Red Dawn: jingoistic and unnecessary

Red-Dawn

The jingoistic Red Dawn, in which North Korea invades America in the very near future, is the unfortunate  movie Chris Hemsworth signed up for when he was still an unknown and maybe  living, if not under a rock, perhaps in a pickup truck. After MGM went belly-up in ’09, Red Dawn was, for all intents and purposes, left on a shelf somewhere to gather dust – hence why it’s only now seeing the cold harsh light of day.

If you read the first sentence correctly, you’re probably wondering how North Korea (population 25 million) can raise enough invaders to attack the Unites States (population 315 million). Short answer is, thy probably can’t. You see the original screenplay for this remake named the invaders as Chinese. After principal photography was completed on the film three years ago, the enemy identity was changed to North Korea by reshooting several scenes, redubbing lots of dialogue and using digital adjustment to change the looks of flags, uniforms and insignia on trucks and tanks. Why? Because China is one of the biggest markets for American movie exports. North Korea, not so much.

In this remake of the 1984 cult classic, the able Hemsworth plays Jed Eckert, an emotionally bruised veteran on a visit home to Spokane after a few tours in the Middle East. His little brother  Matt (Josh Peck) is the quarterback of his high school football team. After a prologue of talking heads giving a political “primer” on declining  relations with North Korea, the film opens with Jed and the boys’ dad (Brett  Cullen) watching in dismay as the Wolverines lose their game.

The brothers Eckert wake the very next day to the sight of North Korean paratroopers floating down from the sky. Spokane is soon under foreign  control, as well as other American cities. The boys escape to their family’s hunting cabin with a crew of  friends and acquaintances, including a pair of younger, handily tech-savvy geeks  played by Josh Hutcherson (The Hunger Games) and Conor Cruise (son of Tom Cruise).

Under Jed’s tutelage they emerge as Wolverines – teenage ass-kickers raising  hell for those dopey invaders, who bumble and stumble and can do little more  than raise a frustrated fist at the pesky kids. Only one of them, their leader Captain  Lo (Will Yun Lee) even gets a name.

Adrianne Palicki, Isabel Lucas and Alyssa  Diaz provide the girl power, all of which is very PG (no bunker hook-ups  for these kids) while Peck projects such pained  sensitivity that I had doubts about his characters ability to make a sandwich, let alone  kill dozens of Koreans.

If the movie finds an audience, that audience will most likely be 14  and oblivious to the fact that there ever was an earlier Red Dawn.

Definitely one to stay away from.

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DVD Review: The Cabin in the Woods

Out on DVD Next week we have The Cabin in the Woods, the horror genre hybrid of writer-turned-director Director Drew Goddard and co-writer/producer Joss Whedon.

On a surface level, the film follows five friends Curt (Chris Hemsworth), Holden (Jesse Williams), Jules (Anna Hutchison), Marty (Fran Kranz) and Dana (Kristen Connolly) as they go on holidays to a country cabin for a weekend of drinking, skinny-dipping, and other suitably scandalous antics.

As their journey comes to a close, the fivesome encounter an ill-tempered gas pump attendant who, despite his disdain for college kids, warns the group about their destination and asserts that visitors regularly disappear up in them there woods. Dismissing the warnings, the group reach the cabin where, surprise surprise, things quickly turn sour.

In the same way that Scream winkingly riffed on the slasher film template, The Cabin In The Woods is aimed at audiences who are already familiar with haunted house movies. Wry nods to The Evil Dead, Hellraiser and A Tale Of Two Sisters, among others, will delight fanatics. But it’s also an admirably reflective send up, and readily questions the horror film industry’s ritualistic obsession with specific stereotypes.

A surprisingly entertaining effort, The Cabin in the Woods strikes a smart balance by embracing, as well as rejecting, the viewer’s expectations and knowledge of the horror genre.

The set-up is executed with a tongue-in-cheek attitude but presented with a straight face that could be off-putting for viewers who are expecting a straightforward slasher film or a “gritty” and serious scare-fest (such as The Descent or Hostel).

The final product, however, succeeds in paying homage to the movies that inspired it, poking fun at the often static state of the horror genre, all while simultaneously delivering a few fresh surprises. Anyone willing to suspend a bit of disbelief and not get too bogged down in the film’s logic will likely be ready for an entertaining and worthwhile experience. Definitly worth a rental.

Snow White and the Huntsman: All the right fairytale ingredients

Film Jam

by Kelly O’Brien

From the dawn of time, mankind have been telling and retelling fairy tales. Originally, these tales were a lot more gruesome than Walt Disney et al would have you believe. In the last few decades, the bedside stories have become watered-down versions of their former selves: princesses are passive, Kings are honest, and warriors are manly and virtuous.

Snow White and the Huntsman, I’m happy to relate, is nothing like the modern-day fairy tales we’ve become so accustomed to. It has all the right ingredients: a beautiful princess, an evil step-mother, a loving father and a handsome ‘prince’, but it doesn’t follow the recipe of its predecessors.

The tale begins when stunning/cunning Ravenna (Charlize Theron) wheedles her way into a royal marriage only to murder her husband and king on their wedding night, thus taking the kingdom for her own. She has her new step-daughter, Princess Snow…

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The Avengers: an absolute Marvel

the avengers

With Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises and Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spiderman still to hit cinemas, it’s looking like a definitive year for superhero movies as The Avengers storms the big screen and wins over critics across the globe.

The premise of the movie is simplistic – bad guy Loki hatches world-domination scheme, petulant but kind-heated good guys swoop in to save the day, Scarlett Johansson in leather looks damn hot. But somehow, somewhere along the way, it becomes a lot more than that.

Six gifted and special people, Iron Man (Downey Jr), The Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), have to come together despite their differences to stand against Loki, a Norse deity hell-bent on ruling the earth with an iron fist.

Usually, movies that feature an abundance of big name stars are not to my taste. Take, for example, New Year’s Eve or Valentine’s Day – lots of stars, not a lot of substance. The Avengers, I’m happy to report, is nothing like either of those films.

The cast, which features Hollywood A-listers such as Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, Samuel L Jackson and Gwyneth Paltrow, meld fantastically with each other and with the storyline.

Prior to The Avengers, we saw Iron Man 1 and 2, The Incredible Hulk, Thor and Captain America. Each of these films, while not to be seen as prequels, did indeed do the job they were created to do – they gave the main Avengers depth, backstory, and character while being box office success stories in their own right. Granted, Black Widow and Hawkeye were left out of this process and, as such, weren’t developed as much as they could have been, but I see that as an unfortunate casualty of an otherwise fantastic development process.

Though I do genuinely love this new method, I have to note that some of the previous Marvel Movies weren’t quite up to scratch. It seemed as if the Captain America installment was not as thought out as either Iron Man or The Hulk and that it was only there to fill the gap until the 2012 release of The Avengers. I also thought that Thor, though it was a joy to behold 114 minutes of Chris Hemsworth, was a bit of a let down in places.

But whether it’s down to the previous films, the stellar cast, or Joss Whedon’s scriptwriting prowess, The Avengers itself is clearly the best
Marvel Movie to date. The acting is near impeccable, the action is raw and the jokes are hilarious. Stark is his usual cheeky self, Bruce Banner is broodingly deep and Thor is just as beautiful as he ever was. There’s also something disturbingly attractive about terrifically entertaining Asguard bad boy Loki played by the fantastic Tom Hiddleson who, according to many critics ‘steals the show’.

Mark Ruffalo’s Hulk was also a breath of fresh air in this sneakily unique heavy hitter. He gives his character more depth than either Eric Bana OR Edward Norton (something I never thought I’d admit) and is both endearing and heart-wrenching in his portrayal of Bruce Banner. Instead of going for the “woe is me, I get angry and smash things” angle, his manner and acting style hint towards a deeper, more depressing self-loathing.

What I like about the film, is that it deviates from the traditional ‘Good vs Evil’ trend just the right amount. There’s the bad guy, obviously, and the quest to save humanity… but there’s also some interesting in-fighting and tension between avengers. It’s clear that they all come from different moral standpoints, and I think Joss Whedon did a great job using that to his advantage.

I also like the fact that it does exactly what it says on the tin. Here’s a Marvel Movie for people who like action movies, for people who like Marvel Comics, for people who always played the “Who would win in a fight…” game and, of course, for people who want to drool over Chris Hemsworth and Scarlett Johansson.

If you see nothing else this month, go see this. You won’t be disappointed.

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