The Cabin in the Woods (2011)
Following the prototypical horror movie formula, this film follows a group of attractive teenagers as they go for a trip to–you guessed it–a cabin in the woods. This cabin is very isolated and they soon learn that there’s more to this woodsy abode that initially meets the eye. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, but let’s just say the secrets of this cabin are slowly revealed to you over the course of the movie. Along the way, you get your share of gruesome violence, cheap suspenseful terror and an almost Hunger Games-like connection to reality TV with producers pulling a few puppet strings.
I was just happy when I finally got to see the angry molesting tree. The Cabin in the Woods is strangely self-aware and twisted, but it’s a fun little diversion for 95 minutes. There are scarier scary movies, to be sure, but you can do a lot worse than this for your Halloween film fest.
The Pirates! Band of Misfits (2012)
The theme of a misfit pirate who doesn’t exactly get the respect of his fellow buccaneers isn’t exactly a novel one. You could say, for example, that Johnny Depp’s character in Pirates of the Caribbean fits that description. The same kind of idea is presented in The Pirates! Band of Misfits, except our seafaring lovers of treasure are presented to us in claymation form.
The appropriately named Pirate Captain strives to win the Pirate of the Year award, but he falls well short every year. Even so, his crew adores him and continue to support him. For this year’s effort, they happen to bump into one Charles Darwin, leading them on a hare-brained scheme to the heart of London… unfortunately, Queen Victoria isn’t exactly a fan of pirates and she treats them accordingly.
Even though there is pillaging and some light slapstick violence, Band of Misfits is a harmless romp that will provide some laughs for the whole family. The story is somewhat weak and definitely on the predictable side, but there is a human connection with these adorable clay marauders.
Mirror Mirror (2012)
The last couple of years have seen a sudden infatuation with Snow White. She’s one of the main characters in Once Upon a Time on TV and there’s another movie called Snow White and the Huntsman. I haven’t seen the latter yet, but I’ve been told that it’s a little on the darker side. By comparison, Mirror Mirror is another one of those family-friendly movies with life-affirming moralities and happily ever afters.
In fact, I found the overall presentation of Mirror Mirror to be overly bright and colorful, though I imagine the intention was to make this feel more like a fairy tale and less like real life. Even so, the special effects and backgrounds felt too cheap for such a large production; I got the impression that I was watching a high school stage play rather than an expensive Hollywood movie. There are a few small twists, like Snow White learning some swordsmanship, but this is otherwise the same familiar fairy tale.
It’s not at all surprising that the real highlight is Julia Roberts playing the Evil Queen, though Danny Woodburn’s honest portrayal of Grimm (effectively the same dwarf character as Grumpy) was engaging too. Much like Band of Misfits above, this is another one of those movies that is mediocre at best, but you won’t be terribly disappointed either.