Final Destination 5: A Study In Redundancy

15 08 2011

Wasn’t the last Final Destination movie called The FINAL Destination? Yes, yes it was. Yet, money and box office “cha-chings” are the immortal waters of the Fountain of Youth to film franchises, so here we are, yet again, with a 5th episode. It’s like freakin’ Cher and her “farewell” tours…you know there’s gonna be another one. So, here’s the breakdown:

Boy has vision of terrible accident (this time a bridge collapse). People die horrible deaths (cables, oil, boats, etc. are involved). Boy saves a group of people (insert list of archetypal horror film blood-n-guts fodder). Said “lucky” group of people start dying off in increasingly gory and “creative” ways, all in the order with which they died in the vision. Remaining survivors try to figure out how to stop Death’s relentless march – after all, he doesn’t like to be cheated (or so we’re told).

The Monkey: Fans of the franchise will be excited to see a return to basics; clever, edge-of-your-seat kills, dark humor and a familiar plot structure. And let’s be honest – the kills are what people are wanting to see when they pay for a ticket anyway. The kills in Final Destination 5 are definitely more creative than previous installments. Just when you think you have it figured out, Death takes you down a twisted path to a blood-soaked end you could have never guessed. Cringe-worthy for sure. After every kill, audience reaction went as follows: “Ooohhhhh! Hahaha! *Clap* *Whistle*.” We’re the YouTube generation and watching train-wrecks and wipe-outs has created an audience ever receptive to this kind of entertainment.

The opening sequence was impressive, especially considering the relatively conservative $47 million budget. There was also a pretty clever twist ending that had me nodding in appreciation. But the best part of Final Destination 5 was the 3D. It was gloriously cheesy and everything you’d expect from a B-horror film. From impaling rebar to flying body parts, there was no shortage of blood and guts flying at your face. Exploitation of the medium? Absolutely. Satisfying? You bet.

The Weasel: I have to imagine the script for this movie was like a MadLib. “Fill in the blanks with different ways for people to die!” No one goes to these movies for the witty dialogue or the ingenious plot; however, a little time and creativity would have been appreciated. If you’ve seen any of the others, you’ve seen this one. Aside from the moderately surprising ending, there was nothing about Final Destination 5 that contributed much to the franchise. Mediocre acting, a subpar script and an awkward effort at dark comedy stained this blood-fest an irrevocable shade of “blah.”

Will fans like this movie? Considering it’s a marked improvement on the last two installments, yes, I’m sure they will. Even fans of over-the-top horror/gore films will find something to enjoy. But anyone looking for a clever take on a tried and (sometimes) true story structure should just rent the first film and pretend it’s the 5th one.

1.5 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Was Final Destination 5 a successful addition to the franchise? Did the end surprise you (no spoilers in the comments please!)? Anyone want to take bets that Final Destination 6 involves a cruise ship? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Hereafter: A Beautiful Story About Life & Death…But Then What?

22 10 2010

I was surprised to find out Hereafter was opening this weekend. The lack of promotion for this film is shocking, especially considering the caliber of talent involved; I mean, Matt Damon starring in a Clint Eastwood film? Hardly any marketing? Hmmm. But, in any event, here’s the breakdown:

Three stories, dealing with death and what happens after: George Lonegan, an ex-psychic who sees his gift as more of a curse; Marie LeLay, a famous French news anchor who experiences a near-death experience in a harrowing disaster; and English twins Marcus and Jason, young boys who must rely on each other for comfort. These stories weave together, telling a story about life, death, and the hereafter.

The Monkey: Clint Eastwood’s directing skills never cease to amaze me (not to mention his ability to write wonderful movie music). His presence in the film is unmistakable, yet he manages to avoid heavy-handedness. He allows his actors to flow from scene to scene, something Matt Damon does very well. Cecile De France, as Marie LeLay, was thoroughly enjoyable and completely convincing as the troubled soul-searcher. And young actors Frankie and George McLaren delivered heart-rending performances as the inseparable brothers who must face tragedy together and apart; their story, even more so than the other two, delivered the truest and most touching emotional resonances.

The opening sequence of the film was jaw-dropping. Without revealing too much, let me just say you’ve never seen something like this on-screen.

The Weasel: Unfortunately, the movie never really matches the level of energy and visual stimulation that the opening sequence promises. Hereafter was, more than any other movie I’ve seen, a book – its scenes felt so much like chapters in a book, I half expected to see chapter headings before each scene change. I debated about whether this was a positive or negative element of the film – at the very least, it’s unique; however, I have to say it didn’t do the movie any favors. Books are books for a reason, and what works on paper, doesn’t necessarily translate successfully on-screen. In addition, this episodic set-up made the film feel twice as long as it really was.

While the other actors were excellent, Bryce Dallas Howard, who played a possible love interest for Damon’s character, was surprisingly grating and unlikable. I wish she would have toned it down a bit.

Ultimately, what left Hereafter wanting was the resolution…or lack thereof. The three plot lines, while intriguing, came together all too suddenly, and rather unbelievably. And the audience is never really sure what they should take away. We all need closure? The world isn’t ready to know what’s after death? We should live our lives for the here and now? All of the above? I’m all for a movie that forces you to draw your own conclusions, but the footpaths must be laid…in this case, you’re left unsure which direction to take, or if there is any direction at all.

Amazing performances coupled with an amazing director, Hereafter has the right ingredients for a truly emotional, thoughtful movie-going experience, but lacks the narrative structure to successfully guide an audience through the story.

3 Death Stars out of 5

What do you think? Did Hereafter’s narrative feel better suited for a book? Did you like the way the stories tied together? How about that opening scene?! Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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