The Jigsaw Files: Saw V (2008)

This is rather faint praise, but Saw V is an improvement over the cluttered experience that was Saw IV. We still get backstories that will seemingly never end. The loss of Jigsaw (Tobin Bell), even though he returns in flashbacks, finds screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan desperate to mine material. On the hand that isn’t severed, there’s some decent work by the supporting actors in the fifth edition. On the severed hand, our two leads carried over from the fourth edition are still a bore.

The Jigsaw Files keeps swinging along and here’s the first four if you didn’t catch them:

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw II (2005)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw III (2006)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw IV (2007)

Saw V introduces its third director in David Hackl, who did production design and second unit work on episodes II-IV. Darren Lynn Bousman’s involvement in the series had seemingly ended but he is back behind the camera for the upcoming Spiral. Melton and Dunstan, who scripted the predecessor, are back.

It was at the conclusion of #4 that we learned Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) was Jigsaw’s second accomplice to his wicked games. He’s taken center stage now as the hero who brought down Jiggy while FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) suspects foul play. Naturally the departed mastermind has thought of a way to make Strahm look like the new villain.

In the meantime, the living and deceased co-conspirators have a new test. They have selected five strangers, picked to live in a dimly lit dungeon, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite… and start getting real bloody. It’s up to them to figure out what they have in common while trying to maintain limb and life. Hint: the quintet probably have a criminal connection. This is where we find some decent performances from Julie Benz, Meagan Good and Greg Bryk as they try to avoid catastrophic countdowns. The whole subplot is a bit of a callback to Saw II and that’s not always a bad thing in this case.

Detective Hoffman’s backstory is a predictable one as to why he got mixed up with the non killing serial killer. This franchise seems hellbent on providing motivational recalls for all its offenders and at this point it’s mostly filler.

I am, quite frankly, struggling somewhat to add more about Saw V. As stated, it is less jumbled (and a tad less perverse) than what preceded it. The scenes with the five new contestants on this Real Stomach-Churning World have an occasional sharp energy. The Hoffman/Strahm dynamic remains considerably duller. And the fifth entry is overwhelmingly average.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw VI (2009)…

Oscar Watch: Army of the Dead

Zack Snyder’s zombie tale Army of the Dead hits hundreds of screens this weekend before its Netflix streaming premiere on May 21. Reviews are out and several indicate it’s a winner (especially the opening scene which is drawing raves). The Rotten Tomatoes score currently sits at 76%.

If an Oscar Watch post for this particular genre seems strange, I get it. I’m not talking about a Best Picture nod or lead actor recognition for Dave Bautista. However, some critics are pointing out Army‘s visuals. Just last year, the Netflix monster pic Love and Monsters scored a surprise nomination in Visual Effects.

Here’s the caveat: several contenders in the race from 2020 were pushed back to 2021. In other words, VE should be more of a crowded field this time around. That includes potential heavy hitters like Dune, Eternals, the fourth Matrix, Top Gun: Maverick, The Suicide Squad, and Spider-Man: No Way Home.

Having said that, if Netflix launches a serious campaign, Army could march to the shortlist in this specific category and a nod is not out of the question.

My Oscar Watch posts will continue…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw IV (2007)

If you think an inconvenience like death is going to stop this sadistic madman and bulk tape recorder purchaser, then you don’t know Jigsaw! And so begins my dive into Saw IV in the Jigsaw Files. My posts on the previous three entries are here:

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw II (2005)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw III (2006)

One general feeling I couldn’t escape is that the fourth time is not the charm (if such a word can be used in this franchise). The time to entertain is through. It’s time to wallow in the mire of mostly uninspired new traps, limb splitting demises, and needless backstories and time shifts. The biggest flaw of all might be an over abundance of plot. Watching a Saw movie shouldn’t feel like keeping up with Lost. And I don’t care that two actors from that show were in the original.

Darren Lynn Bousman is back directing for the third time in a row and this is his final contribution. There’s new screenwriters in the mix with Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan. The script picks a secondary character from II and III to play Jigsaw’s latest game. Officer Daniel Rigg (Lyriq Bent) is charged with saving Detective Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) and FBI Agent Peter Strahm (Scott Patterson) from doom. None of these law enforcement leads are particularly compelling. Rigg, according to Jigsaw, has a bit of a savior complex and his tests involve leaving behind nefarious types probably not worth rescuing.

Takes one to know one. After all, the dude with the ultimate savior complex is Jigsaw himself. And Saw IV delves deeper into his backstory that we weren’t sure we wanted. After seeing it, I’m sure of it. He does have an engineering background which explains some stuff, but his previous marriage to drug counselor Jill (Betsy Russell) isn’t all that engrossing. It helps explain his motivations, but does it matter at this point?

There are callbacks to previous pics and the most notable involves Donnie Wahlberg’s Detective Matthews. Last seen with a mangled foot courtesy of Amanda (Shawnee Smith), this detective’s story is finally given an icy closure (in an admittedly garishly effective moment). We also know that time is relative in the Sawmatic Universe and this plays into the anticipated twists in the final moments. It all feels more contrived than ever before. It’s now down to bland supporting players from better installments taking the lead and that contributes to an overall secondhand goods vibe.

I could go on with the dull plot points feasting on themselves and the tiresome traps, but seriously… how many damn tape recorders did Jigsaw own? He had to have been Best Buy or RadioShack’s most prolific customer/serial killer.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw V (2008)…

May 14-16 Box Office Predictions

It’s been a minute since we have had four new releases to ponder, but that’s the situation this weekend as theaters continue to open their doors. The ninth pic in the Saw franchise Spiral, Angelina Jolie’s thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead, the Zack Snyder directed zombie fest Army of the Dead, and tech suspense flick Profile all open on Friday. My detailed prediction posts on the quartet can be found here:

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/05/spiral-box-office-prediction/

Those Who Wish Me Dead Box Office Prediction

https://toddmthatcher.com/2021/05/07/army-of-the-dead-box-office-prediction/

Profile Box Office Prediction

Spiral should have no trouble scoring a #1 premiere. The question is: what kinda Saw bucks are we talking? I think this could certainly over perform (word of mouth is decent), but my estimate puts it in line with the last entry in the series – 2017’s Jigsaw. 

The runner-up slot should go to Ms. Jolie and her joint venture with Warner Bros/HBO Max. However, unlike the recent Godzilla vs. Kong and Mortal Kombat, a start north of $10 million (and certainly $20 million) seems unlikely.

Jason Statham’s Wrath of Man should fall to third after its opening met expectations (more on that below). I anticipate his latest action tale to lose a bit more than half its audience.

Here’s where things get a little interesting. Army of the Dead is the first Netflix release to open on a fairly wide screen count (at least 600). If that holds, the potential for a $2-$3 million haul is feasible. It could even do more. What’s unknown at this juncture is whether the streaming giant will actually report its grosses. They haven’t in the past in their limited theatrical runs, but we are venturing into new territory. With this question unanswered, I’ll be doing a top five that includes Army and one that does not.

As for Profile, it’s hitting a large 2000 screens. Yet I suspect its low profile and my predicted $1.2 million forecast could prevent it from making the top five in either scenario.

And with that, here’s my two versions of this weekend’s top five:

1. Spiral

Predicted Gross: $16.1 million

2. Those Who Wish Me Dead

Predicted Gross: $6.4 million

3. Wrath of Man

Predicted Gross: $3.9 million

4. Army of the Dead

Predicted Gross: $2.5 million

5. Raya and the Last Dragon

Predicted Gross: $1.4 million

***If no Army grosses, Raya would move up to #4 and I’ll say Demon Slayer is fifth with $1.3 million

Box Office Results (May 7-9)

As mentioned, Wrath of Man took the pole position and met expectations with $8.3 million. How much did it meet them? It certainly met mine as my projection was $8.3 million!

Demon Slayer dropped to second with $2.7 million, on par with my $2.9 million estimate. Its three-week tally is $39 million.

Also in its third frame, Mortal Kombat was third with $2.4 million compared to my $2.7 million take. Overall gross stands at $37 million.

Godzilla vs. Kong was fourth with $1.9 million (I said $2 million). The monster mash continues to inch toward the century mark at $93 million.

Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon flew off with another $1.9 million. I incorrectly had it outside the top five. It has earned $43 million.

Finally, the Billy Crystal/Tiffany Haddish dramedy Here Today showed zero staying power as it opened in seventh with $1 million. I was a bit more generous at $1.5 million.

And that does it for now, folks! Until next time…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw III (2006)

It’s not brain surgery for fans of this franchise to view Saw III. Well, except, maybe when actual brain surgery is performed. I know I turned away when I saw it a decade and a half ago. Same goes for the rewatch. The third feature in the series is up as I recap the Saw sagas prior to the release of Spiral. If you didn’t catch my first two write-ups, they’re right bloody here:

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

The Jigsaw Files: Saw II (2005)

Saw III finds our criminal mastermind Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) in a reflective mode as his cancer is finally about to put a stop to his intricate games. He’s still got one up his hospital gowned sleeve and it’s for Jeff (Angus Macfayden), who’s mourning the death of his adolescent son three years earlier. Depressed and seeking revenge on the many people responsible for that demise, Jigsaw gives him the elaborate opportunity. This involves potential payback for witnesses, judicial personnel, and the driver who subjected Jeff to the loss.

In a Saw pic, we know that means torture devices that test their fate and test previous meals of moviegoers watching it. Jeff’s journeys are intercut with Jigsaw’s failing health in a makeshift hospital. As we learned at the conclusion of Saw II, he’s got a partner in crime with Amanda (Shawnee Smith). Lynn (Bahar Soomekh) is the surgeon brought in (kidnapped) to save his life. Of course, if she doesn’t, Amanda has built a contraption to immediately end the doctor’s life once Jigsaw’s expires. And let the games begin!

Darren Lynn Bousman returns as director for the second time and James Wan and Leigh Whannell are back for story credit. This would mark the final time that this trio would collectively have their hands in the franchise. And they sure go out of their way to tie the first three pictures together… logic be kinda damned! Donnie Wahlberg reprises his role as the detective from part 2 as does Dina Meyer. Even Whannell’s Adam from the original is seen in flashback form.

Saw III, to its credit, creates a more emotional situation for Jeff to find redemption. Unlike most of the lead characters in I and II, he’s not a horrible person. He’s just in a horrible situation due to tragedy and he actually makes some decent choices based on Jigsaw’s vile experiments. And I have to say, this is the first time in the franchise where Jigsaw’s trials of human behavior really seem too complicated for anyone to comply with. I mean that in the context of this grisly and implausible cinematic universe, but still…

By the third act, Saw III begins to fall all over itself in attempting to connect various loose ends. It all feels a bit much. There are many who think this is second only to the original in terms of quality. I would put it a notch behind #2 as well.

Find out how this series progresses or regresses when The Jigsaw Files returns with Saw IV (2007)…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw II (2005)

As we await the release of the ninth Saw franchise gorefest Spiral, my Jigsaw Files posts continue with Saw II. If you missed my first entry for the 2004 original, you can find it here:

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

When Saw was released in October of 2004, Lionsgate didn’t know they had a series that would continue into three separate decades. The opening weekend grosses changed that and a sequel was immediately commissioned. Not only that – the studio wanted it out fast in time for the 2005 Halloween box office. Darren Lynn Bousman, as luck would have it, already had a screenplay outside of the Saw universe that could serve as a template. Franchise co-creator Leigh Whannell was brought in to bring the script into this demented world. And Saw II was hurried into production to meet that all important drop date.

The rushed production schedule does not deter this from generally doing what a sequel needs to do. It builds upon its predecessor. It looks like more of a sophisticated final product (at $4 million, it nearly quadrupled the budget of part one). There’s a twist ending that legitimately manages to surprise. Most of all, Saw II (even more than Saw) sets the formula for those that followed.

Whether that’s a good thing likely depends on your stomach for this type of material. Like many horror follow-ups, part II is bloodier and more sadistic. Picking up from the shocking ending of Saw when we learn who Jigsaw is, this puts a lot more meat on the bones of its central antagonist. We learn more about John Kramer (Tobin Bell) and his cancer diagnosis that causes him to develop these games of survival. Or as he describes it… “testing the fabric of human nature.” In John/Jigsaw’s world, he’s allowing his potential victims a chance to appreciate their lives and give them a second chance. A lot of them don’t see it that way.

His sights are set on corrupt detective Eric Matthews (Donnie Wahlberg) here. Jigsaw orchestrates the abduction of eight strangers in a dim dungeon to toy with. This includes the detective’s teen son (Erik Knudsen). The seven others are all of a criminal mind. The unexpected addition is Amanda (Shawnee Smith), who we glimpsed in Saw and was a survivor of Jigsaw’s tests (she even appreciated his unconventional method of getting her off smack).

Jigsaw is captured early in the film. It doesn’t take long to figure out that this is on purpose and he holds court with Detective Matthews as he tries to save his estranged boy. According to the ailing prisoner, the detective only needs to follow his instructions step by step. Unfortunately, the new character on the block’s temper prevents that from happening. I’m not sure if Bousman and Whannell wanted us to root for Wahlberg’s character. Probably not. If by any chance they did, that’s a failure because we don’t mind Jiggy gettin’ the best of him.

Saw II truly begins the parade of gross out gags and creative deaths that have marked the series. The most squirm inducing involves needing to find a key. In this situation, the key is the needle and the haystack happens to be needles. By the time we reach our climax, a time shifting revelation manages to fool us. It’s not as effective as Jigsaw rising from that disgusting washroom floor in Saw, but it’s pretty good stuff.

I give the filmmakers due credit with the first sequel. This was made to make a release date and it did so without seeming like a rip-off of its source material. Far from it.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw III (2006)…

The Jigsaw Files: Saw (2004)

Perhaps I’m feeling like a glutton for punishment, but the upcoming release of Spiral: From the Book of Saw got me in a bloody nostalgic mood as we anticipate its premiere. Nearly 17 years after the low-budget original became one of the most profitable horror pics ever and spawned now eight sequels/reboots, I felt it was time to revisit the franchise.

Hence The Jigsaw Files where I will recap the series movie by movie. It naturally begins with the original Saw. Shot for a reported teensy budget of $1.2 million, it came out of nowhere in October 2004 to become a genre classic. So is it?

This marks the directorial debut of James Wan and he went on to be involved in numerous franchises. Some were of his own making (Insidious, The Conjuring). Others brought on his talents like in Furious 7 and Aquaman. Wan came up with the story along with Leigh Whannell, who has since helmed Upgrade and The Invisible Man (both critically acclaimed scare fests).

Most of you are familiar with the story. Whannell costars as Adam, a photographer who awakens in a dingy and feces covered washroom with Dr. Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes). The duo soon discover that they are part of an elaborate game orchestrated by a serial killer who concocts these elaborate schemes. They have to figure out why they have been placed in such a foul setting and they only have hours to do so before their time expires.

The screenplay intersects their countdown with Detectives Tapp (Danny Glover) and Sing (Ken Leung) trying to figure out who this monster is. Saw is told in a non-linear fashion that isn’t totally clear until the climax. I had forgotten about the Lost TV series connection until my rewatch. Leung was the quirky medium Miles. Michael Emerson, who is involved in the mayhem happening here, is an Emmy winner for his brilliant portrayal of Ben Linus.

What’s striking about Saw upon another visit is that its meager budget limits some of the gore we became accustomed to in the sequels. Don’t get me wrong… it’s there, but not quite as prevalent. Elwes and Whannell get the most screen time (Glover apparently only shot for two days). Both actors have their moments of extreme overacting and I’m pretty sure that’s on purpose. Some may find this exercise humorless, but there’s some winking and nodding occurring in my estimation.

The other plot point that audiences might forget is that Tobin Bell’s Jigsaw (who becomes this franchise’s Freddy, Jason, Michael… take your pick) plays a minimal role… kind of like Jason in the first Friday the 13th. This is, of course, until the surprise ending. And that ending is still one of the better twists in modern horror history. If you’re a stickler about it making sense… well, you might hurt your head deciding if it holds up to scrutiny. Yet it was effective when I first watched it and it still is today.

Saw is certainly not perfect. Its price tag limitations show, but even that adds to the B movie vibe. Wan shows right away why he’s become the in demand filmmaker he is now. And this Saw remains a cut above most of what followed and rightfully has the reputation that precedes it.

The Jigsaw Files will continue with Saw II (2005)…

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day

My latest Shoulda Been Oscar Contender is an appropriate one for Mother’s Day. This particular mama went to great lengths to protect her son since, ya know, he was charged with saving the universe decades later from annihilation. She even got herself thrown in a mental hospital because of her heroic efforts.

I’m speaking of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor in James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day. Reprising her role from the 1984 classic, Hamilton stepped up her game in the 1991 sequel alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger and Edward Furlong as her future Earth saving teen.

Terminator 2 was a game changer itself when it came to special effects and action. It resulted in six Oscar nominations, including victories for Makeup, Sound, Sound Effects Editing, and (of course) Visual Effects. Yet nods in the biggest categories were elusive. 1991 was a strong year in Best Actress with Jodie Foster winning for The Silence of the Lambs over the sturdy competition of Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon for Thelma & Louise and Laura Dern in Rambling Rose. 

However, Hamilton’s strong (and not just her biceps) performance could have easily gotten the fifth slot over Bette Midler in For the Boys. MTV recognized her work and she won Best Actress at their ceremony. And while the Academy isn’t known to honor performances in action flicks, they had deservedly done so just five years earlier for Sigourney Weaver in another heralded genre sequel Aliens (also directed by Cameron).

They missed a good opportunity to do the same here. Lastly, while not every mother is charged with keeping their kid alive to avoid planetary destruction, the great ones sure make us all feel like they do. Happy Mother’s Day to all of them!

Shoulda Been Oscar Contenders: Jack Lemmon in Glengarry Glen Ross

James Foley’s 1992 adaptation of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning play Glengarry Glen Ross is an abundance of riches featuring some of the finest actors around. From Alec Baldwin’s now legendary speech to the assorted desperate salesmen to Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Kevin Spacey, and Jonathan Pryce showcasing their chops (and many creative uses for profanity), it is truly an actors showcase. Looking back, it’s surprising that it only received one Oscar nomination. I would argue they picked the wrong screen legend to honor in Supporting Actor. This brings us to our latest Shoulda Been Contender.

1992 was a huge year for Al Pacino. He had been nominated for six Oscars and had zero victories to show for it. That included amazing work in the first two Godfather epics and Dog Day Afternoon. Pacino was a double nominee in ’92 for lead in Scent of a Woman and in supporting here. The former would finally bring him his long awaited win. However, I would argue that Jack Lemmon should have filled the slot for the latter.

As the once thriving and now down on his luck Shelley “The Machine” Levene, it is Lemmon’s character that is the heart of the picture. By its year of release, Mr. Lemmon had already garnered 8 nods for his long body of work. This includes two wins – 1955’s Mister Roberts in supporting and 1973’s Save the Tiger in lead. His last nomination came in 1982 for Missing. No disrespect to Pacino, but this should have marked #9 and would have rightfully given Lemmon deserved mentions in five different decades.

Profile Box Office Prediction

After first premiering at the Berlin Film Festival over three years ago, Focus Features is releasing Profile on May 14. The thriller comes from Wanted director Timur Bekmambetov and features Valene Kane as a journalist who goes undercover online and becomes entangled with ISIS. Based on a non-fiction novel, the film costars Shazad Latif and Christine Adams.

The reviews from Europe back in 2018 gave Profile a so-so 60% Rotten Tomatoes score. Somewhat surprisingly, the estimated screen count is a hefty 2000 for this low-budget pic made for a reported $2.3 million. I’m not sure domestic audiences are much aware of its existence and there’s competition next weekend with horror titles Spiral and Army of the Dead and the Angelina Jolie led thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead.

Profile may be lucky to earn half of its puny price tag back out of the gate.

Profile opening weekend prediction: $1.2 million

For my Spiral prediction, click here:

Spiral Box Office Prediction

For my Those Who Wish Me Dead prediction, click here:

Those Who Wish Me Dead Box Office Prediction

For my Army of the Dead prediction, click here:

Army of the Dead Box Office Prediction