Sunday, 10 July 2011

5 mini-reviews from a long-haul flight

You may remember that, about a year ago, I wrote a collection of mini-reviews of the movies I watch on my long-haul flight to Australia. Well, now my year is Aus is over, so I too another long-haul fight and watched more movies! This time there are only five of them, because I slept more this time around.

Sucker Punch

There are sections of this movie that are really cliché; a group of five Femme Fetale characters fight their way through a series of fairly well trodden fantasy and sci-fi scenarios, including a Medieval Japanese setting, a classic Epic Fantasy with dragons and orcs, a steam/cyber-punk WWII with zombies (yeah, seriously) and space opera. Sounds ridiculous, right? It does actually make sense in context, however. Sucker Punch is about the mental battles of young, mentally unstable girl who is sexually abused by one of the orderlies. Of course the she imagines herself and her friends as Femme Fetales, of course the setting her mind invents for her are fairly standard fantasy and sci-fi settings: she’s only a young girl who is slightly insane, there’s not likely to be a huge amount of subtlety or originality.

The sections that bind the bizarre action sequences together, themselves a fantasy where the main character is forced into a brothel and attempts to escape with her fellow prisoners, is really well done and holds the rather stranger parts of the plot together really well. Sucker Punch is a really well told story, set out in many ways like a video game and using the medium of film superbly to show what is happening, rather than telling it. There is almost no dialogue for the opening sequence, for example, as all is shown through the actions on screen. In addition, the soundtrack is absolutely incredible.

Sucker Punch is a fantastic film; dark depressing, with a very melancholy ending. It’s a fascinating study of the psychologically troubled and also really fun. Well worth seeing and possibly the best movie I review today.


I don’t usually get all that scared or disturbed by horror. Even Paranormal Activity didn’t set me on edge too badly, but after watching Insidious, I had to watch three episodes of the Simpsons to unfrey my nerves. Insidious does not do the standard horror trope of spattering the audience with gore and cheap frights. There are some things that jump out of the cupboard at us, but the real horror in Insidious is the subtle and the understated. It’s not quite as subtle as Paranormal Activity, but that is actually to its credit because it allows for some more visually interesting horror. There are some seriously creepy parts of this movie and it left me feeling really rather disturbed.

Horror, especially supernatural horror, is all about mystery. What we don’t know most certainly can hurt us and it terrifies us more when we don’t know what it is. Insidious falls down a little when it over-explains the phenomenon. It would have been creeper if there were no explanation, or at least a much less satisfactory explanation for the horror we are experiencing. Despite this, it leaves enough unexplained that there is some mystery towards the end and has enough mystery in the early part of the story that we are drawn in nicely. The very and in particular is extremely creepy, simply because we’re not told what happens after the end of the movie. Our imagination is left to run wild about what might happen. I hope any sequel will not follow directly from this story, because I actually don’t want to know what happens after the curtain closes.

If you like horror, especially subtle haunting horror (like Paranormal Activity), then you should probably check this one out, because it’s well worth seeing. Maybe switch off for the bit where they explain exact what is going on, because the movie is better without it.


I don’t usually review comedies because there’s never much to say. I really enjoyed Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead; the two other spoof films by Pegg and Frost, and find their style a lot better than the usual movie spoofs like Scary Movie and Epic Movie. They tend to be far less silly and a bit more subtle. That being said, I didn’t enjoy Paul as much as the others. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty good, I enjoyed the humour and had some good laughs, but it didn’t seem to have as many memorable moments as the other two. I think the fact that it was set in America meant that it did not feel as quintessentially British as the other two movies. Both Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead play on some very English clichés, whereas Paul felt very much more American. It certainly aimed it’s satire in the direction of the deep south and the American intelligence agencies, which didn’t work quite as well as when Pegg and Frost aim their satire at their own country.

Pretty funny, entertaining, but not as good as Hot Fuzz or Shaun of the Dead. Worth seeing, I suppose.

I am Number 4

Well I knew my run of quite a few films from long haul flights that were at least decent if not great was going to end eventually. This really was pretty terrible – a very standard set of characters, a predictable plot, and terrible bit of writing just at the end there. Very disappointing. As far as Sci-Fi goes, this was very unoriginal and used its tropes very unimaginatively.

Is noone in Hollywood sick to death of old teenagers arriving at a high school in which there is a hot, but unpopular girl, a nerd who gets bullied and some jocks who are popular despite being complete assholes, and befriending the underdogs before leading them on some weird mission in which they both display some unknown level of courage, while the jocks are either won over or given some unnecessary form of justice? There are literally hundreds of movies with that exact plot. Has noone thought to give that one a rest, or at least do something interesting with it? I’m also sick and tired of villains in speculative fiction being so blatantly characterised as evil, right down to their appearance. Surely the whole point of speculative fiction is that it raises questions and ambiguity, rather than making things so appallingly obvious that we are not forced to speculate at all.

I am Number 4 is, I am afraid to say, mostly a waste of your time. It’s entertaining enough for an hour or two, but it’s nothing special, nothing interesting, and nothing new.


I’d actually heard mostly good things about Tron, unfortunately these people clearly lied to me, or I got the wrong end of the stick. Or maybe they don’t realise I don’t give a flying fuck about visuals unless the story is actually any good. In Tron the story was pretty woeful and the writing was atrociously sloppy. It failed miserably to establish what on earth was going on and to establish why we should care, either about the characters or anything else. The pacing was really terrible, to the point where I was drifting off at the point where the plot should have been reaching climax, because it had actually slowed down after the rather excessively speedy start.

Ok, fine, it looked great. I mean really, really great. The kind of visuals that look good now and will still look good in 20 years, when technology has far surpassed what it is now. The sci-fi world in which most of the story took place looked fantastic and the action sequences were done superbly. It’s just a shame that there was nothing behind the visuals to actually make any of it matter or make sense.

Watch it if you like giving your eyes a treat, but switch off the brain, because you don’t even want to try to follow the plot.

And there you have it, not as entertaining a flight as last time, but not half bad.

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