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SAW VI

Studio: Lionsgate

Rated: R for sequences of grisly bloody violence, torture and language.

Starring: Costas Mandylor, Mark Rolston, Betsy Russell, Tobin Bell and Shawnee Smith

Directed by: Kevin Greutert

What it’s about: This sixth installment of the popular horror franchise sees Detective Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) continuing the work of the serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell). However, even with a new game targeting a greedy insurance tycoon afoot, there’s more surprises for Hoffman from the police and from beyond the grave of Jigsaw.

What I liked: Unlike many critics, I have really enjoyed the Saw franchise, and this film is a worthy successor. If you’re looking for gore and violence, you’ll get plenty of that. But also, if you’re looking for a film that gives more twists and turns in the already complex story arc, you’ll get that as well.

Like the other sequels, Saw VI uses a lot of the elements of the previous films to lay a trap in the plot for the viewer. Tobin Bell returns in full force as Jigsaw in flashbacks (as does Shawnee Smith), so there’s something there for the long-time fans. The movie works to a wicked-cool conclusion that, of course, sets itself up for another sequel.

What I didn’t: At one point early in the film, I was watching a random act of human mutilation, and I caught myself thinking, “Is this going too far?” Then I remembered that it was a Saw movie. They’ve been going too far for years. But if you’re squeamish or have a soft stomach, you’ll probably throw up watching this movie.

The acting in these films are pretty awful, and Costas Mandylor is no Tobin Bell, but that bar was set very low in the first film with Cary Elwes cutting his foot off in the first movie. The film is more predictable than the others, but it still serves its purpose.

Who is gonna like this movie: Gore hounds and Saw fans.

Grade: B

CIRQUE DU FREAK: THE VAMPIRE’S ASSISTANT

Studio: Universal

Rated: PG-13for sequences of intense supernatural violence and action, disturbing images, thematic elements and some language.

Starring: John C. Reilly, Ken Watanabe, Josh Hutcherson, Chris Massoglia and Ray Stevenson

Directed by: Paul Weitz

What it’s about: Based on the first few books of the popular young adult series, The Vampire’s Assistant tells the story of Darren Shan (Chris Massoglia), a teenager who visits a freak show and becomes a vampire at the hand of one of the star acts. His friend Steve (Josh Hutcherson) is jealous because he’s always wanted to be a vampire too, and a band of evil vampires help him out in that respect.

What I liked: There are so many vampire movies and television shows out there that live in the same realm: the angst-filled sensual blood lust. The Vampire’s Assistant is a breath of fresh air because it doesn’t fall into the same cliches as Twilight and True Blood. It’s a teen vampire movie without all the bellyaching. In fact, it can be rather refreshing, to quote John C. Reilly.

The movie has a slick production design that really got me in the Halloween spirit, and it introduces some really neat characters that should get some excellent stories if the movie makes enough green to warrant a sequel. But the bottom line is that The Vampire’s Assistant is a relatively safe monster movie that you can enjoy with most of the family.

Oh, and John C. Reilly steals the show as a 200-year-old vampire who is simultaneously cool and goofy. He sets the tone for the whole film.

What I didn’t: The film does have some slow moments, especially in the middle when it tries to figure out what it’s trying to be. Let’s say it eventually settles on iCarly with teeth, but in a good way. Also, the movie is a pretty obvious set-up for a series – even more so than other juv fantasy attempts like The Golden Compass and City of Ember – but all that did is whet my appetite for more.

Who is gonna like this movie: Teenage vampire lovers, with less emphasis on the lovers.

Grade: B+

ASTRO BOY

Studio: Summit Entertainment

Rated: PG for some action and peril, and brief mild language.

Starring: Freddie Highmore, Kristen Bell, Charlize Theron, Donald Sutherland and Nicholas Cage

Directed by: David Bowers

What it’s about: The classic magna series comes to life in this CGI action film. A brilliant inventor accidentally vaporizes his son in a weapons test. He’s so distraught that he builds a new robotic son which he gives his boy’s memories. However, when he realizes that it will never be a replacement for the real thing, he plans to deactivate the robot, until it seeks a life of its own.

What I liked: There’s some really cool action sequences in this movie, and it is definitely a boys’ film. There’s such a spectrum of CGI films nowadays, and this movie falls in the middle – somewhere between WALL-E and Space Chimps. That’s a pretty wide divide, I am aware, but this is the landscape we are given.

Astro Boy has some excellent animation and humorous moments. Oh, and it has a hero with machine guns in his butt, and that’s always a selling point for kids.

What I didn’t: Having never read the Astro Boy magna, I couldn’t tell you if it is an accurate adaptation or not. All I can say is that it has some rough patches in the story. In the middle of the film, Astro Boy falls to Earth and swerves into a bizarre Oliver Twist sort of story that would work on its own but just seems like a huge diversion to the rest of the film.

Also, as grim as some folks said Where the Wild Things Are was last week, Astro Boy seems worse. The movie opens with a kid getting vaporized, for crying out loud. And it deals with themes of abandonment and loss throughout the film, so be prepared for that.

Who is gonna like this movie: Kids who want to see a robot with machine guns in his butt.

Grade: B-

AMELIA

Studio: Fox Searchlight

Rated: PG for some sensuality, language, thematic elements and smoking.

Starring: Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor, Mia Wasikowska and Christopher Eccleston

Directed by: Mira Nair

What it’s about: Hilary Swank stars in the title role as the legendary aviatrix Amelia Earhart. The film follows her final journey in an attempt to circumnavigate the Earth, flashing back to her career in aviation and her various lovers.

What I liked: Well, I respect the hell out of Amelia Earhart, and it’s nice to see her get her own film. I just wish it was under better circumstances. There are decent elements to the film, including some decent acting moments from both Swank and Richard Gere (although their performances border on caricature with the over-the-top personalities they are portraying). And the flying scenes were neat to watch, if you don’t mind a healthy dose of green screen.

Oh, and unlike last week’s The Stepfather, this film was in focus.

What I didn’t: Biopics are hard to achieve without making them puff pieces, and here’s where the film failed. Amelia Earhart was presented with her only flaws being her awkward oppression in beauty and sexuality. But her biggest flaw was being boring. Earhart was a legend, but her life as presented here was frightfully dull.

We all know how this movie ends, but unlike Titanic which had a predictable climax presented as an awesome action sequence, Amelia’s climax is about as exciting as watching a trucker talking on a CB radio.

Who is gonna like this movie: Amelia Earhart fans… and Hilary Swank.

Grade: D


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