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 Michael Bergeron
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Snowpiercer leads pack

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Melissa McCarthy jumps the shark with Tammy, a truly unfunny movie. McCarthy and husband (co-writer and film’s director) Ben Falcone obviously had carte blanche with Warner Brothers/New Line Cinema based on the huge success of The Heat (20th Century Fox). The Heat was and still is one of the funniest films in recent years. Tammy, despite a large recognizable cast, is the opposite. Joke fall flat so often I almost had a tinge of pity for all involved.

Slightly more engaging is Paul Haggis’ romantic drama Third Person opening later this week at the Sundance Houston Cinema. Alas, Third Person overstays its welcome long before the film concludes. Haggis balances a handful of interlocking stories taking place in three international cities: New York, Paris and Rome.Snowpiercer-concept-art-3.jpg

A large ensemble cast includes Liam Neeson, Mila Kundis, Maria Bello, Kim Basinger, Adrien Brody, Olivia Wilde, James Franco and a couple of others. What was interesting about Haggis’ approach was having characters making temporal and spatial leaps of faith. For instance a down-on-her-luck Kundis appears to work at a hotel in New York but meanwhile she also manipulates events that are taking place at a similar hotel in Paris. Brody in particular makes the most with his reaction to a femme in distress he just met in the Eternal City. Most of the characters are vain; one may’ve even slept with another family member. Just when the interlocking pieces are coming together it feels like they don’t really fit properly.SNOW2

Definitely more intriguing is Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer. Set in a post-apocalyptic future a train circles the frozen planet in an arc that takes exactly one year. An impressive international cast represents different strata of society ranging from the downtrodden in the caboose to the one-percenters at the front. The film is in English but boasts an Asian mindset especially with some bloody set pieces taking place concurrent with a revolution on board the train that had the sharpness and gore seen in films like Old Boy.

In fact one of the weirdest moments is all in our heads. A man at the back is forced to stick his arm out through a hole in the train until its frozen solid as a form of punishment. Except at the moment his arm is shattered with a hammer Bong cuts to another passenger’s reaction shot. More lyrical moments are revealed as the revolution advances through the train one car at a time. One compartment reveals an aquarium and sustainable farming methods; another contains a never-ending New Year’s Eve party.

The ending, while not exactly a letdown, seems to take forever and expectedly involves the train’s inventor espousing the few who manage to breech his chamber. Snowpiercer offers art for mainstream audiences while dishing out more violence than art house crowds are prepared for.

-Michael Bergeron





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