2012 Movie Review Roundup: The Raid, 21 Jump Street, The Cabin in the Woods, Damsels in Distress

I caught a handful of movies at the cinema last month but didn’t get a chance to write full reviews for them. Here are some quick thoughts on each:

The Raid: Redemption [2011]
The Raid: Redemption [dir. Gareth Evans]
I am a little surprised by the massive amount of love The Raid has been getting. There is no doubt that it is a crazy intense action film, arguably one of the most entertaining of the genre to come out in years, but I never quite fell in love with it as so many others did. The first act of the film, which focuses heavily on redundant gun warfare, is not much different from a Call of Duty game. However, once the characters drop the guns in favor of hand-to-hand combat, the film really kicks it up a notch. This is when the beautifully choreographed action setpieces shine, stunning in their execution yet grotesque in their aftermath. This is a violent movie, no doubt about it, and it’s not going to please everyone. In the end, I enjoyed The Raid, but it took me a little while to really get into the film. 7/10

21 Jump Street [2012]
21 Jump Street [Phil Lord, Chris Miller]
I never watched the 80s TV show that this movie is loosely based on, but this reboot is a hell of a lot funnier than I ever could have expected. Who knew Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum would make a formidable comedy tandem? The story of two cops going undercover in a high school is hardly anything new (and not just because this is a reboot), but it helps that the movie is self aware. There are several jokes about its concept, as everyone involved knows just how ridiculous it sounds. The two leads are likable, and both know how to bring the laughs. Some of the jokes have been recycled from elsewhere, but on the whole, 21 Jump Street is a fun, light comedy that most will enjoy. Keep an eye out for two awesome cameos near the end. 7/10

Cabin in the Woods [2012]
The Cabin in the Woods [Drew Goddard]
Speaking of self aware, how about The Cabin in the Woods? I wasn’t expecting much, if anything, from this horror film, but I left the theater with the biggest smile on my face. Original horror films are a rarity these days, but this one takes the cake. The film-within-a-film of a group of kids taking a weekend vacation at a relative’s mountain cabin is one we have seen a million times, but Cabin goes all meta with this and plays with all of the familiar tropes. There is a second, deeper storyline that makes the film what it really is, and once the big twist is revealed, it really kicks into another gear. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t seen the movie, but the final act is a freakin’ blast. My only real beef with the film comes from Fran Kranza’s uninspired performance as the token stoner. 8/10

Damsels in Distress [2011]
Damsels in Distress [Whit Stillman]
I went into this film pretty much blind. Unfortunately, my first Whit Stillman movie left me unimpressed. I loved the beginning of the movie, as we are introduced to a peculiar group of college girls (led by the brilliant Greta Gerwig) who take a new transfer student under their wings, but it quickly spirals out of control after twenty minutes or so. There is no real purpose to the film, as it just meanders along aimlessly, jumping from subplot to subplot with no real connection. To call this film disjointed is an understatement, which is a shame since the dialogue is generally witty and enjoyable. Props to Gerwig, though — she is always fun to watch. 5/10

What do you guys think of these movies? Were you able to see any of them as well?

36 thoughts on “2012 Movie Review Roundup: The Raid, 21 Jump Street, The Cabin in the Woods, Damsels in Distress

  1. Pete says:

    Loved Cabin and Jump Street. Laughed my ass off in both! Can’t wait to see The Raid… sounds awesome but I hope it’s not a let down. Not sure I fancy Damsels.

  2. Dave Enkosky says:

    I wouldn’t call The Raid a great movie but I certainly loved it. The stunningly choreographed fight scenes were enough for me to call it one of my favorite action movies of the decade.

  3. sanclementejedi says:

    I enjoyed Cabin in the Woods, really like the Raid and felt 21 Jump Street was much better than I expected.
    So you don’t like Call of Duty? are you more of Halo guy? 🙂

    • Eric says:

      Oh, I like Call of Duty well enough, I was just making a point that The Raid’s gunfights weren’t anything different than what has been shown in countless FPS games lately. Different mediums, yes, but none of the The Raid’s gunplay felt fresh and/or exciting to me. Now, the hand-to-hand combat, THAT was awesome.

  4. sati says:

    I completely agree abou the cameos in 21 Jump Street – I couldn’t believe my eyes it was so awesome and unexpected. Really funny movie too.

    • Eric says:

      Haha yeah, I remember hearing about the cameos beforehand, unfortunately, but I had forgotten all about them by the time they showed up on screen. Best part of the movie.

  5. Castor says:

    I had a good time with 21 Jump Street. I didn’t know what to expect, especially with Tatum in a lead role but he was actually pretty good. Have yet to see The Raid and The Cabin in the Woods but looking forward to rent both!

    • Eric says:

      Ahhh, Cas, you should see The Cabin in the Woods in the theater! Seriously, it is a blast, and it’s so much fun with a good-sized audience. The same could be said for The Raid, too, but I recommend Cabin even more.

  6. Jaina says:

    I’ve not heard much good stuff about Damsels in Distress – will be avoiding that one.

    As for Cabin, so glad you enjoyed it! It’s just such a breath of fresh air for the horror genre.

    Will be trying to catch 21 Jump Street when it hits my TV screen – I’m sad I missed it in the cinema. Have heard nothing but good things about it.

    • Eric says:

      The problem with Damsels in Distress is that it feels like there is a great, or at least highly entertaining, film in there *somewhere* — it just bounces around aimlessly without ever finding it. Too bad.

      21 Jump Street is good fun. I think you’ll dig it, Jaina.

  7. impsndcnma says:

    Out of these I only saw 21 Jump Street. I would’ve loved to have seen The Raid, but I guess that will be a Blu-ray rental from me.

    Eric, I’m picking up Diablo III next week, are you going to join in?

    • Eric says:

      Hmm… it’s tempting, man. I have never actually played a Diablo game (although my former roommate was a huge D2 fan), but I loved Torchlight. I probably won’t be buying it next week, but I’m sure I will check it sometime soon.

  8. Gary Smith says:

    Okay, now I’m going to have to make a point of watching Cabin in the Woods when it hits the movie channels even though I’m not a horror fan. Heard nothing but great things about it. 21 Jump Street looks pretty good too.

  9. ruth says:

    Nice roundup here Eric. Seems like everyone loves The Raid. I heard that the first one by Evans called Merantau has a bit more story to go w/ all the combat stuff.

    I have no interest in ‘Damsels in Distress’ and your review definitely doesn’t change my opinion. I think the only reason I might rent 21 Jump Street is just to see Johnny Depp’s cameo 🙂

    • Eric says:

      Cool, I might have to check out Merantau. I’m not familiar with any of Evans’ other work, but The Raid shows he definitely has talent.

      Depp’s cameo is hilarious in 21 Jump Street. My favorite part of the movie, too, even if he is only on screen very briefly. 🙂

  10. Dan says:

    Heres an example of a poor trailer nearly killing a film. I was completely underwhelmed by the Cabin trailer but after reading so many positive reviews I’m now going to have to check it out.

    • Eric says:

      Same here, Dan. I had little interest in Cabin but went to see it after so many rave reviews. It lived up to the hype — best movie I have seen so far this year!

  11. maroon5gurl88 says:

    Loved Cabin and Jump Street (far more than I expected to). I’m sad you didn’t enjoy Damsels in Distress. I want to see it but I’ve heard it’s polarizing, I’ve read one positive review and you’re my negative lol.

    • Eric says:

      Haha well you might get more out of Damsels in Distress than me. It’s an eclectic little film with flashes of brilliance, but I just didn’t think it worked very well as a cohesive unit.

  12. Chris says:

    I have a feeling The Raid is too violent for my taste, though I’m game giving “Cabin in the Woods” a look when I get the chance.

    I was kind of prejudiced against horror for while, but am slowly warming to the genre again having discovered Dario Argento in May(more on that in my monthly recap)

    • Eric says:

      Oh yeah, The Raid is incredibly violent. It still baffles me that people in my theater were laughing hysterically as people’s throats were being brutally cut open on screen. Apparently that is a common reaction, but I just don’t get it.

      Dario Argento, eh? That’s a blind spot for me. I really need to see some of his work.

  13. Dan says:

    I’m definitely in the minority, but I really liked Damsels in Distress. I’m a big Whit Stillman fan, so the fact that I’ve waited so long for another film from him likely played a role. Still, I think there’s a lot to like about it even for Stillman newbies. I will say that its humor is really offbeat and isn’t going to work for a lot of people, so I can’t argue with anyone who doesn’t like it.

    I’m right with you with Cabin in the Woods, which was a lot of fun.

    • Eric says:

      You know, I really wanted to like Damsels in Distress, and I was really into the first 20 minutes or so, but it lost me once the plot began to meander. I would still like to see some of Stillman’s past work, though. Could you recommend a good starting point, Dan? I know he has a small filmography, so maybe starting from the beginning would be a good idea?

      Glad to hear you enjoyed Cabin in the Woods as well. Still probably my favorite movie from this year so far.

      • Dan says:

        I’d suggest starting with Metropolitan, Stillman’s first movie. That should give a pretty good idea if you enjoy his style. From there, I’d then check out the other two, Barcelona and Last Days of Disco. They’re different but have a similar tone.

  14. Aislynn says:

    Ignoring the replies just in case someone did spill the beans regarding “Cabin in the Woods”, I told my hubby we have to watch it this weekend, it’s been ages since we watched a horror movie together (or so it feels). Good to know that I can tell my hubby, if he’s unimpressed, that there’s something at the end to wait for 😉

    • Eric says:

      Awesome! Just keep in mind that this is a very self-aware horror film so it plays with some of the old tropes of the genre. It has a lot of funny moments, and if you guys are into horror you will get a kick out of it. I hope you stop by again once you’ve seen it — would love to hear your thoughts!

      • Aislynn says:

        We watched it. My hubby was so not excited before he saw the director, writer, and some of the names of people in the cast. I hadn’t told him anything about it.

        What a great movie! It really has everything you want from a horror movie, and then some. Really enjoyable, worth re-watching according to the hubby, who generally doesn’t want to watch horror more than once 😉

        Glad you mentioned it 🙂

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