Bernardo Villela is like a mallrat except at the movies. He is a writer, director, editor and film enthusiast who seeks to continue to explore and learn about cinema, chronicle the journey and share his findings.
As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Resident Evil: Afterlife is likely to go down as one of, if not the, worst film of this year. Whereas I was able to point out in Step Up 3 what could’ve been of more emphasis to make it a better more enjoyable film with this one I am at a loss. For the sake of full disclosure I am not one who unabashedly hates this series. I have seen all the installments and the ones previous, while teetering in the land of mediocrity (scoring 5/10, 6/10 and 5/10 respectively), did not lead me to believe this was in the cards.
As has been typical in the series acting took a holiday, however, given a decent amount of action a coherent plot and a story with a satisfying resolution this would be no issue. However, this film insisted on there being a lot of acting. It was a film where our protagonist Alice (Milla Jovovich) was alone a great deal and talked to herself quite a bit along with doing a bit of voice over. Not only that but there is a great deal of exposition done about the characters she meets each of whom has more annoying traits than the other which are carried out with varying degrees of ineptitude. Even in some very bad films there’s usually an actor you can single out and say about them “So-and-so is better than that.” That’s not the case of this movie no one rises above the material and makes an indelible impression due to the virtuosity of their acting ability.
There is at the beginning very minimal exposition which could leave those not ensconced in the mythos of this series a little at a loss but things do eventually clear up and you’ll realize there is truly nothing truly significant is going on. It’s almost incomprehensible to imagine how stakes which are so high on paper can be made futile through the execution of the script and the film.
For at least two-thirds of the film they are in a building which is surrounded by countless zombies and never have the undead been more ineffectual. You hardly ever see them except at a distance until they breach the building. They should be omnipresent we should be able to hear them rattling the fence and moaning en masse into the night but instead everyone is so terribly blasé about it you forget they exist. They fear their fellow man much more, which is all well and good in theory but none of them seem to pose a true threat that we the audience see the threats are only perceived by characters.
The characters, for the most part, are shorthand stereotypes of different types of celebrity and occupation and few have any real dimension and based on the display we get it is unlikely any of these players could convey it if they did have depth.
Another trick of the tale that we are forced to sit through which only belies the laziness and lack of imagination trying to mask itself as cleverness is a few cases of amnesia about. This film also has the unusual distinction of having the most incidences of unnecessary and unintentionally comedic slow-motion shots in the history of cinema.
Bad is one thing, but bad and predictable is a whole other can of worms. Much of the journey is to try to find this mystical safe haven referred to Arcadia. At first it is thought to be a town in Alaska then it turns out to be a boat where there is supposedly no infection. It should be rather obvious from Alice’s landing in Alaska that the search for this haven is like Ishmael chasing Moby Dick and sure enough it is.
There is not a redeeming quality to be had in this film at all. The effects are passable and the 3D is fine, however, seeing CG that doesn’t induce laughter and 3D that doesn’t make one’s eyes hurt shouldn’t be a positive, it should be a given. This film was shot in 3D so it should look good in 3D. Not an accomplishment, that would be like complimenting a Director of Photography for having proper exposure on all his shots. That’s what’s supposed to happen.
As mentioned before this is one of the worst films of the year and one of the biggest wastes of time to boot. 1/10
The Karate Kid, the remake not the original. Now that that’s been cleared up we will just focus on the film at hand. The film starts on the precipice of the major change that will forever alter Dre’s (Jaden Smith) life. He is in his room and we look at milestones in his life and lines on a door frame marking his height. The camera passes one marked “Dad died.” A tad clumsy but also accurately childlike and at least it’s a visual conveyance of information, which this film does strive to do on more than one occasion. Dre re-measures himself and is much taller than the last time he even bothered and they are on their way to the airport to fly to China.
The film takes the gamble that knowing only the situation you will throw yourself in and meet and get to know them along the way and for the most part it works. It starts on the flight where Dre’s mother (Taraji P. Henson) is trying to get Dre to practice Chinese as she has been practicing because she has been transferred, he is resistant to change. The first big joke of the film is set up here and the timing on the lines, all shot in one take, is great. In fact, all of the comedy, when it is inserted, is very well-timed and helps the film greatly.
The cultural dislocation is immediately felt and a predominant theme in the film where even turning on the hot water for a shower becomes a difficulty in a strange land. You also get here a protagonist who is actually portrayed as average in the beginning and it’s believable. He makes a friend and goes to play basketball and is terrible is whipped at table tennis by an old man, he is confident enough to walk up to a girl when challenged but is also awkward and shy when he gets there.
This is a film that also does take its time and most of the time it is quite right to do so. It establishes Mr. Han (Jackie Chan) as a man who is reticent have any involvement with Dre or anyone. It firmly establishes Cheng (Zhenwei Wang) and his gang as an ever-present threat. The only time the film suffers in any way from its deliberate pace is at the start of training. Dre has spent three sessions taking off, throwing down and hanging up his jacket and twice misconstrues the meaning of it before Han reveals his design to him, however, the scene in which Han shows him what all this repetitive action was about is riveting and again much of it taken in one moving shot.
The film is usually at its apex when Mr. Han is instructing Dre particularly when he is explaining to him what Kung Fu is and isn’t and specifically that it is “in everything we do.” It is a film that is extraordinarily respectful of the discipline and illustrates that is indeed a discipline.
The romantic subplot of this story which is that of Dre and Meiying (Wenwen Han) is intrinsic to the story and not an afterthought which is actually a breath of fresh air. It is Meiying’s interest in Dre that first gets Cheng angry at him and causes their first fight. Mei Ying and Dre also invest in each other’s success and their night at a festival leads to some nice crosscutting, use of shadows, puppets, great lighting and a humorous and sweet kiss. The only part of their relationship arc that is a little hard to deal with is that when they are having a day of fun she receives a call that her audition was moved up a day. Granted you know something is going to ruin their fun but it felt a bit too contrived.
The acting in this film is nothing short of spot on. Jaden Smith is not only an affable actor who is easy to identify with but he’s funny and his emotional scenes are great as he cries twice but out of much different emotions, namely frustration and sympathy. Jackie Chan should not get the short shrift either this may be his best role and not only because he got to do scenes in his native tongue but also because he was given a character with a gruff exterior who slowly mellows and lets someone in but is also someone who has a skeleton in his closet and breaks down upon confessing it. The scene where he tells his story and Dre sheds sympathetic tears in listening may be the strongest of the movie.
The tournament sequence is very effective overall in terms of dramatic content and fight choreography. The winning blow is amazing and the film performs the rare feat of earning a freeze frame ending. The only thing in the sequence that’s a bit off is the introduction of a third party challenger, which in an of itself is fine but he looks and is shot like he’s a Crazy 88s reject and that kind of comedy takes you out of the moment a little. Other liberties work like the very professional-sports jumbotron with photos and instant replays.
Despite a few minor annoyances and problems The Karate Kid most definitely succeeds in telling an uplifting underdog story that should be as likely to inspire the current generation as much as the original version did a previous one.