Archive for the Clones! Category

REMOTE OUTPOST looks at 3 NEW SHOWS WORTH YOUR TIME

Posted in 2013, Aliens, Based on Classic Films, Clones!, Dystopian Futures, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Psycho killer, Remote Outpost, Science Fiction, TV Shows with tags , , , , , , on July 25, 2013 by knifefighter

REMOTE OUTPOST
By Mark Onspaugh

RemoteOutpostHello from the Outpost, located on a small planetoid that is actually a dead generation starship which is hurtling out toward the edge of the galaxy… And we’re all out of Poptarts™ and peanut butter!

(Note: Some of you may have noticed—and been relieved—that the Remote Outpost went “dark” for a while… We have a lot of sophisticated equipment and prototype AI stuff here to make sure we cover all the best in genre TV.  Sometimes, the equipment achieves sentience and decides we “meat puppets” have to go… It was a long and bloody campaign, but good old Terran humanity triumphed again. Hopefully it will be a long time before something goes worng again.)

3 SHOWS WORTH YOUR TIME

These series have now gone into hiatus, which means you’ll have time to catch up on their first seasons before the second one debuts.  Don’t be like me… (I had to binge-watch three seasons of LOST before getting on that bandwagon!)

BATES MOTEL (A&E)

bates-motel-poster

A great writer, a great screenwriter, a great director, a great actor—Robert Bloch, Joseph Stefano (THE OUTER LIMITS, 1963-64), Alfred Hitchcock and Anthony Perkins—all worked together to create one of the most memorable and nuanced psychotic murderers of all time, Norman Bates in the classic film PSYCHO (1960). Now this new series seeks to show us what made Norman “go a little mad, sometimes.”  Creator Anthony Cipriano has reverse-engineered Norman, showing us his high school days, and the series is just terrific.

First up is the cast, with Freddie Highmore as the boy who loves his mother.  Highmore has been with us since he was seven, appearing in films like FINDING NEVERLAND (2004), CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) and AUGUST RUSH (2007).  In BATES he channels Anthony Perkins just enough so that we see the man the boy will become… But this Norman hasn’t killed and mummified his mother, yet.  (Norman’s first foray into taxidermy is both poignant and creepy.) And we’re not sure just how crazy Norman is.  True, he does have fugues, but some of his more outlandish experiences (finding a captive Asian girl in a neighbor’s basement) turn out to be true.  You wonder just how much is Norman, how much is his crazy mother, and how much she (or someone else) may be gaslighting him.

bates_motel

Speaking of mom, that would be Vera Farmiga (JOSHUA, 2007, ORPHAN, 2009, UP IN THE AIR, 2009 and THE CONJURING, 2013).  She’s Norma Bates, and that first name is not one I am crazy about… a little too “on the nose” for my taste.  But she is wonderful—one minute shrewish and shrill, the next loving and nurturing, the next wheedling and cajoling.  This is a woman desperate to protect her favorite son, even though there are those in town who believe Norman is in serious need of counseling.

And yes, I said favorite son.  Norman has a half brother, Dylan, played by Max Thieriot (MY SOUL TO TAKE, 2010 and THE HOUSE AT THE END OF THE STREET, 2012).  Dylan’s bad boy with a heart is a fine foil to Norman. At first, Dylan wants to little to do with Norman or their mother—then he wants to move Norman out of the house and away from their mother… But events conspire to draw the three of them even closer together.  (And that friendly little town has a lot of secrets—like the basis of its economy.)  The fact that Dylan is never mentioned in any of the PSYCHO films leads one to believe things will not end well for him.

People are dying to stay at the BATES MOTEL.

People are dying to stay at the BATES MOTEL.

One of the things I love best about the show is the (PSYCHO) house and the eponymous motel.  Like Amityville, the Overlook and the House of Usher), both of these places seem cursed.  One new conceit is that the Bates move there after Norman’s father dies.  So the house is aged and creepy, and the motel is… waiting.  Much of the first season is concerned with getting the place ready for guests.  My guess is that things will get even weirder and darker once it starts booking lots of guests – giving an opportunity for an almost anthology style of storytelling.

 DEFIANCE (SyFy)

defiance_posterNow that there are no (new) Star Trek series running, I am hungry for good SF on TV.  The last shows I truly loved were BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004-2009), CAPRICA (2009-2010) and SGU STARGATE UNIVERSE (2009-2011).  While DEFIANCE is not as good as GALACTICA or SGU, it has the potential to become some really good SF TV.

The premise is ingenious—seven alien races collectively known as the Votan flee their system, where the sun is going nova.  They come to Earth in huge arks, somehow thinking our planet is uninhabited.  The citizens of Earth regard them with suspicion and hostility, but allow them to establish some modest colonies while most of the Votan remain in suspended animation aboard the arks.  All is proceeding well until the Votan ambassador is assassinated, and the Pale Wars break out.  Many lives are lost and the war goes on for years… until the ark fleet is blown up! Huge pieces of technology rain down on the Earth, and terraforming devices begin haphazardly remaking the planet and mutating the animals, as well as introducing alien flora and fauna (I hate it when that happens).  Humans and Votan realize they cannot survive this new world, which is now alien to both groups.  Because of debris sometimes falling as “razor rain,” long-range air travel is impossible, and going into orbit is too costly – so both groups are earthbound. An uneasy peace is declared.  The new Earth is deadly and pieces of space debris still fall, bringing death…  but also opportunity for scavengers.

Cast of the series DEFIANCE.

Cast of the series DEFIANCE.

All of this is backstory and told wordlessly (and briefly) in the title sequence.  The series opens with Nolan, a former soldier turned scavenger who combs the frontier with his adopted daughter Irisa, an Irathient girl he rescued in the war.  The Irathient people are orange with white markings—whether these marks are pigmentation, paint or tattoos is not quite clear, but they seem permanent.  Nolan and Irisa are trying to get enough money to get to Anarctica, which is rumored to be an oasis on the hostile planet.  Their pursuit of an “arkfall” leads them to Defiance, a settlement of human and Votan built on the ruins of St. Louis (the arch, somewhat the worse for wear, still stands).  The town is a wild and wooly frontier town, a bit like Mos Eisley in STAR WARS (1977), but with only a handful of alien species.

Nolan is jacked (robbed) by some of Irisa’s people, and is forced to become the peacekeeper of Defiance.  Irisa becomes his deputy, along with Tommy, a human African-American who develops a sexy but tempestuous relation with Irisa.  Defiance is run by newly-elected mayor Amanda Rosewater, whose sister runs the local brothel/bar/gambling hall.  Two more races are most fully represented by power-hungry Datak Tarr and his wife Stahma, both Castithans. Castithans are albino, sophisticated, scheming, fierce and their families all bathe together—their dwellings are white on white, making them nearly the opposite of the Irathients, and these races despise one another—united only in their disdain for humans.  Stahma is a great character, sensuous but crafty, deadly while being vulnerable. The town doctor is an Indogene, a people with pale, reptilian skin and dark eyes and lips (very goth/Cenobite) —they are brilliant scientists and have done both brilliant and terrible things during the Pale Wars—this is true of Dr. Yewl, who follows in the tradition of other great TV sci-fi doctors as being brilliant, crusty and not afraid to speak her mind.

Stahma from DEFIANCE.

Stahma from DEFIANCE.

The town and its people (human and Votan) are rife with secrets and intrigue.  Datak and Stahma’s son, Alak, is a DJ who plays alien covers of old Earth standards from the Arch.  He is in love with the daughter of the richest human in Defiance, Rafe MacCawley, who owns a huge mine that yields both precious minerals and alien tech.

The other races get somewhat short shrift (so far) – one looks vaguely birdlike (the Liberata), another quite apelike (the Sensoth).  There are also Biomen, huge blue warriors who are virtually unbeatable, and the Volge, a warlike race humans and Votans alike fear.  Who smuggled the Volge onto the arks is still a mystery.

Much SF TV is usually confined to a single ship or locale to utilize standing sets.  Green screen has freed up filmmakers to some degree, and Defiance doesn’t feel too claustrophobic.  The principals are all quite good.  Nolan is played by Grant Bowler, a Kiwi whose had roles in LOST (2004-2010) and TRUE BLOOD (2008 -). His daughter Irisa is played by Stephanie Leonidas, who played Mina in a TV version of DRACULA (2006).  Mayor Rosewater is genre fave Julie Benz (BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, 1997-2003, ANGEL, 1999-2004, and she played Rita on DEXTER) and her sister Kenya is Mia Kirshner (THE VAMPIRE DIARIES on the CW, and was on the Showtime series THE L WORD).  Mine owner Rafe MacCawley is played by Graham Greene (DANCES WITH WOLVES, 1990, TWILIGHT: NEW MOON, 2009).  Datak Tarr is Tony Curran (THE 13TH WARRIOR, 1999, THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN, 2003, BEOWULF & GRENDEL, 2005, THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN, 2008) and his wife Stahma is played by Jaime Murray (HU$TLE, 2004-, WAREHOUSE 13, 2009). And crusty Doc Yewl is Trenna Keating, who doesn’t have a lot of credits, but is one of my favorite characters.

Meet Doc Yewl.

Meet Doc Yewl.

It’s a fairly complex mythology, which is why they are fleshing out the alien characters slowly—Star Trek had many years and several series to refine the Klingons, and I imagine this show could be just as rich, if it stays on the air.  As with many new ventures, this is a cross-platform show, so you can find out more about the characters and their races from the website, or from playing the MMORPG online.

ORPHAN BLACK (BBC America)

orphan-black-featureI do love BBC America.  Once in a while you find a real gem there, like BEING HUMAN (2008-) a show with a mismatched trio of supernaturals (vampire, werewolf, ghost) trying to survive both the human race and their more hostile counterparts.  The original British version is far, far superior to the American one and I urge you to check it out.  Lest you think I am a snob for Brit-TV, I will confess I gave up on COPPER (2012-) during its first season… It was meh (despite my loyalty to my Irish kinsmen), and not half as good as RIPPER STREET (2012-) when it comes to period police procedurals.  Also, LUTHER (2010-) with Idris Elba is amazing.

Which brings us to ORPHAN BLACK—more grounded in everyday reality than BATES or DEFIANCE, it still has a cool, science fiction premise: a young woman unhappy with her life of violence and estrangement from her young daughter is terrified to witness a woman commit suicide by jumping in front of a subway train… a woman who is her exact double.

Sarah and Felix in ORPHAN BLACK.

Sarah (Tatiana Maslany) and Felix (Jordan Gavaris) in ORPHAN BLACK.

Our protagonist, Sarah, takes the place of the suicide victim, using the death of a double to fake her own and get out of an abusive relationship (with a drug dealer from whom she has stolen a lot of money).  Unfortunately, the woman she has chosen to impersonate is a homicide detective with secrets… lots of secrets.

And, it gets worse.  One double? How about several?  Turns out Sarah is just one of several clones.  We don’t know how many, nor who the original is.  But someone is eliminating them, and so Sarah is trying to maintain her false identity, evade the clone killer, win custody of and protect her daughter, and solve the mystery of her own existence.

ORPHAN BLACK works largely due to its star, Tatiana Maslany.  Tatiana was in such fare as DIARY OF THE DEAD, THE MESSENGERS and the TV movie STIR OF ECHOES 2: THE HOMECOMING – all from 2007. But whatever you thought of her in those roles, this is her breakout.  Whether neurotic housewife, crazed Russian, lesbian science geek, French goth or our hero Sarah, she inhabits each role effortlessly and really seems to become someone beyond just a different hairstyle or fashion sense.

Send in the Clones! Tatiana Maslany plays several convincing characters in ORPHAN BLACK.

Send in the Clones! Tatiana Maslany plays several convincing characters in ORPHAN BLACK.

Kudos also go to Jordan Gavaris, who plays Sarah’s foster brother Felix.  Gavaris manages to take the character of outlandish but sensible gay man and make it seem fresh and funny.  Felix goes beyond caricature and is a very real ally to Sarah and her daughter…

ORPHAN BLACK is a mystery and a science fiction thriller.  Like good science fiction, it makes us look at larger issues of identity, individuality, the rights of “manufactured” beings and what it means to be human.  It also has one of the coolest title sequences and theme music (by Two Fingers) of any show currently on.

FINAL NOTE:  While I love science fiction, I can’t stand it if it’s boring.  Those who have read this column before know I gave up on TERRA NOVA.  The same may soon be said of CONTINUUM, the SyFy series about a revolutionary group from the future transported to our time, and the cop who is accidentally sent back with them.  Engaging at first, the show is becoming the same song played over and over.  Unless it turns a corner soon, I will toss it into the metaphorical dust bin.

OUTPOST… out.

© Copyright 2013 by Mark Onspaugh

OBLIVION (2013)

Posted in 2013, Action Movies, Aliens, Apocalyptic Films, Based on Comic Book, Blockbusters, CGI, Cinema Knife Fights, Clones!, Dystopian Futures, Science Fiction, Special Effects, Tom Cruise Movies with tags , , , , , , , on April 22, 2013 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT:  OBLIVION (2013)
by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

Oblivion poster

(THE SCENE: A spaceship high above Earth in the future.  MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES sit at the controls.)

MICHAEL ARRUDA:  Shouldn’t one of us be down on the planet’s surface fixing drones?

L.L. SOARES:  No.  We both should be up here reviewing today’s movie.

MA:  Good point.  Shall I begin?

LS:  Sure. I’m going to check out the swimming pool out back, to see if there are any nude female assistants swimming about.  That was one of the highlights of OBLIVION!

MA:  No, you’re going to sit right there and review today’s movie with me.  Although I do agree with you, about that scene being a highlight.

LS:  As usual, you’re no fun.

MA:  Anyway, today we’re reviewing OBLIVION (2013) the new science fiction movie starring Tom Cruise.

OBLIVION isn’t exactly the most emotional movie you’ll ever see.  Its interior sets are dominated by one color, white.  As such, the film presents an almost sterile environment.  Likewise, it evokes about as much emotion as a sterilized white room.

In the future, Earth has been attacked by aliens.  Humanity won the war, but lost the planet, because in order to defeat the aliens, we used nuclear weapons, in effect making Earth uninhabitable for life any longer. Now, in 2070, humans live on Titan, Saturn’s moon.

LS: I didn’t realize Titan had an Earth-like atmosphere. Why the hell did they choose that as the new home for mankind?

MA:  Beats me.  Plus it’s not exactly in our backyard.  The trip would take several years.  Can you imagine the kids in the back seat?  Are we there yet?

Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) remains on Earth, working with a young woman named Victoria (Andrea Riseborough). Their job is to repair the drones that are defending the planet against the remaining aliens, known as “Scavs.”  They report to their commander Sally (Melissa Leo) who’s stationed in the space station above them known as the Tet.

(C3PO and R2D2 from the STAR WARS films, enter the cockpit)

CP30: Excuse me, gentlemen, did you say “droids?”

LS: No, he said “drones.”

C3P0: See R2D2, I told you you were mistaken.

(R2D2 beeps and whistles)

MA: What did he say?

C3P0: He said that OBLIVION sounds rather dumb. And I must say, its lack of droids is quite suspicious.

LS: I agree.

(R2D2 beeps again.)

MA:  Now what did he say?

C3PO:  He said he’s bored and he can’t wait to piss off more Stormtroopers in the upcoming STAR WARS movie.

(R2D2 beeps some more.)

C3PO:  No, R2, I don’t think these gentlemen know if there are any Stormtroopers in the area.

MA:  No, but there’s some drones down there on the planet you two could annoy.

C3PO:  Oh, splendid!  Let’s go, R2.  (The two droids exit.)

MA:  Back to our review.

All is well, except that Jack is haunted by images, perhaps memories, of a mysterious young woman whose identity he can’t remember.  Later, he finds this woman asleep in a kind of metallic coffin which has arrived on Earth from a spaceship called the Odyssey. He awakens the woman, and she reveals to him that she’s his wife Julia (Olga Kurylenko).  She tells him that his memory has been erased, opening the door for some dramatic revelations and plot twists.

Jack is later captured by some remaining humans, who are living underground. Needless to say, they aren’t supposed to be there. Their leader, Beech (Morgan Freeman) asks for Jack’s help in defeating the true enemies of Earth.  Jack then has to decide who to believe, who to fight for, and where the truth lies, but since he’s being played by Tom Cruise, there’s little doubt whether or not Jack will make the right decisions.

I can’t say that I really liked OBLIVION.  I never really got into its story, which wasn’t all that interesting.  I also wasn’t crazy about the characters..

The “aliens” are boring.  We never really see them.  The real menace in this one is Sally, and as played by Melissa Leo, she’s nothing more than a face and a stern voice on a video monitor.

LS: Yeah, that was major problem with OBLIVION. I thought it looked great, with the flying machines and drones. But to what end? I didn’t really care about these characters all that much. There are a couple of scenes that show us Jack’s humanity, the most obvious one being scenes at a cabin he made in the mountains, by a lake. It’s his one sanctuary from the world around him, and it’s a potent image. But otherwise, there’s not a lot about OBLIVION that has any emotional value.

 (The robot from the 1960s series LOST IN SPACE enters the cockpit)

ROBOT: Warning! Warning! We are entering the planet’s atmosphere!

MA: I thought you turned off the engines.

LS: You didn’t tell me to do that. It’s been on autopilot.

ROBOT: Warning! We have entered Earth’s atmosphere.

LS: So what? We have to land sometime.

ROBOT: This does not compute.

LS: Be quiet you bumbling bucket of bolts!

MA: You’re starting to sound an awful lot like Dr. Smith.

LS: Why thank you!

ROBOT: Humans. I will never understand them.

(ROBOT leaves the cockpit)

MA: Are you sure entering landing on Earth is a good idea?

LS: Why not? (looks out the window) Ah, home sweet home.

MA: Ahem. Time to get back to our review.

Tom Cruise is fine as Jack, but he was better as Jack Reacher in JACK REACHER (2012), as that character was more fully developed.  Jack in this movie is just your average standard hero.  I didn’t buy into his mission on Earth, nor was I all that intrigued by his love story with Julia.

LS: Oh yeah, JACK REACHER was a much better movie, and probably made at a fraction of the budget. No fancy special effects in that one.

MA: I did like Andrea Riseborough as Victoria. There was something very sexy about her in a quirky, offbeat way, but she’s not the main character in this one.  That would be Olga Kurylenko as Julia, who I didn’t enjoy as much.

LS: I liked both women, but I agree that Victoria gets short shrift. My main problem is that Jack and Victoria seem to have real feelings for each other, but when Julia shows up, Jack pretty forgets all about his feelings for Vicky.

MA:  I definitely agree with that point.  I really had the impression that Jack had genuine feelings towards Victoria, and so I agree with you it played out as strange that he simply forgets about her.  I expected some angst on his part, some tension, perhaps a love triangle, but as I said before, this movie’s too sterile for that.

LS:  Yeah, a love triangle would have been more realistic, and would have provided a bit of drama to the stale proceedings here. Sure, Victoria is uptight, is afraid to break the rules, and is an all-around stick in the mud a lot of the time-hey, she sounds a lot like Michael Arruda!

MA:  Hey!  I resemble that remark!

LS:  —but we’re led to believe they have a strong bond, and it’s not believable that Jack would be able to just sever that without a second thought. It would have made more sense if he had a real conflict about which woman he wanted. Instead, he doesn’t seem to have any trouble making a choice when this new woman shows up. Sure, he has had dreams about her before he meets her. But I just didn’t like how Victoria was tossed aside so easily.

MA:  I agree.

Oblivion poster #2

LS: By the way, Olga Kurylenko who plays Julia was previously in movies like SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS (2012), Neil Marshall’s underrated CENTURION (2010) and was even a Bond Girl—she was Camille in 2008’s QUANTAM OF SOLACE.

MA: Meanwhile, Morgan Freeman is Morgan Freeman.  He’s fine, but he doesn’t do anything here we haven’t seen him do before.

LS: I’m not sure what I feel about Morgan Freeman at this point. When there’s the big scene where he reveals himself for the first time, I felt it was almost—laughable. Like he was doing a parody of himself. But the thing is, his role in OBLIVION isn’t funny. Maybe he’s just played so many roles like this that I just can’t take him seriously anymore. He can’t be a convincing character—you just think of him as “Hey, it’s Morgan Freeman.”

MA:  Maybe he should just stick to narrating.

LS:  I liked the women in this one, and I liked Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Sykes, another leader of the human rebels on earth (kind of Morgan Freeman’s right hand man). Most people may recognize Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister in the great HBO series GAME OF THRONES. But while I liked seeing him in the OBLIVION, he really isn’t given very much to do.

MA: I thought the visuals and special effects were just okay.  They didn’t wow me.  Neither did any of the battle scenes. I thought it was pretty  ho hum throughout, and in this day and age, where movies can look so good visually, I thought OBLIVION was just average.  There weren’t any memorable images to go along with this one either.  The movie had its chances, with various images of Earth after the nuclear holocaust, but few if any of these images resonated with me.  There’s only so many times you can see the Washington Monument or the Empire State Building looking beaten and dilapidated and feel something, especially when these scenes don’t look all that real.

LS: I thought the machines and high-tech contraptions looks convincing enough. I thought they were all well done. But I didn’t felt “wowed” either. There’s just something about OBLIVION that wasn’t very exciting. And you’re right about the battle scenes. They were kind of boring. The first time we see Jack confront a drone, it’s kind of interesting. But after a while, they just become tedious.

MA: The screenplay by director Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek, and Michael Arndt did little for me as well.  It’s based on a comic book by Kosinski and Arvid Nelson.

LS: It’s called a graphic novel.

MA: Comic book, graphic novel. What’s the difference?

LS (shrugs): Beats me.

MA:  I thought the story was confusing at times, but worse than that, it didn’t win me over emotionally.  I cared little about these folks, mostly because they themselves didn’t seem to care much about what was going on.  I also didn’t find that Cruise and Kurylenko shared much chemistry, which didn’t help the love story.  I thought Cruise shared more onscreen chemistry with Riseborough, but they’re not the main love focus here.

LS: I didn’t find the story very satisfying, either. And while I am not as down on Kurylenko as you, I do think Cruise had better chemistry with Riseborough, too. I just found OBLIVION to be kind of bland and sanitized and despite its various plot twists, it seemed like something we had seen before.

MA: Director Kosinski also directed TRON:  LEGACY (2010), and I would say both films score about the same in the quality department. Neither one wowed me.

LS: I didn’t see TRON-LEGACY, so I don’t know if I’d agree with you. But I’ll take your word for it.

One thing that did interest me a little was the movie’s soundtrack. Kosinski has been making some interesting music choices in his films. In TRON: LEGACY, the soundtrack was done by French electronic group Daft Punk. This time around, OBLIVION was scored by another band I like, M83. Truth be told, however, I wasn’t really all that aware of the soundtrack while I was watching OBLIVION, maybe because I was kind of bored a lot of the time. I am curious to see if I listened to the soundtrack without the visuals if I would have enjoyed it more.

MA: OBLIVION is also nowhere near as ambitious in theme or scope as last year’s science fiction hit PROMETHEUS (2012) but the results are about the same, mixed.

LS: I don’t know. I thought PROMETHEUS was a little disappointing, but I thought it was much better than OBLIVION.

MA: I feel a chill in here, and that’s because I never warmed up to OBLIVION.  It was cold and emotionally detached throughout.

I give it two knives.

LS: I’m pretty much in agreement with you on all counts here. I give OBLIVION two knives as well. I thought it looked great, but it had no soul. Nothing meaty to grab onto.

(The DROIDS and ROBOT have returned)

C3P0:   Excuse me, gentlemen, but how do you get off this ship?

(R2D2 beeps and whistles.)

C3PO (pointing out window):  Look, there are those pesky drones come to attack us.

MA: I told you it was a bad idea to land here. Didn’t you learn anything from OBLIVION?

LIS ROBOT: Warning! Warning!

LS: So long, fellas.

(LS pushes a button that ejects the section of the craft where MA and LS are)

MA: I hope they know how to fly the ship without us.

(There is the sound of drone fire and an enormous explosion)

LS: Oops,

-END-

© Copyright 2013 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives OBLIVION ~ two knives!

LL Soares gives OBLIVION ~two knives, as well.

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012)

Posted in 2012, 3-D, Action Movies, Apocalyptic Films, Based on a Video Game, Cinema Knife Fights, Clones!, Complete Waste of Time, Dystopian Futures, Sequels, Zombies with tags , , , , , , , , on September 17, 2012 by knifefighter

CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012)
By Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares

(The Scene: a large studio. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES stand in front of a blank green screen.)

L.L. SOARES: What’s with the blank screen?

MICHAEL ARRUDA: It’s blank to make a point.

LS: Is it a figurative representation of your cognitive abilities? (laughs)

(MA remains stone-faced.)

LS: Uh-oh. You have that look again. The same one you get after seeing one of the TWILIGHT movies. Something tells me you didn’t like today’s movie.

MA: You think? I don’t think there are enough expletives to describe how I feel right now. I hated RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION. You can have all the neat visuals and special effects in the world, but without a story, it’s about as entertaining as sitting for 90 minutes and staring at that blank screen (points to blank green screen.)

Here’s my plot summary for RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012): Alice (Milla Jovovich) continues to fight against the evil forces in her world, and she’ll still be fighting these forces in the next movie, because absolutely nothing was resolved. Okay, we can all go home now.

LS: Well, I have to admit. You make it sound better than it is.

MA: Yeah, but not much.

Today’s movie RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012), is the fifth movie in the RESIDENT EVIL franchise, a series based on a video game, and by golly, does it show! In this series (which started back in 2002 with the first RESIDENT EVIL movie), a virus has taken over the world—the deadly “T-virus” —turning people into murderous mutated zombies, and the bad guys pulling the strings here are the folks at the dastardly Umbrella Corporation. To save the world it’s up to Alice (Milla Jovovich), who wears tight-fitting black clothes and kicks bad guys’ butts with ease.

Just who exactly is Alice and why is she qualified to be the heroine in this series? I’m sure players of the game and fans of the movie know the answer, but based upon this one movie— and I’ve seen a couple of others, so I’m just being difficult here, to prove a point at how awful this movie is at telling a story—the audience has no idea. But the filmmakers couldn’t care less, because the audience is going to be made up of fans who do know. For the average moviegoer, this movie is a major waste of time.

LS: Actually, I think Alice isn’t a character from the games. She is more or less there to represent the player, since it’s a first person shooter game. Don’t quote me. I am no expert, I’m not a gamer, and I haven’t checked out the Resident Evil game or its sequels. End of disclaimer.

MA: Is Alice a secret agent? A hired assassin? A vengeful spirit? Just what exactly is her motivation here? For five movies she runs around fighting zombies. Why? I don’t really know, and to be honest, at this point, I don’t really care.

(ALICE walks by wearing a maid outfit.)

ALICE: Who am I? What’s my true identity?

LS: I don’t know, but why don’t you try on a few more costumes and maybe we can help you figure it out. Here, try this one on next. (Hands her a bikini.)

ALICE: Watch it guys, or I may end up kicking in you in the head, or worse!

MA: He’s the one who handed you the bikini.

ALICE: And you’re the one trash-talking my movie!

MA: I’m not trash-talking it. I’m telling it like it is. Why don’t you go figure out your identity. (ALICE looks confused for a moment, then exits)

LS (to MA): Gee, thanks a lot for canceling the fashion show!

MA:  I’ll kick myself later.  Right now I’m too incensed.

LS:  Wait a minute, are you sure that RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION even counts as a movie? Maybe we don’t have to review it.

MA (ignores him): This time around, Alice finds herself working with former enemies against former friends (oooh! how interesting!) as she continues her fight against flesh-eating zombies and the evil Umbrella Corporation.

And that’s all I got folks! I can’t even bring myself to rehash the lousy excuse of what supposedly passes as a story. (to LS) If you want to add more, be my guest, but I can’t.

And you know why? Because there’s NO STORY! Let me say it a few more times: no story, no story, no story. Did I say this movie doesn’t have a story? It also doesn’t have compelling characters. No one in this movie is at all interesting, as none of them rise above the level of video game characters.

For a while, I was enjoying the visuals in this movie, but with nothing else to offer, even these impressive 3D visuals grew tiring. After all, I didn’t pay extra money for a movie ticket just to look at cool CGI shots of Tokyo, New York, and Moscow.

LS: What about the cool brain monster? It’s this great big thing with sharp claws and a head that looks like a great big brain with teeth. I thought it was kind of a cool visual. Sure, the fact it’s CGI makes it look a little fake, and after a while, it loses its novelty completely. But for a few minutes there, I thought it was kind of neat…

What about the big car chase? Sure, it went on forever and become kind of pointless after a while. But for a minute there, it almost seemed competent. And Alice gets to drive a cool car…

What about the fight scenes? Sure they go on forever and become really pointless after a while, especially with all those lame slo-motion effects over and over, but for a few minutes there, I was having a good time. Especially Michelle Rodrigues sneering and injecting some kind of parasite into her bloodstream that gives her superpowers. And what about the blonde chick with the cleavage and the robot spider brooch? You gotta love that!

And the emotionless bad guy in the shades who talks like a character out of the MATRIX series, and who is so stiff and cartoony that you want to kick his ass every time he’s onscreen?

MA:  Amen to that!  The cartoony bastard!

LS:  What about Milla Jovovich? She’s still hot and there’s even a scene where she’s in a paper medical gown (although we never really get to see anything), but even she’s not enough to make this franchise interesting anymore…

What about the cool 3D effects that are so…..boring that you barely notice they’re there unless an axe is being flung in your direction, and which point you say, “ho hum.”

I don’t know, Michael. Help me here. I’m running out of ideas…

MA: You don’t need my help.  You’ve done a good job all by your lonesome listing all the things I didn’t like about this movie, but sadly, there’s more.

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION makes no effort to tell its story, no effort to draw in its audience, and this is what makes me so damned angry. I feel taken advantage of. How difficult would it be to take these characters and this post-apocalyptic premise and make it interesting? And if you can’t make it interesting? Here’s a thought: Don’t make the flippin movie!

 

The film opens with a quick summary of the previous movies, and then jumps right into more action. For some folks, maybe this is fun, but for me, within minutes, I was already bored. This movie lost me in the first 10-15 minutes. I was already gone, which meant a short 90 minute running time seemed three times that long.

LS: Gee, that makes me feel a little better. About half-way through I almost dozed off, and I thought it was because I was being lazy. But it really was a boring waste of time!

MA: And for a film with non-stop action, I can’t say that I found any of the sequences all that impressive or exciting. I really felt I was watching a video game, from the CGI fight moves to the cartoon blood, I yawned throughout.

LS: And what was up with the R-rating? No nudity, no bad language, and lots of really fake-looking CGI blood. An episode of SNOOKIE AND JWOWW is scarier.

Yeah, a series about a video game has finally become a video game itself. Not really something to brag about, unfortunately!

MA: I actually enjoyed the previous film in the series, and one of the reasons I enjoyed it was Milla Jovovich as Alice. I remember saying I could watch her all day. Well, that day is over. Sadly, not even Jovovich in her tight black suit could save this one. Seriously, there are only so many times you can watch her fight bad guys and monsters without being emotionally invested in the story.

Her main adversary in this one is her former friend Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), that “blonde with the cleavage” you mentioned earlier, and I thought the movie’s main conflict was pretty awful, and that’s pretty bad, to be awful among video game characters. Michelle Rodriguez who I like a lot—who doesn’t? —is wasted here as Rain. The role is an insult to Rodriguez’ talent.

LS: And I love Michelle Rodriguez! But what was up with her “twin” characters. One good and afraid of guns (get rid of that one!) and one sneering and evil? The good twin wasn’t even around long enough to care about. Blink and you missed her—that’s how long a “good” Michelle Rodriguez lasts. Good riddance, wimp! But not even sneering Michelle can save this movie. Although she does have on scene – one brief image – that was the best thing in the entire movie for me. She’s underwater beneath an ice floe, and a thousand zombies are grabbing her and pulling her under, intent on eating her alive. That one brief moment of film is the only image in RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION worth saving when you burn the movie for heat in the coming apocalypse.

MA:  Yeah, that was a neat image, and admittedly, there were a few of them in this movie, but it’s hard to appreciate cool images when you’re bored out of your mind!

Shawn Roberts as the villain Albert Wesker is one of the worst villains I’ve ever seen in a movie. He’s about as interesting as a storefront mannequin. I think he’s a vampire, secretly related to the Cullen family in the TWILIGHT movies, since he’s just as boring as they are.

LS: That’s “the MATRIX reject” I mentioned earlier. He makes Keanu Reeves look multi-dimensional. That dude had a much bigger role in the previous film, and his stupid, cartoony personality was almost fun last time. Here, he’s just an annoying moron you want to kick in the face. Get rid of this guy already!

And as for the TWILIGHT comparison. You may not like those movies, but at least they try to tell us a story (albeit a bad one). And hell, Kristen Stewart is kind of hot. I’d love to see her have a “sneer off” with Michelle Rodriguez.

MA: RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION was written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, and he’s written all five of the movies in this series. What can I say, other than this movie put me to sleep? That says it all, from my end. But that’s not the worst part. What’s the worst part, you ask? It’s that they’re going to do this yet again! Oh yes, this movie sets the stage for yet another sequel! Oh joy! Please, stop!

And how about those flesh eating zombies? Scary? Nope. Unless you’re scared of video game graphics.

And what’s with the alternate reality sequence at the beginning of the movie? Where Alice finds herself happily married with a young daughter Becky (Aryana Engineer)?

LS: Aryana Engineer? What kind of friggin name is that? Even her real name sounds like a robot! And don’t forget that artificial intelligence that looks like a bright red and angry Honey Boo Boo! The Red Queen! Another character who was interesting for all of…..well, she was never interesting!

MA: The movie throws this out there, and then never really goes back to it or even uses it in the story. And what about little Becky? At one point it’s said she’s not real, that all her memories have been implanted, but yet Alice keeps her with her throughout the whole film as if she’s her real daughter.

LS: Awww, isn’t that sweet? Play the “mommy card.” Maybe that will keep the audience from nodding off. Not likely!

MA: That’s how awful this movie is!  It plays the “mommy card,” and it’s not even a real kid or a real mommy!  Talk about lazy writing!

Then there’s a scene with multiple Alices hanging on an assembly line. What’s that about? Does the movie do anything with this scene? Nope.

LS: It’s not even impressive, because you know it’s just CGI crap. The clone factory scene was a complete waste of time.

MA: I hated this movie. With this film, the RESIDENT EVIL series is now rivaling the TWILIGHT series in terms of boredom. Stop making these movies already! Please, folks, don’t waste your money! Even a mediocre movie like THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY, which I reviewed last week, is better than this, because it at least made the effort to tell a story and create likable characters.

LS: Hell, THE INBETWEENERS MOVIE is a masterpiece in comparison. At least it had a heart, unlike this emotionless Tin Man of a movie.

MA: And what may I ask does this movie have to do with retribution? Just who is it who is getting the just or fitting punishment? No one. Things are pretty much the same at the end of the movie as they were at the beginning. No one changes, no one learns, no one grows, and no one is punished.

LS: I sure felt punished when I was watching this movie!

MA: I have a better title for this movie, RESIDENT EVIL: STAGNATION.

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION is the worst film I’ve seen this year since BATTLESHIP (2012).
I give it 0 Knives. Woof!

LS: Nice Taylor Lautner impression. Just don’t take off your shirt now, okay?

Oh come on, at least BATTLESHIP had Taylor Kitsch and Rhianna going for it. RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION is pretty much worthless, from its generic title to its non-ending. I kept waiting for TO BE CONTINUED to flash across the screen at the end, but after a great big wide-shot of the White House and zombies and flying monsters (where did all this crap come from, anyway?), it just goes straight to the credits.

For some reason I can’t explain, I liked the last movie in the series.

MA:  Yeah, I liked the last one, too.

LS:  Yeah, I think we both gave it a pretty positive review. It was called RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010). I know this because I looked it up. The titles to these movies are too generic and boring to remember otherwise. The last one had good pacing, had some fun moments, and actually seemed to have a story to tell. Hell, I’ve been one of those idiots who have called the RESIDENT EVIL movies “brainless fun.” And I’ve said the series is better than the UNDERWORLD films. Well, I take all that back now.

While I liked it okay, the one thing that really pissed me off about the last movie was it ended in the middle of the story, pretty much spitting in our faces and saying “There’s gonna be a sequel, and there’s nothing you can about it. So we’re not even going to try to come up with a decent ending.”

RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION doesn’t even try to entertain us, and then it gives us that cynical, lazy non-ending again, signaling yet another sequel. As the end credits rolled, and I realized we might have to sit through another one of these cinema turds. That is, unless we rebel and refuse to see it. And we just might.

The entire series has gotten lazy, cynical and just plain sadistic. I was going to give this movie half a knife. Seriously. For the brain monster, for Milla in the paper gown, and for Michelle Rodriguez being pulled underwater by a thousand zombies (I still love that one brief image). But you know what, this movie is so damn mean in the way it refuses to give us even a shred of enjoyment, that I’m going to be mean, too.

I give it zero knives as well.

This is easily one of the worst films we’ve seen this year. It’s an insult, and someone should keep them from making more. I suggest imprisonment.

(MA stands there, emotionless)

LS: No jokes this time around, no nothing, huh? You’re really pissed off about this one.

MA: Can we go now?

LS: Sure.

(MA storms off the set. LS gives the cameraman the middle finger and Exits)

-End-

© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares

Michael Arruda gives RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION ~ ZERO knives!

LL Soares gives RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION ~ ZERO knives!

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou: WILD WILD PLANET! (1965)

Posted in 2012, Bill's Bizarre Bijou, Cable movies, Clones!, Mutants!, Outer Space, Science Fiction, Strange Cinema, William Carl Articles with tags , , , , , , , on January 19, 2012 by knifefighter

Bill’s Bizarre Bijou

By William D. Carl

This Week’s Feature Presentation:

WILD, WILD PLANET (1965)

“It’s a mod, mod, mod world!”

Welcome to Bill’s Bizarre Bijou, where you’ll discover the strangest films ever made. If there are alien women with too much eye-shadow and miniskirts, if papier-mâché monsters are involved, if your local drive-in insisted this be the last show in their dusk-til-dawn extravaganza, or if it’s just plain unclassifiable—then I’ve seen it and probably loved it.  Now, I’m here to share these little gems with you so you too can stare in disbelief at your television with your mouth dangling open. Trust me, with these flicks, you won’t believe your eyes!

Continuing with my series of reviews of the Italian space opera “Gamma I” series, directed by the great Antonio Margheriti (YOR HUNTER FROM THE FUTURE, 1983; KILLER FISH, 1979; CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE, 1981), I want to take a gander at WILD, WILD PLANET (1965). WWP was made at the same time as SNOW DEVILS (see previous Bill’s Bizarre Bijou), WAR OF THE PLANETS, and Il PIANETA ERRANTE, but it was released in America first to astounded little kids everywhere and their groaning  and grinning parents. It actually comes second in the Gamma I quadrilogy. Confused?  Not as much as you will be after watching this fabulously kitschy movie.

Gamma I, if you recall, is a space station positioned above the Earth, spinning lazily on a wire, but WILD, WILD PLANET starts with various model shots of toy cars in toy cities and toy rockets shooting into space while elevator music mixed with weird Theremin sounds plays in the background and the yellow credits roll. A trio of astronauts climbs from the toy rocket and float gracefully over to Gamma I. Hey, they’re on strings, too!

Inside the twirling station,  a professor conducts bio-experiments concerning living organs and shrunken body parts, most of which are encased in big tubes. Commander Mike Halstead, this time played by Tony Russel (SWORD OF DAMASCUS – 1964 and the voice of Django in the English-dubbed DJANGO, 1966), doesn’t like having such gruesome experiments performed on his ship. He doesn’t want supermen; he’s “satisfied with people the way they are…I’m a person, not a bunch of meat!”  They’re expecting guests, but quite a few of them have mysteriously disappeared.

We are the introduced to the lovely Lt. Connie Gomez, this time played by Lisa Gastoni (MESSALLINA VS. THE SON OF HERCULES, 1964 and WAR OF THE PLANETS,1966), who is teaching a judo class to a large group of people. Two men discussing her say, “She’s a perfect specimen!”  “Specimen?  She’s one hundred percent woman and one hundred percent for our commander.”  Turns out the admirer is Mr. Nurmi from The Corporations. We instantly know he’s bad, because he’s wearing dark sunglasses and black leather coat. He promptly moves in on Connie, dropping sexual innuendos like handkerchiefs until she agrees to go to dinner with him. Nurmi is portrayed by Massimo Serato, star of DON’T LOOK NOW (1973) and AUTOPSY (1975). After he leaves, Lt. Jake (the great Franco Nero, star of the cult classic DJANGO,1966; as well as  CAMELOT, 1967; CONFESSIONS OF A POLICE CAPTAIN, 1971; and ENTER THE NINJA (1981) all the way to last year’s CARS 2!)  tries to schmooze Miss Gomez, and is rebuffed by a judo chop to the belly.

Big hair and bald clones - oh my!

Dinner is held in a room where many inhabitants of the station dance wildly to 60s disco music wearing Technicolor clothing. Mr. Nurmi may be a jerk, but he can cut a rug!  After discovering Lt. Gomez is going to Earth for a vacation, he tries to get her to go with him as a guest of The Corporations. After getting drunk, Connie gives a speech about how women are “obviously different from men,” then she decides to go with Nurmi on his dream vacation.

A letter comes, and Commander Halstead and Jake find out another scientist has gone missing. On Earth, a mob of towering-haired women in flimsy gowns and aqua blue eye shadow are given their orders by an even bigger-haired Amazon and a bald man in black sunglasses and a black rain poncho. They go to a house where an Opie Griffith look-a-like is peering through a microscope. The bald man whips his poncho around the kid and something awful happens beneath it. The kid is shrunk to doll-size and put in a small suitcase!  Soon, other scientists and politicians are similarly diminished and snatched.

Halstead and Gomez arrive on Earth and drive around in a little bubble-car discussing their relationship like characters in a Noel Coward play. Nurmi takes Gomez to a nightclub where people in butterfly costumes pretend to dance around each other badly. Ah, romance among the La Dolce Vita.

Baldie tries to shrink another scientist, which is interrupted by a little girl witness, who screams, “Grandpa!  Grandpa!” and is promptly strangled by one of the big-haired beauties. The scientist, now midget sized, scrambles away on his little legs. The female assassin informs the bald poncho-wearer that he has failed. She stabs him, and he promptly disappears from view. The woman hurries away in one of those cool bubble cars.

Gamma I investigates the disappearances, led by Commander Halstead, the granite-chinned, ever-tanned Tony Russel. When the midget scientist is found in a coma, our heroes discover a bevy of beauties and poncho-wearing men are working for The Corporations (they always say it as if capitalized). And Lt. Gomez is their latest victim!

Tony Russel and Franco Nero to the rescue in WILD WILD PLANET!

When a woman and bald man are spotted at an airport, a plucky cop shoots a ‘red tracer’ on their car so they can be spotted. This tracer is a disc that shoots out pink smoke all over the place, and Commander Halstead follows it, swooping down in his candy-colored spaceship. It’s so slow; you’d think you could walk faster than these guys drive and fly around. Of course, there’s nobody in the escape car when they retrieve it. They do discover a small briefcase with three teeny-tiny people in it, and they’re still breathing.

Gomez is shown around the evil lair of The Corporations, where they clone bald men in sunglasses and wear bright polyester pantsuits during down-time. She discovers a shower that drips blood in her room (ooh!  Can I have one of those?)

Meanwhile, Commander Halstead and his fellow spacemen find one of the bald clones, who, when stripped naked, has four fused-on arms and cat’s eyes!  Somehow, they discover the whereabouts of the Amazons (please don’t ask me how), and the three men invade their hotel room. This leads to a five minute knock-down, drag out fight between three women in see-through nighties and bikinis and stiletto heels, and our Commander and his two best men. They really go after each other, and Halstead shouts, “Watch out for those gadgets on their chests!”  When one gets stabbed by what looks like a comb, she disappears, leaving only the salmon-colored nightie behind her. They discover books left behind with the names of everyone who’s been kidnapped and everyone who will be. Halstead is disappointed to find he is not listed.

And we’re back in the nightclub where 101 Strings are playing, and people dressed like butterflies in capes chase each other, and the audience watches enraptured. I like to think they can’t believe how crappy the entertainment is, but this is an Italian nightclub in the cinema of the 1960s, so that’s kind of a given.

The plot gets more than a little muddled, but it boils down to the evil scientist wanting to meld Connie Gomez with himself, thus creating the first ‘perfect’ human being. His plans are interrupted by Halstead and his space rangers, and they do battle in a huge room full of a blood-like substance. The pool bursts, flooding everything in the red stuff. Funny story; a pipe cracked on the set, and nearby residents in Rome turned on their water taps to find all their water tinged red by the food coloring.  Try explaining that to your local plumber.

Will the good guys triumph over the evil Mr. Nurmi?  Do you even have to ask?

More mod clothing, hair, sunglasses, and furniture than you could throw a Barbarella at, WILD, WILD PLANET is oodles of 60s fun. The music and dancing will have you rolling on the floor, and the toy-like miniature cities and space stations only add to the innocent fun. Not to mention, the plastic toy guns that shoot out a foot of sparks and flames!  Where can I get one?

The movie moves swiftly, much faster than SNOW DEVILS, and there are plenty of whacky actions sequences to keep your attention when you’re not wiping tears of laughter from your eyes. And when was the last time you heard a superior officer call his subordinate ‘Helium Head?’  You also get a cosmic room of mirrors, a basement full of mutants, more stunning women than you can imagine in one movie, and a really nifty performance by an astonishingly good-looking young Franco Nero. The cast as a whole will never win any Oscars, but they all get it. They really roll with the campy silliness of the movie, so the performances actually work.  Any kids (or anyone on mind-altering drugs) are going to fall in love with this flick. Even as an adult, I’d take its immature charms over the big budget sci-fi product Hollywood’s been producing lately.

WILD, WILD PLANET is available on a nicely restored DVD from Warner Brother Archive.

I give WILD, WILD PLANET three midget scientists out of four.

© Copyright 2011 by William D. Carl