Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

Avengers: Endgame (2019) Blu Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Avengers: Endgame Review

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay by), Stephen McFeely (screenplay by)
Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Brie Larson, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chadwick Boseman, Tom Holland, Karen Gillan, Zoe Saldana, Evangeline Lilly, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Chris Pratt, Tilda Swindon, Dave Bautista, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Elizabeth Olsen, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong

The major downside to catching Avengers: Endgame in theatres was the risk of subjecting my bladder to irreparable damage. In my younger days, simply holding-it for three hours was no big challenge. Back in college, I even once participated in a drinking challenge where we’d see who could go the longest without relieving ourselves. I didn’t win, but did manage to make it almost four hours.

Those were different times and Endgame is a different type of epic. We’ve all sat through three-hour films before, but thanks to the Infinity War’s open-ended resolution and plethora of unanswered questions – not-to-mention a year’s worth of fan theories and speculation – taking a bathroom break would risk missing a key scene, plot twist or revelation. I’ll give the Russo Brothers credit for one thing: Every scene in Endgame feels vital at the time, making it a tough movie to walk away from, even for a moment.

At the showing my family and I attended, not a single theatregoer got up to leave once the film started. Afterwards, the continuous sound of flushing toilets echoed throughout the lobby for five straight minutes. I, for one, made the mistake of buying a soda before the movie, which I began the regret around the 90 minute mark. By the third act, my screaming bladder made it a challenge to fully immerse myself the film’s numerous emotional payoffs.

So despite being a fitting, larger-than-life capper to Marvel’s 22-film story arc, Endgame ultimately plays better at home, at least for those of us not endowed with iron bladders. In addition to reacquainting myself with the story thus-far by revisiting Infinity War beforehand, seeing Endgame a second time – able to hit pause when nature called – was far more enjoyable.

While I still loathe the practice of stretching a single story across multiple movies, Endgame justifies its existence – and length – due to the sheer number of characters, story threads and loose ends to tie in a manner that meets expectations of legions of MCU fans. A taunting task, to be sure, which Endgame manages to pull off. The film remembers its past while acknowledging the future, and is well-aware of the finality its title suggests (for the story arc and some major characters). In that respect, Endgame pushes all the right emotional buttons.

But unlike the original Star Wars trilogy’s most iconic moments, Endgame meets expectations without really ever exceeding them. As viewers, we already have a laundry list of plot points awaiting explanation, questions to be answered and characters’ odds of living or dying. All those boxes are checked-off – often magnificently, sometimes poignantly – but there aren’t any revelations as jaw-dropping as learning who Luke’s father is. And even at three hours, there are simply too many characters for everyone to get adequate screen time (some don’t even appear until the climax). Fans of certain characters will inevitably be disappointed by what amounts to a cameo.

However, those are minor quips. Endgame is ultimately a slam-bang crescendo to this massive franchise, the likes of which we won’t likely see again for a long time. While sweeping and epic in scope, it’s still filled with the smaller, character-driven moments that have always made the MCU engaging (something DC is just now figuring out). I’ve personally never met anyone disappointed by the outcome. I’m sure they’re out there, but maybe their bladders were simply too full to enjoy it the first time.

Ghost In The Shell (2017) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Ghost in the Shell

Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Shirow Masamune (based on the comic “The Ghost in the Shell” by), Jamie Moss (screenplay by)
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Pilou Asbæk, Takeshi Kitano

Plot:  In the near future, Major Mila Killian is the first of her kind: A human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.

Running Time: 1 Hour 47 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 43%    Audience  51%

Why I Watched It: More curiosity then anything else. know the original but never saw it.

Random Thoughts: This started a crap storm for sure, let’s say it wasn’t well received.  To be fair it’s always tricky to true and remake something that is considered a classic in it’s genre, I get Hollywood thinking they had to change things for American audiences but they went a little far.  Now I have seen parts of the Anime classic put really don’t know the Manga that well, of course heard of it and also know lots of people love it.  Now I’m going to review this film and not try to compare it to the other film.  A remake should always be able to stand on it’s own.

What I Liked: To say the least this is an interesting film not good per say but maybe not as bad as I thought it was going to be, to say the least it’s a mixed bag.  Scarlett Johansson is a star pure and simple and I do think her choices are a wee bit daring and not safe at all for a star.  She’s fine here, she does what she needs to do and she’s likable, at times she seems a bit lost with her character and doesn’t always seem to have a grasp but I think some of that is script and also the nature of the character. For the most part the acting is fine, the one person who stood out is Pilou Asbaek, really the most interesting character and the one who seem to flesh out their character the most.

Everything else in the film is the before mentioned mixed bag, nothing is great, the look of the film seems cheap at times and you can tell the studio didn’t want to go all in for this and its shows but some of the effects and visuals were different and did sell this different and futuristic world to me.

I did like the fact the plot was almost film noir like, there’s a major plot but underneath a mystery, secrets, and the film does look like a poor man’s Blade Runner not in it’s self a bad thing.

What I Didn’t Like: The plot/script is what undid this film, it’s overly confusing and really at it’s core a pretty simple story, if they focused on the base Sci-Fi story and human element of the story then it might have worked but they really Hollywooded this story and it shows, all the subtext is lost to say this film is heavy handed is a huge understatement.  Of course they focused on the action and that is what really falls flat, the effects in the fight scenes aren’t great and the main villain is boring.

Why is Juliette Binoche in this film, I ask as a fan of hers and also they did nothing with a great actor, if you’re lucky to land her then give her something to do.  She’s wasted in, and her character is a plot point a cliche.

This film misses the point of the story, they threw aside the human element, there’s a heart to this story and they tossed it aside for action and second rate visual effects and the mystery is not really a very well good one, you really see it coming.  Watching this film you get the sense no one had a sure hand on the material, too many cooks in the kitchen, this film screams of studio notes.

Final Thoughts: An odd mess, watchable to a point but a missed opportunity to be sure.

Rating: 4/10

Lucy (2014) Movie Review By Darrin Gauthier

Lucy

Director: Luc Besson
Writer: Luc Besson
Stars: Scarlett Johansson,  Morgan Freeman,  Min-sik Choi

Plot:  A woman, accidentally caught in a dark deal, turns the tables on her captors and transforms into a merciless warrior evolved beyond human logic.

Running Time: 89 Minutes

Rotten Tomatoes Score: Critics 66%    Audience 47%

Why I Watched It: This one slipped by me, I missed it and just got around to finally watching so yes I’m very late to the party.

Random Thoughts: Luc Besson is a very interesting director and not always in a good way.  He’s not pure Hollywood and that’s because of course he’s French and has also made French/Foreign films and has also produced a lot but when he directs he’s always big, his films are always loud and beautifully crazy and again not always in a good way, Lucy is very much a Besson joint.

What I Like: Scarlett Johansson is a very watchable actor not just because of her beauty but she’s always thinking and for the most part her characters either seem a little off or a tad different than who think they are.  For a star she does take risks and she can handle drama and action.  Here she’s easily the best part of the movie, she’s the reason you watch as the film gets crazier and downright silly.  She’s good but her character is very under written Johansson coasts on her own presence here.  I liked Morgan Freeman, he doesn’t do much but he’s Morgan Freeman and he’s always welcome in any film I watch.

This is an idea that I think works on paper and I do like the idea but the film loses it’s way but I’ll give it credit to try and be about something and trying to make a very smart science action film.

So to Besson, he has his fingers all over this and I did like the look and feel of the film and it’s crisp at under 90 minutes and he keeps the film moving at a decent speed.  The film does have a good action vibe to it.

What I Didn’t Like: The film goes off the rails and never really recovers, the idea is good enough use an action to explore the brain and use science in an action film, use the “we only use 5% of our brain” and sow what happens when we use more.  It’s the latter that the film just does wrong.  They tried to be smart in a pretty dumb action film and once Lucy becomes really smart then the film has nowhere to go and of course the film just keeps pushing things and it gets sillier and harder to care.

The film is also hurt by the fact that the film has a terrible villain this character is a cliche of a cliche, he’s just evil and really think about what he’s trying to do and how far he goes it really makes little sense.  The screenplay does no favors to it’s cast as no one is well written or fleshed out, the Morgan Freeman character works cause it’s Morgan Freaking Freeman.

The ending is beyond silly, I have to say I was bored by the end the film had out stayed it’s welcome, the film’s plot hit a brick wall but kept going.

Final Thoughts: Oddly it’s not a bad film just a not very good one but it’s watchable cause of it’s lead.

Rating: 5/10

The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (2004) Movie Retro Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Spongebob

Directors: Stephen Hillenburg, Mark Osborne
Writers: Stephen Hillenburg (television series SpongeBob SquarePants), Stephen Hillenburg (story)
Stars: Tom Kenny, Jeffrey Tambor, Clancy Brown, Bill Fagerbakke, Rodger Bumpass, Carolyn Lawrence, Scarlett Johansson, Alec Baldwin, David Hasselhoff

Nickelodeon could have really made a hash of this beloved character and show and Hollywoodised the transfer from animated television show to cinema. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and everything you loved about the tv series remains in this 2004 release. Okay it attracted a few stars in Alec Baldwin and Scarlett Johansson, who merely are supporting voice actors here to the established cast.

Why am I doing a Movie Review on “The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie”? Simple answer is my daughter asked me to do it and if I’m being honest there is a little self indulgence thrown in as I think the television series although mainly aimed at children cater for the child in most adults too. In the film, there’s no difference.

So the plot to the movie is SpongeBob SquarePants (Tom Kenny) takes leave from the town of Bikini Bottom in order to track down King Neptune’s (Jeffrey Tambor) stolen crown with his trusty friend Patrick (Bill Fagerbakke) at his side in this very funny adventure. To be honest the plot was always going to be simple and effective, more importantly was, could Stephen Hillenburg and Mark Osborne maintain a steady flow of humour for the duration of the film? Could they keep the audience who were used to a 23 minutes sketch interested long enough? The answer to both questions was yes and yes. 

Hillenburg and Osborne manage to have a gag almost every 20 seconds throughout. It’s something to be able to achieve this but to keep the story rolling merely forward without the humour taking you out of the plot is something that they appear to manage with ease. I always thought that 20 odd minute animated shows shouldn’t try this format as it’s difficult to maintain, I was certainly wrong here but perhaps not in the release of The Simpson’s Movie that came out a few years after this release my fears came true. The Simpson’s still is a very funny show but perhaps hit a blip when they decided to have an overblown plot that didn’t suit or match the TV show. This is why I think The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie succeeds. It doesn’t try too hard to appear as a movie, but more as 4 episodes of the same story continuing without a break. There is some terrific writing in here that is comedy at its best but also one of the saddest scenes you will experience in animation when Spongebob and Patrick are dehydrating their ways to certain death that precursors the incinerator scene from Toy Story 3.

The cast have been very tight in the last 2 decades on the show and the latter movie releases. Here they have that same energy and I’m still trying to process Clancy Brown voicing the very funny Mr. Krabs. The same Clancy Brown who played a bad ass prison guard in The Shawshank Redemption a decade earlier. There is a line in the movie that cracks me up in his line delivery in the opening of his new restaurant “The Krusty Krab 2” in which he openly admits to the press that he loves money “Hello, I’m Mr. Krabs, and I like money” to which the reporter asks why he is opening a second Krusty Krab restaurant, Mr. Krabs simply replies “Money” This line of course will never do it any justice in a Movie Review as it’s down to Clancy Brown’s voice and Mr. Krabs demented face that have my daughter and I in stitches every time.

Tom Kenny as the ever youthful voice of Spongebob never loses that spritely zing and flair that comes with the ever energetic character that is Spongbob Squarepants. Those opening scenes of disbelief of not receiving an assumed promotion are some of the best voice work from Kenny. From ever optimist to depressed sponge in a matter of moments is funny and emotional at the same time. Kenny along with Fagerbakke are an amazing double act in Spongebob and Patrick and it’s both these actors who carry the film throughout. It is after all their adventure and the stakes couldn’t be higher in a life or death quest to retrieve The King’s Crown .

Overall, The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie is a brilliant funny comedy that is aimed at the whole family and although the title and character name is assuming at times as a kids character I can guarantee all ages will enjoy this adventure. Hillenburg and Osborne done well not to fall into the trap of blowing their formula out of proportion and kept the story simple with the writing clever and layered. If you aren’t a fan or have never watched the television series it doesn’t matter. The film is a self contained joy and newer audiences will get a kick out of the film. Highly recommend.

Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Blu-Ray Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

Avengers Infinity War

Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
Writers: Christopher Markus (screenplay by), Stephen McFeely (screenplay by) 
Stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Benedict Cumberatch, Don Cheadle, Tom Holland, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Chris Pratt, Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Josh Brolin, Pom Klementieff, Benedict Wong

The dust has settled, the hype has died down, the fanboys have scrutinised every frame and Avengers: Infinity War has already raked in $2 billion worldwide. Now it’s time to take a deep breath, look beyond the spectacle and obligatory fan-service to assess what is still essentially half a movie (though it’s still a lot better than Age of Ultron). 

I’ve always been pretty dubious over the practice of dividing a single story into two or more separate films. I understood Quentin Tarantino’s motives behind Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 because they were stylistically different. But two Breaking Dawns, two Mockingjays and three freaking Hobbits were just greedy, cynical cash-grabs calculated to prey on fans whose commitment to their beloved franchises gave them no choice but to open their wallets one more time than necessary.

But after seeing Infinity War twice now (once in theatres with everyone else, the second time for this Blu-ray review), I have to grudgingly concede that the decision to make it two movies might be justified (I’ll reserve a final verdict until next year). As it stands, this film has an unenviable task: Include nearly every major MCU character, work them into the film without regulating anyone to a gratuitous cameo while still moving the new story forward (“new” is relative, though…longtime fans have been aware of this coming war for years). 

For the most part, the film is successful, mainly because Marvel has done a pretty masterful job of laying the groundwork during the past decade of MCU movies. So when Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) engages in verbal chest-thumping with Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the story doesn’t need to spend time establishing their personalities the way a stand-alone film must. Speaking of which, the film’s best moments are when these iconic characters are meeting each other for the first time. Those involving one-or-more of the Guardians of the Galaxy are predictably the funniest, and sometimes surprisingly moving.

The downside, of course, is that anyone not fully up-to-speed with the doings in the MCU will be completely lost. Sure, they could (mostly) follow the story, maybe even a few of the subplots, but will have absolutely no emotional stake in any of these characters. And there’s no other film in the MCU that depends more on the audience’s investment in its characters than Infinity War (especially during the final act).

Even without the burden of character exposition, bringing them all together convincingly takes a considerable amount of time (which Infinity War does by presenting three concurrent subplots). Could the rising action leading to its epic climax have been trimmed-up a bit? Absolutely. Infinity War is occasionally meandering and apocalyptic battles are so standard in this franchise that simply making them longer doesn’t necessarily make them grander. However, the story doesn’t feel gratuitously padded just to squeeze-out two movies. Casual viewers may be impatiently checking their watches after ninety minutes, but it goes without saying that anyone who loves these characters won’t want it to end. 

But end it does, with whopper of a cliffhanger that’s more Empire Strikes Back than An Unexpected Journey. In other words, the story may be incomplete, but not the experience. And if all 18 of the previous entries in the MCU can be considered converging roads leading up to this moment, then perhaps two movies is justified. I guess we’ll all know for sure next year.

Until then, because of its size, scope, references to past events and plethora of Easter eggs, Infinity War makes better repeated viewing at home than the usual superhero film. Nobody but the most dedicated fanboys would be capable of catching everything the first time. On a related note, I’m sort-of surprised at how light this Blu-ray is on supplemental material. The featurettes are entertaining, but mostly promotional and pretty short compared to those included on many other Disney/Marvel releases. 

The Island (2005) Movie Review By D.M. Anderson

The Island

Director: Michael Bay
Writers: Caspian Tredwell-Owen (screenplay), Alex Kurtzman (screenplay)
Stars: Scarlett Johansson, Ewan McGregor, Djimon Hounsou 

“Michael Bay vs. My Cat”

It’s common – perhaps fashionable – in certain circles to poke fun at director Michael Bay. He’s an obvious target for everything supposedly wrong with Hollywood today, and I’ve done my fair share Bay-bashing as well.

However, we once had the opportunity to steer Bay’s career toward something resembling respectability, but chose to ignore it. If we truly want to place blame for Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, Bad Boys or the entire Transformers franchise on someone, perhaps we should try looking in the mirror. Bay will never be worthy of mention in the same breath as Spielberg or Scorsese, but as moviegoers whose voices speak loudest through the almighty dollar, we must accept some of the responsibility for his reputation as a cinematic chest-thumper (Okay…maybe some of it is his fault, since his lone “small” film, Pain and Gain, was still big, loud and loaded with enough steroids to kill the New York Yankees’ entire starting line-up).

Each day, I commute to work on a busy four-lane urban street with lots of intersections and traffic lights. While fairly smooth in the mornings, traffic is stop & go on the way home. There are simply more self-absorbed shitheads behind the wheel when my work day is over, which I’ve grudgingly learned to accept over the years.

However, what I still can’t handle are some of the myriad non-motorists who share the street…like belligerent bicyclists whose pretentious peddle-to-work ethic impresses no one but themselves, yet fills them with a sense of “look-out-for-me” entitlement over those of us who pay a hell of a lot more for the privilege of using these same roads. I don’t know how it is where you live, but bikers have the complete right-of-way at all times in my hometown of Portland, Oregon. But such a law shouldn’t give them carte blanche to be dickheads. What amazes me is the sheer number of them who don’t appear to realise (or care) they’re squaring off against vehicles which could squash their stupid Spandexed asses like a hammer on a grape.

Worse yet are those presumptuous pedestrians who can’t be bothered to use a crosswalk 50 feet away, preferring to traverse the road wherever it suits them due to an asinine assumption that the rest of us are mere guests in their world. Some of them are so self-absorbed that they don’t even pause to make sure we’re even slowing down. It’s suddenly our job to look out for them because God-help-us if they’re forced to embark on that epic journey to the nearest crosswalk.

Technically, we aren’t required to stop for these folks, but there’s always that one driver with a misguided sense of courtesy who will come to a complete halt, actually increasing the odds of a multi-car crash, just to let a lone loser be-bop across the road, making the rest of us morally obligated to stop as well. In a sense, that’s understandable, because who the hell wants to be dragged into court after running over someone who incorrectly assumed he was the centre of the known universe? In the long run, it’s simply easier to let him have his way and hope karma eventually kicks his ass.

But the problem with that line of thinking is the same as giving-in to spoiled children whenever they scream loud enough. They learn the wrong lesson…

…just like my cat, Josey, who was once trying to get my attention to be let  outside, but I was in the middle of something important and couldn’t drop everything to address her kitty concerns (okay, I was playing poker online). Apparently frustrated, she decided on a new tactic…scratching the shit out of the arm of our sofa. In an effort to preserve our furniture, I picked her up and threw her out. So guess who learned what’ll get me to drop everything and tend to her needs? The result is we now have a sofa that looks like it was attacked by Freddy Krueger.

What Josey, butthole bikers and pud-knocking pedestrians have in common is we’re ones who encourage them to continue engaging in supremely shitty behaviour because, so far, it has worked for them.

Which brings us to Michael Bay, that hyperactive, heavy-handed hero of the most brainless, bloated, big-budget blockbusters of the past two decades. Even if you don’t know him by name, you know him by style…his are the films edited by caffeine junkies with plots that can be summarised on a cocktail napkin. Most are supremely stupid cinema suppositories that bombard you with decibel levels equivalent to a Slipknot concert and so much over-the-top CGI that the action ceases to be logistically convincing.

But I digress, since I’m starting to sound like I’m jumping back on the Bay Bashing Bandwagon. Sure, most of his filmography is dumb, but Bay himself is not. I know for a fact he’s at least as smart as my cat, and here’s why…

Michael Bay cut his teeth directing music videos featuring the biggest artists of the 80s and 90s. He parlayed that quick-cut MTV style to the big screen with his first film, Bad Boys, which connected with audiences more for its star power and technical audacity than anything resembling story logic or well-developed characters. Similarly-brash epics followed…The Rock, Armageddon, Pearl Harbour, the inevitable Bad Boys II. All of them were hyperkinetic eye candy with nary a whiff of substance, but at-least managed to keep legions of stuntmen gainfully employed. We showed up in droves, joyously overwhelmed by the sound and fury, even though none of these movies stood up to any real scrutiny upon second viewings.

Bay was suddenly the hottest director in Hollywood, though some of the credit for his success should go to longtime producer/collaborator Jerry Bruckheimer, whose entire career also consists of movies that can be summarised on a cocktail napkin. But unlike, say Uwe Boll or Brett Ratner, Bay himself actually has a lot of inherent filmmaking talent. He simply has no creative ambition, most likely because of his 2005 film, The Island.

The Island is the lone decent film Michael Bay ever made. It’s a dystopian tale of a massive facility which houses thousands of idiots led to believe the outside world is a plague-ridden wasteland, save for a single tropical paradise known simply as The Island. Every aspect of their lives is carefully monitored under the supervision of Dr. Merrick (Sean Bean). It isn’t a great existence, but hope is continuously provided in the form of a lottery, in which names are ‘randomly’ selected to leave the facility and spend the rest of their lives on The Island.

In reality, however, the outside world is doing just fine and these people are all clones of wealthy individuals able to afford the privilege of having healthy organs at-the-ready when their own parts start to peter out. Whenever someone’s name is called in the lottery, it’s because their real-life counterpart needs something vital from them. Lincoln Six Echo (Ewan McGregor) discovers this and manages to escape the facility with Jordan Two Delta (Scarlett Johansson), whom he‘s smitten by (and who can blame him?). Then the hunt is on, with Merrick hiring a well-equipped batch of mercenaries (led by a totally badass Djimon Hounsou) to find and kill them before word gets out about his illegal cloning activities.

The second half of the film descends into the usual sensory overload we normally associate with Michael Bay…hyper-edited action, ear-bleeding volume and massive scenes of disaster porn. But peppered among the mindless mayhem is a genuinely compelling premise which is explored more thoroughly than one might expect, along with characters who are actually interesting.

No one would ever mistake The Island for a great film, but compared to everything else Bay’s directed, it’s a fucking masterpiece. If you had a kid whose entire educational career has been D’s and F’s, but suddenly managed a C+ in History during his senior year, wouldn’t you be just as proud as the parent of an honour student?

Though it raises intriguing questions concerning the moral implications of human cloning, The Island still owes considerable debt to concepts first-presented in 1976’s Logan’s Run and 1979’s Parts: The Clonus Horror (producers of the latter actually filed a copyright infringement lawsuit which was settled out of court). Then again, if I discovered my slacker kid earned that lone C+ by cheating, part of me might still be proud he was ambitious enough to manipulate that grade in the first place.

But despite being the lone film where Michael Bay appears to care as much about the story as he does with pyrotechnics, The Island ironically remains one of his only box office bombs. As moviegoers, we shot him down by staying away in droves, sending a strong message that, aside from visual fireworks, we don’t care what else he has to offer.

This has effectively encouraged Bay to revert back to dumb, effects-driven epics which play more like video games than actual movies. Like my cat, Bay learned what it takes to get our attention, and it ain’t from thought-provoking epics like The Island. It’s from scratching-up the furniture and leaving the thinking to the Spielbergs and Tarantinos of the world. Simply put, we allow Bay to wallow in the same level of stupidity that jaywalkers display when blindly stepping into traffic. With the exception of The Island, it’s worked so far.