Archive for the Joss Whedon Category

“Meals for Monsters” Visits THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)

Posted in 2012, Fun Stuff!, Jenny Orosel Columns, Joss Whedon, Meals for Monsters, Monsters with tags , , , on October 3, 2012 by knifefighter

MEALS FOR MONSTERS
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011)
Review and Recipes by Jenny Orosel

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2011) is one of those movies that people absolutely love or passionately hate.  I loved it, and that was purely accidental.

A few months after the birth of my daughter, I had an afternoon to myself and a free movie pass.  I’d fallen out of the movie loop and was only vaguely familiar with half the titles showing.  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS sounded like your typical slasher flick and the previews reiterated that.  On my way out the door I heard my husband say, “Oh, that’s interesting.  Joss Whedon wrote the script.”  From that moment my expectations went out the window.

In case you’ve been living in Amish country for the past decade and a half, Joss Whedon is the mastermind behind genre-tweaking shows like BUFFY THE VAPIRE SLAYER and FIREFLY.  For CABIN, he went all out.  Five college students plan for a weekend at the titular cabin.  They cover the slasher film archetypes—the innocent, the slut, the stoner, the nerd and the jock.  After reading strange words from a diary in the basement, the five are pursued by a century-old redneck-cannibal-zombie family.  Only, it’s not so simple.  The slut has a brain, the nerd is good looking and athletic, the innocent isn’t all that innocent, and the redneck-cannibal-zombie family was sent by a nameless organization who set up the whole weekend specifically to make sure those five die a miserable, violent death.  Will they survive the cannibals or will the organization step in and do the job themselves?

The plot isn’t what made CABIN great, although it was a fun story. Few movies could have as many in-jokes and odd references as CABIN did and make them integral to the story. Whedon and director Drew Goddard blended in those references both at the forefront and the background of the movie.  Even after repeated viewings, I was still able to spot things that I hadn’t noticed before.  So here’s a meal that, not only could work for a trip to a cabin in the woods, but also while sitting in front of the TV, watching CABIN for the third time.

Very little is actually consumed in CABIN.  The kids drink beer in the woods, and the organization drones have coffee and tequila.  Beer is easy—open, drink.  But if beer’s not your speed, try:

CABIN COFFEE WITH A KICK

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons sweetened instant cinnamon coffee
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 shot tequila

Directions:
Dissolve the coffee in the boiling water and let cool (because warm tequila is rather nasty).  Mix with the shot of tequila and enjoy either straight or over ice.

****

Every time my family would go camping, canned beef stew was a staple.  It travelled well, was easy to heat and eat, and was a somewhat well-rounded meal.  Two negatives were that it wasn’t very interesting, and you still had to clean up a bunch of bowls.  A decent hot sauce will at least aid in the first.  The second can be solved with edible biscuit bowls.

EDIBLE BISCUIT BOWLS

For those, you need:
Tube of refrigerated biscuit dough
Muffin pan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Separate the dough into individual biscuits.  Flatten each until it’s about three to four inches across.  Flip the pan over and stretch the dough over the indentations, pinching together any excess.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until browned.  They can either be eaten hot at home, filled with stew or chunky-style soup, or they can easily be cooled off and packed for your next trip into the woods.  When planning, figure three to four bowls per person.

Edible Biscut Bowls – the finished product!

*****

The dessert is to honor the character of Marty, the “stoner” archetype.  While his first on-screen appearance is toking from a travel-mug-turned-bong, he turned out to be much more important.  So, as a nod to him:

HERBAL BROWNIES

Ingredients:
2 sticks butter, melted then cooled to room temperature
4 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 tbsp vanilla
1 ¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
½ cup flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 chopped herbs (I used mint for my brownies, but feel free to use any other…herbs).

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.  Butter and flour an 8×8 pan.  Mix the eggs and sugar.  Combine in all but the last ingredients.  Fold in the herbs (being careful to emit stems and twigs).  Bake for 45 minutes.  Once cooled, slice and remove from pan.

*****

On a side note, I want to say that Netflix displeases me.  I was excited to watch the DVD, hearing there was an audio commentary and some fun extras.  The copy from Netflix?  It has Spanish subtitles and four trailers, including two movies that came out a couple years ago.  At least it was the same movie I remembered.

Whether you watch the bare bones version or the blu-ray with 1001 extras, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is a fun movie and one of the rare ones that can hold up to repeat viewings.  Hopefully you try something from here the next time you watch it, and I hope you enjoy.

© Copyright 2012 by Jenny Orosel

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THE AVENGERS (2012)

Posted in 2012, 3-D, Aliens, Based on Comic Book, Cinema Knife Fights, Comic Book Movies, Joss Whedon, Marvel Comics, Superheroes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 7, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE AVENGERS (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: a massive flying aircraft carrier, hovering in the sky. CLOSE-UP reveals MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES at the controls.)

MA:  For a minute there, I thought I had prepared for the wrong movie, BATTLESHIP.

LS:  Nope. This is a Helicarrier, one of Nick Fury and S.H.I.E.L.D.’s prize possessions. If he ever finds out we took it, he’s gonna be soooo pissed. (cackles)

MA:  Yeah, I know what it is. You want to tell me again how it is we’re sitting at the controls?

LS:  Fury and the Avengers are all out celebrating their victory over the bad guys, and everyone else is dead tired, so I slipped a friend of mine who works here some cash, and we get to take this baby for a brief spin. Just long enough to review the movie. Don’t worry. We’ll get her back without a scratch.

MA: I hope so. This is an expensive piece of equipment. I wouldn’t want to have to pay the bill if we damaged it.

LS:  You worry too much. Why don’t you start the review?  I see some buttons and controls I want to play with.

MA:  Today’s movie, THE AVENGERS, is the long-awaited, much-anticipated Marvel superhero movie that’s been on moviegoers’ minds ever since the after-the-credits final scene of IRON MAN (2008) when Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) approached Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) about the Avengers Initiative.

There was also some anxiety surrounding this one:  with all the hype and expectation, would it be as good as fans hoped for?  I’ll cut right to the chase and say yes, it’s every bit as good and then some.

LS: That might be a bit premature, but go on.

MA: In THE AVENGERS, the villainous Loki (Tom Hiddleston), Thor’s half-brother, is still bitter from having to live his life in the shadow of his famous sibling, and so he accepts a role from the Chitauri, an alien race that wants to conquer the galaxy. Loki will help the Chitauri conquer the Earth, and in return, Loki will become King of the Earth. To do this, Loki steals the Tesseract, an energy source of unlimited potential that had been in the possession of one Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson).

LS: Yeah, a lot of this stuff comes from the previous Marvel movies. The Tesseract (called “The Cosmic Cube” in the comics) is something we last saw the Red Skull trying to get in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) . Loki,  the sniveling brother of Thor, was also the main villain in THOR (also 2011). THE AVENGERS just brings this all full circle.

MA: To save the world and stop Loki and the Chitauri, Fury activates the “Avengers Initiative,” which pretty much means rounding up the local superheroes to battle the bad guys. The Avengers include Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.,) Captain America (Chris Evans), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner).

LS: Yeah, we previously saw the Black Widow in IRON MAN 2 (2010), and Hawkeye in THOR. So these are familiar faces as well. It’s actually pretty cool that all of the actors returned to reprise their original rolls. Too often in blockbusters like this, some actors, for whatever reasons, have to be replaced, and it’s just not the same. In THE AVENGERS, the only original actor who isn’t returning is Edward Norton, who was Bruce Banner in 2008’s THE INCREDIBLE HULK (or, for real hardcore Hulk fans, Eric Bana, who was played the role in Ang Lee’s 2003 movie, HULK). Here, Banner (and the Hulk) are played by Mark Ruffalo. A great actor, who actually makes you forget those other guys, so I wasn’t too sad to see him as part of this cast.

MA: What makes this movie so interesting is none of these guys like each other nor do they trust each other, and they don’t even trust Nick Fury, so even before they’re battling the bad guys, their battling themselves, and it’s these skirmishes that make up the best part of the movie.

LS: Well, yes and no. Not all of the skirmishes are equally good.

MA: Nit-picker!

LS:  I wonder what this big red button does?

MA:  Should you really be pressing a button that’s big and red?

LS:  Too late. I already pressed it. Hmm. Harmless.

(MA looks out his window and sees an engine falling from the Helicarrier.)

MA:  Do me a favor and don’t press any more buttons.

Where was I?  Oh yeah.

But these folks are superheroes, and so eventually, they all patch up their differences and set their sights on working together and defeating Loki and the Chitauri in a climactic battle sequence that is one for the ages. I joke about this, that they’re superheroes and so of course they eventually work together, but one of the strengths of THE AVENGERS is very little of it plays like a predictable superhero tale. The movie is exceedingly fresh.

LS: I’m not so sure about that, either. The movie is good, it’s exciting. But “exceedingly fresh?” That might be pushing it a little bit.

MA: I absolutely loved THE AVENGERS. It’s the best movie I’ve seen this year. It just has so many things going for it.

Probably the most impressive thing about THE AVENGERS is with all these characters in this movie, I never felt cheated. Not only do all these guys get sufficient quality screen time, with plenty of key moments, but some of them, Captain America and Thor in particular, were more enjoyable and more satisfying here than in their own movies CAPTAIN AMERICA and THOR.

LS: What about the Hulk?

MA: Yeah, the Hulk, too.

Robert Downey Jr. also returns to top form, capturing the magnetism and seemingly endless “bad boy” playboy energy he showed back in IRON MAN. He too is much better in this movie than he was in IRON MAN 2.

The cast is downright impressive. Downey Jr. is my favorite here, because I really enjoy his interpretation of Tony Stark, but he’s far from being alone in this movie, although I would say he’s the unofficial leader of this group and its most captivating and entertaining character.

LS: Yeah, Downey is great as Stark/Iron Man. But “the most captivating and entertaining character?” I don’t know about that. What about the Hulk?

MA: The Hulk’s cool, but Tony Stark is more fun to watch than Bruce Banner.

Chris Evans shines as Captain America, and I liked him better here than in CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER, as his character is better defined. He’s out of place in the 21st century, at first, and he’s disappointed that the nation isn’t quite the bastion of patriotism and heroism it was when he last saw it during World War II. But he adapts, and he brings his sense of patriotism and pride to the fight. On the battlefield, he’s also the Avengers’ strategic leader, directing the team and giving them their duties.

LS: Yeah, Evans is better here than he was in the CAPTAIN AMERICA movie. I also think Cap is a much more interesting character in the modern world. I’m not as psyched about his adventures in a fictionalized past as I am with him being a fish out of water in current times. He’s more compelling now. And his “boy scout” image isn’t so black and white anymore. The time change forces him to develop more as a character.

By the way, WHAT ABOUT THE HULK?

MA: What is it with you and the Hulk, anyway?  Hey!  Watch where you’re going!

(The Helicarrier accidentally takes off the top of a skyscraper)

LS: Woops. Now we’re in for it. Fury is bound to lower our security clearance for this.

MA: Our security clearance? I just hope he has some good insurance on this thing. Anyway, now that you have us back on track, I’ll get back to the review.

Mark Ruffalo enjoys a strong debut as the Hulk.

LS: Finally!

MA:  Honestly, I didn’t miss Edward Norton one bit, and this surprised me, because I thought I would. Ruffalo’s Bruce Banner is very likeable, and he plays him less haunted and more introspective. I also like the way they made the Hulk’s face resemble Ruffalo’s.

LS: Yeah Ruffalo is great in this role, and you’re right. The reason why the Hulk finally works so well here, is because he doesn’t take himself so damn seriously. Banner has a really sarcastic/ironic sense of humor that sets him apart from the more angsty/tortured previous Banners. And the Hulk himself actually has some funny scenes. While I like the darker, more tragic Hulk, I thought this version was a breath of fresh air and more interesting for the movies. And yeah, the CGI effects, where the Hulk’s face actually does look like Ruffalo’s, are pretty good here. And for the record, I thought Hulk was the best thing in this movie.

MA: What a surprise!

Chris Hemsworth returns as Thor, and although I mentioned I enjoyed him more here than in THOR, that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy him in THOR. He’s excellent in both moves. I just enjoyed his scenes a bit more in this one.

LS: I like Hemsworth and Thor a lot. For some reason I thought he was a bit more subdued here than in his own movie, but Thor is always an enjoyable character. And I thought the skirmish between Thor and the Hulk was the best of the Avengers’ infighting battles.

MA: Scarlett Johansson is excellent as Black Widow, and she just might have more screen time than any of the Avengers!  And you know what?  I didn’t mind one bit!  When will she have her own movie?

LS: That might just happen, because she is very good here. I wasn’t as excited about her scenes in the midst of battling aliens, where I thought she was outgunned, but the one-on-one scenes of her and the other characters are terrific. It would have been nice if she at least tried to have a Russian accent, though.

MA: Jeremy Renner is very good as Hawkeye, and Samuel L. Jackson finally gets to do a lot as Nick Fury, and he doesn’t disappoint.

LS: I think you’re selling Hawkeye short.

MA:  No, I just thought I’d let you talk about him.

LS:  Yeah, right.

Renner does a fine job as Marvel’s master archer, even if he does spend half of the movie in the thrall of Loki. But where the hell is his mask? It’s not like the character’s costume in the comics is so complex. That cool mask of his would have been nice. Are Hollywood actors so egotistical that they have to show their faces as much as possible? In Iron Man’s case, it makes sense that we see Stark’s head inside the armor, because Iron Man’s mask is completely expressionless. But if the characters in the comics have masks, I think the characters in the movies should as well. Even Captain America here “loses” his mask in the midst of battle toward the end. Although I didn’t think that was necessary.

Masks are important!  (reaches into a bag. )  Here, put this on. (places a mask over MA’s face. Then puts one on himself.)

MA:  Cool. Thanks!

LS:  Gee, it’s dark in here.

MA:  Dark?  Your mask doesn’t have any slits for eyes!  Take that thing off!  (rips off LS’s mask and his own. )  What are you trying to do?  Get us killed?

LS:  Stop your worrying. This thing can practically fly itself!

As for Nick Fury, I never really cared for the character much in the comics, and he doesn’t do a lot for me here, either. I like Sam Jackson, and he does provide a link between all the characters, so he makes sense in the movie. But I could take him or leave him.

MA: Clark Gregg returns as likable agent Phil Coulson, and when your cast includes Stellan Skarsgard and Gwyneth Paltrow in supporting roles, you know you’ve got something good going. Skarsgard of course plays Selvig, the brilliant scientist we met in THOR, and Paltrow is Pepper Pots, Tony Stark’s love interest.

LS: In some ways, S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Coulson is actually more compelling than Nick Fury, as a character, although his slavish worship of the superheroes (like his wanting Captain America to sign his trading cards) seemed a bit condescending at times.

MA: I thought it was pretty funny. Besides, Coulson is the stand-in for us. He’s the fanboy of the group.

LS: I realize that. But they make him look a little too geeky, when he’s supposed to be a professional. His “big scene” here, though, is pretty good. Although I think they put way too much importance on him as an inspiration to the others.

MA: I liked that scene.

LS: Also pretty good here is Cobie Smulders as S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Maria Hill. Most people will recognize Smulders as Robin on the hit CBS sitcom HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. But she’s very good in this more serious role, as well.

MA: And Tom Hiddleston turns in a fine performance as Loki, although Loki is still not one of my favorite villains. He’s simply not powerful enough, either in strength or mind, to really wow me. I never get the feeling he’s actually powerful enough to defeat the heroes. Not a good trait to have if you’re a villain. He’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of villains. No respect. Well, he hasn’t really earned it.

LS: Now we’re getting into what I didn’t like about the movie. THE AVENGERS has a lot going for it. It’s a lot of fun, the fight scenes are great, the characters—for the most part—are very well done. But my biggest beef with this movie is that it just didn’t have a strong enough villain. I thought Loki was a letdown. We’d already seen him in the THOR movie, and didn’t need to have him be the bad guy here, too (even if, in the original issue of THE AVENGERS # 1 way back in 1963, it was Loki who brought the team together to fight him – and he didn’t need Nick Fury back then to do it).

I just don’t think Loki is a strong enough character. And the generic aliens didn’t help all that much. It was like these great heroes get together to fight an inferior bad guy and a bunch of flying CGI effects. A strong villain would have made for a better movie. And if there is one flaw with THE AVENGERS, I’d say that’s it.

MA:  I can’t disagree with you there. THE AVENGERS lacks a compelling villain, but I liked the actual Avengers so much, I didn’t really care.

LS:  Also – what is up with Loki? Sometimes he seems to have unlimited power. Other times he doesn’t use his powers at all and seems kind of lame as a bad guy. Which one is it? Is he as formidable as Thor or not? If he’s taking on an entire team, you’d think he would have to be pretty impressive, but he’s not. The same goes for the aliens. Sometimes normal people like the Black Widow and Hawkeye are able to fight the aliens off. Other times, they are able to take on Iron Man (even if he is weakened at that point). And they just didn’t seem scary enough. Their living whale battleships were pretty cool, though.

MA: But the true star of THE AVENGERS is writer/director Joss Whedon. What a few weeks it’s been for Whedon. He wrote THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012) which came out a few weeks ago, which was an excellent movie, and I have to say, THE AVENGERS is even better.

LS: Yeah, Whedon does a good job here. I could see a lot of other directors dropping the ball here, but Whedon does a great job juggling everyone throughout the movie and keeping them all—well, most of them—consistently interesting. It’s tough to direct a movie like this and turn out something as good as Whedon has here.

MA: Whedon does everything right here, and for a guy to do that with such an ambitious project like THE AVENGERS, that’s incredibly impressive. So yeah, there are so many ways this movie could have been disappointing, and Whedon avoids all of them.

The best part is he gives all these characters key scenes, and lots of them. You certainly don’t watch this movie and think there’s just too many characters involved. It’s the opposite. You’ll find yourself not getting enough of these characters.

LS: I agree there.

MA: I loved the interactions between the superheroes, and these scenes of in-fighting and bickering make for some of the best moments of the movie. When Iron Man first bickers with Thor and makes fun of the way he speaks, it’s a hoot. You have a three way fight between Iron Man, Thor, and Captain America, a memorable bout between the Hulk and Thor, and the tension-filled scene with all of them at each other’s throats on board the Helicarrier. And we haven’t even gotten to the main battle to protect the world yet!

LS: I liked the in-fighting for the most part, even if I do think that Iron Man, Thor and the Hulk were in a completely different class from the rest of the characters. Captain America seemed pretty useless in comparison to the big boys, and the Black Widow seems completely out of her depth once the aliens show up. Hawkeye would to, except he has those amazing gadgets on his arrows, to keep him interesting.

Another thing about Hawkeye is, in the comics, he’s more wise-cracking and enjoyable. I thought Renner played him way too serious. And he could have worn the damn mask!

MA: You and that mask! Whedon’s screenplay also gets the humor right in this one. There are plenty of funny moments in THE AVENGERS, some are laugh out loud funny. Whedon’s dialogue is fabulous.

There are also some really impressive battle scenes here, very cinematic. The battle on and around the Helicarrier was amazing, and the climactic battle between the Avengers and the Chitauri is not to be missed.

LS: The big battle between the Avengers and the aliens is great because of the Avengers themselves. But the aliens are so generic, the team could have been fighting robots and it would have been the exact same thing. They needed a more exciting enemy.

MA: I saw THE AVENGERS in 3D, and I thought it looked excellent, though to be honest, this movie is so entertaining I bet it plays just as well in 2D. Either way, you can’t go wrong.

LS: I saw it in 3D, too. And while I thought it was fine, I eventually just forgot I was wearing the glasses, and didn’t really see why it had to be in 3D. I’m sure in 2D, it would have been just fine.

MA: THE AVENGERS runs 2 hours and 22 minutes, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It held my interest from start to finish.

LS: Me, too. I wasn’t bored at all. It is an exciting movie, despite my few complaints.

MA: THE AVENGERS is my pick for the most entertaining movie of the year so far. Yeah, I’ll admit, I’m biased because I really like the Marvel superhero movies, but as those things go, this one is one of the best. It just might be THE best. I love IRON MAN (2008), and I really enjoyed last year’s X-MEN FIRST CLASS (2011), and THE AVENGERS is every bit as enjoyable as these movies. What just might make it even better is THE AVENGERS is a bit more cinematic than those two movies. Joss Whedon includes some grand and memorable action sequences that lift this one to a higher level. Plus you’re dealing with an ensemble cast of characters that you’d be hard-pressed to match elsewhere.

LS: Yeah, THE AVENGERS is one of the best Marvel movies so far. Also, when I went to see it on Friday night, every single showing was already sold out. I had to see it at a Saturday matinee instead. So I’m sure this one is going to be a huge box-office hit. (Editor’s Note: since this review was written, THE AVENGERS went on to have the biggest movie opening weekend in box-office history, with over $200 million in the U.S. alone).

MA: Hands down, THE AVENGERS is a winner. I give it four knives.

LS: Well, it does have a lot going for it. A great cast, great heroes, and great fight scenes. But it’s not perfect. The first half of it, as S.H.I.E.L.D gathered up the heroes, did move a little slow at times. Not boring, mind you, but I found myself thinking “hurry up and assemble already!” And I still say the “big bad” left a lot to be desired (you’d think Joss Whedon, who added the phrase “big bad” to our lexicon in his BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER series, would have been more conscious of the need for a worthy bad guy).

One thing, though. Like most of these movies, there’s a hidden scene or “Easter egg” once the credits start rolling. But this time, it happens pretty early on and you don’t have to sit through all of the credits. In THE AVENGERS this extra scene gives us a major teaser as to who’s going to be the enemy in THE AVENGERS 2, and he’s way more lethal than half-assed Loki. So that got me excited, knowing what they have in store for next time. I’m not saying a word about who the classic villain is, though. You have to go see the movie if you want to find out. But I will say that Jim Starlin fans (of which I’m one) will be very psyched!

MA:  But if you do stay to the very end of the credits, there is an additional scene, but it’s played strictly for laughs and it’s not as important as the prior scene you just mentioned. Still, it cracked up those of us still sitting in the theater.

LS:  I liked this movie a lot, but I just didn’t think it was as perfect as you did. I give it three and a half knives. As in, it’s great and people should go see it, but it could have been even better!

MA: Well, there you have it. Shouldn’t we be returning the Helicarrier now, before Nick Fury notices it’s gone?

LS: I guess so.

MA: So what are you going to tell him when he asks about the giant scrape on the side of the Helicarrier?

LS: I’ll blame it on aliens.

MA:  Good idea!

—END—

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE AVENGERS ~ four knives!

LL Soares gives THE AVENGERS~three and a half knives.

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

Posted in 2012, Cinema Knife Fights, Fun Stuff!, Gore!, Hillbillies, Joss Whedon, Monsters, Supernatural, Surprises!, Twist Endings, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 16, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

(THE SCENE: A cabin in the middle of the woods. MICHAEL ARRUDA has just arrived, to find L.L. SOARES sitting in front the fire, reading a collection of H.P. Lovecraft stories)

MA: Nice to see you’re so comfortable. It took me forever to find this place.

LS: I know, I’ve been here for three days now. Did you get lost or something?

MA: This place isn’t on any map or GPS that I know of. How did you get here anyway?

LS: I borrowed THE FLY’s teleportation machine.

MA: That explains why you didn’t need a map.  Whoa!  You borrowed THE FLY’s teleportation machine?

LS:  Clean that wax out of your ears, son, that’s what I said.

MA:  That didn’t work out so well for Seth Brundle.  There weren’t any flies in there with you, were there?

LS:  No.  But there was this tarantula, and a scorpion.  Is that bad?

MA:  Aren’t you worried that you’ve somehow all been jumbled together, and that now you might be sharing some of their DNA?

LS (burps):  Not really.

MA:  Are you telling me that you—?

LS:  Yep.  They’re just delicious when you add some of Stubbs’ barbecue sauce.  Anyway, do you want me to start the review while you’re getting settled?

MA: Sure.  Man, you must have a stomach made of iron.

LS: This week’s movie is THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, and it’s the first movie directed by Drew Goddard, who mainly was a writer before this. He wrote CLOVERFIELD (2008), a movie we both liked a lot.

MA:  Yep, CLOVERFIELD was one of my favorite horror movies of the last decade.

LS:  CABIN is also written by Joss Whedon, who created shows like BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and ANGEL two shows that Goddard also wrote for. And Whedon will be directing THE AVENGERS movie next month, too!

MA:   Goddard co-wrote the screenplay with Whedon.  In addition to writing CLOVERFIELD, Goddard also wrote several episodes of the TV show LOST, and I thought there were parts of this movie that reminded me of LOST.

LS:  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS starts out kind of strangely, as we see a group of scientists taking a lunch break before they go back to work. These are Hadley (Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (Richard Jenkins) and they seem to be in charge of some strange experiment.

MA:  Strange is the operative word here.  The movie opens and I’m thinking, what an odd way to get this one started, but it caught my attention, and so I guess it worked!

LS:  Then the story shifts to five college kids who decide to take a weekend “off the grid,” kicking back at a secluded cabin in the middle of nowhere, which belongs to one of the kids’ cousin. They include  Jules (Anna Hutchison), a sexy, flirty co-ed who just dyed her hair blonde; her roommate Dana (Kristen Connolly), a slightly less outgoing, innocent-seeming redhead; Jules’ boyfriend Curt (Chris Hemsworth—yes, THOR himself), a jock;  Curt’s friend Holden (Jesse Williams) who Jules and Curt are trying to fix up with Dana; and fifth wheel, Marty (Fran Kranz) who is smart and a smart aleck and he smokes a lot of weed, and I wasn’t really sure why he was going along with them, but he’s a welcome addition to the group, as far as I’m concerned.

MA: Yeah, he’s the most fun— and refreshing— character in the movie.

LS:  They take an RV out to the country, where they come upon your typical, cliché’ redneck gas station owner, Mordecai (Tim De Zarn) who sets the creepy mood, and you just know these kids are in for some trouble.

MA:  This is the scene where I almost groaned out loud.  I’ve seen so many scenes like this one; it’s almost painful to sit through any more, so when this movie took this scene and did something completely different with it later, it was that much more refreshing.

(There is a knock at the cabin door.  MA opens door to find a redneck gas station owner at the door, and behind him his redneck son, behind him another old man, and on and on the line goes.)

REDNECK MAN:  This is no place for strangers!

REDNECK SON:  My advice to you is to turn around and go back to where you came from.

OLD MAN:  Turn back before ye perish!

EVEN OLDER MAN: You’ll be sorrrrry!

SKELETON IN OVERALLS: Don’t say we didn’t warn you!

MA:  I think I’m going to throw up.  (Slams door in their faces.)

LS: Yeah, I’m sick to death of those guys, too. Get a life! And get some teeth!

Anyway, like I was saying, you know these kids are headed for trouble. The thing is, what kind of trouble is something a little bit different than what we usually see in these kinds of movies. You might go in expecting yet another retread of THE EVIL DEAD or something along the lines of Eli Roth’s CABIN FEVER, but instead, we get something different than we’re expecting. This ties in to the fact that there are two smart, creative guys at the helm of this one, and they’re determined not to give us something we’ve seen before.

During a game of Truth or Dare, the kids find a doorway into a basement. When they go down to explore, they find lots of very strange artifacts, which will somehow decide their fate, depending on which one they choose. Dana picks up a diary of a girl who lived in the cabin back in 1908, and it’s rather disturbing. Meanwhile, outside, some strange figures start shuffling around, holding some vicious-looking weapons.

Beyond that, I don’t want to say too much, except that the kids in the cabin, the creatures stalking them, and the scientists back at the underground lab are closely linked, and that there really is a reason why all this is going on. A very cool reason. And I figured it out by the half-way mark, but that didn’t affect my enjoyment of this movie at all.

Not only is the directing and writing very good here, the acting isn’t too bad, either. I really enjoyed the interaction between Jenkins and Whitford as the scientists, who also involve their fellow employees in their activities. These are two good actors who turn in good performances.

MA:  I agree.  I thought veterans Richard Jenkins (who was in LET ME IN (2010), and received an Oscar nomination for Best Actor in THE VISITOR (2007), not too shabby), Bradley Whitford (who most people will recognize from TV’s THE WEST WING) were excellent and lent credibility to the proceedings.  They definitely help make the unbelievable seem believable.  Credit here also goes to the writing, which gives them plenty of lively lines to deliver.

LS:  The kids aren’t too bad, either. Hutchison as Jules is very sexy and Hemsworth is a muscular alpha male as Curt.

MA:  Yes, no doubt about it, Hutchison is hot.  The scene where she makes out with a stuffed wolf’s head in a game of truth or dare is worth the price of admission all by itself!

And I liked Hemsworth as Curt too.  Most jocks in these films are jerks.  Hemsworth makes Curt pretty likeable.

LS:  I wasn’t as impressed with Jesse Williams as Holden – he was okay, but nothing special. The two best performances here, however, are Kristen Connolly as the “virginal” Dana, who gets tough when she has to, and Kranz (who Whedon fans will recognize as Topher from the short-lived but really good series DOLLHOUSE). He pretty much steals every scene he’s in, and was my favorite character.

MA:  I agree with you wholeheartedly here.

LS:  Wholeheartedly?  That reminds me!  (Suddenly there is a bloody heart on LS’ plate next to a bottle of barbecue sauce.) Thanks, I didn’t want it to spoil.

MA: Where did that come from? That’s not yours, is it?

LS: Of course not! Mine isn’t this big. I had it in my pocket for a snack. And right about now, when you’re just about to go into a long rant, is as good a time as any for the munchies.

MA:  Long rant? I’ll save those for when I don’t like something!  Anyway, as I was saying, the two leads are excellent.   Kranz nearly steals the movie as Marty, a character who’s stoned most of the time.  Yet, this turns out to help him later in the story.  Hmm, a subtle plug for medical marijuana, perhaps?  (laughs) Kranz is funny, likeable, and best of all, refreshing.  He provides the film with its best moments.

LS: He was great on DOLLHOUSE, too. I’d love to see Kranz become a star because of his performance here.

MA: Kristen Connolly is also excellent as Dana.  She enjoys the best of both worlds in this movie, as she’s pretty hot herself, and yet she’s strong, capable, and more than holds her own when the going gets rough.  She’s also smart.

LS: Yeah, she is pretty hot, too. Gotta love a redhead. And I liked her character a lot.

MA: Nice job by both these actors. There’s also a surprise cameo appearance at the end that’s been generating some excitement.

LS: Yeah, except I didn’t find it very exciting. The person who shows up isn’t that big a deal, since he/she has been in these kinds of movies before. It certainly wasn’t as big a deal as Bill Murray’s appearance in ZOMBIELAND (2009). I don’t even know why we’re keeping it a secret.
MA: Yeah, I didn’t think it was a big deal, either.

LS:  The movie has its fair share of scares and laughs, and knows how to balance the two of them effectively. And the fact that there are some genuine surprises here means that CABIN is a movie you can really enjoy. It’s smarter than the usual Hollywood horror flick, and I enjoyed it a lot. In fact, I give it three and a half knives!

What did you think of it, Michael?

MA:  I enjoyed it too, but I didn’t love it.

LS:  Of course you didn’t.  (starts eating the heart)

MA:  THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is definitely different.  As advertised, it offers a refreshing take on the usual tale of young people trapped in a haunted cabin in the middle of nowhere.  For that, I commend the filmmakers, and I really did like this movie.

It’s just that, I’m not sure that I bought it all.  What was going on behind the scenes, in those scenes with Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, bordered a bit too much on fantasy for my tastes.  Now, I know you won’t like this comparison, but some of the stuff was reminiscent of MEN IN BLACK, only better.  MEN IN BLACK was science fiction and it was pure comedic fluff, while THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is horror and never strays down the road to goofiness.  That being said, I still had a hard time accepting some of the things that happen in this movie once the explanations start rolling in.

LS: MEN IN BLACK? Did you really need to go there?

MA: Sorry, but I think I did.

(There is a knock on the door, and when MA opens it, there is a brutish BIG ZOMBIE standing in the doorway)

BIG ZOMBIE (to LS): You gonna eat that heart?

LS (talks with his mouth full): Way ahead of you. And I’m not sharing!

BIG ZOMBIE: Dammit!

(BIG ZOMBIE growls and skulks away)

MA: I actually bought into THE HUNGER GAMES more.  That was a movie that I thought I was not going to believe, but that one, with its combination of strong acting, writing, and directing, convinced me that those deadly games were in fact real.  THE HUNGER GAMES had more of an edge, I think, than THE CABIN IN THE WOODS, which as much as I liked it, would have been better served had it had a jagged edge of its own.

But I really enjoyed THE CABIN IN THE WOODS.  I enjoyed it a lot.  It’s a really creative flick, and it would be difficult not to like this movie.

I said earlier it reminded me a bit of LOST, in that you have a group of characters stuck in a situation that they at first think they know about and have a handle on, but soon they realize there is so much more going on, and it’s way more complicated than what they first thought.  At one point, one of the characters remarks that they’re like puppets, manipulated by outside forces, which reminded me of the survivors on LOST when they were dealing with “the Others” early in that show.

LS: Yes, I see what you mean about the LOST comparison, although I thought the ending of THE CABIN IN THE WOODS was more satisfying than the ending of LOST.

MA: And like CLOVERFIELD, which was also written by Drew Goddard, THE CABIN IN THE WOODS has well-written characters and fun, lively dialogue.

I thought the special effects were also very good.  I liked the monsters and creatures in this one and thought they looked genuinely scary for the most part. They were credible.

LS: I wish we’d gotten to see more of them!

MA: Not so credible is the plot.  Ultimately, did I really buy all that was happening?  And the answer to that question is no, I didn’t.  Because while the film never breaks out into a full-fledged spoof/comedy— it does get the humor right, and it’s smart in that the dark elements of the movie remain dark— it’s difficult to take the proceedings all that seriously once you learn the secret of what’s ultimately going on.

I liked THE CABIN IN THE WOODS for what it was— a wild, over the top, creative horror movie, but had it somehow been more believable, I would have loved it.

I give it three knives.

LS: Yeah, I liked this one a bit more than you did. But at least we can agree that it’s a lot of fun and that the folks out there should check this movie out.

MA:  Yes, it’s definitely worth checking out!

(There’s another knock at the door)

MA: I wonder who it is now.

(Outside the door, lots of REDNECKS and ZOMBIES are playing outside on the front lawn)

LS: What’s going on here?

REDNECK MAN: What does it look like?

REDNECK SON: We’re havin’ a picnic.

OLD MAN: Yeah, and we brought all the fixins’

EVEN OLDER MAN: We even brought the grill!

SKELETON IN OVERALLS: I can’t wait to eat. I’m starvin’ right to death.

REDNECK MAN: Yep, my great great grandpa needs to put some meat on those bones.

MA: That’s all well and good, but it looks like you’ve forgotten the most important part.  The food!  There’s no meat on the grill.

LS: Yeah, what are we supposed to be eating?

REDNECK MAN: Well, you’re not going to be eatin’ anything.

BIG ZOMBIE: We’re gonna be eatin’ you!

(CLOSE-UP of a LITTLE BOY ZOMBIE licking his lips)

MA (to camera): Gotta go!

(MA and LS run away in fast motion as the ZOMBIES and REDNECKS look on in bewilderment)

-END-

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives THE CABIN IN THE WOODS ~ three knives!

LL Soares gives THE CABIN IN THE WOODS ~three and a half knives.