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Sucker Punch (2011)
This sucker feels punched
You will be unprepared..... for this boring ride. I'm sorry to say it, but Zack Synder really dropped the ball on this one. I'm (well, I USED to be) a rabid fan of Snyder since Dawn of the Dead. I knew he was special because that movie just blew me away and really reinvented the genre for me (like 28 days later also did). It was something different and unexpected. I love it when a movie exceeds your expectations, which is so rare in this day and age with Hollywood (I generally go with the International scene if I want my mind blown nowadays - Japanese oldies like Crow 0. some good ol' Korean flicks and Euro horror generally satisfy now). Anyway, so I basically own every Zack Snyder movie on DVD AND Bluray since that point (except for Owls....but I seem to sense a trend ... and it ain't a good one...).
Suckerpunch fails on several levels - mostly on writing and acting. I love the worlds that he created - they're pretty lush, though the CG world of the dragon looked a little too fake in some fly-by scenes. What failed was the story that held it all together. There was no glue between each of the separate fight sequences. What you see in the trailer is what you get. Literally. Basically "You need these 5 items... now go forth" - "Wow! That's great. I will collect them and ask no questions and not have a plan. Yay!" *Clap hands excitedly like a little school girl*. All resistance is also quelled with the declaration that the plan only requires these items. Um.... really? You're not even going to try, Zack? If he had even tried to string it all together, I would have gone with it. One really cool idea, though, was the usage of steam to emulate blood. What a great PG-13 tool - though it was brilliant on its own merit without trying to mask blood.
I love the different worlds he created, but the world she created in her mind (the Dance world) was incredibly boring. B-O-R-I-N-G. That's because it relies on Synder's ability to tell a story, write dialogue and the girls' acting abilities. Cornish and Malone were the only competent girls, though Cornish's accent kept fading in and out. Cornish was tough and beautiful and I loved her knight costume with the hood. Babydoll has the most incredible look, but that's all she had going for her. She is stunning with zero substance. She relies on her looks and her eyes more than anything else, and just stands there most of the time. None of the girls were seductive. I don't know if this was a case of PG-13 affecting the movie, but there was this pseudo lesbian scene that I'm assuming Zack wanted to make hot, but it fell completely flat. Competent actors could have made it work - Hudgens.... let's just say I've never seen High School musical that made her famous - and I'll bet Sucker punch won't be her ticket to the big leagues either. Chung is cute and really doesn't do much else except be cute. She has the acting prowess of those import car models, without the sultry sexiness.
I don't know if it's because I walked in there with such high expectations - I was waiting excitedly since it was announced - but I was hugely disappointed. The movie is one big trailer, and though that's not a bad thing sometimes, it is in this case because I thought maybe he'd insert a story somewhere. My bad. The dialogue was really weak as well and the girls weren't competent enough to save it. And the most nauseating scene is the lighter scene in the change room. When you see it, you'll know what I mean. It defies classification - it's something a high school project would have come up with. The intro - it was a high point. If the movie just stuck with that pacing (love the Soundtrack by the way), it would have been another groundbreaking Snyder film, like 300, Dawn, and Watchmen... but it could have just been because there was no dialogue and it relied on Zack's forte... stunning visuals. And then they spoke....
Zack: I'm disappointed with you man. I love you. I did love you. I just might have to retire you next to my old fallen hero, James Cameron who failed me with Titanic and followed it up with some more boring Blue crap.
My personal score for this movie would be much worse, but I'm rating it according to IMDb scores, and they tend to be more generous than I am. If you're a Snyder fan, you'll be unprepared.. for this crapfest. This movie isn't going to make anyone rich. I really hope Snyder gets to still do Superman after this... his star might have fallen really hard after this opening weekend. Maybe Nolan can save him (though... I have my doubts with his writing after seeing the over-hyped Inception... good movie... but not that good, nor creative.)
Survival Instincts of a Panda...but fun!
I just got back from a screening of this little gem of a film. The title says it all and the fact that the title is so simple and straightforward parallels the ethos of this film. The film is only simple in the fact that there is only one visible character during the 90 minute running time and there are no elaborate sets, special effects or lighting. But just thinking of how much planning had to go into the making of this film just to make it seem so claustrophobic and simplistic gets my mind whirling. The other reviews say enough about how good it is. I'll just focus on some shortcomings.
Ryan Reynolds did a stand-up job as the protagonist of this film. He's lovable, but almost too lovable; given how prickly his character is supposed to be (the back-story from his interaction with other characters sheds some light on this). I cannot fault his acting one bit: his breathing picks up pace at just the right moments (I loved the slow-burn of the intro), his sweat is believable, and his tears come just at the right moments. His frustration is palatable. However, I do think that Ryan may have been miscast. He's an affable guy and very articulate (must be the Canadian upbringing), so it's hard for me to fathom that he's just a truck driver with $700 in his savings account and a troubled marriage. Being as sharp as he comes across, some of his actions while trapped inside the box really jerks me back to reality and takes me away from the film. The man has the survival instincts of a panda. There were quite a few 'groan' moments for me peppered throughout the film. One is when another 'character' is introduced and how it is dispensed of quickly. One is how bristly he is when speaking with people that are his only lifeline. I understand he's under a lot of pressure, but then he often has quick little quips that escape his lips which belie his true state of mind (which also serves to rouse a good chuckle from the audience). Those inconsistencies make me believe that the movie fell short of its potential. There were some gimmicks along the way as well (why would he be instructed to do things, but so easily be distracted and no one follows up? Why would he be so concerned about a zippo lighter eating his oxygen, but later do something as elaborate and irresponsible as X later on? Isn't his mother's condition a bit beyond her years (unless Reynolds was her 8th child)? Why does he switch his phone back to vibrate (sure, you can say he's 'given up', but his actions after that prove otherwise)? Why does the camera strangely pan out a couple of times throughout the film (was his mind drifting? I'll never know what the director intended. All I know is that it took me outside of the confined space)? Why would he stay on the phone with the HR guy? Why would he explain his situation to everyone except the one individual that he personally knows and can help him and constantly repeat "I don't have time to explain...". I personally really hate that line. In that time, the character almost always has time to convey his thoughts, but chooses not to; just to introduce confusion and mayhem. )
Reynolds' character, in my mind, should have been some overweight, aging truck driver from the South - just some average Joe - not some strapping, handsome, intelligent young man with a bright future. But I guess I wouldn't watch a movie about some fat, aging man from the South who's just some 'average Joe' - so I guess the casting was deliberate. It's just so implausible. But hey, who am I to judge? I'd probably loose several thousand brain cells after being hit on the head with a rock and being trapped with little oxygen under the sand in a little box.
The last 10 minutes of the film were pretty brilliant. You definitely feel time running out, like the sand through an hourglass, the sand is filling his death trap (which was a brilliant device introduced 1/2 way through, if I might add). Sure, there were a few gimmicks in there to get things really going, but you expect that. And sure, things like that can happen. I'll buy it. The tension just kept building. I had hoped they would milk it for a few extra seconds, but that probably wouldn't have been feasible. You're basically hoping against hope that something will come through in the end, right there alongside him.
Overall, this was a tight movie. Reynolds is incredible and the atmosphere created by the director and his team is bang-on. However, if you're not one to get really invested in a film you're watching, then you won't 'get' this film either. There were quite a number of plot devices, but they would have been excused if Reynolds were not cast - but I guess it's just really the case of a director and writer wanting everything, but sometimes, it just doesn't work that way for the viewer (for me at least). My SO watching beside me at no time bought the idea that Reynolds was even stuck inside a box, so they didn't really care WHAT happened to him in the end. My SO said that they didn't want to see a movie about an average person making dumb decisions. I guess SO's right - it's a lot more interesting making a movie about a smart person in a situation, but then again, it's also much harder. So, if you get really upset when people have the survival instincts of a panda, maybe this one isn't for you either. You just have to suspend disbelief for 90 minutes. If you can, you'll enjoy it.
A solid new movie about a tired (and almost overdone) ethical topic
I was privileged enough to catch a screening of Splice last night that headlined the director Vincenzo Natali as a special guest. I've been a moderate fan of his work since his eerie and claustrophobic feature, Cube. Like Cube, I found that this movie was able to set an atmosphere that was almost palatable throughout the film. The main characters, Elsa and Clive (played by Sarah Polley and Adrien Brody, respectively) were both likable and detestable, and yet all the time believable throughout the film. I credit Natali's writing with this emotional tug-of-war, because he was able to explain the motives of the characters without giving too much away and forcing the pacing to lag. (The man is whip smart, and it showed through his handling of the Q&A session after the movie). They do some despicable things, but Natali oft times tries to explain the character's background to justify certain actions. I appreciate the effort, but at the same time, I felt the film required some serious suspension of disbelief on the part of its viewers to really swallow some scenes and resulting relationships.
After seeing the movie, you'll probably realize you've seen this movie and premise before. Without giving too much away, this tale reminds me a lot of Jurassic Park. The overarching narrative parallels the sentiments of Dr. Malcom from Jurassic Park ("but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should. "). The character's themselves were even named after pivotal actors in Bride of Frankenstein (Colin Clive and Elsa Lanchester), an homage to one of the great creatures of Science Fiction films, and a source of inspiration to the director himself. The hybrid starts off looking quite alien, but evolves into looking quite human-like (probably due to budget constraints, as well as done to help the viewer identify and empathize with the creature) with legs immediately reminding me of the aliens from The Arrival (1996). Throughout the film, you could see the evolution of all the characters that contributed to the final climax of the film. Elsa and Clive make a lot of mistakes and poor judgments throughout the film considering how 'brilliant' these scientists were supposed to be. They try to approach the creation of this hybrid being with an objective mind - purely for the sake of science. However, in turn, they make a lot of 'human' errors along the way where their emotions come into play. As Chaos Theory explains, small variations in initial conditions renders long-term predictions impossible. The movie keeps you guessing throughout. It evolves in an uncontrolled way, just like the hybrid the scientists created. Like every other creature feature flick before it (Frankenstein, Jurassic Park and even Species), everything culminates into a final climactic scene where the makers are forced to atone for their actions.
The creature effects were solid and the actress playing Dren is amazingly beautiful and exotic looking. Her mild androgyny was perfect for the role. Her sharp movements seemed quite alien to me and she took the creature further than what special effects could have done alone. Brody and Polley were both solid actors throughout the film. I particularly enjoyed Brody's wardrobe and styling. The pacing of the film started almost magical, like ET, then quickly picked up pace, paralleling the frenetic tension the scientists themselves must have been feeling.
It wasn't a perfect movie by any means and it certainly wasn't one of my favourites in recent years, but I enjoyed it. If I had to compare it to his earlier work, Cube, I would have to say that Cube made a much more lasting impression (I own it and recommend it to friends often). This movie is a fun way to spend an evening. You'll come out of the theatre with a positive experience, but it probably won't be a movie you'd rush out to see a second time.