SUCKER PUNCH

You Will Be Unprepared

Director
Zack Snyder

Starring
Emily Browning
Abbie Cornish
Vanessa Hudgens
Jena Malone
Jamie Chung
Carla Gugino
Oscar Isaac
Jon Hamm
Scott Glenn



I went into this movie with absolutely no expectations. Apart from the theatrical trailer I intended to approach this film with as little insight as possible. I have no idea if that helped or if watching it on an IMAX screen contributed but God help me, I almost enjoyed Sucker Punch. I think, ultimately, it’s because I get what Zack Snyder was trying to do – or at least, I think I do.

During an intense, dialogue free opening sequence, we are introduced to Babdydoll [Browning] – whose real name is never mentioned – and the circumstances that led to her incarceration at the Lennox House institution for the criminally insane. Following the death of her mother, Babydoll did her best to protect her sister from their abusive, alcoholic step-father but after an armed confrontation, Babydoll accidentally kills her sister. Overcome with guilt, she refuses to testify and her step-father has seen to it that a swift lobotomy will be performed, to ensure nobody ever discovers the truth. Once in the asylum, Babydoll discovers she has five days until a specialist will arrive to perform the surgery and begins to form an escape plan. All straight forward so far, no problems there. Everything becomes a little disjointed when Babydoll is taken to the operating chair, only to cut to Sweet Pea [Cornish] on-stage arguing with the director, Vera Gorski [Gugino], about the nature of what we’ve just seen. Subsequently, the narrative world has shifted, the characters are the same but the asylum surroundings are now that of a criminally-run brothel. It’s at this point that the corrupt orderly Blue (now a violent mobster running the club, played by Oscar Isaac), introduces Babydoll to the other girls, explaining she is being saved for the High-Roller [Hamm], who will be arriving in five days. Obviously this is both a narrative device and a representation of Babydoll’s fantasy regression to cope with her predicament. To add to the story-within-a-story, Babydoll is expected to dance for clients; as entrancing and degrading as the dance may be the audience never sees it – instead we witness the fantastical worlds that Babydoll envisions, in which she’s banding together with her fellow captives to overcome ridiculous obstacles; ranging from giant samurai warriors, to dragons and orcs, to steam-punk trench warfare.

On the positive side, Zack Snyder has created a very beautifully crafted world, littered with glorious art design, evocative costumes, detailed sets and action sequences with phenomenal visual execution. In an interesting move, he’s also favoured female vocalist covers of poignant songs by The Pixies, Bjork, Jefferson Airplane and The Beatles – often performed by Emily Browning – in addition to Tyler Bates’ heavy riffing and orchestral pounding to the harmonic tunes of said tracks. The whole thing resonates with a combination of haunting rock musical and full-on epic theatrical score that feels wholly fitting for the on-screen exploits. In addition to the stunning visuals and excellent audio work, Snyder’s multi-layering is hard at work with self referential, almost fourth wall breaking moments that speak to the audience about what they claim they want. Using over the top sexual metaphors and fetishist driven scenarios to detail and represent the true nature of using sex to get what you want/need. Furthermore, a lot of this film feels like an open statement to producers and audiences almost taunting them by saying ‘this is what you asked for, you want guns and girls and over-the-top action, I did what you asked, are you happy now!?’ Cemented by the final narration: “Who teaches us what’s real and how to laugh at lies? Who decides how we live and what we’ll die to defend? Who claims us and who holds the key that can set us free? It’s you”

Despite any enjoyment I felt, there are some glaring flaws that really pissed me off. First things first, we need to address the whole second layer: the brothel/club. There appears to be almost no real link between the asylum and club other than the aforementioned sexual metaphors, so when certain cast members die, you can’t help but wonder how that translated in the real world. I understand that ambiguity and subsequent debate-driven conversation might be intentional but it almost felt as if Snyder wanted to write a story in a brothel environment but felt Babydoll’s visions wouldn’t be explainable without severe mental trauma. Then, of course, there’s the supporting cast and the sheer lack of reasonable backstory. You see, of the five lead girls (Babydoll, Sweet Pea, Rocket [Malone], Amber [Chung] and Blondie [Hudgens]) we only witness Babydoll’s history and briefly glean allusions to the sibling struggle between Sweet Pea and Rocket. On top of that, these backstories are only explored in the brothel layer, so a great deal of doubt and confusion is cast over the validity of any of it. Speaking of supporting cast, Jon Hamm was criminally underused and Scott Glenn was subjected to little more than random cameos and horribly cheesy fortune cookie one-liners – one of which spoiled the entire ending for me with that whole ‘the fifth thing is a mystery.. a great sacrifice’ bollocks. Lastly, the desire to make money out of this release and ensure the target demographic (arguably teenage boys) can see the film, so many scenes have been cut down to guarantee a 12a/PG-13 rating, leaving choppy dialogue in places and a loss of fluidity in some of the more graphic scenes.

**A few spoilers littered throughout this paragraph – mostly at the end**
One of the key issues to address is the movie’s obvious multi-layering, starting with the title. Sucker Pucnh can be interpreted many different ways, a visceral shock to the system that the audiences were wholly unprepared for, a plot twist regarding the nature of the ‘lead’ character or a taunting message to producers and whining audiences. Either way, it’s a directorial palate cleanser, having directed a remake and two adaptations, it makes sense that Snyder would want to do something radically different, incorporating fantastical things that could not easily be contained by any one story. But even if you’re on board with this theory and really like the movie, the ending is still far too disruptive, desperately trying to convince you that this was Sweet Pea’s story all along, primarily due to the nature of the second (brothel) layer. Right at the start, Babydoll is asked by the wise man [Glenn] what she wants. Eventually she replies, ‘Freedom’. The lobotomy is freedom to her, the memories of her time in the asylum and her abusive step-father have been erased; she’s finally at peace. Sure, it’s depressing but it’s the exact same story that was being told throughout the 1920’s German Expressionist movement and it’s a solid end for a character.. but the story didn’t end there, it just trickled on a little more to follow Sweet Pea – which we could have done without. Having written my review I was gauging public reaction by reading through the comments on IMDb and stumbled across this: “In the end she doesn’t escape, she is lobotomized. Does this mean we have all the weapons we need to save some other random chick who doesn’t even like us? Is this what we should all strive and fight for? What an anticlimax, she fights and she fights and ultimately she is still imprisoned, she fails.” Yeah, see? This person didn’t get it; mostly because Snyder convoluted that element far too much.

Warner Bros. took a gamble with The Matrix and it paid off, the same with Inception: took a gamble and it paid off. Sucker Punch, less so. If anything it was much more akin to Across The Universe, which split its audience with people wholly loving and absolutely hating certain elements and walking away altogether unsure of a.) what they saw and b.) if they enjoyed it or not. In summation, if this were a comic, anime or video game it would have been heavily praised but as a film there are just far too many issues. No doubt people will pan this film because they either can’t follow it or don’t understand its purpose and that’s fair enough – it’ll entertain its target demographic and make the money it requires but artistically speaking, I actually respect Mr. Snyder for what he’s done here. He’s been given a large sum of money and instructed to do whatever he likes with it – and he did. He didn’t compromise or pander, he just did it. It’s good to know there are still directors who won’t bow to studio interference, critical phobia or audience expectation. But it should be noted that he still failed. He was given free reign and it wasn’t the glorious success it could have been. Will this arrogant confidence bleed over into his next feature? Depends entirely on what budget he’s given. If he ends up doing a small independent piece, less reliant upon CGI, he may hone himself into an exceptional visual talent. However, if he’s given a big-budget big-effects release, he’ll just cockily assume he was right and continue doing whatever he feels works, in spite of what everyone around him says.


Release Date:
1st April 2011

The Scene To Look Out For:
I think it was during the WWI stuff that I actually started to not only enjoy this film but really appreciate it. Probably has something to do with the combination of Emiliana Torrini’s cover of White Rabbit, superb visual effects and the unique inclusion of a mech-suit and reanimated clockwork enemy soldiers. Simple.

Notable Characters:
Emily Browning’s contributions to the film in terms of both acting and singing a fair few covers, for the soundtrack, were pretty impressive. No doubt there will be a great deal of complaints that she may have been wooden or one-tone but her character isn’t really given anything to work with other than shock and despair. Naturally, with little focus on anyone else, it’s difficult to gauge exactly how poorly/well the supporting cast did but Oscar Isaac, Abbie Cornish and Jena Malone managed to run with their roles respectively.

Highlighted Quote:
“Alright, we’ll try. But you’ve got to promise me two things.. the first thing is, don’t be mad about this”

In A Few Words:
“Astounding visuals, heavily populated with layers of symbolism that largely suffers due to the lack of character development and direction that simply didnn’t convey what the film was trying to achieve”

Total Score:

2/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #44

[27 March 2011]


Winning Team:
RoboCock

Genre – Action porno: part man, part machine, all cock

Runners Up:
Suck Her Punch
Genre – Harrowing French adult movie
Hobocop 2: Can You Spare 50p?
Genre – Action flick about an angry, drunk, homeless vigilante who fights crime
Norwegians Would!
Genre – Turn right at Scotland for a Viking romp
You Will Meet A Tired, Dark-Eyed Stranger
Genre – A story of love, destiny and forgetting to change the clocks
Cave Of Forgotten Ice-Creams
Genre – A 2D adventure with Werner Herzog of the forgotten caves filled with ice creams, lolly sticks, naturally formed dairy stalagmites and neopolitan cave paintings
Harry Potter Scrapes The Barrel
Genre – A desperate cash-in
Lassie & The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Genre – Family musical


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. How does James Bond classically prefer his Martini prepared? Shaken or stirred?
SHAKEN
2. What type of animal is Babe, in the film of the same name?
PIG
3. What is the name of the antagonist in Austin Powers?
DR. EVIL
4. Other than the logo, what colour was the poster for Jurassic Park?
BLACK
5. What sport (leisure activity) do the main characters often participate in, in The Big Lebowski?
BOWLING
6. The bomb in Speed activates when the bus goes over what speed limit? [2 bonus points for naming the number of the bus]
FIFTY MPH
7. What are the titles of the three Pirates Of The Caribbean sequels? (one point per correct answer)
DEAD MAN’S CHEST / AT WORLD’S END / ON STRANGER TIDES
8. What are the names of Gomez and Morticia’s children in The Addam’s Family? (one point per correct answer)
PUGSLEY / WEDNESDAY
9. Who composed the score for Rain Man, Gladiator and Inception?
HANS ZIMMER
10. What is the name of Vito Corleone’s daughter, whose wedding reception we see at the start of The Godfather? [bonus point for naming the actress who portrayed her]
CONNIE / CONSTANZIA [Talia Shire]
11. How many days does Ursula give Ariel to obtain ‘the kiss of true love’, in The Little Mermaid?
THREE
12. Who directed Donnie Darko?
RICHARD KELLY

ROUND II: Filming [Robocop Special]
1. What is Murphy’s profession before and after his transformation to Robocop?
POLICE OFFICER
2. In what year was Robocop released?
1987
3. Which US city does Robocop reside in?
DETROIT
4. What is the name of Murphy’s partner? [bonus point for naming the actress who played her]
ANNE LEWIS [Nancy Allen]
5. Which of the following is the correct quote? Your move, punk? Your move, scum? Your move, creep?
YOUR MOVE, CREEP
6. What is the name of OCP’s first ‘enforcement droid’?
ED-209
7. What are Robocop’s three prime directives? (one point per correct answer)
SERVE THE PUBLIC TRUST / PROTECT THE INNOCENT / UPHOLD THE LAW
8. What is the name of the directive that prevents Robocop from killing senior OCP officers?
DIRECTIVE FOUR
9. What was the budget given to Rob Bottin for the completion of the Robocop suit?
ONE MILLION DOLLARS
10. What is the body-count in the uncut version?
THIRTY
11. What is Bixby Snyder’s catchphrase, repeated on TV throughout the film?
I’D BUY THAT FOR A DOLLAR!
12. Whilst in costume, Paul Weller would remain in character and only respond to instructions or conversation when addressed as Robo. True or False?
TRUE

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What are the colours on the explosive gum in Mission Impossible? (one point per correct answer)
RED / GREEN
2. What is the name of the mall where Marty meets Doc Brown at the start of Back To The Future? [bonus point for the mall’s name at the end of the film]
TWIN PINES MALL [Lone Pine Mall]
3. What is the name of the juicy-fruit offering native American in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest?
CHIEF BROMDEN
4. What is the name of the five sacred stones in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom?
SHANKARA STONES
5. Which early nineties release starred Stockard Channing, Donald Sutherland, Ian McKellen and Will Smith?
SIX DEGREES OF SEPARATION
6. ‘Real spies, only smaller’ was the tagline for which film?
SPY KIDS
7. The following quote is from which film “Ted Striker’s got more guts in his little finger than most of us have in our large intestine, including the colon”?
AIRPLANE II
8. After strong protesting, the tagline for Better Off Dead was change from ‘Sometimes.. You’re Better Off Dead’ to what?
RELAX.. YOU’RE NEVER BETTER OFF DEAD
9. What is the title of the Christmas song, whose royalties Will lives off, in About A Boy?
SANTA’S SUPER SLEIGH
10. What is the codename of Silas and Bishop Aringarosa’s contact in The Da Vinci Code?
THE TEACHER
11. Who directed Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman in Far And Away?
RON HOWARD
12. What is the name of Bill and Ted’s band in Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventures? [bonus point for correct spelling]
WYLD STALLYNS

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following films has not been made into an attraction at Universal Studios? Backdraft? Rocky? Beetlejuice?
ROCKY
2. Which team do Coop and Reemer play for in BASEketball? LA Riots? Dallas Felons? Milwaukee Beers?
MILWAUKEE BEERS
3. In which category did Mel Gibson win an academy award? Acting? Writing? Directing?
DIRECTING
4. In what year was Bridget Jones’ Diary released? 1999? 2000? 2001? [bonus point for stating what colour her diary was]
2001 [Red]
5. The events in Ravenous, based in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, where filmed in which country? Slovenia? Estonia? Slovakia?
SLOVAKIA
6. What is the name of the high school in The Faculty? Herrington? Taylor? Furlong?
HERRINGTON
7. How many Halloween films have been made? (excl. remakes) Seven? Eight? Nine?
EIGHT
8. What is John McClane’s rank in Die Hard? Officer? Detective? Lieutenant?
DETECTIVE
9. In Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, what is the make of Cameron’s father’s car? Ferrari? Porsche? Lamborghini?
FERRARI
10. Who acted as producer on 1994’s Frankenstein before later denouncing the film? Brian Grazer? Steven Spielberg? Francis Ford Coppola?
FRANCIS FORD COPPOLA
11. Which of the following actors did not star in The Hunt For Red October? Tim Curry? Aidan Quinn? James Earl Jones?
AIDAN QUINN
12. The sound of the Antarctic wind, in The Thing, was recorded in the desert outside Palm Springs. True or False?
TRUE

Cinema City Film Quiz #43

[13 March 2011]


Winning Team:
Hodown In Little Tokyo

Genre – Harrowing movie detailing Miley Cyrus’ steady descent into meth addiction, alcohol-fuelled sex and oxen

Runners Up:
Black Swan Down
Genre – Modern version of It Ain’t Half ‘ot Mum; ballet troupe in a war zone
Requiem For A D:Ream
Genre – Intergalactic psychological horror about the addiction of a failed keyboardist with the stars
Randomly Brandon Lee
Genre – Rom Com with Jennifer Anniston and CGI Brandon Lee
Laser Mission: Operation Gallstone
Genre – Brandon Lee and Goldie Hawn romp
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotty Rocket
Genre – Super Ted adaptation
Tom’s Cruising For A Few Good Men, Al’s Looking For Richard: Brokeback Mountain Goes Urban
Genre – Gay Drama


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What was the name of the main ocean liner in Titanic?
TITANIC
2. How many Shrek films were made?
FOUR
3. Complete the following quote from Crocodile Dundee, “That’s not a knife”
NOW, THAT’S A KNIFE
4. What nationality is Mrs. Doubtfire in the film of the same name? [bonus point for naming her husband]
SCOTTISH [Winston]
5. Frank Capra’s Mr. Deeds Goes To Town was remade in 2002 with what title?
MR. DEEDS
6. What is Lankester Merrin’s (played by Max Von Sydow) occupation, in The Exorcist?
PRIEST
7. Which of the following is not a Carry On film? Carry On Matron? Carry On Cleo? Carry On Dear?
CARRY ON DEAR
8. Which musical features Fat Sam, Dandy Dan and Tallulah?
BUGSY MALONE
9. Who directed Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in The Brothers Grimm?
TERRY GILLIAM
10. Which actors played the title characters in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet? (one point per correct answer)
LEONARDO DI CAPRIO / CLAIRE DANES
11. What is the name of the hero in both versions of Clash Of The Titans?
PERSEUS
12. In Sleepy Hollow, Icabod Crane is a constable for which law agency?
NEW YORK POLICE DEPARTMENT

ROUND II: Filming [Brandon Lee Special]
1. What animal guides Eric in The Crow?
CROW
2. Who co-starred with Brandon Lee in Showdown In Little Tokyo?
DOLPH LUNDGREN
3. What year was Lee’s last film, The Crow released?
NINETEEN NINETY FOUR
4. What is the name given to 30th Oct in The Crow?
DEVIL’S NIGHT
5. What instrument does Eric play in The Crow? [bonus point for naming his band]
GUITAR [Hangman’s Joke]
6. Which of the following bands did not appear on the soundtrack for The Crow? Metallica? Nine Inch Nails? Rage Against The Machine?
METALLICA
7. Who directed The Crow?
ALEX PROYAS
8. Soldier Of Fortune is the alternate title for which Lee film?
LASER MISSION
9. What is the name of the long-haired kingpin of crime, played by Michael Wincott, in The Crow?
TOP DOLLAR
10. Powers Boothe stars alongside Brandon Lee in which film?
RAPID FIRE
11. What was the name of Brandon Lee’s only Hong Kong release?
LEGACY OF RAGE
12. The footage of Brandon Lee getting shot is currently owned by the director of The Crow, though he does not permit anyone to see it. True or False?
FALSE (the footage was destroyed instantly)

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What is the name of the Cyberdyne Systems engineer most responsible for the creation of Skynet, played by Joe Morton, in Terminator 2?
MILES DYSON
2. What was the title of Sergio Leone’s last film?
ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA
3. The Shawshank Redemption’s narrative opens in what year?
NINETEEN FORTY SEVEN
4. What was the name of the mummy in the 1930s horror film of the same name?
IMHOTEP
5. Which cartoon character was modelled after silent movie actress Clara Bow?
BETTY BOOP
6. How many men make up the ill-fated squad in Dog Soldiers?
SIX
7. What is the name of the British actor who appeared in Bedknobs and Broomsticks, The Love Bug and Mary Poppins?
DAVID TOMLINSON
8. Which John Carpenter film was the only one to go from banned, X-Rated, critically and commercially panned flop to lavishly praised cult classic that made its way into several revered top fifty lists?
THE THING
9. What animal does Raoul claim to see while driving during the opening scene of Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas? [2 bonus points for the exact quote both Raoul and the narrator say when seeing them]
BATS [Holy Jesus! What are these goddamn animals?]
10. What is the name of Ray’s fictional club in Life?
RAY’S BOOM BOOM ROOM
11. Which Adam Sandler film features a cameo by Quentin Tarantino?
LITTLE NICKY
12. What is the name of the card game played in Lock, Stock & Two Smokin’ Barrels?
THREE CARD BRAG

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What was the name of the high school football team that Goldie Hawn coaches in Wildcats? Prescott High? Rydell High? Central High?
CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL
2. What was the title of Jane Russell’s first release? His Kind Of Woman? The Outlaw? Gentlemen Prefer Blondes?
THE OUTLAW
3. What is the name of the costume designer who has been nominated for an academy award almost every year since 1999? Alexandra Byrne? Sandy Powell? Colleen Atwood?
COLLEEN ATWOOD
4. Who played the title character in Birdman Of Alcatraz? Burt Lancaster? Richard Burton? Robert Shaw?
BURT LANCASTER
5. Which of the following insults was not present in Hook? Nearsighted gynaecologist? Sack of rat guts in cat vomit? Mucus sucking pimple sniffer?
MUCUS SUCKING PIMPLE SNIFFER
6. Which of the following Pixar releases did not win an academy award for Best Animated Feature? Ratatouille? The Incredibles? Monsters Inc. ?
MONSTERS INC
7. Who played the character Mr. Conductor (the equivalent of the fat controller) in the Thomas The Tank Engine film, Thomas And The Magic Railroad? Martin Sheen? Alec Baldwin? Tommy Lee Jones?
ALEC BALDWIN
8. What type of animal was being hunted by Great Lord Hidetora and his men at the start of Ran? Wolf?? Boar? Deer?
BOAR
9. Which of the following did not star in The Poseidon Adventure? Richard Dreyfuss? Leslie Nielson? Roddy McDowall?
RICHARD DREYFUSS
10. The following quote is from which version of King Kong, “Coast to coast tours, beauty and the beast, that’s a grotesque farce”? 1933? 1976? 2005?
NINETEEN SEVENTY SIX
11. What does Steve Zissou dub the new species of shark that he is trying to kill in The Life Aquatic? Jaguar Shark? Leopard Shark? Cheetah Shark?
JAGUAR SHARK
12. Kevin Costner’s character’s dog in JFK is in fact author John Grisham’s Labrador Retriever. True or False?
FALSE (the dog was loaned to Oliver Stone by author Anne Rice)