Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Sucker Punch: It does what is says on the tin

Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino and Scott Glenn
Category: Action-Fantasy
Update: I decided to split this review into two because I still get asked about what this movie is about. This is the review of the movie itself while the explanation of the movie is here.

When the movie was about to end, I thought that is was an exciting action movie driven by this hard-to-follow story of a girl's fantasy of escaping from an asylum. I didn't think much about it even with the kicker at the end. It was after a few days later when I watched it again then I realized what the story structure was. It was different and imaginative but ultimately it's downfall. People who saw it didn't get it. I didn't the first time but looking back, the directors must have thought it was literal as it was right there in front of us. We just got distracted with all the visual candy.
Basically, it's the story of a young woman who was put in an asylum by her father and her attempt to escape. Her mother had died and left everything to her and her younger sister. The father, who seemed to have been molesting her for some time, decides to take his rage out on the younger sister. The young woman got hold of a gun and in the attempt to shoot her father, accidentally shoots her younger sister. His father puts her in the asylum to shut her up and pays off the head orderly to have her lobotomized so that she can't tell her side of the story. Don't worry I haven't given much away. All the above happens in the first 5 minutes.
The remainder of the movie is a bit more messier. The movie takes a sudden left turn and suddenly everybody is not whom they were a few minutes ago. We never know her real name but young woman is called Baby-doll for the rest of the movie. She is now in a brothel where she discovers that she enters another dream world when she begins to dance. In this world, she is given a list of items needed to escape and goes about collecting these items with her new friends. This is where it got really confusing. In the dream sequences, she goes about looking for the items and gets them. At the end of the dream sequences, she gets the items from the dream for 'real'.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

TV: Love Bites - The best replacement for Summer Romantic Movies

Starring: Becki Newton, Greg Grunberg, Constance Zimmer and many others
Category: Romantic Comedy
It's summer, the season of loud, often over-promoted, multi-tie-in movies starring big stars (paid with big bucks) or starring big budget CGI. It's also the season for Romantic Comedies, counter-programming for the feminine side of the audience. Translated into: something to drag the masculine half to after the big robot / animation / comic-book conversion / sci-fi-fantasy movie he dragged the feminine half to.
Problem is there hasn't been a good romantic comedy (or even romance movie at that) lately in the theaters. That is where TV's Love Bites comes in.
Love Bites is the romantic comedy for the Twitter generation. It's short, straight-to-the-point plots does not deviate from the delivery of the punchline. It is as if the writers formula is:
  1. Take a standard romantic comedy movie plot
  2. Strip out the sub-plots and secondary characters.
  3. Re-focus and innovate on the core theme. 
Secondary characters and sub-plots are replaced by the series regulars Greg Grunberg as Judd and Becky Newton as Annie. They tie the various stories together through their relationships and friendships or merely exist to provide continuity or relevance of some kind. Each episode has three stories which either intersect, continue from one another or linked in some way, usually via Judd or Becky. At times, they are the main players of their story arc.
I loved the first episode as it guest starred Jennifer Love Hewitt as herself offering a proposition to Judd many men wouldn't turn down. He finds himself next to Jennifer on a flight to a bachelor getaway of his friend Carter. Carter has to deal with his fiancee, Liz, his firing from his job and her new discovery. He finds himself competing for her attention with a machine. It was a gift given at her bachelorette party where Becki's friend cops to being a virgin to attract the attention of a guy. If that is a lot to take in, the pace doesn't let up in the following episodes.
I wasn't distracted by the number of characters. It was very busy and very intricate, which makes repeat viewing a must. Half the fun was following all the characters and their own stories. And it wasn't as if the plots were like in soap opera ridiculous territory. The characters felt real and often face real problems. Judd and Colleen feel like real people. Not everything is perfect but some how they are perfect together. Sometimes, you can see right through to which movie a particular story seems to rip off, only for the plot veer left, leaving you surprised at the conclusion. If I can put it in a way, the overall plot complexity didn't go up to the level of Lost but it was heading there. In a good way.
You can really enjoy it if you focus on each individual story separately. Don't worry how it all ties in or who these people are. Like I said before, you can take this as a replacement of those summer romantic comedies. Think of it as 3 movies in an hour. How cool is that? Not to mention cheaper.
Maybe because of the many characters, the people behind Love Bites decided to bring in familiar faces in familiar roles. You immediately recognize not only the stars but also their personalities they played in other TV series. Slightly immature womanizing doctor, insecure guy who has to live out a lie he created for his girlfriend, married-for-too-many-years odd couple consisting of ultra conservative husband and liberal wife to name a few. Watch and try figure out who I just described and where else they played the same character.
What did bother me was a few small things. The Jodie character was exactly the same as Cassie in the first episode, only played by a different actress. Constance Zimmer replaced Pamela Adlon who was Judd's wife Colleen in the first episode. So why couldn't the writers be honest and not change the characters name from Cassie to Jodie, even though they were essentially the same. Maybe they wanted to keep the door open for Krysten Ritter, who played Cassie, to return in some future episode.