Friday, October 29, 2010

A Reel Review: SAW 3D

OPENING REMARKS: Despite the obvious encouragement of the studios, this blogger intended NOT to view this film in 3D. Every film should be able to be judged upon its own merits of content, entertainment, etc. Nothing should need a gimmick to make things complete. Unfortunately, the world is being taken over by Satan, and this Opus of Shit was made unavailable in 2D in this blogger’s market.

On to business:

SAW 3D (or VII) looks to carry on the tradition of its VI predecessors by offering gory man-traps which are supposed to provide meaning in a larger tale of humanity and retribution, weaved around a mystery of who-dun-it. It is a formula that has kept the die-hard fans of the series blindly coming back for more every year. VII tries really hard to get one element right, but forgets to pay attention to another in what is supposed to be the grand finale of the series.

As Jigsaws heir-apparent Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) battles Jigsaw’s widow Jill (Betsy Russell) for the Jigsaw legacy, a group of Jigsaw survivors seek the help of self-proclaimed man-trap survivor Bobby (Sean Patrick Flannery). Bobby finds himself in another maze of traps to atone for his dark secrets, while Dr. Gordon (Cary Elwes) returns to explain his fate that we never saw at the end of I.

The series has always prided itself on the cleverness and horror of its man-traps, and VII is no different. But what makes things fall flat is the lack of a mystery. We know Bobby has to navigate/survive the traps, we know Hoffman is the bad guy who wants to kill Jill (not Bill), and after that there’s nothing of interest. Seeing Bobby go from trap to trap, led by an endless supply of no-longer-creepy puppets, becomes tedious, not to mention…somewhat boring. It’s hard not to watch trap-after-trap and say “I feel like I’ve seen this before”.

The Hoffman vs. Jill storyline becomes more of a cat-and-mouse game with an obvious inevitable showdown. There is no mystery behind it, and the way it plays out in the end is nothing that could not have been resolved IV movies ago. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is reduced to small cameos here and there, and his status as a prophet and genius is pushed way to the back of the room. His presence feels like an afterthought, and almost intrusive.

The traps are gory and bloody and offer some squeamish moments. However each one, especially the last one, pushes the realm of believability and is far and removed from the cleverness of the first and even second film. Lots of blood and hacked-up bodies are present; and while the gore is nicely done via CGI and practical effects, it’s not very scary and doesn’t help matters much in a “horror” film.

Director Kevin Greutert offers little to the mix and contributes to the mundane feel. What’s interesting here is that things look a lot more colorful than past attempts which were shot in flat tones. This may be because of the 3D (most 3D films suffer from being too dark), but the problem is the overuse of color makes things look fake and unconvincing. The uncharacteristic color and unrealistic scenarios make the entire run feel like a parody. The Third Dimension is shockingly under-used, and offers little other than a few pointy things and a handful of projectiles.

The grand finale is probably seen from 100 miles away by die-hards of the franchise, and feels like a tack-on more than a proper bookend that followers deserve. There is also a moment near the end that is such a Jump-the-Shark/Nuke-the-Fridge moment that it’s laughable and murders the credibility of everything. A shame, as followers of this storyline for 7 years should get more for their overpriced 3D ticket. Jigsaw has left the building; not with a bang, but with a quiet slip into nothingness.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Reel Facts & Opinions

FACT: A recent interview with Christopher Nolan posted on states some Whopper-sized news: the title of Batman 3 will be THE DARK KNIGHT RISES.
The interview also eliminated The Riddler as the villian.

OPINION: I told you guys you wouldn't see The Riddler.

FACT: The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, announced that THE HOBBIT will indeed be filmed in New Zealand. The Government will introduce legislation to clarify the distinction between independent contractors and employees as it relates to the film industry only. This was the sticking point that had Union actors being pressured to walk away from the $670 million dollar film.

OPINION: The good guys win.

FACT: Lucasfilm has announced that it will convert all of the Indiana Jones films to 3D for theatrical release.

OPINION: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK is already a perfect film and needs no help; and not even 3D rendered by Jesus Christ can improve THE CRYSTAL SKULL.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A Reel Review: HEREAFTER

Clint Eastwood’s HEREAFTER is less about death and more about life. The film spends a short time dealing with death and the beyond, and that can either be the blessing or curse of the story. Eastwood doesn’t go for a SIXTH SENSE or POLTERGIEST tale, and instead weaves a deliberately slow-paced story about three people searching for answers.

HEREAFTER is about three separate storylines that have nothing to do with each other until the very end. The first involves George (Matt Damon), a former psychic with a legitimate gift of being able to communicate with the dead. The second involves twin brothers Marcus and Jason (Frankie and George McLaren); with the latter dying in a horrific car accident. The third involves French TV anchor Marie (Cecile de France), who survives the Thailan tsunami, but not before clinically dying and seeing visions of the afterlife.

The 80-year old Eastwood seems less interested in the afterlife and more interested in dissecting the heads and souls of the three characters. Their situations are heartbreaking and grounded; always accessible by the audience. If HEREAFTER has one flaw it’s that the deliberate SLOW pacing makes the audience try to latch on something, and its George’s story that sticks out as the most interesting. The other two almost seem intrusive. The film trudges along at a pace that seems like its building up to something huge; and Eastwood makes the wise and mature choice of not offering a punch, but a gentle touch of humanity.

Eastwood’s gentle and caring touch is present throughout the film. Tedious pacing, sharp lighting accented by old-fashioned camera work make a grounded and believable atmosphere. The sequences involving the tsunami and the London bombing are perfectly executed; it makes one wonder if ol’ Clint could turn in a balls-to-the-wall action movie someday.

Matt Damon turns in one of his best performances here. The expressions of loneliness and inner turmoil on his face are always present and believable. His love interest (which lasts about 10 minutes), Melanie (Bryce Dallas Howard) is a great sub-plot (and perfectly played by Howard), and it’s almost a shame the little love tale got obliterated so quickly and early.

Eastwood doesn’t really seem to care about the afterlife in this film, and is focused instead on telling us how life events, no matter how chance-like they seem, always bring us to places that we need to be. Audiences looking for answers to the great beyond will walk away disappointed. Lovers of good film will walk away fulfilled.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Reel Facts & Opinions

FACT: It was announced on Friday by the studios involved in THE HOBBIT film adaptation that the Green Light has finally been given. The film will begin shooting in February 2011 with Peter Jackson at the helm.

OPINION: We know the who and when, but not quite the where. The dispute with the actors’ unions is still unresolved; leaving a probable nightmare of no Sir Ian McKellen reprising Gandalf. We're not out of the woods yet.

FACT: The director of THE FIFTH ELEMENT (Luc Besson) has stated that his next film will be a massive sci-fi project that would be ELEMENT “to the power of ten”. Filming would take place in 2012 or 2013 for release the following year.

OPINION: Drool. Too bad we have to wait so damn long.

FACT: Betty White has reportedly been offered a role in the upcoming MEN IN BLACK 3; as a mother of one of the characters.

OPINION: Enough already.

FACT: A script is being peddled around Hollywood for a RISKY BUSINESS sequel.

OPINON: I said enough already!

What say you?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A Reel Review: RED

RED is a film that uses the appeal of old people kicking younger people’s asses. The old folk are assembled from a cast of acting heavyweights, and the young folk aren’t too light either. Set in the backdrop of CIA and political espionage, the film seemed to have the perfect recipe for a hit. Unfortunately for anyone who actually goes to sample this concoction, the ingredients were seemingly slapped together and not left in the pot long enough.

Former CIA black-op Frank (Bruce Willis) is enjoying retirement until a squad of assassins comes knocking on his suburban door with machine guns. After surviving the attack, Frank abducts his squeeze Sarah (Mary Louise-Parker) to protect her, and then employs the help of former colleagues Joe (Morgan Freeman), loopy Marvin (John Malkovitch) and Victoria (Helen Mirren) to figure out why he and his pals are being targeted. Along the way he must dodge the efforts of CIA-meanie William (Karl Urban) and tiptoe around a web of political backstabbing.

RED is a classic case of the sum of the parts being greater than the whole. While the characters are somewhat-great and backed up by great casting, the backdrop is lame and un-engaging; devoid of any depth or interest. The story ultimately belongs to Frank, but his tale and character gets lost amongst the carnage of things blowing up and people getting shot. His pals help keep things afloat, but RED never bothers to come up with a story worthy of the characters. Things feel confused here, as RED can’t decide whether to be an engaging buddy-buddy drama or silly camp.

Director Robert Schwentke seems to be intimidated by the cast he assembled here. He offers nothing of value to the characters or the style of the film. The action sequences are silly and loaded with ho-hum CGI, and the attempted wit falls flatter than a pancake. Transitions are often done by cartoony post-cards, which would have been a clever touch if it didn’t feel so out of place. What's really alarming about the entire run is just how BORING things are. It's hard to place the "why" behind it; it just is.

The cast eats up and hams up their roles to an extent. Some scenes it’s clear that even the actors are bored as they phone it in. Malkovitch gets the most laughs (out of the very few that exist), and Freeman is sinfully underused. The real gems here go to Urban and Louise-Parker, who step into their roles and situations nicely. Smaller roles/cameos by Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine, Brian Cox and Julian McMahon are nice touches but offer little in the grand scheme of things.

RED puts up a few moments that earn a chuckle and a few oohs and aahs, but overall it is an easily forgettable mess. It could have been either a clever character-comedy or an eye-popping actioneer. It tries to do both without much success. Note to future filmmakers: ensemble casts only work if each part contributes something.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Reel Facts & Opinions

FACT: Deadline's Mike Fleming is reporting that Tom Hardy (INCEPTION, ROCKNROLLA) has landed a "lead role" in Christopher Nolan's untitled third Batman movie. Lots of folks are already assuming he's been cast as Edward Nigma aka The Riddler, but at no time has Nolan or anyone connected to the film has indicated that this character will appear in the movie.

OPINION: This blogger still says having The Riddler in Batman 3 would be a long shot, and a mistake. The character is too close in style to The Joker; using humor to pretty up their crimes. Nolan is not one to re-track old territory; chances are the main villain will be quite the opposite of The Joker; just as The Joker was the opposite of the antagonists in the first film.

FACT: Various outlets are reporting that actor Rhys Ifans has been cast as The Lizard in Sony’s upcoming Spiderman reboot.

OPINION: While this blogger is not a fan of rebooting a franchise that’s still fresh in everyone’s minds, it will be nice to finally see The Lizard on the big screen, which is exactly what fans have been waiting for since the first film unspooled. The real challenge for director Marc Webb (no pun intended) and his gang of CGI nerds is to keep such a ridiculous character grounded and realistic. Not to mention scary and menacing.

FACT: Zack Snyder has been quoted in saying that General Zod is just a rumor for his upcoming Superman film.

OPINION: Probably a good move. Most moviegoers have no concept of how to view a film objectively these days, and will undoubtedly be judging a new Zod against Terrance Stamp’s iconic performance of the character. Maybe we’re better off never kneeling before Zod again.

What say you?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Reel Facts & Opinions

FACT: A German software company has developed MovieReshape, a software that allows any actor to look either obese or incredibly ripped just by modifying various factors of their body in the computer.

OPINION: Robert DeNiro gained 30 pounds for his role in THE UNTOUCHABLES. Christian Bale lost 62 pounds for THE MACHINIST. While the health of dedicated actors has always been in question when it comes to extreme methods of gaining and losing weight, this new technology will certainly lessen the appreciation actors could/should have for their overweight or emaciated characters. That’s a bit of a drawback of this new tool. The good news is we may never have to see Eddie Murphy or John Travolta in a fat suit again.

FACT: 20th Century Fox and Walden Media have teamed up to purchase the film rights to Bil Keane's syndicated comic strip "The Family Circus”.

OPINION: The well of creativity in Hollywood continues to run dry, as the comics have now become the new area for studios to rape. With “Marmaduke” already done, chances are we’ll soon see “Hager the Horrible”, “Dagwood”, or maybe even “Andy Capp”.

What say you?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Reels Facts & Opinions

FACT: Warner Bros. Pictures is developing a combination live-action/CG-animated movie featuring Pepe Le Pew, the lovesick French skunk and Looney Tunes character. Mike Myers will voice the amorous skunk who will be the sole CG character in this aside from Penelope Pussycat, the reluctant object of his affection. Everything else will be live-action.

OPINION: Perfect casting. Myers stinks up everything he does, so why not?

FACT: Peter Jackson may be taking his toys and leaving the sandbox. There are reports that THE HOBBIT producer (and most likely director) will be moving the entire production out of New Zealand to The Gold Coast, a city in the Australian state of Queensland. No reports on what would come of the rebuilt Shire set, which gardeners have been caretaking for over a year.

OPINION: This has good and bad points to it. A good thing is that this may be the move needed to finally get the production green lighted. As of this writing, the pesky actors’ union was still holding things up. The bad point is it’s a shame that we won’t see any familiar locations in THE HOBBIT, which would physically and visually bridge the gap with THE LORD OF THE RINGS. It’s worth noting that 10 years ago when LOTR went into production (yes, it’s been that long), people scoffed at the fact that the little country of New Zealand would be the home to Middle-earth. PJ showed ‘em, and he just may show us again.

FACT: A recent Warner Bros. release states that Part 1 of HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS will NOT be released in 3D, as the film would not be converted in time. Part 2 is expected to get the 3D treatment.

OPINION: Perhaps Warner Bros. learned their lesson from the CLASH OF THE TITANS debacle, which was a visual disaster thanks to the rush to get it converted. Warner seems to have at least one person who understands that if they screw up these last two films, there will be hordes of angry wizards and witches storming the gates.

What say you?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Reel Facts & Opinions

FACTS: Some quick facts concerning the new SUPERMAN film slated for 2012: Christopher Nolan (BATMAN BEGINS, THE DARK KNIGHT) is producing. The script is being written by David Goyer (he scripted both of Nolan’s Batman films). That much you knew, we’re sure. But here’s the new and wet stuff: Zack Snyder (WATCHMEN, 300)is going to direct, and the main villain will be none other than General Zod.

OPINION. Nolan and Snyder have both helmed superhero films that dip into the dark side of humanity; which feels like a bit of a mismatch for Superman, who has always been like the Jesus Superhero. Maybe the dark stuff will instead go to a real diabolical villain? The possibility of Zod as such villain is a huge step in the right direction. What’s more: a common complaint with the last Supes installment (SUPERMAN RETURNS, 2006), was that the Man of Steel really didn’t fight anyone or anything. People want to see Superman throw a goddamn punch. What’s also up for thought is who will play Superman? Brandon Routh is a lot of people’s favorites; the way he emulated the late Christopher Reeve’s super-mannerisms is alone enough to give him the nod. But here’s the question: SUPERMAN RETURNS (which starred Routh) was an un-official sequel to SUPERMAN I and II. With that said, is Zod being resurrected from the dead (he apparently died in II). If Routh is in this new film, doesn’t that affirm the older films? Or will he be recast and wipe the entire slate clean? Either way, it will be interesting to see who gets cast as Zod, or if he asks anyone to kneel.

What say you?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Reel Facts & Opinions

FACT: If you haven't already, check out the new trailer for the remake of TRUE GRIT by the Coen Brothers, up at

OPINION: Only Jeff Bridges could step into the shoes of The Duke. This has got to be the most anticipated films of what's left of the year. Bring it.

GOOD FACT: New Zealand Prime Minister John Key injected himself into the battle between Peter Jackson and SAG concerning Hobbits, and the issue seemed to be heading towards a resolution. Reports also out of L.A. were leaning towards a resolution to MGM's financial woes, which could have axed the entire film. Reports of a "greenlight" were getting close for shooting in January.

BAD FACT: A fire broke out on Friday at Jackson's Portsmouth Minature studio in New Zealand, destroying one of the few specialist minature building facilities in the world.

OPINION: Can anything else go wrong with this? If anyone can pull this disaster together, it's Jackson. Hopefully, THE HOBBIT films will get made, and the end result on the screen will not reflect any of the woes this project has had from Day One. Maybe PJ shouldn't have waited so damn long to get the thing started. Stupid LOVELY BONES.

Whay say you?

Sunday, October 3, 2010


From the acclaimed director of SE7EN and FIGHT CLUB comes…a movie about Facebook. The notion of David Fincher helming a film documenting the early days of the online phenomena was laughed at when first announced. Fincher however proves his worth as an upper-echelon director with THE SOCIAL NETWORK; wisely not allowing the backdrop of the website’s tale to overtake the characters, making this one of the most pleasant surprises of 2010.

Harvard nerd Adam Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), after proving his genius in writing online code, is recruited by the Winklevoss twins (both played by Armie Hammer, courtesy of some outstanding digital effects) to create on online Harvard social network. Adam, with the financial backing of his friend Eduardo (Andrew Garfield), takes the concept a step further and creates what ultimately is the Facebook of today.

What follows, and keeps NETWORK afloat is a tale of legal wrangling and damaged friendships. The film intercuts between the creation of the site and the legal depositions that frame the story. The narrative revolves around Adam, and he could not be a more hated main character. He is a douche; lowballing his friends who made sacrifices to help him. With a lead character that is unlikeable, NETWORK feels like it would sink with no real sympathy. But it’s for his friends that we feel sympathy for, as Adam takes and takes without a regard for anyone or anything. Any person who has ever had a strong and special friendship dissolve will instantly connect.

Eisenberg really shines here; displaying a heartless anti-social demeanor that is convincing enough to make the audience hate him and root for him. The real surprise probably comes from Justin Timberlake, who plays Napster-founder Shawn Fleming. The casting is perfect (one dick playing another dick), and Fincher does a nifty lighting-from-beneath on him that sets him up as the devil in this creation story.
Fincher’s visual style, combined with the razor-sharp dialogue keeps things moving, and the film never drags. Trent Reznor brings in a very fitting and cool score and sets up a perfect atmosphere.

With a lot of focus on character, and a resistance to the urge of making a movie all about Facebook, Fincher has delivered a solid film that begs to be watched again and again. It is smart, funny, engaging, and worthy of a “Like” click.