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The Hangover Part II (2011)

10 Jul

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“The Hangover Part II” is an example of Sequel B.O. (Box Office) Laziness—a classic case of a lazy attempt to cash in on the success of an unexpected box-office smash hit. The result is an obviously-rushed, overdone, and unbelievably lazy sequel that insults those who loved the original a couple years ago, and it also relates to the other version of “B.O.” And because it’s supposed to be a comedy, you can add “painfully unfunny” in there as well.

Don’t let the “Part II” in the title fool you—this is about as much of a continuation from the original story as “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” There is hardly an attempt to make any much of a difference this time around—the narrative structure is copied situation by situation, and it’s supposed to be “different” because the locations and McGuffins are different. News flash, guys—that doesn’t work! Continue the story! Don’t tell it again—we’ve seen it already!

Oh, and if there’s one good thing that can be said about everything in this sequel being traced back to many events in the original film, it’s that it serves as a guide for how much worse the original could have been.

“The Hangover,” released summer 2009, was a unique, clever spin on the “what-happens-in-Vegas” concept, in that it turned the outcome of the partying events of Las Vegas into a murder-mystery as the bachelor-partyers have many questions to find answers to, including where is the groom. It did not need a sequel. It had a great deal of spontaneity and surprise that made it all the more hilarious when we didn’t know what was coming and laughed at the results. And because the same narrative structure of that film is copied in “Part II,” there really is no surprise; we can see the jokes coming miles ahead. So when you’re not laughing at a comedy, you just sit there, feeling depressed. And that’s exactly how I felt when watching “The Hangover Part II.”

What do I mean by a lack of creativity that director Todd Phillips and his replacement writers (yes, “replacement” writers—how ‘bout that) convey onto “Part II?” Consider the opening. We see a wedding being prepared. There’s just one thing missing: the groom. The bride and her family calls the groom and his friends who are not there. And then, who should call?

If you guessed “Phil,” congratulations! You’ve earned the right to request a review for me to write!

Yes, Phil, the Bradley Cooper character in both films, calls, saying that there may not be a wedding. But wait! It’s different, you see, because it’s not the groom that’s missing—it’s the bride’s brother! And Phil actually acknowledges that “it happened again.” I don’t know if you can get the deadpan sarcasm when I say, “Wow. How different.”

And then, wouldn’t you know it—the film shows the opening-credits and we flash to before that call, setting up what will happen in this film. And don’t just think it’s that opening that is copied or that that is the only time we will ever hear the word “again” in this movie, because this movie loves to follow the same stuff laid out in the original film and apparently likes its characters to say, “it’s happening again!” Anyway, we find that Stu is getting married. Not to Jade, the friendly stripper from the other movie, but to a Thai-American woman, Lauren (Jamie Chung), who has no told backstory in how these two met. You’d think there would be a detailed explanation as to how and why these two are together, seeing as how things seemed to go fine between him and the stripper at the end of the first movie, and also having told off his bitchy girlfriend. But no—we just go with it because…she seems nice. Yeah, there’s no point in overstating this—the women in the “Hangover” movies have little to no personality.

I keep getting sidetracked here, and I haven’t even gotten to the rehashing of the characterizations of the leading men. Well, Ed Helms was Stu, an uptight, nervous dentist who ultimately stands up for himself after everything that’s happened in the first film; Bradley Cooper is Phil, an almost-total a-hole who becomes a little more respectful and learns a few family values; and Zach Galifianakis is Alan, the show-stealer of the original film who is an overgrown man-child who is just glad to have made friends on this trip. Oh, and there’s Justin Bartha as Doug, but he had no personality anyway, and he was only in the original film so he could disappear and be found near the end, so he could get married quickly. So, how are these newly-developed characters now? You won’t believe this—they’re pretty much the same people. Stu is more neurotic than ever; Phil is a huge a-hole (again); and Alan…actually, Alan is a lot worse this time around. This time, instead of a lovable, naïve slob of a man-child—he’s an unbearable, unstable lunatic. At first, I was wondering why Stu, Phil, and Doug were hesitant about inviting Alan to Stu’s wedding, but now, we understand why. Alan is a detestable person this time around. The character has taken a sharp, unpleasant turn, and I wanted to smack him in the face.

Stu’s wedding takes place in Thailand, and the movie substitutes Bangkok for Las Vegas. Wouldn’t you know it—the men party hard, and Stu, Phil, and Alan wake up in a dirty hotel room, having no memory of what happened before. Phil is more or less OK, but Alan is bald (OK fine, I chuckled when Alan checked if his beard was still there) and Stu has a Tyson-esque tattoo on his eye. Where’s Doug? Oh, he’s OK, he’s fine. He’s just back at Lauren’s place, having breakfast.

That’s right—Doug misses out on the action again! I guess we just needed the three-man “wolf-pack” that Alan desperately wanted to bring back. Come to think of it, I think Phillips wanted it back too.

But wait a minute! There’s a monkey in their room! Stu’s future brother-in-law is missing, but his finger is there! And the cackling, obnoxious Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong) is there with them…although he can’t explain what happens because after a massive hit of cocaine, he passes out! Oh joy, here we go again on another wild goose chase.

OK, I’m getting really tired writing this review and thinking of certain significant things that happen on this wild goose chase. They run around Bangkok (which is portrayed in a very smug manner, without ever capturing the gravity and true danger of the place) and they have misadventures before the wedding. There you go—that’s basically what happens. If you saw “The Hangover,” “The Hangover Part II” won’t surprise you in how things are going to play out. What’s missing? Jokes, wit, originality, appeal, fun, the freaking point! If you didn’t guess already by this point, I hated the movie and I hated the lack of trying. I don’t care if they moved the “fun” to a different country; freshness is not found in “rehash-art!”

And wouldn’t you know it—“The Hangover Part II” was a box-office success, because apparently all this film needed to do was show up and everyone would come flooding into the theater. Worse yet, it beat out “Kung Fu Panda 2,” which was released on the same day as this sequel, and did not rehash the same old story! If we don’t get a “Kung Fu Panda 3” because of this, I’m blaming Todd Phillips.

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The Sitter (2011)

20 Jun

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

How can I properly describe how bad a comedy “The Sitter” is without saying this first—director David Gordon Green and comic actor Jonah Hill deserve a lot better than this. Actually, I can’t truly blame Hill as he’s doing what he can with a lazily written leading character, and I can’t blame Green for venturing into mainstream comedy after such great indie-small productions as “George Washington” and “Undertow,” and I loved his first mainstream-comedy attempt, “Pineapple Express.” But the problem is there’s nothing to back either of them up, and I can blame Green for at least half of the reasons “The Sitter” fails. It’s not as horrid as his previous comedy “Your Highness,” but that’s very, very faint praise indeed.

I hated this movie as much as any other terrible, unfocused, unintelligent R-rated raunchy comedy that tries so hard to be crude and vulgar for any kind of laugh and mostly falls down dead. (And yes, “Your Highness” falls into that category as well.) Listen—everyone, even the younger characters, are spewing the worst profanities because they love hearing them! Look—there’s a visual that is definitely not pleasant to look at (depending who you are)! Check it out—whatever amusing bit you can find in such an inept piece of garbage is already in the 2-minute redband trailer online! And no I am not going to say this shamelessly rips off “Adventures in Babysitting” and made it R-rated, because I wonder if the writers had even seen that movie. I say that because whether you like “Adventures in Babysitting” or not, it was hard to deny the fun and lightheartedness that was much like a “Ferris Bueller” cousin of a comedy—and “The Sitter” is joyless, tasteless, and worst of all, “laughless.”

Jonah Hill stars as Noah, an ordinary, 20something nice guy with hardly a sense of ambition to him. He’s not confident, he lets his “girlfriend,” Marisa (Ari Graynor), push him around, he lives with his mother, he vegetates in front of the TV, he doesn’t have a job, and blah blah blah he’ll wind up a changed man by the end of the movie, because that’s usually how this works. To make a little money while his mother isn’t able to babysit for a neighbor, he agrees to take the babysitting task himself, taking charge of three kids: neurotic 13-year-old Slater (Max Records), the little girl with too much fashion/makeup on the mind and on the face, Blithe (Landry Bender), and the adopted Hispanic pyromaniac Rodrigo (Kevin Hernandez) who has a love for fireworks and a tendency to cause mayhem wherever he can. The job isn’t much, as Noah and the kids don’t get off to a good start, and then Marisa calls Noah, asking him to come to the city and pick up some cocaine from her drug-dealer friend, Karl (Sam Rockwell). In exchange, she’ll have sex with him. So being the irresponsible “nice guy” that he is, he brings along his three charges, and wouldn’t you know it—they run into all sorts of misadventures, all of predictable and unfunny.

Actually, I take it back—some of it is not predictable, necessarily. But a lot of it is so weird and deranged and uneven that you wouldn’t care if it was actually predictable, as long as it was funny. And it’s not. It’s just not. OK, I get it already—the Hispanic kid likes to explode toilets with cherry-bombs; why is this funny? Why is it repeated? Oh right, so he can use this need to save the day. Then there’s the Rockwell character (and to be fair, it looks like Rockwell is really trying here) who has an odd hideout with a bunch of bare-chested men skating and dancing to “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”—OK, it’s weird, I’ll grant it that, but it doesn’t pay off. And there are a lot of pedophile jokes for uncomfortable misunderstandings an uneasy conversation about whether or not Slater is actually gay. And then when “The Sitter” stops for drama, it’s the cheesiest load of trite. We’ve seen this all before—first the kids hate Noah, then they realize that Wait a minute! They actually like this guy! This is a PG movie (PG-13 at best) with an R-rated mentality—insipid.

Where’s a blues bar when you need these kids to fall into such and just have a good time?

There’s one laugh I got from this movie and it occurred during the end-credits, if you can believe it. As the credits roll, we’re given information about what happened to these characters after all this madness—I have to admit, I laughed at the fate of Karl’s henchman.

David Gordon Green has made many good movies before, but 2011 was not a good year for him. His two films released that year—“Your Highness” and “The Sitter”—are deplorable messes. He has shown with “Pineapple Express” that he is capable of directing a mainstream comedy, but all I can say is this—Please, man! You made “George Washington,” “All the Real Girls,” “Undertow,” and “Snow Angels!” I know you wanted a mainstream crowd to see your work! Now that you’ve made “Pineapple Express” and everyone knows your name, give them something else to respect you for!

Medicine Man (1992)

16 May

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

How could John McTiernan, the director of “Predator” and “Die Hard,” have made a film that was so unbelievably boring? It’d be one thing if “Medicine Man” was dumb and witless, which it is (don’t get me wrong). But “Medicine Man” is really an endurance exam, with the questions being: How long can I endure a bad actress and a practical “king-of-cool” actor constantly bantering with one another? How long can I endure a story that is all tell and no show? How long can I stay awake?

Man, did I hate this movie. At least with most bad movies, there is at least something interesting to keep you watching and hoping something good will ultimately come of it. But this is just much ado about nothing.

Lorraine Bracco stars as a Bronx scientist who talks tough and takes no nonsense. Sean Connery is an eccentric researcher who has been living in the Amazon rainforests for about six years, studying jungle potions and sickness cures. Bracco is out there because the organization she works for (which is funding his experiments) wants to know what he’s doing out here in the jungle with Indian natives. What she discovers is that Connery has actually found a cure for cancer. But because he’s running low on it, having experimented on it too much, he and Bracco must trek across the jungle to get to a place where a lot of this cure can be found. But they must hurry, as the place is about to be bulldozed.

Now to be fair, the look of the film is first-rate. You do get a sense that you’re there in the Amazon rainforest, hiking along with these characters. But when there’s nothing substantial in the dialogue or characterization, and also when there’s hardly any action to be found here, do you really want to stay here for about an hour and 40 minutes?

There’s also a nice scene involving a rope-and-pulley setup that allows Connery and Bracco to make their ways up to the treetops. From there, they can get a good view of the land, and so do we.

But then it’s back to the ground, where our main characters are. Sean Connery is sometimes known for making anything watchable, and while he does do a decent job here, he’s not enough to save the movie from its overlong, boring dialogue scenes that try to whimsically entrance us with the joys and mysteries of nature and a non-too-subtle environmental message. Half of the time, I couldn’t keep up with what was going on, and ultimately I didn’t care.

I’m sure Lorraine Bracco can deliver a fine performance, given the right director (see her work in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”). But it’s obvious that this actress has a very limited acting range, and that’s clearly shown here. Bracco is teeth-grindingly awful here. She’s never convincing, she’s stilted in her line deliveries, and she never shuts up. And all her character does is complain, even when she shouldn’t. I get that her character is liberated, and Connery is supposed to ease her into some sort of romantic relationship, but this is just too much. Also, I didn’t buy any of the “chemistry” that supposedly was brought upon by Connery and Bracco together—they’re equally boring here. All they do is banter, banter, banter. Here’s a sample exchange, upon first encountering each other: “I’m not a girl!” “The hell you’re not!” “I’m your research assistant!” “The hell you are!” And it’s all downhill from there. “Romancing the Stone,” this is not. It’d be one thing if this was actually trying to be a “Tarzan” picture; it’d at least be fun. But instead, “Medicine Man” is just a bore.

Eye for an Eye (1996)

15 May

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Eye for an Eye” is a confused movie that doesn’t know what kind of film it wants to be. Is it a film that tells us vigilantism is bad, or is it a film that shows the necessaries of such? It’s about a woman whose teenager daughter is raped and murdered, and seeks bloody revenge on the man who did it. She gets ahold of a gun, practices shooting targets every day for weeks, gains assistance from other secret vigilantes, and even follows the guy around from place to place.

This is of course still going after the man calls the mother on it and threatens her other, much-younger daughter if she’s seen near him again. But for her, it won’t end. Well OK fine, but what about the police? When the same man rapes and murders another woman, they’re still not able to lock him up, even though they clearly know he’s a killer as much as we do. Give me a break.

Early in the movie, the mother, Karen McCann (Sally Field), has heard her daughter’s attack and murder over the telephone as the daughter tried to call for help. And I have to admit, this is a pretty effectively horrifying scene—that we focus more on Field’s face makes the scene work well, as she does sell it with the proper emotions. That we don’t see the killer’s face in the cutting-back to the attack helps too.

But it’s pretty obvious very quickly who the killer is, as the film never lets us forget that a suspect, a deliveryman named Doob (Kiefer Sutherland), is not merely a suspect, but the true killer. He is vile, mean, cruel, nasty, doesn’t care for anything, and even kicks dogs. And yet even though a supposed-smart cop (Joe Mantegna) knows that he’s clearly the killer, and I’m sure most of the force knows this too, Doob is let off because of lack of evidence. So he’s free to find another woman to stalk and eventually kill, just as Karen is planning to do the same thing to Doob.

Karen joins a support group for parents who lost their children to murderers (and their motto is “You show me your heartbreak and I’ll show you mine”), where she is then introduced to a few members who take it upon themselves to bring justice to those who did their children in. So that’s exactly what she decides to do. But when Doob realizes that he’s being followed by her, he advances toward Karen’s youngest daughter, Megan.

Get this—he’s actually able to walk onto the school playground and join Megan in a playhouse for mud pies. Where are the teachers on duty during this? Does it matter? “Eye for an Eye” is simply an exploitation film and this scene clearly shows you where it stands. It also sets the standards for how deplorable the film is.

The tone for “Eye for an Eye” is inconsistent. First, it wants us to question whether the characters are what we’re supposed to think of them, while what follows are scenes that clearly show the opposite of what we’re supposed to think and feel. And it’s painfully obvious that Doob, with no human or redeemable qualities whatsoever, is simply there for us to hate him. Why try to fool us into thinking otherwise at certain points? He’s clearly the killer here. But it doesn’t matter anymore, since the movie, I guess, tries to “fool” us by ultimately showing another murder committed by him.

Oh, and how about those quirky, lighthearted, comedic moments that come out of nowhere? For example, Karen thinks someone is following her in a parking garage, so she defends herself only to discover that it’s just a man walking to his car. And do I even need to mention the scene in which she has powerful sex with her husband (Ed Harris) after developing new skills?

Here’s a shock—the ending for “Eye for an Eye” is so rushed and so much of a copout that you just have to wonder if the writers had no idea where this story was going, and just decided to give it the conclusion we all knew was inevitable. Well thanks a lot. We waited an hour-and-a-half to get to what we expected all this time with nothing at all to back it up. I should be grateful that it finally just went ahead and ended, but I am past the point where I even care, after what I’ve been through to get to this point. On top of that, morality is thrown right out the window. There’s hardly a resolution, and yet we’ve spent a great amount of running time watching a movie that thinks it’s questioning certain morals and ethics. And this is supposed to be a happy ending. In some respects, it sort of is, but why would they execute it in this manner?

Not even a solid cast with Sally Field, Kiefer Sutherland, and Ed Harris could save “Eye for an Eye.” They’re let down by bad writing and deplorable nonsense. Here’s hardly a sense of moral values, you don’t much for this family’s plight since it’s merely glanced over in the first reel, and it seems like it’s more interested in cheap thrills than telling a complex story. “Eye for an Eye” is a horrible movie.

Little Monsters (1989)

25 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

What a mean-spirited movie this is! For a supposed “family movie” that markets it as a fantasy for children who like to pull pranks on their grade-school enemies, “Little Monsters” takes this fantasy the wrong way. I think kids may be frightened by most of the images and situations depicted in the film.

Fred Savage, of TV’s “The Wonder Years” fame, plays Brian, the eleven-year-old protagonist in “Little Monsters.” He’s unhappy because he and his family—his bickering parents (Daniel Stern and Margaret Whitton) and younger brother Eric (Ben Savage, Fred’s real-life brother)—have moved to a new town and house. He’s the target of the pudgy school bully and to make matters worse, he’s blamed for pranks set around the house, which he didn’t set up in the first place. Eric believes that a monster that scared him the other night is responsible and pays Brian to spend a night in his room.

It turns out that Brian’s kid brother is right and something is going bump in the night. So he sets a trap for the monster, a fast-talking, blue-skinned, horned loudmouth named Maurice, played by Howie Mandel. Maurice sees something good in Brian and introduces him to the monster world.

Well, it turns out there’s a parallel dimension under beds in which the monsters are kids who were trapped there. Now, they have their own fun, eating junk food, playing video games, breaking lamps with bats and baseballs, and pulling pranks on innocent children. Maurice seduces Brian into this world, which is referred to as “every kid’s fantasy.” But I can tell you that even the unruliest of children would be turned off by this world. The people in this world are monsters, all right. But they’re mainly disfigured children who run amok. I guess the filmmakers were trying to create a subtext that kids act like monsters, like in “Pinocchio,” when kids act like jackasses and become them. But this is just painful to watch. On a productive note, the monster world isn’t impressive. It’s badly lit (because the monsters turn to clothes when exposed to light), has cheesy digital effects whizzing by every few seconds for no good purpose, and on top of that, the whole world is made entirely of boxes.

About the pranks—this is horrific to watch. Brian and Maurice pull cruel pranks on innocent little children for only the reason of fun. And then the filmmakers have the nerve to show the kids’ parents yelling at them—I was cringing all through that sequence. Then, there’s the scene in which Brian and Maurice stop by Brian’s bully’s house. They drink his apple juice…and then Maurice pisses in it! Then guess what happens…

Then there’s the character of Snik, the villain of the movie. He is repulsive, nasty—a nightmare fodder for children. And he’s not a kid—he’s played by Rick Ducommun. He’s here to set up the climax in which Brian must choose between this world and his world.

One positive thing I can say about this movie is that Howie Mandel makes a convincing monster. But that’s very faint praise indeed.

The Waterboy (1998)

24 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

1998’s “The Waterboy” has a story that would’ve made a great starring vehicle for Adam Sandler, who—let’s face it—hadn’t had accurately good movies in his career before this. I mean, what can you say about “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore,” except that Sandler played a jackass in both movies and was short on charm? Well, in “The Waterboy,” Sandler does play a nicer guy—a simple, stuttering, nervous, dim 30-year-old man who still lives with his mother and is the waterboy for a college football team in Louisiana. This is a role that Adam Sandler could use his true talents for comedy and charm.

But there is a problem and a big one at that. Right when Adam Sandler’s character Bobby Boucher speaks, our interest in him really deteriorates. He speaks through his nose, through whining, and with an accent that apparently he and the filmmakers found funnier than I did. Nobody in Louisiana talks this way. It’s an insult to Louisiana, but also an insult to us because when Sandler talks, his voice has the fingernails-on-a-blackboard effect. Is that supposed to be funny?

Bobby is fired from his job as the waterboy and goes to find a new job. He goes to a different college and asks the football coach (Henry Winkler) to be his waterboy. He gets hired and like everybody else, the football team picks on him because he’s so dim. There’s another strange person who hangs around the field—a country man named Farmer Fran (Blake Hunter). The difference between Bobby and Farmer Fran is that you can understand what Bobby is saying when Farmer Fran is simply muttering. Is THAT supposed to be funny?

Ah, forget it. Let’s move on.

The plot gets underway when Bobby realizes that when he really gets worked up, he can become a great offensive tackle. The coach lets Bobby play on the team but Bobby doesn’t quite understand the rules of football, even though he’s been to many, many games before, serving water to the players.

Filmmakers, if you want your comedy to be fresh and entertaining, use different ways of forming a sports movie; have fresher jokes. Don’t give us something we’ve seen before. The only difference of these particular football games, which are quite boring indeed, is that we’re given an idiot for a player. That’s not enough. We need more ideas so we’re caught up in the games. This is basically a formula sports movie with, worst of all, boring football games. And of course, at the end, there’s the typical Big Game, in which there is no suspense whatsoever—nothing to hold our attention.

Oh, and I forgot to mention Kathy Bates as Bobby’s mother who is possessive and manipulative and kept her son practically trapped in his cabin at the bayou. She has fun with this role but when you put it with everything else that happens in this movie, it really doesn’t mean anything.

Henry Winkler has no good chance with this movie, I’m sorry to say. He seems better than all of this. Overall, “The Waterboy” is a movie that tries to be funny but is just conventional—nothing new, just a few stupid characters. Adam Sandler’s Bobby Boucher is one of the most annoying characters ever to hit the screen. I’ve seen magazine reporters on TV with more appeal than this character.

The Final Destination (2009)

17 Apr

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Smith’s Verdict: *

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

I knew the “Final Destination” series was bound to sink this low. I knew that sometime sooner or later, the series would run out of ideas and sink into the same old story with nothing new or particularly exciting…and it’s shown in 3-D (that much desperation). This is the worst entry in the series—yes, worse than “Final Destination 2.”

Now, I liked the first “Final Destination.” I found the second to be dull as dishwater and the third to be somewhat of a guilty pleasure with its talented cast and even more creative death scenes. But they’re all carrying the same storyline—a teenager has a premonition of death, she saves a few people, she and the others slowly die in bizarre freak accidents. So why should the fourth one (called “The Final Destination,” which probably means this is the last entry—I seriously doubt it) be any different? But while “Final Destination 3” had more going for it than the same storyline as the original films, this one has almost nothing. It’s a pointless, repetitive, terrible waste of time.

In “The Final Destination,” a young man named Nick (Bobby Campo) is at a stock-car race track with his friends, who are the same, usual alcoholic bratty types. Already I’m sick of these characters because they resemble many characters in slasher movies that actually deserve to die. Where’s the fun or suspense in that?

Anyway, Nick has a premonition of a car crashing into the stands, killing a lot of people. When he wakes up, he freaks out, gets his friends and several others off the stands, and the vision becomes real. But it’s not over for them. Because Death is coming for them…

OK, I really don’t feel typing anymore. I know it’s not professional but I’d rather not type the same things about the plot that I’ve said the last three times. It has tired me out, even to think about it again. Just do me and you a favor—avoid “The Final Destination.”

I mentioned before that the movie is in 3-D—that, of course, is to try and hide the fact that there isn’t anything original…and of course, to distort the images of the fake-looking CGI explosions.