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‘Whiplash’ Movie Review: JK Simmons Pushes Miles Teller Past His Limits

‘Whiplash’ Movie Review: JK Simmons Pushes Miles Teller Past His Limits

‘Whiplash’ Movie Review: JK Simmons Pushes Miles Teller Past His Limits

What does it take to be great at something? In his book, “Outliers,” author Malcolm Gladwell posits it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. He references the Beatles played gigs all over London and a young Bill Gates spending his youthful downtime tinkering with supercomputers he just happened to have access to by way of circumstance. Hell, by Gladwell’s measure, you’d think Showtime’s “Masters of Sex” would be the Wilt Chamberlain story.

Though the old adage is “practice makes perfect,” coaching and mentorship also play an incredible part in individual achievement, as any sports fan can attest. A great coach takes the talent of his/her players and is able to maximize their ability through scheme and training.  With the right leader, a band of misfits can be turned into world-beaters as depicted in so many sports films. Of course, the mentor/mentee relationship requires equal amounts of talent as any anti-fan of the Oakland Raiders would be happy to tell you. Their carousel of wrong coaches paired with wrong players will never make a right, yet they keep trying anyway, god bless ‘em.

“Whiplash” is really just a sports film where the athletic feats are performed by young musicians attempting to lure their instruments into creating a harmonic noise. Yes, I feel about jazz the way your grandfather feels about rap music. But music is not the point of “Whiplash.” It’s about the abuse one is willing to endure in order to achieve promised greatness.

Contrary to what the title may have you believe, the film is not a misguided confederate sequel to “Django Unchained” following the Brittle brothers’ request for revenge. Instead, Andrew (Miles Teller) is a first-year drummer at a music conservatory who aims to achieve his dreams of being the next Charlie Parker (if you’ve never heard of Charlie Parker before, this movie will provide you with an education through repetition of the name, that he was a great jazz drummer). In order to reach such heights, Andrew hopes to be taken under the wing of Terrance Fletcher (J. K. Simmons), the school’s studio band instructor. Imagine Gny. Sergeant Hartman training soldiers to tune instead of torture and you have a good idea of Fletcher’s demeanor.

Whiplash pic

“I should bang chicks, not drums.” Miles Teller’s Andrew sits before his drum set in ‘Whiplash.’

Fletcher abuses his members more than a teenager post-masturbation discovery, but saves a special brand of slapping, screaming, belittling and bullying for the kid with the drumsticks. If Fletcher was teaching at a military musical conservatory, Andrew would be Private Pyle of Shit (which I didn’t know they stacked that high). Andrew’s father (Paul Reiser in a thankless role that’ll receive accolades purely because it’s Paul Reiser) recognizes the abuse, but is powerless to keep it from happening. He doesn’t seem to understand Andrew’s drive to be a jazz drummer, which is perhaps why Andrew is so keen on winning Fletcher’s approval, even if it’s inherently impossible. As Fletcher tells him at one point, “the two most harmful words in the English language are ‘good job.’” I’d have suggested “q*eer n*gger,” but in the character’s mind, praise is far worse than hate-speech.

Writer-director Damien Chazelle throws in a little subplot about Andrew and a budding relationship with Nicole (Melissa Benoist), which he eschews in order to concentrate fully on his drumming, afraid she’ll be a hindrance to him reaching his goal (this is the part where if the movie was about rap music I’d quote Jeru Da Damaja’s “Me or the Papes,” “Ain’t no fiends/ coming in between/ me and my dreams,” but I fear Andrew knows as much about this line as I do Charlie Parker’s hits). This is a theme ripe for a film of its own. Though this story exists solely in the shadow of Fletcher and his tyrannical timpani, Chazelle dares to display what so many filmmakers shy away from in the form of an actualized “ask her out” scene. No punches were pulled, as he (and his characters) would continue to show throughout the rest of the film.

Teller is an actor who’s gained steady esteem since I first saw him in a small role as the supposed cool guy in the eternally amoral “Project X.” His rise is certainly not uncalled for as he apparently trained for two months to become a competent enough drummer to pull off the close-ups Chazelle required. His dogged determination mirrors his character’s drive. Chazelle lets his actor show off the acrobatics he’s acquired, allowing us to marvel at both he and the character. Even then, with Fletcher in the mix, it’s the musical equivalent of Paul Dano having a tete-a-tete with Daniel Day Lewis. Simmons embodies the larger-than-life monster that is Fletcher with a rage unseen since perhaps Daniel Plainview mined the west of black gold.  His clothes and shirt and bald head give the sense that his body was tuned tightly, probably by his asshole (which of course is his personality). His is the more demonstrable role, though Chazelle ensures Teller gets to be better than a board and hit back. It’s a marvelous mano a mano, with the performances serving to ratchet up tension throughout.

The story of an abusive mentor/mentee relationship is certainly well-worn in cinema. Chazelle just happens to dress it up in a unique world. However, the execution is anything but well-worn. The film is crafted with a precision of which Fletcher himself would approve. Though the film seems to take a cue from “Return of the King” and end a few different times, the final ending proves to be the most satisfying.

An affinity for jazz music probably won’t be the takeaway, but neither was it the intent. Instead, there’s a respect for the skill involved in order to play those instruments. The talent it takes to make art. This is only Chazelle’s second credit, so he undoubtedly has a long way to get to the 10,000-hour mark. However, from the looks of it, he may hit mastery level before he gets there. Must’ve had a really good teacher.

 

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‘Gone Girl’ Review; Fincher’s Latest Confounds In More Ways Than One

‘Gone Girl’ Review; Fincher’s Latest Confounds In More Ways Than One

‘Gone Girl’ Movie Review; David Fincher’s Latest Confounds In More Ways Than One

One of the drawbacks of writing movie reviews is that as time passes the way a movie is perceived often changes and often times, with multiple viewings the nuances and quality of a movie come to light or not. Unfortunately, for review writing and for watching most movies in general, we do not have the benefit of time usually, as we see a movie once and write about it shortly or immediately thereafter. Details gain or become lost; the way a movie feels changes. I suspect, having now waited well over a week since I have seen David Fincher’s Gone Girl, all of the above will apply.

Admittedly I didn’t know what to expect going into Gone Girl, having never read the book (of the same name upon which it is based), and the trailers didn’t provide much to get excited about as far as I was concerned. My faith was placed in the director and to a lesser extent, it’s stars, Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike. Gone Girl is about a the disappearance of Pike’s Amy Dunne, the wife of Affleck’s Nick, and primarily about whether or not Nick was guilty of the crime. However, the movie reveals more about how information is perceived, relayed and messages are distorted. It’s as much about the media and human emotion as it is about the whodunit aspects of the story.

 

Gone Girl pic

Who’s real and who’s fake? Anyone? Bueller?

The story is told in real-time with flashbacks or cut-to’s. If I gave away more information I might be spoiling an important part of the story. There are varying perspectives on the events and the families involved. Betrayal, revenge, guilt, tyranny, power, failure, jealousy, etc…all of these emotions come into play in the film. Nick must hire a high-powered attorney Tanner Bolt, shockingly well played by Tyler Perry, to deal with the fallout. His is one of the most pitch perfect performances in the film.

Gone Girl is a drama, a murder mystery and a thriller on the surface. There is a lot more going on underneath it all. At the same time, I couldn’t help but have the feeling of being a little let down based upon the quality of talent involved. It was a story well told, one that was cold and sinister, something Fincher is exceptional at, but I couldn’t help but feeling that there should have been more. Whether it was missing entertainment, thrills, chills or something, I felt like a good movie could have been great or exceptional. Perhaps upon my slam dunk repeated viewing(s) at some point down the road, I will come to the conclusion that it was all that and some.

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‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Movie Review: Tom Cruise & Emily Blunt Battle Alien Forces

‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Movie Review: Tom Cruise & Emily Blunt Battle Alien Forces

Tom Cruise & Emily Blunt Battle Alien Forces In Summer’s ‘Edge of Tomorrow’

Edge of Tomorrow promises science fiction smarts, audacious and exciting visuals and a challenge to the minds of general audiences over the age of 13. With the citizens of Earth at war and in a fight for its very existence with alien forces, Edge ramps up the usual war angle and throws in a time-warping twist to the proceedings. What results is summer entertainment of a quality order, one that it’s star, Tom Cruise, has not seen for some time. If you think of Oblivion when coming to see Edge, think again then start your thought process over.

Edge sees Cruise’s Cage, a military man who’s never fought, trapped in a warp where he joins fresh recruits for a battle with aliens for Earth’s survival. This war with the aliens, however, is doomed to fail as Cage soon discovers. But Cage has a special blend in his blood that sees him reliving the same day over and over again. Think Groundhog Day, which is the natural comparison. His bad dream becomes the key to possibly winning the war, but will require the ultimate sacrifice on his behalf.

edge of tomorrow pic

Cruise wouldn’t mind rolling, lighting and smoking Blunt in ‘Edge.’

Cage meets Rita (a fetching, but tough Emily Blunt), the ultimate war-fighting heroine who happens to have had a similar blood affliction in the past. They form an underground alliance in order to try to win the war without anyone (the military authority in particular) being the wiser. Alas, things do not go as planned, naturally. Writer Christopher McQuarrie, best known for penning The Usual Suspects, manages another mind-bender and shows off his versatility with this futuristic, war-related piece.

Swingers and The Bourne Identity director Doug Limans’s Edge of Tomorrow displays flair, humor and originality throughout its two hour runtime. Cruise and Blunt share surprisingly palpable chemistry despite the fact that they barely know each other in the film’s context. Edge is at times heart-breaking, humorous and humiliating (to it’s lead any way). The sci-fi fantasy does a good job at keeping the viewer’s interest and playing out to a satisfactory end. This deserves your attention at some point.

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One Sheets This Week: MPAA Banned ‘Sin City 2′ Eva Green Poster, ‘Filth’, More!

One Sheets This Week: MPAA Banned ‘Sin City 2′ Eva Green Poster, ‘Filth’, More!

One Sheets This Week: MPAA Banned ‘Sin City 2′ Eva Green Poster, ‘Filth’, More!

This week we deliver a bit of controversy to you in what is usually such a clean and fun (semi)weekly post. The MPAA has banned the use of an Eva Green movie poster for Sin City: A Dame to Kill For in which she wears a suggestively thin garment. You can see for yourselves what all the hub-bub is about. Additionally, we bring you more Sin City gal looks, poster film art for Filth, from author Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting), As Above, So Below and Jeremy Renner’s starrer Kill The Messenger. Hope this will set your movie weekend off just right and thanks to IMPAwards for the drops. Enjoy.

Sin City 2

Alba Sin City 2

Eva Green Sin City poster

Kill Messenger one sheet

As Above So Below poster

Filth one sheet

Filth poster

McAvoy Filth

 

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Movie Review: Hip-Hop Documentary ‘Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap’ (2012)

Movie Review: Hip-Hop Documentary ‘Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap’ (2012)

Movie Review: Hip-Hop Documentary ‘Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap’ (2012)

In the documentary, The Art of Rap, long time, legendary gangster(a) rapper Ice-T attempts to do what might be impossible, dive into the understanding of rappers and their art form. Most notably, T tries to get MCs to explain how they approach the craft of writing their raps. This, in many ways, seems like an effort in futility and that is borne out in the documentary itself.

T, a legend in his own right, who has been around since the very early 80’s, is not known for his rapping to many in the modern day. He is known as an actor. Interestingly, he was never really known much for wordplay and artistry in his raps, but more so for causing controversy and pushing boundaries. This makes him a questionable man to take on this task on the surface. But alas, the man, in his mid-50s these days, has a track record in the industry and obvious clout and contacts that few others could parallel. So as T begins his journey to discovery on the East Coast, most notably skipping throughout various NY boroughs, his ability to reach influential people comes into play.

Ice-T spits fire off the top of the dome (perhaps).

T talks to originators in the game, from Grandmaster Caz and Melle Mel, to more well-known artists to many, like Q-Tip of A Tribe Called Quest. The various interviews take place in people’s homes, studios, on the street, wherever T can grab a minute of their time. In the end though, that’s all this usually amounts to, a minute or so of somebody answering a question and then diving into a (often well written) freestyle rap. True information and insight is at a premium, but braggadocio and the N word is not. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy a lot of this, just because it is always good to take a trip down memory lane for someone who has knowledge of the game stretching back to T’s (that’s not bragging, but fact BTW). Still, there wasn’t much “insight” into creation of the art form and rap writing itself. Yes, we “witness” Caz penning a rap and it’s about as thrilling as it sounds. I do that shit on my own time, with my own mind, drop dimes while hitting dimes with sick lines. (Copyright 2014, this author.) See, its really not all that fun.

When T takes it to Detroit for his sole stop outside of LA or NY and meets up with Eminem and cohort Royce, there was actual slight insight into answering the question of how writing takes place and the creative process, but really still nothing that will blow you away and feel like info was revealed and now you too can become an MC or at least have a greater understanding of what it takes to do it. It’s mostly gladhanding, vague answers and the ever-present freestyle from almost every MC interviewed. These are fun, but not much into delivering on the promise of the premise. For real hip-hop fans there is value here with some amusing lines dropped and surprise appearances in some unexpected places. For instance, a few NY MCs are interviewed in LA and its funny that almost all NY MCs rock a Yankee fitted and LA heads rep similarly for their coast. But for the casual filmgoer or doc seeker, you probably won’t get much out of it. I prop T up for going into the project full bore and getting numerous names to speak up on the topic (relatively speaking) but in the end it doesn’t add up to much. That’s real game, bitches.

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Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis & More Stars in ‘Third Person’ Movie Trailer

Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis & More Stars in ‘Third Person’ Movie Trailer

Liam Neeson, Mila Kunis & More Stars in ‘Third Person’ Movie Trailer

Director Paul Haggis, who brought us the Oscar-winning multi-story yarn Crash, returns with another intertwining tale starring Liam Neeson. Third Person as its called, follows three love stories spread out over Rome, Paris and New York. The actors who had to stay in America were presumably pissed off at not being able to film in the luxurious cities abroad. Alas, though I haven’t been able to confirm, it appears Neeson is a writer who pens these tales and that the multitude of other actors are said characters brought to life. That is a guess. Anyway, this idea makes sense given the title. The film looks interesting, kind of a cross between Mereilles botched 360 and Haggis’ Crash, mixed with any number of films that have worked the idea of author with characters coming to life. It debuted at Toronto last year but will release this year into cinemas. Enjoy.

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Exclusive: Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Hateful Eight’ Script Live-Read Breakdown

Exclusive: Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Hateful Eight’ Script Live-Read Breakdown

Director Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” Script Sees Light Via Live-Read: A Breakdown

Like a kid marking the calendar on December 26th awaiting next Christmas, the moment you anticipate the release of Quentin Tarantino’s next film is the moment you leave the theater after his most recent one. Since 2004’s “Kill Bill Vol. 2,” the man’s been on a streak of debuting a new film every two to three years. So, when he revealed some tidbits on “The Tonight Show” back in November about his new script being “a Western,” it served as a nice base-layer of appetite-whetting you knew was coming down the pike relatively soon.

Unfortunately, the dreams of desire were dashed in January when the Western he’d written, called “The Hateful Eight” leaked online. He had given it to some close actor friends and was justifiably furious at the betrayal before he bestowed his latest project upon the world in fully-fledged form. He vowed to never make it into a movie and mused that he would perhaps just publish it and let that be that and move on to the next thing.

To say the least, I found the news distressing. As if the Grinch had not only stolen Christmas before it happened, but potentially put the kibosh on the holiday for another several years. Even though the ability to peek at your present existed in the form of the available online document, I resisted. It would only make God (Tarantino) cry. I was resigned to be happy to read the script when he published it and I could lend my support through purchasing what he had legally put out there on his own volition.

Then, a few weeks ago, it was announced Q.T. was going to do a one-time-only live reading of “The Hateful Eight” in downtown Los Angeles. Christmas, albeit in a different form, was back on the calendar.

Let me break this down like a 1997-era Kurt Russell and Jonathan Mostow.

The live-read was held on Saturday, April 19th, at 8:00 p.m. in the theater of the Ace Hotel. Thousands of people attended. I sat in Row L of the Orchestra section, smack dab in the middle of line of seats, making any luckily-unnecessary quick evacuation impossible. I noticed Harvey Weinstein a few rows ahead of me. Some fiendish woman waved her arms wildly at Elvis “The Graying Predator” Mitchell as he took the stage to introduce the event. He waves back.

The god Q.T. replaced Mitchell at the podium to rapturous standing applause, which maintained throughout the announcement of the entire cast. Samuel L. Jackson, Kurt Russell, Bruce Dern, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Walton Goggins, Amber Tamblyn, James Parks, James Remar, Zoe Bell and a couple of other actors I didn’t know/can’t recall (but briefly considered copying from another website only to want to maintain the integrity of my experience) leapt up on stage, received their pre-accolades and took their seats (some on stage, some down in the first row of the orchestra when they weren’t used for the scene at-hand).

hateful eight bruce dern

Tarantino briefly set the stage, so to speak, by stating in his typical authorial style, the script was divided into (five) chapters. He read the stage directions throughout.

The story begins in a post-Civil War winter, as a stagecoach manned by O.B. (Parks) makes its way across a landscape headed for the nearby Red Rock for shelter to escape a certain blizzard. O.B. spots a black man standing over three bodies, holding a lantern. This is Major Warren (Jackson), a bounty hunter with three corpses post-hunting. He’s looking to hitch a ride to Red Rock, as well, but O.B. explains it’s up to the passenger who paid for the ride. The passenger is John Ruth (Russell), who’s also a bounty hunter with some cargo of his own. However, his future payday is alive and handcuffed to his arm in the form of Daisy Domergue (Tamblyn). After racial unpleasantries are exchanged and Warren hands over a letter from Abraham Lincoln certifying his position, Ruth allows him and his literal dead weight aboard.

The stagecoach also encounters Chris Minnix (Goggins), a man asserting himself as the new sheriff of Red Rock but without any papers of proof. Eventually he coaxes his way aboard and the group of five (plus the three dead bodies (these eight individuals do not make up the titular octet)) takes refuge inside Minnie’s Haberdashery.

I’ve only read one Tarantino script (“Django Unchained”), but knew he had a penchant for prose-like flourishes in his descriptions. Minnie’s Haberdashery brought them all out. His description of the shop serving as a shelter was that it functioned as almost anything other than a haberdashery. Mainly a place for coffee, which serves as a key element throughout the script. Tarantino even brought out a large blue coffee pot from behind the podium at every mention. Thinking back to his playing Jimmy in “Pulp Fiction,” taking pride in the coffee he buys, you can tell Tarantino is a man who revels in his caffeine.

The rest of the story takes place in and around the Haberdashery and serves as a boiling pot (pun might as well be intended) of trust, deceit, mistrust and race relations. Once our traveling group makes its way inside, they encounter other nomads seeking a roof over their heads in the form of cowboy Joe Gage (Madsen), a fobbish Englishman (Roth), General Smithers (Dern) and a Frenchman with an American name, Bob (one of the names I couldn’t grasp). Tension is always on the verge of spilling over into kinetic violence. General Smithers, a former Confederate officer has a brutal verbal exchange with Major Warren that had the crowd of a couple thousand leaning forward on the edge of their seats. It’s a position that was only relinquished when an intermission was called.

It was awesome (as in, the stuff of awe) to see Tarantino direct. He would occasionally have the actors repeat a line or whisper into their ear and even admonished them all once for straying too far from the words on the page. He was the master of his domain the way you would imagine him to be. Roth played his English gentleman with a glee I imagined emanating from Christoph Waltz. Tarantino has said that Waltz interprets his dialogue with a poetry that only one actor has done before, and that other actor is Jackson. Jackson was the only performer I assumed would be in the theater when the program was announced, even though the only thing I knew about it was that it was a Western. It’s sometimes difficult to appreciate how truly great the man is, as he does so many things (including a brief back-and-forth spat with this very site), but when revisiting his work, it’s impossible to deny. He’s the character and portrayal I’ll carry with me long after the event has passed.

Luckily for anyone not in attendance, I have a feeling you’ll be able to witness what I was able to in due time. Tarantino announced at the beginning of the reading that he’s continuing to rewrite the script and is now on this third draft. The Chapter Five we’d see would be completely rewritten. Those are the words of a man I think has probably been reinvigorated by this process and encouraged to go forth and craft a film of the script as he had initially planned. Christmastime will come again. God (Q.T.) bless everyone.

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Scarlett Johansson’s Literally Killer Body Stars in ‘Under The Skin’: A Movie Review

Scarlett Johansson’s Literally Killer Body Stars in ‘Under The Skin’: A Movie Review

Scarlett Johansson’s Literally Killer Body Stars in ‘Under The Skin’: A Movie Review

“Under the Skin” and the Sexualization of Scarlett

The opening essay in Chuck Klosterman’s 2006 collection, IV, is about an interview the author (him, not me. I only refer to myself as I, me or my (hell, you got three examples in the last sentence and a half)) did for Esquire with Britney Spears. The year was 2003, and only 36 hours prior to the interview, Spears had announced that she had sex with Justin Timberlake when she was 18. Prior to then, she was sold to the American public as the virginal sex kitten. It’s the same trick Jessica Simpson’s handlers used for their client, but to lesser success. Spears was the girl you wanted to touch, but never could. Even, supposedly, if you were her pop-star boyfriend. Strangely, with her cat (so to speak) out of the bag (she was photographed pantless for the cover), she spent the entire interview denying she was any kind of sex icon or that there was anything overtly sexual about her music, her videos or her personality. It’s impossible to believe even an infant could be less self-aware.

I happened to read this entry the day before I saw “Under the Skin,” the latest film by director Jonathan Glazer (“Sexy Beast,” “Birth”), which stars Scarlett Johansson as an alien traipsing around Scotland in attempt to seduce men into an apparently mobile pool of liquefied blackness. If that sounds bizarre, I’m not here to dissuade you from your initial reaction. To be honest, I wouldn’t be 100% confident in the alien thing if it weren’t mentioned by other critics and there wasn’t a short shot of three pinkish lights in the sky – which you assume to be UFOs – shortly after Johansson’s character arrives on Earth. It seems like the kind of thing that would’ve been put in the press kit, just to make sure critics were certain of at least that much. It reeks of something spelled out in a way the film never bothers – nor needs – to do.

The extraterrestrial Johansson roams around the Scottish country- and city-side in a white van, attempting to lure lone men into her vehicle, by doing that most stereotypical of female driver actions, asking for directions. Though that sentence would make the film seem sexist, it’s done with a nod toward empowerment. It’s like a gender-reversal version of the long-running pornographic trope of a man picking up a girl on the street to have sex with him in his van (Why do I know this? Let’s just say it’s because I’m smart). In the film, the alien Johansson at least has the decency to pull off to an abandoned home for the next step of her plan. She’s the one who wields the power.

Unlike Britney Spears, Johansson has never struggled with her sexuality, at least on-screen. In a what-would-like-to-be-believed-by-young-boys-as-apocryphal story from “The Island,” Johansson wanted to be shown nude, and it was the film’s director, Michael Bay, who dissuaded her. This is the same Michael Bay who cast a longing camera at Megan Fox’s glistening torso in “Transformers,” after an almost-certainly-not-apocryphal story about her audition for the film, in which Bay forced her to wash his Ferrari in a bikini, while he filmed the affair. Doesn’t quite sound like the same guy. Nevertheless, the first time I’d ever laid eyes on Johannsson, she was offering to give Billy Bob Thornton a blow-J (© “Superbad”) in the Coen Bros.’ “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” That’s something not even a “Slave 4 U”-era Britney was doing.

under the skin pic

One of the chief discussions around Johansson’s prior film, “Her,” was of the actress’ ability to solely use the sultry tones of her voice to convey sexiness. The simple idea of not having the easiest conveyance for this ideal – her body – at her disposal was, for most, worthy of calling for an Oscar nomination. “Under the Skin” gives her a British accent, her body back and also lets her finally do the nudity she was supposedly so willing to present to Bay’s cameras back in 2005. I normally wouldn’t note this, but I imagine it’s the producers’ only hope of competing with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and they’d want the word out if it could lead to any additional box office take. Johansson’s E.T. role allows the actress to flex every muscle she has and use every weapon at her disposal in a way she’s never fully been granted. She’s seen as a seductress. Let her seduce some men. Like Charlotte Gainsbourg seems perfect for the weird world of Lars von Trier, Johansson fits in exquisitely in the Earth of “Under the Skin,” at least as Glazer has depicted it.

The director strips the connective tissue of comprehension bare, leaving not much more than chronology. Even the male victims of the alien speak in a Scottish brogue so thick the company hired to create subtitles for home video will have difficultly deciphering the meaning of every word. But his images are both haunting and glorious. The Salvador Dali-esque inky darkness swallowing the alien’s victims, transporting them into a swimming pool, bloating – then dissolving – them of their insides is a nightmare worth reliving. However, he also manages to capture whole scenes of complete captivation, like the alien’s soft appeal to a wary, facially-disfigured young man. Though we know what the end-game-to-come is, it’s hard to not be touched with the tenderness by which she treats him. Glazer presents scenarios that will linger in the recesses of my brain like the alien’s victims in their post-seduction/pre-skinning state.

The film is based on a 2000 book of the same name, by Michael Faber. My first instinct is to try reading it to get at some answers, much like my initial reaction to seeing “2001: A Space Odyssey” was to find out what Arthur C. Clarke was willing to provide us in text that Stanley Kubrick wasn’t on film. I never did and probably never will. Only part of the reason being there apparently aren’t many more answers contained within the book. There’s a similar mysterious quality to “Under the Skin” that makes the allure of explanation potentially more fulfilling, but at the same time lending fear to knowing the perhaps better off unknowable. If things are straightforward, a work of art loses its ability to provoke debate. It’s what keeps the Mona Lisa the most discussed painting ever created (I’m not saying this film is on par with the Mona Lisa, I’m saying it’s better. Only Dan Brown has made me care about Da Vinci’s “masterpiece”).

“Under the Skin” is not an easy film. But sometimes, as a viewer, it’s good to be challenged. Alfred Hitchcock once said, “Some films are slices of life. My films are slices of cake.” In this case, Glazer’s is a slice of brain you were forced to eat in a dream you once had. But it’s a dream you wish to have again. However, if you’re the type that needs the extra incentive, you get to see Scarlett’s boobs (hey, if it can be pointed out in an Academy Awards opening number, it can be pointed out here). For those crying sexism, there’s also more male genitalia between this and the “Nymphomaniac” films than I’ve seen in the mirror the past month. Though Britney Spears may have been unaware of her appeal, Johansson and “Under the Skin” know how the bills are paid and you might just get something unique out of the experience.

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