Crafty ‘Cabin,’ Limp ‘Lockout,’ Bruising ‘Bully,’ Silly ‘Stooges,’ Trashy ‘Titans,’ Broken ‘Mirror’

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FS
Contributing Writer

 

“The Cabin in the Woods”

Horror conventions are cleverly skewered by fanboy-favorite Joss Whedon in “The Cabin in the Woods” (wide release), an engaging, if not very scary, riff on the old college-kids-pursued-by-backwoods-killers plot.

But it’s made clear early on that the threat to the students is no random matter, but something arranged by a bunch of businesslike scientists.  The reason behind the scheme provides the big twist of the final reel, which any reader of H.P. Lovecraft will appreciate.

The result is one of the niftiest take-offs on genre cliché since “Scream.”

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“Lockout”

The newest potboiler from Luc Besson’s production stable, “Lockout” (wide release), is basically a remake of John Carpenter’s “Escape from New York,” with the maximum-security prison from which the trash-talking hero must extract a hostage moved from Manhattan to a satellite in orbit around the earth.

The only reason to see the movie is Guy Pearce, who brings smoothness and swagger to the ex-CIA agent who undertakes the mission.

But otherwise “Lockout” is a stale recycling of moldy material.

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“Bully”

Lee Hirsch’s documentary “Bully” (Angelika) has gained notoriety because of a battle over its rating, which threatened to exclude the teens who might most benefit from it. Fortunately the dispute was settled, and a PG-13 assigned.

The film presents a snapshot of bullying in American public schools through the cases of five kids: two who committed suicide, a third put in detention for brandishing a gun at her tormentors, and two – a shy boy and a girl who came out – ostracized and physically mistreated by their fellow students. As frightening as the bullying itself is the callous reaction of administrators and police, who prove unwilling or unable to act and, after tragedy occurs, strike a defensive pose.

“Bully” is long on provocation and short on analysis. But though technically conventional, it’s emotionally powerful, and should serve a useful function in encouraging discussion of a serious societal problem.

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“The Three Stooges”

The Farrelly brothers, best known for “There’s Something About Mary,” obviously have great fondness for Moe, Larry and Curly, and have made a curious tribute to them with “The Three Stooges” (wide release).

It’s not the biographical picture you might have expected, however, but rather a feature-length Stooges movie starring imitators rather than the real thing.  And the ridiculous plot – in which the boys get enmeshed in a murder scheme while trying to raise money to save the orphanage where they were raised – is merely an excuse to recreate many of the trio’s slapstick-violence routines.

The result isn’t as terrible as one might expect, but though reasonably well executed it’s weird rather than funny.  You might react by wondering why anybody bothered making it, instead of laughing at the result.

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“Wrath of the Titans”

Greek mythology takes another beating in “Wrath of the Titans” (wide release), a sequel to 2010’s “Clash of the Titans.”

Sam Worthington returns as Perseus, a demigod-farmer called into service by his father, Zeus (Liam Neeson), to help keep destructive titan Kronos trapped in Tartarus.

Unfortunately Hades (Ralph Fiennes) betrays his brother, and Perseus must descend to the underworld to free Zeus, defeat the traitors and best Kronos with the aid of winged steed Pegasus and a magic javelin.

This farrago is played without tongue planted firmly in cheek – a terrible mistake.  The cornucopia of CGI effects is decent enough, but as usual the use of 3-D muddies the images.

Early on in the movie, Neeson’s Zeus warns that a catastrophe is coming.  Turns out he’s right.

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“Mirror Mirror”

Fairy tales are in this year, but “Mirror Mirror” (wide release), a fractured retelling of the Snow White story, is a bust.

Julia Roberts plays the Evil Queen who’s stolen Snow’s kingdom.  The girl escapes to the forest where she’s taken in by the seven dwarfs, here a gang of robbers who don inflatable stilts to attack their prey.  They turn Snow into a warrior princess as adept with a sword as any man, including the prince who loves her at first sight.

The picture is a chaotic collection of slapstick farce, frat-boy banter, family-film sweetness and odd sequences of CGI grotesquerie.  Though it boasts some striking imagery courtesy of director Tarsem Singh, it’s not so much enchanting as exhausting.

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