IMDB, Resident Evil- The Final Chapter“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” on IMDB

Sci-fi/Horror/Action – 2017 – 107 Minutes

We reviewed the first movie back in 2013 for the fourth BEBE, but never followed up on the other five. With this billed as the last entry in the series, we felt we had to at least complete the bookends.

Milla Jovovich returns as Alice, aimless and without hope in the ruins of Washington after the events of the last movie. She learns that Umbrella Corporation is planning to eradicate the few remaining human settlements to pave the way for their utopia. Alice must return to Raccoon City, foil their plans and steal the T-Virus cure they’ve developed to eliminate the undead threat and save humanity.

The bulk of the movie is high concept action. Giant monsters, enormous hordes of zombies and complex set pieces are the name of the game. The more intimate, tense environments of the first movie make lack-luster, significantly less effective appearances later.

The action scenes are overwhelmingly insulting. Jovovich is a marvel, but the unfocused, frenetic editing rarely lets her shine. Despite some interesting settings, the audience is rarely provided enough context for  anything but confusion. Every move is delivered with a dizzying barrage of camera movement, angles, and framing further muddied by strobe, jitter and slow motion effects.

The overall story fares somewhat better. While it’s far from the promised definitive ending, it does wrap the main threads up well enough. It suffers from false urgency and a confused climax, but features quite a bit of fan service.

It’s not a very good movie. At best you can say that this is a serviceable bookend to the story, but that’s being extremely generous. It’s biggest sin, by far, is burying it’s star under layers of ham-fisted editing. Alice deserves better.

BEBE Logo_TransToBlackAlas, BEBE 2019, our tenth year, is over! We started BEBE to give the kids something fun and secular to do on Easter in our highly Catholic neighborhood. The kids were Ten and Seven when we started. Now 20 and 16, they’re less enthusiastic than they were, but we still have fun.

We did run into some… life over the past year or so and haven’t been updating. We’ve got a backlog of BEBE-related movie reviews to catch up on and hope to get through them soon.

In any case, let’s see how we did according to the rules of Boiled Eggs and Brain Eaters:

Watch Some Zombie Movies

Check!  A decent selection overall.  We’ll be doing full reviews of all of these in the coming weeks:

  • Cargo: Excellent! Based on a popular short of the same name, Martin Freeman goes to extremes to ensure the safety of his infant daughter.
  • Ravenous: While subtitles scare away the children, this one is worth reading. A motley collection of strangers come together in rural Quebec to avoid roaming packs of violent infected.
  • Raccoon Valley: For the budget – reportedly under $200 – this is a surprisingly effective story of a deaf woman trapped in a quarantine zone. Unfortunately, as good as it is, it does almost nothing with the premise and, at only an hour long, seem much longer.
  • Anna and the Apocalypse: Was really looking forward to this Christmas zombie-musical. The rest of the family enjoyed it, but I thought it lacked the promised whimsy and gleefulness.
  • Shaun of the Dead: Our traditional closer is still as fresh and as perfect as ever!

An above average year, all told!

Eat Lots of Good Food

Check! Mostly. We’re getting older so “buckets of chocolate” are off the menu, but we did do a small batch of cupcakes and assorted goodies. Dinner, as usual was ham, smooshed potatoes, fried corn and dinner rolls. Nothing crazy, but there were no complaints!

Play Some Games

Check! Well, sorta. Mostly video games. Played a bit of “Fallout ’76” on the PS4, which is terribly broken but still scratches some very specific itches. I’m also working through “Zelda: Breath of the Wild” on the Switch for the first time (our son inhaled it when it was released).

Spend Some Time with Those You Love

Check! We’re glad to have time with the kids. In two years, our son will be graduating college and our daughter will be starting. Being secular humanists, Easter isn’t on the priority list of holidays, so we’re not sure how many more we’ll have together and cherish what we do.

We hope that you had a great day with those you love and were able to fit in a little fun and games.  We also hope to see you back here in 2020!

“Dawn of the Dead [2004]” on IMDB

Horror – 2004 – 111 Minutes

It’s an absolute classic, but it must be admitted that the original Dawn of the Dead [Our Review] didn’t age excruciatingly well. Youngsters may superficially mock the slang and the styles, but even older folks are likely to cringe a bit at the ham-fisted social commentary (not to mention the rampaging biker gang). A remake was inevitable.

Novice director Zack Snyder was selected to lead the project. Troma Films veteran James Gunn was tapped to write the screenplay; his second studio work after 2002’s tepid live action “Scooby Doo”. Both came to the project with a sincere love of the genre and a deep respect of the original material and made one of the best damn zombie flicks ever.

The original premise remains the same: a ragtag group of survivors find themselves trapped in a shopping mall by legions of the walking dead. The modern group is both more numerous and more eclectic than the original, allowing for more depth and development. Stars Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames may have the lion’s share of screen time, but co-stars Ty Burell, Lindy Booth, Matt Frewer and others are all pitch perfect as well.

The underlying message of rampant consumerism is intact and celebrated in one of the most memorable montages in film: a slice-of-monotonous-life set to Richard Cheese’s masterfully absurd cover of Disturbed’s “Down With the Sickness”. It’s an inspired choice that elevates an already excellent treatment into something truly special.

Fans of the original are offered any number of lovely references and homages. Those unfamiliar with the source are given a finely crafted, stand-alone story. This is a classic, no matter how it’s approached and not to be missed.

“Dawn of the Dead [1978]” on IMDB

Horror – 1978 – 127 Minutes

George Romero’s first film, Night of the Living Dead, created the outbreak trope: mobs of reanimated dead mindlessly hunt the living. It explored how people would react to the situation over one, terrifying night. This one logically asks, “what would happen after?”

In the weeks following outbreak, tens of millions have died and society is collapsing. Stephen and Francine work at a Philadelphia TV station, but can see the end coming. Enlisting SWAT officers Roger and Peter to join them, they steal the traffic helicopter and escape the city. They end up in a rural shopping mall, which they clear and make a home in.

With everything a consumer could want in 1978 at their fingertips, the small group sets up house for the long haul. Many of the best scenes revolve around the plans they set into motion to gather supplies and protect themselves. Romero’s writing rarely seems forced to a specific end; rather he creates a situation, places specific personalities into it and sees what might happen.

It took Romero nearly a decade to follow directly on the success of Night of the Living Dead with this semi-sequel. He had kept himself busy with many projects, but after a friend gave him a tour behind the scenes of a local mall he was inspired by the possibilities it provided.

This also marked his second, but far from last, collaboration with effects artist Tom Savini, who would become a legend in zombie genre in his own right. As one might expect, the effects, while tame by later standards, are top notch. This is more impressive considering that, at times, literally hundreds of extras needed to be zombified.

Setting the story in a mall ensures that the film shows its age more than Night. That film’s rustic farm setting and choice of black-and-white pull it out of time. The slang, clothes and chain-smoking pregnant woman undeniably brand this as the seventies; then the height of reckless consumerism.

It earned $55 million on its $1.5 million budget, making it the most successful film of the franchise, overall. While derided by some critics, mostly for its liberal gore, most loved it. Roger Ebert, after giving it four-out-of-four stars, famously said that “nobody ever said art had to be good taste.” 

“It Stains the Sands Red” on IMDB

Horror/Thriller – 2016 – 92 Minutes

Molly wasn’t having the best life before the zombie apocalypse. She used her body to seduce any man that could supply her with enough booze and drugs to forget her past. Her latest was a wannabe gangster in Las Vegas. The only question was whether she’d live long enough to lose her looks and get tossed away down the chain.

Still, she had some luck left. When the zombies appeared her boyfriend knew somebody with a plane at an isolated airfield miles outside the city. All they had to do was get there, and he would fly them to safety. Halfway there, her luck ran out. Now she’s on foot in the desert, miles from the airfield and her only companion is a relentless zombie.

The phrase “Design by Subtraction” may come from video games, but applies perfectly here. The filmmakers stripped traditional zombie stories to their essence. No never-ending horde to throw themselves at never-ending bullets, no eclectic group of survivors forced to work together, nowhere to hide, nowhere to fortify. Simply one desperate woman and one ravenous zombie in a desolate waste.

This part of the story works extremely well. Detractors may mock Molly’s lack of ingenuity in being unable to take out a single zombie, but it fits her character perfectly. This is a woman who’s spent her life as an accessory for others. Somebody else handled important things, not her. Her heroism isn’t simplistic action tropes, it’s simple dogged determination and it reveals itself slowly.

The cinematography is simple and effective. The blinding heat and light of the desert day is contrasted excellently with the pure black cold of the desert night. Wordlessly, the movie never lets us forget that the environment is as, or more, deadly than the zombie.

Later, as additional circumstances are introduced, the movie veers into more traditional territory. While this somewhat tarnishes the purity of the original premise, it does service the story. We’re allowed to see how Molly has gained the confidence to confront her personal demons.

The story ultimately lives or dies on the quality of Brittany Allen’s performance as Molly. It’s a difficult character: she’s selfish, crude and generally unlikable. It’s a testament to Allen’s performance that she (eventually) earns redemption and the empathy of the audience.

By removing unessential elements from traditional stories, the team has created a sharply focused, highly engaging story. Despite a comparatively weak ending, the execution of the core concept and  Allen’s excellent performance makes this a must-see.

BEBE Logo_TransToBlackAlas, BEBE 2018, our ninth year, is over! Nine glorious years of chicken ova and grey matter!

Let’s see how we did according to the rules of Boiled Eggs and Brain Eaters:

Watch Some Zombie Movies

Check!  The selections were mostly retrospective this year.  We’ll be doing full reviews of all of these in the coming weeks:

  • It Stains the Sands Red: A showgirl from Las Vegas alone in the dessert being trailed by a relentless zombie. A well-done and surprisingly gripping take on the genre!
  • Dawn of the Dead [1978]: It took George Romero a decade to produce this follow-up to the seminal Night of the Living Dead. While much of it hasn’t aged particularly well, the underlying metaphor of runaway consumerism as a metaphor for a zombie plague is still as powerful as ever.
  • Dawn of the Dead [2004]: As both a remake of a movie that didn’t need to be remade and Zack Synder’s feature debut, this movie has no right to be so damn good!
  • Shaun of the Dead: Still perfect! Still so damn perfect!

An above average year, all told!

Eat Lots of Good Food

Check! Too much Platter’s Chocolate and, as we’ve done since 2015, Crafty Zombie Cupcakes. We also did zombie sugar cookies and, for the first time, tried Hot Dog zombie fingers. These… didn’t turn out remarkably impressive, but tasted pretty good!  Dinner was the welcome usual of ham, smooshed taters and fried corn.

Play Some Games

Check, but barely! A few rounds of Zombie Dice was all we were able to get in!

Spend Some Time with Those You Love

Check! As the kids are older now, these are becoming nice and smooth with more actual conversation and less argument and drama. The weather worked out, so the doors were open and a nice spring breeze permeated the day.

We hope that you had a great day with those you love and were able to fit in a little fun and games.  We also hope to see you back here in 2019 for the the tenth anniversary of Boiled Eggs and Brain Eaters!

One of the best zombie flicks of the decade, Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead [Our Review], loud, crazy and plain old fun. It’s one of our all-time favorites. Happily, the movie’s story will continue in a new Australian television series, Wyrmwood: Chronicles of the Dead. They’ve released the first six insane minutes for us to drool over!

We’re so happy to see that original stars Bianca Bradey and Jay Gallagher will both return for the series! We can’t wait to see more!

Here Alone

“Here Alone” on IMDB

Horror/Drama – 2016 – 98 Minutes

An infection has ravaged the world. Victims are turned into mindless eating machines that will tirelessly hunt and kill anything – or anybody – that they come into contact with. Only the strong and clever can survive and even they live on borrowed time. It’s the plot that’s launched a thousand stories (and a thousand arguments about what constitutes a “real” zombie story, but we’ll let that dead horse lie).

A cliché is most often a crutch; an excuse for lazy filmmakers to stand on the shoulders of others and produce poor, paint-by-numbers facsimiles of their better work. More rarely, they can be liberating; allowing creators to build interesting stories within a familiar framework. They leverage the cliche rather than rely on it to direct them. Happily, this is an example of the latter.

Ann (Lucy Waters [IMDB]) is alone in the Northern woods. She’s developed techniques for dealing with the infected. She still walks the ragged edge of survival, but has come to accept her lot. When Chris (Adam David Thompson [IMDB]) and his step-daughter Olivia (Gina Piersanti [IMDB]) stumble into her life, she needs to reevaluate whether bare survival is enough.

While many of the themes will be familiar, the handling of the characters is deft and mature. Solid, perfectly subdued performances capture the quiet, persistent desperation of the situation. Exposition is provided organically through restrained, well-heeled flashbacks. The script deftly provides enough information to avoid frustration while leaving enough out to maintain interest.

The story doesn’t concern itself with the problems of the world at large. It’s small and deeply human. These three people aren’t working on a cure and they’re not going to kick-start civilization; they’re simply going to survive – or not – quietly, in the woods. The ending is telegraphed and likely to turn off some viewers, yet seems natural for the characters. It also earns points for lacking an inane twist.

The production is a an excellent example of performance-driven, minimalist film making. While those looking for action will be disappointed, others will find a solid, engaging drama.

IMDB, Train to Busan“Train to Busan” on IMDB

Horror/Action – 2016 – 118 Minutes

South Korea has been quietly, persistently producing amazing filmmakers for many years. Heavily influenced by American cinema, these creators have injected a much-needed dose of creativity and originality into many tired genres with action and horror benefiting especially. While the country’s horror is most inspired by regional legends and myths, it should come as no surprise that zombies would eventually be tapped.

Seok-woo (Yoo Gong [IMDB]) is a workaholic who’s neglected his daughter, Soo-an (Su-an Kim [IMDB]), once too often. In a poor attempt to make things up to her, he begrudgingly agrees to escort her, via train, from Seoul to Busan so that she can spend her birthday with her mother. Other passengers tick off various tropes on the roster: a selfish businessman, a pregnant woman and her hen-pecked husband, a high-school baseball team, a pair of elderly sisters and others.

When the stage is properly set, all hell breaks loose. Mechanically, the movie is similar to “28 Days Later” [IMDB]: an unknown sickness turns people into ravenous, rage-filled monsters shortly after they’re bit. The zombies are fast, relentless and beautifully choreographed. Their movement, especially when in groups, is brutally effective and terrifying. The audience is kept further disoriented by a refreshing “verticality”: stairs, upper-story windows and various other methods are used to draw attention in multiple, dizzying directions at once.

Nothing is said about the source of the infection. “Less is more” is the rule and nothing distracts from the breathless, non-stop race for survival. While this means that the characters aren’t particularly deep, they are pleasantly consistent and true-to-life. Focus is given to the relationships that evolve as events force new responsibilities and dependencies on them. Father and daughter. Husband and wife. Sibling. Friend. It’s surprising how quickly and strongly the audience empathizes with them.

This takes traditional “fast zombie” zombie tropes and, in a word, perfects them. It’s impossible to heap enough praise upon it. It succeeds in all the ways “World War Z” [Our Review] failed and sets a new high watermark for outbreak films.

george-romero-610x914George Romero, father of the modern zombie film, has died at the age of 77. BBC, Variety, LA Times, New York Times, Hollywood Reporter.

“My stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react, or react stupidly. I’m pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies. I try to respect and sympathize with the zombies as much as possible.”

He reportedly died in his sleep with his family close after a short, but fierce, struggle with lung cancer. He, of course, created the modern zombie film with 1966’s Night of the Living Dead. Made for just over $100,000, the film went on to earn $30 million at the box office despite heated criticism of its graphic nature.

“I always thought of the zombies as being about revolution, one generation consuming the next.”

The word “Zombie” never appeared in the film. He would go on to direct a total of six “Dead” films and inspire countless others.

“My zombies will never take over the world because I need the humans. The humans are the ones I dislike the most, and they’re where the trouble really lies.”

Thank you, George. You will be missed.