Movies: Saw II

Yesterday, Jonna and I went to see Saw II. I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite a while, as I loved the first movie. The things that I liked most about it was the really original story line and that it was made on a low budget, so the story was more important than the way the movie was shot. There is something really nice about a movie that tells the story in lieu of fancy editing and special effects.

Unfortunately, Saw II does not live up to the first one, in my opinion. The fancy editing completely turned me off, and l couldn’t get past it enough to enjoy what story there was in the movie.

Donnie Wahlberg leads the cast as a detective who is drawn into the Jigsaw case after his name is left at a crime scene. He has just had an argument with his son and has been trying to get a hold of him on the phone and is unable to do so. He is asked by his ex-partner to be a part of the investigation and somehow they find Jigsaw, sitting in his room sucking on oxygen. It winds up his son is one of 7 people included in the latest “game”. The rest of the movie is a lot of over the top editing and bad acting that completely ruins the rest of the story, so much so that I have a hard time even remembering the details because I was slowly getting more and more aggravated at how the movie jumped from one place to another.

Daniel Fienberg from, says this in his review:

Coupled with the distancing cop/killer face-off, the erratic pace may cause some viewers to tune out long before the twisty ending that manages to be satisfying, if not surprising.

The erratic pace is what I hated most. I disagree with the “satisfying if not surprising” ending. The ending, once you see it, is a predictable and typical set up to continue the movie franchise long after it is relevant.

As I said earlier, the thing I liked the most about the first movie was its simplicity and its focus on the story. I thought the idea of “Jigsaw” was excellent and illustrated a hunger on the writers part to do something completely different. Saw II proves that you can only do that once and then Hollywood turns it into just another erratic, hard to follow, and badly acted waste of time.

Luckily for us, Jonna had a free ticket on her Regal Crown Club Card, so I don’t feel cheated out of money – only the time I spent in the theater that I could have spent more pleasantly getting my testicles twisted. The ticket we payed for doesn’t seem to be wasted as Jonna actually liked the movie. Go figure.

You can find more reviews on Rotten Tomatoes where the current fresh rating is at a very generous 38% fresh.

Emily Rose and Millenium Followup

[ This posting was written about a month ago (around 9/12) … I just ran out of things to write about, so I’m publishing this ]

I came across this article this morning. It seems that The Exorcism of Emily Rose has struck a chord with people (at least as far as getting them in the theater) as it grossed $30.2M over the weekend making it the third largest September opening ever, despite reviews that pretty much mirror mine.

Apparently I’m not the only one interested in the concept of exorcism — which makes me feel much more normal. 😉

Given the box office numbers though, I’m inclined to wonder what makes these types of movies so attractive to people that they have to go see it? I think that those who were raised hearing about how Satan and demons were the cause of everything bad are more inclined to go see them just out of the curiosity raised through years of hearing about it ad nauseum and finally being able to see something that was supposedly “true”. I think that I really like seeing other peoples interpretation of this phenomenon and the events that surround them.

Just to be clear, I do not believe in actual demonic possession. I do believe, however, that other people believe in it — and can believe in it so much that they can manifest behavior consistent with it if they do not learn to deal with the guilt instilled in them while being initiated, as a child or as an adult, into a religious group in which a fear of Satan forms much of the cornerstone of the doctrine that is taught.

Much of the above is why I also enjoyed the second season of Millennium so much this time around, while “not getting it” when it was actually on TV. Much of the content was around religious beliefs and the fulfilling of prophecy as believed by the “Millennium Group”. A lot of it had to do with what the Millennium Group was doing in order to ensure the outcomes that they believed would signal the end of the world. For some reason the second time around, that really intrigued me.

The second season of the show was quite different than the first. From what I have heard on interviews on the sets, Chris Carter became very busy with the X Files during the second season of Millennium and gave control over to Glenn Morgan and James Wong. The show became quite different than the first season, focusing on the Millennium Group and quite a bit of its religious philosophy and apocalyptic beliefs. Many of the shows took on an almost surreal atmosphere, very unrealistic and “out there”. One episode specifically (I can’t remember the episode but it was towards the end of the season) had very much of a “Natural Born Killers” feel to it — very random and disjointed.

Season Three
, which we started watching (we got through almost 3 discs), feels like a melding of Season 1 and Season 2. There is quite a bit of the religious and / or spiritual aspects to what we’ve seen so far, however it is much less surreal than Season 2, getting “back to the basics” of what made the first season so great.

I’m still a little disconnected from Season 3 as compared to Season 1, but I am still enjoying the shows.

The Exorcism of Emily Rose

Yesterday we went to see The Exorcism of Emily Rose, a movie based on the true story of a woman named Anneliese Michel, who died during a rite of exorcism. Her parents and the priests that performed the exorcism were charged with negligence and failure to provide first aid.

The movie tells the story of Emily Rose as a series of flashbacks taking place during the trial of the priest who performed the exorcism. The priest is persistent that he wants to be able to tell “Emily’s story” while the arch-diocese does not want him to testify, as they do not want to be embarrassed by the trial.

I wouldn’t characterize the movie as bad, but it is definitely something I would wait for video to see it. I think, for me, anything having to do with exorcism has always interested me, so I really wanted to see it. If you are expecting something along the lines of the outrageousness in The Exorcist, you’ll definitely be disappointed. This movie is not over the top at all and the trial story line is rather plodding.

Overall I think I liked the movie. I say ‘I think’ because I am normally quite polarized when I dislike a movie and get pissed when I’ve wasted my time on something that I didn’t like (Disclosure was one of those movies — after reading the book I saw the movie and was completely irritated at how they ruined the story that was so well told in the book).

When I walked out of this movie, I wasn’t irritated. I wasn’t real excited either. I just didn’t think it was necessarily a waste of time. It’s definitely not a movie to write home about, but it would make a good rental.

As I said earlier, its not The Exorcist and if thats what your looking for don’t waste your time. If you want to see a story that is “based on a true story” on the subject, wait for rental.

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A Trip To The Drive In Movie

We took a trip last night to the outdoor theater. Playing at the theater – Red Eye, the new film from Wes Craven and Wedding Crashers, starring Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn.

For the first time I can remember, I actually liked both films playing at the outdoor.

Red Eye is not what you would expect from a Wes Craven film. Craven usually creates the blood bath films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street, or our DVD pick from yesterday, Cursed, a story about modern day werewolves. Rather, I would characterize it as a very intelligently made thriller. No real gore – just suspense. There is no good way to begin describing the movie without giving away too much, which to me is always the sign of a great movie. The whole thing works. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie an 89% fresh rating.

The second movie was Wedding Crashers. I was absolutely convinced walking (or driving) in that I would hate this movie. It just seemed like a stupid idea. It wound up that up until the ending, I loved it. Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn play two people who crash weddings to meet woman who are caught up in the idealism of marriage, and therefore pretty easy to score with. They decide to crash the wedding of the Secretary of the Treasury (played by the one and only Christopher Walken), where Vince meets a woman who becomes completely infatuated with him (making him want to leave) and Owen meets the Secretary’s daughter, who he wants to try and win from her boyfriend. They wind up spending a weekend with the family and, as they say, “wackiness ensues”.

I haven’t laughed this hard at a movie in a long time — well, at least since we saw Hitch. It is non-stop funny. Owen Wilson is a little irritating at times (he tends to strike me as whiny a lot), but Vince Vaughn makes up for that.

As I said earlier, I thought for sure that I was going to hate this movie, even though the Cinecast guys both gave it high reviews and it rated 74% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. The ratings definitely reflected this one and I admit I was wrong. Each of these movies make the cut of movies that I will be waiting for to be released on DVD so that I can scoop them up and add them to the collection.

Overall, it was a pretty good movie night. Those come few and far between these days.

Movies: The Skeleton Key

Yesterday Jonna and I went to see The Skeleton Key, starring Kate Hudson. This was after doing some research on what the critics were saying, and our habitual check of Rotten Tomatoes to make sure that our expectations were set before looking forward to actually enjoying the movie.

Yahoo told us that the movie was getting a C from the critics and a B- from other Yahoo users. Rotten Tomatoes gave the movie a 40% fresh rating yesterday (checking it today yields a 39%), which is never a good sign when your getting ready to spend 40 bucks on a movie trip. Finally we decided that between The Skeleton Key and The 40 Year Old Virgin, it would be more likely that we would enjoy The Skeleton Key.

Kate Hudson plays Caroline Ellis, a young woman who, driven by the guilt of not being around to take care of her father before he died, has taken a job in a hospital as a care giver for the dying while getting ready to attend nursing school. She becomes disillusioned with the job one day when someone she has been taking care of dies and his body and personal belongings are rushed out of the hospital to make room for more patients and decides to get a job as a hospice worker taking care of the dying in their homes.

She is hired by the lawyer of a woman named Violet Devereaux, played by Gena Rowlands, to care for her invalid husband who has had multiple strokes recently and is expected to die in a months time. Caroline moves into the home to find a complete absence of mirrors, of which it is later explained that the house is haunted by two servants who were “Hoodoo” practitioners and they are often seen in the mirrors – so they have been taken down.

During the time that Caroline is in the house, she begins to realize something about Ben’s condition isn’t quite right. She begins to investigate the religion of the area and begins to suspect that Violet is responsible for Ben’s condition. She decides to try to get Ben out of the house and away from Violet to save his life.

The rest of the movie can’t really be described without giving away the twist of an ending. I will say it was worth seeing, but is best to wait until a DVD release. The movie moves slowly and its hard to get involved with the characters through the bulk of the movie. It is only until the final scenes that things are knitted together.

One thing I will say is that the ending of the movie is quite unexpected and I have actually been thinking about it quite a bit since we left the theater. The ending is satisfying, because it isn’t an ending you would expect from a movie made in Hollywood. If you’re looking for a “happy” ending, this might not be the movie for you. If you are looking for something that keeps you engaged through the whole movie, this might not be the movie for you. However, if you are looking for something different than what you normally see in the theater, you should at least give it a chance.

With that said, give it a chance on DVD. With movie prices what they are these days, you can definitely spend the $10 on something better. This is a good one to see sitting in your living room eating your own, cheaper, popcorn and Pepsi though.

Movies: Throw Mama From The Train

Throw Momma from the TrainOver the last few weeks, Kelsi has been talking about her friend, Owen. Being the doink that I am, every time she mentions the name I do my best “Throw Momma from the Train” Momma voice, yelling at the top of my lungs “Owen!!!”. There’s something about that that is just really funny to me.

Needless to say, something goes through your head long enough, you have to rewatch the movie. So we rented it last night.

This is a movie that never gets old. While Billy Crystal and Danny DeVito are great in it, the one that steals the show is Anne Ramsey, who plays Danny DeVito’s “Momma”. Every single scene she is in, she completely steals the movie from the other actors. The way she plays the part is brilliant, and I find myself laughing my ass off and anticipating the next time she shows up.

Keith The Team Lead recently recommended a podcast called Cinecast by two thirty something movie reviewers in Chicago, which I have recently started to listen to. They talk quite a bit about “quotable movies” on their show, and I have to say this one is one that definitely has to be considered in that category (at least in this family). Whether Momma is yelling at the “Bingo Bastards” or explaining her need for salted nuts, “because the unsalted ones make me choke“, or even her dream about “Louis Armstrong was trying to kill me“, she has some of the best and well executed lines in a comedy that I have seen for a while. I could watch this movie a thousand more times and not get sick of it.

If you haven’t seen this movie, pick it up. I guarantee you will enjoy it.

Movies: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Last week the family went to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the remake of the Gene Wilder film of the 70’s with Johnny Depp in the title role. Overall, I liked the movie much better than the original.

This film is much darker than the original, which is actually the main thing I really liked about it. While Gene Wilder played the role as a little eccentric, Johnny Depp took it to a whole new level, characterizing Willie Wonka as a very inept and socially retarded character.

Some comparisons though. I liked the Oompa Loompas in the original movie much better than the replicated ones in the new movie. I also disliked the much “hipper” versions of the songs done at the demise of each of the children in the movie. The original movie did these things much better than this one did, in my opinion.

However, I did like the dark disposition of this movie a lot. It was interesting to see Willie Wonka portrayed as a bit of a tortured soul, rather than just a goofy shut in. Tim Burton did a great job in putting this one together (as usual – check out the first Batman movie compared to others in the franchise).

I think the movie is well worth seeing. I enjoyed it. If your looking for something to do on a 95 degree day in air conditioning, this might be something to go see to keep you entertained for a couple of hours.