Tag Archives: Jamie Bell

Snowpiercer (2013, Bong Joon-ho)

Snowpiercer is relentless. There are three quiet moments; I’m not estimating, I’m counting. The final quiet moment comes with some commentary on the earlier quiet moments. The relentlessness is appropriate, as the film concerns a train traveling through a frozen wasteland housing the last survivors of the human race. It’s a post-apocalyptic rumination on remorse and violence. Director Bong treats the viewer as a passenger on the train, forcing the viewer’s perspective through protagonist Chris Evans.

At times, the film seems episodic, which is only appropriate as the first act comes to a close and Evans–along with his fellow insurgents (they’re the poor people in the rear of the train)–discovers the train’s cars are all different. So it’s appropriate the journey through those cars is going to be different. Vignettes might be a strong description, but maybe not. Especially not when considering how Bong lets supporting characters’ subplots play out in background.

The casting is flawless. While Tilda Swinton spectacularly chews through all of her scenes, there’s great work from Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Jamie Bell and Ewen Bremner. The three leads–Evans, Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung–are all fantastic. Song only speaks Korean, but is excellent when just walking around. It’s a reluctant leading man performance from Evans; he, and all the other actors, show their characters’ sufferings without exposition.

Snowpiercer is also a visual feast. Bong’s presentation this train and its passengers is a constant surprise.

It’s a hard film; Bong doesn’t offer any quarter, neither does his cast.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Bong Joon-ho; screenplay by Bong and Kelly Masterson, based on a screen story by Bong and the graphic novel by Jacques Lob, Benjamin Legrand and Jean-Marc Rochette; director of photography, Hong Kyung-pyo; edited by Steve M. Choe; music by Marco Beltrami; production designer, Ondrej Nekvasil; produced by Jeong Tae-sung, Lee Tae-hun, Park Chan-wook and Steven Nam; released by CJ Entertainment.

Starring Chris Evans (Curtis), Song Kang-ho (Namgoong Minsu), Tilda Swinton (Mason), Jamie Bell (Edgar), Octavia Spencer (Tanya), Ewen Bremner (Andrew), Ko Ah-sung (Yona), Alison Pill (Teacher), Vlad Ivanov (Franco the Elder), Luke Pasqualino (Grey), John Hurt (Gilliam) and Ed Harris (Wilford).


RELATED

Advertisements

King Kong (2005, Peter Jackson)

I’ll be honest–I didn’t make it very far, considering its length, into King Kong. I sat through a lot. I sat through the opening Great Depression montage, which was shockingly bad. The people who assailed Michael Bay for his glitzy Pearl Harbor gave Jackson a free pass for Kong? It’s obscene. I sat through the terrible CG. “Grand Theft Auto IV” looks better. Jackson draws attention to Kong‘s unbelievable backdrops in a way I can’t believe any modern filmmaker would. CG isn’t a new tool anymore and Jackson’s bad, 1990s video game CG is terribly misused. It’s incompetent.

I sat though the film opening with Naomi Watts, who’s weak. The tone for the film during her scenes seems to have been lifted from Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a goofy cartoon rendition of the 1930s. I sat through Jack Black. His first scene, combined with James Newton Howard’s pervasive, intrusive score and Jackson and company’s script, mocks the original film. It’s stunning how it degrades and dismisses the original–but it later gets much, much worse.

Peter Jackson’s King Kong is pure, big Hollywood camp. There’s nothing else to call it.

I also sat through some of the worst filmmaking I’ve ever seen in a film not ridiculed by critics and audiences alike. The scene where Watts walks up the plank… she hesitates–it’s such a big momentous, life-changing event (something the viewer might know from that lame original Jackson so enjoys mocking). Then it gets worse. Jackson goes to close-up on her feet making the step.

But that one isn’t even the worst I saw. The slow motion close-up of Adrien Brody typing out Skull Island–ominously, of course–with each key getting a zoom, is even worse. Jackson doesn’t have any respect for his own script, which is kind of interesting, I suppose, but not particularly.

Watts and Brody, from what I saw, have absolutely no chemistry together. The fault lies with both of them. She isn’t very good and he looks incredibly embarrassed.

Black’s worse than I thought he’d be. He mugs constantly.

Both Evan Parke and Thomas Kretschmann seem to be good. Maybe their performances crap out after I stopped watching.

Oh, I never did get around to why I stopped watching.

There’s some foreshadowing to the event–the ship, the Venture, is out of Surabaya. I’m nearly positive Surabaya is never mentioned in the 1933 original. The 1976 remake–ridiculed by critics as campy and disrespectful of the original–opens in Surabaya. Whatever, I figured it was a coincidence.

Until Jackson rips off a monologue from the 1976 version. I didn’t let it finish. I stopped the film.

King Kong isn’t just worse than I expected, it’s worse than I could have imagined. Why Jackson chose to remake a film he doesn’t–almost forty minutes in to his remake–appear to have any regard for (save the opening title design), is inexplicable.

His direction isn’t bad. There’s some enthusiasm (but not much) and I’m sure he thinks his CG looks good.

The writing is awful, unbearable as it turns out.

I really did expect to sit through this one when I started it (it’s so bad, I’ve forgotten the last film I turned off). Then, fifteen minutes into it, I thought I’d at least make it until the big CG ape showed up. But there’s no point. It’s complete crap and a spit in the eye of the original. Jackson doesn’t even have a narrative–much less an artistic approach–his Kong exists to laugh at the original.

I know Jackson wanted Fay Wray to deliver the “it was beauty killed the beast” line at the end (she passed away before filming started, I believe). Would she have done it after Jackson spent three hours sneering her version?

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Peter Jackson; written by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Jackson, based on the story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace; director of photography, Andrew Lesnie; edited by Jamie Selkirk and Jabez Olssen; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, Grant Major; produced by Jan Blenkin, Carolynne Cunningham, Walsh and Jackson; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Naomi Watts (Ann Darrow), Jack Black (Carl Denham), Adrien Brody (Jack Driscoll), Thomas Kretschmann (Captain Englehorn), Colin Hanks (Preston), Jamie Bell (Jimmy), Evan Parke (Hayes), Kyle Chandler (Bruce Baxter) and Andy Serkis (Lumpy).


RELATED

Flags of Our Fathers (2006, Clint Eastwood)

When my friend saw Flags of Our Fathers and I asked him about it, he described it–I’m paraphrasing–as an unexciting four. Seeing it, I can fully understand. It’s a great film, but its greatness is somewhat inevitable and uninteresting. Clint’s way too good of a filmmaker at this point to turn in something less, especially given the content. However, the content, specifically Clint’s fluctuating interest in it, is what makes Flags so unexceptional, so unexciting. Flags is based on a guy’s book investigating his father and the other flag-raisers at Iwo Jima. While the film does establish itself with a present-day frame, it isn’t specified its this author investigating. Away from Iwo Jima, Clint’s most interested in Adam Beach’s character, an alcoholic American Indian who’s touring as a hero but can’t get served in bars. Beach’s character is the most like an Eastwood character in Flags. At one moment, after the book-writing frame became clear and Flags felt a lot like The Bridges of Madison County, only without Clint’s full commitment to the frame, Beach seemed a lot like Clint in that film.

Even though Beach has Clint and the film’s interest for the war bonds campaign (after the photo got popular, the surviving subjects toured to sell war bonds), Ryan Phillippe gets the most emphasis on Iwo Jima. Watching Phillippe act and do it well, I felt validated–back in 1998, I said he was going to be good (after watching Playing by Heart) and it only took him seven years. The Iwo Jima sections of the film are short and involve a lot of CG and watching Clint handle it is interesting. He uses the CG like a rear projection, making Flags of Our Fathers‘s battle scenes look a lot like a modern 1940s war film. He pulls it off well, because it’s interesting to look at, while not being visually stunning. Still, I think there was a whole story of the characters on Iwo Jima, just because the castings so good–Barry Pepper, Neal McDonough and Robert Patrick are all great in small roles (Pepper especially), but the greatest surprise of Flags, performance-wise, has to be Paul Walker. Sure, he’s only got ten lines and he’s in the film for two and a half minutes, but he’s really good.

The third main character, played by Jesse Bradford, somehow gets more time than Phillippe, but has the least to do. The film only hints at the relationship between the three men, but never explores it, probably through some kind of misguided sense of historical accuracy. I’m kidding (to some degree), but it’s obvious there’s something holding Clint back here and it’s probably the source material and its presentation. Clint’s made an excellent film, but there’s something missing, some awareness of itself and the different ways it moves, since it does have three concurrently running narratives. It might even be three films, or at least two since Bridges managed to beautifully incorporate its two narratives.

It’s a powerful film and a complete experience, but it’s like ordering dinner at a great restaurant, a restaurant you know is going to be excellent. The food’s great, but it doesn’t surprise you.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Clint Eastwood; written by William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis, based on the book by James Bradley with Ron Powers; director of photography, Tom Stern; edited by Joel Cox; music by Eastwood; production designer, Henry Bumstead; produced by Eastwood, Steven Spielberg and Robert Lorenz; released by Paramount Pictures.

Starring Ryan Phillippe (John Bradley), Jesse Bradford (Rene Gagnon), Adam Beach (Ira Hayes), John Benjamin Hickey (Keyes Beech), John Slattery (Bud Gurber), Barry Pepper (Mike Strank), Jamie Bell (Ralph Ignatowski), Paul Walker (Hank Hansen) and Robert Patrick (Col. Chandler Johnson).


RELATED