Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lucy (Rhoades)

Front Row at the Movies

Scarlett Johansson
Seals the Deal as an
Action Star in “Lucy”

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Sure, we’d be happy just listening to the computerized purr of her voice in “Her.” But there’s a physical side to Scarlett Johansson too. She’s the only two-time winner of Esquire Magazine’s “Sexiest Woman Alive.” And her movies have ranged from historical (“Girl With a Pearl Earring,” “The Other Boleyn Girl”) to Woody Allen films (“Vicky Cristina Barcelona,” “Matchpoint”) to acclaimed indies (“Lost in Translation,” “Under the Skin”). And lately she’s turned to blockbuster actioners (three Marvel Comics movies with a fourth in the works).

If there’s any question about her bone fides as a butt-kicking action hero, “Lucy” should seal the deal. This French-American sci-fi thriller from Luc Besson (“Taken,” “Leon: The Professional”) is playing this week at the Tropic Cinema.

In it, Johansson stars as the titular Lucy, a young woman who works as a mule smuggling drugs for a Taipei mob. Problem is, a new drug sewed inside her body starts leaking and its effects are startling: next thing Lucy knows, she has superhuman abilities. You see, the drug allows her to use a greater part of her brain.

She can stop thugs in their tracks with a flick of a finger, move objects with her mind, ignore pain, and instantaneously absorb massive amounts of information. These abilities make the all-powerful computer program that Johansson voiced in “Her” seem like a piker.

Lucy’s wary ally is Professor Norman, cagily played by Morgan Freeman. In addition to all his great film roles (“Driving Miss Daisy,” “Million Dollar Baby”) Freeman gave us that brainy TV series “Through the Wormhole, a Discovery Channel program that explained scientific mysteries.

What Professor Norman fails to tell us in the movie is that it’s actually a myth that humans use only 10 percent of their brain. The idea being that using the other 90 percent would unlock great mental powers. Not so. The physiology of brain mapping suggests that most, if not all, areas of the brain have an active function.

Scarlett Johansson doesn’t claim to be a Brainiac in real life. Taking about her SAT scores, she says: “I think the way it worked when I took them was that they were out of 1,600, so maybe you’d get a 1,240 if you were a smarty-pants. I got a 1,080, which was pretty low. But that was probably because I didn't answer half of the math questions.”

Ah, if only she’d had that Taiwanese super drug she could have scored high enough to be accepted to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. But, as moviegoers, it’s our gain that she was not accepted. It allowed her to concentrate on her film career.

Note: I used to be an adjunct associate professor at New York University. I used to joke that I liked teaching at a school that wouldn’t have accepted me a student.

Hmm, maybe I should look into using more of my brain.

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