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.

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)

superman4_1Starring Christopher Reeve, Gene Hackman, Margot Kidder, Mariel Hemingway, Jackie Cooper, Marc McClure, Jon Cryer, Sam Wanamaker, Mark Pillow, Damian McLawhorn, William Hootkins, Jim Broadbent

Directed by Sidney J. Furie

Expectations: I’m so excited.

On the general scale:
twohalfstar

On the B-movie scale:
threehalfstar


People don’t like this movie? Really? Please tell me why in the comments, because I just don’t understand it. The budget is definitely smaller here, and some of the flying looks noticeably bad. The story is a little jumpy, moving from one thing to the next somewhat haphazardly. And Superman’s adversary is Nuclear Man, a construct created by Lex Luthor from a strand of Superman’s hair who does a lot of yelling and acts like a pro-wrestler. Perhaps some of those reasons are your issues with the film? I’m still at a loss, because each and every one of those factors contribute to the stew of B-Movie awesome that is Superman IV: The Quest for Peace!

It’s the ’80s and the nuclear arms race around the globe is reaching critical levels. A schoolboy writes a letter to Superman, asking him to rid the world of its nuclear weapons, effectively disarming the world and the escalating situation. That might make the film sound like a really simplified call for world peace, but the film is much more concerned with entertainment than heavy-handed political messages. And besides, I’ve always enjoyed when comic characters are written into real world situations so I loved this aspect of the film. C’mon, Supes collects the nukes in a gigantic net in space and throws them into the sun for God’s sake! I don’t care what your political beliefs are, that’s thrilling cinema.

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Batman (1989)

Starring Michael Keaton, Jack Nicholson, Kim Basinger, Robert Wuhl, Pat Hingle, Billy Dee Williams, Michael Gough, Jack Palance, Jerry Hall, Tracey Walter, Lee Wallace, William Hootkins

Directed by Tim Burton

Expectations: High. This was THE movie when I was a kid.


Like Alien, Tim Burton’s Batman is a film I saw a lot as a kid. I will be unable to truly critique it objectively, but I’ll do my best to make the review something more than an adult reminiscing about his faded childhood years. I haven’t seen this one in many years, as I’ve always been somewhat afraid to do so, fearing that its ability to completely enthrall me would be lost. This is definitely not the case, though, as Batman continues to be a solid piece of superhero cinema. This isn’t the gritty world of Christopher Nolan, nor is it the wholly comic style of Adam West’s era, instead it is something of a middle-ground between them both. It works like a charm, and still remains one of film’s best examples of the superhero genre. Superman may have kicked off the genre in earnest, but Batman took that shit to the next level. I was a tender 8-year-old boy when I walked into the local cinema to view Batman for the first time, and I emerged with a new outlook on the world. The comics that I loved so dearly were up on the big screen; it was a glorious thing to watch two great loves of mine join forces. Tim Burton’s Batman has its share of flaws and missed opportunities, but it was the perfect film of my youth.

Watching the film today, I instantly noticed what was so great — and refreshing — about Batman. Where every first film in a series nowadays spends most of its time devoted to the character’s origin story, Batman just jumps into Batman being Batman right from the first scene. As Vicki Vale becomes more interested in Batman and Bruce Wayne, she eventually explores his past and some of the moments that made Wayne become Batman are revealed. Burton doesn’t spend too much time on these; Batman’s origin is nothing more than another of the film’s running sub-plots to be explored in the down moments. If only another superhero movie would have the balls to do something like this. As I write this the newest Spider-Man film has just been released. We’ve had three Spider-Man movies over the course of the last 10 years or so, not to mention 50 years of comics and general mainstream awareness of the character. But yet we are still faced with a Spider-Man movie that insists on re-telling the origin story. This is a big reason why I don’t care to see it in the slightest. Maybe I’ll come around to the sequel after all the bullshit is done.

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