If You’re Tired Of The Same Old Story, Oh, Baby, Turn Some Pages

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Here’s something that’s been weighing on my mind: it shocks me that Cabin In The Woods doesn’t have a much stronger following and I genuinely cannot come up with a reason for its lack of one.  I saw it twice in theaters and have watched it 3 times since it’s been an instant watch on Netflix.  I LOVED it during the first viewing and have found that even after a few more, it totally holds up.  The thing about it is that it’s fun and at times hilarious, while at others, really scary.  It’s a must-see for fans of the horror genre, like myself, while others who could take or leave horror will also enjoy it.

Longtime lovers of scary movies like me can appreciate all of the clever shout-outs to horror flicks of old.  In fact, Cabin In The Woods is kind of a tribute to the whole horror genre.  Writers Josh Whedon and Drew Goddard take every cliche and stereotype we’ve come to associate with scary movies and puts them all together AND supply a fun and interesting explanation for them.  They very smartly and creatively find a way to BOTH strictly follow the formula and make something completely original.  They somehow manage to make a horror flick that is every bit a generic horror flick, that is like every other horror flick ever made, while, simultaneously, taking that seemingly generic premise and using it to disassemble and reconfigure the formula we’ve seen in horror flicks since the spawn of the genre.  This film is so much more than a zombie movie or a slasher flick or even a supernatural story.  It is everything all at once.  And IT WORKS.  It even has some social relevance while still managing to never take itself too seriously.  In all honesty, I think it’s kind of perfect.

The acting is mostly good (I say mostly because there is one actor whose performance is slightly sub par – but hers is the ONLY one), good enough, in fact, to give these stereotypical characters surprising depth.  Like every other aspect of this film, they are two things at once: the cliched caricatures we’re used to seeing in scary movies and very much, well, not.  And in addition to the scary stuff, which is often pretty scary, there’s an abundance of excellent humor that lightens it up.  For this reason alone, it is definitely a crossover film: it appeals to fans of the horror genre and those who usually shy away from it.  There’s eye candy for all (I could make a sandwich with Chris Hemsworth and Jesse Williams) and even one completely awesome cameo by a woman who has become an icon in the sci-fi world.  Like I said, perfect.

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There’s also a big, big, big, big surprise ending that, for me, sets it apart from damn near every other film (horror or otherwise) I’ve seen.  It takes a lot of balls to end a movie in such a way and for that, kudos to Whedon and Goddard.  I’ve read that before the first screening, Whedon told the audience something like, “Enjoy it and then keep it to yourself.”  Because it’s very much like Fight Club in this way; the first, second and third rules about Cabin In The Woods are: You don’t talk about Cabin In The Woods.  To be less vague and disclose any more detail than I already have is to rob you of the sheer joy you’ll feel when you realize that this film is irrevocably and unapologetically going balls-to-the-wall, batshit bonkers.  This moment first shows itself in a scene in the second act that I call “The Purge” which is quite possibly the coolest fucking scene in any scary movie, EVER.  As well as frightening and funny and thrilling and wildly fun in a shit-yourself giddy kind of way all at the same time.  Which is in itself a rarity in any film and even more rare, is that I could use that same sentence to describe the movie itself.

If you’re a fan of horror flicks, you have to watch this.  If you’re not, you still should watch it because whether you care about all the details that pay homage to the genre or not, Cabin In The Woods is one wicked fun ride.

~Nikki

Yours Are The Sweetest Eyes I’ve Ever Seen

People magazine recently named Channing Tatum as the Sexiest Man Alive and, while he obviously takes very good care of himself, I must admit he just doesn’t do anything for me.  Appearance matters, of course, but just as much (if not more), substance is what makes a man sexy (to women).  By which I mean, his sense of humor, his I.Q., his ability to listen and communicate, his wit and integrity of character – these are the things that draw a woman’s attention.

Charming Potato is by no means unattractive but he seems little more than your average jock.  A beefcake, if ever I saw one.  Here are 8 actors every bit as good-looking and infinitely more interesting than Channing Tatum:

Ewan McGregor

Idris Elba

Joseph Gordon Levitt

James McAvoy

Michael Fassbender

Jesse Williams

Tom Hardy

Chris Hemsworth

~Nikki

Snow White’s Stitching Up the Circuitboard

I had some misconceptions about Snow White and the Huntsman going in, namely that it was going to be a lower-budget ho-hum modern revisioning of a classic fairy tale. Why did I assume this, despite the fact that commercials promised a lush visual experience? Because it looked like it was for teens and starred Kristen Stewart. I was thinking this would have the look and feel of the usually visually shoddy Twilight films, or 2011’s horrid Red Riding Hood. You can imagine my shock then, when I discovered Huntsman was a serious big-budget fantasy epic. It looks like The Cell, retold by Disney. It’s even got a fancy score, by Mr. James Newton Howard (And a killer credits track, Breath of Life by Florence + the Machine).

Huntsman stays semi-close to the original Grimm tale – a young Queen pricks her finger, births a gorgeous daughter, dies, the King marries a psycho, and gorgeous daughter grows up to be the fairest creature in all the land. The film opens with the back story, explaining how the evil Queen dupes Snow White’s father into marrying her. For reasons unknown, the Queen, here named Ravenna, played with delicious psychosis and familial disturbance by Charlize Theron, keeps Snow White locked up in a tower, where she still manages to looks stunningly dirty-beautiful, even though she hasn’t seen a bath for years. Ravenna is a deeply troubled soul, with a creepy albino-ish brother, and it’s clear that their childhood has jacked them up for life. Once the mirror, or large golden serving platter, tells Ravenna that Snow White is the most beautiful woman in existence, she sends her brother to fetch her from her prison cell, so her beating heart can be consumed. (Ravenna pops tickers from birds like they’re cherries. Sick, but looked cool. Also can I just say that Charlize Theron is at her best when she’s doing batshit. She plays Ravenna like Mavis from Young Adult, if Mavis was a Wiccan) Snow White is a badass warrior though, as opposed to a meek girl who whistles while she works, and manages to escape, into the horrible acid-trippy forest.

The Huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth, oozing the alpha male hunk appeal he does sooo well, is commissioned to find Snow White and bring her alive to the Queen. He finds her almost instantly, but something about her causes him to question what the hell is going on and she insists that whatever the case, the Queen is lying to him and will kill them both. As he’s a drunkard who’s down on his luck, he trusts the dirty runaway more than the creepy upper-crust siblings. The two escape, and become reluctant partners, as opposed to the fairy tale, where the Huntsman falls madly in love with Snow White, cannot bear to kill her, and brings a boar’s heart and lungs to the queen, and we never hear from him again.

Queen (Snow White)

Queen (Snow White) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The rest of the film follows this pair on a journey through the forest, trying to get to her childhood friend’s father’s castle (mouthful). Encountering adventures along the way, they eventually meet up with the seven dwarves. Here, however, they are travel companions – she does not become their cleaning beyotch. I was surprised to see the dwarves weren’t really dwarves at all, they became small by CGI and camera tricks. At first glance, I thought, “wow, that guy looks like Ian McShane, but obviously he’s not..” After a few moments I realized, it WAS McShane, along with Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, and a few other men, turned into dwarves by the wonders of technology. I imagine this cost a pretty penny, to pay recognizable actors along with the expense of the CGI, when they could have just hired actual little people. However, after reading the recent interview with Peter Dinklage in Rolling Stone, he expressed that it’s slightly dehumanizing to be cast as a fantastical dwarf in stories like this, so maybe it’s a good thing?

But Snow White is about beauty, and this version’s got it in spades. Kristen Stewart has never looked more beautiful. I was in awe, literally. She somehow found it within herself to drop the twitching/gasping/lip-biting/fidgeting that she assaults us with as the wretched Bella, and became a lovely, magical, stunning heroine. I am obsessed with finding out what they used to make her lips look naturally blood-red. Ravenna is gorgeous villainy – amazing smoky eyes, elaborate, decadent gowns. The magnificent sets, costumes, effects, and makeup were all just a part of the reason why I enjoyed this flick – gothic castles, massive landscapes reminiscent of Lord of the Rings, and a sparkling, magical pixie/fairyland are all splendid eye-candy.

My minor complaints are the length (WHY does every movie think it’s allowed to be over two hours?!?! WHY.), and a sort of lag in the middle. The journey through the forest really does feel drawn out, even as it’s advancing the plot. My major complaint is the way Snow White defeats Ravenna (did you honestly think evil would prevail?) – it was VERY anti-climactic. All that build up should have given us a little something special. And lastly, the lack of humor. Overall, the tone is really dark, which is fine, but there are some mild attempts at humor that fall flat, as it’s mostly the dwarves uttering nonsense, and they mumble so much I found it difficult to understand what they were actually saying.

Overall, it’s a gorgeous way to spend a couple of hours, albeit a dark and gloomy one. I haven’t seen this year’s other Snow White re-imagining, Mirror, Mirror, so I cannot compare them. All I know is Hemsworth, Stewart, and Theron are a pleasure to watch (and stare at, with jealousy and/or longing).

~Annie

In That Tiny Kind of Scary House, By the Woods, By the Woods, By the Woods, By the Woods – SPOILER FULL!

Source: Wikipedia

After our recent viewing of The Cabin in the Woods, the much-buzzed about horror film from the mind of Midas – I mean Joss Whedon, Annie and Nikki decided that I should be the one to write the review, since I was basically bouncing out of my seat with joy, excitement, and satisfaction. Word of warning: If you haven’t seen this yet, please don’t read any further. Check out Annie’s spoiler free review, because this one is going to be full-on spoilerific. Seriously, do not read this if you haven’t seen the movie. You will be robbing yourself of a lovely experience. If you read this review before seeing the movie, you are one of those self-destructive people who likes to destroy their own happiness. You have been warned!

The Cabin in the Woods is a horror movie, yes – but it is so much more. Horror fans will likely enjoy it – and though I can take or leave the genre, I had a positively grand old time. All the horror elements are there (quite literally) – along with fantastic gore, and certainly the occasional tense moment and jolt of fear.

But you’ve also got laughs (primarily thanks to Fran Kranz (Marty) and Bradley Whitford (Hadley)) – and most importantly, the whole meta vibe of the film. It offers up a plate of commentary on the horror genre, of which my brain senses it is only scratching the surface. The interchangeability of the fear source – zombies, ghosts, inbreeds with chain saws, and hell, mermen. The stereotypical characters in most horror flicks – the fool, the jock, the slut, brain, and virgin – which the film’s initially atypical characters descend into, thanks to the controllers behind the cameras. This is an intelligent film, and possibly as close as you can get to sitting in a room with its amazing creators and talking about the genre.

As the film neared its end, and you learn that the destruction of the entire human race is within arm’s reach, my glee reached a precipice and froze – would the filmmakers go full tilt and decimate humanity, or would they puss out and save the world? I was momentarily unsure, but thankfully, since Joss Whedon is involved here, and he likes to kill people, they go for it. The gods burst forth from within the earth, and everybody dies – within which probably lies another layer of horror commentary, and for me, was nearing social commentary. (Annie often speaks of the need for a meteor to strike the earth…and I have a certain predilection for disaster movies (CLOVERFIELD, ANYONE!? Drew Goddard wrote both of these.).)

My main curiosity upon leaving the theater was how the film will hold up upon multiple viewings. Part of the fun is not knowing what’s going to happen, surely. And though I can’t officially say until it comes out on DVD and I buy it – which I will – I have a feeling that this movie is meaty enough – and just plain fun enough – that it will remain enjoyable and relevant.

Horror, gore, laughs, layers, intelligence, gleeful chaos, mystery, cinematic commentary, social commentary – The Cabin in the Woods has quite literally all that and a bag of chips. And the bag of chips is Sigourney Weaver. It’s the most fun you can have while sitting in a chair, but most importantly, it keeps you thinking once you’ve left that chair.

~X.

Through the Forest, Down to Your Grave – SPOILER FREE!

Source: Wikipedia

The Cabin in the Woods is the kind of film where it helps if you know nothing about it. Which is why, in this review, I’m not going to ruin anything for you, cause you deserve to have a pristine experience. If you’ve seen it already, and just want to read thoughts on the actual plot, tomorrow we’re going to post X’s spoiler-FULL review. She was super eager to write about it because she was literally bursting with SQUEEE!!!!! when the credits started to roll. We thought, since this was such a unique movie, it deserved a unique take on the review-side.

This will probably be one of the easier reviews I’ve ever written, just because I refuse to discuss any plot details, or even any of the characters, to any great length.  All I feel safe saying is what you’ve seen on any trailer: Group of typical college kids (your regular archetypes) go on a road-trip party weekend to a cabin in the woods, drinking, sex, and gore ensues.

Appearances can be deceiving, because this is the least “typical” horror/slasher flick I’ve seen in, shit, I have no idea how long. Every time I thought I had things figured out, I was surprised, again and again. The twists and turns kept punching me in the face, and I was glad to take ‘em. The performances are (mostly) fresh and fun, the writing is sharp and we genuinely laughed out loud, really hard, many times. The harbingers of awesome, Joss Whedon (Buffy, Avengers, Toy Story, Serenity, Firefly) and Drew Goddard (Cloverfield, Lost) have brought this gift of originality and delight to us, and we give thanks. Many thanks.

If you still haven’t heard much about this one, consider yourself lucky and act quickly on your current virginal status. Go get that cherry popped – now – because you may not have this much fun at a film for years to come. I seriously freaking mean that.

~Annie

Loko for Loki

Had a sort of way-cool experience the other night, and figured it made for good blog fodder…

My lil’ sis, (Prof) X and I, spontaneously decided to go stalk/gawk some of the filming that’s being done for the upcoming Avengers film, that’s actually happening somewhat nearby our lovely midwest hellhole.  We figured we’d just go see what we could see, especially since X is madly in love with the bloke who plays Loki, Tom Hiddleston.  She was hoping the Tarot cards were correct, and we’d have some sort of insane celeb encounter, but my expectations were way lower.

This was a week of night shoots happening from 6pm – 6am, so we had to perform this stake-out in the middle of the night, although we knew that several major cast members were going to be there.  We arrived to see about 30-50 people milling around the caution tape, hoping for a glimpse.  Some sort of scene with a couple hundred extras trying to flee from an opera house was being filmed, surrounding a beer garden in “Germany” (all the road signs were redone in German and the cars sitting around were European-ized).

We did get to see the actual Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), and Loki battling every time “Action” was yelled over a loudspeaker (which was fucking cool to hear in person, like on a FOR REALSIES, REAL, GINORMOUS, SUMMER, HOLLYWOOD MOTION PICTURE).  We were kind of geeking out.  These glimpses did not come easy mind you, about 15 of us were stuffed into an RTA booth wielding binoculars and cameras, just waiting for anything cool to happen.

At one point, a small group of Bieber look-alikes wandered by and some production person came out, gave them all bracelets, and they got to go into the trenches.  After about a half hour they came out, and explained that one of the boys was the nephew of the chief of police, so it was arranged that they could visit the set.  They informed us that not only were the three superheros in there, so was ScarJo herself, although we never caught a glimpse of her.

Around 12:30 am, Chris Evans left the set, and we were standing about 30 feet from where vehicles were entering and exiting, so the few of us there waved to him and he sheepishly waved back – he seemed kind of introverted.  Or maybe he thought we were all stupid.  Around 1 am, I notice Loki walking toward the SUVs, with a few assistants around him, also in full costume.  My sis begins jumping up and down, and he noticed and laughed and waved.  As his vehicle drove by, he rolled down the window and leaned out and yelled back.  It was quite fun, especially since we kind of figure the reason he did that was because she was so excited – the rest of us were just standing around.  As he drove away, Lil’ Professor X was so happy and thrilled, she might as well have been on crack.

What makes this whole story a billion times cooler? (Or lame, depending on your opinion) We wake up the next morning to find the video of what happened on YouTube! Unbeknownst to us, a few guys nearby were filming (with a damn fine camera, I might add) and caught the whole thing.  You can’t see us, but you can hear the sis professing her love, and I’m the nerd who says “Thomas Hiddleston” (in answer to some other random strangers asking us if we even knew his real name).  Said video (shown above) has wound up on some other sites, and has been reblogged, gif’ed, and screencapped to the high heavens, due to the ginormous internet female fanbase that Hiddleston inspires, the “Hiddlestoners.”  Hell, a cast member even tweeted one such gif.  Man, I flipping love pop culture, and the internet.  What a bizarre world we inhabit.

X’s story of her most magical night, in her own cuckoo words:       http://strobe.tumblr.com/post/9414152493

~Annie

THORoughly Enjoyable

I’ve gotta say, I really liked Thor; it was a great way to spend my Tuesday afternoon.  Quality, story, and enjoyment-wise, I’d place it right on par with the first Iron Man (We shall never speak of the travesty known as the second one).

I won’t admit to knowing anything about this story to start with, besides the basic fact that it was a comic, based on the mythological legend, so I’m not sure how much or even if the film deviates from the source material.  The story is this:  Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is an arrogant, rock star who-would-be-king, until a petulant act of revenge killing (that is a totally freaking bad-ass sequence) gets him banished from his home, sent to Earth, with no powers (namely his awesome hammer), by his father, King Odin (Anthony Hopkins).  Once there, he encounters a motley crew of researchers, and must find a way to be worthy of that hammer, regain his powers, and make it back home, dealing with double-crossing family members and an evil frozen race who want to wage war along the way.  Of course he does all this and more, but you knew that; it’s a summer superhero movie for god’s sake.  However, that doesn’t retract from the high level of quality or entertainment it ends up providing.

I really enjoyed the well-chosen cast.  Hemsworth, who I didn’t expect to like, because to me, he is generic-looking, almost immediately won me over (Why am I shocked?  He was great in the few minutes he was alive in J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek as George Kirk).  I’m not one for muscles, but when he took his shirt off, damn if I didn’t get the quivers.  He really conveyed the innocence, arrogance, and appeal that Thor embodies.  Hopkins kinda phones it in, but at this point in his life and career, he doesn’t really need to do anything special, he just IS that regal.  A stellar Brit named Tom Hiddleston, who I’ve never heard of, does a smashing job at playing Loki, the treacherous brother.  He’s got a Draco Malfoy-in-10-years look about him, which is pretty perfect for the character.  He’s a good villain in that you understand why he does the things he does, something I appreciate from the film-makers.  Natalie Portman is an astrophysicist named Jane Foster, and while I usually have anaphylaxis against hot chicks playing advanced intelligence roles such as this, Portman is known for being a smart lady, and I think she did a great job of being sucked into the possibilities for the universe (and her research) that Thor represents.

Kenneth Branaugh directed, and while at first thought I didn’t know if he’d be the right choice, the plot of this film revolves around a treacherous son/brother, and it doesn’t get any more Shakespearian than that (He directs a LOT of Shakespeare, in case you didn’t know).  Branaugh did a fantastic job, even and especially when dealing with effects-driven stretches of the story.  The “realm” that Thor originates from, Asgard, looks like one of those uber-nerdly desktop wallpapers or laptop covers with tons of teal and purple nebulas and shimmery gold towers rising above a world of lush green and choppy oceans and waterfalls, which is to say:  FUCKING AWESOME.

As most comic-geeks know, you should stay through the final credits for an Avengers (2012) tease.  Iron Man‘s descent into shit had me not giving a damn about that upcoming film, but this breath of fresh air has me pumped.  I’m glad to know Thor’s story will continue to be told; he deserves it.

~Annie