"The Cabin in the Woods" _ Stop reading this review right now. Go see the movie, then come back and we can have a conversation about it. The less you know going into it, the better. We can say this much: The hype is justified. And that's saying something when we're talking about geek god Joss Whedon, who produced and co-wrote the script with director Drew Goddard, a veteran of such revered TV shows as "Lost" and Whedon's own "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." Goddard makes his directing debut with this long-awaited film but he keeps all the moving parts humming along with thrilling fluidity and ease. "The Cabin in the Woods" walks a very difficult line and manages to find the right tone pretty much the entire time. Anyone can spoof and parody and wink at the camera in making fun of a specific genre, especially one like horror in which the conventions are so deeply ingrained and staying a couple steps ahead of the characters is part of the fun. But the trick is to avoid going overboard and to play it somewhat straight. "Cabin" affectionately toys with the familiarity of certain types and plot points but it also dares to take a step back and examine why we need to return to these sorts of films, why we love to laugh and jump, why we hunger for carnage and thirst for blood. It pays homage to the kinds of frights horror fans know and love while managing to provide surprises and twists, layers upon layers, over and over again. It's humorously self-aware without being smugly sarcastic. Five friends go away for the weekend to a remote cabin by a lake. Clearly, they won't all make it out alive. R for strong bloody horror, violence and gore, language, drug use and some sexuality/nudity. 95 minutes. Three and a half stars out of four.
_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"Lockout" _ If a futuristic space prison with 500 of the world's most violent and dangerous criminals cryogenically frozen was to somehow undergo an inmate revolt, who would emerge as the unquestioned leader of such an intergalactic gang of gruesome murders? Why the Scots, of course. At least that's according to this sci-fi circa 2079 action flick, directed by a pair of Irish filmmakers: James Mather and Stephen St. Leger. They co-wrote it with producer Luc Besson, the prodigious if seldom proficient French action filmmaker. The MS One is a hulking, orbiting jail that puts its prisoners in "stasis," or a deep sleep. But when the president's daughter (Maggie Grace) visits to question its methods, a prisoner easily gets loose and soon the ship is overrun by criminals who immediately fall in line behind the Scottish Alex (Vincent Regan) and his more psychotic sibling Hydell (Joe Gilgun). Obviously, such awkward circumstances can only be resolved by a solo, heroic mission from a reluctant, irascible protagonist. Ours is Snow (Guy Pearce), an agent who has been unjustly deemed a criminal after a mission gone wrong. This is a brawnier Pearce ("L.A. Confidential," "Mildred Pierce"), and if "Lockout" is meant as an action hero audition, he certainly has the needed charisma. He's the only reason to see the film. The cheap visual effects are so bad that you'll be wondering if you misplaced your 3-D glasses. PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and language, including some sexual references. 95 minutes. Two stars out of four.
_ Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer
"The Three Stooges" _ A little nyuk-nyuk-nyuk goes a long way in Peter and Bobby Farrelly's feature-length homage to the classic slapstick comedy trio. The Farrelly brothers have wanted to make this movie for years, and for the most part they didn't try to inflict their signature gross-out sensibility upon known and revered source material. As directors and writers (with screenplay help from their boyhood friend Mike Cerrone), the Farrellys have shown surprising restraint. Their "Three Stooges" is sweeter than you might expect, and it's certainly more tolerable than their last movie, the crass "Hall Pass" from last year. But it's hard to imagine who the film is for today beyond hardcore fans of the original shorts and 10-year-old boys who double over giggling at the sight of grown men doubling over in pain. There are a few cute ideas, though, and some clever casting choices. Every once in a while a pun is good for a chuckle. But the head-bonking and the eye-poking, the face-slapping and the finger-snapping and the constant clang of sound effects are too much to bear over an extended period of time. If anything, the Farrellys' "Three Stooges" might make you want to go back and revisit the original threesome _ in short doses _ for a reminder of how influential their brand of comedy has become. With Sean Hayes as Larry, Will Sasso as Curly and Chris Diamantopoulos as Moe. PG for slapstick action violence and some rude and suggestive humor including language. 91 minutes. Two stars out of four.
_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic