New on DVD: ‘Beastly,’ ‘Sucker Punch,’ and More

Posted on June 27, 2011 at 8:00 am

Beastly This modern-day version of Beauty and the Beast is surprisingly appealing. In an era of bullies and mean girls, “Gossip Girls” and “Pretty Little Liars,” it’s nice to have such a tenderhearted fairy tale.

Sucker Punch Girls in thigh-hi stockings and tiny spangled miniskirts take on steam-powered corpses, WWI bi-planes, samurai robots, and an angry dragon, along with a series of odiously predatory men in the latest film from Zack Snyder. His versions of “300? and “Watchmen” overwhelmed the storylines with striking, provocative visuals. Here, he solves that problem by pretty much not having any storyline at all. He literally and metaphorically cuts to the chase. It’s not so much punch, a bit more sucker.

Season of the Witch.  This is sword-and-sorcery film named after a Donovan song that features a joke swiped from “Jaws” — a priest looks balefully up at a looming demon and actually says, “We’re going to need more holy water.” It is a hopeless mish-mash that feels like they were making it up as they went along. It’s also dull.

The Eagle The classic book for kid by Rosemary Sutcliff is an epic story, lavishly filmed, but empty at the core. Without a reason to care about the quest, it does not matter how skillfully the battle scenes are filmed.

Unknown There are some good chases through Berlin and even twistier plot developments even if the end is kind of silly in this story of a man on the way to an academic conference who wakes up after an accident with amnesia and finds that someone else has taken over his life.  Worth seeing for one scene between veterans Bruno Ganz and Frank Langella.

Barney’s Version Paul Giamatti makes us understand and even forgive a man who leaves his own wedding reception (second marriage) to run after a woman he has just met (Rosamund Pike), who will be the great love of his life.  Based on the last novel by the great Canadian author Mordecai Richler, this is a sprawling, episodic story of a man who is not always likable but the performances by Giamatti, Pike, and Dustin Hoffman has his policeman father over the decades are magnificent.

Related Tags:

 

New on DVD/Blu-Ray

Ten Questions about Sucker Punch from Brendon Connelly

Posted on April 2, 2011 at 1:13 pm

The always-brilliant Brendon Connelly of Bleeding Cool has ten fascinating and provocative questions for viewers of Sucker Punch. The movie has been widely derided as incoherent eye candy with only 20 percent positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. A typical comment was from Tom Meek of the Boston Phoenix: “The director of “300” and “Watchmen” has plenty of visual panache, but when it comes to storytelling, he’s a bombastic hack.”

Some of the questions Brendon asks us to ponder:

When do we first see Sweet Pea talk? And when do we last see her talk?
Whereabouts does the first scene in the movie take place? Whereabouts does the last scene in the movie take place?
Which locations, props and images reoccur, where and why?
Why are the girls dressed the way they are?

I’m going to go with the obvious answer on that last one. But Brendon is exceptionally astute on story-telling via editing and image. He has given us questions that are well worth considering to provide context of a movie that, even for people like me who found it disappointing, is clearly more ambitious than most of the reviews gave it credit for. To hear him debate the film with Kevin McCarthy, Josh Hylton, Travis Hopson and me, check out The Kevin and Josh Movie Show. I’ll update this post with a link when one becomes available.

Related Tags:

 

Understanding Media and Pop Culture
ir.gif

Sucker Punch

Posted on March 24, 2011 at 10:13 pm

Girls in thigh-hi stockings and tiny spangled miniskirts take on steam-powered corpses, WWI bi-planes, samurai robots, and an angry dragon, along with a series of odiously predatory men in the latest film from Zack Snyder. His versions of “300” and “Watchmen” overwhelmed the storylines with striking, provocative visuals. Here, he solves that problem by pretty much not having any storyline at all. He literally and metaphorically cuts to the chase. It’s not so much punch, a bit more sucker.

Baby Doll is a young girl in blond pigtails, framed for her sister’s murder and thrown into a nightmarish mental hospital by her abusive step-father. Emily Browning plays her with just two facial expressions, which I came to think of as “Mom said I can’t go to the mall until I finish my math homework” and “I really want to go to the mall.” The step-father pays a corrupt orderly (Oscar Isaac, in the film’s best performance) to have Baby Doll lobotomized so that she cannot tell anyone what he has done, and that he tried to molest her after her mother died. She enters a dingy lounge area called “the theater,” where a sympathetic therapist (Carla Gugino, sounding like Natasha from “Rocky and Bullwinkle”) is encouraging the patients (all young and very hot women) to re-enact their stories.

The rest of the movie is best summarized by the song memorably performed by En Vogue: “Free your mind and the rest will follow.” Baby Doll then either sees or imagines the hospital as a brothel, run by the evil Blue (Isaac again, in sharkskin suit and gigolo-style mustache), where the girls are forced to dance for the customers. Baby Doll has the ability to mesmerize men with her dances, which somehow turn into deliriously deranged gamer-style battle sequences as she and the other girls must, in classic computer game tradition, obtain a map, fire, a knife, a key, and make some unknown sacrifice to achieve freedom.

They could have had fun with this, but instead everyone acts as though it is deadly serious, and so it just drags. The other girls, played by Jena Malone, Abbie Cornish, Vanessa Hudgens, and Jamie Chung, are supposed to be tough but vulnerable, but they look absurd, racing around on heels in skimpy costumes as they fight with swords and guns, as though they believe they are exemplifying female empowerment and solidarity instead of parodying it. It is sad to see these talented actresses feel that they have no other opportunity for career advancement than to appear in this dispiriting dreck. A movie about finding freedom from that prison would be something worth seeing.

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Animation Fantasy Horror Science-Fiction Thriller

Comic-Con: Coming Attractions

Posted on July 27, 2010 at 12:13 am

One of the highlights of Comic-Con is the very early glimpses of the films that are still in production. The big, splashy events for the movies opening in the next few months are great, but the people behind the movies not opening until next summer and beyond give us a chance to meet in smaller settings and hear their thoughts as they are in the midst of making the films.
I attended a press conferences for next year’s release of “The Green Lantern” with Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, and Mark Strong. IMG_0115.JPG It will be an origin story, and Reynolds described it as “‘Star Wars’ in the DC Universe.” He plays a character who has had “a bit of a tortured life” and is “arrogant, cocky, and aimless” until…an unexpected power sets him on a different course.
IMG_0134.JPGZack Snyder (“300,” “The Watchmen”) and the stars of his upcoming movie, “Sucker Punch” had a press conference after showing Comic-Con attendees the first trailer of the film, a different-levels-of-reality story with characters trying to escape from a sort of prison/mental hospital/brothel — with dance numbers and a lot of fight scenes. Snyder also explained why he chose to shoot in 2D so his camera movement would not be limited, even though he had just completed work on the 3D “Legend of the Guardians.” Stars Vanessa Hudgens, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung, and Emily Browning talked about the “boot camp” they had to attend for fitness and fight training to make a movie that is “all the way, all the time.”

Related Tags:

 

Festivals Trailers, Previews, and Clips
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik