Combustible Celluloid
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With: Nicholas D'Agosto, Emma Bell, Miles Fisher, David Koechner, Ellen Wroe, Jacqueline MacInnes Wood, P.J. Byrne, Arlen Escarpeta, Courtney B. Vance, Tony Todd
Written by: Eric Heisserer, based on an original concept by Jeffrey Reddick
Directed by: Steven Quale
MPAA Rating: R for strong violent/gruesome accidents, and some language
Running Time: 92
Date: 08/04/2011

Final Destination 5 (2011)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Puzzling Death

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Based on the huge success of the fourth and "final" The Final Destination (2009), this sequel now emerges. It's the feature directorial debut of Steven Quale, who was a second-unit director on Avatar and also helmed the documentary Aliens of the Deep; he has deep experience with 3D. And, so the 3D in Final Destination 5 is quite superior -- especially the smashing title sequence -- but oddly, the movie itself is also a bit better than its predecessors.

A group of employees from Presage Paper prepares to go on a business retreat. Sam (Nicholas D'Agosto), who would rather be a chef than a salesman, has a fearful premonition while riding on the bus; a bridge collapses, killing dozens. Acting quickly, he saves his girlfriend Molly (Emma Bell), his boss (David Koechner), and five other co-workers. Unfortunately, since they were really supposed to die on the bridge, death begins stalking these survivors, one by one, killing them in "random" accidents. Can the survivors discover a way to break the chain?

The characters here are a bit more sympathetic, and humorous, and, unlike the fourth film, they tend to show empathy for their fallen friends and co-workers. The death sequences, as always, are elaborate Rube Goldberg-like traps, with misdirection and deception at every turn. (Many of the traps involve loose screws; doesn't anyone in these movies own a screwdriver?) It's fascinating that these sequences elicit a squirmy, giggly reaction from the audience, rather than dread or terror. This is a purely cathartic, visceral experience, not having anything to do with characters or plot. Any redeeming social value is negligible.

The DVD/Blu-Ray combo pack, from New Line, does not make any attempt to replicate the 3D experience from the theater, which is fine, even though it was one of the most satisfying 3D movies of 2011. Extras are skimpy, including an official little featurette, two shorts about the movie's visual effects, and 15 minutes of "alternate death scenes." Quality on the Blu-Ray is superb. The set also includes the "Ultraviolet" brand digital copy, which fans so far really despise.

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