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!

Universal Soldier: Regeneration

This movie is clearly a sign of the times.

While the first two Universal Soldier movies were already low budget, they were at least silly enough to be fun. Reanimated soldiers with cyborg bits duke it out in the desert? Sure! Hell, one of them even starred Stone Cold Steve Austin, and that's the definition of fun, right? Universal Soldier: Regeneration, on the other hand, taps mixed martial artist Andrei 'The Pit Bull' Arlovski as the dour tool of various villains.

The flimsy plot starts with a rebel faction that nabs the Russian president's kids with the aid of a snazy black SUV with a roll-cage welded on and some AK-47 assault rifles. The leader of the rebels calls for freedom, and talks about blood and blah blah blah. It doesn't matter what the hell he says, as it's all in Russian and like all Russian speeches it sounds like the Communist Manifesto. Long story short, he's going to blow up a disused nuclear reactor. Wait, one guy's a terrorist and the other guy is the President of Russia? Who exactly are we supposed to root for here?

Luc Deveraux (Jean-Claude Van Damme), that's who! Unfortunately, Deveraux is in rehab with a psychiatrist (Emily Joyce) whose teaching him how to be a normal dude again. It's not really working out very well, as he beats the hell out of a guy in a cafe in Sweden for looking too Russian.

Meanwhile, the Americans and Russians assemble a joint strike force consisting of two platoons: one Russian, and the other American, plus four Universal Soldiers who somehow made it through the last two movies. The Bull Dog promptly beats the living hell out of the "UniSols" in a fine mixed martial arts exhibition. He then shoots the rest of the platoons, inflicting roughly a 97% casualty rating.

Eventually, the Russian president surrenders to the terrorist's demands, but the scientist who actually controls The Pit Bull kills the rebel leader,  resurrects Andrew Scott (Dolph Lundgren), and restarts the bomb countdown, adding about twenty more minutes to an already over-long movie.

The good guys get around to sending Deveraux after shooting him up with some Hollywood Science, and while he's fit, he still looks beat to all hell and downright morose in places. This all culminates in a pre-final-battle battle between the two original soldiers, before the extra-stupid final battle between Deveraux and the Pitbull. Neither of these fights match the cheesy energy of the original and the second one completely disregards a major plot point.

Both Lundgren and Van Damme are looking worn down throughout the whole picture, and are a little too much like the reanimated corpses they're playing. You know, they really should have graduated to playing small, but important roles in the genre some time ago, a la Sonny Chiba playing Hatori Hanzo in Kill Bill . The Pit Bull, while a skilled fighter, makes JCVD look like Laurence Olivier .

I really can't recommend this movie for anything. It's so drab and brutal-being filled with depressing landscapes and dull action set pieces. There are tons of other movies with both Van Damme and Lundgren that are actually fun, such as Hard Target and Masters of the Universe respectively.

Gamer

You have to hand it to any movie that can make a man who kills hundreds of people a week the most sympathetic character in the story.

That's more or less the goal of Gamer, a movie where a killing machine with a heart of gold, branded as Kable (Gerard Butler) by the evil corporate video game he is trapped in, must kill his way to freedom.

The game, called "Slayers," takes convicted felons and throws them into a penned off combat zone where they are controlled by over-privileged, over-wired 17-year-olds. If they are successfully piloted for 30 games, they win their freedom, something that's never happened, though Kable has come close.

In between lessons on how to keep fight sequences from getting dull, because they're most of the movie, there's lacerating satire. In fact, the opening sequence has people actually bunny hopping and tea-bagging their opponents like those jackasses you see all the time in online games.

Topping that winning combination are supporting characters of pure uncut greatness, including Michael C. Hall chewing on scenery with a Southern drawl and using phrases like "a cock-solid 68%," as Ken Castle. He even has a song and dance number to Sinatra's Under My Skin that blends into a fight sequence.

Kyra Sedgwick plays Gina Parker Smith, a journalist loyal only to herself. While  Ludacris rounds out the cast as Humanz Brother, the leader of the rebel faction bent on bringing down the system that allows Slayers, and it's Second Life-like counterpart-"Society", where people go for this world's version of cybersex-to exist.

Like The Running Man before him, Kable isn't getting off as easy "30 games and your out," as Castle is needs Kable dead-or at lest under his control-so he can essentially control the world with Nanex, the micro-machines that allow all this gaming goodness to happen. Nano-bots being to modern sci-fi what "nuclear" was to sci-fi in the 50's.

While the plot needlessly diverges in places, there are some truly great moments. One in particular stands out: After a punishing match filled with bullets and bodies, they jump-cut to thousands of people around the world cheering. It's a grotesque sight that left me feeling queasy, as good satire should.

One of the best parts of this movie is spotting all the cameos. John de LancieAllison LohmanTerry Crews all make appearances. But the cherry on top: Milo Ventimiglia as Rick Rape, a latex fetishist that gets Bane-broken over Kable's knee.

While most of the "social commentary" the film has to offer has been done before, and done better (RollerballDeath Race 2000), if you check your brain at the door, this is a sweet blow-some-shit-up action fest.  You could easily pair it with the another Gerard Butler absurd-violence-vehicle like 300 or  Law Abiding Citizen. If you wanted to go a more cerebral route, you could go with another surprisingly subversive film, Josie and the Pussy Cats(Really?-The Management)

Yo-Yo Girl Cop

Movie titles are very important.  Sure, most audiences know something about the plot or the actors involved in a movie before they start getting interested; but, there are some titles that just grab an audience before they know anything else, like : Yo-Yo Girl Cop. Even if you do not enjoy the not-so-subtle art of playing with a yo-yo, you have to admit that it’s a catchy title.  Which is important since the movie has little else going for it.

Released in 2006, Yo-Yo Girl Cop is the third in a series of films based on a television series based on a manga series called Sukeban Deka (“Delinquent Girl Detective”).  Each version features a young girl fighting crime undercover in Japanese high schools armed with only a metal yo-yo and congenital badassery.

The latest installment is no different as we follow Saki Asamiya (or Asamiya Saki, if you want to be formal), the next generation’s delinquent, as she is recruited by the Japanese police to infiltrate a high school which is the focus of an ongoing movement for teenage immolation.  Which, for the folks playing at home, brings our “Stolen Ideas from Better Movies” count to 3: La Femme Nikita 21 Jump Street and Blood: the Last Vampire.

When it comes to teenage suicide (and now for the requisite “don’t do it”….Damn you, Heathers !), pills and razors are for wimps. These guys strap bomb-vests to themselves and go running for the nearest populated area!  Apparently, it’s also a group activity.  Taught how by the resident villain’s website, “Enola Gay.”  While watching the teenagers working their chemistry sets to create the explosives and wiring together the timers and vests, I was struck by how, even in the arena of juvenile delinquency, Japanese teens are still more educated and innovative than Americans.  There has to be some way we can close this gap, America!

Remember that awesome title I mentioned in the beginning?  You’d think there’d be wall-to-wall yo-yo action.  In fact, there are only about 4 real scenes of intense yo-yo violence.  The bulk of the movie is devoted to Japanese teenagers crying about bullying in their high school and deciding that blowing themselves up is the only answer.  Well, that and robbing a bank.  It turns out that the bombing movement was a smokescreen to rob a bank, which brings us to 4: Die Hard!  However, towards the end, there is a sequence when Asamiya fights the “evil” Yo-Yo Girl and it, as a much more prolific internet commentator named Chris Sims has pointed out, “is the entire reason this movie was made.”  In some movies(Casshern ), one scene of exquisite violence is more than enough to justify its existence, Yo-Yo Girl Cop is not one of those movies.

There are some fun points: a girl explodes in the first 3 minutes; the “shaky-cam” technique is used to demonstrate some incredible sandwich-eating choreography; goofy yo-yo fighting; and, Tak Sakaguchi.  However, the story is too bogged down in teen melodrama to be exciting.  Maybe if they’d try to bring Tom Smothers out of retirement…

Surrogates

In the future, everyone has a sexy robot version of themselves that they pilot around to avoid being ugly. A side effect of this is no one can actually die, until Jack Noseworthy shows up with a what appears to be an industrial flashlight that fries users through their robots.

Welcome to the world Surrogates.

The whole living through robots thing sucks all the life out of the whole movie. If the characters are never in danger, where's the excitement? Nowhere, dammit.  Surrogates commits the cardinal sin of making a boring action movie, which is a shame because director Jonathan Mostow directed the very exciting U-571 and the somewhat exciting Terminator 3, so his next movie is sure to be a grand achievement in the realm of boring.

The main failure of this movie is not knowing what the audience wants and expects. In Surrogates, everyone has been worked over with that CGI smoothing technique they used in X-men 3 to make Xavier and Magneto young again. It works fine for a minute or so, but more than half a movie with it, and you realize just how plastic the technique makes people look.  Not only do we not want dull action movies, we do want Bruce Willis to be bald and grizzled. He's made his career out of being a wise cracking tough guy, and seeing him smoothed out with bright pink lips and a bad blond hair piece is just disturbing. You know that one guy holding onto to youth too hard? Computer generated hussy Willis looks like that, but creepier.

You can be anything with these surrogates? Why doesn't the world look more like Second Life? Oh, because no one would want to see that movie. . .

The movie I did want to see, tucked away inside Surrogates, was about the rebel faction that refuses to use surrogates and are second-class citizens as a result.  How do they undermine the rest of the world if they are completely out numbered by android puppets that are ten times as durable as they are? (With shotguns, to start)

All of those questions go unanswered, and I grew stiff with boredom as I realized that anything bad that happened to most of the main characters was that they would get kicked off an online video game. You use a surrogate, you probably run the risk of a host of other issues as well, like diabetes, weird sexual fetishes and demonstrating a super exaggerated version of John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory , but none of that makes me want to pay attention to you.

After meandering around a murder mystery in a way that telegraphed the conclusion in the first ten minutes, Bruce Willis...

[slider title="spoiler"] saves everyone from being killed but destroys all the surrogates in a comic scene where they all just fall over with hysterical clangs and clinks around the extremely clean version of the city of Boston. Now everyone can live their lives the way god intended, the end.[/slider]

This movie is sticks to classic paranoia tropes of technology ruining humanity and, as such, would go great with Johnny Mnemonic, or Robocop 2 at any Cavalcade. Just keep the booze on hand

Just in case you were wondering, some of us thought U-571 and T3 were terrible too-The Management