“”This is NOT funny!” Or…
Jocky Mark Wahlberg as Tommy, a student straying from existentialism and going into nihilism? Is he showing his intellect through his scruffy beard? He deserves the criticism that Brad Pitt gets when either of them get to speak big words and political pontifications, and I guess it isn’t fair that both men get that kind of flack. Well, at least he nice to look at especially when he’s beating people up. I always wondered why he keeps coming back to be work with one of the most vilified directors to ever live. It’s like the Skarsgard-von Trier collaborations but with mixed results. In David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees Tommy’s a de facto big brother to Albert Markovsky (Jason Schwartzman), a role reminiscent of the one he’ll altruistically take in The Fighter.
Meet Jonah Hill, whose father is played by Richard Jenkins. Half a decade or so ago they were pre-fame and pre-Oscar nominations. These shots belong to a sequence that will get their family into a verbal argument with Tommy, which ends in breaking Godwin’s law. There are too many beards in this movie.
Naomi Watts, the pretty cheerleader with problems.
I never understood the vitriol against David O. Russell‘s I Heart Huckabees. I still like how subtly minimal the art decoration is reminiscent of Magritte – Dustin Hoffman‘s character even name drops him! His partner is played by Lily Tomlin and anyone who has ever been on Youtube has seen her spats with the equally short fused director. I understand, ‘philosophical comedy’ is a hard sell. It’s a lesser version of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, both satirizing our notions of therapy. It mistakes philosophy with its little brother in psychology and psychiatry, although I guess you’ll be healed mentally if you newly subscribed to an extreme way of thinking. And in that sense it doesn’t necessarily bring in the ‘philosophy,’ assigning lines of thought like existentialism or Catherine le Bon’s (Isabelle Huppert, in the few and delightful times that she’s glammed up and has her own way of following her clients) nihilism to groups of characters and instead making them fight on different sides of corporate dominance. But I didn’t mind that because I equated everything quirky into funny when I was younger. That until I rewatched it and saw the dream/therapy sequence with Jude Law‘s character having long, stringy hair, letting Albert suckle on him. The camera tilts but I’m not going down there with it!
The Cabin in the Woods
Edited from its original form. This was intended to be my observations of the movie’s first few scenes with some criticism here and there.
Reviews of The Cabin in the Woods have been generally positive, although there have been voices of dissent here and there. Whichever side of the fence they’re on, they don’t write about its plot except for a basic premise. There were the few I’ve read and the many that have advertised themselves as spoiler-free. I’ll do my best for this to not be that kind of post even though I’m the last person ever to see it. But nonetheless, let’s get this party started.
It starts with two women in their college dorm, the scene continuing with one character introduction after another. Jules (Anna Hutchison), recently changing her hair and personality, tells Dana (Kristen Connolly) to ditch her Soviet economics books and get into a weekend getaway mode. Jules’ also takes her boyfriend Curt with a C (Chris Hemsworth), a guy who dresses like jock who’s actually a smart sociology major. Out of this triumvirate, only Hemsworth can pull of the dialogue’s wit. Hemsworth is also able to recommend what books Dana should be reading while sounding like he knows what he’s talking about.
Hutchison and Connolly, however, seem to be too deadpan – Drew Goddard‘s blase direction doesn’t always help with this neither. But those two are interestingly cast, Hutchison’s face and demeanour seemingly too mature, her gaze too penetrating to really be the dumb blond persona that Jules has taken on for the weekend. Just as intended. Connolly is more fresh-faced so we’ll know that she’s last girl, whether she lives or not.
Anyway, apparently they’re the only people awake on campus despite it being a sunny spring day, or that they’re the last people to leave on their breaks. Curt offers his cousin’s cabin for the weekend getaway place and Jules asks him to invite his friend Holden (Jesse Williams of Grey’s Anatomy fame) so that Dana doesn’t feel left out. Marty (Fran Kranz), who looks like he’s going to act like a gargoyle for the rest of the movie, usurps into this otherwise picture perfect group and before they venture out into the titular cabin.
The journey towards the rural hideout is already filled with dread (why do young people in movies still go out in the woods to party even though we all know that most of them are going to die?). Being unable to find it on a GPS, they make a stop at a gas station and its attendant, Mordecai (Tim de Zarn), appears through a perfunctory shock cut. He calls Jules a whore, and a fight between the group and Mordecai almost break out, but they decide to leave him and have their fun as planned. As they drive their Winnebago through a tunnel a CGI bird flies in the sky, only to be stopped and killed by an invisible electric grid, reminding us that there are another set of characters in this story.
The movie actually begins with a mundane shot of a coffee vending machine that two white coats Sitterson (Oscar nominated Richard Jenkins) and Hadley (Studio 60’s Bradley Whitford) use. Joined by the pencil-pushing Lin (Amy Acker), she worries about the day’s operation, although Sitterson smugly reassures her that they haven’t had a glitch since ’98. The two men leave her stranded, driving out with their cart within a large – public or private? – facility whose operation involves the characters who are cabin bound. We don’t know why they’re doing this or why they choose those kids. The same clunkiness permeate here as well, shot too close and lit too dirtily than I would expect in a scene featuring workplace humour. It also seems like the actors on this side work Whedon’s dialogue better throughout the movie…just like Curt does….and it is his cousin’s cabin. Despite of the imperfections here, Whedon and Goddard do start dropping pieces of the puzzle this early on.
It has the usual setup of young people discovering things hidden beyond the borders of civilization or revealing a character’s family secret. But what I like is that these characters challenge each other, the ones in the facility wondering, just like we do, how these kids will slip into which mess. The characters in the cabin, however, test each other on whether they’ll advance on each other sexually or be more modest towards each other like Dana and Holden does.
The movie is enigmatic and works its way into being character based but it didn’t really win me over until two of the characters find their way to fight back. When a certain scene happens the sounds of it make me feel like Whedon and Goddard had smiles on their faces while writing and making it. But that defining moment, coming in so late, and the movie’s hype itself, makes me cautious on whether to embrace it. Either way, the movie’s second hour makes the rest more bonkers and fun. 4/5
- The Cabin in the Woods (Drew Goddard, 2011) (faircomments.wordpress.com)
Vacay Series: Richard Jenkins…
…has been in ‘terrible’ movies.
(Sorry for the hiatus, by the way.)
Adam McKay‘s Step Brothers came out in 2008. In the same year Jenkins, not to be mistaken with the guy from Third Eye Blind, had movies out like The Tale of Desperaux and was nominated for an Oscar in The Visitor. Despite the many “Six Feet Under” episodes he’s been in, Adam McKay’s Step Brothers is actually on the upper half of the movies that have better votes on his long CV on iMDb. someone out there who would call Hall Pass his Norbit, but I imagine more people think that his movie choices are getting better because of the Oscar boost.
But you know what, I actually enjoyed this movie that I saw for Easter with my family, flipping between this and the Game 4 between the Lakers and the Hornets. Jenkins plays a step/father to the titular step brothers, played by Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. This movie falls in the same sutured structure as Anchorman – although Anchorman does it better. Ferrell’s character clashes with person who takes things more seriously, a random epic back/side street fight involving Ferrell and secondary/tertiary antagonists, amicable dénouement between Ferrell and his foil. I do enjoy their antics, the two of them wearing Chewbacca masks, crashing their father’s boat, wearing racist costumes to detract a douche of a Realtor (Adam Scott) from making a sale and burying each other alive. Watching a comically rendered sex scene with my younger cousins was awkward.
This is the third movie for the past week that I’ve seen that involved dog poop, and the second involving eating it. I’m not sure if this dog poop marathon is better or worse than the movies I’ve seen earlier this year that had many close-ups of genitalia.
The Vacay Series is intended for AnomalousMaterial.com. I’ll continue the series there for movies with which I can actually say something about, unlike Step Brothers. The first on the series, is here.
[ETA: I’ve lately been obsessed with the Feller-Gasteyer-Gellar dinner sketch on SNL in 1997. Here he reminds me of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I wish Ferrell would do a movie where he’s the straight man to someone else’s goof, but that’ll never happen.
Supporting roles also include Ken Jeong before The Hangover, Rob Riggle, Seth Rogen and Mary Steenburgen.
- Exit ‘Anchorman 2’, Enter ‘Step Brothers 2’? (latinoreview.com)
Halloween Post: Let Me In
In Let Me In, director Matt Reeves blatantly uses the original Swedish Let The Right One In as a starting point, but Rear Window references come within this film as well. The first references is Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) spying on his neighbors in his apartment complex with a telescope. The telescope scene reminds me of how many blue irises the film features. He spies on adults more sexually capable than he is – a good-looking, moody couple and a man lifting weights in his apartment. It’s strange them when Owen notices that the new neighbor, Abby (Chloe Moretz) and her father (Richard Jenkins) have their windows boarded up. The second reference is when Abby’s father pops up from a backseat of a car, attacking a young man while the train passes by. Lights from the train or the tracks flash and the screen turns red as an old man attacks. With the exception of these red flashes, blue and white dominate the film, but even those colours come off as somehow warmer in this film than the original. We’ll have Reeves and cinematographer Greig Fraser to thank for all of those.
Michael Giacchino created the film’s score, but it sounds more like Hans Zimmer. Owen’s mother is barely visible in the film. I guessed Ali Larter, but I got slightly mad when I found out that she is played by the talented Cara Buono.
The film exposes the source material’s themes without spoon-feeding it to the audience. Smit-McPhee’s Owen is more sickly compared to the twinky in the original, and Moretz’ Abby is more gross yet slightly more emotional than Lina Leandersson’s Elin. The tone of their interactions are more varied and have an arc, Owen’s voice creaking a bit when he tries to talk to the new girl, both of them as awkward as kids in their situation would be. This awkwardness is heightened by Abby, of course, being a vampire. They’re more combative, both crossing the lines of their friendship, daring each other, testing each other’s humanity and compassion, finding out whether one would help the other. We’ll have Reeves and the actors to thank for that as well.