physical giving / sharing.
Oh, before I forget…  I would like to give a mention to the character “Monica” (Jon’s younger sister) played by Brie Larson.  Near the end of the movie, she has her one paragraph of dialogue and tells her brother (and family) he is better off without his girl friend (Barbara) because she wasn’t “in love” with Jon.  She simply wanted to change him into her idea of a perfect husband.  The scene is brilliant and comes completely out of left field.  I actually stopped the show to re-watch Brie deliver the lines and then fade back into the “I don’t care about any of this” Little Sister role.  Brilliant writing, acting, directing and editing!
Final recommendation:  neutral.  I know that is a cop-out, but I found the movie honest and well done, but troubling.  If the ends justifies the means, then the language and snippets of porn serve an artistic purpose and I can leave the film to personal taste.  If you are of the opinion that ends do not justify the means (any means to a good end), then the “message” of the movie is lost in the too frequent foul language and snippets.  Either way, all three of the main characters give solid performances.   Obviously, this was an “R” rated movie…  Do they even give “X” ratings anymore?
Road House – movie review
If you like the actors Patrick Swayze (Dalton, the main character) or Sam Elliott (playing bouncer Wade Garrett), you’ll enjoy this movie.  If not, it’s still an okay action movie from the late 1980’s.  I’ve seen this movie a half-dozen times on TV and this is the first time I’ve “seen” the movie.  It was a “recommended for me” movie on Netflix.  The action scenes are pretty much the same but the bar scenes are loaded with “T&A” and (again) the movie is pretty full of cursing.  (These seem to be common themes this week.)  Kelly Lynch plays “Doc” – Dalton’s love interest and Ben Gazzara comes way down to play the bad guy “Brad Wesley”.
Basically, small town controlled by an evil corporatist (Wesley).  Dive bar owner wants to cleanup his business, so he hires Dalton.  Dalton comes to town, blah, blah, kicks butt, blah, blah, charms the love interest, blah, blah, kicks major butt, short blah, defeats Wesley’s gang and Wesley dies.  Dalton and Doc skinny dip in the local pond, happily ever after…
Final recommendation: moderate recommendation.  To tell the truth, the T&A is gratuitous and my memory of the TV version (without the T&A) is better than this “full” version.  I guess I’ve turned prudish in my old age.  The action isn’t as good as I remember – mostly because fight choreography is much better in modern film.  Having said that, I liked Swayze and Elliott in these roles and they played well off of each other.  So, dated but still and ok movie.  Wait for it…  Yeah, this is another “R” rated movie.
Well, that’s it for now.  Thanks to any readers who’ve managed to get through all of this with me…
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On This Day In:
2014 Just Another Brick From The Wall
2013 Artistic Demands
2012 Foundations
2011 Are We Devouring Yet?

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The last two of nights I’ve watched a couple of movies: “Lucy” – starring Scarlett Johansson, and “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2” – starring Joe Cross.
“Lucy” is a Sci-Fi action thriller about a woman exposed to a drug which allows her to access 100% of her brain’s processing capacity.  The movie is premised on the old dictum that we humans only use 10% of our brains.  The reality, of course, is that we use a lot more of our brain, but we’re not using it consciously – which doesn’t mean it’s not being used, only that we’re not aware of it being used.  The upshot of the movie is Lucy gains super-human powers which allow her to be the “action-hero” star of the film.  Saying much more will pretty much give away most of the movie, but if you see the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen the film and the ending is mostly just detail.
The movie is filmed with a gritty-ness which seems to be the trend these days (similar to “Kill Bill” and the “Bourne” films).  The special effects are interesting and the philosophy – life, evolution, the purpose of man – are all pretty standard fare, but they are well enough done so the movie is more than “just” a shoot-’em-up action film.  I enjoyed the movie and particularly that it used a female as the lead.  Is any of it realistic or scientifically accurate?  No and no.  But it is entertaining, and sometimes, that’s enough for me.  I’d caution there is a significant amount of violence, blood and gore, so the movie is not appropriate for small children.  Overall, I’d give it a strong rating, but not quite highly recommended.
The second movie I viewed was “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead 2“, which picks up five years after the first film.  The star (again) is Joe Cross who has found a way to make a living off of being the “Crocodile Dundee” of healthful juicing.  Joe comes back to the United States (he’s from Australia) to revisit the places and with some of the people from the original movie – and to reinforce the message that our Western foods and lifestyle are making us sick and killing us.  And, I don’t think there is any doubt they (our food and lifestyle) are (killing us).
2” lacks the originality of the first movie and really isn’t as humorous or interesting as the first edition.  Having said that, there is a difference between “movies” and “real life”.  In the movies, you discover the secret to losing weight and live happily ever after as a thin (and healthy) person.  In reality, there is stress, a lack of emotional support or resources, and, more often than not, you put all the weight you lost back on (usually, and then some).  And remember, this is a documentary, not just entertainment.
As such, I give the movie a “highly recommended” rating.  Sometimes, being a grown-up means being informed as well as being entertained.  Having watched the original several times and having been a “juicer” myself (off and on) for the last few years, I enjoyed the up-date from Joe and it was interesting to see some of the results of the first film on the lives of its participants.
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On This Day In:
2014 Less Difficult
2013 The Spirit Of Liberty
2012 The Essential Freedom Of Aloneness
2011 A Problem Of Scale
Fred Doesn’t Live Here Anymore
2010 Another Book, Another Jog…

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At the start of the month, I went to see “Captain America: The Winter Soldier“, starring Chris Evans (Steve Rogers / Captain America), Scarlett Johansson (Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow), Sebastian Stan (Bucky Barnes / The Winter Soldier), Anthony Mackie (Sam Wilson / the Falcon), and Samuel Jackson (Nick Fury).  This is the sequel to the 2011 film, “Captain America: The First Avenger“, also starring Chris Evans in the title role.
If you’ve been following this blog for any reasonable length of time, you know by now that I was a big comic book reader while growing up and am now a big comic book-movie follower (and buyer), so I admit to a certain amount of bias in my reviews of this genre of movie.  Having said that, this is definitely one of the best of all the comic book based movies ever made.  Although lacking some of the originality of the first movie, this sequel more than makes up for it with a much deeper storyline / plot while maintaining its roots as an action movie (lots of fights and explosions).
The sub-textual plot is what does a “good man” do when faced with a world of gray shadows and it’s hard to tell if what you’re doing is “right” (morally).  Well, if you’re Captain America, you stand with your friends to bring truth out into the light.
The main plot is the fight between good and evil where the “good” is represented by SHIELD – an agency supposedly dedicated to preserving peace and freedom, and Hydra – the “bad” organization, dedicated to the subjugation of the common man for the benefits of the few who are holding power.  SHIELD has been infiltrated by Hydra and just as Hydra is about to initiate their ultimate “security” weapon, all heck breaks out (in the form of Cap and his friends).
As this is fairly early in the movie’s release cycle, I won’t give away too many spoilers.  All I can say is that you have to set aside your old notions of Cap as a suped-up normal person.  This movie version of Captain America is far more “super” than “normal”.  But if you can set aside common sense about things like – oh, gravity and the effects of sudden stops on the human body, for example – just for a couple of hours, this is a very entertaining film.
One of the things I particularly liked about this film was the subdued patriotism in favor of moral values.  In other words, it is less “my country, right or wrong” and more “this isn’t freedom, this is fear” symbolism.  This is visually captured by Cap’s change from a black and silver/grey uniform at the start of the movie to his traditional red-white-and-blue uniform for the final third of the movie.  In essence, he takes off the “fear” and returns to the inspiration of “freedom” as the justification for his heroic actions.
Final recommendation:  highly recommended!!  This movie works on many levels – action / adventure, sci-fi, political intrigue, and, of course, comic book heroism.  (And let’s not forget to say as a lead-in / promo for future Marvel comic book / movies.)  I thoroughly enjoyed this movie and look forward to seeing it come out on DVD.  Heck, I may even go see it again at the theater.  Now, I can’t wait for SpiderMan and Avengers 2!!
By the way, I went to see this movie with my son James, who is also a big comic book and comic-movie fan.  I treated him for his birthday.
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On This Day In:
2013 Remembering Val
2012 Good-bye, Val
Survival Value
2011 Traitors In Our Midst
Life Ain’t Easy

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