"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

New trailer: Iron Man 3

Last when we saw Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), he was leading the Avengers against an attack against Stark Towers and New York City.  In the new Iron Man 3 trailer, he's going to be without a few of his famous friends and battling what looks like a new baddie in Mandarin (Ben Kingsley) and a mysterious new character Aldrick Killian (Guy Pearce), is he the Iron Man lookalike?.  The trailer also shows Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow) who's now a target due to her relationship with Stark and blink-and-you'll-miss-her shots of new character Maya Hansen played by Rebecca Hall. And of course, there's the usual destruction of Stark's property that is required now in any Marvel film featuring Tony Stark.  He really has a lot of rebuilding to do, doesn't he?  Iron Man 3 comes out next year in April.  

Monday, October 22, 2012

Movie Review: Argo

In 1979, the US Embassy in Iran was taken under siege and 52 Americans were taken hostage.  What most people don't know is that six other embassy workers managed to escape and hide out at the house of Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor's (Victor Garber) house.  While the negotiations for the 52 hostages were held on a very public and global scale, the rescue of the six Americans was a very clandestine and dangerous affair, the details of which were only declassified by President Clinton in 1997.

What follows is a tale that could be told only by Hollywood with gripping suspense, plenty of thrills and humor that makes Argo one of the best films I've seen this year.  How often does the entire theater clap in appreciation at the end of the film?  Ben Affleck, with his third directorial venture, has become a triple threat.  No, he doesn't sing, dance and act.  He now holds many hats for director, actor and writer (for which he memorably won the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for Good Will Hunting with his best pal Matt Damon).

However after that it was Damon who enjoyed success from that film first while Affleck made some questionable film choices.  But eventually he bounced back and in 2007, he directed his first film, Gone Baby Gone and I think he's never looked back since.  He's followed it up with The Town and now Argo in which he plays Tony Mendez, a CIA expert in exfiltration who is the six "houseguests" only hope, to quote a popular Star Wars line.

When several tense and behind closed door meetings yield no results, Mendez has a sudden brainwave while on a phone call with his son watching a Planet of the Apes film.  He, along with the six embassy workers, will pose as a film crew on a location scout to Iran for a sci-film.  John Chambers (John Goodman), the Oscar-winning makeup artist of the actual Planet of the Apes, will aid them to make their cover story strong.  The team also gains producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin), whose lines had the whole theater in guffaws, to give this project more credibility.

With a production office in Los Angeles, a bound script, detailed storyboards and posters and an article in Variety, they have their back story and Mendez heads to Iran to bring them back.  The long captivity has made them jittery and nervous about this bold and audacious plan to leave Iran.  Mendez has to convince them otherwise and does he ever.

The last half an hour I watched with a knot in my stomach.  I knew what was going to happen and yet I felt unsure and got caught up in this very well told story of their escape.  The editing is tight and clever, managing to reel us in at the right places.  I loved the look and feel of Argo, right down to the old opening Warner Bros. logo and fonts.  The opening sequence is one of the best of the year.  The cast (most of them veteran TV actors) all don't miss a beat and totally sell the period look with some truly unfortunate hair.  Affleck backs them all with understated and quiet performance that even though you see the worry in his eyes, you know he's not going to back down now.

Ben Affleck has directed an impressive, lasting film that I urge you not to miss.  Watch in a theater only and stay until the very end of the credits for the mini-history lesson as well.  I have a feeling in the upcoming months, we will be seeing a lot of this cast and crew (including producer George Clooney) on some podiums for their exceptional work.

Directed by Ben Affleck; Written by Chris Terrio; Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto; Editing by William Goldenberg; Music by Alexandre Desplat

Additional cast: Bryan Cranston, Tate Donovan, Kyle Chandler, Rory Cochrane, Kerry Bishe, Clea DuVall, Christopher Denham, Zeljko Ivanek, Scoot McNairy and Chris Messina.


Sunday, October 21, 2012

Movie Review: Student of the Year

Karan Johar's latest film, Student of the Year, is the tale of two mates whose friendship is ruined by a competition that comes between them.  If they had stuck to that brief maybe the film would have succeeded.  Student of the Year works only as the launch film for the newcomers out of whom Alia Bhatt, sadly, doesn't have much to do except look pretty.

At St. Teresa's High School in Dehradun, new student Abhimanyu (Sidharth Malhotra) joins the school on a sports scholarship.  Abhi comes from a middle class family like one half of the school.  The other half consists of the rich kids like Rohan (Varun Dhawan) and Shanaya (Alia Bhatt), spoilt yet neglected children who think they have the run of the place.  The other students includes the stereotypical tomboy Shruti (Mansi Rachh), the smart yet plump kid Kaizad that everyone picks on (Kayoze Irani), the clueless sidekick Jeet (Sahil Anand) and the calculating cheerleader Tanya (Sana Saeed, who was little Anjali in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai!).  All of them are competing against each other for the prestigious Student of Year trophy that is supposed to open doors and secure that student's future.

But before we can get to the actual competition, there are clashes between the two leads, Abhi and Rohan who eventually become friends, get to know each other's family and become a part of the most overused plot in any teen film, the love triangle.  This was the most colorful film I've seen recently, so many costume changes (all designer, mind you) and the sets all look like they are straight out of High School Musical but with wider hallways for maximum strutting space, where there's always a wind machine nearby to gently ruffle your hair.

As a result, a song sequence occurs every five minutes since all characters really need to sing everything they feel.  The music is hummable but the lyrics are completely inane.  We eventually do get to the actual competition, a test of the mind, body and dancing skills (this is a Hindi movie, what else do you expect?).  And as all the annoying voice over narrations keep telling us, it destroyed their lives.  How dramatic except it could all have been solved by a simple heart to heart.  I really wish they had one sooner, it would have saved twenty minutes from the film.

Sidharth and Varun are awkward in certain places but manage to shine in the key moments of change in their characters' arcs.  Alia, like the other female characters in the film, is overshadowed by the guys in her lives that she can't choose between and as a result doesn't have a strong role to speak of.  All three of them, however, have an enviable launch in this directorial venture by Karan Johar where they are never shot in an unflattering angle ever.  You get a very good looking film.

This is Bollywood over the top but it does have it moments.  There were many laugh out instances  and the speech at the end by Kayoze Irani's character brought up some valid points.  If only the script was stronger and not quite so shallow, this could have been the defining "high school" film of Hindi cinema.  Karan Johar has made one of the most beloved films about college in Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and 14 years later, he's attempted to do so again with Student of the Year.  We'll see how many fond memories we hold of this years down the line.  I know I'll still hold Kuch Kuch Hota Hai as my sentimental favorite.

Directed by Karan Johar; Screenplay by Rensil D'silva; Dialogues by Niranjan Iyengar; Cinematography by Ayananka Bose; Editing by Deepa Bhatia; Music by Vishal & Shekhar

Additional cast: Rishi Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor


Movie Review: Men in Black 3

It was probably not the greatest idea to watch Men in Black 3 in the same week after watching Looper first.  I wasn't kidding when I said Looper is the best time travel film I've seen.  Contrast that with Men in Black 3, the latest in the franchise that first launched way back in 1997.  The film is high on nostalgia but sadly, low on ingenuity.

Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back as on screen partners after a ten year hiatus  a less than satisfactory second feature, Men in Black II.  The action still takes place in New York city which occasionally has other planetary travelers that need to be looked after by the Men in Black.  However, as is the case in any time travel film, the past will come back to haunt you.

In this film, the past has a name, Boris.  Boris the Animal.  But he hates being called that.  He's played by Jemaine Clement from Flight of the Conchords (Side note: I love that show!).  He's hardly recognizable here in a really freaky alien avatar.  Boris is out erase his past and Agent K and get back his missing arm.  To do this, he first escapes from his lunar prison and gains a time travel gadget from Earth.

Once he has it, he wastes no time (pun intended) to make sure that his encounter with Agent K in 1969 ends in K's death and his escape.  Back on Earth in present day, Agent J feels something is amiss when only he can recall the memories of K.  But Agent O (Emma Thompson),  who has taken over from Agent Zed (Rip Torn who's not in this film), informs him that Agent K died in that eventual clash back in '69.  Eventually they do make the assumption that the past has been altered with and J has no choice to travel back to 1969 to get his partner back and rewrite history again.

Back in the late '60s, he finds himself up against even more strange aliens, a vengeful Boris and youngish Agent K (Josh Brolin).  He even comes up against some racism in a hasty subplot.  Brolin does a good enough Tommy Lee Jones impression but one of the main reasons the first film worked was the chemistry between Jones and Smith.  We see hints of it and what made the original so great but the magic seems off here.

The movie was made primarily to show off the amazing production values with the MIB headquarters (in the '60s and the present), the imaginatively creative aliens by master makeup artiste Rick Baker and the improved CGI effects.  There's even a forced romance between the young Agents K and O (Alice Eve).  The story seemed to be made up during shooting and it probably was.

A Will Smith sci-film used to be a Fourth of July staple that used to be something to look forward to.  But times have changed and he no longer holds the same draw.  However many fond memories we may have of the original, I just felt something was missing no matter how much Smith tried his best to make it look good.  It really does feel like an end of an era.

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld; Written by Etan Cohen; Based on the comics by Lowell Cunningham; Cinematography by Bill Pope; Edited by Don Zimmerman; Music by Danny Elfman.

Additional cast: Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Bill Hader, Nicole Scherzinger


Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Tina Fey and Amy Poehler to host the Golden Globes!

(Photo: Jezebel)
Two of the funniest women on television and in showbiz, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be hosting the upcoming Golden Globes.  Take that Oscars! You stole their thunder by announcing the nominations before them and they've retaliated by having better hosts (Sorry Seth MacFarlane!).  Fey and Poehler are easily the best part of an awards show if they are presenting and having them host is the cherry on a very large cake.  I can't wait to see them host, it will be so worth it to wake up so early in morning for them.   The Golden Globes will air on January 13th, 2013.  

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Movie Review: Looper

Looper is one of the best time travel films I've seen. Period.  It's due to the great writing that even though you'll have so many questions about the whole enterprise, the film will literally blow you away. I think I watched the film at the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next. I thought I could predict what happened next but the film surprised me with turns and twists it took.

In 2044, a bleak looking Kansas, we meet a looper named Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) whose job it is to "take care" of the unwanted criminals/associates that the mob sends back from the future.  Joe tells us that in 2044, time travel hasn't been invented yet but in the future, thirty years from his present, 2074, it has been outlawed and only the criminals use it.  It is impossible to get rid of a body there so it is easier for the loopers to do the job for them.

However, the life of a looper is quite grim and depressing.  They do the dirty work of offing all these people and they also have sign an agreement that eventually they will close the "loop". That they will kill their future selves and be paid handsomely to live the 30 years till their death.  Well, would it be called a suicide since they are killing themselves?  Another question to think about it.

Joe goes about his business and has aspirations for a better life than the alternative he has now; he is learning French and saving up for a new life later.  Seriously, there seem to be no great job opportunities in Kansas 2044.  This is not the future we'd want to imagine for ourselves.  But this is not a film about how bad the future is.

The day comes when at the cornfield where Joe has to exterminate whoever is sent back in time (his usual spot), he meets his future self.   But unlike the bound and head covered "hits" that usually pop up, he looks right into his own eyes and is disconcerted.  This little moment allows Old Joe (Bruce Willis) to gain the upper hand and escape.

And here's where the film goes up another notch.  Both Joes (young and old) have their own agendas.  Young Joe has a plan in place for his life forever, he has accepted what will happen to him after closing his own loop and doesn't want to get on the wrong side of Abe (Jeff Daniels), his current mob boss.  Old Joe has 30 years of life on the other side and the love of a good woman who dies as as the new mob boss, the Rainmaker, in the new future comes to send him back to the past.  He's devastated and believes the only way to do change her death is to get rid of the man who put the orders to close every looper's loops.

So simple yet so complicated.  In an amazing scene set in a diner that Young Joe frequents, they both sit across each, assess and tell each other what they both should do.  Both of them are headstrong, so strong in their beliefs that their way is correct way to handle the situation. While Old Joe may have been mellowed by marriage, he is clouded in his judgement and is willing to do anything to solve his future's problems.

Young Joe on the other hand for all his youth and impetuousness seems more willing to weight the pros and cons once he sees the big picture.  It all comes to a head at a farm where a young mother Sara (Emily Blunt) is trying to raise her son Cid (Pierce Gagnon).  The scenes at the farm revealed so much about these three characters: Young Joe, Sara and Cid.  We see the best and worst of them.

I love a film that raises questions and doesn't just answer them for you.  The two Joes are on the same path to fix what's broken in their lives but their methods and executions are so different.  But they are the same person, divided only by time.  It is so fascinating.  Would you recognize and identify who you will become 30 years into the future?  There is substantial enough time to change the person you once were.

But can you ask your former self to change who you are at the time?  Others might take away something else from the film. Maybe the justification of trying to change the past by eliminating something or someone from it or to can you change a person's nature by nurture? But what stayed with me was the meeting of the past and future selves, both making a claim that they had a right to their lives. Even if one wins, the effect of changing the past is massive and might not bring the change you desire.

However, I did feel the film's ending is just right and fitting.  Director Rian Johnson has written an amazing script of a sci-fi tale that has hints of everything from action, love and suspense in it.  There are even a few lines of humor through in once in a while to ease the tension thankfully.  Initially, I was still thinking of a few stray plot lines that were introduced earlier but my questions were answered by the end.

The three leads are spot on.  The film does a good job of trying to show Gordon-Levitt as younger version of Willis with a changed voice, face and mannerisms although it was obvious the facial changes were due to prosthetic makeup.  Many times, it was like watching another actor and it felt like relief to finally see the typical arch of the eyebrow on Gordon-Levitt's face.

Bruce Willis is as cool as ever as the hardened looper just trying to get it done but you see the toll of making some awful and difficult decisions and what it does to him.  Emily Blunt too has a strong role as a conflicted mother who wants to do right by her son.  Pierce Gagnon who plays Cid brings equal amounts of creepy and cute to the role.  Looper is a film that you will want to watch again mainly because you'll want to discuss it with your friends and family.  Try not to get to learn too much about the film before you go in, let the events unfold before you and it'll make for a better viewing experience.

Written and Directed by Rian Johnson; Cinematography by Steve Yedlin; Edited by Bob Ducsay; Music by Nathan Johnson.

Also in the cast: Paul Dano, Noah Segan, Piper Perabo, Summer Qing, Garrett Dillahunt


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Around the World in Posters: Les Miserables, Lone Ranger, Hitchcock, Gangster Squad and more!

The cast of Les Miserables - Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Hugh Jackman and Russell Crowe.

I spot Sonic the Hedgehog among the characters for Disney's Wreck-It Ralph.  This was truly the only game I ever excelled at.  

Denzel's back in another thriller with Robert Zemeckis' Flight.

The UK Quad poster for Great Expectations with Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Jeremy Levine and Holliday Grainger.

New Hitchcock poster featuring the rest of the cast, Helen Mirren as his wife Alma, Scarlett Johansson as Janet Leigh and Jessica Biel as Vera Miles. 

Hey, I didn't know Bilbo Baggins had a lightsaber.  New banner from The Hobbit.

The teaser poster for the new project by Edgar Wright, The World's End, the epic pub crawl film which will obviously have Wright regulars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.

Gangster Squad poster with a dreamy Ryan Gosling.  Can't get enough of dreamy Ryan Gosling posters.  

Teaser poster for the new Jack Reacher film with Tom Cruise.  Too simple and not too exciting.

And finally, my favorite of the bunch, the poster for The Lone Ranger with Armie Hammer as the masked hero and Johnny Depp as his sidekick.  Great design on this one.

Friday, October 12, 2012

3 New Trailers: Zero Dark Thirty, Django Unchained and Hitchcock

The competition at next year's Oscars is going to be fierce.  Just look at the movies that will be going up against each other.  Among them is Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty, a behind-the-scenes look at the top secret stealth mission to capture (at any cost) Osama Bin Laden that shocked the world.  The movie features actors Jessica Chastain, Joel Edgerton, Mark Strong, Chris Pratt and Edgar Ramirez.  Will Bigelow be able to recapture the success of her last film, The Hurt Locker?  Judging by the second trailer released, it looks like extremely interesting with a solid cast of very good actors.  The curiosity factor about the mission might just get the film nominated.  The film is out December 19th in the US just in time for the nominations announcement in early January.

The second trailer of Quentin Tarantino's highly anticipated Django Unchained shows more of the partnership between Django (Jamie Foxx) and the bounty hunter Dr. Schultz (Christoph Waltz) and them going up against Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) who has Django's wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). After a long time, DiCaprio is in an anti-hero role.  Could this possibly get him the Oscar after being nominated for it thrice already? He'll face competition from his own cast which also features Samuel L Jackson, Jonah Hill and Don Johnson. Django Unchained opens on Christmas day in the USA and around the rest of the world in January.

And finally, we have Hitchcock, the film about a man "obsessed with murder.'  With a pair of Oscar winners, Anthony Hopkins (virtually unrecognizable) and Helen Mirren play the legendary director and his wife Alma during the making of one of his most famous films, Psycho. I feel this could be hit or miss at the Oscar, it might have a shot at the acting awards but I don't whether it can be nominated for Best Picture against all the other heavyweights which are also due to release in December, like The Hobbit, Lincoln, etc. But it all depends on what number of films ends being nominated for Best Picture. Hitchcock releases late November in USA. 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Movie Review: English Vinglish

I can't remember a nicer time I've had in a movie theatre in a long time.  Sridevi returns to Hindi cinema with a film that truly worthy of her.  She plays Shashi, an Indian housewife who does everything for her family and even runs a small business of making laddoos but feels undermined and underappreciated by her family.  Shashi doesn't know English that well and her family makes leaves her out of conversations and jokes that they think she won't understand, not realizing how much they are demeaning her.

However, an opportunity to go to USA for her niece's wedding for five weeks changes everything.  At first, she is morose and nervous about going to foreign country alone especially as her tactless husband Satish (Adil Hussain) keeps reminding her that she doesn't speak the language.  But she bravely attempts to make the best of her situation.

Aided by her winsome young niece Radha (Priya Anand) and after an really unfortunate incident in a cafe, Shashi enrolls for a four-week English class.  Here we are presented with some fairly stereotypical students like the Mexican nanny Ava (Ruth Aguilar), the South Indian IT guy Rama (Rajeev Ravindranathan) and the overly enthusiastic English teacher David (Cory Hibbs).  It might have veered into OTT territory but the movie didn't seem to have a mean streak in it so I overlooked it.

Also in the English class is the very appealing Laurent (Mehdi Nebbou), a French cook who falls for Shashi.  They form this odd friendship wherein they can't speak to each other in English so they both pour their hearts out in the languages they know best.  Those were the truest moments of the film for me.

English Vinglish is director Gauri Shinde's first film and it has a very strong voice.  I loved the locales used in New York, I know that area around NYU and Washington Square Park so well.  It felt nostalgic to see them onscreen.  The interactions between Shashi and her family felt truly genuine and I really liked her relationship with Radha.  Her own daughter doesn't give her the same affection and support that Radha does.

Sridevi was probably everyone's favorite actress growing up.  She was charming, funny and danced like a pro.  We see glimpses of it here in her Michael Jackson moves.  Here she is just as good as she was at the top of her game.  There are moments, little touches in her performance that move you. When she has to say goodbye to her son, her moment of pride as she uses her Metrocard without any help and the way she repeats the weather forecast to herself to learn new words.  I hope her next films are equally strong as this film is.  This one was tailor-made for her strengths.

The supporting cast is also very good and they rise above the stereotypical roles they've been assigned. Especially adorable is Shashi's young son Sagar (Shivansh Kotia) who steals the scenes he's in.  And you will definitely feel for poor Laurent who pines away for Shashi.  English Vinglish is a film you will recommend to your friends and family and one you'll want to see again.  Don't miss it.

Written and Directed by Gauri Shinde; Cinematography by Laxman Utekar; Edited by Hemanti Sarkar; Music by Amit Trivedi

Rating:  (an extra star for Sridevi alone)

Friday, October 5, 2012

Happy James Bond Day!

22 films with one more on the way this November. 5 distinctive and different Bonds.  Over 50 Bond girls and after 12 directors' visions, we have finally arrived at 50 years of James Bond, Agent 007, member of his Majesty's secret service.  Although not so secret anymore, he just escorted the Queen to this year's Olympics in front of half the world.  Great undercover work there.

With so many films to chose from (both good and bad), you'll always find people have strange favorites and very strong personal favorites.  Everyone agrees that Sean Connery (the first actor to play Bond) is a sentimental favorite but there is always a healthy debate as to who is the best Bond.  I like the franchise but I'm not such a devoted fan as many so I'm really pleased with the current Bond Daniel Craig and his portrayal.  Overall though, I tend to mix up the parodies and the real films together that makes for confusing recall of actual facts.  I'm working on fixing that by watching some of the older films.

The newest Bond film, number 23, Skyfall will be directed by Sam Mendes, a newcomer to the franchise.  But a stellar cast in Javier Bardem as the main villain along with Ralph Fiennes, Naomie Harris, Ben Whishaw and Judi Dench back as M looks to carry forward the Bond name into the new age.  After the outstanding Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon, the Bond franchise needed to up its game although many fans seems to prefer the older films to this gritty, realist direction the newer films are taking.

What do you think? Who's your favorite Bond and does everyone like Daniel Craig as James Bond?  It's been six years already.  

The Princess Bride 25th Anniversary!

(Photo: Entertainment Weekly)

"As you wish... "


"Is this a kissing book?" ... "Well, when does it get good?"

"Never go up against a Sicilian when death is on the line."

"Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father.  Prepare to die"

If you know and love the above lines, then you are most definitely a fan of The Princess Bride and would have quoted them in ordinary conversations.  Buttercup, Wesley, Vizzini, Fezzik, Miracle Max, Prince Humperdinck, these are all characters that make up one of the funniest, sweetest and fondest films of the 1980s which fans discovered through airing on television and home video.  Based on the book by William Goldman (who also wrote the screenplay) and directed by Rob Reiner, the film is one you'd want on your list of movies on a deserted island because it seems to have it all.

Like the young grandson, you'd think by the title and premise alone that this is one of those typical rom-coms.  Oh, but it's so much more.  It is a romance that contains an old-fashioned love story but it is also a story of revenge, of action, of fantasy and a great deal of laughter. In short, it has it all.

Cary Elwes, Robin Wright, Mandy Patinkin, Chris Sarandon, Wallace Shawn, Carol Kane and Billy Crystal
This week, the film turns 25 years old and the cast reunited for a screening at the 50th New York Film Festival.  And while there's always the inevitable talk of sequel.  Please Hollywood, I beg of you, do not tarnish my childhood memories.  Do not even think of remakes.  I would, however, love to see the live read of conducted by Jason Reitman attached as a DVD extra for any upcoming re-release.  Right? Who's with me? Paul Rudd played Westley, Mindy Kaling was Princess Buttercup, Cary Elwes was recast as Prince Humperdinck while Patton Oswalt took on Vezzini.  And finally, director Rob Reiner played the role of the Grandfather while someone named Fred Savage was reading for the role of the Grandson.  Bold choice!

The film is beloved by many people and will continue to enjoyed for generations and generations to come.  If you are like me and are already feel like revisiting the fictional country of Florin or if you haven't already seen this movie, I'd suggest you do so and when someone says, "Inconceivable!" to you, you'll finally understand why.  

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

So I saw The Cabin in the Woods.  This is very notable because I shy away from any kind of horror-type film but because I was also promised by people who had seen the film that this wasn't a typical horror film and it would be a shame if I missed out on it.  So I gathered my courage to watch it and what do you know? It wasn't as scary as I imagined it in my mind (it never is) and I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.

The film is about that requisite yet ominous trip to the cabin in the woods by five friends, Jules (Anna Hutchison), Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Marty (Fran Kranz), Holden (Jesse Williams) and Dana (Kristen Connolly).  It becomes fairly obvious that these friends aren't any different than the typical subjects of any such genre. They are categorized into the whore, the athlete, the fool, the scholar and the virgin.  

But they are typecast into this not by design but necessity of how these films are supposed to act.  But they weren't this way until they came into the cabin in the woods.  Because once you come into the arena, all bets are off.  This really reminded me of a Hunger Games-type of scenario with a pair of middlemen controlling the outcome.

A bit of a spoiler alert, although this is revealed from virtually the opening scene, this isn't your ordinary cabin.  This is a full-blown operation to save humanity.  It turns out that it's up to Japan and USA to save the world and the fate of the world lies in the sacrifice of these five youth.  So we have to wait and watch the inevitable as it is in any such film and take a look at how they meet their fate.

But The Cabin in the Woods takes an entirely new approach to this by alternating paying homage and poking fun at the slasher/horror/supernatural films that came before it.  The whole operation set in Japan, the whiteboard of doom, and the banter between Sitterson (Richard Jenkins), Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Lin (Amy Acker) can be classically only found in a Joss Whedon script. 

And the sacrificial lambs do their best not to just lay down and meet their doom.  They fight against it with all their might.  The dumb athlete is not just stupid, he's a sociology major.  The scholar who suddenly dons glasses and can read Latin is also in college on a football scholarship.  The "virgin" is having an affair with her professor.  My favorite of the bunch, the fool might be the wisest one of them all.  

But the Ancient Ones must be appeased, a sacrifice must be given and there is a sequence towards the end that is so madcap, so fearless, so completely out there (in a good way) that you know that people will be talking about it after.  How did they manage to pull it off? I don't want to ruin for people who haven't yet seen the film but you know when you see a murderous unicorn (yes, unicorn), you've really seen it all.  

This film was made in 2009 when Hemsworth was at his pre-Thor, pre-Avengers fame and the rest of the actors are known by their TV work more than films roles.  The cast, the script and the chances taken by this film to be unique are the best reasons to watch it.  You'll go around recommending it to your friends. You'll see.  I already have.  

Directed by Drew Goddard; Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard; Cinematography by Peter Deming; Editor by Lisa Lassek; Music by David Julyan


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The 85th Oscars will be hosted by...

And the host of next year's 85th Academy Awards is, drumroll please, Seth MacFarlane!!! The creator of many animated shows including the Emmy-nominated Family Guy, MacFarlane seems a surprising choice for host.  After going edgy with two young hosts in last year in James Franco and Anne Hathaway and playing it safe this year with hosting legend Billy Crystal after Eddie Murphy left, I really did think things seemingly pointing towards Ricky Gervais to get a shot of hosting.  He's not going back to host the Golden Globes anymore.  But it does mean one thing for sure, if you've watched any of MacFarlane's shows, he's not going to hold back.  Not at all.  Things are going to get interesting come February 24, 2013.  
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