May 4, 2011

Viewing Log #6

Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder, 2011). Erupting from its creator's psyche with a volcanic intensity, Sucker Punch marks the first time Zack Snyder has directed an original script of his own creation, a fact that, while revealing/clarifying certain weaknesses of his craft as evident until now, also frees him to indulge his passions like never before. The results prove strangely intoxicating. Though juvenile it certainly is, this mishmash of elements from fanboy culture (fetishized warrior chicks, dragons, weapon-wielding robots, Nazi zombies, and a samurai warrior with a Gatling gun, among others) comes out far enough on the side of the deranged and operatic to not achieve some kind of brilliance. Sucker Punch articulates itself with a necessary sense of satiric subversion to counteract the didactic caricatures, and while Snyder's tale of one Baby Doll might not have much of a clue about what makes real women tick, its multiple reality constructions are far more tingling than Inception's wannabe mindfuck. The soundtrack synchronization is almost eerily perfect, and it's only grown in my mind since. [Rating: B+]

Meek's Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, 2010). This follow-up to the heartbreaking serenity of Wendy and Lucy finds the indie director reaching for something similarly as intangible as that film's appreciation of resolute, silent determination in the face of worldly apathy. Michelle Williams returns as Emily Tetherow, one member of a three-family pioneer team heading west on the 1845 Oregon Trail, the titular Stephen Meek the guide they've hired to guide them there. A supposed shortcut proves disastrous, stranding them in unknown territory with little in the way of water or clue, while the catalyst of a captured Native American further divides the increasingly desperate group. Material like this would seemingly invite metaphoric comparisons to recent politics - and there's admittedly something to be said about the correlation between Meek and the bullshit battle plans of Dick Cheney, etc. - but the existential choke hold of Meek's Cutoff (evoked via long takes that emphasize the monotony of these life circumstances and ethereal images of rolling/evaporating cloud formations) more strongly suggests an eternal struggle for survival against unknown natural odds. It seems that the prose of Jack London (specifically the chilling first paragraph of "White Fang") has been effectively translated to film via the sparsity of Reichardt's intensely detailed neo-western. [Rating: B+]

Due Date (Todd Phillips, 2010). (Spoilers) Less obnoxious than Phillips' overrated The Hangover but also distinctly less raucous, this wannabe-raunchy take on the Planes, Trains and Automobiles scenario would likely be a waste of time were it not for the zen presence of a certain Mr. Downey, Jr. As an expecting father en route home as the titular date draws near, his focused businessman Peter Highman runs into a prolonged brouhaha with Zach Galifianakis' aspiring thespian/pothead Ethan Tremblay (warning: that's his stage name). Some amusing bits punctuate the tone-deaf proceedings like actual bits of chicken in Campbell's Chicken Noodle Soup, including a clambake scene set to Pink Floyd that's actually kinda cool. Identity crises ensue, enemies will become friends, and someones ashes will be mistaken for coffee grounds. Hey, it could have been worse. [Rating: C+]

Battles Los Angeles (Jonathan Liebesman, 2011). Veteran movie critic (and my own personal Yoda-like guru) Matt Zoller Seitz calls Battle Los Angeles (advertising material displays a colon in the title, but the title shot in the film hasn't one, so that what I'm going with here) the worst-directed Hollywood film he's ever seen, and he's not being the least bit mean in that assessment. Employing an overzealous shaky-cam aesthetic that makes The Bourne Ultimatum look restrained in comparison, this actioner sees a malevolent alien invasion grip the coastlines of the world, Los Angeles being the lynch pin battlefield to maintain on the North American west coast. It's hard to tell what disappoints more here: how utterly half-assed the visceral quota is (for all the blazing guns and shit blowing up, it's only sporadically thrilling), or how much the script drops the ball on what is, conceptually, a very well-thought-out invasion tactic. Character motivation may as well be lifted from the yellow pages. Michael Bay, show 'em how it's done. [Rating: C-]


  1. Hey thanks for a great review of Sucker Punch. I am glad I am not the only one who found Inception to be complete drivel. Sucker Punch was enjoyable and did not masquerade as something it clearly was not. Great job Rob.

  2. In what bizarro world is sucker punch better than inception? It pales in comparrison on every level. While I respect your opinion, I strongly disagree. Inception's cinematograpy is miles ahead of sucker punch's as well as both the acting and score. Zachary Snyder uses his same old bag of washed up tricks like he has in everything since his dawn of the dead remake. "cool" songs+slow motion does not a film make. So while inception may have its short comings, at least it is a film and not a glorified music video.

    1. Inception spoon feeds you what is reality, what is a dream, and how they can get out. This film is great in my opinion because you can watch it as purely eye candy with some plot, or you can look at the psychology behind it and analyze it in any way you choose. Are all of the other characters merely part of Babydoll? Are they constructs of her personality that slowly die off as she is raped in an insane asylum? Or are they actually fellow "patients" trapped with her? If they are constructs, is it Babydoll's mind we are exploring, or is it actually Sweet Pea's, where Babydoll is merely the lead construct? Does she really escape in the end, or is that merely the part of Babydoll that found peace after her lobotomy? It offers no definitive answers the way other movies do, and instead leaves it to you to think over and analyze it whatever you want, and each way is correct