Screen Savor: Sci-Fi High

In 2014, Scarlett Johansson appeared determined to get science fiction out of her system. In Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin, Johansson played an alien feasting on lonely men. For Luc Besson’s Lucy (Universal), now out on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD, Johansson plays the titular character, a woman who unwittingly becomes a drug mule for Asian crime kingpin Jang (Min-sik Choi), leading to a terrifying metamorphosis.

hero_Lucy-2014-1Following surgery to insert a bag of the lethal and illegal drug CPH4 into her body for transport, Lucy is brutally beaten and some of the drug leaks into her system. The alteration that occurs at Lucy’s cellular level transforms her into a super-human being who, as the movie progresses, is able to access 100% of her brain capacity.

Combining science fiction (including cool special effects) and action/thriller violence (you may be watching more than a few scenes through your fingers covering your eyes), Lucy aims to cover three main bases. First, it’s a full-throttle revenge picture with goons getting their due as the body count mounts. Second, it’s a crime story as Lucy and police in Berlin, Paris, and Rome race to prevent the other human drug transporters from reaching their final destinations. Third, and here’s where Lucy gets loosey goosey, it’s a movie that messes with science, represented by evolution expert Professor Norman (Morgan Freeman).

Alternately exhilarating and terrifying, and often downright kooky, Lucy is a rip-roaring high that, like most drugs, will leave viewers crashed and burned, and potentially craving more. Extras include the Blu-ray exclusive featurette The Evolution of Lucy featuring Besson, Johansson and Freeman, as well as Cerebral Capacity: The True Science of Lucy.

Coherence (Oscilloscope Laboratories) is a different kind of sci-fi flick. Set on the night that Miller’s comet is supposed to be passing over Southern California, and coming close to earth, eight friends – dating couple Kevin (hot Maury Sterling) and unemployed dancer Em (Emily Baldoni), married couple Hugh (Hugo Armstrong) and woo-woo Beth (Elizabeth Gracen), Amir (Alex Manugian) and Kevin’s ex Laurie (Lauren Maher) and the hosts Lee (Lorene Scafaria) and actor-in-recovery Mike (Nicholas Brendon) – gather for a dinner party.

Things go wrong right from the start. Em’s cellphone screen shatters while she’s talking to Kevin on her way to the party. In fact, the comet causes all sorts of cellular interference, preventing reception, as well as loss of internet. Lights flicker, dim and go out. Things randomly break. Hugh’s scientist brother warned him about the possible effects the comet might have, which leads Em to mention things she’d read about a 1923 comet in Finland, as well as other comet stories. What started out as an already awkward gathering rapidly goes downhill.

coherenceWhen the lights go out, some of the friends venture out into the dark, armed with flashlights and blue glow sticks. Of course, going outside was the first in a series of bad decisions. The discovery that the comet is creating multiple realities existing simultaneously, including one in which they come face to face another group of people who turn out to be themselves (!), brings up all sorts of complicated issues, as well as a shout-out to Schrodinger’s Cat.

Writer/director James Ward Byrkit occasionally veers into incoherence, but he maintains control. The subtly played last scene makes it all worthwhile. Like the 2014 Australian horror film The Babadook, Coherence doesn’t need to rely on over-the-top special effects to elicit an audience response. DVD special features include audio commentary bt Byrkit, Manugian (who co-wrote the screenplay) and Baldoni, original camera test footage and a behind the scenes  featurette.

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