Devil’s Pass, Ignore the Box Art

Devil's Pass

There are no naked brunettes buried waist-deep in snow. You should know better than to think that.

Devil’s Pass was one of those few shockumentaries that I was was better. It had a good premise and an excellent buildup, but fumbled the big reveal. It’s one of the few movies of its kind that is neither horrendous nor outright amazing, which is an achievement all in itself. I imagine it would have been on-par with the Blair Witch Project if it hadn’t been so eager to explain the supernatural goings-on within. I lost interest at the halfway point, when the team discovers a mysterious something in the snow and eventually decides to investigate it. I’m sur eyou’ll agree with me when I say that the ambiguous unknown is a greater spook factor in horror movies than being chased around by some creature. That in mind, let’s begin.

Devil's PassDevil’s Pass follows a group of students who are researching the disappearance of nine Russian skiers who vanished mysteriously in the Dyatlov Mountain Pass of Russia in 1959. Some initial news reports and illegally acquired video footage suggest that the students vanished just as the skiers had, which isn’t much of a spoiler, because we all know how horror movies like to repeat past tragedies. Introductory spookfest noted, I feel the real tension begins to build when the crew first has drinks at the base of the Ural mountain range. They tell the bartender about their project, and he offers them the very same drinks the Russians had on their way up. Blatant foreshadowing, perhaps? Oh yes. On top of that, the hints at a government conspiracy certainly amplify the viewer’s sense of “just what the crap went on up there?”

Once they’re up in the mountains, eerie things start happening, and their technology begins to malfunction. Can’t have a good sense of isolation with all these communicating gadgets and gizmos in the way! It’s moments like these that make me ask myself if I really want an explanation. After receiving one, my immediate response was no, but that’s the trouble with magic tricks. Once you know how they’re done, the wonder is gone. Anyway, one of the greater lines is dropped during a nighttime camping sequence, not minutes before the discovery of the mysterious thing in the snow. That was the highest point for me.

Devil's PassNow, despite the fact that the big reveal was disappointing, I’d rather avoid spoiling it. If you end up watching the movie, please leave a comment and tell me what you thought of the buildup and the latter half. I’m aware of the fact that I compare absolutely every found footage movie to the Blair Witch, but that sets a high bar, damnit. Part of the charm was that the characters and plot were so down-to-earth you could imagine yourself there with them, shivering in a tent, afraid of the fucking baby out there. With Devil’s Pass? Not so much. I can’t envision myself running away from Russian soldiers or being haunted by a yeti.

Scott Foundas of Variety wound up getting the same mediocre-positive impression; they could have done MORE with the film. More in this case means less, because explaining everything isn’t a very good idea when you’re trying to scare people. Unless the explanation is scary. But it wasn’t. Bit of an image-spoiler in the coming link, but it doesn’t give anything critical away!

The Cabin in the Woods Satire Mode ENGAGED

The Cabin in the Woods

What the f- Sigourney Weaver? Jodelle Ferland? Chris Hemsworth? What a lineup. May seem a little weird, but The Cabin in the Woods is basically a reference orgy for scary movie junkies. You see, it knows the formula, and it plays with that in a way that borders satire. The greater plot of the movie is unique; clever, I dare to admit. Care for a laugh? Care for a few lampshaded clichés? This may just be the flick for you.

The premise is that a jock, a dork, a slut, a stoner, and a “good girl” head up to a cabin in the middle of nowhere to kick back and party for a few days. That’s all well and good, but a secret government organization is controlling quite literally every step of their journey. Everything, down to the choices they make, the creatures that hunt them, and the tunnel collapse that traps them there.

The Cabin in the WoodsThe game is as follows: The athlete, the whore, the fool, and the scholar must die. Then, the virgin must suffer, her death being optional. The puppeteers must allow the sacrifices to select their means of destruction, and then set it upon them, all while controlling the sequence of events. To what end? To appease the dark gods that once walked the Earth. Every country must perform this rite, but only one of them needs to succeed. If they all fail, then the Dark Ones emerge from the depths and… well, I assume they moosh absolutely everything.

You will experience glorious horror movie exclamation inciters such as:

  • Reading the Latin in the obviously evil book!
  • Dropping the knife after the bad guy’s dead!
  • Going for a walk in the deep dark forest!
  • Suggesting that the group split up!

The Cabin in the WoodsNot necessarily in that order. Don’t worry, though. It’s all controlled by the guv’mint, and everybody is actually a lot smarter than they seem. Even the dumb blonde. Incidentally, and to avoid making you think that they forgot even a single cliché, the dumb blonde is not a natural blonde, and the chemicals in her hair dye cause cognitive deterioration. I’m sure you can guess who set that up.

I’d like to, if I may, note two extremely amusing references listed in the government “which monster will they select” betting chart. The first, homage to the original Evil Dead, is the Angry Molesting Tree. The second, a permutation of Hellraiser’s lead Cenobite Pinhead, the Deadite. He has a puzzle sphere, and instead of needles stuck in his head, he has buzz saws. There’s plenty more than those two, however. Zombies, werewolves, mermen, ballerinas, ghosts, unicorns, Boomers, the twins from The Shining. Yes, blood spews from the elevator they appear from.

The Cabin in the WoodsAs I said, clever. You’ll love it, scary movie addict or not. Oh, and as a forewarning, there is a very brief moment of boobage. It’s tongue in cheek. I’m sure you’ll get a laugh when all the nerdy lab boys in the observation room try to peep the almost sex scene. I certainly did.

Ben Kendrick of ScreenRant wants to let you know that The Cabin in the Woods loves its audience! That’s right. It isn’t going to spoon-feed you all the same recycled horror crap that saturates the industry, maaan. If every other dusty, replicated horror movie was dinner, this one’s the dessert! Click the link and take a taste:

Iron Man 2: Modern Living with Robot Suits

Iron Man 2
Iron Man 2
! It’s like Iron Man the first, only with more robot fighting action, more corporate conspiracies, more babes and booze, and more political dilemmas. In a nutshell, upscaling sequel syndrome. But labels can be deceptive; this is a good one. Mickey Rourke takes on the role of Ivan Vanko, the bad guy of the movie, and damn if he isn’t wonderful in the role. His Russian’s not too bad, considering he manages to throw in a Slovakian accent. Before I get ahead of myself, let’s cover a bit of plot.

Tony Stark, played by the magnificent Robert Downey Jr., is dying. His miniature arc reactor core is slowly poisoning his body with palladium. As such, he’s planning ahead for his demise and giving away what he can before his time comes. The US government wants to take seize Tony’s suits because they don’t want to rely on him. Justin Hammer of Hammer Industries wants Tony out of the way so he can lead the technology race, so that’s another force set against our protagonist.

What’s that? You want another enemy? How about Ivan Vanko, the son of the man who worked with Tony Stark’s father to create the original arc reactor? Yeah, that’ll do. After Ivan attacks Tony in his own, personally made suit, the US government moves in to claim what they think is theirs. Strangely enough, Tony hands over one of his suits to Rhodey, who then hands it over to Hammer Industries.

Iron Man 2Hammer, originally allying himself with Vanko to aid development of his battle-suits, abandons the project and instead weaponizes one of Tony’s Iron Man suits. As it turns out, Ivan didn’t care about the resources Hammer offered anyway. He just wanted a means to exact vengeance on Tony for what Howard Stark did to his father. Anton Vanko worked with Howard on the arc reactor, but Tony’d pop had Anton departed when he discovered the Russian scientist saw their project as a get-rich-quick scheme. As a result, Ivan grew up dealing with his father constantly drunk and furious.

Looking back, this movie feels much shorter than the first. A lot goes on, but it all happens simultaneously. I guess you could really call this a high-density, action packed sci-fi thriller. It’s true, there’s hardly a point where you’re bored. Oh, side note: Don Cheadle assumes Terrence Howard’s former role of Rhodey, causing some inconsistencies in flashback material, but nothing to derail your movie experience. Aside from that, everything flows well.

Iron Man 2Finally, the easter eggs. There are a crap ton, and all of them reference the Avengers movie. You have a prototype shield of Captain America, Dr. Nicholas Fury founding the Avenger Initiative, a cameo of Mjolnir, Thor’s beatstick, at the end of the credits… Yeah, the filmmakers know what’s up. Also, Samuel L. Jackson wanted more screen-time, so they used that as sort of a promise that he’d be in further movies. Good for Samuel L. Jackson.

Peter Travers of RollingStone paints glamour all over Iron Man 2 with his review. He also comments on the sheer density of the plot, but sums it up as tolerable and enjoyable. Indeed, Scarlett Johansson definitely puts on quite the show as Black Widow. Here’s the link:

The Fifth Element, Brucie Baby

The Fifth ElementDon’t even start with me. I have the biggest man-crush on Bruce Willis, and no amount of Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, or Bruce Lee comments will ever change that. If you’re like me and agree with this statement to the extreme, then you’ve already watched The Fifth Element around forty times. For those of you who haven’t, I shall disclose to you the dazzling and astounding details of this fabulous sci-fi space thriller.

Adjectives ahoy! This guy must really like The Fifth Element. I wonder why? Easy enough to explain. Bruce Willis- er, I mean, Korben Dallas, an ex special operative, takes on a mission from the Earth government to save the world from an apocalyptic evil that strikes every five thousand years, taking the form of a black planet. If he fails, then entire galaxy will become a place of death and desolation. In order to combat this ultimate evil, he must acquire four stones representing fire, wind, water, and air. The fifth element, life, is contained within the perfect being known as Leeloo (played by the talented Milla Jovovich), and Korbruce Willas must find a way to unite her and the stones at the sacred temple before it’s too late. Pretty epic, am I right? You bet it is.

The Fifth ElementThere are several different factions all working towards different goals in this movie, making for a pleasantly complex sequence of events that spirals into a high quality plot. The Mondoshawans are the first faction the movie reveals, and they’re also the first to be blown up violently. Their purpose is to protect and expand life throughout the universe, and to teach humans to value life through faith. They also appear to be the ones who originally used the four stones and the fifth element to preserve the galaxy in the first place.

The Mangelores are nasty, smelly, hated mercenary aliens that only want money and resources. They have a death before dishonor sort of subtle faith system, which explains one of the more dramatic suicide bombing scenes. Because of their easily corruptible nature, the ladder of evil factions uses them as tools.

Zorg is the head of a colossal and wealthy company that fronts for organized crime. He works directly under the self-titled Mr. Shadow, who is actually the ultimate galactic evil. Zorg is ordered to capture the four stones and gather them at the temple, then to allow Mr. Shadow to take Leeloo’s place. This would spread death across the galaxy instead of protecting life, and Bruce Dallas won’t let that happen.

The Fifth ElementThere’s some good news, though, in case you’re starting to think that The Fifth Element takes itself too seriously. Chris Tucker is in it, and he plays a flamboyant radio host called Ruby Rod that stalks Korben Willis until the exiting conclusion. The movie has its fair share of comedic blips and bloops, if the presence of Chris Tucker isn’t enough to clue you in to that. I think it’d be safe to say that The Fifth Element has a little bit of everything in regards to movie positives; romance, action, humor, badassery. You really can’t go wrong!

The acting is the good kind of corny, the villains are likeable yet obviously evil, and the little elephant creature that Zorg owns is absolutely adorable. I call him Shnorgle. Shnorgle holds no relevance to the plot, but it’s a lovely little thing to look at and enjoy.

This description actually goes for the movie itself as well. Just long enough that it doesn’t crunch the plot, just short enough that it doesn’t drag, plenty of events and characters to reflect on… It’s really just a wonderful production. You should definitely consider getting this on DVD and giving it a good, popcorn filled viewing.

Akira: On Telekinesis and Toddlers

AkiraYou know, Akira reminds me a lot of Chronicle, only with a much higher level of organization and chaos. It sounds contradictory, but it makes sense. I love this movie, so reviewing this will be a treat for both you and me. Unless, of course… one of us is squeamish. I certainly hope not. This movie isn’t for the faint of heart. Blood, partial nudity, harsh language, all very fitting of a post WWIII Japan dystopian setting: Neo-Tokyo.

Akira revolves around the lives of a gang of bikers, the Capsules. The two main bikers are Kaneda, the energetic enthusiastic outgoing leader, and Tetsuo, the never-does-it-right cowardly follower. Due to the military oppression in the city, there is a rebellion brewing that fights for less restrictive law. Due to the incredibly high organized crime rate in the city, the military absolutely refuses to let up. As such, things are pretty shitty for Kaneda’s gang.

AkiraThings get even shittier for Tetsuo, who crashes his in a freak incident to avoid hitting a strange little blue boy. To make matters worse and explain a few things, this blue boy is an esper, endowed with the ability to extend his willpower outside his own head. The science organization notices a similar trait in the dying Tetsuo, and decisively abducts him to begin experimentation. While Tetsuo exhibits the abilities of the other espers, he himself is much more hateful and saturated by vengeance. His days of cowardice and failure are over, and Kaneda is the first to notice Tetsuo’s radically altered personality. And, er, telekinetic abilities.

From that point on the primary concern of the military, the science organization, and even the rebellion, is the destruction or containment of the astronomically powerful esper Tetsuo. By interacting with the other espers, Tetsuo has learned of the existence of Akira, the first. Akira’s powers were said to be beyond anything anyone had ever predicted, which was seen by Tetsuo as a challenge. He does find Akira, but not as he was expecting to find him.

AkiraIt’s around this part that I start to get a little sketchy. Supposedly, Akira’s powers are linked to universal genesis and symbolic and literal birth of matter. As Tetsuo’s madness escalates, so do his telekinetic powers, until a wavelength from him and the other espers brings back the avatar of Akira. At this point, not even satellite lasers can take down Tetsuo, who has begun a fatal physical transformation. He, uh… turns into a giant fetus, hen gets sucked into a psychic singularity. I really don’t know. Kaneda winds up being sucked inside and experiencing Tetsuo’s memories, until finally Akira and the espers collectively close the rift. The resulting carnage tears a hole over half the size of the entire dystopian city.

Akira is a very unusual movie, definitely not one that can be explained with ease. I mean, I think I did a pretty good overview of the plot, but the backstory presented all throughout is a little too intense to take in with one or two views. I’m serious. That said, it is also a landmark in the production of animated Japanese movies, its prestige matched only by its content quality. While it may be a little offensive at more than a few parts, it’s a very earnest movie with a consistent plot and quirky characters. Quirky meaning anything from damningly cheerful to blatantly homicidal. You’ll love it. I did.

Get your copy via whatever means you feel is the most convenient, watch it a few times while pondering just what the hell is going on, suddenly understand it, then go “OOOOOH!” That’s the plan. Enjoy.