Snowpiercer

Hi everyone! Today we’ll be taking a look at the South-Korean sci-fi film Snowpiercer. Starring Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, and Ed Harris, the film is rated R for violence, language and drug content.

Snowpiercer follows a post-apocalyptic Earth in which a failed climate-change experiment sends the world into an Ice Age, killing everyone except for a select few who board the “Snowpiercer”, a train that travels around the world non-stop. On the train, a class system emerge, and Curtis (Evans) and Edgar (Bell) attempt to make their way to the front of the train, evening out the inequalities along the way.

8 out of 10

It’s refreshing to see something so cool like Snowpiercer, even if it isn’t from Hollywood (even if the cast is primarily famous American actors). I definitely would not have seen it if Evans, Bell, or Harris weren’t in it, so the inclusion of famous American actors was a very smart choice by the South Korean producers. It helped that these actors lived up to their regular standard as well. Chris Evans delivered a surprisingly strong performance as a perennial bad-ass on his way to revolt against the remains of humanity. He was brave and sharp, yet had fears that made him vulnerable. I really liked his character for that, even after the mistakes of his past (I would tell you what they are, but it is a bit of a spoiler) cloud his character.

Jamie Bell, Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, and Octavia Spencer all deliver fine performances as well. They are all very unique, interesting characters and my only regret is that none of them (specifically Jamie Bell) receive the same amount of attention and development that Chris Evans’ character does. You might be wondering how I can expect this, since Chris Evans is, quite frankly, the protagonist. And you might be right. However, I just felt a lack of connection and empathy towards the recurring characters, specifically Bell’s and Hurt’s. However, this is not to say their characters are bad: I just wish we could build more of a connection to them. When something tragic happens to them (and let me tell you, a lot of tragic things happen to them) we really don’t feel nearly as engaged as we would with Chris Evans’ character.

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The tone and storytelling of this film were very good. It was gritty, dark and exciting. The action was engaging and frequent, though moments were spared for solid, relevant dialogue. There was no superfluous dialogue and every word spoken was meant to further the plot, establish the setting, or just be purely entertaining. It’s great when a movie is straightforward like that: no nonsense.

However, one big thing this film was missing was good effects. The effects in this movie were very subpar, to put it plainly. I won’t go too far in my trashing of the effects since it can be attributed to a relatively low budget, but the outside world did not look realistic at all. Most of the film takes place inside the train, with occasional glimpses of the outside world. Those occasional glimpses didn’t look like glimpses at the outside world, more like glimpses at crappy CGI work. In the end, it didn’t really take anything out of the film, thankfully. But man, would it have added to it.

Overall, I’d recommend checking out this film. It’s an interesting exploration of social classes, with an interesting new take on it the topic time. Though about 20% of it is in Korean, this has virtually no impact on the comprehensibility of this film (if you have subtitles, of course). Snowpiercer is a really compelling, entertaining film that takes risk you will no doubt enjoy.
~Vig

8 out of 10

We talked about anthropomorphic apes last week so let’s move on to a (even more mature) movie about….people…of different classes…on a train….during the future….which is in an ice age.

As you can see, Snowpiercer is one of those movies that asks the audience to cement some of its logical gaps themselves so they can fully delve in to the world it has to offer (A pretty awesome one at that). In fact, I remember a handful of my friends saying it was “unbelievable” and “so good” but few of them could describe the actual movie.

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That’s how complex it is. Snowpiercer has an environment that would take multiple volumes to set up but it must make due with its 120 minute mark; a daunting task that becomes impossible when you throw in character development and even logistically moving the story from script to screen but Snowpiercer does it. And, man, does it do it well.

As I said last review, one of the purposes of sci-fi is to kind of step back to take a look at humans and their quirks. What can humanity survive exactly? Why can’t we, even in disaster, cooperate?

Snowpiercer is one of those one-in-a-million premises that examines these questions (Among others) nicely. The entire setup (Which probably sounded completely ridiculous on paper) just loans itself to a plethora of ideas. This movie gives itself a lot of directions which is a very important virtue. It may sound pretty basic (All of humanity stuck on one choo-choo train? How absurd!) but it builds a complex world around it.
I also enjoyed the use of practical effects and sets. You can tell that the producers didn’t lazily push the actors in front of the green screen; instead, they took the time to build the railcars and effectively created a cramped yet interesting atmosphere. In addition, its harder for actors to do their shop in front of a hanging green sheet instead (See the Star Wars prequels).

And how about Chris Evans? These past two years have been awfully good to him and he finally has someone other than Marvel to thank. Chris Evans is a likeable lead who’s relatively flexible with his roles. In short, he’s come a long way from Fantastic Four and I’d certainly like to see more of him. The rest of cast work very well with their characters also.

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Overall, Snowpiercer was one rewarding flick. If you can suspend enough belief to get invested in its premise, you will not be disappointed. I guarantee it.

It’s been a good year for sci-fi, eh?
~Zach

 

IMDB: 7.0 
Metacritic: 84
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
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Filth

Hey everyone! Sorry about the long hiatus, but we’re back! This week, Sam and Nic will take a look at the Wolf of Wall Street-esque Filth, directed by Jon S. Baird. Rated R for  sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, language and some violence, it stars James McAvoy, Jamie Bell, and Jim Broadbent.

Bruce Robertson (McAvoy) is a corrupt cop and a bigot. He is also in line for a promotion, and will stop at nothing to get that spot. Bruce starts to turn his fellow cops against each other by stealing their wives and revealing their secrets. As he slowly starts to lose himself in the uncontrollable mess he has created, his drug habit, missing wife, and suspicious colleagues start to cripple his sanity.

3 out of 10

This film was heavily branded as being “from the creator of Trainspotting” and the trailer did everything it could to play up the British-dirty-crime-movie vibe. However, in trying so hard to fit into the Trainspotting, Guy Ritchie film category, Filth ended up simply copying cliches, creating a relatively plotless work quite utterly devoid of originality and (despite all of the sensationalism) one which barely kept my interest.

Filth quite literally had it all: corruption, drugs, alcohol, hallucinations, an overwhelming amount of penis discussion, parties, abuse, cross dressing, affairs, suicide, betrayal, violence—you name it. Every little thing you could possibly think of to make a movie more exciting was stuffed into an hour and a half time frame, as if the author or screenwriter took the most provocative part of every other movie in this genre and shoved all the pieces together.

In some movies, Wolf of Wall Street for example, the overwhelming sex, drugs, and partying works. The impact is striking and you feel absolutely awful watching, while at the same time being unable to take your eyes off the screen. In Filth, however, I didn’t feel anything. Maybe I’ve been exposed to too many films with extreme violence and sex and drugs, but this apathy is more likely linked to the fact that I didn’t care about James McAvoy’s character, Bruce.

The film makers tried too hard to make Bruce a bad boy who is really good at heart, and I believe that is what caused my lack of connection. Yes, he sneaks drugs into his only friend’s drink, yes he is having an affair with his colleague’s wife, yes, he threatens and abuses suspects, but honestly he’s a great guy. When a woman’s husband collapses on the street he helps out, and whenever he sees her again all of a sudden he is this sweet, sensitive man who is all alone in the world. At the end of the film he is coaching his “friend” and says “The truth is, people are just as scared of the world as you are. I’m scared of the world.” Wow. Deep stuff. Now, yes, I’d like to believe that even the hardest, most awful people out there are lonely and just want to be loved underneath it all, but having such forced depth of character just felt fake.

On top of it all, the film’s plot was incredibly weak. Nothing really happens besides Bruce fighting to get a promotion and occasionally having a terrifying hallucination of someone in an animal mask. All of the major plot points (spoiler alert) such as when we find out it was really him in Carol’s clothing, when we hear the story about him killing his brother, and when he commits suicide, felt calculated to make the movie more intense.

However, it would be unfair to totally disregard the limited redeeming factors. The colors of the film were really lovely, somehow saturated and muted at the same time, and it had an overall misty quality that was particularly appealing. Imogen Poots’ character had fabulous makeup, and James McAvoy’s nose crunching laugh made my heart melt. However, not even McAvoy’s sheer fabulousness could salvage a movie so sunk in the depth of banality.
~Sam

2 out of 10

“Same rules apply”. James McAvoy repeats this line again and again in his role as Detective Bruce Robertson in this adaption of Irvine Welsh’s novel. Yet even at the very end of the movie, I had absolutely no clue exactly what he meant by it. In this way, it is the rule not the exception in this weird movie. The director Jon S Baird seems to be trying to say something profound, but it all gets hopelessly muddled and confused somewhere between the people turning into farm animals and a bald-headed Jim Broadbent screaming “aye, aye” at Bruce.

images1494 copySome people will be drawn to this movie because of the big name on the source material. But this is not Welsh on the form of his debut Trainspotting. Instead, it comes off as a lackadaisical attempt to transport the bacchanalian tragedy of his earlier success 17 years later to the present day. When Ewan McGregor’s Renton says, “Choose your future. Choose life…. But why would I want to do thing like that” at the start of Trainspotting it comes off as astute, in touch and just plain awesome. Filth seems to be trying for the entire movie to achieve a moment like that and yet it never comes.

James McAvoy has had some practice playing Scots involved in less than savory affairs, having starred in Danny Boyle’s Trance last year. But where McAvoy could rely on Boyle’s showmanship and directorial gift in Trance to carry his lackluster performance, here he has no such luxury and his sub-par performance is made painfully clear. None of the other performances are any better. All the actors play to their gift-wrapped stereotypes so much throughout the film that any deviation comes off as out of place.filthrev620372

The film is also needlessly and annoyingly scary at some points. If you want to scare me at least do it cleverly. Don’t just have some random freaky creature jump out at certain intervals. These moments completed the actors’ and plot’s job, making the film extremely difficult to watch near the end.

Honestly I think I’ve already put in more effort into developing this review than the director put into the movie so I shall leave it here.
~Nic

IMDB: 7.1
Metacritic: 56
Rotten Tomatoes: 62%