June 27, 2017

Fire From Below

No, not Fire Down Below. That one is lunkheaded action movie has-been-who-never-shoulda-been pompous religious nutjob Steven Seagal's brain-dead pseudo-environmentalist film. This one is lunkheaded action movie has-been-who-never-shoulda-been pompous religious nutjob Kevin Sorbo's brain-dead pseudo-environmentalist film. Put these two knuckleheads together and the gravity well of anti-acting will warp the very fabric of spacetime.

I recommend Fire From Below for anyone who needs to recalibrate her brain's logic circuits by watching something so preposterous it forces a master reset. This is a Siffy movie about sentient fire that's attracted to water and stalks and murders people like a flying snake monster. Yes, fire. Attracted to water.

Four words that are the harbingers of your doom: directed by Jim Wynorski. The man is such a titanic asshole that he slags people on the Internet who praise his films and is truly one of the world's lamest directors, because he always sucks in the same way and has none of the charming dedication to making artistic films despite an utter lack of artistic talent: your Ed Woods, your Bruno Matteis, your Neil Breens. Still, Sorbo's acting as executive producer makes the film even shittier. Is there nothing this man can't ruin? And since he's executive producer, how the hell did he allow himself to go on camera with his hair like that?

The credits hold moar terrors. Apparently two different people play "the sheriff", as displayed on screen. Either that, or the people who made this movie don't know how credits work. Then we get "Burton Gilliam as 'Bubba'". Yes, "Bubba" is in quotation marks. Now first, there's never been a good movie with a character named Bubba, nor shall there ever be. Second, who the fuck is Burton Gilliam? Or is the character and not the actor being spotlighted? The character with a stupid name, a dirty hat, and a face like a road accident, who exists solely to sexual harass a woman and then take a piss on camera before being blowed up real gud.

So the bad guy in the movie is a sleazy corporate executive type, who develops fire that zeros in on moisture because that somehow makes it specifically target people. Which are the only things you typically encounter that have any moisture in them. We're introduced to him walking up and down the same hallway since dressing a set costs money, along with the worst actor in the movie, and that's saying something. Your old pal Carl Eusebius was genuinely shocked to find that this woman--one Alex Meneses--had been acting for 15 years before this movie and had 47 credits on the IMdb. It must be some kind of achievement to do something professionally for that damn long and still be so fucking bad at it. She can barely recite Wynorski's ridiculous pseudoscientific gobbledygook in her remarkably robotic fashion. She only appears as a human being in scenes where she's being sexually harassed by Bubba or very obviously emoting that she still has a thing for old flame Sorbo, because if there are two attractive women in a Kevin Sorbo movie they both have to be his love interest, even if he never gives Meneses the time of day. I'm sure she pulls off the former because she doesn't have to act, per se; a woman who looks like Meneses undoubtedly has to fend off unwanted come-ons from cretinous lechers all the time. But my God, I hope that's not the same reason she pulls off the latter......

The fire kills a bunch of expendable meat in scenes we don't give a fuck about, including a hilarious attack on a boat in the middle of the lake that has the boat mostly, but in the end not quite, outrunning the fire. One woman in the boat, seeing the fire advancing menacingly on them, asks, "What's that?" What's that? It's fire, you silly bitch! I know the CGI in this movie is fucking awful, but Jesus, it's orange and crackling and hot. I'm glad they establish the fire is attracted to moisture, that way we get why it's going after the people. Who are currently on a lake. Then everyone in the town dies because of, uh, poison gas or something, so I'm glad we were introduced to a few of the townspeople in one scene. That way, the next scene in which they appear (you know, the one where they're all dead), we like care and stuff. Pathos, etc. Then the military shows up, and boy your old pal Carl Eusebius starts to get mad.

See, I really hate it when films and television get the military wrong. I don't know why that's one of my beefs, but it is. When they have military characters say and do things no one in the military would ever say or do, at least not without consequences. It takes me out of the film's world immediately. And it's usually laaaaaaazzzzzzzyyyyyyyy. It's not that hard to get this shit right, if you care. But if there's one thing Jim Wynorski doesn't care about, it's logic, coherence, pacing, tone, artistic integrity, consistency, drama, emotional resonance, avoidance of cliche, and attention to detail.

I have to go back to Battlestar Galactica again, because it fucking owns. That's getting the military right. One of my favorite scenes has Lee Adama, a member of Galactica's crew, being told by a member of the Pegasus crew that Galactica must follow one of Pegasus's policies. Lee responds that Galactica its own commander and that that is who he takes his orders from. This is an excellent example of something called "chain of command", which the military takes very fucking seriously. It means that even though Pegasus's commander is an admiral, and thus outranks Galactica's commander, the Pegasus commander can't give orders directly to the crew of Galactica. What she could do is order Galactica's commander to tell his crew to do what she wants, but she can't issue those orders directly to them, despite her superior rank. Having a high rank doesn't automatically give you authority over everyone you encounter. The military has spent a very long time figuring out why chain of command is a good idea, which is why pretty much every large organization has adopted it.

Incidentally, it's one thing that bugged the shit out of me on Star Trek. Despite the fact that the original show was made by veterans and portrayed an essentially military organization, it ignored military policies that would prevent some of the absurd situations the crew of the Enterprise found themselves in. An even better example is The Next Generation episode "Disaster", in which there are only 3 people on the bridge at the time the titular catastrophe shuts down all communication and nearly all movement on the ship. Those 3 people? The navigation officer, the psychotherapist, and a high ranking enlisted man. Much is made of the fact that, because of this emergency, the psychotherapist is now in command of the ship, despite her having absolutely no experience or training of any kind that is any way relevant, simply because her rank is higher than the navigation officer's. This is stupid, of course, because in any 20th century military, the navigator would be in charge, because she's what's known as a line officer (as in, in line to command) and so has (get this) training in how to command. It's almost as if the military considered, or has even experienced, such situations and formulated specific policies to prevent such a ludicrous situation as the goddamned shrink being in charge of the ship.

This movie? This movie has a general (that's a high rank, folks, meaning he's been in the Army a long time) walking around outside without his cover on. ("Cover" is military-speak for "hat".) It has a colonel meeting the general and not saluting him (no) or even greeting him at all (no no no) and immediately walking next to him to his right (no no no no no no no, inferiors walk on their superiors' left). It has an army major wearing a mustache (no, only the Air Force allows mustaches, and by tradition officers don't wear them anyway), and he looks like he's 70 years old, which puts him a good 20 years older than any major could still be in the Army. And he's supposed to be some kind of bigwig power player who gets calls from US senators. (Major is way too low a rank to be chatting up people in Congress.) At one point the general orders his man to "Call the Navy". Call the Navy! Yeah, just phone "the Navy" right up. The Navy, you know, that tiny office of the American government consisting of some 320,000 people. And the guy replies, "Done." Done? Who the fuck are you gonna call? This isn't the Ghostbusters office, son. The US Navy is just a tad bigger. You might want to narrow that down a bit.

God, I wished they'd filmed that scene: "Hello and thank you for calling the Navy. If you need the services of an aircraft carrier, please press 1. If your nuclear ballistic missile submarine is defective, press 2...."

Then the colonel introduces to world-renowned geologist Seagal Sorbo two majors...who are both wearing lieutenant colonel's insignia you dickheads, you horrible dickheads! And these lieutenant colonels majors keep calling Sorbo "Sir!" like they're just out of boot. Sorbo's all, "Just call me whatever the hell my name is in this movie" and they're all, "Yessir! I mean....whatever your name is." Haha, I get it, it's cute, army guys are dumb and can't stop calling people sir. Fuck you, Wynorski. Look, enlisted guys wouldn't do that anyway, because the people we trust to go to the desert and shoot brown people in the name of freedom normally have a few brain cells to rub together and so actually know who is to be addressed as "sir" and who isn't. But these guys are officers. That means they graduated from college. In fact they're lieutenant colonels majors, meaning most of the people they meet in their professional lives call them sir. And Sorbo isn't even in the military. Our fine Imperial stormtroopers are perfectly capable of applying military ways of doing things to military people and not applying those ways to people who aren't. Please stop portraying them as so dumb and single-minded that they can't tell the difference, Jim Wynorski, you fucking wanker.

So the colonel, Sorbo, Love Interest, Cranky White Dude, and Black Guy Who Will Die First find the source of the sentient fire. There's an explosion, killing Black Guy Who Dies First before he even gets any lines, while the palefaces run away. Blah blah stuff happens, then it's time to go back to the source of the fire and blow it up real gud. Yes, you defeat the fire by blowing it up with bombs, very scienmatifical. This is where the two lieutenant colonels majors show up, and so they and Sorbo head down into the caves to do what men do. Love Interest demands to accompany Sorbo to make sure he doesn't cock up the whole business, but he talks her down: "Honey, which one of us is the man, here? I do the hero stuff, you stand around looking concerned." Cranky White Dude dies entirely due to his own idiocy, but everyone else makes it out just in time, roll credits, I hate this movie.

February 27, 2017

Game Over, Man

RIP Private Hudson. You finally got out of this chickenshit outfit.

February 7, 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Resident Evil: Definitely Not the Final Chapter is the stupidest movie ever made.

Looking much healthier now that her pregnancy has forced her into something resembling the weight of an actual human woman, Milla Jovovich is back as Protagonist of Action Movie, doing what she does best: jump-kick CGI dog-monsters in slow motion. Loud, stupid, and boring, Resident Evil: Who Cares is the quintessential Fuck You, It's January movie. When I reviewed the last indistinguishable train wreck of an entry in this series, I noted that the only fun to be had with these things is identifying which great film each one rips off. And since writer/director/Milla's husband Paul W.S. "Aliens vs. Predator" Anderson has already ripped off George Miller once, he figured why not do it again. So yes, Mad Milla: Slightly Miffed Road provides us, the viewing audience, with the best action film of the last 20 years as done by the man who gave us Death Race.

My God, I never thought I would write these words, but Milla Jovovich is no Charlize Theron.

Happily, this entry continues the series's proud tradition of starting off by flatly contradicting the end of its predecessor. The last film ended by setting up the ultimate showdown between zombie and human. The latter include the villainous Wesker, the antagonist of the prior film, who's turned against the Evil Umbrella Corporation and joined up with Our Heroine Alice because, as I noted in my review, he only just now figured out how pointless the company's goals are if humanity is wiped out by the zombies. But disregard that! I mean, what kind of action movie sequel would open with the intense, rousing battle between the last remnants of humanity and the zombie horde promised by the end of the last one? This is Resident Evil, a film series that positively marvels in mediocrity, abandons plot threads like a Kardashian's husband, and celebrates limp, underwhelming anticlimax. So we instead open on the great battle's aftermath. Did the humans win? Lose? Does it matter? I hope not, since we never find out. All that set-up for the biggest case of cinematic blueballs this side of The Matrix Revolutions. And Agent Smith Wesker's joining up with Alice? Also undone! And off-sceen to boot! Turns out his face-turn was just a ruse. I guess the old "hero forced to team up with the villain", hoary and well-worn as that cliche is, was still too damned original and possibly interesting to be in a Resident Evil movie. So his betrayal has absolutely no emotional resonance, since we never see that scene or how it affected Alice, assuming it's even possible for anything to have an emotional impact on this "character" who's spent six goddamn movies wearing the same facial expression.

He also took her superpowers away...also off-screen, though again as I said in my review of the previous film, this makes absolutely no difference. She's no less unstoppable with her powers "taken away", whatever that means and however that was accomplished, than she was with them, like the scene where she effortlessly dispatches five men armed with assault rifles while she's dangling upside down from a rope tied around one foot. And if you're tired of my referencing my earlier review, well, why shouldn't I? This movie is aggressively unoriginal. It's almost charming the way it doesn't attempt to be noteworthy, interesting, or distinctive in any way. It rubs its blandness in your face, daring you to find something, anything to distinguish it from earlier entries in the Underworld franchise.

What? Oh. Oh, right, I meant the Resident Evil franchise. Don't know how I could have made that mistake.

At one point a character (it doesn't matter which one, none is distinguishable and they all die, just like every supporting "character" in all the other films) says to Alice, "I know you." Well, I don't. She doesn't get enough to eat, she kicks zombies, she shoots a lot, she has superpowers sometimes and doesn't at other times. That's all I've got after 6 movies. I don't know anything about her as a person. At all. I don't recall her ever showing an emotion. She could be revealed to be a robot, or an alien, or a clone, and I wouldn't register a modicum of surprise.

Early on, Alice gets captured by the villain from the third film, played by the Poor Man's Sean Bean, so we can continue ripping off Fury Road. Yes, PMSB died at the end of that film, but what's that got to do with anything, you silly person! This is the Resident Evil series, where any death can be explained away with the words "Oh that was my clone." Why yes, PMSB does have an Asian henchman who gets no lines but does get into a kung fu fight with Alice, thank you for asking! It's 2017, but Asian people still exist solely to do martial arts and math! With PMSB in the picture, there's no need for Wesker, so the latter spends the entire movie standing around in his office looking at monitors and ordering the Red Queen (the artificial intelligence villain in the first film) to lock down the Hive, Umbrella's secret base. Which was destroyed by a nuclear weapon in the second film. But it's still there, and still operational, because...uh...hey, look over there! (Insert sound of running footsteps here.) And yes, Wesker orders Red to lock down the Hive in four separate scenes. What, did the Red Queen just ignore him the first three times? Were they afraid the movie was going to come in under feature length? Did the ersatz Hugo Weaving playing Wesker make such huge salary demands that they had to include multiple takes of the same scene to stretch out his screen time?

It turns out that while Wesker's face-turn was a ruse, the Red Queen's isn't, and she's helping Alice reach the Hive so she can stop the world's entire population, reduced at this point to a mere 4000ish, from being killed in 48 hours.

Okay, so many things wrong here. Would you like me to list a few? I knew you would!

1) Why 48 hours? That seems an awfully exact time frame, there.
2) How, exactly, will they all die? Being the last survivors, they're presumably scattered all over the world, and in the more remote, inaccessible areas at that. What's going to happen that will kill them all essentially simultaneously?
3) Does that include the people in the Hive who are presumably doing this (however it is they're doing it)? We find out later that it doesn't, so when the Red Queen says the entire world's population will die, she's lying. Or writer Anderson can't make sense of his own script.
4) How the hell does the Red Queen even know how many people are left on the entire globe?

Okay, I'm gonna move on or we'll be here all day. It's only here, six movies in, that we finally, finally get an explanation for the two central mysteries of the franchise: why the filmmakers love The Matrix so much, and why these movies almost never have any black people.

No! I'm kidding. We find out why Alice has amnesia (in-universe, I mean; we all know the real reason is so they didn't have to write her backstory), and why Umbrella is so intent on destroying the world. Are you ready? Here it is: The world was fucked anyway, so Umbrella's fat-cat owners and higher-ups decided to release the T-virus on purpose to turn everybody into zombies and destroy the world on their terms rather than waiting for civilization to collapse on its own. That way, they ride out the terrors in cryonic suspension, release the cure they've developed once the human population has dropped to something more sustainable, and resume their positions atop the new society built from the ashes of the old.

That's actually kind of interesting, so of course the hacks who made this piece of shit immediately blow it. For one thing, notice what I said about when they release the cure. They actually didn't say that, I did, because that's what they ought to have said. But no, apparently their real plan is to wait until everybody's dead except for them. Hence the "48 hours and everybody dies" the Red Queen was talking about

Um, if everybody's dead, assholes, you don't have anybody to do the grunt work. The whole point of being rich and powerful is getting people to do shit for you. That's what being powerful means. If you kill all the plebs, you have to do everything for yourself! You're telling me these Kevin O'Leary types signed up for a plan that will require them to shovel horse shit out of the barn? Stupid movie.

So it turns out the PMSB we spent most of the movie with was also a clone, and so is Alice! Yep, that's why she doesn't have any memories of her past: She didn't have a past. She's just a clone of the daughter of the creator of the T-virus.

Again, a neat revelation...or it would be, if either the script or the central performance had any dramatic weight. Instead, we in the audience don't feel anything for this "character" we know nothing about, and Jovovich's blank stare isn't helping. There's no "It's me. With my mother" moment coming here. Funny though, ain't it, how the Alice clone has no memories that might serve to give her a personality but does know kung fu, shooting, explosives, and everything else she needs to fight the zombies? You could replace her with a robot programmed with nothing more than the mission "kill zombies" and the skills necessary to do that, and that robot would be indistinguishable from Alice. Hell, the original Terminator's entire personality consisted of "Kill Sarah Connor", and it had more character than Alice. And it was in only one film.

Alice is told that the cure instantly kills anyone infected with the T-virus on contact, which includes Alice herself. No, the T-virus doesn't turn her into a zombie like it does everyone else, what are you, stupid? Her it gives superpowers, obviously. (Except when it doesn't, like now.) Still, she manages to blow up the Hive real gud...uh, again...pausing for just a moment to rip off the climax of Robocop ("Dick? You're fired!") and release the cure into the air, whereupon...

...she awakens, not dead. Because, uh, the script says she doesn't die. I'm fucking serious. They don't even bother with an unbelievable, pulled-it-out-of-their-asses explanation. She wakes up and Expressionless Mannequin says, "Uh, I guess it didn't kill you", and they just move on.

Goddamn it I hate this movie.

Oh, and the creator's daughter managed to download her memories to the Red Queen before she died, and Red puts them in Alice's head...somehow. So Alice is now a real girl, with the all memories of some other person she just met five minutes ago. The film ends with Alice's voiceover that it will take months for the antivirus to spread all over the globe, meaning she has to keep fighting the zombies anyway

Wow, Resident Evil: Craptacular, that's a new fucking record, right there. I tip my hat to you, you've out done yourself! Every other time you waited for the next movie to contradict the end of the previous one, but this movie is so bad it contradicts its own fucking ending. Alice has spent 6 films fighting the zombies, only to find out she herself was a clone, and then she sacrificed her life to destroy the zombies. But disregard that! She didn't die, and the zombies aren't destroyed, and getting her memories back (well, someone else's memories) was such a mind-shattering, life-altering experience that she...goes off to fight the zombies.

Man, and you thought Sisyphus had it bad.

All this crap might be forgivable if the action scenes were any good, or if anything were any good, really. God, this movie is boring, even the "action" scenes. The film is edited so frenetically I don't think a single shot lasts for even one second, making most of the action sequences incomprehensible. I just don't get it. I know Paul W.S. "DOA: Dead or Alive" Anderson saw Mad Max: Fury Road. Does that movie consist of more shots than seconds of running time? Does it have a point where you sit scratching your head wondering, "What the fuck is happening?" Was it edited by a chipmunk on speed? So why edit your shitty rip-off like that? Just sit the editor down in front of Fury Road, point at the screen, and say, "Do that." Even if he fails utterly, the mere attempt would look better than this. I mean this shit is just balls. The earlier movies kept me pretty entertained throughout laughing at their sheer ineptitude, but this one is a major step down. I know that's hard to believe considering how shit the other films were, but this one...it's well-nigh unwatchable.

You know what this movie needed? Michelle Rodriguez. Christ, they brought back Poor Man's Sean Bean and Expressionless Mannequin, so why not somebody with energy, dynamism, charisma, attitude, sex appeal, credibility, toughness, skin pigmentation, and a modicum of acting talent, none of which is evident in Jovovich's Alice? I'd like to think Rodriguez had better things to do, like star in a new Fast and  Furious movie.

And yes, I'm absolutely serious about that.