Spring Breakers (2013)

Spring BreakersAfter months spent scrimping and saving, best friends Faith (Selena Gomez), Brit (Ashley Benson), Candy (Venessa Hudgens) and Cotty (Rachel Korine) pool their resources only to discover that they are still hundreds of dollars short of being able to attend spring break in Florida with their peers. While Faith prays for the necessary funds, her cohorts decide to rob a local fast food joint, escaping with enough to embark on their escapades. When a party they are attending is raided and the four of them arrested, however, their vacation takes a dark turn under the influence of gangster-rapper Alien (James Franco). Read more of this post

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (2012)

Having transcribed part of a mysterious transmission that his equipment can barely begin to grapple with, budding Vernian Sean Andersson (Josh Hutcherson) breaks into a nearby scientific facility in search of a bigger satellite, believing his missing grandfather (Michael Caine) to be behind the encoded message. Arrested shortly after, Sean is saved a stint in juvenile detention by the intervention of his step father. Eager to form a relation with his new wife’s son, Hank (Dwayne Johnson) offers to help decode, triangulate and go in search of the transmission’s origins. Hitching a ride on Gabato (Luis Guzmán) and daughter Kailani (Venessa Hudgens)’s private helicopter, they set off in pursuit of Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island.

There is very little onscreen to directly tie Journey 2: The Mysterious Island to previous instalment Journey to the Centre of the Earth. Despite falling through a hole in the Earth’s crust, being attacked by prehistoric piranha and chased relentlessly by a hungry Giganotosaurus, Sean Andersson – the only returning character, outlasting Brendan Fraser – doesn’t seem to have much to say about his previous experiences, preferring instead to rebel against his new guardians and drive his motorbike into a stranger’s swimming pool. In essence, however, the similarities are clear.

It’s important to state that Brad Peyton’s Journey 2 is not a great movie, it’s barely an OK movie. The plot, such that it is, is essentially a series of loosely interconnected set pieces designed to get our budding stereotypes from A to B, with a line in character development that has been walked into the ground and with an ensemble serving the plot rather than the other way around. Will father and son make amends? Will the love interests get a room already? Will the ethnic character get everybody killed with his stupidity? That said, we’re out of awards season, and, frankly, it’s time to talk about something other than Kevin. Giant bees? Well why not.

Drown the logical side of your brain in postmix and there is a lot of fun to be had with this nuts and bolts adventure movie. Dwayne Johnson is, as usual, a compelling screen presence as Sean’s try-hard, jack-of-all-trades step-father. By turns navigator, singer, expert on soil liquefaction and able to pilot an abandoned ancient submarine, The Rock openly welcomes laughs of embarrassment as he pops his pecs and raises his eyebrow. Caine too engages as the show-offy adventurer, the film at its best when the two are trading verbal slights. Hutcherson, meanwhile, spends most of the film on autopilot, his boy sidekick a far cry from the maturer role he made his own in The Kids Are All Right (or even Bridge to Terabithia), while Hudgens goes some way to make her character in High School Musical seem rich and layered.

Silly, slapdash and unlikely to warrant further discussion, Journey 2: The Mysterious Island is nevertheless a hugely affable way to spend and hour and a half, boasting some great visuals and a wittier-than-necessary script. Carried gamely by Johnson, you will believe that a giant bee-mounted former wrestler can fly.

Sucker Punch (2011)

After an assassination attempt on her abusive step-father goes ambiguously wrong, Emily Browning’s pouty schoolgirl is carted off to Lennox House for the Mentally Insane for a swift lobotomy. With his inheretence resting on the death of his late wife’s two children, he balks at the absence of a qualified physician but nevertheless agrees to wait five days for his apparent fortune. Instructed by Dr. Vera Gorski (Carla Gugino) to dance for the good of her show, our hero is randomly transported to an oriental monestary where she is given a mission, a list of items and a katana, and required to slow-motion back-flip in order to take out a series of hulking computer graphics. Knowing that she must dance for the five objects on the list, the newly monikered Baby Doll recruits four friendly inmates (Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Venessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung) and imagines that she is stabbing dragons, demon Nazis and glass robots for apparently no reason whatsoever.

I forgive you for being enticed by the stylish and action-packed trailer, I was right there with you. It made the film look sleek, layered and, above all, coherent. A squad of asylum inmates escape into an alternate reality, Alice in Wonderland style, and must fight an array of fantastic monsters for a series of items that will lead to their freedom in the real world, sound about right? Turns out, however, that these items were little more than a map from the next room, a lighter from a visiting suit’s pocket, a kitchen knife from their workplace, a key from around their orderly’s neck and a not-so-mysterious “sacrifice”. Not a steampunked zombie Nazi in sight.

These dances then are simply a distraction, allowing for one of the other girls to pocket a trinket. Rather than see Baby Doll thrive about in a dreary dance studio, however, Snyder uses his creative licence to have Baby Doll thrive about in a series of ever so slightly more stimulating environments – seriously, what might have looked spectacular on YouTube looks ropey as Hell on the big screen. With the other girls busy watching or committing petty theft, it appears that the friendships built up on the battlefield are mere two dimensional figments of Baby Doll’s imagination. With Sweet Pea standing in the same room as the building schematics when the first dance/fight/Zack Snyder’s wet dream begins, the audience is forced to sit through an over edited and boringly repetitive flash of lights when all that is really happening is that a piece of paper is being removed from the wall. Riveting.

Aside from the despondency induced by barely legible action and gratuitous slow-motion, there appears to be little on offer except the bonkers sexual politics of an absolute madman. Rated 12A, it is genuinely shocking that Snyder’s explosion in the pixel factory was allowed to contain scenes of rape, grievous cranial harm and point-blank murder. I say contains – it’s true that such acts of violence occur offscreen – but the intent to harm is about as subtle as Brian Blessed.

Sucker Punch, then, is a snoringly dull succession of slow-motion gyrations that boasts all the maturity of a PVC whoopee-cushion. Handling it’s more adult content with exactly zero respect, the film gives as little thought to its dubious subtext as it does to its characters’ real names. Avoid.