Tag Archives: Tilda Swinton

Snowpiercer Review, A Science Fiction tale of Revolution

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Snowpiercer

Directed by: Bong Joon-ho

Starring: Chris EvansSong Kang-hoGo Ah-sungJamie BellAlison PillJohn HurtTilda SwintonOctavia Spencer, and Ed Harris

Tales of oppression have been told many times and the poor rising up against the rich is a common theme. Last year Elysium and the year before The Dark Knight Rises both told interesting variations of this tale but neither did it in a way that Snowpiercer did it. Snowpiercer is a visually stunning and philosophically intriguing, in the end it is hard not to find something for everyone in it. Each single act has a different purpose and thrives when doing so. Blockbusters now a days fail to live up to anything interesting while at the same time delivering the action and excitement that fuels Snowpiercer’s every scene.

Based on the French comic book Le Transperceneige, Snowpiercer tells the story of an experiment gone wrong causing the world to freeze over and the only survivors are housed in a train that runs across the world. The train never stops and keeps everyone safe from the freezing cold outside. The year is 2031 and the state of the society on the train is in shambles. After many failed revolutions, the men and women of the tail end of the train decide that revolution is the way to go. Lead by Curtis Everett (Chris Evans), the tail end members begin making plans to overthrow the rest of the train.

Everett has devised a plan to get to the front of the train and take control of the all-powerful engine. With the help of fellow tail end members, Edgar (Jaime Bell), Namgoong Minsu (Song Kang-ho), Tanya (Octavia Spencer), and others, storm the preceding cars and overthrow the evil ruler Wilford (Ed Harris) and Mason (Tilda Swinton). Their plan is to rid the train of any prejudice and make the remaining crew members live together in harmony.

Snowpiercer is a movie attempting to be two different movie and succeeds, for the most part. It is trying to be an action movie as well as a commentary and the oppression of society. It shows just how badly the rich oppress the poor in an attempt to use them for their own benefit. Each train car is a different parts of society and different places in our society, it’s most shown that the tail end is for the poor and the rich get the front of the train. In the middle are places derived for each social classes. The tail end has to work in certain cars providing for everyone while the rich get cars with sushi and a school. The commentary is bluntly obvious and really shows just how badly the poor do have it in society. It succeeds with showing us the struggle to gain freedom that certain parts of society have to go through.

Snowpiercer is a technical marvel. Shot on a very limited budget but the effects are more convincing that some movies with bloated budgets. The cinematography is dark and seedy but gives you a look into the live of those in poverty but at the same time shows the luxurious side of the rich but never really changes the grittiness of it. The action is well shot and brutal. One scene that baffles me is the scene where the revolutionist are fighting a bunch of masked men. It is weird simply because the masks are covering everything on their faces except their mouths. It is weird but also very enjoyable. I don’t quite understand the logic behind it but the way that it was handled was great.

 The acting is also great. Chris Evans yet again, after Sunshine, proves that he is more than Captain America. He gives Curtis a sympathetic edge to his character while also showing that he can bring emotions to a performance. The scene between Song Kang-ho and Chris Evans is by far the greatest achievement in his acting career. The stand out of the movie is Tilda Swinton. She takes on some of the ugliest roles and just makes it her own. It is clear that she is having a hell of a time playing the evil and crazy spokesperson for Wilford. Every scene with her contains so much energy and enthusiasm from her that it is simply astonishing that she hasn’t received more recognition for her work.

What I didn’t like about the movie was that it felt 20 minutes too long. 30 Minutes is devoted to setting up the conflict, an hour is devoted to solving this conflict, and the last 30 minutes dealing with the fallout of said conflict. I liked the way the movie was set up but when the action slowed down and dealt with the moral nature behind their actions it takes away from the momentum of the movie. I liked what the issues brought up but I felt like they were spending too much time on it. The one scene that I felt was way too long was when the Teacher (Alison Pill) is telling everyone about how Wilford and the train came to be. I know it is needed exposition but it was dragged out way to an unbearable length and could have used some trimming.

Despite some flaws with the runtime, Snowpiercer is a hell of a ride and shows just how well you can balance action and story.

Grade: B+

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Nightcrawler Trailer

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Here is another film that is set to make it’s debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Jake Gyllenhaal isn’t a stranger of the festival as of late, both Prisoners and Enemy premiered there last year to praise for both of his performances and the vision of the director Denis Villeneuve. Nightcrawler seems to be banking on the very weird style and interesting storyline. I don’t expect this to be an award contender but it is certainly one of my most anticipated films of the year.

Lou Bloom, a driven young man who discovers the nocturnal world of L.A. crime journalism. Joining a group of freelance camera crews who film marketable mayhem, Lou makes his own place at the table, aided by Nina, a veteran of the blood-sport that is local TV news. Blurring the line between observer and perpetrator, Lou finds his calling in a murderous world reduced to transactions.

Directed by Dan Gilroy. Starring Jake GyllenhaalBill PaxtonRene RussoRiz AhmedEric Lange, and Jonny Coyne. Produced by Jake Gyllenhaal and Tony Gilroy and distributed by Open Roads Production.

Wes Anderson, A Whimsical and Unique Auteur

Wes-Anderson At first I wasn’t a fan of Wes Anderson’s filmography. I was young and I never understood the characters or the humor. Now that I have grown up, and I’ve evolved past the stage of like terrible movies. Anderson has cemented himself as a true auteur. In the beginning, with films such as Bottle Rocket and Rushmore, his films were muted and didn’t really contain all the tropes that a typical Wes Anderson film contains. The Royal Tennebaums is the film that I consider to be the beginning of the Wes Anderson that we know and love today.

Bottle Rocket/Rushmore Era

Independent comedies become a staple for the up and coming directors. With Bottle Rocket it gained the attention of critics but not so much with film goers. It was basically dead on arrive. It began  as a short film that gained a lot of traction at Sundance and it had everyone raving. He collaborated with his friend and writing partner Owen Wilson to pen a feature-length version of their popular short film. It contained his trademark sense of humor and had a unique story but it never really succeeds outside of the final act. To me it is his most problematic films. In the end Bottle Rocket can be considered a failure but it never stopped Anderson from moving along with his career.

Rushmore is really were his career took off. It is when his movies starting to become a kind of heightened reality. Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson used Roald Dahl’s kids book as inspiration for their tale of child angst within a prep school. Bill Murray ended up reading the script and liked it so much that he agreed to work on scale, which was estimated to around $9,000. The movie was able to capture what it is like to be a kid in a challenging environment. It is a smaller scale compared to his later films but his style started to pick up from here. The tracking shots that he is known for began here with a scene that involves the groundbreaking of an aquarium. The camera movement follows Max as he shows off his ideas for a new aquarium. It is the beginning of one Anderson’s most well-known trademark. Rushmore failed at the box office but managed to surprise critics and film goers alike.

The Royal Tennebaums through Darjeeling Limited

The Royal Tennebaums is when style becomes overloaded. Almost every frame in Tennebaums is symmetrical and well produced. This movie deals with a former famous family deals with their father, who is trying to enter back into their lives, and their fading popularity. To me this is the most cynical work that Wes Anderson has produced. Everyone is so hateful and every character has a problem with someone. Even though the movie is hateful the design and mise en scène of each scene is so well crafted and colorful that it kinda contradicts the storyline. This is also the movie in which is love for symmetry becomes apparent. All the time the characters are centered in the frame. So far this is considered his most popular film, gaining him an Academy Award Nomination and box office success.

Following The Royal Tennebaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited. Both were considered failures compared to his other films. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou follows similar tropes and had the same flare that is associated with his films but critics didn’t seem to like what they say. It failed at the box office and is currently Wes Anderson’s worst reviewed film. The Darjeeling Limited didn’t do any better. It is his most experimental film to date. He took his unique filming technique to India and used it to represent the style and life in a foreign country. Dealing with a similar storyline to The Royal Tennebaums, it still didn’t impress critics or audiences.

Fantastic Mr. Fox and Beyond

Fantastic Mr. Fox is the first animated film by Wes Anderson. It is a tale about a Fox that has to navigate life while a group of outraged farmers hunt him down. Given that Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson planned to do Rushmore as heightened reality based of a Roald Dahl book it’s quite ironic that Anderson eventually adapted one of his books. Given the failures of both The Darjeeling Limited and The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, a lot road on the success of Fantastic Mr. Fox. It ended up paying off. He used he trademark style and create an interesting take on animated films. It appears that Wes Anderson’s style is perfectly suited for animated feature films. Critics loved it and so did the audience and it eventually getting nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 2009 Academy Awards but lost to Up.

He followed up Fantastic Mr. Fox with his most critically acclaimed movie to date, Moonrise Kingdom. It brought him back to the time where he brought to life stores of children and there views on a world in which they are too young to know. His visual style is used to accomplish a child like tale of wonder and fascination. It debuted in the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 and went on to get him his third Oscar nomination and box office success.

His most recent release is now his biggest box office success and critically acclaimed movie. The Grand Budapest Hotel is his most stylized film. The production of each set is simply incredible and uses his love of hand drawn set pieces and miniatures as the set design. Ralph Fiennes simply chews the scenery as Gustave H. and is by far the most interesting character in his filmography. It spans multiple decades and is most interesting when he switches through time periods. To represents it he switches up aspect ratios for the respective decade. Wes Anderson achieves the best result with this movie and shows that no matter the story if directed by Wes Anderson you sure to have an interesting movie on your hands.

Though Wes Anderson has some movies that aren’t well received he has become a household name and a true to life auteur.