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This Week at the Movies

'Texas Chainsaw 3D' is about as good as you'd expect it to be, while Michael Apted's '56 Up' is the latest chapter in a fascinating experiment.

The first films to open in the new year are both sequels – one of them is a welcome reunion with some old – or, at least, now older – friends, while the other I could have done without.

How many chainsaw massacres can one county withstand before the authorities begin to take notice?

That’s the question that ran through my head during much of “Texas Chainsaw 3D,” the seventh – yes, seventh – entry in the grisly horror series.

This new sequel ignores the previous entries in the franchise and picks up directly after Tobe Hooper’s original 1974 classic ends.

Police shoot up the Sawyer residence, leaving only a newborn baby and Leatherface, who somehow escapes, alive.

Years later, Heather (Alexandra Daddario) finds out that not only is she adopted, but that she has inherited a house from a grandmother in Texas that she did not know existed.

She packs up her pals – a boyfriend (Trey Songz), a randy female friend and some other guy – and head to the Lone Star state.

Soon after they arrive, msot of them are gruesomely murdered by a chainsaw wielding madman living in the basement who turns out to be Leatherface.

As Heather digs around, she finds out how the townspeople covered up the killings of the Sawyer family years before.

The film ends on a strange note that I won’t give away, but it makes me wonder how the series will continue. My suggestion is that it should not.

Hooper’s original film was an unsettling, nerve-wracking experience. Every sequel since has been one variation or another of wretched.

“Chainsaw 3D” is sloppily constructed, for starters. How is it that the baby at the film’s beginning, which is set in 1974, would turn out to be a young woman living in 2012 who doesn’t look much older than 20 years of age?

The film is gruesome and, mostly, lacking suspense. If watching attractive young people getting cut in half by a chainsaw or having their limbs hacked off is your thing, you might enjoy this. Those seeking more from a horror film should look elsewhere.

Michael Apted’s “56 Up” is a significantly more welcome reunion and one that, thankfully, includes no chainsaws.

In 1964, Apted began a bold experiment that began with the Jesuit maxim, “Give me the child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”

Every seven years, Apted has followed up with the 14 British children who took part in the original film and caught up with their lives.

The series has been cinema’s longest running experiment and one that has become increasingly poignant as time has taken its toll on its participants.

We’ve watched over the years as the film’s subjects have found success or failure in their careers and marriages, raised children and changed their minds about how they want their lives to be led.

Some participants have undergone radical changes over the years, such as Neil Hughes, who was close to being destitute by age 28 and is now sits on the council of his small town.

Another interesting case has been Suzy Dewey, who at age 21 appeared restless and not interested in having a family and is now happily married with three children.

At 56, most of the film’s participants seem resigned to the lives they have created for themselves. Most of their major life changes involving career and family have already taken place, although single mother Jackie Bassett is hoping to find romance again.

For those not familiar with Apted’s “Up” series, I’d highly recommend that you watch them – and from the beginning.

Several of the series’ participants have threatened to drop out at various points, yet only one of them has actually done so. I hope the remaining 13 continue to be willing to share their lives with us. It’s been a fascinating experiment to which I look forward every seven years.

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