In the Heights

Been putting this one off because there’s so much I wanna talk about that I don’t even know how to organize my thoughts. I’m sure whatever ends up on this page when I hit publish will only be a fraction of it, so I’ll cut straight to the chase and say In the Heights is EXACTLY everything that I want in a movie musical.

I never saw the stage version. I honestly didn’t have a whole lotta interest in it. Plot tends to be one of the biggest factors that draws me to a show, and on paper, this wasn’t doing it for me. The most exposure I’d had was performing No Me Diga with my college theater friends for one of our internal cabaret nights. I’d been recruited because we had a very small Latino contingent in the group, and one of them organized it. I don’t remember much other than my buddy Carlos singing the lead part with ginormous fake boobs. To me, at the time, the song felt very generic musical theater, so I never felt compelled to listen to the rest of the show. Man was I wrong. Also, not at all the best song to rep the show.

But at the same time, I enjoyed getting to discover this for the first time on the big screen. The magic of the musical numbers was palpable. The choreography, the beats, the lyrics (which were a little hard to hear at some points), everything was on point. My little bit of research after the fact tells me that there were a lot of changes in the adaptation that served the story well. I did have a few minor points of confusion with the structure and motivation, but since it was resolved and a spoiler, I’ll leave it at that.

One thing watching this made me feel was pride in my Hispanic heritage, even if that heritage often confuses me. Genetically speaking, I’m half Hispanic and half white, but I grew up on the border in a very Hispanic town, so that’s how I identify. Even though growing up there, I stood out for being not fully Hispanic. It wasn’t really until I left that I felt connected to that side, when I realized how much of what I grew up with was special to the region and the culture.

There’s a song in the movie where each group proudly raise a flag to represent their country or region of origin. In my family, we never really made a big deal about being Hispanic. It was more of a we’re-in-America-so-we’re-Americans kind of thing. Mom even gets upset if you classify her as the wrong flavor of Hispanic. I once got corrected for referring to myself as Latina, something about being able to trace our family to Spain, but to me it’s less about the label and the bloodlines and more about where and how I was raised. So while I felt like I wanted to jump up and wave my own flag, I also felt like I didn’t know what that flag was supposta be.

I did, however, fully grasp the love of NYC. My bestie has lived in Harlem, just south of the Heights for a while now. I know how much he loves his bodega, which ends up being the tiny center of his little universe. I absolutely loved how that was captured in the film, with the story revolving around the owners of one of those essential-is-an-understatement stores. I saw him post on FB after the movie, and he was brimming with love for his city, especially now that it’s starting to reopen and return to some semblance of its former glory.

The other thing I picked up on, the little Hamilton Easter eggs. Although my favorite part of that was that there was someone house right who also picked up on them. I’d hear loud solitary laughter at key moments from that side of the auditorium that was otherwise quiet. That was cute.

This is one of those movies that I wouldn’t be surprised if I used my A-List for a rewatch. It was that joyful and grand. Also, Anthony Ramos is destined to be a star. He’s been on the up and coming for a while, but hopefully this solidifies it.

Yup, so many more fragmented thoughts in my head that I can’t remember or articulate. Ah well, that’s where they’ll hafta stay.

In the Heights – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It

I don’t care for the Conjuring movies. I’ve only seen the recent spin offs in theaters, and that’s cause of A-List. I eventually caught the originals on BluRay, which confirmed my suspicions. They’re lazy horror. Things jumping out going “boo” with minimal story. Not my thing. So while I’ve been hearing a lot of Conjuring junkies say they disliked …Devil… because it was so different, that’s actually why I kinda liked it.

After the series took some turns investigating various artifacts that have appeared in these films (looking at you, Annabelle, and your 27 movies) we’re back with Ed and Lorraine Warren, played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga both of whom I adore. Instead of investigating a haunted house, we start with an exorcism gone wrong. The demon successfully leaves the little boy he’s possessed, but jumps to a young man who is present. That man goes on to kill someone while under the influence of said demon. He’s put on trial and pleas “Not guilty by reason of possession”. It’s up to the Warrens to find a way to prove he was in fact possessed.

I liked it because there was more story, more mystery, not just freaky things happening around them while they sit and stare in a house. It was an investigation. However, it wasn’t a courtroom drama/horror like the trailer suggested, which would have been cool. Scenes in front of a judge or lawyers were minimal. So it still felt like the Ed and Lorraine show, but out in the wild instead of confined to a single location. For me, that’s a step up.

A bigger step up was the increased focus on Ed and Lorraine’s relationship. Give me that movie! We see where they met and how strong their relationship has been throughout the years. Again, adore these lead actors, so I would have watched the whole film with minimal horror and maximum backstory.

Eventually the film did kinda devolve, as most lazy horror films tend to do, where it’s all mayhem until some arbitrary action stops it. The logic behind things was very hazy because who needs explanations when you can have jump scares. Still because the story was stronger than usual, it held my attention for far longer than any other Conjuring or Conjuring adjacent film has before. For what it is, I call that a win

The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It – \m/ \m/ \m/

They Live

Couldn’t even stay away from Alamo for 24 hours. I was back the next day for They Live, which has been on my watch list for a very long time. I’m here to watch movies and chew bubble gum, and I’m all out of bubble gum.

One of the best parts of Alamo is the preshow, a collection of random video clips to set the mood for the film to come. They’re not necessarily so good that you need to be there 30 minutes early, but it’s reason enough to add that extra buffer time to your arrival. They Live had a very fun one that had me guessing at the connections. A bunch of wrestling related stuff (animated cats wrestling, wrestlers singing “Land of 1000 Dances”, etc) because of lead actor “Rowdy” Roddy Piper. A trailer for Escape From New York because John Carpenter. A video of cats chilling in sunglasses bc the sunnies in the movie. Cute. Gave me enough time to order my fried pickles, which I finished before the trailers were even over, so I followed it up with a giant cookie milkshake that I immediately regretted.

Oh bonus points for the “Don’t Talk, Don’t Text” PSA. I love that they’ve got so many of these that they can also be tailored to the film. This one was curtesy of the man himself, John Carpenter. The finishing touch was the “OBEY” messages flashing on the screen, which I had done just enough homework on They Live to get the reference.

The film starts out kinda like Rambo. Big dude, down on his luck, wanders into town looking for work. We take a good chunk of time meeting this character and getting to know his situation. He’s drawn to a church across the street that’s holding some type of secret meetings. Eventually, he gets a hold of some sunglasses that he got from the church after it was raided by cops. Wearing the sunnies allows him to see the truth about the world: it’s crawling with aliens and they’ve planted subliminal messages to encourage obedience and submission all over the landscape.

So if the first act was intro, the second act was discovery, the third act was of course revolution. I was all about the second. I wanted to live more in that world and learn about who the aliens were and what their plans are and how society continued to go around. While I normally go there with action films, this was one where I felt my Daddy watching with me. He must have caught this on tv at some time because he really did love his weird little green men. We would have had so much fun with this.

No score because it’s an old film, but I’m thrilled to finally cross it off the list. ‘Twas a fun time.

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Too lazy to link them, but haven’t I talked about these movies before? Why would I bother to blog it again? Because it was my triumphant return to Alamo Drafthouse. That’s why!

Early on into the apocalypse, I was on a company wide zoom. They’d initially done it as a webinar, and our CEO was feeling a little lonely talking to himself. So he asked for volunteers to add to the “panel” so he could ask us questions and check in and make sure at least a few of us were okay. I was game (I think I just wanted to show off my movie wall background). He asked me where was the first place I would go when it was all over. Alamo Drafthouse, I answered without hestiation. Now, finally, the day had arrived to return.

I’m actually glad that Alamo held off a bit on their opening weekend. As I’ve been saying, it took me a couple weeks and movie runs to get fully comfortable with the idea of being in a theater again, esp for temporarily unmasking for snacks. Between genuinely enjoying the food and wanting to support the theater, I knew I’d wanna eat full meals at Alamo, and it did take a few weeks to get up to that comfort level. By the time they announced their first schedule, I was ready. And thankfully I was on top of buying tickets within minutes of them going on sale because the first round sold out in a couple hours. The full weekend sold out not too much later.

If it hasn’t been established, the LOTR movies are ones I’d be up for watching pretty much any time, esp in a theater. And I’m always happy to increase my tally of those theater watches. So this choice was a no brainer. Added bonus, there was gonna be a prerecorded Q&A between Stephen Colbert and the four hobbits at the end of the movie. I’d seen other Alamo locations promo-ing these screenings earlier this year (triggering some serious FOMO), so without even seeing the rest of the schedule, I clicked on one of the buy links immediately as I perused the schedule.

In retrospect, prolly not the best plan to see a 3 hours movie in the late afternoon/early evening when I had been up at 5 AM to teach a power yoga class at 6. I tried to catch a couple cat naps during the day (Cruella had been earlier in the afternoon and I had to clean the carpets in the apt) because I did not want to fall asleep (almost drifted towards the end of Cruella). When it was time to start getting ready, I made myself some tea (appropriately from the LOTR teas I got from Reddit secret santa some time back) hoping the caffeine would take over if the excitement wasn’t enough to keep me alert.

I never know how long traffic (or parking) is gonna actually take, so I left ridiculously early, as is my MO. I tend to avoid the Bloc parking lot if I’m gonna be there for a longer movie since those rates can quickly skyrocket, even with validation. My previously preferred lot was closed, but I found a new one next to it with contactless payment. Quick homework right now tells me that the rate I paid would have been about equal to the Bloc, but its still good to have alternative options. Anyways, parked and made my way over, starting to take obsessive pictures going in. My favorite part is seeing what the Shining twins are wearing. Today it was Alamo shirts and face masks.

Found my seat, and there was a typed up welcome note with the menu. They now let you buy food when you order tix, which would have been printed on the note. But besides buffalo cauli, I didn’t know what I was gonna want two weeks in advance, so I didn’t take advantage of that yet. Put up my order for said cauli plus the salad with fried chicken (which was amazing) and got comfy in my seat, excited for the next three hours.

I prolly don’t need to recount watching the movie, but it was just as awesome the 7th time as the first 6. And the Q&A was adorably fun. First off, always love watching Colbert geek out over Tolkien. Secondly, I did realize that LOTR is the one movie (I typically think of the trilogy as one giant one) that I could hear about again and again. So many stories to tell that are still new to me after 20 years, and so much magic around this film that it will never ever get old.

Cruella

The other day, when I talked about Nobody, I said that it was a movie that was made for me, mostly referring to the genre mixing and style of the film. Cruella felt like it was made for me in terms of attitude.

Disney continues its trend of recycling properties with live action versions. While those have had mixed results, Cruella scores points off the bat for being a new story instead of a full on remake. Granted, 101 Dalmations was the first to pioneer that idea with Glenn Close over 20 years ago (which I need to rewatch soon). Here we’re rewinding the clock, trying to figure out what exactly set Cruella on her path of fashion, destruction, and dalmations.

The result was a lot of fun. It did feel like something might have been missing, but I was enjoying the ride enough to overlook it. Emma Stone’s bonkers energy was perfect (side bar, her posture when she was driving was amazing, exactly like the cartoon), and I loved how well she faced off against Emma Thompson. The other standout (and show stealer) for me was Paul Walter Hauser as one of the henchmen.

Speaking of the henchmen, I actually really did like their part of the story and their relationship with Cruella. No one ever really thinks about poor old Horace and Jasper, but it turns out, they’re our girl’s found family. It was kind of beautiful how they found each other as kids and came up together, even if we know where their story is gonna eventually end up. That was just one of the story elements that I felt was very well thought out, tying back to the original and giving a reason for various details we know and (maybe) love about Cruella.

But what I loved most, and why I say this movie was made for me, was the punk rock vibe throughout the whole thing. Cruella’s designs were very much the type of thing I’d wear, and her spirit of rebellion is the same code I live by. I felt seen.

The music however, needed a little work. Great idea to make the soundtrack a big part of the film, and while I like most of the songs, they were all pretty obvious choices. This has been a trend post Guardians of the Galaxy, and Suicide Squad fell into a similar pitfall where it chose big great songs, but they’re songs that get used all the time. Guardians tread off the beaten path, and Cruella could have ventured that way as well, esp since there’s a whole untapped catalog of classic punk rock that would have fit perfectly. The frustrating part is that this was directed by Craig Gillespie who also did I, Tonya, which did nail it with the soundtrack. Still, it’s a nitpick and not a showstopper.

I do still kinda feel like a little something was missing, but I can’t bring myself to knock off any points. I enjoyed it, and I loved basking in that punk rock glow. Just enough risks that paid off just enough. Sure, I’d love to see it go even further, but we gotta remember that it’s Disney. And for Disney, this was really cool

Cruella – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

A Quiet Place Part II

Summer Fridays (2 hour early release) are back at work, and this year they’re every week. It’s absolutely prime movie watching time. Catch something in the 3:00 hour and be home with enough time for whatever else. In this case it was grocery shopping at a go at the power yoga sequence I was teaching in the morning at a ridiculously early hour, so an even more ridiculously early bed time that night.

Went back to the Dine In for this one, and now I knew the routine. Went straight to the bar line, although I then got diverted to the little satellite table. Figures. Although I was questioning if this was the right film for in seat dining, given the bigger need than usual for total silence. I did need to chew on my onion rings a little more slowly, but otherwise did okay. The social distanced seating helped with the volume and self consciousness as well.

Part II picks up exactly where Part I left off. Well actually, it takes a quick look back to Day One, and then continues where it left off. I had some reservations about there being a sequel because the last 30 seconds or so of the first are perfection. Thankfully this story is a logical progression. The first plot points of the first had some ramifications. Now the family’s gotta deal with those. And so the story goes on.

I’m having a little trouble getting excited about this one, which isn’t to say it’s not good. It’s excellent. The problem is that the first set such a high bar and was such a game changer. When the sequel doesn’t reach the impossibly high bar of the first, and doesn’t add anything new, it feels a bit like a let down in the moment. The first time around, we didn’t know what it was like to be scared to make any noise in a theater, worried about breathing too loud in a stranger’s ear. This time, you’re ready for it. You anticipate it. I also had a lot more faith in our family, so the suspense was slightly dulled. Still tense, but not in desperate need of a Xanax at the exit.

All that said, I am super impressed with John Krasinski as a director. First off, he’s super efficient. No wasted shots. Tight run time. Only includes what is absolutely necessary and leaves you wanting more. And so patient too. Those quiet sequences have to play out so slowly and he builds that suspense by stretching those moments out effectively. He also nails what I think is the most important aspect of directing an effective horror movie, and that’s putting meaning behind it. We’re not simply going for the jump scares. The horror/suspense elements are layered on something more powerful, and he has not been shy about saying these films are really love letters to his family. One of the final sequences (no spoilers) was so beautifully done. With parallel shots that showed how much those characters [redacted]. I sat there in awe.

Solid outing, even if I feel a bit underwhelmed. I hate to knock off points for being not quite as epically awesome as something epically awesome, so I won’t (hashtag subjective bs). I also prolly didn’t pick the right theater for it. It’s still a great experience to return to theaters for

A Quiet Place Part II – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Those Who Wish Me Dead

Continuing my homecoming tour to my usual theaters, with my first trip back to the Dine In. Despite their usually horrible menu, I felt obligated to order dinner, given their smaller capacity and struggles of the past year. Their Covid precautions were a bit interesting.

Scanned in my ticket to a dude sitting at a table. Not too different from usual. Did have an awkward exchange when I couldn’t hear him complimenting my shirt (it had an iguana that said It Gets Better, referencing a recent SNL sketch and supporting LGBTQ+ causes). Between our masks, his quiet voice, and the plexiglass, he had to repeat himself multiple times. I just wanted to be sure he wasn’t trying to give me important directions.

The directions he should have given me were for where/how to order food. The previous go to your seat and wait for a waiter protocol was different. I saw a little table set up in the middle of the hall way with some registers and a menu, but no one was manning it. Read thru the abbreviated menu and waited for a few minutes, before overhearing a staff member directing some other guests to the bar to order. So I did that.

The rest of the dining experience was mostly business as usual, except all the single use packaging does hurt my heart a little bit. That’s been one of the more annoying aspects of the pandemic. No more attempts to go green. I hate having to use disposable grocery bags, but not as much as I hate having to back my own stuff if I do bring in my reusables. I digress. The movie.

Filmmaker Taylor Sheridan is amazing when it comes to telling a certain kind of story about a certain kind of character, and Those Who Wish Me Dead was no exception (even if not the best title). This film’s down on their luck salt of the earth hero of sorts was a park service firefighter played by Angelina Jolie. A recent miscalculation and tragedy during a previous fire left her broken and disconnected from her work. She meets a young boy who’s running from some bad guys and tries to help him, which might bring her some redemption as well.

I’ve been very light on words for talking about this one. Very much Sheridan energy. Thoughtful premise, solid characters, lots of suspense. More vibes from Wind River than his others, but less mystery and more tension. Solid cast: Jolie, Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Aiden Gillen. Don’t let my brevity make you think it was unremarkable. It was simple but effective. And my chicken sandwich actually wasn’t too bad, by AMC food standards.

Those Who Wish Me Dead – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Raya and the Last Dragon

A-List membership is back in full force, maxing out my held reservations already (tho not yet my weekly movie limit). On this day, it was time to return to the Marina classic. I’d made a decision that I was only going to focus on movies releasing after my triumphant return to the theaters, and I wouldn’t put any real effort into the earlier ones. The BluRay for Raya was even being released this week, and I was gonna allow myself to spend a bit extra on one of my upcoming weekly Best Buy purchases to get it. But hooray for A-List, since this was still playing at the kid friendly theater and I had the time. I even had a freebie popcorn and soda on my account that were expiring soon, so I preordered those to have them waiting for me. My popcorn leftovers fill both my Ralph and Vanellope buckets on my counter.

Continuing Disney’s recent trend of bad ass princesses (which I wholly support), Raya lives in a fantasy land where dragons once roamed the earth inspired by South East Asia. Demon creatures that were the complete antithesis of those life giving dragons invaded, turning everyone they touched to stone. The final surviving dragon used a magical gem to save the realm before she disappeared. Now the gem has been broken, divided up among the now divided kingdom, and it is up to Raya to find the dragon and her gem pieces to reunite the land and ward off the demons. Sounds a little complicated, but it’s really straightfoward.

Really, this movie had me at Awkwafina, the voice of Sisu the dragon. Always adore everything she’s in, and she was perfectly suited for this sweet and trusting creature. I would have gladly watched a 4 hour Sisu cut of just her goofing around. Kelly Marie Tran voiced Raya beautifully, like the princess she deserves to be.

As I mentioned, I love the new route Disney is taking with their princess movies (IMDB tells me this is the first time their princess never wears a skirt). She only happens to be royal, but she’s really a warrior with all the traits that entails. It’s a fun and imaginative adventure that draws gorgeous ideas and imagery from a massively underrepresented culture, because yes, so many bonus points for representation and inclusion. So many steps in the right direction for the mouse, and I can’t wait to see what else they bring.

Raya and the Last Dragon – \m/ \m/ \m/ \m/

Army of the Dead

We have reached a new milestone in my comfort level with the world: Popcorn! I’m not typically much of a popcorn eater (thank God, given how many movies I see), so 90% of the time I get some it’s because it was free. 99% of the time, I don’t even finish it (unless it’s those super tiny kids pack bags). Between masks and germs, I hadn’t expected to want popcorn any time soon. But then my lunch at home beforehand wasn’t particularly satisfying, and I knew I was in for a 2.5 hour movie, so I figured I should spare the five bucks to have a snack. Besides, I was gonna be in the giant XD auditorium with minimal people. Happy to report that I did feel safe and comfortable snacking. Less happy about how dang salty that stuff is and that I didn’t bring enough water to counter.

But yeah, Army of the Dead. Netflix made a deal to release it to select theaters early. Of course AMC didn’t wanna play nice with a streamer, so I went back to Playa Vista. Something that I missed was watching the crowd as they come in for a typical “guy movie”, and recognizing that I’m part of the very low percentage of girls there. I think we were outnumbered 5:1, and I was the only one there alone. This tracks. And amuses me to no end.

If I’ve said it before, I’ve said it a million times. Zack Snyder does well with style, but substance no so much. For a zombie movie, that’s totally fine. Even for a half zombie half heist movie, this is something I’d trust him with. If his Dawn of the Dead remake is any indication, this would be perfectly in his wheelhouse.

Right so there’s a zombie outbreak centered around Las Vegas. We have a Zombieland-esqe opening sequence that shows the last few humans leaving the city as it’s walled off, leaving the undead to shamble about inside. All is well and good until Dave Bautista gets hired to pull a heist from a casino within Zombie Vegas. Oh, and Zombie Vegas is gonna get nuked within hours of the job being done. Come to think of it, that’s actually a bit more plot than you typically get with this sub-genre.

It was certainly the fun type of movie you wanna see on the big screen. Lots of gore and action. Coulda used more humor, but like with my namesake film, music was used very creatively to liven things up. The Vegas setting provided a lot of fun, combined with the heist, gives Army just a bit of an edge to differentiate itself. I don’t know that it’ll go down in history as memorably as Dawn tho.

The characters were the wrong point for me. All of them were larger than life personalities, who played off each other well. Even the ones who you knew weren’t long for this undead world had strong moments to shine and earned their death battles. My favorite character kept changing every five minutes. The silly German safe cracker, the bad ass Latina, the mysterious coyote. But let’s be real, my favorite was always destined to be Tig Notaro’s snarky helicopter pilot.

A bit of backstory. Tig wasn’t originally meant to be in the film. Her role was originally held by a male comedian who got Me Too-ed and (rightly) turned on by the industry. So they pulled a Christopher Plummer and recast the role after filming had been completed. Rather than bring the full cast back in, they did very technical green screen reshoots to insert her in. The result was the most badass and beautiful butch lesbian we didn’t know we were deserving of. If you’re watching closely, you might notice a few slight indicators, but I’d wager that if you didn’t know what went down, you wouldn’t pick up on it. So kudos to Zack and crew. And to Tig, whom I’ve always adored.

As I stated, if you can see this in a theater, it’s worth it. But given the runtime, Netflix might not be such a bad idea either. Snyder needs to learn how to kill his darlings and cut down run times a bit, but the overall result was pretty solid.

Army of the Dead – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n

Spiral: From the Book of Saw

AMC A-List is reactivated! And of course, I couldn’t use the first ticket for a discount matinee at a cheap theater, I used it for a Prime seat at Century City. Now usually Century City was for post work movies, since it’s near the office, but I thought it would make for a lovely Saturday outting.

Got there a little early, so I could get some shopping done, including a few purchases that were actually budgeted for the following week. It was a little weird that a lot of my walking shortcuts were closed off as dining areas, but otherwise it felt good to be out amongst the humans again. And of course, what trip to Century City would be complete without me wolfing down Tender Greens in the dining area after trailers had already started for my film, as well as sneaking in a cupcake from the Sprinkles ATM that I ate as soon as the lights went out.

Yup, that’s right. First adventures with food in a masked world. Found a little outta the way single seater in a satellite dining area for a quick paced lunch. I will say, the CDC’s new guidelines went a long way towards making me feel comfortable with things. Thankfully, Cali is still masking up for a while longer, but much of the weight (and fear) were lifted in knowing that my vaxx meant I was perfectly okay to be doing such things (and even slightly riskier ones, if I so chose).

The theater was at Covid capacity, or at least it looked like it was. Prime means those big giant seats, so it’s tough to get a good look at the crowd, but I think it was full with buffer seating. I will say, one additional perk to knowing I won’t have a stranger next to me is knowing I can put my bag down in the adjacent seat. Even as I was chomping on my cupcake with my mask pulled down, it felt fine. I’d rather let the movie scare me than the environment.

I know I’ve been over how much and why I love Saw. I did consider having a marathon before going in, but I think we’ve been over how that didn’t go well last time. It actually had me a little worried that the existential dread of the present moment that we’re only just emerging from would cloud the experience this time. Thankfully, between the hope of being in the theater and the minimal Saw-ness of this Saw, that was fine.

We all know the basic conceit of the franchise, yeah? Dude named Jigsaw (or his disciples) concocts really complicated games that test its players and punish them for their sins. Very survive, and the ones who do are not left unscathed. Most of the films have a B story that revolves around the police investigation trying to capture this gamemaster. Spiral inverts the structure somewhat. It’s more of a mystery/thriller, focusing on the procedural side of things, with the games sprinkled in throughout. Jigsaw’s spirit lives on where he does not.

While it felt a bit more Saw adjacent than proper Saw, I think it was a really interesting way to bring things back. Shake things up, and give just enough reason to justify it. Given that they’ve run out of ways to bring Jigsaw back himself, this was a necessary step. The connection to the originals was rather tenuous, mostly an excuse to include the bloody sports. As a result, it didn’t give me the usual icky feeling and disgust at humanity I typically get from these, but I felt the same anticipation every time a contraption was revealed.

What I loved most was every bit of Chris Rock’s involvement. Starting from him pitching the initial story and being credited as a writer. That’s just bad ass. I’ve always really liked seeing comedians take on more serious roles and this one looked good on him. He’s always been a bit over the top for my tastes, but he reigned it in beautifully to provided just enough comic relief and more than enough personality to carry the story. I really hope this is a path he sticks with.

His partner, Max Minghella has officially graduated from being “oh that guy!” in my mind to knowing who he is. Loved him, wanna see more, going back to revisit his previous work that I’ve seen him in.

This was a very solid thriller, if not fully a Saw movie. I do take issue with some of the games, because I’m not entirely convinced at how “win-able” they were. Jigsaw’s rules were very strict, and I’m nothing if not a stickler for rules. Still, there is a new puppeteer at play, so I’ll forgive them not entirely following the letter of the law. There might have been a little bit of the spark that was lacking, but for the most part I was not disappointed.

I left the theater feeling really energized in a way I haven’t in a long time. I didn’t wanna go home yet. I ended up getting stuck in traffic, taking nearly 40 minutes to drive down Santa Monica Blvd, so at least I got some more sunshine. I looked up other movies to use my A-List on later that night, but the pickings are a bit slim at the moment. I’ll certainly be stepping up my movie game in the coming weeks, so maybe I should pace myself at least initially.

Spiral: From the Book of Saw – \m/ \m/ \m/ \n