abqreviews (abqreviews) wrote,

Another Day at the Movies:

Wow, I'm actually really enjoying this year in film so far, and with the upcoming superhero movies this summer, I'm more excited to be going to the movies than I've been in years. I'm even excited to see the upcoming horror movie Insidious, which is being released on April 1st. Why the hell would a horror movie be released near April Fools Day? There's gotta be a catch. Perhaps the first in-theater Rick-Roll? The upcoming Conan movie also looks good, like it's trying to stay faithful to Howard's conception of Conan as a villain protagonist with few scruples. It's inspired me to break out a few Howard anthologies recently, and wow, I'm really starting to question my once blind-worship of the guy. But that's a post for another time... Anyway, here are the two films I saw today:

 I'm not a big fan of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, although they're inarguably a lot more talented than certain other "comedy" duos that've popped up recently *COUGH* *Friedberg**COUGH* *Seltzer**COUGH*. Paul more than pleasantly surprised me, proving to not only be very funny, but genuinely heartfelt and serious at times. The plot involves two British amateur comics writers on a UFO-sight-seeing tour in America who encounter an alien named Paul (voiced by Seth Rogan), who it turns out has been working for the government for years and is now on the run.
 This leads to a bunch of in-jokes ranging from the obvious (Paul eats Reeses Pieces) to the obscure (Nick Frost's character's favorite science fiction film as a child? Mac & Me. No seriously.) to the surprisingly well-thought out and smarter than most serious science fiction films (Paul became the inspiration for the generic "Grey" aliens you see everywhere on bumper stickers, etc. so humans wouldn't be so shocked if the two species ever made public contact). There's some truly funny side characters, surprisingly intense action scenes, and all of the characters grow throughout the film or show hidden depths, even the villains! Two apparently idiotic FBI agents (who are also sci-fi geeks) turn out to be extremely amoral and dangerous, and the drunken, redneck father of Pegg's love interest, who seems at first to be an abusive asshole, turns out to be a decent, just really stupid guy. 

 There's also a subplot about an old woman (Blythe Danner) who was the first human to meet Paul, and whose life was ruined by the incident, because no one believed her and she was forced to grow up a recluse. The scenes between her and Paul are so amazingly well-acted I literally was moved to tears, even though Danner's character as an adult only gets a few minutes of screentime. It could just be Danner's acting abilties, but it's amazing how within minutes of meeting her character we feel her lifetime of loneliness and misery, as if she'd been the protagonist of the film all along. Danner really needs to be nominated for best supporting actress. Kristen Wiig is also very funny as a bible-thumping young woman who, after meeting with Paul and being transformed physically and mentally, becomes a more carefree, happy person (as well as overdoing everything she saw as 'sin" to a ridiculous extreme, such as swearing). 

Still got it.
 Anyway, Paul is one of the best films I've seen in years, the only weak spot is an unfunny post-credits sequence which throws into question much of the film's events. It may sound strange to say so, but this might actually be the best science fiction film of the 2000s. It's funny, heartwarming, smart, and doesn't stray too far from actual science. Time will tell if it will become a classic.

 Oh, and you gotta love the fundies and parent's groups complaining about the film. While the film actually does stick it to Christians rather harshly, most of the really vocal complainers have turned out to be joking or hypocritical. For example, the one attracting the most attention on IMDb; israel578, is an infamously incompetent troll who is most famous for once attacking Will Ferrel's film Step Brothers and calling the film "offensive" and "one of the worst films ever made", even though her signature linked to her reviews, where she had written an extremely positive review of Step Brothers months earlier!!! Her efforts to deny such an incident, like deleting the signature and reviews, even in the face of evidence like screencaps, has led to hours of fun at her expense. I imagine she secretly enjoyed Paul as well.
 As per my style, I thought of choosing an image of some incompetent cartoon villain to use as a "pic" of israel578, but couldn't decide on whether I should use Skooge from Invader Zim or Baxter Stockman from the old TMNT cartoon. Thing is, I love Baxter too much to do him such an injustice (wasn't he done enough in the actual show?), and I can find no good Skooge images. 

 As for the parent's groups, well, it is an R-Rated film, but other than some innuendo and LOTS of foul language, it's fairly tame. I'd say smart kids could handle it. A family of five was in the theatre with me and all seemed to enjoy it.

  In other news, Sigourney Weaver has officially become the female John Carradine. It's only a matter of time before we hear her rendition of Night Train to Mundo Fine.

 Sucker Punch:
The other film I saw today was Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch. Snyder is a director I've always had mixed feelings toward. On one hand, he exudes everything negative that people feel about fanboys and fanboy entertainers, to the Nth degree. He overlooks the deeper themes of the material he tackles, has a juvenille fascination with gore and "kewl" slow-motion sequences, his films would collapse on themselves without their special effects, and he hasn't done anything original, just adaptions and a remake. But at the same time, he more often than not gets great performances out of his actors, stays slavishly faithful to his source material, and while his films may look like video games, they at least look like good video games.

 But most of all, I've noticed that each film he makes is better than the previous, sometimes by baby steps, sometimes by leaps and bounds. He may not have a made a masterpiece yet, but each film shows growth as a filmmaker. Oddly enough, Sucker Punch, is also his first "original project". 

Sucker Punch
involves a young girl who accidentally kills her younger sister while protecting her from their inheritance hungry wicked stepfather (who is literally called that in the credits). She gets sentenced to Arkham an Asylum with apparently all female patients, which is also a front for a burlesque act in which the inmates (all nicknamed) are forced to perform for wealthy clientelle. Nicknamed "Baby Doll", she slowly devises a plan of escape, she gains the details from daydreams during dance sequences, where she and her friends are some sort of anime heroines battling stylized evil forces like giant samurai golems, nazi zombies and robots and dragons.
 It's one part Fairy Tale, one part Harry Potter, one part The Great Escape, one part Walter Mitty, one part Cabaret & Moulin Rouge and one part 70's women-in-prison flick. It also has a considerable helping of...well, I'd rather not spoil the ending, besides, I'm not even sure how it's meant to be interpreted. It's a....different film, I'll give it that. Let's just say if Michael Bay and David Lynch collaborated, this is what the result would look like.

 Anyway, there's lots to enjoy in the bizarre fantasy sequences, all of the ladies are nice to look at, the performances aren't bad and for a film that so many people are critically slamming, it's not what you could call a film with low-brow mainstream appeal, as most of that type of audience seems to hate it. All I can say is that it has "cult classic" written all over it. As with Paul, time will tell.

 Watching this crazy, abstract film also sent many crazt abstract thoughts through my head: 

 1) With all the crazy fashions the girls wear in the film, you can bet this is going to become an instant hint with drag queens. Next Halloween, if I don't see at least one male cosplayer dressed as one of the characters from this film, I will be disappointed. 

 2) The WWI-style sequence, with it's fithy trenches and bi-planes, made me think Hollywood is ready to tackle an Enemy Ace movie. There hasn't been a good WWI movie in years, much of the cast of Inglourius Basterds could be re-used, and Dances with Wolves in Space showed that the American public has no problem with seeing thousands of their own soldiers slaughtered in droves by the hero. What say you Hollywood? Ready to make up for Jonah Hex and give my other favorite DC Comics character the silver screen treatment? 

 3)What would Ken Russell think of this film? 

 4) I want Baby Doll's gun.
 All, in all, I enjoyed my trip to the movies today. And on the morrow, I shall try and see Limitless. Will I review it? Who knows?
Tags: aliens, avatar fans are morons, awesomeness, blockbusters, comedy, critics are my intellectual inferiors, eye-candy, sci-fi
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