“Sucker Punch” – 2011. Dir. Zack Snyder

 

With Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung with Carla Gugino, Jon Hamm and Scott Glenn

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” – The Wise Man (Scott Glenn)

Zack Snyder’s latest (and original) film “Sucker Punch” has met critics with a lot of poor reviews and was beat in the box office by that “Whimpy Kid” movie. There are things I will never understand, and I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll never fully understand them. Why are did all the Little Ceasar’s pull out of K-Mart. Why do you need to keep bamboo out of direct sunlight when in nature, it exists in direct sunlight, and if there is a God – why would he/she create something like Sarah Palin?

All these questions seem to have the same answer as to why critics hated “Sucker Punch”. I’m not quite sure what the answer exactly is, but all I know is that “Sucker Punch” is a pretty damn good movie with mind blowing visuals.

Is this film as epic as Snyder’s previous film “Watchmen”? Absolutely not. This film is disjointed and a little incoherent, which I think it’s supposed to be. There are five girls lead by Baby Doll (Browning), Sweet Pea (Cornish), Rocket (Malone), Blondie (Hudgen) and Amber (Chung) who are trying to escape a mental institution that’s run by the evil Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac).

The mysterious Dr. Vera Gorski (played by the ever so erotic Carla Gugino) essentially teaches the girls the escape into a world that their mind creates. Baby Doll, who accidentally killed her younger sister while trying to protect her from their molesting stepfather (Gerard Plunkett), just arrives at the asylum, and her evil stepfather pays Blue Jones a little extra to get her lobotomized by the High Roller (the ever so fucking cool and dashingly handsome Jon Hamm).

As Baby Doll escapes into her mind with the other girls, they are mentored by The Wise Man (Scott Glenn). The Wise Man tells Baby Doll that she needs to retain five items in order to successfully escape from the asylum.

Each time Baby Doll enters her dream sequence – she and her posse of badass chicks kick the shit out of whatever monsters/beasts lie in their path to achieve the item to escape. They need to act fast, because the High Roller is only three days away from his visit to lobotomize Baby Doll.

The dream sequences are where the film triumphs – although the opening of the film which shows us Baby Doll’s back story which is queued up to a contemporary version of “Sweet Dreams” is pretty spectacular. The dream sequences are so imaginative. It was very exciting to see what Snyder could concoct for his next dream sequence, waiting to see if he could out do the previous one.

Once again Snyder displays that his use of popular music is impeccable. He’s hitting Scorsese/Tarantino/PT Anderson status with his use of popular music to not carry a scene, but to reinforce the sheer awesomeness of it. The opening sequence of the film is amazing.

The group of girls are fine in the film. They serve the purpose that they were designed for – to look good and kick ass. None of them are distracting with poor acting skills, they play off one another well.


What really bridges the film between its fantasy dream sequences and its stylization are the strong performances by the “heavies”. I have never really cared for Carla Gugino. I always resented the fact that she was just packed into a movie because she’s good looking and not afraid to take her clothes off. I was won over by her in “Watchmen” and this past season of “Californication” – and in “Sucker Punch” I thought she did a pretty damn good job. Her character is mysterious enough to where you can’t decide if she’s helping the girls or just another trap for them to get stuck in.

Oscar Isaac plays a pretty damn good bad guy. I haven’t seen him in anything prior to this film, so it was a treat for me to experience him for the first time. He’s very seedy, and very filthy – he seems like a character that should be one of Harvey Ketiel’s underlings in “Taxi Driver”.


I absolutely love the fact that Jon Hamm is in this film. To me, Jon Hamm very much has the look of a silver screen icon (which is probably due to the fact that he’s the star of “Mad Men”). He’s handsomely mysterious like Bogart was. His limited role in this film doesn’t show off any acting chops, but instead offers a small treat to seeing Hamm play a bad guy in a way cool movie. The one thing that I think is very, very interesting is his reaction shot towards the end of the film. If you see the film, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Scott Glenn is my biggest mancrush. Nough said. His character seems to be the perfect character for Liam Neeson to play, you know, the mentor. But since Neeson hit it big with “Taken”, he gets his own vehicles now. Glenn is cool in the film. He’s just that old badass who helps these girls wreak more havoc then you could possible imagine in this film. Glenn anchors the film.

I liked this movie very much, and I am surprised at the harsh reception and its underwhelming box office production. This may not be as good as I had hoped for. That being said, this movie really does kick ass.


Review: 8.5/10

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“The Town” – 2010. Dir. Ben Affleck

With Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, Rebecca Hall, Blake Lively with Chris Cooper and Pete Postlethwaite

“This is the not fucking around crew so get me something that looks like a print because this not fucking around thing is about to go both ways.” – FBI Agent Adam Frawley (John Hamm)

Martin Scorsese has New York City, Michael Mann has LA and Chicago and now Ben Affleck has the right to own Boston in the film industry. After Affleck’s triumphant directorial debut with “Gone Baby Gone” he showed us that he can direct an extremely tight and emotionally compelling film – and with his next film “The Town”, Affleck shows us that he can hold a film together on and off the screen.

“The Town” takes places in Charlestown which is a blue collar neighborhood in Boston that breeds criminals. Doug MacRay (Ben Affleck) heads a crew that includes his best friend and devotee James Coughlin (Jeremy Renner). They are a crew of four who rob armored cars and banks; the opening scene consists of the crew knocking over a bank, where they take the bank manager Claire Keesey (Rebecca Hall) hostage.


Coughlin is the stereotypical hot headed thug who takes Claire hostage as an insurance policy. The rest of the crew because very uneasy with Coughlin’s choice to bring her with. Coughlin keeps her drivers license because he’s worried that she knows something. MacRay takes her ID and begins to tail her, to make sure she’s not talking to the police. One thing leads to another and they become lovers, with Claire still not knowing who MacRay actually is.

Enter Jon Hamm as FBI Agent Adam Frawley who shatters his Don Drapper mold. Hamm is borderline obsessed with catching the crew. He knows who they are, and he will stop at absolutely nothing to catch them. It’s not that he’s breaking laws to catch them, but he is destroying people’s lives to get to them. Jon Hamm is the stand out in an already great and impressive ensemble. The character of Adam Frawley is underdeveloped, we know nothing about him, but this is the case where if you get perfect actor for the role; that is all we need. Jon Hamm is perfect.


Chris Cooper has a one scene in the film, playing the elder MacRay. He is visited by his son in jail where Doug MacRay is in fear of the police coming down hard on him, so he wants to take Claire and go away, start over fresh somewhere, he comes to see his father one last time to say goodbye. The elder MacRay replies: “I’ll see you again, on this side of the other,” and then he slams the phone down, stands up on the other side of the glass and goes back to his cell. That’s it.

Pete Postlethwaite puts on a clinic as Fergus Colm who is the man the crew works for. He’s a “straight off the boat” Irishman who doesn’t fuck around. He’s short and to the point. He runs a flower shop, and he’s a small frail little old man, but no one fucks with him, ever. Postlethwaite is really a terrific actor, and if he’s given the right material – he knocks his roles out of the park.


This is Ben Affleck’s masterpiece and I don’t think he’ll be able to trump this film (though going into the film I didn’t think it could be better than “Gone Baby Gone”). The elements of this film are of course borrowed from other films, the heist sequences are inspired by “Heat” and “Point Break” but Affleck makes them his own, and he makes them fucking fantastic.

This movie doesn’t rely on its action sequence, but more on its performances and its human emotion. All the characters that we are shown are extremely flawed individuals. I think one of the questions that Affleck brings to us is: can humans really be humane?

This film is masterfully directed, extremely well written and all the actors in the film put on a clinic. If this film isn’t nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Jon Hamm AND Jeremy Renner), Supporting Actress (Rebecca Hall), Best Editing and Best Score – I’ll be more disgusted than Sandra Bullock winning last year. Ew.

Rating: 9.5/10

“Stolen” (“Stolen Lives”) – 2010. Dir. Anders Anderson.

With Josh Lucas, Jon Hamm, Rhona Mitra and James Van Der Beek.

“He was my friend! I did what he couldn’t!”

“Stolen” focuses on the lives of two men from two different generations with one common link: the disappearance of their sons. In current time, we find Detective Tom Adkins (Jon Hamm of AMC’s “Mad Men”) has lost control of his life over the abduction of his son ten years ago. A small child’s skeletal remains are uncovered in a construction site. The body is not that of Tom Adkins’ son, but of Matthew Wakefield’s (Josh Lucas) son who disappeared more than forty years ago.

The film cross cuts back and forth between Adkins uncovering more facts, and making it his mission to identify the body of the boy and of Wakefield taking his three sons to his wife’s sister’s house after the suicide of his wife. He is in dire need of work and can’t take care of the boys on his own. His sister in-law’s husband is blunt with Wakefield and tells him he’ll only keep two of the boys, not third because he has a slight retardation.

Wakefield then travels to a small town with his young son. He gets a job at a construction yard, and is befriended by Bert Roggiani (James Van Der Beek) and they begin to pal around. A problem arises since Wakefield doesn’t have a place to live or no one to watch his son; his son is forced to hang around the construction yard. The foreman tells Wakefield he can’t have his son hang around or he’ll lose his job. As Wakefield struggles with this new dilemma, his son disappears.

This film isn’t well received on Rotten Tomatoes getting a 0% and IMDb has it rated at a 5.2. I have a hard time understanding why. Yes the film is predictable, and anyone with an above average film IQ can figure the film out by watching the trailer – but still, it is a pretty decent mystery/thriller.

It was interesting seeing Hamm crossover to film, trying to break his typecast as a slick Rock Huson-esq player on the period piece “Mad Men”. I don’t think he’s as good an actor as Josh Lucas, who never made it an A lister, but does turn out good performances (“American Psycho”, “Hulk” – yes it is a pretty bad film). I’ve never seen “Dawson’s Creek” or much of Van Der Beek’s work, but I will forever have a huge man-crush on him for his role as Patrick Bateman’s younger brother Sean in “Rules of Attraction”.

I feel this would have been a much better film if the main focus of the story was on Lucas, and the struggles he had to face, and the extraordinary situations he was put in. The contemporary plot of Hamm investigating the body of Wakefield’s son, while preparing to go to soon to be communed sentence of his son’s “killer” is trying at times. This isn’t a great film, but the three leads give solid performances.

Review: 8/10