Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Joss Whedon: A Renaissance

Who would have known? Avengers got an early release here in Vietnam (I am travelling on business) and I had the privilege of seeing this movie before my friends in the U.S. I can only hope that someone reads this before it comes out because it was well worth the time and money to see the film. In fact, I might even want to watch it again because it was so entertaining. Though The Avengers was great, I just wanted to expand the topic a little bit to focus more so on Joss Whedon, the director of not only this movie but produced another work that recently came out, The Cabin in the Woods.

Now just to preface anything on The Cabin in the Woods, I came into this movie with nearly no expectations. I did not even realize until the opening credits that Joss Whedon had even been involved in the project. It was  a sort of meta film that poked fun at all the conventions of modern Horror films. If you want a movie that involves ghosts, hellraisers, giant snakes, zombies and even a *gasp* violent unicorn kill then this movie is definitely for you. It involves the usual shtick of a lot of slasher horror films with a bunch of young adults going out to a cabin in the woods for a nice little weekend. Of course, ghouls, killers and buckets of blood come out to play and haunt these kids. You can sense Joss' conventions in the film with some pretty original thoughts on the horror genre and I must say this director, Drew Goddard, might have a pretty bright future in the industry as well.

Joss' star is on the up and up. He has had a lot of success in television with Buffy but also saw some commercial failures in Firefly and Dollhouse. Marvel, from a business stand point was taking a bit of a risk on Joss when they decided to let him take the helm on the Avengers. His only other venture on to the big screen as a director was muddled debut called Serentiy. Honestly, it is one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time and thought the marketing was muddled and mediocre at best.

Anyways, Avengers did a great job of keeping the plot moving at a fast pace but still fill enough camera time and action for each of the characters involved. A few small surprises and revelations with each character grappling with their new roles as becoming key members of a new team in fighting a cunning and manipulative enemy. I was surprised how much plot development there was with so many opportunities for big name actors and characters to steal the show. If anything, I only wish there was more dialogue but I think a lot of the camera work and long takes helped tell the story.

Go see Avengers and if you have an open mind, go see The Cabin in the Woods. It will be time well spent.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012


Wow, has it really been a year and a half? So much has changed, I got a new job, new friends and family (looking at you Lucy) and most of all, have found a new appreciation for the city I love above all else. For now, I will stick with something light, a movie review, before I step into anything more serious.

Drive -


I feel like lately, some studios have been taking risks on established, though off-beat by any standard, European directors. Nicolas Winding Refn definitely seems like he has a pedigree for violence, blood and restraint? This movie was a little different from what I expected and in a good way. If you are looking for a Michael Bay/Jerry Bruckheimer CGI orgy with tons of action and shitty dialogue then this move would be the polar opposite.* The movie stars Ryan Gosling (Notebook) as an almost silent protagonist as he journeys through life as a stunt driver/mechanic/getaway driver in Hollywood who is trying to make it big as a race car driver with the support of his mechanic boss played by Bryan Cranston (Breaking Bad). Of course things go awry when he gets involved with the "girl next door"/literal girl next door played by Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go). A shit storm ensues.

Film's Conventions

In a very minimalistic style, Refn successfully raises the tension without having to spell everything out for you which is where he successfully uses a lot of restraint in telling the story. The character of the driver himself seems like a man of few words, probably from his unspoken past spent on the road as a drifter. I really appreciate that in a film with all this cgi, testerone infused, confused drivel that gets released by studios. Though the story, in a sense, did not feel like the most original thing in the world, it definitely conducted itself in a refreshing way. Names like Christina Hendricks (Mad Men) were used in ways you would not expect. Despite having those exceptional curves, they did a great job making her look really white trash rather than another sexed up bombshell to attract the audience. Hell, they even casted Albert Brooks (Finding Nemo) in a serious role. The scenes of violence were great ways to help raise the bar of tension as they often came suddenly and quickly. At times, the film is hypnotic with it's lack of dialogue and great use of cinematography but sudden shifts in plot keep you off balanced enough making for a great thriller.


I definitely would not recommend this movie to anyone, as I would say about pretty much any movie. If you like the smash, bang and pop of films like The Island, Con Air, Transformers and Italian Job then this is definitely not a movie I would advise you to see. The subtleties might go over your head. However, at the same time if you like those movies but can still appreciate films with more understated plot points like Lost in Translation, Thin Red Line and Babel then this is certainly a movie for you. Think shockingly bloody violence wrapped in a box with a bow. Very pretty presentation but with a little blood splattered to make a nice accent.

*Note to self: future blog post? Do the opposite of those two directors and you will have a critically acclaimed work.