FROM ALL YOUR FRIENDS AT CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT!
And stick around for the new year. We’ll have plenty more goodies for you in 2013.
Gregory G. Kurczynski is writing the column SCREAMS CUT SHORT for us here at Cinema Knife Fight, reviewing short horror films that would otherwise fall between the cracks. Below is more about Greg:
Gregory G. Kurczynski is a filmmaker and writer currently residing in New Orleans, Louisiana. When he’s not overloading his brain trying to get his next movie project into production, he enjoys long walks on the beach, trying to put a dent in his constantly growing pile of “to be read” books, watching old kaiju movies, and attempting to summon the Old Ones from their slumber in R’leyh.
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?
(MA storms off the set. LS gives the cameraman the middle finger and Exits)
© 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!
One of the rare times that a bunch of Cinema Knife Fight staff members had a chance to get together and hang out.
(From left to right): Michael Arruda (holding black cup), William Carl (“Bill’s Bizarre Bijou”), Nick Cato (“Suburban Grindhouse Memories”), Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel (“Lady Anachronism’s Fallout Shelter”), L.L. Soares (wearing baseball cap), Peter Dudar (“Me and Lil’ Stevie”) and John Harvey.
With a few people crashing in the background.
We have been remiss by not officially welcoming SHERI SEBASTIAN-GABRIEL to this site earlier. She co-writes the column THE DAVID LYNCH CHRONICLES with CKF’s “Suburban Grindhouse Guru” NICK CATO. And today is the debut of her brand new solo column, LADY ANACHRONISM’S FALLOUT SHELTER!
Here’s more about Sheri:
Sheri Sebastian-Gabriel developed an obsession with unraveling David Lynch films after seeing ERASERHEAD in college. ERASERHEAD remains her favorite film of all time, but she is also partial to MULLHOLLAND DRIVE and LOST HIGHWAY. She has worked as a writer in some capacity for nearly 20 years. Her horror fiction has appeared in a few magazines and anthologies. When she’s not reading or luring small children into her sweets-encrusted home, she enjoys watching horror films at midnight on the big screen. She lives in New Jersey.
Welcome aboard, Sheri!
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(The Scene: The interior of a spaceship. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES are playing poker at a table with the monster from the ALIEN movies, an ASTRONAUT WITH A BABY ALIEN STICKING OUT OF HIS CHEST, the superhero THOR and a top-hatted ABRAHAM LINCOLN)
MA: Welcome everyone to our Coming Attractions column for June. We’re here on this spaceship because at least for me, anyway, the most anticipated movie of the summer opens on June 8, Ridley Scott’s science fiction flick PROMETHEUS.
LS: It’s very high on my list of “must see” movies, too. I’m really looking forward to it.
MA: Even though it is a prequel of sorts to Ridley Scott’s classic ALIEN (1979), it looks good in its own right. But we have a movie to review first before we get to PROMETHEUS.
On the weekend of June 1, we’ll be reviewing SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN.
(A bunch of happy looking DWARVES scurry by the table.)
DWARVES: Snow White! Yay!!
LS: It’s SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, not SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES! Now, scram!
(DWARVES run away, and one of them flips LS the bird.)
MA: That must be Grumpy.
LS: Actually, the funny part is, I’m pretty sure there ARE dwarves in this movie. But I just don’t have the patience for those guys right now.
MA: Anyway, what can I say? It’s another fairy tale given the adult movie treatment. We had RED RIDING HOOD last year, which I actually liked, and now we have SNOW WHITE.
To be fair, the trailers for this one don’t look half bad, and I’m actually looking forward to it. At the very least, it appears that the folks involved seem to be taking it seriously.
Snow White is being played by Kristen Stewart of TWILIGHT fame. I’m hoping she’s given the chance to expand her acting range from brooding teen to something more. It’ll be good to see her do something else.
LS: I hate to say it, but Stewart is starting to grow on me. Must be the scowl. I’m actually curious to see her in something other than the TWILIGHT movies.
MA: Charlize Theron looks as if she’s having a field day playing the evil queen. I’m especially looking forward to her performance.
LS: I’m a big Charlize fan as well.
MA: And as the Huntsman, Chris Hemsworth, THOR himself is on hand.
THOR: I will be great as the Huntsman!
MA: I’m sure you will be.
THOR: It will be a thunderous, masterful performance!
MA: I’m sure it will be.
LS (aside to MA): Keep him talking. He’s not paying attention to the cards.
THOR: And if anyone gives me a bad review I will crush them with mine hammer!
MA: We’ll be sure to keep that in mind. (to LS) I think he should stop talking now. Why don’t you say something?
LS: I don’t know. I’m not a big fan of the whole “let’s remake the fairy tales” trend, but I have to admit, this one has a good cast, and it looks a hundred times better than the previous Snow White movie that came out this year, MIRROR MIRROR, starring that annoying Julia Roberts as the evil queen. That one looked like a lame comedy. At least this new movie plays it serious and looks a little bit darker..
And the week after that, we finally get to see PROMETHEUS. I’ve been waiting for about a year now to see Ridley Scott’s new science fiction movie, and it looks terrific. Interesting cast, great effects and sets, and a rumored connection to Scott’s classic ALIEN, one of my all-time favorite flicks. What else can you ask for?
MA: Yes, I’m very excited about PROMETHEUS too. I’ve seen the trailers like a million times but it still looks good to me.
LS: That’s a good sign. Most movies have such awful trailers, I hate the movie before I even get to see it.
MA: It’s got a great cast, including Noomi Rapace, from the European GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO movies…
LS: Rapace is terrific. I thought she was amazing in the Swedish DRAGON TATTOO movies. And she was also in another big Hollywood movie recently, last year’s SHERLOCK HOLMES: A GAME OF SHADOWS. I’m excited that she’s having a career in American movies, now. It would have been even cooler if Rooney Mara was in PROMETHEUS, too, since she was great in David Fincher’s remake of DRAGON TATTOO. I’d love to see those two together in the same movie sometime! Well, maybe someday…
MA:…the cast also includes Charlize Theron (she’s in a lot of movies this year), Michael Fassbender, and Idris Elba.
Needless to say, I can’t wait.
BABY ALIEN STICKING OUT OF ASTRONAUT’S CHEST: I just hope I get to make an appearance!
LS: It’ll be good to see you again.
MA: I’ll second that.
BABY ALIEN STICKING OUT OF ASTRONAUT’S CHEST: I had no idea I was so popular. Perhaps I should introduce you to my cousins!
MA: No, thank you.
LS: Sure. I’d love to meet your cousins. I’ve got a nice big pot in my kitchen, all set for some baby alien soup!
(BABY ALIEN STICKING OUT OF ASTRONAUT’S CHEST gulps.)
MA: I’ll bring the crackers.
Since nothing worth seeing is coming out the weekend of June 15th, we might be reviewing a DVD instead, which would be a nice break. Then, the following weekend, we finally get to review ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER!
MA: I have to admit, of all the movies we’re reviewing this month, I’m dreading this one the most. I’m not sure why. I guess I just don’t get it. I predict this one will be very bad. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
It does feature Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Mary Todd Lincoln. Winstead was excellent in SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD (2010) as Scott Pilgrim’s girlfriend. She didn’t fare quite as well in THE THING (2011). Still, she’s someone to watch, and I’m glad she’s in this movie.
LS: I thought the title, ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER, was funny…for about three seconds. By the time I saw the movie trailer a second and third time, I was already sick of this concept. It sounds really lame to me. And this was written by Seth Grahame-Smith, based on his novel. This is the same guy who wrote the annoying script for Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS, so I’m not expecting to be blown away by it. Although at least ABE LINCOLN looks darker and more serious than that one. But why not bring Honest Abe to the 1970s and have him hang out with hippies? Grahame-Smith already made a joke out of Barnabas Collins, why not do the same thing to our 16th President!!
MA: You’re really hot under the collar about this one.
LS: Anytime we go into a movie, I hope to be pleasantly surprised, and there’s always the chance that ABRAHAM LINCOLN, VAMPIRE HUNTER will dazzle me. I just think that’s a real long shot…
MA: I would have to agree. I expect it to be a stinker.
We finish the month reviewing TED, a comedy about a foul- mouthed stuffed Teddy bear who’s still hanging out with his buddy, John, even though John is now an adult.
Now, this may be a one-joke movie, but the trailers actually look pretty funny. It’s written and directed by Seth McFarlane of FAMILY GUY fame, and McFarlane also provides the voice for Ted. The cast also includes Mark Wahlberg as John, and Mila Kunis.
This one looks like it’s going to be funny.
LS: Again, this is a movie that could go either way. I like McFarlane. I like the concept of a swearing, drinking Teddy bear. And Mila Kunis is hot stuff.
But Mark Wahlberg? Come on! They couldn’t get anyone better to be the human lead in this one? Someone who is actually funny??
MA: I like Mark Wahlberg.
LS: I think Wahlberg has been good in a few movies, like BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997) and I HEART HUCKABEES (2004), and he can be good in dramas where he has a few humorous moments. But he’s also been in a lot of movies I hated, and he just doesn’t seem right for the lead role in a comedy. He has the comic timing of a mannequin!
I’m sorry, I just don’t have high hopes for this one.
MA: I think it’s going to be good.
LS: I hope you’re right.
MA: So, that wraps things up here.
THOR: No! No one leaves the table until I win this hand!
BABY ALIEN STICKING OUT OF ASTRONAUT’S CHEST: I fold.
ABRAHAM LINCOLN: I can honestly say I cannot win this hand. (folds).
THOR: That leaves just the three of us!
MA: I’m in. Check.
LS: And I’ll raise you both ten. (Pushes chips towards center of table.)
(Thor and MA put in their ten.)
LS: What do you have, Thor?
THOR: A full house, ace high.
MA: That beats me. I just had two pair.
LS: What the hell are you staying in with two pair for?
MA: Hey, a pair of Queens and tens isn’t half bad. What do you have?
LS: Four Kings! I win!
(THOR roars and slams down his hammer)
LS: Come on, Thor, don’t be a sore loser!
THOR: I never lose!
LS: Well, you just did.
MA: Hey, tone it down, will you? Let’s not insult Thor, here. I’d like to live to review these movies.
THOR: One more hand!
MA: Nah, we’re done here.
THOR: One more hand!!!
LS (points): Look! It’s your brother, Loki!
(THOR looks over his shoulder, as MA & LS flee.)
MA: See you in June at the movies!
LS: Better luck next time, Thor, ya big baby!
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda & L.L. Soares
OUT NOW FROM NECON EBOOKS! COLLECTING THE EARLY COLUMNS FROM OUR FIRST FIVE YEARS!
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT – COMING ATTRACTIONS
by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A gothic mansion shot in grainy black and white. Spooky music is playing.)
WOMAN’S VOICE-OVER NARRATION: My name is Victoria Winters. I used to introduce each episode of DARK SHADOWS with a voice-over just like this one. This month, on May 11, a new version of DARK SHADOWS will be released, and this new version will be a comedy. A comedy? A flippin friggin comedy!!!
(WOMAN shrieks and pulls her hair, kicking and screaming as she runs away. MICHAEL ARRUDA & L.L. SOARES enter the scene.)
L.L. SOARES: Boy, was she angry!
MICHAEL ARRUDA: I can’t say that I blame her. I’m pretty miffed that the new DARK SHADOWS movie by Tim Burton will be played for laughs. But hey, if it’s funny and it works, I’ll be sure to change my mind about it. But right now— let’s just say I had been really looking forward to it, until I saw the previews. Now I’m nowhere near as excited about it.
But anyway, welcome to another edition of our COMING ATTRACTIONS column, where we preview the movies we’ll be reviewing in the month ahead.
LS: Welcome to our May 2012 edition.
(MA & LS enter the mansion and find the main room full of superheroes, busily signing autographs for long lines of fans.)
MA: Up first on May 4 is the highly anticipated Marvel Superhero extravaganza THE AVENGERS, featuring Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo debuting as the Hulk, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, and Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow.
LS: Don’t forget Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye. Then again, when I first saw him, I didn’t even know it was Hawkeye, without his distinctive mask. The guy has a simple costume, what’s up with the bare face?
MA: Like legions of Marvel comics fans, I’m looking forward to this one big time, but would it be unfair of me to say my expectations have dropped somewhat?
HULK: Very unfair! Hulk Smash!
CAPTAIN AMERICA: Not to mention, unpatriotic!
LS: Hey, enough of that! No politics allowed within these pages!
MA: Amen to that!
LS: No religion either!
MA: Well, that’s not to say we frown upon politics or religion. We just don’t want to talk about them here. Only movie talk allowed.
So, getting back to the point I was about to make about the Marvel movies, the last couple of Marvel movies, CAPTAIN AMERICA and THOR, were good, but they weren’t great. I wonder if the Marvel movie formula is growing old and tired?
TONY STARK: Old and tired? I’ve never looked better! (A group of women coo, “Oh, Tony!”)
MA: Show off!
LS: Don’t worry about it. We have our own set of adoring fans. (Behind them a long line of cheering zombies, undead, werewolves, vampires, and other assorted monsters and misfits.)
MA: That’s true.
Anyway, perhaps THE AVENGERS will be just the ticket the series needs to get back on its feet again? We’ll find out on May 4.
The impressive cast also includes Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. Also listed in the cast is Harry Dean Stanton, and for some reason, I could have sworn he had died. I guess I was wrong.
LS: That’s awful! Stanton is one of my favorite actors!
MA: Same here, so I’m actually relieved that he’s still with us.
THE AVENGERS was written and directed by Josh Whedon, who wrote the screenplay for THE CABIN IN THE WOODS. Can he have back to back hits? Let’s see.
LS: Whedon didn’t just write this one, though. He directed THE AVENGERS, too.
I am on the fence about this one. I grew up reading the comics and I guess I should be excited that The Avengers are finally coming to the big screen (and look, they beat DC’s Justice League there!). But you’re right about that formula. Marvel superhero movies have become so standardized, so boilerplate, that you just know there aren’t going to be any real surprises.
I’m sure I’ll find something about it to like. But, if the trailers are any indication, I won’t be in geek heaven as I watch it.
The wild card here is Whedon. The guy has talent. I just hope he’s able to pump some fresh blood into this movie.
On May 11, we’ll be reviewing Tim Burton’s DARK SHADOWS.
(MA & LS enter another room where the Collins clan is sitting down for dinner.)
Another movie I was excited about when I first heard about it. But then I saw the trailer, and found myself wincing all the way through it.
MA: Like I said, I had been really excited about this one too, until I saw the trailers, and saw that it was a comedy. I’ll reserve final judgment until after I see the movie, but as it stands right now, I’m not thrilled about it.
I used to be a big fan of Tim Burton, but nowadays I’d say it’s hit or miss with him. I didn’t like SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET (2007)
LS: I didn’t mind SWEENEY TODD. It was fun for what it was.
MA: …and I had no interest in seeing ALICE IN WONERLAND (2010) or CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005). The last Tim Burton movie I liked was SLEEPY HOLLOW (1999), and the last one I REALLY liked was ED WOOD (1994).
LS: I liked SLEEPY HOLLOW a lot, and ED WOOD even more.
MA: I have to admit, though, DARK SHADOWS does have an impressive cast, topped by Johnny Depp, but there’s also Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green [who I really liked in the Daniel Craig James Bond flick CASINO ROYALE (2006)], Chloe Grace Moretz…
LS: Hit Girl!
MA:….Helena Bonham Carter, and Jackie Earle Haley as Willie Loomis. It also features some original cast members in cameos, including the original Barnabas Collins Jonathan Frid, and even Christopher Lee gets in on the fun! It’s a cast that’s hard to beat.
I’m still dreading it though.
LS: Me, too. This is such great material, with so much potential as a straight horror film. It doesn’t need the campy humor and stale jokes. Both DARK SHADOWS and Johnny Depp deserve better. What was Tim Burton thinking?
On May 16, I’ll be reviewing THE DICTATOR. This is the new movie by Sacha Baron Cohen who previously gave us the ALI G TV show, and the movies BORAT and BRUNO, both of which were also directed by Larry Charles (who directed THE DICTATOR, too). Cohen’s trademark has been playing these characters as real, and interacting with real people who reacted to his hijinks. THE DICTATOR is a departure from that. This time, there’s no hidden camera tomfoolery. Cohen plays a fictional dictator of a fictional Middle Eastern country who comes to America. When he comes to visit America, he ends up having his trademark beard shaved off and can’t convince anyone who he really is. And, from the trailer, we see that hilarity ensues…..
God, I hate that phrase!
I like Cohen, and while I’ve seen the trailers for this movie way too many times and expect a lot of the jokes to no longer be funny, I’m still looking forward to this one. I hope it has lots of laughs I don’t know about yet.
MA: On May 18, we’ll be reviewing BATTLESHIP, starring Liam Neeson, and I guess this one is based on the popular game, but I’d say it’s loosely based on it. I mean, it’s a cool game and all, but I don’t remember the game ever having anything to do with aliens, which this movie is about, battleships fighting aliens.
(Booming explosions occur outside a window. MA looks out window to see a battleship firing on an alien spaceship.)
MA: I had no idea this place was on beachfront property.
(LS looks out window.)
LS: Me neither. Hey, look at all those hot chicks in bikinis playing volleyball. (MA returns to the window just as there’s another loud explosion.) Oops! Never mind.
MA (shrugs) To me, BATTLESHIP looks pretty silly. It looks like it’s going to be on the level of the TRANSFORMERS movies, which I’m not crazy about. I can only hope it’ll be better, but I won’t be holding my breath.
LS: Yeah, I actually reviewed the trailer for this one way back in the only installment of my column TRASHING TRAILERS, a concept I keep meaning to do more of. Back then, I said that the trailer looked pretty abysmal. That hasn’t changed. This one stars Liam Neeson as a Navy admiral, Taylor Kitsch (from JOHN CARTER) and Alexander Skarsgard from TRUE BLOOD. Hell it even has the singer Rihanna in it. Sounds like a wasted cast to me. I hope it’s better than it looks, but I still can’t understand how the board game turned into an alien invasion movie. Doesn’t’ the game take place during World War II or something?
And we’ll finish off the month with a review of the very cool looking CHERNOBYL DIARIES on May 25. This is the new movie by Oren Peli, who wrote the PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies, and he co-created the recent ABC series THE RIVER (which I don’t think will be renewed for some reason). I like Peli’s work so far, and this one looks interesting.
A bunch of young American tourists in Russia visit the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. They think the town is abandoned, but someone seems to be watching them. Someone who might be dangerous.
It doesn’t look like this one is filmed in the fake documentary style that Peli usually uses for his film and TV projects. That might be refreshing. This movie has potential, and I hope it lives up to it.
MA: Yeah, this one looks pretty good, and it’s horror, which seems to be a rarity among mainstream movies here in 2012. Like you said, one of the writers who worked on the screenplay is Oren Peli, the guy who wrote all three PARANORMAL ACTIVITY movies and directed the first one, so this is a good thing. But unfortunately, he didn’t direct this one. Bradley Parker did. And this is his directorial debut.
Also a good thing is I don’t know a whole lot about it, other than what I saw in the trailer, and so I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised.
Okay, that wraps up our column and another month here at CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT.
LS: We’ll see you on May 4 with our review of THE AVENGERS.
(MA & LS return to the main hall full of superheroes. Thor is showing off his muscles to his fans, while Tony Stark has his arms around two beautiful babes.)
MA: Maybe we should have gone into the superhero business.
LS: Nah! I’ll take our fans any day of the week! (puts his arms around two undead rotting corpse girls with parts missing)
(Cute vampire girl snuggles up to MA.)
VAMPIRE GIRL: Want a hickey?
MA: Now, you’re talking!
PAUL MCMAHON (aka “The Distracted Critic”) sits amid the clutter and chaos of four kids and struggles to remember what he’s doing from moment to moment. His love for all things scary began with being terrorized by James Earl Jones reciting the alphabet on SESAME STREET (Aaaaa… Beeeee… Ceeeee….). From there he spent his formative years watching CREATURE DOUBLE FEATURE on Channel 56 every Saturday and begging his parents to take him to the theater to see horror movies. Everything from CARRIE to THE OMEN and THE LEGACY to THE SHINING were deemed inappropriate, so he started writing his own scary stories to relieve the boredom. Since then, his work has appeared in the anthologies THE DARKEST THIRST, DAMNED NATION, and the recent New England Horror Writers (NEHW) anthology, EPITAPHS. When his kids aren’t around he watches movies and reads books, albeit a little at a time. He remains in the middle of many projects, and has new works both forthcoming and under construction.
CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: THE GREY (2012)
By Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
(THE SCENE: A vast snowy wasteland. L.L. SOARES is warming his hands by a crackling fire, while a wolf turns on a spit. MICHAEL ARRUDA looks disgusted)
MA: Do we really have to eat a wolf? It smells awful!
LS: Are you kidding? I’ve got a bottle of STUBB’S Real Texas barbecue sauce right here. It makes any meat taste great.
MA: How’s it on skunk? Anyway, what are you doing with a bottle of barbecue sauce in the middle of Alaska? Are we doing commercials now?
LS: Hell, I bring it everywhere! Makes meat taste better. You’re lucky I’m not eating YOU after that big plane crash.
MA: And that’s supposed to make me feel better? Just make sure you fill your gut with plenty of wolf meat so you satisfy that voracious appetite of yours.
LS: I dunno. This cold air is making me plenty hungry.
MA: That’s what I’m afraid of. We’ll just find you a nice supply of berries, nuts, and pine cones.
LS: I’m not eating that crap!
MA: Put some of that magical barbecue sauce on it, and it’ll taste just fine. You said it makes everything taste great.
LS: No, I said it makes any meat taste great!
MA: Anyway, how about we get off the subject of food, and you take a break from cooking and start our review of the new Liam Neeson movie, THE GREY?
THE GREY is a movie about a team of guys in Alaska who are working for an oil drilling corporation. Liam Neeson plays Ottway, a guy who was hired to shoot wolves if they get too close to the workers. He and a bunch of other guys take a plane to Anchorage for some R&R and it crashes.
MA: Yeah, that crash scene is pretty intense. I loved the way it was shot, entirely from the inside of the plane, so you’re feeling like you’re right there with the passengers, and we’re spared any potential fake-looking CGI planes crashing into the ice. It’s a riveting sequence that takes full advantage of people’s fear of plane crashes.
LS: Yes, it is rather intense, isn’t it? I thought the crash was very well done.
Anyway, after the crash, Ottway wakes up in the middle of nowhere, covered in snow. He goes over the next hill and sees the plane in pieces and only a few guys alive after the crash.
There are bodies everywhere, and Ottway, being an expert in the local animals, takes charge and instructs everyone in what to do to stay alive. Some of the people question his authority, until the wolves start hovering around.
The movie becomes a quest for survival, as Ottway and the rest of the survivors struggle to stay alive. Knowing that the chances of a search party finding them are slim, they decide to keep moving. This entails not only keeping an eye out for vicious wolves, but also struggling to stay warm in sub-zero temperatures, and trying to maneuver through knee-high snow (with blizzards on the way). It’s rough going, and even though these guys survived the plane crash, there is no guarantee they are going to live to see civilization again, especially with those wolves constantly on the edges of the darkness, waiting to pick them off, one by one.
I really like Liam Neeson, and he’s been on an action movie roll lately, with starring roles in films like this one, and TAKEN (2008) and UNKNOWN (2011). Neeson is starting to become a one-man industry all by himself, regularly turning out interesting action movies. Sort of like another entertaining actor, Nicolas Cage.
MA: I tend to enjoy Neeson a bit more than Cage, but I think you’re dead-on about Neeson becoming a one-man industry. People I talk to always cite Neeson as one of their favorite actors, and I know the theater I was in last night was packed. I’m guessing they were Liam Neeson fans. It’s not like this movie had a lot of hype or an amazing trailer. If anything, the trailer was rather boring.
LS: Yeah, I didn’t think much of the trailer for THE GREY and I was bummed out that we had to see this one. I went into that theater with zero expectations.
MA: Me, too. I was ready to call THE GREY, “The Blah.”
LS: I just expected another by-the-numbers action movie. But I was completely wrong. THE GREY was something completely different. And it captured my imagination.
MA: Ditto. I really didn’t think I was going to like this movie, but I ended up liking it a lot. And again, I have to agree with you about it capturing the imagination. That’s what made this movie work so well. It really was a step above your standard action movie, thanks largely in part to a well-written script by Joe Carnahan, who also directed, and Ian Mackenzie Jeffers, based on a short story by Jeffers called “Ghost Walkers.”
LS: Carnahan is a pretty interesting director. He gave us some quirky action/crime flicks in the past, like NARC (2002) and SMOKIN’ ACES (2006). He also directed the recent movie version of THE A-TEAM (2010)— which also featured Neesom in the ensemble cast. Carnahan does a terrific job with THE GREY.
(FROSTY THE SNOWMAN approaches the guys)
FROSTY: Hey guys, I’m really c-c-cold out here. Mind if I come sit by your fire?
LS: Sure thing, Frosty, take a load off.
MA: Is that really a smart idea?
FROSTY: What do you mean? Are you trying to say you don’t want me to join you guys?
MA: No, no, not at all. It’s just that you’re made of snow and….
FROSTY (sits down next to fire): Ahhhhh! This is the life.
(FROSTY promptly falls asleep.)
MA: You know he’s not going to last the night.
LS: Are you kidding. He won’t last the hour! I just added a lot more kindling to the fire. Frosty isn’t the brightest bulb in the tulip patch.
(MA and LS laugh)
MA: Ultimately, THE GREY is about death and how we face it. As you would imagine, in a movie about a small group of plane crash survivors stranded in the brutally frozen Alaska wilderness, hunted by a pack of wolves that are upset because these survivors have landed too close to their den, there’s a lot of death scenes in this movie, and so there is ample opportunity to address how people deal with death.
It gets into faith in God vs. faith in the here and now, and a recurring theme is not being afraid of death. It’s about meeting death on your own terms, because you know what? It’s inevitable.
LS: It also washes over you like a warm wave, if Neeson’s character is to be believed. He tells a character this early on who is about to die.
MA: Yes, early on in the film, there’s a scene where one of the survivors is bleeding out, and Neeson’s Ottway tells him straight out, you’re going to die. Ottway then guides him, in the gentlest yet confident way, to his death, asking him who he loves and telling him to let that person take him to where he’s going. It’s a poignant scene, and sets the stage, thematically, for the rest of the movie.
LS: It is a poignant scene. And not what you’re expecting when you sit down to watch an action movie. I have to admit, that I really started to care about these characters, especially Ottway, as the movie continued.
Another thing about Neeson is, the movie opens with his character trudging through the snow at night, and a voiceover where he’s talking to us. Normally, I hate that kind of thing, but when Neeson does it, it’s strangely reassuring. Like “this is a Liam Neeson movie, and you’re in good hands now.”
Along with Neeson, there are some great performances by Frank Grillo (some people may remember him from TV shows like PRISON BREAK and he was the father on the short-lived, but pretty good, supernatural series THE GATES)—in THE GREY he plays a hard-ass ex-con named Diaz who is Ottway’s nemesis for a lot of the movie, and he steals several of the scenes—and Dallas Roberts (from shows like THE GOOD WIFE and the AMC series RUBICON) as Hendrick. The supporting cast is actually quite good here, but it’s clear from the start that Neeson is the main attraction.
MA: I liked those two guys a lot, too. I also enjoyed Dermot Mulroney as Talget. The scene where Talget, a man who is afraid of heights, has to cross a high cliff on a wire to reach the tall trees for safety, is another exercise in intensity, well-executed by both the actor and the director.
LS: That is a great scene. This movie is full of them. Scenes that could have been generic action sequences, but because of character idiosyncrasies or fears, they’ve been turned into something more personal.
MA: Joe Anderson is also memorable as Flannery, a guy who seems to have a negative comment about everything and quickly gets on his fellow survivor’s nerves. Anderson was even more memorable as Deputy Russell in THE CRAZIES (2010).
I liked that for the most part, these actors were unrecognizable. It added to the believability of this tale.
LS: Yeah, I really could not identify who they were until the end credits rolled. Aside from Neeson, nobody looks very familiar here.
MA: And speaking of believability, I agree with you that Neeson is the main attraction, mostly because he is so believable. After the crash, Neeson’s Ottway immediately takes charge, and like the audience, several of the survivors initially question why Ottway is qualified to lead them. Ottway professes his knowledge of wolves and survival, and Neeson makes us believe every word and action that comes from this guy.
LS: Yeah, at first some of the other guys are like, “Who the hell are you to tell us what to do?” But it’s gradually clear that he’s the only one who really knows what he’s doing, and Neeson does seem like a natural born leader.
MA: There’s a great scene where Diaz challenges Ottway, and Ottway decks him and knocks him on his ass, and he gets in his face and tells him straight out that he is not going to put up with his crap. It’s a commanding moment, and Neeson pulls it off without a shred of doubt.
LS: Yeah, not only is Ottway the smartest guy in the group, he can also kick ass when he needs to.
My one complaint about THE GREY is that the movie does move a little slow in spots. A few scenes seem to last a bit longer than they should. But, as it progressed and developed its own odd rhythm, it really won me over.
MA: Yep, there were some slow parts.
LS: Even the way it’s paced isn’t like a normal action movie.
I found the odyssey of these guys in their struggle for survival to be really compelling. I also found some of the more personal moments involving Neeson’s character to be especially moving, since they deal with the character’s loss of his wife, something that Neeson experienced himself not too long ago in real life (his wife, actress Natasha Richardson, died in 2009 after a skiing accident). The scenes where Neeson thinks back about his wife really have a strong kick to them. You believe that he is a man in pain. In fact, at the beginning of the movie, before the plane crash stuff even happens, Ottway contemplates suicide. And yet, when they’re struggling to stay alive in the aftermath of the crash, Ottway is also the one guy who most desperately clings to staying alive.
As the movie progressed, it drew me more and more into the story of these characters. And by the end, I really grew to like this movie a lot.
MA: Same here. Like you, I really enjoyed Ottway’s personal story, and I thought Neeson handled this terrifically. Although I liked Neeson in UNKNOWN a lot, I thought his performance here was better, deeper, and richer. He makes so many movies we tend to forget just how good an actor this guy can be.
As much as I liked the entire package of THE GREY, I found myself liking Neeson the most. But the whole film is great. Director Joe Carnahan creates several memorable scenes in this movie. The aforementioned crash scene is about as riveting a crash scene I’ve watched in a long time.
I loved the sequence where they have to cross over the cliff to the pine trees on a makeshift line. The scene where Hendrick falls into the river is another nail-biter. And then, pretty much any scene where the wolves were involved.
LS: The scenes with the wolves are well done, and suspenseful. You never know when they are going to strike. They almost take on a supernatural aspect as the film progresses, as if they’re everywhere.
And that scene with Hendrick in the icy river – man! That might just be the most intense scene in the whole movie.
MA: I liked the look of the wolves in this one. They looked much better than the CGI werewolves we’ve seen in the movies the past few years. Sure, one of the reasons they look so good is the scenes they’re in are so damn scary, but another reason is we hardly ever see them clearly. We see them at night, or in the snow, or in a mist, and this isn’t a cop-out, but an effective use of special effects to really make the wolves a credible threat in this movie.
LS: Yeah, you won’t soon forget those glowing eyes in the darkness. And you’re right. The wolves in this one are scarier and more threatening than anything in the TWILIGHT Saga, or the latest UNDERWORLD flick we just saw. This is the way scary wolves should be done!
MA: The wolf scenes are genuinely unnerving. I really believed the men’s lives were in danger from these animals, and I found myself looking behind these guys, expecting a wolf to come out at any moment. The wolf scenes in this film were that good.
(Behind MA & LS, run a pack of WOLVES followed by a SHEEP.)
SHEEP: Wait up guys! Are we there yet?
WOLF: It’s right around the corner.
SHEEP: I’m starving. What’s on the menu?
WOLF: You— I mean, you’ll see. (to LS): Hey mister, can we borrow your barbecue sauce?
LS: Are you kidding me? Have you seen what I’m roasting?
WOLF: Gulp! Forget I asked.
(WOLVES flee, followed by the SHEEP)
SHEEP: Wait up guys! Hey, was that man back there roasting a wolf? That sounds good! (Looks at camera and smiles, revealing rows of mega-sharp silver teeth.) What? You think all sheep are herbivores? Think again! (Exits)
MA: That was freaky.
LS: Well, it’s time for us to give our ratings. By the end of this film, it had won me over completely. I give THE GREY ~ three and a half knives.
MA: I liked this one a lot too, and enjoyed it from beginning to end. That being said, I wasn’t overly crazy about the ending. It was a little bleak.
LS: There you go again with your “I can’t stand bleak endings” attitude. What a wuss. Here. Put these on. (Puts a pair of Mickey Mouse ears on MA’s head.) Go smile and wave at little kids.
MA: I didn’t hate the ending. I just wasn’t crazy about it. I’d go on, but I don’t want to give anything away.
LS: That’s good, because I don’t’ want to talk about the ending too much either, but I will say that what happens stays true to the movie up to that point. This isn’t an easy movie where everything magically falls into place. There’s a certain honesty to it—another thing that sets it apart from your typical action movie. And the ending harkens back to a poem Ottway’s father had written when he was a kid and that he knew by heart.
A lot of the movie was like this—little powerful moments spread out throughout the journey—just a really good script.
MA: And the title of the movie, THE GREY, aptly describes the tone and themes of this film. THE GREY is rather gloomy, albeit exciting.
But all in all, like you, I liked THE GREY a lot, and I’m giving it three knives. I almost gave this one three and a half knives, but the dreariness factor prevented me from doing so.
LS: I still say you’re a wuss, Mickey. Anyway, we done? I’m hungry.
MA: Yeah, we’re done. How’s that wolf coming along? Well-done enough for you?
LS: Dammit! I got so carried away with the review I forgot to check on the wolf. It’s burnt! Oh well, lucky thing I got my STUBB’S.
MA (steps in a puddle): Where did this come from? I almost slipped in that mud.
LS: That is our good friend Frosty!
MA (laughs): Here, have a pine cone appetizer (tosses him a pine cone)
Well, folks, that’s it for now. We’ll see you next week with a review of another new movie.
LS: I wonder if you can smoke this thing? (Lights pine cone and takes a puff.)
© Copyright 2012 by Michael Arruda and L.L. Soares
Michael Arruda gives THE GREY ~ THREE knives!
LL Soares gives THE GREY~THREE AND A HALF knives.