Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Frakking Shiny Goes to the Movies- Cabin the Woods

Have you seen "Cabin the Woods" yet?

No? Then stop reading this right now. Because I am going to spoil the shit out of "Cabin in the Woods".

Still with me? You say you don't want to see "Cabin in the Woods"? Well you should. It's great. And seriously, we are going to talk about this movie in 5..4....3..2...1

Here goes:

I don't particularly care for horror as a genre.

I mean, I like the idea of horror movies. I love monsters. I love suspense. I love watching people solve puzzles (like, how do we get rid of this ghost that's killing all of the teenagers in this camp?).

But the execution of horror movies? I don't care for it, most of the time.

Why? Well nearly every horror movie you watch is exactly the same. A bunch of dumb kids do something stupid, wake up some kind of monster or serial killer, then proceed to make a series of stupid decisions that get nearly all of them killed. Then, the two or three characters who live overlook some very important factor in defeating their particular monster/serial killer allowing that monster/serial killer to come back in subsequent films. So there's that. I hate watching stupid characters being stupid.

Also, most of those stupid characters tend to be flat, boring, stereotypes. The dumb jock. The bimbo. The virgin. The funny guy. The goth. You get the idea. These aren't people- they're cartoon characters. And not cool cartoon characters like Bugs Bunny or the Animaniacs. These are really boring, mostly unbelievable cartoon characters. Oh, and have I mentioned how stupid they usually are?

Finally, the third thing I hate in horror movies is massive, totally unnecessary amounts of gore. I hate torture porn. I hate the "Saw" movies. I hated "Descent." Why? Because somewhere, somehow, someone decided that "violent" and "scary" are the same thing. They aren't. I mean, a little gore can be scary. But what's really scary is tension, suspense, and the breaking of that tension with something unexpected (interestingly enough, comedy works in basically the same way). Throwing buckets of blood and entrails around isn't the same thing. There is no tension, and no subtlety in most modern horror movies. To me, they're violent to the point that they actually seem kind of silly.

I mean, it would be one thing if there were just a few movies populated by dumb stereotypes who get violently murdered by crazy monsters, but there are tons of them. And they're inexpensive to make, and provide a pretty good return on investment, so I understand why Hollywood keeps churning the damned things out. But I wish Hollywood would say to itself "You know Hollywood? We make alot of money on these dumb movies, but we could do alot better."

Enter "Cabin in the Woods".

First and foremost, "Cabin in the Woods" isn't REALLY a horror movie so much as it's a movie about horror movies. Joss Whedon and Drew Goddard have produced a film that pays homage to what's great about the horror genre while tearing down what sucks about it. They have made a fun, funny movie that makes kind of a statement.

Basically, to spoil everything, a bunch of college kids go out to a cabin in the woods for a fun weekend, and they (mostly) get killed by some redneck zombies. Sort of. In reality, a large organization in some undisclosed location has been tasked with setting up human sacrifices to please some sort of Lovecraftian "old gods." These old gods demand their sacrifices follow a very specific set of rules. Specifically, they follow the rules of a typical horror film. So the kids are really part of a ritual sacrifice being orchestrated by a shadowy organization that is forcing them to (without their knowledge) play out the tropes of a typical Hollywood horror film.

Here is how Whedon and Goddard have addressed each of my three criticisms of modern horror:

1. The Stupids- In "Cabin in the Woods" the characters are actually pretty smart. They're college educated, and when confronted with a difficult situation (zombies) they actually make some pretty smart decisions- like sticking together instead of splitting up. The movie actually calls this out when the workers at the sacrifice factory start to freak out because the kids are making themselves tougher to kill. We then see those workers take a series of steps to actually make the kids dumber. They squirt Chris Hemsworth with a pheremone that makes him dumber. They poison the Stoner's pot to make him oblivious to the world around him. They put something in one girl's hair dye to make her act more like a bimbo (more on this in a minute). This is basically the filmmakers calling out how dumb teens act in most scary movies. The kids in "Cabin in the Woods" aren't dumb at all- they're just drugged. And in the end, one of them (the "Stoner") realizes that nothing that's going on makes sense, figures out what's going on saves the day (kind of).

2. The Stereotypes- No one in "Cabin in the Woods" is one dimensional, really. There is a bimbo, but as mentioned above, she's been drugged (basically). There is a dumb jock, but he's actually a merit scholar who is only acting dumb because he has also been drugged. Oh, and the Stoner saves the day (kind of).

3. Torture Porn- There is a ton of gore in "Cabin" but it's SO over the top and SO ridiculous. Have you ever wanted to see a guy get impaled by a unicorn? Then this is the movie for you. The violence here isn't meant to scare you, or gross you out, it's meant to show you how silly it is when horror movies try to use over the top gore to accomplish the goal of frightening an audience.

So there it is. As a statement about modern horror films, I loved "Cabin in the Woods." I also loved it just as a fun movie. The dialogue is great, the characters are believable, and the movie is, at points, laugh out loud funny. Go check it out if you get the chance.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

10 Things I Learned in New Zealand

Our honeymoon in New Zealand was incredible.  It's the farthest I've ever traveled and I must say that of all the places I've travelled (England, Wales, Germany, Denmark, France), New Zealand takes the cupcake (cupcakes are more in than cakes, right?).

So, without further adieu, here are ten things I learned in New Zealand:

1. First and foremost, Kiwis (New Zealanders) are some of the most friendly and engaging humans on the planet.  They not only want to chat with you, but they want to learn something from you and interact with you on a personal level as well. The whole experience was so sincere and friendly.  It was quite refreshing.   Sweet As!

2. Caves are some of the coolest pieces of mother nature's handiwork ever.  In one cave we saw stalactites covered in moss that were being pulled towards the sun by the moss, rounded rocks, glow worms (!) and so many other things.  Our guide, Dion, was another example of kiwi awesomeness too.
 (Honeymooners in one of the Waitomo caves)

3. Driving on the right-hand side is MUCH easier to get used to than one would think.  Honestly, the harder part was being a passenger because you kept grabbing for the invisible steering wheel!
(Look mom, no hands!)

4. Hobbiton smells like fresh cut grass & sheep.
(The view up to Bag End from the orchards)

5. Frodo could step out his front door, look down the hill to the left and see Sam's house. I like to think of the two of them, outside, smoking a pipe to wind down for the day and giving each other a little wave.
(Samwise's house as seen from Bag End)

6. There are California Red Woods in Rotorua, New Zealand. A long time ago, botonists attempted to plant a ton of different types of trees where the Whakarewarewa Forest now stands. One of the trees to survive and thrive? California Red Woods:
(Why, hello, Mr. Redwood! It seems you're far from home!)

7.  This is so, totally fun:
(Chelsea Thrillseeker on the Kaituna River Rapids, ladies n' gents.)

8. Restaurant service in New Zealand is very different and inconsistent.  There really isn't a standard order to things. Some restaurants have you order & pay for your food and THEN sit down and be served.  Others will bring you a bill at the end of the meal.  And still others will require you to walk up to some cashier to check out after all is said and done.  Nothing is posted and no one tells you how it works.  It must be so they can laugh at the confused Americans.  We had a very kind waitress at the Fox and Ferret in Christchurch take pity on us and explain this.  And, for the record, this is the size of a true pint glass. Not the slimmer versions elsewhere:
(mmmm, cider)

9. Earthquakes suck:

(What remained of Christchurch's beautiful cathedral)
BUT as with any large tragedy, people do amazing things in spite of their wreckage.  Behold, the Re:START zone in Christchurch, New Zealand:

10. Trying things outside of your comfort zone makes you feel more alive.  I was terrified of many of the things I did in New Zealand (specifically white water kayaking), but in the spirit of honeymooning, I decided not to be a chickenpoop about anything. And I will never, EVER regret it.
(Abseiling. See the tiny white dot down below? That's a person's helmet)
(Sean attacks the Kaituna River Falls)
(Glacier Cave!)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tips- For Life

I know, I know. We've been negligent bloggers this year. We've been busy!

Anyway. There are more New Zealand posts coming, as well as some other cool stuff. So stay tuned!

In the mean time, here are some tips for your life:

1. If you're like 19 years old, don't get a ton of piercings and tattoos. I mean, it's cool if you want to get some piercings and some tattoos, but don't go crazy. Like, don't get a big tattoo on your throat, or pierce your septum or whatever. Why? Well, you probably think I'm going to say something about getting a job, and while that's a valid point, I think what you really need to consider is that your sense of what looks cool is going to be totally different by the time you turn 26. Like, you're 19, and maybe you're really into Che Guevara and you love "The Motorcycle Diaries" and you think you're a really rebellious socialist, so you get a big Che Guevara tattoo on your back that says something like "DAMN THE MAN". But then you get out of school, and you realize that you actually like making money, and that most of those Communist countries had really oppressive governments and now that big ol' Che tattoo looks pretty stupid. Anyway. My point isn't political. My point is that people's tastes change.

2. Don't eat food if you don't recognize the name of an ingredient listed on the label, like "Maltodextrin". Do you want to know how to eat healthy? It's pretty simple- eat real food. A Twinkie is not real food. Oranges are real food. Doritos are not real food. Salmon is real food. "But I LOVE Twinkies" you says. "No you don't" says I. You've developed food Stockholm Syndrome. You've been eating those damned things for so long that you've really convinced yourself in the back of your head that you love them. You don't. Now go eat a bunch of figs.

3. Do things that are outside of your comfort zone. Have you never been to an opera? Go to one. Never ridden on a motorcycle? Ride one. Are you afraid of sharks? Go check out the shark exhibit at the aquarium. You only get so much life to live. Experience as many things as you can while you can. You will be AMAZED how much you can learn about the world, other people, and yourself by stepping outside of your regular daily life box.

4. Don't assume that someone is dumb or bad just because their opinions and beliefs are different than yours. If people only had one opinion on any given topic, the world would be a pretty boring place.

5. Help people. Help strangers. Help people you know. Help people you don't like. You reap what you sow.

6. If you get a job, and you go to get a cup of coffee, and you drain the pot, MAKE MORE COFFEE! DON'T LEAVE THE POT EMPTY! And if you do leave the pot empty, AT LEAST turn the burner off. If you leave an empty glass pot on a burner that is turned on, it will break into a million pieces.

7. At some point, go to a sporting event that you like between two teams you don't care about. Like, I love baseball, and I love going to see the Red Sox (my most favorite team) but I get really stressed out watching the Red Sox because I love them, and I want them to succeed, and it makes me sad when they don't. In contrast, if I go see...let's say the Cubs play the Nationals? I can just relax, eat hot dogs, get a sun burn, and enjoy the game for what it is- a game.

8. Don't watch "The Big Bang Theory" it's terrible. Also, if you meet me, don't say something to me like "You're funny, and you're a nerd, you must love the Big Bang Theory!" because I don't. I hate it.

9. Don't pay for things you don't use. Did you sign up for a gym membership in January, go for two weeks and then stop? Do you subscribe to a Cable service provider even though you mostly watch TV shows through Netflix and Hulu? Stop. Stop doing that. Stop paying for things that you don't use. It's a waste of money that you could be spending on things you DO use.

10. And here it is, my number one tip for life: Doing something the easy way is NEVER worth it. Ever. If you eat food, cook that food yourself- it will taste better, and probably be better for you. If you own a house, and something breaks, spend the money to fix that thing properly rather than paying just a little money to put a band-aid on it. If you have a job, work your butt off at that job rather than just showing up, collecting a paycheck, and going home. Taking the time, and putting in the effort to do things the right way will improve your life exponentially.