27 March 2011

Sucker Punch


Do you like music videos? Do you like two-hour music videos? Then Sucker Punch is the movie for you!

The initial hype for this thing wasn’t very misleading, really. It had tons of awesome things presented rather spastically in a short trailer with little in the way of plot or character hints. It didn’t include much dialogue though, which helped to make it seem better than it actually is. The bits that it did include were a bit iffy, I thought. Maybe a little too straight-forward, what with the list of items and all that. It was very easy to look past that though and concentrate on the fact that it would be a movie about a bunch of pretty ladies fighting robots and orcs with machine guns and katanas.

That’s pretty much what we got, except the actiony bits are surrounded with some sort of dreamish story about some sad girls stuck in either an asylum for insane babes or a whorehouse, depending on which way you look at it. It’s also very restrained in order to fit the PG-13 bill, which I think is what kept it from reaching that lofty, masturbatory height that the trailers advertised. I thought I would be able to enjoy the actiony bits more than I ended up liking them; I suppose it might have been due to my relatively short sleep last night but I almost nodded off a couple times while robots were exploding. The music was pretty cool though, especially the inclusion and rather prominent featuring of “Army of Me” by the wonderfully strange Björk Guðmundsdóttir, which almost had me invested in the scene. There were some other neat songs as well, almost all used during the action scenes, which all felt very much like music videos.

Outside of those parts the movie is pretty bad. The acting is almost universally terrible, even by the rather accomplished character actor Scott Glenn, whose Yoda-like character’s catch phrases failed in their supposedly endearing aim and just ended up being annoying; Jon Hamm’s abbreviated role could have been better if his most interesting scene hadn’t been cut due to the MPAA’s lameness, and the principal cast can’t make the dialogue interesting. There were just so many long, static scenes of boring exposition that could have been replaced with more visually entertaining pieces while allowing the viewer to figure things out on his or her own. The list of MacGuffins just seemed stupid to me.

As usual, Zack Snyder made a movie that only he could make. It’s very recognizably his style; washed out colors, lots of slo-mo, and subject matter yanked from old Heavy Metal issues. I liked 300 when I first saw it, and I respect his version of Watchmen in most respects. This though, his first venture into “original” territory, seems lacking. It’s like he tried to pack every awesome thing he could think of into a two hour, PG-13 movie. Not gonna happen bro.

21 March 2011


paul pegg frost nerds

I want to like Seth Rogen, I really do. I can honestly say I liked his performance in Observe and Report, and he did a Kevin Smith movie which was pretty cool, but aside from those I don’t really get him. I really don’t think his voice was right for the titular alien from this movie, although most people seem to disagree with me. I guess it doesn’t matter that much.

Simon Pegg and Nick Frost on the other hands, I deeply love. I'm a big fan of British sensibilities in comedy and these guys have been consistently great in whatever they do together. I suppose a good part of their greatness can be attributed to working with Edgar Wright, but they did well enough with this one that my faith hasn’t waivered much.

The story is about two British nerds visiting the United States to attend Comic-Con and take a road trip to historic locations related to extra-terrestrial contact, because they’re nerds. I’ve done neither of these things so I guess I haven’t quite made it to their level yet. On their way to one of said locations, they happen to meet an alien who’s been cooped up in Area 51 for sixty years and wants to leave, so they decide to help him out after they come to grips with the totally awesome reality they’re now facing. The alien, Paul, turns out to be a lot like them, and also a lot like Seth Rogen. He’s basically a nerd stoner who happens to also have a huge gray head and the ability to make himself invisible to heal things empathically. After meeting a few more colorful characters and having some discussions on bromance, the new friends manage to rendezvous with Paul’s rescue party and send him home.

It’s a sacrilegious road-comedy with sci-fi. Pretty great combination if you ask me. It’s also jam-packed with nerdy in-jokes and film references, probably quite of few of which I missed; but those that I got had me slapping my knees in the prideful thought that I too am a nerd, and have seen things that other people have seen. Pegg and Frost are great as usual, and I think Rogen’s character improved a little as the movie went on. I can’t say the bromance bit was very affecting for me, but it was at least made more believable after seeing very similar characters in Spaced.

It’s a really funny movie. I’m not sure it would have the same effect for those that haven’t seen many sci-fi movies, but it has enough low-brow humor to maybe make it a hit with the Apatow-crowd. Good stuff.

20 March 2011



I’m a sucker for superhuman stuff. The more believable it is the better, in most cases. There’s no super-strength or x-ray vision here, just brain stuff, so it’s probably one of the most plausible films of this variety that I’ve seen. However, the basis of the conceit (we can only access 20% of our brains) is kind of BS, so that along with a bunch of other stuff breaks it a bit. Still, it was well done enough for me to enjoy most of it.

The story is that Brad Cooper is a mooching writer who doesn’t write and then starts taking drugs to get smart. Then of course the drugs start taking their toll as they do, driving him a bit mad and making his new life as a Wall Street man a bit difficult. It’s a semi-good picture of the effects of addiction for what it is. This drug in particular starts making your lose time, and then once withdrawal hits you get sick and probably die. The need to feed his addiction leads Brad to do things that nearly get him killed anyway several times, but the pros of the drug somehow outweigh the cons, allowing him to stay one step ahead of the baddies.

There are some pretty cool visual tricks, like the infinite-hallway thing and color-pallet changes according the mental state of the characters, the acting is in general pretty cool, and again I like superhuman stuff. However, this movie has problems. The very extensive use of voiceovers is one. While it’s probably necessary to convey what’s going on in Brad’s heightened mind, I think we could have done without that much explanation. The bit that bugged me the most though was the end, in that the message we get from this story is that drugs can be good and improve your life if you can handle them right. Going into it I thought the whole “you’re probably going to die” thing would be more predictive of the conclusion, but I guess we just had to have a happy ending.

Not a bad movie but I wouldn’t say you need to see it really.

08 March 2011



This is one of the strangest “kids’” movies I’ve seen in a long time. For one, it isn’t made by Pixar yet does not suck, and for another it’s rated PG and includes smoking, children pointing guns at themselves, intoxicating beverages, death, and references to films that no PG-aged child has any business seeing in my idea of a PG-oriented home. All of these things and more add up to a damn good animated film that’s pretty much a lock for Best Animated Feature in the third month of the year.

Gore Verbinski and ILM have teamed up to create a spaghetti-western homage unlike anything before it, for the simple fact that it’s CG. To add to that, it’s got probably the best character designs I’ve seen in any CG film so far, and although it’s in the guise of a children’s film, the dialogue pulls very few punches in its fast-paced and sometimes college-level vocabulary. It’s a simple story of course, but the humor on the byways is just awesome.

To get back to the character designs; everyone in this movie is ugly. Straight up. And it’s fantastic. Shrek was supposed to be ugly, but he’s really not. Rango is an asymmetrical, bumbling, bug-eyed mess, and it benefits the character in spades. The variety of the appearance in the other characters is staggering, aside from maybe the love-interest, whose look doesn’t differ that much from Rango’s aside from an attempt to make her look at least slightly attractive, which I think ended up being a detriment. This sort of ugliness is similar to the look that directors like Terry Gilliam bring out in their work, and I’m a big fan of it.

As far as film references go I’m afraid I probably missed the majority, but those I caught had me stamping my feet with happiness. The best I thought was the chase scene depicted in the picture above, in which our heroes are pursued on a wagon through a canyon by moles with guns on bats. For some odd reason the bats tended to start spinning out of control and exploding on the canyon walls when shot. I was also informed of a scene I didn’t catch near the beginning, in which the two main characters from Gilliam’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas make an actual split-second cameo. I’ll be paying more attention next time.

Johnny Depp’s performance was pretty good. I think he fit the bill quite well, and you could really see his performance in the animation, which was created in a rather neat way; Depp’s motions were filmed for each scene, but instead of motion capture, the animators simply used the footage as reference, inserting their own skills into the sequences to keep it artistically valid and therefore much more entertaining. I hope this becomes a precedent.

To top it all off, it’s not 3D! Awesome! Screw George Lucas!

06 March 2011

The Adjustment Bureau


The trailers for this one started showing up at about the same time as Unknown’s. Both intrigued me, but The Adjustment Bureau seemed a quite a bit more promising; instead of just the possibility of something sci-fi, it was much more obviously intentional. I only recently found out it’s based on a story by Philip K. Dick, author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, which became Blade Runner, so it’s got some credentials too. Of course I haven’t read any Dick books so I can’t speak for the faithfulness of the adaptation (as usual). However, I can say that I enjoyed this about as much as I thought I would.

The story follows Matt Damon’s character, a young politician aspiring for a Senate seat, whose typical semi-frat-boy past is catching up with him and making his life difficult. A seemingly chance meeting with a pretty girl (Emily Blunt) inspires him to give a speech that brings him back into the political picture. Up until this point, everything is going just as intended. Then chance intervenes and the two meet again. This is not supposed to happen. The Adjustment Bureau, a sort of supernatural agency for the correction of free will, doesn’t have this event in its plan.

It’s at this point that I started getting worried that the movie would fall into the trap of insta-relationships that I touched on in my post about Unknown. Thankfully though we’re given a nice explanation as to why the two bond so quickly that fits into the conceit, and makes the story more interesting. It seems the plan hasn’t always been the same; it has been adjusted itself in the past. Their relationship had been predetermined before, and some guidance given to their lives before had leaked into the new plan. I’m cool with that.

With that out of the way, the movie becomes a sort of chase film a-la Dark City with teleporting doorways and telekinesis, surrounding a charming romance with a little bit of comedy. It’s the kind of movie I’d take a girl to see if I knew any. The sci-fi might be a bit flimsy but I think it works well enough. It was nice seeing John Slattery from Mad Men, and Damon was just as good as usual. Emily Blunt did a great job and her dancing scenes were actually enjoyable, perhaps more so for me than most of the stuff in Black Swan. I liked it.