REVIEW: Jack Reacher

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Jack Reacher
Directed by: Christopher McQuarrie
Written by: Christopher McQuarrie (screenplay), Lee Child (novel)
Starring: Tom Cruise, Rosamund Pike, Richard Jenkins and Werner Herzog

Tom Cruise, despite his kooky off-screen shenanigans, is a reliably lively screen presence.  He is a relentlessly physical actor, which is why franchises like Mission: Impossible have become his bread and butter.  With Jack Reacher he attempts, with varying degrees of success, to heighten his on-screen persona into that of a morally vague vigilante.

Reacher is a solid R-rated (or at least it should be) detective story based on a popular series by Lee Child.  Christopher McQuarrie, who adapted the script as well as directed, has some nice action set pieces to work with, but the movie is mostly built around making the star look good.  Action stars like Cruise, like the many cars his character here drives, are fast becoming vintage in the CGI era.  Here he is a blunt, no-nonsense “drifter,” a man who comes to the aid of those who need him and deals out justice how he sees fit.

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REVIEW: Cabin in the Woods

Cabin in the Woods
Directed by: Drew Goddard
Written by: Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard (screenplay)
Starring: Kristen Connolly, Chris Hemsworth, Fran Kranz and Anna Hutchison

Slasher films are just realistic slapstick with uglier, less funny comedians.  Whack someone over the head, and if they don’t bleed it’s funny; if they do, it’s terrifying.  Since Wes Craven clued teenagers in on the gruesome joke in Scream, countless conceptual spin-offs (many made by Craven in increasingly meta sequels) have emerged from the over-done ashes of a seemingly dead genre.

Cabin in the Woods takes meta horror one step further, first by taking the dead teenager scenario, spinning it on its head and then almost taking the spin-off seriously.  When it works, and it often does, it’s an innovative in-joke that makes the audience feel smart even if it is rather simple.  Five slasher stereotypes- the jock, the brains, the whore, the moron the virgin- venture to the cabin of the title for a vacation away from technology.  They are warned away from doing it by an ominous gas station attendee, but of course decide to go.  Then, they are subsequently slaughtered one by one.

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REVIEW: Let Me In

Let Me In
Directed by: Matt Reeves
Written by: Matt Reeves (screenplay), John Ajvide Lindqvist (book)
Starring: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, and Elias Koteas

Cinema purists (this one included) were dreading the inevitable day they would have to sit through an American remake to the beloved Swedish film Let the Right One In. It was the vampire movie that didn’t suck, and we’d be damned if Hollywood was going to take that away from us with a big budget redo with A-list stars. Some watchers would never let this one in; never consider the possibility that it could be good.  They’d be missing out.

As it turns out, Let Me In is a surprisingly competent remake of the excellent Swedish version.  Like so many other films, this one originated in literature, though the films are more widely known.  Matt Reeves, known mostly for Cloverfield, takes the story from Sweden to Reagan-era New Mexico.  A seemingly odd choice, but setting it in a desert during winter effectively recreates the barren Swedish landscape so vital to the mood of the original.

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