Scarlett Johansson

Scarlett Johansson in UNDER THE SKIN

Earlier this week came news of WB/DC’s Suicide Squad, and the sparkly list of celebs wanted to play various morally murky supervillains. And right afterward came an update from Deadline- yes, Tom Hardy, Will Smith and Margot Robbie are super interested in pursuing some supervillainy (save for Ryan Gosling, who’s being all finicky). But in one throwaway sentence of that Deadline piece was something even more shocking (more shocking than Will Smith playing an outright villain, if you can believe it). It seems Robbie was free to pursue Suicide Squad because her previous target, the live-action Ghost in the Shell adaptation, had ditched her to pitch woo at Scarlett Johansson.

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Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye in The Avengers

It’s been at least six hours since our last piece of Marvel movie news, so we have to find something to tide us over. In this case, a wink will do nicely. The wink (two winks, really) in question comes from the upper and lower eyelids of Jeremy Renner, who played Hawkeye in The Avengers, showed up for like half a second in Thor and has otherwise gone unused by the Marvel Universe gods. And according to Renner, that’s just fine; he’d much rather be the “utility guy,” called in whenever a Marvel venture needs another vaguely super dude to add a little interconnectivity. This comes by way of MTV News, who spoke with Renner about his future in the Marvel stable. Just before that line about being a “utility guy” comes this frank declaration: “I’m not scratching or clawing to do a solo movie by any means.” And just after comes two big fat winks, directly after the words “Cap” and “three” enter the conversation.

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Captain America The Winter Soldier

One of the biggest hits of the year so far has been Captain America: The Winter Soldier, making it a bigger success than the first film. It helps that it follows up The Avengers and cross-pollinates with other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, what also helped it along was a fresh story that was less of a gee-whiz superhero film and more inspired by the conspiracy thrillers of the 1970s. Now that the film has been released on home video, the directors and writers have sat down and dissected it in their commentary track, available on the Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray. (Sorry, folks… the DVD does not have the commentary on it, so you’ll have to spring for a Blu-ray player if you want to listen. But, seriously, why don’t you have a Blu-ray player already? You do? Thought so.

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The Jungle Book

It’s about to be, well, a jungle out there (sorry) as both Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. are hellbent on giving the world a new version of The Jungle Book. So, yes, two versions of The Jungle Book, a beloved children’s book that has already been turned into a movie plenty of times before. But while we wait to hear more about about Andy Serkis‘ feature (that’s the Warner Bros. film, and one that is apparently set to be titled Jungle Book: Origins, because it sounds appropriately sci-fi, oh wait, what?), Jon Favreau‘s set-to-be-CGI-heavy take on the material continues to know it out of the park when it comes to casting. The latest addition to the cast — Bill Murray as Baloo, come on, people – just proves that, no matter what the final outcome is, this new Jungle Book has a solid lineup of talent behind it. But who is everyone playing? Baloo is the bear, right? What’s a Kaa? Who is Raksha? We got you on this. It’s time to relive your childhood.

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Universal Pictures

This weekend, Luc Besson’s Lucy topped the box office with more success than expected. You might say that the film performed above its potential. Coincidentally, the film is about a woman (Scarlett Johansson) who, through an unexpected side effect of being a drug mule, was able to access the full potential of her brain. This led her to various super powers, including being a genius in mathematical calculations, having the ability to diagnose medical conditions by hugging someone and controlling radio waves with her mind. The film rests on the belief that human beings only use about 10 percent of their brain’s full potential, and the drugs that leaked into Lucy’s system helped unlock the other 90 percent. It’s not the first time this theory has been brought to the silver screen. Bradley Cooper got similar powers in the 2011 film Limitless. Both the 90s cheese-fest The Lawnmower Man and the more down-to-earth 70s drama Charley feature similar ideas. Even the character of Sherlock Holmes, seen in everything from classic Basil Rathbone films to Benedict Cumberbatch and his “mind palace” in the BBC’s Sherlock, have found a way to access seemingly limitless and unnatural brain power. This got me thinking. We might never be able to look like Scarlett Johansson or Bradley Cooper, but could we think like their characters on screen? What extraordinary things could we achieve if we tapped into our brains’ “full potential”?

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Universal Pictures

The question of, “What would happen if we used more than ten percent of our brains?,” is one that has been posed before, but Lucy looks to answer it in a way that is both cerebral and action packed. Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is an American student living (and living it up) in Taiwan, but her entire world is turned upside down when a locked briefcase is handcuffed to her wrist and she finds herself in the middle of a ruthless drug ring. After meeting the elusive Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik), Lucy finds out what is in the briefcase and what Mr. Jang would now like her to do with its contents. Forced to carry the drugs inside her (scenes that will have squeamish viewers turning away), a sudden physical altercation causes the bag of drugs (CPH4, to be exact) to burst and Lucy to go from unassuming drug mule to an emotionless walking superhuman. Set on understanding what is happening to her, Lucy sets out to find Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman) who has spent twenty years trying to theorize what Lucy has experienced in twenty seconds.

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Guy Pearce and Robert Pattinson in THE ROVER

Lionsgate was a pioneering label for brooding dramas, compelling imports and insightful nonfiction until it partnered with Tyler Perry, Jigsaw, and a certain YA book series. Miramax was the flagship of envelope-pushing American indies until the Weinsteins became better known for re-cutting films than for supporting filmmakers. Focus Features was the home of young early-aughts visionaries like Sofia Coppola, Michel Gondry and Joe Wright until CEO James Schamus was ousted to “broaden its portfolio.” As indie distributors and studio subsidiaries refocus their efforts towards studio-sized earnings, their previously coherent brand identities as vessels of imaginative filmmaking quickly fade out. Since the indie boom of the ‘90s gave way to the ‘00’s bottom lines, it’s been increasingly difficult and frustrating to rely on name distributors to continually devote their efforts toward risky films. All of which makes it all the more incredible that A24 has made itself into a distributor dedicated to anything but convention – and, at that, has assembled a slate of films defined by a certain amount of risk and subversion. With its 2013 slate – which included Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, Coppola’s The Bling Ring, Sally Potter’s Ginger and Rosa and James Ponsoldt’s The Spectacular Now – A24’s first year was (intentionally or not) focused on films that produced a dark, incisive and more complex vision of youth than can be found elsewhere. But A24’s 2014 films have provided something even more needed in the current cinematic landscape: central performances that openly defy cinematic convention and expectation.

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Scarlett Johansson in UNDER THE SKIN

There are great films and terrible films, and while there are far too many of the latter and the majority land somewhere in the middle no movie lover is suffering from a lack of quality cinema. But rarer than films we love are the ones that seep into the fleshy fibers of our brains and hearts and take up residency for an extended period of time. More than a simple memory they instead become fodder for active thoughts, things we mull over and re-experience again and again as we work through the film’s secrets and intentions. Under the Skin is one of those unforgettable movies that promises to stay with you long after the end credits have rolled. It spoils nothing to say that Scarlett Johansson plays an unnamed visitor from… elsewhere, and that she’s arrived in Glasgow, Scotland with a very specific mission. Specific, but not entirely clear. After relieving a seemingly paralyzed woman of her clothes and dressing in them herself, Johansson’s character (who we’ll call Milly going forward because why not) begins to prowl the streets of the city behind the wheel of a white panel van. She’s looking for men, the kind that won’t be missed anytime soon, to bring back to her ramshackle abode with the unspoken promise of sex. Instead Milly leads them hypnotically into an inky black morass that will be their doom. And then she goes out to do it all again.

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Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson in Captain America The Winter Soldier

The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, is a pretty solid comic book movie. But it is still a comic book movie, complete with a lot of ridiculous plot points that we should know to just let slide. Well, I can suspend disbelief for the sake of entertainment while I’m watching and enjoying the thing, but later I also enjoy pondering its logic and gaps regarding certain important details. I don’t necessarily like the movie any less for these faults (this movie’s true flaws are in the direction anyway), and in fact sometimes the more I ask these sorts of questions, the more I like greater discussions they take me to. Given that this is just a single puzzle piece in a large scheme of intertwining and forward-moving blockbusters, maybe all the questions I have left over are yet to be answered. Maybe the information I seek is in the pages of the comics — though this shouldn’t be since the MCU is separate from the universe found in Marvel’s pages, past and present, and has a ton of differences. Obviously, the following inquiry is full of spoilers, so beware if you haven’t seen the Captain America sequel and care to. 

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Black Widow in Captain America The Winter Soldier

For a while now, a storm’s been building. Comic book movie fans are wondering why we have yet to see a female-lead superhero film despite being in the middle of a boom of comic book movies that show virtually every other kind of superhero film getting made. The knee-jerk answer is “sexism,” but I think it’s more complicated than that. We might not have gotten a Wonder Woman movie yet, but you also have to remember that Warners has thus far balked on films about the Flash, the Justice League, and took forever to decide if it was going to do a sequel to Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns. All three of those projects spent a lot of time in development before being abandoned. (Though all signs are that Warners is moving forward on a different Justice League project at some point soon.) Since Marvel has put out a lot more product over the last several years, it’s harder to give them the same excuse. Thus far, Marvel Studios’ films have only featured one female superhero – Black Widow. With appearances in Iron Man 2, The Avengers and Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Scarlett Johansson’s depiction of the character has become quite popular. While she’s not the only Avenger to miss out on a solo shot (Hawkeye being the other one), you don’t have to go too far on the internet to find fans taking umbrage that Black Widow is “only a sidekick” in the Captain America sequel. However, if the choice was between having Black Widow in The Winter Soldier and having her in a solo film, […]

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Sintel Short Film

The best movie culture writing from around the internet-o-sphere. There will be a quiz later. Just leave a tab open for us, will ya?

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Black Widow in Captain America 2

Tony Stark and Pepper Potts. Thor and Jane Foster. Steve Rogers and…? Who is the significant other of Captain America? The fact that I can ask that question is one of the greatest strengths of Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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Elevator Scene in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The Winter Soldier already has a lot of people claiming it as the best Marvel movie yet, which is bizarre hyperbole in the face of The Avengers, but for those who love a grounded spy yarn it definitely has a maturity not present in any other Marvel outing to date. Or at least a different style of superhero storytelling. Imagine it as Captain America: Enemy of the State with double the action sequences. Rob’s review is thorough and glowing, worthy of a great superhero movie that tones down its superheroism in favor of plot intrigue. It’s a sentiment matched by a ton of critics, but I can’t agree with it completely. The positives absolutely outweigh the negatives, and it’s a very slick movie, but there’s more to do than simply throwing ticker tape from out your office window. Mostly because it would be difficult to find ticker tape these days. Do they even make it still? Spoilers included, here are 10 things I liked about Captain America: The Winter Soldier and 10 things I didn’t.

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Scarlett Johansson in Under the Skin

No one could ever accuse Jonathan Glazer of opting for quantity over quality. The British filmmaker has made only three movies in the span of 14 years, including his latest, Under the Skin. During that time, and before he made his feature debut in 2000 with Sexy Beast, Glazer directed music videos for Radiohead, UNKLE, Massive Attack, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and more of your favorite bands. He’s also done commercials for Nike, Audi, Guinness and Motorola. Glazer has a résumé to brag about. He’s done well for himself, which is probably why our interview with him is at the Chateau Marmont, which smells of money. Maybe it’s all the 20-year-olds coming in and out with their Rolls-Royces that gives it that scent. Still, the rather cozy and surprisingly low-key hotel is an ideal place to speak with Glazer. And the 49-year-old director is in good spirits when we meet him. He’s proud of a very important fact: whether you like Under the Skin or not, he made the movie he wanted to make.

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Lucy

Is “lower tummy” a precise medical term? I’m fairly certain it’s not. But then, I’m also fairly certain that a lower tummy full of super-drugs wouldn’t cause Scarlett Johansson to start using more than 10% of her brain, (mostly because the “we only use 10% of our brains” thing is just one of those urban brain myths). And even if it did, a faster brain probably wouldn’t give her the ability to stop time or magically switch from blonde to brunette. Ok, real talk is out of the way. Now for fun talk; as in, Lucy looks like a giant heap of it. Directed by Luc Besson, the film is more or less the exact same movie as Limitless, from a couple years back. Protagonist (Johansson vs. Bradley Cooper), is exposed to a miracle drug that unlocks the mythical 90% of our brains that’s just extra skull weight. Protagonist is soon on the run from various unsavory types, all of whom want to both destroy him/her and gain access to the sexy new designer drug that can make someone a polyglot genius kung-fu master.

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Chris Evans in CAPTAIN AMERICA THE WINTER SOLDIER

Captain America should be the most boring lead in the ongoing cinematic superhero cavalcade — he’s a goody two shoes who fights with a shield, wears an excessively patriotic costume, and by all accounts has never been laid — and yet, over the course of three films he’s quickly become the most entertaining, exciting to watch, and affecting of the bunch by a wide margin. (Your move Superman.) It takes nothing away from the writers and directors of those films to acknowledge that the biggest key to the character’s onscreen success can be found in the man behind the mask, Chris Evans. His charisma, appeal, and physical presence combined with the character’s personality and tragic circumstances make for a compelling and fun superhero whose humanity shines through far more often than heroes who spend half their screen-time as CGI creations. Captain America: The Winter Soldier sees Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans) still trying to fit in to the modern world while working for SHIELD on a regular basis. His latest mission leads to yet another conflict with Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) over his and SHIELD’s priorities and methods in fighting the war on terror. Rogers thinks criminals should be punished after a crime has been committed, but Fury says they can’t afford to wait that long. The arrival on scene of a mysterious and legendary assassin, the Winter Soldier, shakes things up even further, and soon Captain America is fighting not only for the lives of millions but for his […]

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Under the Skin

As the folks at @A24Films pointed out on Twitter, the Scarlett Johansson-led sci-fi thriller Under the Skin is about a month away here in the United States. Director Jonathan Glazer’s latest is the story of an alien sent to Earth to seduce and capture human males, presumably for some sort of cosmic research project. Of course, her curiosity begins to get the best of her, leading to a number of unexpected consequences. The result is a sexy, mind-twisting alien thriller that’s already received a large amount of praise from critics and audiences at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival, landing it on our own list of the 52 Most Anticipated Movies of 2014. Needless to say, we’re interested to see this one when it hits theaters on April 4. But first, A24 has released a brand new domestic poster featuring a bit of innuendo. As well, artist Neil Kellerhouse — who was responsible for the stunning posters of David Fincher’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo as well as numerous other recent favorites — has created a number of Under the Skin posters in support of the film’s UK release this weekend. It’s all quite minimal, sensual and gripping. Prepare to be seduced and captured by Scarlett Johansson’s gams.

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under-the-skin

English director Jonathan Glazer has never shied away from the more off-kilter aspects of filmmaking, and his latest, Under the Skin, is no exception. Based on novelist Michel Faber’s book of the same name, the story centers on an alien named “Laura” (Scarlett Johannson), who preys on hitchhikers in Scotland. If the narrative remains true to the novel, what happens to these poor saps is pretty horrid, as their departure from this mortal coil is not mercifully speedy at all. Check out the red-band teaser trailer below:

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3-Days-to-Kill-Super Bowl

One thing you have to remember about movie trailers aired during the Super Bowl is they’re out to appeal to a very mainstream audience. Many of us watch the game solely for the commercials, but that doesn’t mean advertisers are targeting anyone interested in movies and their marketing more than they’re aiming for those mass American viewers interested in football, cheap beer, blockbuster-size entertainment and a few laughs. That means first looks at big summer movies concentrating on their explosions and other promise of spectacle. Not everyone follows movie news regularly, so this is the time when the rest of the country begins buzzing about this year’s major tentpoles, and whether that’s positive or negative buzz determines anticipation, and that might even make or break some titles down the line. Leading up to Super Bowl XLVIII, we present the teasers made available ahead of the game’s actual full-on spots. Join us after the game, though, for more of a ranking of which trailers worked and which didn’t. Additionally, you can find some neat movie- and TV-related ads down below, too.

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Her

Editor’s note: Our review of Spike Jonze’s brilliant Her originally ran during last year’s NYFF, but we’re re-posting it now as the film opens tomorrow in wide release. A lonely man meets an unattainable woman, falls head over heels in love, and is forced to grow through the trials of their romance – it’s a story as old as time, but director Spike Jonze gives it a fresh, timely update with his Her, imagining said unattainable woman as, well, not even really a woman, but a highly intelligent computer operating system. Modern love is complicated. The twist of Her, however, is that Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix, just plain heartbreaking here) and Samantha’s (voiced by Scarlett Johansson) relationship is prone to the same troubles and anxieties as any other romantic bond (all-human or not), and its plot is moved along by very recognizable twists in their road to (maybe) happily ever after. Sure, Her is about a guy who essentially falls in love with an ever-evolving piece of artificial intelligence meant to help sort his email and keep track of his calendar, but it’s also a deeply relatable love story about falling in love with anyone (or anything).

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