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Talking with Bong Joon-Ho of SNOWPIERCER

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I’ve said it one times too many already but for the purpose of this article, it’s really worth reiterating again: I’m a big fan of South Korean film. So it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I jumped at the opportunity to interview Bong Joon-Ho, a great voice within the oeuvre of South Korean films and a leader of the movement to turn it into a world wide product. Snowpiercer, his latest hit, is an even bigger, bolder move than we saw from his countryman Park Chan-wook who went from directing the OG Oldboy to last year’s ravishing Stoker.

 

In his transition from South Korean to world wide voice, Joon-ho has brought with him his distinctive voice and the inimitable courage of South Korean film. Though occasionally aided by a translator, Joon-ho and I dove into his filmography, how it has escalated and changed throughout the years, the importance of telling an international story, The Host, pessimism’s place in film, and the infamous Snowpiercer debacle he had with the Weinsteins, including what they wanted to cut from his director’s cut.

I wanted to say I’ve enjoyed all of your movies so far, especially “The Host”. I’m a big fan of “The Host”.

Bong Joon-Ho: Oh really? Thank you.

I thought it was excellent so thank you. So, diving in to “Snowpiercer” – first of all, this is story that is based on a French graphic novel, filmed largely in the Czech Republic, produced by a South Korean company and distributed by the Weinsteins here in America that also features a cast that pretty much represents all corners of the globe.

BJ: Yeah. Yeah.

So, it’s really a grab bag of colors and cultures. You just really present an international film in such a way that you don’t usually see. What about the film necessitates such an international approach?

BJ: It’s about the last survivors of mankind on a train, so naturally the production process became that way as well in terms of people working on the film. It’s people in narrow and long corridor-like environments. But really, rather than it be more about global – different languages or different types of people or nationalities – there’s really like divisions in two’s. Whether it’s the rich and the poor, whether it’s the people who want to maintain the system that exists or those who want to change the system. You can really divide it or look at from that point of view. It’s more a division into two’s rather than “Let’s represent all kinds of people.” You have a Korean director and cinematographer and Czech Republic crew members, an American visual effects supervisor, U.K. stunt coordinators and many European- even Romanian actors, Icelandic actors, Korean actors in “The Host”. Everyone who worked on the film was a filmmaker and it’s kind of the same everywhere- it wasn’t like because of those aspects it was very chaotic where it was like “Babel” – it was pretty smooth. Republic of Cinema.

Yeah. I thought that was so cool. You usually don’t see that. Usually it’s a much more narrow focus. This is a South Korean film or this is an American film. But this felt like a film from the world.

BJ: Yeah, a sci-fi movie.

You had a notorious back and forth with the Weinstein companies about which theatrical cut you would show to audiences here in America. I remember that being somewhat of a big deal and eventually you got your way. “This is the film I made, this is the film I want to show.” Can you talk about some of the changes that they had wanted to implement and how you thought that might have changed the overall film?

BJ: It took a long time. Almost one year.

Just as a negotiation process?

BJ: Very hard to say that’s it’s a negotiation. They have the power, I am just young Asian director- I have no power. But anyway, for me, my previous movies are all my director’s cuts. I have 100% creative control in Korean. I am not a control-freak, but anyway I control everything in the movie; of course the editing and the final cut I have. And also, the Weinstein company, I heard they always do that kind of thing: changes. That is natural for them. So that’s normal for them. The way he works is normal for him. So we kind of knew going in it that it might not be easy. There was a cut that was created that’s 20 minutes shorter and was tested in New Jersey last year. The 200 people that were there are the only ones that actually saw this film.

What did that 20 cut minutes include?

BJ: Some here and there, here and there, and the dialogue. For example Chris Evans, “The baby tastes the best!” That kind of thing.

That’s one of the best parts of the movie for me!

BJ: Yeah.

It’s bringing the darkness of South Korea in.

BJ: Yeah.

Because I feel that that’s something that kind of defines South Korean movies is you’re willing to go places that typical American audiences can’t quite swallow. And that’s what I really like, I’m not going to talk about this much in the article, about the end.

BJ: We never hesitate with that kind of thing. Something deep and dark.

Yeah.

BJ: And also the moment when Tilda put out her tentures. It’s a funny moment. but they wanted to cut it out. And also some parts of conversation between John Hurt and Chris Evans in the night- that kind of thing. It’s 20 whole minutes. But the [audience] score was not good! And then two months later they did another test screening with my own version- the score was relatively much higher! And many things happened. Let’s put some voice over, or maybe or not. It was their decision to release it this way. It’s not like I went up to the Weinsteins and poured gasoline over myself saying, “I’m going to kill myself!” It’s a limited release but it’s the director’s cut and so I’m really excited for that.

Yeah I remember watching the news story surrounding it and crossing my fingers— I didn’t want to see this changed version of it, I really wanted to see the original. So I’m glad we got to see that cut because it sounds like a significantly better cut. I want to talk about your filmography in general and this idea of escalation in terms of systems breaking down. You take “Memories of Murder” which is essentially about police interrogations breaking down—

BJ: They fail.

Yes, failing. Then, you take “The Host” which is about government failing. And then, to me, “Snowpiercer” is about, in a lot of ways, humanity as a whole failing. Are these ideas that you’ve broached in terms of a type of escalation of themes or has this been a more natural and organic progression?

BJ: I fucked the whole world. But I never thought about it that way, but just hearing what you said- perhaps. I was just thinking in terms of this is a sci-fi movie from a dark point of view and just wanted it to go bigger. I really just wanted to make a movie about one generation of people coming to an end and a new generation beginning— it’s a spoiler but— the two kids that survive, it’s a beginning of a new era. You can only do that in the genre of sci-fi. It’s not so often you get the chance to make this time of film. It’s also a story about the evil system. It’s the same in ‘Memories of Murder’ – the evil 1980’s in South Korea. The military dictatorship is a very dark and evil system.

Torturing people to get the results that you want.

BJ: It was everywhere, violence at that time. And also, “The Host” — the system disturbed the family to save their own girl. The system never helps. They even disturb. They stopped at the family. That’s back to, I think, this is the same story. The train. It’s an evil system.

Again, similar themes.

BJ: Ed Harris is very convincing. He has logic behind it and he almost succeeds in seducing Chris Evans, his character. It’s terrifying because such an evil system also has its own sick logic to it.

Until you lift the floorboards and you see a child cranking the wheels—

BJ: So up unto that moment he was almost there, he was seduced by it. Sometimes this actually happens— like when they break down big ships to take parts out- you can’t fit a person in there so they use 6-year olds and 7-year olds. Recently, I think this month in National Geographic, you see 20 or 30 kids lining up to eat lunch before they have to go in and do this type of work in that environment. It’s horrible. It’s not sci-fi. In the real world that happens.

Talking about that, how this not being strictly sci-fi— I saw a lot of parallels between the circumstances in the train with the haves and the have-nots to real life situations of global inequality across the world. I was wondering how much of a reflection of the real world did you want those elements of the film to be?

BJ: I’m inspired from very luxurious department store or very nice hotels like this. If you look at it this way— you can divide the train into two halves: from the tail section, where it’s dark and dirty, to starting with the greenhouse section, to the engine, is sort of where the wealthy people live and it’s very luxurious. If you compare it to a high-end hotel or a luxurious department store, there are places where the paying clients go. Everything is fancy and fake and very garish- that’s where people with money go, but if you turn a corner and go down the hallway past the scaffolding sign, you have dark hallways, dark and exposed pipes and cement— that’s where the workers go. Originally the rich people in the front- they are originally some kind of passengers who pay the ticket. So, the people who paid money to board the train- they are the rich world where everything is luxurious. But in discussions with his designer it was all about talking about how this world is fake. They trick themselves, they lie to themselves and say, “We are happy. This is the best place to be.”

Going off that, I had a discussion with a friend and fellow critic after seeing the movie. He talked about how his theory was that maybe this wasn’t actually the world; that this might have been some kind of psychological experiment like the Stanford Prison Experiment. Seeing what would happen if you convince people that the world as they knew it was gone and they had to live on this train, and subsequently what kind of class social systems would grow out of that. So I’m wondering, what kind of interesting theories and feedback have you had from people who’ve seen the movie? Do any in particular stand out to you?

BJ: So many. Especially in France and Korea; just really interesting analysis. Some crazy perverted Korean guy wrote in his own blog everything that is sexually or about sexual impulse. In the beginning part of the movie there is a battering ram, for example, it’s a metallic phallus. And then when we get to the water supply section where it’s all liquids. Also the character that John Hurt plays, Gilliam, and the character that Luke Pasqualino plays, Grey, their relationship. And there’s someone who divides the train sections like the history of mankind- torch battles and primitive man and just sort of dividing each car into different periods in human history.

Very interesting. I also noticed in the press notes you made an allusion to Noah’s Ark, which is something that I thought of while I was watching that- except instead of God destroying mankind, mankind has destroyed mankind. And that was an interesting juxtaposition. Whereas in the Bible story there is this notion of going forward into something better, in this you don’t necessarily see that – it doesn’t look like progress towards a promising future. Does this imply a somewhat pessimistic view that you have about humanity; that we are all kinda doomed and on this one-way track towards hell, in a way?

BJ: In my view, it’s acutally a very optimistic film. Of course the journey and the process there’s a lot of sacrifice involved and dark moments but overall I think it’s positive because this is a system where these young kids are inside the machinery trying to keep it working. In the end, that system is destroyed and it’s destroyed by our own hands in a very deliberate manner. Nan is the character who wants to go outside but it’s Curtis who hands him the matches that gives him the ability to apply that vision- to complete that intention. So, in the end you see life, you see something living and survivors. So, I think it’s quite hopeful.

Having made films exclusively in Korea and then kind of shifting gears and doing something more for an international audience, almost more an American audience, do you see yourself shifting back to doing South Korean films for a while, or going back and forth, or maybe just staying with these American films?

BJ: It all depends on which story I am fascinated in. It’s always the story. What is the story. What am I going to be crazy about and attracted to. That’s really what decides where to go next. It’s not like I sit down and goes, “Oh, this time I’m going to go for a domestic audience or make a movie for an international audience.” That’s only after you make the film- you look back and realize that’s what it was. It’s really about that sort of crazy feeling that I get where I have to do something- where it’s a character or situation or image. It’s not like I can be a worker who gets the project from my agent and makes it and says, “Oh, what’s next?” — It has to really drive me to this point of wanting- or having to do it.

So, following that up— is there anything that you’re working on right now?

BJ: Now I am writing two script simultaneously. One is very small size Korean language movie and the other one is relatively bigger but smaller than “Snowpiercer”. We also use Korean locations and US locations on that one. Mixed.

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The Absolute Worst Movies of 2013

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With all the talk of great movies out of the way, the task of singling out and ridiculing the slate of absolutely garbage that somehow managed to limp into theaters this year has come. Now every year inevitably sees a slew of flunkies hit the big screen like a batch of rotten tomatoes but I found 2013 in general to be a torpid offender in the “worst of” category. Maybe I ought to chalk up the number of bad movies this year to the fact that I watched over 150 films but then again, I did actively skip a lot of movies that seemed objectively “bad.”

You won’t find the likes of Scary Movie 5, Grown Ups 2, Safe Haven, or Madea’s Christmas on this list because there was no way I was going to see those films. At least the ones I’ve included below had a shot at being decent. Whether or not that makes them even more offensively bad is certainly a topic worth debating, but all that really matters is that they stunk to high heavens and deserve to be watched by no one.

Before I launch into the absolute bottom of this trash bag of entertainment, I do need to recognize some crud that managed to stay off the list just because their terribleness was one-upped. But don’t confuse their absence from the coveted top ten as me patting them on the head and letting off the hook. Think of it more like a police officer letting you off for grand theft auto because someone just set fire to a hospital full of cancer babies. Obviously they’re going to go after the baby arsonist. Here, I have my sights on the baby arsonists of cinema.

Dishonorable Mentions:

Prince Avalanche
The Last Exorcism: Part 2
The Lone Ranger
Parkland
Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom
Epic
Diana
Now You See Me
Pacific Rim
A Good Day to Die Hard

10. GETAWAY

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A remarkably dull endeavor that (worse than anything) turned Ethan Hawke‘s otherwise considerable year on its head, Getaway uses close quarter tactics to unwittingly beat us into a state of exhaustion and apathy. More believably a hack than a hacker, Selena Gomez offers some of the worse acting of the entire year so poor Hawke didn’t stand much of a chance. Watching them interact is like having a Skype conversation with a five second delay. There’s just absolutely no life to it. There is one definitive scene towards the end of the film that showcases how the film could have been approached successfully but, unfortunately, filmmaker Courtney Solomon decided to go the easy, cliché action route and blasted out this dud of a thrill ride that’s absent on thrills and, at the end of the day, makes absolutely no sense.

9. OZ: THE GREAT AND POWERFUL

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What a plastic, cold effort from otherwise rafter-swinging Sam Raimi. In addition to being a massive disappointment, Oz: The Great and Powerful is easily one of the worst of the year. It all just seems like one big joke. The cocksure and smarmy performance from James Franco is certainly gag-worthy but it’s somehow outshone by the spam of a performance from Mila Kunis as the poorly makeup-ed Wicked Witch. Even the usually consistent Michelle Williams and Rachel Weisz are flat and ineffective. For a movie with so much talent, promise, and resources, Oz is a far cry from great and not even remotely powerful.

8. ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE

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I hate to bury Adam Levine‘s 2006 horror movie that finally saw the light of day this year but it really deserved to stay in its coffin. Existing on a purely meta level, this genre film dares us to see past the faux-irony that is having everything we expect to happen happen. Or maybe the whole thing was supposed to be a shock and I just saw through it like the 35-cent jello mold that it was. Although a small fan base slobbered this one up, it unequivocally offered nothing new in terms of surprises, effects, or execution and was as wholly flat as the Texas plains where it takes place. All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is a glowing representation of the horror of lazy horror.

7. MOVIE 43

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You know this list is bad when you find Movie 43 all the way up in seventh place. Steaming pile of garbage though it was, I didn’t actively hate Movie 43 the way I did many of the others on this list. Sure, it’s lazy, dumb, obnoxious, tasteless, offensive, and desperate for laughs but at least we didn’t go in to this expecting it to be a real movie. And for the many, many misses, there were a few sketches that worked my funny bone and I gotta dish out some credit where it’s due. Still, nothing this year clawed at my nerves like the Beezel the cat sketch. That was just in a league of its own.

6. THE HANGOVER: PART 3

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An ugly and unnecessary conclusion to a series that should have ended when it began, The Hangover: Part 3 has no idea what it’s doing. Instead of rehashing the events of the first one like the Bangkok-set Hangover 2 did, this second sequel turns fatally dark and all but drops the comedy angle. There’s not a laugh to be found in its 100-minute runtime. And maybe it’s the disappointment that the series has fallen so far or maybe it’s the fact that this movie is just undeniably bad to the bone but The Hangover: Part 3 is the perfect example of sequels sullying the good name of the original. The decision to carry on the franchise even though they were clearly out of ideas is only exacerbated by bringing Ken Jeong‘s cringe-worthy Chow character to the forefront. What a steaming mess this flick is from cover-to-cover.


 5. THE FIFTH ESTATE

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A purely pathetic effort no matter which way you look at it, The Fifth Estate is the Billy Madison of biopics. And with its agenda so clearly honed in on degrading Julian Assange, I’m surprised they didn’t just have Adam Sandler play the part. Shockingly enough, it seems to have no idea how terrible it is. There are no character revelations, no sense of arc, no focus, and no real reason for this film to exist at all. Beyond the cinematic no-no that is trying to make coding cool, Bill Condon goes so far as to craft a series of scenes that take place in “the coding world.” Part bumbling Matrix-style mind game, part collective brain fart, these recklessly awful sequences provided some of the most laughable moments of the entire year. The true shame is that within The Fifth Estate is an important story but it was approached with the finesse of a drunk chimp and made for entirely daffy drama.

4. AFTER EARTH

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Look no further than Jaden Smith‘s earth-shatteringly horrendous performance to see the failings of M. Night Whoever‘s latest box-office turd. It was a miracle that anyone agreed to finance another Shyamalan film after steady and progressively worse receptions of his films but, considering the sizable budget on this one and the seeming star power in the Smiths, hope was in the air that maybe After Earth would be a redemption of sorts of the faltering director. But when it crashed landed, it couldn’t have been further from a revival. Defunct on all levels, After Earth is one of the dumbest films to see the light of day in 2013 and fails on just about every level that a film could fail at. However if there was one film this year proved to us the effectiveness of acting through pouting your lips, After Earth proudly stands on the puffiness of Jaden’s punim.

3. THE MORTAL INSTRUMENTS: CITY OF BONES

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Long, unnecessary title aside, plot threads dangle throughout The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones like cobwebs in a tomb. Though convention has taught us to expect resolutions by a movie’s end, it’s almost as if the people in charge here forget how many nonsensical plot holes were left gaping by the time the lights went up. The best, and worst, example of which includes the central teenage pair who fall for each other even though they’re informed that, you know, they’re brother and sister. But, I mean, whatevz right? Backed by awful, hammed up performances across the board, this flunkie failed to make even the devout YA fans care. The saving grace is that after such a disappointing financial cull, production was halted on the follow-up that was already in progress, so it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a sequel.  

2. THE CANYONS

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As ugly as it is repugnant and pseudo-intellectual, The Canyons is gross and unnecessary on all fronts. Imagine a movie so bad that Lindsay Lohan looks endlessly talented when compared to her co-stars and the solitary selling point is its close resemble to soft core porn and you have the ingredients that make The Canyons. From the very first tracking shot that just screams amateur filmmaker, I knew this film was going to be awful but nothing could have prepared me for just how hideous and empty it really was. The Canyons goes about trying to indite LA trust fund babies for being vacuous and unable to relate by being vacuous and unable to relate. Like that guy who wears neon t-shirts down to his kneecaps and leaves the sticker on his b-ball cap and think he’s the cock of the walk, the whole cast and crew in The Canyons just don’t seem to realize that we’re laughing at them, not with them.

1. THE HOST

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An amazing feat of filmmaking as implosion, The Host, when it isn’t awful, is busy boring you to tears. Even for a teen franchise, The Host is dramatically inept and utterly incapable of making you care about anything or anyone. As if that’s not enough already, it lacks even one moment of genuine excitement. Even the love quadrangle will leave tweens checking their watches. The Host transforms the boredom of watching the paint dry with waiting for the wheat to grow. Seriously, there are multiple scenes where the characters are literally waiting in a cave for wheat to grow. How did anyone expect this movie would appeal to anyone?! I haven’t even mentioned the intolerable voice-over inner-monologues a la teeny-bopper arguments which serve as the brown icing smeared on this shit cake. The Host is so actively bad that it seems like the kind of thing that would play on repeat in hell while your eyes are shuttered open Clockwork Orange style.

 

So there it is, the worst of the worst of 2013. As a consolation prize for everyone who made it all the way to the end, here are my (brief) awards for worst actor and actress.

Worst Actor: Johnny Depp “The Lone Ranger”/Jaden Smith “After Earth”

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I had to make this category a tie because both performances are truly awful, but for their own unique, special reasons. While Jaden seems to be suffering from a case of not knowing any better, Depp has no such excuse. So a tie between Johnny “I don’t want ever watch the movies I’m in”/”I’m 1/64 native American so me playing Tonto isn’t offensive” Depp and Jayden “I literally can’t act”/”But Daddy says I can” Smith seems like a fore-drawn conclusion in the worst actor of 2013 showdown. When it comes down to the wire though, I don’t think I could be forced to choose which of their performances is more actively awful. Coin toss anyone?

Worst Actress: Selena Gomez “Getaway”/”Spring Breakers”

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If there’s one thing Selena Gomez has proved trying to break away from her Disney image it’s that she shouldn’t have tried to break away from her Disney image. Her wildly ineffectively chemistry with just about anyone who happens to be unlucky enough to share a scene with her is written on the walls with permanent marker. Between her pitiful performances in both Getaway and Spring Breakers, Gomez only has herself to compete against herself to be named the Prom Queen of grade-F acting.

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Weekly Review 37: CANYONS, HOST, EPIC, THIEF, SIGHTSEERS, SCISSORHANDS, GRANDPA


The last of 2013 is upon us and I’ve been shoveling in just about as many films from the year as I can, building towards my awaiting best of/worst of lists and the second annual Silver Screen Riot Awards. At the theater, I closed out seeing the last films I would this year with Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, August: Osage County, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and The Wolf of Wall Street. Reviews for all three to debut soon. Also check newly published reviews of Saving Mr. Banks, Inside Llewyn Davis, and American Hustle. At home though, I saw some of the worst, most unadulterated trash I’ve seen all year. Just pure garbage. But amongst the filth, I found a few hidden gems and finally watched some old classics. This might be the last installment of the year as the Holidays loom large and my time is going to be severely crunched.

THE CANYONS  (2013)

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In this utterly terribly film, Lindsay “Dead-Eyed” Logan and James “The Actual Pornstar” Deen have the chemistry of a brick and a rock. Beyond their impressively poor performer’s chops, the rest of the acting is atrocious, with each amazingly managing to be worse than the last. Paul Schrader‘s amateur porn-level direction seems like it’s trying to be different but it’s just confused and, there’s no tiptoeing around it, downright awful. Bret Easton Ellis, a reputable author dabbling for the first time in the script-writing business, loves to pen these drab, empty, trust-fund scumbags but the script here is either DOA or entirely misinterpreted by Schrader’s incompetent hand. The soulless LA landscape occupied by depraved, despicable people, who occasionally take their clothes off and bang (as if that’s any consolation for the horror that is watching this monstrosity) is signature Ellis but it lacks any irony, substituting tits for wit, meandering in his usual loose moral cesspool. Either way, he ought to probably stick to writing because there’s a reason this was rejected from both Sundance and SXSW for “quality issues”

F

THE HOST (2013)

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Absent on entertainment, The Host makes Twilight look like an art film. With a script that makes fan fiction seem like Pulitzer material by comparison and features lines like “Kiss me like you want to get slapped,” it’s impossible to not scoff your way through this wildly ineffective disaster of a movie. Even if you took the grating voice-over work out (*shutters*) you’re still left with a film where absolutely nothing happens. Most certainly one of the worst movies of 2013 and probably up their amongst the worst movies of all time.

F

EPIC (2013)

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It’s almost amazing how flat this animated feature is. It’s got all the expensive looking animated design but Epic struggles to make you care about in the least bit about this retread story. Like Rio, the voice work is transparent and completely fails to make us forget the celebrity names behind the characters. Most importantly though, the film is boring, lazy, and just more “there” than anything. The whole good-vs.-evil conceit works fine so long as there’s something beneath them. Here, that’s just not the case. A couple of comic moments from Aziz Ansari and Chris O’Dowd help to break up the monotony but the rest of the voice performers are straight out of the vanilla convention (Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson). I’m left wondering where the hell the name Epic came from as well since there is nothing the least bit epic about this epic failure.

D

SIGHTSEERS (2013)

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An out-of-the-blue effort from deep English director Ben Wheatley, Sightseers is an untamed hologram of a vacation gone horribly wrong. Going into this blind is going to really boost your experience with it so I’m just try and skirt around any significant details. It’s easy to spot that the film was made on a paltry budget and a shame to see that it didn’t even make $50,000 dollars in US theaters but what can you expect from notoriously choosy American audiences (who would rather spend their money on Lone Ranger or another junky Hobbit flick). Although the project at first seems the work of amateurs, it really settles into its own and manages to be a fun, horrifying, thoughtful, and succinct experience.

B

IDENTITY THIEF (2013)

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There’s hardly anything to say about this comedy entirely bereft of laughs. Identity Thief is nothing more than a totally forgettable clunker set on cruise control and left on the shoulders of the goodwill of its popular stars. Jason Bateman once again squanders his comic talent, playing a straight man to Melissa McCarthy‘s unpalatable identity thief. But rather than inject any genuine humor into the thing, all the “jokes” are culled from McCarthy letting loose a string of expletives or throwing karate chops at unexpected vocal chords. Beyond the pure laziness masquerading as humor, the third act dissolves into the saccharine melodrama that has no place in an R-rated comedy. All in all, what a waste of time.

D-

EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990)

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In the process of trying to acquaint myself with Tim Burton‘s early and much-beloved work, I’m discovering a man oozing with passion. His character and set designs are as gothic and home-grown as ever and there is undeniably heart living in this project. Furthermore, this is without a doubt a weird Johnny Depp character and yet he’s still more relatable than the slew of weird characters he’s played for the last ten years. Beyond the scars, makeup and scissored hands, he’s a gentle giant struggling with his pure-heartedness and society’s uneasy alliance with him; the Beast to Winona Ryder’s Belle. It’s a shame that Burton has since turned to cheap remakes and Depp to hackneyed characterization because these are two men who really seemed to understand each other and their audience.

B

JACKASS: BAD GRANDPA (2013)

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Without the ADHD framework of bopping between segments where Johnny Knoxville and crew get charged by bulls, launched from buildings, or have their scrotums assaulted in the most heinous of ways, it’s a little harder for the Jackass crew to keep our attention. Bad Grandpa relies on sentimentality and a loose narrative structure to involve us beyond cringing reactions and uproariously laughter. And while seeing Knoxville rocking old man makeup as Irving and taking little Billy under his wing in this hidden camera comedy does show an inkling of emotional storytelling rarely present in Jackass’s finest work, the social commentary present in Bruno and Borat is largely absent here. It’s no surprise that the bits that’ll work your funny bone hardest mostly rely on the easy humor of sharts and male anatomy but seeing little Jackson Nicoll steal the show from Knoxville was definitely out of left field and a pleasant surprise.

C

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Weekly Review 33: AFTER, FILM, HOST, STUFF, IMPOSTER, THELMA


I managed to get a lot of home watching in this week as there wasn’t a ton of screenings I had to attend with The Book Thief being the only film I saw in theaters, and while it had a lot going for it, was ultimately let down by clumsy melodrama. I also published my full review for Blue is the Warmest Color, which I had a lot of problems with, and Kyle wrote up a review for The Best Man Holiday, which he had a lot of problems with. Today brought a screening of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which I’ll probably review by tomorrow, and this week also holds Vince Vaughn‘s Delivery Man, the Jason Statham vs. James Franco actioner Homefront, and Disney‘s Frozen, which everyone has just been loving. But let’s get down to business and do some weekly reviewing.

 

THE HOST (2006)

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Firstly no, not the Stephenie Meyer book, the much, much better 2006 South Korean film. A monster movie that isn’t really a monster movie, The Host revels in its hazy political metaphors of totalitarian government. No matter how fake the slimy creature from Seoul’s Han River might look, his computer generated presence is still a well laid MacGuffin to probe state’s interference and the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few. Gripping and smart from start to finish, The Host is monster movie making at its most thoughtful and sly. Also, no Stephenie Meyer.

B+

THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED (2006)

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Chartering just how screwy the MPAA is when passing judgement on films’ ratings, Kirby Dick‘s documentary points a lot of fingers and raises a lot of good points, but could have been crunched down into a shorter, tighter doc. However interesting the topic – to some – a documentary needs to preserve a sense of urgency of knowledge and This Film is Not Yet Rated wastes a large portion of its screen time lingering too long with a batty PI and false tension. 

C-

THE STUFF (1982)

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Horrid acting, terrible directing, and dimwitted metaphors that beat you over the head at every turn, there is nothing of substance in The Stuff. The only thing likely to stick with you after it wraps are the catchy jingles (but it’s not like you want any more jingles bopping around your skull.)

F

THELMA AND LOUISE (1991)

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I finally got around to watching one of Ridley Scott‘s most beloved films and can certainly recognize why it gets so much of said love. This is the undercover feminism movie that sees women’s empowerment as something to be celebrated, not just something to be talked to death. As two woman turn away from their domestic prisons, they discover something within themselves that, now free, can never be caged again. The film has a few issues in terms of character development vs. established timeline but nothing so bad as to muddle the overall impact. Witnessing these women’s decent into lawlessness is one of the more fun, and more meaningful, experiences of domestication gone awry.

B+

THE IMPOSTER (2012)

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A soaring documentary bubbling over with so much unthinkable insanity that you couldn’t have made up anything more wacky. A true stranger than fiction tale, The Imposter‘s success isn’t necessarily a result of perfect – or even great – filmmaking so much as it is a stunning story culled from an absolutely gripping topic. What’s more is that it leaves you craving more details, shocked and amazed at these true events and wanting to take part in the investigation yourself. Going into it blind is absolutely essential so learn as little as you can before watching. If you do, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more gripping, edge-of-your-seat film –  documentary or otherwise. 

A+

AFTER EARTH (2013)

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Earth to Will Smith. Your career is dying. Abort acting with your child. Repeat: abort! In After Earth, the rockstar Smith of the 1980s seems to have shriveled up and disappeared and in his place is an aging surly stone of a man intent on exclusively working with his children. While there was a certain cutesiness to that chemistry in Pursuit of Happyness, it has gotten the better of him here. Jayden Smith‘s mildewed acting is as transparent as it is hollow. His bratty face-crunching acting style is more disastrous than M. Night‘s career -which at this point is so in the hole it’ll never imaginably see the light of day again. Just stale from front to back, there is not a modicum of joy to be found in this crash landing of a movie.

F

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