Quick Takes: Hardware, Snowpiercer, Brotherhood of Blades

968fullHardware (1990)

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)

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)

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.

Book Review: Snowpiercer, Vol. 2: The Explorers (1999/2000)

SnowPiercer_2Snowpiercer Vol. 2: The Explorers [Le Transperceneige: L’arpenteur] (1999)
Snowpiercer Vol. 3: The Crossing [Le Transperceneige: La traversée] (2000)
First published in English by Titan Comics, 2014 (in a single volume)

Written by Benjamin Legrand

Art by Jean-Marc Rochette

Expectations: Moderate.

The end of the first Snowpiercer volume is quite definitive. There’s seemingly little room for a sequel, and even less need for one. But this ending — like a lot of the book — does leave quite a few unanswered questions, so I went into Vol. 2 hoping for some better understanding of these threads. I can’t say that Vol. 2 really does that, though, as it actually just introduces its own share of unanswered questions.

The grand point, I suppose, is that these little mysteries of life are rarely explained and never will be. It is a part of life to wonder and to continue on with what knowledge we have. It is also a natural part of humanity to question and challenge authority, so the story is always informed by the central question: Would you prefer pleasant, placating lies meant to control and influence you, or the hard, honest truth? Like similarly themed stories (Dark City, The Matrix, countless Woody Allen films), it all comes down to whether an individual is happier believing in fantasy or knowing reality.

Continue reading Book Review: Snowpiercer, Vol. 2: The Explorers (1999/2000) →

Book Review: Snowpiercer, Vol. 1: The Escape (1984)

SnowPiercer_1Snowpiercer Vol. 1: The Escape [Le Transperceneige: L’échappe] (1984)
First published in serial form in À Suivre, 1982
First published in English by Titan Comics, 2014

Written by Jacques Lob

Art by Jean-Marc Rochette

Expectations: High.

Snowpiercer is a graphic novel that is just coming to prominence in the West. It has recently been translated and published in English for the first time by Titan Comics, in anticipation of Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 film version that will hit the States at some point in 2014. The film is Bong’s English-language debut, as approximately 80% of the film was shot in English, with notable American stars — Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, etc. — filling out many of the roles. So with that in mind I dove head-first into the unique and desolate vision of the future that Snowpiercer provides.

The title refers to the unique setting of the comic, a 1001-car train which never stops. At some indiscriminate point in the book’s past, there was a cataclysm that caused the Earth’s climate to be completely and irrecoverably damaged, sending our world into a neverending, harsh winter too cold for humans to survive. What remains of human civilization is aboard the Snowpiercer, but even in these dire times social classes and economic inequality segment the population. Those in the tail cars are cramped together and left without food to eat or even windows to provide light; they are prisoners of a rolling ghetto (to use one of the book’s terms). Meanwhile, those in the cars closer to the engine live in luxury.

Continue reading Book Review: Snowpiercer, Vol. 1: The Escape (1984) →

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