Thursday, October 4, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution

You got to love that tagline.  Like what were the first 4 films about then?


     If there is one thing any nerd has grown to know, is that you have to take film adaptations of your favorite video games with a grain of salt.  The prospect of seeing your favorite characters or story playing out on the big screen can seem like an awesome idea, but we've learned that this is mostly never the case.  There have been great video game film adaptations, but for every Silent Hill, there is at least 10 Super Mario Bros. out there.  Resident Evil: Retribution falls into the center of this spectrum as it does some things right and some things wrong.  (WARNING, to summarize the plot to Resident Evil: Retribution, I have to give away the ending to Resident Evil: Afterlife, so here is your Bruce Willis SPOILER ALERT).

Bruce Willis was SPOILER ALERT the whole time.


     Resident Evil: Retribution picks up right where the forth film left off.  Alice (Milla Jovovich) has just dealt a blow to the Umbrella corporation, the ones responsible for the zombie apocalypse, by defeating its head, Albert Wesker.  However, Umbrella's massive army has appeared and captures Alice.  She wakes up trapped in a large testing facility in the middle of the Arctic.  Alice escapes her cell and finds that Umbrella is now under the control of the Red Queen, a malevolent AI that she destroyed in the first film.  She soon meets up with Wesker's right hand woman, Ada Wong (Li Bingbing), who wants to help her escape and meet up the rest of her team already entering the lab.  Now the two groups have to traverse the zombie infested facility and escape if they want a chance at defeating Umbrella once and for all.

Unfortunately, "Off with their heads" isn't an option.


     Now the term "Jump the Shark" is a major understatement for this film and the rest of the series.  The first movie did its best to stay true to the feeling to the games with its claustrophobic laboratory setting filled with zombies and other monsters.  However, this is all thrown out the window by the forth movie where Milla Jovovich storms a fortress with an army of her super powered clones to duke it out with an even more super powered evil CEO.  Needless to say, the films aren't striving for a sense of realism or a resemblance to the games.

An artiest rendition of these movies just not giving a F***.

     While this may displease the game's fans, I find it to be a good thing in this case.  Part of the reason why video game adaptations fail is because movie studios aren't handling the stories well.  Most of the time, changes are made to the plot and the characters to give it a more "broad" appeal to increase ticket sales, but in the end it only displeases fans and still alienates newcomers.  To avoid doing this, Resident Evil creates an original storyline with an original main character.  Now the writers have more freedom with the story and can still please fans with the inclusion of their favorite characters and monsters into the film.

Then again, that might not always work either. 


     Milla Jovovich once again gives a great performance as Alice.  While its not the most well written character ever, it works well for this movie.  It's more focused on her ability to kick butt and make the snappy comebacks on par with any cheesy Schwarzenegger action film.  If women action stars are included as part of the next Expendables outing, Jovovich would fit that bill just nicely.

Arnold would also fit the bill just nicely.


     The films backdrop is also surprisingly creative.  The giant lab was used to test the effects of the zombie virus in a controlled environment.  To do this, they placed human clones in replicas of major cities inside these giant domes.  Then they introduce a zombie and see how the virus would spread.  While all that seems extremely convoluted and expensive to do, its part of the reason why Umbrella is so great as a the villains, they show real dedication to being evil.  Anyway, this allows for some great action set ups, for example one team could be fighting an army of zombies in Moscow, while the others dodge giant ax wielding monsters in New York traffic.  Its great to watch and gives us plenty to take in.

A realistic rendition of an Umbrella literally giving a F***.


     My one complaint about this movie is that there isn't enough time to give the new characters to develop and show us what they are all about.  They bring back series favorites like Leon Kennedy, Ada Wong, and the famous Barry Burton, known throughout the Internet for his cheesy one liners in RE1.  For example, it is implied in the film that Leon and Ada have "something" between them.  If you didn't play the games, you wouldn't have any idea what the characters are talking about.  To a new viewer, its just like it's there and comes off as forced for no real reason.


     This may be the best entry in the series, but it isn't good enough to gain any new fans.  If you didn't like or see the other films, it be best to skip this one over.  If you are a fan however, you're sure to find plenty of over the top action and plenty of the classic monsters with this one.  And the best part yet is that there is a sequel already in the works.

A sneak peek at the Resident Evil 6 Writing process.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Apparition (Sponsored by Costco)

Incredibly Scary and not at all Lazy... oh wait, got that backwards.


     Its been a while since I've been this underwhelmed by a movie.  Despite being a (very) pretentious, amateur film critic who hates all things mainstream, I do try to see the positive aspects to any movie I see.  A silver lining to the silver screen if you will, but unfortunately The Apparition makes doing this really hard.  What we have here is your typical haunting story.  Some people start experiencing weird stuff with their new house, they try to come up with reasonable explanations, and are slowly driven mad by the unknown force haunting them.  It's a story we've seen time and time again with such movies as the classic Poltergeist and the recent The Woman in BlackNow don't get me wrong, I love these kind of movies.  Horror is probably one of my favorite genres, but The Apparition fails for me because its quite frankly one of the laziest horror movies I have ever seen.


Pictured: A scarier movie about ghosts.


     The Apparition stars Ashley Green as Kelly, a trypical young adult who recently moved into her new house with her boyfriend, Ben (Sebastian Stan).  The two are enjoying a happy life together as they go shopping at Costco, work nine to five jobs, and even play Street Fighter 4 together (Who plays Chun-li against Blanka?).  However, the two start to notice strange things around the house where plants are dying randomly, wired mold appears around the place, and the furniture seems to move on its own.  Soon Ben's old college buddy, Patrick (Draco Malfoy, I mean Tom Felton), shows up and reveals the ghost to be a being that he and Ben tried contacting once before in school, with disastrous results.  Now the group has to fight the entity while trying to figure out what exactly it is.


Now if I had to deal with a Ghost, I'd team up with a former wizard too.


     Now The Apparition's main problem is that its about as scary as a bed sheet ghost walking into your living room, going "BOO", and then it taking a seat on your couch shrugging its shoulders saying "Eh, I tried".  Horror is a pretty forgiving genre, its actually kind of hard to scare someone because most horror movies have unbelievable plots that require some work in getting the viewer to believe, at least for the 2 hour run-time, as reality in order to scare.  We as movie goers are used to bad horror movies and in fact, have grown to embrace them with such b-movie gems as Troll 2 or The Wicker Man (2006), but the movie has to at least try to scare us to work.  The ghost in this one never seems to go beyond doing things like moving chairs or opening doors till the very end of the film.  There even isn't that many cliche "it-was-only-a-cat" jump scares and while I would usually praise a film for this, The Apparition gives us nothing, no real reason to be frighten.  It's like the movie just gave up on trying to scare you and its just filling time.


Now Nick Cage wouldn't have given up so easily.


     Another issue with the movie is its poor structure and writing, the movie starts off with two prologue scenes explaining where the ghost came from.  First there is a seance in the 70's trying to contact a ghost, then it cuts to another seance years later with Ben trying to do the same thing.  Why did they need the 70's scene while the second prologue with Ben served the same purpose?  Its like the writer, Todd Lincoln, just couldn't decided what opener he liked better, so he just used both.  His characters are also just really bland.  Ben and Kelly spend the first 10 minuets of the film spewing out really cliched romantic lines ("Hey", "Hey yourself"), they are playful with each other, and are desperately trying to convince the viewers that they are in love.  Honestly, it made me really, really hate the characters.  The chemistry just wasn't there and they just came off as annoying.  Its kind of a shame because Ashley Green, who played Alice Cullen in The Twilight Saga, was one of the few actors I actually liked from that series (I've both read and seen Twilight, is this going to be a problem?).  Perhaps this was just a misstep in the actress's career, but only time will tell.


And if there is ever a movie with convincing on-screen chemistry it's Twilight.

      This is also the second film I've seen Tom Felton in since his role as Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter film series.  The first was Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which he had a minor role as an abusive monkey prison guard.  I'm not making that up, in fact there is one scene where he is trying to impress some girls, so he takes them to the monkey jail and starts to abuse some chimps.  I don't claim to be very savvy in the ways of women, but I don't think torturing defenseless animals is exactly their idea of a good date.  Anyway, with that and this disaster, it seems Tom Felton is loosing a bit of that movie magic since graduating from Hogwarts (Haha, aren't I so punny).


Poor Malfoy, first the monkeys and now a ghost.


     There was something I didn't mention in my review of The Watch because I didn't feel like it was worth bringing up, but this movie forced me to address it.  Both of these movies contain product placement for the superstore Costco and normally I don't have an issue with a bit of product placement in movies, after all if a character needed to buy something, they would probably go to a place like Wal Mart.  However, these movies go beyond that because Costco is actually a plot point in both movies.  In The Watch the aliens are using it as a home base while in The Apparition, some major scenes and scares happen there.  I really just want to know why would Costco want to been seen like that.  Seriously, I have never heard of the store, I thought it was a made up place, but then I found out its a real place you can shop at.  Now, for me, Costco will forever be associated with alien invasions, spooky ghost, and worst of all, bad movies.


From gardening to kitchens to paranormal beings, Costco has got it all.



Don't see this movie, seriously, nothing good will come of it.  It's very lazy and it seems that halfway through the film, it just stops trying.  Its an example of how a movie that is written, produced, and directed by the same person can go horribly wrong and I have a bad feeling that this won't be the last time we hear from Todd Lincoln.  The Apparition is one of the worst horror movies I've seen in a long time, and its not bad in a Nightmare on Elm Street Part 6 kind of way, but bad in a bad way.


Pictured: Another scarier movie about ghosts.