Friday, April 6, 2012

Review (kinda): The Cabin in the Woods

I scored tickets to an advanced screening of The Cabin in the Woods for last night. As you might have notice, if you’ve read my other blogs, I don’t do scary and icky. What a dilemma. A movie co-written by Joss Whedon and, Angel scribe, Drew Goddard provides an obvious draw for any Whedon fan but it’s a horror movie. Whedonverse. Horror movie. Whedonverse. Horror movie. Tough call but the Whedonverse won out. It didn’t hurt that one of my all-time favorites, Amy Acker, would be there along with Drew Goddard, who also directed. How could I pass that up? So, I took a jacket to cover my eyes and braced myself.

As I said, I don’t do horror so I don’t have a lot to compare it to but I’m fairly certain that audiences aren’t usually laughing their asses off within the first minutes of most scary movies. And I’m going to guess that they aren’t still laughing their asses off until the very end. The chemistry of the five protagonists helped. You instantly liked all of them. Of course, they’re all token horror movie characters—dumb athletes, dumb blonde, and dumb stoner. Surprise—they’re all brainiacs, nice touch. Even the sexy blonde is a pre-med student. The banter between them is great but Fran Kranz’s comic timing really shined and he pulled it all together. Also, I think if this movie had come out in 2009, when it was supposed to, many would have noticed Chris Hemsworth and said “keep an eye on that one, he’s going place.” Since we know him, though, as George Kirk and Thor, we’re aware of his screen presence. The amazing supporting cast of Richard Jenkins, Bradley Whitford, and Amy Acker has their own hilarious storyline which amps up the mystery and keeps the audience wondering how it's all going to fit together.

Just as I started to let my guard down, the scariness commenced. Goodard and Whedon display their admiration for the genre and gave a nod to lots of classics. I jumped, screamed, and hid my eyes aplenty. I also spent time trying to figure out what was going to happen and why. This wasn’t a single-track, monster, blood-a-thon movie, though there's plenty of that for serious horror fans. The complex narrative required paying attention. Not only was it unclear where the next bogeyman would come from, you weren’t sure where the story was taking you. I’m working hard not to give anything away. I’m just going to say, if you like to have your brain challenged while your heart is racing, then this is the movie for you. Ironically, because of the complexity of the story, I want to go back and see it again. As someone said to me last night, this might be my gateway drug to horror movies. Only if all horror movies are this smart and funny.

Finally, from a fan’s perspective, Amy Acker and Drew Goddard were wonderful. Besides the question and answer session after the movie, they both talked with every attendee that wanted to meet them and signed autographs. Drew Goddard went to school locally (didn’t know that) and could have excused himself. I’m sure he had friends waiting to see them. Instead, he answered all questions and sincerely thanked each person for coming. That’s very impressive.

So, go and see The Cabin in the Woods. It’s frightfully funny.

They took my ticket at the door, so I just had them sign this (geek squeal).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Welcome to New Media: Geek and Sundry

This past year Google granted funds to 100 independent web-based production companies to create original programming for its new YouTube channels. One of the people to receive a grant is web darling, Felicia Day. For those not familiar, Day is the co-producer, writer, and lead actor of the web sensation, “The Guild” as well as acting in several Whedonverse projects.And, it turns out, a rather savvy businesswoman. Her grant resulted in the YouTube Channel Geek and Sundry (G&S) and they launched their first programming yesterday. 

Geek and Sundry caters to viewers who discovered Day on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” followed her to “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” and did a little happy dance with the introduction of “The Guild.” If you haven't seen "The Guild" then here's a little (very little) synopsis. The show follows the misadventures of Cyd Sherman, an dedicated gamer forced to deal with the hilarious fall out of her real and gaming worlds colliding. Get yourself over to YouTube and check it out as soon as you can. But, back to the matter at hand. Yes, geekdom has found it’s very own channel and here are my thoughts about their initial offerings.


First up, G&S brought on Wil Wheaton, who needs no introduction, to serve as executive producer and host of “TableTop,” which demos tabletop board games. He brings in three of his friends to try out that week's game. The games usually last about two hours, compressed into a 30-minute show, complete with instruction and helpful hints. There’s lots of kidding around and some bleeping of trash talk but it’s all in good fun. I liked the chemistry between the players, you can tell these people like to hang out after the cameras have stopped rolling. And the ‘sidebar’ graphics provide more detailed explanations of the rules. Granted, these games, if the first episode is an indication, are a little more complicated than toy store choices. They kicked off with Small World, a game full of strategy and fantasy characters. I would call this a two-timer, a game that would take my family and me two times to get the rules under our belt. As my nephews get older, our family games get more sophisticated. “TableTop” is a great chance to see what’s out there. The first person I recommended the show to was actually my sister, Carey. She’s our resident game master and is always looking for new ideas. I think a show like this gives people who maybe aren’t as adventurous about tabletop board gaming the guidance they need to explore new options. And Wil Wheaton is a hoot!

“The Flog”

Next up is a video blog hosted by Felicia Day called “The Flog”. She starts each episode with five different items she recently discovered like a new song or new website. Then she invites viewers to join her as she learns a new skill. In the first episode, Day explains that her avatar in the video game SkyRim is a blacksmith, so she decides to find out what it’s like to smith metal. She looks like she’s having a blast and that makes it a blast to watch. Now, I’m about to say something that I mean as a compliment and hope that it’s taken in that spirit. It reminds me of watching “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street.” Do you remember when Mr. Rogers took us to the Crayola factory and we learned how to make crayons? Or when “Sesame Street” showed us how cheese went from being milk on the farm to cheese in the store? It’s a lot like that and that’s so cool. Wouldn’t it be great to wake up and say “I wonder what it’d be like to…” and you get to do that for a day job. So we get to live vicariously through Day’s adventures and share in the fun she’s having.

“Dark Horse Motion Comics”

The final new show is “Dark Horse Motion Comics.”  I don’t really follow comics and I don’t really like horror. But I was curious and decided to check it out the first two episodes. I’m assuming ‘The Secret’ series is a horror tale because it begins with a bloody hand and a woman’s scream. The telling has been more suspense and less gore, which is a relief to this big chicken. Artist Jason Shawn Alexander’s striking artwork creates the backdrop to the typical teenage-prank-gone-wrong story. The suspense builds as a group of high school students attempt to solve a mystery after getting no help from local authorities. It’ll be interesting to see if any twists develop in the story, so far it seems a little predictable. I like the overall of aesthetic of motion comics and want to see how it works for other artists. Surprisingly, in the end, I actually found that I'm looking forward to catching the upcoming episodes of 'The Secret' later this week to what happens next.

Overall, I like the communal feel of G&S programming and am curious to see where they take it. I'm really excited about the children's show, "Written by a Kid," for several reasons that I'll explore later. If you haven’t seen these shows yet, I have a link for Geek and Sundry over in the Cool Stuff to Check Out section. I look forward to watching the other programs as they come available.


Coming soon!
  • More Geek and Sundry shows
  • A review of Joss Whedon's Cabin in the Woods
Stay tuned!