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February 16, 2021 22:22 +0000  |  Movies 0

It's been a long time since I posted a movie review, but this blog has been so dire for so long, I thought it a nice change of pace.

I've seen a lot of movies over the years, but only a select few were so very terrible that they get the coveted 0/5. The only other one that comes to mind at the moment was the fantastically terrible Eyes Wide Shut where I walked out of the theatre relieved that there would never be another Kubrick film. Snowpiercer however has joined these ignoble ranks.

The Plot

Spoilers: though I would think I'm doing you a favour by giving you one more reason not to see this movie

The story goes that a bunch of scientists thought they'd fix global warming by putting a chemical in the atmosphere, but they made a mistake that somehow turned the planet into a frozen wasteland. Instead of bunkering down underground and concentrating our energy sources to generate heat in one place, some "brilliant" individual built a train that travels all around the world in roughly one year. In constant motion, this train of fewer than a hundred cars apparently has the only living creatures left on the planet on board.

Our Hero (played by Captain America](https://www.imdb.com/name/nm0262635/)) lives in the tail of the train where all the poor people live, and he leads a rebellion to take control of the train so his people won't starve anymore. The rebellion ends with nearly every insurrectionist killed, and the Boss of the Train offering his job to Captain America after he explains that this has all be part of his Super Enlightened Class War. Instead, our hero blows up the fucking train, killing all but two people, effectively ending the human race.

What made it Terrible

(As if that plot wasn't enough)

Yes the ending was stupid, but that's just a fragment of the disjointed, nonsensical ridiculousness of the movie. There's so, so much more. Really the problem with Snowpiercer is that it tries to pretend that it's science fiction (there is absolutely no science in this movie) when it's really poorly written fantasy. Had they declared that the train is made of magic, a lot of the problems could have been explained away (though the premise is still ridiculous), but they didn't do that. Instead, they just put a bunch of people on a train and said "it's cold outside".

Physics

The idea of a train being a solution to the problem of keeping humanity alive in this situation is nuts. Movement costs a lot of energy, movement through massive cold at crazy speeds costs a shittone of energy. Couple this with the fact that a few hundred people (not to mention food and other resources) must live exclusively on this tiny train, and you've got an entire movie premise that's absurd on its face.

Assuming for the moment that the train itself is magic such that it can run 24/7 on magic fuel that weighs nothing and takes up no space, are we also expected to believe that the tracks laid all over the planet in a post-apocalypic hellscape never need maintenance, even with a magic train ripping over them in -100C once a year?

Character Development

The characters are left completely undeveloped. Not one of them shows any growth, let alone demonstrates any characteristics that makes you want to like them or identify with them.

  • There's the Best Friend, whose backstory we never get into. He's killed early-on.
  • The grieving mother who does little more than scream about her kid that was stolen before she's killed.
  • There's the wise-old-man who keeps telling our hero that he's got to be the next wise-old-man. He gets killed off pretty early too, and we later learn that getting himself killed was always part of the Grand Plan. I guess that... counts?
  • The Korean junkie who knows how to open the doors between cars. He's basically a junkie who opens doors for the whole movie until the last 10 minutes when he explains that what he really wants to do is get off the train.
  • The junkie's teenage kid who somehow is clairvoyant (what? how? why?) but whose skills are never used.
  • The Boss of the Train who fancies himself some sort of enlightened caretaker of humanity. He tells our hero why this was all his grand design before he's killed.
  • Our hero, who never accepts the mantle of leader, has a brief stint at the end about how he once did some Terrible Things as a teenager before cutting off his own arm for symbolism rather than function and then killing everyone left on earth.

The Action Scenes

I think the director watched Old Boy and thought: "lets do that hammer in the hallway scene, but for like, 2 hours". The action is ridiculous, poorly choreographed and completely illogical. If you want to stop a rebellion on a train, you don't fill a car full of blindfolded men with hatchets and wait for the rebellion to come to you. You vent the cars and let everyone freeze until they submit or die.

Then there was the just plain stupid gun battle between cars as the train rounded a loop. Captain America has an automatic weapon (short range, high bullet count, low accuracy) and he's shooting holes in the window (-100C anyone?) so he can hopefully get a bullet through a 3cm hole a few hundred metres away in high winds on a train moving at crazy speeds. This is made more ridiculous by the fact that the Bad Guy is trying exactly the same thing on his end.

For that matter, where the hell are they getting all of those bullets in the first place?

And the Bad Guy -- he was just... dumb. The dude is stabbed straight through his side, we watch him die and then 20min later he just shows up again without even a limp to fight with a bunch of coked-out strangers on a tiny bridge before the engine.

The director just wanted stupid gun battles and ridiculous hatchet fights in the dark with torches -- which to be clear, is totally fine but you can't do that and couch your story in any world with rules like our own.

Resources

This is really the whole "the premise is the problem" thing. Judging by what we saw in the movie, you've got, maybe a few hundred people on this "ark" train. Those people need the basics to just survive: food, water, shelter. There's a brief moment where they explain that the water actually comes from outside (ice is pulled from the air as they move to create water), the food bit however is where everything falls apart.

As our hero progresses through the train, he's introduced to all of the amazing things they have to keep them alive: there's a car that's just one big aquarium, another for hydroponics, and another that's a slaughterhouse, complete with hanging beef ribs... on a train with no cows.

Now ignoring for the moment the whole thing about eating animals without any animals around to eat, a fish tank the size of a train car is not enough to feed a few hundred people, not even just twice a year as they claim in the movie. A single hydroponics car is again, far too little To provide food for just 100 people indefinitely would likely require dozens of hydroponic cars like the one we saw.

Interestingly, while it's apparently so cold on earth that humans can't survive for more than 30minutes, there's still polar bears -- though it's not clear what they eat.

Rebellion is the Answer

The Boss of the Train explains in his big monologue at the end that all of this has been part of his Grand Plan to thin the numbers of people in the tail of the train in an effort to keep things in "balance". While it's obvious that a train with limited resources would need to worry about such things, opting for armed rebellion is about the dumbest thing you can do in that situation.

He wanted to cut the population of the tail by 75%. He could have poisoned their food supplies, or just starved them out. He could have staged gladiator battles with the prize being promotion to a better place on the train. Anything else would have been less costly and less risky for the preservation of the train, but he opted to send blindfolded people with hatchets, guns and bombs to do battle in the dark with night vision goggles (why the hell do they have night vision goggles?). It's messy, pointlessly risky, destructive, and has absolutely no upside.

The Eugenics Premise

And finally the part that people point to to argue that this is some sort of thoughtful work of social commentary: the whole eugenics thing.

So it is. Now, as in the beginning, I belong to the front. You belong to the tail. When the foot seeks the place of the head, the sacred line is crossed. Know your place. Keep your place. Be a shoe.

It's clear in these (many) scenes that the writer is trying to appear thoughtful around things like class warfare and eugenics, but the attempts are so ham-fisted and obvious that they come across more like breaks in the story: they're telling you what the moral of the story is rather than letting you see it yourself or find your own message.

It's not even a well thought-out premise though. For all of the preaching about a system of delicate balance where everyone and everything must remain in their place, the people crammed into the tail never demonstrate any use to the train or its passengers. They perform no labour at all for any train function, and there are multiple references to them being "freeloaders" and stowaways. Indeed the only function they appear to serve is that their children are occasionally harvested to work in the train engine (our magic engine sometimes needs parts, but those parts don't exist anymore so children do the work instead because... reasons).

The people on the rest of the train don't seem to do much of anything really. With the exception of a few farmers and 1 teacher, everyone else we meet is a freeloader as well. The only reason they're not in the tail eating bug-bars is that they paid for a ticket.

In this world, class doesn't serve any real purpose. The people in the front of the train aren't afraid of being demoted, and the people in the back have no opportunity to move up. The people in the back don't do anything for the people in the front, and are more of a drain than anything else. They could just as easily have jettisoned the last few cars on the train and absolutely nothing would change... except that there wouldn't be a movie then, and I would have my two hours back.

Conclusion

People will tell you that this movie is all about the social commentary, but it's just not thought-out enough to qualify for this. Merely shouting "class war" every 20 minutes does not mean you've had anything valuable to say.

The biggest fault though is in the setting. So many of the idiotic, nonsensical problems in this movie could have been explained away if they'd bothered to think it through.

  • If that fight in the dark with blindfolded hatchet fishmongers was truly important (I can't imagine why) they could have written in some sort of magic paling that prevents automatic weapons in certain areas.
  • If the unkillable bad guy was something they wanted, we could have had some sort of newfangled shielding or medical technology that explains this all away.

...but this is set in 2031 and the train had been running since 2014. There are rules in the universe they've set here, and they ignored them only when they want to do something stupid.

IMDB classifies this as "science fiction" which is just... insane. If anything it's anti-science. It's not fantasy either because they go to great lengths to remind us that they live in our world governed by common rules. Harry Potter, with magic wands and trolls, and flying cars is fantasy. Ant-Man, where there's a mysterious technology that makes you tiny is fantasy, Spider-Man with radioactive spider bites giving you super powers is fantasy. Snowpiercer is just... bad.

August 18, 2012 12:09 +0100  |  Movies Netherlands 0

As part of my series of reflections on my own culture shock living here in the Netherlands I thought it appropriate to cover movie going, something I do an awful lot of wherever I live.

The first thing most Canadians might be surprised by is the assigned seating. No more sitting on the floor in line for hours waiting to get into the theatre and fight for good seats. In the Netherlands you buy your tickets in advance, either at the door or online (Pathé even has an awesome mobile app), pick your seat, and show up 5min before the show starts. The only downside is that you can't move if the people around you are being assholes or if they stink.

The biggest theatre chain here also has an Unlimited club card. Take it to the theatre, scan it at the automated ticket dispenser and go see your movie... as many movies as you like, for a flat monthly rate of €19 -- roughly the price of two movies. I have one and let me tell you it's pretty fabulous. I find myself going to movies I wouldn't normally see, and walking out if they suck. It totally changes the experience.

Also, with the exception of some animated children's films, movies here are also *not* dubbed. Instead they're subtitled which is pretty awesome until you're watching a movie and someone starts speaking Russian and the subtitles... well they're already in Dutch so you're SOL.

So that's the good stuff, the bad though is pretty bad.

First of all it would appear that Dutch people do not know when to shut up. Talking (not whispering) in the theatre is par for the course here. People regularly get up, walk in front of the screen, have loud conversations and then just leave the door open when they walk out, only to return 20min later and do it all over again.

Premieres, like the one I attended the other night, are particularly worse. This is where people's inner douchebags are truly released. Whenever a woman walks on screen, half the audience shouted "Whore!" and randomly throughout the movie you hear "Homo!" and other shitty behaviour. The theatre staff remain blind and deaf to it all, and happily sell _cases_ of beer to movie goers on their way in.

Being at a premiere in the Netherlands is like being in a room with 400 drunk 12 year olds.

The event was a doubleheader, but I bailed after the first movie. The way I figure it, they should be paying _me_ to put up with that kind of thing, not the other way around.

...you're going to burn in a special place in Hell.  A place they reserve for child molesters, and people who talk at the theatre.

August 03, 2012 21:24 +0100  |  Movies 5

So I've finally seen the new Dark Knight movie and I can honestly say, without even comparing it to those that came before it: it sucked.

Honestly, it's as if the writers just went on vacation and left a couple coke heads to bang out a script and stamp "Batman" on it, confident that the money would just roll in. This movie was so riddled with continuity errors and inexplicable plot holes, that even my rather forgiving willingness to suspend disbelief was seriously challenged.

The rest of this is full of spoilers, so if that bothers you, you'd best stop here. To start with the obvious: Bruce Wayne, a billionaire playboy in prime condition and with no more villains to fight, locks himself inside his mansion for eight years and his body somehow just falls apart. A doctor x-rays his legs and tells him that there's no cartilage in his knees, at which point Wayne responds by jumping out a window and repelling down the building. He later proceeds to beat down a bunch of bad guys and participate in a motorcycle chase. That little brace on his right leg must have been pretty amazing.

Then there's Bane's destructive campaign and the over-the-top plane hijacking at the start of the film. Bane, with all his resources and a small army of devoted followers is able to line a city of 11million with explosives to detonate concurrently, but can't kill a few guys guarding a scientist. Instead, it makes far more sense to highjack a plane... from the outside... while in flight.

While a pair of glasses appear to be enough to hide Superman's identity, a kevlar suit, cape and cowl just don't seem to cut it for our hero. Batman's true identity is apparently so easy to guess that a beat cop figured it out all on his own by the expression on his face. Bane knows too, some crazy how.

Tate's mission is to destroy Gotham, and the smartest way to do this is a convoluted plot to develop a brand new clean energy technology, build a reactor under the city, kidnap the only scientist who knows how to turn it into a bomb and fake his death. With resources like that you're telling me she couldn't riddle the sewers with regular explosives, or even just build a regular fission bomb?

Every good guy is either rich or a cop. The rest of us are apparently willing to follow a guy who blows up stadiums full of people. The exception to this rule is Hathaway's Catwoman, who was fun to watch and I'd love to see her get her own flick.

Commissioner Gordon's soul-searching letter, revealed to the public by Bane, while shooting up the city is supposed to somehow betray Gordon to the public and make Bane look what... righteous? Wasn't he just executing civilians? Why would anyone believe anything this man has to say?

Catwoman wants a blank slate so bad that she'll kidnap a congressman and kill people, but she can't find a way to sneak into Cuba.

Bruce Wayne, literally beaten and broken, with a piece of vertebrae sticking out of his back is left at the bottom of a pit in some far away failed state to watch his city burn on television. The solution? a good punch in the back (that'll fix that pesky back bone) and lots of push ups. He then manages to climb his way out, at which point he magically transports his barefoot and penniless self back to Gotham, a city under siege and barricaded on all sides. All of this takes place in the span of five months. He shows up just in time to have a relaxed conversation with Catwoman, grab his gear and with his cartilage-free knees, still fight the bad guys to save the day.

And then there's the nuclear explosion which, really just.... I'm so mad about this.

Look, if you have a thermo nuclear device on a really big string, and you fly it out over the ocean for 1:30, you're just not going to get far enough away from the city to save anyone. I don't care how fast the SuperAwesomeAntiPhysicsBatPlane is. You're detonating a nuke in the atmosphere off the coast of a major metropolitan city. At the very least we're talking massive nuclear fallout, poisoning the air for hundreds of kilometers in all directions, and that's not even considering the flesh-melting effects of the initial nuclear flash. This was a bomb designed to destroy a city of 11million... a little distance isn't going to help anyone.

Lastly, a big screw-you goes out to the writers for comparing the 99% to the murderous cult of Bane. From Kyle's heavy-handed foreshadowing about the poor taking back what the rich stole, to Bane's populist revolt murdering rich people in their homes, it's nice to be equated to terrorists and thugs. Screw you guys.

So no, I didn't like this movie. It's possibly the most overrated flick I've ever seen and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Go see Seeking a Friend for the End of the World instead. At least that one was witty.

August 16, 2009 06:01 +0100  |  Movies 1

Everything you've heard about this movie is true. It's bad. The writing is super-cheesy, the action scenes unbelievable and the overall plot is pretty damn hokey.

But it was awesome! ESPLOSIONS! Cool toys! Funny, pointless dialogue! Sword fights! Seriously, if you watched this show as a kid, or just thuroughly enjoyed the PSAs they used to do, you should see this movie. It's superfun. So now you know -- and knowing is half the battle :-)

May 10, 2009 10:01 +0100  |  Movies Society & Culture Star Trek 7

...but not Star Trek.

I have just returned from the new Star Trek movie and I need to take a moment to rant. Feel free to ignore this one if you don't really care about what Star Trek is and are completely happy with this movie. I won't hold it against you... probably.

For the uninitiated, perhaps this movie was as frickin' awesome as everyone has told me repeatedly. It does, after all carry a strong cast, some decent writing and some pretty damned impressive special effects. This alone would make it an exciting movie, something to entertain and keep you excited for the duration but that alone isn't enough to call it Star Trek. This latest incarnation of the franchise is nothing more than yet another summer blockbuster -- like Terminator, or Wolverine, or Transformers the plot is simple:

  • Introduce Good Guys
  • Introduce Bad Guys
  • Bad Guys are bad
  • Good Guys kill bad guys
  • Studio makes money

Generally speaking, I like mindless blockbusters. They're fun, and watchable, but Star Trek is better than that. We love the show and even some of the movies because it speaks to us at a higher level, encourages us to question abstracts in our society like morality, justice and peace. It's about exploration and the development of humanity into something Better than we are. It's about more than good guys, bad guys, and cool effects.

This was J.J. Abrams' Star Trek, which is nice for him, and for the hordes of people it will bring to the franchise, but if nothing else, this movie marks the end of Roddenberry's dream... and for someone who grew up on those Ideals, that hurts... a lot.

If only they hadn't dedicated the movie to Gene and Majel...

October 17, 2008 19:12 +0100  |  Canada Movies War 0

I've been waiting for this movie for three years.

Paul Gross' new film, "Passchendaele" debuts today and is playing at the Paramount (Scotia) Theatre downtown at 7pm and 10pm. For those interested, Melanie and I will be going down to the 10pm show and you're all welcome to join us.

The National post has a wonderful article explaining the history of the movie and why it's so important that we support it, and for those looking for more detail, the official site has loads of information as well as the trailer.

September 28, 2008 07:22 +0100  |  Movies Religion 7

After Barcamp today, K-dot, Cas, Greg and I went out for food at The Cat's Meow for dinner (absolutely horrible pizza... I mean, their sauce stated like ketchup!). The conversation was good, and I finally got to meet Cas, which was pretty damn cool too. When the fooding was over however (thanks be to Cas and Greg who helped me with my ketchup-pizza), K-dot and Cas offered Greg and I free tickets to see Bill Maher's new flick: Religulous.

After a hurried commute (we had 30min to get from Granville Island to the Granville Cinema... further than it sounds) and a few wrong turns (I'm an idiot) we got there with 5min to spare and practically no seating available. Greg and I caught a pair of seats in the forward left corner and settled down for roughly two hours of hilarious flickage.

The gist of the movie is Maher's going from religious nut to religious nut, asking them rational questions about their irrational faith and then trying to get them to justify themselves. Peppered between funny stuff like comparing Santa Claus to Jesus, and the talking snake to Jack and the Beanstalk, he also interviews some rational believers (can you imagine a Vatican astronomer mocking fundamentalist Evangelicals? It's good stuff.) He then bookended his movie with serious notes about how the people who believe this stuff are the same people with access to very dangerous things and that it's about time that the rational among us stand up to this kind of sanctioned non-thinking, or we risk serious environmental and political repercussions... you know, that "end times" stuff the religious nuts are all excited about.

Great movie. I muchly recommend.

September 18, 2008 09:28 +0100  |  Movies 0

I just saw Hamlet 2 tonight and my review is rather simple:

  • It was terrible
  • It was also fucking brilliant!

Seriously, I laughed so hard at the pure absurdity of it all and that's what makes this movie genius. Of course I've always had a soft spot for teach movies, so consider the source ^_^

July 10, 2008 22:17 +0100  |  Capitalism Movies 4

In the space of two hours today I've received two messages from two different people on the same subject:

My coworker has good deal for movie tix. she can get them for $6.95/person. Expires in 2010. If you want, let me know how many asap.

Upon hearing the question the first time around, I was interested, but now... now I smell a rat. Could it be that the Cineplex folks are looking to do any or all of these?

  • Lock out any competitors with cheap pre-paid tickets
  • Lower the price to cut competition while simultaneously securing clientele

I'm sure that there are more things they could be doing behind the curtain but at this point I'm highly suspicious. They do, after all have a well-earned reputation for monopoly maintenance and exploitation. Has anyone else heard of this?

May 10, 2008 11:06 +0100  |  Movies 8

Alright, so I've been hitting the movie theatre an awful lot lately. Can you blame me with all these great flicks playing and Triple O's "Dinner & a Movie" deal for $13? I can't help myself.

Forbidden Kingdom

When I saw the poster, I was a bit confused as to how Jet Li and Jackie Chan could be in the same movie. I mean, Li is a terrible actor who tends to do action flicks and Chan mostly does comedy. But 20min in I realised the brilliance of this one. To use a term Melanie would understand, this movie is awesome in it's badness. They made no attempt at a serious movie and instead went all out with some fun fantasy kung-fu, magic and drunken humour. Chan is excellent in this one -- if you have the time, I muchly recommend.

Iron Man

After Xmen 3, Spiderman 3 and Ghostrider, I walked into this one with few expectations. I mean, I didn't know much about Iron man, except that Tony Stark was a dick and that RDJ would be perfect for the role. When I walked out of there though, I was totally stoked on Iron Man. Really. Awesome. Flick. Great even if you don't dig comic books, though it'd help. And stick around post-credits!

Speed Racer

The trailers looked cheesy, but with the Wachowski Brothers running the show, I wasn't about to miss it. Poesy and I saw it tonight and damn that was one impressive flick. It's a fine example of movies-as-art, in the same way as Sin City was brilliant, Speed Racer puts a Dick Tracy-esque spin on it all: bright, vibrant colours, cheesy dialogue and fucking awesome oneliners. And there's a monkey! And ninjas! Better than Iron Man. Don't miss this one.