Category Archives: watchmen

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 Flicks.co.nz 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.
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Hilleke’s musings on 2009’s film offerings – almost a list but not quite

Alright, 2009 is over and done with and twenty-ten is well under way. I’ve been staring at my blog draft for The best films of 2009, rapidly renamed to The Top 5 ‘Top 10 films of 2009 lists’ and now living in limbo without a title until I finish writing this post and am forced to make one up.

The idea of making a ‘best films’ list is very tempting, but is also, inevitably, flawed. Because I am not a film critic or even a film reviewer. I don’t get sent along to see films for free, or even paid to see them (wouldn’t that be nice though?). So the films I see come with built-in bias. They’re almost always films that are well-publicized, happen to be playing near me and happen to be playing when I have money to go see them. They also have a slight sci-fi slant to them, courtesy of Mr T who loves watching these on the big screen, are very rarely serious dramas (which we save for watching at home on DVD so we can cry with wild abandon… but then never actually get round to watching because we’re too busy) and tend to be recommended by our favourite reviewers (Harry Knowles for Mikey and Roger Ebert for both of us).
So within these constraints, I shall endeavour to come up with my favourite films of the year, and my list of why-haven’t-I-watched-these-yet? films which should or could also be on the favourites list. My judging criteria are simple: good, fun, original entertainment, or epic adventure, or any other film that sticks well to it’s genre and does what it says on the tin – with some added spark. Basically something that can guarantee two (plus or minus) hours of escapism and leave you feeling better off afterwards – not too hard you’d think?
Okay, so the easy stand outs for me this year, because they’re memorable, obviously brilliant and I’ve seen them recently (old age, memory loss, you know…) are Up and Where the Wild Things Are. Yes, they’re ‘kids’ films but they’re also very much adult films.
Up is the most touching story I’ve seen in a long time, and has amazing CG, it’s beautiful, inspired, inspiring. It makes you want to be a kid again! It’s full of adventure and excitement. Full review here…
Where the Wild Things are does the same but in a completely reversed kind of way. It reminds you how tough it is to be a kid. Yeah the kids a brat… or is he? Maybe we’re just in denial that we were like that too (my parents sit behind their monitors nodding sagely as they read this). It’s tough being a kid – noone understands you, everyone expects more of you than you know and they never spell out what they want. You’re ignored, harassed and lonely… and then to top it all off you have to go do your chores! WTWTA understands this, and adapts the very short picture-book in a way that helps you understand it too. Because despite all the hardships of ‘growing up’ it can also be a wonderful thing – as long as you look for ‘the wonder’ in the right places. Mike puts it into words better than I can in his review, found here.
I might as well wrap up the animated/kids films now with Coraline. Coraline was my most anticipated film of 2009. And although it was brilliant, and I enjoyed it, Coraline is what the above two flicks aren’t – a true kids film. It was criticised for being too dark and scary, but I’d argue that kids can handle dark and scary better than we can. And they understand the line between fiction and reality better than we think they do. So I’d say watch Coraline with your (or someone else’s) kids and you’ll enjoy it. Watch it by yourself and you’ll think you’ve just seen a really good kids film. More from me here.
Growing up now… and moving to NZ.
Avatar and District 9 both get honourable mentions (aren’t they all just honourable mentions?), not just because they were made in NZ, or friends worked on them, but because they’re both good fun entertainment. Well, District 9 gets pretty gruesome at times, but wins me back with it’s originality. Whereas, Avatar may not be a terribly original story it won me over with it’s shear beauty and style. More here for Avatar and District 9.
The two stand out films of the year were Let the Right one in (not technically 2009 but viewed in that period so it counts) and Moon. Both are simply amazing films. They tick all the boxes and then some. Original stories, amazing cinematography/effects, well-acted, haunting and creepy where needed, amazingly memorable and leaving me wanting to watch them again and again. (Damn, I should have made this list before Christmas – I don’t have either on blu-ray yet!).
Let the Right One in is being re-made this year in the US (original was Swedish) and re-titled with the more correct translation ‘Let Me In‘. One to watch out for if you don’t fancy sitting through two hours of sub-titles – although I will frown on you and shake my head disapprovingly if you don’t give the original a go first. It is a testament, however, to the quality of the original that they are willing to re-make it so soon, simply to have it appeal to the rather large market in the US who don’t want to read sub-titles.
Moon director, Zowie Bowie – oops, I mean Duncan Jones, of course – is working on his second feature, a Blade Runner inspired tale set in future Berlin called Mute, which will also be released in the coming year(s). As well as rumours of Moon sequels. Another one to watch out for.
Finally, to end on a more cheerful note, although again technically not a 2009 film, we watched it and went there in 2009 so it will do. In Bruges was possibly the best subtle/dark comedy I’ve seen in a long time. Very well-acted, original and quite brilliant. If you haven’t watched it check it out. It’s not necessariy laugh-out-loud funny (unless you have a creepy dark sense of humour like me) and gets quite bloody, not to mention the foul language (there’s a bonus feature on the DVD highlighting the monotonous vocabulary of some characters), but it’s good fun. Try it.
Honourable mentions go out to:
Milk, Watchmen, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Inglorious Basterds, Harry Potter 6(? Is it 6? well, whatever one came out this year. I lose count), and The Hangover.
Special mention to: Rudo y Cursi (which is a small indy Mexican film, worth a watch if you can get your hands on a copy).
Dishonourable mention to:
Transformers 2, Twilight and Angels & Demons – for lowering audiences expectations and giving Mike something to rant about.
Look at me, I could totally be handing out awards at a prize-giving…
And finally the very very long list of amazing (I hope or have heard) films which I haven’t seen but want to:
The Hurt Locker, The Lovely Bones, Away We Go, Men Who Stare at Goats, Zombieland, Paranormal Activity, Coco before Chanel, The Informant!, New York, I love you, Amelia, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, Vicky Christina Barcelona, The Wrestler, Ponyo, 9 (the animated film, not ‘Nine‘ the musical), The Princess and the Frog, The Road, Invictus and Fantastic Mr Fox.
(Consider this a shopping list for future birthdays and Christmases! Mike can probably add a few more to this…)
Righto, I am done. Now I have to think up a title for this post…
postscript of sorts:
For those who want a broader opinion, can I direct you to:


Harry from Ain’t it Cool


If you’re still with me, go back to Roger Ebert for his best 10 films of the decade!

And finally the people (or US teenage film geeks with too much time on their hands) vote over at IMDb.com, who have published their best films of the 2000’s list.

Watchmen – World Building

As some of you may be aware there’s a little film called Watchmen coming out. For those of you that have never heard of it (FOR SHAME!) Watchmen is the greatest graphic novel ever made. It’s on Times magazine’s Top 100 novels of all time list and really is just quite neat.
It is also dense and people have long thought that it would be impossible to bring to the screen due to the crazy amount of depth and history layered into the book. At the end of each chapter there are text sections designed to explain and expand the alternate history of this world where superheroes have been running around since the 1940s.
The film makers don’t have text pages to fill in the gaps, so they’re using YouTube and tie-in dvd’s to help explain the world better. The first of which is this “news item” from 1970 about DR MANHATTAN (Watchmen’s version of superman). It’s very cool.

But even better is this awesome faux PSA from 1977 about the KEENE ACT which outlawed masked vigilanties.

I love this video. It’s era appropriate and funny without being too silly or breaking character.
While we’ve yet to see if Zack Snyder has been able to pull off Watchmen, if these videos are anything to go by, he’s giving it his all.
And by the way I don’t think just closing the window is going to keep Rorschach out.