Category Archives: film preview

Sucker Punch: 110 minutes I want back

We had a lot of time this evening to ponder what makes a good movie. 110 minutes in fact. The entire duration of Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch.

I could just say it’s rubbish and stop there. But there has to be a point to suffering through this film. Perhaps we can prevent others from the same fate. Or even worse, paying to see it (we got free preview tickets – Thanks for the good intentions – we’ll try not to hold it against you.)
There’s usually a reason that a young director’s boyhood dream film doesn’t get made. So when said young director does well with his first few films (300, Watchmen, Dawn of the Dead), and is given free range with his next project, perhaps someone should keep an eye on it. For the love of humanity.
Sucker Punch is the film that a twelve year old boy, who plays too many video games, would come up with as a masturbation fantasy. It is bad on every level. It’s the kind of film that should have been kept in a quiet room with just him and his sock. It even makes his previous work look worse in hindsight.
It starts of with a bit of promise. A rocky remake of ‘Sweet Dreams’ underneath (or over the top of) a montage which shows the main character, Baby Doll (she never gets a real name – that would destroy little Zack’s dream), lose her mother, accidentally kill her sister while trying to defend herself against an evil step-father. I think we already saw this in Lemony Snickett, which Emily Browning starred in seven years ago.
As soon as she arrives at the mental institute we are overwhelmed with a barrage of stereotypes, over-cranked music, flat acting, and a incomprehensible boring story-line. She enters a dream world (thanks, Inception), where she is able to do a hypnotic dance which allures her captors. We never actually see this dance (no budget left for choreography), so are instead taken a step down the dream ladder to ‘battle scenes’. But she does kick ass alongside her fellow-scantily-clad dancer/captives (Coyote Ugly anyone?)
These battle scenes are where Zack Snyder plays out his various dreams of making
  1. a samurai fight film,
  2. a steam-punk WWI film,
  3. a fantasy dragon slayer film and
  4. a futuristic spy-thriller splosion fest.
This may sound kinda cool, but after Baby Doll defeats the first of three bad guys in the first battle, it’s already getting boring. In fact, these are possibly the most boring action scenes I’ve ever scene. The effects were well done. The look, style and editing was fine. Their failing was in the lack of plot, tension, drama, consequences… you know, story-telling stuff).
Let’s back up a level. I like to call this the melodrama, stereotype level. Early on, I complained that the main bad guy was missing an evil moustache which he could dramatically twist. That was in the ‘reality’ level. In the melodrama level, he had a moustache, of course. The evil/tormented female side-kick had compulsory eastern European accent, although was missing an eye-patch. The cliche department dropped the ball there.
The mentor in the battle dream scenes was some kind of mutant hybrid of David Carradine’s character from Kill Bill and Dicky Fox from Jerry Maguire with his husky voice and terrible inspirational mottos; “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything” etc. He even had a David Caruso sunglasses moment, although you’d have to watch right to the end to see that, so don’t bother.
It borrows steals elements and stylistic techniques from many recent films. Moulin Rouge, Sin City, Lord of the Rings, Lemony Snickett and pretty much every Tim Burton film. It doesn’t achieve any of them successfully.
It lacks nuance. It doesn’t care about the characters so neither do we. It doesn’t invest in any of the scenes so their destruction is cheap. It lacks depth, passion, drama, tension. It lacks story. Many films these days lack some of these elements, but I’ve not seen any that lack all of them. It is comparable to a bad video game cut scene. All it was lacking was the bonus point graphics.
It may seem like I’m labouring a point, but so did the film. Only twice before have I wanted to walk out of a film (avoid Southland Tales and Pearl Harbour!), and if we hadn’t been sitting in the far right corner away from the exit, this would have been the first time I actually did.
I’ve heard it described by some reviewers as a glorious failure, but I’d remove the ‘glorious’ and leave it simply as a failure.

Martin Freeman IS Bilbo Baggins

On the off chance that the crazy ramblings of fans out here on the ether has any actual impact on casting decisions down the road (and around the corner, across the airport and over a small hill), I thought I’d express my – and Mike’s – views on The Hobbit casting.

The decision has most likely been made, but until an announcement is made and at least a third of the film is shot, I think it could still be open to influence (note Mark Wahlberg replaced Ryan Gosling just before shooting commenced on The Lovely Bones).

So who should play the all-important eponymous character of The Hobbit? In my humble opinion, none other than British actor, Martin Freeman.

Rather than ramble at length (which I am prone to do), I shall list all the reasons why it must be Martin Freeman and couldn’t possibly be anyone else (that I know of anyway…)

1. Bilbo Baggins is Very English. You could almost imagine him as a stuffy professor sitting across the pub (The Eagle and Child, in Oxford?) from Tolkien as the first little seeds of Middle Earth germinated in his mind. Martin Freeman is also Very English, having starred in some of the best and Most-English comedy and drama to come from those fair Isles in the past decade (The Office, Love Actually, Hitchhikers’ Guide).

2. Bilbo Baggins is approaching middle age. 50 or 51 according to the ever-relaible Wikipedia (and confirmed by my hazy memory). Now Hobbits don’t age quite as quickly as humans, so 50’s in a hobbit would look like 40’s in a human. Martin Freeman is a rather weathered looking 38, and could certainly pass for Hobbit middle age.

3. He has an uncanny resemblance to Ian Holm, which simply can’t be ignored. If The Hobbit and LOTR’s are to hold their place in many fans hearts as enduring classics, then they must also flow together and fit. Already Ian McKellan has signed on to reprise his role as Gandalf. Ian Holm is too old, so his successor must at least have some likeness. See here:

4.Martin Freeman does flustered like a Hobbit. (Skip to 4’12” if you don’t wish to be charmed and outsmarted by singing dolphins.) Replace his townhouse with a hobbit hole; Stephen Fry’s voice with Ian McKellan’s and a gaggle of bulldozers with a swarm of dwarves and you’re already watching the opening scenes to The Hobbit.

5. He’s available. A quick look on his IMDb page shows he has no films currently in (pre-)production. Keeping his slate clean for a big announcement? We can but hope…
Now, other names have been bandied around regarding what must be the most anticipated bit of casting news this year. James MacAvoy has been hinted at. Daniel Radcliffe quickly quashed. Even Ricky Gervais has been suggested by some (have they not see Stardust – he almost ruined it for me!?)
Lips in the know around Wellywood are tightly sealed, but these two hints have been found on the internet, and as always may be completely unrelated, or may be quite suggestive. James McAvoy has recently dropped out of a film due to start shooting later this year due to ‘unforeseen circumstances’ or ‘personal reasons’. Could mean he has something bigger and better up his sleeve?
Secondly, Martin Freeman, I today found out, auditioned for Stanley Tucci’s role in The Lovely Bones. He didn’t get that of course, but old PJ knows of him, knows about him and possibly, hopefully likes him. Fingers crossed!
That’s my two cents worth. Feel free to comment, or make suggestions (which will be duly ignored).

Still alive, still kicking and still watching films…

Well, it’s been a while since Mike or I have posted any film reviews or even film related news. But there has been plenty of news, and we’ve seen a few films – not even close to enough, but some.

Currently we’re working our way through Band of Brothers -a long neglected DVD set on our new tetris shaped DVD shelf – in anticipation of the ‘sequel'(?) HBO’s The Pacific. Before that we finished of season one of The Big Bang Theory and Pushing Daisies (which if you haven’t seen it, you must!). So more TV-show-DVD-set watching than movies, really.
But with awards season behind us, there’s actually quite a few good Oscar and non-Oscar nominated films hitting screens here soon. So all I need to do now, is work out how the hell to find the time to see them all! Here’s a brief summary, hopefully we’ll have some reviews up soon.
Showing now:
Shutter Island – Scorcese. Dicaprio.

Drama is set in 1954, U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels is investigating the disappearance of a murderess who escaped from a hospital for the criminally insane and is presumed to be hiding on the remote Shutter Island

Looks bloody scary.

Alice in Wonderland (3D) – Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter – I’d be more surprised not to see one of their names there. Also stars Stephen Fry as the Cheshire Cat and Matt Lucas as the Tweedle twins. It’s an adaptation based on the novels. Should look amazing in 3D. Has had mixed reviews.
Crazy Heart – Oscar winner Jeff Bridges. Not sure if I’ll make it to this one, to be honest. Not the kind of film which usually appeals, but might be pleasantly surprised.

The harder the life, the sweeter the song.
A faded country music musician is forced to reassess his dysfunctional life during a doomed romance that also inspires him

Boy – Kiwi filmmaker Taika Waititi’s second feature. Looks pretty darn good. Inspired by his short Two Cars, One Night, it’s a coming of age story set in 1984. Nice website too. Not sure how it’ll do overseas, but check out the trailer:
The Road – Based on Cormac McCarthy’s novel, which I can’t bear to read, and starring Viggo Mortenson. Does bleak really well, I’ve heard. “A post-apocalyptic tale of a man and his son trying to survive by any means possible.”
This Way of Life – The NZ doco which made it to the Berlin Film Festival, and even won the jury prize, has critics raving. Follows the life of a family in Hawkes Bay trying to “build a happy, stable life for their six children and 50 horses while engaging as little as possible with a consumer capitalist world they see as soul-sapping.”
Phew, getting there. It’s a long list. Apologies for having been so slack lately.
Righto. My picks of the World Cinema Showcase 2010:
The Hurt Locker – needs no introduction, I hope. If it does, why are you even reading a film blog? (Mum, go back to your gardening site!)
Gentlemen Broncos – Jermaine ‘Flight of the Conchords’ Clement. Sci-fi comedy. Brilliant.
Winter in Wartime – Dutch film about war. In winter. Could be the low-profile pick of the festival.
A Single Man – Tom Ford’s directorial debut, starring Colin Firth. Raises the question of what a director actually does?
The Box – based on/inspired by a Twilight Zone episode. Looks freaky. Moral dilemas etc. Stars Cameron Diaz. From Richard Kelly, director of the brilliant Donnie Darko and the atrocious The Southland Tales.
Soundtrack for a Revolution – tells the story of the American Civil Rights movement through music. “…pairs modern renditions of freedom songs by Wyclef Jean, John Legend, Joss Stone, The Roots, and others with a retelling of this important moment in history.”