Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Mary Elizabeth Winstead’

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…

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)


In any dating situation, one can expect both sides to enter the relationship with a bit of baggage – it’s part of having a past. Sometimes this baggage affects the impending relationship, sometimes not so much. Scott Pilgrim has just met the girl of his dreams. Naturally, she has baggage. Too bad all her baggage has superpowers. That’s okay, though. Scott Pilgrim knows kung fu.

Or something.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is a comedy film directed by Edgar Wright, based on the independent graphic novel series Scott Pilgrim by Bryan Lee O’Malley. It stars Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jason Schwartzman, Kieran Culkin, and Ellen Wong.

Scott Pilgrim (age 22) lives in Toronto. He is the bassist for the band Sex Bob-Omb, and has just begun dating a high school girl named Knives Chau (over the protests of all his friends), who shares his love of video games and really digs his music. Then he meets Ramona Flowers, an American girl with technicolor hair who has been appearing in her dreams. Suddenly his entire world revolves around wooing Ramona, leaving Knives in the dust – and then he learns about Ramona’s little baggage issue – seven evil exes whom he must defeat in order to gain the right to date Ramona. They’re, like, a League of Evil. And they all want to annihilate Scott. In the meantime, Sex Bob-Omb hopes to sign a record deal with a major producer, and Scott has to cope with issues surrounding his gay roommate Wallace. And… a really weird movie ensues.

I’ve never read Scott Pilgrim, so this movie was essentially my first taste of this world, and the presentation left me pretty confused. On the one hand, Pilgrim himself seems like an average guy with very few social skills, a garage band, and a slightly complicated love life. That plot alone, would make a decent slice-of-life drama. And then there’s the video-game stuff that ensues surrounding the Seven Evil Exes, with sequences that come out of nowhere like the final boss rush of a beat-em-up game and don’t seem to fit in with the rest of the movie. The battles with the Evil Exes are highly stylized, more so even than the rest of the movie, suggesting that they take place in a Calvin and Hobbes-esque view of reality rather than in what we would call reality. The only characters that manage to ascend beyond the rank of one-dimensional cardboad cutout are Scott himself, whose character development is portrayed in the context to racking up points and coins with the defeat of each ex, and Ramona herself, who remains mysterious even as we learn more about her and her checkered past.

The presentation of Scott Pilgrim’s world was often distracting, with certain sound effects manifesting visibly, comic-book style, and a minor running gag wherein a foulmouthed character’s salty language is obscured by a black censor bar over her mouth and a sound effect obscuring the words themselves. These effects, coupled with the fantasy-laced fight scenes that come out of nowhere like random encounters in an RPG and thereafter play out like battle in Mortal Kombat, culminating in an explosion of coins (seriously – where the hell do the coins come from?) and the occasional powerup (one of which becomes crucial to Scott’s ultimate victory) from each defeated foe, made this movie seem like the independent comics equivalent of Ang Lee’s Hulk, laced liberally with comic book tropes for good measure. The main plotline was decently interesting, with Scott fighting Ramona’s past in order to be part of her future, but it often drowned in the gallons of special effects surrounding it.

I tried very hard to enjoy this movie. Unfortunately, what could have been a good story was ultimately lost in the ludicrous amount of shiny used to present it. Fans of Scott Pilgrim might enjoy it, but I found it to be schizophrenic and spectacular, without a strong enough storyline to back it up.