1st Snowpiercer Trailer for Mass Consumption!

Snowpiercer, movie, poster, Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Jamie Bell

Finally! A green-band trailer for Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer, and one that would seem to give us a better idea of what we can expect, at least in terms of narrative. The visuals, at least in my humble opinion have always been stunning.

In a future where a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet, a class system evolves aboard the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine.

Take a look:

via JoBlo
Here’s the international red-band trailer:

via Yahoo

This is a film that’s been trying to make it out of the gate for a long time. Director Bong Joon-Ho, who wrote the screenplay with Kelly Masterson (Before the Devil Knows You’re DeadSidney Lumet‘s last film), makes his English-language debut with Snowpiercer, discovered the French graphic novel, “Le Transperceneige”, on which it’s based, in late 2004 during pre-production of The Host. Rights were secured in 2005, but filming didn’t begin until April 2012. It went into post in July of that year and debuted in South Korea in August of 2013. It’s already screened in the rest of the world, including a stop at this year’s Berlinale, so the US gets it last, but at last we get it, thanks to the cutting-edge arm of The Weinstein Company, RADiUS-TWC.

With an international cast that includes Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Go Ah-sung, Jamie Bell, Ewen Bremner, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris, I hope it finds an audience. Sequels are already being planned based on other books in the series.

Snowpiercer gets a limited (there’s that word again – grrrrr) US release on June 27. Hopefully more cities will follow, but I have a feeling it will fare better via OnDemand.

What do you think? Will you look for it?

Bit of trivia: Bong and his production designer, Ondrej Nekvasil, designed the train to resemble a 1970s nuclear-powered submarine. Both the train and a sub from that era would have a similar average speed of 50km per hour.

 

Part Deux: Dance of the Demented Poodle

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…or “Popcorn for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner”

When I started the post about four films worth seeing that were all opening on the same weekend, I really hadn’t intended to see them all on that same weekend.  The project sort of took shape of its own volition and I felt compelled to see it through.

One of my very good friends and I used to do movie marathons on occasion and I think our record was six. In one day. We’d study the logistics and map out the theaters and show times as well as timing our travels around the city with the precision of a general leading an invading army into battle.  I also know that there are bigger, more well-traveled, more extensively-read bloggers than I who regularly attend something called the annual “Butt-Numb-a-Thon”, where they watch movies for 24 hours straight. My point is, it was certainly no hardship to see four films in a weekend. I don’t regret spending my weekend at the movies.  I just didn’t get much else accomplished that’s all. Oh well.

First up, on Friday night, was Limitless.

It is an entertaining film as long as the viewer is able to check the 20% of their own brain currently in use at the door. There are some serious plot holes and some threads that are just left flapping in the breeze, however, it’s also a lot of fun if you can just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Bradley Cooper must have been sleeping with Director of Photography, Jo Willems.  He looks fantastic in this movie. The camera certainly makes good use of the actor’s amazing eyes.  There are lots of closeups. It’s also worth noting how much better looking he gets, the smarter he gets. As if it’s not enough that with the drug there are no limits (Limitless, get it?) to what he can do and achieve with his brain, we have to add sex into the mix or else it’s all for naught. (Apparently the filmmakers are unclear on the concept that smart and talented is sexy.)

Willems certainly wasn’t sleeping with Anna Friel. In her first scenes (which are flashbacks) I thought I was looking at Evangeline Lilly before I remembered Friel was in the movie. By the time she shows up again, she is truly unrecognizable. I know it was makeup, but sheesh. (Either that or the dissolution of her long-time relationship with David Thewlis has REALLY taken its toll!)

I don’t think I’m spoiling anything to say that Johnny Whitworth gets the Mark Strong Award for “Good Actors Cast in Tiny Parts in Big Movies”. And in this film, Friel shares it with him. I’ve been waiting for Whitworth to break out since The Rainmaker. Still waiting.  I’m hoping this will also lead to bigger things for Friel. “Pushing Daisies” was terrific, but it ended over two years ago. She’s also in the much anticipated (by me) London Boulevard. Hopefully that will see the light of day soon.

I loved Andrew Howard’s Russian gangster. A lot of the reviews I’ve read seem to be saying that an old school villain like Gennedy has no place in a movie like this, with such a modern premise.  I disagree.  Considering how he became involved with Morra, I think what came next is entirely plausible (within the unplausible context of this story.) Granted, I do have to agree that more could have been done with the character and his relationship to Cooper’s, but this wasn’t his story. And if you’re going on the ride at all, you have to be prepared to endure the bumps.

I have to say DeNiro is more DeNiro than we’ve seen in a long time, but he’s still not as DeNiro as he could have been. This was the DeNiro of Righteous Kill not Heat (to contrast two films with both DeNiro and Pacino).  Regardless, he’s always a joy to watch.

Abbie Cornish was underutilized. JMHO, but anyone could have played Lindy. Maybe you disagree.

I really enjoyed the trippy techno soundtrack music. I think I’ll have to see the movie again before I decide whether or not to add it to my collection.

I have to say, Roger Ebert summed up Limitless perfectly: “{It} only uses 15, maybe 20 percent of its brain. Still, that’s more than a lot of movies do.” I recommend it, although it will lose nothing in the translation from big screen to home viewing.

On Saturday morning, me and a handful of geeks bounced into the theater to see Paul. I’m quite sure some of them had already seen it at least once. The excitement in the air was tangible. The movie did not disappoint. It was, in a word, hilarious. The script, co-written by its two stars, must have contained a reference to every sci-fi movie made in the last 30+ years. (I’m sure I missed some of the references and will have to see it again if I hope to catch them all.) Filming part of the movie at Comic Con (and indeed using it as the jumping off point for the plot) was inspired. It was obviously a labor of love and a valentine of sorts to comic book geeks and sci-fi nerds.

Seth Rogan as the voice of Paul, is pitch perfect. I honestly can’t remember when, since "Freaks and Geeks", that I’ve enjoyed a performance of his more.  It’s also evident in his voice that he was enjoying himself as well. Indeed, it looked to me like everyone involved was having a great time. Perhaps that’s because I was following Simon Pegg’s Tweets while they were making the film, but I don’t think so.  I suspect there will be one hell of a blooper reel on the dvd (or at least I hope so.)

I’m trying to remember a comedy team with which to compare Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Their timing can be compared to Abbot and Costello or Martin and Lewis, and Nick Frost certainly has the sweet charm of a Lou Costello or 50’s era Jerry Lewis, but Simon Pegg is nowhere near as arch as Bud Abbott or as suave as Dean Martin. Over the course of three films and a television series, their chemistry has not been diluted at all, probably owing to the fact that they are close friends. Some of the best laughs in Paul come from just a look or a tilt of the head between them. Indeed, the bromance is at the heart of the film. Not only is it laugh out loud funny, it is also very sweet, in an ET kind of way, as well as a ‘we all have to grow up sometime and realize our true potential’ kind of way.

While I don’t remember most of the soundtrack, I will say it was nice to hear some ELO again.

I recommend this one as well and again, I don’t think it will lose much in the translation to home viewing.

After the credits rolled on Paul, I went immediately in to see The Lincoln Lawyer.

The opening credits of a film should be used to set the tone for the movie, but rarely are they to such good effect as for this film.  We get our first taste of the incredible 70’s flavored R & B soundtrack that is to come and the bold graphics reminded me of countless movies from the 70’s from Shaft to Death Wish to Prime Cut. I even got a bit of an Across 110th Street vibe, although that one is set in New York and this is totally an LA movie.

I’ve read a couple of references in reviews of this movie to both The Long Goodbye with Elliot Gould and Twilight (Not the one with the vampire angst, the one with Paul Newman, Gene Hackman and James Garner.)

The former is an updated (at the time) take on Raymond Chandler from the 70’s in which Gould played Philip Marlowe and the latter is about an aging ex-cop turned PI. It was made in the late 90’s, but they share a "feel" with this movie. It was definitely this particular flavor of LA that the director was going for.

I knew nothing of Brad Furman before this film and judging from his CV on imdb, there’s not much to know. I’m not sure what anyone saw in him to make them think he was capable of making a multi-million dollar movie, let alone one with any nuance, but, JMHO, I think their faith was justified. I really like what he did with this. 

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The story itself was one you’d think would be more at home on the mean streets of New York, but instead they used LA (because the writer of the books did, I realize) and made it almost another character.

The color palette was very muted, almost washed out. This was the LA where ordinary people live and work. As McConaughey’s character Mick Haller rolled down the streets in his late model Lincoln, he did so past railroad tracks and cement gulleys (like in To Live and Die in LA) or small houses.  It was all very sun bleached, not quite seedy, but by no means glamorous. (I actually think the house in the hills in which Haller lived was used in Twilight, although I won’t swear that was the film.) They seemed to be using natural lighting.  Everyone, with the exception of the preternaturally cool Ryan Phillippe’s character, had a sheen of sweat that would come from existing in the heat of Southern California.

I can never get enough of William H. Macy. He’s one of the most talented actors alive and when he shows up looking like he could be Easy Rider-era Dennis Hopper’s younger brother, you know you’re in for a treat. He’s not on screen for nearly long enough. The same can be said of Michael Pena and John Leguizamo, who tones down the crazy in this one. Speaking of toning down the crazy, Frances Fisher finally dimmed her hair color so she looks less frightening. Ironic.

Uber-Douche played an Uber-Douche (although to be fair he was also a sociopath. Not sure if he is in real life or not.) I suppose I ought not to continue to refer to Ryan Phillippe in this manner, but I thought I should carry it through from my last post. I just don’t get his appeal. What was “pretty” in his 20s is now just “soft” in his 30s, and it’s just too much and yet not enough for me to take seriously.

I do have to say, that Marisa Tomei looks incredible. Better than she did at 25. As an actress, she’s light years from where she was at 25 or even 29 (when she won an Oscar.)

That funky soundtrack is worth coming back to. There are some original classics, some remixes and some that were complete modern remakes and they all completely jibe with the film; a soundtrack in the truest sense. In any case, I will be adding it to my collection.

Finally, Matthew McConaughey went a long way toward redemption in my eyes with this one. Speaking of eyes, one of the things he’s always done really well is to let his emotions play through his and he uses that talent to good effect here. Even before this movie was finished, I was thinking about how I wanted more of this character.  This felt like it was somewhere in the middle of the series and I know that there are many more books featuring Mickey Haller. I want to know how he got where he was and where he’s going next. I wouldn’t mind seeing this become a franchise, as long as they continue to do them right.

The Lincoln Lawyer was not a perfect movie, but I really enjoyed it.

Finally, on Sunday morning, came the film that I was undoubtedly looking forward to the most: Jane Eyre.

Oh, Focus Features, I forgive you for so shamelessly toying with me. Your film was well worth the enhanced anticipation you created by making me wait an additional week and in fact, you had me at the title card.

Cary Fukunaga, with all of two major films on his resume has positioned himself to be a cinematic force to be reckoned with. It’s staggering, considering how young he is, to think of the career that is ahead of him. Back-handing away any notion of a sophomore slump, he followed up the beautiful Sin Nombre with the equally beautiful and haunting Jane Eyre. On the surface, these two films could not be more different, but at their core they are both about the fragility and resilience of the human spirit. Fukunaga has created a film as beautifully and deftly as any old world master would put paint to canvas.

I’ve seen many versions of this story and they all have something to recommend them. This one is my new favorite.  Screenwriter Moira Buffini’s choice to land us in the middle of the story and use flashback to fill in the gaps helped to make it seem fresh. It was the most atmospheric and gothic production, although two recent BBC versions came close, that I can recall. It was again augmented by the use of natural light, which in those days meant a few candles and a hearth.  When Jane creeps through the dark hallways of Thornefield Hall holding a single candle, we only see as much as she sees, all of us waiting for something to jump out of the darkness. There is an instance where the entire audience did jump and it happens in broad daylight (well, as broad as it gets in the north of England,) but I won’t spoil it here.

The chemistry between the two leads was palpable from their first exchange. When they are onscreen together, everything and everyone else falls away. This scene that I showed you a few weeks ago, encapsulates all of that (and would have shown again if my post weren’t "too big".)

What I said at the time,This is the hottest piece of celluloid that I have seen in a LOOOOOONG time. I can’t stop watching it. And every time I do, I sit here with my mouth agape and my chest heaving with the effort to resume the breath caught in my throat, a hot tickle in my stomach…

TMI? Or the ultimate compliment to the palpable sexual allure of Michael Fassbender, an allure that has heretofore not so much remained hidden, but severely underutilized.”

I thought I was prepared. I thought I’d seen it so often that the magic had worn off, that I couldn’t possibly “feel it” the way I did the first time I saw it. I was wrong. Think about the frame of that scene a thousand times larger, with that voice booming out in Dolby THX (or whatever the hell the sound system at your local theater is)…imagine that and you’ll begin to get an inkling. It not only still took my breath away, but it rocked me to my toes. It was quite simply…erotic. Considering that the participants were both fully clothed and only their hands touched, that’s saying something.

Beyond all of that, (and frankly because of all that, Fassbender and Wasikowska could have been acting on a bare stage,) the English country side was used to spectacular effect. Just as LA became another character in The Lincoln Lawyer, so did the moors of northern England in Jane Eyre. It is easy to forget that England is geographically such a small country when there seem to be so many vast areas that appear to remain untouched, natural and wild and mostly uninhabited. In the film, as in the novel, the harsh landscape is a reflection of Jane’s life. We see it flower and bloom very briefly when Jane does, but for the most part it is harsh and unyielding.

The supporting cast, led by Dame Judi Dench as the housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax and Jamie Bell as St.John Rivers, is all marvelous, as is befitting a movie made in a country where it appears every one of its citizens lives to act.

I must also mention the score by Oscar winner Dario Marianelli. (He won in ’07 for Atonement and was nominated for 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.) Gorgeous, just gorgeous. Actually, lush is a better word.  It’s not too early for me to predict another nomination.

JMHO, but the entire thing was utterly swoon-worthy and I can’t wait to see it again. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this one and I’d go so far as to say, see it, if at all possible, on the big screen. It will no doubt play well at home, but the sight and sound of 10 ft. tall Fassbender is worth the price of the ticket.

May I also just reiterate what a joy it is to see a movie at an art-house where only adults go to see movies? Not only were there people waiting for the doors to open for the first showing of the day (and not just for Jane Eyre, but obscure films like Poetry,) but inside the theater you could have heard a pin drop throughout the entire movie. (Unlike Limitless where I had to endure the five kids from the nearby technical high school that acted like they were on a field trip and came in 15 min. in, parked themselves next to me in the front row and proceeded to talk to the screen and to each other the entire time. Between them and the transient loudly SNORING at the end of the row, you people are lucky you didn’t see me on the news.)

Thus endeth my weekend at the movies.

As always, thanks for reading. Next up, Win Win on Wednesday night!

Dueling Centurions: The Conclusion

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After much anticipation…seriously, what seemed like years of anticipation, and in fact, the first post I did about it was 24 August 2009, I finally saw The Eagle (of the Ninth).

Meh.

I wish I could leave it there. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone else still planning to see it and everyone should be allowed to make their own judgments, but I need to get this out and move on.

I’m disappointed on a number of levels, not the least of which is the amount of screen time given to Mark Strong. When production began on the film and details started to be released, it was revealed that Strong would be a ‘good guy’, in and of itself enough to cause a flutter of excitement given his recent spate of villains. But by the time he actually shows up in this film, I had forgotten he was in it. He has one good scene, albeit with an American accent, and then disappears. (I’ll say no more on that score.) All I can think is “what a waste”. 

Seriously, why cast an actor of Strong’s caliber if you aren’t going to give him anything to do? (Sorry, climbing out of the mist looking menacing is not enough.) Director Kevin Macdonald might as well have cast Dimitar Berbatov*. I have to wonder if the rest of Guern (Strong’s character) didn’t end up on the cutting room floor, along with the rest of the source material’s title.

Another actor I was looking forward to seeing was Douglas Henshall. I completely forgot about him until I saw the credits. Where the hell was he? Supposedly he was someone called “Cradoc”, but I’ll be damned if I know what that was and I certainly didn’t recognize him. (Oh well, I’ll have to wait for dvd to find him, since I’m not spending another $11.50 to do it.)

I still don’t get Channing Tatum’s appeal. I do realize that I’m not his target audience, which seems to consist of the teenage girls who swooned over him in GI Joe and Dear John, and who will no doubt be the core group of The Eagle’s ticket buyers. He’s not the worst actor I’ve ever had to endure, he’s just kind of…meh. What’s worse, is that he brought down Jamie Bell, who is a good actor, to his level. (And was it just me or were their matching ears a little disconcerting?)

Okay, now that I’ve gotten all of that bitching out of my system, I can, hopefully, discuss the film in a somewhat intelligent manner.

In the context of comparing the two recent films dealing with the infamous “lost legion” of the Roman army in ancient Britain, there is, JMHO, no comparison.

Both films take place in 2nd century Britain, north of Hadrian’s Wall in what is now Scotland. Both films make great use of the natural landscape and have moments of stunningly beautiful cinematography.  While Centurion managed to make sweeping vistas of the snow covered highlands breathtaking, The Eagle made the country look exceedingly stark and harsh. One thing, though, that I do not understand, is the propensity of film-makers to make one of the most gorgeous places on earth (Scotland)  seem so bleak, like it exists in perpetual winter. 

Both are tales of natives vs invaders, much like American cowboys and Indians westerns. In Centurion, the invaders were the underdogs trapped behind enemy lines, ostensibly trying to rescue their captured leader, but who ultimately just wanted to get out and get home.  In The Eagle, the invaders purposefully crossed over into enemy territory, this time to get back a captured symbol of not just leadership, but the superiority of Rome and her army. Again, the tension supposedly supplied by the question of whether they would make it back alive.

Herein lies the rub. In both cases we are asked to root for the Romans as “the good guys” and care about their mission and their survival, just as we do for the cowboys. The difference is that I did buy into that in Centurion, I did not in The Eagle. I didn’t feel any of it. I blame most of that on the lead’s lack of charisma (probably not fair to compare him with Michael Fassbender in this or any context) and his seeming inability to generate empathy, not to mention the fact that I did not perceive any chemistry between Tatum’s Marcus Aquila and Jamie Bell’s Esca. Unfortunately, the entire movie hangs upon this relationship.

By trying to tell the story of what may have happened to the lost Eagle of the 9th Legion while at the same time creating a ‘buddy’ picture, director Kevin Macdonald fails to do justice to either one.  We’re meant to believe that Esca would feel so honor bound by one simple act on the part 0f Marcus that he would forget about not only all of the atrocities and horrors committed on his people as a whole, but his own family in particular.  I didn’t buy it for a second and could see no reason why Bell’s character wouldn’t kill Tatum’s in his sleep and wear his skull for a hat.

And without revealing too much, I just have to say that that “21st century bromance” ending would have jerked me out of the moment…had I been in it in the first place.

In fact, the only characters I did believe were Donald Sutherland’s Aquila, Ned Dennehy’s Seal Chief and Tahar Rahim’s Seal Prince. The latter was able to do more in his few scenes, with just his dark eyes burning out of his mud covered face, than Tatum did with an entire movie revolving around his finely chiseled features.

Centurion was a naturalistic hard R, while The Eagle was like a bloodless Howard Hawks western that worked hard at maintaining its PG-13. Somewhat understandable given the target audience of the source material and the one the makers were hoping to cultivate with the film, but basically it boils down to how much fun I had watching Centurion and how badly I just wanted The Eagle to be over.

Meh. JMHO

(out of 5)

*Mark Strong is often said to resemble either actor Andy Garcia or Manchester United forward Dimitar Berbatov