Milla Jovovich

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2017, Paul W.S. Anderson)

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter opens, as usual (I think), with a recap of the previous Resident Evil movies. Star Milla Jovovich narrates; even after six movies, it always seems like Jovovich is just about to have a great scene as an actor in one of these movies and it never comes to pass. It’s not her fault–writer and director Anderson either knowingly trades on his viewer’s self-awareness, ignores it, or isn’t aware of it. Either he’s lazy, mercenary, or unaware, which is why Final Chapter ends up being something of a pleasant surprise.

Sure, Anderson doesn’t turn Jovovich’s Alice character into an action movie legend, but Jovovich does a good job as a lead in a wackily paced, often outrageous action movie. She navigates script weaknesses to keep scenes together. There’s a lot of lame, predictable exposition in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. Stuff you sit and wish Anderson wouldn’t do, just because there has to be something a little less lazy.

Anderson does have a certain functional charm about his work, which is why he seems far more mercenary than anything else. He’s indifferent to his cast, whether they’re series regulars or not. Most of the film is either Jovovich getting into one ultra-violent, special effects sensation or getting out of one. While she’s incredibly successful as far as physicality goes, it’s like both she and Anderson are completely disinterested in character development. So I guess it’s a perfect combination.

Supporting cast is fine. I mean, none of there performances matter and no one really irritates besides Fraser James and William Levy. Ruby Rose is likable and memorable. Ali Larter is fine; she’s back from one of the previous entries and has almost no energy for this one. It’s like, the world’s ending… Resident Evil VI, straight-to-video or straight-to-hell. Only it works for the movie. She’s exhausted with survival.

There are some excellent action set pieces and a couple okay suspense ones and then a truly phenomenal suspense one. It’s a nice surprise–Anderson’s figured out how to make characters just sympathetic enough to get viewer investment without writing them good scenes or dialogue. It’s mercenary. And competently mercenary.

Oh. Iain Glen. It’s his best performance in the series. Except half of it is awful. He can’t do the maniacal villain, so as the story takes the villain through degrees of wackiness, Glen’s performance fluctuates. It’s a pleasant surprise on its own, as he’s usually atrocious in these things.

Good photography from Glen MacPherson, competent editing from Doobie White. Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is about as good as anything called Resident Evil: The Final Chapter could be, which is sort of Anderson’s stock in trade. I mean, I’d definitely see this one again. I’ve been horrified at that thought for the last couple of them.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay by Anderson, based on the Capcom computer game series; director of photography, Glen MacPherson; edited by Doobie White; music by Paul Haslinger; production designer, Edward Thomas; produced by Anderson, Jeremy Bolt, Samuel Hadida, and Robert Kulzer; released by Screen Gems.

Starring Milla Jovovich (Alice), Iain Glen (Dr. Isaacs), Ali Larter (Claire Redfield), Eoin Macken (Doc), Shawn Roberts (Wesker), Fraser James (Razor), Ruby Rose (Abigail), William Levy (Christian), and Ever Anderson (The Red Queen).


Dazed and Confused (1993, Richard Linklater)

Besides an occasional good performance and a lot of charming ones, Dazed and Confused only has so much going for it. Director Linklater is far more concerned with the script than he is with the direction. He doesn’t give the actors much to do and then doesn’t seem to want to spend much time with any of them. And, based on some of the performances, Dazed and Confused appears to have some improv. If so, it’s a mistake. If not, well, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt.

It’s the last day of school for a bunch of high school juniors (played by twenty-somethings). Their afternoon activity? Hazing a bunch of eighth graders (played by high school juniors). The movie opens with a likable Jason London (which, yes, did surprise me) and Joey Lauren Adams. She has nothing to do. Linklater just has the female cast around to show them in shorty-shorts for the most part. He may have had more for them to do at one point, but it got cut. Especially once the film becomes more male-centric in the second half.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

So London’s sort of the lead. He’s the star quarterback who really wants to hang out with the stoners. The cliques in Dazed and Confused are real loose, which makes everyone just a little bit more sympathetic. Combined with the feel good, “matched to the scene” soundtrack, you want to like everyone in Dazed and Confused. Except Ben Affleck.

Amid a bunch of pot jokes, usually with Rory Cochrane (he’s likable, but not good), Linklater introduces the rather large cast–over twenty kids he wants the audience to remember–and eventually gets to Wiley Wiggins. Wiggins is one of the eighth graders. He’s Linklater. Dazed and Confused is about Wiggins falling in man-love with London, who is already drawn to Wiggins’s older sister (a good Michelle Burke in a crap role), and eventually getting accepted. He doesn’t just get accepted. He gets an older girlfriend.

None of these actors actually have roles to play. They’re line delivery mechanisms. Even Matthew McConaughey’s early twenties pervert who pursues only high school girls.

I wanted Dazed and Confused to be better. The opening actually implies it can get somewhere–but Linklater doesn’t have a cast of actors who happen to be memorable, he has a memorable cast because it means he doesn’t have to write as hard. And he doesn’t have to direct much at all. Except to lionize Wiggins (and later London).

Anthony Rapp is pretty good. Marissa Ribisi is okay. Christin Hinojosa is supposed to be the female analogue to Wiggins but Linklater sets her off on an adventure with the nerds who are really cool instead of Wiggins, which is on the adventure with the cool kids who are actually even cooler. Plus she has like five lines.

Affleck loses his accent all the time but he’s at least amusing throughout. Adam Goldberg stars amusing, ends tiresome. Ditto Parker Posey, who Linklater gives the worst role (after Joey Lauren Adams). Solid performance from Sasha Jenson; problematic but solid. And Shawn Andrews seems like he’d be good if he were in it more. Wiggins is all right.

Lee Daniel’s photography is good, Sandra Adair’s editing is all right. Great look to the film. John Frick’s production design is outstanding.

Dazed and Confused has enough material for four movies but not enough for one, not with Linklater’s direction. Had it been someone else, it might have come off better.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Written and directed by Richard Linklater; director of photography, Lee Daniel; edited by Sandra Adair; production designer, John Frick; produced by James Jacks, Sean Daniel and Linklater; released by Universal Pictures.

Starring Jason London (Pink), Wiley Wiggins (Mitch), Sasha Jenson (Don), Michelle Burke (Jodi), Rory Cochrane (Slater), Cole Hauser (Benny), Jason O. Smith (Melvin), Adam Goldberg (Mike), Anthony Rapp (Tony), Marissa Ribisi (Cynthia), Christin Hinojosa (Sabrina), Matthew McConaughey (Wooderson), Shawn Andrews (Pickford), Milla Jovovich (Michelle), Parker Posey (Darla), Joey Lauren Adams (Simone), Christine Harnos (Kaye), Catherine Avril Morris (Julie), Deena Martin (Shavonne), Nicky Katt (Clint) and Ben Affleck (O’Bannion).

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012, Paul W.S. Anderson)

I’m not sure what subtitle Resident Evil: Retribution should have, but it definitely shouldn’t be Retribution. The movie really doesn’t have enough story for a subtitle, actually. Unless it’s Old Friends. For the ten year anniversary of the franchise, director Anderson brings back a bunch of old faces–Sienna Guillory and Michelle Rodriguez get the two biggest parts (while Oded Fehr and Colin Salmon get the smallest). Anderson does come up with a good reason to bring them back, he just doesn’t know how to turn it into a story.

Retribution mostly alternates between good fight scenes and painful exposition scenes. Anderson’s got enough money (or CG’s less expensive) so he doesn’t do the regular exposition tricks the franchise used to do on the cheap. Instead there’re long patches of characters spouting exposition, usually either Li Bingbing or Shawn Roberts. Sadly those actors are the worst in the film.

The music, from tomandandy, occasionally compliments the action well but it’s usually just loud and annoying. Good production values though–Kevin Phipps’s production design and Glen MacPherson’s photography in particular.

Anderson opens the film with a great reverse sequence, really showcasing the effects and his vision for the picture. Unfortunately, once it’s over, he changes visions. Then he changes them again. And again. And… well, you get the idea.

He finally decides on star Milla Jovovich having a complicated relationship with an orphan (Aryana Engineer) and it works. He just decided too late.

Retribution‘s tedious, but not without good moments.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay by Anderson, based on the Capcom computer game series; director of photography, Glen MacPherson; edited by Niven Howie; music by tomandandy; production designer, Kevin Phipps; produced by Don Carmody, Jeremy Bolt and Anderson; released by Screen Gems.

Starring Milla Jovovich (Alice), Sienna Guillory (Jill Valentine), Michelle Rodriguez (Rain), Aryana Engineer (Becky), Li Bingbing (Ada Wong), Boris Kodjoe (Luther West), Johann Urb (Leon S. Kennedy), Robin Kasyanov (Sergei), Kevin Durand (Barry Burton), Ofilio Portillo (Tony), Oded Fehr (Carlos), Colin Salmon (One) and Shawn Roberts (Albert Wesker).


Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010, Paul W.S. Anderson)

Anderson is clearly getting bored with the Resident Evil franchise at this point–even though he returns to direct (I imagine it was because it’s in 3D). Afterlife has three distinct beginnings, something I’m actually unfamiliar seeing. Having too many endings is one thing, but having too many beginnings… doesn’t happen a lot.

The problem is Anderson closed the previous film with a cliffhanger he seemingly never intended to resolve. Here, he resolves that cliffhanger, turns the previous entry’s ending into a mystery needing resolving and then introduces the lone band of survivors for this picture (one can easily forget Resident Evil movies are zombie movies and need their bands of survivors).

The survivors are fairly well-cast–Kim Coates has lots to do, Boris Kodjoe is good as an NBA star turned zombie hunter (Anderson clearly watched “Battlestar Galactica”). Of course, the movie’s got a big action finale and the two other beginnings, so there’s not much time with the survivors.

Here Jovovich, the franchise’s glue, has to hold the film together against Anderson’s disinterest and Shawn Roberts. Roberts plays the villain. He gives the worst performance I’ve seen in memory in a theatrical release.

The two other principle victims of Anderson’s disinterest are Ali Larter and Wentworth Miller, whose backstories highlight the film’s reliance of contrivance. Both are decent nonetheless.

Afterlife gets real bad at times, but Anderson always wakes up to pull it through.

It’s a shame he doesn’t give wife Jovovich writing worthy her considerable ability.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; screenplay by Anderson, based on the Capcom computer game series; director of photography, Glen MacPherson; edited by Niven Howie; music by tomandandy; production designer, Arvinder Grewal; produced by Bernd Eichinger, Samuel Hadida, Don Carmody, Robert Kulzer, Jeremy Bolt and Anderson; released by Screen Gems.

Starring Milla Jovovich (Alice), Shawn Roberts (Albert Wesker), Ali Larter (Claire Redfield), Wentworth Miller (Chris Redfield), Boris Kodjoe (Luther), Kim Coates (Bennett), Sergio Peris-Mencheta (Angel), Norman Yeung (Kim Yong), Kacey Barnfield (Crystal) and Fulvio Cecere (Wendell).


A Perfect Getaway (2009, David Twohy)

Watching “Damages,” it was always surprising to me what a good actor Timothy Olyphant has turned out to be. Before it, all I’d really seen him in (albeit a while ago) was Scream 2 and he’s absolutely terrible in that one. In A Perfect Getaway, he proves able to translate his ability into a more standard leading man type role. Olyphant makes the movie. When he and girlfriend Kiele Sanchez are offscreen, Getaway lacks, when they’re on, it works fine.

But Olyphant and Sanchez aren’t the leads in Getaway, Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich are the leads, which presents a bit of a problem, the not-as-charismatic people being the leads. Zahn’s good, maybe turning in the best performance I’ve seen him give since Out of Sight, when he established his persona. Getaway plays with it a bit. Jovovich is good too, but just like in her video game movies, the character doesn’t really offer her very much to do. It’s a technically superior performance, but Jovovich didn’t once surprise me. Of course she could do this role… Charlize Theron or Cameron Diaz could do it too and they’re both awful.

Twohy’s not a great director, but his half-noir in paradise, half-Hawaiian travelogue thing works for the first half, before he does his big twist. He gets in a couple solid screenwriting jokes, the kind of thing one can “appreciate” on a second viewing, but the cast and concept are strong enough he could have been straightforward.

1/4

CREDITS

Written and directed by David Twohy; director of photography, Mark Plummer; edited by Tracy Adams; music by Boris Elkis; production designer, Joseph C. Nemec III; produced by Ryan Kavanaugh, Mark Canton, Tucker Tooley and Robbie Brenner; released by Rogue Pictures.

Starring Timothy Olyphant (Nick), Milla Jovovich (Cydney), Kiele Sanchez (Gina), Steve Zahn (Cliff), Marley Shelton (Cleo) and Chris Hemsworth (Kale).


The Fifth Element (1997, Luc Besson)

The last time I saw a Luc Besson movie and thought it was really good, I tried watching Joan of Arc. Then I stopped exploring his filmography. This time, therefore, I’m prepared. I haven’t seen The Fifth Element in years and I’m not sure why. Considering its cast, it’s something of a breath of fresh air. Ian Holm has either disappeared from cinema in the last five years or I’m just no longer seeing movies he acts in anymore, which is entirely possible. So it was really nice to see him (I feel terrible, like I’m suggesting he’s turned in to Brian Cox or someone–I’m sure he hasn’t). Bt the film also features Chris Tucker’s incredibly annoying, which is the point, performance and I remember it made me wish he’d do other supporting roles like it. then he got really big so it’ll never happen. Too bad.

But the film also features a great Bruce Willis performance. It’s so much fun–Willis has his action hero schtick, but Fifth Element finally lets him do it in a comedy and a good one. The most impressive thing about the film, besides Eric Serra’s music maybe, is Besson’s understanding of timing. for a film with major pacing issues (more in a second), The Fifth Element is perfectly timed. Willis and Milla Jovovich really work well together in the film because Willis is able to alternate from a caring, paternal figure (gee, wonder if the age difference has anything to do with it?) and the romantic interest and because Jovovich’s character is an alien, his concern works. I don’t think he’s ever done so much work as a romantic lead as he does in this one and he’s great. Jovovich is also quite good–and not for the female action star reasons she’s good today, which suggests Besson just directed her well and maybe the role wasn’t very hard. But she’s good.

Now for the two problems. First, whoever they got to do the voice of Bruce Willis’s mother on the phone was the wrong choice. His character doesn’t work with an annoying mother. Maybe if he had an Uncle Leo, but not a mother. every time it comes up (three times, I think) it wallops the film with an aluminum baseball bat.

The second problem has to do with the pacing. Like I said, the film is perfectly timed–it’s one of those “hang out” movies Tarantino says he wants to make and never seems quite able to pull off–but it’s too slight. It’s too fast for everything going on and needs another fifteen minutes throughout. The ending is great in a way I’d see more Luc Besson films if I didn’t know better, but it’s not as good as it could be… the material before it doesn’t deserve it.

Willis… Jovovich… Holm… Tucker… I need to say something about Gary Oldman. Oldman’s gotten to be something of a punch-line (well, not really something of one) in the last ten years, but he’s fantastic as a villainous French (?) industrialist who speaks with a Texas accent. Either he had a great time doing it or he faked it really well. He is fun to watch in the film, just to see what he’s going to do next, which no longer describes his acting at all.

Maybe I’m just in the mood for long films right now, but I didn’t want The Fifth Element to end. I was enjoying it too much (Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, who write terrible action movies together, somehow turned in a fantastic script).

But, still… I must remember… never, ever try to watch Joan of Arc.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Luc Besson; written by Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, based on a story by Besson; director of photography, Thierry Arbogast; edited by Sylvie Landra; music by Eric Serra; production designer, Dan Weil; produced by Patrice Ledoux; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Bruce Willis (Korben Dallas), Gary Oldman (Zorg), Ian Holm (Cornelius), Milla Jovovich (Leeloo), Chris Tucker (Ruby Rhod), Luke Perry (Billy), Brion James (General Munro), Tommy ‘Tiny’ Lister (President Lindberg), Lee Evans (Fog), Charlie Creed-Miles (David), Tricky (Right Arm), John Neville (General Staedert), John Bluthal (Professor Pacoli) and Mathieu Kassovitz (Mugger).


Resident Evil: Extinction (2007, Russell Mulcahy)

I wonder how Paul W.S. Anderson writes his screenplays. Does he actually write in all the references–think The Birds here, or a tanker like in The Road Warrior or even the Statue of Liberty shot out of Planet of the Apes–or do they come up later? Resident Evil: Extinction is an amalgam of, I imagine, as many films Anderson could rip from or reference to (it’s never homage) in ninety-five minutes. But, like the earlier ones and for the same basic reasons, Extinction is a success.

The prevalent reason for success is Milla Jovovich. Jovovich is barely in movies anymore, but she’s great as the action hero. Extinction adds another element–along with malicious tentacles, Anderson cribs pyrokinesis (I can’t believe I knew that “word,” since Oxford apparently does not) from Japanese anime–giving Jovovich superpowers and a burden along with them. Anderson also gives her some character stuff, hints at romantic longing, and some comedy moments towards the end. It really works out, since she can switch from a Mad Max Road Warrior impression to vulnerable instantaneously. Every time–and it’s not often since she’s in so little–I see Jovovich, I can’t help but think Woody Allen would be able to do something great with her.

The other reason Extinction works is because Anderson is–as screenwriter and producer–once again completely comfortable making schlock. It’s well-produced schlock, whatever–oh, he steals from Undead too–but it’s absolutely unpretentious. There’s no pretending. It’s just ninety-five minutes gone.

Still, Extinction is a really hurried film. It’s supposedly the last film in the series, which is silly because the setup at the end suggests the next one would be a lot of fun, and that condition hangs over the movie. Starting out where the first film started, ending where the first film started… it’s all very neat in terms of conclusions, but the pace is terrible.

For a lot of the film, Jovovich isn’t even the main character. Instead, Anderson tracks a group of survivors (The Road Warrior rejects) lead by Ali Larter, who is awful. There’s some blah acting in the movie, but Larter’s is the only performance near ruining it. Once Jovovich is the firm center, it’s almost over. Anderson also spends a lot of time with the scientists, setting up the big ending. The script feels rushed, the movie feels rushed….

As far as the other performances go, Oded Fehr is good, Mike Epps is better than last time, and Linden Ashby is wasted as a cowboy.

Russell Mulcahy does an okay job directing. The editing is particularly good, but Extinction is short on action set-pieces, but the big one is worth the wait. The musical score, amusing, borrows a lot from the Terminator theme.

The Resident Evil movies are also of note because they aren’t particularly expensive, so they use CG and special effects in ways to enable storytelling, a trend Extinction continues.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Russell Mulcahy; written by Paul W.S. Anderson, based on the Capcom computer game series; director of photography, David Johnson; edited by Niven Howie; music by Charlie Clouser; production designer, Eugenio Caballero; produced by Bernd Eichinger, Samuel Hadida, Robert Kulzer, Jeremy Bolt and Anderson; released by Screen Gems.

Starring Milla Jovovich (Alice), Oded Fehr (Carlos Olivera), Ali Larter (Claire Redfield), Iain Glen (Dr. Isaacs), Ashanti (Betty), Christopher Egan (Mikey), Spencer Locke (K-Mart), Matthew Marsden (Slater), Linden Ashby (Chase), Jason O’Mara (Albert Wesker) and Mike Epps (L.J.).


Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004, Alexander Witt)

Trying to figure out how to start this post was incredibly difficult. As far as sequels go, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is, tonally, a terrible sequel to the first film, but it’s still a perfectly reasonable b-movie. The first film, visually, is classy compared to this one, which has lots of quick cuts during fight scenes. The cuts aren’t distracting, since they’re about what’s expected from a movie like this one, and this stylistic difference is probably the least of all the differences between the two films. Apocalypse features, actor for actor, the worst cast in a film I’ve ever finished watching (at least in the last seven years). Besides Milla Jovovich, who’s good again but she’s not the protagonist–she runs all of her actions scenes, but none of her other ones–the cast of Apocalypse is unbelievably, almost uniformly terrible. Sienna Guillory is terrible, Razaaq Adoti is terrible, Mike Epps is actually just real bad, and Sandrine Holt is unspeakable. There’s not even an adjective for her acting prowess. The rest of the principles, besides Oded Fehr, who’s fine, are made up of European actors who stumble over their lines.

The reason Apocalypse works is because, even with the terrible actors, lots of stuff happens in different sets. More than any other film (except the monster who’s a cross between Robocop and The Toxic Avenger), it reminded me of Escape from New York. People running through a burnt-out city, battling zombies. It’s a fine way to spend ninety minutes, especially since Jovovich has some good scenes and I got to appreciate them, how shiny they were amid the rest of the film. Writer Paul W.S. Anderson, who didn’t direct and probably shouldn’t have, since the film plays to none of his “strengths,” actually makes her the only character with any depth, which makes the bad acting of the other principles so much worse. They’re caricatures of caricatures and, if the film appreciated that one, it’d probably be the best b-movie ever made.

The bad actors actually made Apocalypse a worse experience than it should have been, since most zombie movies have a watchable quality about them. Watching the film, marveling at the acting incompetence, I couldn’t believe it wasn’t a worse film, but something needs to be said for the Paul W.S. Anderson genre. He can make perfectly fine bad b-movies, which is a rare quality these days.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Alexander Witt; written by Paul W.S. Anderson, based on the Capcom computer game series; directors of photography, Derek Rogers and Christian Sebaldt; edited by Eddie Hamilton; music by Jeff Danna; production designer, Paul D. Austerberry; produced by Don Carmody, Jeremy Bolt and Anderson; released by Screen Gems.

Starring Milla Jovovich (Alice), Sienna Guillory (Jill Valentine), Oded Fehr (Carlos Olivera), Thomas Kretschmann (Major Cain), Sophie Vavasseur (Angie Ashford), Razaaq Adoti (Peyton Wells), Jared Harris (Dr. Ashford), Mike Epps (L.J.) and Sandrine Holt (Teri Morales).


Resident Evil (2002, Paul W.S. Anderson)

I have a mild affection for Paul W.S. Anderson–or, at least, I think he gets a bad rap. I’ve never been able to easy prove it before, but Resident Evil certainly helps my argument for Anderson’s effectiveness as a director. The film opens with a nine or so minute tease, establishing the situation, then goes into a disoriented and, we soon learn, amnesiac Milla Jovovich waking up in a big empty house and walking about in various states of half-dress. In these scenes–which are spooky–Anderson does a fantastic job; his composition is a nice (really, nice, nice is the word I’m using) mix of Carpenter and Kubrick. Just before the sequence ends (or, more accurately, further develops), he’s got this spooky shot of leaves twirling around. It’s beautifully done and when it turns out to be a helicopter landing, well, something about that ruse is quite good.

Unfortunately, Anderson made some bad decisions with actors. Not casting in all circumstances (all but one, really), but in forcing his mostly English cast to adopt “American” accents. Nothing really happens for the first half hour of Resident Evil, some teases at scariness and a little expository dialogue; even the first big action scene is lackluster, because it’s just churning. You can practically hear the movie spinning up… zombie movies do not have big casts and until Resident Evil gets itself manageable, it doesn’t really get going. During the twenty or so minutes, after the opening tease and before the ignition’s started, Michelle Rodriguez really manages to annoy beyond any reasonable conception of the term. She’s terrible. Awful. When, at the end of the film, her character is sympathetic, there’s the proof for Anderson as an effective action film director. I didn’t know if I could get through her “acting.” The scenes with her and Pasquale Aleardi, who has the excuse of not being a native English speaker for his terrible line-delivery, are among the more painful moments ever filmed. Also unfortunate is Colin Salmon, who fails when it comes to his American accent–fails terribly. Salmon’s usually good too and he’s an Anderson regular, so the misuse is surprising. James Purefoy is okay for most of the film, only losing the accent at the end, but I think he’s quiet for a lot of his scenes. Martin Crewes is another accent faker, but he’s good. Eric Mabius is fine, maybe even good in most of his scenes, but he’s got a silly haircut. The shock of Resident Evil is Milla Jovovich. At first, I thought her good performance was due to the amnesia… but then she kept going and being good, which was unbelievable.

Anderson’s template for Resident Evil isn’t so much any zombie movie, but instead Aliens; just imagine it towards the end when most of the cast are gone and the aliens are everywhere. There’s some really stupid stuff–it is a Paul W.S. Anderson movie after all–like the soldiers not going for head shots off the bat, none of the characters being introduced, so their names always come as a surprise–I don’t think Jovovich is ever clearly named in the film, which is kind of silly, since there’s some sort of Alice in Wonderland reference going on. The music’s annoying, but occasionally it works rather well.

When, towards the end, Anderson actually manages to wrap up his amnesia thing, his monster on the loose thing, two revelations and some other stuff–all while actually making the characters’ plight vibrate–it’s when Resident Evil works the best. Oddly, the predictable ending isn’t even annoying, instead it’s gratifying, because of the film’s self-confidence.

I’m actually not completely surprised by Resident Evil, as I figured it’d be watchable (as Anderson tends to be), but I’m at least seventy-percent surprised, since the whole thing hinges on Jovovich and she pulled it off.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson; written by Anderson, from a story by Alan McElroy and Anderson, based on the Capcom computer game series; director of photography, David Johnson; edited by Alexander Berner; music by Marco Beltrami and Marilyn Manson; production designer, Richard Bridgland; produced by Bernd Eichinger, Samuel Hadida, Jeremy Bolt and Anderson; released by Screen Gems.

Starring Milla Jovovich (Alice), Michelle Rodriguez (Rain), Eric Mabius (Matt), James Purefoy (Spence), Martin Crewes (Kaplan), Pasquale Aleardi (J.D.) and Colin Salmon (One).


Chaplin (1992, Richard Attenborough)

Just today, I met someone who recently watched The Postman and thought it was a good film. She’s probably the third or fourth person (I think the third) who I’ve met–since 1997–who agreed it was a good film. Though Chaplin has five years on that one, I’ve never met anyone else who thinks it’s good. Or great, I suppose. Chaplin is great.

I absolutely dreaded watching this film. As I recall, I had the VHS–I bought it used from a video store and it was one of the early single tape releases for 130+ minute features–and then I got the laserdisc on remainder in the early days of the Internet shopping boom, back when there were laserdisc stores online and laserdiscs being pressed. So, I haven’t seen it in eight years (I was a slow converter to DVD and, even after I did, I still never tried upgrade my entire laserdisc collection–still haven’t). I rented it a long time ago when I was trying to keep my Blockbuster Online queue going and just never got around to it. I’ve been actively avoiding it for about two weeks now, when I cracked down and said I had to get it watched. My fear being–well, like I said, I’ve never heard a good word said about the film.

Immediately–within seconds–that fear, that apprehension, disappeared. The John Barry music comes up and I remembered the emotional sensation the film produces in me. These sensations being the goal of art–back when I last saw this film, I worried about my “taste.” It never occurred to me someone else’s wiring was wrong. Back to the film. The music comes up and there’s Robert Downey Jr., back when he was the finest working actor. It’s impossible to think of Chaplin as a Downey film because he’s not Robert Downey Jr. He creates this character named Charlie Chaplin. While the make-up work is good, it wouldn’t do its job with Downey. The viewer expects this character to age over time and so he has to–because there are title cards telling the viewer time is passing. Aging and time passing, they go together. Downey being an actor in latex make-up is beside the point. Downey never exists as an actor in the film and neither does anyone else. The only person who stretches that boundary is Dan Aykroyd–as I’d forgotten he was good.

The success isn’t all Downey or John Barry’s score–Chaplin has the most indispensable score since 2001–it’s Attenbourgh’s whole conception of the film. It’s a biopic, but it’s independent of the actual reality of Charlie Chaplin. Attenborough creates a character and creates a sense of nostalgia–for future events, this achievement is particularly visible in the creation of the Tramp scene–without requiring the audience to know anything real. Having experienced any Chaplin films is not a requirement for Chaplin. I, for example, didn’t see a Chaplin film until 1999 or 2000. It’s a brilliant approach to the “non-fiction” film, one not often done anymore. Today, authentic and historical accuracy are watchwords; they have nothing to do with good storytelling, fictional or non-fictional.

As a quiet aside–for any Keaton fans out there (I prefer Keaton)–there’s a great homage to Our Hospitality in Chaplin, when we see Hollywood before it was Hollywood, right under the titles identifying it. Our Hospitality, for those who don’t know, did with New York City, giving an intersection and a date in the middle of nineteenth century. It’s a cute touch.

The Chaplin supporting cast is superior. Primarily, the film shows how excellent Moira Kelly is–Chaplin’s her first and only great film and it’s a shame. I mean, she was already done by 1998. Also fantastic and less known is Paul Rhys as Chaplin’s brother. He didn’t disappear, he just didn’t stay in Hollywood. The relationship between Chaplin and his brother is one of the film’s strongest elements. I’m going to go through the rest faster–Marisa Tomei’s good, Kevin Kline as Douglas Fairbanks (he and Chaplin’s relationship being another cornerstone), Penelope Ann Miller’s decent–if only in a scene really–Kevin Dunn is a frightening J. Edgar Hoover. Geraldine Chaplin playing Chaplin’s insane mother, she’s really good. Also, one of my favorite forgotten actors, Maria Pitillo (Roland Emmerich’s Godzilla ended her career) is in the film as Mary Pickford. She’s great in the film, credited far too late. She’s wonderful–Chaplin’s calling her a bitch while she and Downey have the second-best onscreen chemistry between he and female actor in the film. I suppose I need to mention it–though it doesn’t come up often at The Stop Button, I do despise Anthony Hopkins–Hopkins is great as the made-up book editor whose editing session with Chaplin frames the film.

I honestly don’t remember the last time I recommended something here. It looks like it would have been Black Narcissus. And now it’s Chaplin.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Attenborough; screenplay by William Boyd, Bryan Forbes and William Goldman, from a story by Diana Hawkins, based on books by Charles Chaplin and David Robinson; director of photography, Sven Nykvist; edited by Anne V. Coates; music by John Barry; production designer, Stuart Craig; produced by Attenborough, Mario Kassar and Terence Clegg; released by Tri-Star Pictures.

Starring Robert Downey Jr. (Charlie Chaplin), Geraldine Chaplin (Hannah Chaplin), Paul Rhys (Sydney Chaplin), John Thaw (Fred Karno), Moira Kelly (Hetty Kelly/Oona O’Neill), Anthony Hopkins (George Hayden), Matthew Cottle (Stan Laurel), Dan Aykroyd (Mack Sennett), Marisa Tomei (Mabel Normand), Penelope Ann Miller (Edna Purviance), Kevin Kline (Douglas Fairbanks), Kevin Dunn (J. Edgar Hoover), Diane Lane (Paulette Goddard), Deborah Moore (Lita Grey), Nancy Travis (Joan Barry), James Woods (Lawyer Scott), Milla Jovovich (Mildred Harris), Maria Pitillo (Mary Pickford) and David Duchovny (Rollie Totheroh).


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