Archive for August, 2011

Friday Faceoff: The Help vs. Final Destination 5

Posted in Friday Faceoff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 12, 2011 by judsonw

The ultimate “mom” movie opens today against the ultimate “teen” movie. The Help (73% RT rating) is a literary phenomenon, staying on the bestseller book list for months and months. Its biggest audience has been women of all ages, particuarly middle aged mothers. While movies marketed specifically towards women are few and far between, we shouldn’t underestimate the power of an adapatation from a enormously popular novel. The cast for this movie is very solid with Viola Davis, Sissy Spacek, Octavia Spencer and Allison Janney reportedly giving some career-best performances. And seriously, how can you go wrong with Emma Stone as your lead?

For the first 3 films, the Final Destination series was pretty inventive and acted as the horror genre’s go-to guilty pleasure franchise. However, for the past 2 movies, everything from the story to the acting to the creative deaths has been just plain lazy and tired. Word has it that Final Destination 5 (59% RT rating) is a return to form for the horror/thriller series. Probably not enough for a $12.50 ticket + a (surprise!) $3.50 3D surcharge, though.

WINNER:

THE HELP

Friday Faceoff: Rise of the Planet of the Apes vs. The Change-Up

Posted in Friday Faceoff with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 5, 2011 by judsonw

The summer movie season is finally coming to a close and that usually means that the studios dump the films they have the least confidence in after months of tent pole movies. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (80% RT rating) has every reason to be awful. It’s a prequel to a movie series that hasn’t had an installment since Tim Burton’s remake in 2001 and just screams cash grab. And that awful, awful title. However, the word of mouth has been surprisingly excellent, with a lot of the praise going to the incredible WETA effects and Andy Serkis’ motion capture performance. Maybe we’re in for one of the summer’s best blockbusters?

The Change-Up (23% RT rating), on the other hand, looks like the most formulaic, unfunny mainstream comedy. Two drastically different people switch bodies and come to terms with the fact that their original life is something to cherish. How many times has this story been told? Jason Bateman and Ryan Reynolds may be able to make the material fun, but honestly, we’re on the cusp of Ryan Reynolds overexposure.

Winner:

Rise of the

Planet of

the Apes

 

Movie Review: “Sucker Punch” is the year’s most interesting failure

Posted in Action, Movie Review with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 1, 2011 by judsonw

Zack Snyder sure knows how to make visually stimulating movies. His talents as a writer, on the other hand, don’t come close to his talents as a director. Sucker Punch was released this past March and was expected to be a smash hit, Snyder’s first completely original movie. Unfortunately, critics and audiences alike ravaged the film, claiming its incoherent plot made for an uncomfortable 2 hours. So is it really that bad? Well, in my opinion, no. Actually, I kinda dug it!

Sucker Punch is one thing so many bloated, mediocre blockbusters aren’t today: ambitious. Snyder attempts to tell a story that takes place in 3 different dimensions, or “dreamworlds.” We have our main character, Baby Doll, who is sent to a mental institution by her evil stepfather for accidently killing her sister (his fault). Once she’s at the institution and she hears word of plans to lobotomize her, Baby Doll teams up with a few of the other female inmates in an attempt to escape. The movie opens with a red curtain raising up, which is appropriate because from this point on the entire movie is virtually indistinguishable between reality and fantasy.

First, we have the actual reality of the girls in the mental institution which is rarely shown. Second, we have the fantasy of the girls in a brothel-like institution where they are forced to dance scantily clad in front of rich old men so the owner can get rich. It’s in this dreamworld that the girls band together to escape. Baby Doll determines that they need to find 5 objects to become free: a map, fire, a knife, a key, and something else. So a map of the institution, a lighter for a distraction, a knife for protection, and a master key for the institution’s doors. The strange thing about the movie is that whenever the girls go after one of the objects, Baby Doll imagines a world where they are kick-ass machine gun-toting babes battling slow motion-style through breathtaking set pieces and landscapes. In one scene, they fight masked Nazis to retrieve the map. In another, they must slit a baby dragon’s throat to retrieve the fire. While it may not make much sense, it’s pretty damn entertaining to watch.

Another aspect of the film I really appreciated was the soundtrack. Snyder used to direct music videos for a living and you can definitely see that here. All the fight scenes are almost dance-like in their nature, with the girls in perfect synchronicity with the song/music. It really does come across like a video game mixed with a music video. Though there are a lot of things I enjoyed about Sucker Punch, overall it’s not a great movie. The plot is simply too convoluted to fully follow and becomes quite frustrating after a while. That being said, the film can be looked at in so many different ways after its ambiguous ending and is certain to spark debate and conversation among film fanatics.  It’s a shame because I think that if Snyder was a better writer or really fine crafted his storytelling techniques Sucker Punch could have been something spectacular. However, I won’t be surprised if a few years from now Sucker Punch becomes a cult classic.

B-