Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Monday, July 23, 2007

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Iain Glen, Mike Epps, Oded Fehr, Spencer Locke, and Christopher Egan
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Steve's Rating: Six of Ten Stars

Five years after an accident in a top secret lab unleashed a virus that turns dead bodies into flesh-hungry, violent zombies, the world is overrun with undead. Pockets of survivors still exist, and Claire Redfield (Larder) leads a convey from place to plance, attempting to gather them and form strength in numbers. She eventually crosses paths with Alice (Jovovich), who is on the run from the creators of the virus. They consider her their property, and they want to back. Will Alice be the salvation of Claire and her mobile community, or will she bring doom to them all?

After getting over the dissapointment of the fact that "Resident Evil: Extinction" does NOT follow up on what seemed to be an obvious and very cool sequel set-up at the end of "Resident Evil: Apocalypse"--except with an brief exchange between Carlos (Fehr, the only returning castmember from the other film aside from Jovovich) and Alice--I came to appreciate this supposedly final film in the series for its "The Road Warrior Meets George Romero's Day of the Dead" vibe.

I can't praise the film for its script... it unfolds as though it was based on someone's "All Flesh Must Be Eaten" or "Dark Conspiracy" roleplaying campaign, as the fillm moves from horror-flavored, action-oriented horror encounter area to horror-flavored action-oriented encounter area. While the main story-thrust of the film is resolved and the main villain within reach gets his by the end of the film--and please say that's a spoiler... you KNOW that even before he shows up in the movie that the mad scientist is going to bite the dust during the final reel!--the film leaves so many dangling plot-threads that it feels more like the middle of a film series instead of the end. Just like a supposedly "climactic" session of a well-run (and continuing) roleplaying game session.

I also can't really praise the acting in this film, because I don't think there was any. (I know that's not true... the apparently lack of acting is acting in and of itself, as anyone who's seen more than two or three low-budget indie horror movies will confirm). But, the film is so devoid of anything but action that there's no need for the actors to do anything but run around and shoot off blanks and beat on extras in zombie make-up. Jovovich does a little acting when she first wakes up at what seems to be the beginning of first "Resident Evil" movie, and then later when she comes upon the cornerstone of Umbrella Corporation's latest project, but she isn't exactly required to stretch herself.

I am, however, impressed with movie's breakneck pace and how it kept me entertained... and even how it shocked and startled me with violent zombie attacks. The zombie crow sequence was also expertly staged and executed, and it was one of the scariest sequences I've seen in recent cinema. Yes, it was remincent of both "The Birds" and "Night of the Living Dead"... but I wouldn't have thought that borrowing from two such different classics could result in something so nifty.

There isn't a scrap of padding in the film. It promises to deliver zombies and lots of gory violence, and it delivers on that in spades. While part of me would have liked a slightly more structured plot, the overall film still worked for me. I also didn't mind the fact that the end of the film really isn't all that much of an ending--instead, it opens up branches to two possible sequels. Maybe that's because I've been running running roleplaying game campaigns for some 30 years now, and that's exactly how I like to "end" my campaigns. I want to always keep openings so the fun can continue, if the players are willing.

"Resident Evil: Extinction" is not a masterpiece. In fact, it's probably downright forgettable, and I am certain that in a week, my memories of it will be as vague as those I have of the first two, but while in the theater, I enjoyed myself immensely.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

'FBI ruined my career,' says Steven Seagal

I can't tell if it's ego or something else that's to blame for the extreme state of denial that's causing Steven Seagal to blame the FBI for his flagging career instead of string of bad, BAD choices he's made.

First, I'll give you the article from Reuters, where Seagal mounts a rather sad attempt to blame someone else for the state of this acting career. (It's so pathetic that it's almost on the scale of John Edwards' claim that "They're trying to shut me up.")

Afterwards, I'll give you a little film historical context on Seagal's career and the REAL reason why it's swirling down the metaphorical toilet.

Steven Seagal blames FBI for failing film career
Fri Aug 17, 2007 3:10PM EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Steven Seagal, whose action movies once were major box-office attractions, believes false allegations by FBI agents ruined his career, the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday.

The comments in the Times are the first Seagal has made publicly about an investigation begun some five years ago by the FBI into accusations he intimidated a reporter and had ties to organized crime.

The Times said Seagal is demanding an apology from the FBI. A spokesman for the actor was not immediately available on Friday.

"False FBI accusations fueled thousands of articles saying that I terrorize journalists and associate with the Mafia," Seagal told the newspaper. "These kinds of inflammatory allegations scare studio heads and independent producers -- and kill careers."

Seagal, 56, was once a major star of action movies such as 1992's "Under Siege," which earned $156 million at worldwide box offices, but now he makes straight-to-DVD releases such as "Flight of Fury and "Attack Force."

The FBI investigation stemmed from Seagal's ties to former private detective Anthony Pellicano, who once was employed by many Hollywood stars, directors and producers, but is now in federal prison awaiting trial on wire-tapping and other charges.

The Pellicano investigation dates to 2002 when a free-lance reporter for the Los Angeles Times found a dead fish, a red rose and a note saying "Stop!" on her car. At the time, the reporter was researching Seagal and a former business partner.

Seagal told the Times that he and Pellicano had not been on speaking terms since the 1990s and the Times' story said his lawyers told FBI agents that by 2002, Seagal and Pellicano had become rivals in a bitter legal dispute.

The actor said in October 2004, an FBI official told him that federal agents knew he had nothing to do with the Pellicano investigation. Still, Seagal claims they have not publicly exonerated him.

An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment "because of the ongoing nature of the investigation" and referred calls to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles. A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney was not immediately available to comment.

I haven't been following any of the investigations mentinoned in the article. I have, however, been watching Seagal movies for many years and his career problems started well before 2002.

I've reviewed a number of Seagal's films for "Reviews and Stuff", and I'll be syndicating them here over the next couple of weeks. If you check them out, you'll see that the films Seagal headlined started getting bad in the mid-1990s.

It's true that "Half-Past Dead" and "The Foreigner" date from around the time when the FBI investigation supposedly ruined Seagal's career. I think, however, that the real cause for his professional woes is a lot closer to home than Seagal wants to admit. One can only associate one's name with consistently crappy movies for so long before there's no escaping the career consequences.

Seagal has the further problem that he needed to get away from the tough-guy, untouchable action star roles years ago. "Black Dawn" demonstrated that he can't even do his own fight scenes anymore. Somehow, I don't think he can blame the FBI for him getting old.

(And I'm not bashing Steven Seagal here. It pained me to see what he has been reduced to, because I really liked his early movies.)

You can read some of my reviews of Seagal films at Watching the Detectives by clicking here.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tintin: For Adults Only!

Tintin in the Congo" is now being considered a book too racist for the kid's section at Borders.

And I don't think this is such a bad thing.

I'm a huge Tintin fan, and I usually roll my eyes at the hyper-sensitive people who are looking to take offense at the drop of a hat, but even as a kid, I could see "Tintin in the Congo" was more racist than entertaining.

I actually don't think it's a book that should be read by anyone. It's simply not very good. "Tintin in America" and earlier volumes in the series simply aren't that good... at the very least, they're horribly dated.

NEW YORK (AP) - "Tintin in the Congo," an illustrated work removed from the children's section of Borders Group Inc. stores in Britain because of allegations of racism, will receive similar treatment by the superstore chain in the United States.

"Borders is committed to carrying a wide range of materials and supporting our customers' right to choose what to read and what to buy. That said, we also are also committed to acting responsibly as a retailer and with sensitivity to all of the communities we serve," according to a Borders statement issued Monday.

"Therefore, with respect to the specific title 'Tintin in the Congo,' which could be considered offensive by some of our customers, we have decided to place this title in a section of our store intended primarily for adults - the graphic novels section. We believe adults have the capacity to evaluate this work within historical context and make their own decision whether to read it or not.

"Other 'Tintin' titles will remain in the children's section."

David Enright, a London-based human-rights lawyer, recently was shopping at Borders with his family when he came upon the book, first published in 1931, and opened it to find what he characterized as racist abuse.

"The material suggests to (children) that Africans are subhuman, that they are imbeciles, that they're half savage," Enright told The Associated Press in a recent interview.

In Britain, the book also will be stocked with graphic novels.

Ann Binkley, a spokeswoman for Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Borders in the U.S., said no complaints have been received in this country. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers is publishing the book in the U.S. in September, one of many "Tintin" works being reissued to mark the centennial of author-cartoonist Herge, the pen name of Georges Remi.

"This particular title, one of three originally unpublished in the U.S., may be considered somewhat controversial, as it reflects the colonial attitudes of the time it was created," reads a statement on Little Brown's website.

"Herge depicts African peoples according to the stereotypes of the time period, but in this edition it will be contextualized for the reader in an explanatory preface."

The book is the second in a series of 23 tracing the adventures of Tintin, an intrepid reporter, and his dog, Snowy. The series has sold 220 million copies worldwide and been translated in 77 languages.

But "Tintin in the Congo" has been widely criticized as racist by fans and critics alike.

In it, Remi depicts the white hero's adventures in the Congo against the backdrop of an idiotic, chimpanzee-like native population that eventually comes to worship Tintin - and his dog - as gods.

Remi later said he was embarrassed by the book, and some editions have had the more objectionable content removed. When an unexpurgated edition was brought out in Britain in 2005, it came wrapped with a warning and was written with a foreword explaining the work's colonial context.

Africa was hardly the only part of the world portrayed in stereotypes by Remi. "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" was a rough take on Communist society, while "Tintin in America" was equally critical of capitalism in the U.S.

Remi, a native of Belgium, died in 1983. Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson each plan to direct at least one film in a series of three movies based on the "Tintin" adventures.

Friday, July 6, 2007

United Artists vs Germany:
The Bizarre Battle of Bendlerblock

Since the news first broke about parts of the German government refusing to grant permission to Tom Cruise and United Artist to film "Valkyrie" at historic locations because Cruise is a wacky Scientology cultist, I've been saying the Germans were being stupid.

Well, that stupidity just grew to epic proportions. Not only has the refusal to use the disputed site (a war museum in a facility known as Bendlerblock) been fomalized by the department that actually had to sign off on it, but ANOTHER branch of the German government just chipped in the cash to pay for Tom Cruise's salary and Thetan Editing while working on the film.

(The German government is in the habit of giving grants to movies by people they consider national threats? Someone needs to tell al-Qaeda... I understand they're looking for someone to fund their next snuff flick.)

From IMDB....

In an action that appeared politically schizophrenic, the German Federal Film Fund agreed on Thursday (July 5) to contribute $6.5 million to the funding of Tom Cruise's "Valkyrie", just one day after the German Finance Ministry turned down an application by the production company to shoot key scenes of the film at a historic location.

In the movie, Cruise plays Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg, who headed the so-called Generals' Plot to assassinate Hitler during World War II, but some German politicians -- and the son of von Stauffenberg -- have objected to Cruise portraying von Stauffenberg because of the actor's association with Scientology.

A spokesperson for the film fund said Thursday that it granted the subsidy because "the criteria for the grant were fulfilled."

Production is scheduled to begin in Berlin on July 18.