Archive for Richard Jenkins

Review: The Cabin In The Woods

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 1, 2012 by Tom Austin-Morgan

Made 3 years ago, in 2009, this project was put on the shelf after MGM, the studio which produced the film, filed for bankruptcy. This kind of disappointment seems to follow Joss Whedon’s projects since the runaway success of Buffy and  Angel; for example the TV series Firefly was cancelled after just one series even though it proved popular. Luckily though, he created the successful TV series Dollhouse and landed writing and directing roles on Marvel’s Avengers: Assemble – possibly a reason Lion’s Gate bought the rights to The Cabin In The Woods and have released it just before the Avengers movie.

It’s going to be very difficult to review this film without giving too much of the plot away, because it’s a bit of a genre-bender, but I’ll try. We start off with a clichéd title sequence with blood dripping down the screen over pictures and carvings of ancient scenes showing sacrifices. And then it’s suddenly interrupted by a scene between Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford who are standing around a coffee machine in an office talking about their marriages and what they do. This sets the tone for the rest of the movie, and sometimes is the reason it detaches you from the action and causes huge amounts of confusion.

Just as suddenly as we’re taken out of the title sequence, the actual title literally screams onto the screen and we meet the young cast readying themselves for a weekend away from their studies by visiting the titular cabin. Amongst these you have all the stereotypes of teen slashers: The jock (a pre-Thor Chris Hemsworth), the stoner (the hilarious Fran Krantz), the slutty blonde (Anna Hutchinson), and the two slightly nerdy ones who are being set up together (Jesse Williams and Kristen Connelly). Can you see where this is going? You’re not even half right!

Needless to say there’s something not quite right with the cabin as they are informed, in a rather aggressive way, by a red-neck gas station worker…and just about here is where I’m going to leave the plot.  Needless to say this film is a strange one; written  by both Whedon and Drew Goddard (Alias, Lost, Cloverfield), this is a reaction to the torture-porn films that have saturated the horror market in the last few years. The Cabin In The Woods takes teen horror back to its early 90s roots in films like Scream and Urban Legend in a very knowing way.

I would say that you need to go into this film with an open mind, because if you’re expecting a straightforward nuts and blots slash-em-up then you may be disappointed; however, if you think along the lines of the Lost format then you’re much closer to how this film plays out. Which is quite distracting in places, but adds an overbearing sense of intrigue to the story’s development. There is a brilliantly blood-drenched 15 minutes in the third act that is extremely enjoyable, but the ending may leave some with a sour taste in the mouth as it all seems to crescendo a little too quickly.

The Cabin In The Woods is a film made with care by genuine fans of horror, and I can’t wait to see what kind of job Whedon does on the Avengers. But here I can’t help but feel that sometimes they were just trying a bit too hard to push the envelope and actually, the more you know about the conventions of horror the less scary and more like a comedy the film becomes. That said though, it sure is something to talk about and a fast-paced, enjoyable romp.

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Review: The Rum Diary

Posted in Film with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2011 by Tom Austin-Morgan

‘The Rum Diary’ is based on a novel written by the infamous American journalist Hunter S. Thompson and appears to be semi-biographical in nature, as is the majority of his work. Also, like the majority of his work, it focusses heavily on disenfranchised characters who are often dependant on drink and drugs.

It has been a project close to the heart of producer and lead actor Johnny Depp. While living with Thompson in the late 1990s researching a role for the film version of his novel ‘Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas’ Depp was shown ‘The Rum Diary’ and urged Thompson to publish it for the first time since it was written in the 1960s. He also negotiated a film deal for it that has resulted in the film coming out this week. Depp also recruited the director and screenwriter Bruce Robinson, who had retired from directing in 1992, after having a torrid time while filming ‘Jennifer 8’. Apparently Depp was adamant that Robinson directed this film because “he had made one of the most perfect films ever”; referencing ‘Withnail And I’, which he directed and wrote, and contains a lot of the same themes as ‘The Rum Diary’.

The plot of the film follows the story of Paul Kemp (Depp), a journalist who has moved from New York to Puerto Rico to work for a small newspaper for US expats living on the island. It is revealed that the paper is failing and has stirred up a lot of tension between the expats and the native population. Most of the employees of the paper are alcoholics and Kemp gets sucked into their self-destructive world of drug abuse and illegal cock-fighting while living with the photographer, Sala (Michael Rispoli), and his feral, moonshine brewing, drug taking, Nazi-sympathising roommate, played with gusto by Giovanni Ribisi.

While working at the San Juan Star, Kemp is head-hunted by the smooth talking PR man and property developer, Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart). Sanderson wants Kemp to write advertising articles for a new hotel development on an uninhabited part of Puerto Rico; neither of his new-found careers seem to be what he is looking for as they don’t appeal to his political sensibilities and, as yet, he hasn’t found his voice as a writer. A voice which he develops in his journeys through his growing thirst for rum, his first taste of hallucinogenic drugs and his growing frustration at the class division and politicians all around him. While all this is going on he also starts up an affair with Sanderson’s girlfriend, Chenault (Amber Heard), who is scantily clad for the majority of the time she is on-screen.

There is a lot of bile in the script for this film, which is interesting as Robinson re-wrote the entire screenplay, only keeping two lines from the novel in the final script. Which shows what a masterful writer he is. In fact he took up drinking again after years of sobriety just so he could get inside the head of the booze-addled characters, a gamble with his health that has apparently paid off. However, there isn’t quite the anger at the system that fans of Thompson’s work will pick up on, though this is the story of how he finds his voice, so it can’t be expected to be as rank and seething as his later work. Though there are references to it with a snide attack on Richard Nixon while Kemp and Sala are watching the television at one point.

The film buzzes along at a fast pace, but you never get the feeling that you’ve missed anything. There are some funny set piece scenes including a drunken car chase ending in a small stint  in jail, a voyeuristic scene in which he spies on Sanderson and Chenault sharing an intimate moment in the sea and a voodoo blessing of a fighting cockerel. But quite a bit of the film feels more like a thriller with some romantic elements. All-in-all it is a miracle that this film ever made it to the screen, let alone handled with as much love and care as it has been and, I think, cinema is all the richer for it.