Ep. 135 – Ad Astra, Between Two Ferns: The Movie, Fantastic Fest recap, and a weekend at Big Texas Comicon

September 25, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, the lads review AD ASTRA and BETWEEN TWO FERNS: THE MOVIE.

Cody also regales us about his time at Fantastic Fest, while Jerrod talks his weekend at Big Texas Comicon.

Click here to download the episode!

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

November 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Directed by: Francis Lawrence (“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” “I Am Legend”)
Written by: Peter Craig (“The Town”) and Danny Strong (“Lee Daniels’ The Butler”)

The economically-sound trend of splitting the final chapters of book-to-film franchises into two movies presents a unique—if not always positive—film-going experience. Like the penultimate films in “Harry Potter” and “Twilight” series before it, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1” doesn’t really feel like a normal movie. It creates a sense of unease as you try in your head to look for typical story beats and plot markers that just aren’t there because, alas, this movie is meant to end with a sense of having been all about building to a climax that we won’t get to see for another year. It can all be a bit disorienting and insulting, but what are you going to do? Wait until both films have been released on DVD and Blu-ray so you can watch them back-to-back so that they make a cohesive whole? Good luck with that.

After her lightning-charged arrow destroyed the arena during the Quarter Quell in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” District 12 tribute Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) has become a symbol of rebellion in the oppressed post-apocalyptic state of Panem. After being rescued from the arena by Capitol turncoat Plutarch Heavensbee (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, to whom the film is dedicated), Katniss is whisked away to the militarized District 13, a grim underground bunker of jumpsuits and cafeterias. Clearly suffering from PTSD and the separation from her would-be lover Peeta (Josh Hutcherson)—himself a prisoner of the Capitol and a propaganda tool—Katniss is called upon by President Coin (Julianne Moore) to become the Mockingjay, a symbol to unite the Districts in rebellion against the Capitol and the tyrannical President Snow (Donald Sutherland). With the help of Heavensbee, Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) and Effie (Elizabeth Banks), Katniss will need to overcome her own suffering if the people of Panem have any hope of living free of Snow and the Capitol.

When you can look past the table-setting and sometimes lumpy, drawn-out storytelling, “Mockingjay – Part 1” ventures into some incredibly dark yet intriguing places for a film franchise that, at least on the surface, is aimed at teenagers. The body count is high and the politics of propaganda is a refreshing change from the typical “chosen one” storylines that usually inhabit these YA worlds. Katniss is not valued by Coin for her skills in the arena, but for the televised image she cultivated in the Game—not that anyone should ever doubt her when notching an exploding arrow, though. Scenes of Katniss working with filmmakers to put together rebellion-sowing video clips are the bright spots of the film, creating a much richer world than the movie’s goofy future-animals like mockingjays or tracker jackers ever could. The rebellion is coming. Too bad we have to wait another year for it.

The Eagle

February 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Channing Tatum, Jaime Bell, Mark Strong
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald (“State of Play”)
Written by: Jeremy Brock (“The Last King of Scotland”)

If it was possible ignore the inconsistent accents, the hammy dialogue, or the cast full of men playing dress up in 2nd century Roman costumes instead of fleshing out authentic characters, then maybe “The Eagle” would feel more like a fictional epic and less like a second-rate miniseries found on Starz after midnight. Without the sex and the campiness, what’s the point?

Instead, “The Eagle,” directed by Kevin Macdonald (“State of Play”) based on a script adapted from Rosemary’ Sutcliff’s 1950s novel “The Eagle of the Ninth,”  takes itself entirely too serious. With a lifeless Channing Tatum (“The Dilemma”) taking the lead, the whole production feels like a charade in Roman warfare.

In “The Eagle,” Tatum plays Marcus Aquila, a young Roman centurion who sets out with his British slave Esca (Jamie Bell) to learn the truth behind his father’s disappearance and tarnished legacy. To bring honor back to his family’s name, he plans to go out and find a symbolic golden eagle, an emblem once carried by his father when leading a 5,000-man legion known as the Ninth.

The plot never expands from there making Marcus’ search for the statue feel more like a high school scavenger hunt. While the numerous battle sequences do their best to keep the action high, Macdonald’s decision to shoot the sword-weilding scenes so chaotically is a misstep. By the third bloodless combat scene, they all start meshing together and lose interest.

Without any depth to the screenplay and some unintentionally humorous homoerotic character interaction, “The Eagle” is all brawn and no bite. Tatum may have that leading man screen presence, but with a script this weak, his frat boy looks can only get him so far. In “The Eagle,” body armor, a wool tunic, and sandals are about all that define him.

The Mechanic

January 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jason Statham, Ben Foster, Tony Goldwyn
Directed by: Simon West (“When a Stranger Calls”)
Written by: Richard Wenk (“16 Blocks”) and Lewis John Carlino (“I Never Promised You a Rose Garden”)

There are some big gun barrels to fill if you’re remaking a 40-year-old movie that originally starred Charles Bronson. Things get a bit easier, however, if your name happens to be Jason Statham.

Coming into his own as a viable B-movie action star over the last few years, Statham takes the lead in a new version of “The Mechanic,” a high-energy popcorn flick that feels like it was pulled straight out of the 70s and given a swift kick to the head.

Statham stars as Arthur Bishop, an experienced hit man who begins to train his mentor’s son Steve McKenna (Ben Foster) in the art of assassination after Steve’s father (Donald Sutherland) is caught up in a game of politics within the shadow organization.

“What I do requires a certain mindset,” Arthur tells Steve as the veteran killer teaches the rookie the most effective ways to end someone’s life. While Steve absorbs everything Arthur shows him, he doesn’t always like to take the clean and simple approach to the job.

The different methods in the way Arthur and Steve work make for an extraordinary relationship. Foster, one of the most exciting young actors currently making his rounds through Hollywood, matches up well with Statham’s fever pitch delivery. While both characters are brimming with brutality, it’s Foster’s that is written with more depth and style. You usually know what you’re getting with Statham and he doesn’t disappoint here.

Directed by Simon West (“When a Stranger Calls,” “Con Air”), “The Mechanic” is an unrelenting upgrade with a solid dose ultra violence, sex, and sense of humor. It doesn’t break any new ground, but the action sequences come with a combination of intensity and logic rare to find in movies with high body counts.

Astro Boy

October 22, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage, Charlize Theron
Directed by: David Bowers (“Flushed Away”)
Written by: David Bowers (“Flushed Away”) and Timothy Harris (“Space Jam”)

For those familiar with Japanese anime and manga, there is no one more influential from the genre than the late Osamu Tezuka, the artist behind such revered creations as “Metropolis” and “Kimba the White Lion.” If Tezuka was already on your radar, then you probably also know that in the early ’50s he published the comic book “Astro Boy,” the story of an android child created by a brilliant scientist to take the place of the son he lost in a car accident.

While most families who flock to the theaters to see the Hollywood version of Tezuka’s vision probably won’t care too much about the mythology, they should still know that the original story is much more appealing that the one director/writer David Bowers (“Flushed Away”) has jerry-rigged for us in the animated feature “Astro Boy.” Borrowing from films such as “WALL-E,” “Pinocchio,” “Oliver Twist,” and a host of other enchanting classics, Bowers fashions together some respectable computer-generated images young kids will enjoy, but the narrative is left as a mishmash of charming ideas and political undertones that transform into a fairly routine animation.

In “Astro Boy,” Dr. Tenema (Nicholas Cage, whose voice simply doesn’t fit his character no matter how creative he gets with his monotonous tone) builds a robot in the likeness of his son Toby (Freddie Highmore) who he loses in a freak laboratory accident. Not only does the android look exactly like Toby, Dr. Tenema has equipped him with all of his son’s memories.

Unable to accept his science experiment as a replacement for his dead child (he probably should’ve said something a little earlier, huh?), Dr. Tenema turns his back on the robo-boy (in the original he sells him to a circus) and leaves him to fend for himself against a pursing military who wants to destroy him. To escape, Astro leaves the bustling Metro City for a new life on Earth, the planet under his hovering metropolis, which has been reduced to a landfill (sans cute, love-struck, squared robot to clean up the mess).

There, Astro Boy befriends a group of salvage yard youngsters and their makeshift leader Ham Egg (Nathan Lane) and learns to live life as – say it with me kids – a real boy. But living on Planet Trash isn’t an option anymore when warmongering President Stone (Donald Sutherland) aims to get his hands on the positive energy source that powers Astro’s superhero abilities.

While the action sequences keep the movie from nose-diving into a scrap-metal mess, Bowers comes up short as a storyteller for anyone who won’t be begging for “Astro Boy” action figures for Christmas. For teenagers and parents, the narrative will come off as stiff as Astro Boy’s rockabilly hairdo.

Fool’s Gold

February 13, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Kate Hudson, Donald Sutherland
Directed by: Andy Tennant (“Hitch”)
Written by: John Claflin (“Anacondas”), Daniel Zelman (“Anacondas”), Andy Tennant (“Ever After”)

If you think a perfect world would somehow manifest if Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson hooked up in real life, you’re far too helpless to be saved. In that case, “Fool’s Gold” was made for moviegoers like you; those who will swoon over a shirtless McConaughey and call it passable entertainment.

In “Gold,” McConaughey and Hudson play Finn and Tess Finnegan, a husband and wife treasure-seeking duo who are going through a messy divorce. On the morning that they’re separation if finalized, Finn is late to the court hearing because he has just found proof that a 300-year-old buried treasure known as the Queen’s Dowry actually exists.

Despite the fact that Tess is a bit interested in finally finding the treasure, she seems to have left that life behind her and now works as a stewardess on the yacht of millionaire Nigel Honeycutt (Sutherland) and his sassy, famous, and all too annoying pop tart daughter Gemma (Alexis Dziena). When Finn finds out that Nigel is on the island, he hatches a plan to stow away for just long enough to explain his situation so that he might get some financial support for the treasure hunt. This series of reckless scenes, which all lead up to a longwinded background story, are by no means funny or fascinating to watch unfold. And unless you want to get dumber by the minute, McConaughey is the last person you want to hear spewing out fictional history lessons and adventure tales. How he didn’t read this script (presuming he can read) and immediately think, ‘Hey, this is like that other movie I did, ‘Sahara,’ but in the ocean,” is beyond explanation.

Playing opposite of McConaughey is Hudson, who was once thought to be the most exciting up-and-coming actress when she wowed us with her performance and landed an Oscar nod as Penny Lane in 2000’s “Almost Famous.” Since then, Hudson been swimming in the kiddie pool with by-the-number roles in everything from “Raising Helen” to “You, Me, and Dupree.” Fight the undertow, Kate, and move on to better gigs.

Better days to come, however, won’t start with “Fool’s Gold.” It’s poorly written across the board by John Claflin and Daniel Zelman (the two guys who came up with “Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid”) and director Andy Tennant decides to make another movie as if he was directing a big-budget TV sitcom on its last leg.

File this one with films like “Captain Ron,” “Boat Trip,” and “Cabin Boy.” A trip out to sea with this crew and you’ll be swimming back to shore.