Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Movie Review: Lucy


3.0 out of 5 stars Action First, Story Third Undermine Film's Potential
The action-thriller film by director/screenwriter Luc Besson has over-the-top action and thrills with chills, however actors Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman were given poorly used characters and with a nonsensical story that wasn't helped by how the main and subplot were interwoven together throughout the film.
The film revolves around the titular character, Lucy (Johansson), receiving psychokinetic abilities due to a nootropic drug getting absorbed into her bloodstream. In and of itself, the plot is intriguing and gave Besson a lot play with as he wrote the script. However he cut down the potential of the film by multiplying the locations and the need to show overindulgent action sequences that were in direct opposition to the information that Professor Samuel Norman (Freeman) had relayed through exposition delivered in the lecture he was introduced in or just took up too much time like the Parisian car chase.
The introduction of Lucy at the beginning of the film in retrospect was a tell-tell sign of the problems the film would have as she is forced by her boyfriend to deliver a suitcase for him after it's handcuffed to her, the biggest problem was that instead of delivering it she could have easily bashed it upside his head and gotten the handcuff cut off. Next was her interaction with the Korean mob, which need not have taken place at all since it would have been easy to take off the handcuff and x-ray the suitcase since it was clearly too lightweight to be lead-lined. And the interruptions of lions stalking gazelles while Lucy was in the lobby was needless over-the-top foreshadowing. In fact initial setting of Taiwan wasn't really necessary with the film ending in Paris given the events taking place, it could have all taken place in Paris or ended in Seoul (or Tokyo). Without an uncomplicated process of going to one location to another, the character played by Amr Waked could played a larger part in the film as Lucy's connection to human emotion as she continues to transcend humanity with the increase of her intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities. In fact, instead of using the "10% myth" Besson could have instead used the concept of brain efficiency along with internal genetic modification by the introduced drug to help explain Lucy's changes.
Once the end credits begin, the biggest take away from Lucy is that the film could have been better given the great performances by Johansson and Freeman. But as I said at the beginning of this review, both characters were poorly used throughout a nonsensically plotted film. Instead of just a simple thriller, Besson could have created a high level psychological thriller with plenty of action but went action first and story third.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The rules are thrown out the window in “A Game of Thrones” as the book that started it all brings to life fantasy versions of numerous time periods with a real life flare plus a little magic.  George R.R. Martin began with well-heeled clichés then either flipped on their heads or just bulldozed them as he explores the great tale of A Song of Ice and Fire.

After an intriguing setup with ice monster, Martin completely ignored the lands beyond the Wall and focuses on the political machinations far to the south in which fantasy clichés meet hard reality.  The honorable hero (Eddard Stark), the first non-prologue character the readers encounter that must be the main protagonist (Bran Stark), and the dwarf who must be evil because he’s different (Tyrion Lannister) are just a few classic fantasy clichés that Martin completely obliterates with death, crippling, and turning out not to be an evil person at all.  All three and many more I haven’t listed point-of-view characters are given enough chapters and time in the book to come out as real people facing real challenges and responding to them based on the personalities Martin establishes for them.

Political intrigue almost a generation after a successful rebellion put a new dynasty on the Iron Throne and how characters respond to that intrigue is the major focus of the book (and thus its title).  The differences in Westerosi culture based on geography play a role throughout the book as do medieval gender roles.  Through almost 700 pages of twists and turns that covers more than a year on two different continents, the reader not only has an easy grip not only the narrative of the book but also the world its set in.  Each reader will soon have their favorite characters they’ll look forward to reading and want more of and also have their least favorite characters, which is also okay.

“A Game of Thrones” launches the reader into the world of Westeros (and Essos) and never lets them go.  From political intrigue, to secrets from the past, to a real life feel to fantasy, and just a dash of magic (DRAGONS!) George R.R. Martin’s first book of his fantasy series has something for everyone.

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