When the Reel Guys aren’t at the movies, one of their favourite things to do is talk about going to the movies. This week Richard and Mark have a look at talking apes, a vengeful Scarlett Johansson, and a singer with a papier-mâché head and a talking raccoon. So throw some popcorn on the BBQ, crank up the air conditioning and enjoy the Reel Guys’ most anticipated films of the summer season.
Richard: Mark, I was a huge Planet of the Apes fan as a kid. Loved the rubber masks, the twisty endings and the “YOU MANIACS! YOU BLEW IT UP!” scene still blows my mind. Saw them over and over, and even enjoyed the bad ones like Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Today, as an adult, I have a full-sized Cornelius bust with faux chimpanzee hair in my office. So, given my obsession with simian cinema, my inner 14-year-old goes a bit ape every time I see the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer. What’s got you excited this summer?
Mark: I’m a Planet of the Apes fan, too, Richard. The idea of animals acting like humans is a welcome change from my life in show business, where humans act like animals. I’m really looking forward to Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson in a Luc Besson revenge/action flick. This is Scarlett’s moment, and this is going to be the movie to make her a megastar. The trailer made me spill my popcorn!
RC: Johansson is doing interesting work these days, splitting her time between rock ’em, sock ’em movies like Captain America: The Winter Soldier and smaller movies like Chef and Under the Skin. Michael Fassbender has a similar career arc. We last saw him in X-Men: Days of Future Past. Next up he’s in Frank, a strange indie based on the life of Frank Sidebottom, a real-life English musician who wore a giant papier-mâché head complete with painted-on eyes, ruby red lips and slicked-back hair.
I love Fassbender for still taking chances on movies like this when he could easily cash big Hollywood paycheques time after time.
MB: Sounds like one strange biopic, Richard! A more commercial variant I’m looking forward to is Get On Up, the James Brown story starring Chadwick Boseman. The Godfather of Soul never wore a papier-mâché head, but he was big on ermine capes and tantrums, so this should be a lot of fun. And what a soundtrack it will be!
For life lessons and laughs, there’s And So It Goes, a mature rom-com starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton. Bring your CARP card for discounts on soft-chew treats from the concession stand.
RC: I don’t have a CARP card …. yet. I do like soft chew candies, however. As far as movies go, I’m curious about Guardians of the Galaxy. So many of the summer’s blockbusters have been oh-so-serious affairs that I think this one promises some good laughs and action.
MB: The cast suggests it might be more than your typical sci-fi adventure. But it’s Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in Sex Tape that gets me hot. Big laughs, lots of action, at least of the horizontal variety.
If there is one lesson to be learned from “Under the Skin,” the new alien seductress from “Sexy Beast” director Jonathan Glazer, it is, Don’t get in a car with strangers even if they look like Scarlett Johansson. She may play the Black Widow in the Avengers series, but here she is literally the black widow.
The film begins with an homage to Stanley Kubrick, an austere sci fi set up that suggests an alien making their way to Earth. To Scotland to be exact. The nameless creature, who assumes Johansson’s form, spends much of the time exerting her siren’s call on unsuspecting men. She lures them into her van, then to her home, where they disappear into an inky goo, never to take another breath.
She’s a newcomer on a mysterious mission, still figuring out human emotions, but in tune enough to use her sexuality to entrap unsuspecting men. After an encounter with a disabled man she takes her first tentative steps toward humanity.
Every now and again a film comes along with little or no regard for the conventions of traditional storytelling. “Under the Skin” is one of those movies.
We learn next t nothing about Johansson’s character or her mission. In a surreal sequence we do learn what happens to her victims, but not why they are being harvested.
Glazier never takes the easy narrative way out. He leaves it to the audience to draw their own conclusions about everything, character and motivations included. He even clouds much of the dialogue in thick Scottish accents that are challenging unless you have Cullen Skink running in your veins. Add to that some strange inconsistencies—how is it she knows how to drive like a New York taxi cab driver but has no working knowledge of her own naughty bits?—and the story strays far into art house territory.
It’s a deliberately paced film that never met a pause—I would say dramatic pause, but there is very little drama to be had here—it didn’t embrace.
At the center of it all is Johansson in a deceptively demanding role. She appears to be doing very little, but conveys a heady blend of innocence and sexuality that brings this otherworldly creature to life. Think “The Man Who Fell to Earth’s” Thomas Jerome Newton (David Bowie) with red lipstick and more curves and you get the idea.
“Under the Skin” won’t be for everybody. It deliberately challenges the audience, almost daring them to stay along for the ride, but those brave enough to take the journey will be rewarded with a story that takes a sly look at human identity filtered through the guise of an alien.