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By: Jeffrey Ford
By: Jeffrey Ford

The best and worst of April and previews of The Avengers and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

(Editor's Note: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is only in limited release and will not be appearing here this Friday.  Sorry for the confusion)

The summer movie season is upon us.  The days will soon be filled with all the studios potential blockbusters, encompassing everything from comic book superheroes, a prequel to a sci-fi classic, board games and toys, to name a few.  It is far from the most cerebral of times but that is not a bad thing.  I love turning off my brain for a few hours and watching the chaos that unfolds before my eyes.

Before we look forward, it is time to look back.  The month of April has drawn to a close, and while the pickings were slim, I was able to determine the films that I feel represent the best and worst of the month.  However, I do feel conflicted about my choice for worst.

Lockout should have worked as a simple action film based on concept alone.  The prisoners of a high security prison, located in space, riot and take control.  One of the hostages turns out to be the President’s daughter.  It all comes down to one man who must infiltrate the facility and rescue her.  The story has been a staple of cheesy 80’s action movies; the lone wolf battling insurmountable odds.  For a while, it does what it intends to do. 

Guy Pearce’s Snow is a complete arse in all the best ways.  When he is on screen, his character is quick with the quip and his nonchalant attitude towards the situation he’s in, makes the film bearable.  Unfortunately, there are long periods of the film where he is absent.  During these times, the shoddy editing, horrible CGI and the lackluster acting bring the pace down to a complete crawl.

The film also appears to be a conglomerate of the worst of clichés.  It would appear the screenwriters went back and tried to pick out the best elements of those made for Scyfy channel films and failed in that respect.  The part where the film was forever derailed was a Deus Ex Machina contrivance so egregious that its position as worst of the month was cemented.  It involves a crash that is not set up beforehand and exists only to off a character and to speed the film on to its conclusion.  All it would have taken was a quick word or an establishing shot beforehand and, while all would not have been forgiven, it would have a gone a long way to alleviate the problem.  Instead, it just shows the haphazard way this film was made.

 A good character cannot save a film when the rest is a complete mess.  A good 80’s style action film could be made from the premise but this task is above almost all participants.  Only Guy Pearce comes out relatively unscathed, although I doubt this is one film he would put on his resume.  Final rating is 2 out of 5.

From the bottom of the barrel to the cream of the crop, April’s best movie was easier to pick out.  It also resides in a genre that one would not normally associate with quality.

When one thinks of horror films, the images that normally spring to mind are dumb, blonde bimbos doing mind-numbingly stupid things that hastens their demise, the jerk jock who represents the epitome of the alpha male stereotype, the foolish stoner who spends the entire movie looking for his next hit, the nerdy guy who is shy around the woman, and the virginal heroine that outlasts all to conquer the villain in the end.  All are being chased by some deranged lunatic looking to off whomever is unfortunate enough to stand in its way.  It’s a convention that has lasted for decades and woe to the films that dare to defy it.  The horror fans rise up in anger and attempt to destroy anyone or anything that doesn’t follow the exact guidelines passed down from generation to generation.  What The Cabin in the Woods postulates is that there is a very real and frightening reason for keeping the status quo.

Not content with just releasing a film that deconstructs the stranded teens in a cabin trope, co-writer Joss Whedon and co-writer/director Drew Goddard sets their sight on the horror genre as a whole.  From the unconventional open which would appear to fit better in The Office, much less a horror film, to the earth shattering conclusion, there is not a moment that passes where the filmmakers’ tongues were not firmly planted in their cheeks, giggling at all the horror conventions they mock.  And yet, it is still evident that they are very much in love with the genre.

This is not a Scream type satire, where the cardboard characters exist only to mock their horror film counterparts before falling prey to what they were mocking.  The 5 college students in The Cabin in the Woods are three dimensional beings before being unknowingly forced into the subsequent stereotypes that the villains need them to be.  The villains (the scientists) also have a motivation where the viewer will find it hard not to side with them.  All of this in conjunction with a dialogue that is delightfully quotable and an energy not normally found in these films.

The Cabin in the Woods is a refreshing take on the horror film genre, and hopefully the jolt horror filmmakers need to try and be more creative in their endeavors.  Not every film needs to follow a set guideline, and it’s always a pleasure when one doesn’t.  Thankfully, this time it comes in a very good package.  Final rating is 4 out of 5.

 

Out with the old and in with the new.  These next two films are entering into the marketplace.  One is assuredly going to be the number one film in the box office.  The only question is by how much.  First up is…

 

THE AVENGERS

Nick Fury of S.H.I.E.L.D. brings together a team of super humans to form The Avengers to help save the Earth from Loki and his army. *

The cinematic trek to The Avengers began in 2008, when Samuel L. Jackson (Goodfellas) made a brief cameo in an after credits scene of a B-level superhero movie (elevated to elite status by the wonderful Robert Downey, Jr).  It was a hint of what could be if the stars were aligned just right.  Five years and 4 prequel movies later, that promise is fulfilled as Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo, The Dentist), Thor (Chris Hemsworth, Thor 2) and Captain America (Chris Evans, Captain America) are brought together in Joss Whedon’s (Serenity) magnum opus.  The early buzz is that it not only equals the hype, it surpasses it.  It’s a movie I have been looking forward to for years which only intensified when I found out about Whedon’s involvement. 

One thing I can say about Joss, he is great at ensemble pieces, having the ability to juggle large personalities (whether it’s characters or actors) into a cohesive whole while still showcasing each character’s individual talents.  It’s a task that can bog down lesser directors.  I’m hoping that Joss is able to pull it off.

This film constitutes the most hyped I am for a summer release.  I’m planning on catching this as early as I can on Friday.  I just need to decide if I want to see it in 2D as originally intended, or the post conversion 3D (which I’ve heard is actually good).  I’m Hulking out and smashing out 5 Skrull Warriors out of 5.  The Avengers is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action throughout, and a mild drug reference

 

 

THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways. *

To counteract the blockbuster opening opposite it, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is releasing the same day in an attempt to woo the non-explosion loving teens.  I’ll admit that this quirky-looking British flick, starring the likes of Dame Judi Dench (The Chronicles of Riddick), Bill Nighy (Alive and Kicking) and Maggie Smith (Oh! What a Lovely War) and directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), does look appealing.  I’ve always been a fan of the British dry sense of humor and this trailer did have me smiling throughout.  The only problem is I cannot see myself traveling to the theaters to see it.  It appears to be something that I would watch once it hits the Netflix Instant Streaming service.  Until such time, I will probably not be packing my bags for the trip.  I’ll put away my luggage and continue dreaming of 2 glorious vacations out of 5.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.

 

That will do for this week.  Tune in next week when Tim Burton revisits an old television show.  Until next time, ASSEMBLE!!!

*All plot summaries taken from IMDB.com

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