Sunday, October 29, 2006


"'s a part of the puzzle"

Tobin Bell
Shawnee Smith

Directed by:
Darren Lynn Bousman

Written by:
Leigh Whannell

My Rating: 3/5

The extent to which you enjoy this film mostly depends on whether you like “that sort of thing” or not. The film is full of imaginative and stomach-churning gore. It lacks characterisation and the twists and turns are less and less convincing as the franchise continues. It does, however, give the target audience exactly what they want. That is nasty, evil, cleverly conceived violence, and plenty of it.

The film opens with a needless tying up of the loose ends from Saw II. It was a perfect excuse to kick off with some shocking gore without having to bother setting up new characters. The real story begins about twenty minutes in when the writers finally reveal the basic premise. There are two story strands. One involves the notorious Jigsaw who is now bed-ridden from a brain tumour. He and his psychotic new protégé, Amanda, a survivor from the previous film, kidnap a young doctor, Lynn, and place a device around her neck which will explode if Jigsaw dies. The second story strand revolves around a vengeful man, Jeff, who must pass a series of violent tests or else he and others will die. Lynn must keep Jigsaw alive until Jeff has completed all his tests. This allows an excuse for a gory operation performed in the makeshift hospital that Jigsaw and Amanda seem to live in.

A large problem with the film is the ever-increasing elaborateness of the devices and scenarios. It begs the question of how this invalid and his crazy assistant can build these contraptions, and how can they find so many empty, abandoned warehouses? But if we suspend our disbelief for a moment, the torture scenes are the most clever and stomach-churning yet from this franchise or from any other for that matter. Another problem with the film is how the character of the Jigsaw killer is transformed into a God-like presence. He is presented in a morally righteous light. He is merely trying to help people. All of his games are designed to make survivors appreciate their lives. This idea is reinforced in a very humanising near-death experience where he is walking through a park with a beautiful young woman, presumably his wife. He is also shown to be disgusted with Amanda because of her murderous tendencies.

With our beloved villain portrayed in this pleasant light, we only have Amanda to provide the nastiness. Unfortunately, this character is so weak and unbelievable that it is hard to feel anything from her. She is a difficult character to understand and her deep emotional attachment to Jigsaw is never fully explained. We must presume some sort of Stockholm syndrome is at work.

Overall, the film succeeds where the audience needs it to. It delivers the gore, it delivers the tantalising scenarios. With enough gore nobody will care about the ugly over-stylisation, the irritatingly choppy editing, or the flashbacks and silly twists. These films are all about the gore and with that in mind; this is possibly the most successful film of the series so far.

Friday, October 13, 2006

World Trade Centre

"Can you still see the light?"

Nicolas Cage
Michael Pena
Maria Bello
Maggie Gyllenhaal

Written By:
Andrea Berloff

Directed By:
Oliver Stone

My rating: 1/5

On the cusp of a wave of controversy is where Oliver Stone likes to live. Perhaps that explains why he would take on such a low quality project. The film's very existence caused uproar and what was promised was a sensitive, intelligent celebration of the heroes involved in the 9/11 tragedy. Unfortunately for the audience, what was delivered was a weak, boring, completely unchallenging story about two police officers who get buried under the rubble after the second tower came down.

The film begins well enough emphasising how normal the day was before the attack. However, it very quickly descends into exactly what it shouldn't; a tacky, over-sentimental waiting game which cuts between the two trapped cops and their families who are running around shouting, eagerly awaiting their return.

For the first 40 minutes or so, there are some interesting moments of panic in and around the towers. Stone really gets across the idea that nobody knew what was going on and effectively captures the chaos and fear that people were feeling. He commendably stays with the story he wants to tell without descending into political territority.

The negative side of staying with this story is the fact that we really care very little about these characters. They are not slowly built, likeable characters. It is presumed we will like them because they are on our side. They are the 9/11 heroes who have been exalted to beyond-rational heights by the American media. That's not to say that they don't deserve the praise. They most certainly do, but it is lazy writing to presume this will be enough to attach an audience to a character's plight.

Overall, this film fails because of the over-reliance on the audience's already raw emotions on this subject. Perhaps that explains its great reviews in the U.S. and its very poor reviews here.

Friday, October 06, 2006


"He's always chasing the pot of gold, but when he gets there, at the end of the day, it's just corn flakes."

Adam Sandler
Kate Beckinsale
Christopher Walken
David Hasselhoff

Written By:
Steven Koren & Mark O'Keefe

Directed By:
Frank Coraci

My rating: 3/5

Click is not at all what I had expected. The trailer had suggested a straight-forward Sandler flick. It was far more epic and emotionally substantial than advertised.

The story centres around Michael, a very busy architect whose career is preventing him from appreciating his lovely wife and two children. When he goes to buy a universal remote control, he meets a loopy sales assistant Morty(Christopher Walken) who takes his request literally. He sells him a remote that controls the universe. It can rewind, fast-forward, pause, and even has an audio commentary by James Earl Jones.

At first it took the form of every other Adam Sandler film, he gets the remote and does a number of childish, silly pranks with it. However, as the film progresses, it becomes something much more dark and begins to feel more like sci-fi. As the pranks and jokes slow down, Sandler finds he has lost control of the device. It has programmed itself, based on his preferences, to fast-forward through sex, arguments, illness and promotions. This meant that he was losing years at a time and over the course of these years he grows stronger at work but loses the love of his wife and kids. He can see himself becoming a soulless executive who has lost his passion for life and is merely going through life on "auto-pilot". It shares the morals and imagery of Frank Capra's films and even comes across as a rather loose adaptation of "It's a Wonderful Life".

The supporting cast were very funny and suitable for the most part. David Hasselhoff is great as Michael's arrogant boss and Henry Winkler is sufficiently charming as his underappreciated father. However, it is Christopher Walken's quirky turn as the enigmatic Morty that really stands out. He does his typical crazy, unpredictable character but goes slightly more over-the-top for this role which works perfectly. Kate Beckinsale was disappointing as Michael's wife. Although stunningly beautiful, she was completely dull and gave no characterisation to the role.

Another weak point was the unsuitable inclusion of classically Sandler-eque jokes. The script comes across as having started its life as a thoughtful sci-fi with strong links to old Hollywood. However, it is seriously dragged down by the infantile jokes that recall every other lazy Adam Sandler film.

Having said that, however, Sandler does a good job here creating a likeable everyman that we can relate to. He's a nice guy who feels completely powerless in his life and goes to extreme lengths to change that. When he can, he shows his love for his family but makes a number of mistakes throughout the film that leads to the disastrous eventuality. In some ways this is probably Adam Sandler's most varied role and possibly his toughest to date, He handles the material competently and while he's no Jimmy Stewart, he admirably wins the audiences sympathy.

The film is, at best, an existential examination of modern middle-class life but is dragged down by a disappointing ending, some cringe-worthy sappy scenes, and some big dumb Sandler jokes. But overall I found it entertaining and actually quite charming.

-Charlene Lydon 6/10/06

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The King

"I need to get right with God"

Gael Garcia Bernal
William Hurt
Pell James
Paul Dano
Laura Harring

Directed By:
James Marsh

Written By:
James Marsh & Milo Addica

My rating 4/5

Having missed this film in it's one-week run at the cinema, I was anxious to pick it up immediately after it's release on DVD. Every other review on this blog has been of cinema releases but I hope to expand into other reviews and this is a good place to start because I feel this film really deserves to find an audience.

The first English-speaking role of Mexican star Gael Garcia Bernal is portraying a charater called Elvis who leaves the Navy and goes off to find his father. For an actor whose first language is Spanish, Bernal does a remarkable job of fitting into the role of a young, disturbed, American.

Elvis meets his father David Sandow (William Hurt) who is now a pastor in an idyllic small town. He has a beautiful God-fearing family consisting of his dumpy wife, his son Paul, who sings in a God-rock band and Malerie, a pretty, good-natured 16 year old. After Elvis is shunned by his father and told to never come near his family again, Elvis sets about upsetting his perfect family unit. He does this by seducing Malerie and they embark on an affair, though she is unaware that he is her half-brother.

As events unwind, the audience is drawn into the mind of Elvis. It is a complex character who is never portrayed as evil or psychopathic, merely a sociopath who doesn't have any idea of right and wrong. He constantly shows no regard for human life, human emotion or the God that his father loves so much.

As he digs himself in deeper and deeper the film plunges into a darkness that becomes almost unrealistic but saves itself immensely by an abrupt ending that leaves the viewer thinking for a long time after.

I felt that what makes this film worthwhile is its characters; their beliefs, their hypocrisies, their needs. Each member of the Sandow family feels like they are desperately clinging to their strict beliefs because of a fear of hell, or of succumbing to the evils of the outside world. The character of Elvis is particularly interesting as the viewer can empathise easily with many of his actions while knowing how wrong they are. There is a feeling throughout the film that he is in need of some love and has no idea how to get it.

The film's biggest shortcoming was in the relationship between Elvis and Malerie. She succumbed far too easily to a sexual relationship with this stranger with whom she mostly shared awkward silences and small talk. This made the relationship feel a little forced. Also, the character of Mrs. Sandow was horribly miscast. The strikingly beautiful Laura Harring did what she could with no makeup and tightly tied hair but she just looked like a Hollywood beauty trying to look mousey. Through no fault in the actress's talent, it didn't work.

Overall, the acting in this film was magnificent, William Hurt played a wonderfully hypocritical, seriously repentant Born-Again Christian, Paul Dano played the God-loving son perfectly in yet another performance that proves he is destined for greatness, but Gael Garcia Bernal really put his undeniable skills to great use here, taking on a role that was very complex and easily misunderstood. He managed to pull it off perfectly, creating one of the most interesting characters in recent American films.

Although flawed, the film raises many questions about moral choices, and the difference between morals and fear of God. It also creates questions about identity in American culture and the idea of the family unit. The notion of sin and retribution is also a recurring theme and it asks the audience if what Elvis has done to David Sandow's family is God's way of punishing him for his earlier behaviour or is it just coincidental remnant of the sins he committed years earlier? The question of spirituality and forgiveness is the main issue at hand. If Sandow can be forgiven for his sins, then Elvis can do whatever he likes as long as he eventually makes himself "right with God".

For it's twisting, dark storyline, it's superb central performances and it's chaotic ending, I strongly recommend this film, but you may need to suspend your disbelief at times, as it gets pretty far-fetched.

-Charlene Lydon 4/10/06