TWO NEW FILMS FULFILL THEIR POSTER PROMISE
By Robin E. Simmons
Don’t you hate it when the promise of the poster is not delivered in the theater? And what about a hot trailer that has scenes not in the movie? But sometimes we’re lucky and the poster exactly delivers the essence of the film and in fact the movie takes us further into that world and it’s more than we expected. That’s what we want! Consider these two widely different films in theaters now that deliver satisfying movie experiences true to the words and images of the poster.
THE CABIN IN THE WOODS
This satisfying and surprising film, produced and co-written by Joss Whedon and directed by his longtime collaborator Drew Goddard (CLOVERFIELD), stretches the horror genre as much as examines it. The standard horror elements that we’ve seen hundreds of times set up the story: Five college kids go to a remote cabin for a weekend of fun. But soon, and this is no spoiler, we – and not the kids — see there’s a high-tech underground lab beneath the cabin that controls the disturbing events the kids are dealing with. And what about the two curious — or diabolical — scientists at the controls? But there’s so much than this highly intriguing premise. Is this movie about Free Will? Is it a cautionary tale about sinister government experiments? Is there a matter of national security at stake here? What do the scientists in the lab hope to find out? Or is the movie about the horror genre itself and the strange relationship of horror-meisters and their fervent and peculiar audience? This sometimes-pasted together movie with many ragged ends will engage and surprise you. And at the end, it’s just like the poster warns: “You think you know the story. Think again.”
THE THREE STOOGES
I suppose if there’s a need to make a Three Stooges movie — and I wonder if there is — this is about as good a mimicry of the most iconic films in the Stooge oeuvre as possible. The notion to reboot the Stooges has been long in gestation. I remember seriously talk of it for more than a decade. Lots of issues arose beyond the casting. For instance, to go full contemporary raunch or not? Do a period comedy as if set in the 40s or make it current? Or make it about adult fan boys going to a Stooge convention and going crazy? The Farrelly brothers chose wisely to cast and make-up their actors to resemble the trio as if thrust in today’s world after being cut off since birth. Also true to the old film shorts is the use of three segmented sequences that tie together in the bigger plot about saving the orphanage in which they have spent their entire – yes, entire – lives. The stooges, played (or is that impersonated?) by Chris Diamantopoulos (Moe), Will Sasso (Curly) and Larry (a terrific Sean Hayes). Great bits by Jennifer Hudson as lovely, singing, Sister Rosemary and Larry David (that’s correct) as Sister Mary Mengele.
There are a couple of clever gags and lots of their trademark pinching, poking and hammering in the film that has the violent nyyuuuking trio trying to suddenly raise $830,000 for their orphanage. Along the way they get involved in a murder and Moe inadvertently finds himself the star of a popular TV show. But as much as I enjoyed seeing this impersonation act, I never really laughed out loud. And please stay to the end for the “serious” public service warning about copying the violence in the movie along with explanatory slow-mo shots of how it’s all fake anyway. For me, this film was a surreal hallucination. After final fade out, I still wasn’t sure what I had just seen.
* * *
And for the home theatre – new high def Dickens
The prolific Charles Dickens (1812 – 1870) has two classic tales new on Blu.
It’s great seeing these new interpretations of this gifted man’s novels and knowing they are still hugely relevant and relatable. Both are gorgeous looking PBS/BBC productions that capture the era as well as the timeless essence of Dickens compelling stories.
THE MYSTERY EDWIN DROOD
Dickens’ strange last – and unfinished novel – gets an interpretation that is challenging and thrilling as it unfolds the exceedingly disturbing story of obsessive love and addiction (or are they indeed the same thing?). Choirmaster John Jasper seeks to create divine music while he battles opiates and madness. He thinks his salvation lay in the arms of lovely Rosa, his best student. Only problem is Rosa’s betrothed, Edwin Drood – Jasper’s own nephew. I like Rory Kinnear’s Reverend Septimus Crisparkle and Freddie Fox is always in the moment as Jasper’s reviled — and loved — nephew Drood. BBC/PBS/Masterpiece. Blu-ray.
The stellar cast features Ray Winstone, Gillian Anderson, David Suchet and newcomer Douglas Booth as Pip. The almost archetypal story plays with the potent and timeless themes of simple kindness (done for no reward) and that of “learned indifference.” The gears of fate and how they can be reassembled by tiny decisions of good or ill fascinated Dickens I believe. Brian Kirk directs with a feel for the subtext and a fine eye for composition in this three hour retelling of a tale that never gets old. BBC/PBS/Masterpiece. Blu-ray.