Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Director: Paul W. S. Anderson (2017) BBFC cert: 15

Brace yourself for a ferocious return to the apocalyptic wonderland of Alice and the Red Queen.

The sixth in this zombie action franchise of variable quality, this demented trip improves on all but the brilliant first Resident Evil, which came out way back in 2002. It follows on directly from 2012’s Resident Evil: Retribution.

As Alice, Milla Jovovich once again teams up with her favourite writer and director, Paul W. S. Anderson. The talented Geordie is also the star’s husband and their daughter Ever Gabo Anderson, plays the scheming Red Queen.

So Alice sets off to the giant underground bunker, the Hive, where her adventures first began. Among the many threats facing Alice, are mutant pterodactyls and an army of rabid zombies.

With a love of the material feeding his down to earth showmanship, Anderson fills the screen with many inventive action sequences, all set to a thunderous soundtrack.

Refusing to worry about what he clearly considers to be silly and inconsequential things, such as plot holes, Anderson powers over them at a frantic pace, dragging us along behind him.

It’s not hard to detect the positive influence of British cult comic 2000AD in the sardonic response to the gleeful showers of ultra-violence.

The principal creatives claim this will be the series finale. However Sigourney Weaver starred in the Alien series at forty eight years old, and this year Kate Beckinsale starred in the latest of her Underworld films at forty three. Jovovich is only forty one, so age is very much on her side.

And with this degree of adrenalin fuelled entertainment, I hope this isn’t the final chapter.

@ChrisHunneysett

Warcraft: The Beginning

Director: Duncan Jones (2016)

Feeling defeated after two hours of crushing cartoon violence, I beat a hasty retreat from this fantasy adventure.

Two worlds go to war in this combination of live action and state of the art animation.

Using motion capture technology, every sabre toothed hairy backed orc is lovingly rendered by photorealistic motion capture. They combat actors sporting lovingly detailed suits of armour.

It’s based on a hugely popular online video game and is set in a extraordinarily designed Tolkienesque world of humans, orcs, dwarves, elves and wizards.

But it’s a sadly underpowered drama of unfathomable mythology and unexplained geography.

Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal (1982) seems to be a distant visual relative though Warcraft lacks its charm and clear narrative.

Although there’s no A list cast names, Warcraft possesses a recognised brand, a healthy budget and an up and coming director with a passion for the project.

But after this humdrum opener, it’s tricky to see how it will power the intended franchise to continued success.

There’s little sense of the early promise of Jones directorial career which kicked off with the smart and intimate sci fi thriller Moon (2009). It is an intelligent and intimate chamber piece. His follow up Source Code (2011) was less strong and now Warcraft completes a downward trajectory from which I hope he will recover.

A self confessed super fan of the game, Jones creates a world of extraordinary visual depth. With the excited air of a wayward puppy he rushes about to include as much of it as possible.

This is to the detriment of the dramatic tone which mostly occurs within a narrow bandwith, hovering at the level of Saturday morning kids TV.

A major contributing factor in the magnificence of Peter Jackson’s The Lord Of The Rings (2001-03) trilogy was having the good fortune to be based on the writings of an Oxford scholar and the canny casting of experienced Shakespearean actors to give his dialogue gravitas. An under reliance on computer imagery helped enormously to ground the fantastical elements.

There’s a noticeable lack of such rich cultural heritage here. This is a shame as buried deep down is a cracking old fashioned story of family, betrayal and star crossed lovers.

Daniel Wu glowers as Gul’dan, a powerful orc shaman whose world is dying. Human sacrifice powers his evil green magic which he uses to open a portal into the peaceful human kingdom of Azeroth.

He sends through his fearsome orc warriors to conquer it, crushing their enemies with a signature move of using huge hammers to slam them bloodlessly into the ground.

The orcs are awesome looking eight foot tall humanoids. Pneumatically muscled and sabre toothed, they dress in in the skulls and furs of defeated foes.

Defending their land against the horde are a collection of wizards and warriors. They’re led by a puzzled looking Dominic Cooper who plays King Llane.

I shared his confusion as the story whizzes from castle to battle to floating fortress in the sky.

Travis Fimmel’s knight and Paula Patton’s green skinned half orc captive are given the best of the scarce humour. The way these two characters are brought together and assume greater prominence is one of the film’s few strengths.

As orcs who question Gul’dan’s vicious regime, Toby Kebbell and Anna Galvin give the most effecting performances and share a personal chemistry notably lacking almost everywhere else.

On the eve of the final battle, the King gives us two words from Shakespeare’s Henry V Agincourt speech before rushing off for yet another fight. This suggests a lack of confidence in the attention span of the audience.

As everyone struggles with the functional dialogue, CGI armies slash, stab and slay. A lot of casualties are reduced to husks when their life force is sucked out of them.

It’s a risk unwary viewers will share.

@ChrisHunneysett

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Angry Birds Movie

Director: Clay Kaytis & Fergal Reilly (2016)

After a history of plundering plays, books, games and toys for inspiration, Hollywood has gone the whole hog and made a film based on a smartphone app.

And though The Lego Movie (2014) is a great example of how unpromising material can inspire awesome cinema, this animated effort featuring birds fighting pigs is a bird-brained bore.

It’s bright, colourful, busy and noisy but far less fun than the game ever was.

Scenes eke out their jokes with violent slapstick for the little ones and sneering sarcasm for the teens. Plus there’s snot, wee, a multitude of wriggling bums and a bizarre singing cowboy sequence.

Jason Sudeikis voices the charmless Red, a lonely bird who gets angry when his feathers are ruffled.

He lives in a colony of cute flightless birds on a tropical island.

After a disastrous attempt at delivering a birthday cake, Red is sent to anger management class.

Because kids always find therapy jokes funny.

One day a steampunk pirate ship arrives with a crew of green pigs offering the trotter of friendship.

Red is given the bird by his compatriots when he questions the pigs motives.

He is proved right when the pigs kidnap the islander’s precious unhatched eggs. The swines.

So Red must come up with a plan and save the eggs’ bacon, without making a pigs ear of it and before their goose is cooked.

The soft boiled script relies heavily on crashing action and a scrambled mix of rap, rock and disco to capture the pointless freneticism of playing the game, but the tone is aggressive point scoring rather than giddy silliness.

And it all feels underdeveloped, presumably a consequence of trying to rush the movie into cinemas before everyone moves onto the next must-have gaming app. Oh dear.

Josh Gad and Danny McBride voice Chuck and Bomb. The former has super speed and the latter explodes.

Maya Rudolph irritates as Matilda the hippy psychologist and Sean Penn growls as a menacing over sized bird involved in a weird romantic subplot.

These pigging awful birds can flock off.