What should I be doing instead of this?
October 24th, 2008 By Jason Gargano | Movies |

Friday Movie Roundup: Torture Porn in the U.S.A.

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Is there any end to the Saw franchise? The simple answer is no — not as long as torture-porn-loving teenagers and twentysomethings flock to each new, uncommonly brutal installment.

In celebration of the series’ rabid following, AMC Newport on the Levee 20 offered a Sawfest marathon Oct. 23, culminating in a midnight screening of the newly minted Saw V. Ten hours of manipulative horror mayhem? Sounds about as appealing as eight more years of Bush. (Is it a coincidence that the series’ popularity coincided with Bush’s torture-happy administration?)


(Tobin Bell returns as Jigsaw in Saw V.)

Of course, there are other options this week. Contrary to Oliver Stone’s rather timid, only mildly effective rendering of W. (this is the same inspired maniac who made Natural Born Killers?), fellow veteran Jonathan Demme tackles the emotionally lacerating material of Rachel Getting Married by employing a variety of intimacy-inducing techniques: handheld camera work, natural lighting, no traditional score (though music, as in most Demme films, plays a big part, including a wonderful scene involving a Neil Young song). Call it Demme’s Dogme movie. (Read tt stern-enzi’s full-length review here.)

Three other films open this week, including a prescient documentary about our fiscal crisis (I.O.U.S.A.), the latest teen-friendly Disney musical (High School Musical 3 — how’s that for Saw counter-programming?) and a crime drama starring Ed Norton, Jon Voight and Colin Farrell (the generically titled Pride and Glory).

Oh, and don’t forget the pair of one-time screenings: Cincinnati World Cinema unveils Election Day, a timely documentary that explores the act of voting (2 p.m. Sunday at the Cincinnati Art Museum); and Conscious Choice Cinema presents Whaledreamers: A Julian Lennon Production, a documentary about an “Australian Mirning tribe whose centuries-old story of creation revolves around whales” (7:30 p.m. Sunday at The Carnegie in Covington).

Opening films:

HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3 — Kenny Ortega, the director of all three High School Musical features for Disney, is scheduled to take on the Kevin Bacon dance classic Footloose with Zac Efron in the lead, and no matter what anyone says, the first big-screen installment of the HSM franchise certainly looks like a snazzy dress rehearsal for the real thing with Efron singing, dancing and staring directly into the camera so that all the young girls out there can imagine he’s doing it all for them. The rest of the cast and crew have the thankless role of background scenery, and, quite honestly, it doesn’t exactly seem as if anyone minds. Stalwarts Corbin Bleu and Vanessa Hudgens appear on cue alongside Efron and are careful to not get in his way. Although there is one musical number with Efron and Bleu in a junkyard that hints at the idea that these two could rejuvenate the buddy cop genre in a few years when their target audience is ready for them to pop a few caps off at some bad guys. But, right here, right now, no one and nothing else matters (although this show will no doubt go on with or without Efron). — tt stern-enzi (Rated G.) Grade: B-

I.O.U.S.A. — The United States’ national debt currently stands at about $10 trillion — nearly double what it was when President Bush took office. Patrick Creadon’s prescient, warning-shot documentary — which debuted at Sundance in January — attempts to dissect the reasons the U.S. economy is in such a shitty state. The simple diagnosis? Americans believe in instant gratification. We consume more than we produce. We want it all, and we want it now. Creadon, whose previous documentary Wordplay entertained despite its similarly egg-headed subject matter, interviews and/or uses vintage footage from a host of so-called experts, everyone from Alan Greenspan and Ronald Reagan to Warren Buffett and Steve Martin. — Jason Gargano (Rated PG.) Review coming soon.

PRIDE AND GLORY — Director Gavin O'Connor’s New York cop-family story (based on a script by Joe Carnahan of Narc fame) doesn't descend as far into cliche as last year's We Own the Night, but even reliable performances from Jon Voight and Ed Norton can't redeem it as more than a puffy melodrama set amid police trappings. After four cops are killed during a routine drug bust, patriarch Chief of Detectives Francis Tierney (Voight) demands that his twice-shy-cop son Ray (Norton) solve the case and track down the shooter. Standing in the way of Ray's Christmastime investigation is his police commander brother (Noah Emmerich), whose wife (Jennifer Ehle) is dying of cancer. Ray's cop brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Ferrell) has his own reasons for wanting to blunt Ray’s scrutiny. Pride and Glory works better as an actors’ showcase than it does as a well-worn genre thriller. — Cole Smithey (Rated R.) Grade: B-

RACHEL GETTING MARRIED — Jonathan Demme comes home in Rachel Getting Married, but not in the way audiences might expect. The quirky, somewhat dark comedic touches of Something Wild and Married to the Mob get scrapped raw from the first moment the damaged Kym (Anne Hathaway) enters the backseat of her father’s car. (Read full-length review here.) — tts (Rated R.) Grade: A-

SAW V — Even though I thought the first movie in this series was a steaming pungent pile of crap due to turgid acting from Cary Elwes and Danny Glover, to name just two undigested corn kernels in the bunch, there was something about the premise that created an itch somewhere in my brain that I simply couldn’t scratch — without, of course, going back for more. Yes, I have returned with each new installment, and they, in turn, have gotten better and worse all at once, largely because the fact still remains that there was something about Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), the unerringly precise killer with a master plan, who had gotten to me. Beyond the intricate traps and the bloody power plays, Jigsaw sought to make his victims accountable for their crimes and invest them in their own punishment. He was taking the hard-line, crime and punishment argument out of the hands of the police and the courts and maybe even some sort of divine judgment. It was a kooky idea, but worth talking about — although in most cases, we (critics and audiences) never did. The problem is now we know too much about him and he’s passed the torch — or the devious devices — on, so my phantom itch is gone and I realize I’ve spent all this time scratching myself raw. I suppose I only have myself to blame. — tts (Rated R.) Grade: D

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