Sucker Punch

New review from Comic Book Guy.

Sucker Punch: Perfect title for a flawed but interesting film by Zach Snyder, who brought us the greatness of the Dawn of the Dead reboot, 300, and Watchmen (but who also brought us strangely titled kids film Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole). Visually interesting. Lots of atmospherics. Freaky mash up soundtrack. Don’t worry about the story, just sit back and enjoy the extended video game like sequences, that includes nods to Manga, Kung Fu, Castle Wolfenstein and LOTR. The CGI and SFX are nicely done. The strong female cast is beautiful, even if they have to dress like Sailor Moon, and they totally rock the action sequences. There’s a lot to like in this movie. But there’s a lot to dislike, too.  The video game like quality and heavy reliance on effects shots underscores the lack of story. It’s predictable. The strong females are weakened by the overall misogynistic tone of the film. The action sequences feel a bit tired in the post-Matrix film world. Yeah, it’s great to look at but isn’t there something better on? Probably. And you’ll feel like you got sucker punched after you watch this mess. I give it  a C.

The Hunger Games

Comic Book Guy checks in with a review.

The Hunger Games:  This movie definitely exceeded my expectations. In case you’ve been living in a cave and know nothing about this story, it’s about a dystopian future where children are sacrificed in a gladiatorial reality TV spectacle. Kind of like American Idol meets Ultimate Fighting on steroids. I’ll confess, I enjoyed the books and I thought the film did the first one justice. You don’t need to be a fan to enjoy this film. What is interesting to me is what the film represents. Is it an indictment of pop culture? How ironic given that the Hunger Games personifies pop culture. How about a commentary on the federal  system where the oppressive Capital (the feds) has the impoverished Districts (states) participate in a grotesque spectacle against their will?  Think about the most recent arguments before the USSC. Is it about our national obsession with violence or sports? Or is it just a good action movie? At a run time of over 2 hours, I thought it could have been pared down just a bit, but the film doesn’t drag and is helped out by solid performances by Stanley Tucci and Woody Harrelson. Lenny Kravitz is a bonus although I think his character is marginal if you don’t know the back story. The writing is solid but unremarkable – although some of the scenes pack an emotional punch. I heard some stifled sobs in the packed theatre during the reaping and after the death of one of the tributes. The hand held camera works for the fight scenes and spares the viewer from too much gore. Again, a solidly crafted film. I give it an “A,” despite the absence of Zombies, Super Heroes or awe inspiring special effects.

Walking Dead (Season Two)

Comic Book Guy revisits the zombie apocalypse.

Walking Dead (Season 2) For those of you haven’t  been watching this (or anything else on AMC) you are missing out on some quality basic cable television. AMC has produced a string of series with solid production, interesting characters and story lines, and decent special effects. I’ve been watching Mad Men, The Killing, Breaking Bad and Walking Dead this year. All of them worthwhile, but I particularly like this series. Yes, it’s based on a comic book and yes, it has zombies (two great things that go great together) but don’t let that put you off.  The series follows a small band of survivors in a post zombie apocalypse (“ZA”) as they make their way across the south, in search of…  what? Well, that’s the question. This isn’t a neatly wrapped package where our intrepid adventurers set off in search for the cure, or the cause of the ZA. It’s not even really about the zombies. It’s about what has meaning when civilization collapses. It’s about what makes us human. It’s about what you believe in, when reality as you know it has changed so fundamentally that you have no choice but to question those beliefs. All of it adds up to quality TV. If you missed Season 1, go back and check it out on DVD before you dive into this season. You won’t be disappointed, especially if you like zombies. I give it a solid B+.

Game of Thrones (Season One)

A TV review from Comic Book Guy

Game of Thrones (Season One). Granted, I’m a big fan of science fiction and fantasy. After all, I worked in a comic book/science fiction & fantasy bookstore. But even if you don’t consider yourself fan(boy), consider giving this series a view. It’s based on the first book of George R.R. Martin’s Fire & Ice Series of the same name. It’s an epic set in a medieval world where seasons can last for decades and mythical creatures (and possibly magic) exist. The series follows several families and their quest for control of the Kingdoms that make up Westeros. I originally tuned in for the fantasy but stayed with it for the story line and characters. It has all of the things that you expect from HBO:  very high production values, sharp writing and excellent acting. Think Sopranos meets Middle Earth.  I give it an A, as in Awesome. Catch it now so you’ll be ready for season 2 when it starts in April, 2012.

Walking Dead (season one)

DVD review from Comic Book Guy

Walking Dead

Just finished Season One (6 episodes), which is available on DVD. This is based on the original comic book series by the same name (which won an Eisner Award last year). The series revolves around a small band of survivors following trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. What else do you need to know?  AMC picked it up and it doesn’t disappoint. I like AMC. Their other projects (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, The Killing) are well written and stylish with interesting characters and high production values.  This is another series that lives up to what the best of cable network can produce. And even if it didn’t have all that going for it, it has Zombies. Lots of Zombies. Zombies are like bacon; everything is better with them. Apocalypse: Good. Zombie Apocalypse: Better!  I give it an A. Check it out.

Jonah Hex

A new review from Comic Book Guy

Jonah Hex

I avoided this in the theatre but now wonder why. Sure, Jonah Hex is a little known DC comic book character but check this out. Josh Brolin, John Malkovich and Megan Fox (whose waist looks so small it made me wonder if it was a CGI effect.).  There may be no Oscar winning performances but I didn’t tune in for that reason. Just watch the first 5 minutes and you’ll get the flavor of this. Can you say carnage? Can you say creepy super power? Can you say John Malkovich being awesome? And Megan Fox being hot?  I give it a solid B. Well worth the 93 minutes it runs.

District 9

Comic Book Guy contributes a movie review

District 9

For those of you who don’t know the plot outline, here’s the synopsis: aliens arrive on planet earth, not to conquer or eradicate the human race, but as refugees. The aliens, called “prawns,” are segregated into a ghetto (District 9), where they are kept separate from humans, ostensibly for the safety of both man and alien. A large multinational corporation is put in charge of policing the aliens and relocating them from District 9 to District 10. Mayhem ensues.

This is classic science fiction fare, full of archetypical images and plot devices. Giant spaceships (think Independence Day – okay, maybe not a classic but you can trace it back to Arthur C. Clarke’s “Childhood’s End”), one man and one alien’s journey of discovery together (think Enemy Mine – okay, that’s not a classic either but it’s an archetype nonetheless), cool alien bio-technology coveted by large evil corporation (think Alien and Aliens– now those are classics) and a healthy serving of the not so thinly veiled allegory (think half the Star Trek TOS you’ve ever seen). The list could go on. Despite the heavy use of these things, or perhaps because of them, the film works. Shot as part quasi-documentary, the plot unfolds quickly and engages the viewer. The use of unknown actors and the lack of “star” talent give the film a certain authenticity that it would certainly lack if say, Brad Pitt, was cast in the lead. Likewise, the use of special effects enhances the movie as opposed to being the reason for the movie. This is not Transformers II, although the film does shift into action adventure mode for the last 30 minutes or so. Don’t worry. It works.

The film does provide food for thought. It touches on a lot of issues: racism, illegal aliens (literally), civil rights, xenophobia, corporate malfeasance, medical experimentation, man’s inhumanity, and exploitation of the disadvantaged. It’s all there and more. Set in South Africa, the film obviously brings to mind the apartheid regime that once ruled that country but it also echoes our own segregated past and the horror of the Nazis’ Final Solution. It’s easy to mistreat the prawn – they aren’t human. But what does that say about us?

One word of warning. The R rating is well deserved. There’s some ugly, graphic violence and plenty of F-bombs. Even so, this movie is solid. I give it an “A.” Best sci-fi or action film of the season.