Saturday, April 2, 2011

Sucker Punch

Today marks a big day for L'Entracte at the Movies: this will be my first negative review of a movie.

I recently watched a little movie known as Sucker Punch, written and directed by Zach Snyder. Now, I'm not going to mince words. I'm just going to come out and say it: this was the worst movie I have seen in years. I'd rather have a nuclear warhead shoved in my eyeball than watch that movie again*. Words can barely described why and how I hate this movie, but I am going to do my best in order for you, the readers, to understand why this movie needs to be avoided like the plague that it is.

First of all, I am going to lay all of the blame on Zach Snyder. A friend of mine once described him as a thirteen-year-old boy. The description is accurate. Sure, 300 was an enjoyable leather speedo-encased man-fest, and even Watchmen was a good adaption of the graphic novel with extremely gory and graphic scenes throughout; so I knew from the beginning that I was walking into a movie made by a man who enjoys two things: sex and violence - as many men do. Heck, even I enjoy a good action-packed film. But Suck Punch. This movie was every wet dream that all horny adolescent boys have ever had. It was disgusting. It was tacky. It was pathetic. The excuse that this was the first movie that Snyder has ever written is no excuse - this was just taken from a page from all of his sexual fantasies and brought to the screen. Snyder, someone needs to Sucker Punch you where the sun don't shine.

Now the story. This will be tricky to describe because there is no story. Even now I am having an incredibly difficult time deciphering the plot of the movie. It's been described as "Kill Bill meets Inception", and I can see where they get that, but I am grossly insulted by whatever moron dared to compare those two great movies to that piece of garbage.

The film begins with a wordless narration paired with a cover of a classic rock song to describe the story of a pig-tailed, bleached blonde, beautiful young woman who is grieved and horrified to learn that her mother has died, and her evil step-father is probably responsible because we need see him enraged to discover that in her will the mother left everything to her two daughters. Then Snyder does his classic and overdone throwing of something flammable into a pit of fire, thus creating an explosion (haven't seen that one before, Snyder). Evil stepfather turns on the girls, first locking up our heroine so that he can more easily get to the smaller and weaker daughter. Heroine manages to escape her locked room, but too late to save her sister. Distraught and holding a gun she dramatically doesn't kill her step-father. I know, beautiful, right? Step-father predictably locks her away in a mental institution that is made up entirely of beautiful young girls, and run by a cliché crooked orderly who takes money from the step-father to ensure that our heroine, who's name we come to learn is Baby Doll, won't talk and tell the truth about what really happened. Then we get another wordless sequence set against another cover of classic rock song to show the hell of being in the insane asylum. Then suddenly the story changes, and we're taken to a gritty bordello where the beautiful women who we saw in dramatic but silent shots of the hospital are the performers.

All of this is weird and weak, but the most infuriating part of this terrible movie is how pathetic the driving plot of this movie is. Of course, the girls want to escape, but they just can't! There are too many guards who are watching them too closely (but do we ever see these guards that are supposed encompassing this place? no). But Baby Doll is determined to escape. How will she do it, you ask? Well, she has a secret weapon - she has a sex tease dance that is hypnotic to any man who watches her, thus allowing the sexy squad of heroines to steal specific items from the dazed men; items like fire, a knife, and others that can only be taken from specific men because those things aren't common. But the great thing is that we never see these sexy dances. Every time Baby Doll begins she closes her big brown eyes that are weighed down by the most obscene fake eyelashes ever, and she is taken to different worlds where she and the gang of girls must fight zombie-Nazi-soldiers, dragons, ogres, and robots with giant guns and a samurai sword in bustiers and midriff-revealing school girl outfits. Super sexy. But the plan, the brilliant and  not needlessly convoluted plan, fails. And the end results are tragic, where the only one who escapes in the end is the oldest girl of the bunch - the one who has been complaining the whole time about how it's too dangerous and they shouldn't even try to escape because they'll get killed. Yeah. Being killed is so much worse that being a sex slave in a disgusting third-world equivalent of a Moulin Rouge from hell. What's more at the end of the movie, we're back to the mental institution, where (apparently) this was all an elaborate metaphor to describe the last five days for Baby Doll before she gets a lobotomy that was scheduled for her by the evil orderly. He gets caught and Baby Doll, thanks to the fact that she is a human vegetable, is now free from the prison that is her life. Tear for how beautiful and precious this story is.

Trash, crap, drivel, any negative name that you can give this film that is what it is. The only, and I mean only, redeeming quality of this movie is the fact that Jon Hamm is in the movie (for about three minutes total), and even that is a little depressing.

I know that this has been my longest and most detailed review yet, but I feel that I have a duty to everyone to describe how awful this movie is. If you're a horny boy who wants to get his jollies from hot young women wielding giant weapons, then have a ball. But if you have any dignity and any self-respect, not only will you avoid this movie, you'll try to kick Zach Snyder and who ever green lighted this movie square in the nuts if you ever get the chance.

*nuclear missile in the eyeball joke is from Kathleen Madigan - one of the best female comedians out there.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


To start off, this movie took me by surprise. I remember distinctly when I first saw the trailer for Rango that I was not terribly impressed. I even said to myself, "I don't think I am going to watch that movie." But, obviously, I did. And, in truth, I'm glad I did. The only reason why I took a chance on this film was because a friend of mine recommended it to me. Hopefully I can do the same for you.

Rango is being marketed for children, and to be perfectly frank, it shouldn't. That's not saying that it's inappropriate, because it is entirely kid-friendly and appropriate for the youngsters. But the entire film is saturated with adult humor and jokes that next to zero children will get. Heck, there are even some references that may go above the heads of certain adults. With blatant references to Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas, homage to Raising Arizona, and the Sergio Leone Spaghetti Westerns, these things are clearly not meant to make the child laugh, but the parent, or young adult who takes a chance on a "kids' movie". However, the movie still have more than enough to cheesy, slap-stick, and non sequitur jokes to remind us that need reasons to laugh out loud. Take them with a grain of salt and maybe a small eye-roll, and just go with it.

Hidden-humor aside, the story is actually pretty impressive, and substancial. If you think that this is going to be a Mr. Chicken scenario where a meek and cowardly nobody gets thrust into a position of power and responsibility due to a case of misunderstanding, you would actually be wrong. I was shocked too. It's actually more along the lines of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, where there's mistaken identities, sure, but the protagonist actually embraces it, and rolls with it. It's a classic Western, sure: a town has been overrun by a villainous group, and only the law and its noble sheriff is the only hope for the poor and powerless townspeople. But there's enough new spins on the story and philosophical questions of identity to keep things interesting. The story's loaded with Western clichés, put coupled with all of the homages and valid life lessons, it has some definite merit.

Finally, I just have to give praise to the animation of this film. It was impress. I mean, really impressive.

This wasn't the greatest movie I've seen in awhile, and it certainly won't be up for next year's Best Animated Feature, but it was entertaining and better than I assumed it would be. Maybe this will have given you just enough encouragement to give it a shot.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The King's Speech

Boy, I'll tell you what, I am soooo glad that I watched this movie before the Oscars, because I could not be happier with the fact that it won.

This was a great film, and worthy of the Best Picture Academy Award. And Colin Firth. I cannot tell you how happy I am that he won his first Academy Award this year. I have been in love with Colin ever since my mom had me watch the A&E production of Pride and Prejudice. And he truly did an amazing job. He had to take on the difficult task of faking a convincing stutter, which is not as easy as it seems, and play an incredibly difficult role. It can never be easy for an actor to portray a historical figure; there is so much that you literally have to live up to. But living up to King George V, "Bertie," was something that Colin Firth managed to do, and brilliantly, I might add.

Geoffrey Rush, too, did a fantastic job in his role of Lionel Logue, who gave a man the courage and the voice of a King. Although, I will admit, I am extremely happy that Christian Bale snagged the Oscar from him, Rush was more than deserving of the Best Supporting Actor nomination. And, though she didn't receive much praise for it, I was impressed with Helena Bonham-Carter as the loyal and loving wife of Bertie, Elizabeth. She was both charming and reserved, as one imagines most of the British as being.

The only thing that makes this movie rated R is a scene in the film where Bertie and Lionel let out a violent string of curse words as to "loosen the tongue." But that's the only reason why this film was rated R. No nudity, no violence, no drugs, no disturbing images.

I loved this film because I have a slight obsession with the British monarchy. Regardless of that, the film was worth it.

It is interesting and uplifting. A true testament to what can happen when the most unlikely person steps up to the challenge. And the costumes! Oh! Those costumes!!! I am a little said that The King's Speech didn't win the award for Best Costume Design. Admittedly Alice In Wonderland did have more elaborate and creative ones, but the early 1940's fashion in King's Speech is enough to make you cry and wish that men wore suits like that more often.

The film is a long one (1hour 50 minutes), but very interesting and enjoyable. I say bravo to The King's Speech. In my opinion it was the obvious choice for winner of Best Picture for 2011.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Fighter

In preparation for the Oscars (which is like another holiday for me), I try to see as many of the films that are nominated. I usually never manage to see them all, but I try to see at least all of the Best Picture nominations. So far I've seen seven of the ten (that's a lot of movies and a lot of weekends spent at the theater). And after how few good movies there were in last year's nominations, I could not be anymore thrilled by how many good movies there are in this year's selection.

The last one I saw was The Fighter. The best way to describe this film came from a friend of mine who said that it is a cross between Rocky and Good Will Hunting with a little Remember the Titans thrown in there: the underdog boxer from Rocky (and when I say Rocky, I mean the first and truly only good one), the  foul-mouthed and harshly cruel Massachusetts-life from Good Will Hunting, and the inspiration that comes from watching a "based on a true story" type of movie like Remember the Titans. If you liked any or all of those films, then The Fighter is definitely worth watching. But there is a lot of boxing, and a lot of swearing, a lot of drug usage, and even some nudity. If those things are a deal breaker, then walk away.

What made this movie so good and worth watching was Christian Bale's performance. I like CB an awful lot, and I had heard over and over again how he's going to win the Oscar for best supporting actor. After watching his performance, I sincerely hope that he wins, because he was amazing. His performance as a washed-up, crack addicted former boxer was absolutely incredible. He was pathetic, but so tragically humanly that you couldn't despise him; you ached for him, especially when he comes to the realization of what he is and what he's doing to his family. If Christian Bale doesn't win the Oscar for this performance I will be extremely disappointed in the Academy.

The other thing that makes this movie so very interesting is the way they filmed it. It was raw. There is no other way to describe it. A good chunk of the time the used grainy and unpolished footage, like the kind that is used to film live boxing matches. Other times the filming technique is similar to a documentary, where a hand-held camera takes quick pans. It made the movie feel more real, and reminds us that these things really did happen to the characters.

I felt that The Fighter was a great film, but I honestly don't think that it will win Best Picture of 2011. But that shouldn't stop you from watching an excellent film that is definitely worth the nomination.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

True Grit

OK, so I saw this movie the day it came out, but with the holidays I just haven't had the time to put up a review. And I literally ran into the movie theater for fear that I'd be late for even one second of this film (don't worry, I didn't).


I loved it! I cannot say enough about how much I loved this movie. But I'm a tad bit biased. I love the Coen Brothers. They are literally my favorite directors of all time (them, Wes Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, and Christopher Nolan). I have not seen a Coen Brothers's film that I didn't like. The greatest thing about the CB films are the fact that they have this self-generating quality, where each film seems to take something from the last, without it appearing to be the same film done over and over again. While I watched this movie there were things about it that definitely reminded me of No Country For Old Men, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?, FargoThe Big Lebowski, and even Raising Arizona. But it certainly wasn't a repeat of any one of those films. It was fun to watch the movie and chuckle at the memory of the past film.

Also, I must confess, I have never seen the original John Wayne True Grit. And, I may make some enemies with this next statement, I really don't care for the Duke. He's just not my cup of tea. But I've heard report from those who are fans of the Cowboy in the White Hat that they can't complain about this remake.

Now, back to the gushing: This movie rocks! It had the delightful and old-fashioned good feeling of a Western, but still modern and fast placed enough for today's audiences. A perfect marriage of talk and action, of which the Coen Brothers are masters. The dialog is smart and clever, like a great novel, and the action is thrilling and encompassing. It makes you go, "Oh! No Way! I can't believe that just happened, but I'm so glad it did!" There are some scenes that are a little vivid in the amount of violence that they show. The type of violence that completely merits a PG-13 rating.

But, one complaint, there were several times that I couldn't understand what Marshal Rooster Cogburn, played by Jeff Bridges,  was saying in his deep, mumbling, slurred voice. So, when you go see it, as you must, stay on guard and pay attention when Cogburn speaks.

I could easily go on and on about how great this movie is with the use of wide shots, scene changes, the use of sound, everything. But I won't. I doubt that many of you would care to hear it. But I will say this: Hailee Steinfeld, the young actor who played Mattie Ross, did a phenomenal job. The girl is crazy young (her exact age I don't know), has only acted in seven total television shows and movies previous to True Grit, and completely held her own. As Matt Damon's character LaBoeuf says, she's earned her stripes. Honestly, I thought that her acting was some of the strongest I've ever seen, especially for a newbie.

So, either end the old year with a bang or start the new year on the right foot and go watch True Grit.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Black Swan

So far, the first two films I have reviewed have been, in a word, awesome. Literally, I was in total awe of this movie. It had many of the things I love the very most in films: hauntingly beautiful scenes, exquisite acting, and a beautiful story with respectful homage to previous pieces of cinema. But, just like 127 Hours, I can't in good conscious recommend this film to everyone. Drug use, language, and heavy issues such as anorexia and bulimia are just little sprinkles on this rated R film. Masturbation and a rather amped lesbian sex-scene are the things that take the cake in this movie. Obviously, this is not the film you watch with your grandmother, or even your mother.

But this movie is beautiful. You don't have to be a lover or appreciator of ballet to enjoy this film, though it is exceptionally gorgeous. Darren Aronofsky did a magnificent job with this film. One of the things that catches you off guard from the very beginning of the movie is the emphasis that Aronofsky puts on sound, especially during the dance sequences. Every step is amplified. This is unexpected since one would normally assume that all of our attention would be directed to the strictly visual. This is, after all, a ballet film, where all of the language is conveyed through the choreography. But we are grabbed by the ears and made to listen, and we find ourselves pleasantly surprised. One of the most beautiful things about this movie are the camera techniques that were used during the dancing sequences. It was more than just the classic, if not slightly cliché turning shot whenever the dancer did a pirouette. There was a fluidity and aeriness that made us feeling like we were dancing. Aronofsky tends to use a lot of shots where we are following behind the footsteps of the main character, allowing us to feel very much a part of the story, without being weighed down with the feeling of it actually happening to us. Like a reporter, we're in on the action, but don't have to pick up a gun and start fighting. Which was something of a comfort during some of the more suspenseful and disturbing scenes.

Which brings me to my next point: Natalie Portman. She was sublime. I cannot get over how much I loved her in this film. Many critics are comparing her to her character, Nina. Saying that she, too, is making the transformation to a sweet young girl to a fierce, strong, and more than capable woman. She did a phenomenal job playing the scared and timid Nina. Do you know how hard it is to play a scared and shy person convincingly? Natalie Portman did just that. There were definite moments when I felt that it was "Nina being played by Natalie Portman," and not "Natalie Portman portraying Nina." To me, that's the sign of a great actor. And they could not have casted a better person to play the sexual femme fatale of Lily than the dark beauty that is Mila Kunis. she was sexy, scary, dangerous, and irresistible, like a pet panther. Also, I feel that more credit needs to be given Winona Ryder, who plays an uncannily parallel role to her real life. It's a small part, but I thought it was perfect for her and she executed it beautifully. I also love the fact that these three women look similar enough to each other without there being a weak link in the acting (which is an important detail throughout the movie). Though Vincent Cassel has a crucial role as the ballet director, Thomas, it would almost be fair to say that this is an all-female cast without the bitter and coppery taste that pro-feminist films tend to leave in your mouth.

And finally, the story of Black Swan. Now, I'm a sucker for anything classic, especially stories. Anything that has withstood the test of time, I'll tend to like it. And I love seeing a beautiful retelling of a classic story. But nothing enrages me more than when it is poorly executed. It's like an ultimate insult to the original. Swan Lake is a story and ballet that I particularly like. So I was both curious and a little nervous to see where Aronofsky was going to take it. But he pulled it off. He kept the true and original tragic beauty of the story of Swan Lake  in his film while still give it a new, fresh, and unique scent. There is also a clear homage to perhaps the most famous ballet film, The Red Shoes. A film I, personally, enjoy very much. What's more, there was also a very Hitchcock feel, especially with parallel darkness of the mise-en-scene to the darkness of the story. It's nice to see filmmakers give credit to where it's due without copy-catting the masters' work.

Just as Thomas says in Black Swan, this is a classic story that has been worked to death, but it been given a fresh, bold, and modern new life. This film has that beautiful and nearly impossible to fabricate feeling of being both old and timeless while still being new, exciting, and breathtakingly beautiful. Like inheriting your grandmother's diamond ring.

Monday, December 13, 2010

127 Hours

There is but one word to describe this movie: WOW! It literally took my breath away! This movie ranks high on the amazing scale for so many different reasons. But I have a duty to give a loud and clear WARNING: This movie is NOT for the faint of heart!!! This movie will make you queasy, nauseated, writhing in pain in your seat. I know, because that is exactly what happened to me. As the daughter of a doctor, blood and guts in movies don't bother me, at all. This had me aching to look away at parts; something I've never done once in all of my film watching experiences. If you think that you can stand the sights, just be prepared. And if you think that you can't.... maybe you should watch something else. It's that intense.

image via

But that doesn't take away from the fact that this film was absolutely outstanding. Once again, Danny Boyle has proven himself to be a master of the silver screen. He knows how to pull his audience in and put them into the world of his film. And that's exactly what he does in 127 Hours. His camera techniques, the use of symbolism, and the way he captures the beautiful Utah landscape is superb. 

The setting is both irresistibly enchanting and undeniably malicious. Boyle makes the audience simultaneously fall in love with the setting and hate it for its cruelty to the protagonist, and therefore us.

That is the other reason why this film rocks (no pun intended). The protagonist, Aron Ralston, is an interesting character. Because we know going that this is a bio-pic, all of Ralston's human personality flaws are unabashedly displayed. We know that he's real, and not some fiction character that someone created. We cannot help but like him.

That is the other amazing thing about this movie. Unlike Titanic, perhaps one of the most famous and popular bio-pics, the emphasis is not put on the disaster. Despite the fact that we all knew right from the get-go what happened to Titanic, the movie made us shocked and horrified that an ice berg could sink that ship. Here, in 127 Hours, it's not the disaster of Ralston having a boulder pin him in a tiny canyon, or even the fact that he has to cut off his own arm, where all of the emphasis is placed. It is the physical, mental, and even spiritual transformation of Ralston that we are watching. And Boyle displays it beautifully. 

And finally, the coup de grace of this film, in my personal opinion, is the acting of James Franco. I tend to put a lot of stock into how good I think a film is by the acting. Franco deserves every word of the Oscar buzz he's created from this performance. He clearly and vividly allows the audience to see Ralston's metamorphosis. And not just the physical, either. 

So there you have it. This movie was great. Really great. I would recommend it to anyone, so long as they were fairly warned about it's graphic nature.