I have begun to despair that The King’s Speech was the last we will see of intelligent films until Academy Award season rolls around again.
Already, the summer “blockbuster” season, with its mind-numbing array of uninspired sequels and recycled remakes, is nearly upon us. The two offerings currently playing at the Qwanlin do little to raise the bar, and I fear there is worse to come.
Red Riding Hood, for instance, can’t decide whether it’s a retelling of a traditional fairy tale (thin gruel indeed), or a knock-off of the Twilight/Eclipse/New Moon vampire series (that’ll bring in the teeny-boppers!).
As for Sucker Punch, it’s a glorified sex-and-violence paean to fanboys, masquerading as a story about life in a 1950s mental hospital.
An undistinguished cast and a hysterical theme do little to make Red Riding Hood worthwhile. It’s set in a medieval village somewhere in central Europe (filmed near Vancouver), where the population lives in constant fear of a marauding wolf who sweeps into town every few years and picks off a couple of its inhabitants.
Naturally, this engenders widespread fear and superstition among the villagers, who eagerly await the arrival of Father Solomon, who will supposedly help rid them of the beast.
His entrance into the village is ludicrously heralded by a sinister-looking hooded sniper with a crossbow fixed on the villagers, accompanied by two tall and muscular bodyguards imported from Africa, and a giant artificial elephant contraption.
From there, it just gets sillier, as the prelate quickly determines that what the villagers are dealing with is, indeed, a werewolf, and that the lycanthrope is someone lurking among them.
The inevitable witch hunt that ensues enmeshes a young village girl named Valerie, who wanders around in its wake wearing a red cape, with tragic results all around.
Sucker Punch, on the other hand, is set in Brattleboro, Vermont sometime in the 1950s, and features Australian actress Emily Browning (2003’s Ned Kelly) as a young woman whom we come to know as Baby Doll, along with Vanessa Hudgins (lately seen locally in the aptly-named Beastly).
Baby Doll has accidentally shot her younger sister while trying to take out her evil stepfather, who has designs upon his late wife’s estate.
To shut the surviving daughter up, the father has Baby Doll committed to the local insane asylum, a gruesome facility right out of the ’40s movie The Snake Pit.
Festooned with armed guards, it’s really – if you can believe it – a front for a brothel, where local bigwigs go to watch its all-girl population dance, then stick around for extras.
If you can handle this so far, more power to you. But the film veers right off the rails with the fantasy sequences envisioned by Baby Doll as she dances and plans her escape from the asylum.
They’re completely irrelevant to the plot’s development, but do feature plenty of provocatively-clad girls blasting their way with machine-guns through landscapes of fire-breathing dragons, giant samurai warriors and ghoulish World War One German android troops, (“Don’t worry about killing them, they’re already dead”, intones the girl’s grizzled, battle-scarred commander).
It’s completely gratuitous exploitation, designed by director Zack Snyder (Watchmen) to turn on his fan base of male adolescent graphic novel devotees, and it gets awfully tiresome pretty quickly.
Red Riding Hood plays at 7:15 and 9:30at the Qwanlin Cinema, and is rated PG for violence and coarse language. Sucker Punch plays there at 7:00 and 9:15, and is rated 14A for violence.