Sunday, May 27, 2012

Movie Review: Chernobyl Diaries

Most horror movies employ the same tactics and become tired and predictable, this is, sadly, no exception.  The idea of the movie is actually quite interesting, riding on the heels of such movies as Hostel; traveling Americans are taken to a remote site.  In Kiev, Ukraine, the group, and two others are taken to the city closest to Chernobyl.  As you might expect, the group become stranded and are then hunted by unknown entities.

The movie starts off like an Oren Peli movie, the home-movie concept in full force.  A guy, his girlfriend and their friend tour much of Europe, stopping in Kiev to visit the guy’s brother. The brother arranges a tour of the city nearest Chernobyl and they get separated and hunted.  The movie is great on suspense, at times I had my eyes covered.  But at each turn, as character after character was killed, there was nothing original to be seen.  Predictably the group dwindles one-by-one until there is one member left, who is then killed due to the overused ‘Communist’ or conspiracy card.  I wonder when, if ever, Russia will ever be able to shrug that off.

I had expected more bang for my buck, but I think the trailers were more interesting.  Overall, I was underwhelmed to say the least and have all but forgotten any reason I was scared at all.  Horror movies are not easy to make, but when the script is uninspiring and the story lacks any sort of draw, the movie feels stale.  I wouldn’t recommend seeing it, but judge for yourself.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Movie Review: The Avengers

As I mentioned in my last blog, I went to see this Sunday, but it was sold out, so my friend and I were like, ‘let’s see it in the middle of the week, it’ll be empty.’  Well, we were wrong.  The theatre was packed, and apparently AMC was caught unawares as well, because they were woefully understaffed.

If you haven’t seen the various Marvel movies over the last few years, the Avengers builds off of them, joining Iron Man, Thor and Captain America with the supporting cast that had been introduced previously.  In this movie, the main villain is Loki, Thor’s foster brother.  While I can’t say the story was utterly original, it was still done on a large scale and written and directed by the indomitable Joss Whedon.  And that is the main point I need to make about this movie.  Being a long time Buffy fan, I know all too well how amazing and talented Joss Whedon is a storyteller, and even his worst episodes of Buffy, Angel, Firefly or Dollhouse were still leaps and bounds above other shows.  It is only Lost that I can ever compare to a Joss Whedon franchise.

In assembling the Avengers, Joss Whedon brings together a star cast that works at every level.  Even though each character may not get the same level of attention, each actor brings the character to life.  The story opens around Nick Fury, the director of SHIELD who has his greatest weapon stolen by Loki, subsequently; he must assemble the various members of the Avengers.  The group assemble, and after much arguing and epic battles, decide to work together to stop the common enemy.

The story isn’t what is packing the theatre, and it isn’t the special effects either, it is the acting and directing.  While children will come in droves to the theatre to see superheroes, adults can come and enjoy the double-speak and hidden meanings to story.  Whedon is known for adding hidden gems and is the fanboy that we all dream about making the comics we grew up with.  The only way this movie could have been better is if Kevin Smith (who wrote for the Green Arrow at one point) had been involved.  The level of fanboy-ism is directly related to the level of success of a franchise movie.  While I respect Christopher Nolan, even the Batman movies can’t rival the Avengers.

I know this review wasn’t really much of a review, but given the box office numbers this movie has, I’m betting you’ve already seen this movie at least once.  Avengers starts the summer movie season off with a bang and I can’t imagine any movie surpassing it this summer.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Movie Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Like many moviegoers, I went to the theatre yesterday in hopes of seeing The Avengers.  But once we got to the theatre, most of the shows were sold out, so we went to this movie instead.  My friend and I had planned on seeing it, but timing hadn’t been working out for us.  I may see The Avengers sometime this week, but we shall see.

The premise for The Cabin in the Woods follows two storylines: the main story of five friends going on holiday and the second those that are planning surprises for said holiday.  In the dual story, the kids have no idea what is being planned for them, but it is clear to the audience that something other than normal is occurring.

The five friends set out on a vacation trip to a cabin in the middle of nowhere.  As they arrive, weird things begin to occur, but as with any horror movie, no one reacts to the danger until it is too late.  Under the cabin, a network of offices, an entire company, exists.  In it, there are people who are forcing the people above into situations that make them decide their own fate.  The friends find a cellar beneath the cabin and find a series of artefacts within.  Each person is drawn to a different item, but the paranoid pothead points out that they should stop touching everything, but they don’t.  In that moment, one of the characters calls, unknowingly, a pack of zombies to attack them.

The company below continues to escalate the situation, forcing two of the group to split up and head into the forest.  Once outside, they are attacked by the zombies and one is killed.  The strange situations continue and the friends regroup in the cabin, but end up locked in their rooms.  The separation is prompted by an intervention from the company below, and as the first friend dies, a stone carving fills with blood.  There is one for each person in the cabin.

As the horror escalates, the friends die one-by-one until there is one left, the virgin, even though she is not a virgin.  Unfortunately, the zombies did not kill the paranoid pothead and he comes to her aid.  They make their way into the company through a maintenance lift and break in.  While this is occurring, the company is breaking into utter chaos as the US installation of the project is the only one near success.  A very amusing side-story in Tokyo shows a room full of 9 year olds turning a raging ghost into a frog.

The secondary story merges with the main story towards the middle part of the movie, and it is revealed that the company is forced to provide sacrifices to the older Gods.  The movie then takes a turn for the hilarious as the two friends still alive make their way through the compound and release the evil forces onto those in the company.  While the horror portion of the story can’t be highlighted, as one would expect from Joss Whedon (and a healthy dose of Whedon alums), great characters and dialogue make this wacky story come to life.

My final comment about this movie is simple – if you liked the movie Drag Me to Hell – then you will like this movie.  If that wasn’t your cup of tea, you’d best pass on this movie.  I thought it was clever and interesting and kept me guessing, though not utterly surprised when the end finally came.  I expect great things from Joss Whedon and this did not disappoint.