The Final Destination Series

FINAL DESTINATION: 2000, BUDGET: $23 million GROSS: $53,302,314

FINAL DESTINATION 2: 2003, BUDGET: $26 million GROSS: $46,455,802

FINAL DESTINATION 3: 2006, BUDGET: $34 million GROSS: $54,098,051

THE FINAL DESTINATION: 2009, BUDGET: $43 million GROSS: $66,436,248

FINAL DESTINATION 5: 2011, BUDGET: $47 million GROSS: ?

 

WRITERS:

1: Glen Morgan/James Wong (screenplay), Jeffrey Reddick (screenplay & story)

2: J. Mackye Gruber/Eric Bress (screenplay & story), Jeffrey Reddick (story & characters)

3: Glen Morgan/James Wong, Jeffrey Reddick (characters)

4: Eric Bress, Jeffrey Reddick (characters)

5: Eric Heisserer, Jeffrey Reddick (characters)

 

DIRECTORS:

1,3: James Wong / 2,4: David R. Ellis / 5: Steven Quale

 

up until a couple weeks ago i hadn't seen any of the Final Destination films, but with the fifth one on the horizon i decided this was going to be my next series discussion so i started watching them all leading up to number fives release.

i remember when the first one came out in 2000 and i saw the trailer and i thought, "huh, that looks like a kinda interesting premise, maybe i'll check that out." well, i didn't, but why that is important is that skip ahead to 2002 and the release of the second film and there i am watching the trailer for that one and thinking, "hold on a second. isn't that the exact same premise/story/idea as the first film?"

the same thing happened with the release and trailer of the third, fourth and fifth films, but i didn't believe my eyes. as much as each film, based on the trailers, appeared to be the exact same thing, just with different actors/characters, i couldn't imagine that was actually the case. as lazy as hollywood is and as unoriginal as much of what they give us is, this seemed to take it to a whole other level. so i went in to this marathon viewing of the entire series really curious to see how different the films actually were and how wrong my trailer assumptions had been. now, having seen all five films i can tell you that i was soooo NOT wrong! and when trying to think about how to discuss the films, the first thing that came to mind was mad libs!

the film Final Destination __(film number)__, begins with a __(type of huge accident)___. after witnessing the accident we are brought back to the present moment and see that it was all just a premonition seen/felt by the main character __(name of premonition-having main character)____. however, as the their premonition begin to occur for real they start to freak out and warn people what is about to happen. no one believes them, but in their freak-out they end up saving a few of the others from certain death.

in the days that follow the first couple of survivors end up getting killed by some pretty random chains of events, like ___(random chain of events, another random chain of events)___. at this point the remaining survivors figure out that death is coming after them in the order in which they were supposed to have died in the __(type of huge accident)___. the rest of the film is them racing around trying to stop it from happening while figuring out how to get around deaths plan as more of them are killed in even more random and gruesome chains of events, like __(random and gruesome chain of event, another random and gruesome chain of events)___.

as i watched all five films i had taken notes about things to talk about. things like how the second film makes reference to the accident in the first one. and how, the way the characters figure out how to get around death's plan isn't the same in all the films. also, in some of the films the "premonition" character gets clues as to who the next victim will be and how they will die, but in the other films there are no hints at all. i was also going to mention that the fourth film, called The Final Destination seemed very much like it had been set-up as the last film in the series (the opening credits recap all the various ways people had died in the previous three films. the use of "The" in the title The Final Destination). and there was some more. but to be honest after watching all five movies i couldn't get over how they were basically all the same film.

i talk sometimes about "big cojones" film making. the idea of a film maker taking some real risks with story or characters or style. and how they trust the intelligence of the audience to go with them, when it's done well, and appreciate not being talked down. well the makers of the Final Destination series have shown big cojones, but in the complete opposite way!

rather than do something new or different or go against the grain in some way, they gave us the same film five times! actually, that is going against the grain. i can't think of any other film series that has produced such replica films. they made one movie five times and what makes me even angrier is that it worked. none of the movies were huge hits, but they all made a profit - obviously enough of one that they kept making them.

and its not like they tried to hide what they were doing either. The trailers put it all out there. like i said earlier, i hadn't seen any of them and yet i knew, based on the trailers, that the films were all copies of each other. they were brazen and incredibly obvious about it. now that takes balls!

i picture the film makers/producers/studio like the two old guys from Trading Places making a bet over how many of these Final Destination movies they can make before people realize what they are doing and stop going. then when we, the audience, have wasted our money and time watching the same thing for the fifth time we overhear them talking and laughing about it as one of them hands the other a one dollar bill! (if anything, this should make you want to avoid seeing anymore Final Destination movies and should make you want to go watch Trading Places again).

2011 Oscar Predictions

 

WILL WIN are in bold

DID WIN are  big

MY SCORE: 18/24

despite anne hathaway's efforts and enthusiasm, the 2011 academy awards will go down as one of the worst i have ever seen. not because of who won or lost, but i'm talking the show itself.

besides the funny put-the-hosts-in-the-movies opening, there was barely a laugh or moment of excitement to be found (except when i won the pool i was in of course). the remixed songs was fun and the bob hope part was nice (although, seeing billy crystal out there to introduce it just made it more obvious what a great host he was and how anne and james just couldn't match up). but other than that the show was pretty dull.

as for my predictions: i did ok this year. 18/24 isn't bad and i did get 2/3 in the shorts categories which is where many pools are often won or lost. however, there were a few categories that, looking back, i'm not sure what i was thinking. i think i got a little too into the idea that The King's Speech wave would sweep up other categories that i missed, the now-obvious, Alice In Wonderland in art direction and costume design. and those of you who listened to the prediction episode of the podcast know how close i was to going with the winners in editing, documentary feature and foreign film (but, alas i didn't). so 18/24 it is. one better than last year and my second best showing since i started doing the podcast. how did you all do?

 

BEST PICTURE
The King's Speech
127 Hours
Black Swan
The Social Network
Toy Story 3
True Grit
Winter's Bone
Inception
The Kids Are All Right
The Fighter

 

 BEST DIRECTOR
Darren Aronofsky, Black Swan
David Fincher, The Social Network
Tom Hooper, The King's Speech
David O. Russell, The Fighter
Joel and Ethan Coen, True Grit

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams , The Fighter
Helena Bonham Carter, The King's Speech
Melissa Leo, The Fighter
Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit
Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
John Hawkes, Winter's Bone
Christian Bale , The Fighter
Jeremy Renner, The Town
Mark Ruffalo , The Kids Are All Right
Geoffrey Rush, The King's Speech

BEST ACTRESS
Natalie Portman , Black Swan
Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right
Jennifer Lawrence, Winter's Bone
Nicole Kidman , Rabbit Hole
Michelle Williams , Blue Valentine

BEST ACTOR
Javier Bardem , Biutiful
Jeff Bridges , True Grit
Jesse Eisenberg, The Social Network
Colin Firth , The King's Speech
James Franco , 127 Hours

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Another Year , Mike Leigh
The Fighter , Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, Eric Johnson, and Keith Dorrington
Inception , Christopher Nolan
The Kids Are All Right , Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
The King's Speech , David Seidler

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
127 Hours , Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy
The Social Network , Aaron Sorkin
Toy Story 3 , Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich
True Grit , Joel and Ethan Coen
Winter's Bone , Debra Granik and Anne Rossellini

BEST FOREIGN FILM
Biutiful
Dogtooth
In a Better World
Incendies
Outside the Law

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM
How to Train Your Dragon
The Illusionist
Toy Story 3

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN ART DIRECTION
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Inception
The King's Speech
True Grit

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN CINEMATOGRAPHY
Black Swan
Inception
The King’s Speech
The Social Network
True Grit

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN COSTUME DESIGN
Alice in Wonderland
I Am Love
The King's Speech
The Tempest
True Grit

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Gasland
Inside Job
Restrepo
Waste Land

BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
Killing in the Name
Poster Girl
Strangers No More
Sun Come Up
The Warriors of Qiugang

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN FILM EDITING
Andrew Weisblum, Black Swan
Pamela Martin, The Fighter
Tariq Anwar, The King's Speech
Jon Harris, 127 Hours
Angus Wall and Kirk Baxter, The Social Network

ACHIEVEMENT IN MAKEUP
Adrien Morot, Barney's Version
Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng, The Way Back
Rick Baker and Dave Elsey, The Wolfman

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE
John Powell, How to Train Your Dragon
Hans Zimmer, Inception
Alexandre Desplat, The King's Speech
A.R. Rahman, 127 Hours
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, The Social Network

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Coming Home” from Country Strong, Music and Lyric by Tom Douglas, Troy Verges and Hillary Lindsey
“I See the Light” from Tangled, Music by Alan Menken Lyric by Glenn Slater
“If I Rise” from 127 Hours, Music by A.R. Rahman Lyric by Dido and Rollo Armstrong
“We Belong Together” from Toy Story 3, Music and Lyric by Randy Newman

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM
Day & Night
The Gruffalo
Let's Pollute
The Lost Thing
Madagascar, carnet de voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary)

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT FILM
The Confession
The Crush
God of Love
Na Wewe
Wish 143

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND EDITING
Inception
Toy Story 3
Tron: Legacy
True Grit
Unstoppable

ACHIEVEMENT IN SOUND MIXING
Inception
The King’s Speech
Salt
The Social Network
True Grit

ACHIEVEMENT IN VISUAL EFFECTS
Alice in Wonderland
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
Hereafter
Inception
Iron Man 2

Zombie Girl: The Movie

YEAR: 2009

DIRECTOR: Justin Johnson & Aaron Marshall & Erik Mauck

BUDGET: ?

GROSS: ?

 

emily hagins loves movies. when she was about five she would sit and watch The Muppets Movie over and over again. then as she got older she would go see movies with her mom - everything from big hollywood blockbusters (they probably saw Lord Of The Rings about 20 times) to crazy cult classics.

now she has written a feature-length script for a zombie movie that she is going to direct. Zombie Girl: The Movie is a documentary that follows emily on that journey from the beginning of her project right through to the premier....... oh yeah. did i forget to mention that emily is 12 years old?!

what was funny to me about the film was how the making of the film and the behind-the-scenes content wasn't specific to how young the director was. anyone who has ever participated in and/or worked on a low/no-budget film will relate to this film. for example...

begging for extras, actors forgetting to bring the clothes that match what they were wearing in the last scene, lots of duct tape, recording over previously filmed footage because the tape wasn't cued up properly, having a great take but not realizing till you watch it later that the sound is really bad, having your mother holding the boom mic and getting on your case cause things are running really late, did i mention duct tape?

i have been involved with the production of a few very, very independent films and, except for the fact that my mom wasn't involved, i can completely relate to pretty much every other thing that emily went through in making her film. but you don't have to have ever made a movie to enjoy this documentary.

i think emily wrote the script for her film "Pathogen" when she was 10 or 11 and by the time it premiers she is 13. how many 10-13 year olds do you know who have that kind of persistence and drive to finish a project on the scale of a full-length movie? it isn't always easy, but there is no doubt watching her that this is what emily wants to do.

she really does have a vision for the movie. actors might have ideas and her mom might have ideas, but as she says in various ways at different times during the documentary - she is the director and her decision is final.

you can tell that she is a little movie geek and it's great. she makes references to various films and even looks to be thinking about the film making process of the documentary itself - sometimes, during an interview, asking the director where she should be looking.

in another scene, her and her mother are being interviewed together. her mother talks about how proud she is of emily and emily talks about how important her mom is and how much she valued everything she did for her. then, she looks at the camera and, with a smile, says something to the effect of, "now this is where you are going to cut to the parts of us arguing right." its funny cause i was thinking the exact same thing.

i checked out her website (cheesynuggets) and found that since the documentary was made she has made one more movie and is currently working on her third. so, who knows where she will go in the future.

now, i can't tell you if emily's movie was any good, since they don't show you much - if any - of the final product in the film. but, i can tell you that the documentary about her making the movie, Zombie Girl: The Movie definitely is.

2009 Oscar Predictions

 here i go again...

Will Win: Bold

Did Win: Big

 

 

 

MY SCORE: 19/24

 

BEST PICTURE
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"The Reader"
"Milk"
"Slumdog Millionaire"
"Frost/Nixon"


BEST DIRECTOR

Gus Van Sant ("Milk")
Ron Howard ("Frost/Nixon")
David Fincher ('Benjamin Button')
Danny Boyle ("Slumdog Millionaire")
Stephen Daldry ("The Reader")

BEST ACTRESS
Kate Winslet ("The Reader")
Angelina Jolie ("Changeling")
Melissa Leo "(Frozen River")
Anne Hathaway ("Rachel Getting Married"
Meryl Streep ("Doubt")

BEST ACTOR
Mickey Rourke ("The Wrestler")
Brad Pitt ("The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button")
Sean Penn ("Milk")
Frank Langella ("Frost/Nixon")
Richard Jenkins ("The Visitor")

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Amy Adams ("Doubt")
Penelope Cruz ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona")
Viola Davis ("Doubt")
Marisa Tomei ("The Wrestler")
Taraji P Henson ('Benjamin Button')

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
Phillip Seymour Hoffman ("Doubt")
Michael Shannon ("Revolutionary Road"
Robert Downey Jr. ("Tropic Thunder")
Josh Brolin ("Milk")
Heath Ledger "(The Dark Knight")

BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM
"Waltz With Bashir" (Israel)
"Revanche" (Austria)
"The Class" (France)
"Der Baader Meinhof Komplex" (Germany)
"Departures" (Japan)

BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Screenplay by Eric Roth, Screen story by Eric Roth and Robin Swicord
“Doubt” (Miramax), Written by John Patrick Shanley
“Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Screenplay by Peter Morgan
“The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), Screenplay by David Hare
Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy

BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
“Frozen River” (Sony Pictures Classics), Written by Courtney Hunt
“Happy-Go-Lucky” (Miramax), Written by Mike Leigh
“In Bruges” (Focus Features), Written by Martin McDonagh
“Milk” (Focus Features), Written by Dustin Lance Black
“WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Jim Reardon, Original story by Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY
“Changeling” (Universal), Tom Stern
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Claudio Miranda
“The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Wally Pfister
“The Reader” (The Weinstein Company), Chris Menges and Roger Deakins
“Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Anthony Dod Mantle

BEST EDITING
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
“The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Lee Smith
“Frost/Nixon” (Universal), Mike Hill and Dan Hanley
“Milk” (Focus Features), Elliot Graham
“Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Chris Dickens

BEST SCORE
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.),Alexandre Desplat
“Defiance” (Paramount Vantage), James Newton Howard
“Milk” (Focus Features), Danny Elfman
“Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), A.R. Rahman
“WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Thomas Newman 

BEST ART DIRECTION
"The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"
"Changeling"
"The Duchess"
"Revolutionary Road"
"The Dark Knight"

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
“Australia” (20th Century Fox), Catherine Martin
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Jacqueline West
“The Duchess” (Paramount Vantage, Pathé and BBC Films), Michael O’Connor
“Milk” (Focus Features), Danny Glicker
“Revolutionary Road”

BEST ORIGINAL SONG
“Down to Earth” from “WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Music by Peter Gabriel and Thomas Newman, Lyric by Peter Gabriel
“Jai Ho” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music by A.R. Rahman, Lyric by Gulzar
“O Saya” from “Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Music and Lyric by A.R. Rahman andMaya Arulpragasam

BEST ANIMATED FILM
"Wall-E"
"Bolt"
"Kung Fu Panda"


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“The Betrayal (Nerakhoon)” (Cinema Guild), A Pandinlao Films Production, Ellen Kuras and Thavisouk Phrasavath
“Encounters at the End of the World” (THINKFilm and Image Entertainment), A Creative Differences Production, Werner Herzog and Henry Kaiser
“The Garden” A Black Valley Films Production, Scott Hamilton Kennedy
“Man on Wire” (Magnolia Pictures), A Wall to Wall Production, James Marsh and Simon Chinn
“Trouble the Water” (Zeitgeist Films), An Elsewhere Films Production, Tia Lessin and Carl


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT
"The Conscience of Nhem En"
      A Farallon Films Production    Steven Okazaki
"The Final Inch"
      A Vermilion Films Production    Irene Taylor Brodsky and Tom Grant
"Smile Pinki"
      A Principe Production    Megan Mylan

"The Witness - From the Balcony of Room 306"
      A Rock Paper Scissors Production    Adam Pertofsky and Margaret Hyde

 
BEST MAKEUP
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Greg Cannom
“The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), John Caglione, Jr. and Conor O’Sullivan
“Hellboy II: The Golden Army” (Universal), Mike Elizalde and Thom Floutz


BEST ANIMATED SHORT
“La Maison en Petits Cubes” A Robot Communications Production, Kunio Kato
“Lavatory - Lovestory” A Melnitsa Animation Studio and CTB Film Company Production, Konstantin Bronzit
“Oktapodi” (Talantis Films) A Gobelins, L’école de l’image Production, Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand

“Presto” (Walt Disney) A Pixar Animation Studios Production, Doug Sweetland

“This Way Up”, A Nexus Production, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT
“Auf der Strecke (On the Line)” (Hamburg Shortfilmagency), An Academy of Media Arts Cologne Production, Reto Caffi
“Manon on the Asphalt” (La Luna Productions), A La Luna Production, Elizabeth Marre and Olivier Pont
“New Boy” (Network Ireland Television), A Zanzibar Films Production, Steph Green and Tamara Anghie
“The Pig” An M & M Production, Tivi Magnusson and Dorte Høgh

“Spielzeugland (Toyland)” A Mephisto Film Production, Jochen Alexander Freydank

 

BEST SOUNDS EDITING
“The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Richard King
“Iron Man” (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment), Frank Eulner and Christopher Boyes
“Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Tom Sayers
“WALL-E” (Walt Disney), Ben Burtt and Matthew Wood
“Wanted” (Universal),Wylie Stateman

 

BEST SOUND
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Mark Weingarten
“The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick

“Slumdog Millionaire” (Fox Searchlight), Ian Tapp, Richard Pryke and Resul Pookutty
“WALL-E” (Walt Disney),Tom Myers, Michael Semanick and Ben Burtt
“Wanted” (Universal), Chris Jenkins, Frank A. Montaño and Petr Forejt

BEST VISUAL EFFECTS
“The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Paramount and Warner Bros.), Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron
“The Dark Knight” (Warner Bros.), Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
“Iron Man” (Paramount and Marvel Entertainment), John Nelson, Ben Snow, Dan Sudick and Shane Mahan

Best And Worst Of 2007

let's start with the best...

it's that time of year again.  ok, so it's a little past that time of year, but there were a bunch of movies i wanted to see before i put these lists together. even with that, there are still many that i haven't got to - i mean i am only one man and i do have to eat and sleep and work.  so, before you go asking where is (put title of movie you think deserves a place on the list here), let me just give you a rundown of some of the movies i just didn't get to at the time i am putting this list together that have been finding there way onto other top lists: Grindhouse, Lust Caution, Sweeny Todd, Ratatouille, Persepolis, The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford, This Is England, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, 4 months 3 Weeks 2 Days, the Savages, La Vie En Rose, Lars And The Real Girl, The Waitress, In The Valley Of Elah and Into The Wild

with that being said here are my lists for the best and worst movies of 2007 - many of which you can read more in depth discussions of on the site.  let the listing begin...

don't forget (best)                                                         

1) No Country For Old Men
- brilliant.  two filmmakers at the top of their game taking chances with complete confidence                                 
2) Juno
 
- a great and very funny comedy that takes an after school special premise and makes it anything but. 

                                                               
3) There Will Be Blood   
-
p.t. anderson has guts and talent beyond that of most filmmakers with many more years of experience

                                          
4) Eastern Promises 

- a great film and croenenbergs best work ever

5) Once
- a small and simple love story with great music, so much heart and a little off-hollywood ending which works to perfection.

6) The Diving Bell And The Butterfly

- a movie about a guy who is paralyzed and can only blink his left eye.  doesn't sound like great movie fodder, but shnabel makes a great movie

7) The Namesake

- this film is about so much more then the simple identity crisis played up in the previews.  in fact, the parents and their story are as much a part of this wonderful film as is that of kal penn's character, who gets most of the screen time in the trailer.

8) The Bourne Ultimatum
- the best action movie of the year and the perfect ending to a really good trilogy

9) A Mighty Heart
- even though you know how it ends winterbottom makes the story completely engaging and draws the audience in to the search and the mystery of what really happened with the documentary style, jump cuts and hand held camera.  jolie is great as mariane pearl as well.

10) Eagle Vs. Shark
- this little oddball film might seem to some like just another Napoleon Dynamite, but it is definitely its own film and a very good one at that.

this was a good year for movies. i went back and forth with a few of them and had a hard time narrowing the list down to just 10 films.  and while 10 is the traditional list number, it is also unfair to the quality movies that just missed the cut.  so here they are (in no particular order), a few of which were in and out of the top 10 during the weeding process so when i say 'just missed the cut' i mean exactly that...

don't forget (honorable mention): The Brave One, The Host, Knocked Up, 28 Weeks Later, Gone Baby Gone, the Simpsons Movie, Crazy Love, the Orphanage, Across The Universe, Interview, Breach, Zodiac

 

 

as for the worst.  i had a little harder time coming up with this list.  not because there weren't a lot of crappy movies released this year, but more so because i didn't see a lot of them. i avoided the Good Luck Chucks and the Daddy Daycares and The Number 23s (either because they didn't look good or were directed by joel shumacher).  but, i did see my share of not good movies, and here they are.  some are just bad and others are just not as good as they could have been.

forget (worst)

1) I Am Legend
- this isn't the worst movie of the year, but i put it at number one because it made me so angry in how it wasted its potential.  this movie had the potential to be on the best of the year list but it just gave in, went for the quick buck, treated the audience like impatient drones that just want mindless action and negated a very interesting premise that seemed to be developing for the first half of the movie.  for that reason it gets the number one spot (if you want to hear my rant you can check out episode #54 of the podcast)

2) American Venus
- not sure if it was trying to be funny, satire, entertaining or a combination of all three, but, it ended up being none of them.

3) Next
- great premise that is interesting for about 15 minutes and then we have to sit through the boring story and an ending that would have only worked if we had actually cared about the rest of the film up until that point.

4) The Invasion
- there have been four 'invasion of the body snatcher' movies made and two of them were good.  The Invasion wasn't one of those two.

5) The Transformers
- too long, uninteresting story and a big final battle that i couldn't care less about by the time we finally got to it.

6) Spiderman 3
- the worst of the three.  a mess with two many villians and not enough time spent on any of them or an interesting story

7) We Own The Night
- first third of the film works, then its all down hill from there

8) Disturbia
- a potentially good re-tellng of hitchock's Rear Window that falls completely apart as the last part of the film is rushed and ridiculous.

9) The Bucket List
- jack and morgan are always great, but this thing was totaly average.  it had some sweet moments, but it was predictable and regular.

10) The Lookout
- good performances but a very predictable heist movie

11) Black Snake Moan
- i was really looking forward to this one.  the problem was that the story didn't have a full movie in it, so that when the initial idea is played out the rest of the film doesn't quite know what to do with itself.  however, the music and the way he brewer uses it is really good.

Bug

Buglisten to the podcast

 

Year: 2006 (released 2007)

Writer: Tracy Letts (based on his play)

Director: William Friedkin

Budget: $4 million (estimated)

Domestic Gross: $7 006 708

so, how many of you knew that william friedkin had even released a movie last year?  i didn't.  i had kind of heard of the movie, Bug, but i don't remember seeing any trailers or anything and especially any mention of friendken, as that is something that i think i would have remembered. 

needless to say, it was only recently that i heard talk of Bug (i don't remember where) and it enticed me enough to want to check it out. 

the script was written by tracy letts, based on his play.  the film stars ashley judd as agnes, a lonely waitress living in a rundown motel.  her abusive ex-husband has been recently released from jail, and her lesbian co-worker has introduced her to  peter, michael shannon, a strange drifter.  they become friends and then the 'bugs' arrive. 

no, this is not some horror thing ala Eight Legged Freaks with big bugs they have to fight.  rather this is much more of a psychological horror/thriller about reality, psychosis, loneliness and fear. 

the film, based on a play, has a very claustrophobic feel to it, with 95% of it taking place in agnes's motel room. and as things descend further and further into madness it feels like the room is just slowly closing in on them.

i also have to mention the two leads.  both ashley and michael are very good in this film and i am normally not a big fan of miss judd's.  this time, however, she really pulls it off and there is a really great scene near the end where she just goes off and has this crazy monologue and its just great.

another thing i liked about the film and the script was that it wasn't all about trying to figure out if peter was crazy or not.  so many times these kinds of films rely on the audience not being sure who to believe.  here there is of course a little of that, but i think that just goes to our skeptical human nature.  besides that though, once things start to go, you are pretty sure you know what the truth is.  what that does, is focus the story and our attention on the characters and their descent into crazy and, on ashley judd's part, her conversion and descent given her need to have someone to love.

friendkin has made some great films in the past (The Exorcist, The French Connection) and some really bad ones as well (Jade).  in fact, it has been awhile since he has done anything worth really talking about, until now.  Bug was probably the least promoted film he has done in many years, but it is also one of the best.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers

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Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956): Written by: Jack Finney (Collier's Magazine serial), Daniel Mainwaring (screenplay), Richard Collins (uncredited) Directed by: Don Siegel Budget: $417 000 (estimated) Gross: ?

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978): Written by: Jack Finney (novel), W.D. Richter (screenplay) Directed by: Philip Kaufman Budget: $3 500 000 (estimated) Gross: $24 946 533

Body Snatchers (1993): Written by: Jack Finney (novel), Raymond Cistheri & Larry Cohen (screen story), Stuart Gordon & Dennis Paoli & Nicholas St. John (screenplay) Directed by: Abel Ferrera Budget: ? Gross: $428 868

The Invasion (2007): Written by: Jack Finney (novel), Dave Kajganich (screenplay) Directed by: Oliver Hirschbiegel & James McTeigue (additional director, uncrddited) Budget: $80 000 000 (estimated) Gross: $14 104 358 (as of September 2nd 2007)

alien pods and people replaced by emotionless clones while they sleep.  sounds like a good premise for a science fiction movie don't it.  well, actually it is the premise to four science fiction movies made over the last 50 years: starting with the original Invasion Of The Body Snatchers movie back in 1956 and ending, most recently, with the just recently released mediocre, The Invasion.  let us take a walk through them all shall we....

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1956): i had seen this film many years ago, but only had a vague recollection of it when i sat down to watch it again recently.  i have to say that i didn't like it as much this time around as i remember liking it the first time i saw it.  it is still however, a classic sci-fi film and one that fans of the genre should definitely see.  don siegle, who went on to direct more classics, does a good job at building the tension and suspense as the pods and clones are revealed.  my problem with the film was with the voice-over.  now, personally i don't usually have a problem with voice-overs (although i know many critics look at v.o. as a poor screen writing tool, i am not one of them).  however, in this case it is a little much.  too much of the v.o. goes to telling us stuff rather then the film showing it to us - it is used to generally to fill in plot and logic holes.

continuing with that though, i had remembered a different ending to the film when i saw it years back.  the famous scene where dr. miles bennell is running through the traffic on the highway screaming at the cars about the danger of the pods and the clones is how i remembered the film ending.  however, this time around the film begins and ends with the good doctor being questioned by a phschyatrist who obviously doesn't believe what he is telling them - until they get the phone call.  it turns out that this coda  and the flashback nature of the film with the v.o. was added in afterwards by the studio who didn't think the original version was audience friendly enough.

a lot has also been made about the film as a political allegory to the mccarthy era and fear of communism that was so prevalent in the 1950s.  while the books author, jack finney, has said that he had none of that in mind when he wrote the story, the comparison is hard to miss.  the talk of the emotionless clones taking over and forcing conformity on people for their own good speaks loudly to the fears of the era.

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers (1978): i have to say right up front that this was my favorite of the four films.  it combines the good parts of the first and fourth (what little good there was) and makes for a surprisingly good film (as you will read in a minute, the third film has no good).

this one is the most direct remake of the original (as you could probably tell by the fact that it is the only one with the same full name title as well) and it shows.  while the main character, played by the great donald sutherland, is a health inspector instead of a doctor, much of the film does play out in a similar way to the original.

i mentioned the similarities between the first and fourth films and by that i mean:  the fourth film works well for the first part of the movie, while the 'disease' is spreading and the tension is building, but then it just turns into a silly chase movie with no depth that tries to act like it has lots of depth.  this one, however, builds that tension and develops its characters but actually sustains itself throughout the rest of the film like the first/original one does.

however, unlike the original the political overtones are not as obvious or pronounced.  i tried to think about what was going on in america in 1978.  it was only 3 years since the war in vietnam had ended and then there had been the watergate affair, and don't forget disco.  so there was a political culture of distrust of leaders and those meant to protect us, but i just didn't feel like the film was talking to that as directly as the original was referencing its political time.  in the original there are many mentions of the new zombies all being alike and following each other without individual thoughts and beliefs (the red fear is hard to miss). 

in this remake there are no such comments except for one moment when a group of 'changed' people are ganging up on sutherland and his female costar, brooke adams.  at this point they say something to the effect of how things will be better when everyone has changed, but thats about it.  instead this version talks more about the 'alien' aspect of the situation. in fact, the beginning of the film starts off with the alien microorganisms traveling through space, landing on earth and developing into the flowers and buds.

Body Snatchers (1993):  wow, this was bad.  i was sure going into watching the three older ones, and having just seen The Invasion, that there was no way any of them would be worse then that one.  I was wrong.  abel ferrera, who has made some good films in his day (Mrs. 45, Bad Lieutenant) really gave us a stinker with Body Snatchers.  not that it is all his fault though, given the poor script he was working with.  this thing was laughable.  not only was the whole alien pod/sci-fi part of the film really superficial and barely explained or even that interesting, but the other part of the film had this bad john hughes teen angst/love story thing going on.

The Invasion (2007):  i've made reference to the poor quality of this version while talking about the others, so it is no surprise that i did not like this movie.  while it started off with potential the majority of the film is just one big chase - and a very predictable one at that. also, unlike the good 1978 remake, this version acts like it has some big message about humanity and the way that human kind is destroying itself with hate and violence.  sure, there is definitely some truth to that, but when comments and intonations of that nature are made during this film, rather then coming across with some depth of purpose they just feel superficial, cheesy and, in the end, help to illuminate the films faults.

i think there was a good film in there that just never found its way to the screen.  whether that was director, oliver hirschbiegels fault or the studio fucked with it afterwards i don't know.  however, according to imdb, the movie was made during september-december of 2005 then they did some more filming in january 2007 (sounds like desperate reshoots to me, but again, i don't know if that was the studios doing based on preview audiences or if hirschbiegel felt it needed something that wasn't there).  whatever the reason, it was not a good movie and we will have to wait for the dvd, and the special directors cut, to see if there was a good movie there somewhere.

Sunshine

Sunshine Year: 2007

writer: Alex Garland

Director: Danny Boyle

Budget: $50 million (estimated)

Domestic Gross: $1,625,497 (as of July 29th, 2007)


50 years in the future and the sun is dying.  One team of astronauts, scientists and experts was sent to reignite the sun and save humanity on earth.  they failed and were never heard from again.  Now, seven years later another group is sent on the same mission.  Sunshine is their story.  from director danny boyle and writer alex garland - the team behind 28 Days Later - comes this really interesting sci-fi experience.

mentioning that these two were the guys behind 28 Days Later is more relevant then you may think.  No, the space ship doesn't turn into a breeding ground fro flesh eating zombies infected with 'rage'.  however, the film does switch half-way or so through its running time, from its philosophical sci-fi beginning to add a sci-fi horror twist to the precedings.

i have to admit this did turn me off at first.  i have nothing against sci-fi/horror, but i was really enjoying the slightly slower paced, idea driven film that i has been watching.  it kind of reminded me, just a little, of kubrick's 2001 which is one of my all-time favorite films. 

kubricks film is long and slow and absolutely brilliant on so many levels.  boyle's movie, however, tends to move much quicker from one 'mishap' to another.  while this did turn me off at first, garlands script is strong enough to handle the pace and yet still create an audiences attachment to the characters and the ideas behind the surface story.  while watching the film i kept thinking that they weren't giving me enough time to just 'think' about what it all meant before the next action set-piece started, in the end they actually did.

that isn't to say that the horror element still didn't feel a little out of place, cause it did.  however, it didn't ruin the first 2/3 of the film and wouldn't stop me from recomending it.

King Kong

Kingkong Year: 1933 & 2005

Writer: 1933: James Ashmore Creelman, Ruth Rose....
            2005: Fran Walsh, Peter Jackson, Philippa Boyens




Director:
1933: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
               2005: Peter Jackson

Budget: 1933: $670,000 (estimated)
             2005: $207,000,000 (estimated)

Gross: 1933: $1,700,000
          2005: $218,051,260

i finally got around to seeing the original 1933 version of King Kong and had planned on just discussing that film.  however, i really couldn't do that without also talking about peter jackson's 2005 version.

i will begin by saying that i really liked peter jackson's film.  i know there were a lot of people who felt that it was too long and had other problems, but i didn't feel that way at all.  i saw a late showing of the film and even though i was tired and the movie didn't end till probably close to 1am i was awake and engaged the whole time and i wouldn't have cut any of it.  also, after having now seen the original 1933 film i feel even stronger about my appreciation for jackson's film and its long running time.

okay, now lets talk about the original.  while i think some peoples viewing of the 2005 film was colored by their thoughts and appreciation of the 1933 film, i think i went into the 1933 film with expectations based on what i had seen in the peter jackson version.  i am not talking about special effects obviously, but rather the actual story.  while the general story if very similar between the two films, the 2005 version feels much more complete and deep, whereas the original comes across like a good, fun summer thriller/monster movie.

where this is most evident is in the relationship between kong and ann darrow, the woman he cares about and the reason he is eventually killed (remember, "it was beauty that killed the beast").  in peter jackson's version there is quite a bit of time spent on the relationship between these two characters and we see as darrow's (in this case naomi watts) character slowly begins to feel for the giant ape.  whereas in the 1933 version the time on the island is just one Kong action set piece after another and darrow (faye raye in this one) is always just scared and screaming.  even when we get back to new york she has very little sympathy for the chained Kong and is only afraid he may break loose.

like i said, i went in to the original movie with the peter jackson version in my mind and so i had certain expectations that might not be fair.  however, looking at it as unbiased as i can i do still feel that it was lacking depth and moved too fast. i mean driscoll tells darrow he loves her after knowing her for what felt like 20 minutes.  faye raye was beautiful, but still...

i don't want to sound like i didn't like the 1933 film though, because i did.  like i said earlier, it is a very good summer blockbuster with the focus on the action and the special effects with story taking a back seat.  and speaking of those special effects, i was completely impressed with how good they were (for the time of course).  also, while the peter jackson's Kong had incredible special effects, it didn't always work, and the cgi was obvious at times.

the original King Kong was a huge hit at the time, but is now 74 years old.  and, while the 2005 film made over 200 million dollars, it also cost over $200 million and therefor barely broke even (and i don't know if that number includes advertising and promotion money).  i wouldn't hesitate to recommend you see both films, and apreciate the original for its pure thrills and influence, and the remake for its ode to the original while expending and creating a much fuller and more complete movie.    

Paris, Je T'aime

Paris_je_taime Year: 2006

Written and Directed by: Multiple Directors

Budget: $14 million (estimated)

Domestic Gross: $279 854 as of May 20th, 2007

a few days ago a friend asked me if i wanted to go with her to see Paris Je T'aime, and i said, 'what is that?' and she said, and i am paraphrasing here, 'it is a movie made up of many short films from various directors revolving around the idea of paris and love.'  'sure' i said, and that was pretty much all i knew about the film as i sat down in the theater, and that is all you should know about it as well.  fortunately i can talk about the movie without 'giving anything away' as they say.

Paris Je T'aime is just what i said: a film made up of short films from a variety of directors.  to be more precise, there are about 18 shorts from, i think, 20 directors including the coen brothers, wes craven, gus van sant and a few more names that even the casual film goer will recognize (all us movie geeks will recognize quite a few names and want to look up the ones we didn't).  the film is very simple.  each director was given 'five minutes of freedom' and these are the little stories/moments they came up with.

just like long-format cinema some of the shorts are really good and others not so much.  but, unlike a 90-minute movie, if you don't like one of them you don't have to worry, because you will be on to the next one in a few minutes.  personally i really liked about a third of the shorts and, at least liked probably a few more then half.

half the fun and excitement for me was also seeing the names of directors i really like come up on the screen.  each piece starts with the name of the film and the director appearing in the corner of the screen, and there were a few times i let out audible gasps of excitement when a name appeared of a director that i had no idea was a part of the production. 

the only warning i will give to someone seeing the film is, 'don't expect all the stories to end in a satisfying way'.  at first it is a little jarring to find yourself getting into the story and the characters when all of a sudden the piece ends and we are on to the next one.  multiple times i heard rumblings from the people sitting around me to the effect of: 'what's going on?', 'is this a new story?', 'are they going to come back to that one?' etc...  having said that, you can now go and experience the film for yourself.

and overall it is an enjoyable experience as well as a very different one from what many of us usually see when we go to the movies.  short film is a much under appreciated niche and it is great to see big name directors involved with this piece (even if few people have, and probably will, actually see it).