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Posts Tagged ‘2006’

Final Destination 3 (2006)

06/13/2011 1 comment

One of the most intense fears humanity has, one that is almost unique to our species, is the fear of losing control. This fear can run under the surface of many disorders, like OCD and its milder cousin, the “control freak” instinct. Of course, no matter what people do to control their environment, to make things as safe as possible, all that gets tossed out the window when Death points a bony finger in your direction…

Final Destination 3 is a horror film directed by James Wong, the third movie in the Final Destination series. It stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Kris Lemche, Alexz Johnson, Sam Easton, Jenne Moss, with Tony Todd providing the voice of the Devil (no, really).

Six years have passed since the Flight 180 tragedy (see also Final Destination). A group of high school students visit an amusement park as a last huzzah before graduation, and they decide to ride a roller coaster called the Devil’s Flight (with a giant fiberglass devil out front hawking the ride). Control freak and school photographer Wendy has a premonition that the ride will crash and kill everyone aboard, and freaks out enough to get herself and a bunch of her fellow riders removed, while her boyfriend rides on in another train. Hilarity ensues as she foresaw, and as she mourns the loss of her boyfriend, life goes on. She plans to pick up her diploma and get the hell out of McKinley and its tragic memories, never to look back. Of course, this being a Final Destination movie, the laws of physics and narrative horror have other plans in mind, as the people scheduled to die in the roller coaster crash start getting picked off in the order they would have sat on the roller coaster train, Wendy finds herself in a race against time to unlock the clues in her amusement park photos and save people from the laws of physics…

The overall concept of the third movie remains sound within the FD-verse, opening with the roller coaster as a metaphor for loss of control and the “safe” scares of horror movies in general. This time, though, the cast of victims are unconnected to Flight 180 aside from knowing about the events surrounding it (whereas the bunch in FD2 had been saved in roundabout ways by the initial survival of the cast of the first movie), and therefore their place in Death’s plan is incidental at best; they were supposed to die, and they didn’t. Regardless, Death seems to be getting a little peeved at people surviving the disasters he cooks up, so the deaths are becoming more brutal: death by burning in a tanning booth, an engine fan to the back of the head, death by nailgun, and so forth. After the engine fan death, Wendy even notes that the accident seems pretty vicious. It seems that this time around it is less about balancing Death’s books and more about punishing the escapees. Cleverly, though, if you pay attention during the opening, an alert viewer will notice that every single death is foreshadowed at the amusement park, and not just through Wendy’s prophetic photos.

Of course, escalating the level of violence in a horror movie can still work, if you have a good cast of talented actors portraying sympathetic characters. Here, you have three fairly sympathetic characters (Wendy, her sister Julie, and her boyfriend’s best friend Kevin) alongside a couple of snobby Paris Hilton clones named Ashley and Ashlynn (urgh…), an oversexed douchebag with a video camera named Frankie, an arrogant football star named Lewis that cares more about the game than the harbingers of doom, and the Wonder Goth Twins Ian and Erin, who call each other Zip and Pip. However, amid the expected failures in failsafe devices and basic common sense, Ian is briefly redeemed by following basic safety procedures on the forklift at the hardware store where he works with Erin, narrowly avoiding turning that sequence into a rehash of Forklift Driver Klaus and instead turning it into a freak-accident shout-out to The Nailgun Massacre. Then he snaps out after Erin’s death and we start waiting for him to die horribly. However, while FD3 tries hard to put the fear of freak accidents into its viewers, and at least one of the death sequences does offer a nod to urban legend (the tanning bed sequence), it appears that the Final Destination franchise is starting to lose steam in this installment, relying more on gore and shock value for its scares than building suspense.

While Final Destination 3 is starting to show signs that the franchise is going a bit stale, fans of the first two installments and slasher movies in general should largely enjoy this contribution to a world where mechanical safeguards can be rendered moot by a force of nature. Afterwards, why not go to a park this summer and ride the roller coasters? After all, they’re perfectly safe…

Saw III (2006)


According to the Scream series, horror movie installments follow certain conventions. The third movie, for example, tends to be bigger, more shocking, and more over the top than its predecessors, winding up to a climax that will leave you gasping for breath. Saw III is no exception, as torture masterminds Wan and Whannell wanted to wind up the series and end it with a bang. (It didn’t work, incidentally, but the thought was there.)

Saw III is the third movie in the Saw series, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman and written by James Wan and Leigh Wannell. It stars Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus MacFayden, Bahar Soomekh, and Donnie Wahlberg.

Three interweaving storylines unfold during the course of this movie. In one, the police investigate the latest string of Jigsaw-style traps, discovering that these have been rigged in various ways to be inescapable. In another, Jeff Denlon, eaten up by grief over the death of his son, who was hit and killed by a drunk driver, is kidnapped by Jigsaw and forced to perform a series of tests to face his feelings of vengeance against those he sees as responsible for the driver escaping justice with a slap on the wrist. In a third, Dr. Lynn Denlon has also been kidnapped by Jigsaw – actually, his apprentice Amanda. Denlon’s task is to keep Jigsaw, now bedridden from advanced brain cancer, alive until Jeff completes his gauntlet of tests. If Jigsaw dies before then, a trapped collar around her neck will fire shotgun shells into her head, effectively erasing same. However, Amanda has become increasingly unstable since becoming Jiggy’s apprentice, believing that people cannot be redeemed and thus setting up in escapable traps. As Jeff is forced to confront his own demons and Jigsaw’s condition deteriorates, the question of who will survive this twisted game becomes less and less clear with every passing minute…

When I went to see this movie in the theaters, I already know what sort of movie I was getting into. You can imagine my surprise when, while I was waiting for the movie to start, I saw two theoretically responsible adults enter the theater with an eleven-year-old girl. WTF? Thinking that maybe they’d wandered into the wrong theater, I warned them that this movie wasn’t really for kids, but they said they were fine. Okay, I think, your therapy bill. And I was right – this movie is brutal. I’ve seen my share of gory slashers and other horror movies before, but Saw III went for the guts in a way few horror movies have before. Not only are the traps gut-wrenching and physically traumatic, but the story that unfolds with Jeff’s journey makes the audience understand him and sympathize with him, even if they don’t agree with him. He is forced to choose between his vengeful grief, which he has been holding onto for so long that he’s forgotten how to live otherwise, and forgiving those he believes has wronged them. The choices that each room gives him kick him repeatedly in the nuts – he wants vengeance at all costs, but you get the idea that he’s a good man underneath, warts and all. Lynn’s subplot is also hard to watch – kidnapped by a pair of psychopaths, forced to keep one alive even as he’s dying from cancer, while the other one seems to be growing more unstable by the minute. And the climax where everything crashes together in a giant pileup to rival the opening sequence of Final Destination 2, based on the fateful decisions of two of the players in this game, nearly had me on my feet screaming at the screen.

Of course, it wouldn’t be Saw without the deathtraps, and they are accordingly efficient and diabolical. The simplest one would have to be the Meat Locker, in which a witness to the hit and run is chained up naked in a giant freezer and periodically sprayed with water, while the most nauseating is the one where the judge is locked to the floor of a collection vat, slowly filling as rotting pig carcasses are liquefied and the soup poured in. This is obviously not a movie for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The torture happens to so many levels – physical, psychological, and emotional, and would have made an effective ending for the series had the studio execs not decided keep the franchise going for the sake of profits.

Saw III is a brutal film that will leave you feeling queasy and wrung out, and emotional roller-coaster that goes for the guts in ways few modern horror movies have. If you think you can handle it, though, check it out, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Snakes on a Plane (2006)


Okay, think of things that scare you. Think long and hard. Scared of flying? Congratulations – you share the #1 fear amongst Americans. Scared of snakes? Hey, that’s a major fear as well, and an instinct hardwired into our psyche. Guess what? New Line Cinema decided to put them together in one movie, added Samuel L. Jackson, and stirred. A simple concept, with a simple plot.

They called it Snakes on a Plane. And it was awesome.

Snakes on a Plane is an action-horror film directed by David R. Ellis and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Julianna Marguiles, and Nathan Philips, along with lots and lots of snakes and just enough of a plot to contain them all.

While Sean Jones is vacationing in Hawaii, he witnesses a gangster named Eddie Kim murdering a witness, and naturally finds himself on Kim’s hit list. FBI Agent Neville Flynn is assigned to get Sean safely back to the mainland so he can testify against Kim in Los Angeles, putting Sean in first class on a passenger jet under security so tight it seems that Kim won’t be able to get within a mile of him. However, Kim has managed to come up with the only plan that the FBI hasn’t trained for: a time-released crate filled with hundreds of venomous snakes. After we meet a number of airline disaster sterotypes sharing the jet with Sean, the plane takes off, and midway through the flight the crate pops open. Naturally, snakes ensue.

Now, by the time this movie was made, the serious airline disaster movie had already been ruined forever by Airplane!, but the disaster genre as a whole had recently experienced a resurgence through the 90s and the turn of the 21st century. The “serious” disaster movie had been completely supplanted by the “fun” disaster movie, and that’s exactly what this is. In essence this is the Scream of airline disaster movies – a self-referential work poking fun at its own genre even as it offers thrills and scares (I mean, how can being stuck in an aluminum tube at 23,000 feet with hundreds of snakes not be scary?) Eddie Kim, the theoretical driving force for the core of the plot, drops almost entirely out of the movie once the plane takes off, but that’s okay – the movie wasn’t really about him to start with.

The casting was well-done here. Samuel L. Jackson is badass as usual as a no-nonsense FBI Agent opposite a terrified Nathan Phillips as Sean Jones, each trying to deal with the crisis in their own way. A few fun facts: news of Jackson’s casting largely inspired the fan-written line about motherf***ing snakes on a motherf***ing plane, but he threatened to drop out when his agent wanted to change the very descriptive title Snakes on a Plane to something more serious, on the theory that Jackson “can’t work” on a movie called Snakes on a Plane. Jackson assured his agent that the very awesome title was the only reason he wanted to work on the movie in the first place. And this is why he is awesome. In the supporting cast, we have a bevy of airline disaster stereotypes: the nervous guy who hates to fly, the ditzy blonde socialite with the yipyap dog, the unapproachable celebrity, the arrogant businessman who hates everyone else on the flight, the kids flying alone, the horny couple in the Mile High Club, the woman with the baby, the retiring flight attendant on “one last flight”, and the ambiguously gay male flight attendant. However, since this movie is already playing with its own genre, it plays with the supporting cast as well: the unapproachable celeb is a germophone, the woman with the baby helps draw venom out of a kid’s arm, the kid’s brother helps a herpetologist determine what snake bit the former, and the ambiguously gay flight attendant isn’t gay, just really enthusiastic. (Yes, seriously.)

If you like disaster movies and are looking for a fun homage to the airline disaster movie, absolutely check out Snakes on a Plane. It’s the movie inspired by a hundred airline disasters which in turn inspired a hundred internet memes.

16 Blocks (2006)


Bruce Willis has long been the quintessential “cop” actor. From his role as John McLane in Die Hard, he has played a number of cops, police officials, and detectives over his long career, with great effectiveness. His more recent cop roles seem to be tending towards a little-explored facet of the cop role in recent movies: the tired cop. And in 16 Blocks, one tired cop has one simple mission. And it’s an escort mission. FUUUUUUUUUUUUUU~

16 Blocks is an action thriller film directed by Richard Donner and written by Richard Wenk. It stars Bruce Willis, Mos Def, and David Morse, and is shot in the “real time” narrative format.

Jack Moseley is a tired, burned-out, and rather hung over NYPD detective. After pulling an all-nighter, Jack is about to go home and crash for the day when his lieutenant gives him one last assignment. Jack doesn’t want the job; he just wants to get some rest – but his lieutenant has no one else on hand to take the job, so Jack is it. It sounds like a simple assignment: escort one guy sixteen blocks from jail to the courthouse to testify as a witness for the prosecution. He has to get there by 10. Simple, right? Well, if you discount the fact that a lot of people are going to try to kill this particular witness, and many of them are fellow cops, then yeah, it’s a simple mission… until it isn’t.

I wasn’t sure about this one when I got it from Netflix. The premise was so simple, it sounded like it was going to be sixteen blocks of shootouts, car chases, and flashy stunts. To my surprise, 16 Blocks is as much a character study as an action thriller. Rather than squeezing the aging Bruce Willis into a generic Cop mold (which he seldom fits, even when he creates the mold in question), they give him a past, a family, flaws, weaknesses, and regrets. He’s an alcoholic. He did some bad things in the past. And yet, he is still a noble character despite (or because of) all this. Likewise, Mos Def as Eddie Bunker is not a generic wisecracking con. Even though at the beginning he seems to be mainly channeling the Cat from Red Dwarf as he prattles on and on into Jack’s ear, he too has plans, hopes, and regrets, saving him from being nothing more than That Annoying Black Guy Bruce Has To Babysit. He, too, is a noble character, though he is rightfully afraid for his life for most of the movie, as he reveals his altruistic plans for the future. However, because so much of the story focuses on these two, David Morse’s role as antagonist Detective Frank Nugent is left a bit short. As the story unfolds we do learn the whys and wherefores of his character, but mostly he seems a bit generic, the figurehead and point of contact with what turns out to be a desperate conspiracy of silence.

Fortunately, the extensive character development combines well with the basic plot, turning what would otherwise have been a tired, generic story into something interesting. You learn to care about Jack and Eddie and their respective goals, rather than just sitting back and watching the chaos ensue. The action is subdued, just a relative handful of firefights and a fair number of foot-chase sequences as Jack focuses more on avoiding their pursuers (who could and would happily kill his charge) than confronting them with guns blazing (which could go all kinds of wrong for him). It is a tense game of cat and mouse that takes a step back into Die Hard territory – limited ammo, limited timeframe, limited resources. Their pursuers are tenacious and resourceful, keeping them on their toes and preventing them even the luxury of any real breathing room. Jack and Eddie must get away every time, while their foes only have to get to Eddie once and it’s all over.

While more subdued and less flashy than many contemporary action movies, 16 Blocks was still decently engaging. With three-dimensional characters and a decent setup, this movie would be worth a rental some night when you aren’t in the mood for car fu, gun fu, bomb fu, or over-the-top action-star pyrotechnics.