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Resident Evil (2002)
As soulless as they come.
It's hard to know where to start. Perhaps the writer/director, Paul W.S. Anderson, intends some sort of irony, when he serves up this mindless, soulless corpse of a film. But really, I don't think he's that complex. Drivel of this kind puts even bombs such as 'Tomb Raider' in a good light.
The premise involves something along the lines of: "corporation happily conducting research into viruses, when it all goes terribly wrong, and there's some zombies and some screaming and .. er, some zombies." The plot then takes this premise and promptly sits down. I mean it. It goes absolutely nowhere. It's as if the director just wants to string together meaningless, unrelated scenarios from generic computer games. Characters are suddenly alone, without explanation. Between scenes, the lead alternates from scared bystander to superhuman commando. If by this point, you're thinking "The only thing that kept this reviewer watching this film to the end was so that he can moan about it afterwards", you'd be utterly correct.
Milla Jovovich provides the gratuitous nudity that the director obviously feels belongs in a film like this. He gets it out of the way at the start of the film, almost as if he's catering for all the viewers who will walk out during the film. It may seem unfair to dismiss Jovovich like this, but it isn't as if she does any acting in this film. To be fair, she has absolutely no material to work with, and the director's idea of character development seems to be the progression from "wearing a jacket" to "not wearing a jacket".
Michelle Rodriguez garnered critical acclaim for her work in 'Girlfight', but sleepwalks through her role here. The forgettable male cast repeat tired lines like clockwork; including the immortal "We're not getting out of here. We're all going to die." The great Hollywood idea behind making movies based on computer games seems to be 'Neither acting nor development is important, just do some action scenes, and the unwashed masses will be happy.' Here, even the action scenes disappoint. Kicks and punches are unconvincing, the gunfights mind-numbingly boring.
The tension and gore that are supposed to sell a film in this genre are at least attempted. The basic problem with tension is that we feel no empathy for the characters, and don't particularly care if they live or die. The problem with the gore is, like everything else in the film, it is presented in an entirely meaningless way. The film doesn't even set up the basic threat properly; if the zombies are so hungry, why don't they feed on each other? That is the only plothole that I will mention, because if you are ever unfortunate enough to be made to watch this film, perhaps playing 'spot-the-plotholes' might provide you with your entertainment for the evening.
Oh, and at the climax, the director unleashes some of the worst 'special' effects I have ever seen in my life. I nearly cried out in horror at how poorly done it was. Oh, perhaps the director is employing his special 'irony' again. Silly me.
2.0 / 10
A Time for Dancing (2002)
Quiet, thoughtful, not preachy, and real.
I enjoyed this film, even though it's not the type of film I usually watch.
*minor spoilers* Sam and Jules are best friends, having known each other so long that they don't even recall their lives before their friendship. Jules (played by "10 things I hate about You"'s Larisa Oleynik) is focused, determined, talented and driven, living for the dance classes she takes after school. Sam (Shiri Appleby - "Roswell" and "Swimfan") is more relaxed and seems comfortable bathing in the reflected glory of her best friend. As Jules' life is threatened by cancer, she sees her dream of attending the prestigious Julliard School of dance slipping from her grasp.
The performances were good, though not incredible, and the dance sequences in this film were fantastic. I am not a trained dancer, but both the leads completely hold the viewer's attention on the dance floor.
I found Larisa's Jules to be vulnerable, and accessible. She degenerates well during the course of the movie, and the battles she is fighting, while largely offscreen, can be seen in her face. Unfortunately, she doesn't quite get enough dialog to flesh out her character as much as I would have hoped. In a strange move, Sam seems to be the more complex character, and Shiri injects a believability into her obsession with Jules that I found touching.
In life, there are rare people, whose simple presence moulds us into something better than what we are. Jules has this effect on both Sam, and Sam's mother, and the director wisely chooses to discard several potential hallmark moments in favour of examining this adoration and the damage it can do. The relationship between Sam and her mother, and the friendship between Jules and Sam are both put at risk by Jules' glory.
The direction was unobtrusive, which is important to telling a story like this, and apart from the climactic dance scene, and some dream sequences, the story is told well. The dream sequences were important, as Jules' perfect existence is ripped away from her, leaving her pulled towards places she does not want to go; however I thought they could have been handled better. I also was confused by the use of slow-motion in the final dance scene, as all the dancer notions of time and space and form which are handled well throughout the film seemed to be lost here.
Overall, I have to give this film a good rating, for displaying both realism and subtlety, two qualities that are rarely shown in this type of film. The reaction to Jules' crisis and the effects it has on those around her are completely believable, and I think the fact that this film is based on a true story really helps here. While I have to admit that I prefer Shadowlands (starring the superb Antony Hopkins), full marks to both leads, the director and the dance choreographer.