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SCREEN SCENE: 'SUCKER PUNCH' SOFT-CORE PORN

By Michael Calleri

The American moviegoing experience is in a rut. There's at least one major studio release every weekend, a film that has been overly hyped and advertised on television to the point where your brain misfires and you begin to wonder if you've already seen the picture.

"Sucker Punch" is one such feature, and unfortunately there will be many more. More often than not, the movie is based on a video game or a comic book or something that was a hit decades ago and has been reworked, or in the parlance of today's intellectually vapid studio executives, "reimagined."

There's no denying that Warner Brothers is an important motion picture studio, but as you watch "Sucker Punch," you quickly realize that history and reputation and company pride didn't matter to whoever gave the OK to make this vile, misogynistic mess.

The movie, which is based on a video game, is nothing more than cheesy, soft-core pornography, titillating to the extreme, and utterly devoid of anything remotely resembling entertainment value.

I really wish the "suits" had the guts to make what really seemed to be on their minds, a straight-on sex film with a young woman turning tricks while trying to escape the abuse of the staff at a mental asylum, an institution so cliched as to be patently absurd. Nothing is believable, everything is ridiculous.

As it is, "Sucker Punch" is watered-down stupidity, pandering to adult males who dwell in their bedrooms probably in their parents' house, surrounded by technical gear and who have never had a date in their lives.

The main character is known as Babydoll. She is sent to the loony bin by her wicked stepfather. Five days before a scheduled lobotomy, she creates an alternate reality of prurient sex and cheesy violence, wherein she combats the green-screen demons that threaten her.

She is not alone, however. There are other confined young women, whose names are Amber, Rocket, Sweet Pea, and Blondie. All are scantily clad, gyrating sex kittens who seem to exist solely to entertain the perverts who work at the institution.

These characters are inventions in a war between what the untalented screenwriters, director Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya, think is good and evil. Trust me, it's all evil.

The young actresses who are put through their paces are Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens and Jamie Chung. They are exploited by the director to the point that you want to seek him out and pound him into the ground. There are fathers all over the world who would crucify a creatively bankrupt thug like Snyder if he came near their daughters.

Along for the excruciatingly uninteresting and dreary ride is Carla Cugino as a Polish psychotherapist, and Jon Hamm playing two roles: a creep called High Roller and the lobotomist.

Scott Glenn is a wizened sage, a crinkly scumbag who leads the ladies through what is essentially a crude video game on screen.

Cugino, Hamm and Glenn should be mortified that they are in this shallow repository of cruelty and hate. Did they really need the work? It does not bode well that Snyder has been tapped to direct the new Superman film.

Escape is the only option. No, not for the women, but for you, if you actually pay to see this twisted, pathetic, sick joke of a movie. Run from the theater before the first reel ends (about 17 minutes) and ask for your money back. It only gets worse. Better yet, don't go.


Filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami made the decision to continue to make movies in Iran after the Shah was deposed. Born in 1940, he began directing films in 1970. His works are sought by film festivals all over the world.

Kiarostami's latest is "Certified Copy," a superb feature that emphasizes yet again what great directors can achieve when ideas are more important than superficiality.

The movie is about a French-born antique dealer (Juliette Binoche) who lives and works in Tuscany. She attends a lecture given by a British art critic who is publicizing his controversial book in Italy. His theory is that copies of great works of art are also important, especially if the great works cease to exist. She strikes up a conversation with him, and for the remainder of the day and evening, the two engage in a discussion about creativity and the meaning of originality, about life and the boundaries between people, and about the beauty of the world around them.

The writer, who has a train to catch much later that night, is played by celebrated opera baritone William Schimell, who is very good in his motion picture acting debut. Binoche, as always, is wonderful. The film offers a little bit of a mystery as to whether or not the pair know each other -- are they in fact husband and wife? And, of course, the beautiful Tuscan settings are magical and add an extra dimension to a very engaging movie.

Kiarostami's visual senses are stunning, and his willingness to make a movie about ideas is refreshing and satisfying.


South Korea's Sang-soo Im is another director with an international reputation. "The Housemaid," based on a 1960 Korean work with the same name, is an interesting, albeit flawed, study about the corruption of power when a wealthy man obsesses about his child's nanny. His wife is pregnant with twins. Also in the household are the couple's young daughter, the wife's mother and an older female housekeeper. The title is a bit misleading because the film is essentially about the relationship between the husband and the nanny. Because he can, the man turns to her for attention and sexual gratification.

Add some dynamics involving the two elderly women and you've got a mixture of confusion, jealousy and discord. The sleek, modern house is also a "character." The picture is about private agendas and lives ruled by coded phrases. It might also be a criticism of wealth for wealth's sake, but the director doesn't seem to be sure if money really is the root of all evil.


E-mail Michael Calleri at michaelcallerimoviesnfr@yahoo.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com March 29, 2011