Quick Takes: Hardware, Snowpiercer, Brotherhood of Blades

968fullHardware (1990)
threehalfstar

Starring Dylan McDermott, Stacey Travis, John Lynch, Mark Northover, William Hootkins, Carl McCoy
Directed by Richard Stanley

I’m surprised I haven’t heard more about Hardware over the years. It’s an ultra-fun killer robot movie that is legitimately frightening in parts, and it’s one of those rare genre films made with such visual flair and artistry that it could easily crossover into the more highbrow conversation on film. Absolutely fantastic cinematography is around every corner, as are tons of wicked gory delights. The robot does seem rather stupid at times, but if I reformed myself from a pile of scrap metal and broken parts I wouldn’t be all there either. This is the kind of movie to whip out when someone says disparaging things about low-budget movies.

snowpiercerSnowpiercer (2013)
twohalfstar

Starring Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ed Harris, Ewen Bremner, Go Ah-sung, Alison Pill
Directed by Bong Joon-ho

After reviewing the Snowpiercer graphic novels, I was really stoked to see what Boon Jong-Ho would make of them on-screen. Unfortunately, I wasn’t as thrilled with the results as I thought I’d be. Snowpiercer is a very entertaining film that moves quite briskly, but for a story all about class struggle I found it to be rather shallow. Tilda Swinton is brilliant in her supporting role, though. Definitely well-made and worth watching, but I guess I expected something more cerebral than this was. Even still, a great English debut for Bong.

brotherhood-of-blades-posterBrotherhood of Blades [繡春刀] (2014)
twohalfstar

Starring Chang Chen, Ye Qing, Chin Shih-Chieh, Wang Qian-Yuan, Ethan Li Dong-Xue, Nie Yuan, Zhao Li-Xin
Directed by Lu Yang

I think I might like Brotherhood of Blades better on a second watch. I would have my 50% knowledge of what was going on to build on, and I wouldn’t have any expectations that it was a wuxia film. It’s actually a period-set action drama with no supernatural elements, so I was rather disappointed that it didn’t live up to my expectations. As a period drama it excels, though. Fantastic costumes go a long way, and the cast Brotherhood of Blades wear some damn fine duds. The fights aren’t all that special, though, with unhealthy amounts of uninspired choreography, quick-cut editing, and the shutter speed thing from Saving Private Ryan. It makes for action that is VERY modern, and I’m just too old school to embrace it. Yes, even in 2015 when these techniques are at least 15 years old. If you like Chinese costume dramas and modern action, you should definitely try this one.

Alien (1979)

Starring Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Bolaji Badejo, Eddie Powell

Directed by Ridley Scott

Expectations: I love this shit.


I’ve never been much of a Ridley Scott fan, but goddamn if Alien isn’t a stunning, amazing piece of work. It’s undeniably one of the greatest genre films of all time, perfectly bridging the gap between science fiction, horror, and psychological thriller. There’s nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said about Alien, and even noting that everything’s already been said has been said ad infinitum. But still, I would like to share just a few of my observations during this most recent re-watch of one of my most favorite films.

When I was a kid, I watched this film several times, and its haunting, realistic, slow build-up to the reveal of the alien ship thoroughly grabbed me and refused to let go. To this day, this first hour or so of Alien is still my favorite, even though the Alien isn’t around yet. I enjoy this section for its ability to create a world, and give the characters a mystery to uncover that we can follow along with. These are just space truckers who got shafted; they are you and me thrust into the deep black of space and asked to investigate an alien ship. Ridley Scott’s camerawork is nothing short of perfect here, blending static, gorgeously composed shots with video footage from the ground team entering the ship. Just the use of video footage alone is ahead of its time and wonderfully effective, proving the point I was trying to make in my review of Chronicle about how the method of acquiring the footage is in certain cases directly proportionate to its ability to draw you in.

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Melancholia (2011)

Starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Kiefer Sutherland, Alexander Skarsgård, Cameron Spurr, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt, Jesper Christensen, Stellan Skarsgård, Brady Corbet, Udo Kier

Directed by Lars Von Trier

Expectations: High. I love most of the Von Trier films I’ve seen.


Ah geez, why can’t I watch the easy to review movies? While watching Melancholia I wasn’t sure if it was any good, or if I liked it, and now a few hours later I still feel the same way. A bit of my history with Lars Von Trier: I was taking my first college course (Film History) and the teacher was a big film snob dude who loved him some arthouse cinema. He offered extra credit to anyone that went down to Hollywood and watched Lar Von Trier’s latest film, Dancer in the Dark starring Bjork. I didn’t have anything better going, so off I went. At that particular time I was at the height of my own film snob phase, actively shunning nearly every modern film and focusing on watching all the classics (hence taking Film History). So when I sat down to Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark, it was with a scowl and a “Let’s see what this pompous fucker can do” attitude. By the end of the film, I was blown away. It had single-handedly renewed my faith in what contemporary cinema could be and made me instantly curious to see more of his work. I ended up watching The Idiots next, which I absolutely hated, but later films have proven to me that when he was on it, he was fucking on it.

I’ve been slacking in keeping up with his latest releases (I haven’t seen anything after Manderlay), but all the good buzz for Melancholia reawakened those feelings of love and I felt compelled to check it out. I knew next to nothing going in, other than it seemed to follow the general Von Trier story where a tortured woman copes with some fucked up situations. That woman is Kirsten Dunst in Melancholia, and cope with fucked up situations (on the grandest of scales) she does. There isn’t a lot of traditional plot so I won’t say too much, but the film opens with Kirsten Dunst’s wedding and kind of spirals off from there.

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