Monday, April 30, 2012

My Tops of 2012 - April

WRATH OF THE TITANS is highly forgettable and wasn't worth the time and energy to be created. Despite some very minor enjoyment, it's too miserable and whiny to bear with and too flimsy and laughable to take serious.

21 JUMP STREET broke from the confines of being another television adaptation to be a very funny meta-comedy that targets everything from the mindsets of modern high schoolers and studio executives, to the action cliches that we have accepted from these kinds of movies.

THE RAID: REDEMPTION is the action roller-coaster people waited for, with several broken bones and harsh violence, but the sappy melodrama and lame twists stall the joy ride at several intervals.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a pure wow. Drew Goddard, Joss Whedon and the delightful cast bred a hilarious/creepy little gem that always keeps you guessing your allegiances and what to expect next. It needed to fix a big plot hole, though.

THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS is sure to produce a smile but nothing else to give it much weight. The artistry of stop-motion is always breathtaking but the story and the limited focus on the pirate crew leave a lot to be desired.

Best Films of 2012

1. Chronicle

2. The Secret World of Arrietty

3. The Hunger Games

4. The Cabin in the Woods

5. 21 Jump Street

Worst Films of 2012

1. Project X

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods - Review

Five college-aged individuals head up to the titled destination for a brief respite from their traditional college lives. They meet up with a deranged yokel who warns them not to go to the cabin. They want to party hard dammit, so they continue on and arrive at the cabin. They find peculiar features all around plus a ton of creepy, old junk down in the basement of the cabin. One read through a beat-up journal and shouting out some Latin words at its last entry later, strange things begin to pop out from the ground just outside the cabin.

With such a lackluster title and the above plot description that is brilliant for a pitched Syfy Original Movie, why is it that THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is going to be well remembered and dissected for present and future special screenings and genre film essays? Simple, this film is out to get you, the viewer, and actively loathes you. When the vast general public who will go out and thankfully see this film return to the outside environment, the majority of them will easily display their red-hot tempers and strain all of their facial muscles with their utterly disgusted expressions. This movie throws a pipe-bomb out to the audience, annihilating your accepted manners and thoughts when it comes to horror movies, yet still gives you the mighty and delicious cake you requested. Call it a game-changer, a massive display of deconstruction, or a piss-stained notice to the hacks in the horror film business. Regardless of any special labels you give it, it is still an effective horror-comedy sure to bring a "wow" to your lips.

Though I did go over what actually happens in the main action, with fantastically funny performances by all five actors including a pre-THOR Chris Hemsworth, I didn't mention the secondary plot that ties a hard noose around the film. This plot, which involves distinguished character actors Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, is showcased in the very first scenes. It then keeps popping up whenever it feels like it, until it assumes absolute control over the proceedings in the third act. It is this storyline, which I won't spoil, that will prove to be a mean cattle prod to everyone's tastes. If you take the initial shock, follow the chosen direction of Drew Goddard and move along with the movie, you will surely love what will come next. Other viewers might rather choose to be forlorn lost souls, enduring the plentiful finger-points at the smoke and mirrors of it all before asking for a refund.

What made me really enjoy the film, besides being very funny, is how the tone and mood rapidly move back and forth throughout, never standing still and never giving you the chance to truly like only one set of characters. As the violence greatly intensifies to the point where there is more spilled blood then paint on the walls, you'll be alternating between satisfied glee to grim sadness, wondering why these people now must suffer the consequences of others' actions. There is no black and white morality to stand by here, only expert use to abuse your feelings. Stoddard and co-writer/producer/nerd-bait juggernaut Joss Whedon certainly give it their all to make a horror film with actual complexity.

There are some big problems that severely halt this vicious working machine, most unfortunately being the cinematography. Several important moments are vastly under-lit and hard to pick out what you're seeing. For a film that gives a crushing blow to modern horror film outputs, the fact it can't accomplish this easy technique is truly sad. Add this to the fact that this long delayed film was going to be re-purposed for 3D screenings and it becomes abysmal. Then there is the bizarre yet annoying addition with a deus ex machina that is literally a giant red button, but that will lead to spoiler talk. Despite these grave misgivings, make sure to check this out before our spoiler-friendly culture ruins all the surprises. THE CABIN IN THE WOODS obliterates everything put forth by the SCREAM franchise to stand out as the king of post-modern horror.


The Raid: Redemption - Review

Virally praised for being a hail mary pass for action movies and another potential gateway into the martial arts film realm, THE RAID: REDEMPTION goes very far but can not go all the way. The brutal kicks, vicious gunplay and overall nihilism couldn't completely mask over the pitiful inserts of action movie plot cliches and ham-fisted melodrama it wants us to accept upon face value. It grabs your breath with expertly built fight scenes and constant dread, only to have its character then drag their feet through yawn-inducing plot twists.

A group of Indonesian SWAT officers, who are later suitably revealed to be nothing but a bunch of greenhorns and noobs, are sent to take apart and subjugate a dilapidated apartment complex riddled with fifteen floors of drug-runners, drug-takers, and their bloodthirsty bodyguards. The building is lorded over by one sadistic man, who is the police's main target and the only thing able to keep themselves alive when they make the long walk back down. As expected by basically anyone watching this, the plan falls apart fast and the remaining few officers, including our main protagonist Rama (Iko Uwais), need to survive in order to escape their newly formed prison.

Gee, I wonder if there also are some secrets kept hidden within the sweat-filled mists and blood-soaked floors? Of course there needs to be some, and they are so easy to spot by anyone yet the film chooses to wait and wait and wait before finally having them come out in the open to absolutely no shock whatsoever. I don't mind a martial arts film having an actual story and some tragic moments amongst the thrown blows, but THE RAID's plot is a platitude of triteness, further hampered by the flat charisma of its actors.

Despite these heavy flaws, THE RAID: REDEMPTION is amazing in its elbow-to-face violence and cacophony of human screams and techno beats. All of the fights are very memorable, each given some prologue time to build up suspense and anticipation before a machete meets a shoulder, a neck holds a broken light tube in place, and a leg becomes a Twizzler. I also didn't mind the newly constructed musical score by Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park fame and Joseph Trapanese, which helped amplify the human body destruction and moral decay. Though his writing is highly laughable, director Gareth Evans does deserve points for maintaining a horror-like atmosphere to the proceedings, especially in the first act, as the denizens are given certain incentives to attack the invading pests and pop out of the doors and the darkness. He also makes good use of some black comedy and realism, such as when our main hero keeps walking around a floor he already conquered and keeps seeing the same bodies, withering in pain or dead, still laying all about. However, the complete color correction of the film might make the pain and suffering look more brutal, but it also gives the copious amounts of blood a shade of poop brown.

I enjoyed the fun time with this flick but it surely does have limited life beyond midnight group screenings and fight compilations. The utter lameness of its crime story and constant slogging to the next action scene proved to be a severe blow to the film's gut. Still though, it is very violent and incredibly glorious in its ballet of CQC. Since the film is now to be given the popular Hollywood treatment of being turned to a trilogy, I don't mind checking back upon this movie or its future sequels, though only if drama is more exceptional and not grade-school level characterization.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Trailer Review - Rise of the Guardians

Rise of the Guardians
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, The Sandman, and The Easter Rabbit team up.

Scene Pop: The Sandman weaving his spells, and giant dinosaurs, on a town.

Briggs Breakdown: One gold coin for a tooth, four Easter eggs, a Hot-Wheels-esque train set made of ice, several dream spells, egg bombs, a dangerous sleigh ride, and a homage to The Night of the Hunter of all things.

Effective?: Yes. Very majestic.

Check it Out?: I guess so. This has an absolutely great premise and the film is going in its own unique direction, hence why the Tooth Fairy is a bird-girl, rather than just being the next Shrek series for Dreamworks. This first trailer is more about setup and bringing up its magical qualities than action, which is nice to do but the main conflict with the shadow-fear-man-thingy doesn't have much weight so far. The villain just comes across being at home with The Care Bears. Still, it does have a lot of potential to be this year's holiday favorite.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Trailer Review - Total Recall

Total Recall
1st Trailer
Watch It Here

Person of Interest: A handsome yet confused Colin Farrell, his newly-evil British girlfriend Kate Beckinsale, Jessica Biel as some boring girl, and a cameoing Bryan Cranston at the end.

Scene Pop: Farrell takes down eight police enforcers while the camera bouncy-balls around the room.

Briggs Breakdown: 11 dead police, two parkour, two fist fights, multiple pistols and machine guns fired, an elevator gunfight in zero-g, a hover car chase, a train chase, one crushed "normal" car by gravity, one shattered glass display, and the use of some type of net/tether capture gun.

Effective?: A bit generic, but yes, largely due to the score and matched cuts.

Check it Out?: Maybe. The marketing looks exactly like Source Code, the trailer's music is like Inception, and the plot looks to be almost the same as the original movie, right down to the re-use of the facial disguise to enter Mars scene. It does look like it will keep the original's plot line of constantly guessing whether Farrell is dreaming or not. The most interesting thing from the trailer, however, is the art direction, with the sleek cyber police suits and how the city has different Escher-like layers of living, from the magnetic hover cars to the bottom dwellers driving SUVs and vans.