Wednesday, 4 April 2012

REVIEW - The Cabin In The Woods * * * *

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connolly, Bradley Whitford
Written by Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard
Certification UK 15 US R
Runtime 101 minutes
Directed by Drew Goddard

I will start by saying sorry that I have not put a trailer up for you guys on this one.  But there is good reason.  I avoided seeing it just in case they put something in there that might spoil the fun factor of this movie.  Going in blind is definitely the way to do it.  Well blind on the plot front anyway.

But the point of a review is to let you know if you should go and see the film.  I've seen a lot of reviews where people say don't read reviews.  I would say if you do, be careful if you want to maximise the  entertainment factor with this.  It's a ride of a film and you need to go with it but it makes it better if you don't know where it's taking you.

Written by TV stalwart Joss Whedon this has his sensibilities all over it.  The style of character and dialogue is most definitely his as is the revamping of a genre to make something of his own.  Take the likes of Firefly (not exactly your conventional sci fi) and Buffy (whilst the original film lacked in quality the idea was strong enough for a hugely successful TV show), which certainly gave a new spin on the vampire tales of yesteryear.  Well he's done it again with the horror genre (I don't count Buffy in that as it is as much horror as Twilight is in my humble opinion - just much better).

This film is so full of horror references, the buffs (nay geeks) will practically explode trying to spot them all.  The idea here is to take something so generic and uninspiring about horror and the stick two fingers up at it and say "here's what you can do with this setting!!".  It would appear that Whedon has plumped for the atypical cabin in the atypical woods and filled it with the atypical young, good looking people that are just awaiting all the horrible things to happen.  There's even a cellar.

Cabin goes to places even Sam Raimi didn't manage to take his poor folk in the Evil Dead series when they visited their Cabin of doom.  Some of you will hate what this film has to offer whereas others will simply love it for its freshness and daring approach to a genre that is always in danger of becoming stale (remakes, sequels, Michael Bay just some of those reasons).  

Whilst not flawless it is a very entertaining ride.  The characters are all well placed with specific traits to give them their meaning in the film (it's almost like they stuck The Breakfast Club in there!), the dialogue snappy and funny and the pacing is almost perfect.  Slow build, picks up with the action after we get to know our gang and then the end set piece just ramps it up to the Spinal Tap proverbial 11.

You get your gore, your scares, your laughs.  And the laughs aren't your Roland Emmerich, Michael Bay (someone might think I don't like him) forced gags just for the sake of it, no, they're well placed and seem natural coming from the characters we have gotten to know.  None of it seems "jokey".

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed Cabin and would recommend this to anyone that loves a good horror and especially to those that just love horror.  It's a love letter and reinvention of the genre all in one Cabin In The Woods.


Sunday, 1 April 2012

REVIEW - The Raid * * * * *

Review by Damon Rickard
Stars Iko Uwais, Donny Alamsya, Joe Taslim, Ray Sahetapy
Written by Gareth Evans
Certification UK 18 US R
Runtime 101 minutes
Directed by Gareth Evans

In the heart of Jakata lies an apartment block, 30 stories high and inhabited by some of the most violent and ruthless underworld criminals. Ruled with an iron fist by a notorious drug lord, the building has remained untouchable with even the best of the police's resources unwilling to darken its doors.  Until now.....

The film follows Rama (Iko Uwais) and the group of elite cops as they attempt what was previously thought unthinkable, a raid on this haven for those on the wrong side of the law.  Thinking they have the upper hand by launching an unsuspected dawn attack, the 20 strong group of enforcers slip into the building, efficiently and quietly.  That is until a spotter pulls the alarm.  Their objective is no longer taking the building down but getting out alive.

Gareth Evans has delivered a heart pounding, rip roaring, no holds barred action film which is unlike anything else I have seen.  There have been martial arts action movies that are a fantastic spectacle and break conventional barriers (think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and even Ong Bak) but the inventiveness of the way this one is delivered provided me with a viewing experience that left me breathless.

The choreography and ability of artists in the fight scenes is exceptional, coupled with an inspired use of the camera and cinematography to make it look as beautiful as it is frenetic.  This is a non stop juggernaut of an action film that doesn't let up.  The dramatic scenes, whilst well acted and providing us with the necessity of a plot, serve to whet your appetite for what is coming next.

For me personally I couldn't find a fault in this film, which if you wanted to look past its shallow exterior, I'm sure it has.  After all the story telling really is secondary to the action.  However if you know that you are getting a film that does exactly what it says on the tin then I don't see this as an issue.  I was entertained and excited all the way through, walking away wishing for more.  That, my dear reader, is the sign of a great film.

I'm not saying everyone will enjoy it to the extent that I did as no matter how fantastic you and a million others believe a film to be, there will always be those that don't agree.  However in this case, they would be wrong!

I am aware I haven't talked about the acting and the characters (Iko creates an eminently likeable hero in Rama) but that's not what this film is about.  Although even these bits are handled better than most dramatic films that center on character and dialogue through a great script.

Overall I cannot recommend this movie enough.