Sunday, July 7, 2013

Movie Review - Sucker Punch

I have many mixed emotions about this film.  It was great, but it was sad, yet it was triumphant and awesome.  The film is Sucker Punch.

The film starts out quite dramatically, there is action, passion, and mystery.  Then we slow down the pace and we set the main plot of the movie.  There is a neat scene in the film that fractures Babydoll's reality, and everything shifts into a more interesting version of reality.  All the other characters around her end up as erotic dancers in a corrupt mental ward/prison instead of the mental patients they are in reality.  This not being odd enough for this film things shift again in the scenes when Babydoll starts to dance.  She opens her eyes to find herself in another reality altogether, where she learns of the things she needs to escape her situation.  Every time she dances for someone we get another flash to an alternate reality.

That altered reality scenes are truly remarkable to watch.  These scenes transform Babydoll, and later her friends Sweat Pea, Blondie, Rocket, and Amber into bad ass superheros.  Fighting Nazi's, robots, trolls, and dragons, this superhero brigade kick some serious ass.  Not only are they kicking ass, they look fantastic doing it.

Which brings me to the costumes, they are spectacular.  Of course the women have amazing and sexy outfits while they are kicking ass, but everyone else is quite well outfitted as well.  Before the split in reality everyone is dress in 40's ish clothing that looks spot on for a mental institution.  The nurses, doctors, businessmen, and girls are dressed quite for this approximate era.  They are also very drab, which helps to define what reality we are in.  Once we split off into the alternate reality, where all the girls are dancers, we have a dramatic change in wardrobe.  What used to be drab doctors and nurses are now men in shiny and bold suits, and women in flashy cocktail dresses.  It all has the feel of a sophisticated night club, which is perhaps much more happy then the mental institution that the film is set.

This type of storytelling approach is very dramatic, and exciting to watch.  It is certainly preferable to the way the story would normally be told.  It also helps to shed some light on the mental status of the main character.

With all I have said it hardly seems necessary to mention special effects, but I will anyways.  Fantastic, alright I'm done.  No really, they are amazing well done.  When the dragon bursts out of the castle it really looks quite natural.  When the same dragon takes a bite out of a plane in mid flight you never question how the special effects work, you just roll with it and believe.  One other great thing about this film is they manage to make good use of the bullet time technology.  The robot fighting scene has quite a bit of bullet time in it while they kill all the dang robots. 

The acting is exceptional as well.  There are some very talented actors in this film.  Emily Browning (Babydoll) has a look of innocence about her, but manages to pull off bad ass, and perhaps a touch of sexy, quite naturally.  Her performance never feels forced or unnatural.  Even when she is being the bad ass it is never over the top like I have seen some actors do.  Jena Malone (Rocket) was great with showing hidden strength.  Even in the scenes where Rocket is showing her vulnerable side you can always see her strength.  Scott Glenn (Wise Man) has perhaps some of the best lines in the film.  The Wise Man shows up in each one of Babydoll's dance hallucinations to guide her and her teammates.  I have seen Scott in other films and he has always had an ability to deliver a line with strong conviction.  The character of the Wise Man continues to showcase his ability.

Now the not so great part.  Being a stickler for endings that I am, I was somewhat upset at the ending of this movie.  In any movie that centers on a mission, or achieving a grand plan, the characters are expected to have to struggle to achieve their goals, yet this film seems to ask to much of its heroes.  In the end, the things they manage to accomplish are great, but the price paid seems rather high.  While some may argue this makes the film that much more realistic, I feel it makes for a bittersweet ending.

If you don't mind a little bloodshed and violence, or you like a good superhero movie, then this is the film for you.  Even though they are not superheros in the tradition sense, they are fighting bad guys in costume.  It is certainly great fun to watch them all kick ass.

Due to the mixed emotions of the ending, I am only rating this film four out of five smiley Mike heads.  I just wish that things could have worked out differently in the end.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Movie Review - Cloud Atlas

This film was every bit the grand sweeping story that the trailers present it to be.  The movie I am speaking of is Cloud Atlas.

The movie follows the story of multiple characters throughout multiple times in history and the future, yet the characters are all portrayed by the same actors.  It is certainly astounding to watch as the same actor plays a good guy in one timeline while simultaneously playing the bad guy in another timeline.  For some this may make the film somewhat hard to follow, but I feel it adds to the layers of complex storytelling.

The way that the story is told is like no other film that I have seen before.  Just as one of the story lines starts to heat up they jump to the next one.  Instead of being frustrating, as I would imagine it, this helps to build up to a frenzied pace by the climax of the story.  At the end you are so engrossed in every storyline when they jump to the next one it is a welcome transition so you can see what happens in that story.  This film is incredibly well written, if half the movies on the video store shelf were written half as well I would be a happy man.  They also do a great job wrapping up all the story lines so they don't leave you wondering what happens.

The ending is one of the most important aspects of a film for me, which you all should know by now.  A bad ending can ruin a good movie; likewise a good ending can lessen the suckage of a bad movie.

As for the ending, it really shows you the best in humanity on a grand scale.  I felt a sense of connection to the human race that I rarely feel in daily life.  This film also shows the darker side of humanity though.  You see many different kinds and types of villains in this movie as well.

The special effects are simply amazing.  In the futuristic parts of the film you see a city of grand proportion, and flying ships.  Everything is done in such a way that it looks like someone simply filmed the ships and the city.  This is after all what special effects are supposed to do, make us believe the unbelievable.

The make-up and costumes are fantastic as well.  There are some period pieces in this film, yet there are not a bunch of ball gowns.  There is however some great men's fashions, suit coats and vests.  As for the make-up, there are a few characters that have tattoo's on their face and bodies that look real.  I also really like how dirty the tribal people are in this film.  It seems very realistic to me that they would not be clean and pretty.  Their clothes are made of organic materials and are very loose fitting as you would expect crude clothing to be constructed.  As for the futuristic scenes we have lots of close fitted clean monochromatic clothing.  As a whole they do a fantastic job aging all of the characters.  Since we are also skip around in time the make and costume crews do an amazing job making everyone fit the era that they are portraying.

The film does take about 10 to 15 minutes to really start to catch your attention, yet once it does it never fails to keep you entertained.  I cannot imagine what else anyone could ask of a movie.

If you can pay attention and follow more than one story line at a time then I highly recommend this film.  I can imagine that this film would be one that you could easily watch more than once.  You may actually need to watch it more than once if you hope to catch all the nuances this film holds.

I was torn between four and a half and five smiley Mike heads for this film, so I asked my five year old (who did not watch this film with me) and he said "uh five," so I rate this film five smiley Mike heads.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Movie Review - World War Z

Well here is a first, and you are here to share it with me.  This is the first movie review that I have written for a movie that is still in the theater.  The movie is World War Z.

I will preface this review by saying this is not typically the type of movie that I watch on my own.  I was invited by a friend to go see this flick.  It was a fun time, I got my butt off of my couch and actually got to go to the movie theater again. 

I had seen trailers for this film, which is why I knew it wasn't my kind of movie, but did not really know what to make of this film before I went to see it.  After watching it I still don't really know what to make of it.

Let's start with the positive, the special effects were awesome.  The zombies are really well done, they are scary, shambling, monsters.  The transformation scenes are quite gruesome and intriguing to watch.  There is a scene in the film where the zombies are trying to climb a wall that is quite epic.  They all throw themselves at the wall and smash into each other and just start climbing over each other until they form a human scaffold.  This scene was really quite terrifying, because it presents the zombies as a single minded, unstoppable, killing force that is scary as hell.  The movie makeup is very well done, assuming they had some real people playing zombie in the film and it was not all computer graphics that is.  There are some scenes late in the film where you are quite close up to the zombies and it is amazing how well done they are.

On to the acting.  There were some really amazing actors in this film; although I would not count Brad Pitt among them.  Perhaps the writers are to blame, but Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt) is so laid back that you don't really get the feeling that he cares about anything.  Sure he is all dark and broody but he is so detached from his surroundings that it sort of takes away from how crazy the events of the movie really are.  Many of the supporting actors are quite amazing in their roles though.  One example is Mireille Enos who plays Gerry's wife Karin.  Mireille does a great job, Karin is strong for her family, yet scared as hell at the same time.  She pulls this off quite well actually.  Or perhaps Fana Mokoena who plays Thierry Umutoni, a government agent who helps Gerry and his family out of the zombie infested city.  Thierry is very serious in this role as you would expect any person to be in the given situation.  And lets face it, some of the zombie actors are even better at displaying emotion than Brad Pitt is in this film.

Perhaps the biggest gripe I have with the movie is it's cohesion.  There are several very good scenes in the film, the zombie's at the wall for one example, but as a whole the movie just isn't very good.  The movie feels very forced.  The way that they follow Gerry eludes to the fact that he is important, yet they never really tell you why he is important.  Yeah they say he was an great agent in the past but the events of the movie never show you that side of him.  The way they make a big deal out of extracting him from the city you would think he was the president.  They give Gerry the task of finding out how to stop the zombies.  This is of course is the whole point of the film, but you don't really feel like you are solving that problem until the last 30 minutes of the film.  The rest of it feels like filler, trying to expand on the story, yet only proving to bore you with details.

The whole film feels like a bunch of disconnected events smashed together until we finally present you with a goal, which is then complicated by events that just there to extend the length of the film.  We need something, but zombies are in the way, we can't possibly just get this something we need somewhere else.  No, we must get it here, so we will now sneak through the zombies in an intense, yet unnecessary scene that adds drama to the film without really adding any substance.

As a whole this film was entertaining, but lacking.  It could have been better, but they had to have that blockbuster feel of all these big scenes that did not really help tell the story.  If you are into zombie films then perhaps this doesn't matter to you.  There certainly is plenty of zombie carnage, gore and destruction, yet I can't help but feel the story could have been stronger.

I rate this film two smiley Mike heads.  It was clever in the solution to the problem, and it had some really neat zombie action, but the story was severely stunted

I was going to rate it two and a half smiley Mike heads but I realized I didn't have an image for that, so I bumped it to two.  Laziness for the win.  In a why it sort of is fitting for this film, since the writers were too lazy to write a decent script for it.

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