movies

Underworld: Stagnation

Maybe I'm getting old...

Or maybe my standards for what defines a movie as "good" have changed over the years. Whatever the case, I can't for the life of me understand why Underworld: Awakening (3D) was rated as favorably as it was. When the Underworld series started in 2003, it had something very cool in it's hands. A secret war lasting for centuries between Vampires and Werewolves spills into the human world. Personally, I ate it up. It took a fresh look at subject matter that had been done to death before. There was a society, a caste system, new mythology and structure to devour. The characters were interesting, just human enough to be flawed, but monster enough to make things exciting. Throw in the new Vampire/Werewolf hybrid that looked like the lead singer from Creed, and they were good to go! They had me, hook line and sinker. 
Three movies later, I couldn't care less. 

One is a 'rock' singer. One is a werewolf/vampire hybrid. Can you guess which is which?Underworld: Evolution expanded on the already great Underworld, taking the mythos even deeper after the interesting cliffhanger (that if I remember correctly, didn't really amount to anything). We got to go further into the history of the war, and some major events happen to the characters. The film took what was great about the one prior, and made it better. Unfortunatley, I was still unable to tell the difference between Scott Speedman and Scott Stapp.

The third Underworld movie, Rise of the Lycans proved to me that writer Danny McBride was commited to this story. He further established the story by doing his version of a period piece, moving the setting back into the dark ages to show how the current feud between Vampires and Lycans (werewolves) came to be. An interesting note was that the protagonist of the first to movies, Kate Beckinsale's Selene, wasn't present at all. This said to me that the writer wanted to take the time to add another dimension, and validity to the story we had already seen. This installment also proved that it wasn't necessary to wrap the series in the same clothes it had on in the past two movies to be successful. After The Matrix, a number of gun-toting, leather-clad action movies came out that I felt lacked substance. Rise of the Lycans totally changed the game by taking us out of the comfort zone, adding new perspectives on older characters, and made the world that we were introduced to ever so much more vast. Underworld: Awakening took all that was done to grow that world, and marginalized it.

This was the color palette for the entire movie.When I first saw the trailer for Underworld: Awakening, I was hopeful. The series had been going well so far, and this one was going to open up the war to humans some more. Unfortunately, I found that Awakening took a turn for the worse. Instead of utilizing the deep mythos of the past, and the hierarchical structure that the Vampires had before, it focused on more leather and more shooting, but without any real purpose. In a barely-there introduction that took about 40 seconds to bring new viewers up to speed, one of the main characters is seen for possibly half a minute, and never heard from again. Cut to twelve years later, and our heroine wakes up to a world that she's a stranger to. 

I don't care who these people are.Selene finding her footing in this new world was boring. Humans know about Vampires and Werewolves, and even "have routine checks at points inside the city", yet Selene puts on a coat, and is instantly incognito. No one questions who she is, no checkpoints are seen. She even has a short conversation with a guard, who is none the wiser of her fangy ways. Throughout the story, she meets other vampires who announce their presences pretty much exactly like that. "Hey, it's ok. I'm like you. Check out my flashy blue Vampire eyes". Selene, convinced by Mr Glowey Eyes then go back to his coven only to meet his father, who in a lovely cliche is also the leader of that particular group of Vampires. He of course plays the card, "why did you bring them here, you've doomed us all!" Of course, action ensues as he's proven right. 

I don't care who this is either.If you couldn't already tell, Awakening left me with the impression that rather than raise the bar like they did with the previous three movies, they tried their damndest to hold onto the status quo. They introduce Subject Two. A young girl Vampire/Werewolf hybrid that we're told is Selene's daughter, although there is absolutely no reason to believe so. For some reason, she's important to the plot, but I found myself forgetting about her, waiting for something more intriguing to come along. There's a human detective who plays a minor role who is equally forgettable, no matter how badly the writer tries to shoehorn him into a position of importance. 

Without spoiling any more, I'll say this: At the end, nothing has changed. Nothing was resolved, no greater goal was achieved. There are still Vampires, Werewolves and humans. Selene still goes around shooting stuff, but now she has a little hybrid with her. Nothing was surprising, as the movie followed a very cookie-cutter formula. I was so disappointed with the fact that after such build-up and fleshing out of this world, the writer did so little to use it. I almost wish that this movie was condensed into a few webisodes, and the feature was something more substantial.  

2012 Movie Expectations

Happy New Year everyone!

Last week, a number of very exciting trailers for movies to be released in 2012 hit the internet. As a lot of them really piqued my interest, I thought I'd share them with you all.

Prometheus

Prometheus is Ridley Scott's prequel to his acclaimed Alien series. It looks like the visual spectacle that we've come to expect from Scott, and I wouldn't have known that it had anything to do with the Alien series were it not for the Space Jockey set that makes a short cameo. I'm a bit worried because it feels like the movie will get it's excitement from the scale of the story, rather than the depth. Big sets are great and all, but I wonder how much of that will be memorable, compared to the original Aliens story.

The Dark Knight Rises

I have to admit, I'm skeptical that Nolan can top his previous Batman film without the use of some gimmick. Bane was never one of my favorite Batman villains, and Heath Ledger's Joker was incredible to say the least. I do respect that Nolan says that this will be his last Batman film, as so many other directors would have no problem milking the IP to death. That being said, this looks pretty sick.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Most of my friends and peers are waiting for this one particularly. Peter Jackson has proven himself in the eyes of many with his interpretation of Tolkien's novels. It seems to be lighter fair than Lord of the Rings, as the source material was lighter than that of Rings. However, we do get to see our favorite ex-River-person, Gollum, and that's always a performance to behold.

Wrath of the Titans

Once again, the teat that is Greek mythology is being milked raw. Wrath of the Titans takes a great deal of liberties with the mythology as it introduces a (second) war between the Gods and the Titans (those who were driving the great big station wagon that we call The World before the kids stole the keys and went on a joyride), and Sam Worthington reprises his role as the demigod, Perseus to somehow fix it all, again. My Greek mythology may be a bit rusty, but I don't remember this chapter. Be that as it may, it'll probably be a visual spectacle (like almost every other Hollywood movie these days). Oh, and it's in 3D.. because... why not?

Battleship

For the love of god, why?
So, here's Battleship. Aliens either came, or were here, or whatever, and during a Naval exercise, they ran into True Blood's Alexander Skarsgård and other less important people, and they face off for... something. The fate of the world, I suppose. Apparently everyone just wants to blow up the earth, or just the human race for some ridiculous reason (like we're such an annoyance to the rest of the sentient beings out there).There's a love interest, Brooklyn Decker, who in the film plays "Samantha". Interestingly enough, her character has so little depth that IMDB didn't bother to write Samantha's last name... Maybe she doesn't have one? Also, if you're going to invade a planet, best to check if Liam Neeson lives there. Chances are you'd be better off finding another planet to invade.

And more more thing, this is Battleship. Are those ACTUAL PEGS that the alien fired over onto the human ship? Really?


REALLY?!

REALLY?!?!

So what movies are you waiting to see in 2012? What were some of your favorite trailers? Sign off below~

I got Sucker Punched

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After checking the review sites that I frequent, it seems that a lot of people didn't like Zack Snynder's new film, 
Sucker Punch. I happened to see it yesterday after work, so I thought I'd drop my opinion on the vast sea that we call the internet.

I LOVED SUCKER PUNCH.


Most of you that know me would probably assume as much, with the movie about strong women fighting their way to freedom with guns, swords, mechs, dragons and cool techno soundtracks. Yeah, it had all that, it had a great visual style, but what I liked most about it was that it broke out of the mold. We've seen so many movies in the past ten years that have taken individuals and given them superhuman abilities in a hyperreal setting. Since the Matrix did it in 1999, audiences across the country have eaten up the over the top visual style, bright colors and impossible acrobatics and choreography like hotcakes. (Note: Who actually eats hotcakes these days?). Not only did Snyder take this visual style and turn the dial up to 11, but he helped us to care about the characters. We want to see them succeed, because their current situation is so horrible. 

*Spoilers Below*

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I suppose a bit of explanation is needed. Sucker Punch is as story about a 20 year old woman who after a tragedy is forcibly taken to an asylum so that her stepfather can keep her late mother's wealth to herself. The stepfather pays one of the orderlies, Oscar Isaac's Blue Jones to forge a signature to order a lobotomy for the girl. After overhearing this, the girl, (Emily Browning's) Baby Doll (a nickname for having a very young face) has to find a way to escape before she's lobotomized. 

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This is where it gets weird, and maybe loses some of the audience. To cope with the horror of being committed, Baby Doll envisions the asylum as a dance hall/club. Each of the people in the asylum take on corresponding versions of themselves. The abusive orderly is now the abusive club owner. The psychologist is now the dance hall instructor. Other orderlies are now suit wearing patrons. This story within a story goes one level deeper when Baby Doll starts to dance, losing herself and her grip on reality once more as it changes into different battlegrounds. The tasks that she has to complete in order to escape are reflected in the battleground. When she needs to find a map, the world transforms into a battlefield of trenches filled with german soldiers, zeppelins and biplanes flying overhead. When she needs to find fire, she is storming a medieval castle and fighting a fire breathing dragon. Snyder's decision to use this dream within a dream idea (much like Chris Nolan's Inception) is a little confusing at first to wrap your head around, but once you suspend enough disbelief to go with it, the decision is actually quite brilliant, as  the entire movie is an exploration of Baby Doll's fragile mental state. Halfway through the movie, it was totally apparent that she did in fact belong in an asylum.

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Emily Browning plays 
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Baby Doll well, but she's definitely not the strongest actor in the movie. That would probably have to go to Oscar Isaac who plays Blue Jones, the head orderly/club owner. Isaac epitomizes the sleazy, abusive antagonist better than most in comparable roles. He reminded me of an abusive boyfriend who feels the need to constantly establish his dominance. It's painful and uncomfortable to watch, yet successfully achieved in his execution. 

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Following Isaac is Carla Gugino, who plays Dr. Vera Gorski, the resident psychologist/dance hall instructor/club madam. Gugino takes a somewhat stereotypically hard, strict Russian dance instructor role and breathes life and a bit of softness into what one might see as a two dimensional role. She shows a strong will, yet a compassion and motherly love for the patients in the asylum. 

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Baby Doll's group, composed of Abbie Cornish's 'Sweet Pea', Jena Malone's 'Rocket', Vanessa Hudgen's "Blondie" and Jamie Chung's "Amber" all shine in their own way, but none of them hit it out of the park. There are some good moments where Jena Malone seems like she's going to pull a strong, memorable performance out of a hat, but it stays just below the surface. 
None of them have a bad performance, per se. Quite the opposite actually, as they were all enjoyable to watch, but it seems the big guns were actually none of the principle characters. One strange edition was the Wise Man, played by Scott Glen.
 The Wise Man is the one who first gives Baby Doll her the weapons and the knowledge that she needs in order to escape. Before each mission, he explains to the group what they need to do to accomplish each task, ending with his catch phrase, "..oh, and one more thing..." followed by whatever twist the girls have to somehow find a way of overcoming. Of all the characters, The Wise Man was, in my opinion the most underused, as he was a character with obviously a strong backstory that was never told, yet stole each scene in which he was featured.

Besides the beautiful sets, visceral choreography and over the top action, the soundtrack was fantastic and features mostly of covers of originals such as Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These), Army of Me, We Will Rock You, Search and Destroy, Where is My Mind and more. These adaptations are infused with a gritty techno electronic tone, perfectly mirroring the chaotic nature of each scene. They're dark, moody, maybe a bit emo, and they definitely quicken the pulse. With artists such as Bjork, Skunk Anansie and Yoav (featuring Emily Browning, the actor playing Baby Doll), they really couldn't go wrong.

Sucker_Punch_rev630-thumb-630xauto-31433So what else did I like about the film? For one, the entire first act is filmed as a music video with extremely little dialogue. One thing that I read about film making was to show the audience the story, not tell it to them. Snyder pulled this off brilliantly by having us experience the moment of Baby Doll's mother's death, the terror she feels for her (most likely sexually) abusive stepfather, the 
accidental death of her sister, and eventual imprisonment in the asylum. Many reviewers have found this to distract from the overall movie, and some have even called it a cop out, claiming that it was only used as a prologue, and  not properly explored. On the contrary, I thought this was an imaginative and pretty gutsy way to bring the audience into the story, especially because so much of the movie focuses on the score, which was the only thing playing at this time in the movie. 

*End Spoilers*

SuckerPunchMany are going to watch this movie in the theater, or on DVD in a few months and discount it as a cool, flashy yet easily forgettable action movie starring some very attractive protagonists. I think that those people are missing out on a very original take on the exploration of one girl's very loose grip on the reality of her situation. Package that with the thrilling action pieces (the train scene was one of my favorite shots in the entire movie) and a soundtrack that will be blaring through my headphones for a while to come and you have a satisfying break away from typical Hollywood that was a breath of fresh air.