[31 Days of Horror Part VI: Jason Lives] Day 4 – Urban Legends: Final Cut (2000)

Director: John Ottman

Cast: Jennifer Morrison, Matthew Davis, Hart Bochner, Joseph Lawrence, Anthony Anderson, Loretta Devine

Screenplay: Paul Harris Boardman, Scott Derrickson

97 mins. Rated R for violence/gore, language and some sexuality.

 

John Ottman (Lion’s Den) won an Academy Award earlier this year for editing Bohemian Rhapsody. I think it’s say to expect some pretty snazzy editing and score for this Urban Legend sequel, right?

Amy Mayfield (Jennifer Morrison, Batman: Hush, TV’s House), a student at an upscale film school, has just decided on her thesis film: a serial killer who uses urban legends to kill his victims. The idea itself is an tall tale that supposedly happened at another university several year previously. Professor Solomon (Hart Bochner, Die Hard, Rules Don’t Apply) believes it’s a great idea, and Amy sets to work on her new film, but as soon as cameras start rolling, members of the film crew start getting killed, and it seems that life is imitating art imitating life as an actual serial killer is responsible. The question now comes to…who?

This is Ottman’s feature directorial debut, so I don’t want to be too harsh on him, but it seems like he didn’t know what to do here. It’s likely that the script wasn’t strong enough to begin with, but there’s a real lack of understanding apparent throughout the feature. It’s not a good movie, plain and simple, and while there are a couple good scenes, Final Cut is really all over the place. I know the attempt is being made at a more self-aware and slightly comedic tone, but it just comes off lazy. Ottman struggles to maintain a tone of any kind.

As I said above, the screenplay, from the writing team of Paul Harris Boardman and Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose, Deliver Us from Evil) is confused a muddled. I’m not sure if the point of the film is a progression of the urban-legends-as-forms-of-murder of the first film in that the murders are taking place surrounding an almost film-version of the previous slayings or not. The killer isn’t really using urban legends to kill as often in the film, and he more or less just shows up near the set and kills people that way. It’s not really creative. In fact, an early kill scene in the film that actually utilizes a classic urban legend was only added to punch up the gore factor. There’s also a complete misunderstanding of filmmaking as a process and a business. It’s a fundamental issue that permeates the story.

The performances in Final Cut are mostly forgettable. I had forgotten Jennifer Morrison was the star until I rewatched it. Outside of the excellent Hart Bochner, no one is used well here and all of the characters become pretty flat characters just lined up for the chopping block. Even Loretta Devine (Crash, Always & 4Ever), returning from the first film, serves as an exposition machine, only showing up to progress the story and put doubt onto Amy’s claims that someone is killing her movie crew (remember that Devine’s Reese has had this happen before at a different university).

Urban Legends: Final Cut is shockingly not the final film of this series, and even though the eventual third film, Urban Legends: Bloody Mary, contains no connection to Final Cut, it does seem like this entire movie was a setup for that last shot, which is a confusing doozy of a tag to end the film. I just don’t get what this movie is or what it’s trying to be, and it somehow fails to be anything at all. I forgot most of the film. You probably will to.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For more 31 Days of Horror, click here.

For my review of Jamie Blanks’s Urban Legend, click here.

Iron Man 2 (2010)

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Director: Jon Favreau

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Scarlett Johansson, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Justin Theroux

124 mins. Rated PG-13 for sequences of intense sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Achievement in Visual Effects

 

Remember way back when the MCU just had a few films and we were shocked to find that there was already a sequel? Oh wait, we were still shocked that there was a cinematic universe…

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Iron Man 2 picks up six months after the first film (running somewhat concurrently to The Incredible Hulk) as Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, Chef) opens the Stark Expo to continue his father’s legacy to create new technology to change the world, but he is facing an internal problem: the palladium core in Tony’s arc reactor is slowly killing him. As Stark places Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en, Mortdecai) in the role of CEO for Stark Industries, he is also faced with vengeance from a new villain: Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler, Sin City: A Dame to Kill For), the son of a man wronged by Howard Stark, who has taken on the moniker Whiplash, to punish Tony for the sins of his father. To put it short, Tony Stark is having a rough time.

Iron Man 2 gets a lot of flack for being a lesser film than its predecessor, but I prefer it. Tony Stark is faced with a lot of conflicts in the film and it gives him the opportunity to be a good person, something he wasn’t given the ability to do in Iron Man. I enjoyed the villains in the film (again, something that others didn’t care for), and I really liked how it set up the rest of Phase 1 of the MCU. It’s strange, that same tactic was unimpressive in Avengers: Age of Ultron, but here it really worked for me.

Iron Man 2 adds so much to the mythology with new heroes Rhodey (Don Cheadle, TV’s House of Lies, Crash) becoming War Machine and Scarlett Johansson (Lost in Translation, Hail, Caesar!) showing up as Natalie Rushman. There’s the building up of SHIELD and the references to upcoming installments Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger.

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Iron Man 2 has detractors (the film hasn’t aged well), but overall its a pretty damn fun time, and while it was mostly a transitional film for the MCU as it found its footing. I liked it a lot, but I can kind of see what others don’t like.

 

4/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

For my review of Joss Whedon’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: Civil War, click here.

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Chef, click here.

 

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

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Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Bettany, Cobie Smulders, Anthony Mackie, Hayley Atwell, Idris Elba, Stellan Skarsgard, James Spader, Samuel L. Jackson

Screenplay: Joss Whedon

141 mins. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action, violence and destruction, and for some suggestive content.  

2012’s The Avengers was something of an anomaly. A film which combined several superhero franchises into one mega-franchise shared universe successfully…that doesn’t happen. But with writer/director Joss Whedon (TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Much Ado About Nothing) at the helm, it did. And it was good. Billion-dollars good. It jumpstarted Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and continued a winning franchise for years to come. Now, we see if the official sequel, Avengers: Age of Ultron, can continue that tradition.

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The Avengers have been looking for an end to the villains before they start. When billionaire genius Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., The Judge, Chef) and Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo, Shutter Island, The Normal Heart) create Ultron (James Spader, TV’s Boston Legal, Lincoln), an artificially intelligent being created to be Earth’s mightiest defense system, but Ultron quickly realizes that the biggest threats to the world are humans and decides to do away with them. Now, the Avengers must assemble to defeat Ultron, who has allied himself with two very special twins: Pietro (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Kick-Ass, Godzilla) and Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen, Martha May Marcy Marlene, Oldboy).

Avengers: Age of Ultron had a bunch of set-ups. The biggest flaw comes from realizing that it has very little payoff. The entire film felt like its function was to tie up the loose ends of Phase 2 and start unpacking the storylines to Phase 3. Was it entertaining? Mostly, yes. But was it good? I really don’t know. I liked a lot of this film but I was scratching my head at times wondering why certain events were kept in the film while so many other moments were kept out. The film has Whedon’s classic dialogue, and its characters are further fleshed out, but the film felt like too many puzzles pieces from too many different puzzles that just won’t fit together.

As far as performances go, the films newcomers are pretty great additions to the shared universe, specifically James Spader’s menacing Ultron and the Vision, played by Paul Bettany (A Beautiful Mind, Mortdecai) in a new role. The film also features a plethora of previously introduced characters back in the fray, like James Rhodes (Don Cheadle, TV’s House of Lies, Crash) and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie, Million Dollar Baby, Black or White). The returning Avengers cast have all grown closer and you can feel the comradery when needed. The Hulk and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson, Lost in Translation, Lucy) in particular have grown much closer since we last saw them together.

There are some particularly great sequences here, such as the moment when we are introduced to mind control due to Wanda’s abilities. We get a chance to dive into these characters’ psyches a bit further Joss Whedon even plays with our expectations that this film is going to be exactly like the previous film, opting to give more important screen time to Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner, The Hurt Locker, Kill the Messenger). We also get our first look at Hulkbuster (named Project Veronica, as a play on Betty & Veronica, the Betty being Bruce’s previous love interest from The Incredible Hulk).

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Avengers: Age of Utron is the first Marvel film that absolutely cries out for an extended cut. There is just too much missing here, and its noticeable. There are numerous plot threads that don’t get the resolution they need. The film is explosively entertaining, but perhaps the most noticeably flawed Marvel film yet.  

3.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe  

So what did you think of Avengers: Age of Ultron? Did it assemble a perfect viewing experience or leave you wanting a different Vision of the superhero team? Let me know!  

For my review of Jon Favreau’s Iron Man, click here.

For my review of Louis Leterrier’s The Incredible Hulk, click here.

For my review of Anthony & Joe Russo’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier, click here.

For my review of James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy, click here.

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