Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Weekend Watch: Lucy and Begin Again


Luc Besson's latest feature is the most giddily stupid movie I have seen in a very long time. It also an incredible amount of fun.Please note that I do not use the adjective "stupid" lightly - the stupidity displayed in Lucy is daringly reckless, almost like the creators and performers are challenging the audience to not laugh. 

Well, I laughed.

I giggled when we first have our protagonist (Scarlett Johansson is such a superstar) being closed in upon by the bad guys, and since the ominous music may not be enough indication to the audience, Besson intercuts the scene with a gazelle being stalked by a lion. When she is finally captured, Besson makes sure you know she is captured by showing you the lion capturing the gazelle.  

I chortled through the movie's philosophical ruminations on what it means to be human - it turns out that time is really the key to everything, and again to make sure we get it, we're treated to Lucy sitting in an orthopaedic chair whizzing past the creation of mankind to the start of the universe itself. It's kind of like the Tree of Life sequence with scarier dinosaurs and less breathless whispering. 

There is more, much more. There is an Exorcist-like possession, there is Morgan Freeman giving a presentation on the magic of the human brain that sort of goes on for half the length of the film, there is an unearthly magical flash drive. This movie is nothing if not generous. 

I had a blast.

Begin Again

John Carney hit the big league with his charming musical Once, and on the surface of it, this follow up feature could just as easily be titled Once Again. Originally called "Can A Song Save Your Life?" (which, again, kind of describes the plot of Once), Begin Again trades in the almost claustrophobic intimacy of the earlier movie for a bigger scope and New York City setting. Also, stars - besides headlining Mark Ruffalo and Keira Knightley, here's Adam Maroon 5 Levine somewhat innocuously making his Hollywood debut. The end result - it's not the all out triumph that was Once, but it works in its own way.

This is a "let's get together and make beautiful music" movie, and the most crucial criterion of its success lies in how good the music is. Well, it starts off as somewhat unmemorable, but at the halfway mark, the songs start to take on an earwormy quality, and by the climactic soaring falsettos of Levine, I knew I'd be playing atleast a few songs on repeat. Keira Knightley in particular is an unexpected treat, finally eschewing her period dramas for this role as a spunky song writer; she plays off well against Mark Ruffalo's jaded music exec. There are frequent moments of banality in the screenplay, and yet whenever it comes down to Knightley and Ruffalo talking about - and making - music, the movie soars.

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