July 2003 Archives

Final Destination 2 (Review)

Final Destination 2 (2003)

(d: David R. Ellis; s: A.J. Cook, Ali Larter, Michael Landes, Tony Todd)

If you liked the suspense and hinted-gore that the first Final Destination movie provided, don't bother with the sequel. That's pretty much the bottom line here, with director Ellis (fresh from his 1996 directorial debut of Homeward Bound 2) taking all that was interesting and fun from the first movie and twisting it into a sickening bastardization of what made that movie great.

The action starts right away, with an extended freeway sequence that really does rival that of The Matrix Reloaded. We watch as step-by-step the horrific outcome of the freeway scene is built before our eyes, then are quickly over-gored out as this outcome is brought to fruition. There's only one other horror movie that my fiance has been completely unable to watch through - Wes Craven's classic Last House on The Left - but even there she made it halfway through. Not five minutes into this film, she left the room and wouldn't come back until it was over. Not because the movie scared her, not because the movie was holding any suspense, but simply because it was utterly disgusting. Maybe that's what some people think "horror" is - how gory can you make a death scene? - and for those people, this movie is picture-perfect for you. But for someone expecting the unexpected, the suspenseful "how is he really going to die" feeling that the first Final Destination left you with, you'll be sorely disappointed.

The acting (what little there is of it) is okay (well, practically Oscar-caliber for a movie of this nature), and the leads pull it off surprisingly well, considering blood, guts, and gore are flying around like seagulls at the Fisherman's Terminal. Direction is decent, but with too many hints and eye-winks to the audience, tipping you off to what is going to happen next. The writing...well, I'll just drop the detailed technical review here.

Even the original plot device from the first movie is altered here. Death takes a far more active hand in many of the deaths in this movie, whereas in the first it was a passive player. Ali Larter reprises her role as Clear Rivers, the last remaining survivor of the plane crash from FD1, and pretty much steals the movie (until she, too, suffers at the hands of the F/X designers). Premonitions come left and right, and when combined with Ellis' "eye-winks" give away everything that would have surprised you to no end.

Bottom line: if you're looking for fun, suspenseful horror, this ain't your movie. If you're looking for gory, bloody, yet unsatisfying horror, then maybe this one's for you.

10-Year Reunion

Had my ten-year high school reunion last night. It was an incredibly surreal experience, as most of the people I talked to there agreed. While there were obviously people there that fell back into their high-school cliques, I was quite frankly amazed at the number of people who were friendly and talkative to anyone and everyone. I was so glad to see the insularity of high school has dissipated quite a bit over 10 years!

Honestly, when I decided to go (at the last minute for the discounted $75 rate!), I wasn't expecting a lot. In fact, I kinda figured I would spend an hour or two there, then head back to my hotel and fall asleep. Well, that didn't happen!! I actually wound up closing down not only the reunion, but also closed down a local bar (with people I never received a passing glance from in HS), and then sat at Shari's with some people that didn't go to the actual reunion.

So, for those of you who might be facing this soon - I'd say go for it. If you don't go, you never know what you might miss. And if you do go, you'll reconnect with someone, that much I can promise.

Pirates of The Caribbean (2003) Review

Curse of the Black Pearl

(d: Gore Verbinski ; s: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley)

By far the best Disney-Ride-Turned-Into-A-Movie movie yet! Granted, its competition in this vein so far consists of The Country Bears -- so take that for what it's worth. Okay, seriously, though - it's been awhile since Hollywood successfully sailed the proverbial Seven Seas and provided us with swashes to buckle, fair maidens to rescue, and skeletal pirates walking along the ocean floor.

If there is one successful blockbuster that comes out of Hollywood this summer, Pirates deserves the crown. You've got excellent acting (from Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush, at least), non-stop action (who doesn't enjoy watching swordfights - really!?), and a romance that lacks even the most basic of chemistry. Okay - two out of three ain't bad, as the old song goes, but it's the two that this movie gets right that make it worth seeing!

The plot is pretty basic - a ship full of cursed pirates roams the Caribbean seas, seeking out the last remnants of an ancient Mayan treasure that they stole. The last piece of this treasure happens to be in the hands of a governor's daughter (governor played by Jonathan Pryce, daughter by the beautiful Keira Knightley), taken from a boy she helped rescue years ago while on patrol with her father (what the governor and his daughter were doing on board a routine sea patrol is beyond me!). The boy grows into a blacksmith apprentice (Orlando Bloom), the girl grows into the antithesis of British aristocracy (the scenes with her struggling with her corset are some of the funniest moments in the film). Eventually, the pirates learn the location of the last item, and of course kidnap the governor's daughter. Madness, ship battles, and swashbuckling ensues.

Most of the swashbuckling is done by Captain Jack Sparrow (played more than ably by a Keith Richards-imitating Johnny Depp), a failed pirate out for revenge against his mutinous crew. If there is any one reason to see this movie, it's for Cap'n Jack - the mannerisms, barely-intelligible accent, and essential spirit of his character is just flat-out fun. Johnny Depp at his best (think Dean Corso from The Ninth Gate with a little more energy and dreads), he simply MAKES this movie enjoyable. You can't take your eyes off him when he's on camera, and when he's not, you're wishing that he was!

Geoffrey Rush is the second in line to take over this movie, as the thoroughly piratey Captain Barbossa. Every word he sneers comes across as a covert threat; he is what we all think of when we consider the description of a pirate -- smart, lethal, and downright scroungy. His best line, when referring to the "Pirate's Code" sums up his character to a T: "They're really more like guidelines?"

Unfortunately, while Sparrow and Barbossa set up the movie for greatness, it's consistently drug back down the sheer lack of chemistry between the aforementioned blacksmith, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and the governor's daughter, Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). There's actually more chemistry between Ms. Swann and any other character in the movie, including Barbossa! Bloom looks just indescribably strange with a period(?) moustache and peach fuzz. His character, while interesting, just played flat for me. His bluster and devotion to Swann just didn't convince me, until the very end of the movie. By that time, though, it was too late - I wasn't interested in them a single bit.

The CGI in this movie is fun, if a bit overdone. The transition from human-looking pirates to the shriveling, decomposing skeleton pirates is just amazing, but after awhile you just want to see one or the other. Similarly with the swordfights; while I love a good swordfight as much as the next guy, there needs to be a little more variety for me to really be satisfied. Especially near the end, you get a "been here, done that" feeling during the ultimate showdown.

All in all, this is quite simply the best summer blockbuster out there right now. It's fun, it's light, and although long (143 minutes!), it's worth the ride.


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This is a picture of the Woodland Park Zoo's new jaguar. Trust me - it's rather cool.

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy...

Ack...been awhile since I updated this thing. Probably because Star Wars Galaxies has taken up pretty much all of my free time. Not that that's a bad thing, of course. Hell, I'm paying for it, so I better get my money's worth out of it, huh?

I've really fallen behind in my movie habits lately too. Used to be there were very few movies out that I hadn't seen within a day or two of them opening. Now, the last movie I saw was The Hulk...and what a fine *cough* movie that was.

Anyway, nothing much to talk about really. Sorry.