My first experience with Jesse Stone was one I don’t regret. The characters were well written, witty banter in places where it felt natural and the photography was absolutely stunning. Tom Selleck, from the moment he walked on screen, owned the role of Jesse Stone as if he was born for it and displayed just how far he’d come in terms of acting prowess. And for those interested in a super short review, I can gladly say that “Jesse Stone: Night Passage” continues these traditions.
“Jesse Stone: Night Passage” can actually be seen as the first movie in the series, at least chronologically, as it details Jesse Stone’s arrival in Paradise and his first case there. Having driven all the way from California for his interview, Jesse is ready to start over. And despite showing up to his interview stinking of alcohol and being brutally honest about why he was let go from the police force in Los Angeles, he lands the job as Paradise’s new police chief. Something that has Jesse worried. Because, as he puts it himself, he wouldn’t have hired him. Soon he finds himself caught up in a web of lies connected to the previous police chief and the mob working out of Boston.
“Night Passage” aims to show us the origin of Jesse Stone as we know him from the first movie. All the cast members return with the addition of Saul Rubinek and Stephen Baldwin. Robert Harmon is back once again though the cinematography is done by David Gribble.
Much like in the previous movie, the audience is clued into the mystery long before Stone is and it, again, leads to a bit of a weak finale. But much like in “Stone Cold”, the mystery is not the important part but instead the dive into Jesse Stone’s character is taken to another level. We’re given more of an insight into Jesse Stone’s past and his reasons for coming to Paradise in the first place. This is a man teetering on the brink of self-destruction, not quite able to stop himself from doing stupid things. Whether it’s kicking a suspect in the groin, driving cross country for a job he might not even get or drinking himself into oblivion every lonely night, it’s a man deeply unhappy with his life.
But the charming, intelligent Jesse we know from the previous movie is still there and despite his flaws, it doesn’t take long for the town inhabitants to come to trust him. His brutal honesty, though at first off-putting, quickly wins many over and earns him a reputation as a ‘stone cold’ police chief who doesn’t necessarily follow the law to the letter.
This, with his police intuition, is what puts him on a collision course with Stephen Baldwin’s character, Joe Genest and let me tell you, few people play sleaze as well as the Baldwins. Call it genius casting, but Stephen Baldwin fits so well as Joe Genest that it’s easy to forget the many low-budget direct-to-DVDs he’s been in.
Saul Rubinek plays the town council-member Hastings Hathaway, a slimy banker who seems intent on keeping Jesse Stone as the chief, thus sort of implicating himself in the conspiracy. But over the course of the movie he’s painted as a sympathetic character struggling with his own life and simply made some really bad choices that kept spiraling out of control.
But many other characters also get their due, including Viola Davis’ Molly Crane who is none to happy with Stone as her new boss. A character we saw in the last movie who never got much opportunity to impress was Kohl Sudduth’s Luther Simpson, a young officer who this time around takes a far more prominent role and quickly comes to look up to Stone. We learn how he got his nickname ‘Suitcase’ and acts as one of the first characters to trust Jesse Stone first, taking him on as a sort of mentor.
The side stories are also integrated far better than before, used far more efficiently to give us more of an insight into the town and the many characters. It’s also tied into the main plot in a more seamless fashion than in the previous movie and it’s better for it.
Just like in the last movie, the cinematography continues to impress and where ever they decided to shoot the film really works in their favor. The gorgeous sea-side setting is cranked up the max and even the murder scenes are shot with an eye for beauty, making the ugly that much more beautiful. Unfortunately I did notice a bit more standard shots than usual and the freeze-frame editing really stood out as “made for TV”-cheap. In all, that’s really my biggest complaint about the movie as it took me out of it every time. Which is sort of the point, giving the channels a good place to put a commercial, but it still pissed me off as I watching it on DVD.
In the end, there’s nothing I can really say here that I didn’t say in my review of Stone Cold. It’s pretty much that movie but simply better. The writing is a notch up, the acting all around better and the plot better sewn together. Though the editing aggravated me at times it’s not enough to rob it of my recommendation, far from it. If you want to give Jesse Stone a chance, this might be a good place to start.
It’s no big secret that I have no filter what so ever. If I see something that catches my attention, I go for it. It’s the sort of thing that can land me reviewing the entirety of a comic universe or try to review all of Doctor Who. For those interested, I’m working on my retrospective of Patrick Troughton as we speak… or while I’m writing this and you eventually reading this. And this is kind of what’s happening here. I saw something interesting and decided to check it out further only to be intrigued and eventually giving in. And if this movie is anything to go by, I’m glad that I did.
“Stone Cold” is the story of Paradise’s police chief Jesse Stone. Having struggled with his marriage and a drinking problem, he was let go from the police force in Los Angeles. Eventually he landed in the quiet east coast town of Paradise where things should be a lot simpler. Unfortunately, Jesse soon finds that even small towns have their dark sides. When a man is found murdered, the hunt for the killer is on but when more bodies begin to appear, it’s soon very clear that they have a serial killer on their hands. Or killers? And they seem to have a disturbing interest in the police chief himself.
It’s the first in a series of eight movies based on Robert B. Parker’s series of books chronicling the life of none other than Jesse Stone. Although Parker passed away four years ago, the series is still being continued with another book coming out next year. Or so I’ve gathered, I’m not reading the books… yet. After all, gonna need a project once I’m done with Doctor Who!
Playing Jesse Stone is none other than eighties action man Tom Selleck, now considerably more advanced in age since he did Magnum P.I. Although still sporting a dashing mustache, this is a considerably slower and better paced Selleck who has clearly learned a thing or two about acting. The older, slightly chubby police chief with a drinking problem is a million times more endearing than Thomas Magnum. He’s portrayed as a flawed but fair man who isn’t above bending the law just a little to see the culprits brought to justice.
As such, don’t expect the movie to get bogged down by police procedure or reciting law. Stone interprets the law his own way at times and “CSI” this is not so don’t expect him to sit and examine bullets in hope of finding a fingerprint missed by the technicians. In fact, much of the writing skirts around this issue by simply showing the audience who the killers are early on and then having Stone catch up to what the audience already knows. Unfortunately, this means that there isn’t much in the way of a reveal but then the focus of the movie is not on the crime itself but rather on the people and lives it affects.
And the characters are for the most part really well written. The dialog is witty and the banter between Tom Selleck and Viola Davis feels genuine, drawing quite a few chuckles from my cynical, black heart.
If I have one complaint about the movie it’s that the second plot about a young girl who was raped by boys in her school is handled rather quickly and not given the weight it so desperately deserves. It acts both as a way to explore Jesse Stone and his fellow officers as characters but also show how powerless the law can sometimes be. Unfortunately, this is never really explored so unless they bring it back in later movies, it’s a grossly missed opportunity. It’s wrapped up far too quickly for my taste and become more a subplot than a secondary plot, only there to raise the stakes for the climax.
But if we’re gonna sandwich the bad with the good then on a closing note I’d like to point out how absolutely gorgeous this movie is. It was very muted in terms of color, owing much to the time of year it’s set during, but with good use of lighting and camera work, the whole thing is lifted to another level. Directer Robert Harmon worked amazingly well with cinematographer Rene Ohashi to really make the scenes pop with life.
This isn’t the type of movie you have to rush out to see but it’s a compelling little piece that actually surprised me in terms of quality. While the murder mystery itself falls a bit flat in the end, the characters introduced, clever writing and beautiful cinematography is enough to make me want to see more. Were the flaws the stumbling steps of the first movie or signs of bigger problems? I’ve got another seven movies to find out.
The event of a lifetime. The movie that settles the forty year old debate. Two sides clashing to decide the ultimate heroes. There can be only one victor. But no matter who wins… we get the team-up movie of the decade.
Get it? Decade? Because it stars Kamen Rider Decade? Well, okay, no, you probably wouldn’t get it. Because I haven’t actually told you anything about this movie yet. Well, I did, a little bit here: shameless promoting of other posts. Where I stated my reasons for not covering this Kamen Rider Fourze movie while reviewing other Kamen Rider Fourze stuff. See him up there on the poster? All white and front and center and stuff?
Well, joke’s on us ’cause he ain’t in this movie! Okay, he is, it’s not total false advertising, just pretty damn close. And so are the Go-Busters though I know virtually nothing about them at this point since I’ve seen nothing from their show. But if you go into this movie, expecting it to actually be a crossover between these two, you’re going to be disappointed. Because this movie has a theme.
And that’s “anniversary”.
For this is a crossover between Gokaiger and Decade, the two series in their respective franchises that went out of their way to celebrate the many years and teams that came before them. Was it ultimately necessary? Well, we’ll get to that eventually.
Enjoying a quiet day on the moon, Gentaro, Yuki and Miu are shocked when the entire Zangyack fleet suddenly materialize in Earth’s orbit. Rushing back to school, they find it besieged by Zangyack soldiers and it doesn’t take long for Fourze to come face to face with their leader: Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger’s very own Captain Marvelous who swears he will kill every single Kamen Rider in existence. Elsewhere, the Go-Busters rush to the aid of several civilians who have come under attack by strange monsters they’ve never seen before. And they too soon come face to face with the leader behind this sudden attack: Kamen Rider Decade, Tsukasa Kadoya, who swears he will wipe all Super Sentai from existence. Only one side can survive and it’s a fight to the death.
A crossover movie between Kamen Rider and Super Sentai is something some people have wanted for a long time and others have dreaded. Personally, I’ve never seen the appeal since even the regular crossovers within their own franchises tend to muddy the water plenty enough. It’s difficult enough to imagine there’s a yearly crop of villains stupid enough when there’s about forty years of villains before them that failed. Imagine then if there’s double that? Continue like this and there won’t be room on Earth for us regular people.
Kamen Rider has it easier in this department since their struggles tend to be a lot more confined. It’s normally a single person going up against an organization that tends to work fairly locally but every other Super Sentai ends with the world hanging by a thread and a huge climactic battle. Now you’re telling me they all take place in the same universe? And at times, the same city? Ehhh?
Alright, so practicing some “suspension of disbelief”, Kamen Riders are heroes that work in secret to protect the people of Earth whereas Super Sentai tend to be the ones that fight more openly for peace and all that. You’d think after twenty odd masked heroes on motorcycles, they’d be a little more than a myth but ignoring that, how come not all Kamen Riders know Super Sentai? Tokyo being attacked by a fleet of spaceships is the sort of thing that makes the news, even in Japan.
Ahhh, suspension of disbelief! When does it kick in?
The simple premise of the movie is that only one of the franchises can survive, sort of embodying the struggle between fans of Kamen Rider and their rival fans of Super Sentai. It adds a lot to the plot if you know of the rivalry between the series and it’s humorous to see the characters in the movie confused when someone else starts discussing the rivalry, saying it’s all because they lost their “slot”. This is a reference that dates back almost forty years, to 1975, when Himitsu Sentai Gorenger began airing and was given Kamen Rider‘s TV slot. Yes, the rivalry is that old.
Of course, and I hope I don’t spoil too much here, the ultimate lesson of the movie, one which it hammers in with the subtlety of… well, an elephant in a china shop, is that they can and should co-exist because it’s silly to think one needs to go away. The main characters continue to debate the question of why they must fight rather than just get along and while the sentiment in itself can get a bit tiring after a while, the actors really do bring their a-game in portraying the conflict they feel.
Another big surprise to me was that it’s not really Marvelous or Tsukasa that are the main characters. Instead that role has been given to Joe Gibken and Don Dogoier from Gokaiger, Daiki Kaito from Decade and Hina Izumi from Kamen Rider OOO. It’s surprising because, not to be too cruel, they’re b-listers. Joe and Don were Blue and Green respectively and when talking about Super Sentai, the red members are normally the ones you talk about. Daiki Kaito was the second Rider of Decade and Hina wasn’t even a Rider. The group are at odds with their former comrades who have chosen to go alone on this extermination quest and struggle to figure why they’re doing it and what lead to this happening since both Marvelous and Tsukasa tell different stories.
The real star of the movie is Joe Gibken, again portrayed by Yuki Yamada, who is given far more screen time than anyone else. He’s the one who feels the most conflicted outwardly as he both wants to stop Marvelous while at the same time fiercely loyal to his former captain. Yamada really brings forth a much more emotional side of Joe than seen before.
After him, Daiki is really the one given the most space, partly because he remains a very popular Rider to this day but also because he was the most interesting character in Decade. His role as a loner thief and outsider gave him an air of mystery and he was slowly explored as a character whereas Tsukasa was more or less given his mysterious past on a silver platter. Daiki was further explored as a character in the Cho Den-O movie Episode Yellow which cemented him as a character that outlived his series in terms of popularity.
The conflict is again embodied in Joe and Daiki who repeatedly clash over the issue, Joe almost ready to kill Daiki from wanting to believe there’s a point to what Marvelous is doing and seeing his friends killed by Tsukasa in front of his very eyes. Don and Hina are mostly there to act as a voice of reason and ask the questions pertinent to the plot such as “Why? Who? When?”
And this is where I’ll be entering spoiler territory so if you want to go into this movie unspoiled, skip the lines of text between the lines:
Towards the end of the movie, it’s revealed that the big war was just an act put on by Marvelous and Tsukasa to root out the plans of the joint forces of both Super Sentai and Kamen Rider villains. The apparent deaths of their friends were nothing more than illusion while they hid them in a pocket dimension. Once the villains reveal their true plan, they summon forth all the Super Sentai and Kamen Riders believed dead for one big climactic battle.
However, my big problem with this is that the plan was stupid. While it was ultimately supposed to lead to something good, a lot of things could’ve gone wrong. For instance, what if Joe had actually killed Daiki? Imagine acting on the belief that you’re saving everything you know only to have it turned around and find out you in fact killed someone for no good reason at all.
How could Marvelous and Tsukasa expect the others heroes to just sit idly by and hope they didn’t do something stupid? Sure, you could try to sweep the question under the rug by saying heroes wouldn’t really kill anyone but… not all Kamen Riders were all that fair and good. Some would revel in the opportunity to fight and kill Super Sentai, I’m sure. And they’re working with villains who really DO want to murder every single person who they see as good. How do they make sure they don’t kill in the process? And for God’s sake, Marvelous invades a school and has his minions attack and harass students! Did he give them a specific “Don’t kill innocents!”-order? ‘Cause that would sort of give him away.
The movie sort of points this flaw out on its own as the joint forces of Kamen Rider and Super Sentai defeat the villains and foil their plans only for Daiki to appear, call Tsukasa out on his assholish behavior and that he betrayed what friendship they had. He then completes the villains’ plan and goes on a rampage to punish Tsukasa.
And you know what? I’m with Daiki on this. Maybe I wouldn’t go on a potentially murderous rampage but at the same time, I think he’s justified. Joe, on the other hand, seems to completely forget about the fact that Marvelous almost made him kill someone however indirectly. We’re talking straight up murder.
It’s kind of a big flaw in their plan and they were betting a lot of money on any other Rider unable to best them. That’s some serious hubris! What would’ve happened if Tsukasa and Marvelous were both killed? A bunch of heroes trapped in an alternate dimension and the rest fighting it out to the death. NOT a good plan. It was honestly enough to bring down my enjoyment of the movie quite a bit and it really shows how poorly the writers thought this through. Add to that that the giant robot piloted by Daiki isn’t even defeated by Decade or Gokaiger but instead the combined might of Fourze and Go-Busters? Sure, that makes sense since they were the two series airing at the time but more on this after the spoiler-line!
For the record, if you didn’t read the spoilers, from now on I’ll call those lines “Spoiler-Lines” so if you see one, chances are I’m talking sensitive plot information.
Now, if I were to ignore my problems with the plot then I still have some pretty damning complaints about this movie. For one, it’s sold as a Fourze/Go-Busters crossover which it is most certainly not. Fourze and the Go-Busters only figure into the plot a little in the beginning (and honestly, they could be replaced by anyone at this point) and at the end when they combine their powers to bring down the big bad. Other than that, it’s all Joe, Don, Hina and Daiki with Marvelous and Tsukasa occasionally trying to explain themselves. And it makes it feel very disjointed, it treats itself like a vehicle for the current (then, not at the moment of writing) tokusatsu heroes but probably couldn’t pry the cast away from their busy shooting schedule to feature in an additional movie outside of what they normally do so they had to rope previous actors into returning and sort of settled on who they could get.
Don’t get me wrong, seeing them back in action was a welcome sight but it still gives the movie a very rushed feel. Doubly so when the characters we’ve been following don’t even factor into the ultimate final battle. In part I feel lied to and it was a wholly unnecessary lie since I would’ve gladly watched this movie even without Fourze and Go-Busters. Hell, that’s something Toei definitely needs to look into more, bringing back old actors to feature in the occasional movie while their series are in full gear.
My other complaint is that the fights are sort of dull. First off, the twist is super obvious from the go. Partly because of the effects used but mostly because it’s a movie for kids! Even if you haven’t read the spoilers, I sincerely doubt it’s much of a twist. Secondly, you know their hands were tied and no one side could be seen as too powerful. If the Kamen Riders dominated, Super Sentai fans would be upset and vice versa. Realistically, Super Sentai would have an upper hand since in general they have five times as many members and I don’t care how good a fighter you are, that’s some pretty staggering odds. So you know from the start that no side is going to “win”. They also had to seriously reduce the number of Super Sentai members brought back or you’d have a hard time seeing the Riders in their midst. Even saying that, there’s still a very big focus on Super Sentai which to me is sort of boring since I do prefer Kamen Rider most of the time.
Look at that picture then keep in mind that only the front TWO rows… of the LEFT side (from our perspective) are Kamen Riders. Two HALF rows. The rest are Super Sentai. Can you imagine if they did a role call for all of them? We’d be here all day!
But even ignoring the fact that no true winner can ever be appointed, the fights are still dull because there’s very little energy to them. Fights are first off very brief because there’s a lot to go through so there’s no real focus on anyone for very long outside of Decade and Gokaiger. Most heroes/teams get one real display of awesomeness before it’s on to the next one. For what it’s worth, the writers and director did try to pair them up as creatively as they could, either thematically or because they aired at the same time. But that’s a bone for the idle enthusiast and while I appreciate it, it’s not enough to salvage it. Secondly, they make these movies on a budget not much bigger than an episode and that’s exactly how the movie feels: like a longer, slightly prettier episode. It’s the same quarries, streets and warehouses that you see in any of Toei’s tokusatsu shows and it’s boring. You expect more from a movie, use some of that budget to get some new sets, dammit!
There’s a joke in tokusatsu circles: you’re never more than an explosion away from a warehouse filled with empty boxes. But you’d think in movies they’d at least TRY to change it up.
And that really leads me to my biggest problem with this movie: it’s too cluttered. Even if you scaled it down to, say, one representative of each show, that’s still twentytwo Riders (I think that’s if you don’t count the movies) and 36 Super Sentai members for a joint cast of 58 characters. It’s obviously too much and the movie needed to be scaled down even further. Perhaps focus on a group of eight with four from each side and then Tsukasa and Marvelous as the villains (if you absolutely have to keep that damn plot). Then give each hero a villain from their own era to fight then change it up at the end, have Riders fight Sentai villains and of course the other way around. I get the appeal of having all of them on screen, it makes for a wicked ad but if the Gokaiger movies proved anything it’s that it doesn’t friggin’ work. What’s the point of having all of this nostalgia if you’re not ACTUALLY going to do something with it? It’s wasted money. The Fourze movies before have handled it far better, having only the seven original Kamen Riders showing up instead of all of them and it gives it a much heavier impact.
And for the love of Pete, try to bring back OLDER actors. I know it’s hard but I’m sure you could scrounge up some of the older Rangers and Riders. Don’t even have to be main ones, just from that series. But whatever you do, don’t have a different actor voice the character in the suit to pretend the character is back because we REALLY can tell, especially with the new ones.
Overall then, I found the movie to be seriously lacking. While great fun at times and great joy in seeing some of the old actors back in their roles, it squanders its potential almost entirely. It has no lasting impact and how can a crossover between two of the biggest tokusatsu franchises of all times NOT have a lasting impact? And I’m not alone in this, from what I read most people found the movie to be somewhat disappointing. Some people liked it, of course, and some people outright hated it but from what I’ve seen, most people place somewhere in the middle. And for good reason.
So it’s really just for the fans, I think.
Next time I’ll be wrapping up Fourze so look forward to that!
Snowpiercer is the kind of movie cinemaphiles like myself like to watch before congratulating ourselves, breaking our arms patting ourselves on the back. It’s the kind of movie you watch and immediately think “Wow, I am so much better than everyone else for having seen this.” It’s obscure and foreign and, yes, it also happens to be good.
It’s based on the French graphical novel (fancy word for comic) “Le Transperceneige” so it also has that going for it. We love anything that’s even remotely related to something French, even porn. Add to that that it was made in South Korea and you have the equivalent of cocaine to a film critic. In the grand scheme of things, it wouldn’t have mattered if it was good or not, we’d be raving about it anyway.
In the near future, attempts to stop global warming result in a much greater catastrophe when it instead results in the global temperature dropping drastically across the board, causing a new ice age. The last remaining humans are gathered on a train that travels the world on a looping track. But while the people in the front live a life of luxury, the people in the back live anything but. Stacked on top of each other and under the mercy of the elite, they eke out a living just barely. But now they’ve had enough and the revolt is about to begin. Under the leadership of Curtis Everett and helped by the mysterious clues hidden in their daily rations, they begin to push forward, one car at a time.
Just in case you missed it from that little synopsis, this move is all about the class wars, man, the divide between the Haves and the Have Nots. Or is it? Well, the jury is still out on that but while that is the most obvious thing to take away from this, given how clearly they portray the differences between the tail and the head (it’s a movie thing… you’ll understand when you watch it), there are also another message hidden underneath: that it doesn’t matter whether we’re rich or poor, in general we’re pretty shitty people either way.
Despite being a Korean production, it sports a primarily English cast with Chris Evans as the centerfold star. Backing him up is John Hurt, Jamie Bell and Korean star Song Kang-ho. It’s not the biggest A-listers out there but it’s definitely a powerhouse of actors putting their best foot forward. Tilda Swinton turns in a monster of a performance as the elitist Mason. If nothing else in the movie, her Mason is an absolutely terrifying and breathtaking character that you both love and hate that is worth watching.
Rounding out the case is Ed Harris, Go Ah-sung, Octavia Spencer, Ewan Bremner, Alison Pill and the impressive Luke Pasqualino who is a new talent for me but has made me want to watch “The Musketeers”. They may only be supporting cast but they’re a memorable bunch that all turn in ridiculously strong performance no matter how brief some of their parts are.
Each character is very well written with depths and layers to them, especially the ones who have a leading role such as Curtis and Mason though Song Kang-ho’s Namgoong leaves a little to be desired, his deadpan acting a bit too powerful for the character’s intentions.
So the director managed to pull great performances from relative nobodies (with exceptions) but what about the directing itself… well, it’s really good. I’ve only ever seen one of his previous movies, The Host, and I can’t really say I was as thoroughly impressed with it then as I am with Snowpiercer now. But one should not always rely on ones memory, I wrote off Kairo when I first watched it and today it’s one of my favorite movies of all times. Things change or perhaps you weren’t in the best of moods when you saw it.
Either way, Snowpiercer is an expertly shot and directed movie that manages to catch the correct mood in every scene. While it starts off hauntingly enough as it is, once it really gets going the mood manages to intensify and a sense of surrealism starts to permeate the movie. One can truly feel a threatening presence in the atmosphere and the further along the train they get, the stronger the feeling of woe.
Reaching the engine sets off one of the most haunting performances in cinema, I truly had goosebumps at that point.
It’s not just the setting that’s bleak either, the lighting and cinematography depicts the feeling of despair the people in the back of the train feel expertly which slowly gives way to a more contrasting way when they get further ahead in the train where there’s color and even live animals yet somehow one still doesn’t feel hopeful. It’s a scarring way of looking at something that is already reality in some parts of the world.
The world outside the train that we get the pleasure of viewing every now and then is as captivating as anything, huge relics of our past frozen in a never ending landscape. Year after year they travel the globe, marking specific stretches with holiday and cheer and despite the fact that the train has only been running for 17 years, it’s already all that they know. It’s strange to me how South Korea can manage such a high quality of special effects but they really can squeeze their budgets for all their worth. Despite “only” having a budget of $40 million the movie looks like any grand, AAA movie from Hollywood with a budget four times that.
That’s not to say the movie is without its problems. At the end of the day, there’s a severe restriction on what they can do with the sets. And many viewers will definitely balk at the impracticality and ridiculousness of the train in the first place which will only become that much more in your face the closer they get to the engine itself. And the movie never feels like it has to explain itself either, more than once those I watched it with asked questions that seemed logical enough but that the movie never really answered.
And unless you can let go of these questions and accept the meta narrative for what it is, an examination of human nature and our society, and enjoy the dark atmosphere then chances are you won’t like this movie. While it does sell itself as an action/sci-fi romp, I’d be more inclined to call it a drama or psychological thriller.
The movie plays expertly with our expectations throughout and despite an action scene here and there, overall it’s a slow and plodding narrative that isn’t ashamed to take its time and it’s better for it. Characters are evolved and no-one is quite as simple as they first appear. There’s great darkness hidden in Evans’ Curtis and Swinton’s Mason becomes one of the most interesting characters the closer they get to the engine with her character peaking in the school, at which point you understand just how sick the front of the train truly is.
To say that there’s one or two jabs at religion is putting it mildly.
I’m a big fan of Korean movies in general, having seen my fair share of them and always on the lookout for more and this movie is one that confirms my conviction. Yes, your average Marvel movies like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is great for the moment but it’s movies like this that stick with you and drives home the point of just how powerful movies can be.
Snowpiercer, like I said earlier, is the kind of movie we critics love to hold over the dirty masses because for once in our horrible careers we KNOW we know better. Snowpiercer IS a good movie and anyone who says differently is wrong. Not everyone will understand how great it is and while it is flawed, it’s a movie that is ultimately confident in the story it wants to tell and how to tell it and the actors are in on it, giving their absolute best to make the movie as good as it could be.
If you ever have the opportunity to see this movie then do so.
There aren’t enough words to explain everything that’s going on in this picture and how much it all matters. So just go see it. It’s a shame those of you reading this in America might not get the full experience as it was intended Bong Joon-ho but it is slated for a release very soon so hopefully you won’t have to bend over backwards to get it… even if it is edited.
Well… I can’t really come up with anything witty here. It’s Dolph Lundgren fighting zombies with a bunch of robots at his back. What do you want me to say?
Ah yes, Dolph Lundgren. If you’re unaware of my admiration for this Swedish actor, let me put it in simple terms: when I grew up I wanted to be Dolph Lundgren. I abandoned that dream when I realized I was a decent actor- oh, there I go again, being snarky! But seriously, when everyone else saw Dolph Lundgren and laughed, I couldn’t help but to think: “Oh yeah? So what did you do with your life that was so f—ing amazing?” That may not be entirely fair, we all go through life wanting different things but you can’t say Dolph Lundgren didn’t make something of himself. Regardless of what you call it, say the name Dolph Lundgren and people know who he is.
Some may say he doesn’t deserve all that fame but then there’s tons of actors I say the same thing about. If anything, Dolph Lundgren deserves it more than most since he held on through rough and tumble, through ridicule and mockery. While it could’ve been easy for him to just go away from Rocky 4 as a one-hit wonder, he instead chose this life and held on. I think that’s admirable.
And in recent years, he’s done somewhat of a comeback. Perhaps not so much in cinema with the exception of The Expendables and its sequel but on DVD. Not all of his work is great but if you want immediate examples worth checking out, in my humble opinion, take a gander at The Mechanik, Command Performance or Missionary Man. Or, you can just check out some of his most recent work: Battle of the Damned.
The year… is now. The place… is somewhere in Asia. The problem? Max Gatling is an idiot. Tasked with finding a rich man’s daughter from a quarantine zone, retired Major Max Gatling and his team waltz straight into what can only be described as hell on Earth. Told there was nothing but their target left alive in the zone, the team walk straight into a wall of zombies. When none but himself are left standing, he’s forced to undertake the mission on his own. But he soon finds that all is not as it seems in the abandoned city. Caught between a despot and flesh eating zombies (technically they’re not zombies), Max would need an army to get out of the city alive. But where can he find one that won’t become slim pickings for a horde of ravenous zombies?
What many don’t know about Battle of the Damned is that it’s actually a sequel to the director’s previous film Robotropolis. Okay, sequel is tenuous at best, it might be more accurate to say that they take place in the same world. Is there a term for that? “Related” seems a bit vague. It’s mostly the robots themselves that are a dead give away to this, sporting not only the same design but also mentioning the events in Robotropolis as do some of the characters. But from what little research I’ve done, none of the characters from the first movie return though that will have to wait until I’ve actually seen Robotropolis.
Oh yeah, I should probably mention that I haven’t seen Robotropolis. Get over it! I’ll watch it as soon as I can! In the meantime, here’s Dolph Lundgren walking away from a bunch of zombies (technically they’re not zombies).
Might I just say that I think Dolph Lundgren looks especially badass in this movie? ‘Cause he totally does. If you don’t agree, that would be because you’re lying to yourself.
So if there was ever one actor I never thought I’d see in a zombie movie (not counting Expendables) it was Dolph Lundgren. But honestly, I think he not just does a very good job but also fits in rather worryingly well, like this was what he was born to do. He plays Max Gatling, in case that wasn’t obvious and may I say that’s a fine name, and is one of two leading roles in the movie.
I like the fact that they’ve for once incorporated the fact that Dolph Lundgren is old and no longer in his prime. He’s retired and to accentuate the fact that he’s getting on in the years, he even has to use reading glasses, making him look oh so adorable… no, seriously, he looks like someone’s kind uncle or even grandpa, it’s amazing what a difference it makes.
Max Gatling never really reveals much about himself except that he’s in it for the money. We’re lead to believe he has a family or at least had at some point but nothing much is ever said about him. Instead we’re allowed to make up our own minds about him based on what he does. In my opinion he’s neither a bad guy nor a good a guy. Like he himself says at one point in the movie, he has no regrets about taking the mission except that he should’ve asked for more money.
Also something worth noting is the beginning of the movie where they show the band of highly trained mercenaries tearing through the city looking for Jude, their target. It’s not so much the scenes themselves but the ease with which they dispatch the zombies (technically they’re not zombies). I’ve always felt it strange that the military has never been very effective when it comes to zombies. From a purely logical standpoint, they shouldn’t be of any concern and the only reason the mercenaries suffer a major defeat is because they themselves trip up and eventually run out of ammo, leaving them to tangle with the zombies (technically they’re not zombies) in close combat which, for obvious reasons, is a bad idea.
All throughout this movie is a sense of realism with a few glaring exceptions. For one, as you might have noticed I keep hinting in a very subtle manner that they’re not zombies. And that’s because they’re not, coming closer to 28 Days Later than Return of the Living Dead. They’re not dead and are as human as you or I except for their insatiable hunger. And like you and I they’re dispatched just as easily. So there will be no Fulci-like rising from the grave here and if you die, you stay dead.
It was a surprisingly realistic twist on what I expected to be a very formulaic movie.
So all of you saying they’re not very good zombies or their make-up doesn’t make them look very zombish, there might actually be a point to that. Personally I really liked the look but I can understand why people would be disappointed.
On the other end of the spectrum from Max Gatling stands Jude, the young woman Max has been sent to find. She’s young but easily stands as Max’ equal and has a lot of spunk which I like. And I can’t deny that Melanie Zanetti, the actress portraying Jude, looks good but what really lends itself to the movie is her difference in height compared to Lundgren, adding a more dynamic and interesting feel to their relationship. Seeing her stand up to the giant that is Lundgren and actually make him back off is fantastic. A lot of this is of course owed to the fact that Zanetti simply gives it her all, acting as hard and well as she can and really pulls off what otherwise could’ve been a generic role.
Rounding out the rest of the cast is a merry band of survivors that Jude has attached herself to. The two with most importance is Duke, the self-appointed leader of the survivors, and Reese, Jude’s boyfriend. They’re both played well by David Field and Matt Doran respectively but only Field is given something really juicy to work with, Lord of the Flies style. The rest of the gang is made up of varying personalities and purposes but overall I think the gang comes together well.
What really surprised me was how human many of the characters were. Not all of them get anything resembling characterizations but the ones that do are done very well. At the end of the movie you came away with some idea of who these people were and whether or not you liked them. Most of them come with both negative and positive traits like any old humanbeing would. And unlike many zombie movies, the cast is not entirely made up of assholes that you want to see die. Instead some actual weight is given to their fates and I can honestly say that I got a bit invested in the cast as we got along.
The action is well choreographed though there is some obnoxious shaky cam and fast cuts used to hide the fact that the effects for the robots aren’t as good as one might want. And perhaps to hide that Lundgren isn’t as spry as once but again, it fits with the character so it bugged me that they tried to hide the fact that the retired Major pushing sixty was a retired Major pushing sixty. But even admitting to the fact that the effects weren’t as good as they could be, they weren’t as awful as I was readily expecting either.
And talking about the robots… well, it is a bit of an unfair description to say that this movie features full on zombies vs robots. The robots do make an appearance early on but only become active players towards the end of the movie, after Gatling gets his hands on them. And the trailer might make it look like he had some hand in making them but even the writers knew that would be stretching any sort of credibility they may have.
But in my honest opinion, the robots don’t disappoint. Once they start brawling with the zombies and fuck them up, you can’t help but to get a bit upbeat. There’s a very tense scene where Gatling and Reese first come across the white robots where I wasn’t entirely sure where they were going with it which I thought was expertly done. And yeah, if I were a better person I’d point out how the white robots can really be seen as white knights or something but hey, I’m a simple dude. They’re white robots. Get over it.
I really dig the overall design, there’s something deliciously retro and practical about them, how they can alternate between bipedalism and quadrupedalism (that means walking on four legs, I’m smart) and the fact that even a lug like Gatling can make modifications to them.
So ultimately, is the movie worth checking out? Well, if you love B-movies and only want to be entertained for an hour and a half then this just might be worth your time. It actually surprised me with its quality as I had gotten so used to stuff like The Asylum’s stable. But the use of “zombies” was very effective and the robots, despite not really being the headliners the trailer might promise, didn’t end up disappointing. But the hat comes off in honor of the actors who made something out of this fairly standard zombie romp with robots. While Lundgren won’t be winning any awards any time soon, when he does get a role he fits in he shines. And where he doesn’t quite measure up, Melanie Zanetti and her merry band of actors more than make up for it.
The easiest way to figure out whether you’d like this movie or not is whether you still think of the eighties as a treasure trove of action and horror movies because that is exactly what this movie harkens back to. If it isn’t your thing then by all means, stay away, but if it does sound appealing… have at it. And we’ll be bros.