Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Starring: Tobin Bell, Shawnee Smith, Angus Macfadyen, Bahar Soomekh, Dina Meyer, Donnie Wahlberg

Running Time: 113 min.
Rating: R

***1/2 (out of ****)

For some reason the Saw movies have always been categorized as horror films when they're really not. They also have the reputation of being gory, bloody and disgusting. This isn't true, at least for the first two films. It's true now. Saw III is absolutely brutal and easily one of the hardest "R" I've ever seen. It makes Hostel look like Toy Story. Still, at their core the movies are psychological thrillers, especially the original which may have been the best in that genre I've seen in the past ten years. With that film, writers James Wan and Leigh Whannell did something really special by creating a villain with an interesting motivation and a story that was intricate, complicated and multi-layered. Unthinkable for just a "horror movie." I thought a sequel was a bad idea as there was no chance anything could top to the original's cleverness and creativity. I was right, but the sequel came closer in quality than anyone thought it could. Saw III comes even closer. Anyone who loved the previous two won't be disappointed.

I'll be very careful as I explain the plot of Saw III, as the fun in these movies come from the twists and surprises, and let me tell you there are plenty in this third installement. The movie picks up exactly where Saw II left off, with the door being closed on Detective Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) as he lies leg chained in the dark basement, having fallen victim to Jigsaw's latest game. If you're wondering how John Cramer a.ka. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) could possibly still be alive after nearly being at death's door with an inoperable brain tumor for the past two films, your concerns are quickly addressed. He's really in bad shape in this one. However, that won't stop him from continuing his mission of teaching people to appreciate their lives by putting them through brutal games and tests with the help of his new apprentice, Amanda (Shawnee Smith). One of the most interesting things about the series is how Jigsaw isn't a killer, at least not exactly. He gives all of his victims the chance (however slim) to save themselves and if they do then good for them. They're free to go. Those are the rules. He actually has a strong moral code. You could say he's moral in his immorality.

This time, Jigsaw kidnaps a doctor (Bahar Soomekh) whom he hopes can keep him alive, or at least keep him alive long enough for his other victim to complete his series of tests. That man, Jeff (Angus Macfadyen), is being forced by Jigsaw to confront the people responsible for the death of his son in a tragic car accident that has consumed him with hatred and revenge for years. This is the most interesting subject they've had in any of the Saw movies and it elevates the entire film because we actually start to care about this guy's backstory. This is also a twist on the usual game Jigsaw plays because this time the victims fates are in the hands of someone else other than themselves. Jeff is forced to either to forgive those responsible for his son's death to save himself or hold on to that anger and punish them, risking his own life. The movie turns into a morality play: vengeance vs. forgiveness. I thought this aspect of the screenplay was incredible and shows why the Saw movies are operating at a level far above any typical Hollywood slasher. They're actually about something.

In a way, I was disappointed the movie felt the need to put in so much gore, brutality and violence if only because it will cause people to overlook the fact that the movie tells a complex story. The most frightening aspect of the film is that this is the tame version. Scenes probably had to be cut just so it could achieve the "R" rating. Let's put it this way: normally just a second of nudity is enough to insure an "R" rating for a film. This movie has a scene of full frontal nudity with torture that lasts for almost five minutes straight, yet somehow the movie made it into theaters without the dreaded "NC-17". Quite an accomplishment. This film is about fifty times more graphic and brutal than the other two and is a cinema landmark in what you can get away with showing on screen. There's a scene of brain surgery being performed in the most graphic detail I've ever seen in a movie. I actually had to turn away, something I've never done before. All of this would be a serious problem if the story couldn't support it, but it does.

You have to feel sorry for Tobin Bell. No matter how great a performance he gives it's going to be overlooked just because of the type of movie he's in. People don't realize how a big part he plays in the success of this franchise. Anyone who lists him in the top five of all-time great movie villains, would get no argument from me. He's up there with Hannibal Lecter and Darth Vader. I was worried about Shawnee Smith having an increased role as his apprentice in this film because there's only one Jigsaw. I didn't really want to see him working with anyone, but I was proven wrong. Their relationship adds an interesting dimension to the film and she did a really great job.

This film is far superior to the first sequel largely because of a renewed focus on the test subjects. There were only two which upped the tension and intimacy of the proceedings to levels not seen since the original. I felt the second film, while strong, just had to many characters. There was a tighter focus here so the result was a more involving story. It's going to be impossible to recreate the mystery of the original , but I really like how all three films have a certain storyline continuity, but are still wildly different. We get to see in this film, through flashbacks, a behind the scenes look at Jigsaw's previous traps (including the infamous one from the original) which filled in some plot holes anyone may have been questioning.

The big question now is, will there be a Saw IV? Of course they'll be. It's probably already been written. As long as truckloads of money can be made there will always be a Saw movie. The real question should be, is it necessary? Probably not, but after seeing this I can honestly say I'm looking forward to a fourth installment. There were alot of questions left unanswered at the end of Saw 3 and I can't believe I'm saying this but they haven't yet explored all of their avenues for the Jigsaw character. I not only want to see a Saw IV, I can't wait for it.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

American Dreamz

Director: Paul Weitz
Starring: Mandy Moore, Hugh Grant, Dennis Quaid, Willem Dafoe, Sam Golzari, Chris Klein, Judy Greer
Running Time: 107 min.
Rating: PG-13

**1/2 (out of ****)

Imagine a movie where every character is in some shape or form a spoof of a real person. Okay, got that? Good. Now think about someone you know who just keeps talking, but really never says much of anything. Then combine the two and you have Paul Weitz's American Dreamz, a movie that's supposed to be a dark comedy, but by the end, just like that friend you know, it doesn't say anything particularly interesting or memorable. I cannot lie though when I tell you it's still pretty good and if you watch it you'll probably be smiling most of the way through. The actors are having alot of fun and it shows, taking a really awful concept and almost making it work. The whole thing is ridiculous for sure, but it's also strangely compelling.

Sally Kendoo (Mandy Moore) from small town Ohio has just won a spot on the number one reality show in the country: American Dreamz, hosted by Simon Cowell clone Martin Tweed (Hugh Grant). That the movie attempts to spoof Cowell, who is essentially a spoof of himself anyway, is ludicrous, especially since he does a far better job doing it on American Idol than Grant does here. The show's so popular it even attracts the attention of the White House, which is inhabited by President Stanton (Dennis Quaid) who just won reelection, is southern, and also happens to be a bumbling idiot. Sound familiar? His Cheney-like Chief of Staff (Willem Dafoe) thinks it would be a great p.r. move for him to judge the finals of American Dreamz, even if he has to feed him everything to say since he has no brain. Complicating matters, the very likable Omar Obeidi (Sam Golzari), a middle eastern terrorist living with his family in California, is accidently discovered for the competition when it was actually his cousin who earned the spot. Omer is then recruited by his terrorist cel to make it to the finals and kill the President with a bomb. Hilarity ensues.

In a way, this movie kind of reminded me of Wag The Dog. That satire was about how the media can manipulate and skew our view of reality. Except this is about...well, nothing really. It seems to be about the media and their power over us, or our addiction with it. Is this trying to mock us for watching too much reality tv or taking it too seriously? We do. Big deal. Or is this a poltical satire? I'm not sure, and neither is the movie. It introduces so many satirical elements that by it's dark, twisted ending we're not at all sure what any of it is about. Nothing seems to come together like it should, or in a way that connected with me at least.

Terrorism and American Idol don't exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly for a motion picture comedy, so the movie really has no choice but to give us some kind of idea about what it's trying to convey. Yet, it doesn't. It's a shame too, because there is alot to admire about the sometimes clever film, mainly Mandy Moore. She's beautiful, a great actress and an even better singer. She takes what should be, and was likely written as, a caricature and turns it upside down, slyly spoofing her own good girl image. Looking at her you don't figure she could pull off a villainous role, but here, as in Saved!, she's definitely proven to be up to it. I loved the sub-plot of how she used her injured war hero boyfriend (Chris Klein) to help her win the competition at the urging of her scheming manager (well played by SNL's Seth Myers). I also have to admit the title song of the show is also pretty hilarious. Even though the target is way too easy, Quaid must have spent many late nights studying tapes of George W. Bush because he does pretty much nail it. There's a great scene toward the end where he loses the connection in his earpiece to the Chief of Staff and he can't even talk, much less even function. The look on Quaid's face is priceless.

Paul Weitz previously directed the American Pie movies, and more recently one of the best romantic comedies of the past few years, In Good Company. This movie isn't nearly as funny as the former and it doesn't have nearly as much to say about life as the latter, but it will keep you entertained for sure. The movie is so "of the moment" in it's satire and pop culture targets you have to wonder if it will look even more ridiculous (if that's possible) in like, say, twenty years. While I'm sure Weitz thought he had a lot to say about something, what that is isn't exactly clear.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


Director: Frank Coraci
Starring: Adam Sandler, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken, David Hasselhoff, Henry Winkler, Sean Astin

Running Time: 107 min.

Rating: PG-13

** (out of ****)

With Click, Adam Sandler has officially made his worst movie. It takes one joke and hits us over the head with it over and over again, nearly forcing us into submission. Worst of all, it doesn't even have the conviction to stay true to it's roots as a slapstick comedy and delivers a final act so out of line with the rest of the picture you'd think somebody stole the final reel and replaced it with the ending of another film. It asks us to believe the impossible. Not that Adam Sandler has a universal remote that controls his universe, but that he's an architect married to Kate Beckinsale and a semi-responsible adult and parent. This is a kinder, gentler Adam Sandler and it doesn't work at all.

Sandler plays Michael Newman, one of those dads who's too busy with work to find time for his wife (Beckinsale in a completely thankless role) and kids. He's expecting a huge promotion from his clueless boss (David Hasselhoff) and must work around the clock to get it, virtually ignoring all of his familial duties, including a camping trip and Fourth of July picnic. He makes a stop one night at Bed, Bath and Beyond looking to purchase a universal remote control and finds himself in the "Beyond" section with a wackjob named Morty (a looney Christopher Walken) who pushes a cool new remote on him. This is the movie's one joke as the remote control allows Michael to rewind, pause, mute or fast forward any part of his life. I wonder if he'll abuse it. Only we find out later, it has a memory (like TIVO) and everything starts spiraling out of control when the remote takes over, attempting to carry out every function from memory it thinks Michael wants.

There are some funny moments early in the film. Scenes where Michael fast forwards through sex, fights with his wife, an annoying family dinner, and anything involving his dog are pretty good (if not repetitive after a while). Then the movie just flies off the tracks when it tries to tackle life lessons and gets very serious. Dead serious. The way the it does this is so bizarre, it ends up being the most (unintentionally) hilarious thing in the picture. The ridiculous lengths the screenplay goes to to show us that Michael isn't appreciating life by fast forwarding it is unreal. Without giving too much away, let's just say people die, Michael's hospitilized (twice!), three actors each play Michael's kid and there are some really bad make-up jobs. What unfolds is so tonally off from all that preceded it it's as if the filmmakers thought this was It's a Wonderful Life. It also delivers an unearned ending that's a complete cheat and made me think this whole enterprise was even more of a waste than I originally thought.

When David Hasselhoff is the funniest thing in your movie you know there's a problem, and I'm not even sure he was funny or I was just laughing because it was David Hasselhoff. Admittedly, Jennifer Coolidge was also pretty good as the oversexed next door neighbor. I'm sure a comedy about them would have been better than this. I understand the need for Adam Sandler to grow up for his audiences, but can't it be in a good movie? And can't we get a little more of the meaner, irresponsible Sandler we had in Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison? I miss that guy. We get a glimpse of it in this movie in scenes where he feuds with an annoying kid neighbor, but other than that he's missing in action. Sandler is one of our best comic actors and is always fun to watch on screen. I'm still waiting for the movie that can properly mesh the likable, self-deprecating, sensitive version of Sandler with the mean, funny one. It'll come. For now though, reach for your remote. Click is skippable.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Lake House

Director: Alejandro Agresti
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Sandra Bullock, Christopher Plummer, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Dylan Walsh
Running Time: 105 min.

Rating: PG

** 1/2 (out of ****)

For what it is, The Lake House kind of succeeds. Unfortunately, what it is isn't all that much. I love time travel movies and make it a point to see any film employing the device, knowing it can make even the dullest story exciting and interesting if executed properly. The Lake House has an incredible premise and drops the ball. It's as if the screenwriter realized he had a great idea for a movie and then just stopped, failing to invest the story with anything else, including believability or interesting supporting characters. Imagine my surprise that the romance in the movie actually works, while the time travel story doesn't.

It's 2004 and Alex Wyler (Keanu Reeves) just bought a beautiful glass house on stilts off of Lake Michigan. When he checks the mailbox he finds a letter from a woman claiming to be the previous owner, Dr. Kate Forster (Sandra Bullock) asking him to forward any mail to her new address in Chicago. Except the house, whom Alex's famous architect father (Christopher Plummer) built, was completely uninhabited before he got there. How is this possible? You see, Kate is actually in 2006, two years into the future, and in a neat gimmick they are corresponding through time. A romance develops, but, pun intended, the timing is all wrong.

The gimmick is so neat and has so much potential that it almost kills me to have to declare that it fails, These two people do not behave like any person put in this situation would. I know if I were talking to someone in the future (even if it were just two years) I would be asking all sorts of questions about everything. Who's the President? What good movies came out? Look me up! What am I doing? The movie Frequency took this similar premise and ran with it successfully. That she doesn't even attempt to look the guy up immediately is just beyond belief, even for this type of movie. Of course she doesn't so there can be a "shocking revelation" about his whereabouts toward the end of the film. Only it's not so shocking because it's actually revealed minutes into the picture with sloppy screenwriting. We know how a romance like this ends which is absolutely fine, but to give away the exact details of how it will within the first ten minutes of the picture is a little much.

Then, there's their personal lives, which the less said about that the better, because they are two of the most boring people you're likely to meet. He's a contractor and she's a doctor, but it's amazing they can function in their jobs at all when moping around in a terminal state of depression. I know they're supposed to be unhappy with their lives until they find their true love but this went way overboard. Perhaps the movie's worst fault is it's failure to invest the supporting characters with any interesting backstory. Alex and his brother have a dying father who "only ever cared about his career" and Plummer plays it completely over the top, hamming it up like somebody accidentally gave him the script for the wrong film. Oscar nominee Aghdashloo is completely wasted in a throwaway role as Kate's boss, while Moss-Bachrach was less believable as Alex's brother than any time travel paradox the movie fed me.

This is the much heralded re-teaming of Reeves and Bullock since they first set screens on fire with 1994's Speed. Since then neither actor has really delivered on the potential they showed in that movie, though Reeves has come closer since no one ever really thought he had potential. I was watching and hoping to see flashes of the old Sandra Bullock. I realize she's older now and has to move on to more middle-aged roles, but do they have to be this dull? I have a feeling audiences still want to see her in perky, likable roles regardless of her age. This doesn't suit her even though she does the best she can with it. Reeves actually fairs much better as his laid back, wooden style really fits the character this time. He's at his best when he's not trying so hard. The good news is these two actors still have great on-screen chemistry together and the romance really works well.

There's a fantastic scene when he encounters her at a party in 2004. He knows. She doesn't. At least not yet. How he handles it is great and I wish the movie had more moments like this because there's definite sparks between these two, which is good because if not the movie would fail completely. I also liked how the house was almost like a character in the film, even though it looks like a stiff breeze would blow it over. I had real mixed feelings on this because the movie has a nice laid back tone and is actually paced very well. Anyone looking for a decent date movie could certainly do worse. With all the tools it had at it's disposal though, The Lake House could have been so much more.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lucky Number Slevin

Director: Paul McGuigan
Starring: Josh Hartnett, Morgan Freeman, Bruce Willis, Lucy Lui, Ben Kingley, Stanley Tucci
Running Time: 109 min.

Rating: R

***1/2 (out of ****)

I wasn't expecting much going into the unfortunately titled Lucky Number Slevin. In fact, I didn't really have any interest in seeing it at all despite numerous recommendations. But I'm glad I did. The movie starts as as a whip-smart crime thriller but then somewhere along the way turns into an astonishing tale of redemption and revenge. It takes an ordinary story and makes it extraordinary, which is what the best films are supposed to do. It also has the best twist ending in a crime movie since The Usual Suspects in 1995.

Slevin (Josh Hartnett) has a bit of a problem. He walked in on his girlfriend cheating on him, got mugged and had his nose broken. When he goes to crash at his friend Nick's pad in New York City, Nick's nowhere to be found. What he does find is a perky next door neighbor Lindsey (an adorably quirky Lucy Liu) and two thugs who think he's Nick. Before long we realize Nick was knee deep in some serious shit with two feuding mob bosses: "The Boss" (Morgan Freeman) and "The Rabbi" (Ben Kingley). The film turns Hitchcockian in that it becomes a case of mistaken identity, but Slevin almost all but gives up in attempting to convince these guys he's not Nick. It ain't gonna work. To make matters worse he's being trailed by an infamous assassin named Goodkat (Bruce Willis), who's motives we're not sure about right until the end. With Lindsey's help they attempt to uncover the mystery.

It seems like I've described a gritty crime drama, when in fact the movie's really a black comedy with sly humor and quick, witty dialogue. You really have to pay attention as things move very, very fast. The plot is complicated and intricate with many twists and turns, but never impossible to follow.

This is the first time Josh Hartnett has really been asked to completely carry a film on his shoulders and he does it with breezy confidence in a surprising performance. It also says a lot that he has no problem holding his own with screen legends Freeman and Kingsley, who are in top form. Lucy Lui's character, for all intents and purposes, should be a throwaway role but it isn't. She's a key player in his situation and it's a tribute to the script and her performance that that's never forgotten, even at the very end. The movie cheats a little, deliberating withholding information from us at times, but it's understandable and worth it once we get to the final pay off which does hold up upon repeated viewings and rewards us for paying close attention to every detail.

The movie begins in an empty airport terminal with Bruce Willis' character in a wheelchair telling an urban legend about a horse and a gambling debt to a total stranger. How the movie goes from that to where it ends up, and how it does it, is nothing short of brilliant. Writer Jason Smilovic and Director Paul McGiugan (who previously directed Hartnett in Wicker Park) have done what seems like the impossible. In today's movie world, where every crime movie seems like nothing more than a Tarantino knock-off, they've made an original crime movie that's fresh, smart and exciting. That alone makes Lucky Number Slevin worth everyone's time.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Match Point

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Jonathan Rhys Myers, Scarlett Johannson, Matthew Goode, Emily Mortimer, Brian Cox
Running Time: 126 min.

Rating: R

Release Date: 2005

*** (out of ****)

It's tough work having a wife and a girlfriend. If you don't believe it, just watch Match Point, Woody Allen's 2005 film about a tennis pro who gives in to temptation and finds out that cheating, while immediately gratifying, just doubles your responsibilities and problems in the long run. The hiding, the lying, the excuses, the worrying if she'll call the house when the wife's home. The stress is enough to send anyone to an early grave. It's a movie about a good guy (although we're not too sure by the end) who makes one really bad decision.

Jonathan Rhys Myers plays a failed Irish tennis pro Chris Wilton who gets a job teaching tennis at one of those rich, snobby British tennis clubs where he starts giving lessons to Tom (Chasing Liberty's Matthew Goode) and his sister Chloe (Emily Mortimer). Before long he's involved with Chloe, more out of convenience than anything else. He really has eyes for Tom's fiancee, aspiring American actress Nola (Scarlettt Johansson). He starts an affair with her that continues long after Tom's relationship with Nola ends and Chris marries Chloe. That's when the real problems start. You see, Chloe is mildly pretty, nice, comes from money, is safe and boring as hell. It's easy to see why he'd want to have an affair, especially the other woman is Scarlett Johansson and Chloe starts constantly taking her temperature and buying fertility idols.

The amount of effort needed to lie and hide the affair goes beyond what any man could possibly deal with. He wants to divorce Chloe, but can't. He feels too safe. He lusts for Nola, but clearly doesn't love her. He's torn between the predictable and the exciting. Really neither of the two women are right for him as he needs some kind of combination of the two to be completely happy. It reminds me of a guy I knew who once told me about his relationship that "when we're at home she's my wife, when we go out she's my girlfriend." Chris Wilton needs that woman badly. He ends up treating Nola far worse than his wife as he keeps stringing her along making promises he can't keep. Her character's supposed to be a villain but you can't help feeling for her because Johansson plays her as a troubled, confused and almost naive soul in a quietly nuanced performance. The story goes into dark territory, without giving too much away, as Chris attempts to eliminate the problem the only way he knows how. Things start to get really complicated, but I like how at the end Allen doesn't wrap everything up neatly in a bow for us. It ends unresolved, as do most things in life.

This isn't your typical Woody Allen picture, which is probably good a thing. I'm grateful he restrained himself from starring in it and asking us yet again to suspend disbelief to the absolute highest degree that young, hot women lust after him. Anyone going in expecting Annie Hall 2 will probably be dissapointed as this is about as dark as it gets, with none of the trademark Allen comedy. Like his best movies though, it features real people with believable problems and treated in a classy way, no matter how messy the situation may get. We may not like the characters but we can empathize with them.

Luck and chance is a reoccurring theme in the film with the game of tennis inexplicably used a metaphor. I always thought that was more based on skill. Plus, no event in this movie has much to do with chance at all. It's more about just one man being remarkably irresponsible and stupid. He does this to himself. Nonetheless, this a return to top form for Woody Allen after a string of flops. Although I heard after this, he's back to making flops again. Too bad. With Match Point, he's at least delivered a film that has you thinking right up until the final credits.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Final Destination 3

Director: James Wong
Starring: Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Ryan Merriman, Alexz Johnson, Kris Lemche, Amanda Crew
Running Time: 93 min.

Rating: R

*** (out of ****)

I always thought the concept behind the Final Destination movies was deeper and not as far fetched as it initially seems. The idea that death could take any one of us at any moment hits a lot closer to home than some are willing to admit. The first Final Destination movie exploited this fear to maximum effect. The second movie did not. It abandoned the concept of strangers being thrown together by fate and attempting to win a poker game with death. Luckily, this second sequel goes back to the original film's roots as director James Wong returns to remind us what brought this franchise to the dance. It's easily the best in the series in addition to being a fairly smart movie that that does the teenage horror genre proud. It also features the best use of a roller coaster ever in a motion picture (excluding of course the late 70's disaster movie Roller Coaster). I'm worried the "3" in the title will stop people from buying or renting this, thinking it'll just be another lame sequel. It's not.

A group of high school kids prepare to ride one of those terrifying rollercoasters that everyone's afraid of going on but few would actually admit to. All except Wendy Christensen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) who has a premonition of a horrific accident and freaks out, causing her and a bunch of other classmates to get off the ride. Much like the students in the first FD movie who were meant to die in the airplane crash, death then comes after all of them one by one in the order they were supposed to be seated in the rollercoaster.

Grieving over the death of her boyfriend on the ride, Wendy teams up with Kevin (Ryan Merriman), another survivor, to try to thwart death's plan. One of the clever things about the movie is how they're aware of what happened to the students in the first film and use it as a reference point to figure out what's going to happen to them. There's a great scene (which will no doubt offend many) where Kevin pulls out eery pictures that serve as clues that the assassination of Lincoln and the 9/11 attacks were going to happen, hammering home the point that death has a plan and there's often no escaping it. They look at the pictures taken before they got on the ride for clues to their fates and methods of their demise. They find them, but that's no guarantee they can stop it as the movie goes places you really don't expect it to, especially in it's clever ending, which liberally borrows from 1972's Tales From the Crypt.

The death scenes in this movie are also the most entertaining in the series using a tanning salon, a weight room, and a drive-thru in ways you won't believe. That's not even mentioning the incredible roller coaster disaster at the start of the film. It always bothered me that a roller coaster was never really used to it's full effect in the movies. If you think about it there's really nothing scarier than being suspended that far up in the air and have something go wrong. Finally a movie has taken advantage of that very real terror and complete loss of control.

The characters are all typical teen horror movie caricatures like the jock, the goth chick, the dumb blonde slut, the sceptic, the virginal girl and the sleazy scumbag. What's great is the movie seems to revel it, with the filmmakers even bragging about it on the special features disc. Those descriptions of the characters were actually their's not mine. All the actors have fun with their parts, but Mary Elizabeth Winstead (who looks like a prettier version of Zooey Deschanel) does about as good a job as the virginal heroin that I've ever seen in a teen horror flick. She actually looks and acts like a real high school girl, which is rare in this genre.

That the movie is populated by nobody actors helps it's cause as everything seems fresh, so much so I started to forget this was a sequel or that there was ever any other Final Destination film. This one sets standard for the series. If the movie made more interesting choices visually, taken the narrative a little more seriously and aimed a little higher it would have taken this thriller into 4 star territory, like the brilliant Saw. That's not a complaint though, because it's not that type of movie and really shouldn't aim to be. The movie is so fun and exciting I can't imagine anyone wouldn't enjoy it for what it is.

This release comes in a 2-disc "Thrill Ride Edition" that's as fully loaded as any recent release you've seen. There's an fascinating documentary on the conventions of the "dead teenager movie" complete with a great interview with Roger Ebert, a documentary on the making of the film, and an animated short about real-life cases of people narrowly avoiding death that's incredible. There's also the full-length audio commentary and a feature that lets you watch the movie while changing the course of events and the character's fates. While there will definitely be better movies than FD3 this year, I doubt they'll be anything better in the teen horror movie genre. Hopefully, there isn't a Final Destination 4. Better that the series go out on top.