Tag Archives: Scarlett Johansson

tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Rough Night’ has Scattered Laughs

Unwilling to go too dark, this comedy lands squarely in the middle of the road

NBHD movie 2-2 ticketsRough Night is about the bachelorette weekend of Jess (Scarlett Johansson), who is in the middle of a campaign for state senator. She flies out to Miami to spend the weekend with her best friends from college, Alice, Blair, and Frankie (Jillian Bell, Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer), as well as her semester-abroad-buddy Pippa (Kate McKinnon). A wild night that involves drinks and drugs takes a sharp turn when they accidentally end up killing the male stripper they hired for the night. Still high and frantic, the girls try to cover their bases before they contact the police, and that only leads to more trouble.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 6.55.15 PMIt doesn’t take long for the movie to introduce its characters as broad types: Jess is a workaholic, Alice is needy and inappropriate, Blair is rich, and Frankie is an activist. Later, when Pippa is introduced, there really isn’t much more to her than her being Australian and a little wacky. Having established these characters based on singular traits, the movie basically plays the same note for each of them throughout the runtime. Worse yet, after raising the stakes, the movie doesn’t really give them much of a chance to be funny.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 6.55.33 PMThere is darkness built into the premise of this film, but this is ultimately a mainstream studio comedy. And this means that things can’t really get all that weird. It means that these characters will ultimately not really be confronted with the darkness of what they’ve experienced. In the end, the film necessarily acquits its characters of wrongdoing and has them dancing around pat sentiments about friendship and togetherness. It doesn’t really earn its resolution, the movie even weirdly forgetting one of its elements on the way to its rather predictable ending.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 6.58.22 PMThere’s just a severe lack of surprise for a film that is about five women accidentally killing somebody. It’s so determined to keep its characters within a certain range of behavior that they become boring and a little annoying. There are scattered laughs throughout, the film at its best when it lets the characters color a bit outside the lines. But those moments are few and far in between. For the most part, the film seems to be happy to play out schematically.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 6.58.58 PMThe five women are the center of the film are terribly talented, which makes it all the more disappointing that they’re given so little room to break out. Scarlett Johansson is caged up playing the straight man to all the shenanigans. The character is written to be so oddly devoid of fun, and Johansson doesn’t really do anything to remedy that. Jillain Bell is a scene-stealer, certainly, but her character’s schtick gets old pretty quickly. Zoe Kravitz and Ilana Glazer aren’t really given enough to do. Kate McKinnon acquits herself best as Pippa, the character given the most leeway to be just outright strange. But even McKinnon feels oddly restrained in this role.Screen Shot 2017-08-10 at 7.00.23 PMRough Night isn’t really bad, exactly. There are laughs, and the cast is certainly game. It just feels tepid, the film just unwilling to really go crazy. It presents a powderkeg of a situation that never really explodes, the characters never really allowed to confront the extent of their misbehavior, never made to suffer the consequences of their choices. Instead, the movie defaults to broad platitudes and a feel-good resolution that might be best described as “studio-mandated.”

ROUGH NIGHT IS NOW SHOWING IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Ghost in the Shell’ is More ‘Shell’ Than ‘Ghost’

Aesthetics trump personality in this anime adaptation.

NBHD movie 2-2 ticketsGhost in the Shell streamlines the story of the iconic manga and anime of the same name. In a future where cybernetic enhancements have become commonplace, Major Mira Killian (Scarlett Johansson) is a terrorist attack victim whose brain was salvaged and placed into a fully artificial body. She is put to work at Section 9, a law enforcement agency. She and her team are on the tail of a mysterious criminal hacker with some sort of vendetta against the Hanka Corporation, the company responsible for much of the technological advancement that has changed society so dramatically, including the Major’s robotic body. As she pursues this hacker, she encounters glimpses of a past that she does not recognize, leading her to troubling truths about her origins.Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.54.19 AMThe film doesn’t directly adapt the original anime film. It instead takes elements from the entirety of the Ghost in the Shell canon, including the two full seasons of the TV series Stand Alone Complex. The movie ends up condensing a pretty long and complex narrative, and that makes the structure of this story kind of challenging. The emotional crux of this movie lies in events and relationships we don’t get to see, the film ultimately prioritizing the aesthetics over any real investment in these characters.The movie builds its plot around questions.Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 11.00.28 AMWho is the mysterious ghost hacker? What is his connection with the Major? And who is the Major, really, and what did the Hanka Corporation really do to her? The assumption made in this film is that audiences will be naturally interested in the solutions to these mysteries, but that doesn’t quite pan out. The film becomes kind of disengaging as the movie hints at answers that involve an unseen backstory. Even in the moments of ostensible emotional payoff, there just isn’t much to cling to. The relationships are just too thin, the movie too quick to omit any scene that doesn’t involve the furthering of these mysteries. In a story that is so much about the indelibility of the human element, this whole thing comes off as thoroughly mechanical.Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.52.13 AMIt’s pretty, though. A lot of work has clearly been put into turning New Port City into a living, breathing metropolis. It is a city that shows off alluring extremes of technological advancement and urban squalor. In the wide shots, it is a gleaming future utopia bathed in light and movement. But once the characters are the streets, it reveals an entirely different personality. The movie ends up being light on larger themes, the script eschewing the overt philosophizing of the source material, but there is something inherently compelling in the stark difference between the two faces of the film’s setting.Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.55.15 AMIt’s all part of a largely pleasing visual look. The film kind of flubs the action a bit, with the emphasis being on cool individual imagery rather than a logical flow of events. But it looks cool enough, and it works within the film’s larger context. Much has been made of Scarlett Johansson’s casting, but to the film’s credit, with how it plays this story out, it adds an interesting sociological layer to the film’s otherwise flimsy themes. And Johansson has really become the go-to actress for conveying strange warmth beneath a cold, artificial exterior. In the supporting cast, Beat Takeshi just owns the screen, and Michael Pitt proves to be pretty magnetic.Screen Shot 2017-03-29 at 10.55.42 AMGhost in the Shell, for all of its unique elements, feels oddly generic. Its focus on aesthetics results in a glaring lack of personality in the characters. When characters come into this movie, they are invariably spouting some sort of expository dialogue that provides clues to the story’s larger mysteries. They are plot devices rather than humans. The film does offer up a truly alluring exterior, but just like the city it puts up on screen, any cursory exploration reveals nothing quite as engaging.

GHOST IN THE SHELL OPENS TODAY IN CINEMAS NATIONWIDE.
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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.