Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

Rapid Review: Ghost in the Shell (2017)

ghost in the shell

In the new future the difference between human and machine blurs as humans use cybernetics to enhance themselves. Among even them is Major (Scarlett Johansson), the first of kind as the sole survivor of a terrorist attack who has her mind placed in a mechanical body.  Now working as a super soldier with very few memories of her past Major finds herself facing an enemy who may know more about her then she thinks.

Before it was even released Ghost in the Shell, which is based on a Japanese anime, faced criticism for whitewashing its main character. It’s a shame that the film didn’t take the ‘risk’ in casting an Asian actress in the role but I’m not sure even that would have been enough to save this film.

It’s not an out-and-out disaster for example there are some nice visual effects on display and the opening fight scene which includes a creepy geisha bot is good. The idea of he cybernetic enhancements could have led to some really interesting themes about the blurred lines between humans and robots  and what really makes someone human. Unfortunately none of these plot threads anywhere compelling and the film is devoid of much originality. A shame really because from what I understand of the anime and manga it had a huge influence on a lot of talented people like the the Wachowski siblings. Ghost in the Shell also has the misfortune of being released after a whole host of films and TV shows have successfully explored the same thing (Ex Machina, Westworld and Humans to name but a few). It also doesn’t help that Major is by her nature a blank slate, which is not a criticism of Johansson’s acting who is fine in the role, but it’s hard to root for a character who is mostly emotionless.

Rating 2.5/5 – a missed opportunity by Hollywood this sci-fi actioner lacks substance and originality

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Top 5 Female Marvel Characters Who Need Their Own Movie

I love Marvel, I really do, but it’s flabbergasting that we’ve had to wait so long for the first Marvel female superhero flick to hit the big screen. The DC films may have their issues (a lot of issues) but they’ve still managed to get Wonder Woman to our screens this year. We’ll have to look to 2018 for Evangeline Lily to share joint billing with Paul Rudd in Ant-Man and The Wasp, and then another year for the first solo Marvel female to lead the big screen in Captain Marvel. So who should be in Marvel’s lineup for Phase 4?

5. Scarlet Witch

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With Doctor Strange allowing the MCU to go to psychedelic new places surely the world is ready for a completly bonkers Scarlet Witch movie? Considering Scarlet Witch is a powerful character who lacks control over said abilities she’s ripe for potentially great plotlines.

In the comic Scarlet Witch used her powers to depower 90% of the mutants, now imagine her having accidentily depowered the Avengers and having to go on a quest to restore their powers before the next big bad attacks. It could have the Avengers living without powers and some comedy with Hawkeye and Black Widow feeling like the superior ones for once, having to train the avengers on physical fighting while Scarlet Witch goes to right her wrongs.

Or we could have her finding outthat members of her family are alive, now in the comics her father was Magneto but due to studio conflict her father could be remade into a different villain with Scarlet Witch being torn between family ties and her loyalties to the Avengers. If Marvel really wanted to break the moulds and try something different then Scarlet Witch could be a great way to bring some inventive into the mix.

4. Gamora

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When you think of memorable characters from Guardians of the Galaxy Gamora may not be the first to spring to mind. Having to keep playing the straight man to Chris Pratt, Bradley Cooper and co means Zoe Saldana wasn’t able to showcase her full range. However while the rest of the characters would work best in a wacky ensemble Gamora is maybe one of the few strong enough characters to lead her own movie.

Think about it, she’s a strong fighter with a tragic back story and a need to make up for her misdeeds under Ronan. She could split for the other Guardians for an intergalactic adventure, maybe teaming up/ running away from her sister Nebula and the movie can explore their complicated relationship. While also dealing in kick-ass fights of course. Maybe if a bit of broad humour is needed then Rocket can come along for the ride. With Saldana playing second fiddle in an array of blockbusters (Guardians, Star Trek, Avatar) isn’t it about time Saldana leads her own movie?

3. Spider-Gwen

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Now that Spider-Man has been rebooted (again!) and with the MCU having a hand in precedings this time around maybe it’s time to introduce another character from the Spidey-Verse. While there’s a lot of love out there for a Miles Morales feature (and I would love it if the Donald Glover rumours turn out to be true) another character I’d want to see is Spider-Gwen.

Yes in the Spidey-Verse where different Spider-Men, er people, come together we discover in one verse that Gwen Stacey lives! Not just that but she is bitten by that pesky spider instead of Peter Parker. The character became so popular she got her own comic series and she is a delight. She’s a smart, funny and likeable character that male and female fans enjoy. A blonde teenager who juggles friendship, family life and battling evil guys? This film has ‘directed by Joss Whedon’ all over it, and with less pressure than with The Avengers sequel maybe he can be persuaded to make a return to the MCU.

2. Ms Marvel

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Like Spider-Gwen the all new Ms Marvel Kamala Khan has been a big hit since her comic series debuted in 2010. Kamala is an Inhuman Superhero who protects her home of Jersey City with her shapeshifting abilities. What marks Kamala out from the other teenage superheroes is her strong belief in her faith, trying to be good Muslim daughter while fighting the big bads. It would be easy to see Kamala as a box ticking exercise or expect her religious beliefs to be treated as a bad stereotype. However Kamala, and by extension her family and friends are treated with respect, sensitively and also they are asll made to be three dimensional characters in their own rights.

The series is also hilarious with Kamala attempting to quip her way through fights and her delight in being a superhero is great to see. Of course there’s teen angst and romantic entanglements but nothing feels cliche and Kamala is the freshest superhero Marvel has had in a long time. As her character has had interactions with Captain Marvel, Spiderman and even Wolverine it would be easy to throw her into the Marvel mix and the potential for crossover gold would be high. Come on Marvel make it happen!

1. Black Widow

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Making her debuted all the way back in 2010’s Iron Man 2 Natasha Romanov has been waiting a long time for her own solo movie. Having also featured in two Avengers movies as well as the last two Captain America films Black Widow has long put in the work for the MCU. Fans are calling out for her to have her own movie, audiences are familiar with her character and Scarlet Johansson is a big movie star, so what’s the hold up? Surely the stars are aligning for Natasha to get own movie.

So what could a Black Widow movie look like? Considering her past as a spy maybe one of her old missions come back to haunt her or she’s attempting a path of redemption? Her mysterious past could offer a wealth of ideas. As for supporting characters, as much as I like her relationships with Captain America and Iron Man, anything more than a cameo from either of these two would threaten to overshadow Black Widow in her own movie. A more natural companion would be Hawkeye, as the two already have a confirmed on screen friendship but I would like to see Black Widow take Scarlet Witch under her wing. Black Widow is all about control and logic whereas we’ve seen Scarlet Witch struggle with her powers and her emotions. They would make an interesting pair and a kick-ass buddy movie (imagine the scrapes they would get into). It would also give fellow Avenger Elisabeth Olsen a chance to shine (if she fails to get own solo film) and give Johansson new dimensions for her character, allowing her to focus on female friendships which we haven’t seen from Black Widow or Marvel yet. The film could also follow a mentor/student route rather than putting Black Widow with a male character just to force a romantic subplot down our throats (here’s looking at you Age of Ultron).

So what’s it going to be Marvel? Hopefully they’ve got a few big ideas up their sleeves and I can’t wait to hear them.

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Her

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Technology and society’s relationship with it has been the focus over many films over the years. In Spike Jonze’s film we see how technological advances leads to an unconventional romance.

In a futuristic Los Angeles Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) is lonely and going through a stressful divorce. When he purchases an A.I operating system called Samantha (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) the two begins to form an unexpecting relationship.

The world inahbited in Her is very similar to ours  but where technology is five minutes into the future. I could believe a lot of the technology we see here being made in the future, if not already being developed. The main focus is on humans relationship with technology, while you would expect all this new tech to be isolating (and some early scenes show how this could be the case) Theodore’s relationship with Samantha opens him up to the world in a way he never did before.

At first I thought that Theodore would come across as a bit creepy and be unable to cope with a real woman with her own thoughts and that’s why he’s in a relationship with an OS. Luckily the film is more complex than that and while Samantha may be an A.I she also comes across as real and complicated just like everyone else.

Phoenix is great in the lead-which is good as he is in practically every scene. And he’s especially good when you think about the fact he is reacting to someone who wouldn’t have been present in the room with him, yet you believe in his bond with Samantha. As someone who is only present through her voice Johansaan is a dominating force and manages not to come across as robotic but still have an otherworldly feeling to her character that marks her out as not human. I also liked Amy Adam and Rooney Mara in supporting roles that add differing views on the central relationship.

The only thing I wasn’t sure of was the ending, not that it was a bad ending but the whole third act seemed a bit random. Hopefully if I watched it again maybe the climax will make more sense.

Rating 4/5 – intelligent, funny and strangely romantic

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Avengers: Age of Ultron

There were high expectations from Marvel and director Joss Whedon following on from 2012 mega hit The Avengers. But would too much hype mean all my expectations will be crushed Hulk style?

Having grow tired and concerned over whether the Avengers can stop every battle coming their way Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jnr.) convinces Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) to help create an A.I that will help defend Earth. Unfortunately his creation Ultron (voice by James Spader) decides the best way to save Earth is to destroy the Avengers and humanity. Teaming up with a pair of gifted twins (Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen) they plan to bring the Avengers down and the world to its knees.

While the film doesn’t reach the dizzy heights of the first Avengers movie it’s still a great summer blockbuster. Theres some nice character moments to develop members of the team like Black Widow (Scarlet Johansson) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). While there isn’t as many Whedon-isms as I would like there are still some very funny one liners. There was a surprising amount of swearing in the movie and a lot of innuendos. There was some hilarious moments such as the Avengers trying to lift Thor’s hammer. I loved Chris Hemsworth’s worried expression as Captain America (Chris Evans) nudged the hammer. The film also had some nice emotional scenes such as the Avengers coping after having been given a massive beat down by Ultron and the twins. Ultron made for a good villain even if he isn’t as awesome as Loki. We also got plenty of drama as the Avengers came into conflict over Tony’s actions, building up some nice tension between iron Man and Captain America which shall continue into the next Captain America movie.

Not everything worked. The middle of the movie dragged a bit for me. I didn’t believe the romance between Banner and Black Widow. They have better chemistry as friends. I wasn’t completely sold on the twins Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch either. Quicksilver suffered from the fact that X Men: Days of Future Past did the character so much better. Scarlet Witch just felt a bit undeveloped but could be more interesting in future installments.

There are fears that Marvels run of movies will become stale, but while they continue to make enjoyable summer movies and have a great team of actors and directors, I think they still have a way to go before we start seeing a real dip in quality.

Rating 4/5 – not quite the smash that the first film was but still a great superhero movie

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Lucy

Originally conceived with Angelina Jolie in mind, the latest science fiction action movie from Luc Besson comes with big expectations from the man who made Leon and The Fifth Element. But is Lucy a classic movie in the making?

After being tricked by her boyfriend into delivering a suitcase of drugs to a drug lord Mr Jang in Taiwan, American student Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is forced into being a drug mule. When she is kicked in the stomach by her captors the drugs sewn into her stomach start to leak into her system. But this isn’t regular recreational drugs Lucy is carrying but a new synthetic drug that enables Lucy to unlock previously untapped areas of her brian. As she starts to reach her brain’s 100% potential she has to struggle to stay alive while fighting the vengeful Mr Jang.

There is a lot of things going on in Lucy. It’s ambition and scope is admirable. Besson clearly wants this to be above the average action/ thriller throwing in long narration from Morgan Freeman on science and  philosophy with clips of the first woman among others. The problem is I got the feeling that if it Besson had taken away the science babble and focussed on making a more straight-forward kick-ass thriller then he would have produced a film that was more satisfying. It’s not that I want all my movies to be dumbed down but it felt like the film was trying to say something profound and fell rather short. It was actually distracting from the main story of Lucy developing these amazing powers as her mind expands. At times it reminded me a lot like Limitless, except a lot less fun.

Not that there isn’t good things to enjoy in Lucy. Scarlett Johansson is strong as Lucy and makes a believable action heroine just like we’ve seen her as Black Widow. She manages to show Lucy’s vulnerable side at the start of the film and make her a sympathetic character that the audience engages with. It’s a shame that as a side effect of unleashing her brian’s potential Lucy becomes less human, less emotional and more a robotic, god-like humanoid. The scenes where she is calling her mother on the phone and crying about how she remembers being a baby in her arms is quite affecting. However this is soon replaced with a blank faced expression that stays for most of the film. It’s a shame the film couldn’t have focused more on the emotional toll these new abilities were affecting Lucy rather than shutting off her emotional side completely.

We are also treated to some great action sequences such as car chase across Paris with Lucy controlling the other cars, and numerous fight scenes where Lucy gets to use all her powers against her enemies. The film also looks stunning with Besson showing he still has an eye for a great looking movie.

All in all Lucy is a good enough movie and definitely an interesting watch. But perhaps Besson’a ambition got in the way of a what could have been a great action/thriller. The ending in particular goes off into a weird direction. However a film as divisive as this will probably find a devoted fan base.

Rating 3/5 – bold, different but unfortunately not completely satisfying

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

After some exciting trailers the highly anticipated sequel to 2011’s Captain America film is here! But with all that hype can Steve Rogers and co possibly live up to the expectations?

Two years since the events of The Avengers and Steve Rogers is working for S.H.I.E.L.D and trying to find his place in the modern world. However as he finds himself involved in a conspiracy that threatens the world’s freedom he’s left wondering who he can really trust.

I liked the film, I really did, but I didn’t love it like I hoped I would. I think what I missed was a sense of fun that Marvel normally brings to its films like in Thor 2, Iron Man 3 and The Avengers. Thats not to say the film isn’t funny at points, it is, I just wanted more. But then that might have jarred with the conspiracy thriller feel that this film is going for.

I also found some of the twists a bit predictable and they took too long to reveal the identity of the Winter Soldier, especially considering most fans already knew who he was (granted some people may not have known but still I think this should have been revealed earlier in the film).

However despite this the film did have a lot of good points. Chris Evans is his usual charismatic self, making Steve Rogers a charming and noble man rather than the do-gooder bore he could have been. I liked seeing more of Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) this time around and even though they played up the possible chemistry between her and Captain America I’m glad she wasn’t relegated to playing the ‘love interest’ role.

Again Marvel cast their supporting players well. Regular characters such as Nick Fury(Samuel L. Jackson) and Agent Maria Hill (Cobie Smulders) get a welcome return. We also get some brand new characters with Anthony Mackie’s first appearance as Falcon. I did feel we could have learnt a bit more about his back story but at least he was more well-developed than just being Captain America’s  black best friend.

As ever the fight scenes in the movie are great and are just as thrilling as anything Marvel has ever done in their other films. I also liked the fact that Anthony and Joe Russo-mostly known from directing tv shows such as Community and Arrested Developement– tried something different with this movie, making it more a conspiracy action film than the usual Marvel movie. Theres also for once a great mid-credit scene featuring some new characters to be seen in the next Avengers movie.

Rating 3.5/5 – solid work from Marvel but lacking a bit of fun

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Under The Skin

Jonathan Glazer’s third directorial  feature is setting to be more controversal and divisive than his last offering Birth. But will I be able to stand to watch the whole film?

The plot-what there is of it-follows Scarlett Johansson as an alien in Glasgow who stalks men in a white van, assesses if they are what she is looking for, than lures these unsuspecting men to their fate.

I can see why this film has caused so many divided opinions since it’s release, some thinking its a masterpiece others that it’s an incomprehensible nonsense. I can see both sides of the argument and at times the film displays both these qualities. Some scenes are creepy, hypnotic and full of startling imagery and sound. Other times it’s not artistic-just boring.

First half of the film is enthralling even though there is not much in a sense of plot. The second half of the film, after Johansson leaves her van in the road and goes off into the fog is where the film starts to drag. At times it feels like a short film that has been stretched out too long.

Johansson gives a confident performance as the alien with an unclear mission-to us at least. She has to strip not only her clothes but her celebrity status, she wonders around the town of Glasgow incognito and wonders aimlessly around confused by the reactions of those around her. Her alien can be charming and friendly to those she meets but as soon as they do not meet her requirements her steely glare returns and reverts to her dispassionate expressions.

Some will love going over this film and coming up with theories about what is going on (I have my own but I’ve no idea if they are anywhere close to what the director had in mind). Others will find it incomprehensible rubbish.

Sometimes it does feel as though the film is being too mysterious for its own good and perhaps a little more transparency (or plot) would have been good. But then it might have ruined what the director has achieved.

Some scenes and images will stay in the mind, the hypnotic opening, the fate of the men who enter the house, a trip to the beach. What stood out to me most was the score by Mica Levi, how it would build up as Johansson stalks her prey and brings them back to her lair. It’s as ominous and unsettling as the film itself.

Overall this is a film I’m glad I experienced although I can’t say it’s one I will necessarily want to watch again, although if I was interesting in studying or directing films then I imagine it would be an interesting one to deconstruct the film at length to see if it’s secrets can be revealed underneath its egnomatic skin.

Rating 3/5 – it won’t appeal to everyone but you’ll definitely have an opinion on it

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