Snowpiercer (2014)

chrisevanssnowpiercer

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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Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014)

Original Theatrical Release: April 4, 2014
Director: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) struggles with the morality issues that accompany the new world he’s awakened to. He finds the United States Government takes a back seat to the power of S.H.I.E.L.D. and he wonders if he should continue the fight or step away from the underhanded dealings of his new employers. However, after Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) is targeted by a mysterious assassin known only as The Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), Rogers must team up with Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Falcon (Anthony Mackie) to get to the bottom of the new assassin’s identity and motives before it’s too late.

This film was an excellent sequel to the first film, Captain America: The First Avenger and a nice follow up to events in The Avengers.

Action, action, action – there was a ton of it here and since the film wasn’t primarily set in the 1940’s, we really get to see how Cap handles modern day threats….and he sure looks cool doing it.

Anthony Mackie gives an impressive performance as Sam Wilson/Falcon, and he pretty much stole the show as far as I’m concerned. I hope he shows up for Avengers 2! He’s that cool. Sebastian Stan also impressed with his portrayal of Winter Soldier, who provides a great antagonist to Cap and his team. Scarlett Johansson, of course, sizzled as Black Widow. She’s been doing a great job in that role. And on top of all that we get to see ROBERT REDFORD in a Marvel film? What? That’s so cool! One curious omission was Hawkeye. Where the heck was he in this film? As a member of S.H.I.E.L.D. I would’ve thought he’d be called in for all this governmental hullaballoo.

There was a lot of focus on Hydra in this film, so it was nice to re-touch on where they ended up in the modern world after the events in World War II.

This is a great film overall,  so go see it and make sure to stay for the extra scenes after the credits. There are a couple of teaser after-credits shorts, so make sure to stay for ’em all if you want to get all the tasty Cap morsels you can for your money. This film should tide everyone over until Guardians of the Galaxy comes out – I’m beyond excited for that movie to drop on us.

JOE Rating: ★★★★★

Movie Trailer For Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

Original Theatrical Release: July 22, 2011
Director: Joe Johnston

It’s 1942 and Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) wants desperately to join in the fight for his country during World War II. The problem is, he’s too scrawny and sickly. However, Doctor Erskine (Stanley Tucci) sees within Rogers something special and offers to change his sickly demeanor. Eagerly, Rogers accepts and changes his life forever as he is injected with the Super Soldier Syrum which enhances his strength, speed, stamina and agility. Steve then becomes Captain America, and must go up against the evil Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) with the fate of America and the world hanging in the balance.

Overall, I think they did a good job with Cap in this rendition of his character. Joe Johnston directs something that feels appropriately pulpy and 1940’s-retro-nostalgic.

The supporting cast is amazing, with talents such as Tommy Lee Jones, Stanley Tucci and others. Sometimes, I felt their individual talents were put to waste on such minor roles, but hey…it’s great that they’re even in the film to begin with.

I’m still not really sold on Chris Evans as Captain America, even after Captain America: The First Avenger and The Avengers. I guess I’ll have to see what I think once Captain America: The Winter Soldier comes out. I still really think of Evans as The Human Torch/Johnny Storm from The Fantastic Four. He was perfect for that character, but Steve Rogers had a lot of good-guy charisma, where Evans has cocky-guy charisma.

The action was all pretty decent and the special effects were neat for the most part. Most notable was how they managed to work their CGI magic and camera tricks on Evans to turn him into the 90 lb asthmatic he portrays at the beginning of the film. It looked really convincing for a good portion of when they showed him onscreen, even while he was shirtless.

If you love Marvel movies, you obviously have probably seen this…but you can also get behind this if you like action flicks or war movies or are just curious. I don’t think it’s really as good as Iron Man was, but it can hold its own (and sadly, might be better than Thor in some ways).

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Captain America: The First Avenger

Fantastic Four (2005)

Fantastic Four (2005)

Original Theatrical Release: July 8, 2005
Director: Tim Story

Reed Richards (Ioan Gruffudd), brilliant scientist, has a theory that there are clouds of cosmic energy that move through space which can trigger evolution. Convinced that one of these clouds will come close enough to Earth to observe and analyze from a relatively short distance away in space, he enlists the help of his longtime friend Benjamin Grimm (Michael Chiklis) to help him convince billionaire Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon) to let them use his private space station. He allows it, but only if the research is under his control. Doom then brings aboard his own genetics researcher Susan Storm (Jessica Alba) and her younger brother Johnny Storm (Chris Evans) who complete the team. When something goes unaccording to plan, everyone aboard the space station aside from Doom is hit directly with the cosmic energy cloud, granting them amazing abilities and altering their DNA structures. Becoming media darlings after a rescue, the four researchers must struggle with their newfound abilities and fame as the Fantastic Four.

Being a Marvel movie, I was pretty excited for this film when it came out. Up until then, we’d had a pretty decent Spider-Man movie as well as Blade and X-Men. I thought the Thing looked a little cheesy, but figured it’d be okay up on the big screen because he was being played by Michael Chiklis. Chris Evans seemed perfect for the character of Johnny Storm/The Human Torch. Jessica Alba didn’t initially sell me on being Susan Storm, but she’s hot so I figured I’d give it a chance. The guy who played Reed looked like he’d do well enough.

I was right about most of those initial thoughts. Michael Chiklis DID play Ben Grimm exactly how I’d want him to be played, but regardless of how well he acted…I have to say, that rubber suit was kind of atrocious. Not saying I wouldn’t love to wear it as a cosplay or something like that. It’s made really well but for the big screen in a movie that SHOULDN’T be full of camp, it added a sort of cheese factor that carried through to the rest of the film. Chris Evans was perfect for the role of Johnny Storm. Jessica Alba was hot, but was not Susan Storm (and there was some controversy because of her being cast as Susan Storm and the fact that she’s not mixed-race in the comic books). Ioan Gruffudd (crazy name!) was just okay as Reed Richards.

I loved Julian McMahon’s acting and presence in the show Nip/Tuck, but as Victor Von Doom…not so much. I never really thought of Doom as a whiny socialite, like Tony Stark from Iron Man without the class. It didn’t work.

On top of that, we had a story that while initially starting out not that bad meandered all over the place and didn’t really provide much in the way of action for an action film. The end battle with Doom was extremely anti-climactic and I didn’t feel like I’d used my time well by watching the film, aside from my unhealthy obsession with Jessica Alba.

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

I mean, how can you go wrong with this?

Give it a watch if you haven’t….see how it is compared to the upcoming 2015 reboot by Seth Grahame-Smith and Josh Trank. It’s still Marvel, after all. (Just don’t watch the second one with Silver Surfer…Jesus, that was bad).

JOE Rating: ★★

Movie Trailer For Fantastic Four

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim VS. The World (2010)

Original Theatrical Release: August 13, 2010
Director: Edgar Wright

Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) lives in Toronto, Canada and hopes to be successful with his band, Sex Bob-omb. He is still having trouble getting over his ex-girlfriend and has taken to dating a high school girl, Knives Chau (Ellen Wong), who is five years younger than he is. When Scott meets the much more mature Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), however, he entagles himself in a love triangle. But, that’s not all…if he wants to be with Ramona he has to defeat Ramona’s Seven Evil Exes…all with different sets of fighting abilities.

This is, of course, based on the Oni Press comics by Bryan Lee O’Malley of the same name and does a pretty good job (better than I expected, actually) of capturing the feeling of the book and artwork. The special effects are all pretty nice, aside from a few times where it looked pretty unrealistic (even in the context of the film…I call it the Storm-Syndrome because of Storm/Halle Berry flying up the elevator shaft in the first X-Men film…looked completely false and unrealistic and unnatural)

I thought Michael Cera was a good choice for Scott Pilgrim and also all of the Seven Evil Exes seemed to be spot on, especially Lucas Lee (Chris Evans) and Gideon Graves (Jason Schwartzman).

The movie moved at a pretty decent pace, I thought, but maybe could have either been shortened or made into a couple of movies if more detail was put in. Some viewers might think the movie is all flash and not be able to appreciate the novelty of the story’s premise.

There are, of course, tons of throwbacks to classic video games and that gives it a fun sort of edge.

JOE Rating: ★★★★

Movie Trailer For Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

TMNT (2007)

TMNT (2007)

Original Theatrical Release: March 23, 2007
Director: Kevin Munroe

The movie takes place after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, and is the fourth and final movie in the series, (at least for now) though this entry disembarks from the live-action method of the previous three films and goes to CGI. The plot revolves around ancient creatures coming to wipe out mankind, starting with New York City, and the TMNT must fix their differences if they don’t want to end up as turtle soup.

The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are pretty hard to mess up.

Initially, I was dubious about the CGI. My worries were unfounded, however, as the CGI was one of the best things about the entire movie. As much as the animatronics and rubber suits get me all nostalgic, the TMNT were brought so much more to life and we could actually get a better picture of their ninja skills.

Almost all of the best scenes in the movie were fight scenes, and I felt like there was a lot of wasted opportunity with the story. Sure, it’s nice to see the Turtles in action but the majority of the attention focused on Leonardo and Raphael. Not that those two aren’t cool, but I always hated how the wooden-weapon-wielders, Donatello and Michaelangelo, (say that five times fast) are never shown kicking shells as much as Leo or Raph.

Some of the voice talent was awesome like Sarah Michelle Gellar (April O’Neil), Chris Evans (Casey Jones), Patrick Stewart (Winters) and Laurence Fishburne (Narrator) but again, lots of it wasted on no story. I did like Leo and Raph’s standoff but it took too long to come to a head and the other characters seemed largely ignored. Kevin Munroe, the writer/director, seemed to have a clear vision of what he wanted to do but it doesn’t seem like it was enough to satisfy.

Overall, it’s fun (and is better than Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III) and your kids will love it because it’s very much a cartoon in guise of a full-length feature film. It’s worth watching if you love the TMNT but in the end, you’ll be wanting to just go back and watch the older stuff.

Also, check out my review of the Nintendo Wii game tie-in (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Smash-Up) that smacks of this movie’s artistic style, HERE

JOE Rating: ★★★

Movie Trailer For TMNT