Monday, April 30, 2012

Futures Market, 2012 Edition

It's that time again.

Actually, it's well past that time again due to the fact I procrastinated, which has become an annual tradition for this series, meaning it actually is that time again, so I was right the first time.

So to speak.

If you have no idea what I'm referring to, then welcome to my annual "Futures Market" post, where I attempt to predict how good summer movies will be and how much cash they'll make.

This rarely goes well.

As this blog is what it is, I'm (mostly) limiting the scope of my prognostication to fantasy, science fiction, and superhero films. Those are more or less the only movies I'll pay to see, so they're the only ones I'm even willing to pretend I'm qualified to speak about.

In addition to the self-evident projections about opening gross and the Rotten Tomatoes's Freshness Rating, I'm including a "Required Freshness Rating" representing what I consider the likely cutoff required for me to see it. This is actually no more scientific than the other stats: the chance that I go to the movies has as much to do with the whims of the weather as anything else.

May 4
The Avengers
Projected Opening Weekend: 165 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 92%, but I'm cheating.
Required Freshness Rating: 20% or less

These guesses are more or less meritless: The Avengers has already opened overseas, and the reviews are overwhelmingly positive. I've actually knocked them down by about 5% from the last time I checked (there's almost always some backlash against big-budget flicks that open this strong).

Not that I wouldn't have seen this anyway. I went to see Green Lantern last year when its Freshness rating was less than a third of The Avengers, and I doubt I learned my lesson. Even if the coin had fallen the other way, I suspect I'd still have found my way to the theater opening weekend.

At any rate, it seems that any lingering doubts about Whedon's ability to manage one of the biggest movies ever made were unnecessary: the consensus is that The Avengers is pure awesome. Between the reviews, the scope, and the trailers, it's looking like this one's going to be huge. I'm betting on an opening weekend around $165 million.

May 11
Dark Shadows
Projected Opening Weekend: $35 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 60%
Required Freshness Rating: 92%

I'm betting Dark Shadows opens - and closes - with a whimper. There's nothing in the trailer that seems particularly inspired. At a glance, it looks more like a remake of Beetlejuice than the series it's supposedly based on. Frankly, even if they weren't feeling betrayed, I doubt there's enough fans of the franchise to have much effect, anyway.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure Burton has many fans left, himself. When Alice in Wonderland came out, it cost him what little goodwill he had left. Sure, the man's a legend, but how long has it been since he directed a movie that anyone liked? Ed Wood came out 18 years ago. I'm in a small minority that really liked Sleepy Hollow, but even that was thirteen years ago. I suppose Big Fish (a scant decade old) has a few fans left, but I don't think anyone considers it one of his best.

That said, there's a chance this could be a lot of fun. Even if that's the case, it's odd it's being released in May. This one would have a far better chance in October than it has competing against Avengers, even in its second week.

May 16
The Dictator
Projected Opening Weekend: $20 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 75%
Required Freshness Rating: 95%+

I actually think this will be fun, but I don't see that counting for all that much. I'm not sure what it cost to make, but somehow I doubt its budget was extravagant. It'll do fine for a comedy, but I don't see this becoming another Borat.

My expectation is that most people - myself included - will opt to wait for DVD or Netflix.

May 18
Projected Opening Weekend: $150
Projected Opening Rating: 50% (cheating again)
Required Freshness Rating: 101%

Okay, so I'm being a tad harsh here, but this is the one movie this summer I'm pulling against. I know that, thanks to the international box office, Battleship will do fine in the long run, but I don't want it to. I want this movie to lose more money than any film in the history of cinema. I want it to perform so poorly that the makers of Van Helsing send Battleship's producers a check to help them get back on their feet.

Why? Because this is going too far. This is an alien invasion movie based on the game Battleship.

I know I'm not exactly positioned to take the high road here: the majority of movies I'm planning to see aren't exactly 'original' concepts. But there has to be a line, and while I'm not entirely sure where that line is located, I do know it's at least a mile and a half away from a bunch of Decepticon spaceships on a grid board.

Regardless, there are a handful of reviews up already, so my prediction for the Freshness Rating isn't exactly a blind guess.

May 25
Men in Black III
Projected Opening Weekend: $85 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 75%
Required Freshness Rating: 80%

This one's a dark horse. I assume there's a reason this thing was made, beyond the obvious cash grab. I just can't believe anyone would green light a third MIB movie a decade after the last unless they were holding one hell of a script.

In addition, aspects of the trailers look intriguing. There's a real chance this could be a phenomenal movie. But I remember thinking that about MIB II. It's easy to cut a decent trailer; harder to make a great movie. And it's not as if the trailer is amazing - just kind of interesting. This could really go either way.

Same with the box office, actually. I know that Will Smith was once God's gift to Hollywood producers, but I'm pretty sure those days have passed. The era when his movies were guaranteed blockbusters is over. Honestly, I'm not sure that kind of star-power exists in the Universe anymore: audiences today seem a bit more refined and discerning. People go to the theater based on the look of the film, word of mouth, and their interest in the property. Hell, I think the name of the director has become a larger pull than the star.

That doesn't mean this won't do well. There's still some goodwill out there for the first movie (for good reason: that was a solid flick), and - like I said before - the trailer doesn't look half bad. But this is far from a guaranteed slam-dunk: it's going to take some serious word-of-mouth to make this an immediate success.

Moonrise Kingdom
Projected Opening Weekend: $15 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 90%
Required Freshness Rating: 98%

Including this is a bit of a stretch, as it's not something most people would label a genre film, unless you count "weird" as a genre. But, I'd argue that Wes Anderson films are effectively fantasy. They certainly have geek-appeal.

The trailer for this is certainly fascinating, and I have high expectations for the film. That said, I'd describe the odds that I'll see this in the theater as somewhere between slim and a sepia-tinted none. Given the cost of a ticket, I expect a certain rate of return when it comes to explosions, super-humans, and robots that I don't expect I'll get from this.

Sorry: when it comes to summer entertainment, I've got standards.

Still, I'm eagerly awaiting the day it appears on Netflix.

June 1
Snow White and the Huntsman
Projected Opening Weekend: $115 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 80%
Required Freshness Rating: 80% (or 40% with decent word-of-mouth)

This is a flick with high expectations. Conceptually, the idea of an epic re-imagining of Snow White originally sounded about as good of an idea as an alien-invasion flick based on Battleship. But then the trailer hit and a lot of us changed our tune. Yes, it's starring the chick from Twilight, but everything we've seen so far has looked pretty damn awesome.

Of course, this could easily be a disappointment on many levels. There's a chance we've seen everything cool this movie has to offer, and the rest is permeated with dull melodrama. There's a good chance, in fact: this might be the next Alice in Wonderland. But there's an equal chance this could be an awesome - if silly - fantasy epic.

Personally, I'm looking for one of two things. Either almost uniformly positive reviews, or a split between those loving and hating it. Hell, I'd almost be happier with the latter: while I'd like this to be another solid summer action flick, I'd LOVE it to be another Chronicles of Riddick.

June 8
Projected Opening Weekend: $90 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 85%
Required Freshness Rating: 80%

I'll be the first to admit this may be wishful thinking: maintaining high expectations for Scott's followup to Robin Hood rides the line between optimism and Stockholm Syndrome. But, frankly, I can't help it. The trailers just look so damn cool. And - come on - this is Ridley Scott returning to one of the best films of at least two genres.

But... damn. I think it's been thirty years since Ridley Scott made a movie I actually liked (Blade Runner was the last), and there are plenty of reasons to doubt he still remembers how to direct something that doesn't suck.

Even so, I'm going with the "glass half-full" interpretation. Here's hoping.

June 22
Projected Opening Weekend: $70 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 95%
Required Freshness Rating: 30%

If my expectations for this film are high, it's because Pixar's record - while no longer entirely unblemished - remains extremely impressive. On top of that, the trailers we've seen for Brave have been strong.

I'm basing the opening weekend projection on trends for the company (exempting recent sequels). Actually, the pattern seems to point closer to the $60 Million range, but I'm nudging that up for a few reasons. First, contrary to Hollywood assumptions, girls and women do, in fact, like to watch movies, and they've waited an awfully long time for a female protagonist. On top of that, I suspect Pixar's fans will react favorably to a turn-around after last summer's less-than-stellar Cars 2. A return to greatness would make for a compelling narrative, which should inflate the movie's performance - possibly dwarfing my projection.

That said, this is a two-headed coin. I have every confidence this is going to be on par with the company's legacy, but if I'm wrong - if this is somehow another Cars 2 - the narrative will read that Pixar really has jumped the Bruce, and Brave will be lucky to pull half what I'm predicting.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Projected Opening Weekend: $60 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 65%
Required Freshness Rating: 80% (or at least the right 40%)

This has a lot of promise, but the jury's still out on whether it can deliver. For a movie that's being lost in the shuffle of big-budget superhero projects, the trailers for this have certainly been intriguing. I haven't read the novel it's based on, but at a glance this looks like one of the year's more ambitious concepts.

This is a movie I'm extremely hopeful for, but perhaps not as optimistic about. Timur Bekmambetov directed Wanted, a decent action film that should have been a batshit crazy movie about super-villains (don't ask). But if Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is just a decent action movie, I've got no interest in seeing it. This really needs to be something special; something as unique in tone as it is in concept.

If it can pull that off, I'll be there. Maybe not opening weekend (I'm pretty much committed to Brave) but soon after.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Projected Opening Weekend: $20 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 80%
Required Freshness Rating: 95%

I'll admit up front that I probably won't see this in the theater, no matter how good it's supposed to be (though if there's a heat wave in the last week of June, who can say?). That said, I'm kind of fascinated by the tone of the trailer.

If you haven't heard of this one, we've got something in common: I stumbled across the trailer while assembling this list. Apparently, it's an SF apocalyptic film chronicling its leads' last days before an asteroid exterminates all life from the planet.

The movie looks like it might have some guts, blending dark comedy with an solemn acceptance about what's coming. Characters in the trailer behave in bizarre and irrational ways, but there's something almost believable about the whole thing. It looks pretty cool, actually.

June 29
G.I. Joe: Retaliation
Projected Opening Weekend: $85 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 65%
Required Freshness Rating: 80% (or at least the right 40%)

This has to be one of the more bizarre sequel/reboots I've ever seen. At the end of the first movie Cobra was defeated in every single one of their objectives, except for the only one that actually mattered, which no one outside of the organization knew about. Despite the Joes' celebration, at the closing credits, Cobra more or less seized control of the country, leaving the door open for a sequel.

There was just one small problem.

Aside from that ending and a handful of fun moments, the movie was pretty bad. A lot of comes down to casting: part one had what may be the least appropriate cast I've seen in years. The GI Joes are supposed to be an elite military force, not a bunch of geeks.

Frankly, this isn't a team I should look at and think, "Hey, I'd fit right in with those guys!"

Well, the director of the second movie seems to have had the same complaint the rest of us did: with the exception of Snake Eyes, all the good guys have been cycled out for actors who could beat me up and take my lunch money (as it should be). At the same time, it looks like issues with the design and tone have been fixed, at least if the trailers are to be trusted.

Personally, I'd have preferred they simply recast the characters, since as a child of the 80's, I'm partial to their names if nothing else. Instead, they seem to be killing all the characters from part one, so they can replace them with other Joes.

I guess that works, too.

July 3
The Amazing Spider-Man
Projected Opening Weekend: $85 Million (Fri - Sun); $115 Million for the 4-day weekend
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 70%
Required Freshness Rating: 50%

I almost wish this movie looked worse, so I could just write it off and call it a day. The thing is, it actually looks... fine. The trailers and scenes aren't great, but they're pretty solid, provided you accept them for what they are. But what they are looks to be a darker, grittier Spider-Man.

For Grodd's sake, didn't we learn in the 90's that Spider-Man is not and shouldn't be Batman? Parker's got a tough life, but at the end of the day, his life isn't a tragedy even if his origin is.

On top of that, repeating the origin story is an utter waste of time. You want to tell a Spider-Man story where Parker's in high school? Don't sweat it: the only people who remember he graduated in Raimi's first movie are those of us who are going to follow the interviews close enough to realize that it's a reboot. No one else will notice or care.

What's really shocking about Amazing Spider-Man is that it has the 4th of July weekend. If I was running Warner Bros., I'd have wedged Dark Knight Rises into this slot and dared Sony to stand their ground. For the life of me, I can't understand why Dark Knight is opening at the end of the month instead of what could have been the largest weekend of the year.

At the end of the day, I expect I'll go see this. It is a superhero movie, after all. Hell, I might even love it. But I really wish they'd gone a different route.

July 13
Projected Opening Weekend: $45 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 40%
Required Freshness Rating: 80%

The red-band trailer for Ted is kind of awesome, and I want to be optimistic. But... here's the thing: this is Seth MacFarlane, creator of Family Guy. And the strength of Family Guy isn't exactly in its ability to build a compelling narrative.

If MacFarlane can overcome that, this just might be something special; perhaps something incredible. But I'm skeptical.

Even if it's a critical flop, I expect it'll perform admirably for a comedy. But I'm not seeing this unless I get some assurance it's more than a string of crass jokes. That might be enough to keep me laughing through a trailer, but it'll take more to carry a movie.

July 20
The Dark Knight Rises
Projected Opening Weekend: $150 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 85%
Required Freshness Rating: 30%

It's a Batman movie; I'll almost certainly be there. This time, that's the easy question. Everything else is a lot harder.

It's tempting to shrug and say that, as the follow-up to one of the most successful films of all time, this will dominate the box office. And, as a matter of fact, I'm betting on just that. But I don't think it's as sure a bet as you might think.

The Dark Knight was a perfect storm of strong buzz, iconic characters, and positive reviews, all pushed over the top by the tragic death of Heath Ledger. Even before it opened, it had taken on mythic proportions: the fact that the movie could actually back those expectations up with quality pushed it over the top.

There's little doubt the film set to wrap this series will get a bump from its predecessor, but there's a chance it might not be anywhere near what most of us expect. Negative buzz around Bane, who's quickly becoming something of a joke due to his garbled speech and odd design, are making a lot of people wary about the picture. If the movie doesn't deliver, it could easily cement this narrative, stifling the film's box-office potential.

On the other hand, there's a really good chance that Nolan's got an ace up his sleeve. It's easy to forget that he managed to suppress knowledge about Ra's al Ghul's true identity in part one and the extent of Two-Face's inclusion in part two: he's sneaky that way.

I'm betting he's got some surprises in store for us this time, as well. I'm not sure whether that's going to involve a return of Ra's Al Ghul (we know he's in the film in some capacity, but it could be nothing more than a flashback), a sustained appearance from Two-Face (I've always been suspicious of his "death"), or even something more out there (I'll admit it's a long shot, but I still think a third-act fight between The Dark Knight and The Man of Steel is within the realm of possibility). Something like that could reinvigorate audiences and push revenues through the roof.

July 27
Neighborhood Watch
Projected Opening Weekend: $10 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 35%
Required Freshness Rating: 95%

I'm not sure what to make of this. I hadn't heard of this until putting this together, when I saw the description and decided to track down the trailer. Apparently, this is about a neighborhood watch which uncovers an alien invasion (hence its inclusion). Only there's nothing like that in the trailer; just a dumb-looking comedy.

Then again, I've been pleasantly surprised by Ben Stiller comedies in the past, so who knows?

August 3
The Bourne Legacy
Projected Opening Weekend: $25 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 60%
Required Freshness Rating: 95%

Anyone out there still care about the Bourne franchise? Personally, I lost interest after the second and never got around to number three. Given that the concept was pretty much played out in the initial movie, I'm a little confused as to why these keep going.

Total Recall
Projected Opening Weekend: $70 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 35%
Required Freshness Rating: 85%

I love Total Recall: it's a hell of a movie that holds up pretty well. So. With all the possible new ideas out there, why dedicate the budget and time to break something that doesn't need fixing?

This one might end up surprising us. It might put a different spin on the project or it may deliver awesome effects or fantastic effects or magic unicorns that literally leap off the screen and into the theater.

I wouldn't hold your breath for any of those things. More likely than not, this is going to be this year's Conan: The Barbarian.

August 17
Projected Opening Weekend: $35 Million
Projected Opening Freshness Rating: 80%
Required Freshness Rating: 80%

This one definitely has potential. ParaNorman is one of three movies being released this year filmed in stop-motion, the animation form that utterly died out about fifteen years ago when it was forever replaced by computer animation.

The teaser for this was atmospheric and fascinating; the trailer isn't quite on par, but it's still pretty cool. This could go either way, but I'm cautiously optimistic that it'll be a solid animated flick.

In Summary

Movies I'll Definitely See:
The Avengers
The Dark Knight Rises

Movies I'll Probably See:
The Amazing Spider-Man
Men in Black III
Snow White and the Huntsman
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Movies I'll Probably Skip but Wish I'd Seen Later
Moonrise Kingdom
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Unlikely, But You Never Know
Dark Shadows
The Dictator
Total Recall
Neighborhood Watch

Movies I Almost Certainly Won't Be Seeing This Summer
The Bourne Legacy

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Pirates! Band of Misfits

As I write this, The Pirates! is getting crushed at the US box office, which is a shame but not a surprise.
Like many misunderstood films before it, what's advertised and what's delivered are two very different products.

Not surprisingly, the trailer stresses this as a kid's movie; it plays up the zaniness and slapstick and suggests a narrative centering around a "pirate of the year award." At a glance, the movie seems to be very light flick exclusively for young kids.

Those of you who dislike cloying pieces of cinematic garbage will be glad to hear the movie's nothing like that. The only complication is that "what it is" is incredibly difficult to pin down. But I'll give it a shot, starting with the title.

"The Pirates! Band of Misfits" isn't actually what this movie is called, at least not in the country where it was made. Like the book it's based on, this movie's title is "The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists." Both titles are awkward, but in the British version it's clearly intentional.

I'm not sure what bothers me more: that the distributors have such a low opinion of our country they think we're unwilling to pay admission to a movie with the word "scientist" in the title or the idea that they may be right.

This is ultimately satire, not slapstick. And, contrary to the trailer, the tone is surprisingly subdued. The movie is, for lack of a better word, chill, largely set to a score of British pop music and slipping more jokes into the sets than anywhere else. It's generally light fare and mostly kid-safe, providing kids won't be bothered by the heroes having a nonchalant conversation on the joys of running people through (there's not a lot of that onscreen, but the good-natured protagonists certainly aren't ambiguous about being murderers, nor do they seem particularly ashamed about the particulars of their profession).

This is, simply put, a quintessentially British animated film being marketed for an American audience. Personally, I think they'd have had more luck being a bit more honest. There aren't a huge number of people left who'd go see a movie on that alone, but I'm betting there's more money in British humor than in what was advertised (especially with Box Office Mojo questioning whether it'll even break the $10 million mark this weekend).

This is neat little film, but don't feel bad if you're holding off. This one should play just as well on a small screen in the comfort of your living room.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

50 Reasons Community is Better than Star Trek: The Next Generation

In recognition of Community's recent nomination for a Hugo, I wanted to take a moment to celebrate the series as more than merely exceptional television: I wanted to recognize it as science fiction.

That the episode nominated belongs in the genre is self-evident, but I believe the truth goes deeper: I believe that, in its entirety, the series is a work of science fiction. I have a lucid and in-depth argument to back up that claim, but I don't feel like going into that now. Or possibly ever.

Instead, I wanted to do something more inline with internet norms and create animosity and strife where none is called for. With that in mind, I've prepared a brief list demonstrating why Community is a better show than the other series I recently watched, a series which exists - as far as I can tell - primarily to have people point out how much better other SF series are.

I refer, of course, to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Sure, Next Gen has a great cast and at least half a dozen episodes so good you forget you're watching Star Trek: The Next Generation, but overall... it's not exactly the high point of geek culture.

With that in mind, here are 50 reasons that Community is better than Star Trek: The Next Generation:
  1. Given a phase inverter, Troy could easily realign a tangled warp coil, but there's no way in hell LaForge could have transformed the library sprinkler system in time with the tools Troy had available.
  2. In seven seasons on Next Gen, LeVar Burton never once sang the Reading Rainbow song.
  3. Winger is 25% less sleazy than Riker.
  4. Community's study group didn't need Wesley Crusher to save their asses every other episode for the first season.
  5. No TOS alum ever did anything for the Kevins of the world on Next Gen.
  6. Community has had more war episodes in three seasons than Next Gen can claim in seven.
  7. KFC makes a more interesting space ship than the United Federation of Planets.
  8. I don't think I can stomach one more idiotic hand of poker played by the Enterprise bridge crew, but I could watch Advanced Dungeons & Dragons at least a hundred more times without losing interest.
  9. Community's smugness is concentrated into a single character, rather than permeating the entire goddamn series.
  10. Abed is a far better Data than Data ever was.
  11. Next Gen never had George Takei as a guest star.
  12. Let's keep score. Mirror-Verse episodes: Next Gen - 0. Community - at least 1.
  13. The technology behind the Holodeck is suspect; the Dreamatorium is above reproach.
  14. As villains, City College offers far more dramatic antagonists than the Romulans.
  15. The Borg are a decent substitute, but nothing beats genuine zombies.
  16. Community has already given the world three Christmas episodes: Next Gen never produced a single one.
  17. At least Dean Pelton is honest about his interest in Winger. It's obvious that every admiral in Star Fleet wants Picard: why the hell are they so repressed?
  18. The Enterprise has miles of crawl-ways and jefferies tubes winding throughout the ship. And not a single one houses a renegade monkey.
  19. There was a western-themed episode of Next Gen, but it wasn't a billionth as good as Fistful of Paintballs.
  20. If you're going to use one set for 60% of your shots, you might as well be honest about it.
  21. Klingons are overused, but the fly-dancers leave us wanting more.
  22. It's close, but Abed's movie where he's Jesus is even cooler than Data's ode to his cat.
  23. Data's cat is named "Spot". Troy's monkey is named "Annie's Boobs".
  24. In seven years, Next Gen has offered thousands of "explanations" for how various pieces of technology functioned. And not a single one of these is as scientifically plausible as the pretend multiverse portal designed by the study group's Model UN to visit the pretend parallel Earth housing a rival Model UN.
  25. The bridge crew can put on as many goddamn plays as they want: none will ever be 100th as memorable as "Troy and Abed in the Morning."
  26. The alien worlds are always underwhelming. The blanket fort is awe-inspiring.
  27. The study group didn't need a McGuffin to save their school: they did it with blood, sweat, and paintballs.
  28. Annie has more organizational skill than the entire bridge crew combined.
  29. Batman never appears in a single episode of Next Gen.
  30. None of the seedy alien bars the bridge crew visits can hold a candle to Fort Hawthorne.
  31. Han Solo never shows up in Next Gen (or any iteration of Star Trek, for that matter), but Abed's portrayal in For a Few Paintballs More totally counts.
  32. Anbo-Jitsu is stupid; foosball is awesome.
  33. Due to ceiling constraints, you could never generate a satisfactory trampoline in the holodeck.
  34. This one probably goes without saying, but there wasn't a single stop-motion episode of Next Gen. Actually, I don't think there was any stop-motion used in the show, period. And it really could have benefited from some more interesting aliens.
  35. Actions have consequences in Community.
  36. Next Gen has no shortage of time anomalies. In fact, it feels like every other episode revolves a temporal anomaly. But no one on that show is cool enough to predict the future based on observed behavior.
  37. Community is enlightened enough to know that not every black woman over the age of 50 is a cosmic mentor. Sorry, Guinan.
  38. All of Riker's weird dates are creepy. Abed's weird date with Robin was sweet.
  39. Picard and Riker's fathers gave them neuroses, but Andre Bennett's father gave him that sweater.
  40. Despite precedent laid down by the original series, Next Gen never spun off into an animated series. Community, on the other hand, gave us this.
  41. Abed's alien costume from the season 2 Halloween episode is cooler than any alien suits or makeup in the entirety of Next Gen.
  42. Next Gen had dozens of bottle-episodes. And not one puppy parade.
  43. The children on Next Gen always speak in stilted dialogue and are poorly directed. In contrast, the Changlorious Bastards were awesome.
  44. While neither should be licensed, I think I'd feel better getting psychoanalyzed by Britta than by Diana Troy. Sure, Britta has issues, but at least she's capable of learning from her mistakes. After seven seasons of psychic attacks and strange aliens communicating through dreams, Diana still assumes every time someone reports experiencing something weird, it's all in their head.
  45. Both Next Gen and Community start with three major female characters, but all of Community's survive to season 2.
  46. The outfits. Sure, the Starfleet uniforms are pretty cool, but when they're off duty, the crew of the Enterprise wears things made from curtains. Really, really ugly curtains. And that's a hell of a lot better than what most alien cultures wear.
  47. The study group saved Greendale. The Federation deteriorated the fabric of space with warp fields.
  48. Common sense and human decency: the Greendale study group has never taken children into space.
  49. The Federation has a flag, but it isn't memorable. The Greendale Community College flag: definitely memorable.
  50. Community handles its homages with panache. On Next Gen, they're just really, really bizarre.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

It's much easier to review movies critics don't understand than ones they do. Professional movie critics make fantastic antagonists when they're wrong. When they're right, it just begs the question of why the rest of us should bother. Unfortunately, just like with Hunger Games, the critics "got" The Cabin in the Woods. Despite this, I do have a few thoughts.

The Cabin in the Woods is a solid little horror/comedy flick. It's a lot of fun in a campy sort of way. In addition, it's quite clever in framing and delivering its point.

As such, it's kind of an anomaly: a horror movie that's a critical darling (as evidenced by its impressive freshness rating). The ideas explored are perfect for people familiar with the genre, though possibly less so for die-hard fans who may be bothered by the fact it sides more with comedy than horror and cares more about being clever than being scary.

I should note this wasn't a problem for me. While I've seen a handful of horror films, it's the one genre where I prefer camp to more serious offerings. Ultimately, The Cabin in the Woods feels about as close to a horror movie made for me as is possible. I'm not sure that's a good thing, though, at least not for everyone. If you're looking for palpable scares and real dread, you're not going to find it here. While there's some gore and more than a few sequences designed to make you jump (including a title sequence that's nothing short of brilliant), you'll spend more time laughing than cringing.

As the title and premise suggest, there's a touch of Evil Dead 2 in this movie, minus a comically effective protagonist. Though, given the film's writers, there was a brief moment towards the finale when I half expected Buffy to break through a door and start dishing out some supernatural justice. Of course she didn't, but it's telling that such an ending wouldn't have felt out of place.

I enjoyed this one quite a bit, and I'm glad to see it's getting critical recognition. The box-office returns feel a bit low, but having seen the movie, that makes sense. This one's a little too timid to appeal to serious horror fans, but stills shows enough teeth to deserve its 'R' rating (i.e.: if you can't take an impaling or two, you won't enjoy this movie). That really doesn't leave a huge audience in the middle to make it a huge success.