Friday the 13th is a lucky day for horror fans, because the week's best movie is a great thriller that also neatly analyzes the whole genre.
"The Cabin in the Woods" has been on the shelf a long time (thanks largely to MGM's bankruptcy issues), but it's still a fresh and lively take on the horror genre. Without giving awa too much, you should know it's about five college students (including a pre-"Thor" Chris Hemsworth) who take a spring-break trip to a remote cabin where bad stuff starts happening -- and that, somewhere, there's a secret base where white-collar guys (played by Bradley Whitford and Richard Jenkins) are doing something mysterious. Just trust that if you are into horror, director Drew Goddard (co-writing with his former boss, "Buffy" creator Joss Whedon) delivers the chills while also giving a pointed commentary about why good horror movies work.
A different kind of horror show -- meaning that the movie is horrible -- is "The Three Stooges," the Farrelly brothers' updating of the classic comic trio. With a plot stolen from "The Blues Brothers," the Stooges (Sean Hayes, Will Sasso and Chris Diamantopolous) have to save their orphanage from foreclosure, and end up involved in a murder-for-hire plot. The slapstick may be authentic to the original, but the jokes don't generate any laughs. (That said, I'm kind of rooting for the movie's success, because it's the first major movie role for Utah's own Kirby Heyborne. Read the Cricket's interview.)
Another studio movie, not screened for critics, is "Lockout," a sci-fi action movie about a rebel (Guy Pearce) sent to rescue the president's daughter (Maggie Grace) from an orbiting prison. (Any comparisons to "Escape From New York" are, no doubt, coincidental.)
Two movies are being pushed with "faith-based" marketing campaigns. "Touchback" is a sentimental drama about a struggling farmer (Bryan Presley) who gets to relive his high-school football days; the Tribune's Scott D. Pierce found it corny and overdone. "October Baby" is a hamfisted anti-abortion drama, about a college student (Rachel Hendrix) searching for the biological mother who tried to abort her.
On the art house slate, the best entry is "The Kid With a Bike," the latest slice-of-life drama by Belgium's Dardennes brothers. The title character, Cyril (Thomas Doret), is a 10-year-old orphan who bridles at life in a foster-care facility, but finds a new chance when he's given a weekend foster home with a hairdresser (Cécile De France). The drama is authentic, the emotions genuine and raw.
The German melodrama "Young Goethe in Love" is a romance novel dressed up like historical fiction. It depicts the young poet-to-be Johann Goethe (Alexander Fehling) taking a job as a small-town court clerk and falls for a village lass (Miriam Stein) -- who is, alas, betrothed to marry Goethe's boss (Moritz Bleibtreu).
Lastly, there's "The Raid: Redemption," a wickedly over-the-top martial-arts action movie from Indonesia. It's set in a Jakarta tenement high-rise, where a SWAT team goes in to arrest a crime lord who won't go quietly. The violence is off-the-charts, but the fight scenes are astonishing.
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