The Cabin in the Woods (2012) - B+
Joss Whedon (also known as the newly appointed king of the world following “The Avengers”) and debuting director Drew Goddard attempt to do what Wes Craven did with the horror genre with “Scream”, and largely come up successful with “The Cabin In the Woods”. It would be reckless to spoil the film’s many secrets, but suffice to say the picture involves a group of not so stereotypical teens heading away for a weekend of partying. Things don’t exactly go to plan.
Pitched more as a comedy with intermittent scares than an outright frightener, “The Cabin in the Woods” showcases Whedon’s intelligence and dexterity as a writer rather sumptuously, the geek overlord working familiar horror tropes with fresh creative zest, allowing laughs, shrieks and gasps to emanate frequently during the movie’s tightly wound running. Goddard also deserves some recognition, his direction is competent and the group of actors he’s assembled are a nice mix of the old vanguard and promising fresh blood. Maybe like the “Scream” franchise there are times when “The Cabin in the Woods” is a little too knowing for its own good, not every gag lands for instance, but it’s hard not to appreciate a picture which treats its audience with so much respect.
One Day (2011) - B
Released last year to a surprising amount of critical derision, “One Day” marks a pleasant surprise on DVD. Adapted from David Nicholl’s bestseller of the same name, the film follows Dex (Jim Sturgess) and Emm (Anne Hathaway, horrible accent but otherwise a very attractive performance) on the anniversary of the day they first met, unfolding over a twenty year span. It’s a fundamentally soppy set-up, and the resolution is painfully obvious, but the picture is detailed with sincerity, solid acting and genuine directorial craft from Lone Scherfig (2009’s “An Education”).
The film is inherently devoted to the notion of soul mates and eternal romance, positing a slightly naïve world outlook in the process, but the unforced sweetness and engaging central protagonists render it effective. Undeserving of the poor box-office run and critical mauling it endured last year.
Looper (2012) - B+
“Looper” opened the Toronto film festival last month to stunning word of mouth and has since cashed in respectably in both domestic and international markets. The film is a complex sci-fi hybrid in the style of “Inception” (obviously a reference point for filmmaker Rian Johnston), blending time travel, mob mentality and familial strife into an enjoyable if unevenly paced cocktail.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (furthering the “Inception” similarities) is a Looper, a form of specialised assassin that takes out targets for criminals in the future. It’s a universe where time travel is possible, allowing crooks to let killers in the presence get their hands dirty, for a hefty fee of course. Still, things are complicated when our anti-hero is instructed to kill an aged version of himself (Bruce Willis), leading him to become embroiled with a complex mother and son dynamic as a consequence.
The action beats are regular and engaging, but what really sets “Looper” apart is the strength of the turns offered by Willis and Levitt. The latter mimics the former beautifully, but in truth it’s the artist formally known as John McClane who steals the show with a disquieting performance of extreme anguish and regret. The middle section is a bit patchy, but “Looper” starts intriguingly and concludes on a fitting boom, allowing it to at least stand tall as one of 2012’s stronger genre entries. Points must also go to Johnston for concocting a premise that is driven totally by thoughtfulness and original thinking, a creative oasis in the current multiplex landscape.
Daniel Kelly, 2012