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.

Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

moonrise-kingdom-international-posterStarring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban

Directed by Wes Anderson

Expectations: Moderately high. I’m not the biggest Wes Anderson fan.

threestar


Over the course of his small filmography, Wes Anderson has carefully honed his unique brand of sleek, hipster art design and Moonrise Kingdom may be the pinnacle of his ability to push the boundaries of the field. At least until his next film arrives. A Wes Anderson film is never mistaken for another filmmaker’s, each one bears the unmistakable attention to detail and meticulously constructed sets and visuals. So when you are somewhat indifferent to one of his films, that feeling kind of runs through all of his films. To be fair, I haven’t seen all of them (I’ve only missed The Darjeeling Limited), but I think it’s fair to assume that I’ll feel similarly about that one too.

Now having said all that, I think Moonrise Kingdom is easily one of Wes Anderson’s best films. But I still don’t really like it. It’s great, but it just ain’t my thing. For me it comes down to two things: the commendable, meticulous design and the pointed dialogue delivery his characters always use. While the perfect design is really cute and interesting to look at, I want to rebel against it. My gruff personality and my penchant for raw, ragged glory makes me want to jump into the movie and just muss everything up as much as possible. In my youth I never really understood why I felt indifferent to Wes Anderson’s movies, but this desire to destroy is definitely the main reason. It’s too perfect.

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