Tag Archives: Stanley Kubrick

Under the Skin Review, A Mesmerizing Look at Human Existence

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Under the Skin

Directed by: Jonathan Glazer

Starring: Scarlett Johansson

When you look at science fiction you always end up with two different kinds of executions. On the one hand you have the ones that rely on action and on the other hand you have the slow burning think pieces. Under the Skin is the perfect example of the second one. The movie is vague and purposely so. The director made it this way so that the audience can think and figure out the purpose of the film on their own instead of being explicitly told what the movie means. It works to the movie advantage because it leaves this sense of mystery. The actions of the main character are never spelled out for you, it’s left to you to figure it out. A TV trailer compared the director to Stanley Kubrick. I wouldn’t agree with that entirely. I feel like the movie feels like a Kubrick movie. Kubrick’s films have the same level of mystery to them. He liked to challenge his viewer and make them think. He has made films that no one else can duplicate but Under the Skin accomplishes the mystery that Stanley Kubrick’s movies were able to portray.

In Scotland, an unnamed motorcyclist (Jeremy McWilliams) retrieves the body of a dead woman on the side of the road. At an undisclosed location, a naked woman (Scarlett Johansson) strips the dead body of it’s clothes and taking up the position that she held. She rebrands herself and starts on her quest to lure men into a trap and harvest their skin for her alien race. Along the way she begins to feel the emotions that plague the human race. She abandons her quest and makes her way into the foothills of Scotland.

This movie says a lot about how fragile we are the human race. The men in this movie want to feel affection from a more attractive individual. It makes us feel special when someone notices us and finds something interesting about us. Our lives depend on the affection of other, especially the opposite gender. The male characters in this movie all essentially let themselves go for woman. The main female is played by Scarlett Johansson and I don’t think anyone else could have played her. She is cold and beautiful yet at the same time very vulnerable and curious. In the beginning, she is the killing machine, on the prowl, for lonely men and does’t care about them only for their skin, a necessity for the alien race to blend in. As time goes by she begins to evolve and learn about the emotional state of human kind. Due to encounter with a young man, who suffers from the disease neurofibromatosis, and after their encounter she begins to see the beauty in the world and the curiosity about the live of humans. You see life through the eyes of another being. She is like a newborn baby, always discovering new things and learning about the world around them. You get an interesting look at a character that has fresh eyes towards the human race. The development of her character is done so well without to much exposition or dialogue, they are given the ability to develop along with the story.

Like The Rover, Under the Skin is minimalism at its best. Unlike other movies this year, Under the Skin uses the idea of less is more. Nothing is spelled out in this movie and it adds to the mystery of the film. Scarlett Johansson’s performance is by far the best work she has done and it shows that she is much more than a pretty face. Many people know this movie as “the movie in which Scarlett Johansson gets naked”. For whoever plans on seeing it for that fact alone than you should probably watch a different movie. She is never overtly sexualized but it is used for the character and he curiosity with human life.

The production values of the movie are spectacular. For such a low budget you wouldn’t even be able to tell that it was so cheap. The cinematography is something of note. It uses long takes to linger on the world around her. The shots linger a little longer than most but I feel that is a strength of the movie. The look of the film is bleak and beautiful. The soundtrack is also breathtaking. It gives it a haunting and foreign feel to it.

Mind you the movie is a lot more fun to think about that it is to watch but I feel the need to watch this movie. It is simply amazing and that’s what I can take away from it. I loved every minute of it and I know that I will be returning to it in the future.

Grade: A+

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Sunshine Review, An Intriguing Premise Never Fully Realized

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Sunshine

Directed by: Danny Boyle

Starring: Rose ByrneCliff CurtisChris EvansTroy GarityCillian MurphyHiroyuki SanadaBenedict Wong, and Michelle Yeoh

Science Fiction is a genre full of ideas. They tend to be the most thoughtful and interesting films that could use philosophy to its benefit. As of late science fiction has become something of a genre filled with action and superheros but they’ve lost the touch that made films such as 2001: A Space Odyssey a classic. Sunshine is an existential science fiction film filled with philosophy and an interesting idea. I mean for the first two acts anyways. Some where during the writing process they thought it would be a good idea to completely shift gears and turn it into a standard Alien rip-off. The movie had so much going for it until it fell into a clichéd ridden mess.

In 2057, the sun is dying and Earth is on the brink of extinction. Sent up into space to reignite the sun, a group of space travelers load a massive bomb on to the Icarus II. It is the final time that mankind can achieve such a mission. Once out of range of Earth’s communications  a distress signal is recovered from Icarus I. In an attempt to make contact with the space ship, it is decided that the crew is going to make their way to Icarus I so that they can get their hands on a second bomb and have more than one chance to reignite the sun. Once on the Icarus I they meet someone who will interfere with their mission.

The movie begins with a solid concept, the last remaining crew members must deal with the harsh reality of space, but as soon as the villain of the movie comes aboard everything goes wrong. An hour in it is all about the survival of the crew within space mixed with the philosophy of their journey. It bares influence from 2001: A Space Odyssey and usually succeeds until the third act. The majority of the problems come from the complete shift of tone of the movie. Before you have this think piece that is interesting and then after the one hour mark it turns into Alien. The villain, Pinbaker (Mark Strong), essentially stalks his prey on board the ship and is intent on killing them. He is an interesting character in a whole. It feels disingenuous to the rest of the film. It makes me feel that the writers didn’t know where to take the movie and just decided that the best thing to do was create a villain that wanted to thwart their plan. It’s slightly lazy considering the rest of the film is incredibly thought provoking and one of the best things that the genre has to offer.

The movie is still relatively well made. Danny Boyle is one of the most competent directors working today. His vision wis this movie is incredible and the end thirty minutes is one kinetic thrill ride with insane editing but it conflicted with the slow and mellow hour before. The performances are intense and really showcase the actors abilities within the source material. Chris Evans seems to be best in situations like theses. Snowpiercer is another movie that really shows just what he is made of. The music is really well known now and it is amazing how well it works with the movie.

If it wasn’t for the terrible third act of this film and I would label this as one of the best science fiction films in a long time. It’s concept is unbelievable and the execution is spot on. It is an interesting experimental but a flawed one.

Grade: C+