Movies in Theaters on Friday, August 12, 2011
This weekend proves that Death will never die as we're treated to yet another installment in the gruesome and occasionally brilliant Final Destination franchise, with the various electrocutions, impalements and other macabre derring-do offered up in gross-out 3D. You also get Jesse Eisenberg following up his Oscar nomination for The Social Network with a lead role in yet another R-rated summer comedy and Emma Stone oh so nobly exposing Southern racism (gasp!) in The Help. That's quite an eclectic mix -- which one will get your dollar(s)?
The original Final Destination remains the ultimate portrait of existential panic, a pretty smart film disguised as an exploitation flick, but by Final Destination 2, any and all, well, thoughts were put aside in favor of simply delivering a series of increasingly outrageous, gruesome -- and, yes, quite ingenious -- death scenes. The "plots" and characters of each subsequent sequel have gotten more and more forgettable; the individual installments are made distinct simply by quick visual references such as "the one with the tanning bed" (Final Destination 3) or "the one where the guy got sucked into the pool drain" (The Final Destination, aka FD4). Which brings us to the fifth installment, which, like its immediate predecessor, delivers all the guts and glory in 3D -- judging from the trailer, this one went all-out with the sheer lunacy of it all... which is saying something, 'cause that's how we felt about the last one… and the one before that… and the one before that. We're especially looking forward to what will probably later be referred to as "the eye exam scene" and the triumphant return of Tony Todd as the creepy coroner, Bludworth, in his first on-screen appearance since FD2 (he provided the voice of the demonic roller coaster in FD3).
Jesse Eisenberg is a pizza delivery boy, Aziz Ansari is a schoolteacher, and somehow these two best friends get involved with a plan to rob a bank hatched by two fledgling and none too bright criminals (Danny McBride and Nick Swardson) in director Ruben Fleischer's follow-up to the delightful Zombieland. The trailer makes it look like the hijinks come fast and nonstop in this latest entry in the summer's seemingly endless lineup of raunchy R-rated comedies; in fact, the 83-minute running time has us thinking that it might be rushing for for the finish line (for better and worse) from the first frame. Even if its pacing might end up being a bit too madcap and hectic, 30 Minutes or Less will no doubt be packed to the gills with laughs, with Eisenberg and Ansari perhaps making a bid as the most neurotic and twitchy odd couple ever. Bonus: Fred Ward, a wonderful badass actor we definitely don't get to see enough of these days, plays "The Major," who looks to be either McBride's or Swardson's no-nonsense father. He's probably completely doomed, too.
Another super-sincere yet infuriatingly one-sided cinematic essay about racism and how much we can learn from each other if we just realize that we're really all the same, The Help looks earnest (and naive) to the point of being, well, intolerable, with Emma Stone playing a recent college graduate who returns to her Southern hometown and begins to shake things up when she starts interviewing her neighborhood's surprisingly candid maids. This is the kind of movie where cruel and brazenly racist Southern belles (like Bryce Dallas Howard's character) are humiliated by the suddenly empowered and defiant wit and wisdom of their employees, moments sure to inspire cheers and "Oh no she di'int!" from audiences who fall for this kind of manipulative crap disguised as an "important film." Anyway, once again Hollywood filters the black experience through the white experience with pretty (and completely unrealistic) art direction and cardboard stereotypes -- if you thought The Blind Side was offensive, this one might actually drive you to madness.