Thursday, March 31, 2011

Movie Review: Sucker Punch

I haven't got much time for movies lately. If anyone can believe it, my last movie was Inception. And I can't even remember what was the one before it. Possibly Ironman 2 if my memory serves me right. So, the movies that I do get to watch in the theaters in full HD and surround sound glory are the ones which I really want to watch badly. Inception was one, and so was Sucker Punch. I wrote a lengthy review of Inception back then, and I believe Sucker Punch deserves one of its own.

As usual, it's not going to be spoiler free. If you haven't seen the movie yet and plan to do so, please go now and come back once you're done. I will be referencing the movie itself a lot, and chances are that you're going to get lost and lose me. So I say again, stop reading if you're going to watch the movie. Instead of a normal review, I'm actually taking up more of a crtitic's role instead. I'll voice my opinions of the movie, rather than explain about the intricacies of the plot, and of course, it is going to be subjective as well.

The story revolves around protagonist Baby Doll, who was sent to the asylum for the criminally insane, after being framed by her step father for killing her younger sister. There, the orderly Blue Jones gets paid by the step father to arrange for Baby Doll to be lobotomised, so as to prevent her from saying anything against him to the police. As you can see, the world's not treating Baby Doll very well, and the only way her mind can cope with this reality is for her to escape to one that is more...... acceptable. This is where she creates an altered reality, where she gets sold to a brothel instead, where exotic dancers ply their trade and sell their bodies under their mobster manager, Blue.

From this reality, Baby Doll can enter a third reality when she dances. Anyone who watches her dance will enter into a trance, and basically all the action fantasy scenes take place here. In this reality, Baby Doll dresses up like a Japanese school girl, gets armed with a Katana, a handgun, and kicks everythings' ass. From here, plot doesn't really matter anymore, because not many things will make sense and the more questions you have, the less you're going to enjoy the show. It seemed as though Zack Snyder was just listening to fanboys and otakus talking about their dream action scenes, and put them all together in one movie, complete with girls in short skirts and machine guns. The very first time Baby Doll dances, she gets a welcome fight with 3 huge ass demon Samurai, complete with gatling guns and all. This fight alone (my favourite by the way), kicked so much ass it really set my expectations high for the rest of the movie.

The rest of the scenarios created in the 3rd reality were outrageously fun too and had the best of everything a comic book fan wanted. Zombie WWII soldiers, human piloted mecha, knights in armor, orgres, fire breathing dragons, machine gun mounted planes, cybernetic robots, rocket packs, exploding trains, etc. Really, everything that spells action can be found in this movie. The special effects and CG were done really well, and so is the awesome music. Everything fits in and it's exactly what you'd expect from Znyder. I thought the fights could have been better and perhaps more Matrix inspired, but then again it wouldn't have been too original. I'm not talking about slow motion stuff, but really just more kung-fu stuff. No complains about the visuals and it's pretty much the best of what Hollywood has to offer, period.

Some how, the rest of the girls in the brothel who were conspiring with Baby Doll were able to enter this 3rd reality as well. At first I thought it was all in her mind and she imagined everything, since the girls were still doing other tasks in the second reality, which is part of Baby Doll's figment of imagination anyway. But later in the film, there were incidents which showed that the girls knew what was happening in the 3rd reality. For example, Rocket's conversation with sister Sweet Pea back in the train scenario. This really just complicates the issue without giving any actual explanations. In The Matrix or Inception, part of the fun of watching the movie was trying to comprehend how reality is fabricated in that universe. In Sucker Punch, don't think too much cause it's not going to make too much sense. The dots are there, but it's not connected. There are too many questions to raise about the connections of the different realities, such as the existence of the man who gave Baby Doll the weapons. Is he real..... or not? Does dying in the 3rd reality mean you die in the other realities as well? But isn't everything just a imagination in Baby Doll's mind? Well, I'm not sure whether we'll ever find out the answers but I guess it's not that important.

I do like how the various realities are connected to each other though. For example, the doctor performing the lobotomy coming in 5 days time becomes the High Roller, coming to claim Baby Doll's virginity instead. The therapist becomes the dance instructor, and a splendid performance by Blue who transforms from the orderly to the brothel running mobster. The 5 item checklist thing did seem a little cliche to me, but perhaps keeping that part simple was key in connecting the realities together. However, the tragic side is that there's a huge chunk of wasted potential here. What could have been polished into a gem was somewhat neglected. The plot ended off too abruptly too me, and I was expected Baby Doll to dance again in order to find out the last mystery item, instead of the sudden realisation that it wasn't her story. I was disappointed to say the least. Another complaint is that the movie, already not friendly for the young ones to to its themes, would really have benefited if it was rated R instead. Instead of trying to appeal to a wider audience for the money, an R rating would mean more blood, sex, violence, and it's sorely missing in this movie. It has everything in place, but you don't even see the scenes where Amber and Blondie get shot in the head. The only heads you'll see being cut apart are the samurai and the robots. A huge disappointment in my opinion. I'm not a violent freak or anything, but appropriate violence can be very entertaining, especially when you're already talking about a movie about zombie killing french maids/school girls/military women from a brothel. Oh I love the girls' costumes by the way. You can see how each of them differ according to popular male fetishes. Nice.

To sum up, I'd give the movie a 6.5 out of 10. Entertaining yes, but ultimately falls short due to the wasted potential and the gap filled plot. Granted, I'll pay the full price just for the Oni Samurai scene. If only more development was given to the other girls they won't appear so flat and forgettable. Other than Baby Doll and perhaps Sweet Pea, the other girls were really there just for eye candy. One last thing I'd like to add is that the movie reminded me a lot about Final Fantasy VII. From the theme about altering realities to self sacrifice, it just screamed FFVII to me. FFVII main character Cloud had a traumatic past and altered his own memories. Crisis Core FFVII main character Zack sacrificed himself for Cloud because like Baby Doll, he realised he wasn't the story to be told. Really, the similarities don't end there. The train which was heading to the city, was almost exactly like the train to Midgar in the opening sequence of the classic PS game. Perhaps I'm thinking too much, but it just shows the gaming fanboys will totally dig this movie. 6.5 isn't a high score, but I'll most likely get the Bluray disc when it gets released. Just for those kick ass moments. :)
By the way, do click on the images you see on this blog post to download the wide screen wall paper or the posters of the leading ladies. If you're visiting from Facebook, you can check out the direct page via the link below. Thanks for reading! "If you don't believe in something, you'll fall for anything."

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 8

Final day of the tour and the last video of the series (phew). Really, no sight seeing except for taking a few shots in our room, and some last minute shopping at the Narita Airport Mall. We had a great time, and hopefully, Japan will bounce back from the impact of the Touhoku Earthquake and we will definitely visit again soon. :)

Tokyo 2011 - Day 7

Day 7, 27th February 2011: Race day for the Tokyo Marathon. Photos were taken from the official photographers along the race route. For more about the race and my personal comments, check out :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 6

Day 6 was spent at the Meiji Shrine at Harajuku, followed by a meet up with my twitter friends at Sunshine City. We had a fun and memorable time, and hopefully we can meet up again in the future. :)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 5

Day 5 was spent at Tokyo Big Sight where the Tokyo Marathon expo was held. Later half of the day was spent at Odaiba, where we walked around the area facing the sea and the magnificent scenery surrounding the Rainbow bridge. This spot has been a staple on our itinerary for the past few visits. 2 more videos to go~!

Tokyo 2011 - Day 4

Day 4 of of the trip. Unfortunately, Japan is now in a pinch due to the Touhoku earthquake and tsunami which happened last week. We pray for the people and that Japan makes a speedy recovery soon. The day itself was largely spent at the Asakusa area, where we visited the stores and the temple, followed by shopping at the Ueno area. :)

Tokyo 2011 - Day 3

3rd day of the trip, second day of the package and we're off to Disney Sea. First time any one of us there, and we even managed to meet our friend Yuka for a cup of Starbucks Coffee! To be honest I think I've had enough of Mickey mouse for now. :p

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 2

Well, basically the entire of day 2 was spent in Tokyo Disney Land, and it's only half of the 2 day package.  It's our 3rd time there, but Rena's first. We watched 2 full parades and it was pretty awesome. I'm not impressed by the characters, but by the sheer amount of effort each of the performers put in, as well as the magnitude of the parade. It's hard not to be happy in Disney Land some times. :)

Monday, March 07, 2011

Tokyo 2011 - Day 1

At first, I wanted to write full blog posts on all the different days we spent in Tokyo, so that I can properly document everything down. Thoughts, emotions, feelings, where we went, and how to managed to go everywhere in Tokyo by ourselves. But then, due to lack of time (and effort), I've decided to post the photos up first (on Facebook), and then do up the videos to show the highlights. I guess the video more or less encapsulates the best of our trip, though the lack of text will have to be made up with by means of the songs I've selected. I'll probably give a final post about the trip after the last video, which I aim to finish by the month. So without any further ado, I bring to you the first video in the Tokyo 2011 series. Enjoy and leave your comments! :)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Tokyo Marathon, complete! 東京マラゾン、完成しました!

After much anticipation and excitement during the build up towards the actual race day, I've finally completed the Tokyo Marathon 2011 last Sunday, 27th February 2011. The trip to Japan was part of a family holiday, but I'll leave that to another upcoming blog post. This one will concentrate on the event and I'll write about how the event ran, and my feelings after completing it. For a start, I registered for the run around 5 months ago. 350,000 applications for 36,000 slots and the runners were selected via a balloting system. Luckily for me, the quota for foreign runners seem to be more than the ones catered for the native Japanese runners, and I was delighted to be selected. Paid up about $250 dollars online, and I secured my slot for the race. I didn't really had much time nor chance to train for it due to study and work commitments, but at least I cleared 2 half marathons (in a week) before flying.

2 days before the race, I picked up my race kit from Tokyo Big Sight, which is a pretty impressive convention centre. The race expo was held in 2 halls, and it was huge. There were many stations such as Nike, Adidas, Asics, as well as other running merchandise and stations promoting other international marathons. Of course, I spent quite a couple of hours there grabbing the official stuff as souvenirs, taking freebies, and had a good time there. The DJ at the Nike booth even interviewed me and I gave answers in mixed Japanese and English. Must have sounded strange but hey they understood me :). Also met up with some of the other Singaporean runners I got to know through the Sgrunners forum and took a group shot. It was pretty nice meeting other Singaporeans so far away from home. I met up with some of them who were also staying in my inn at Ikebukuro, and made our way to the start line together on race day.

Start point was at Shinjuku. There were really a lot of people, but everything was managed and organised, and I never felt trapped in human traffic. Huge signs helped with orientation to the baggage deposit area, and it only took 5 seconds for me to get my stuff taken care of. Soon it was time to head off to my designated start area, which was the last and final waiting area. I guess it's due to the fact that I stated my end time to be 5hrs 30 minutes, and that's considered pretty slow. Well, I did finish the run in around that time, as you can see from the result in the table below. Not a fantastic timing, but it's my new personel best. I aimed for it and got it, and it's over 30 minutes faster than my previous run at Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon 2010 last December.

It took 15 minutes after the gun went off, till I finally crossed the start line. Yeah I was that far away. But still, I managed to see the Marathon committee chairman and waved to him on the podium. One of the most amazing things about the run was that from the starting 1st km to the 42th km, the road was brimming with supporters. To the Japanese, it seemed as if the run was a trial for the runners, and they were there to cheer them on. In fact, the entire run was broadcasted live on TV. The Singapore marathons pale in comparison in this aspect. When I run along the expressways during the SCSM, it felt like the drivers along the roads were jeering us for obstructing the roads. Such a huge difference it's pretty sad when I think about it. Anyways, I'm really really really impressed by the Japanese supporters. They came with huge signboards, wore costumes, never stopped cheering, stuck out their hands to give you a hi-5, and even gave out free supplements! I had sweets, bread, and even coke. It was amazing. You could basically eat your way to the end and hi-5 thousands of supporters.

The route was a magnificent one as well, taking us to fantastic tourist attractions such as the imperial palace, Asakusa Sensoji, and the Tokyo Tower. I wanted to stop and take photos but I only had my phone with me. Speaking of photos, there were countless photo pitstops along the way, hence the many photos you see me uploading here. I think it's a great idea and the local runs should start having this instead of randomly deployed stealth photographers catching us with shack faces. With the official stops, you can pose and at least look less tired than you really are.

And it was great fun running with the Japanese runners. Many of them came in funny costumes and I lost track of the number of times I laughed when I found out who I was running along side with. I ran together with Spider-Man, Ultraman, Son Goku, Frieza, Mario, Luigi, Jesus Christ (carrying a huge crucifix I'm not kidding), countless animals, ninjas, samurais, and Disney characters. It was a delight just looking around at who's running. There was a girl in a panda suit and so many people were cheering her on. Along the route, there were also many many performances by dancers and bands. Great stuff. In terms of supplements, they gave amino drinks at regular stations and it tasted really good. I'm particularly impressed by the food stations. They gave chocolate and red bean paste bread, raisins, bananas, and even isotonic sweets! I was in heaven when I ate the chocolate. Almost wanted a second helping....

The end point was equally efficient. The runners were channeled to pits where we were handed out drinks, oranges, fruit bars, and the finisher medal and towel. Although the run was attended by so many people, everything was in place and it was organised with clockwork precision. The only complain I had was that the public transport from the end point was pretty limited and I queued up over 30 minutes just to get on the train, which was packed like sardines. I had to stand for another 40 minutes on the train back to Ikebukuro via the JR Yamanote line. Luckily I didn't really stink (too much) and I generally kept away from the Japanese girls in my carriage. My heart would break if they held their noses and walked away. :p

All in all, the run was most definitely the defining moment in the trip, and dare I say in my short running stint. I bought lots of goodies as you can see from the expo, and I did it because I figure I won't be coming back for the run anytime soon. But after the race, my opinion has some what changed. If possible, I would want to return to Tokyo for another go at the marathon again. The climate, conduct of the run, and most of all the people all made this a very memorable trip for me. No regrets at all, and I encourage all runners to try and attend it if possible. It's very convenient, and everything gets explained in English. Feel free to ask me for advice if you're interested, and perhaps we can go again next year. I hope you enjoyed the photos and this write up, and look forward to the rest of the entries on the holiday with Rena and Mabel soon. Thanks! 東京マラゾンは楽しかった!できれば、必ずまた行きます!

(yup that's me with a super shack face :p)