Random Movie: Saw

Six years later, it is quite remarkable that a movie like Saw could lead to one of the most prolific horror franchises of modern times. What started out in humble beginnings with a script hammered out by beginners, sold through a short excerpt of the feature, and a budget the size of most summer film’s catering department, Saw was able to make horror films distinct again even if that would lead to the danger of what some call “torture porn.”

In anticipation of the latest and allegedly final installment opening this week, I decided to go back and revisit the Saw series as some of these films I have seen only once and in some cases many years ago. If anything can be said about the series (again, going from my hazy recollection), the basic premise of each of the films is similar but the plots have been totally different. At the opening here, we meet Adam and Dr. Gordon who are chained by the leg in a dingy, industrial bathroom with only a fleeting idea of how they got there and an odd assortment of items to help them put the pieces together. The main adversary (in the series at large that is) Jigsaw seeks only to impress upon his “victims” the preciousness of life by way of an impossible task that would either put themselves or others in harm’s way in order to escape.

Honestly, the story is the best thing about the movie as the non-linear narrative assists the viewers in being at the exact same place knowledge-wise with the characters. The movie starts with Adam and Gordon in the dark both literally and figuratively but the use of flashbacks and side stories keep the information flowing at the pace that does not divulge everything at once but still effectively strings everyone along to try to figure it all out. While it has been decried, the violence here is rather minimal and is more implied than overtly shown, a notion that the sequels jettison if memory serves. Jigsaw’s previous work serve to show us a reason and a pattern to his games but never really seem unnecessarily sadistic other than to serve Jigsaw’s (and thus his victims’) purposes.

For as much pampering as the story and the Romero-style commentary get, director James Wan should have focused more on extracting compelling performances from his leads, and damn near everyone else in the movie, rather than cringe-inducing dialogue that would not have made an outtake in another film. Cary Elwes is a tough actor to pin down as he can go from other-worldly good (Princess Bride) to laughably bad (Twister) but it seems that the actor was channeling almost all of his previous performances as he ranges from very effective to embarrassingly bad in the short span of 100 minutes. Likewise for his partner-in-grime (and writer) Leigh Whannell and bloodhound detective Danny Glover who cannot go more than a few minutes without over- or underacting their roles away. Tobin Bell and Michael Emerson fair much better on the opposing team but that could be contributed to their significantly less screen time than the others.

If there is one thing I am not looking forward to over six more movies in this series, it is the damn hyper-editing that may attempt to heighten tension but only serves to annoy the hell out of me. While I dislike it, I have grown accustomed to the Michael Bay or Ridley Scott method of thirteen cuts in three seconds of an action sequence but when the camera filming a car chase has more movement than the actual (obviously immobile) vehicles, an editor who wants to show the movie without inducing motion sickness should be at the top of the wish-list. The frenetic nature of the narrative however is harnessed by composer Charlie Clouser who creates a score that is as haunting as the themes of the film itself.

At the end, Saw almost feels like an incomplete movie, one begging for a sequel or six, as we know little about the man behind the plot which is arguably the best part of the story. Jigsaw we know is twisted and sadistic but strangely has values that many of his prey do not. His appreciation for life (not necessarily the abduction or brutal violence aspect) serves as the basis for this film which is but the tip of the iceberg for many more treks into the quandary of morality to come.

Random Movie: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Random Movie: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

As one half of 2013′s dueling White House under siege films, Olympus Has Fallen is so patently absurd that it is borderline offensive. From the opening frame of the film, the story apparently takes place in a fictitious universe that lacks any common sense of terrorist attacks, tactical ability, or even the best way of not dying from automatic machine gun fire. But even though it is stupid enough to make your eyes bleed, this is way better than it has any right to be.

Playing out as an extended episode of 24 (which already did a ‘terrorist-in-the-White-House arc) or an abandoned Die Hard script, Gerard Butler plays an amalgamation of every single bad-ass protagonist from every single action film from the past thirty years as the one Secret Service agent who can stop a few dozen terrorists after EVERY SINGLE OTHER AGENT is killed by terrorists raiding the White House. After a double cross or two, higher ups questioning the intel of the only guy who has managed not to die, and the villain’s convoluted plan to stop American interference around the world, there is nothing here that is new or shocking to someone who has the slightest notion of action film tropes.

Yet, in spite of all of the other evidence towards it, Olympus Has Fallen is actually a pretty kick-ass film that makes up for the lack of any rational behavior by completely embracing the ridiculously implausible plot and hurling violence and death toward the audience with no regard to sensibilities. If you ever saw Commando, it’s kind of like that except somehow more violent. Director Antoine Fuqua dares you to worry about how predictable and stupid this movie is and once things get going, you are far too engaged watching Butler single handedly destroy a small country worth of citizenry with a steely look and a ‘not-fucking-around’ demeanor.

The filmmakers even try to make up for the vapid story with an impressive roster of on-screen talent including Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, and Melissa Leo who all do remarkable considering the cliche-ridden nonsense they spout. All of the money spent on casting probably explains the reliance on Sy-Fy Channel worthy CGI or perhaps that everyone involved was so caught up in the ass-kicking on screen that they forgot. Either way, I wholeheartedly recommend this movie as long as you appreciate completely over-the-top violence and gore or can view this as an indictment of America’s unrelenting need for crap blowing up (which I’m absolutely sure is not intentional).

Happy Independence Day!

Hello everybody!

In case you haven’t notice, Movie Scum looks a little different.

The main reason for this is because I am a slacker and did not renew the domain before it expired and subsequently deleted everything I’ve spent five friggin’ years of my life on. I don’t understand how technology can be so unforgiving in momentary lapses of perspective, or importance, or monetary worth.

Then again, people are no better. Hell, I am no better. Life is even worse.

Life is but a gradual increase of everything that has come before. Are you having great times? Woo! Keep enjoying them. When your life is in the shitty, then whatever. Add more crap on. Perhaps, life is nothing but a series of pulleys and conveyor belts that simply carry whatever it has on its back in motion.

That is until a change in the gradient of the line, or a wild curve, or a plummet down a deep hole that the rider of the conveyor knows nothing about. And then maybe it changes. Maybe it doesn’t.

Perhaps like an MC Esher painting, there is always down and always up. And those things can seem to be going the same trajectory depending upon one’s perspective. If that’s the case, what is down for one person may be up for another. But what does it really matter?

But back to the site! Yay, Movie Scum! My general lack of interest in life or anything outside of basic survival has waned in the past few week, or months, or marriages. One day I will recapture my enthusiasm and vibrant take on life and survival and movies and everything. Today is not that day.

As it is, I struggle with the bare basics of establishing the publishing platform of a simple, unattended blog. It is not a new struggle to me but one that I persevered once before and I think one that I will concur again. After that, there is but the simple recreation of hundreds and hundreds of posts and reviews that are likely still present on this world wide web, but in no logical or easy to collate fashion. It might take days, or weeks, but likely months.

I feel it is worth it. My voice is likely my strongest asset but I choose not to use it verbally. Real life doesn’t give you an edit button or an easy way of saving a draft to refine later. Maybe that is why I have difficulty. But when I have the opportunity to write, it comes more naturally than any expression of mine can. I need this to work.

I need this to work.