Two Thrillers from Alliance
The Cabin in the Woods (March 16/12)
Written by Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard, The Cabin in the Woods follows five friends (Chris Hemsworth's Curt, Fran Kranz's Marty, Kristen Connolly's Dana, Anna Hutchison's Jules, and Brian White's Alex) as they embark on a weekend of fun and debauchery in and around the titular locale - with the movie also detailing the initially head-scratching exploits of two office workers (Richard Jenkins' Richard and Bradley Whitford's Steve) with a palpable connection to the aforementioned cabin. Filmmaker Goddard has infused the early part of The Cabin in the Woods with a pervasively familiar atmosphere that is, to put it mildly, somewhat off-putting, as the five-friends-head-into-the-woods narrative, which has been suffused with elements of a decidedly conventional nature (eg the creepy old guy who warns them of danger ahead), grows more and more tedious as time progress - with the charisma of the performances and the periodic peeks into Jenkins and Whitford's curious activities proving instrumental in sustaining the viewer's interest during this stretch. And though the film almost reaches a point at which it completely morphs into an egregiously routine disappointment, Whedon and Goddard cement The Cabin in the Woods' palpable success by offering up a final half hour that's nothing short of astounding in its audaciousness (ie there are images and elements contained within this portion that will leave hardcore horror junkies absolutely and utterly satiated). The end result is an admittedly uneven piece of work that does seem as though it'd benefit from repeat viewings, as it seems entirely likely that the underwhelming first half, which is ultimately justified by the twists contained within the balls-to-the-wall third act, would fare a whole lot better the second time around.
Lockout (April 12/12)
Despite the seemingly can't-miss nature of its premise (the film is, after all, essentially Die Hard on a space station), Lockout is simply unable to become the fun and fast-paced thriller that its creators have clearly intended - as the movie suffers from a pervasively uneven sensibility that slowly-but-surely drains the viewer's enthusiasm and renders its overtly positive attributes moot. The genre-friendly storyline follows rugged antihero Snow (Guy Pearce) as he reluctantly attempts to rescue the president's daughter (Maggie Grace's Emilie) from a space station full of violent inmates, with the film subsequently (and primarily) detailing the game of cat-and-mouse that ensues between the protagonists and their blood-thirsty pursuers. There's little doubt that Lockout gets off to a nigh disastrous start, as filmmakers James Mather and Stephen St. Leger open the proceedings with an astonishingly incoherent action sequence that's immediately followed by a car chase rife with laughable special effects (ie the sequence looks like something out of a 10-year-old video game). It's just as clear, however, that the film does improve demonstrably once the high-concept premise kicks into gear, with the irresistibly tongue-in-cheek atmosphere heightened by Pearce's magnetic turn as the sardonic central character. The increasingly meandering midsection, which seems devoted primarily to Snow and Emilie's efforts at finding their way off the aforementioned station, inevitably wreaks havoc on the movie's tenuous momentum, and it does, as a result, become harder and harder to work up any real interest in the heroes' ongoing exploits. (It doesn't help, either, that Mather and St. Leger have infused the proceedings with a murky visual sensibility that grows increasingly oppressive as time progresses.) By the time the rushed and hopelessly anticlimactic finale rolls around, Lockout has effectively squandered the goodwill engendered by its inherently captivating setup - which is a shame, really, given the strength of several key sequences and of Pearce's continually engrossing performance.