Resident Evil: Extinction

When one gets to the third film of what could be a horror/sci-fi trilogy, certain gimmicks have to be introduced.  These include but are not limited to: the end of the world (the risk of or the actual), deserts or cute critters of some sort.  Not to be outdone, director Russell Mulcahy chocks Resident Evil: Extinction with all three!

The world is good and properly screwed by this third installment and Alice (Milla Jovovich) has taken up Leonard Smalls’ (Randall “Tex” Cobb in Raising Arizona (1987)) mantle as “the lone biker of the apocalypse.”  Hiding from the evil Umbrella Corporation for fear of their turning her into a weapon, hiding from her friends for fear that they will be used against her by Umbrella and hiding from the hordes of zombies, because, well, they smell bad, Alice is wandering around directionless.  Much like this movie.

It’s difficult to determine whether or not the lack of direction helps or hurts this movie.  If it were on purpose, Mulcahy may have been showing through the film the terror and nothingness that awaits us poor survivors of the zombie apocalypse: a life of scrounging for food and praying that there will be a point to any of it.  On the other hand, if it were not on purpose, it just goes to show that the filmmakers had no idea what to do with this installment and said “Screw it, put ‘em in the desert and release the crows!”  I go back and forth.

Don’t misunderstand, Extinction has a lot going for it, not the least of which is the sexiest pile of corpses I’ve ever seen. (Yeah, I said it.  Find a cuter corpse pit and we’ll talk.)  Building off the ending of Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004), Alice has gone full-Tetsuo (Akira 1988).  These powers come in hand when Claire Redfield’s (Ali Larter) convoy of survivors is attacked by a murder of zombie crows.  That’s right, zombie crows.  In one of the most metal moments in film history, Alice destroys them using her brain and fire.

Also, helping the film are above average zombie make-up and a heaping helping of Day of the Dead (1985) references.  After five years, the zombies are looking a little worse for wear and the effects team did a wonderful job of showing that decomposing flesh and the sun do not mix.  Meanwhile, Dr. Isaacs (Iain Glen) works in an underground Umbrella facility with the foolish notion of domesticating the zombies into a viable workforce.  Care to guess how that goes?

Like most third films, Extinction does not stand well on its own.  However, within the series, it is not a bad installment and sets up a great ending that does actually continue into the fourth installment.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

In order to make a good horror movie sequel, the filmmakers must abide certain rules and conventions.  None of which are more important than the underlying rule: More.  And with More comes the equally important: Bigger.   Happily, for action/horror junkies like myself, Alexander Witt understood these rules and delivered the wonderfully over-the-top Resident Evil: Apocalypse.

Picking up from before the previous installment left off, Witt shows the audience how the Umbrella Corporation’s T-Virus spread and devastated Raccoon City leading up to Resident Evil’s (2002) climactic cliffhanger.  Joining (the finally named onscreen) Alice (Milla Jovovich) are a motley crew of actors that continue the first film’s tradition of English people pretending to be American including Sienna Guillory doing a disturbingly-accurate Jill Valentine impression, Oded Fehr being the man, Thomas Kretschman from the five year period in which he was the ONLY working creepy German in film, and Zach Ward playing a Russian…  Riiiiiight.

Their mission, should they choose to accept it, is to rescue Umbrella scientist, Charles Ashford’s (Jared Harris) daughter from the quarantined Raccoon City, kill as many zombies as possible in the process, evade and/or stop Nemesis, a monosyllabic hulking monster who uses a minigun but only when he’s tired of using his rocket launcher, and, just so things are not too easy, escape an impending nuclear missile strike.

Witt and screenwriter/producer Paul W.S. Anderson like to pack as much as humanly possible into a sequel.  Luckily, they have more money to do so than the first film and they waste not one penny.  Right from the beginning, the scale of this sequel dwarfs the first film by focusing on an entire town, using primarily exterior shots to contrast the claustrophobic Hive, and inundates the audience with large action sequences.  Within the first eleven minutes, we get car crashes, zombie executions and delightfully ridiculous helicopter stunts.

And all that’s before Alice destroys three Licker monsters in a church with a motorcycle, bullets and sheer badassery.  Upping the ante from merely being tough, Alice now officially has superpowers!  You see the T-Virus, which at least kills everything and at most turns every human it infects into a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength, simply made Alice hotter, better, faster, and stronger.  One could cry foul but this clearly falls under the “ What’s Good for the Goose is not Good for the Main Character” clause of science fiction/horror writing.

Aside from the larger scale of the film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse exceeds as a sequel for its greater sense of fun, for lack of a better word.  Resident Evil was a very “serious” movie.  Apocalypse on the other hand cannot take itself too seriously if only because at different points Alice runs down a building with no thought to gravity and feels conflicted about destroying a her friend who has now mutated into a horrible creature.  It’s silly and Witt embraces this aspect by giving us gallows humor, creepy zombie children eating a grown woman, Grand Theft Auto references, and, because you’ve been good little boys and girls, Zombie Strippers.

Resident Evil

Remember the days before Alien vs. Predator (2004) premiered in theaters?  You know, the days when it was not a requirement to hate Paul W.S. Anderson; but rather, a life choice similar in gravity to deciding one’s career, underwear preference and toilet paper roll position.  Once again, we here at the Cavalcade of Schlock ask you to journey with us back to simpler times when all we knew from Anderson was the terrifying Event Horizon (1997) and the greatest Enter the Dragon (1973) remake, Mortal Kombat (1996) and take a look at the first installment of the Resident Evil series.

Milla Jovovich stars as the aptly unnamed, amnesiac protagonist, an employee of the evil Umbrella Corporation (Traveler’s Insurance, I’m looking at you!), the world’s leading developer for all things technological, pharmaceutical and Frankensteinian.  Jovovich is a security operative stuck dealing with hordes of zombies after a botched theft of Umbrella’s T-Virus and an artificial intelligence-controlled security system kill everyone in Umbrella’s underground lab.  Luckily, Jovovich is not alone.  Joining her amidst an assortment of cookie-cutter paramilitary types are the always-annoying Michelle Rodriguez and the always under-used Colin Salmon.

Anderson does an excellent job of getting the action started early and maintaining that momentum throughout the course of the film.  (Also, starting with a semi-nude Jovovich doesn’t hurt.)  However, Anderson is hindered by a low-budget.  Get ready for a lot of shots that either look like the interior of every office building in which you have ever worked or else some unidentifiable void.  What should be atmospheric and/or a creepy technological installation comes across at best Syfy Saturday fodder and at worst an Uwe Boll film.  Compare this with Return of the Living Dead 4: Necropolis (2005) and tell me if there’s much of a difference.

While the action is fairly non-stop, the bulk of the action is based around classics of  video game logic: the “go here to get something over there working,”  the “find the artifact,” and the old standby “OHMYGOD WHY WON’T YOU DIE?”  Adding to the video-game-en-scène are a heavily techno-inspired Marilyn Manson soundtrack, awkward/fixed camera angles, random piano blares, and frequent looks at the “map screen.”  While these may seem like detractors, I found these homages enriched the film if only because Anderson did not randomly inject actual screen shots of the game into the film like other German-directed video game films (House of the Dead (2003))

My only real complaint is that 90% of the film is not scary.  If you have seen any zombie movie before, you’ve seen all the scares, jumps, and pop outs in this film.

[SPOILER] However, the ending sequence from the exit of the Hive to the final shot are truly scary.  If only because the sequence pops out of nowhere and tonally feels like nothing else in the film. [END SPOILER]

But, if you’re looking for a soild horror/action film, you could do worse than join the world's skinniest action star for 90 minutes of zombie ass-kicking.  That and the end shot is absolute gold.

Ultraviolet

I didn't heed the warnings. I didn’t see the writing on the wall.

I. Watched. Ultra. Violet.

A movie is a balancing act, and a good one can have a few bad elements. Ultraviolet, on the other hand, is nothing but bad elements. The opening sequence sets the stage, with stills of comic book covers featuring a character that we don’t actually care about yet, and never will. balance

Kurt Wimmer, the mastermind behind the totally great 1984-with-ninjas-concept movie Equilibrium, got a little big for his britches and made what is likely the worst action movie of the decade. The film features Milla Jovavich as Violet, and Milla Jovavich’s abdominal muscles . Seriously, they should get second billing. They’re in almost every scene, because some tool-shed costume designer didn’t put his foot down and say “An invincible-super-ninja-vampire would not wear a mid-riff baring shirt.”

The movie starts out with a terrorist faction of government-made vampires being launched via some sort of ball-bearing delivery system into an office building. So far, so good. The ball-bearing-ninjas get owned by the local security after chopping up (with no blood spatter) some scientist. Then we introduce our heroin, and little too late for anyone to care.

She narrates the amazingly stupid plot for a little while, and to her credit, she tries really hard to sound serious. It almost works except for phrases like “and so began the blood wars.” We meet the world’s germaphobic ruler Vice Cardinal Ferdinand Daxus (Nick Chinlund), who is so scared of germs he even keeps his personal sidearm hermetically sealed, and begins the movie-long of trend of characters not actually talking like people. That wouldn’t be so bad if it was well written, but it’s not. Daxus actually says “A courier is retrieving to bring here to the arch ministry as we speak.” That’s verbatim, I swear. Hurts, doesn’t it?

The movie is pretty much one long action sequence that demonstrates the Inverse Ninja Law. One ninja is unstoppable, but two or more might as well be Dodge Ball champions facing off against a battle-mech. The five Ball-Bearing Ninjas get owned by corporate security, while a lone warrior ninja kills everyone and everything that stands in her way.

Violet nabs a dimension-bending Macguffin that’s actually full of that Creepy Kid who always plays a Creepy Kid in everything he's in (Cameron Bright ), and who may or may not hold the key to killing all the vampires. Or he's the key to killing all the humans.Or the he's key to really great lobster bisque. I really have no clue. What I do know, is that the main character uses “flat space technology” so she can wear skin-tight clothing at all times and whip out a goddamned arsenal without it having to make sense.

More action ensues as Violet attempts to bring an end to the reign of the Grand-High Germaphobe. Some crappy gun-kata rip-off happens, and the credits roll. This movie is like a bad relationship, you feel like a bad person because you tolerated it for so long.

That being said: CAVALCADE THE HELL out of this picture.  It deserves everything you can throw at it. Mock it, make lewd shadow puppets on screen, it has it coming. Pair it up with Fist of the North Star for a Dystopian Double-Up.

Most importantly, AVENGE ME!

Fourth Kind, The

The Fourth Kind begins with the comely Milla Jovovich informing us, PSA-style, that she will be portraying Dr. Abigail Tyler (a fictional person) and that the events we are about to see are based on some sort of fact, and apparently Nome, Alaska is this hotbed of alien abduction.

Furthermore, we are treated to the ghostly pale waif of the "real" Dr. Tyler, who narrates her story with heart breaking certainty of the events. She's all eyes and lank hair; nothing like Jovovitch, giving the film this weird deconstructionist bent. We've all seen TV and entertainment, and we've seen a few alien abduction movies as well, so the angle they take assumes you are used to the effects of both. In a way, it's interesting.

But in a more accurate way, it's as pretentious as this next sentence:

As  a deeply cynical man who shaves with Occam's Razor, I must point out that technically everything is "based on a true story." Good fiction writers tend to derive most of their stories from real life, to inform believability.

And while not really believable, I can't fault this movie's construction. Many of the scenes throughout the film, are shown in split screen, with the "archival" footage right next to dramatized version of what we're watching.

Initially this is irritating, but it grows on you. This dramatic sleight of hand forces you to choose which version you're going to watch, and because a good deal of the archival footage is in the grainy black and white we usually see on America's Dumbest Criminals' convenience store robbery footage, you will probably end up watching the one with Ms. Jovovitch.

Veteran character actor Will Patton plays the town's "Don't Trust me no science" sheriff, who believes that Dr. Tyler is causing every single problem the town has with her "brain magicks". At one point, Tyler's daughter is abducted, and the sheriff immediately asks her what she did with the tot. Tyler says she was taken through the ceiling by aliens. It's an odd scene because the audience really isn't on either side. The sheriff is being a douche, Tyler is rightfully hysterical, but we start to realize that both of them acting like they're in a community theater audition and it's not going to get them anywhere productive.

However, they do get somewhere fast though, as movie has momentum in spades. There's barely a moment where something is not going wrong, people are shouting over each other, or having disturbing physical reactions to hypnosis.

Is this movie schlock? Not in terms of construction of story, but in terms of the "this is totally real!" conceit, oh yeah. To sell its point even further, the film wraps up with UFO sighting calls to local law enforcement, almost all of which are in California, and Utah. One was most disturbingly from Baltimore, Md.

Really? I can deal with the absurd Gotham-before-Batman crime rate in Charm City but Aliens, too?

You are told several times to believe what you want, by people who supposedly hold a Ph.D. in something other than bullshit. After seeing the film, I'll believe the residents of Nome were disappearing due to the always deadly but far more mundane combination of cold weather and alcoholism.