Monday, March 28, 2011

Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch – 109m - PG-13

The 14 year old boy in me was very pleased with this movie. It had everything I ever wanted to see in a movie at that age. It had sword fighting giant samurai monsters, orcs, dragons, and Steam punk robot armies… And badass girls in short skirts kicking ass and taking names. I was completely geeking out at the eye candy on the screen. It has some really wonderful shots of leaping and wire work and hard fighting action. As my wife and kids like to point out to me, I am old. I am not in this movie’s demographic so I am looking for more than just pretty in my movies. This is why it only garners a yellow light from me. Proceed with caution.

The story revolves around Baby Doll(Emily Browning), a girl who has lost her mother. Her evil stepfather(Gerard Plunkett)commits her to a mental hospital to get her inheritance. Inside the asylum, she meets other girls who are there who are all part of a dance therapy by Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino), who feels that through dance they can find a solution to their problems. “When you dance you control the world, there is nothing to be scared of you are in control.” We go from the main reality into Sweet Pea’s (Abbie Cornish) reality which is a cabaret/ brothel where the orderlies are mobsters who run the house. Inside this reality is where most of the story takes place. With the help of Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens) and Rocket (Jena Malone), Sweet Pea’s sister, they work on a plan to escape. This plan is given to them by Baby Doll’s guardian angel/wise man (Scott Glenn). The plan is to steal items from people while Baby Doll creates a distraction by suggestively dances for her therapy sessions. While Baby Doll dances we now get submerged in her reality that is over powered by fighting and hostility and only come back to the second reality once she gets done dancing. This movie combines an escape film with inception and a pinch of motivational film and as a concept it felt flat. Scott Glenn’s character was under used, he was mainly a device to hand out fortune cookie wisdom in a very formulaic (a la the Sphinx from Mystery Men) way.

This movie felt like an anime book. It was all sword fights with girls in school uniforms battling evil. Sure, there was a lot of eye candy, and maybe candy doesn’t need a reason, but movies should leave you with something more than an eye candy hangover.

Zack Snyder’s previous works include 300 and Watchmen, his typical style in cinematic fight scenes are apparent in this picture as well. The proportion of fighting in this movie is at least twice that of his previous films. Like all his work, this is a see-it-in-the-theater film, as it’s designed to be seen for all of its huge action and sweeping effects. The down side is it’s not really a big screen story. This seems to be an original work from the mind of the director Zach Snyder and co written by Steve Shibuya. It’s heavy handed in its attempt to stir the inner warriors in its viewers, and it seemed to have missed its target audience. If the message is that every young girl has the power in themselves to control their reality, you should probably not point this movie at a male dominated demographic.

I would suggest that Snyder needs to team up with a really good writer; his visualizations are outstanding but fail in its story telling. If he were to work with someone who can really weave a good story into his work I think they would have something that could redefine the term Blockbuster. Get this man a script Doctor STAT.

This week’s question is what kind of world is your imagination play ground? Mine would take place in the world where The Doctor is real and I explore all of time and space as his companion. Not a “companion”, companion. I mean that in a completely heterosexual kind of way. Nothing against that kind of companion, it’s just not my bag baby.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Limitless – 105m – PG-13

Warning! Do not go see this movie under the influence of alcohol. There are some seriously cool camera shots that will completely blow your mind. This movie made great use of blending the reality of what we see with what the character sees. I felt dizzy at times with the way the film was shot but it added a certain thrill. It’s a great what-if movie with a rollercoaster feel.

Limitless gives us a glimpse into what it would be like to have unlimited access to our minds. The premise of the movie is that we only use about 20 percent of our brain. With the help of this wonder drug a person can access and use 100 percent. On a side note that 20 percent thing is a myth here is a link to an article in the Scientific American. Reality aside, this pill takes Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) from an unmotivated, unthinking lout and turns him into an intellectual titan. He now has the ability to recall every memory of everything he has ever seen. He finishes the book that he has taken forever on in four days. He gets into Wall Street and makes millions in two weeks. The things that he could not manage in social activities he can now manipulate. He reconnects with his ex-girlfriend, Lindy (Abbie Cornish), and becomes a rising star in Carl Van Loon’s (Robert De Niro) company. This does not come without a cost, and we see some typical drug addict story elements.

One really great thing about this film is its use of camera shots strung together to illustrate how Eddie lives his life. Neil Burger did an excellent job of relaying that aspect through this film. This movie captures a lot more from his range than his previous films: Illusionist and The Lucky Ones. Burger did a wonderful job on his previous films, but this one is by far the best out I have seen from him. On two specific instances we have single long continuous shots of zooming camera angles that link together so it looks like you are zooming from one end of New York to the other. They are seamlessly tied together to look like one shot. Also some effects with a camera lens that show how his brain works that are truly brilliant, ratcheting up the lighting and color for after the drug is taken also make the audience feel like they are with Eddie when he juices up. From film makers stand point I really like how they did this movie, I so want to geeking out about some more shots but I don’t want to spoil the movie for people who have yet to see the movie. So if you see this film and want to talk further please send me an e-mail. My e-mail in in my profile.

One subtext to this movie that I think is under explored is the fact that Eddie’s powers are not earned, but given. The story misses the opportunity to expand this concept further. This under used point does not take away from the overall experience of the film and it’s a fun ride. It also bugs me a bit that this movie might be glorifying the use of drugs to better the mind. There’s a striking parallel between this drug and steroid use. I am still really just learning to look at films with more of an analytical point of view. Maybe my film classes have me thinking too much about subtext. Sometimes, there is no subtext -- just fun stories that are told.

This week’s question has to be if you had access to this wonder drug that made you smarter, would you take it?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four – 109m - PG-13

What do you get if you take the set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the cast of the OC, a pre teen adventure book and mix them all together? I Am Number Four. This movie has a very narrow target audience – of which I am not a member. It seems most of the kids at my showing thought it was a really entertaining film, so points for hitting your mark. Not such a good job of trying to encompass more of the people who brought your target audience to the theater. This movie gets a solid yellow light from me.

Aliens, the Lorien, are hidden refugees on Earth trying to blend in among the local indigenous population. They are being chased by a race of aliens, called Mogadorians, that can track by sent to kill the Lorien. For some reason Mogadorians are apparently racially OCD and they can only kill the Lorien in order from one to eight. The movie starts out on a promising note. We open with the attack on Number Three and his guardian, which is an excellent hook. We move on to John (Alex Pettyfer) and his Guardian, Henri (Timothy Olyphant). They decide to leave their place of hiding after John gets a vision of Number Three’s death. They make their way to Pleasantville, err I mean Paradise, Ohio, where John falls in love with the town and wants to stop running. He enrolls in high school. He starts to have feelings for a girl,Sara(Dianna Agron), and wants to make a change in his life. The Mogadorians find him and he has to face them, he gets help from a new found friend, Sam (Callan McAuliffe), and Number Six (Teresa Palmer). Oh and there is a shape shifting pet of John’s that also helps out in the final battle.

This movie is a Sci Fi movie of the week, with a bigger budget, crossed with an afterschool special. Every step of this movie was focused on pandering to the target audience: 11 – 14 year olds. It played the same old, tired high-school-angst elements. You have the fish-out-of-water new kid, bully types beating on geek types and a burgeoning romance with the off-limits girl. There is really no depth to the story. And the Sci Fi rules of this universe are not very well explained. One thing to point out is Hollywood’s inability to actually cast teenagers as high school students. A twenty year old walking along the halls looks like a teacher or he has been held back a year, or two.

Technically there is not a lot to talk about, the film was cleanly made, no real glaring gaffs or problem shots. The movie was easy to watch and was well... performed adequately to the level of the story. There was really no one in this movie that stood out and there was nothing to really draw me into the story. They start off with a really great hook that promises a thrill ride and then tapers off to a drizzle of high school high jinks that only comes back to a climatic fight scene that was too little too late. I really see this as an idea that had huge potential but just was not developed to its fullest. D.J. Caruso has had better films in the past. Disturbia comes to mind, and Eagle Eye. Caruso needs to work harder on making the movie more appealing to a wider audience. The writing team was Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and Marti Noxon. Gough and Millar have co-written Spider Man 2, Leather weapon 4 and Shanghai Knights. Nixon worked on the Buffy and Angel TV series along with several other television credentials. You can really see the influences that Noxon brought to this film. With as much talent present I figured it would have been more dynamic. There was nothing really wrong with this movie, but there was nothing really right with it either.

This week’s questions will be from the theme of this movie. Did you ever wish you had super powers, what would they be and how would you use them if you did?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

The Adjustment Bureau – 106Min – PG-13

I have to start off by saying what’s with The Hat? See for yourself, Trailer it’s hard not to notice, am I right?

Every trailer for The Adjustment Bureau shows Matt Damon running around with this ridiculous fedora perched on his head. The Hat is so distracting in the previews; I had to wonder if I would even be able to watch The Hat… I mean MOVIE – let alone enjoy it.

However, rest easy. The Adjustment Bureau is, indeed, more than a hat. I enjoyed it, and not just because of the large sake my wife bought me at dinner.

The movie starts out we watch David Norris (Matt Damon) campaigning for Senator of the great state of New York. He loses, but meets this woman (Emily Blunt) and that contact inspires him to give a moving concession speech and throw his hat into the ring again next election year. All of these moments seem to be magical but they are all part a grand scheme that are monitored over by agents of a higher power that enforce “the plan”. His direct case worker from the bureau, Harry Mitchell (Anthony Mackie), misses an opportunity to change a small thing in David’s life and thus he reconnects with the mysterious woman from his past and walks in on the bureau making an alteration to the people in his office. Instead of altering his mind the adjustment manager, Richardson (John Slattery), comes clean with him about what really goes on, and tells him that he was not supposed to be in the office or meet up with the woman. With this new knowledge he is now faced with following his path or breaking the plan and following his heart. One path leads to a grand future while the other leads to less fame but more happiness. As David fights his plan his case is escalated up the chain to Adjuster “the Hammer” Thompson (Terence Stamp) who is the one to get things done in the bureau.

This movie gave me a Dark City feel only without all the Goth overtones. The actors did wonderfully with the material they had and the story was well done. I felt the connection between all of the players and they seemed to have fun working with this story. People seemed to embody the roles and made it completely believable, well as believable as a hidden organization that makes sure people run according to plan can be. The movies tempo was high and low I think they need to work just a bit on making sure they have a bit more action to offset the long story-telling parts. I left wondering what I would have done in Norris’s shoes. What was the message that we are left with? What elements in my past might have been subject to minor adjustments to alter the course of my destiny? It takes a really good story to make you ask yourself these questions. I look back on my movie watching experience and only a few movies come to mind where the conversations about the movie were just as fun as the movie themselves.

This movie was directed by George Nolfi, he has been the writer for Timeline, Ocean’s Twelve, and The Borne Ultimatum. As his first time in the director’s chair, I think he did an outstanding job of piloting this movie. It was well made and had none of the usual first time director’s flaws: overly long artistic shots or choppy story to get to the end. He had a clear vision presented to us and it was well told. Ok, fine. The Hat is a very important part of the story so I am not going to talk about it but after seeing the movie the trailer does not bother me.


I leave you with this question: what in your life have you decided to take the safe path with or broken from your designated path to pursue happiness?