New Releases for the Week of January 27, 2017


Resident Evil: The Final ChapterRESIDENT EVIL: THE FINAL CHAPTER

(Screen Gems) Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Shawn Roberts, Eoin Macken, Fraser James, Ruby Rose, William Levy, Cobalt, Ever Anderson. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

Alice has survived years of the Umbrella Corporation’s apocalyptic mutagenic plague. Done being on the defense she is going to take the war to them – to where it all began more than a decade ago. Alice is coming to Raccoon City and the Umbrella Corp’s headquarters and God help you if you’re an executive because she’s not going to forgive and forget.

See the trailer here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D
Genre: Horror Action
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for sequences of violence throughout)

A Dog’s Purpose

(Universal) Dennis Quaid, Josh Gad (voice), Peggy Lipton, Britt Robertson. A dog finds meaning through his various reincarnations in this Lasse Hallström adaptation of a beloved bestseller. The movie has come under fire from PETA after TMZ released a video purporting to show a dog being forced into the water when he was clearly not willing to go. That video has since been shown to have been highly edited and contained footage using a CGI dog. PETA is calling for a boycott of the movie; I’m calling for a boycott of PETA by making a point of going to see this more than once.

See the trailer and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Family
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for sexual material, language, nudity and some drug use)

The Eagle Huntress

(Sony Classics) Daisy Ridley (narrator), Aisholpan Nurgaiv, Rys Nurgaiv. A young girl in rural Mongolia strives to do something no other woman has done in 2,000 years – become an Eagle Hunter, a traditionally male role of training and utilizing an eagle to hunt down game, which in the harsh winters of Mongolia can be the difference between survival and starvation. She goes to the annual Golden Eagle festival to take on 70 male hunters in an attempt to prove herself not just for herself but for all Mongolian women desiring to break out of the strictures their male-dominated society has enforced on them.

See the trailer, clips and a featurette here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: Documentary
Now Playing: Regal Winter Park Village

Rating: NR

Gold

(Weinstein) Matthew McConaughey, Edgar Ramirez, Bryce Dallas Howard, Corey Stoll. A modern day prospector with a touch of gold fever hasn’t had much luck in finding his own mother lode. He searches the forests of Indonesia, certain that the path to wealth and happiness lies in finding a massive gold deposit there. When he finds it, he discovers that keeping his wealth is a lot harder than finding it and that the boardrooms of Wall Street are far more dangerous than the jungles of Indonesia.

See the trailer and a clip here.
For more on the movie this is the website.

Release Formats: Standard
Genre: True Life Drama
Now Playing: Wide Release

Rating: R (for language throughout and some sexuality/nudity)

Advertisements

Resident Evil: Retribution


Go ask Alice.

Go ask Alice.

(2012) Horror Action (Screen Gems) Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Sienna Guillory, Kevin Durand, Shawn Roberts, Colin Salmon, Johann Urb, Boris Kodjoe, Li Bingbing, Aryana Engineer, Robin Kasyanov, Ofilio Portillo, Oded Fehr, Megan Charpentier, Mika Nakashima, Ray Olubowale, Toshio Oki, Takato Yamashito, Ali Larter. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

6 Days of Darkness 2013

Some fights you can’t run away from. Sooner or later you have to take the fight to your enemy because otherwise you’ll be running until you’re caught and/or killed. Sometimes those fights will cost you more than you know.

After the events of Resident Evil: Afterlife Alice (Jovovich) has been taken prisoner by the evil Umbrella Corporation and is being interrogated by former ally turned enemy (thanks to a parasite buried in her chest) Jill Valentine (Guillory). She escapes with the help of Ada Wong (Bingbing) who is one of the chief operatives of Albert Wesker (Roberts), the evil head of the Umbrella Corporation. However, he is no longer in charge; the computer program Red Queen, activated after the fall of The Hive has taken over and is at war with humanity – and she is winning.

Alice and Ada are in an Umbrella cloning facility where several environments were created to work out different scenarios to T-Virus infection protocols. Wesker sends in a strike team to retrieve Alice and Ada and also Becky (Engineer), a cloned little girl who operated as a daughter to a cloned Alice in a Raccoon City scenario. Make sense? Don’t sweat it.

Anyway the strike team along with Alice and Ada are up against hordes of mutants, Jill Valentine as well as clones of Rain Ocampo (Rodriguez) and Carlos Olivera (Fehr). They will have to fight their way through simulations of Moscow, Tokyo and Raccoon City. The now-fully human Alice will have to rely on her wits and her indomitable will to survive in order to get out of the base alive and once they do, a final battle on the surface awaits in which friend becomes foe, foe becomes friend and the world prepares for a last stand in the most unlikely of places.

The thing that has made this series so spectacular is not just the videogame franchise it’s based on but on Milla Jovovich’s interpretation of Alice. Jovovich, because of her appearances in a lot of sci-fi, horror and action movies, is sometimes underrated as an actress (much like Kate Beckinsale is) but she really has a great deal of screen presence and the focus is entirely on her, which gives the filmmakers smart points. Then again, Anderson is married to her so he probably knows her abilities better than any other.

The movie is like a non-stop chase scene, beginning with the spectacular opening sequence in which Alice’s capture is done in reverse sequence going back to the final moments of Afterlife. It’s imaginative, far more so than one would have expected from a franchise that’s supposed to play to a less-discerning crowd. While the sequence following that opening which consists of cloned Alice, cloned Carlos and Becky playing house is a bit confusing, the rest of the movie takes off at warp speed. Non-stop battles between humans with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of ammo and increasingly grotesque mutants will more than satisfy the entertainment quotient.

The Resident Evil film series has been the only successful franchise (or standalone film for that matter) to capture the nature of the videogame that inspired it. While it doesn’t compare to playing the game and having that interactive element that is missing in a film, it is as close as film is going to come to that element simply because of the frenetic pacing and touches that less attentive directors might miss. One gets a sense that Anderson plays a lot of videogames.

I’m not sure how much farther they can take this franchise. There are after all only so many ways you can go here until it starts to get repetitive and it is absolute death for a franchise such as this to repeat itself – even the Friday the 13th franchise fell into that trap. They do seem to be leading to a climactic battle and the next movie, scheduled for release on September 12, 2014 may be the climax of the series. If so, they’ll have a fairly high bar set for them in order to make the series go out with a bang, which I sure hope it does rather than the fizzle that it could easily go out with.

WHY RENT THIS: Mindless fun. Jovovich has made the role of Alice iconic in horror films.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Kind of been there, done that.

FAMILY VALUES:  Lots and lots and lots of violence. And I mean lots.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Jovovich is the only actor to appear in every Resident Evil film to date.

NOTABLE HOME VIDEO EXTRAS: Along with outtakes, there’s a nifty interactive database that allows viewers to explore the world of the franchise through bios, video clips and more. There’s also a look at Nakashima, the lead Japanese zombie and a reunion of cast members from previous installments in the series.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $240.2M on a $65M production budget.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: Silent Hill

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

NEXT: Six Days of Darkness 2013 concludes!

House on Haunted Hill (1999)


House on Haunted Hill

All sorts of photo ops in the House on Haunted Hill.

(1999) Supernatural Horror (Warner Brothers) Geoffrey Rush, Famke Janssen, Taye Diggs, Peter Gallagher, Chris Kattan, Ali Larter, Bridgette Wilson, Max Perlich, Jeffrey Combes, Dick Beebe, Lisa Loeb, James Marsters, Peter Graves. Directed by William Malone

 

When done correctly, the haunted-house movie can be nearly ideal entertainment; claustrophobic, scary and sometimes spectacular, depending on the visual bent of the director.

Unfortunately, it’s very rarely done well, despite many attempts; my favorite remains The Legend of Hell House, which scores regular appearances on late-night television and is readily available on home video.. The House on Haunted Hill is a remake of a William Castle B-movie classic, updated for the ’90s with a stellar cast and crackerjack effects.

It begins at an insane asylum as the demented inmates riot against a sadistic staff, leading to a tragedy that kills all but five. Flash forward to the present, when theme park maven Stephen Price (Rush) – a sly tribute to the original movie’s star Vincent Price – has just finished debuting his newest roller coaster (actually the Incredible Hulk coaster at Orlando’s very own Islands of Adventure theme park, an experience I highly recommend if you haven’t already been) and is preparing to throw a birthday party for his less-than-loving wife (Janssen). He plans an unforgettable shindig.

However, the guest list is mysteriously altered, leaving only five complete strangers to try Price’s challenge; he’s put up a million dollars per guest (that’s five million dollars total) to be awarded to anyone who spends an entire night without leaving the notorious property known as the most haunted place in Los Angeles. This is, if you haven’t already guessed, the former asylum. Of course, you have to survive in order to collect. Who will it be – the mild mannered physician (Gallagher), the heroic leading man (Diggs), the plucky comic relief (Kattan) or the beautiful, sexy and intrepid woman (Larter)?

As is the case with many haunted house flicks, the house itself proves to have its own lethal intelligence. What was a mean-spirited prank turns into a fight for survival among stereotypes…err, I mean, characters. The writers throw in a misleading and totally unnecessary subplot involving Price’s marital woes and attempts by both parties to frame the other for murder, but it doesn’t wash for a moment.

The cast is led by Rush as Price, a showman along the lines of P.T. Barnum — or even, gulp, William Castle, the B-movie impresario who once wired theaters playing one of his movies to deliver mild electric shocks to patrons during key moments of the film. Rush is always outstanding and he manages to rise above the material here.

Taye Diggs makes for an excellent hero; he has a future as a widescreen leading man. Kattan provides comic relief as a caretaker who knows all too well what the house is capable of and proves to be one of the bright spots of the movie, something I never thought I’d say about the guy.

The effects are dazzling at times; the appearances of various ghosts and ghouls are genuinely creepy. The specter of Dr. Vannecutt (Jeffrey Combs) is particularly disturbing; it still weirds me out whenever I’m reminded of his appearance on a surveillance camera. The climactic portion of the movie revealing the monster at the heart of the haunting is a computer-generated Lovecraftian nightmare, but takes up far too much screen time; it would have made for better scares to show us less of the thing and more of the actors reactions to it.

In fact, as good as the effects are, they occasionally overpower what could have been a better movie if the filmmakers had focused more on genuine suspense and atmosphere instead of overpowering the senses. This got some notoriety as being the first film to be released from Dark Castle, the production company headed by Joel Silver, Robert Zemeckis, Gil Adler and Terry Castle, the daughter of the legendary producer. While they have since branched out from remakes of classic Castle films, they remain one of the finest regular producers of horror films in Hollywood.

“Less is More” is a truism that Hollywood moviemakers espouse onscreen but rarely follow behind the camera. House on Haunted Hill could have benefited from a budget slashed even more effectively than the designated female victim (see if you can guess who she’ll be at the beginning of the movie) who goes brainlessly and inevitably to her fate, wandering around in a dangerous house with a video camera – by herself. Kinda sums up the whole movie if you ask me.

WHY RENT THIS: Nice eye candy. Rush and Kattan give nice performances. Larter and Janssen are easy on the eyes.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Overreliance on special effects. Would have done better creating more atmosphere and showing the monster less.

FAMILY MATTERS: Graphic horror violence, gore, some sexual images and lots of bad language; not for the squeamish.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The first person to get killed in the movie, a male nurse, is played by the writer of the screenplay Dick Beebe.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: There are trailers for both the 1999 and 1959 versions of the film, as well as a 20-minute feature comparing the two.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $40.9M (North American box office figures only) on a $37M production budget; factor in worldwide box office and chances are this made money.

FINAL RATING: 5.5/10

NEXT: The Tempest

Final Destination


Final Destination

They fall down when plane goes boom.

(2000) Horror (New Line) Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Kerr Smith, Kristen Cloke, Daniel Roebuck, Roger Guenveur Smith, Chad E. Donella, Seann William Scott, Tony Todd, Amanda Detmer, Brendan Fehr, Lisa Marie Caruk, Christine Chatelain, Barbara Tyson. Directed by James Wong

 

Longtime “X-Files” producers Glen Morgan and James Wong are responsible for what may seem — at first glance — a typical “bump-off-the-teens” horror/thriller. But if you know anything about their pedigree, you’ll realize you’re in for a wild ride.

Heartthrob Devon Sawa stars as Alex Browning, a nervous teen who is getting ready to go to Paris on a field trip with his high school class (now, why oh why didn’t my school go places like that?). After experiencing a series of unsettling premonitions which make him a bit more nervous, whatever power is trying to communicate with him finally hits him over the head with a particularly vivid vision of the plane’s destruction. Unnerved, he freaks out on the plane, sending several of his classmates and himself off the plane, which takes off without them and is promptly blown from the sky. No survivors.

Alex is treated as a bit of a nutcase by those who survive, including the jockish bully (Smith), his exasperated girlfriend (Detmer), his sympathetic buddy (Donella), a badly shaken teacher (Cloke), a somewhat tightly-wound cyclist (Scott) and an artistic orphan who is somewhat sweet on him (Larter). He is also pursued by a pair of milquetoast FBI agents, who are suspicious about his vision.

However, things get sinister in a hurry as, one by one, the survivors are bumped off in grisly, mysterious ways. Turns out they were meant to be on that plane and that somehow, they’ve cheated death. Death is mighty cheesed off about it, too.

The rest of the picture is spent with the survivors trying to avoid the Grim Reaper. One of the movie’s best features is that horror clichés are used to its advantage. The audience is set up to look one way when all of a sudden it is stunned by something coming from left field. It’s a good roller-coaster ride, with lots of good surprises. Morgan and Wong excel at putting a different spin on things.

The trouble is, this is a movie designed to appeal to teens, which is great if you are one. But for the rest of us, it’s a pain to have to endure the posturing and posing of young actors for whom looking cool is more important than looking believable. Some of the performances are a bit, shall we say, over the top.

Still, there is a lot of little things that make “Final Destination” worthwhile. All of the character names, for example, are based on the names of great horror directors and writers (see if you can figure out who is who). The effects, while grisly, are used effectively for some good scares and some “eww gross” moments. In fact, the scares are more than good – there are some terrific scares here, which makes this a good movie for men to take their dates to for some serious hold-me protection (wink). It sure worked on Da Queen.

When you have a genuinely creepy premise, sometimes you can get by with less-than-stellar performances. This could have been a better flick with better characters and better acting, but what movie couldn’t be? It was certainly good enough to initiate a franchise which is still going strong with a sixth installment in the works, albeit at a different studio than where the films originated. The first one is still pretty much among the best of the lot. Invite a friend….and see it in the dark. Your electric bill and your guest will both thank you.

WHY RENT THIS: A clever premise. Some satisfying left-field scares and some nifty special effects. Todd is chilling in his role.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: A little bit too much posing and posturing. A lot of teens acting like dumb teens.

FAMILY MATTERS: There is plenty of violence as you might expect and a bit of gore.

TRIVIAL PURSUITS: The news footage of the plane crash was taken from the crash of TWA Flight 800 which crashed on July 17, 1996.

NOTABLE DVD FEATURES: There is some footage from the test screenings and a featurette that talks about their importance. There is also a featurette on a real-life woman who has had several premonitions about disasters that have come to pass.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $112.9M on a $23M production budget; the movie was a surprise blockbuster that wound up kicking off a franchise.

FINAL RATING: 6.5/10

TOMORROW: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Obsessed


Obsessed

Sex in a men's room? How very '80s!

(2009) Thriller (Screen Gems) Idris Elba, Beyonce Knowles, Ali Larter, Jerry O’Connell, Bonnie Perlman, Christine Lahti, Matthew Humphreys, Scout Taylor-Compton, Richard Ruccolo, Bryan Ross, Bruce McGill, Meredith Roberts. Directed by Steve Shill

Forbidden fruit can be intoxicating. We all have had the urge to sample it at least once in our lives – we wouldn’t be human otherwise. Still, fruit can be forbidden for a very good reason.

Derek Charles (Elba) is a successful man by any barometer. One of the best at what he does, he is married to Sharon (Knowles), his former assistant. The couple has a baby and live in a gorgeous home. He is on the upwardly mobile track for a bright future.

Into this comes a new office temp, Lisa (Larter). Bright, beautiful, sexy and competent, she is covering as Derek’s office assistant while his regular assistant is unavailable. At first she’s a godsend, making his life so much easier but it soon becomes so very apparent that she’s got much more on her agenda than just getting his coffee. She wants Derek – period – and will do anything to get him. And trust me – this is a vicious, smart, clever woman with absolutely no conscience. “Anything” doesn’t even begin to cover it.

At first there’s just some attempts at flirtation that are only a little bit inappropriate for office behavior, but soon things escalate (as such things will tend to do). Before long, Lisa and Sharon are matched up head to head with Derek as the prize…and only one woman will walk out of it still standing.

If this all sounds familiar, that’s probably because it is. Like Fatal Attraction and others of its ilk, the predatory female stalker is depicted as sexy, demented and single-minded. There’s a prurient interest in the role reversal – after all, statistically it is men who are more likely to stalk female co-workers and violence resulting from such stalkings are far more likely to happen with men than women. Still, there is an almost cynical kind of Hollywood studio exec chic in appealing to the lowest common denominator which is certainly where this is aiming for – straight for the crotch.

Now, I like Ali Larter and thought she was terrific in “Heroes,” and she’s plenty sexy enough to carry this role off, but when Lisa finally goes off the deep end, the character gets less and less believable and that’s simply fatal to a movie like this. O’Connell makes a brief appearance as Derek’s buddy…nothing to write home about there, but to be fair the part wasn’t written so he could deliver something to write home about.

Beyonce gets the thankless role of Derek’s wife, given virtually nothing to do until the final reel when she goes mano-a-mano with Larter and that’s pretty hot stuff, but still it smacks of misogynistic Hollywood marketing. “Yeah…a catfight at the end – the boys will love it! Cha-ching!” It’s repulsive and fascinating at the same time, the mind of a studio exec.

Idris Elba is an actor who has always impressed me with his ability to command the screen. He so rarely gets the opportunity to do so on his own, but he does here and he doesn’t waste his opportunity. He very well could be the next Denzel – that’s the kind of potential he has. He has yet to achieve that breakout role that lofts him into the next level; this isn’t it obviously and unfortunately.

The movie suffers from cliché-itis and a disease I like to call “RPDATW Syndrome.” That stands for Real People Don’t Act This Way and that’s precisely what the characters here do. I don’t mind suspending disbelief and giving the screenwriters some leeway, but when you make a sharp left turn to Bananaland, you’re definitely in trouble as a filmmaker.

Love comes in all shapes and sizes, some inspiring, some unhealthy. I think the move here would have been to show the contrast between a healthy love affair and obsession; that might have made for a more interesting film. I think that was the way the filmmakers wanted to go but they didn’t have the execution for it. That’s enough to knock what could have been a decent film several pegs down.

WHY RENT THIS: The climactic fight between Larter and Knowles is spectacular. Elba is always interesting as an actor.

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: It’s been done before, and better. This falls under the “Real People Don’t Act This Way” bailiwick.

FAMILY VALUES: There is a good deal of sexuality which given the subject matter is unsurprising; there’s plenty of dialogue that is suggestive. There’s a bit of violence, some disturbing imagery and yes, bad language.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Sets were recycled from other films including Quarantine and Stepfather.

NOTABLE DVD EXTRAS: None listed.

BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $73.8M on a $20M production budget; the movie was a hit.

FINAL RATING: 4/10

TOMORROW: Dark Matter

New Releases for the Week of September 10, 2010


Resident Evil: Afterlife

Unfortunately, this isn’t an S&M fantasy: Milla Jovovich is going to kick some SERIOUS ass!

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE

(Screen Gems) Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Boris Kodjoe, Sienna Guillory, Spencer Locke, Wentworth Miller, Sergio Peris-Menchta. Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson

In the fourth installment of the franchise based on a hit videogame, superhuman Alice continues to search for survivors in a world ravaged by a bio-plague unleashed by the Umbrella Corporation that turns people into flesh-eating zombies. She finds an unexpected ally when she runs into an old friend. With clues pointing to a small survivor enclave in Los Angeles, Alice and her ragged band of humans walk into a deadly trap, but escape it to force a deadly confrontation with Umbrella’s executives. Talk about global downsizing!

See the trailer, promo, featurette, clips and interviews here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D

Genre: Action Horror

Rating: R (for sequences of strong violence and language)

Flipped

(Warner Brothers) Madeline Carroll, Callan McAuliffe, John Mahoney, Aidan Quinn. For 7-year-old Juli, it’s love at first sight. For 7-year-old Bryce, it’s a horror beyond imagining. For the next five years, Bryce does everything in his power to hold the love-besotted Juli at bay, until finally he does something that may rip Juli’s heart into pieces. By then, Bryce begins to realize that he kind of likes the girl. Is it too late? This is based on Wendelin Van Draanen’s book and is directed by Rob Reiner.

See the trailer, interviews and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Romantic Comedy

Rating: PG (for language and some thematic material)