In my completely voluntary trawl through Paul W. S. Anderson’s oeuvre — and I write “voluntary” to emphasize the fact that I wasn’t threatened with sharp implements to watch this — his 2004 goo-fest with the unwieldy and literal-minded title, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, actually stands as something of an achievement. Sure, it’s icky to look at, it comes with a backstory that’s patent nonsense, but nonetheless provides excitement in an efficiently dumb way.
See what I wrote earlier about discontinuity? Resident Evil: Extinction, from 2007, ended with Alice discovering an entire warehouse full of superhuman Alices in test tubes and a vague plan, like the Brain does every night, to try to take over the world. Well, to wreak revenge on the nefarious Umbrella Corporation, anyway. Resident Evil: Afterlife begins appropriately with an entire catsuited platoon of Alices, looking like they had freshly stepped out of a Robert Palmer video, launching an attack on the Umbrella Corporation’s Tokyo headquarters, situated miles below Shibuya Station. Ten minutes and a slow-motion hail of bullets later, that entire subplot gets jettisoned (wisely, if you ask me) by writer and director Paul W. S. Anderson — yes, that same guy responsible for writing the whole Resident Evil series, as well as Death Race and Event Horizon and AVP: Alien vs Predator. This new installment in the series doesn’t fall far from the tree, but surely there are worse ways to spend a Saturday afternoon.
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Right now I can’t think of a more oddly discontinuous film trilogy (now a quadrilogy / quartet, but I haven’t seen the latest one yet) than the sci-fi/horror/action Resident Evil series: characters appear and disappear, both locale and tone shift radically from movie to movie, the heroine seems to get inexplicable weapon and power upgrades in each installment (inexplicable as well to her, because her memory keeps getting conveniently erased) — all this, despite the fact that all the screenplays are written by schlock auteur Paul W.S. Anderson, not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson. (I also know close to nothing about the Resident Evil videogames, but it occurs to me that this apparent discontinuity in locales resemble game levels: the city level, the desert level, and so on.)
It’s something of a paradox to state that Daniel Day-Lewis’ towering, fiery oil derrick of a performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s undeniably brilliant There Will Be Blood is both the best and worst thing about this film. His acting, as oilman Daniel Plainview, is amazing, both subtly nuanced and overpowering — so much of the latter, really, that it tends to swallow the entire epic whole. Plainview is also impenetrably amoral, a man of few sympathies, and consequently the viewer has none in return for his character. It’s a tough hook to hang an entire movie on, but the film succeeds despite of it.
Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race is the kind of movie where people actually yell “OHHHHH SHIIIIIIIIIT!!!!!” or “FUUUUUCK MEEEEEEE!!!!!” seconds before they get slaughtered.
Look: if your reaction to that one-sentence “review” is not along the lines of “OMG I’m so THERE,” as my friend Ver wisely replied after I wrote her this, then Death Race is, I’m afraid, simply not for you. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 Mamma Mia! is probably playing next door. Really. I think you should watch that instead.