WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 20

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 20th WWW:

1) Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li:
I'm not surprised that, once again, someone failed to make a good (live-action) movie based on the Street Fighter game. The anime set the bar too high, and the laughable '90s Van Damme movie proved that if you're too faithful to the cartoonish elements of the game while focusing on the wrong characters, you end up with a mess. It was a fun mess though, while all the fun in this Chun-Li movie is unintentional. I was surprised that the miscast lead Kristen Kreuk was not the weakest link, perhaps because I had low expectations for her. And Michael Clarke Duncan pretty much could just look big and act menacing like he often does, and nail the role of Balrog. I think the advantage this film has over the previous one is that it went for a tighter cast, bringing in only four of the sixteen fighters from the original games. But they only got half of the characters right. Neil McDonough plays his usual villain and adds an accent, and neither physically nor spiritually resembles Bison. Instead of a martial arts terrorist general, he's some corrupt businessman whose lack of morals somehow stems from ripping his infant daughter from his wife's womb in a cave, killing the wife in the bloody process. I can't(and wouldn't) make that up. Apparently the daughter is based on a character from a later game. Taboo of The Black Eyed Peas portrays Vega, a role that basically requires him to vainly hide his face behind a steel mask while attacking his opponent with wrist-mounted claws. I can't say he was terrible, but it is disappointing that his first meeting with Chun-Li lasts about two minutes, and he's not seen again. Hi, major character from the game! Bye, major character from the game! What the cuss? Oddly enough, Chris Klein's bad acting was the most offensive, perhaps because I thought he was a much better actor. Maybe he wasn't acting in American Pie. Here he plays an Interpol agent named Nash(also based on a game character apparently). I couldn't tell what he was doing, but my best guess was his impression of Keanu Reeves doing an impression of David Caruso as Horatio Caine. There couldn't be more fail. The Legend of Chun-Li is a movie I want to like, and at times I do like it. Kreuk has the moves, even if we don't see a lot of them in the (mercifully) short running time. Robin Shou does a good job as her trainer, and seeing the once young star of Mortal Kombat in the role of the elder teacher makes me feel old. Also, his character Gen is another character from the games that I didn't know about. Perhaps someday there will be a proper live action Street Fighter, one that focuses on Ryu, but I doubt it. They should quit while they're behind, and leave the animated movie to stand as the sole testament that there's a decent story inside an old fighting video game.

2) 12 Rounds:
I'm not a wrestling fan, and I didn't know who John Cena was when I saw The Marine. I just knew it was the basic by-the-books fun action movie the likes of which hasn't really been seen since the ‘80s and sporadically through the ‘90s thanks to people like Michael Bay. The bad guy was the bad guy, the good guy was the good guy, and there were a lot of chase scenes and explosions with a few good one-liners thrown in. 12 Rounds works in the same way, casting Cena as a cop whose actions put him on the radar of a bad guy he helps the feds apprehend, actions not without other consequences. A year later, the bad guy escapes and seeks revenge, putting Cena's character through 12 rounds of a much larger plan. Can he defuse a bomb in time? Get out of an elevator before it falls? Rescue his girlfriend? It's nothing we haven't seen before from director Renny Harlin, who directed Die Hard 2, but it works. You can predict what's going to happen at times because you've seen stuff like this before, but it doesn't detract from the entertainment value. Cena is a solid hero figure, looking sort of like a musclebound Mark Wahlberg. Ashley Scott is great eye candy. If you're the type of person who will get stuck on things like “How would they survive a fall from that height?” or think the villain's plan is too elaborate, this isn't the movie for you. Sometimes I like deeply intellectual films with layers of philosophy and clever dialogue. Other times, I just want a good action flick. This is a great film for those other times.

3) Unstrung Heroes:
This bittersweet tale of a young boy who runs off to live with his two eccentric uncles when his mother takes ill has been on my must-see list for years, but somehow I just got to it now. John Turturro is a genius a deeply analytical mind and applies the scientific method to every problem, but things like his wife's(Andie MacDowell) cancer or his children's feelings may be solutions he can find as easily. Michael Richards and Maury Chaykin play his brothers, from whom his son learns about both his Jewish heritage and the importance of being ourselves. The brothers are childlike themselves, living in a squalid apartment with stacks of newspapers going back years and closets and shelves full of lost balls and other junk that Chaykin hordes. Richards is paranoid and delusional, but his underlying faith is what gets through to the boy and helps him(and Turturro) when they need it most. Based on a true story and a book by Franz Lidz, it recounts Lidz' own touching and sad but hopeful childhood. In recounting the story, he gave his life, and the lives of those before him, meaning.

4) Days of Darkness:
In some ways, horrendously bad movies are easier to review than good ones. I could talk about how this low budget zombie movie rips off every Romero plot imaginable, particularly Day of the Dead. I could criticize the wide stereotypical brush it uses to paint a diverse group that includes an overzealous preacher's son, a homosexual father, a porn star/mother, a fat former movie star, The Obligatory Muscular Black Guy Who Loses his Shirt and has to Borrow a Small Pink One from one of The Girls, and the rest. I could express disdain at the “twist” in which the zombie plague is actually caused by dust from a crashed comet that contains single celled organisms that set up shop in the brain once inhaled, take over, and cause male genitalia to graphically fall off so they can grow a new hybrid human/alien sac in its place. Or I could laugh my ass off at the character from a long family of doctors who isn't a doctor himself but figures out everything I wrote in the preceding sentence, and then discovers accidentally that the aliens don't like alcohol so all they have to do is get drunk to cause the infesting creatures to vacate and explode. I probably should just write “It sucked,” then turn off my computer and proceed to destroy that DVD so it will never take another 90 minutes from anyone ever again.

More reviews to follow next week after I've spun a few more discs!



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