I am getting tired of writing these. For those of you who don’t know, Richard Matheson was an author and screen writer. He wrote the Nightmare at 20,000 Feet Twilight Zone episode, as well as a few others. What he is best known for (and the reason I am a fan) is his book I am Legend, one of the best zombie novels of all time.
If this title sounds familiar that is because it has been made into a movie on three separate occassions: the Last Man on Earth in 1964 with Vincent Price, the Omega Man starring Charlton Heston in 1971, and most recently (and most badly) I am Legend with Will Smith in 2007. This book was also the inspiration behind Night of the Living Dead, and I think it can honestly be said that every zombie axiom we currently enjoy has been at least influenced if not actively created my Mr. Matheson.
What makes his book awesome is that zombies are a visual phenomenon, yet he managed to make them menacing in print. Most zombie novels rarely elicit any kind of actual fear response mainly due to the fact that you can’t really paint a true zombie horde with words (zombie horde image courtesy of the zombie t shirt category). Mr. Matheson did it by focusing on the survivor rather than the zombies, and by making him as real and cool as possible. Plus the story is pretty amazing and goes far beyond the cliche zombie survival canon. If you saw I am Legend and thought it decent without reading the book you should read it and then feel shame for being such an ignorant moron for the rest of your life. Believe me when I say that they literally turned that story into cliche pap. The only things it really has to do with the book is zombies (sort of) and the title.
Anyway, it seems we are hitting a bad spell when a number of great sci fi readers are dying and yet Stephanie Meyer keeps on producing. Once again I am bummed, and feel that if anyone deserves to come back as a zombie it’s Mr. Matheson. You will be missed sir.
This film was fun and exciting. It had some great moments and some really awesome scenes. The problem is all the great scenes I have already seen about 100 times in trailers, and the movie shifted gears from a zombie film to an action film and back again with alarming rapidity.
This is one of the films that is going to suffer from my jaded senses, rubbed raw by having seen too many films over the last few years. Had I seen this movie five years ago I would have enjoyed the hell out of it and headed home to play Left 4 Dead. Now, having seen way too many films I can’t help but find issues with the film.
I love zombies and zombie films (Keep Calm and Kill Zombies image courtesy of my personal collection of zombie t shirts). However, this gives me the right (at least as far as I am concerned) to be very critical and discriminating about zombie films and what makes them good. It is not enough to have zombies in it. In all great zombie films (or shows. The Walking Dead definitely qualifies) the zombies are more a natural force, like a flood or earthquake, and the real story is of the struggle to survive. Often times (thank you George Romero) the real enemy is the other human survivors as they try to take the limited resources away by force.
This film started out that way with Brad Pitt struggling to keep his wife and daughters alive but after ten minutes of that the writers got bored and opted to turn this into a Resident Evil-esque action film, only without the skin tight leather outfit. I mentioned Left 4 Dead before and that is apropos as this film was a lot like watching someone play that game, even to the point of the protagonist surviving a plane crash.
Before I get any further I’d like to mention a few other zombie related things that this movie reminded me of. First of all: fast zombies. In order to have the ant hill attack scenes they needed to make the zombies fast, but I happen to know that Max Brooks (the author of this book) writes slow zombies. Slow zombies are far more menacing and creepy. Fast zombies could easily be replaced by fast alien bugs and it would not change the film much. Honestly, what is the difference between fast zombies and an angry mob trying to run you down? (For those of us who have experienced angry mobs in the past, of course) Slow zombies are like the inevitable slow tide of fate and are therefore that much more terrible.
Fast zombies, however, also help patch up another hole in not just in this movie but in the whole zombie infection thing. You see, humans biting other humans as a disease vector is not exactly going to move across the world at lightning speed. Sure, it might catch the first few people off guard but eventually a few cops are going to line up and just shoot them down. If a police officer can carry 100 bullets and use them to kill 5+ zombies before turning into one himself the ratio just doesn’t work out. If all else fails a few fuel/air airstrikes will kill zombies by the acre. Fast zombies make up for the fact that a decently prepared platoon of soldiers should be able to take out any number of slow zombies (it doesn’t really address the problem of a couple of tanks or APCs should be able to reap any type down by the thousands, but whatever).
The other problem I had with this film was the pacing seemed odd. The book was a collection of stories spanning ten years. In this movie the film goes from a weird newscast to the entire world going zombie in literally one night. I just can’t believe it’s possible one bite at a time. They talk about how big cities fell first due to the airports but it is established that one zombie on a plane will pretty much kill the entire passenger compliment in about five minutes. How does this work exactly? I am pretty sure a zombiefied pilot might have some issues landing a plane, and if the pilots are safe in the flight compartment they just might tell the airport to maybe not be too quick to open the cabin doors. It’s possible there was a zombie incubation period for the first few (hundred thousand) victims but the movie never did anything to establish that. In fact they talk about it starting in India and spreading worldwide, and they also establish that the longest a bite takes to turn someone into a zombie is ten minutes, so how does that translate into world wide pandemic? I would totally buy into some attempt at an explanation but they never even bothered, which ended up feeling lazy.
That being said, the movie is fun if you can look past those issues. Brad Pitt is good, and the zombies get looking zombie-ish by the end. The story starts off with Gerry Lane (Brad Pitt-Fight Club, Inglorius Basterds, 12 Monkeys) living the suburban dream with his wife (Mireille Enos-Gangster Squad, Someone Like You, the Killing) and two daughters (Abigail Hargrove and Sterling Jerins). Apparently he used to do some black ops style business for the UN or something. He packs up his family and drives into the city.
Naturally the city is overrun by zombies in like three minutes and they have to hide out in an apartment. Gerry calls his old buddy the Undersecretary of the United Nations (must be nice to have powerful friends) who sends a helicopter to rescue them. They taken to a ship where it turns out the combined forces of the world have organized in like 24 hours but are still losing to the zombies. Not enough bullets, I guess. There is a scientist who is acknowledged as the last great hope to find a cure so obviously the thing to do is send him out into the world with like four military guys and Gerry for protection. They are going to go to Korea where a report using the word “zombie” originated.
They land in the rain and dark, only to find it more or less abandoned. The most valuable scientist in the world accidentally shoots himself in the head. Gerry hooks up with some military guys who are holding on barely and learns from a crazy guy that Israel is where the action is. They refuel their plane in like 30 seconds (no joke. It takes me like 5 minutes just to refill my car) and off they go. In Israel they discover the entire country is fortified but the fortifications fall in like five minutes (it seems the producers of this film feel like watches are for amateurs). Gerry heads off to Cardiff as he thinks he has found a secret zombie weakness (aside from bullets in the brain. I won’t reveal what the secret is but it is as lame as possible). A zombie gets on the plane and they crash. Gerry and his one handed Israeli friend (Daniella Kertesz-AfterDeath, Ha-Emet Ha’Eroma, Adumot) manage to stumble to the W.H.O. facility without any idea where they crashed or where the building was supposed to be (I guess they had been eating homing pigeons to survive).
At that point the movie literally becomes Resident Evil without the giant monsters. They have to sneak through the lab in order to find the magic zombie MacGuffin. At this point we actually see zombies, not just fast moving humans with some makeup. The movie moves to a fairly tepid denouement.
Zombies. One stars. Zombies climbing all over each other to climb massive walls. Two stars. Some other really, really cool zombie action scenes. Two stars. I do like Brad Pitt. One star. There were a couple of scenes (early on and then again towards the end) that really felt like a true zombie film. One star. Overall a fun, exciting film. Three stars. Total: ten stars.
The black holes.
Fast zombies. Sorry, but slow zombies just make for a more menacing movie. One black hole. The odd pacing and the rapidity of the plot progression. It really felt like they tried to compress ten years worth of stories into one film (actually, that’s exactly what they did). One black hole. The whole “let’s send our best scientist out to be zombie chow” thing. One black hole. The MacGuffin they came up with was pretty damned dumb. One black hole. Total: four black holes.
So a total of six stars. Good movie, worth seeing. I just keep seeing ways it could have been better. Do yourself a favor and see on the biggest screen you can find. Some of the zombie attack visuals will really suck to watch on a small screen. Date movie? Only if she is a zombiephile (Necromantic!). Otherwise this is a bros film all the way. Bathroom break? Pretty much anywhere they weren’t getting attacked by zombies will work. Best bet would be when Gerry is trying to convince the Cardiff W.H.O. people who he is. It’s towards the end.
Thanks for reading. More to see this weekend so check back soon. I might well be working on a couple of projects the rest of the weekend, however. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to post comments on this film or my review here, and any off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a great day.
I am at a loss for a clever subtitle on this film.
Hey, I can’t be brilliant every day. Just most days. If this movie had sucked I would have had some decent ones like “Now you shouldn’t”, but the fact is I quite enjoyed this film. It’s no Citizen Kane, but it has a lot of the things I enjoy in a film: a complex story, some very engaging characters, and intriguing plot twists. The story is relatively light and it ramps up the hokey-meter as it crosses the finish line, but if all you are going for is entertainment this is the film for you.
This is one of those movies that manages to hide all it’s plot holes behind other plot holes passed off as complex plot twists. In other words, if there is a gaping plot hole dangling they explain it with magic (literally) and don’t really bother to detail how exactly things actually worked. On a different day I might bitch heavily about that, but given the last few movies I have seen have been dismal and the whole premise of this film is magicians who rob banks I am more than willing to let those issues fade under the warm glow of suspension of disbelief.
This will be a short review as movies that I enjoy but have no real draw into (in other words, not science fiction) leave me with not a lot of opinions. Movies that suck or that I feel betrayed me somehow tend to be the longest (cough cough Star Trek cough cough) with movies that I love in a genre that I love being the second longest.
The story. Four street magicians (Jesse Eisenberg-30 Minutes or Less, Zombieland, the Social Network; Dave Franco-Warm Bodies, 21 Jump Street, Fright Night, Zodiac; Woody Harrelson-Zombieland, Natural Born Killers, No Country for Old Men; Isha Fisher-Rango, Wedding Crashers, Rise of the Guardians) are recruited to perform the greatest magic show ever. (Zombieland image courtesy of the Zombie T Shirt category) They each have their individual skills: Merritt (Woody) is the mentalist (and easily the most entertaining character), Daniel (Jesse) is the fast talking card trick guy, Henley (Isla) is the showman (showwoman, I guess), escape artist, and general eye candy, and Jack (Dave) is the young hustler/pickpocket con man. They set up their huge show in Las Vegas with the aid of their benefactor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine-Children of Men, Dark Knight, the Prestige), a wealthy business tycoon.
During their performance they magically rob a bank in Paris. The FBI is called in headed by Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo-the Avengers, Shutter Island, Zodiac) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent-Inglorious Basterds, Don’t Worry I’m Fine, the Concert). However, no charges can be leveled unless the FBI wants to admit they believe in magic. They track down TV magician debunker Taddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman-the Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, Glory) and ask him to help but he’d rather pursue his own agenda. At that point it is a crime mystery except the criminals are infinitely more clever than the FBI and spend most of the movie making them look like fools. Twists are twisted, some tricks are revealed, and in general a good time is had by all.
Generally a fun, interesting story. Two stars. All the characters were great, especially Woody’s. One star. I like a movie where it is OK to root for the criminal. One star. Acting was good. One star. I thought I had the plot twist figured out early, but instead it was something else that caught me completely off guard. One star. The writers of this movie expect most of the audience to at least have a triple digit IQ, which I appreciate. One star. Two bonus stars for not being a waste of my time. Total: nine stars.
The black holes:
This film definitely put suspension of disbelief through a workout, and if you let yourself really think about it you realize there is no way they could have planed for all this. One black hole. In the last half of the film this film wandered very close to the border of “magic is real” hokeyness and in the last 10 minutes sneaked under the wire without actually doing anything. One black hole. While this film was fun and interesting, it wasn’t terribly exciting. Lots of time spent on making it look cool and polished without increasing my heart rate. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
A grand total of six stars, a very credible score. Worth seeing if you just want some good old fashioned entertainment. Date movie? Yes if you have no alternative. There is nothing here to really turn her on (unless she is turned on by stage magicians, which is actually a whole other set of problems) and the two guys are hipster dreamboats, so you could lose in the comparison. On the other hand nothing here will turn her off. Bathroom break? The convoluted nature of this story means if you miss two minutes you could be greatly diminished in your understanding of the film. Try to hold it. If you can’t I’d say the airplane scene where everyone is flying to New Orleans. I don’t recommend it though.
Thanks for reading. I still need to write up Fast and Furious and will see Hangover 3 tomorrow. Lo does my cup runneth over. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu (a friend of mine retweeted my Tweet for my After Earth review and readership shot through the roof. If you happen to be one of my 6 followers please retweet. That would be awesome.). Post comments on this movie or my review here, and if you have any off topic questions or suggestions feel free to email me at email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
I can honestly say I have not to date really been a Dwayne Johnson fan. Not that I dislike him by any means. In action movies he has always delivered a solid action perfomance. It’s just that in my mind he never stood out. Until now I guess I thought of him as the carbon dioxide of action films; necessary on some level I’m sure (photosynthesis) but not nearly as interesting or fun as some of the other gases (oxygen or helium, for example).
The other thing about Dwayne Johnson is when you see him in a film you can pretty much put the movie into one of two categories: either an over the top action flick that stresses explosions over story or a dopey kids movie where he flies around on a giant bee or something. I honestly expected to see the first type when I rolled into the theater to see Snitch.
I now have to revise my opinion of Mr. Johnson. This film exceeds his normal boundaries in all ways by being well written, interesting, and founded on telling a story not showing car chases. I must applaud Dwayne for choosing it, and then proceeding to deliver a very credible performance. I was engaged with his character more than any other role I have seen him in and enjoyed his story very much. There were little character things I really liked, like his character staying at the warehouse to replace a shot out signal light on his brand new big rig.
That’s not to say the movie was flawless. There were a few issues, and you could occasionally see him revert to his super tough action guy persona. However, like a butterfly emerging timidly from it’s chrysalis and needed to flap it’s wings in order to dry and strengthen them I am going to say this film is the start of a more serious acting career and am very interested in seeing what he does next.
The other thing I enjoyed about this film is they managed to keep the action exciting and yet very believable. There were no monstrous explosions or gun fights where the good guy is effectively immune to bullets. What action there was seemed very realistic and there was a very believable Road Warrior-esque truck chase scene at the end that I really enjoyed. The truth is I’m getting sick of bigger explosions and car wrecks (just wait for my review of the new Die Hard film). Given that it has been established that the CGI and special effects technology is going to be amazing for any big budget film these days going bigger and more “exciting” just makes a film look more childish. This might be a positive symptom of a movie coming from a real life story (I remember thinking the same things about real life based movie Unstoppable) or it just might be a very smart and savvy decision made by the director to not gimmick his film up.
The story. John Mathews (Dwayne Johnson-Fast Five, Race to Witch Mountain, Journey 2: the Mysterious Island) owns a successful construction business in Missouri. His dopey 18 year old son (Rafi Gavron-the Cold Light of Day, Breaking and Entering, Mine Games) gets busted for receiving drugs in a way that has him being mostly innocent and due to draconian mandatory Federal sentencing laws gets 10 years. John begs the DA (Susan Sarandon-the Rocky Horror Picture Show, Thelma and Louise, Dead Man Walking) to help but she says she won’t do anything unless the kid helps her bust other drug dealers. John instead offers to help her himself and contacts a ex con working for him (Jon Bernthal-the Walking Dead, the Ghost Writer, Rampart. Walking Dead image courtesy of the Zombie T Shirt category) to introduce him to a local drug dealer (Michael Kenneth Williams-the Road, Gone Baby Gone, Brooklyn’s Finest). With the help of another DEA agent (Barry Pepper-Saving Private Ryan, True Grit, the Green Mile) they set up an operation where John uses one of his trucks to transport drugs.
The deal is soured when a rival drug cartel attacks them and John impresses the head guy with his coolness under fire. At the drop off bust rather than get the local guy the DEA agent opts to go up the chain to the bigger fish. John takes some convincing but in the end decides to help them out with a few twists of his own.
The stars. Good story. While it sounds like another drug action movie there were a lot of things going on, like a strong social commentary regarding the mandatory drug laws and the struggle of an ex con trying to get his life in order. Lots of plates spinning that made the story really engaging. Two stars. Good acting from pretty much everyone, especially Jon Bernthal IMO. One star. The limited action felt realistic and also felt like a necessary part of the story. In other words, the action facilitated the plot instead of the plot being a rickety rack to hang the action on. There were no tacked on scenes that made the film seem stupider. Two stars. Overall an impressive and enjoyable film. Two stars. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. While I understand the director was trying to say something about the unfairness of mandatory drug laws after a while I got a little tired of him beating it into our heads with the subtlety of a baseball bat with nails driven through it. One black hole. Once in a while you could see the old Dwayne Johnson acting style bleed through, setting him at odds with his characters main tone. One black hole. Total: two black holes.
Five stars total. A decent film worth watching. Date movie? Maybe. It’s not too action so she might get into the story but no real romance besides the fact that the two main dudes are married with kids and love their families. While nothing in this film will offend or turn her off, there is nothing here to really aid in your campaign to get her clothes off. Bathroom break? That’s easy. Any of the scenes where John goes to visit his son in prison. There is a plot point established there but it is running over three scenes so you could easily miss one and lose nothing.
Thanks for reading. Kind of a short review but honestly the ones I like end up getting the kid treatment. I did see the new Die Hard yesterday as well and just might have a few more words to share on that train wreck later on. Look for that review later today or tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter @NerdKungFu. Feel free to post comments on this film or my review at the bottom of this article. Off topic questions or comments can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
Definitely has a pulse.
Thousands of years from now when alien archeologists are sifting through the decayed ruins of our once mighty civilization some clever PhD student will write a thesis claiming that that the decline and fall of Western Civilization (if you know where that came from we should hang out and listen to music some time) started when the entertainment priests decreed that all forms of film need to appeal to to teenage girls. When you think about it, the film Interview with a Vampire turned vampires from horrible blood sucking monsters into teeny bopper dreamboats that goth girls swoon over, setting the stage for the inevitable worst case scenario, the entire Twilight series. We have recently seen the noble film role of brutal melee combat switched over with the Hunger Games, and now we see them make a stab at turning zombies into adolescent romance fulfillment.
First of all let me do a huge public service to any dumb teenage girls who think having a zombie boyfriend sounds like a good idea. The idea of zombies being so charmed by you and falling in love is ludicrous. No matter how much like a hipster dreamboat he may look like, when he gets close he will smell like death and try to eat your brains (new Caution sign courtesy of the Zombie T Shirt category). Of course, the same thing could be very well said about vampires (that they are evil blood suckers who only want your life essence and burst into flame in daylight, not pretty boy sparkle fairies) so I doubt any of you will listen.
On the drive home from this film I was worried that this, like Interview, would be patient zero for the deluge of zombie romance films but upon reflection I decided this is a seed not likely to take root. When you think about it Hollywood is fighting an uphill battle trying to convince us that zombies are sexy. They got away with in this film (more on that later) but the fact is they are animate rotting corpses and if there is anything remotely romantic about that for you do the world a favor and move to a pod at the bottom of the ocean please.
So this film was cute and I did indeed enjoy it. However, it could have been amazing and instead opted for trite and cute. This is the only real issue I have with this film. You see, the idea of societal integration of zombies has been well explored in great movies like Fido and Shaun of the Dead. In those films zombies are still rotting corpses but uses are found for them. In this film the zombies are coming back to life, but we only see ones who do are fortunate enough to not be missing their lower jaw, or have half their face rotted away.
Think how shocking and cool the story could have been if the main zombie had not been a hipster pretty boy (by the way, in retrospect it is pretty amazing how well hipster guys play zombies. When you think about it there is something zombie-ish about all hipsters: bad hair, pale skin, poor posture, and clothing that looks like they crawled out of a shallow grave wearing it. Put a picture of a zombie next to a picture of a guy stumbling home from Zeitgeist in San Francisco and I defy you to accurately tell the difference) but instead been a gross, rotting zombie missing half of one cheek (classic image) and most of one arm who starts to recover his faculties and falls in love with a living human. She then falls for him not because he looks like Elliot Smith but because he saves her life over and over again and shows that he cares for her. That would be a great story. Then imagine of all the zombies regained their facilities, even the Boneys, forcing humans to reintegrate with walking skeletons. But no, all the recovered zombies have to be more or less perfectly human and all the bad guys have to be horribly disfigured. Lazy.
By they way, for those of you who know me and believe me to be a zombie purist and are wondering why I am not incensed about the idea of zombies recovering their brains let me tell you that as a concept that one has been long established in books like The Omega Man and most of the Romero films. The idea is that as time goes by they learn more using what brains they have left. I don’t have an issue with it.
The story. It is eight years past the Zombie Apocalypse and power is still running in some airport. A zombie later named R (Nocholas Hoult-X-Men First Class, About a Boy, A Single Man) stumbles around with his friend M (Rob Corddry-Hot Tub Time Machine, Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay, What Happens in Vegas) running an inner monolog narrative that details the undead life. He collect things like vinyl records and knows how to play them (using batteries that have lasted eight years as well). Meanwhile in the last remaining human stronghold eight cool kids with no training or experience are sent out in the wild to recover drugs or something. Among them is Julie (Teresa Palmer-I am Number Four, Bedtime Stories, the Sorcerers Apprentice), the daughter of the local dictator (the great John Malkovich-Being John Malkovich, Burn After Reading, Con Air). They are in a hospital when R and a bunch of his cronies attack. The kids show how incompetent they are (one guy yells “Shoot the head!”. Thanks Captain Obvious) and get pretty much all chomped. R eats the brains of Julie’s boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco-21 Jump Street, Superbad, Fright Night) and gains some of his memories. He has some kind of emotional reawakening and falls in love with Julie. He rescues her from the group and hides her in his plane. At that point the film devolves into a goofy romantic survival movie, with R trying to keep Julie both alive and interested in him.
Meanwhile the “Boneys” (zombies who have degenerated to the point where they have no capacity for emotion at all and are walking skeletons) have a problem with all this newfound emotion. R’s reawakening spreads to M and then to all the others. The humans, zombies, and Boneys all scrum up in an epic battle. I don’t want to spoil the ending, but if you have any kind of deductive reasoning (and by any kind I mean if you can deduce that jumping into a swimming pool will get you wet) then literally no part of this film will surprise you.
The stars. Cute and fun. Two stars. Interesting twist on zombies. One star. Zombie movie. One star. John Malkovich. One star. The new creepy-old-man love of my life Analeigh Tipton (Crazy, Stupid Love, the Green Hornet, Damsel in Distress) was looking super cute in this, and Teresa Palmer is pretty easy on the eyes too. One star. Overall an enjoyable movies. Two stars. Total: eight stars.
The black holes. Trite, with missed opportunities to be awesome. One black hole. A four year old could have predicted how this film was going to end (and, for that matter, pretty much every scene in it). I guess plot twists are passé. One black hole. Every kid in this film, human or zombie, reminded me of every super cool kid in high school that I wanted to murder. Also the main kid might have been a zombie, but if hipster were a disease I know what he died of. One black hole. Total: three black holes.
So five stars total. A good movie, and worth seeing. Definitely on the light side, so don’t expect too much. I think even a hard core zombie fan could enjoy this as long as he or she doesn’t take it too seriously. Date movie? If she is into zombies, vampires, or anything even remotely nerdy than absolutely. If this doesn’t get you laid I don’t know what will. If she is not into any of these things she will probably still like it as it is cute and romantic, but she might be grossed out by some of the undead stuff. Bathroom break? There is a scene where R and Julie shack up in a house for the night that is not really critical for the story. Most of this film is worth seeing and it’s only 97 minutes so I’d say try to hold it.
Thanks for reading. I have been really kind in my reviews lately. I think I need to buckle down and see something awful so I can remember what is like to deliver righteous vengeance on to a deserving bad flick. Looks like Hansel & Gretal wins that honor. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to post any comments on this film or my review at the bottom of the page (if you don’t see a review section click here). Off topic questions or suggestions can be emailed to email@example.com. Talk to you soon.
I am in fact a fan of the whole Resident Evil series. I played the games years ago, and enjoy the movies for the pure brain candy that they are. They serve purely as a vehicle to give Mila Jovovich a chance to slow motion kick the hell out of zombies, mutants, and Umbrella Corporation employees (Umbrella logo shirt from the Zombie T Shirt category) and in that narrow category this one is dead on.
That being said, they are definitely the film equivalent of a Caesars salad made of lead paint chips, steadily eroding the average cinema IQ of the movie going audience. The thing to remember is the movies view exactly like watching someone play the Resident Evil video games, and Capcom is not well know for crafting amazing (or even coherent) stories in their video games as well.
This is the point in any discussion of the relative cinema merits of a RE film that someone has to stand up and say “What the hell were you expecting? It’s Resident Evil!” This is an extremely valid point and one I wont belabor. If you go to an RE film expecting anything worthwhile you should dedicate your life to finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, as I guarantee you will have more chance of success.
Resident Evil: Retribution is a particularly harsh example of great action and special effect glued to a script that would bring shame to the writers of 80’s porn movies. The story seems embarrassed to show itself and for good reason. It peaks around the corner of an action scene timorously, squeaks out a few lines of expository dialog, and then hides in the closet weeping quietly while Alice and her crew rush to the next set piece for slow motion action mayhem. Keeping in line with the current ugly trend in movie making there is nothing really original here at all. The film could be called Resident Evil: Regurgitation as every villain, monster, and supporting hero has been vomited up from past movies including the Red Queen and Rain from the first film, as well as pretty much all of Alice’s past boyfriends, Jill Valentine, and assassin Ada Wong.
The story actually defies description. I was awake and alert and I honestly can’t tell you what the hell was going on. Back in November I wrote a post about the Umbrella Corporation and what the hell their deal was, and never were my points more driven home. How exactly does destroying the human race and turning them all into zombies or biological monsters generate profit? I’ve also never seen a company more in love with it’s own logo. Every door, gun, knife, vehicle, pencil, and pot holder in the movie has an Umbrella logo on it. I am going to have to remember that trick when my company is on its way to world domination (I think I need a cool logo first).
Anyway, Alice (Mila Jovovich-the whole RE series, the Fifth Element, the Three Musketeers) and starts off with a reverse action scene on a cargo ship from the last movie that is really, really freaking cool. Unfortunately that sequence has nothing to do with the rest of the film and vanishes into the nether. Alice wakes up almost naked on a giant Umbrella logo (by the way, I know this was supposed to hearken back to the first film but the garment they cooked up to almost but not quite show her naked made the thermal wraps she wore in the Fifth Element actually look functional. Basically two square towels front and back held on with Scotch tape) and is tortured and interrogated for no apparent reason by Jill Valentine, who is under control of a mechanical spider. She gets busted out by Luthor West (Boris Kodjoe) with help from Ada Wong (Bingbing Li). There was some weird sequence of Alice living as a suburban housewife who’s community gets overrun with zombies and she has to escape with her hearing impaired daughter.
The story goes in all kinds of weird directions. Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) shows up both as another suburban housewife and later as a mercenary out to kill Alice. West sends in an assault team comprised of a bunch of other old characters. There is something about Alice having the key to human survival and they have to break her out of the Umbrella base, which is an abandoned Russian sub base except there are still some nuclear subs around. Jill and Rain are after them, along with a legion of zombie soldiers and massive mutants. They move from set piece to set piece (literally. The base has reproductions of Tokyo, Moscow, etc and they have to fight through each one). There is a big fight at the end, and eventually Alice escapes with her daughter into the prelude to the next sequel.
The stars. If you like brainless action and hot women in skin tight S&M outfits this movie will work for you. Two stars. The CGI and filming were really, really good. One star. The fight choreography was brilliant and the complete opposite of the quick cut action that films have been using lately to avoid having to find actors who can actually fight. One star. All the monsters were gross and cool. One star. While I am of course a big Mila Jovovich fan I am actually giving a star for Bingbing Li. Something about her with a gun strapped to her bare upper thigh exposed by the midriff slit in her hot red dress did things for me. I can’t quite figure out what exactly but will think about it. The only problem I would have dating her would be saying her name and not bursting into laughter (insensitive as hell, I know). One star. A movie that delivers exactly what the specific audience wants. One star. Total: seven stars.
The black holes. If movie stories were babies, this one would not even qualify as afterbirth. Two black holes. This film borrowed so heavily from the previous movies that it’s debt must rival the national one. One black hole. In addition to being bad, the story left me really confused at points. No one had a motivation they could articulate to do anything, leaving me without any kind of reason to even try to understand. One black hole. For a zombie movie I found this film really lacking in zombies. One black hole. The action, while good, bordered on the ridiculous at times. It has always been pretty apparent that Alice is unbeatable, which tends to drain the tension from the scene. One black hole. Total: six black holes.
A grand total of one star. Should you see it? There really is only one reason to see this film, and that is if you are a fan of Resident Evil and have seen all the others previous to it. If so you will enjoy the hell out of it. The action is exactly what you want. If you have not seen any of them or like to understand what the hell is going on don’t bother. Date movie? Hell no. Bathroom break? A bizarre side effect of having no real story in this movie is that none of the scenes are critical, but all of them are exciting and fun. If you are enjoying the film I would say hold it for 95 minutes and if you are not go any time you like.
Thanks for reading. More movies out this weekend, so look for something else soon. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu. Feel free to post any comment about this movie or my review here. If you have an off topic question or suggestion feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Talk to you soon.
After Dave wrote his review for Hunger Games I went and checked it out. I liked it. Fun and entertaining. But I was reading on line this morning that it looks like they are hiring the director who did I am Legend, a pretty lame movie.
The thing is, if you read the book I Am Legend (or Omega Man) was a pretty grim story about the end of humanity. Francis Lawrence managed to miss the real point of both the book and Charlston Heston movie and instead made a dumb zombie survival movie. The entire reason they called it I am Legend is the main guy is the legendary last human, bane of zombie culture. In the movie Lawrence made there is no reason at all for the title. Just another mediocre movie.
Lawrence also made Water for Elephants. I didn’t see it, but Dave did and according to his review it sucked. Other than there is no real reason why this guy should be working on he sequel to one of the biggest single movie openings in history. Is it that hard to hire someone good? Seriously, with enough money you could hire Scorsese.
That zombie shirt comes from Dave’s zombie t shirts, by the way.
So my best friend and I were discussing zombies this morning and came to the great debate of fast zombies versus slow zombies. Like most things in life I have an opinion on this matter and have no problem sharing with all of you.
Proponents of slow zombies say that this is the classic mode for zombies, from the Romero days and beyond. While capable of the occasional burst of speed when presented with a close victim, zombies have always moved with a slow, lumbering shamble and there is no reason to change that. Slow zombies tend to be the ones who need to be shot in the head to kill and are otherwise impervious to most other damage. They feel no pain or desire other than to eat the flesh (or brains) of the living. They are literally animated rotting corpses and tend to show it (Zombie Target courtesy of the Zombie T-Shirt category). Good slow zombie movies include any George Romero or Lugio Fulci films, Zombie Squad, Zombie Lake, the first two Resident Evil video games, the Walking Dead, Cemetery Man, Dead Snow, and Shaun of the Dead.
On the other hand, fans of fast zombies are quick to point out that the original zombie was not even a walking corpse but rather a drugged human in Haiti, and that the undead zombies are an evolution of zombiehood. Why not then extend the evolution further and have faster and faster moving zombies? Or, for that matter, why not have giant fast moving behemoths that are sort of related to zombies? Most fast moving zombies actually tend to be infected humans and in a weird way are more closely related to the original Haitian zombies. They therefore can be shot anywhere and be affected; however their total lack of fear or pain registration tends to make them pretty hard to put down. They also tend to mutate and grow things like claws and super long tongues that can strangle you, which again calls the whole zombiedom into question. Films that include fast zombies are 28 Days Later, Zombieland, Dawn of the Dead (the Zack Snyder remake), Return of the Living Dead, Dead Alive, and most modern video games like Left 4 Dead.
Honestly it boils down to tone, and for me slow zombies are what a zombie movie is all about. If you give a zombie anything faster than a stumble you turn the movie from a zombie film to a horror film. The zombies are just bad Freddy Kruggar clones sans sweater and claws, and fast motion belies the brainless nature that makes zombies less an active force bent on your destruction and more an unstoppable force of nature. The menace of the zombies is not in one fast zombie sneaking in under your arc of fire and killing you. It is in being overwhelmed by a stumbling horde of mindless eating machines. True zombie movies are in truth survival movies, and the zombies themselves are just another obstacle to confront the protagonists, along with issues of shelter, food, and gas.
Like George Romero always implies in his films, the real danger in a zombie movie is other humans, not the zombies. When you give zombies human-like abilities it degrades the zombie experience.
Thanks for reading. As for movie reviews, this is one of the bleakest weekends ever for film releases. Not only is there nothing I am excited to see, I can honestly say I am dreading most of them. I will see something later tonight and write it up tomorrow, but I am not really gung ho for it. Follow me on Twitter @Nerdkungfu or email me here with suggestions or ideas. If you have an opinion on the fast zombie/slow zombie issue please post a comment here. Talk to you soon.
So I just read online that Will Smith has agreed to do a sequel to I am Legend, the horrible remake of the really good Omega Man starring Charlton Heston. Didn’t his character die at the end of I am Legend? Unless they expect us to believe that he is such a bad ass he was able to fight off about 100 infected humans with a scalpel. Also, didn’t he blow himself up with a grenade?
The really funny thing is the only thing they took from the book and movie was the title. The reason it was called I am Legend was the one remaining human survivor wasn’t really a scientist. He was a guy who would go out every day and kill the infected humans as they slept. What he didn’t realize was that over time they were regaining control of their higher brain functions and were reforming society, just a sort of vampire/zombie can’t stand the light sort of way, and he was becoming a legend as a supernatural mass murderer. Very cleverly done in my opinion. This movie was total crap and the fact that it made serious money means the movie going audience is comprise of morons.
Dave doesn’t have any I Am Legend merchandise so I lifted this image from his zombie t shirts. He says I should put in an image for each post. It’s not really an infected human like in I am Legend. More of a classic zombie. You get the idea.
One thing it appears Dave and I agree on it’s that zombies rule and the Walking Dead is one of the greatest TV shows on right now. Great story, great characters, and great zombies. The good news is I just found out is that AMC has just ordered another 16 episodes is addition to the ones they are showing right now in season 2. Excellent choice. Of course it always makes me laugh when AMC does great original TV like the Walking Dead or Breaking Bad when their initials stand for American Movie Classics. Shouldn’t they be showing Gone With the Wind all day or something?
Something that has always amused me about zombies is the guys who are huge fans and are hoping for the big zombie apocalypse (like Dave) are also the guys most likely to end up zombie chow in the first ten minutes. Most of them seem to think hey are going to run around with a shotgun like on this zombie t shirt and be the hero of the wasteland, but based on what I have seen with regards to physical abilities things are going to go badly for them pretty quick. I’m sure if zombie apocalypse took place in Warsong Gulch they would do fine, but anyone remember the scene in Zombieland when the main guy describes the reason cardio is so important?