'Cabin in the Woods' a slick, funny teen thriller
Canada AM movie critic Richard Crouse
Published Friday, April 13, 2012 7:50AM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, May 19, 2012 8:01AM EDT
"Cabin in the Woods"
Richard's Review: 4 stars
A movie about a group of college kids who go to a remote cabin and deliver lines like "No matter what, we have to stay together," sounds very familiar. "Cabin in the Woods" is like a thousand teen chillers we've seen before. Just add in a secret government agency, ancient evil life forms and other surprises and the film delivers the best mash-up of horror and humour since "Scream."
As the story unfolds five college friends go to a cabin in the woods. That group includes a jock, a scholarship jock, a stoner, a brainiac and a party girl.
Once these pals arrive at cabin all hell breaks loose. All the conventions of the teen horror genre are here, but turned upside down.
There has never been a slasher flick quite like "Cabin in the Woods." The subversive mix of horror movie lore and gruesome gags isn't new, but rarely has it been this smartly presented.
Like romantic comedy, horror is a genre that frequently takes the easy way out. By the time we got to "Saw 3478: A Stab in the Dark," the movies were more about how many gallons of stereoscopic blood could be squirted toward the audience than creating a new, intriguing story.
Conversely, "Cabin in the Woods" screenwriters Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (who also directed) have crafted a film that is exhilarating in the way it adopts and challenges the conventions of this genre. They results are hilarious.
Expect Whedon's trademark crackling dialogue, gallons of blood and the unexpected from this film.
"The Three Stooges"
Richard's Review: 3 1/2 stars
I'm not sure if the first rule of comedy is that it's always funny when someone falls down. But it is certainly the cornerstone of the career of the Three Stooges.
For 50 years they fell down, got back up and fell down again. This weekend they're back -- or at least a reasonable facsimile is -- to try and uplift a new generation by falling down.
Directed by the Farrelly Brothers (the twisted minds behind "There's Something About Mary" and "Dumb and Dumber"), this new film is 90 minutes long, but is made up of three short movies that are the length of the classic Stooge's shorts. Part One sees them growing up -- and falling down -- in an orphanage from childhood to age 35. In Part Two they leave their home to try and raise $830,000 to save the orphanage from foreclosure and wind up involved in a murder plot. Part Three sees Moe joining the cast of "Jersey Shore."
Fans of the original Stooges will know what to expect. There's lots of hair pulling, face slapping and three-way eye pokes. The traditional Stooge pie fight is sadly missing, but the slapstick is superb thanks to studied performances from Sean Hayes, Chris Diamantopoulos and Will Sasso as Larry, Moe and Curly.
For those unfamiliar with the Stooge oeuvre – particularly this generation that associates poking with Facebook and not slapstick -- the old- school jokes (like a lawyer's firm called Kickum, Harter, Indagroyne) and the physical humour may seem too silly today's world.
But the harmless humour has heart and stresses the family connection between the Stooges. They may wallop the heck out of one another, but they still have genuine affection for each other. That detail makes a great deal of difference.
Remember "Borat?" Offensive and funny, it succeeded because the main character's journey was spurred on by his love of Pamela Anderson. Contrast that with "Bruno." It had the same kind of humour, but the heart was gone from that movie and failed to connect with audiences.
"The Three Stooges" works because of its soft centre. There's also a certain pleasure in watching Moe beat up the "Jersey Shore" kids.
There are some differences between the new and old films. I doubt the original Stooges would have used Sofía Vergara's cleavage as a plot device and there's loads of stunt casting.
In addition to the "Jersey Shore" cast, the Old Spice Guy appears as does Larry David as a nun named Sister Mary-Mengele. But the Farrelly Brothers and a talented cast have expertly reimagined the Stooges' anarchy and their heart for a new generation.
Richard's Review: 3 stars
I had a good time at "Lockout," even though I'll be the first to admit it isn't a very good movie.
The special effects look like rejects from 1997 and the tough-guy dialogue sounds like castoffs from a Bruce Willis film. "Lockout" is also far less violent than I would have expected it to be. But I sat there with a grin on my face because it reminded me of all those cheese-ball, direct-to-DVD Dolph Lundgren movies that I used to watch when I had rented everything else at the video store.
Guy Pearce is Snow, a highly-skilled mercenary who is wrongly accused of espionage. To earn his freedom Snow agrees to rescue the president's daughter, Emilie Warnock (Maggie Grace), who is being held captive by rioting inmates at a maximum-security prison in outer space. That's right -- the prison is in outer space!
"Lockout" looks like it was done on the cheap, but that is part of its cheesy charm.
Even the script seems cut rate. The movie is set in 2079, yet John Wayne, Prince and global warming references abound. It's as if the script had been sitting on someone's desk for a long time and they simply changed the setting and date but not the content before the camera began to roll.
Somehow the old-school quality to this film is still appealing. "Lockout" is not a remake or a reboot. But it feels familiar nonetheless, like an assembly of elements from others movies that have been tossed into the Script-O-Matic and squeezed out at the other end to form something new-ish.
Pearce is impressive in this action role. Joseph Gilgun is also a suitably off-the-wall bad guy, although a translator would have helped to decipher his heavy brogue. I caught the gist of what he was saying, but often the actual words were lost. Perhaps mumbled, accented dialogue is the new cool thing, but I like a bit more clarity from my villains.
"Lockout" is a good Saturday matinee movie with some fun action scenes -- like parachuting from space! Perhaps that's what passes for extreme sports in 2079? Ultimately, "Lockout" will leave you feeling like you've just been Dolphed, or Lungrened or whatever the adjective is.