Friday, April 26, 2013

Worth Mentioning - The World Will Forget About Us

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Cody sees a classic reborn and goes to the future with Tom Cruise.

EVIL DEAD (2013)

As said in an article I recently wrote for the blog, the original 1981 The Evil Dead is "the scariest movie I've ever seen". My first viewing of that film made for a very frightening night in my childhood. Director Sam Raimi has been touting a remake for quite a while, wanting to produce a new version that would present the story to a new generation with a larger budget and better effects. At times it was said that, since he just a newbie when he directed the original, he wanted to get a well established director for the remake. There was talk that he had offered the project to Korean filmmaker Chan-wook Park, a rumor of Quentin Tarantino. As time went on, the idea changed to giving another newbie his big break with the Evil Dead brand, and while the term "remake" was still used, the description of it was that it would be more like a side story without Bruce Campbell's Ash character in it, showing a different group of youths unleashing the terrors of the Naturon Demonto/Necronomicon Ex Mortis/Book of the Dead, that both stories could exist in the same world and maybe even crossover someday.

The young man who won the jackpot and got handed the reins to the film is Uruguayan director Fede Alvarez, who wowed the internet and Raimi with a 2009 short film called Panic Attack (Ataque de Pánico!), which used impressive special effects to show an invasion of giant robots.

After being discussed and built up to for years, the new version of Evil Dead is now in theatres, and I found the end result to be a mixed bag.

Alvarez wrote the script with his friend Rodo Sayagues (which then got an uncredited polish from Diablo Cody), and they keep the same basic set-up of the original film: five young people from Michigan travel to a remote cabin in the woods where they end up going through the ultimate experience in grueling horror. You have to drive across a stream to get to this cabin, which seems like a bad idea whether you're in a horror movie or not. This group of characters were named so that the first letters would spell the word DEMON: David, Eric, Mia, Olivia, and Natalie. There's also a dog named Grandpa along for the ride, which makes for a funny moment when a character first sees him and exclaims, "Grandpa?" Raimi's bunch were just going to the cabin for a fun time, but these folks have a more serious purpose. Alvarez felt that vacationers have been terrorized too many times in the genre, so his set-up is that this getaway is actually a detox for Mia. She's going to kick her heroin addiction, and her friends and brother David are there to support her through the withdrawals. Unfortunately for them, someone has been messing around the family cabin while they've been away and have left a very dangerous book in the cellar.

Mia's friends are extremely dedicated to getting her sober. They've been through this before, she has said that she was kicking the habit then started using again just hours later. She has previously overdosed, her heart stopped. This addiction has to end now. They're so determined that this will be the end of heroin in Mia's life that they even refuse to leave when blood streaks are found on the floor and the rotting corpses of multiple cats are found hung in the cellar near the flesh-bound book full of demonic images and dire warnings. If they take Mia home, they believe she'll just start using again... So don't take her home, but really, wouldn't a nearby hotel room be just as good for detox as this cabin full of creepy shit?

But they stick around, Eric reads a passage from the book, and all hell breaks loose. Characters get possessed and/or killed one-by-one. Raimi's possessed, his Deadites, were spastic lunatics, but the ones in this one are pretty chill for the most part, reminiscent of the average shambling flesheating ghoul but without the appetite. The worst thing about them is the weaponry they manage to get their hands on. They get some crazy lines to speak, but apparently they're movie fans because most of what they say are paraphrased lines from the first Evil Dead or It or The Exorcist.

It's interesting how the writers provide themselves with ways to approach the story from different angles but don't follow them up. With Mia going through heroin withdrawals, they could've spent some time building the idea that this could all be psychological rather than supernatural, but they don't even try to. Later in the film there's dialogue that reveals David and Mia's mother died in a mental hospital and David fears that Mia has inherited the craziness and gone insane herself. That's also not played up at all, and these alternate possibilities wouldn't have worked anyway since the demonic events to come are spoiled by a neat but unnecessary prologue. If this were a full-on remake meant to be presenting the concept "for the first time again", the prologue would completely ruin the build-up.

The way the story was handled was so-so and the Deadites were a bit of a letdown, but what this movie really has going for it, other than a good cast, is its eye-bulging level of violence and gore. There's vomit and slime and urine and gallons of blood. People get beaten to a pulp and stuck with every sharp object in the vicinity, and the camera lingers on these objects as they're pulled out of body parts and slice through flesh. Luckily they have a roll of duct tape in the cabin to patch up wounds. There are so many close-ups of bodily damage that you get totally desensitized to it by the climax and things that would be huge cringe moments in another film just get shrugged off.

Evil Dead '13 didn't blow me away overall, but damn was it brutal and bloody and gross.


A few years from now, the moon is destroyed by an alien race referred to as Scavengers, setting off a series of catastrophes on Earth as the aliens begin to invade the planet as well. Humanity fights back with our military forces, ultimately resorting to using nuclear weapons on the Scavs. We Earthlings win the war, but at the cost of leaving most of our ravaged planet an irradiated wasteland.

Sixty years after the invasion, humans have abandoned Earth and shipped off to a colony established on the Saturn moon Titan. Devices called Hydro Rigs are sucking the Earth dry of its remaining natural resources to take to Titan, draining the oceans. Only two people remain on the planet, in a Jetsons-esque home above the clouds; Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his co-worker/lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). Their only contact with anybody else is through video communications with Sally (Melissa Leo), a representative of their employer who lives on the Tet, a massive space station in Earth's orbit. Every day, Victoria monitors Jack's activities from their home as he has to fly around their designated area, boxed in by Radiation Zones, to make sure the drones that patrol around the Hydro Rigs to protect them from the stray Scavs still surviving on the surface remain in working order.

Jack and Victoria do their jobs well. They are an effective team. And they're almost finished on Earth. In just two weeks, they'll be shipping off to Titan. Victoria is very much looking forward to joining the colony, but Jack is more reluctant. He's a thinker, a questioner, he doesn't understand why they have to just give up on the Earth, he's nostalgic for a world he never knew. Part of his nostalgia is fueled by a recurring dream that not even his mandatory memory wipe was able to eliminate, a dream that he's walking around in a New York City that existed before he was born, meeting up with a woman he doesn't know but seems very familiar.

Unbeknownst to Victoria, sometimes when Jack goes "off comm" during his patrols he's actually going off to a beautiful area in the mountains, where he's set up a cabin beside a lake and filled it with items that have caught his interest during his travels - books, nick-nacks, records. Arriving at his cabin for the first time in the film, Jack leafs through his record collection, looking for just the right one to kick back to. His choice: Led Zeppelin II. The song we hear: "Ramble On". That's when I knew that this was a man after my own heart.

As Jack and Victoria's time on Earth nears its end, the Scavengers have been getting bolder, they've sabotaged several drones recently. The Scavs' actions soon put Jack through some harrowing events, leading him to encounter a man played by Morgan Freeman and a whole bunch of other people who are on Earth when they shouldn't be. One of the people Jack finds himself face-to-face with is the woman of his dreams, played by one of my favorite Bond girls, Quantum of Solace's Olga Kurylenko.

Most of that you can glean from the trailers, and I'm not going to go into any further details. I will say that I had very little interest in seeing Oblivion when I headed out to the theatre. The story as I knew it didn't seem very appealing to me, science fiction isn't really my bag. I only went to see it on its opening weekend out of a fan's obligation. I see everything that Tom Cruise stars in. Cruise has been signing on to more and more action movies, but lately I've been wanting to see him do more dramas like a lot of his '80s movies or Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia or his Cameron Crowe collaborations Jerry Maguire and Vanilla Sky. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Oblivion is actually much more in line with the type of movie I've been wanting to see Cruise in than I expected. This film allows him to perform in more emotional dramatic scenes than he has in several years, and I was very glad for that. Andrea Riseborough shines in her emotional moments as well. I don't know if she was aided by eye drops in her crying scenes, if not the amount of tears she is capable of producing is amazing.

Around the refreshing level of drama, there are some good action sequences, including a fist fight that pits Cruise against his greatest screen opponent ever. The special effects are fantastic, and the world director Joseph Kosinski created, largely shot in natural locations in Iceland, is wonderful to look at.

Even the film's detractors have had positive things to say about the score composed by the band M83, and I have to agree that the music is awesome. Hearing the synth on a track called "I'm Sending You Away" near the ending, my heart soared like it was the 1980s.

I wasn't enthusiastic about Oblivion going in to it, but I was by the time I left the theatre. I really enjoyed this movie, I was entertained by it and connected with it emotionally. It was a great theatrical experience. I might have to go see it again before it leaves screens.

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