Archives for posts with tag: Scarlett Johansson

Grade C +

In this live action re-make of the classic 1995 anime, Scarlett Johansson plays a highly advanced cyborg who has a human brain (which contains her human essence, or ghost) that is placed into a tough, weapons grade body (the shell).   She and her team of government agents are tasked with finding a hacker who is killing top executives of a robotics company.

Through the crowded streets of Japan littered with giant, holographic advertisements, Johansson’s perspective on who she is, what she is fighting for, and who the real enemy is will change the closer she gets to the truth about the hacker.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Ghost In The Shell” (2017) is the scene when Johansson fights a Spider-Tank using inadequate weapons, forcing her to use her body to save another being that is similar to herself.

This iteration of “G.I.T.S.” dumbs down the complex storylines of the 1995 movie, making the 2017 version easier to understand but less satisfying.   It’s like driving a Dodge Viper ACR with the engine swapped out for one that belongs in a Toyota Camry to please those with inferior driving skills.  “G.I.T.S.” (2017) misses the whole point of a computer program becoming a sentient life form that seeks to evolve, and the arguments of what life is.  As disappointed as I was, this version is somewhat entertaining, and it was fun to see many scenes that were virtually identical to the original movie.  Still, this is a classic example of Hollywood focusing on style instead of substance.

— M

Grade A-

In a “Zootopia” type world, a broke Koala (played by Matthew McConaughey) runs a broken down theater and gets the bright idea to hold a singing contest to generate interest in his failing business.  The prize: $1,000 (mostly in trinkets that comprise McConaughey’s meager possessions).  But his secretary, an old Chameleon (the funniest character in “Sing”), accidentally prints out fliers that says the prize is $100,000, and before the mistake is found, the fliers spread throughout the city of…ummm…the city of “Sing.”

Among the hopeful contestants are: a shy, teenage elephant; a mother of dozens of piglets; a porcupine trying to make it as a solo act; a sleazy mouse (or small rat); and a young gorilla who is looking for another life beyond what his gangster father is offering.  Together, they will endure hardships and craziness that will either bring their lives up or have them crashing back down to their bleak existence.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Sing” is the funny and heartbreaking scene of McConaughey washing cars for money.  Stripping down to his underwear, he soaks up car wash soap into his fur and writhes against a car, removing not only dirt but every ounce of his pride and self-respect.

“Sing” is a movie the entire family will like.  It’s not one of the best animated movies (roughly half of the jokes are a bit lame), but it does offer memorable covers of famous songs and enough fun to be enjoyable.

— M

Grade A

When the Avengers accidentally kill civilians during one of their battles in Africa, the U.N. puts limitations on the superheroes’ actions, dictating when, where and how they are to fight the enemy.   One half of the Avengers are on Team Captain America (played by Chris Evans), believing that they should not surrender their autonomy to the committees of the United Nations.  The other half of the Avengers are on Team Iron Man (played by Robert Downey Jr.), believing that even superheroes should be held accountable, and it’s better to accept the U.N.’s rules now, rather than be forced into it at a future date when more draconian measures may be used against the Avengers.

Further complicating matters is a terrorist attack that is being blamed on The Winter Soldier (played by Sebastian Stan).  Stan, a former spy/assassin/brainwashed, all around bad guy with superpowers, is on the run from every law enforcement group, including Downey and his group of Avengers.  Evans, best friend of Stan, will do everything in his power to find Stan first and shield him from those who would want to kill him and/or put him in prison for life.

Downey warns Evans and his group to stand down, and if Evans does not comply, Evans will be seen as a criminal and will be treated as such.  And thus, the civil war between the Avengers starts.  On this corner, we have Captain America, Falcon, Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye, The Winter Soldier, and Ant-Man!  On that corner, we have Iron Man, War Machine, Vision, Black Widow, Black Panther and…Spider-Man!  May the best team win!

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when we first meet a very young Peter Parker/Spider-Man (amazingly played by Tom Holland).  I thought Andrew Garfield was great at playing Peter Parker; but Holland kills it, playing the role so perfectly that he stole the whole show.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Captain America: Civil War” of course goes to the battle sequence between Team Evans against Team Downey.  This is absolute heaven to every reader of Marvel comic books.  It’s like eating the most indulgent dessert wrapped up in layers of more dessert, and then getting seconds and thirds!

“…Civil War” isn’t just a feast for the eyes and ears, it’s also a commentary on the legalities, complication, and ramifications of certain countries doing military ops in other countries, whether sanctioned or not.  Read between the lines and one can see a critique of America’s military actions on foreign soil.  For those who are just looking for entertainment, this third Captain America delivers, and then some.  The things we love in previous Marvel Cinematic Universe movies are found here: action, adventure, witty banter, strong social commentary, buff guys and gals in tight outfits, heart, soul, and first rate special effects.

— M

Grade B +

After finding the scepter of Loki, The Avengers decide to give Robert Downey Jr. and Mark Ruffalo (playing Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk, respectively) a few days to analyze the object.  The two Avengers’ meddling leads to the release of an artificial intelligence named Ultron who wants to destroy the planet.  With the ability to hack into mainframes, Ultron creates a robot body for himself that can match Downey’s Iron Man suit; and by stealing money from various accounts, Ultron gains the resources to create an army of robots that will help him kill all the Avengers and the entire human race.

“Avengers: Age Of Ultron” ushers in two superhuman siblings called Quicksilver and The Scarlett Witch who ally themselves with Ultron in order to get revenge against The Avengers.  Time is running out quickly for Earth’s superheroes, who have been dealt a near-crippling defeat by their new foes.  Ultron grows stronger each hour, and The Avengers must find a way to stay united if they are to have any hope of saving the planet.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Avengers: Age Of Ultron” takes place during the opening battle sequence.  There is a slow-motion shot that shows all six Avengers (The Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) on screen attacking the enemy.  It is something that will never be forgotten by all Marvel Comics fans.   My compliments to director Joss Whedon.

At second place for my memorable moment of this movie is the scene when the commander of the HYDRA base that is under attack by The Avengers asks his men if the superheroes can be held back.  One soldier meekly says, “They’re The Avengers.”

One small weakness of “Age Of Ultron” is that there is too much comedy in it.  Even Ultron cracks one-liners almost every time he is onscreen.  It also doesn’t help that half of the jokes don’t really work.  Despite this flaw, this Avengers movie is highly entertaining, more so for comic book fans.  The action sequences are amazing and the pacing is mostly fast, making the 2 hour 21 minute running time of the movie feel shorter than it is.

Forget Ultron, this is the age of comic book geeks like me who are gorging on one superhero movie after another.

— M

I had my doubts about “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” before the movie even came out.  Why?  Because I watched it’s predecessor, “Captain America: The First Avenger,” and found it unsatisfying.  Although the first movie had a lot of heart, and there were many things done right, too many of the combat scenes were corny, and that’s what killed it for me.  It reminded me of the 1980s “G.I. Joe” cartoons where the violence was done in such a way that you got the feeling that no character was truly hurt.  Sooooo…I was very surprised and happy to see that “…Winter Soldier” mostly got rid of the corny fight scenes and embraced the gritty, brutal nature of combat.

Also gone is the boy scout attitude of Captain America, played by Chris Evans.  The U.S. government, with the help of SHIELD, has created weapons that are supposed to fight our enemies and keep Americans safe; but Evans sees a great potential for abuse and the weapons being turned on those they were meant to protect.   As his trust in SHIELD deteriorates, Evans digs deeper and uncovers shocking secrets about SHIELD.  Evans’ discovery turns him into a fugitive, on the run from SHIELD who unleashes The Winter Soldier, a man who has the same fighting skills and powers as Evans.  Who is this Winter Soldier?  Well, that’s a surprise.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene early in the first act when Evans drops into a ship that has been taken over by pirates.   Moving at a speed that is almost too fast for the human eye to catch up, Evans destroys the enemies in an almost savage way.  With some of his attacks, he clearly kills his enemies.  Other times, it is ambiguous whether he kills them or knocks them out/cripples them.  He is, after all, so powerful that he can easily break bones and rupture organs with one blow.  Whatever the fate of his enemies, the fights are more graphic than “…The First Avenger.”

Another memorable moment of “…The Winter Soldier” is the scene in the elevator where SHIELD soldiers are packed in with Evans.  Seeing signs that this is an ambush, Evans says to the large men, “Before we get started, does anyone want to get out?”  Haha!  I loved that!

My most memorable, movie moment of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” has to be the sequence that shows Nick Fury (played by Samuel Jackson) being attacked by dozens of police officers using fully automatic rifles.  It was a lengthy assault that brings this movie to a higher level of intensity.

“…The Winter Soldier” is not just an action/adventure movie.  It also goes into the realm of suspense/thriller, and we can thank the writers for that.  Of course, the glue that holds all this together is the actor Chris Evans.  He is so well suited to the role of Captain America that I can’t think of anyone else who can play that superhero better than Evans can.

Be sure to watch the end credits because bonus footage is hidden there.

— M

Writer/Director Luc Besson gives us “Lucy,” a movie about a woman who rapidly gets the ability to access the full capacity of her brain power due to a massive overdose of a new drug.  Scarlett Johansson plays the title character, a sympathetic woman who just wants to go home after a night of partying; but instead is forced into a drug deal that turns her into a mule for the new drug.   The drug is put into her abdomen, and Johansson is taken to the extraction point where she is beaten because she refuses the advances of drug dealers.  The beating ruptures the drug’s casing, and the drug mixes with Johansson’s body…and then the fun starts.

According to the movie, the average human uses about 10-15% of their brain capacity.  I like to note that in my experience, I believe most people only use 5% — how else can you explain texting while driving at 60 m.p.h., or the inability to distinguish the difference among “there, their, and they’re” despite being born and raised in an English speaking nation and having at least a High School degree?  And these are just two of many, many examples of stupidity I’ve encountered!  Okay, rant over.  Back to “Lucy.”

Johansson’s powers become God-like, at the price of her body quickly deteriorating.  There is something she knows she has to do, and she has to do it quickly before her time runs out.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Johansson tells a policeman to slide over to the passenger seat of his police car so that Johansson will drive.  The policeman, already a witness to Johansson’s frightening powers, tells her it’s not possible.  It’s a police car and she cannot drive it!  That got a laugh out of me, which I’m sure is the reaction Besson wanted from his audience.  Anyway, Johansson used telekinesis to slide the cop over like a little bitch, and that settled the argument.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Lucy” is the scene at the police station when Johansson confronted the Asian gangsters who put the drugs into her body.  With her mind, she disarms the bad guys, and the bad guys take fighting stances to attack her.  Man, these guys are hardcore!  As she walks toward the gangsters, she has them float toward the ceiling where they are still trying fight her!

Luc Besson has given us many action movies that feature a powerful woman in a leading role (“La Femme Nikita,” “The Professional,” “The Fifth Element,” “The Messenger”), and he can add “Lucy” to that list.  Just like the 4 examples I mentioned, “Lucy” is a good piece of entertainment.   Besson could have easily turned the story into one of a woman bent on revenge and/or world destruction; but instead Besson takes a surprising and interesting route for the evolution of the title character.  I tip my hat — if I wore one — to you, Luc Besson.  Good job.

— M

A lonely man who is in the final stages of his divorce falls in love with his phone’s Operating Software.  That’s a hell of a logline for “Her,” isn’t it?  It hooked me, that’s for sure; and I’m glad it did.

Joaquin Phoenix plays a sensitive writer who makes a connection with a new OS that has artificial intelligence and voiced by Scarlett Johansson. We’re talking one hell of an A.I. here, because Johansson quickly takes on human traits, learning and evolving at a very fast rate.  What starts as amusement for Phoenix evolves into something deeper as he converses with Johansson every day, much the same way as a man talks to a woman he clicks with on a regular basis, until they become friends and, in some cases, the relationship becomes romantic.

I know, I know, you’re wondering how the hell a person — a normal person — can fall in love with an OS?  Probably the same way a person can fall in love with character in a book or a movie.  Probably the same way a person can love his pets as if they were his child.  People are emotionally complex, and our ability to connect deeply goes beyond human beings.

One of my memorable moments of this movie is the scene when Phoenix is playing a video game, and he encounters a tiny, Pillsbury doughboy-looking character who curses like I do when I’m stuck in traffic.  Phoenix is stumped, not knowing how to deal with this foul-mouthed character.  Until Johansson offers advice that allows Phoenix to advance further into the game.  Hey, all girlfriends should be so helpful with their man’s video game struggles!

Another memorable, movie moment from “Her” is the scene when Phoenix is having a late night, sex chat online.  It quickly gets weird — which is usual for cyber sex (I know, I’ve had them!) — and outrageous when his partner, voiced by Kristen Wiig, wants Phoenix to pretend he’s strangling her with a dead cat’s tail as they are having cyber/phone sex!

As for my most memorable, movie moment of “Her”…that is the scene when Phoenix and Johansson have their first fight.  This is when I started to view Johansson as real, instead of an A.I. computer software.  The hurt and confusion in her voice will sound familiar to anyone old enough to have had a romantic relationship.  It was easy for me to believe that Phoenix was having a telephone conversation with a real woman.

“Her” surprised me in a few ways.  I expected “Her” to be some quirky, goofy, love story; but it simply is a love story.  A very well-written, well-directed (compliments to writer/director Spike Jonze), and well-acted movie about how relationships start and evolve.  I also thought I figured out what the ending would be at the start of the 3rd act, but I was completely wrong about that; and that’s a good thing, because being able to telegraph a movie’s ending sucks.  Last, I didn’t expect “Her” to stay with me after the movie ended.  You know, when a story lingers in your mind long after you have watched or read it. Those are the best types of stories.


Joseph Gordon-Levitt writes, directs, and stars in this very funny movie about a young man who has a very active sex life; easily finding good-looking, young women to take back to his apartment after a night of clubbing.  Yet he still has a terrible need to masturbate many times a week while watching porn.   Welcome to the world of “Don Jon.”

Levitt (Don Jon) is a caricature of young, single males from Jersey whose life centers around sex.   Most things about him are exaggerated for maximum shock and laughter: the tight clothing, the 1970s muscle car (a Chevy Chevelle SS, I think), the road rage, the macho walk, the facial expressions he makes toward women in clubs he wants to get with, and his take on why he prefers masturbating to porn than having sex.

Because Levitt is not looking to settle down and start a family, he’s happy with his current state.  Why buy the cow when all you want is milk, and the price of milk is low?  But then he meets Scarlett Johansson, and he falls for her hard right at the beginning; and that’s when she slowly makes him miserable by forcing him to do things he doesn’t want to do like: take a college class, stop cleaning his own apartment — she says it’s “not sexy” — and stop watching porn because it’s disgusting and only weirdos and perverts do it.  Are you f*%#@$g kidding!   I would’ve thrown her ass to the gutters!  Some of the reasons I like “Don Jon” so much is because we have many things in common: we like to work out a lot; we both drive sports cars; we’re both single; we like to keep things neat; we both love porn; we’re single; we love our families; we like to use product on our hair; and we like women.  But I’m much older than Levitt’s character, so I’ve learned not to take that kind of s*#t from a woman.  I don’t care how much I like her, once she starts telling me to do things that don’t make sense to me, that’s when it’s time for her to go.   Okay, enough about me.  Back to Levitt.

He’s young and in love, so he’s become a bit of a sucker for her bidding.   And he’s now torn between doing what he likes and doing what Johansson wants him to do.  Levitt decides to do both, and that’s when his life really gets topsy-turvy.  On top of that, he meets Julianne Moore in the college class he takes, and begins a strange relationship with her that will alter his life forever.

One of my memorable moments of “Don Jon” is when he goes to church to confess his sins, and his “sins” are less than what he confessed to earlier; and he expected less Hail Mary’s and The Lord’s Prayer, but got the same amount by the priest.  Levitt questions how the punishment is tallied, and the priest simply says something like “trust in the lord” or “have faith in the Lord.”  Levitt leaves with a WTF expression on his face.  Yeah, exactly.  Listen, when your question is answered with s*#t like that, that means the one who is answering you has no clue what the hell is going on.  You’re better off talking to whatever God you believe in directly, and cut out the middle man.

My most memorable, movie moment of “Don Jon” is the sequence when Levitt tells the audience why he prefers porn over real sex.  He says of real sex: women don’t give you a good blowjob or a long enough one than what you see in porn; women like to do missionary position too much so you don’t get to see and slap their asses; you can’t get infections from porn; and in real sex women won’t let you do certain things to them like ejaculate on their face.  Well, I have to disagree with much of his assessment!  Some women out there do let you ejaculate on their face, or boobs, or in their mouths (some will swallow); some women out there will give you a very good, lengthy blowjob without you having to reciprocate (even though you should!); and some women out there can be just as freaky as men, and are willing to experiment in many strange and fascinating ways.  “How do you know this, Manny?” you ask.  I speak from experience.  Apparently Levitt gets very lucky only with women who like regular sex.

As much as I enjoyed “Don Jon” (so much so that I am planning to buy this on BD when the price goes to $10 or less), there were two things that bothered me about it.  One is mentioned in the previous paragraph, and the other is that the movie clearly lets us know early that Levitt has a sexual dysfunction.  But does he really?  Everybody’s different.   People get off on different things.  As long as everyone involved are single, consenting adults, I don’t see what the big deal is if someone likes porn, or likes to get whipped, or likes to play with urine.  Ideally you want to be with someone who gets turned on on the same things.  And if you’re not with someone who likes the same things that you do sexually, it’s time to move on.  I don’t care if you consider her a “dime” the way Levitt called Johansson a dime.

And by the way, no way in hell Johansson is a dime!  A 10!  Johansson!  Hell no!  At best, she’s an 8.  Go on youtube and look up M.U.G.R.A.W. (Manny’s Universal Guide for RAting Women) for a detailed explanation on what I consider an 8.

— M

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