New ‘Resident Evil’ flick forgettable, predictable

Posted Sept. 16, 2010, at 6:44 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.

In theaters

RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE 3-D, written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, 90 minutes, rated R.

The new Paul W.S. Anderson movie, “Resident Evil: Afterlife,” features one scene that’s memorable, if only because it’s so comical. You were looking for more than one memorable scene? Wrong movie.

The scene takes place on a rooftop. On it is Alice (Milla Jovovich), who returns to this fourth installment in the franchise with her poreless skin and vicious death moves in an effort to take down the Umbrella Corporation. Those who follow the franchise will know that the Umbrella Corp. is responsible for creating a virus that has turned most of the world’s human population into a scrambling, unattractive herd of the hissing undead.

In this particular scene, Alice is pitted against thousands of them, all of whom are closing in on her in an effort to eat her, because that’s what zombies do. Since Alice is nothing but resourceful, she tricks them into chasing her off the building’s roof just as she drops a bomb in her wake.

The movie was shot in 3-D, which allows Anderson a unique opportunity to embrace a perspective. Not unlike the writing itself, the undead in these movies are dumb and so they naturally follow Alice off the roof without hesitation, thought or question. What we’re left with is a funny shot that allows the viewer to look up at the undead as they pinwheel through the air, and presumably to their undead deaths, with their tinker-toy arms and legs. When the bomb explodes, it catches bits and pieces of them on fire. Meanwhile, Alice is swinging like Tarzan on the rope she attached to her body before jumping. She lands on the ground, where the falling zombies are popping on the pavement like pinatas — and where more zombies await.

Gunfire ensues. Cut. Print. What’s refreshing about this scene is how it uses 3-D technology — it’s safe to say you’ve never seen zombies tumbling at you quite like this. Unfortunately, everything that comes before and after this moment is just what you expect — a convoluted scattershot of hyperediting best served for fans of the franchise or for junkies of the computer games on which they’re based. Those who enjoy their horror movies with a trace of story and a measure of dialogue to boost character development will be left wanting.

After all, the lot of it is plot. This time out, Alice is up against Wesker (Shawn Roberts), who wears sunglasses at night and who is determined to take down Alice and her posse. Said posse includes loads of Alice dopplegangers, Ali Larter as Claire, Wentworth Miller as a handy inmate (because, you know, he’s comfortable in such a role after starring in “Prison Break”) and Boris Kodjoe as Luther West.

Making a heroic return from the last movie — the misleadingly titled “Resident Evil: Extinction” — is a young lass named K-Mart (Spencer Locke), whose name redefines the way Hollywood markets corporate America in movies (fight the real evil, Alice!) — and which is where you likely will find this movie on DVD soon enough. Grade: D+

On DVD and Blu-ray disc

Recommended: “American Beauty” Blu-ray

Sam Mendes’ Academy Award-winning “American Beauty” recalls Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm” in tone, Todd Solondz’s “Happiness” in content and Alexander Payne’s “Election” in its biting depiction of a woman who will do anything to succeed. The film, which won Best Picture at the 72nd Academy Awards, follows Lester Burnham (Kevin Spacey), a horny, boozy, 42-year-old frump of disillusionment primed to drop out of life. Physically exhausted and emotionally dead, Lester is a bitter piece of work whose brittle smile conveys poison, rage, frustration and sadness. He’s been forced out of his job of 14 years; his wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening), has worn a hole in their marriage by scratching and clawing her way to the bottom of the real estate business; and his teenage daughter, Jane (Thora Birch), hates him for losing interest in her. Unloved, unsung, unhappy and unwilling to do much about it, Lester buys bags of pot from the boy next door (Wes Bentley) and sinks into a fantasy life that’s so rich, it would make Walter Mitty swoon. He quits his job, ignores his wife’s torrid affair with the self-described “king of real estate” (Peter Gallagher) and starts pumping weights in an all-out effort to reclaim his youth and to get his daughter’s best friend (Mena Suvari) into bed. Daring and brash, Mendes uses his cinematic debut to get to the core of the American experience. That he succeeds is one triumph, but there are others. He mines an excellent performance from Spacey, who took the prize for Best Actor, and he brought Bening’s career back on track by recognizing her strengths. Just as she proved in 1991’s “Bugsy,” the actress is best when throwing a fist, a barbed insult or firing a gun. In “American Beauty,” she does all three. Rated R.

Grade: A

Avoid: “The Amityville Horror” Blu-ray

When the first “Amityville Horror” appeared in 1979, possession was still a pop-culture darling — you could announce at a cocktail party that you were the Antichrist and, depending on the room’s mood, people would consume you in festive or, at the very least, earnest banter. So it’s good news for this sexier, slighter version that interest in cheap thrills remains high. The movie is exactly what you expect from a modern-day horror film — an assorted bag of assembled cliches, this one with bits of “The Shining,” “In Cold Blood,” “The Exorcist,” “Misery” and any number of those “Ring” movies tossed in for box office curb appeal. In this case, a few weeds need to be plucked. As George Lutz, Ryan Reynolds looks good behind the ax as he turns on his family — but he’s no Jack Nicholson or, for that matter, even James Brolin from the original. As Kathy Lutz, Melissa George shrieks on cue, but in her, you sense more motherly worry than outright terror, which is what the film needs. As for the demonic flies that made such a chilly addition to the original film, here they make a brief, thrill-ride appearance and then they are gone — not unlike this movie was just weeks after its 2005 theatrical release. Grade: C-

WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog. Smith’s film reviews appear Fridays in Lifestyle, and his video movie previews appear Wednesdays in the Lifestyle section of bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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