Resident Evil: Apocalypse

rating-1.5resident evil apocalypseI'd say that I felt like I'd been a little bit harsh toward Paul W.S. Anderson as a director, were it not for the fact that he wrote this collosal piece of shit.

Everything that was bad about the first film is amped up in its sequel, taking the ludicrous story of a viral zombie outbreak precipitated by the cartoonishly evil and inept Umbrella Corporation (a name that stinks with the dumbshittedness of the Japanese misunderstanding of English) and ham-fistedly turnng it into a 12-year-old boy's wet dream, featuring wooden actors that do things for inexplicable reasons before throwing in "bad ass" stunts that make no logical sense whatsoever. "Wouldn't it be super kick-ass if a badass bitch comes flying through a stained glass window 20 feet in the air on a motorcycle, while running over  monsters and flipping through the air, shooting them with machine guns?" No. Not even a little, especially if you're not a teenager whose brain is swimming in too many hormones and backed-up semen to think properly.

I cannot say enough bad things about story that film is supposedly telling. The plot is abject shit, dumbing down the already weak formula of the first movie to provide more action and even less moments of coherence. For example, why are police trying to arrest obvious zombies? And why, then, do none of them seem all that shocked or distressed that a stupidly-scantly-clad suspended officer walks into the building and starts executing their prisoners without a gun being drawn or a harsh word being said? And that's just in the first few minutes. I could give endless examples of why this movie is the most insipidly stupid thing I've watched in some time. What about the viral outbreak that turns the living into zombies somehow causing long-dead corpses to pop up out of their graves for no reason that could possibly ever be explained? Why does Umbrella bother to create absurd biological weapons like Nemesis and then have them fistfight to "test their capabilities" (not that any of its biological weapons projects makes the slightest sense or have any military use whatsoever)?  I could go on for hours, but that sensation should be left up to this movie, as it's the expert in that area.

Everything Anderson did poorly in the first film, Alexander Witt does even worse. The direction is awful; the decent performances coaxed out in the first movie are completely dead-eyed and hollow under his instruction in this film; the tone is wretched and dated-looking; the budget looks lower, despite being over $10 fucking million higher; the CGI is nearly as bad in 2004, when it had become relatively cheap and fairly consistent. This truly feels like some horrible 1995 science-fiction film that appears washed-out and cartoonishly flat in its overindulgence and reliance on setpieces. It's no wonder that Witt never directed a movie before or since, but it's strange that such a talented DP could produce such visually-awful product.

Even the decent Manson score is gone in favor of a backwards-feeling orchestral score. Never have I seen a series take such a step backwards and produce something so awful, particularly on a $44 million budget.

Truly, this is everything I was dreading when watching these movies. Anderson is probably one of the worst writers working in the film industry today. It makes me long for Tommy Wiseau's absurd nonsense to take my mind off of the most poorly-constructed assemblage of standard, lazy character archetypes that you can throw together. But at least it's short.

imdb  amazon

Resident Evil

rating-2.0resident-evilI was invited to go see the latest Resident Evil atrocity. I knew full well what I was getting into, but I value spending time with friends more than not watching awful movies. Of course, many who know me would insist that those two tend to go hand-in-hand. I figured that if I was going to go see it, I'd do it right and catch up on the previous films so as to get the full "experience".

It'd been many years since I'd seen the first three Resident Evil films and I had, blissfully, forgotten almost every detail of the movies, except for my groaning dislike of their awful cobbling together of shitty second-rate American filmmaking with the kind of retarded bullshit that only the Japanese can muster up with a straight face. There is a special place in hell for the Japanese, who are completely incapable of writing anything that falls within the realms of logic, reason, or an attempt at any meaningful substance. You heap on top of that the likes of career moron Paul W.S. Anderson and you have a recipe for cinematic disaster.

For what it's worth, Resident Evil was bad in a way that I didn't really remember. I would have assumed it was strictly the boredom of watchng an ostensible zombie film that doesn't feature much in the way of killing zombies or the generally awful acting of Milla Jovovich, who can only convincingly play insane or mentally challenged characters. Instead, it was the tone of the film, which attempted to hybridize action and horror, or at least what Anderson probably imagines that horror would look like if he ever made a horror film. Many people seem to like his 90's abortion Event Horizon and, for its time, it wasn't completely awfu, but its poor attempts at doing a haunted house movie in space with liberal Hellraiser touches while cribbing the plot from Aliens couldn't honestly be categorized as "good" in any capacity. Resident Evil is a retread of that same tired plot, stolen from Aliens and aped badly, with a military force invading an abandoned and desolate installation, looking for survivors and to understand the events that caused a catastrophe; of course, things go to shit and most everyone dies horribly at the hands of monsters and misfortune. It's a good thing Anderson doesn't have to come up with a new plot, because I'm not sure he could manage it.

So we get an uneven, ugly-looking mess that, while made in the early 2000's, feels 5 years older than it actually is. The CGI is terrible and the overall effects are rather poor, the whole thing looking oddly dated and even more cheap than its $20-something million budget would imply.

The acting is actully one of the more reasonable parts of the film, as a good enough cast was assembled, but unfortunately they were put through the paces of a Paul W.S. Anderson plot, which involves spouting semi-moronic lines between bouts of people inexplicably doing stupid things before another fight scene is wedged in.

Of course, the plot is beyond contempt. Anderson tries to fit in some references to the games, which probably doesn't benefit anyone; those who like the games will undoubtedly not like the movies for reasons I probably can't understand, as the games are beneath contempt, and movie-viewers will find the whole of it to be sub-literate trash, not even making an attempt to deliver something interesting. Nothing translates to film quite like a series based around old adventure game keyhunt formulas of finding the right thing to get to the next part to find another thing to get to another place. The events of the games are nothing more than a Rube Goldberg device to get the cipher-like characters to a boss battle at the completion of a thin, nonsensical plot. The movie instead fills the time with fight scenes that aren't particularly interesting. But at least it doesn't attempt to imply a "horror" in "survival horror" that has always been non-existent in that genre.

Ultimately, the movie ended up being a bit more watchable than I remembered based solely on the fact that it was blessedly short and it spent so little time trying to provide background or personalities for the characters that I couldn't be too annoyed by how idiotic it was. It didn't start making me want to beat my own head in until near the end when I was forced to take laughably bad CGI monsters seriously. And I did enjoy a good part of Marilyn Manson's score, which often worked in places when it was sticking to dark, moody atmospherics and not throwing in out-of-place loops of guitar from Nine Inch Nails' "Wish".

Still, the poorly-plotted, cheap-looking, badly-paced, predictable, dated, silly, cliched mess created no new love for Anderson and only continued to detract from my opinion of anyone who can sit through these fourth-rate monstrosities with anything resembling a straight face or a belief that what they're watching is enjoyable.

imdb  amazon


sunshine.jpgrating-4.5Possibly one of the most intriguing and harsh viewing experiences of my life, Sunshine, as shown in the film, manages to bathe you in light. Not just in light, but in sound as well. The whole experiences engulfs the senses until your mind reels and you leave the film, jarred and unsure about your very existance.

The tale of a second international space mission to revitalize our dying son in some near future, the film plays out like a combination of The Core and Event Horizon, but avoids the abject and horrid stupidity of those two films.

Cillian Murphy (of 28 Days Later and Red Eye fame) and Chris Evans (of Fantastic Four fame) lead up a cast that includes Hong Kong star Michelle Yeoh and Rose Byrne as astronauts heading into the sun to deliver a Big Bang-creating payload to create a new star and bring Earth out of a constant winter. As they pass out of the range of communications, they receive a distress call from the first mission to restart the sun, lost years before.

After debate, the fateful decision is made to attempt to retrieve the second payload to help assure the success of the experimental payload, leading to the inevitable misfortune of such a film.

The conflicts set up, the bleak character drama in the isolation of enclosed spaces and depths of space becomes numbing and claustrophobic, the toll being taken on everyone as circumstances careen out of control.

The visuals that Danny Boyle manages are both frenetic, beautiful, and disturbing. There is an amazing clarity only broken by blasts of light that burn into your mind, coupled with the movie's amazing sound work and score by Underworld. The sound buries you as you watch the film, shocking emotional responses out your brain.

The tone, the isolation, the slow dread, and the mindbending conclusion are enough to recommend the movie on, but this film is more than all those parts, a beautiful and heartwrenching masterwork of slow and deliberate storytelling. We feel every moment of the film, every character's emotion, every death, and we, ourselves, are left feeling the intense doom of deep space.

This bit of theatrical genius is one of the great moments of cinema history and stupid is the man who doesn't pay fealty to Boyle's work.

imdb   amazon


bridesmaidsrating-2.5Bridesmaids has gotten praise far and wide, largely comparing it to The Hangover (for women), the most common move in advertising today. Everything is compared to The Hangover because... I don't know. Why is it always The Hangover? It was a passable and amusing comedy, but the constant hype and overestimation of the importance of the film has led to me hating the movie's very existence. "The funniest movie since The Hangover" isn't an impressive statement, even less so when it was being used mere months after the movie's release. And, again, we have a case of a film being drastically overhyped, both in comparison to The Hangover and on its own.

What Bridesmaids actually is is fairly unoriginal; it follows the same beats and treads in the same steps of most friendship and romantic comedies that have come before it. The major difference in this case is that the protagonist and her friends and foes are all women.

A sad woman, played by Kristin Wiig, has a best friend, played by Maya Rudolph, who gets engaged. She, of course, will be her friend's maid-of-honor. But her friend has another friend, the rich wife of her future husband's boss, who seems perfect in every way. This woman, played by Rose Byrne, takes over more and more of the wedding and her friend's attention as everything Wiig's character does falls apart. It breaks into all-out war between the two and the friendship between bride and maid-of-honor is torn asunder until everyone ends up friends again at the end. It begs and borrows bits from every comedy, like Wedding Crashers, as well as a wealth of romantic comedies with cliched plot points throughout. There's a rare laugh, but the occurance seems to happen too rarely, much the movie being downbeat and depressing.

Not as relying as heavily on the comedy of awkwardness (something I loathe) as some of its movie bretheren, the film has a sad tone to it; somehow the flawed, schmucky protagonist doesn't seem quite so pathetic when it's a guy. Probably because, while dim-witted, the guys usually don't go out of their way to appear as sadsacks who let the world trample them. Wiig, having written the film, obviously knew what she wanted out of the character and it was apparently not to like her or find her funny as much as just pity her. Wiig is a cute woman. Maya Rudolph is generally likable, especially on her new TV series "Up All Night". These are women that are funny and, in some scenes, that shines through, but much of this movie owes silliness and hype for its success.

The cloying story plays out as it should, and Wiig even finds a man along the way. Her and the queen of all bitches, Rose Byrne, even become friends. Sometimes, it almost felt like "Light Comedy Mad Libs For Women".

I was kind of hoping Rose Byrne would show some comedy chops in this film, as I love her as a dramatic actress. Sadly, she was relegated to the role of straight woman, though I was glad to see Wendi McLendon-Covey, whose career has been far too quiet since "Reno 911!".

All in all, I feel like the components may have been there for a successful comedy, but the movie either played it too sad or too cliched or too similar to everything else to make an impression. A few laughs about women hitting each other in the tits with tennis balls hardly make up for what was, otherwise, a kind of depressing experience. Some will think the movie is great, but I can't imagine what they're seeing that I'm not.

imdb  amazon


rating-4.5driveDrive is that rare and mythical film that leaves you thinking about the movie for a long time after you walk out of the theater. And this is no Inception; there are no drastic twists or mindfuck plotlines to make you go back over the experience to better understand what you've witnessed. No, this is a straightforward movie paced and stylized in a way that's amazing in its simplicity.

Director Nicholas Winding Refn's earlier film Bronson was similar in the sense of awe elicited through direction and stylization. That was a reinvention of the tone of British cinema and Drive is a reinvention of the American crime drama. Inspirations, from Clint Eastwood's "The Man With No Name", Bullitt, and the films of Alejandro Jodorowsky, have been listed endlessly, but the specific films that this movie calls to my mind are the works of Michael Mann and William Friedkin's To Live And Die In L.A. Much about the movie is a throwback to 80's crime cinema, from the upbeat electronic pop soundtrack to the moody lighting to the neon pink cursive title font. The amoral antihero at the center of the story is another callback to Mann's Thief or William Petersen's character in To Live And Die. You can feel the inspirations running through the film, fueling it, and giving it a texture you haven't seen in modern movies.

Ryan Gosling plays the Driver, a nameless stuntman who, by night, is a wheelman-for-hire. The plot revolves around his ties to a set of mobsters and their ensuing revenge after he decides to help the criminal husband of a woman he falls in love with. The Driver then inflicts his own bloody vengeance on everyone he comes across. You would think that this would, then, fall under the mileau of the typical "tough guy" role. Instead, Gosling's character is alternately emotionless and sweetly child-like; he is a sociopath with a heart of gold, helping a woman and child in a way that suggests some dark past that echoes their situation. He goes about his brutal attempts to set things right with what seems the best of intentions.

Gosling plays the role perfectly. I can't imagine what his process was to reach the decision on how to play the character, but he chose wisely. He is the sturdy center that the movie hangs on. The rest of the small cast also delivers excellent performances. Bryan Cranston plays a worn-down father figure with grimy aplomb, while the usually-comedic Albert Brooks plays a mobster with both a sadness and a vicious streak that has never existed in anything he's done before; as much as I love Defending Your Life, this is the role of his lifetime. Carey Mulligan beautifully plays the neighbor/love interest of the Driver with a quiet simplicity, her elfin face delivering much of her performance through glances and smiles. Chrstina Hendricks and Ron Perlman have surprisingly small roles, but their talents help give the moments they're on screen more import.

The pacing of the film is tight, to say the least. There's not a shot in the movie that doesn't belong, nor a minute that could be cut. It's not non-stop action, by any standard, and there are countless long, quiet moments in the film that play out slowly and deliberately. This is more art film than crime drama or action flick. But there are those bursts of beautiful driving choreography and snaps of violence that punctuate the long, silent moments where Refn builds atmosphere.

Existential and fatalistic, the film isn't for everyone. Those looking for action and excitement might leave disappointed; the squeamish may reel away from the film's gore. But those who do love film, who can appreciate an artistic touch and noir-ish gloom as much as they can a car chase will find endless things to love here. It is a movie that needs to be seen multiple times and thoroughly digested before you mine out all of its mysteries. I already can't wait to see it again.

imdb  amazon