Tag Archives: Joss Whedon

Our Summer Awards: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ Wins Big

It’s hard to believe that the Summer is already over. It seems like only yesterday that I sat in a theater for ‘The Avengers’, and now I’m wrapping up the movies that I saw in August. Oscar season is just around the corner and I’m already geeking out for the great movies soon to come! But before we do that, I have some awards we wish to give out to the courageous summer films that both inspired us and made us shake our heads.

Each category will have 5 nominees and the winner will be highlighted in bold. Let us know what you think of our decisions, and remember, this is only 3 months of movies that we’re picking from (in a relatively week Summer for great movies), so don’t be upset if our winner is less than stellar.

Best Film of the Summer

Beasts of the Southern Wild

The Dark Knight Rises

Moonrise Kingdom (Easily the best film of the year so far, Wes Anderson’s masterpiece deserves the #1 spot. Sorry, Batman.)

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Best Director of the Summer

Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom)

John Madden (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises)

Joss Whedon (The Avengers)

Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Best Actor of the Summer

Christian Bale (The Dark Knight Rises)

Steve Carrell (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World)

Andrew Garfield (The Amazing Spider-Man)

Jared Gilman (Moonrise Kingdom)

Tommy Lee Jones (Hope Springs)

Best Actress of the Summer

Judi Dench (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Keira Knightly (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World)

Kara Hayward (Moonrise Kingdom)

Meryl Streep (Hope Springs)

Quvenzhane’ Wallis (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Best Supporting Actor of the Summer

Michael Caine (The Dark Knight Rises)

Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)

Dwight Henry (Beasts of the Southern Wild)

Edward Norton (Moonrise Kingdom)

Bruce Willis (Moonrise Kingdom)

Best Supporting Actress of the Summer

Anne Hathaway (The Dark Knight Rises) 

Scarlett Johansson (The Avengers)

Frances McDormand (Moonrise Kingdom)

Maggie Smith (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel)

Emma Stone (The Amazing Spider-Man)

Worst Movie of the Summer (that we saw…)

The Campaign

Prometheus

Ted

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Summer Movie Slam: ‘The Cabin in the Woods’

‘There’s something in the cellar…’

How many filmmakers out there can take a classic genre and totally flip it on its head? Off the top of my head, I can think of very few who were able to accomplish the task. Spielberg was able to take an entirely new view on science fiction when he made E.T.; showing us what how a child’s heart can connect us with the unknown. Hitchcock was also another master that changed the way certain movies were made, especially when you consider how ‘Rear Window’ and ‘North by Northwest’ changed the scope of mystery movies. With Orson Welles’ ‘Citizen Kane,’ the character study was born with intensity, not only giving protagonists tragic flaws, but also a new level of emotional depth that allowed epic films to take a life of their own.

Do we have to add Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon to the list? Well, after seeing ‘The Cabin in the Woods,’ I’m afraid we have to.

Okay, that’s a stretch. Let me pull the reins back.

Don’t get me wrong, they’re no Hitchcock, but they are defining what the horror movie can be. Not only are Goddard and Whedon redefining it, but they also deconstruct it to a level that makes it not only slasher flick, but also the funniest movie that I’ve seen in a long time.

Before anything else, I want to say how incredible it is that I actually went and saw this movie. I usually don’t see horror movies. I’ve been disappointed too much in the past, my heart has been broken too many times, me and scary films just have “trust issues.” But, I had so many friends tell me I need to see it, and I heard so much positive response from critics, that I ended up dragging my feet to the local theater, prepared for disappointment. Just when I thought I was walking into another mundane slasher flick, this thing surprises me by being totally different from any movie I’ve seen this year. The scariest thing about walking out of that theater was realizing how much I ended up liking ‘Cabin in the Woods.’

‘Cabin in the Woods’ is essentially about the predictability and uniformity of all slasher flicks. The movie opens with two seemingly normal working-stiffs going through another day at the office. Hadley (played by Bradley Whitford) and Sitterson (played by Richard Jenkins) small talk about home life, sports, and the reports they’ve heard about the Stockholm project. When they get to their work stations, we realize that this is no ordinary white-collar company. The project on today’s agenda for Hadley and Sitterson is to coerce 5 college kids to go on a weekend getaway; they take all the wrong turns, make all the usual dumb decisions, and end up at the cabin in the woods, where any handful of horror movie monstrosities could end up ripping them apart.

The college gang are made up of the usual horror movie stereotypes: The jock, the hot blonde, the scholar, the idiot pot-head, and the good girl (who eventually becomes the heroine). And in perfect horror movie fashion, they all play their roles beautifully; over-exaggerated and totally lacking in authenticity. The weekened getaway ends up becoming a fully-fledged nightmare, and not only for the victims, but for those that put them there as well… (cue ominous music).

I hate to say this, but that really is all I can reveal about the plot without spoiling anything. ‘Cabin in the Woods’ really depends on the element of surprise, and I don’t want to be that guy who takes that away from the reader that hasn’t seen it yet, but I feel like there are a few comments that I can make without giving anything away.

First of all, as creative and entertaining as the set up of this movie is, the last 15 minutes of it is the biggest spectacle of ridiculous violence and total absurdity that I think I’ve ever seen. It becomes out of control really fast, to a point where it’s chaotic and the audience ends up asking “What just happened?” While the film never slows down, it also doesn’t have any brakes, and in the end, it crashes and burns. But I don’t see this as a criticism as much as what the filmmakers were going for. They wanted to make the ending as outrageous as possible, refusing to tie it together in a neat-and-tidy ribbon, to fully massacre the horror genre until there is nothing left.

And the ending does leave something to be desired, like a good ending…

Sitterson and Hadley

Regardless of the ending, it was really great to see Josh Lyman (Bradley Whitford) back on screen. Sure it might be a step down from being the Deputy Chief of Staff of the White House, you know, going from that to orchestrating the murders of college students by ghouls and ghosts, but he still has that Josh Lyman wit that we’ve all grown to love.

One final thing before I give the Note and the Grade, and that final thing is Chris Hemsworth. I’m going to say this as polite as possible; the guy cannot act. Not a lick. He’s batting 1 for 4 with me, and the only time he could get on base was when he appeared in ‘Star Trek’ for about 5 minutes (I love that movie, by the way.) He was unbearable in ‘Thor’, annoying in ‘The Avengers’, and in ‘Cabin in the Woods’ he strikes out again. As much as I enjoy watching Robert Downey Jr. and Natalie Portman dance circles around this guy with their talent, I’m afraid I got to put Chris Hemsworth in ‘The Sam Worthington Club for Actors that are Cast for being Ripped and Beautiful.’

My Note: Although it ends up being an imperfect mess, ‘The Cabin in the Woods’ is still twenty-times better than any other horror movie out there.

My Grade: B

Stay tuned for more reviews in the ‘Summer Movie Slam’ series!

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The Avengers: Stop Thinking. Enjoy the Ride.

It is finally here. It was only took us four years to get here, four long years of hearing many a fan-boy’s giddy expectations for this movie. After four years of waiting and the five full length movies we had to get through to get to this point, ‘The Avengers’ has now been seen by the world, and like most movies that were hyped to the extreme, everyone seems to have an opinion. You want to hear mine? I’m not sure if you’ll like it, it’s a tad against the grain from how I usually view film, but I hope you can appreciate the change of pace.

Those of you who know me know that I love lists; reading them, making them, crossing things off of them. There is something about rankings and having an order of operations that brings sense to my thoughts. Here is a list I created in review of ‘The Avengers.’

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5 Ways to Enjoy ‘The Avengers’ 

1. Stop thinking. Talk about going a completely different direction. This is totally different from the way I usually think about film. To me, story is everything. I went into this movie like I do most movies, looking for a distinct drive and purpose to the story telling, and at first it caused me frustration. There was something about a Tesseract, limitless energy, opening a portal to hell, Thor’s totally worthless brother, SHIELD’s poor relationship with the government, a nuclear strike, blah, blah, blah. Honestly, when I think retrospectively on the specific plot points of ‘The Avengers’ it’s just a mess. But before you write it off, I challenge you with this. This movie is not about the story. The story behind these characters is found in their individual films that came before. ‘The Avengers’ is about watching superheroes teaming up and taking on the super villains along the way. It’s about making the odds balanced in the favor of evil as much as possible, then watching the good guys triumph anyway. The story is merely set up to the final fire fight, a path to the eventual climax. So do yourself a favor; shut off your brain and just enjoy the ride.

2. It’s okay to laugh. The thing that really made this movie enjoyable was the special effects, star-studded cast, and incredible action, but it was also the movie’s ability to make the audience laugh. It was actually a really funny movie, of course an action movie first, but a comedy in the close second. The dialogue is dripping with sarcasm and irony, allowing the audience to truly enjoy their experience. There used to be a time in filmmaking where action movies were like this. It wasn’t all doom and gloom, but it was just pure entertainment. Spielberg was great at this, being able to balance the whimsy with wonder (You know that moment where the bandit swings the sword in the face of Indiana Jones and he just shoots him with the pistol?) By the end of ‘Avengers,’ the audience is not only enthralled by the spectacle of chaotic destruction, but they are giggling along with the characters, as if the whole thing is a carnival game. Also, if you want a really good laugh, just stick around after the full credits. Funniest fifteen seconds of the year.

3. Strap in for the final hour.  As previously stated, the entire movie is building up to this one huge climax, a finale that can challenge all finales. When our totally worthless villain finally takes control of the city with his other-worldly army, it is up to the Avengers to stop him. What ensues is nearly a full hour of super heroes breaking the skulls of alien soliders. Iron Man is flying around like a fighter jet, Captain America is saving innocent civilians while directing traffic, Thor is laying the smack down with that hammer, and the Hulk smashes, and when the Hulk smashes, he smashes good. Everyone eventually gets a shot at our bad guy, and this guy goes 0 for 4 against the vigilante hit squad. Again, Loki is completely worthless.

4. Scarlett Johansson and Jeremy Renner. I imagine there were moments while writing this movie that Joss Whedon and his buddies were thinking “We want to make the single most exciting movie ever made. How can we make this thing even more out of this world?” The answer? Add the beautiful and incredibly talented duo of Scarlett and Jeremy to the mix to play deadly black-ops agents with a chip on their shoulder. In all seriousness though, the two characters of Hawkeye and Black Widow were the x-factor in this movie. They gave the audience some characters they could relate to while continuing to entertain at the highest level. Plus, they would make beautiful children together. Now that I’ve revealed my man-crush, we’ll move on.

5. Pretend that Nick Fury in ‘The Avengers’ is the exact same character as Jules Winnfield in ‘Pulp Fiction’. This is coming from a guy that truly loves Samuel L. Jackson, but I am also well aware of his limitations, so I have to include this. “Say ‘Tesseract’ again! Say ‘Tesseract’ again! I dare you, I double dare you!”

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In closing, I want to put to rest a few things that were brought up when this movie came out. The first is that ‘The Avengers’ made more money in its opening weekend (over $200 million) than any other movie in history, crushing even the final Harry Potter film that was released only last summer. That is HUGE. By the end of it all, this movie will probably make more than $1 billion and be one of the highest grossing movies of all time. It is difficult to ignore a response like that, even though it is a completely imperfect movie. But I predict that both ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ and ‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’ will both break this record within the year.

The other topic being brought up is this: ‘The Avengers’: Best Super-Hero Movie of All Time.

Can I have a ‘geek out’ moment? As fun as ‘The Avengers’ is, and as much as I enjoyed it, it is NOT the Best Super-Hero Movie of All Time. Not even close. To try to compare this movie to ‘The Dark Knight’ (and believe me, many people are) is just simply ridiculous. ‘The Dark Knight’ is one of the best movies of our generation, filled with complexity and truly challenging characters and ideas, that touches both entertainment and filmmaking genius. ‘The Avengers’ is completely void of depth, made to simply give the audience a thrill, and it does it perfectly. Even without ‘The Dark Knight’ there are still half a dozen better movies out there about caped crusaders. So, fan-boys, stop the hype and think with your brains, not your adrenaline-filled hearts.

My Note: This was such a fun movie to watch; Stop thinking and just enjoy the ride.

My Grade: B

List of Super-Hero Movies that are Better Than ‘The Avengers’

Batman Begins

The Dark Knight

Hellboy

Iron Man

Kick-Ass

Spider-Man

Spider-Man 2

V for Vendetta

X-Men

(If you have any additions to this list, let me know!)

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