In the last 7 weeks I have finished teaching one course, travelled to Toronto, gave and marked an exam, travelled to Salt Lake City, and started teaching another course. Around all of that, I even managed to make some progress on my thesis research.
But fear not! I have also managed to squeeze in a surprising number of movies. I shall discuss four of them here; the fifth (Thor) will get its own entry soon.
This latest movie from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost kind of does for science fiction film what Shaun of the Dead did for zombie movies and Hot Fuzz did for cop/action movies: poke fun at the genre while firmly entrenching itself as part of it. However, I think Paul has a level of meta-parody that overshadows its homage to SF movies in that it also rejoices in the fan culture of science fiction, comics, and other nerdly pursuits.
To that end, the movie is absolutely steeped in subtle (and not-so-subtle) references to other films. What impressed me most, however, was that they didn’t have to struggle to fit them in or set them up, and if you didn’t get the reference the dialogue still worked and was funny enough it its own right.
That said, if you are not interested in science fiction films in general, I don’t think this one being a comedy is going to help matters much. Also, the more familiar you are with iconic science fiction film, the more you’ll get out of this movie. I enjoyed this movie immensely, as did the people I went with, but it is definitely not for everyone.
I so wanted to love this movie. After having seen Zack Snyder’s 300 (visually cool, if too in-love with slow motion and adapting some thin source material) and Watchmen (a good—but not great—adaptation that I talked about here), I was curious to see what he would do with his own material.
The trailers for Sucker Punch promised hot chicks kicking ass in a variety of fantastical and science fictional settings. Unfortunately, in the film itself that turned out to all be in the imagination of a wrongfully-imprisoned young woman. Thus, as cool as it looked, there were no stakes to the action on screen. Sure, it was representative of other struggles in the real world, so it made sense in terms of the narrative, but it was just disappointing—I wanted to see hot chicks actually fighting zombie Nazis and giant samurai and robots, not imagining doing those things.
But I could forgive that. It added a layer of complexity to an otherwise straightforward story. What I didn’t like was how relentlessly dark and depressing that story was. Pretty much everything that happens to our main characters in the movie is absolutely awful, most of the characters we encounter are the worst kind of scum, and—while there is some hope of things improving at the end—there’s not really much in the way of justice being served. It’s just dark.
I wanted awesome and fun, and got dark and depressing. While I think that dark story has its place in the world, dressing it up with imaginary fantasy action was the wrong way to sell it to me. And apart from the bleakness of the story preventing me from even enjoying those action scenes, the betrayal of the promise of the trailer is what irked me most about this movie.
Complaints aside, I do think this movie was better than most reviews suggested. I’ve noticed that movie reviewers tend to get upset by any kind of narrative complexity in a film—especially an action film—and I think that Sucker Punch was not as slight as most reviews suggested. It was certainly a creatively ambitious film, but ultimately I don’t think it was successful in achieving its goals.
The movie Hanna seemed to come out of nowhere, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. Hanna is an SF-tinged action thriller with a strong cast that blends bloody and brutal action with an almost sweet story of a young girl learning to make friends and live in the wider world.
This is one of those movies that is exceedingly well-executed. While it is not going to be one of my favourite films or anything, it is one where I didn’t see anything and think, “Oh, I wish they could have done that better,” or, “That was stupid.” Everything hung together well, the pacing was tight, and the ending was… satisfying.
Overall, it was a good movie. I would recommend it to anyone who likes action, suspense, or thriller movies (whether science-fictional or not).
I didn’t have much in the way of hope for Your Highness. Humorous fantasy is tough to pull off in general, and I’m not sure that there is enough iconic fantasy film to successfully parody. But it was cheap night at the movie theatre, I wanted to get out of the house, and it had both Natalie Portman and Zooey Deschanel, so I was game.
It was okay. It made me laugh. And it had a few scenes of a scantily-clad Natalie Portman. Most of the humour came in the form of anachronism—the modern language and attitudes of the lead character sticking out amidst the more stock supporting cast. The plot was basically a mishmash of standard fantasy tropes glued together with some foul language and a veneer of gross-out humour.
Basically, this was a dumb but mildly amusing movie. Unless you have a strong aversion to profanity, ridiculous violence, and some awkward nudity, I would suggest this is the sort of movie you watch if it happens to be on TV and you are looking for something to do, or if it comes up while you are looking for something on Netflix. It was better than I had expected, though, so for me is was a successful movie outing.
Coming Soon…. My thoughts on Thor.