Sunday, November 27, 2011

Review: Sucker Punch

Sucker Punch is a live-action anime with pretty actresses in sexy cosplay taking down samurai monsters, dragons, robots, medieval knights and even the Nazis. It has most of the right elements to indicate a fun time at the movies, but all it got were lacklustre reception at the box office and poor reviews from a majority of critics instead.

As a movie for the masses, it is a failure, primarily because the filmmakers opted for a tone that is a little too bleak and depressing, despite its PG rating. The lead, played by Emily Browning, who starred in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, goes through another series of unfortunate events in Sucker Punch. She escapes the clutches of an abusive stepfather, only to accidentally kill her own sister, which lands her in a nightmarish asylum surrounded by constant threats of sexual abuse or lobotomy, which she re-imagines in her mind as a brothel-cum-burlesque-club. Not exactly the kind of stuff you expect in a blockbuster movie.

Wait a second, you say. How exactly does all the crazy anime stuff come in? In order to "escape" some of her sordid predicaments, she dreams up an elaborate fantasy world where she and her asylum inmates are mercenaries with exceptional skills in gunplay and martial arts; at times a combination of both. It is in these sequences where the movie really shines, as director Zack Snyder shows great relish in mimicking John Woo's gun-fu without constantly shaking the camera. (There was one particularly noteworthy awesome use of an assault rifle.) Such qualities are so rare in action sequences nowadays that I easily soften up to any movies with great action, even if they don't deliver quality stories. See Mortal Kombat, Dead or Alive, the Resident Evil movies, etc.

I think what Snyder was trying to do here is to create an action movie with hot chicks and a little bit more substance than is usually associated with the genre. However, I don't think the seriousness and dark elements go well with the Hong Kong-anime-hybrid-style, but it's no more subversive than any Quentin Tarantino films. The problem lies in the management of expectations. If Snyder had marketed his movie as a homage to exploitation flicks or even as an unapologetic action flick, I believe the backlash wouldn't have been as bad. Personally, I would have dumped the "real world" elements entirely and go for an all-out fantasy setting, throw in some much-missed humour, and the traditional action flick one-liners, of course.

Great if you have a predisposition towards action chicks.
Better, if you're a fan of Jena Malone (a.k.a. "Rocket").
Not so great if you hate dark, depressing movies.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Review: Source Code

Source Code is the kind of brainy science fiction movie that is best enjoyed while knowing as little as possible about the movie. Directed by Duncan Jones, who did another good sci-fi, Moon, Source Code is about a man who finds himself waking in a body of another man and reliving the man's last eight minutes of his life, over and over again. The plot involves finding out why this is all happening. If you have seen Groundhog Day, this movie is similar to that one, but with more explosions. Though that usually means the movie has been "dumbed down" for the masses who can't take anything more intellectually challenging than Transformers 3, thankfully it isn't. A good thriller with a fairly smart and emotional story, supported by a good cast of actors. I truly enjoyed this one. Recommended.

Format: DVD, anamorphic widescreen.
Source: Rental (Arts Brother, Jurong Point 1 Level 3)

Experience: Home, 47-inch LCD with home theatre surround system
Cost: FREE (a reward from Arts Brother's prepaid rental package)

Friday, August 26, 2011

Review: Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I had no hope that this movie would work, until I saw the reviews, which were unexpectedly very positive. Like X-Men: First Class, Rise of the Planet of the Apes (ROTPOTA) is a 'prequel' to the 40-plus-year-old Planet of the Apes. Not a familiar movie to these parts of the world, but familiar with most Americans and considered a science fiction milestone by some. A prequel of a decades-old movie that lacks familiarity, ROTPOTA was destined to fail. Thus, it was a pleasant surprise to find a rousing (no pun intended), heartwarming tale of a genetically intelligent simian who would eventually become the catalyst to the events in the original movie. It's a simple story that relies a lot on performance and direction, and here all of it worked amazingly, even the ape CG. A little bit of Lassie, King Kong 2005, 28 Days Later, and The Great Escape (or Prison Break for you young fellas), the best big movie of 2011 so far. Really!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Review: Cowboys and Aliens

An OK Western science fiction hybrid from the director of Iron Man and Zathura, the best thing about it is having James Bond and Indiana Jones occupying the screen together. The title suggests a gimmicky, pandering-to-the-masses type of movie, but instead surprises with its serious tone and gritty, sweaty portrayal of the American Old West. This is one instance where a movie could have done with a little more humour and cheese. Nevertheless, the movie still manages to squeeze in cowboys, aliens, spaceships, ray guns, Paul Dano and Sam Rockwell. The story is also rather vanilla and straight. I would have preferred a "what if The Man With No Name fought aliens" movie where bounty hunters actually hunts aliens in the Old West. Cowboys and Aliens played it a bit too safe, I felt.
Violence: A bit too much blood and bludgeoning for the kids.
Sex: None, unless a brief shot of someone's buttocks counts.

Saw it at: Golden Village Jurong Point on a weekday
Cost: $8 for two tix, using GV's Buy 1 Get 1 Free member's birthday special