V for Vendetta – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: James McTeigue

Cast: Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman, Stephen Rea, Stephen Fry, John Hurt, Tim Pigott-Smith, Roger Allam

Synopsis: Set in the not to distant future, London has survived global devastation that has crippled former world powers such as the United States.   The government has a dictatorial stranglehold on the populous, however, in which anyone caught with a dissenting view tends to disappear.   This story follows the goals of freedom fighter/terrorist V, who seeks to inspire the people to rise up against this government.

I freely admit that this week the only thing I have been posting about in the last week is Supanova, but I hope I can be forgiven for this given the amazing time that was had at Sydnova by all, and as such I found it an event much worth of promotion.   As I type, Perth Supanova (or as I have seen it written on the Supanova Facebook page, SuPerthNova) should be in full swing and I hope all in attendance have a blast.

For my last Sydnova related post, I am going to connect it back to my cosplay for the event.   Such a brilliant film needs more than just photos taken of a guy trying to be the title character.   For a film that sells itself on action set pieces and Natalie Portman having gotten her head shaved for the role, there is much more to the film than these popularised elements.   As I type this, the film sits at 180 on the IMDB Top 250 list, and I would suggest that this is largely due to the film being a very thought-provoking piece.

Alan Moore was behind the original graphic novel on which the film was based.   This is the same creative talent behind From Hell and Watchmen.   However, being dedicated to the medium of comics, he did not permit his name to be listed in the credits for the film.   The story itself though is extremely intelligent, and it is very easy to miss certain connections if one does not remained focus.   One of the incredible moments of cinematography in the film is not necessarily an action set piece, but an intricate collection of dominos that is set falling.   More than being just really cool, this image appropriately represents the film.   V has manufactured a series of events, that rely on a keen sense of intelligence, observation, and intuition into knowing how people will respond to his stimulus.   He truly weaves a tapestry, one that the end result is not obvious until the final thread is put in place.

More than an extremely intelligent plot, V’s ideals themselves, and how he expresses them, are thought-provoking.   There are many phrases that he utters that are imbued with power and inspiration.   A few personal favourites include “People should not be afraid of their government.   Governments should be afraid of their people”, “A symbol, in and of itself is powerless, but with enough people behind it, blowing up a building can change the world” and “What I am is an idea, and ideas are bulletproof”.   This is a film about knowing that something is wrong with the world, and that somebody needs to stand up to do something about it.   One person alone is not enough however.   One person may start the wind of revolution, but without a cause people can and will rally behind, change may not be possible.   The story really does highlight that the line between freedom fighting and terrorism is really very fine.   How is it defined?   The audience supports V’s cause, as his motives are justice and an attempt to end oppression.   His deeds themselves however, are not necessarily admirable… killing party leaders and blowing up buildings by themselves are dastardly acts, and the film title admits that part of his motivation is also revenge.   Perhaps this is the strength of the character however.   He is not a typical unambiguous hero type.   The story does not flinch from addressing this, Portman’s Evey indicating at one point that what was done to him has actually made him a monster.   Regardless, his methods do not change, but he does at least acknowledge by the end that it should not be he who decides how the final events should unfold, redeeming the character from his former path.

The film comes together from incredibly strong performances.   Portman is as always brilliant, which may excuse her top billing, though that choice does strike me as a marketing ploy to promote the film where Weaving’s  recognition in the US was not high enough.   Portman amazingly portrays two sides of the same character though, her story arc taking her from constantly frightened to a reserved but forceful bravery by the end of the film.   The transition is really quite remarkable, and certainly took more than a radical haircut to achieve it.   The film really does belong to Weaving, though.   This is a performance that never once has the mask removed.   Despite this, he displays a range of emotion that is evident without the facial cues that many actors would normally rely on.   The fact that he also has an amazing voice that articulates the script and gives already powerful words an even greater gravitas really brings home that a special quality of actor was always needed for the role.   In this case they had it.   All the supporting actors are all on similarly fine form, I could continue this essay at great length discussing each one, but I have let this particular stream of consciousness last too long already.   Suffice it to say, as far as performances go, this film has no weak link.

There is something about the work of Alan Moore that gets me overly analytical, and has my reflective reviewing style more go into absolute overdrive.   Those familiar with my Watchmen review observed the same essay style of review as I have presented here.   The fact is however, that the films based on his source material, let alone the source material itself, are brilliant, original, thought-provoking stories.   Do yourself a favour and delve into his world further.

5 stars out of 5

V for Vendetta on IMDB

V for Vendetta on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTlgpnNQYmg]

Sucker Punch – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Zack Snyder

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

Synopsis: A young woman is attacked by her stepfather following her mother’s death, as he is in a rage over the daughters inheriting and not himself.   During this attack, the woman accidentally kills her younger sister, and the stepfather takes this as an opportunity to have her committed to a mental asylum.   He bribes a staff member to have her assigned for a lobotomy, which is to occur in five days time.   The girl retreats into a fantasy world wher she is trapped in a bordello.   She adopts the persona Baby Doll, and attempts an escape with her fellow inmates.

A review by Film Nerd.

Finally, I am really starting to eat into my list of genre films I wished to see this year, with my third from that list being seen in as many weeks.   Sucker Punch has been in cinemas for many weeks, and I have had the chance to read a few reviews myself before seeing it.   Many were scathing, portraying the film as little more than a teenage boy’s fantasy.   This accusation was levelled due to the fetishistic costumes worn by the five lead actresses, as well as an almost video game style of action to the proceedings.

Both of these accusations are far from invalid, but in my experience of the film, I thought that labelling the films quality on these points alone over-simplified what Snyder was trying to portray with this film.   This is his first film that is not either a remake (Dawn of the Dead), or based on a graphic novel (300, Watchmen).   He has succeeded in his first attempt at doing something original to achieve just that, a truly unique piece of cinema.   I make no claims that this originality opens it to a wide audience, but it deserves a wider audience than just teenage boys.

To go into more detail, the majority of the film is set in the fantasy realm of the bordello, yet it then descends into further fantasy scenarios that are fantasies within the fantasy.   So far, so Inception.   At each level of fantasy, yes the outfits worn do correlate with recognisable fetishistic stereotypes, such as the french maid, the nurse, and the too short sailor outfit.   However, the costumes as designed are no worse than costumes routinely seen on-screen in modern cinema.   Also, to accuse Snyder of doing this out of chauvinistic elements should recall that he had his largely male cast wear a lot less in 300.   This costuming is also not ENTIRELY gratuitous.   The bordello is not a setting of titillation, yet it is a representation of their prison the girls are inhabiting in the asylum.   In a way, the outfits are a symbol of the bondage they are seeking to break free from.   They do look cool, and they do show flesh, but as i said, to leave comments left at that alone is a little incomplete.

As for the film playing like a video game, the fact is the style is well within keeping with Snyder’s style as represented by 300 and Watchmen.   This style is most represented on the second level of fantasy, with the girls fighting steam-punk nazis, dragons and robots.    The action is over the top, mind-blowing, and visually stunning.   They do advance the plot, sometimes just barely, yet later in the film this technique is turned on its own head in a fascinating way, that actually ends up being a stunning way to advance the plot.   Speaking of which, the plot itself unravels to be quite clever and emotional, and I am inclined to agree with the starlets that this film can be viewed as quite empowering, and perhaps not just in a girl power sence, but it may just prove empowering for those teenage boys that come for the visuals, especially if they are victims of bullies or of generally being ostracised from their peers.

As for performances, they are uniformly brilliant.   Emily Browning I found somewhat wooden at times, but as the film progresses that is actually quite appropriate for the character, and when she is required to play anguish or strength, she does so successfully.   Abbie Cornish, the other Aussie, does even better, and perhaps is just as much of a lynchpin in the film as Browning.   Malone steps up to the plate with these two, and carves a strong identity of her own.   Hudgens and Chung are left a little wanting as a result, but still manage to show singular moments of individual talent.   The external characters all play their roles, but only two more are really worth special mention,   Carla Gugino brings a quite but subjugated power to her role as Doctor to the patients/Mistress of Bordello.   Hardly a surprise as she is always brilliant.   Jon Hamm gets little screen time, but he makes it count, especially in his final scene.   He certainly reminded me to get off my butt and start watching Mad Med season 2.

The setting and the filming techniques make this film very easy to label from a superficial point of view.   While the critics were not wowed, I am getting the impression that audiences are.   As always I link the trailer below.   If the visuals are immediately off-putting and deter you, avoid the film.   But if it sparks a curiosity, give it a look.   I am inclined to think you will have an enjoyable two hours

4 stars out of 5

Sucker Punch on IMDB

Sucker Punch on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrIiYSdEe4E]

Upcoming Genre Films for 2011 Part Deux – A Preview by Film Nerd

First of all thanks to Urban Fantasist for that awesome post.   Consider my appetite whetted.   As you referred to yourself though, there are certain tastes of mine that were not catered to, so here is a preview of 2011 from the perspective of someone who collected comics in high school.

I will be using the same list as Urban Fantasist from io9, but I will extend from there a little bit from a post by blastr featuring the top 55 trailers for films coming out in 2011.   I will of course avoid overlap between these lists.

The Green Hornet (io9, blastr)     January 14

A remake of the series that first captured hearts on radio serials then on television, featuring a rich guy turned vigilante.   The character was created by the guy who brought us The Lone Ranger, and at one point in the radio series it was indicated that the Hornet is descendant of the Ranger.   Directed by Michael Gondry of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame, it could prove interesting.

I Am Number Four (io9, blastr)     February 18

A group of nine aliens hiding out as teenagers on Earth are hunted down for extermination by the government.   With three down, this film follows the story of the fourth to be targeted.    Based on a novel of the same name.

The Adjustment Bureau (io9, blastr)     March 4

Matt Damon plays a congressman destined for big things, before he meets and falls for Emily Blunt’s ballerina.   He was supposed to never meet her again, but somehow does, and falls in love with her.   The mysterious agency of the title steps in to prevent the relationship, and put our heroes life back on the set path.   Escaping, running, and hiding ensues….

Battle: Los Angeles (io9, blastr)     March 11

Gritty war film with hand-held camera work with visceral closeups, etc.   Oh yeah, and humans are fighting aliens.   Sounds like a great big B-movie, but with a cast headlined by Aaron Eckhart, may prove a hidden gem.

Red Riding Hood (io9, blastr)     March 11

Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman star in this retelling of the classic tale, with the wolf recast as a werewolf connected the past of she with the hood.   Don’t know how Urban Fantasist missed that one, sounds like her cup of tea!!

Paul (io9, blastr)     March 18

Comedy starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, as two mates on an American road trip that meet foul mouth alien Paul, voiced by Seth Rogen.   Some of the gags on the trailer are foul, but delightfully so!!

Sucker Punch (io9, blastr)     March 25

A film by Zack Snyder, who previously brought us 300 and Watchmen.   He does have a talent for absolute visual splendour on-screen, and the trailers indicate this will be no different.   It is hard to get a grasp on what it is about, but seems to be the story of five girls attempting to escape the clutches of evil authority in a mental asylum…or is it a war zone???   Or a bordello??

Super (io9, blastr)     April 1

Okay, so the concept of this sounds very similar to Kick-Ass… average bloke dons a costume to fight crime.   So lacking in originality on that count perhaps.   Just watch the clip posted on blastr though and I dare you not to show some interest!!

Hanna (blastr only) April 8

Eric Bana’s ex-CIA agent trains daughter Saoirse Ronin to be the perfect assassin, with the goal to target Cate Blanchett.    A lot of talent there in that sentence, and a pretty cool concept to boot.    The trailer also kicks butt!!

Your Highness (io9, blastr) April 8

Danny McBride and James Franco reteam with the director of Pineapple Express to star as royal brothers on a rescue mission… a comedy that drags Natalie Portman and my favourite Zooey Deschanel along for the ride.   I am still giggling at the trailer… “What a coincidence, I was just about to finish thinking of you!!”   Hehe.

Thor (io9, blastr)     May 6

The Norse god is exiled to Earth, as reimagined by Marvel Comics.   Mjolnir was spotted after the credits to Iron Man 2, resulting in my second Nerdgasm for that film.   Those that don’t know that this is part of building towards Joss Whedon’s The Avengers should be stripped of their geek badge immediately!!

X-Men: First Class (io9 only)     June 3

The second Marvel movie for 2011.   With James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender and January Jones on board, and Kick-Ass’ Michael Vaughn directing, can we put the travesty of X-Men: The Last Stand behind us???

Green Lantern (io9, bkastr)     June 17

A film based on a DC universe second tier hero.   Ryan Reynolds is good casting, but the CGI costume is still a little off-putting for me.   However, has the potential to be the next Iron Man, whom was one of Marvel’s second tier heroes.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part Two (io9, blastr)     July 15

You really want a synopsis for this one?

Captain America: The First Avenger (io9 only)     July 22

The source of my first Nerdgasm in Iron Man 2 was spotting Captain America’s shield partially constructed in Tony Stark’s work room.   Like Thor, this is building to Whedon’s The Avengers, and has Chris Evans donning the tights in what can only be called great casting!

Cowboys and Aliens (io9, blastr)     July 29

James Bond and Indiana Jones!!   The old west!!   Aliens!!    Daniel Craig waits from unconsciousness with a strange device on his arm.   Harrison Ford plays the villain of the piece, that teams with Craig when the bigger threat arrives.   Why didn’t they think of this earlier???

The Thing (io9 only)     October 14

Prequel to John Carpenter’s iconic original.   Stars Joel Edgerton, and personal favourite Mary Elizabeth Winstead, last seen in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Sherlock Holmes 2 (io9, blastr)     December 16

Downey Jr. and Law return to 221B Baker Street, this time to face the infamous Professor Moriarty.   Be warned, blastr screwed up, the trailer from the first film, not the first trailer for the second!!

The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn (io9 only) December 23

Steven Spielberg directs his first fully motion capture film.   Peter Jackson produces.   They will be swapping roles for the sequel!!   Stars Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.   Some writing was even done by Doctor Who‘s Steven Moffatt!! Add that element of retro charm and I am sold!

Man, that is a lot of movies…. I hope Bride of Film Nerd doesn’t kill me when we need a second mortgage!!


Watchmen – A Review by Film Nerd

Director: Zack Snyder

Cast: Malin Akerman, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Jackie Earle Haley, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Patrick Wilson, Carla Gugino

Synopsis: The year is 1985, but nowhere near how you remember it.   For years, costumed vigilantes have been fighting crime, and there is even a genuinely powered super being, who turned the tide of Vietnam. However, such masked crime fighting has now been outlawed, but a team known as the Watchmen come out of retirement after one of their own is murdered.

A review by Film Nerd.

The graphic novel on which this film is based is perhaps the most influential ever published.   Written by Alan Moore, illustrated by Dave Gibbons, and published by DC comics, it was released in 12 parts, but broke the mold on how graphic novels were presented.   At the end of each issue, there were distributed documents that cover the history of this alternate reality, in the process giving it great depth and background information on the lead characters.   In addition, there was a running story of a comic within the comic, being read by a child at the news stand.    This comic reflected events and themes presented within the story itself.   All this on top of what is in many respects the film noir version of a super hero story.   Basically, a whole lot more was there than “biff”, “whack” and “pow”!

So how do you bring a story like this to screen??   The great difficulty lies in the fact that on-screen, it is difficult to present all this extra information without detracting from the narrative.   The comic within the comic was excised, though it was filmed as an animation separately and released in addition to the film on DVD and Blu Ray.   What was clever though was presenting this history in one of the most creative and entertaining title sequences I have seen in a film in a very long time.

Does the film work?   Yes it does, and fans of the source material can watch this as a worthy representation of the story they love.   It can be a harder pill to swallow though for the uninitiated.   It is not a clear-cut story, there are hidden agendas, personal motives, and a resolution that may upset those familiar with your regular comic book film.   It is a film that makes you think, and if you are willing to re-watch it and think it over, you may get a whole lot more out of it.   With a running time of 2 hours and 42 minutes, though, if this sounds like too much work perhaps it is best not to start.   I hope Urban Fantasist will add her support to this review though, as someone who did walk out of the cinema disappointed (especially after I had built it up before she saw it), but whom has admitted she kept thinking about it afterwards and had a different appreciation of it after considering the various themes.

And it does make you think.   It is a film that the most noble characters make questionable decisions, and those with the outwardly despicable are perhaps more worthy of respect, given they have their own moral codes and they stick to them.   In fact, it is perhaps these characters, exemplified by Morgan’s “The Comedian” and Haley’s “Rorschach”, that carry the weight of the film, and perhaps have a better idea of the true face of society than any of the other characters.   To go into these external characters could take a lot of time, but each does have their own agenda, and their own purpose for crime fighting.   Quite realistically, seeing justice is not always the primary motive.   Other reasons for becoming a masked vigilante are explored, and many have their own psychoses, whether that been seeking pride from a parent, the fetishistic element of dressing up, seeking fame, or seeking a sense of power.   Even Crudup’s Dr. Manhattan gives a different spin on the super human, who can manipulate matter after a science experiment gone wrong, but as he becomes more powerful, he becomes increasingly distanced from his own humanity.

I could keep discussing themes and ideas for this film given enough space and a willing audience, but I will save that for another time.   If any interest were to be expressed, I would happily write essays on impressions and interpretations I have had of this film.   To avoid this review becoming perhaps a tad dry though, I will start to wrap up.   This is a violent film with adult themes, Bride of Film Nerd had some obvious distaste towards a number of scenes.   It has disappointed people who went to the cinema expecting a more traditional superhero narrative.   But it is a great film for those willing to investigate it and explore its ideas.   That said, Hollywood please hear my plea and not bastardise this brilliant tale with a sequel!!

4.5 stars (out of a possible 5)

Watchmen on IMDB

Watchmen on Rotten Tomatoes

Trailer [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRMjr1UKa5k&feature=fvst]