Snowpiercer (2014)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: July 11, 2014
Director: Joon-ho Bong

It is 2031 and life as we know it has come to an end. For 17 years, a small amount of survivors have eked out an existence on a technological marvel of a train called Snowpiercer that runs around the globe, never stopping, while the world outside is an icy wasteland. Inside Snowpiercer, a class system has arisen and one of the head figures in the lower class cars, Curtis (Chris Evans), has emerged to lead a rebellion against the higher class and move to the front of the train – following the cues of mysterious one-word messages that have been sent his way.

I guess I’ve been on a science fiction kick lately, because I watched this film, Edge of Tomorrow, and Interstellar all around the same time. I’d heard and seen previews for the other films, but for whatever reason I never really heard much about Snowpiercer aside from a couple of comments friends made about it. I decided to pick it up from Redbox.

First off, it was much better than I thought it’d be after the first few minutes. My initial reaction was “A train? Really? Oh, this is about climate change. How subtle.” As far as science fiction action flicks go, I liked this one a little better than Edge of Tomorrow. Not by a lot, but I liked the theme much better. Evans was decent as Curtis, the brooding and desperate leader of the lower class compartments, but I didn’t see much in the way of innovation with his character. He was basically just playing his role as Captain America, which isn’t a bad thing when it comes to action flicks but in terms of complexity we don’t see much with his depiction of Curtis.

One of the real joys of the film, though, was Tilda Swinton’s portrayal of the haughty and justified Mason. She was equal parts creepy, disassociated, and unlikable, with just the right amount of humor so she was more misguided and cowardly than downright evil. I am constantly impressed by not only the roles she takes on, but how well she plays them.

The action was really neat, with lots of little surprises in each new section of train the beleaguered rebels found themselves in. One particular scene has the rebels fighting against heavily-armored soldiers in one compartment of the train in a medieval style battle, which is really intense and fun to watch.

This was not a special effects-laden film, which I’m thankful for and probably part of the reason it felt more “real” to me than Edge of Tomorrow, aside from the obvious references to issues in the world we’re facing today. Some of the turns in the story were a bit predictable, and that aside from maybe some dull moments mid-film are what kept this movie from being even better than it is now. Still, it’s a very entertaining ride (seriously, no pun intended) and if you’re looking for some sci-fi action, this is a good choice. Check it out.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Snowpiercer

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Sin City (2005)

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Original Theatrical Release Date: April 1, 2005
Director: Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino

Basin City, AKA “Sin” City, is a vile place of corruption, sex, and murder. Marv (Mickey Rourke), Dwight (Clive Owen) and Hartigan (Bruce Willis) are just three hard-boiled characters with intersecting paths who are rays of light standing against the dark. Part comic book, part noir and all thrill – this adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel is very faithful to the source material.

Since the sequel to this film just came out, Sin City: A Dame To Kill For, I felt like I needed to bone up on this film franchise once more before seeing the new one.

The narrative layout of the film is interesting. Vignettes showing each “main” character and their interactions with the film’s secondary characters including villains and allies, makes the world of Sin City seem large and real. Most of the shots in the film are lifted right from Frank Miller’s pages of artwork and the casting was all done very wonderfully, particularly with Mickey Rourke as Marv. (Seriously, look at the guy). You also get to see Brittany Murphy in one of her last good roles before she died….and the same with Michael Clarke Duncan as Manute.

The special effects are all very stylized, very slick, but a couple of times they look wonky. Most of that was due to the artwork not translating well to film, because of how stylized Frank Miller’s artwork is. The black and white look of the film kept everything very visually appealing. The dialogue was great noir fare, if you’re into noir – but if you’re not into noir at all it may seem hokey and even terrible in spots.

If Robert Rodriguez and/or Quentin Tarantino were to direct a comic book film, Sin City was the perfect choice for them and you can tell that they had fun directing it, which means if you’re like me – you’ll have fun watching it.

If you’re looking for strong women characters, then this typical noir setting probably isn’t for you. The women of Old Town run their prostitution rings with cold efficiency, keeping the mob and corrupt police officers on the level, but that’s about it. Most of the other women in the film gasp and toss their hands against their foreheads while the men do the real work.

The one drawback to the film is that the three main characters – Marv, Dwight and Hartigan – are all fairly similar, making the story arcs seem pretty repetitive. Clive Owen was underwhelming as Dwight. Mickey Rourke nailed Marv (as I said before) and Bruce Willis was great as Hartigan. Rosario Dawson was kinetic as Gail, and Jessica Alba was decent as Nancy Callahan. Also, Elijah Wood was surprisingly creepy in his role as Kevin and Benicio Del Toro as Jackie Boy. They weren’t in the film for very long but they definitely added very interesting bits to the story.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Sin City

Frailty (2001)

Frailty (2001)

Original Theatrical Release: April 12, 2002
Director: Bill Paxton

A mysterious man named Fenton Meiks (Matthew McConaughey) confesses to FBI Agent Wesley Doyle (Powers Boothe) that his father (Bill Paxton) used religious fanaticism in order to get him and his brother to murder people he said were “demons”. Agent Doyle bites and listens as Meiks unravels a tale of religion and evil and murder.

First off, I need to say that this movie is severely underrated. Almost all of my friends, some of them even movie buffs, haven’t seen this film (until I force them to watch it). It was Bill Paxton’s directorial debut and he did a fantastic job with it, and also as the (maybe) fanatical father.

The talent in this movie really shines, especially from Powers Boothe (who is always great, in my opinion…the man can act, let’s be honest) but even McConaughey (who I think is so-so usually) did a great job. The child actors, Matt O’Leary (Young Fenton) and Jeremy Sumpter (Young Adam) turned in stellar performances as well and gave it a sort of Stand By Me feel.

We all know Bill Paxton. It’s hard to be scared of the man (amirite?!), but his quiet, matter-of-fact delivery in his role as Dad Meiks was a shining moment for him, I believe. I was truly terrified for the kids because of this character.

The movie has a lot of surprises in store for you and it’ll keep you guessing until the end with the way everything unfolds. WATCH THIS, or I will come to your house and make you watch it. Maybe. Probably not.

But I’ll be sad if you don’t. 😦

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Frailty

The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Original Theatrical Release: May 23, 1980
Director: Stanley Kubrick

Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) and his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) become the winter caretakers of a massive seasonal hotel in the mountains. At first, everything is ideal. Jack has all the space he needs in order to write his next novel while Wendy enjoys the beautiful scenery and time with their son, Danny (Danny Lloyd), who seems to have a form of autism. However, it’s not long before the Torrance family discovers that maybe they’re not alone in that big hotel, and that maybe it has dark secrets. The family begins to unravel and soon it becomes a fight for survival.

The Shining is scary even by today’s standards because it not only has the supernatural element of the haunted hotel ( who doesn’t think a massive old hotel is creepy in the first place?) but also a writer haunted by his own demons; alcoholism and anger among them. Seeing a family slowly unravel is scary enough but when there’s a little kid involved, most of us become extra-invested. Children are often defenseless against an adult in real life, let alone ghosts, and when your parents don’t believe that ghosts exist? Well, then, you’re outta’ luck, kid.

Jack Nicholson’s performance is right up there for me among the best I’ve witnessed because I’ve SEEN Jack Torrance before. I KNOW guys like that, who get drunk and take out their frustrations on the world around them. I immediately identify and sympathize with the kiddo and his mom. On top of that, we have Stephen King at his best writing the story that the screenplay was adapted from…and you have Stanley Kubrick, an amazing director with all those long, ominous shots (who doesn’t remember the camera going over the car as it’s winding through the mountain roads? Or the long shot of the hallway as Danny rides his Big-Wheel in hesitant fear?) It’s a horror masterpiece, where lots of amazing talent converged. None of the remakes have touched on its original terror.

JOE Rating:

Movie Trailer For The Shining