White House Down: a group of mercenaries storm the White House leaving an aspiring Secret Serviceman as the President’s – and America’s – only hope. They’ve only gone and made “Die Hard in the White House”, again! It’s easy to confuse this with Olympus has Fallen, but in a duel for the oval office this one wins hands-down, mostly due to the entertainment-factor; it’s the true embodiment of the term ‘action romp’. Everything that can do so, explodes during big set pieces that punctuate the movie, and is generously littered with laughs too – by the end I was even guilty of a few fist-pumps. I’d go as far as saying that it’s the kind of movie that – at least on paper – we should all hate: big, loud, dumb, derivative, but the director seems to know this, and fully embraces it – cheesing everything up to 11. The only real downside is that it’s a tad on the long side (for the kind of film it is). If you want a cheesy 80s/90s big-budget one-man-army taking on waves of despicable henchmen, look no further. Fly this DVD up your flagpoles, ‘MURICA!
Jack Reacher: an ex-military investigator is called in by a man who claims he’s been framed for the murder for five seemingly random sniper killings. Being based on a book, it’s got a good central story, packed with action and it moves along at a good pace, getting better as a conspiracy begins to unfold – although it’s seems deliberately obvious; the cooked evidence, motives and clues are easy for viewers to pick up. My biggest problem with this is that it reminds me how much of a ‘high-rent’ Jason Statham Tom Cruise is; same look, same voice, same haircut, same righteous quick-fire lines in every film – he never attempts anything new or different. There’s a couple of massive mis-steps that break up the tension – mostly the two bat-wielding goons that feel like they came from a Laurel and Hardy film, and the fingerless mastermind (Herzog!) – all seem unnecessary and out-of-place, given the otherwise serious / straight-up tone. Rosamund Pike‘s top also gets lower and lower as the film progresses. Back to the film, it’s a well-made piece, with some solid moments of tension like the opening scene – and sniper-scope-o-rama. On the other hand, you always know exactly how the film’s going to play out, and because Mr Reacher is ten steps ahead of everyone else, which forfeits a bit of suspense. Overall Jack Reacher is a decent, well-made, entertaining film, despite being a “bit wet” and a “genre picture” if there ever was one. Guns, fighting, cars, cleavage – it hits all the right targets.
Killing Them Softly: a mob ‘enforcer’ investigates the robbery of a protected card game. the style is a bizarre mix of Indie/Arthouse, and cutting-edge (often trippy) blockbuster effects and visuals. The sound mix is equally as strange, mostly through the ‘background noise’ being deliberately amplified in almost every scene. The script is very dry, boring, overly – and offensively – misogynistic, and contains characters called Frankie, Mickey, Markie – which gets hard to follow at points. Most scenes are overlong and rambly, Gandalfini in particular gets far too much time. Pitt is the best in class, everyone else coasts on mob/Australian stereotypes. Scoot McNairy – decent performance, but hands-down THE most annoying voice of the year. There’s a blatant political/economic overtone – mostly through in-picture TVs/Radios – and it’s as subtle as a brick to the face. Most frustratingly,, it plays out exactly as you know it will; with no twists, turns, surprises or originality – and you can’t root for any of the characters. Killing Them Softly is a bleak / grim / crushingly realistic mobster-procedural critique of corporate culture (where underpaid people do the dirty work, and getting a decision from the bosses is impossible – original, huh?) – unfortunately, it’s nowhere near entertainment.
The Cabin in the Woods: 5 friends go to an isolated cabin for a party, and although a bunch of zombified rednecks lurk in the woods, this is far from your average slasher/horror flick. My only real complaint is that the film puts all of the cards on the table a little too early – although it’s understandable, because such an ending would be too much to nonchalantly tag on during a finale. There’s plenty decent acting, even better SFX, good suspense / tension / scares, brilliant streak of tongue-in-cheek genre humour (The whiteboard with entries like “Angry Molestation Tree”, and ‘trowel’ quip are golden). The film works its way towards the revelatory ending, and the final reel is one of the best pieces of horror in decades – it’s an insane roller coaster paying both tribute and homage to the last 100 years of horror cinema. This is clearly made by horror fans, for horror fans. Don’t watch the trailer, or even read any more reviews, just get your arse to the cinema and check this beast out for yourself. Cabin in the Woods is creepy, entertaining, smart, fresh, funny, original and goes far beyond (and behind) the standard horror movie formula. Easily one of the best modern horrors in a long, long time.
Bonus: here’s a screenshot of the whiteboard – Click to Enlarge
Let Me In: re-make of a 2008 Swedish film of a vaguely similar name:
– Overall execution
– More concise, and clearer story
– Cut out a bunch of ridiculous scenes (cat lady et al)
– No shot of gnarly genitalia
– More tension in big scenes
– Father/ Cop were better acted
– Kid’s relationship not as good
– Kid actors aren’t quite as good
– Cheesy soundtrack
– OTT Vampire effects / SFX
– Cut out decent story lines (Kid’s dad)
– Still slow, boring and Emo
– Large sections are literally scene for scene
– Embraced the 1980s too much; music, pac-man, fashion, sweets etc
– Deliberately identical aesthetics (lots of fake snow)
The final product is stronger than the original, although that wasn’t hard to do for me.