Film Review: Jason X (dir. by Jim Isaac)

Last night, my friend Evelyn and I stayed up way too late and we watched the 10th film in the Friday the 13th franchise, 2002’s Jason X.  I was watching it for a second time because I’ve been reviewing the Friday the 13th films for this site.  Evelyn was watching it for the first time because she’s my BFF, we were having ourselves a girl’s night in, and she’s willing to watch anything with me because she has complete faith in my taste in movies .*

Anyway, after the end credits rolled, we both immediately agreed on one thing: Jason X sucks.  Seriously.

Jason X is yet another one of the Friday the 13th gimmick films.  This time the gimmick is (all together now): JASON.  IN.  SPAAAAAAAAACE!  However, before we get into space, the film opens in the “near future” of 2010.  Apparently, there is now some sort of underground, government controlled lab underneath Lake Crystal Lake and being held prisoner there is Jason Voorhees (played, for the last time, by Kane Hodder).  Apparently, the government has spent the last two years trying to figure out a way to kill the bound Jason but his cells keep regenerating. (No mention of demonic slugs for this film!)  Government scientist Rowan LaFontaine (Lexa Doig) wants to freeze Jason but another scientist, Dr. Wimmer, wants to use Jason as a weapon.  We know Dr. Wimmer is evil because he’s played by David Cronenberg.

Anyway, while Dr. Wimmer and Rowan are arguing about the ethics of exploiting an undead serial killer, Jason manages to escape and kills everyone in the underground lab except for Rowan.  She manages to freeze him in a cryogenic pod but gets frozen herself in the process.

Nearly 500 years later, Earth has been abandoned because Al Gore was right (yawn!) and the planet is now too polluted to live on.  Humanity had relocated to Another Earth.  However, students occasionally conduct field trips to the old Earth and one of those field trips comes across Jason and Rowan, still in deep freeze.  The students take the two of them back to their spaceship, thaw them out, and — needless to say — things don’t end well for the majority of them.

Jason X was made, of course, because Jason Vs. Freddy had spent the previous 9 years languishing in development Hell.  Jason X was New Line’s way of reminding people that they owned the Friday the 13th franchise and it certainly managed to do that, though it didn’t bring that many people to the theaters.  (Jason X is the second-lowest grossing film in the series.)  The reviews, at the time, were scathing and it’s easy to see why: the special effects looked incredibly cheap, everything about the film’s vision of the future (from the garish set design to the ugly costuming choices) felt tacky, and the acting was terrible.  Lisa Ryder, who played the perpetually cheerful robot KM 14, had a role that should have been actor-proof but she still managed to give a memorably bad performance, the worst moment being when she let out a weak-sounding “Yeah,” after it was incorrectly felt that she had killed Jason.)

The one exception: Kane Hodder.  In this unworthy little film, Hodder probably gives his best performance in the role of Jason.  Here, Jason is less an undead serial killer and more just an old man who is sick of kids wandering across his lawn.  He kills less because he’s evil and more because he’s just frustrated at being surrounded by so many stupid people.

And after watching Jason X, ever though you still can’t sympathize with him, it’s harder to blame him.


* Evelyn has requested that I make it clear that the main reason she ended up watching Jason X with me was because she was “in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Poll: Who Should Direct Catching Fire?

With the recent announcement that Gary Ross will not be directing Catching Fire, the second film in The Hunger Games trilogy, there’s been a lot of online speculation has started as to who will take his place.  Since I was bored at work, I spent an hour or two reading some of that speculation.  Needless to say, a lot of names are being tossed around and some are a lot more plausible than others.  However, a few names seem to be mentioned more often than others.

Speaking for myself, I don’t think that the loss of Gary Ross is going to really hurt the sequel, financially or artistically. 

Financially, people are going to see the sequel regardless of who directs it and, quite frankly, I doubt many people went to the Hunger Games because they just couldn’t wait to see Gary Ross’s follow-up to Seabiscuit

From an artistic point of view, the main reason that I loved the Hunger Games was because, after years of seeing blockbuster movies where being female was essentially the same as being helpless and insipid, it was so refreshing to see a film about a strong, independent young woman who is concerned about something more than just keeping her boyfriend happy.  In short, I loved The Hunger Games because of Jennifer Lawrence’s performance as Katniss Everdeen.  In short, Gary Ross was about as important to The Hunger Games franchise  as Chris Columbus was to the Harry Potter films.

As for who the new director is going to be, here’s some of the more interesting names that I’ve seen mentioned:

Danny Boyle is one of my favorite directors of all time and he’s certainly showed that he can create entertaining films that both challenge conventional and force you to think.  As well, directing the opening ceremonies for the London Olympics and, if that’s not good training for the Hunger Games then what is?

J.J. Abrams is a far more conventional director than Danny Boyle but he’s also proven that he can make blockbuster films that don’t necessarily insult one’s intelligence.  Add to that, he created Alias and he deserves a lot of credit for that.

As the only woman to ever win best director, Kathryn Bigelow is an obvious choice for a franchise that is ultimately all about empowerment.  Plus, she’s proven she can handle action films and I think it would be a neat if, under her direction, Catching Fire made more money than Avatar.

Sofia Coppola, who should have won an Oscar for Lost in Translation,  would bring a definitely lyrical quality to Catching Fire and, if nothing else. her version would be amazing to look at.  Add to that, Sofia Coppola deserves to have at least one blockbuster on her resume.  (Yes, I know a lot of you people hated Somewhere but you know what?  You’re wrong and I’m right.)

Alfonso Cuaron has proven, with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azbakan, that he can step into a franchise without sacrificing his own individual vision.  Children of Men shows that he can create a realistic dystopian future.

Debra Granik is best-known for directing Jennifer Lawrence in Winter’s Bone.  If not for Granik, Katniss Everdeen could have very easily ended up being played by Kristen Stewart.

Catherine Hardwicke is, of course, best known for directing the first Twilight film and a lot of people will never forgive her for that.  And you know what?  That’s really not fair to Hardwicke. Say what you will about Twilight, the film was actually pretty well-directed and Red Riding Hood is one of the unacknowledged masterpieces of 2011.  (No, really…)   Finally, Hardwicke directed Thirteen, one of the best films ever made.  Hardwicke’s Catching Fire probably wouldn’t be critically acclaimed but it would be a lot of fun.

Patty Jenkins is one of the more surprising names that I saw mentioned on several sites.  Jenkins is best known for directing the ultra-depressing Monster  as well as the atmospheric pilot for AMC’s The Killing. Apparently she was also, for a while, signed up to direct Thor 2, which would suggest that she can handle blockbuster action.  Of course, she was also fired from Thor 2.

Mike Newell directed the best of the Harry Potter films (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and has shown that he can handle action and spectacle.  He’s also directed Mona Lisa Smile, which is one of my favorite films of all time.

Sam Raimi would turn Catching Fire into a thrill ride.  While you would lose a lot of the story’s subtext, the film would certainly not be boring.  Add to that, Raimi directing would increase the chances of a Bruce Campbell cameo.

To be honest, I haven’t seen anyone mention the name of Mark Romanek so I’m going to mention him because I think he’s great and that Never Let Me Go was one of the best films of 2010.  Add to that, he actually played an important role in my life in that I can still remember being 12 years old, seeing his video for Fiona Apple’s Criminal, and going, “That’s what I’m going to do once I get to high school…”

Julie Taymor is best known as a theatrical director but her films have all been distinguished by a strong, individualistic vision.  More people need to see her film version of The Tempest.

Susanna White, though not well-known, was a contender to direct The Hunger Games before the job went to Gary Ross.  White got her start working with the BBC before coming over to America to direct episodes of Generation Kill and Boardwalk Empire for HBO.  She was also a contender to director another film based on YA literature, The Host.

With Hanna, Joe Wright gave us the best film of 2011 (regardless of what the Academy thinks) and he’s proven that he knows how to mix empowerment and action.

There are other names in contention, of course.  I’ve seen everyone from Stephen Soderbergh (bleh, to be honest) to Rob Zombie mentioned.  Arleigh suggested both James Cameron and David Fincher but I think he was mostly doing that to annoy me.  Someone on twitter (may have been me) mentioned Tyler Perry and then laughed and laughed.  However, the 14 names above are the ones that I find to be the most interesting and/or plausible.

So, who do you think would be a the best director for Catching Fire?

As for me and who I would like to so direct the film, I think that the director of Catching Fire should be a woman because Catching Fire is, ultimately, a story about empowerment.  I also think that characterization is far more important than action so I’m not as concerned about whether or not the director has a history of blowing things up onscreen.  Instead, what the franchise needs is a strong, female director with an eye for detail and a strong appreciation for what film is capable of accomplishing as an art form. 

For that reason, my vote goes to Sofia Coppola.