Ep. 133 – It: Chapter 2 and a MondoCon preview

September 10, 2019 by  
Filed under Podcast

This week on The CineSnob Podcast, Cody and Jerrod see if “It: Chapter 2” floats and discuss what they’re looking forward to from MondoCon5.

Click here to download the episode!

The Huntsman: Winter’s War

April 23, 2016 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt
Directed by:  Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (debut)
Written by:  Evan Spiliotopoulos (“Hercules”) and Craig Mazin (“The Hangover Part II”)

I know for a fact that I saw 2012’s “Snow White and The Huntsman” on DVD, delivered to my mailbox by Netflix (!) and watched with all of the urgency I could muster (meaning it sat on the TV stand for months before I decided to just get it over with). Perhaps best known for featuring a dull “Twilight”-era Kristen Stewart (as Snow White) paired with slumming Thor Chris Hemsworth (as Eric, the Huntsman) to take on evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron in a vampy ham sandwich performance) and some fairly striking imagery featuring a liquidy golden mirror on the wall, the first adventure did well enough (I guess) to warrant this odd, Stewart-less prequel/sequel that isn’t afraid to outright steal from things that are popular with the kids these days, namely “Game of Thrones” and “Frozen.”

“The Hunstman: Winter’s War” opens years before the first film, with dastardly Ravenna taking control of a kingdom after killing the sitting king during a magically-charged chess match. Meanwhile, her kindly sister Freya (Emily Blunt) has fallen in love with a prince and given birth to a daughter. Tragedy strikes, however, and when it appears the prince has killed the girl, Freya’s latent ice-princess powers are activated, and in her rage and sadness she exiles herself to the frozen north to conjure up an ice castle of her own. Please, stop me if you’ve heard this before.

Anyway, Freya enslaves children in her kingdom, training them as Huntsmen and forbidding them to fall in love. Two of them grow up to be Eric and Sara (Jessica Chastain), who, of course, fall in love. Freya loses her cool, however, and ices things up (sorry) by making Eric believe Sara has been killed. He runs for his life and goes on to have his adventures with Snow White in the first movie.

Several years later, Snow White (played by the back of a brunette’s head, since Stewart doesn’t return) sends her prince to tell Eric he has to get Ravenna’s mirror and destroy it, since it’s killing Snow White. Or something. So he and a couple of dwarves (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon) set off on a quest to get this done, and are helped along the way by a mysterious stranger who…screw it, it’s Sara. She was never dead. It was a trick!

After 45 minutes of unpacking the backstory and connective tissue, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” finally kicks into the story and…it’s just not that interesting, and the blatant cribbing from other medieval-ish media is supremely distracting as well. Chastain’s thankless character is essentially a less-vulgar version of Ygritte the Wildling in “Game of Thrones,” and all the shit with Blunt’s ice queen borders on “Frozen” plagiarism so much you can imagine Disney lawyers drafting a lawsuit as the film unfolds. Theron, in what amounts to a cameo appearance, seems to be the only one having any fun, which will be true for the audience as well.

Crimson Peak

October 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro (“Pan’s Labyrinth”)
Written by: Guillermo del Toro (“Pacific Rim”) and Matthew Robbins (“Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”)

In the opening scene of director Guillermo del Toro’s new film “Crimson Peak,” a ghost of the mother of our main character gives the warning: “Beware of Crimson Peak.” With a dull story, bland horror and clunky imagery, I couldn’t agree more, unscary ghost-lady.

After a young woman named Edith (Mia Wasikowska) is swept off her feet by visiting a Englishman named Thomas (Tom Hiddleston), she decides to follow him to his new home after facing a family tragedy. Accompanied by his mysterious sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain), Thomas and Edith arrive and settle into Thomas’ broken down albeit beautiful home. As she spends more time there, however, Edith begins to notice strange things around the house and becomes haunted by ghosts. When she realizes things may not be what they seem, Edith attempts to navigate the truth about what is really happening at Crimson Peak.

Any horror elements, mostly taking place in the form of ghosts, feel like a complete afterthought. None of it is that frightening, but rather a polite haunting that is shoehorned in to spice up a dull romantic story. The romance feels decidedly passionless, as those plotlines are not given nearly enough time to breathe or develop. After a few meetings and some lustful looks, the audience is led to believe that Thomas and Edith are deeply in love, which never feels like the case.

While some plot points and a general sense of unease are pretty obvious early on, the film plays those plot points close to the vest, and takes forever to reveal (barely) what is actually going on. When the film reaches enters it’s Third Act and motives and answers are finally revealed, the movie has taken far too long to get to the point and there’s an air of “Who cares?” that permeates the exposition.

There’s no question the film’s gothic aesthetics are pretty to look at, but once you get past the sheen, there’s nothing worthwhile there. When you throw in some ham-fisted usage of the color red for blood imagery, a lame script of clichéd dialogue, and far too much brooding (I’m looking at you, Chastain), you get a film that lacks in nearly every department. Though the genre of the film may be up for debate, the fact remains that the romantic elements aren’t alluring enough and the horror elements are not chilling enough leaving “Crimson Peak” as a film with much to be desired.

The Martian

October 2, 2015 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels
Directed by: Ridley Scott (“Prometheus”)
Written by: Drew Goddard (“Cloverfield”)

In recent years, director Ridley Scott has gone from Oscar-nominated visionary director, to that guy who made that movie where Cameron Diaz copulates with a car windshield, among other recent cinematic atrocities. It’s a cold streak that, save for the unfairly over-criticized but still average “Promethus,” has firmly moved Scott out of the list of prestige directors. “The Martian,” which is adapted from one of the best received novels of the last few years, tests the theory that perhaps Scott still has the talent and just needed some help tapping into it again.

During a storm on a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and separated from the rest of his crew. Presumed dead, the crew takes off and heads back to Earth. Hours later, Watney wakes up realizing he has been stranded on Mars. With no communication, no clear way to let people know he is alive, and limited supplies, Watney is forced to find a way to stay alive and get in touch with Earth before he runs out of resources.

The sprawling cast of “The Martian” is impressive, with strong supporting turns from actors like Jeff Daniels and Chiwitel Ejoifor. The film, however, belongs to Damon. Displaying why he is the movie star that he is, Damon devours every second of screen time he gets. Watney is a character that, despite his situation, stays in relatively good spirits, which is a testament not only to the character design, but to the nuances of Damon’s performance as the sarcastic botanist.

The other star of the film besides Damon is the screenplay by Drew Goddard. Filled with tension and artfully told through the use of video logs, Goddard is able to bring life and humanity out of isolation. Perhaps the greatest quality of Goddard’s fantastic script is its use of humor. “The Martian” is legitimately funny, largely thanks to the way Damon’s smart-ass, witty character is written, but is even successful with a few sight gags. It adds a level of levity to an otherwise serious situation, keeping the film engaging, thoroughly entertaining and striking a tonal balance between drama and humor that few movies are able to accomplish. It also helps bring out the best in Damon, who delivers his dialogue with comedic ease. He radiates charisma.

Another great quality of the screenplay is how time is split between Damon on Mars and NASA back on Earth. There are little pockets of parallel storylines that unfold and keep things engaging, primarily between Watney’s ingenuity and NASA trying to avoid a PR catastrophe. It’s edited well enough that neither story goes untold for too long and each is fascinating in its own light.

“The Martian” is the total cinematic package. It’s humorous, gripping, intelligent and extremely entertaining. It could have possibly use a touch more of an emotional pull, especially in terms of what is at stake and relationship building, but that feels like a nitpick considering everything else that “The Martian” masterfully accomplishes. Welcome back, Ridley Scott. Perhaps next time you should make sure you bring Goddard along with you.

A Most Violent Year

January 30, 2015 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Oscar Isaac, Jessica Chastain, David Oyelowo
Directed by: J.C. Chandor (“All is Lost”)
Written by: J.C. Chandor (“Margin Call”)

“I spent my whole life trying not to become a gangster,” businessman Abel Morales (Oscar Isaac) says in “A Most Violent Year” when he feels he is losing a grip on everything he’s worked for his entire career. It’s the perfect line of dialogue and an obvious parallel to Ray Liotta’s iconic one-liner in 1990’s “Goodfellas”: “As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a gangster.” Although both men are relatively coming from the same New York City era, Abel , a Latino immigrant and owner of a heating oil business, isn’t cut from the same cloth. He isn’t too interested in putting a hit on the competition or laundering money through back alley deals. He wants to succeed, but only if he can do it the right way and through hard work. He demands legitimacy.

Obtaining the American Dream for him and his family, however, isn’t just a matter of staying on the straight and narrow. When a series of attacks on his company’s drivers becomes a detriment to his livelihood, Abel wants nothing more than to find out who is hurting his business and put a stop to it. With the city’s District Attorney (David Oyelowo) watching his every move, Abel and his mob-tied wife (Jessica Chastain) must decide how hard they will push back to ensure their ambitions are still in reach.

Atmospheric, intense, and minimal in its delivery, “A Most Violent Year” might be the anti-“Goodfellas,” but it’s a gripping achievement Martin Scorsese would value wholeheartedly. Director/writer J.C. Chandor, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2011 dramatic thriller “Margin Call” about the U.S. financial crisis of 2007, tops himself here with a throwback film that feels just as authentic as anything directors Sidney Lumet or Scorsese put out 30 years ago. The narrative packs a substantial punch, especially with the powerful albeit understated performances by Isaac and Chastain, the latter of whom was snubbed of an Oscar nomination in favor of a merely adequate Meryl Streep in “Into the Woods.”

While the title of the film may confuse the average moviegoer (since there’s not much “violence” to be spoken of), the risk of it happening at any given moment is what is most palpable. Watching Abel to see if he will inevitably crack under pressure is a fascinating look into a fully fleshed out character walking a fine line between doing what is respectable and what is easy. There is a reason the word “moral” is in Abel’s last name. Whether he lives up to it or not is part of the intrigue.

Interstellar

November 7, 2014 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception,” “The Dark Knight”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“Inception”) and Jonathan Nolan (“The Dark Knight”)

While the critical community may scoff, director Christopher Nolan (“The Dark Knight”) really does turn out truly smart blockbusters aimed at adults. Sure, the landscape of tentpole filmmaking is changing somewhat, with Marvel Studios leading the pack with their well-planed barrage of interconnected films that cross generational lines, but by and large the movie-going public sees big giant releases as fare for kids and teenagers. These movies aren’t made for grown-ups. But a Nolan film is different. Playing with the house money that the box office success of the mostly masterful “Dark Knight” lined his pockets with, Nolan has chosen to create massive science fiction-tinged event movies for adults after every adventure in Gotham City, from “The Prestige” to “Inception” and finally to his latest film, the impressive, mind-bending, heart-tugging—and sometimes frustrating—space and time epic “Interstellar.”

Decades after some unspoken of devastation overtook the people and governments of Earth, the planet begins dropping not-so-subtle hints that man’s time is nearing an end. Blight is destroying crops all over globe, with only corn resisting the destruction. Mankind has transitioned into survival mode, forcing natural explorers like Coop (Matthew McConaughey), a former NASA pilot, to live life as a reluctant farmer. The same itch has been passed to his young daughter Murph (Mackenzie Foy), who struggles at school in the face of a curriculum that has retconned the moon landing as a tool to bankrupt the Soviet Union. When strange things begin happening in Murph’s room, such as books falling off the shelf in a pattern, she blames the events on a ghost. Initially dismissive, Coop takes interest when he notices the pattern Murph found is binary code containing coordinates. Coop and Murph take a drive to investigate and end up finding what’s left of NASA, and they need Coop to lead a deep space mission to save mankind.

Much has been said about Nolan’s tendency to have his characters’ dialogue filled with loads of exposition dumps, and “Interstellar” is no different. Tons of science—what to the average ear sounds at once authoritative and full of mumbo jumbo—is slung between Coop and his crew (including Anne Hathaway, Wes Bentley and a wonderfully wry robot named TARS, voiced by Bill Irwin) in order to explain what’s going on to the audience time after time. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t really matter. The vast majority of “Interstellar” is captivating, with the high water mark coming on a planet covered in waves where a nearby black hole warps the passage of time. Less successful is a long sequence on a remote planet featuring an unbilled guest star who’s twist can be seen coming light years away. By the time the movie powers through its “2001”-inspired climax, you’ll realize Nolan has done it again: created a near-masterpiece that will have you thinking about it for weeks to come.

Mama

January 18, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Directed by: Andreś Muschietti (debut)
Written by: Neil Cross, Andreś Muschietti, Barbara Muschietti (debut)

There’s an interesting dichotomy at work in the career of Guillermo del Toro. When it comes to directing, he’s known for his dark flights of fancy, plunging his films into twisted worlds haunted by fantastical, meticulously-crafted heroes and villains filled with pathos and often blurry lines between good and evil. As a producer, however, del Toro often lends his name to horror projects that begin with promise of del Toro-esque quality and end up as routine scary movie snores. The latest film presented by del Toro, “Mama,” unfortunately continues that trend.

“Mama” stars two-time Academy Award-nominee Jessica Chastain (“Zero Dark Thirty”) as punk rock girl Annabel who, along with her boyfriend Lucas (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau of HBO’s “Game of Thrones”), ends up taking care of Lucas’ young nieces after they’re found in a nearly feral state prowling around a remote cabin. The girls have been living seemingly on their own for five years after their father Jeffrey (also Coster-Waldau, for some reason) murdered their mother and fled with his daughters in tow. As Jeffrey prepares to pull the trigger on his oldest daughter, a mysterious specter snatches him away to his implied death and takes her place as the girls’ guardian, know to them as Mama.

“Mama” arrives with an interesting premise – feral children with a seemingly otherworldly caretaker readjusting to normal society – but ends up disappointing early on. First-time director Andreś Muschietti tips his hand too soon by revealing Mama’s supernatural status in the first act.

Muscheitti, who also shares a screenwriting credit, deflates any psychological tension the situation might naturally create (is Mama a figment of the girls’ imagination? Is one of them actually Mama?) and instead turns the rest of film into an hour of the audience waiting for everyone on screen to discover this malevolent ghost we’ve already seen in action. The final act of the film wallows in a few half-prophetic dream sequences before limping to a conclusion that throws plot points out the window to eke out an ending indifferent to the rest of the film.

On another note, the sheer ferocity of Mama is puzzling. She’s introduced saving a young girl from being murdered by her father, for which her savage behavior is wholly appropriate. When she ends up putting well-meaning people into comas for investigating why moths are crawling out of a moldy portal to another dimension that’s randomly appeared in a hallway, well…not so appropriate.

Zero Dark Thirty

January 12, 2013 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Jason Clarke, Joel Edgerton
Written by: Mark Boal (“The Hurt Locker”)
Directed by: Katheryn Bigelow (“The Hurt Locker”)

In a year where all the buzz seems to be about “Lincoln,” a film chronicling one of the most important events in U.S., and frankly, human history, another film depicting the events of recent history finally makes its way to theaters nationwide. Oscar-winning director of “The Hurt Locker,” Katheryn Bigelow steps behind the camera for “Zero Dark Thirty,” a compelling look into the events leading up to and the actual mission to kill Osama Bin Laden.

The film is driven quite impressively by Oscar-nominated actress Jessica Chastain (“The Help”), as she brings a stoic intensity to the role. In a part that requires a strong female presence, Chastain is most impressive when she must go toe-to-toe with her male counterparts and assert her dominance. Behind Chastain, there is a cavalcade of well-acted supporting performances from great veteran actors. Though most of these supporting cast members don’t get more than a few scenes, the best of the performances belong to Jason Clarke, Kyle Chandler and Mark Strong.

From a technical standpoint, “Zero Dark Thirty” has very few flaws. There are so many ways in which the construction of the film excels, but none is more front and center than the pacing. Simply stated, “Zero Dark Thirty” is a clinic in pacing. The film is compartmentalized into chapters, a smart decision when telling a story that takes place over a long period of time. The constant flow and a fantastic editing job keeps scenes from running long and the film from becoming boring at any point. One of things “Zero Dark Thirty” is particularly good at is delivering the narrative and information in a meat-and-potatoes kind of way during the terrorist pursuit. Many names, locations and faces are given throughout the movie and to the films credit, never is there a moment of confusion about what is being talked about.

While the actual mission and raid that killed Bin Laden is an integral part of the film, “Zero Dark Thirty” is mostly about a woman’s endless pursuit to find him. With that being the case, a large majority of the film is spent on the research and tactics it took to lead this team to Bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. Though the scene of the raid is impressive in its own right, it is the moments that build up to it that are truly stellar. The behind-the-scene meetings and the intelligence missions are just a few of the truly captivating moments of the film. know the outcome of. Bigelow is also able to find tension in events that the audience might already know the outcome of. She constructs scenes that allow not only factual information based on real events to be told, but to bring personalities and build complex characters around them. Her absence from the list of Best Director Oscar nominees is a snub in every sense of the word.

“Zero Dark Thirty” is marred with controversy about the depiction of torture and its meaning in the film. For whatever it’s worth, I never got the feeling of a political agenda one way or another while watching the film. In fact, I thought that the events in the film were largely depoliticized. Thanks to expert pacing and narrative structure, “Zero Dark Thirty” doesn’t feel anywhere close to its two and a half-hour run time. Outstandingly acted, thoroughly cohesive and profoundly intriguing, “Zero Dark Thirty” stands firmly as the best film of 2012.

Coriolanus

April 6, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler, Brian Cox
Directed by: Ralph Fiennes (debut)
Written by: John Logan (“The Aviator”)

Social and economic inequality set the cinematic stage in “Coriolanus,” a highly-inspired adaptation of William Shakespeare’s early 17th century play, which, in many ways, parallels the protest movement against governmental power tripping that began in New York City late last year and has since spread across the U.S. While some literary pundits would call the original text one of the more minor tragedies written by Shakespeare (or whomever, for all you Anti-Stratfordians), first-time director and two-time Academy Award-nominated actor Ralph Fiennes (“Schindler’s List”) builds a fascinating modern-day narrative on familiar themes including political corruption and blood-lusting revenge and drills it straight into a belief system that rebellion is the only way to save a threatened democracy. It’s a stark depiction of war and societal oppression complemented by a frighteningly intense performance by Fiennes as the title tragic character who gives Coriolanus its impressive scowl.

When scarred and stern-faced Caius Martius Coriolanus (Fiennes) steps out from behind a line of shielded soldiers and toward a riotous mob that is demanding the government provide them food, the seething look he gives them only hints at the depth of the the Roman general’s loathing (though he’ll soon be seeking support from those same detractors during his transition from despised war hero to demeaning political figure). His hatred, however, is mostly concentrated toward the Volscian army and his sworn enemy Tullus Aufidius (Gerard Butler), who he later joins forces with to get revenge on Rome when its citizens banish him from the impoverished city.

As Coriolanus’ prideful mother Volumnia, Oscar winner Vanessa Redgrave (“Julia”) is a standout, as is Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (“The Help”) in a smaller yet significant role as his concerned wife Virgilia, and Brian Cox (“Red”) as Senator Menenius, an ally who keeps the pendulum swinging steadily in Rome before Coriolanus shoves it over violently. It’s Fiennes, however, as both the visionary debuting filmmaker and lead that deserves the most credit for taking Shakespeare’s distinct language and allowing it to flourish in a contemporary setting and from the tongues of proven actors. While the decision to stay committed to the original text might turn away some viewers who would’ve rather seen “Coriolanus” set in a high school starring Zac Efron, perhaps, purists can take solace in the fact that Fiennes’ ambitious interpretation of Shakespeare’s work is well executed and unsettlingly relevant even after four centuries.

Take Shelter

November 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain, Shea Wingham
Directed by: Jeff Nichols (“Shotgun Stories”)
Written by: Jeff Nichols (“Shotgun Stories”)

The storm clouds are spinning out of control in both the sky and trouble mind of Academy Award-nominated actor Michael Shannon in the psychological drama “Take Shelter.” It’s a story filled with emotionally terrifying moments that bend between dreams and reality. As the storm rolls in, the sense of dread director/writer Jeff Nichols (“Shotgun Stories”) delivers in only the second feature film of his career is suffocating.

Shannon plays Curtis LaForche, a Midwestern sand miner who decides to build a storm shelter in his backyard much to the chagrin of his wife Samantha (Jessica Chastain) who worries how they’re going to pay for something they don’t even need.

But Curtis thinks it’s extremely necessary since visions of a terrible storm brew each day in his head. Not only are storm clouds forming, Curtis watches a flock of birds fly in eerie patterns and witnesses as oil drizzles upon him. With a schizophrenic mother, Curtis wonders if he, too, is crazy or if his mind is only playing tricks. Or maybe he really does have the power to foresee apocalyptic events that are coming near.

Was is so interesting about Curtis as a character is that he is incredibly conscious of his mental instability, but also vulnerable to the forces he can’t control. Whether they’re dreams or hallucinations, it’s all very ominous as he stabs the earth with a shovel and spirals into a deep, dark place that he can’t escape.

Metaphorical, poignant and heavy on biblical references, “Take Shelter” will speak to the same audience who found “Martha Marcy May Marlene” both disturbing and intriguing. As the possible storm torments Curtis, so does Nichols with his pitch-black tone and unnerving take on a reality that may or may not exist.