Month: January 2017

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

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The human race is facing extinction. The only one who can save the last remnants of humanity is Alice. She must venture back to where it all began, Racoon City. There she will have to fight in order to end the plague of undead and bring humans back to the top of the food chain. Time is running out. Will Alice be able to defeat the hordes of zombies as well as some of the most powerful foes she has ever faced?

Before I begin, I have to address the elephant in the room. For those who know and love the Resident Evil franchise, you must be familiar with the origin story of Umbrella Corporation and the T-virus. In the second film, Resident Evil: Apocalypse, we meet Dr. Ashwood who created the T-Virus to save his daughter, Angela, from a degenerative disease. The film even spends quite a bit of time on Alice and company trying to rescue Angela. Now, in Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, the origin story has completely changed. It is still a father who is trying to save his daughter from a rare disease, but the names and time frame have been altered. Even the disease affecting the daughter is different than what we learned in the second film. While I prefer origin story in this film to what we saw in Apocalypse, it seems insane that the filmmakers would make this film as if the second one didn’t exist. Did they expect fans not to notice? That, and the addition of a strange biblical aspect to Dr. Isaacs’ motivation (which was never mentioned in the previous films), left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, we can get into the rest of the film. I love the Resident Evil franchise. The first three films are fantastic. The fourth film is a little all over the place, but still a fun story with lots of excitement. The franchise lost me a little bit once the fifth film, Resident Evil: Retribution, came out. That installment didn’t really have a clear story line, virtually no character development for the new characters, and it felt more like a video game than a film. The Final Chapter started out feeling more like Retribution. I don’t even remember if there was any real dialogue in the first twenty minutes of the film. Aside from learning the new origin story of the T-virus, the beginning was primarily filled with random scenes of Alice fighting the undead and a giant flying creature. Once we got past that and learned Alice’s new mission the story began to take shape. It’s a simple story with a clear goal in mind, but it was filled with action, excitement, and intrigue. The only other issue I encountered with regards to the plot was yet another problem that was also present in Retribution. There was little to no character development with regards to the new group of survivors Alice encounters. Much like in Retribution, the new characters are really only in the film to act as cannon fodder and to make Alice (and the audience) sad when a human dies. It is difficult to feel anything when a character dies if all you really know about them is their name.

When it comes to the acting we all know and love Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil, The Fifth Element) as Alice. Jovovich gave another convincing performance as the constant warrior and martyr of humanity. The real standout performance was that of Iain Glen (Resident Evil: Extinction, Game of Thrones) as Dr. Isaacs. Glen played such an amazing villain. Not only did Glen portray Dr. Isaacs as a man who believes he is righteous in the path he has chosen, but he also showed the audience the doctor’s complete lack of conscious. I was ecstatic the filmmakers brought him back as the ultimate evil for Alice to face at the end of the franchise.

The CGI effects in the Resident Evil films always impress me. They are able to create unique monsters, futuristic technology, and entire cityscapes without it looking laughable. The creature design in this film was very fun. They clearly chose to go bigger and more unique for a lot of the T-virus monsters which added to the scares and thrills. Even the large CGI zombie hordes looked well done. While I knew the things on the screen were all done by computers, there was never a moment where I was consciously thinking that it was computer generated or that it was done poorly.

Resident Evil: The Final Chapter was a fitting end to the franchise filled with action, intrigue, and of course zombies. Sadly it is a flawed film, primarily due to the sudden change in origin stories and the lack of character development. As I said earlier, I preferred the origin story created in The Final Chapter. It made for a more impactful story and a more powerful ending. I just can’t ignore that we were already given the origin story, although it seemed like that was exactly what the filmmakers wanted the audience to do. If you haven’t seen Resident Evil: Apocalypse, then don’t see it before watching The Final Chapter. It sounds odd, but you will likely enjoy the film more by avoiding the conflicting origins of the T-virus. If you have seen Apocalypse, I will warn you that you may leave the theater a bit frustrated by the last film of the Resident Evil franchise.

OVERALL RATING: 5.5/10

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Split

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Three teenage girls are kidnapped and held captive by a man. It soon becomes clear that this is no ordinary man. He has 23 distinct personalities living within his mind. A few of those personalities have taken over and have devised a plan. They want to use the young girls in order to bring out a 24th personality known only as The Beast. The girls must either find a way to escape or try to convince one of the personalities to help them before it’s too late.

In the past there have been some pretty great films with characters who have dissociative identity disorder. A couple of them have even been in the horror genre. Split will go down as one of the top films featuring someone with multiple personalities. There are many reasons Split is a standout film for me. A large part of this is the way the main character, Kevin, was written. I appreciated that they emphasized that, while there are evil personalities within Kevin, many of them are good. It is similar to looking at a group of people in a room; some of them will be good and some of them will have a dark side. It is almost a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde scenario where the actions of one personality cannot be blamed on another. I also love that the film explained how Kevin gained his personalities and that each of them came into being for different reasons depending on Kevin’s needs. By having one of the main characters in the film be Kevin’s psychologist the audience gets a more in-depth look into the inner workings of his mind.

The film also did an excellent job of having unique characters in each of the girls. While all of them are important in their own way, one of them is very important to the story. Casey is the dark and mysterious loner of the group. She is more observant than the other girls and uses whatever knowledge she can gain to survive. Learning about Casey and her past alongside Kevin’s added a very interesting juxtaposition. We as the audience get to see how both characters went through rather traumatic childhoods. While they are both emotionally, mentally, and even physically damaged from this trauma, it is interesting to see how they both coped with things in vastly different ways.

All five of the leads in Split did a tremendous job. James McAvoy (X-Men: First Class, Wanted) gave one of the best performances I have ever seen from him as Kevin and all his many other personalities. What made McAvoy’s performances so great was that you could clearly tell which personality he was at all times. Not only did he change his voice to fit each personality, but he even changed his body language. He simply blew me away. As always, Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch, Morgan) was also amazing as Casey. Taylor-Joy has made a name for herself in the horror world, and Split was no different. She expertly portrayed Casey as a survivor. Casey will use what she has learned from her sorted past to get through any obstacle that comes her way. McAvoy and Taylor-Joy’s moments together on screen made for some chilling scenes.

M. Night Shyamalan is known for having amazing twists in his films. Something that he has done more recently in The Visit and Split is add humor to his films. Split is a very gritty, intense, and sometimes even frightening film. Interspersed throughout all that are a lot of very humorous parts. In a film like this, having humor can be a risky decision. Ultimately I thought having times where the audience can laugh not only added some relief between scenes of high tension, but also made the film have a bit more of a realistic flare. If you are dealing with someone who has multiple personalities, some being 9 years old or the opposite sex of the body, it is only natural that humorous things will happen.

While overall I loved the film, there is one thing that keeps bothering me. I will be as vague as possible since going into too much detail will spoil some things. There is one scene at the end of the film. The scene lasts maybe 2 minutes and it is the last thing you see. This one scene managed to ruin the film a bit for me. While I can see why some people will be thrilled by it, I am not one of those people. Others will simply have no idea what the significance of those last two minutes are. The scene turned this film into something completely different than you would have expected by watching the first hour and 55 minutes. It is something new for Shyamalan, and it definitely leaves room for him to possibly do his first sequel. Yet I simply can’t get on board with how he ended the film.

Split is not only an edge of your seat film, but it is also a film that shows the many interesting facets of the human brain. If nothing else this film is worth seeing just to watch James McAvoy playing numerous characters. There are definitely more things to love about Split than hate. Personally I wish the film had ended without the addition of that last scene. For those of you who plan on seeing Split, I have one very vague piece of advice for you. Be sure that you are familiar with all of Shyamalan’s previous films.

OVERALL RATING: 8/10

Underworld: Blood Wars

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The vampire death dealer, Selene, is at it again. After the vampire coven that was her home betrayed her she is out on her own. Her only solace is knowing that her daughter is somewhere safe and hidden away from the vampires that would use her blood for their own gain. When a new Lycan leader arises who is determined to find Selene’s daughter she is forced to go back to those who sought to destroy her.

This is the fifth Underworld film of the franchise, including the prequel. I loved the first film, the second film was entertaining as well as the prequel. Once we got to the fourth film things drastically went downhill. It was so dreadful that I completely blocked it from my memory and didn’t remember most of the events when I went into the fifth film. Because of how much I disliked the fourth film, I entered Blood Wars with low expectations.

For the most part the plot of this film held my interest. The Underworld films tend to have a lot of political intrigue, especially within the vampire covens, and this installment was no different. We are introduced to a new leader in the vampire covens, Semira, who is bloodthirsty for power. The twists and turns surrounding her and her desire to become invincible were quite intriguing. There was also a new Lycan leader known as Marius. We are told early on that he is different than previous Lycan leaders, but we do not immediately learn why. It adds a layer of mystery to the plot. The biggest down side to the plot is there are far too many flashbacks in the film. It felt like a third of the film consisted of scenes from the previous movies. Despite this, the filmmakers still added some fun new material. While I wouldn’t say this is an Oscar worthy story, it was enough to make me pay attention.

As with any Underworld film there were a lot of amazing action scenes in Blood Wars. This film was released in 2D and 3D, and I would recommend seeing it in 3D specifically for the fight scenes. I’m not sure if it was just that it had been a while since I watched this franchise, but I felt that this film was much more graphically violent than its predecessors. There is a possibility the filmmakers chose to have more gore to make the 3D more interesting, as they utilized it to emphasize some of the more interesting kills in the film.

Unfortunately, while the 3D made some scenes more interesting, it did not help with the unfortunate CGI. The earlier Underworld films were known for their practical effects and unique creature design. Blood Wars not only over used CGI, but the design they chose for the werewolf, Marius, is downright laughable. They gave him a different look than the other werewolves and it was so ridiculous that it ruined any fight scene his character was in. Overall the effects felt poorly done and ruined a movie heavily laden with CGI. The only effects in the film that were somewhat well done were for the wounds during the more graphic kills.

Underworld: Blood Wars consisted of a number of talented actors. Kate Beckinsale reprised her role as the beautiful and lethal Selene. It blows my mind that she has been playing this role for 14 years and can still kick some ass while wearing a vinyl body suit. Theo James (Divergent) also returned as the vampire, David. David will do anything to help Selene after she saved his life. I’ve never thought of James as an exceptional actor, but I did enjoy his performance in this film. The two main newcomers to this installment were Lara Pulver (True Blood) and Tobias Menzies (Outlander). Pulver plays the cunning Semira. Her performance was one of the more entertaining ones simply because she made her character look like she truly enjoyed being evil and devious. Menzies portrayed the werewolf leader, Marius. In general I am a fan of Menzies, and I know he can play truly vile villains. Sadly his performance in this film made his character seem more like a petulant child than a menacing leader.

If you see Underworld: Blood Wars in theaters, be sure to see it in 3D. It makes what would otherwise be a CGI action film nightmare into something at least somewhat more entertaining. Although I will say you aren’t missing too much if you decide to wait until the film hits Redbox. The action is fun, the plot has a lot of twists and turns, but in reality this installment is only marginally better than the fourth film. The filmmakers are clearly going to make a sixth film. After the last two films I wish they wouldn’t, but I will likely still see the next one when it is released in theaters.

OVERALL RATING: 5/10

The Bye Bye Man

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Three college students rent an old house off campus. In the house is a small nightstand. Within that nightstand the words “don’t think it, don’t say it” are written over and over and over. Under that writing something else is carved into the wood:”The Bye Bye Man.” From the moment the name is read and spoken aloud, the friends are put in danger. They must quickly work to discover the origin of the writing and save themselves from pure evil.

Going into this film I did not have high expectations. It looked like your typical PG-13 horror flick with a bunch of young unknown actors and a mediocre plot. The opening scene of the film almost changed my mind. It was completely different than I expected. It was shocking and it set the tone for what could have been an amazing story. Unfortunately, the rest of the film was exactly what I expected.

There was a lot of potential hidden within this mess of a film. As I said before, the first 10 minutes of the film were superb. It threw you into events that showed you what needed to be done when the name is spoken aloud. By showing this to the audience, we immediately get a better understanding of some of the mythology behind the mysterious Bye Bye Man. Once we get to the present, everything becomes less clear. The mythology the filmmakers attempted to build is spotty and incomplete. On more than one occasion scenes depict a train and two old coins. They are shown many times, yet not once is their significance explained. The only things we know for sure about the Bye Bye Man are that you shouldn’t think or say his name, he has a strange dog-like creature as his sidekick, and he drives his victims mad by making them see things.

While the film doesn’t focus enough on the mythology, it does focus on many minor plot points that have no real significance to the story. Specifically, the film focused a lot on the lead actor having a sneaking suspicion that his girlfriend and best friend are having an affair. I understand that this was implanted into the plot as a way for the Bye Bye Man to invade this character’s mind, but at the same time this idea is put into our minds even before the Bye Bye Man is involved. It doesn’t make sense to have a character suspect his girlfriend is cheating on him with his best friend, yet he is fine with the three of them all living together in a house. To me this either indicates a bit of laziness on the filmmaker’s part or they expected the audience not to be smart enough to notice.

The Bye Bye Man had some pretty well known cast members. The Bye Bye Man himself was played by the much beloved Doug Jones (Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth). The cast also included the likes of Carrie Anne Moss (The Matrix, Chocolat) and Faye Dunaway (Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown). The one problem with these three big talents was they were vastly underutilized. I was mostly disappointed by the lack of use of Jones. He is such an amazing actor, especially when in elaborate prosthetics, yet in most scenes Jones was merely standing in the shadows. Since these three actors are more well known, it only makes sense they likely were paid fairly well, despite the size of the roles they were in. With so much of the film budget going towards people who were barely in the film, it appears that the remaining budget was barely enough to cover the lead actors and the CGI.

The three leads were sadly another negative aspect of this film. Douglas Smith (Miss Sloane, Big Love) played the loving boyfriend, Elliot. There were times when his performance was passable, but then he would deliver a line that felt so over the top some audience members laughed. His best friend, John, was played by Lucien Laviscount (Scream Queens, Honeytrap). I have seen Laviscount on season one of Scream Queens and thought he was a good actor. In this film it seemed like he was overacting a bit, much like Smith. Cressida Bonas (Doctor Thorne) played the girlfriend, Sasha. Since this was Bonas’s first feature film, and one of her first acting projects, I am willing to be a bit more forgiving. My biggest concern with her performance is that there were many times when I could hear her English accent coming through when she was playing an American student. It seems likely the acting was flawed due to a combination of factors; lack of experience, poor direction, and an underdeveloped screenplay.

The CGI in The Bye Bye Man appears to be more comparable to a SyFy channel film than a film that has a wide theatrical release. In one scene that can be viewed in the trailer, the Bye Bye Man makes a character see maggots on another character. It looks like virtually no effort was put into making the maggots appear realistic or look like they are actually coming out of the person’s body. That is just one example of the unfortunate effects throughout the film. The “dog” sidekick of the Bye Bye Man is another CGI disaster. Not only are the effects poorly executed, but the creature design also leaves much to be desired. It’s not quite a monster, it’s not quite a real animal, and I’m still not sure why it was even in the film.

When I think to some of the basics of the plot, I see something that could have been great. I love the idea of the evil called the Bye Bye Man. I also love the “don’t think it don’t say it” catchphrase and how the Bye Bye Man gains his power. Perhaps if the film had spent more time learning about the villain himself, as opposed to seeing his effects on the three students, the story would have held the interest of viewers. I went into this film expecting it to be bad, but at least somewhat creepy. The fact that I went home to an empty house at night and was not even remotely scared speaks volumes about the film. As much as it pains me to say it, The Bye Bye Man is already in the running for one of the worst horror films of 2017.

OVERALL RATING: 3/10