Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reviews, New Stuff

The Cabin In the Woods

Drew Goddard’s “The Cabin In the Woods” sets itself apart from other horror films pretty early on with its opening scene: two men (a wonderful Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford) in suits ramble on about failed experiments in faraway countries as they drive through a concrete office bunker and the sense of mind-numbing beaurucracy settles in. From there, “The Cabin In the Woods” turns into a witty deconstruction of the horror genre and plays like an episode of “South Park”. Remember the “Margaritaville” episode? Written by Joss Whedon and Goddard, “The Cabin In the Woods” is sheer fun, circumventing the horror film in both narrative and fundamental ideals as a group of teenagers and their weekend retreat turns into a real-life nightmare. Irony for the sake of irony is never fun, and that is where a majority of the post-Scream and Whedon’s own “Buffy” series posit themselves nowadays. “The Cabin In the Woods” is a bit mean-spirited towards its main characters, sardonic in all the right moments and facetious with the genre tropes (the old man giving directions at the gas station begins with a wince and then pays off to terrific lengths later in the film), but it also works in the same way Sam Raimi’s early horror films work. There’s a creativity and a sense of devotion to inverting the genre that seeps through the whole film. Highly recommended for upside-down entertainment.

4:44 Last Day On Earth

“4:44 Last Day On Earth” is the first Abel Ferrera film in over a decade to receive a marginal stateside release (the last was minimal drug dealer procedural “R Xmas”) after his self imposed exile to Italy. Sadly, it’s not a major triumphant return, ranking as one of Ferrra’s weaker efforts. Starring Willem Dafoe and Shanyn Leigh as loft-dwelling New Yorkers awaiting the end of the world, Ferrera’s catastrophic world view is a supremely interior one. There are hints of the chaos outside as Dafoe witnesses a neighbor jump off the fire escape in the building next door, but the film largely concerns itself with the spiraling doubt and relapse of his own drug dependence and his painter-girlfriend’s distrust of his ex-wife. There are moments of tremendous spontaneity- as when Dafoe creeps into the apartment of his old dealer and finds his sober brother (a wonderful Ferrera-stable actor named Paul Hipp) there to talk him out of “nodding his way” through the end of the world- but overall, “4:44 Last Day On Earth” fails due to a strained performance by Leigh and a muddled preachiness via numerous slow zooms into a television set where people such as Al Gore and the Dala Lami talk about global destruction and the joys of inner peace. If seen as a parable for Ferrera’s own recent sobriety, “4:44 Last Day On Earth” makes some sense. Moments feel very personal and, as written by Ferrera himself, the film delivers a quiet examination of one man’s balancing act of sobriety. But as a straightforward, low-key thriller about a man and a woman and the general population of New York itself, it’s unconvincing atmosphere and amateurish narrative choices derail the thing long before it fades into supposed oblivion.

The Raid

Building on the kineticism of John Woo and "The Fast and the Furious" aesthetic, Gareth Evans' "The Raid" excels in style and, at times, even slows down the camera movement enough to make me appreciate the hyperballad of fists, legs and jabs. All is well and fine, I just simply didn't care for anyone in this film. The cops and bad guys are drawn with generic broadness and the film plays out like a video game, techno music and strobe lights intact.

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