If It’s Your Pre-Halloween Weekend at the Movies, This Must Be Another Goddam Saw Movie

10/23/2009 8:58 AM |

Saw VI: Probably one of the more morally appalling things about me is that I’ve seen all five Saw movies in the theaters. I have a weakness for horror movies, and Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw is an interesting boogeyman, despite the fact that he’s been dead since Saw III. Watching these cheap, frantically made profit machines is also a stupid but enjoyable form of cultural catch-up; my interest in horror movies didn’t peak until well after the heyday of the near-annual Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm Street movies, which I’ve found don’t play so well on video unless they’re actually pretty good (which so far has applied to zero Fridays and one to two Nightmares). Unlike the often self-contradictory slasher movies of the eighties, though, the Saw series treats its continuity with ridiculous seriousness. You’re actually expected, as a viewer of a Saw movie, to remember with crystal clarity what happened in all previous Saws, because the set-up to the new movie will inevitably be that the main character was in the background of Saw IV, and the plot twist will inevitably be that the current movie is taking place concurrently with Saws II and V. Yet for movies with painstakingly maintained continuity, the Saw pictures are also hilariously slapdash in terms of actual production. It’s a bundle of contradictions left in a rusty bear trap chained to an industrial corn press slowly dragging you to its metal jaws unless you can dig out the bear-trap key buried in your own upper thigh. Happy Weekend Before Halloween!

Amelia: So how wrong am I to be less interested in this movie after watching Amy Adams make for a crazy-adorable Amelia Earhart in that stupid Night at the Museum sequel? I actually really like Hilary Swank and don’t get the occasional flash of animosity against her; not only has she won two Best Actress Oscars, she actually deserved both of them, and seems endearingly incapable of fulfilling her gender-norm responsibilities by headlining an insipid hit romantic comedy (though I guess P.S. I Love You, unseen by me because it looked borderline ghoulish, did moderate business). I like Mira Nair, too; I’m sure this biopic will look sumptuous and all that. It’s whether it will escape the typical biographical pitfalls—ticking off famous events; condensing a long timeline into a movie-unfriendly narrative; hero-worshipping the subject—that has me wondering if I should just look for a YouTube highlight reel of Amy Adams saying awesome old-timey stuff.

Astro Boy: I want to see this not so much because it looks good (though it does look shiny, which is sort of like good), but because I want to encourage movie studios to put more science-fiction in their cartoons, especially now that there are a dozen animated movies every year, but not to the extent that I actually went to see, say, Battle for Terra (though it does extend to knowing what Battle for Terra is, apparently). Also: this manga-based movie looks sufficiently watered down and Americanized such that I won’t have to worry about characters inexplicably changing into other characters. Seriously, Ranma really sucks.

Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant: My review pretty much sums up what I thought of this: it made me go back and think about the relative craft that went into the movie of Twilight. Just let that sink in. So no, you shouldn’t see Cirque du Freak, but I will give it a tiny bit of credit for being a genuinely Halloween-y Halloween release, rather than the rusty nail to the solar plexus that is a new Saw movie.

Motherhood: After Kill Bill, I swear, Uma Thurman had this glow about her. Even her appearances in incompetent junk like Paycheck and Be Cool had a sort of serene confidence. She felt like a movie star. Since then, though, the glow has faded as the material failed to improve: Thurman has yet to match her two-part career peak; sometimes she barely seems interested in trying. She had some fun in the misbegotten Producers musical-movie (she and Will Ferrell showed better understanding of comic acting on film than the theatrical Lane and Broderick performances), but not so much in the awful My Super Ex-Girlfriend, or in her twitchy, mannered performance that turned out to be the major weak spot of the forgotten indie The Life Before Her Eyes. I haven’t seen The Accidental Husband, because it never actually came out. Now, still shy of forty, it’s come to this: Thurman feels compelled to play a frazzled NYC mother dealing with her own sublimated ambitions to be a writer. I realize this is mainly evidence of the dwindling number of good roles available to an actress after she turns thirty-one or so, but good writers and/or directors generally write all kinds of good roles, so Thurman needs to get with more of them, before she’s playing frazzled NYC grandmas at age forty-three. In the meantime, the cast of Death Proof can look over her current career and shiver (though her money probably still looks good).

Ong Bak 2: I absolutely saw Ong Bak part one [Fun fact: the first press screening I ever attended. I nodded off at one point. The release date was pushed back a couple of issues. It was less than auspicious. -Ed] a martial arts adventure starring physical marvel Tony Jaa, and I could tell you next to nothing about what happened in it, except: people got their asses kicked by Tony Jaa; and many punches landed to cries of “whoa!” and “damn!” from my enthusiastic Times Square audience (yes, a Times Square audience that was enthusiastic about what they were seeing on screen, not about the sounds of their own voices or what their friend was texting to their other friend). That is to say, I really liked Ong Bak and even I wasn’t particularly asking for Ong Bak 2. Maybe this a new branding thing, and because a lot of martial arts movies are difficult to distinguish, all Tony Jaa movies going forward will just be Ong Bak movies for the sake of simplicity (sorry, The Protector—seriously, sorry I never saw you).