Saturday, April 30, 2011


“Shut Up, crime!”
“Super” is the latest film from James Gunn, who previously wrote and directed the terribly under-rated and under-appreciated horror/comedy “Slither”.  This new film is a superhero film and could also be perceived as a comedy, except the style of the comedy is pitch black.  “Super” is likely going to be compared to last year’s “Kick Ass” because both films share the same basic idea, however they definitely go in different places with it.

“Super” is about a regular guy named Frank (played by Rainn Wilson) who decides to take a stand on crime and becomes the powerless superhero named “The Crimson Bolt”.  The catalyst for this decision was when his beautiful wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a sleazy drug-dealer named Jock.  Sadly Sarah was a drug addict earlier in her life and it was Frank who helped her back on her feet and to keep clean, which is how the two fell in love.  However after witnessing Sarah in the arms of Jock following a night of partying, it is obvious to Frank that she has gone back to her old ways and has once again become dependent on drugs, and he decides that he will do anything to save her and get her back.  As it happens, he finds inspiration in the strangest place.  During a night at home in a state of depression, Frank stumbles across a religious program who has a superhero character in the lead called “The Holy Avenger”.  During this show it is mentioned that “some of His people are chosen” and it is here that Frank is struck with an epiphany.  He is going to become a superhero and protect the world from crime (and in the process get his wife back).  With another quote from “The Holy Avenger” still ringing in his ears, “all it takes to be a superhero is the choice to fight evil”, he goes ahead and creates a (terrible) costume and searches to find his trademark weapon (a wrench) and sets about to stop crime in its tracks.

Amusingly, the first couple of nights he sits behind a dumpster “waiting” for crime to happen, however when nothing eventuates, he changes tactics and decides to look for crime and heads down to a notorious street that is often filled with prostitutes, dealers and petty thieves.  From here he sets upon the criminals with his deadly wrench, bashing their heads in with it.  He also departs from the scene with a little helpful tip for the criminals such as “don’t sell drugs” or “don’t molest kids”.  Although it isn’t long before we start to realize just how disturbed Frank may actually be after he bashes a couple who push in line while waiting for a movie.  With a vigilante on the loose and the high levels of violence associated with “The Crimson Bolt’s” attacks, the media picks up on the story very quickly, and it is not long before a cute young girl named Libby, who is employed at the local comic shop, works out his secret identity and convinces him to let her be his kid-sidekick, “Boltie”.  Libby doesn’t have a cause that she is fighting for, rather she believes in the fantasy of being a superhero which is fun and exciting, however it soon becomes apparent that she enjoys all of the violence being perpetrated on these criminals, and she really comes across as slightly insane.  It is also very obvious that all of this action is a turn-on for Libby in a sexual sense, which leads to probably the most disturbing scene in the film which is a scene of rape where this time a male is the victim.  After fighting petty crime long enough and feeling comfortable as “The Crimson Bolt” (as well as working alongside with “Boltie”), Frank decides that it is finally time to get his wife back (and as a result of this, take on organized crime).

The tone of this film is quite strange because it is definitely a dark film, but at times it is laugh-out-loud hilarious, but once the laughter subsides, you actually question yourself for finding it funny (because it usually involves something so wrong).  I suppose the best way to describe the film is “disturbing”.  The levels of violence within the film are high with blood flowing thick and fast because, let’s face it, a wrench can cause some serious damage to a person’s head, but it reaches its peak at the end when firearms are introduced, as we see many people shot, blown to pieces and someone even gets half of their face shot off (which is very graphic).

This is an extremely well acted film, and I cannot think of anyone who puts in a bad performance here.  Ellen Page is adorable as Libby, so bubbly and full of life, but when she puts the mask on and becomes “Boltie”, a whole different persona appears and she borders on being maniacal, which is actually quite scary.  Kevin Bacon as Jock looks like he is having the time of his life here, he brings so much energy to the role and he is brilliant throughout.  It is a scene chewing role but he is constantly hilarious.  Liv Tyler has little to do as Sarah but she is the heart of the film and she impresses when she is on screen, and it is great to see Michael Rooker (who played the “villain” role in Gunn’s previous film “Slither”) really shine in his role of Abe, who is one of Jock’s henchmen.  He basically steals every scene he is in.  There are small roles played by Nathan Fillion (who also starred in “Slither”) as “The Holy Avenger” and it was fantastic to see Gregg Henry grace the big screen again, although his police detective character is not really important and has little to do with the plot.  The difficult role of Frank, a man who has been bullied and humiliated at every turn of his life until he is at breaking point, is played by Rainn Wilson and he seriously impresses.  It is a role full of difficult emotions and he pulls it off.  I assume this would have been a particularly hard role to play especially due to the fact that he would have to exist in such a dark place mentally for the duration of filming.  Rainn Wilson is famous for his comedic skills (in shows like the U.S version of “The Office”) and he is extremely funny in “Super” but what makes it all work, is the fact that he plays it all straight, which he must do to get the optimum effect the film needs to succeed to its fullest.  Although we find ourselves laughing at how ridiculous the situations Frank and “The Crimson Bolt” find themselves in, they are no laughing matters to the characters themselves, rather they are very serious and life threatening moments and there is no winking at the audience at all.

The film was obviously shot on a very low budget and unfortunately in some scenes this shows, but overall James Gunn does an admiral job directing us away from the film deficiencies.  Some scenes feel like they could have benefitted from having more coverage, but as I said, on a limited budget this isn’t always possible.  I suppose to be truthful I would say that Gunn succeeds more with his writing than his direction, but even the script has some slight flaws.  Most of my problems come with the end of the film which, strangely, I find both, a little disappointing and brilliant.  The “action” finale loses a little of the realism the rest of the film has (which was a similar thing that happened at the end of “Kick Ass” too, although it was worse on that film) and once it is over, Frank never faces any consequences for the acts of crime and violence that he himself has committed while on his quest to save his wife.  He appears to just get away with it all (which also strays from reality), which I thought was a missed opportunity by not dealing with the repercussions.  What I did find brilliant about the end was the resolution with the wife, which was quite unexpected and incredibly poignant and gave the film a lot more heart.  The highlight of the film is when Frank explains the “some of His people are chosen” quote again, this time in a different context, which turns out to be truly beautiful and selfless and (sort of) justifies what he has done to get to this point.

Overall I really enjoyed this dark and disturbing film.  It goes to places that are so wrong, but if you are not easily offended, this is worth checking out, plus it is also extremely funny in parts.  Another reason to recommend it is because it is something different at the cinemas and not just another remake or sequel, which is always worth getting excited about.  I also must make mention of the brilliant animated title sequence, which is so much fun and energetic and ends with all the (animated) characters performing a choreographed dance.  It’s very inventive.

3 ½ Stars.

“It’s all gushy!”

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


To name someone as your favourite director is quite a hard thing to do because there are such a high number of fantastic filmmakers, that to limit it to just one is almost impossible.  However when pushed, along with Martin Scorsese and Brian De Palma, I often name David Lynch as my favourite director.  “Eraserhead” is his debut film and is one title in his oeuvre that I am less familiar with (before my recent viewing, I think that I had only seen it twice before).  It was also one of his films that I had never had the chance to see on the big screen, so when The Astor cinema announced a strictly limited two-day season of “Eraserhead”, there was no way in the world that I was going to miss it.

“Eraserhead” is one strange film, probably Lynch’s strangest, and at times it is really hard to know exactly what is going on.  I know that I recently tore strips off of Zack Snyder’s “Sucker Punch” for not making sense, but “Eraserhead” is a whole different kettle of fish.  It is left open for the viewer to make their own interpretation of what is going on and unlike “Sucker Punch” (which is so hollow), even when you are unsure as to what is exactly happening, you are always feeling something, that is you are connected emotionally to it.  This is what I believe makes David Lynch a genius filmmaker because as strange as his films are, he always has the ability to take the viewer on the same emotional journey that his characters are engaged in.  He always gets us to feel something.

Personally, I believe to get the most you can out of a David Lynch film (especially on a first viewing), you need to just let it wash over you, experience the emotions and just “feel” the movie, and let your intuition take over to work out what is going on.  After that it is then fun to go back and look at the film and break it down and try to analyze just what went on (and more importantly, why?).  So what is “Eraserhead” about?  That is a good question.  As I mentioned before, it is a very strange film, but it is pure Lynch and one of the things or themes that Lynch often explores in his films is the human mind, as well as the breakdown of it, and the causes of it.  These are clues as to what “Eraserhead” is about, but it appears to be a nightmare version of the events that happened after Henry Spencer (Jack Nance), our main character, is thrown into parenthood unexpectedly, which also forces him into a marriage that he is not ready for.  

The film begins very amusingly (if you like dark comedy, that is) when Henry goes to his girlfriend’s house to meet and have dinner with her parents.  As we find out, it has been quite a while since Henry has seen Mary (his girlfriend), and he is unsure why she has been vacant.  The dinner itself is just like it is in reality, but heightened in that David Lynch way.  It is very awkward and the atmosphere is tense, and all the while it feels as though they (especially the mother) are checking him out to make sure he is a suitable partner for their daughter.  Throughout the visit, it appears that children and the responsibilities of being a parent are everywhere that Henry turns (with the family dog feeding her pups, and even the strange dinner itself, which were “baby” chickens), and it isn’t long before it is revealed to Henry that Mary has recently given birth to a severely premature child.  As Henry is the father, it is expected that he must contribute to the bringing up of the child.  Henry is blindsided by the news, and from this moment his life changes forever.  We next see him back in his tiny apartment with his (now) new wife and their strange mutant looking baby (whose bottom half of the body is so deformed, due to being premature, that it is permanently wrapped in bandages) as they struggle with these new and unexpected challenges thrown upon them.  They both have to deal with all of the things that first time parents struggle with and must quickly become used to, such as the sleepless nights, the struggle to feed the child and the stress associated when the child doesn’t accept the food being offered, the fear of your child becoming ill, as well as the lack of intimacy from their partner, to name but a few.  These are normal things that all parents go through, but with the state that Henry’s mind is in, he twists these things into dark nightmare versions of what is happening.  And the images are gorgeous!  Never has the grotesque looked so beautiful.

It isn’t long before Mary heads home to her family due to the stress of not being able to cope, and it is then up to Henry to look after the child himself.  He is terrified but does his best, but he soon realize s that he no longer has a life of his own.  This may be the reason he ends up having a brief affair with his beautiful neighbour who regularly flirts with him.  This does not last long, however, as the woman is first shocked and then terrified by the strange looking baby (who begins to cry while they are having intercourse) and refuses to visit Henry again.  In fact it affected her so much that she cannot see Henry without picturing the baby’s head on his shoulders (which is a strange image).  This depresses Henry more, as he starts to realize that his child is the reason for all of the negative things that are happening in his life at that moment and (this next part is definitely open to interpretation, but this is how I see it) I believe he starts to consider suicide as his only option out of his hell.

Most of what I have written above (with the suicide theme, being the only exception) I consider to be quite concrete, meaning that I safely assume that these things did actually happen to Henry.  However there are other strange characters in “Eraserhead” such as the “Man in the Planet” and the “Lady in the Radiator” that need to be considered also.  These characters are very “Lynchian” and probably exist in a different plane of reality.  My most basic interpretations of these characters are as follows.  The “Man in the Planet” is representative of Henry’s mind, as we see the man controlling things by pulling levers and such, which may be Henry’s emotions.  Near the end of the film, we see the planet break apart, which I believe to be symbolic of Henry’s mind finally cracking or breaking.  The “Lady in the Radiator” is something like an angel, as she is always trying to convince Henry just how nice Heaven is (in a song and dance number, no less), which is why I believe suicide is a strong theme throughout “Eraserhead”.  The film ends with Henry hugging the “Lady in the Radiator” which is also why I believe Henry does finally commit suicide in the end.  It also makes sense narratively, because this scene takes place just after Henry performs a very disturbing act that I will not reveal.  

I suppose you could be wondering why exactly the film is called “Eraserhead”.  The title comes from a very strange dream sequence that Henry has, where he literally loses his head.  A young boy finds the head laying in the street and sells it at what appears to be a pawn store, where the buyer in turn then gives it to another weird guy (who looks like a scientist) who ends up drilling a piece out of Henry’s head, and uses what he removed to create erasers for the pencils that he is creating.  This is both an exhilarating sequence as well as a “WTF” one.  It is very bold and makes little sense, and I must say that I look forward to deconstructing it further in the future (this is another reason why David Lynch films are so great).

“Eraserhead” was a passion project for David Lynch, and it took him around five years to complete (mostly shooting on weekends, or when he was able to produce enough funds to continue).  Although this is his debut film, it certainly doesn’t feel like it, because he is very assured in his direction throughout, and you immediately feel in safe hands.  The film definitely looks and feels like a David Lynch film, and it is obvious to see that his visual style was there from the beginning.  There are some images in this film that you could never mistake as being in a film other than one made by Lynch.  An example that comes straight to mind is a simple shot of the female neighbour looking over her shoulder towards Henry.  There is just a way that Lynch shoots his women that is unmistakable, and even if I was unaware of who directed this film, that one shot would have given it away.

As I alluded to, David Lynch’s direction is stunning.  He truly is such a gifted filmmaker and it is a shame that his filmography isn’t as big as some others, but I suppose he makes up in quality what he does not in quantity.  Here he creates a strange world (that he obviously loves) of industrial landscapes that is a beautiful place to visit, while looking grotesque at the same time.  What is amazing is the fact that there is very limited dialogue in “Eraserhead” and the film works through mood and atmosphere instead.  What contributes most to the atmosphere is the amazing soundscape full of industrial sounds which creates quite an un-nerving effect.  Lynch’s films are known for their stunning use of ambient sound (used often to create dread or suspense) and “Eraserhead” is no exception.  Lynch, himself, had a huge part in the creation of these sounds along with his great friend Alan Splet (who continued working with David Lynch on all of his films up to and including “Blue Velvet”).  While Lynch seemed to have a hand in most things related to the making of “Eraserhead” (he wrote, directed, produced, edited, and did the production design, art direction and the aforementioned sound), what he did not do was the cinematography, which was handled by two gentlemen (obviously due to the film shooting for so long), Herbert Cardwell and Frederick Elmes (who re-united with Lynch for both “Blue Velvet” and “Wild At Heart”) and as I’ve said already, the stark black and white images that are created are gorgeous.  The film exists within a world of deep, thick shadows, which looks so beautiful and is yet another reason why it’s so sad that films are rarely shot in black and white anymore (in fact, Lynch himself would only shoot one more film in black and white after this, his next film, “The Elephant Man”).

Besides David Lynch, the heart of this film comes from the strange and haunting (and sometimes hilarious) performance from Jack Nance as Henry.  He was obviously a favourite of Lynch’s because he became a regular in his films, although sadly he was never given a better role than the one he portrays in “Eraserhead”.  You also have to feel for him too, because he had to keep his hair with the same hairstyle for the duration of the shoot which went years, but that said, the trademark hairstyle that he has in “Eraserhead” has resulted in a cinematic legacy that will last forever.

Finally I must make mention of the special effects work that was done on the mutant baby.  It is amazing and it actually makes it appear that the strange being is truly alive (which causes us to empathise with it).  Some of the things that it does, like when it vomits or coughs, is so lifelike, it’s astounding.  To this day, Lynch has never revealed how the effects were done, which ultimately doesn’t really matter, because the results speak for themselves.

Overall, “Eraserhead” is a dark and disturbing film that is also often quite challenging, however with its steady dose of black comedy that is sprinkled throughout the film, it can also be in places hilarious.  This is easily Lynch’s most experimental film (although his most recent film “INLAND EMPIRE” comes close), but the world that he has created within is so beautiful in its grotesque, that it is a joy to visit.  While I technically wouldn’t recommend it to someone as an introduction to David Lynch (that honour goes to “Blue Velvet”), if you are already familiar with his films and you haven’t seen “Eraserhead”, it is definitely a trip worth taking.

4 Stars.

Thursday, April 21, 2011


It’s time for something a little different.  Enough of the dark films, of doom and gloom, of violence, it is now time to review a Disney film.  “Tangled” is a re-telling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale, “Rapunzel”.  In this Disney version, Rapunzel is kidnapped from her royal parents by Mother Gothel and hidden in a tower, in an attempt to keep Rapunzel away from the outside world, so she can use the magic of her hair exclusively.  Rapunzel’s hair has the power to heal the sick and injured and regenerate the old, and Gothel uses it to stay forever young.  Gothel raises Rapunzel as her own child, with no intention of letting her ever go outside, however the tower’s walls cannot hide the outside world completely from the curious young girl.  

Each year on their daughter’s birthday, the king and queen raise thousands of lanterns into the air, with the hope that one day their lost princess would return.  From the window of her tower, Rapunzel witnesses this annual event and it soon becomes her dream to witness the phenomenon in person.  Meanwhile, a young handsome thief named Flynn Rider has just stolen the lost princess’s crown and while trying to escape from the kingdom’s army, stumbles across the hidden tower.  Believing it to be empty, he climbs the tower and enters the window, only to be knocked unconscious by a scared Rapunzel (who uses a fry-pan to perform the deed).  When Flynn finally comes to and convinces Rapunzel that he is not there for her hair, she ends up making a deal with him to take her from the tower to see the “magic lights” that she has dreamed of seeing her whole life.  He eventually “agrees” and the two set out on their fantastic journey together, but when Gothel realizes that Rapunzel has gone, she will do anything and stop at nothing to get her back.

There was a time back in the early 90’s when the new Disney animated film was an event to me (and my brother).  They were always of such high quality and I eagerly anticipated them.  It started with “The Little Mermaid” and continued with such fantastic films as “Aladdin”, “The Lion King” and “Pocahontas” (to name a few), but eventually the quality of the films begin to drop, and once Pixar entered onto the scene with their computer animated brilliance, Disney’s hand drawn films no longer seemed fresh or exciting, but rather dated, and they lacked the magic they once had.  It is with great pleasure that I can say that for the first time in a very long time, they have recaptured that magic.  “Tangled” is an absolutely delightful film and is easily the film I have watched more than any other in the past couple of months.  My two daughters adore this film (making it special already), so it is on our television almost 24 hours a day, and it is a testament to the quality of the film that I seriously never tire of it.  In fact it’s quite the opposite, and I almost know the film line for line.

What makes the film so great are the characters.  Rapunzel and Flynn are both fantastic characters, and are incredibly well drawn (no pun intended), that it is a joy to be with them throughout their journey.  As usual for a Disney film, there are cute animals throughout.  Rapunzel has a pet chameleon named Pascal, while Flynn is constantly being chased by a government official’s horse named Max (Maximus).  Wisely, Disney decided not to go down the familiar route and having the animals talk, which is a huge plus, because although they cannot speak, they still have plenty of character and are so hilarious (especially Max).

Recently, animated films have got into a trend of using big famous names as their voice talent.  While this is all very entertaining, it can cause a problem by making the voice so recognizable that we find it had to separate the actor from the character they are voicing (this is a common criticism of George Clooney’s performance from “Fantastic Mr. Fox” – didn’t bother me at all, though).  However with “Tangled” they have gone back to using relative unknowns to voice the characters, which is incredibly beneficial for the movie as a whole.  Mandy Moore voices Rapunzel (and does so brilliantly and innocently), but I only think of the character when I watch the film, and never of Moore’s own personality.  Zachary Levi voices Flynn Rider and does so with amazing energy that makes Flynn feel so alive and fun.  It is a fantastic performance.

All the great Disney films of old all had great songs and “Tangled” is no exception.  In reality I think there may be only four songs in total throughout the whole film but they are all standouts, with my personal favourites being “Mother Knows Best” and “I’ve Got A Dream”.  Alan Menken’s work on these songs needs to be mentioned as he is a big reason this film is so great. 

While the animation is now done by a computer, it is expertly done like the old hand-drawn Disney classics.  This was a film that was made in 3-D (unfortunately I have only seen it in its 2-D incarnation), and it looks spectacular and incredibly detailed (just look at the hair on Max to get some sort of idea), and the character designs are all spot on (is it just me or is Flynn the spitting image of Adrien Brody), both the humans and the animals (Max again).

Overall, this is just an amazingly fun film to watch that I never seem to bore of.  It is endlessly exciting, has great action (the knife vs. fry-pan battle between Flynn and Max is both brilliant and hilarious), along with endlessly quotable dialogue, but in the end it is incredibly human and has great heart to it.  The story itself is incredibly well told and it comes as no surprise that John Lasseter (from Pixar) had his hands on this film.  The direction from Nathan Greno and Byron Howard is faultless, but best of all is the fact that my kids adore this film.  My only real complaint is the title – “Tangled”, it really needed to be called “Rapunzel” (which it is in some European countries).  Still that is such a minor quibble and doesn’t affect the quality of the film at all.

4 Stars.


It is rare these days that I go out to a multiplex and watch a new film in a cinema, but I decided to make an exception with Zack Snyder’s new film “Sucker Punch”.  In the film we follow Baby Doll (Emily Browning), who has been sent to an asylum after accidentally killing her younger sister while attempting to protect her from their abusive stepfather.

The asylum is run by Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac), who continues the cycle of abuse by selling the girl’s virginity to whoever will pay him the most, whom he refers to as the “high rollers”.  On the staff of the asylum is a Russian doctor, Dr. Vera Gorski (played by Carla Gugino), who teaches each of the girls an individual dance that they must learn.  These dances are what the high rollers use to determine which girl they want to spend the night with.  However, within the dance, Dr. Gorski, also tries to get the girls to lose themselves to another reality (in an attempt to escape the pain), to focus so hard on it, that they end up in another world where they are not powerless.

When Baby Doll is finally called upon to perform her dance, she succeeds in entering another reality, where she meets a strange old man (played by Scott Glenn) who gives her the plan on how to escape the asylum.  He tells her that she will need to go on five journeys and find something in each that will assist in the escape.  They include a map, fire, a knife and a key.  The fifth thing is a mystery.

After returning to reality, Baby Doll enlists the help of four other girls to help in the escape.  These girls are Amber (Jamie Chung), Blondie (Vanessa Hudgens), Rocket (Jenna Malone) and her elder sister Sweet Pea (Abbie Cornish).  Initially the girls are unsure about trying to escape because they believe it to be an impossible task as “no-one has ever escaped the asylum before”.  Baby Doll ensures them that it will be fine and that it possesses no danger, because everyone will be watching her dance (yes, she’s that good), while the others steal the stuff they need.  Each time Baby Doll dances she, along with the rest of the group, enters a new reality (dressed in either schoolgirl or fetish outfits), where the girls must find the same thing they are looking for in the real world.  For example, when they are trying to get the map, they must also find a map in Baby Doll’s imagined world, which in this case is in WWI where they have to fight zombie German soldiers.

This is just a terrible movie, in fact it is worse than that, it is embarrassing.  This film just does not make any sense at all.  The main problem is the fact that the alternate realities seem to have no links to the real world what-so-ever.  What I mean by this is if these realities take place in Baby Doll’s mind, just what are the other girls doing in the real world while their adventures are going on.  I’ll give an example: when they are trying to get the map, it is up to Sweet Pea to sneak into Blue’s office and steal it while he is being distracted by the dancing of Baby Doll.  That’s fine, but Sweet Pea is still a part of the fantasy world fighting in the trenches, when in reality she is in a completely different room.  It doesn’t make sense and because of that you feel no tension when they are in the fantasy world because there are no consequences (in the real world) if they fail. This begs the question whether the other girls have knowledge of or experience the adventures that are going on in Baby Doll’s mind?  I’m not sure they do, and it is never explored or explained.

Another problem with “Sucker Punch” is Snyder’s terrible (and inappropriate) choices with his music.  Throughout the fantasy action sequences, pop songs are loudly played while the girls are performing whatever heroic acts that they are, but the music never seems to work with the images at all.  As much as I will give him props for using a Bjork song, it just didn’t gel with the samurai action that was being portrayed at the same time.  The problem with this is that it makes the songs themselves very noticeable, when their job is to actually complement the visuals, not over-power them.  Snyder really needs to study the work of both Scorsese and Tarantino, as these guys are both masters at taking pre-existing songs / music and adding it to scenes, and making it work so well that by the end of the scene you would be sure that the song was written exclusively for it.  

Unfortunately the actors do not fare much better, but to be fair, they had very little to work with, as the script is very poor.  Out of all the girls, I think the two Australians, Abbie Cornish and Emily Browning, come out of this film best, but compared to their previous work, their performances here are seriously below par.  I must admit that I am a fan of Oscar Isaac’s work (he was simply amazing in “Balibo”), but he does have the ability to go over-the-top at times (Ridley Scott’s “Robin Hood”), which is definitely the case here, but he does it here in such a fun way that his performance as Blue is probably the only thing I enjoyed in “Sucker Punch”.  He may have been chewing the scenery, but at least he was entertaining.

What I keep hearing about the film is that it is “visually stunning”, but even on this level, the film fails miserably.  Personally I am sick to death of computer generated environments in movies these days.  Call me old fashioned but I actually prefer sets that have been built which actors can act around.  “Sucker Punch” looks exactly like the type of video games that are played today, and perhaps this idea would have worked better in that format, because it certainly doesn’t work as a film.  One of the biggest insults that I have heard, is that with this film Zack Snyder is becoming a “visual stylist” in the same class as Brian De Palma.  Excuse me?!?!?!  Sorry , but that statement is just ridiculous because he is not even close.  While I do appreciate him attempting a scene of “pure cinema” in the opening of “Sucker Punch”, I hate to say that it fell considerably short.  I want to point out that I am not one of these Zack Snyder bashers, because I have enjoyed his previous films that I have seen, it is just that this film needed a lot more work.

That is the main problem I think, because when I first heard him talking about this project a couple of years back, he was talking about how it was going to be a hard R-rated film, but as time went on, he decided it should be PG-13.  This isn’t a problem in of itself, but it was an indication that Snyder wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with the film, which is sadly representative of the final product.  Further evidence was that he shot the film almost like a musical with dance numbers throughout which he ultimately cut.  I just feel he needed to work out exactly what he wanted the story, and thus the movie, to be, before he went ahead and filmed it.  This feels like a first draft of an idea that has been fast-tracked into production.

Overall, to say that “Sucker Punch” was a disappointment would be just stating the obvious.  It is a film that does not work on any level, with whole scenes making little or no sense at all (I had no idea what they were doing on a train in one of the fantasy sequences), with a plot that is so simple that it borders on the ridiculous [The escape plan is so basic, are you really trying to tell me that no-one in that asylum had thought of it before].  I’ve read a few theories on the internet trying to explain the hidden depths of “Sucker Punch” (most seem to think that the whole story is from “Sweet Pea’s” point-of-view where Baby Doll doesn’t really exist, which actually makes some sense), and if these depths were what Snyder was really going for, it is a shame because they would have made the film infinitely better, but directorially he has failed in bringing these ideas to the screen.

To end on a positive note, I will say that Abbie Cornish looked absolutely gorgeous throughout the film and she is the main reason I am bumping my rating up to………

1 Star.

Oh, and good news, the blu-ray version of the film is going to be an extra 18 minutes longer, which will include darker material that had to be cut to get the PG-13 rating.  Hopefully some of this footage will make the film better to understand.