Final Destination 3

final_destination_3.jpgrating-2.0Oh, lord. There were really three of these, huh? I mean, I've seen them all, or at least watched most of all three, and I still can't believe it ever made it past the first.

And, really, it didn't. It's the exact same damned plot as the first one. And the second one. A plane crash becomes a traffic accident. A traffic accident becomes a roller coaster accident. But, otherwise, just the same.

The plots all follow a basic premise: some idiot has a psychicalific magic vision of their death; they get a bunch of people to not get killed; Death gets angry and calls up Rube Goldberg to get him to help Death plan his revenge.

What follows is generally a silly and boredom-inducing series of teenagers being afraid, teenagers not believing the psychic jackass, teenagers getting killed for not listening to the psychic jackass, and Death being narrowly avoided, only to show up again in the stinger of the film.

And you pretty much have the whole movie there. In this particular case, a girl, as it always is, sees her future demise on a half-assed roller coaster, makes a big scene, and forces some of her graduating high school classmates to get off. It of course goes off the tracks and Death wants his due. She avoids being killed and researches the bullshit from the past two films, seeing the laws and patterns that Death seems contractually obligated to follow and trying to tell everyone about them. Of course, she seems completely crazy, as does everyone who really enjoys these movies.

Shit goes terribly wrong, there's a huge amount of gore, and people act retarded. There's tits.

What more could you want from a movie? Oh, a good story, a vaguely interesting plot, characters that you don't want to feed into a woodchipper, and the writing and direction of a competent individual? Hmm... Yeah, that might be a problem. The same if you want a refund for seeing this.

While I enjoyed The One, James Wong is generally a disappointment, his two out of the three Final Destination films having been the worst. His writing on the films is also pretty terrible and the movies are nothing more than a series of groans as the audience can't believe the shit they're watching.

And isn't that what you want out of a movie series?

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My Super Ex-Girlfriend

super_exgirlfriend.jpgrating-2.5A slight but mildly amusing movie, My Super Ex-Girlfriend plays off the premise of a generally nice guy taking a chance and going out on a date with a nondescript but strange woman who turns out to be a superheroine. Given that, the movie mainly falls flat, but tries desperately to be entertaining.

Perhps Uma Thurman just isn't cut out for comedy, because she definitely doesn't excel at it, always seeming somewhat misplaced in the mess of slapstick cliches. Luke Wilson, of course, turns in the same Everyman performance that he has in every movie ever, keeping him on par with everything else he's ever done, showing no real deviation from every other vaguely comedic role he's ever had.

Eddie Izzard, of course, comes out of the movie with some class, showing better and more solid performances than either of the big names, without even playing one of the comedic support roles.

Instead, Rainn Wilson carries all the comedy firmly on his shoulders, as he often does, and most of the genunely funny moments are all his.

Anna Faris breaks away from her average roles, playing the dim-witted buffoon, and actually plays the nice girl who we're all rooting for. By no means is the adorable Faris wasted on the comedy of a Scary Movie or Just Friends role, but it's nice to see her stretch her legs and sink her teeth into a role where we can really root for her as the real person instead of the charicature.

The movie plays out in a fairly satisfying fashion and Don Payne's writing is tolerable though by no means stellar. Ivan Reitman turns in sturdy workman-like direction, but you have to wonder when he lost his spark for making really funny or interesting movies. Or perhaps he never had it, as only Evolution, Ghostbusters, and Stripes have been suitably good films, the rest of his career falling into a limbo of mediocre and typically sub-par studio comedy fare.

You've seen this film before and you've seen it done better. It just can't manage to bring its moderate components together into something better and never really gives the viewer anything impressive to watch. You'll inevitably leave the movie the same as you came in.

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next.jpgrating-3.5People will malign this movie, much as they did Paycheck, much as a variety of other sci-fi oriented action movies will inevitably be maligned. Action fans think they're stupid, not that action is exactly a bright genre; average movie fans will be annoyed by the bluntness of the action and the complications of the sci-fi plot; sci-fi fans will find it all to be dim-witted and foolish.

Personally I like a mix of action and science-fiction. It tempers both with an intrigue that isn't regularly possessed by the horror movies that science-fiction turns into when you add action.

Next doesn't stray too far into the future, instead offering us a man, played by Nicholas Cage, whose mental powers allow him to see glimpses of the near-future, constantly reweighing his every action until he comes to a desired precognitive conclusion. The crux of this ability is not badly handled by the director, Lee Tamahori, best known for Once Were Warriors and Mulholland Falls, as well as the much-less stunning Die Another Day and xXx: State Of The Union, equally terrible movies. Next easily surpasses most of the films he's crafted in the past decade, most likely because of the action movie regulars who crafted the script from Philip K. Dick's short story.

Jessica Biel, an increasingly more interesting actress, and the fantastic Julianne Moore buoy the film with their abilities, making the overall production greater than the sum of its parts. Cage, for his part, actually turns in a decent and surprisingly straight performance, though the idea of a grizzled Cage getting frisky with Biel is somewhat frightening. Otherwise, the actors do a fine job of taking what could be a slight concept and imminent failure and making a best-case-scenario out of the proceedings.

The plot itself is fairly simple: Cage is a man who can see the near future, but has received visions of a meeting with a woman in the some indistinct future. After stopping a casino robbery before it begins with his foresight, he is believed to be a robber. He goes on the run before he can be cleared, meeting the woman along the way, and travelling with her. As he goes along, he is being tracked by the feds, who want his help, and a shadowy group, who want to kill him. They are planning a major terrorist attack, which the government is trying to foil. The organization wants Cage dead to prevent him from stopping them; the feds want his help to stop the terrorist attack. So, of course, by going after him, the terrorists force him to help the feds and do exactly what they were trying to prevent.

While an interesting plot, the ending feels like a slight cop-out, but it's not a bad move. It leaves the film slightly incomplete, but it allows for an open-ended finale without the closure of completing the story. It's a sort of writer's trick to give you enough story to make you happy without having to do it properly.

Next will be more satisfying to people looking for some disposable fun on DVD than it probably would be theatrically and those who aren't expecting too much should find it to be an enjoyable time and somewhat clever.

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Ocean's Thirteen

oceans_13.jpgrating-4.0Ocean's Thirteen is often described as an apology for Ocean's Twelve. They claim it's the movie they should have made, yet I think that is entirely untrue.

Soderberg came out of the 60's caper feel of Ocean's Eleven with a 70's-inspired sequel that had the feel of every European crime movie of the era. Surely, this wouldn't please every Joe Asshole in the audience, but the film was far from a failure. It got heat from people about being hard to follow and having a terrible ending, but those people are stupid, so who can really trust what they say?

So, Soderberg and Co. tried to tone down Ocean's Thirteen for the rubes, going back to the style of Ocean's Eleven and failing somewhat.

While the cast still does their typically excellent job of interacting with one another and being witty, the plot is a bit lax and there doesn't seem to be enough movie for all the people in it. After the twists and turns of past movies, Thirteen is something of a letdown, feeling barely long enough to be feature length and trying far too hard to be like the first movie instead of really capping off the series with something new and exciting.

Though don't think the movie is bad. All the elements work well; there just seems to be so little of them. It's a fun ride, but, like any thrill ride, ends quickly and leaves you wanting something more, something that will undoubtedly never come.

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reeker.jpgrating-2.0Oh, Jacob's Ladder. Will your plot twist never stop being copied by half-witted and low-budget assbasket movies? I suppose it won't.

I mean, Jacob's Ladder was nothing special. It was interesting, though not intensely enjoyable, and the ending was intriguing, but I don't think that twist is worthy of being mimicked by so many films, particularly Soul Survivors, which went so far as to be packed with Jacob's Ladder in a DVD two-pack. That's balls right there.

In less balls-related fare, there's Reeker, an exceptionally badly-named and fairly incoherent low-budget horror film cut from that same old cloth, though with a decent production value for what it is. This is no Z-grade schlock. This is good old B-grade horror stuff, featuring a few name actors, like "My So-Called Life" alumnus Devon Gummersall and Eric Mabius.

The film often tries attempts at humor, but much like the film's attempts at horror, it falls flat. Oh, sure, it's got cute girls, snarky guys, and a creepy unseen thing that turns out to be rather odd-looking, but it's really a big shrug, as if the script was improvised throughout the film's making.

Writer/director Dave Payne, of the hit Addams Family Reunion fame, churns out muck in this tale of teens on the way to some stupid outdoor rave, passing through the desert with stolen drugs, and crossing into a zone without communication or life and facing the ghostly apparitions of lost beings. Of course, things go badly and they are hunted by a garbage disposal-bladed gas-masked cowboy that emits a hazy stench that causes people to pass out. There is much running, much hiding, and the slow careen toward the idiotic reveal that they've been dead the whole time and that the escape from Dusty McSmellBlade was actually their escape from death, the survivors barely remembering their harrowing journey, leaving them much luckier than the poor bastards forced to watch this.

Did I mention "spoilers"? Did you even care?

Payne's writing and direction is on par with your average Sci-Fi Channel-made films and is as mediocre as it comes. The effects are often inventive, but nothing tremendous. The acting is better than the film often deserves and I'm left feeling bad for the poor kids making this movie, as they could all do better. My only hope is that this experience leads them all to finding more and better work. And, hey, it's a check, I guess.

For a film at three in the morning, one could do worse than Reeker, though the same could be said of picking up a crackhead prostitute and no one would see it as a compliment.

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