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Saw III (2006)
Good enough, but not great.
My summary pretty much speaks for itself: the movie is good enough for horror fare, but it's not great. The main flaw is that it tries too hard.
The first Saw had a great twist ending - so great that, even if you saw it coming, it still worked. The sequel, while decent, seemed to have only two goals: be more sadistic than the first and try to have an even more shocking twist. The third installment was obviously made with similar goals in mind. Unfortunately, "the big twist" just isn't. Sure the games are more sadistic this time around, but they are just more of the same that we have seen in recent films (Saw, Saw II, Hostel, Chainsaw: The Beginning, etc.).
I enjoyed the movie, but I felt there was too much time spent revisiting the first two films. Not just revisiting, but rewriting. I won't give specific details here because I don't want to spoil it for anyone, but when you see it, you'll understand. The revisiting and rewriting of the earlier films works as far as the storyline goes - that is, nothing shown in this film is unbelievable or inconsistent with the first two films - it just seemed unnecessary to me.
The film as a whole worked well, and it was a fitting chapter for the series, but I don't think it benefited from the approach the screenwriters took. However, if you just want to see some great sadistic scenes in the "Saw style" and are willing to take it at face value, I think you'll enjoy it.
The Grudge 2 (2006)
Not as good as the first (first remake, that is)
I was very excited about seeing this, as I love the original series, I didn't think the first remake was that bad, Takashi Shimizu directed it, and I have gradually become a fan of Amber Tamblyn. Unfortunately, it was nowhere near as good as I had hoped. Of course, given the genre, and the fact that it was a sequel to a remake and not really a remake of a sequel, it was exactly what I expected. (Yes, I have high hopes, but realistic expectations.)
I prepped myself for this by watching the unrated DVD of the previous film just a few short hours before heading to the theater, which, in hindsight, was probably a mistake. While the first film relied heavily on cheap scares and "gotcha" moments, the second toned it down a little and aimed at being a little more suspenseful. The end result is a chaotic mess with a convoluted storyline that weaves through time without ever indicating it (slightly confusing at the start, as there is a two year difference between the events we see throughout the film, but I will refrain from spoilers).
The attempts at building suspense fall flat, as every significant event is telegraphed and, therefore, incredibly predictable even when you're not trying to think ahead of the film's pace. The kills themselves are far from satisfying, as they are simply more of the same that we saw the first time around. I'm sorry, but even if you have never watched the Asian originals, the creepy girl with the hair in her face and the hitch in her step fails to frighten after two Ring films, Dark Water, Pulse, and, of course, the previous Grudge film.
I had seriously hoped that Takashi Shimizu would bring some of his style to the film. Alas, we are the real victims here, not those portrayed on the screen, as we have to pay hard-earned dollars to witness (yet another) American Cinema (read: Hollywood) bastardization of a quality film. When will they learn that the true appeal of Asian cinema lies not with the creepy girl and the cheap scare, but with the overall feel of the film? The "boo!" moments may work for the casual viewer (and the target PG-13 audience), but it is the oppressive aura that haunts the viewer and keeps them awake at night.
I have one comment about this DVD: DO NOT BUY IT!!!!! This DVD is censored - multiple instances of the F word being muted out - and no true fan of any music genre (especially rock) should support censorship in any form.
Despite everything good about this DVD (and everything else about this DVD is phenomenal - everything a music DVD should be) we should not be supporting censorship. If there had been a version with an explicit lyrics sticker and another one marked as "edited for content" I would be okay with this - but to censor it outright with no notification to the consumer is outrageous behavior that cannot be tolerated.
I have already personally sent multiple emails to the band, the studio, the production company, the retailer where I purchased this DVD, and even the band's PR firm urging them to issue a public apology to fans and offer an uncensored version to those of us who wish to have one. I urge you to do the same.
Red Eye Wins the Battle of the Airplane Suspense Movies for 2005
*CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR BOTH RED EYE AND FLIGHTPLAN*
Just got back from seeing Flightplan. It was okay. Your typical Jodie Foster suspense film. Silence of the Panic Room in Flight. Parts of it were very well done (the plane, for example), but other parts were quite lame (in particular, the acting, with the exception of Jodie, who gave her usual quality performance). Sean Bean was under-utilized and Peter Sarsgaard was not convincing as either an air marshal or a terrorist. The bimboes they had playing the flight attendants were flat-out lousy. The plot was not very original - victimizing a professional that knows every detail of the (plane, in this case, but you could easily substitute a building and have any one of a dozen other movies), which makes it all too easy for our victim/heroine to escape. Sure there were some clever tactics, such as shorting out the controls, causing all of the airmasks to drop, thereby creating panic among the passengers, who all assume that cabin pressure has dropped and that they will all die if they don't get a mask on their face NOW!!! But, overall, it was your run-of-the-mill suspense movie, only this time on a plane. And the ending was typical happy-Hollywood crap that anyone who has seen one of these types of films before could predict almost to the most minute detail and last spoken syllable. In fact, the ending was so incredibly lame that it robbed the movie of even the best moments. Although, to be fair, it was exactly the type of ending one has come to expect from the big-budget thrillers. My rating overall: a tentative thumbs-up (more like a thumb-sideways), or 2.5 out 4 stars.
If you want to see a suspense thriller set on a plane this year, go for Red Eye, which I give an enthusiastic thumbs up and a solid 3.25 out of 4 stars because: 1. Rachel McAdams is way hotter than Jodie Foster 2. Cillian Murphy is a much better psychotic 3. Murphy's motive is much more clearly defined than Sarsgaard's 4. It has that trademark Wes Craven feel to it: intense suspense with just the right touch of comedy 5. The ending, while Hollywood-happy, is a little more clever and not *quite* as predictable