WWW: Weekend Wrental Wreviews 41

Let's see what I saw this week for Weekend Wrental Wreviews in my 41st WWW:

1) The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day:
I really liked the original tale of two Irish Catholic brothers who become vigilantes and take down the mob with jokes, prayers, and bullets. There was a certain style and great blend of humor and drama, as well as the examination of the line between truth and legend. Often we'd follow the police arriving at a scene after the brothers had been there, with an FBI agent played by Willem Dafoe stylishly recreating what happened. As he explained it, he'd actually be walking through footage of the shootout that had taken place. It was a cool storytelling device. In the sequel, Sean Patrick Flannery and Norman Reedus reprise their roles as the MacManus brothers, enjoying a quiet life as shepherds in Ireland. But when news of a murdered priest executed in a style designed to frame them arrives, they must return to take out, in Reedus' words, “Every last M*****F****r that had anything to do with it.” Gratuitous violence ensues, along with some genuine laugh out loud moments. There's a bit where they realize they would have been less recognizable had they not dramatically cut their hair and shaved their beards in a slow motion sequence at the start of the film. It's self-aware moments like that which make this series so great. Dafoe's character is absent, but Julie Benz is there as an FBI agent in his stead, and her reenactments of the various crime scenes are a lot sexier. The film lacks the big twist of the original, which I'm delicately writing around by not mentioning one prominent cast member, but has a similar twist nonetheless. Some criticized the sequel for simply treading over the same ground ten years later, but I found it a faithful continuation of the story that paid homage to the first one while introducing new material and developments. Should there be a third installment, this makes for a nice bridge in to the next one, especially considering where we leave our anti-heroes at the end of the film....

2) Gamer:
The concept is a solid one. In the not-too-distant future, video games and reality television naturally come together, and first-person shooters are played with real people. Convicts on death row can opt to have nanites installed that allows them to be controlled by players. Should they survive, their sentence will be reduced. We've seen a similar concept before, in such films as The Running Man, but even with a few sporadic attempts at humor, Gamer comes off as a much weaker and much bleaker execution. Michael C. Hall affects an over-the-top Southern drawl as the inventor of the game, as well as its predecessor, which involves people in a Second-Life type setting that consists mostly of fat, disgusting people making better looking people have sex. Gerard Butler is Kable, the best at the shooter game and closest to beating it and commuting his murder sentence. His daughter is in foster care. His wife, in order to pay the bills, works as a puppet in that Second Life game under the control of a disgusting specimen who dips waffles in bowls of syrup. No, not me. There are some truly over-the-top characters in the simulated life and I almost wish we spent more time exploring that instead of a few brief runs of Butler shooting and dodging bullets and explosions that take out everyone around him. What I also found surprising were the number of recognizable actors with bit parts. Blink and you'll miss John Leguizamo or Keith David. Even television actors can be found slumming here, including Sam Witwer(Smallville), Michael Weston(Scrubs, House M.D.), John DeLancie(Star Trek: The Next Generation, as well as Maggie Lawson and James Roday from Psych. I actually didn't even recognize those last two until I saw them credited as newscasters, and went back to rewatch their scene. Most shocking of all was Milo Ventimiglia being on screen for less than five minutes as a hip-thrusting game character named “Rick Rape”. Rocky Balboa's son. Arguably the most popular of Heroes. And now “Rick Rape”. Seriously, dude? Milo may not be the only one who needs a new agent after this mess, but he needs one more than the others....

3) Resident Evil: Degeneration:
This all computer-generated epic reunites Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield for the first time since Resident Evil 2, my favorite game of the series and the first one I ever played. As with most animated adaptations of video games, it runs the risk of simply being an extended cut scene. There were definite moments during the film when I felt the need to grab a game controller because I thought I was about to be thrown into the action. But it has a solid story, thanks to the mix of familiar faces and new characters. Claire is at an airport when a terrorist strike unleashes the deadly T-virus, which turns the dead into zombies. She previously survived an outbreak in the infamous Raccoon City, and is all too glad when Leon arrives with a special task force sent to rescue the survivors of this biological weapon attack. Soon, the conspiracy grows larger, and appears to be the work of a group determined to expose the government's role in the creation of the biological weapon and prior outbreak. One of the individuals responsible has a personal reason for being involved, and a connection to one of the new characters that forms the emotional core of the film. The zombies are horrifying, and the sets are breathtaking, particularly the labs and offices of WilPharma, a company that has developed a vaccine for the T-Virus. Are their motives noble, or are they as greedy and corrupt as the Umbrella Corporation which designed the virus? In the end, this is a tense and dramatic tale that fans of the game will particularly appreciate. It fills in some of the blanks between games while providing a similar experience. The filmmakers used motion capture suits, and it shows not just in the action, but in the expressions of our protagonists and villains. CGI has many advantages, and camera angles difficult or impossible in real life are explored at every opportunity. I recommend it for fans of the game and/or the zombie genre.

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



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