Tag Archives: sequels

xXx: State of the Union

…then, at the end of the weekend, after everything had been packed up, loaded, and unloaded, I caught the final Sunday night show of XXX: State of the Union, only to find that it was not a porn flick with characters that are meant to represent real people, like the First Lady and Vice-President, but instead have made-up porno names, like Laura Bush and Dick Chainy, and so forth.

Based on the facts behind the thoroughly forgettable action film genre, that was supposed to be the start and end of my review. Unfortunately, XXX was so pedestrian that just by having a script that made a lick of sense on its own behalf, instead of being a thinly veiled excuse for the next eXtreem stunt, it became a sequel that surpassed the original movie. That’s a rare enough occurrence that it deserves the recognition.

Samuel L. Jackson was phoning it in, which happens a lot these days. It’s nice for him that he can still look more talented than most people on the screen while doing so, but sooner or later he’s going to have to be cast in a good role again, or else devolve into permanent self-parody. (John Malkovich is also always teetering on this brink.)

Also, if you do see it, and the last few lines of the movie strike fear in your heart as they nearly did in mine: I’m pretty sure they were making fun of themselves, and not actually sowing the seeds of another sequel.

Elektra

The thing about being sick is that you kind of look forward to it. An excuse to not have to go to school, say. Or to work, which is even better, because the concept has been institutionalized. There are entire “sick days”, which are for the sole purpose of saying, ‘no thanks, I’m not going to work today, because I’m taking a sick day. It’s because I’m sick!’

It’s all a trick, though. The cold reality is that when you’re actually sick enough to not be at work, you won’t enjoy yourself. You’ll go to the doctor, get your prescriptions, get them filled over the course of an hour in which, sure, you have a book, but you’re sick enough that being in the same place all that time will start to make you more uncomfortable even than you started out, and it’s really hard to concentrate on reading for more than ten minutes at a stretch, what with the sinus headache, and on top of that, you get your first taste of just how bad the company drug insurance has become when they finally tell you it’s time to leave.

All of which is probably a close approximation of how Jennifer Garner felt in between Daredevil and Elektra. She had just been in a terrible movie, her character died, and… okay, that’s really all I know about her. I’ve never even seen Alias. So I guess the metaphor broke down, a little. I’m sick, sue me.

Luckily for Miss Garner, her quasi-sequel is substantially better than her last turn in Affleck’s doomed vehicle. It has a lot going for it. An old-school Campbellian plot about the motherless daughter at the heart of the ancient, hidden battle between Good and Evil, lingering, mood-setting camera work that mostly hides the TV episode-length story being stretched into a 90 minute feature, a crew of bad-ass enemies with spooky mystical powers, a boatload of ninjas, and most importantly, nary a hint of its Hollywood forebear.

All this plus decent sequel potential, and the obligatory child actor wasn’t all that bad. And did I mention the ninjas?

The Dark Tower

I’m having a tough time with this one. Obviously in part because it’s the last book of a series. Also because it’s (apparently) Stephen King’s last book in general, and I have a lot of respect for the guy.

Not for the prose. Particularly in The Dark Tower (which is the seventh volume in the series of the same name), and particularly early on in it, some of his verbal tics were starting to be really grating. On the one hand, I have a sense that some part of that is to draw you into the world of Roland of Gilead, but on the other, I have the very strong sense that this kind of thing shouldn’t be necessary to draw the reader in. And for that matter, I doubt it would have been, for me. I’m not sure if the flaw is in King for not trusting his material enough to stand on its own merit or if my theory is wrong and the tics are just there because he enjoys them. At any rate, it was never bad enough to make me want to stop reading, and it eventually either lessened or faded into the background for me.

Not for the plotting, either, although this book was reasonably well plotted. Certainly some of his books are not, but that hasn’t stopped me reading them, and probably won’t stop me re-reading them. Even when plotted well, he relies on scripted fate to get his characters out of certain situations. This bothers me, sometimes, because deus ex machina is usually pretty lame, even when it’s explicitly laid out. But then, it would have been fairly easy to not put the characters in a situation that required it, and also it helps / hinders the protagonists and antagonists alike. So, I think it might be partial commentary on the idea. Either way, this only has a minor negative (or positive, depending on my frame of mind) impact on my enjoyment.

No, what keeps me coming back is how good a job he does of presenting the story. He has a distinctive voice, which only helps, but I find it so easy to consider it a story I’m being told, across a fire, say, or in an open amphitheater. It’s comfortable.

That said, I’ve barely touched on the book itself. And probably I won’t much more, because if you haven’t read the previous books, it’s hard for me to do more than recommend the series, and if you have, I’m pretty sure I won’t be convincing you (or not) to read the last one. What can I say, though?

There were times when I read it voraciously, and had to slow myself down and enjoy it. There were times when I read it slowly, because I didn’t want to come to what was about to happen. I had horror in my heart, joy lighting my face, and more than once visceral fear (because it always comes back to a spider eventually, doesn’t it?). All because of how well he tells a story, sure, but I’m talking about my reactions to this story, not just to his skill at it.

The Dark Tower series as a whole weaves a good yarn. Some would say self-indulgent, but I thought if anything that the self-indulgent parts are more likely to be self-flagellant, from the author’s perspective. In any case, yeah, the author continues to appear in his own work in this book as he has in a couple of previous ones, and it still works. I know I wouldn’t believe that if someone were telling me, but it does. The costs and the redemptions are balanced. That is to say, King rarely tells a story where everything works out for the good guys, but this book is not one of his bloodbaths just for the sake of the blood, either.

Yeah, I want to say more, but that’s really all I can say. It’s a good story. That’s enough to convince me, because it really is quite good. Also, it (the series) has what I maintain should be placed among the very best opening lines in literary history: The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.

Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid

MV5BNzc5MDg1NTkxNl5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwNTcyNjA3._V1__SX1859_SY847_So, right, two movies this afternoon, I said. To give you an idea of how unnecessary this sequel to 1997’s Anaconda was, I had absolutely no memory of the plot of the original, despite having seen it in the theater, too. Not that there’s anything wrong with putting out unnecessary sequels to uninspired monster movies. The direct-to-video market brings in piles of cash every year.

There definitely are things wrong with Anacondas: The Plurality, though. For one thing, it’s not direct-to-video. That’s right, someone thought this movie needed a theatrical run. Despite multiple reasonable opportunites, nobody gets the slightest bit nekkid. And they have one of the most ridiculous logic failures I’ve ever seen.

The plot has two main turning points that get the C-list actors in place so that the snakes can start chowing down. The first is the rarely blooming MacGuffin orchid, which has the power to grant eternal pocketbook growth. So the research team goes to Borneo and hires the one guy crazy enough to take them upriver to where the orchid blooms, during the dreaded rainy season. Then, in the second turning point, the upriver trip is cut short when the boat accidentally goes over a waterfall. One of those rare against the current waterfalls, I guess. Morons.

So, I spent pretty much the whole movie mentally re-writing the dialogue so that it could reach the obvious potential and mentally undressing the two female characters. Not because I really cared how they looked naked, but because the plot so clearly demanded it. I mean, they were both wearing white shirts, the were both constantly soaked, one of them had implied sex before the boat went over the waterfall, and there was even a scene with leeches being removed from people! And yet, nothing. A crime against the genre, by God. PG-13. Geeze.

Resident Evil: Apocalypse

mv5bmtc1ntuxmzk0nl5bml5banbnxkftztcwndq1mdizmw-_v1_sy1000_cr006721000_al_Mmmm. Zombies.

I’ve been waiting for this movie since the end of opening day for Resident Evil, when they left a big blatant hook for a sequel. And I waited. And I waited. Then there was a teaser preview that literally jerked my head toward the screen when I realized what they were advertising, but that was over a year ago. So naturally, when the time came, I ended up having to wait three days before I could finally go see it. Then again, this is a movie about dead people getting up and walking around, so maybe three days is appropriate.

I’m obviously a fanboy for both this kind of movie and for the Resident Evil console game series, so I’ll try to temper that. One thing I’m not a fanboy of is videogame-to-movie adaptations. I mean, I invariably go and see them, but then I almost as invariably bitch about how awful they were. (See Mortal Kombat or Super Mario Bros., say. Or more to the point, don’t. Really.) So I went into the original movie with lowered expectations, and was very pleasantly surprised by it being both an excellent zombie film in its own right as well as a pretty good adaptation; they avoided the trap of basing things too heavily on the game.

This time, as above, yeah, I had high expectations. And this time, they didn’t avoid the based on a game trap. Particularly, Jill Valentine and the Nemesis creature looked like they had been lifted straight out of the game. (The saving grace is that both looked perfect, not just like an attempt gone awry.) On the bright side, this is almost my only complaint with the movie. There was too much hand-to-hand combat for a scenario where being wounded by a zombie turns you into a zombie, and the combat they had was choppily edited.

Everything else about the movie was gravy, though. Good (if unoriginal) plot: Everybody is trapped in the city by the evil multinational pharmaceuticals corporation that fucked up and released an unstoppable viral zombie outbreak. The few survivors make alliances inside and outside the city in an attempt to find a way out. Meanwhile, an unstoppable mega-zombie (excuse me, biological weapons project) armed with a rocket launcher is stalking the people skilled enough to survive all the zombies and zombie Dobermans. Good acting, which is to say it was never quite overwrought with farcical camp drama, but also not overwrought with laughable attempts at real drama. And let’s not forget the randomly zombified topless dancers.

Basically, it comes down to the genre. If you like zombie movies, you should see this one. It’s a nice break from the remake mania that has plagued the last couple of years, even if it isn’t quite as scary as the first Resident Evil. If you don’t go for the particular zombie subgenre of horror, this is nowhere near enough horror movie to pull you in on its own. See Night of the Living Dead or Dawn of the Dead instead, as those are both brilliant character study pieces, with zombies merely as the backdrop. (Only original Romero will do.)

And if you don’t like horror movies at all, well, that’s just crazy talk. Honestly, I don’t even know what to do with information like that.

Added note for fetishists: No zombies were frozen in the filming of this picture.