Saturday, 14 April 2012
THIS WEEK: The Cabin In The Woods / 50/50 / Taxidermia / The Way
Delayed by some financial issues and a distribution takeover, Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard finally have their creation unleashed. If you've seen the trailer you probably believe you have seen too much; by now you know this film has more to it than the trailer would suggest, and you might even believe you have filled in the blanks and know what to expect? I can guarantee you are almost definitely wrong! From the opening sequence, in fact, you know you are on the back foot, and even if you think you have some basic idea of what's going on with this film by now, I still promise that where they go with it will have you gawping! What you think it could be? It's not that...
Five American college kids head out for a long weekend at a cabin Kyle's (Chris Hemsworth) cousin owns. When they arrive bad shit happens and they all die! That is what you need to know.
It is a rare movie we can walk in to totally unprepared for what is going to happen, it is more rare for a marketing campaign to successfully shroud the film in mystery until you see it for yourself, and it is even more rare again for both of those things to be genuinely important to your enjoyment of a film. You will remember how Wes Craven's Scream subverted the genre and became a geek favourite? The Cabin In The Woods is that film for today's horror generation. The difference is that Scream made us simply laugh at the tropes; The Cabin In The Woods sets out to not only subvert the current slasher/torture-porn genre, but to make us question our view of today's popular horror, and consider its unsettling implications.
How do they do this? Well, that would be telling, but they have let their imaginations run riot and created an actual narrative idea that makes the tropes not just something to point and laugh at, but integral to the point of the movie.
This is not a masterpiece, and whilst I agree it has drawn a line in the sand that people involved in American horror won't be able to walk around easily (it will be impossible to watch another Cabin Fever or Hostel without thinking about this movie), I also realise that, on reflection, there are issues I have with the film, questions unanswered, blanks I think we are supposed to fill in ourselves that a longer first act might have helped make less of an issue. More time with the chracters up front, getting to know them better, would actually have aided the film in more ways than one. Due to a lack of knowledge about the film, audience expectation may also prove a bit of a downfall; the engine of the movie is one that will disappoint some as much as it enthralls the many, and it does sort of depends on your taste. Of course I would like to talk in more detail about my qualms with the movie, but that in itself would spoil the whole point of it! Grrr!
Those issues aside, however, let it be said that this is a very brave, extremely subversive, smart, amusing meta movie. It is not scary, but it is not a horror film, it is a film about horror, so it does not matter. A special mention for Fran Kranz as Marty, who is pretty much a scene-stealer, Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford as a couple of terrific lab guys, and a final act that puts on show an incredible imagination, whose grandiosity almost overloads their budget, but not so badly as to take away from the "WOW" factor of the idea. It is definitely the most ridiculously over-the-top, insane thing I have seen for rather a long time! 4/5
Catch it: If you are a cinephile who wants to see something smart and surprising
Joanathan Levine directs a surpisingly sensitive comedy drama about a young man who has cancer. I generally am not a fan of Seth Rogan, but here he plays Kyle, best friend to Joseph Gordon-Levitt's cancer sufferer Adam, and despite his vulgarity, we see quite clearly that Adam could not have a more loyal friend. Anjelica Huston is terrific as the mother and Anna Kendrick, despite being most famous at the moment for her role in a certain vampire series we won't mention, is actually very, very good as Adam's counsellor. The balance of humour and drama is almost perfect, and is helped along majorly by JGL, a little powerhouse of an actor whose real might has yet to be fully recognised, but I think it will in time.
The smart thing about the writing is that it never loses sight of the fact that the illness is obviously a horrible thing; it doesn't try to find humour in the illness, but rather around it, observing rather well how people react to the dying person. The result is a comedy that is extremely humourous and honestly moving. I did feel it could have delved deeper into the relationships in certain areas, and some of the peripheral characters simply did not come across as believable, given the situation, but generally I really enjoyed it.
This isn't one for your shelves, but is a definite one to rent as soon as you can! 3.5 / 5
Catch it if you like: Good offbeat comedy
Do you want to see a "Scato-absurdist-expressionist outrage comedy" (Michael Atkinson, IMDB) that seems to be about Hungarian history and communism, could just as easily be about gluttony, involves fire penises, soldiers fucking holes in the wall, bodily excretions of every kind, eating competitions, self-surgery, makes little to no real sense at all, and is utterly disgusting? Then this is the film for you, directed by Gyorgi Palfi, go root it out. Some of it looks quite good. 1/5
Emilio Estevez directs his own father in one of the more surprising films of 2011. Tom, a small-town ophthamologist who lives a quiet, content life, learns of his son Daniel's death overseas. Upon arrival in Spain to bring his son's remains home, he instead decides to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compastella, the pilgrims' walk his son never completed; an attempt, we feel, to reconcile with him in his own way.
The movie is primarily about Tom's personal journey, but on his way he meets three other people, each from a different part of the world, and we discover what the walk means to each of them. A simple idea, but as the movie has it, the pilgrimage is a very personal journey, and Esteves really does capture the complexities of each individual raher well, slowly and realitically unwrapping the layers of the characters, ultimately capturing the sense of cameraderie that grows between them, and distilling it wonderfully in a hotel scene we can all relate to. It is superbly paced, beautifully shot and played well by all involved: Martin Sheen simply makes it real, Deborah Kara Unger looks perfectly ravaged by life and plays it spot-on, James Nesbitt is cast almost too well as travel author Jack, and most surprising is Yorick van Wageningen as Joost the "fat dutchman", a role in which he is immediately likable, and about as far away from his more recent part in Fincher's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo as you could imagine; I must confess I didn't recognise him!
My criticisms are few, but they do hinder the film: The second act has a feeling of being misjudged at times, and the need for Daniel to appear at various points throughout the movie, in the end even having a conversation with Tom, feels really unnecessary. Thankfully the movie does end up paying off, but those things do hold it back from my full four stars, sadly.
It is an eye-opening film, and one which, much like The Way itself, you find you get something from regardless of your religious affiliation. Nothing too fancy, but a beautifully shot movie, with a subject which is generally well handled. Not without flaws, this is one to see nevertheless. 3.5 / 5
Catch it if you like: The Straight Story, The Kids Are Alright