Friday, December 21, 2012

The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 2

Let's talk about movies... When a franchise ends a series or saga there is always the expectation of a grande finale; a big send-off into the unknown. Once the cameras stop rolling and the credits come to a close, there's nothing left but your memory of the experience and possibly the DVD if you enjoyed it. There might be nostalgia if you were a fan of the series or relief if you weren't. Either way, years of hard work on the part of the actors, producers, directors, writers and more, deserve respect regardless of personal opinions. Someone I know once said "no one sets out to make a bad movie". As much as I may look on with a critical eye to whatever I'm reviewing, I try to remember that.  

This week on deck: The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn- Part 2

How it came to my attention:  Unless you've been hiding under a rock these last few years, you know about the Twilight Saga. You might not have read the books or seen the movies but I guarantee you that millions of adolescent girls (and women of all ages) have. As the end of sparkly vampires and hunky werewolves drew nigh, I decided to review it for posterity's sake.

Going into it: As someone relatively familiar with the twilight universe, I knew that there would be lots of long, drawn-out meaningful looks, professions of love, and so on.

Coming out of it: I came to the conclusion that, barring making boatloads of money, there was no reason why Breaking Dawn could not have been accomplished in one movie. Also, BDP2 was supremely underwhelming (even taking into consideration the extremely low bar by which I judge this franchise). 

The Review/Recommendation: Don't watch it. I'm fully aware that if you're a rabid fan of the franchise, I risk your ire by this recommendation. Also, if that is true then nothing I say will dissuade you from spending your money on this film. On the flip side, if you hate the franchise then nothing I do could persuade you to see this film even I wanted you to. The Twilight universe has always been a polarizing one. So I write to those who might be on the fence in the hopes that I can reach anyone still able to be swayed. BDP2 was over-done, over-hyped and entirely underwhelming. As the ending of a saga I expected high drama, excitement and intrigue. Having read the book I should have known better. The book had a lot of waiting around for, ultimately, the most ridiculously tame final showdown ever. The film takes some of the elements of what I did like about the book and either cuts them out or changes them enough that they're only mildly entertaining. I will say that the acting and writing were on par with the rest of the saga so if you enjoyed the other films, you'll enjoy this one. If you hated or were ambivalent about the other films you'll feel the same about BDP2. At the very least, the franchise was consistent in the product it put out. I just didn't enjoy most, if any, of it. The entire saga, from book to film, was a little too much "after school special" and not enough... anything else. If you're at all undecided, wait and rent this. Better still, just go watch Harry Potter.   

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The Recap (will most certainly contain spoilers):  We open on credits imposed over scenic vistas accompanied by the dark musical score that has been used throughout the saga. The first visual of the film proper is of Bella Swan's (played by Kristen Stewart) eyes turning crimson red before she goes on a supernatural acid trip (apparently being a vampire means time slows down and you watch condensation, dust motes, and more, for fun. Bella's vision then centers on Edward Cullen (played by Robert Pattinson) who holds out a tentative hand which she caresses and they embrace as he whispers "So beautiful" into her hair... Dear god. My gag reflex is already on overdrive. Time for smoochies! Bella and Edward kiss like they're hamsters nibbling awkwardly on a water bottle attached to the side of their cage. They go hunting to quench Bella's newborn thirst and along the way we see them cavorting through the woods in a dream sequence that reminds me of True Blood (birds chirping, flowers blooming, slow motion running, etc). 

Bella closes in on a stag when... Uh oh! She scents on the wind a human rock-climbing not far away. This guy slips, draws blood, and Bella's off like a shot and tearing up the mountain like this guy has the last "Twinkie" Hostess will ever make (too soon?). Edward pursues and confronts her on a ledge under our oblivious climber. She growls "I have to get out of here" and leaps off the precipice to the forest below. Bella has cougar for lunch then strolls back toward Casa de Cullen with Edward exulting her superior control of her thirst. We meet Jacob Black (played by Taylor Lautner) outside the house where he remarks "I didn't expect you to seem so... you" (regular Shakespeare, this one). I feel like I should be at an RA (reviewers anonymous) meeting right now, saying something like "I will not judge actors on the lines they are given, but rather on how they deliver them" as a meeting mantra... But I digress. Jake remarks on what a great couple they make and I just can't reconcile this Jake with the tortured, scorned, almost-lover of the entire saga. I know he imprinted on Renesmee (creepy factor on that aside) but knowing and believing are two different things. The happy group heads inside to meet the baby.

Ahhhhhh! Devil spawn!! The child actress who plays Renesmee Cullen (Mackenzie Foy) has her face superimposed using CGI on all the incarnations of her character until she "ages" to her real self. This reminds me of those E*Trade commercials that use talking babies. It's creepy, disconcerting, and totally takes away from any cuteness this scene could have had. The whole Cullen family looks on as as mother and daughter meet again. We have Dr. Carlisle Cullen (played by Peter Facinelli), Esme Cullen (played by Elizabeth Reaser), Rosalie Hale (played by Nikki Reed), Alice Cullen (played by Ashley Greene), Jasper Hale (played by Jackson Rathbone), and Emmett Cullen (played by Kellan Lutz). Devil-baby demonstrates her ability to project thoughts into another by showing Bella the first memory she has of her. Jacob moves to end mommy-and-me time and Bella's hackles go up. The inkling that something isn't right has finally penetrated her brain. Jake tells Bella that he's imprinted on Renesmee and she practically drags him outside by his ear and begins shoving him around. While Stewart gives it her best effort, the barely suppressed rage we should be seeing is not a kettle about to boil over but rather a tepid cup of weak tea. I don't know if this is a lack in acting or on behalf of the character as we've only ever seen Bella as a passive personality. 

As quickly as it comes, the conflict is resolved and later that night Bella is gifted with a cottage for her birthday, but she couldn't care less as Bella's immediately taken by the bedroom and all the nifty things married folk can do in them. The love scene that follows is about as thrilling as watching paint dry. Later on we discover Charlie's been hounding the Cullen's for news of Bella and Jake finds out that once Bella "dies" they'll all leave and take Renesmee with them. He rushes over to Charlie's house, and transforms (stripping down first to the delight of the tweens in the audience and the confusion of Charlie) and tells him Bella "changed"in her own way to survive her illness. Charlie and Bella reunite and he meets Renesmee, Bella and Edward's  'adopted' niece, though he suspects something more when he sees she has Bella's eyes.  

Fans get a thrill when they see Bella in her one and only "sparkle" scene as a shaft of sunlight hits her in the woods and she voices over her joy at being a vampire. It's jarring to have a voiceover thirty minutes into the film for no apparent reason. The other Twilight films incorporated the same effect much more seamlessly. Her monologue takes us through the wolf packs making peace, the Volturi gifting Bella with a diamond necklace and Renesmee rapidly aging as they have no idea how long she'll live. While on a disgustingly sweet outing to catch snowflakes, Renesmee is leaping around more gracefully than a prima ballerina and defying gravity more often than Wicked on Broadway. They're spotted by Irina (played by Maggie Grace) of the Denali coven come to make peace with the Cullen's about Laurant's death a couple movies back. She flips out, convinced Renesmee is an Immortal Child (uber creepy children turned into vampires, developmentally frozen at the age they're turned and thus a security risk to all vampires as they have no self-control or understanding of secrecy). Irina runs to the Volturi and hands them an excuse to attack the Cullen's on a silver platter. 

Alice has a vision and, in an overly dramatic fashion, drops a flower vase or something breakable and it shatters around her as she goes all Oracle of Delphi on the Cullen's idyllic scene. She portends that the Volturi will come to destroy them "when the snow sticks on the ground". Alice and Jasper 'desert' the cullens or (if you've read the book) go off on a wild goose chase to find the magic key to the Cullen's survival. The Scooby Gang circles the wagons and recruits vampire allies from around the world to bear witness to Renesmee's growth and thus be able to testify to the Volturi that she is not an Immortal Child. They round up Denali, Amazons, Irish, Nomad, Romanians, Egyptians and South Americans. It's an unprecedented gathering of covens, the size and talents of which could rival the Volturi (not including their witnesses). 

Bella goes off on a side-trip arranged by Alice and Jasper to pick up fake IDs and travel documents for Jacob and Renesmee in case the shit hits the fan. We then find more about the backstory behind Irina's motivation and the Immortal Children. During a "talent show and tell" we see that Benjamin can control all elements and the Amazons can make any illusion seem real and forcefully project those visions on others. Bella is identified as a "shield" or defensive talent; any mind-magic won't work on her. She finds that with concentration she can project that shield outward in what can only be visually termed a "care bear stare". I'm not usually a stickler for strict book-to-film adaptation but this was an epic fail. The book describes it Bella's sheild as a sort of bubble dome radiating outward and the film majorly cocks that up. Due to the increase in vampiric activity in the area, new werewolves are litterally (pun intended) popping into existence all over the place. 

Christmas rolls around and there's plenty of family time. Charlie gets a "surprise" fishing trip far, far away to get him out of danger. The snow sticks on the ground and everyone seems to know it's time to gather for the showdown of doom. The Cullen Gang arrives first and the Volturi and their Witnesses arrive right after that. Carlisle speaks out first saying that a fight is not their intention, and Aro reads Edward's thoughts and agrees to meet Renesmee whom he terms "magnifico" when she demonstrates her ability on him. Aro summarily executes Irina after she recants her accusation and admits she made a mistake. The Denali move to start some shit but are held back and Aro announces Renesmee could still be dangerous.

Surprise! Alice and Jasper found the golden snitch, aka the only other known adult hybrid. I think his name was Patchouli, or something. Whatever it was, his adult presence signifies that Renesmee will grow to adulthood and be immortal as vampires are without posing a threat to humanity due to the fact that what's-his-face flew under the radar for the last hundred years or so. Aro reads Alice's mind to confirm this but she draws away and warns the others that he's already made up his mind to attack them... And. The. Fight. Is. On.

Bella throws Renesmee on Teen Wolf and the pair take off for several cutaway shots of them running. Alice is captured by the Volturi and the Cullen Gang goes full-on Avengers. Aro decapitates and burns Carlisle's body and I swear to you I can HEAR all the oxygen being sucked out of the room in preparation for the mass gasping, screaming and crying that is about to break loose in the theater. The tweens do not fail to deliver. As the entire row behind me has gone into shocked convulsions, the battle rages on claiming several lives (including main characters), we lose: Jasper, Seth, Alec, Jane, Demetri, Caius and Marcus. Marcus dies with arms open, embracing death with a whisper of "finally". He was my favorite of the Volturi, favoring peace rather than war.

Aro moves to confront Bella and Edward who perform some acrobatic ninja shit and kill him... Or do they? We flash backward and return to the point where Aro is reading Alice's mind. The fuck, you say?  In the book there's no battle (Alice shows Aro a future where the Volturi lose the battle and that's that) and I guess the filmmakers realized that a finale with no action would take this ponderous beast off life support and flatline the bitch. Aro, always the consummate schemer, does a 180 and decrees that Renesmee poses no danger and there will be peace. I still can't wrap my brain around this. Though the new twist was amusing in that I got to watch sheer pandemonium and hormone-driven pre-teens go batshit crazy in an enclosed space. It's quite an experience. 

We cut to Edward accepting Jacob into the family as Alice has a future vision where Jake and a grown Renesmee stand together on a beach as Bella and Edward join them. The film closes full-circle as Bella and Edward sit together in "their" meadow as Bella lifts the shield away from her thoughts and Edward sees a montage of how Bella feels about him. She says that "no one will ever love you like I do" and they'll be together "forever" I can hear the contented sighs of a couple hundred high-schoolers peppered with snorts from the slightly older among them. There was only one gagging sound in the theater (guilty). 

The Credits close on a storybook montage of characters and actors involved in the entire saga with "A Thousand Years" playing in the background. The End.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Red Dawn

Let's talk about movies... This week we explore the wonderful world of "based upon" films. They're like Ligers (not entirely a tiger (reboot) or a lion (remake). They take a previously made film or previously published book and create a mashup of plotlines, characters, and other various elements arranged however it best pleases the filmmakers. I'm slightly biased against these "Mr. Potato-Head" creations as they rarely surpass the originals (and when you start messing with classic or beloved movies you'd damn sure better do it as good as, if not better than, the original). But there have been exceptions to the rule so let's see what this film does and if it can live up to it's big brother.  

This week on deck: Red Dawn

How it came to my attention:  Missed the showing of "Wreck it Ralph" I was going to review and decided to go see Red Dawn starting in 20 minutes rather than try another time for "Wreck it Ralph".

Going into it: Knew it was some sort of re-do of the 1984 film of the same name starring Patrick Swayze. The 2012 version stars Chris Hemsworth (I will watch anything that man graces with his presence).

Coming out of it: The curse of the "based upon" has struck again. That was mind-blowingly ridiculous in the worst way.

The Review/Recommendation: Don't watch it. I swear, I feel like the Grim Reaper of movies this month. If you've seen the 1984 version of Red Dawn you know that it broke cinematic ground (the Guinness Book of World Records considered it the most violent film at the time of it's release and it was the first film in the US to be released with the MPAA rating of PG-13). The 2012 "based upon" film of the same name was like a declawed sabretooth turned into a fat kitty that naps in the sun. It slammed garbled media rhetoric at you in the beginning relevant to our current time and political affiliations and stayed, initially, pretty consistent to the 1984 version (with a few tweaks). They took down the violence level tenfold and members of the resistance group kept dying off to the point where I wondered if anyone was surviving this thing. Red Dawn couldn't seem to decide whether or not it wanted to be a straight-up action film or a brother-bonding-family drama/action. I don't know if it was the casting (the teenagers looked too much like actual teenagers for me to believe they could kick ass) or something else I couldn't quite put my finger on, but this Red Dawn seemed somewhat inauthentic. The set-up felt contrived and the opening failed to establish enough plausible realism for me to buy into their premise. The antagonists never progressed beyond being one dimensional and Red Dawn suffered for it. Major plot-points got altered further on in the film and the ending was changed entirely. Red Dawn concludes abruptly with a death that didn't need to happen and a frustrating lack of anything resembling clear resolution (when the credits rolled I heard a guy behind me say "Seriously?!?" and I was totally on board with that dude). I don't know if they wanted to leave it open for a sequel (god forbid) but this film left me wishing I'd waited for "Wreck it Ralph". 

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The Recap (will most certainly contain spoilers): We open on marine Jed Eckhert (played by Chris Hemsworth) on leave in his hometown of Spokane, Washington. He runs into his father (town Police Sergeant Tom Eckhert-played by Brett Cullen) at his little brother's (Matt Eckhert-played by Josh Peck) football game. Matt is the QB and we see that he is good-natured and well-meaning but ultimately reckless in his decision-making. I'm smelling the unmistakable scent of foreshadowing hanging heavy in the air. We see a slice of small-town idyllic life as Matt meets his girlfriend Erica Martin (played by Isabel Lucas) after the game and she drops him off at home when an inexplicable power outage hits the town. Sergeant Eckhert leaves the boys at home to go investigate/provide emergency response.

The next morning the town is literally rocked by an invasion of tiny little mushrooms falling from the sky... Oh, no, that's definitely invading North Korean paratroopers. The guys scramble into their pickup truck as Matt witnesses an F-16 take out a cargo plane carrying deploying paratroopers. They run into their dad who leads them through the streets until they're blocked in and he tells them to go to their family cabin while he stays to help the townspeople. Matt gets Jed to attempt a rescue of his girlfriend, Erica, but by the time they get there her family has already been taken hostage and we catch our first glimpse of lead bad guy, Captain Cho (played by Will Yun Lee). The brothers flee the scene and pick up other teens along the way: Robert Morris (played by Josh Hutcherson), Daryl Jenkins (played by Connor Cruise) and Pete (played by Steve Lentz). The group makes it to the cabin where the eldest brother, Jed, takes direction and instructs everyone to look for supplies. Jed tells Robert to search for and set up any kind of radio or television equipment he can locate.  

Pete finds a handgun in the camper and hides it in his waistband. Instantly he moves from "one of the team" to "traitorous bastard that will eventually betray the group". A van approaches the cabin and Pete fires on it before seeing if they're hostile or not. Turns out that Sergeant Eckhert told some more teens where to hide. The newcomers who join the group include: Toni Walsh (played by Adrianne Palicki, Julie Goodyear (played by Alyssa Diaz), Greg Goodyear ( played by Julian Alcaraz) and Danny Smith (played by Edwin Hodge). Jed forcefully confiscates Pete's pistol as he has demonstrated that he isn't capable of using it responsibly. They bunk in for the night and awake to an uncertain future but a reality  in which Pete has stolen all of their food supplies and left. Pete goes and surrenders to the North Koreans, telling them of the cabins location in order to ensure his survival.

Captain Cho mounts an assault on the cabin with a small number of his troops. The group escapes to the woods and spies on the Captain. Cho brings out Mayor Jenkins (played by Michael Beach) who is Daryl's father. Major Jenkins tries unsuccessfully to get them to surrender and next up to bat is Sergeant Eckhert who gives a Swan Song of rebellion and vengence, telling his boys to fight, and keep fighting until they are free, or dead. Captain Cho executes him on the spot as the group watches from the woods, not giving up their position. After they re-group in a safer location, Jed announces he is going to fight like his father asked him to, the others in the group also decide to fight and name themselves "Wolverines" after their school mascot. Good thing they weren't the Bullfrogs or Fluffy Bunnies. 

Cue a half-assed training montage and then they get down to the business of sabotage. The Wolverines steal weapons from the North Koreans and get in a little target practice with Jed. The Wolverines escalate to attacking checkpoints, stealing even more weapons and leaving their name spray-painted on public areas. This begins to inspire the locals and annoy the North Koreans. During one of the attacks the team sees their turncoat friend, Pete, outside a target location. Matt gets his attention and flips him the bird before blowing him, and the target, sky high. There's a funny accidental raid on Subway where a couple of the boys make off with a bag full of sandwiches and a tub of soda. It's a welcome respite from the killing to see that they can still have fun even in the most desperate of circumstances.

Sometime during this time Jed and Toni get a little twitter-pated, though considering their dating pool it was only a matter of time. Matt has secured his place, almost de-facto due to his relation to Jed, as second-in-command. The Wolverines plan an attack on a North Korean/Allies rally and Matt leaves his post to chase after Erica when he spots her in a prison transport bus. Greg is killed attempting to help him (there's that recklessness again, this time with more severe consequences than losing a football game). Matt and Erica escape and make it back to their camp in the woods where we see Jed getting stitched up and Matt learns that Greg is dead. He takes off into the woods for three days. Seems logical when you've been pining for your girl for who-knows-how-long to leave her and go sulk. Totes. Captain Cho gets pressured from a higher-up and he assures him the "terrorists" will not live through the night. Cho located the group and he bombs their camp and the surrounding woods which looks bathed in flames when the survivors scramble out from their tunnels. Julie and Danny die in the blast. 

The surviving Wolverines run into some US Marines from USMC Alpha Company later on and we meet Sergeant Major Andrew Tanner (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Smith (played by Kenneth Cho) and Hodges (played by Matt Gerald). They say their looking for a guerrilla group called the Wolverines in order to get their help with a vital mission critical to Free America's fight against the invasion. Jed reveals who the group is and we learn that they're after EMP-resistant communications technology (specifically a radio telephone that allows North Korea to keep in contact with each other and their allies). The Wolverines agree to help the Marines steal the tech. They stage a raid on the police station where Cho has set up his command. Jed ends up fighting Captain Cho in his father's old office and a hidden gun safe yields his dad's old IDs and a handgun which Jed uses to kill Cho after saying that he "messed with the wrong family".

Matt steals the suitcase phone and Hodges is killed backing up the operation. They escape but Daryl gets into a scuffel with anti-insurgent Russian specialists and somehow "escapes". In reality they tagged him with a tracker and let him go. The Wolverines make it back to their new base of operations in the city and they celebrate with beer and Jed and Toni make googly-eyes at each other. Nary a kiss has been exchanged, from anyone, and that is wrong. If you were a group of teenagers on the run from almost certain death I can practically guarantee that there would be sex. Especially considering the hormones and adrenaline flying around those kids. But I digress, the North Koreans attack the Wolverines and Jed is killed abruptly and I'm in shock. I thought for certain Jed, Matt, Erica and Toni were making it out of this thing alive. Toni practically loses her shit and gets dragged away and the survivors escape. 

The group piles into a station wagon and somewhere down the road they realize that Daryl had been tagged like they do to wild game; the group stops to consider their options. Some want to abandon him and some want to keep him in the group. Daryl sacrifices himself and they leave him gear and supplies and the last thing we see is Daryl waving sadly to the Wolverines as they drive off. He offered to hold back the North Koreans and we don't see him die, but it's a certainty as he's never seen again. The Marines leave with the suitcase phone in their chopper and they offer the survivors sanctuary in Free America but Matt declines and says they'll stay to fight.

Now led by Matt, the team stages raids on prisoner camps in order to recruit more Wolverines to fight the invasion and we close out on Matt's voiceover, which is word for word Jed's speech to the original group of Wolverines when he convinced them to fight. Toni, Erica and Robert surround Matt as he speaks, looking hardened and battle weary yet competent and ready to fight. The screen cuts to black. Credits Roll. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Let's talk about movies... This week is about the latest and greatest playing in theaters. There used to be a certain pageantry about going to the theater; an excitement about what was playing, visiting concessions and seeing the previews. Now instead of being first in line on opening day, I usually wait a few weeks, then slink in at an awkward time to avoid crowds. I bring my own snacks (once even sneaking in an entire pizza) so I won't have to get a small loan in order to afford concessions. I arrive early to get the best seats and hope for an empty theater because odds are good someone will talk/answer a phone/text during the film, causing me to experience a hulk-like rage for ruining my viewing experience. I'll venture out like a groundhog at the end of winter for the big ticket items that need to be seen on the big screen. This week's movie was one of them.

This week on deck: Skyfall

How it came to my attention:  As a lifelong Bond fan I was looking forward to the latest installment in the Bond series and had plans to attend opening day.

Going into it: It's a Bond film. I knew there would be a bad guy, a sexy girl in trouble, and lots and lots of gunshots.

Coming out of it: I felt let down by what had been hyped (perhaps overly so) as the greatest Bond film in the series to date. 

The Review/Recommendation: Don't watch it. I know, it's sacrilege in the House of Bond to malign the once and future king of spies... But I just wasn't buying what Skyfall was selling. The best part of the movie was the title sequence with Adele's song. It was confusing from the start. We watched Casino Royale rock the world of Bond and reinvent the spy, bringing him into modern times while keeping that swagger and panache that made the character iconic. It was a revelation of a film. Skyfall was a confused mashup of the old and the new. It attempted to resurrect the Bond of old whilst maintaining a foot in the new world as the gap of time widened further. The pacing felt off as action was followed by dragging exposition, and staring out of windows, then more halting action and finally an abrupt end. Casino Royale taught us, and Bond, that he needed to be an emotionally constipated bastard in order to survive a spies' life, and it was a lesson he learned the hard way. Skyfall decided to open that door up again... And the last thing I want to watch is James Bond doing anything other than shooting, screwing, or spying. There was some good in the film but it was outweighed by all the other frustrations. Skyfall felt like a filler piece, the villain wasn't remotely terrifying, the acting felt off, and the ending was unsatisfying. And. There. Was. No. Bond. Girl. Sure, one was technically featured for about a minute but lacked chemistry with Bond and failed to engender anything resembling interest in her character. Wait for it to come out on DVD if you must see it, but you'd probably get more out of re-watching Casino Royale. Or any other Bond film. 

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The Recap (will most certainly contain spoilers): We cold open on Bond in a dark hallway with an exaggerated artsy-noir shot of his eyes. It's a spy film, it's a spy film, it's a spy film, I repeat to myself in order to swat away the eye-roll welling up in my soul. MI6 agents James Bond (played by the delectable Daniel Craig) and Eve (played by Naomi Harris) are on an inscrutable mission in Turkey and peeps are dying left and right. J. Bond stops to save a fellow agent and is ordered to let that poor bastard die in favor of pursuing a thief who has stolen what I gather to be some important information. Gone are the days in which royal jewels were stolen or princesses kidnapped. Now in the virtual age real people die in the cause of 0s and 1s. Information is the new black and everyone is wearing it. 

We learn that Bond is after a hard drive stolen from MI6 that has the secret identities of almost every NATO agent embedded undercover in terrorist organizations. They're chasing a mercenary named Patrice (played by Ola Rapace) through a bazaar and over rooftops as M (played by Judi Dench) and Agent Tanner (played by Rory Kinnear) backseat spy the whole time. Bond flings himself onto a moving train in the heat of pursuit and engages in a firefight with Patrice then climbs into a construction backhoe and looks like he's trying to whack-a-mole that sumbitch off the train but he catches a bullet in his shoulder and Patrice shoots out the coupling between the railcars. Bond sinks the backhoe's teeth into the adjacent railcar and hops into the cabin just as the other car tears away. All in all it's pretty badass. Dude's got swagger. As the fight progresses Bond and Patrice end up on top of the train again wrestling for the hard drive as Eve sniper-tracks their progress and is forced to shoot Bond in an attempt to kill Patrice. M ordered the hit and the seeming betrayal/doubt in the redoubtable Bond is shocking. 

Bond falls from the train and is lost to a rushing river and we segway into the opening title sequence with Adele's original song Skyfall. It's amazing. One of the best songs and opening Bond sequences of all time. Bond has not resurfaced and is considered K.I.A (killed in action). We cut to M writing his obituary; think she'll put in "I ordered the shot that killed him"? Perhaps not. She's neck-deep in alligators anyhow, so I doubt she'd have time for guilt. Apparently cocking up a giant leak of information is not good for anyone's career, most especially one in espionage and M is called to task in the teacher's office (Chairmain of the Intelligence and Security Committee, Gareth Mallory-played by Ralph Fiennes). On her way back to MI6, the agency is hacked and her office is blown up along with a good chunk of MI6.

Bond somehow gets the news in his hole-in-the-wall digs. Surprise! He's alive. Though I doubt anyone was truly taken aback considering he's a franchise staple. He reappears in M's home, sitting alone in the dark. Not creepy at all. She doesn't blink at his appearance and I can't tell if it's due to internal fortitude or a lifetime of spying. They trade witty barbs and he returns to the fold a little battered and the worse for wear (both mentally and physically). He sucks his way back to active duty and in the process ghetto-yanks some bullet fragments out his shoulder and helps identify the mercenary, Patrice, and tracks him to Shanghai. Bonds meets the Q of legend and the modern version is a young techno-punk who tosses insults back and forth with Bond that are just this side of professional. Q gives Bond a smart gun that will only fire in his hand and a tiny GPS tracker. They make a joke about expecting exploding pens and I'm on board. Where is the lair of old? The unexpected devices and stellar technology designed to help Bond win the day? This is bullshit. You can't give me Q and twist him past the point of recognition. Skyfall promises the Bond of yore and thumbs its nose at the very institution it's expected to deliver. Unbelievable. Some blowback happens from the now-decrypted hard drive and it gets several NATO agents dead.

J.B. lands in Shanghai, kills some time, tracks Patrice from the airport to a high rise where he follows him and eventually witnesses a hit on an unknown target. Bond and Patrice get sweaty for a minute and trade some fairly impressive fighting moves before Patrice takes a little trip then a big fall. The mercenary dies before telling Bond who bought the NATO list but Bond discovers a casino chip in Patrice's sniper case that he tracks to Macau. There he meets the co-called Bond Girl of the film, Severine (played by Berenice Marlohe). She plays the part of the cold seductress but crumbles at the first mention of her employer. She's literally so terrified that she almost pisses herself when talking about him. This is quite the buildup. She tells him of her boat that is leaving in an hour and that if Bond can make it out alive he's welcome to join her as long as he promises to kill her boss. 

Bond kicks some ass and then goes and gets some ass. They sail to an impressively fortified island that reminds me a little of Waterworld. They get taken hostage, trussed up and delivered like Thanksgiving turkeys to the Big Bad, Raoul Silva (played by Javier Bardem). Silva wears maniacal mastermind like an ill-fitting coat. There's something slightly off about him that I can't quite put my finger on. He makes a passing nod at trying to turn Bond against MI6, and M, but it's a C+ effort at best. As lairs go it's hardly intimidating being surrounded by computer servers. There's a blip of life on the EKG when Silva caresses Bonds face and chest during questioning, followed by stroking his thighs. A bi-sexual villain? What a breath of fresh air! But alack; that's as far as the "interrogation" goes. Silva turns out to be a cranky ex-MI6 agent that M disavowed when he was captured and left to die in the hands of the Chinese. Scorned ex-employee? Don't tax yourselves here, writers. 

Bond and Silva pop outside to have a quick word with Severine before she gets capped. Skyfall runs two and a half hours long. I can practically measure on one hand the number of minutes the Bond Girl gets of screen time. It's not enough for me to even feel a twinge at her passing; so, failure on that front. Bond captures Silva and takes him back to the new MI6 to be questioned. Q hacks Silva's laptop inadvertantly triggering a bypass of MI6 security protocols and faciitating Silva's escape into the Underground tunnel system dressed as a police officer. He goes to attack M at yet another scolding for her old school spy ways. Lot's of references to fighting in shadows. I'm sorry, but am I really listening to people argue whether or not Bond should continue being Bond? I've heard nothing but people whining about how old he is, how out of date he is and how he's a veritable dinosaur of espionage. Funny how I just noticed the bags under Bond's eyes. But I digress; M knows she's in danger and gives what I believe to be her swan song (some weird quote her late husband once said). I fully expect M to die here; but no! Bond shows up in the nick of time and gets his mojo back while saving the day and psuedo-kidnapping M to safety. For a criminal, ex-spy, mastermind that's been leading MI6 around by the nose this entire time, that attack on M was incredibly heavy-handed and felt a lot like a neglected puppy yapping for attention rather than a vicious bulldog going for the jugular. Methinks the former teacher's pet is a little cranky about being put in detention and all he really wants is attention. And maybe a hug. And, on second thought, maybe some new teeth.

Bond and M ditch the company car for something a bit more obscure. I know! How about a random, old-school, original Bond car, complete with ejector seat and headlight machine guns? Totes Incogs (that's tweeny bopper for "totally incognito"). Where did Bond get this car? Is he aware that if he owns it then it's probably not under the radar? Do we really need nostalgia for nostalgia's sake? I feel like Skyfall has shoved a lot of things like this at us purely because they could, and for no logical reason. The dynamic duo drive to Bond's childhood home, Skyfall Lodge, to hide out and dangle M like a shiny lure for Silva to follow. Q does some techno magic sanctioned by Mallory (who's now on board with Team Old School) and lays a trail of clues for Nancy Drew to follow out to the Lodge.

Bond and M encounter the Lodge's gamekeeper, Kincade (played by Albert Finney) and batten down the hatches... Literally. They've got three and a half guns between them and we enter the Twilight Zone of Home Alone. They cobble together some improvised incediary devices and traps (I'm sorry, are we on a crossover episode of Burn Notice that I'm unaware of?) and wait. Now is the time for some more pensive staring out of the window, courtesy of M. Insert some awkward talk about Bond's tragic loss of his parents as a child (saw this coming from earlier, psych eval anyone?) and pretty heavy foreshadowing when Kincaide shows M the Priest's Hole aka secret tunnel out of the house in case of emergency.

Silva's henchmen arrive and the trio ward off the first wave of attackers, though M gets shot in the process (she hides the wound... Yeah, that'll end well). Silva arrives by helicopter and I think he's going to shoot a freaking missile at the house and torch the place. It's what I'd do if I were an evil genius. But no, Bond and Silva play Arsonists-Ring-Around-The-Rosy for a bit while Kincaide and M escape via the Priest's Hole and head to the Chapel. Bond blows up a couple propane tanks with some leftover dynamite (which I'm sure once he brushed the cobwebs off would totally be stable and work, no problem). The shockwave sends the helicopter into a tailspin where it crashes, killing a bunch of Silva's henchmen. Silva sees a light bobbing off in the distance now that the glow from Bond's boyhood home has backlit the area. It's the Scottish Moors, I'd chalk that up to a Will-O-The-Wisp but no such luck here; Silva pursues. 

Bond wakes up, brushes some dirt off his shoulder... Again literally, and sprints toward the Chapel. He ninja-kills some leftover goons along the way, thus proving our girl Stella totally Got Her Groove Back. He runs into Silva after he makes the super sound decision to walk across a frozen lake. I'm not even sure it was a shortcut. The last little mercenary jumping on the bed attacks Bond and they fall through the ice, mimicking the opening title sequence. Bond dispatches Nameless Evil-Doer #27 and we flash to the interior of the Chapel where Silva has cornered a surprisingly meek M (I'm assuming bloodloss has stolen her chutzpah). Silva goes full-on whack-job and holds a gun in M's hand, begging her to kill them both with the same bullet. Silva has gone round the bend; starting from slightly-menacing-yet-sane, to obsessively-logical-yet-creepy, to waaaaaay out in the left field of bugnuts-crazy.

Bond again arrives just in time and straight-up puts Silva down like a rabid dog. M then collapses and bleeds out in Bond's arms as I think I see him tear up if not outright cry. Seriously? They wasted M's death. If she was going to die, it should have been after her bitchin' spy-speech (as a martyr for the cause) thus causing Bond to avenge her in true baddass spy-style. Instead, we get a dumbstruck Kincaide looking on as Bond rocks his surrogate Mommy in sorrow. Lame. M's post in MI6 is taken by Mallory (the new "M") while Bond formally meets Mallory's new secretary Eve, Eve Moneypenny (she makes a crack about "close shaves", calling to mind their earlier sexcapades, and I roll my eyes). Bond walks into "M"s office where "M" tosses a secret folder on the table and says they've got a lot of work to do and that Bond is the man they need to do it. Are. You. Serious? They spent the entire movie harping on how over-the-hill and washed-up Bond was and suddenly he's the Golden Child? A full 180 degree turn? Even considering movie magic, I'm calling bullshit. They took the degradation of Bond too far for me to believe it could bounce back that much on any level of believability. Bond says he's ready. Credits Roll. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Descent

Let's talk about movies... Happy Halloween everybody!! This week I bring you a special review, a little ahead of schedule, in honor of All Hallows Night. I've always appreciated horror films that broke out of the expected casting mold. More often than not there is a formula that's followed when putting together a cast, no matter what the plot. You have your hero/heroine, the slightly slutty girl, the virginal girl, the goofy sidekick, and the sarcastic asshole. Those are the broadest and most commonly seen horror film archetypes; and I love them for what they are. Don't get me wrong, they're comforting like an old hat or long-term relationship. But you need to break out of the mold every once in awhile and shake it up. This week's selection has the original twist of an all female cast.

This week on deck: The Descent

How it came to my attention: Saw it in theaters and reunited with it during a DVD splurge in college. Decided to watch it again to see how well it's held up over time.

Going into it: I vaguely remember being terrified when watching it years ago. 

Coming out of it: Was thrown into a tailspin of introspection and floored by the deeply impactful philosophy behind the film. 

The Review/Recommendation:

Watch It: The Descent does exactly what it promises it will do. It terrifies you. Not only with blood and guts and monsters, but with cold psychological truths as well. We can pretend that humanity is universal and that when push comes to shove the better nature in all of us will prevail. That is true in many cases, especially when ones own well being is not called into jeopardy. The Descent portrays with chilling accuracy the brutality of human nature. The nature that will, at its very core, care only about self-preservation. The epitome of this is portrayed in the character Juno. This film shows that even in the best of us, as with Sarah, there is still the potential for ruthlessness. There are powerful visuals and a haunting musical score to accompany the thrills and chills. So watch this movie with your nearest and dearest and look around the room afterward. Can you trust everyone you love and who loves you? We can only ever truly know our own minds and selves. But after watching this film, even that is called into question. The horror here is not anything created by monsters; the horror in The Descent is made entirely by man.

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The Recap (will most certainly contain spoilers): The film opens on a few ladies (Juno-played by Natalie Mendoza, Sarah-played by Shauna Macdonald, and Beth-played by Alex Reid) white-water rafting down some pretty intense rapids in Scotland while Sarah's husband Paul (played by Oliver Milburn) and daughter (played by Molly Kayll) watch along the shore cheering them on. They dock the raft and climb out and I'm sensing an undercurrent of tension between Juno and Paul that both Beth and Sarah pick up on to some degree, but ignore. The idyllic facade is an early precursor to the rest of the film, letting us know that nothing will be as it seems. Two minutes in and they've got me hooked.

Sarah and her family begin driving back to their lodging but get into an accident where both father and daughter die. Sarah wakes up in the hospital sometime later looking like Million Dollar Baby and breaks down sobbing in the middle of the hallway whilst passersby ignore her like she's a hobo asking for a dollar. Not even a wayward glance gets thrown at her; I can't tell if its out of respect or sheer indifference to the human plight.    

We flash to the Appalachian Mountains a year later where the group plus a few have met to reconnect. They're staying in what can only be kindly termed a cabin. We meet sisters Sam (played by MyAnna Buring) and Rebecca (played by Saskia Mulder) along with newcomer Holly (played by Nora-Jane Noone). The group reminisces and laughs through the night and we see the gentle side of life; the easy camaraderie between people who have no doubts about seeing their next day. 

Morning comes and we follow Juno on her jog and then cheery wake-up calls to the group. They get together and take a group photo but even the shutter clicking sounds ominous followed by a black and white rendering of the image that I look at wondering who, if anyone, other than Sarah will ever look at again. Given her previous tragedies if anyone is making it out alive, it's her. The group heads out on the road toward Boreham Caverns, from all descriptions an easy system to spelunk. But things are just a little bit off and I'm smelling bullshit in the air anytime Juno opens her mouth. One of the group starts listing off all the rules and things that can go wrong with caving. Now I know what rules they'll definitely be breaking and all the things that will most likely happen to them. But at least they make time to stop and poke a dead deer with a stick. Priorities and all. 

They reach the mouth of the cave and rappel down. After a few minutes admiring nature's beauty, Sarah gets the shit scared out of her by a horde of bats. They start crawling through a tiny passage following Juno and are led to an underground cavern where they light some red red flares giving the scene an eery feeling. They break for lunch and some awkward conversation between Juno and Sarah before they head out on the next passage. I'm not really claustrophobic but neither love nor money could get me to go through something that tight. Sarah is the last to go, gets stuck, freaks out, and makes it out narrowly avoiding being crushed to death by a cave-in. 

We find out now that they aren't in the Boreham Caves but an entirely unknown system and therefore cannot count on any rescue but their own. After some bitching and bickering they press onward into another open crevasse which they have to cross. Rebecca free climbs across to set the rope line for the others and I'm pretty sure she's a BAMF, hands down. Juno free climbs last to save the rope they already have. A piton fails and Juno slams into the rock face but is helped up by the group. Rebecca injures her hand in the process of saving Juno. They see a cave painting depicting two ways out and move on. We see the first glimpse of our monster in an alcove off the cave, drooling and clicking like a bat. 

The group finds a likely passage and Holly dives headlong into it first, recklessly pursuing an exit. She slips and is caught by Juno before she falls into a hole. Juno can't hold on and Holly falls and breaks her leg on the way down. That son of a bitch snapped and is poking out of her leg like a turkey's wishbone. If you're squeamish you'll want to look away for the next few minutes. Sarah wanders off and sees a Golem-like creature ahead in the tunnel. They disregard Sarah and move forward dragging an injured Holly. They might as well be dragging a bleeding gazelle across the plains. The group stumbles across an underground boneyard filled with the skeletons of dead animals. They panic and start screaming; Voldemort's second cousin pops in for a visit.  

The group freaks out again and runs but is cut off by the cave crawler and it rips out Holly's throat. Juno sees Holly's still alive (her pupils dilate) and tries to save her but is held off by the crawler. Sarah sprints into a tunnel and slips, hitting her head while falling into another cave. Juno is still fighting the crawler for Holly with her pickaxe when another crawler attacks her from behind. She kills it but her battle reflexes cause her to spin around and attack the threat behind her before realizing it's Beth and she stabs the axe into Beth's throat. Beth falls to the ground and clutches Juno's necklace. She reaches out to Juno, but a stunned Juno backs out of the cave and leaves Beth to die. I'm pretty sure that's grounds for removing someone from your Christmas Card list.

Sam and Rebecca have splintered off from the group and are followed by a crawler. Sarah wakes up and finds human remains in the cave where she fell. She stumbles across Holly being eaten by the crawlers and is forced to watch in order to remain hidden. Rebecca and Sam huddle in a cave while Juno goes to look for Sarah. We observe that while the crawlers appear human in origin they look like blind, slimy albinos who have evolved to live underground and navigate purely by echolocation.

An alarm on Sam's watch goes off and she chucks it away. Juno starts yelling again, drawing the crawlers to her while Sarah lights a torch and the sisters keep looking for a way out. They are pursued by crawlers before being saved by Juno; she convinces them to go look for Sarah (who has discovered Beth still alive) . Beth tells Sarah what Juno did to her and Sarah doesn't believe her until she discovers Juno's pendant in her hand that Beth tells her Paul gave to Juno. It has his saying "Love Each Day" written on the back. Sarah comes to the realization that not only did Juno mortally wound her best friend, she had an affair with her husband. Beth asks Sarah to kill her to end her suffering and Sarah, though reluctant, does so with mercy. 

Sarah then kills two crawlers while Sam and Rebecca are killed elsewhere by ever more crawlers. There seems to be an unending amount of these things down in the caves. I find it hard to believe that they have gone undiscovered with the amount they would need to consume to sustain such a large population. Juno escapes the crawlers that killed Rebecca and Sam and is helped by Sarah who asks her what happened to the others and, specifically, if she saw Beth die. Juno says she did and you can see something change in Sarah's eyes when she hears Juno's lie. 

The pair explore for a way out and fight off another group of crawlers after which Sarah reveals to Juno the pendant she got from Beth. Neither one of them say a word and yet there's a whole conversation. Accusation, affirmation, condemnation, and finally judgement. Sarah stabs Juno's kneecap with a pickaxe and leaves her, wounded, to face an oncoming horde of crawlers. Sarah forges on and we hear Juno's last screams before Sarah falls down a hole knocking herself unconscious... Again. I mean, seriously, how many times is she going to fall down a hole, knock herself out and wake up untouched? There are a million monsters in that cave, who has that kind of luck? There's light on Sarah's face and she regains consciousness to see a small path toward daylight. Sarah desperately scrambles up a pile of bones heading to the surface and breaks free to the outside world. It's almost surreal when she makes it to her car and drives off. She stops at the side of the road and throws up, turning to find an apparition of a dead Juno sitting next to her in the passenger seat. 

Sarah wakes up back in the cave and we discover she never made it out. She again sees her daughter sitting in front of her with a birthday cake and lit candles. We hear the crawlers drawing closer and see that Sarah is only staring at her torch. Oblivious to the danger, Sarah smiles as the screen cuts to black. Credits roll.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

Let's talk about movies... Specifically scary movies. I've been on a horror film run of late and I'm putting it to use during October with a new kind of terror for each review. What is it about a good fright that keeps us coming back for more? Is it the adrenaline rush? The illusion of danger lurking around every corner once you exit the theater? Maybe it's the opportunity to yawn and cuddle up to someone to protect them or the chance to hold someone's hand for comfort. I find horror movies enthralling testaments of the human will to survive when facing certain death... That and a continuation of my ever-elusive hunt for the next big thrill; roller coasters are so over, give me a good slasher flick instead. How about it? Wanna hold my hand?

This week on deck: The Cabin in the Woods

How it came to my attention: I love anything and everything Joss Whedon... Seriously, he could film himself getting a haircut and I would stand in line for the midnight showing (how WILL it end?!?). When Cabin in the Woods was released, I saw it in theaters with friends and was both blown away and perplexed. When it came out on DVD, I knew it was time for me and Cabin to get back together and hash this out once and for all. 

Going into it: The title says it all. I knew without a doubt that there would be a cabin and it would be in the mother-fucking woods.

Coming out of it: Oh my god... Really?!? Really. Really?!? Yeah. That happened.

The Review/Recommendation:

Don't Watch It: This pains me to say... But if I had to pull a trigger, it would be on the "Don't Watch It" gun; though it's close for a few reasons. The Cabin in the Woods had a lot of potential to be a trailblazer in the pantheon of horror films. It had a new twist on an old concept, clever dialogue, and a fantastic blend of humor and bloodshed. So what went wrong? For one, it took almost exactly half the film to shed a drop of hemoglobin. I mean, there's "foreplay" and then there's "prelude to a coma". The pacing of the film felt off to me. It took forever to start, really got going, and then came to a stilted halt before an abrupt ending. Also, the main horror villains (the zombies) were supremely disappointing after being shown all the options we could have had on the betting spread. I felt like a supernatural Oliver Twist peering into the Little Shop of Horrors, begging to pick out better villains. Please, sir, may I have some more... Monsters? We saw killer unicorns, possessed ballerinas, mermen, etc. And though the Buckners were a class act, they just didn't deliver the wallop I was expecting. I appreciate the futile struggle against fate and sheer strength of character it takes to tell gods to "fuck off" as much as the next person... But something in my rational soul rebelled against the final outcome. Disbelief? You're calling to say you're fully suspended and still couldn't wrap yourself around the absolutely absurd ending? Me too, buddy, me too. Ultimately, there were just too many cracks in the bottom of this boat and the ship sank; save yourself the frustration and go watch something else.

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The Recap (will most certainly contain spoilers): The opening sequence is filled with frescos of ritual sacrifice painted in a backdrop of blood. We cut to some office flunkies chatting it up over a coffee machine. Ok, I'm rolling with this. More banality followed by Fred (R.I.P "Angel") aka Amy Acker playing "Lin" cranking up the anxiety level about a possible emergency. Her concerns are summarily dismissed by her colleagues and that seals the deal. Shit will hit the fan at some point so I hope you brought your ponchos, folks. Sidenote: Drew Goddard (the director) is not fucking around. The first time I got scared watching this? The title screen. I'm betting you pee yourself a little bit when that pops up.

Next we bear witness to the quintessential view of suburbia and some nubile young ladies (The blond one is Anna Hutchison playing "Jules" and the redhead is Kristen Connolly playing "Dana") packing for a weekend away at a lake house. One of them has clearly forgotten how to put on pants (hint: one leg at a time). Enter Thor (sadly without cape and armor) aka Chris Hemsworth playing "Curt", a surprisingly erudite jock. And out the window we meet Jesse Williams playing classic good-guy "Holden".

The group packs up their RV and we get our last arrival on scene as resident stoner, "Marty" (played by Fran Krantz (R.I.P "Dollhouse") drives up. I know I'm going to like this guy within the first ten seconds. Just watch how he disguises his bong; it's nothing short of genius. As they roll out, we begin our journey along with them in the age-old horror film starter: some bitches be going camping. And those bitches, true to form, are sexy young college students. I'm already wondering who will be getting naked with whom and who will die first. 

Secret agent man on the roof doesn't want us to forget that there's a plan in motion. Big brother is watching and Marty plays the part of the wise fool. Listen to what he says, it might be more relevant than you think. Back at the Fortress of Doom, Agent Sitterson (played by Richard Jenkins) and Agent Hadley (played by Bradley Whitford) accompanied by lackey-with-a-conscience Truman (played by Brian White) enter the Situation Room to keep tabs on the Scooby Gang.

Gotta love the homage to tradition Whedon is throwing at us right now. Of course the group needs to gas up. Of course it's at a deserted gas station and of course there are nasty-looking grappling hooks displayed in the store... all of this underscored by omninous music. Be still my heart! Was that a "hello" called out to the deserted station? The first legit scare happens here; the misogynistic station owner appears out of nowhere, Holden shits six bricks, and Oldy McCreepypants spouts off the usual bullshit meant to hook all those slow starters out there who haven't yet figured out that this is a scary movie. Bad Things Will Happen. We get it, "Mordecai" (aka "The Harbinger" played by Tim De Zarn). Kudos to Morty, though; he's got my hackles up and suspicious-shit-detecting antennae frantically waving around.  

The RV drives through a mountain tunnel and an eagle flying nearby gets bug-zapped on a hexagonal force field. We are officially NOT in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. The gang settles in to Casa Del Death and the usual red flags arise (creepy paintings, two-way mirrors, etc.). We are still firmly in the pre-flight checklist though: the most terrifying thing happening right now is the incredibly awkward conversation between Holden and Dana. Dear god let there be blood spilled soon. Sidenote: If you know it's a two-way mirror...WHY THE HELL DO YOU KEEP GETTING NAKED IN FRONT OF IT?!?

The Situation room is livening up as the grim reapers prep for takeoff. Mordecai calls Mission Control and gives us some quality crazy. I'm especially digging the departure from the norm with the speakerphone bit (seriously dying with laughter right now). It gets interesting when we enter the explanatory phase of the scene. There's betting going on about the outcome of events and lackey Truman provides a convenient foil for us to get some hard details about what's going on. The juxtaposition between mission control and ground zero is engaging enough to keeping this thing limping along. Cabin is at the tipping point, about to plunge into action.

We cut to a game of Truth or Dare and the "Most Committed Participant" award (in the history of Truth or Dare) needs to go to Jules. What she did with that poor stuffed animal head was like a train wreck; I couldn't look away even though I really, really wanted to. The cellar door inexplicably flies open; Dana is dared to go into the cellar and the rest eventually follow her into what rapidly becomes a russian roulette of mystical shit. The score here suggests that each item the gang has individually picked up can be activated somehow and it's just a matter of time before the musical chairs of doom pick a winner. My first impulse upon spying a journal of pain-worshipping cannibalistic hillbillies wouldn't be to read the creepy latin incantation aloud... But the odds are stacked against the kids regardless, so I'll stop wishing them common sense and start listening for screams.

Zombie Redneck Torture Family wins the office death pool for the Maintenance Department (and Ronald the Intern). Really? Zombies? Death by bubble bath would be more original, especially after seeing the smorgasbord of choices in the betting pool. I'm a little disappointed that the re-animated rabbit was the one pulled out of the hat. We pop back over to the cabin and see Jules is, yet again, waving her milkshake around to bring all the boys to the yard. It's almost a relief when she and Curt head outside to write poetry and volunteer at a soup kitchen... Or they could be going outside to fuck like bunnies; the odds are 50/50. Anyhow, the first rule of horror is: whoever leaves the group first, dies first. Dana makes a feeble attempt to stop the couple and then throws us what is rapidly becoming her trademark look: the pensive stare off into the distance accompanied by a furrowed brow. I might just club her over the head myself and get it over with. At this point, with the amount of screen time and focus she's getting, it's pretty obvious that if anyone is making it out of this alive it's going to be Dana.

The wise fool, Marty, speaks more truthiness but no one takes him seriously. The lesson I'm learning here is to pay more attention to what my stoner friends say to me. Then again, I recall a conversation I had with one where he told me that he wanted to hug french fries with his mouth because it was the closest he'd ever get to heaven... Yeah. Marty might just be the exception rather than the rule. The ball is rolling downhill now and picking up speed. Barbie and Ken "meat" the Buckners in the woods and Jules gets bear-trapped in the back and dragged off by Papa Pain. Note to self: Ewww (that looks like it's gonna sting in a minute). Better go get the Neosporin and semi-automatic. I think Goldilocks might have caught a smidgen of tetanus, and deadness, from that rusty axe.

Back at the Death Star the apocalyptic nerd herd say a little prayer for our dearly departed nymph then pull Creepy Lever Number One which releases a cascading stream of blood that slowly fills the outline of a stone wall carving. We're solidly into cruising altitude now. Marty drops another conversational gem as he walks out the door prompted by the puppetmasters to take a walk. You can go ahead and write "nighttime walks in the woods" onto the list of things horror movies have taught me not to do; along with: saying "Bloody Mary" into the mirror of a darkened bathroom, checking on "that weird noise"  in the other room, and camping on old indian burial grounds (that one is just common sense).

Heads up! Curt is still alive and he runs headlong into Marty before they panic-sprint over the little zombie girl on their way back to the cabin. The gang rallies and battens down the hatches but someone's come a-knocking! Turns out Daddy's home and he brought takeout. I don't care if you're a professional baseball player hardwired to catch anything thrown at you, if somebody chucks a severed head in your direction... Duck. It'll cost you less in therapy bills later. I swear, though, kids are so sensitive these days; just one zombie arm through the wall and they scatter like roaches when the light flips on. Ah! Why is Marty standing with his back facing a window?!? Come on, champ; clear the THC fog outta your noggin and start think-... Well, there he goes getting snatched outside. Super-bong comes in handy briefly as a zombie deterrent but Marty gets pulled into a ditch and a sea-world-worthy spray of blood flies out. Cue Lever Number Two being pulled back at Mission Control.

Dana gets a visit from Papa Buckner, Holden shatters the two-way mirror, and Dana hops in to his room to be a whole 10 feet farther from danger. Good call. They discover a way out of the room and into the basement... Though I would hesitate to say "discover" since everything down to the smallest detail has been arranged by the puppeteers. You never see the bear trap coming. Like a twisted version of big-game fly fishing, Holden gets snagged and dragged towards the room above. I'm slightly impressed by Lady Whinypants at the moment (she has such polite manners): Tire Iron, meet Zombie Brain, Zombie Brain, meet Impromptu Skewer. Hands down the grossest game of pin the knife on the dead guy, ever.

Dana, Holden and Curt make it back to the RV and we're given a glimmer of hope that they might all make it out alive. They drive towards the tunnel and the Fortress of Doom is hopping like a beehive that's just gotten whacked. Apparently an electrical glitch derailed a scheduled cave-in and the pass is still clear. The Ancients are rising and Mission Control collapses the tunnel just in time. The brain trust comes up with an idea to jump the dirt bike that's been strapped to the back of the RV over the ravine to safety. I like Curt. I'll say nice things in his eulogy because he is going the way of the eagle, friends. I will say, though, that Curt's body bouncing off of the force field really illustrates how far down the crevasse goes... And Lever Number Three gets pulled.

It just got Real O'Clock ya'll! Holden takes a scythe to the neck while driving back toward the Cabin. Anyone else wondering what the hell the zombie was doing in the back of the RV all that time? Playing 'Words With Friends'? Sewing an errant toe back on? Joining hair club for men? No matter, it's out of the frying pan and off a cliff for Dana. There can be only one Highlander and I guess she's it. I'm adding 'swimming anywhere I can't see the bottom' to the list of things I'll never do again. We find out Dana's death is optional in the scenario but she must suffer no matter what. 

The Evil League of Evil is poppin' off  like the nerdiest Bourbon Street Mardi Gras you've ever seen. That glitch in the electrical system from before has come back to rain on their parade (something is rotten in the State of Denmark and the big red phone starts ringing). It's a movie/television staple: if there's a big red phone; it will inevitably ring and always with bad news. Red is not the color of glad tidings. There's a Marty-shaped wrench in the works, everybody! Proof positive that if you don't see someone die on screen, they might not actually be dead. Like a stoned phoenix rising from the ashes, Marty steps in and saves Dana from the WWE-style ass kicking she was getting. Marty's street cred just shot through the roof. They both hop in the grave where the Buckner family came from and then climb into the elevator that sent the undead hicks up to play. Marty bypasses all sorts of technology and they end up on the most fucked up episode of 'Cribs', EVER. As the pair progresses even closer to Raccoon City, Dana has an epiphany and realizes they chose their own doom by raising the horrors that are trying to kill them. They have a sweet moment where they hug it out. Why has no one tried to sex up Marty this whole time? Tragic. 

It doesn't take long for HQ to track them down and re-route their elevator to a lower level lobby. Marty, Dana, and a disembodied zombie arm fight off a guard and we hear "The Director" over the speaker system; voiced and played by Sigourney Weaver. She goes Super-Villain 101 and regurgitates the concept we've all been processing for the last hour and a half : You have to die so the world can live. Marty and Dana decide to fuck shit up instead and lock themselves in the control room adjacent the lobby where they press the big red button that says "purge". Here's a thought... Maybe don't put the big button of doom smack in the middle of the console where anybody could push it. The blood and guts quotient ratchets up tenfold in no time. There's a veritable Jackson Pollock of gore happening in the lobby that is nothing short of impressive. Absolute pandemonium is running rampant throughout the facility, with monsters and death everywhere. I have to give the security guards respect because though they were only ever going to die (if we don't know your name, consider yourself cannon fodder), they don't turn tail and run as many of us would when confronted with killer unicorns, poltergeists, and zombies, etc.

Back at Mission Control we say good-bye to Truman; rest in peace, buddy (well... pieces). Agent Hadley finally lays eyes on a merman; and it's the last thing he ever does. They're right, it really would have been a bitch to clean up. Scientist Lin gets snatched up like the last Pringle in the can and (in what is possibly the most surprising kill of the film) Dana stabs Agent Sitterson. I don't know if I'm experiencing the cinematic equivalent of Stockholm Syndrome... But I might actually be more upset that Mission Control died than the Scooby Gang. Dana and Marty wander ever farther into the depths of the complex and eventually find their way to the Tribute Room where all the carvings we've seen throughout the film are housed. The Director appears and explains the last bits of the puzzle, though most has already been revealed. There must be at least five tributes to the gods; they must be young and specifically a whore (who has to die first), an athlete, a scholar, a fool and a virgin. All must suffer and die at the hands of whatever horror they raise; leaving the virgin to live or die as fate decides (or the ancient gods who once ruled the earth will rise again and destroy the world).

There are eight minutes left until the sun rises and time to complete the ritual runs out; The Director appeals to Marty to allow his death. And in another surprise move, Dana prepares to shoot Marty but becomes a lycanthropic snackable while Marty and The Director wrestle to decide the fate of the world. The littlest Buckner somehow makes her way to the Tribute Room and gives The Director an unexpected lobotomy before both of them are dealt with by Marty. Here is where the action comes to a grinding halt. Marty and Dana both apologize for trying to kill each other and they amicably share a joint whilst reflecting upon the state of humanity and the end of the world... ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?!? Did I miss something where we unexpectedly got transported to Oregon? Because I went to college there, and you couldn't spit without hitting somebody having this exact same conversation... Only, you know, without the FATE OF THE WORLD hanging in the balance. Dana and Marty hold hands as they go gently into that good night. Unbelievable! With eight minutes until the end of the world I'd be trying to round as many bases as possible with the last person I'd ever see action from. The Tribute Room quakes and begins to crumble as an evil fist of doom erupts from below and out of the earth, dwarfing the cabin before crushing it and crashing down to cut the screen to black. Credits Roll.