Film Review: Resident Evil (2002)

Also known as: Resident Evil: The Movie, Resident Evil: Ground Zero (working titles), Biohazard (Japanese English title), Resident Evil – Genesis (Switzerland)
Release Date: March 12th, 2002 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson
Based on: Resident Evil by Capcom
Music by: Marco Beltrami, Marilyn Manson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Michelle Rodriguez, Eric Mabius, James Purefoy, Martin Crewes, Colin Salmon, Jason Issacs (narrator/cameo)

Constantin Film, New Legacy Films, Pathé, 100 Minutes

Review:

“You’re all going to die down here.” – The Red Queen

I never saw this when it came out and I didn’t have much urge to, as I wasn’t invested in the video game series and it looked like a low budget action horror film that didn’t pay much attention to what the first game was. Based off of my experience playing the original Resident Evil, when I originally saw the trailer for this, I was baffled by it.

However, this has gone on to spawn a half dozen movies and is the most successful film franchise based on a video game, so I figured I’d kill 100 minutes and actually give it a watch, 16 years later.

Well, it’s not terrible but it also isn’t very good. It had some decent bits in it but most of it felt as soulless as the zombies roaming in and out of the picture.

I guess the worst part of it all was the acting. Milla Jovovich was actually pretty decent and Eric Mabius wasn’t bad but everyone else around them delivered their lines like a punch to the gut. Most of these character and the actors portraying them were pretty off putting. Michelle Rodriguez’s line delivery certainly takes the cake for acting cringe in this film.

The special effects are good when they are practical effects. The CGI employed in this is fucking terrible. From what I’ve seen from later films in the series, the creature CGI effects at least improve beyond this film. The Licker creature, which was the big bad of the movie, looked atrocious. The digital monsters looked like something from a SyFy movie but a SyFy movie when it was still 2002.

As far as a positives, I really liked the concept and the idea of the Hive, an underground tech heavy fortress controlled by an evil A.I. called the Red Queen. I felt like there was a lot that they could do with this but it was left pretty unexplored, other than a few key moments like when the task force got sliced to pieces by lasers. But this also felt like it was heavily borrowed from Cube.

This was a fast paced, fun movie. I’ll give it that. I wasn’t bored watching it or waiting for things to pick up. However, I did suffer from my mind going numb due to stupid characters making stupid decisions.

Also, another positive is that I feel like I should watch the other movies as well. I’ve never seen any of these in their entirety. I’ve seen bits and pieces of some of the sequels but I don’t even know which ones. It just seems like these movies are on FX all the time.

Anyway, I guess I’ll follow this up shortly with reviews of the other five Resident Evil movies.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: the pther Resident Evil films, as well as other horror video game films from the same era: the Silent Hill series and Doom.

Video Game Review: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PlayStation)

There are lots of great video games over all consoles and platforms, spanning five decades. Few, however, are actual masterpieces. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is one of those rare masterpieces.

I can’t say a bad thing about this game. I love it wholeheartedly and playing it in 2018 made me weep for myself, as I haven’t replayed through it enough over the years. This experience though, has assured me that it is something I’ll have to play through over a weekend every couple of years. Man, I really enjoyed stepping back into this for the first time in over ten years. It also made me feel the sense of excitement and awe that I had for it when I first bought it and took it home in 1997.

I have always been a fan of the original three Castlevania games and this takes the best elements of the original trilogy of titles, mixes them together and pushes away all the negative parts.

While most people don’t like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, I always adored that game and how ambitious it was for the time. That ambition and it’s RPG like style mostly just upset people that wanted it to be more like its predecessor. But Symphony of the Night borrows the RPG elements, throws them in here and presents it all as something closer to Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, which was a much better version of the style of the original game.

Like Simon’s Quest, you have to round up pieces of Dracula’s body in order to fight him. And also like Simon’s Quest, you have the freedom to go where you please and obtaining certain items unlocks access to new areas.

The thing is, and most Americans in 1997 didn’t know this, but Symphony of the Night is actually a direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, which didn’t come out in the States until later and was then renamed Dracula X. I’ve never played Rondo of Blood but now I want to after revisiting this. Rumor has it, that a version of it is being released for PlayStation 4 soon.

Anyway, apart from this tapping hard into Simon’s Quest, I also love how many firggin’ boss fights you get in this game. There are bosses everywhere in the castle. It’s like you can’t go ten minutes without encountering another boss to fight. What’s also great though, is that the classic bosses return, as well. You get to fight the Grim Reaper, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy and Medusa. You even get the annoying hunchbacks, the pain in the ass gillmen and the mindless zombies, as well as so many other regular enemies that every section of this game is new and fresh.

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is absolute perfection in an artistic and interactive medium where such feats are incredibly hard to achieve. Kudos to Konami, as this is one of the best games the studio ever produced and my favorite in the great Castlevania series.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: The original Castlevania trilogy for NES, Super Castlevania IV for SNES, the Gameboy Castlevania games and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (also known as Dracula X).

Comic Review: Mother Russia

Published: November 18th, 2015
Written by: Jeff McComsey
Art by: Jeff McComsey

Alterna Comics, 121 Pages

Review:

I’ve grown pretty tired of zombies in entertainment. I stopped keeping up with The Walking Dead comics and I even read some of the Fubar stuff from Alterna but I feel like the genre has been done to death.

Mother Russia surprised me though. Full disclosure, I wasn’t too keen on Fubar, which was also put out by Alterna but this story seemed to have more meaning and was just more enjoyable.

The main character, referred to as “Mother Russia” is a Soviet military sniper. The story starts with her saving a baby from being eaten by a hoard of the undead. She picks them off from a tower, drops down to get the child out of danger but then quickly finds herself overwhelmed, where she is rescued by an old German soldier just before she shoots the baby in an effort to give it a less painful death.

We get to see two people, who were formerly enemies, come together in an effort to survive and to protect the small child. There’s also a cool dog in this that helps keep the good people safe.

I loved the tone of this story and it was really accented by the art, which was simple black and white with grey highlights. The lack of color and the contrast of the ink work helped give character to the cold, bleak and hopeless environment. Everything came together in a beautiful way visually and tonally.

This was an action packed, quick read but it conveyed a lot of emotion and really hit its mark.

Solid short story, fantastic art and just an all around good read.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: The Fubar comics from Alterna.

Video Game Review: Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse (NES)

Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse was really f’n cool when it first came out because of one reason, you could play as Alucard, the son of Dracula.

Well, you could play as a few characters but Alucard was just badass and you could turn into a bat and fly through certain areas. But each character had their own special purpose.

Most importantly though, this returned to the game style of the original Castlevania, which most people wanted after the more complex, tougher and RPG-like Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest. I am of the minority that loves that second game though, even if it’s a favorite classic NES title that people love to shit on. Those people are just simple minded and can’t solve more complex problems and puzzles though.

Anyway, Castlevania III is back to basics with some added flourish in the form of the characters Alucard, Sypha Belnades and Grant Danasty. Your main character is Trevor C. Belmont, as opposed to Simon Belmont, as this game is actually a prequel set a few hundred years earlier.

And while it does return to the formula of the first game, it branches out and is more creative, as it allows you to make choices that effect the game. You can choose different paths and the game has different endings based off of what you do along the way.

This allowed the game to have long lasting replayability. As different people beat it in different ways, kids talking on the playground came to realize that they needed to try different things in order to see the various finales. And this is back in the era when beating a game was a massive undertaking, especially since it typically had to be done in a single sitting. Castlevania III monopolized many summer vacation afternoons.

This is just a solid chapter in a solid series what was fun to play and exciting because of the options within the game. It really was a step forward in gameplay and storytelling evolution.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other NES Castlevania games: the original Castlevania and Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, also PlayStation’s epic sequel Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.

TV Review: Fear the Walking Dead (2015- )

Original Run: August 23rd, 2015 – current
Created by: Robert Kirkman, Dave Erickson
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman
Music by: Atticus Ross, Paul Haslinger, Danny Bessi, Saunder Jurriaans
Cast: Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Mercedes Mason, Lorenzo James Henrie, Rubén Blades, Colman Domingo, Michelle Ang, Danay García, Daniel Sharman, Sam Underwood, Dayton Callie, Lisandra Tena, Maggie Grace, Garret Dillahunt, Lennie James, Jenna Elfman

Square Head Pictures, Circle of Confusion, Skybound Entertainment, Valhalla Entertainment, AMC, 48 Episodes (so far), 43-65 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

The Walking Dead really didn’t need of a spinoff. But as these things go, when you’ve got a cash cow, you’ve got to milk it until the teets come off.

What made this spinoff intriguing, however, was that it started when the zombie outbreak started. In The Walking Dead, we follow Rick Grimes, as he wakes up from a coma and enters a zombie infested world, months after the outbreak. Fear the Walking Dead starts on any given normal day and then the shit hits the fan. The first season shows society crumbling and how the main characters respond to it.

That rookie season was good but a somewhat unsatisfying origin story for The Walking Dead world. But once the show moved beyond the initial chaos, it got more interesting.

The sophomore season was broken into two halves, like a typical season of The Walking Dead. This show would follow that formula going forward. And while that season was a bit rocky, it found it’s footing in the second half, once our characters got off of the boat they lived on for eight episodes.

Season three switched things up quite a bit and by this point, a lot of the main characters were already wiped out.

But season four, the current season, is where the show really reinvented itself in a bold way. By the time you get through the first half of the season, only one person from the pilot episode is still alive. Additionally, Morgan from The Walking Dead comes on the show, officially crossing over, connecting this show directly to the events of the more popular parent show.

The fourth season also brings in a bunch of new and interesting characters and to be honest, it’s a completely different animal than what Fear was when it started out.

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this show, which I have also had with the regular Walking Dead series, but it’s moving in a really cool direction.

It’s hard to tell where this will end up but I find it to be the more enjoyable of the two shows, right now. But being that this is The Walking Dead, that could change at the drop of a hat.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: The Walking DeadDeadwoodSons of Anarchy and Hell On Wheels.

 

Film Review: Phantasm: Ravager (2016)

Also known as: Phantasm V: Ravager (trailer title), Reggie Tales (working title), Fantasma: Devastador (Brazil)
Release Date: September 25th, 2016 (Fantastic Fest)
Directed by: David Hartman
Written by: Don Coscarelli
Music by: Christopher L. Stone
Cast: Reggie Bannister, Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm, Gloria Lynne Henry, Kathy Lester, Dawn Cody, Stephen Jutras, Daniel Roebuck, Daniel Schweiger

Well Go Entertainment, 85 Minutes

Review:

“Your playthings don’t work here. You could leave this rat race if you chose, and be with your family again, but my generosity is fleeting. You’ll have no more chances beyond this moment. Do you think I want your reanimated zombies?” – The Tall Man

Well, this is the end of the road and what a confusing road it has become.

If you thought things went really wonky in the fourth movie, this one doesn’t really answer any questions, it just confuses you even more and you never really know what the hell is actually happening or the why behind it.

One interpretation of this could be that it was all a big hallucination during Reggie’s final moments before death. Another is that this is real but that the Tall Man is just tricking Reggie. By the end of it, I don’t fucking care and this chapter felt completely unnecessary even if the fourth one left audiences hanging nearly twenty years earlier. Really, I just kind of accepted the fourth’s ending as the mysterious ending where the audience’s imagination just needed to take over and ponder the mystery.

I don’t dislike this film though.

Ultimately, it feels like this franchise should’ve wrapped up with a more cohesive miniseries or a television season, as opposed to wedging all this madness into a film that ends at a weak 75 minutes (not including credits and a short bonus scene within the credits).

This chapter in the franchise felt like one of those weird filler episodes thrown into a long television season where the writers get overly pretentious and artsy and try to turn the story into something more serious than it needs to be. Truthfully, it’s just a mess of a film, attempting to be smarter than it should be and losing sight of what it needs to be: a final fucking chapter in a franchise that started out great.

The special effects were a mixed bag but this was a film made with next to no budget and filmed in secret.

The acting was pretty much what you would expect from a fifth film in a horror franchise that’s a notch or two below mainstream entertainment.

I was glad to see the key characters come back, even the surprise edition of Rocky in that mid-credits bonus scene. I also liked the new additions to the cast: Dawn Cody and Stephen Jutras, who is a wisecracking badass dwarf not afraid to grab a titty.

The high point of the film is seeing Angus Scrimm’s final performance. Without the Tall Man, you can’t really have a Phantasm picture and recasting him would be like recasting Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger and that happened once and we all saw how bad it was. Scrimm’s lines in this were fantastic and that scene with the Tall Man and the heroes, separated by a chasm, was really damn cool.

I had really hoped that a fifth and final film would connect some dots and flesh out the cool mythos a bit more but all it did was kick the dots all over the place and erase some of the lines that were already drawn. This hurt my head.

I wanted to love you Phantasm V but you’ve become like that girl I always go back to for a good time but get trapped doing chores around her apartment to the point that I’m too tired for sex and settle for a half assed handy while I sip warm beer.

Rating: 5/10
Pairs well with: The other Phantasm films.

Film Review: Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

Also known as: Phantasm IV: Infinity (alternate title), Phantasm: Phorever (working title)
Release Date: July 31st, 1998 (Canada – Fantasia International Film Festival)
Directed by: Don Coscarelli
Written by: Don Coscarelli
Music by: Christopher L. Stone
Cast: Reggie Bannister, Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm, Heidi Marnhout, Bob Ivy

Orion Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 90 Minutes

Review:

“I didn’t abandon you Mike. I was taken.” – Jody

When I reviewed the third film in this series, I mentioned about how it relied too heavily on the audience knowing the details of the previous films. Well, this one is probably completely unwatchable to those that don’t know any of the backstory. Even then, this is pretty confusing and hard to follow unless you are a true Phantasm die hard.

So if you aren’t a hardcore fan that has seen everything before this, you probably don’t want to waste your time on this picture and frankly, it could just turn you off from the series.

For the rest of us, this is a really intriguing movie. It unveils a lot of the mystery but in answering questions, it really just creates more. Nothing is settled in this film and it ends fairly anticlimactically. For a long time, this was how the franchise ended but the fifth film was finally made and released in 2016 but that made things even more confusing; I’ll get to that once I review it.

The biggest problem with this film is that it is the most interesting in the franchise from a narrative standpoint but it is also the most boring. Even though things are revealed and we start to understand this bizarre mythos on a deeper level, there isn’t a whole lot that happens otherwise.

This is mostly devoid of action and just features Mike wallowing in a desert with suicidal tendencies and Reggie driving around a lot. And then there is just some random weird shit thrown in without much expanation: like the zombie cop, the hot chick with killer spheres for tits and poorly written and nonsensical fights (like the one with the zombie cop).

I really wanted to know more about the Tall Man’s backstory. This gives you a lot to think on and digest but mostly just leaves you hanging.

I like this movie, overall. Like I said, it is the most interesting in the series but it is also the hardest to get through. And again, if you aren’t familiar with the story, up to this point, you’d be wasting your time and your experience might inspire you to never check out the incredible first film.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Phantasm films.