Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where I Draw The Line: The Boardroom at Screen Gems Pictures

Sometimes it pays to have both TIVO and the Internet. With TIVO and stolen cable, I was able to watch part 1 of today's Where I Draw The Line for free. With Netflix's watch it now, I was able to watch part 2 essentially for free. Now while this would seem like a great leap and a great big chalky '1' on the Internet's scorecard the problem is that these films were Resident Evil 2 and 3. That evens up the playing field a touch doesn't it? I know what you're asking, who or what is the Internet battling? Well I don't know, but rest assured they need bigger guns than these two films to win. These are films that are such concentrated doses of rip-off and jackass that even for free I felt like I was getting ripped off. Now Resident Evil was not what I'd call 'good' or a 'movie' per se, but it was a fun hour twenty when I was 12. Resident Evil 2 is so stupid and so backwards and so 'stylish' that it's completely unwatchable. Resident Evil 3 is like The Road Warrior done with action figures in a bathtub, such is its ramshackle feeling and ludicrous scripting. Anyway I've seen them so you don't have to.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse
by Alexander Witt

You know a film's gonna really knock one out of the park when it's directed by an assistant camera man. He's done amazing things with cinematography in the past and such but when someone hands you a bag of money and a script written by a thousand monkeys on typewriters, your instincts just sort of fly out the window don't they? How else do you explain the fact that Witt cast himself as a sniper? He was just....havin' some fun on Screen Gems' dime. I imagine that conversation went something like that meeting at the end of Step Brothers when they're planning the Catalina Wine Mixer:

W.S.: I have a Resident Evil Sequel here that's gonna make my nut for this year.
Exec: We gonna take a bath on this?
W.S.: We are talking about the same thing right? It's Resident Fucking Evil! You know how stupid people are? They'll pay for anything!!! Let's do some Blow!
Exec: Arright, let's do it! Who's gonna direct?
W.S.: Who gives a shit, it's Resident Fucking Evil, we could hire the next guy we see and we'll still get money! You, what do you do?
Alexander Witt: I'm Ridley Scott's assistant director.
W.S.: You want 20 grand and some cocaine?
Alexander Witt: Do I?!?!? 

I guess Wit had to kill time between working for the brothers Scott and a bunch of money for no effort sounded like a good deal. Anyway, his movie is nicely shot, but dumber than Forrest Gump and Paul W.S. Anderson who directed the original wrote the script. I like reading about the production of these films because these are the only films where major decisions were made based on the suggestions of unimportant crew members. Milla Jovavich's trainer, the hair and make-up people, assistants, they all had a say in the way the film turned out. That says a lot; not even because the decisions are all bad, but because this is a production so flimsy that they were willing to hear everyone out, no matter how far removed from the filmmaking process they are.
Apocalypse picks up right where it's stupid older brother dropped dead. Milla Jovavich is out killin' stuff with a new outfit (where did she get it? Where'd she get the guns? Who knows? This is a W.S. Anderson picture; guns and tits are all that matters) and the only survivor is secreted away by those evil doctors. Let's start the confusion shall we? Ok, so we're about to get introduced to a big, sinewy Clive Barker-type creature with a machine gun for an arm and he seems to get bigger as the film progresses. The script lets us know almost immediately the identity of the creature and people who play the video games know that he's there because he's in the game. And even though he doesn't serve nearly the same function, he does show up infrequently and he looks like a cut-scene from a Playstation game. Anyway, the problem is that the military has quarantined the city (still obstinately called Raccoon Fucking City) and Umbrella (get it? Umbrella Corporation, cause it's an umbrella corp...Oh HAHAHA!) is obviously behind the big creature. they control the military? How do they still get to operate when they've caused zombies to eat people? Do they still get to do that? Why'd they build this thing? To combat zombies or takeover the world? Why don't they just do that then instead of making Milla Jovavich fight it? Ooh, fun story, apparently Paul W.S. Anderson said that because Milla Jovavich was willing to show her breasts that meant she was committed to the film. Really? That's your definition of commitment? Man, Halle Berry must have been real committed to Sword Fish. You know who else is committed? Denise Richards in Wild Things, Shannon Elizabeth in American Pie, Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, and Jenna Jameson in Zombie Strippers. Oh, that's right, they're getting PAID!!!!!! That guy at the Jack-In-The-Box was really committed to giving me the burger I paid for, so was the guy at blockbuster when he checked out those movies I rented and then handed them to me on the way out. Jeez I didn't realize how committed everybody was. I guess commitment really separates good films from bad ones, doesn't it?

Ok, sorry, back to the plot. Ok, so a small group of survivors including a mall cop, a real cop, the little british girl they modeled the hologram girl on from the first film, a detective wearing the same stupid outfit her character wears in the video game, and the members of a disgraced special ops team called STARS. I'm sorry, can we just....I can't do this......this movie is so fucking stupid........STARS?!?!?!? Really?!? It was a VIDEO GAME, Anderson! Stop taking it literally! You ever wonder why nobody saw Soldier? CAUSE EVERYTHING YOU DO IS FUCKING STUPID AND SO ARE YOU!!!!! How many times do we have to watch Milla Jovavich jump around kicking zombies and dogs in the face and crashing motorcycles through windows before you retire forever? How many more Death Races do we have to endure? This movie is fucking terrible and I don't care about what happens to anyone! I was rooting for the fucking zombies! And you know what else? There weren't nearly enough of them! It's a zombie movie, just make with the blessed zombies already and stop trying to be so hip and stylish. What do you think they're gonna give you an Oscar for trendy editing or special effects most reminiscent of The Matrix or costume design most faithful to the video game it was taken from? Jesus god, I can't believe they made this movie. What the hell kind of sequel outside of the Howling franchise is actually worse than the one that follows it? If I was Jaws 2 I'd be throwing a motherfucking party right about now because at least that movie isn't as shameful as this. Listen to me! I'm raving like a goddamned lunatic. Watching this film made me realize how much better the original was and so I raised that film's grade just so we're clear on how bad this movie is. It is far and away the worst zombie film of the new millennium. Worse even than Unspeakable.

Let's just move on like Paul W.S. Anderson should have before sinking truly offensive sums of money into this damn thing. Movie number 3 is a simultaneous crib of Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead, The Matrix and The Birds, Alien: Resurrection and even the fucking Postman! REALLY?!?! THE POSTMAN!!!!!

Resident Evil: Extinction
by Russell Mulcahy

At least this time we get something moderately exciting, even if its so doomed to failure that they re-used set-pieces and visuals from the first movie. So Milla Jovavich is on the road tearassing through Nevada on a motorcycle (as Raccoon City isn't a real place, we don't know how long she's been on the road, but the fact that she's changed outfits should tell us something). She is stopped by a gang lead by a chubby lesbian whose idea of fun is pitting strangers against zombie dogs (Sweet Christ does this franchise love its zombie dogs!). Milla escapes and teams up with the survivors from the last movie (Mike Epps and Oded Fehr) and a bunch of new people you won't need to get yourself familiar with because they'll pretty much all be dead by closing time. So Claire Redfield (a video game name taken out of context) is leading this ragtag collection of needless stereotypes with color coordinated post-apocalyptic clothing to Alaska for some reason (and everyone, EVERYONE has a gun in each hand like a John Woo film) and Milla catches up with them in Vegas where we're reminded just how similar this is to Water World in its badness. Some zombie crows and zombies show up and whittle the cast down to just Claire, Oded Fehr, a girl called K-Mart (cause they found her there, cause Anderson stole that from The Postman, I still can't get over that. But let's talk about this for a minute. She says that her name came from where they found her, but clearly the zombie happenings only started as long ago as it takes to drive wherever the fuck Raccoon City is to Las Vegas. She has a name, clearly. Did she forget it in all the commotion? She's in her early 20s, not an infant. More proof that the script was sewn together out of the skin of a lot of other movies) like seven other people we never met and of course the unstoppable Milla Jovavich. She goes down into the underground lair we've been seeing flashes of throughout the film while everyone else escapes. Then there's a lame monster fight and a scene where we see literally thousands of naked Milla Jovaviches waking up in spherical glass cases to prompt movie 4. That's right there's a fourth film on the way, baby!

Ok, so I had a little bit of fun with this mess, cause I have a soft-spot for Road Warrior knock-offs no matter how silly they are. I like to see convoys of dirty, modified school buses driving across the desert to loud psych music and the K-Mart girl is kinda cute and...that's it, really, nothing else to recommend this movie at all. Literally every side character of note is killed in the same scene (singer Ashanti is in the film for less time than the obese gang leader); I ask you, why waste the screentime introducing them if they're all going to die in EXACTLY the same way at EXACTLY the same time for NO reason. And why do they want to clone Milla Jovavich; it's clear that Umbrella made her that way. What, they can't do it twice? Well I shouldn't really expect cleverness from a film that rips off Day of the Dead (underground zombie science to no real ends), Dawn of the Dead (guns against fast zombies with exploding heads and self-sacrificing he-man who blows himself up at the very end to no real ends), The Matrix (slow motion kung-fu to no real ends), Alien: Resurrection (cloning the heroine to no real ends), Slither (tentacled man-beast to no real ends), The Birds (big crowds of malevolent birds sneaking up on our heroes, again, to no real ends except to kill Ashanti) and of course Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome. Oh, and I forgot to mention that Milla Jovavich has telekinesis in both of these films. I had blocked it out, you know...cause it makes no fuckin' sense.
I find this last bit pretty difficult to watch, the Road Warrior stuff I mean, because Russell Mulcahy was once a respected (sort of) filmmaker. Or anyway, he was respectable. You will probably never have heard of him, but he was a big deal in Australia, almost as big a deal as George Miller, the director of the Mad Max films. Mulcahy's first big film Razorback is one of my favorite monster movies; it's the one about a giant killer warthog. Russ could have been as big as George Miller was in America, but someone figured out Russell Mulcahy could handle a post-apocalyptic martial arts film. Then poor Russ spent the rest of his career making shit like Highlander, The Shadow and The Scorpion King 2. So while George is respected, Russ has been reduced to ripping off his one-time peer. Making a man relive the lost potential of his career by making him slog through a script so consciously riddled with illogical paraphrases, that's where I draw the line.


adver said...

I stopped reading midway because I figured you weren't really that smart with your comments. Anderson has absolutely no connection with Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. I find it amazing how people bash Anderson and the Resident Evil films when haven't even done their research.

Scøut said...

Granted, I didn't do as much research into Mortal Kombat: Annihilation as I could have, I have seen all of the Resident Evil films, as well as everything else Paul W.S. Anderson has ever done, as well as about twelve million other films that have given me my definition of successful narrative cinema. I am sorry for referring to one film that he had nothing to do with, but that in no way excuses his other films which suffer from the same flaws as that film does. I've even corrected my mistake in the post, so as not to be inaccurate, but my conviction remains unchanged and one error does not gloss over fifteen plus years of making films with no moral compass and no interest in anything but simply bringing in cash based on existing cash cows. Nearly every film he's been involved with has been a fairly shameless cash-in. I don't think that it can be considered 'amazing' that I bash the man when I've sat through his movies and subsequently found them terrible. My quibbles with his career aside, the movies are simply not what I call good, in fact they are a far cry from what I call good. I happen to find them conspicuously hard to enjoy when his name comes up attached to a sequel or spin-off from something that was already based on numbers. There would have been no Resident Evil movie were it not for the overwhelming financial success of the game and the film has almost nothing to do with the game. It has everything to do with stolen visual cues, naked Milla Jovavich and a lot of sexualized violence meant to skew our understanding of female empowerment. If women watch this and garner that the one way to be powerful is to wear next to nothing, then that's inexcusable. Anderson is part of a factory filmmaking system, and I'd bet good money that when his Castlevania movie comes out, there are women in 'erotic' clothing, the film is comprised of stupidly edited action sequences and makes a lot of fans of the game's storyline angry. He makes films that run down checklist of existing markets. Death Race came with a story line, so he filled it with almost sexual car-chases, improbably attractive women subservient to abusive men, and a lot of stylish editing. That doesn't make for a film, that makes for a mathematical proof. X+Y+variable=continued success. If you can prove to me that these movies were simply constructed out of receipts, I'll take back everything I've said about his career but that will not change my opinion of his films which to me are dreadful. Let's not forget that everything I've said here is simply my impression and can not and will not speak for anyone else. I'm not so arrogant as to confuse my thoughts with facts and everyone on the planet is welcome to disagree with me and watch and enjoy whatever they please. In fact, overwhelmingly, they have. Hence why Resident Evil 4 is on the way. As much as you may think people bash Paul W.S. Anderson, we're in the minority, because he's still making films because box office numbers have spoken. I apologize if I've upset you with my writing, but it is my writing and as you've pointed out, you have the freedom to not read it. I just thought I'd explain that factual slip-ups like the one you indicated do not change my convictions.

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