Saturday, March 26, 2011

Sucker Punch sucks more than it punches (see what I did there?)

Ever since I first heard about Zack Snyder's new movie I thought he was asking for trouble having "Suck" in the title. That's like begging critics to tear it apart. Sure enough, they have and I can't blame them. This is probably one of the most misguided and poorly constructed big studio movies in years.
I can almost appreciate what he was trying to do with this movie, combining all his pop culture interests into one story. But throwing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Moulin Rouge, Brazil, Kill Bill and countless anime and video games into a blender does not a compelling movie make. Like Inception, this is a movie about the nature of dreams, but unlike Inception it spends so little time developing the characters and explaining the rules of the dream world that it's impossible to care about anything that happens. We spend maybe five or ten minutes in the "real world" part of the story and then we go into the first fantasy layer where the heroine imagines herself in a whorehouse (apparently much more preferable than an insane asylum) before going into a further fantasy layer where every time she dances she inexplicably imagines herself fighting giant samurai, robots and zombie Nazis.
These action scenes looks cool in the trailers, but in the movie there are no stakes and they have NOTHING AT ALL to do with the real plot. So they just turn into a tiresome CGI wankfest that I wanted to end as quickly as possible. An example of how pointless these scenes are is the Scot Glenn character - a wise mentor who has no real world counterpart and tells the heroine nothing useful at all. Except that she must kill sleeping baby dragons for some reason.
There are the seeds of a good story here, and if Snyder had actually spent anytime developing Babydoll or the other girls' desire to escape then at least the film could have had some emotional investment. As it is, I feel bad for the actors involved having to portray a teenage masturbatory fantasy that has no logic or depth. It's the ultimate example of style over content, an accusation unfairly labeled at Snyder's previous films, which actually had halfway decent scripts.
It doesn't give me high hopes for Superman. Avoid at all costs.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is 80s cinema coming back?

So after watching Paul and seeing the new trailer for Super 8 (both of which pay heavy homage to sci-fi classics from the late 70s/early 80s, especially Spielberg movies) I started to wonder if that magical period of cinema when Lucas and Spielberg were the kings of crowdpleasing entertainment can ever return. I've often said the problem with Hollywood these days is that its lost its sense of wonder, but perhaps that's because audiences these days are so cynical and impatient. Movies aren't even given a chance to build up a sense of wonder and have no innocence to them.
From what I've seen of Super 8, it looks like the kind of movie Spielberg would have made early in his career. It's hard not to feel like a kid again seeing that Amblin logo and hearing the score from Cocoon. If JJ Abrams can channel that Goonies/Jaws/E.T. energy, and audiences respond, he may just be the man who saved mainstream cinema. Or it could be a load of spectacular tosh like Cloverfield. We'll see.

As for Paul, it wasn't on the same level as Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, but it was fun. The numerous references to Close Encounters, E.T. and Star Wars (among others) were obvious but pleasing to anyone who grew up in the period those movies came out. The cast is great (especially Jason Bateman as a ruthless FBI agent whose true purpose isn't revealed until the end) and the film even tackles some heavy issues about the existence of God. Unfortunately, it seems likely to be ignored by non-geek audiences the same as Scott Pilgrim. But there's something wonderfully subversive about paying homage to classic kids movies by making a movie about a foul-mouthed stoner alien.