Boiled Eggs and Brain Eaters

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!

IMDB, The Girl with all the Gifts“The Girl with All the Gifts” on IMDB

Drama/Horror – 2016 – 111 Minutes

This film was a selection for BEBE 2017.

It’s often difficult to defend our selected genre on the merits of its craft. The majority of films are dime-store efforts by well-meaning, but technically inept, fans or money-grubbers looking to cash in with as little effort as possible. The few that rise above tend to be hamstrung in one or more ways. They may lack any combination of money, talent or time. This is one of the few examples that have something interesting to say, are given the budget to say it, and can attract the talent to say it well.

The film is based on M.R. Carey’s novel of the same name. Comic fans may know Carey as a writer for DC Vertigo favorites “Hellblazer”, “Lucifer” and “The Unwritten” as well as significant runs of “X-men” and “Fantastic Four” for Marvel. Carey wrote the screenplay for the film in tandem with the novel. Although there are substantial differences between the two, the film remains protectively true to the spirit and message of its source material.

20 years ago, humanity was infected with a brain-altering fungus. It caused the infected to revert to a bestial, violent state and mercilessly attack any source of meat, including uninfected humans. These “hungries” soon forced the shredded remains of society into fortified military bases and quarantine zones.

The story is told almost exclusively from the point of view of Melanie, an intelligent, obedient, trusting child who hides a dark secret. There are only minor detours to other characters, usually to set specific context for the audience. It all hinges on the performance of 13-year old Sennia Nanua as Melanie and she rises to the challenge beautifully.

The rest of the small cast, including Glenn Close in a wonderful, subdued role as scientist researching the plague, is strong and confident. This is, more than anything, a character study

Many scenes demonstrate brilliant, deft transitions from quiet tension to fevered, raucous action. These punctuate the story beats precisely, yet never feel forced or artificial. The staging and cinematography are beautiful and deeply sell the post-apocalyptic setting.

The team leveraged high-quality micro-drones for overhead shots and kept the effects to an effective minimum. That the entire film was made for roughly five million dollars (compared to, say, the nearly 200 million budget of the anemic “World War Z”) is nothing short of amazing.

This is the rare offering that will appeal to film fans in general and not “just genre fans”.  A tight, original story told beautifully by a talented crew and cast. Not one to miss.

IMDB, Zombeavers“Zombeavers” on IMDB

Comedy/Horror – 2014 – 77 Minutes

This film was a selection for BEBE 2017.

Did you know that the second syllable of “zombie”  is like the letter “B”? So, you could, like, put “zom” in front of things that start with “B” and create whole new zom things! Zombadgers! Zombeagles! Zombeetles! (Or, if you’re musically inclined, Zombeatles.)

Pick something, staple it onto “zom” then grab a wikipedia article for some interesting facts and you’ve got yourself a premise! Toss in a remote cabin, a trio of bikini-clad college students and their dumbass boyfriends and you’ve got yourself a script! Cap it off with some barely passable puppets, gallons of dyed corn-syrup and a helping of gratuitous nudity and you, you my friend, have got yourself a movie.

Risking cliché, two incompetent delivery men lose a barrel of toxic waste which contaminates the local beaver dam. Three sorority sisters are visiting a cabin on the same lake to commiserate about the infidelity of one of their boyfriends. They do this in bikinis, with the designated “bad girl” going topless. In the evening, the boyfriends show up and things go soap opera.

The next day, the horror side of the story begins in earnest. The now undead beavers attack the group and the few other incidental characters introduced earlier. The effects are… terrible. The beavers – sorry, zombeavers – are sloppy, floppy puppets slathered in goo and thrown at the squirming actors. They’re often in bright sunlight which does nothing to hide the many flaws.

Later, when night falls, both the horror and the effects improve markedly. The human makeup effects, while goofy, are significantly better than the creature work. The script, free of exposition and relationship development, is leaner and, with most of the chaff killed off, the better actors are able to step up their game.

Kidding aside, this is as good as you’d expect from the title; maybe even a bit better than it deserves to be. An uneven script and effects are offset by a solid third act and mostly likable actors. Zombie aficionados may turn their noses, but as teenage zombie romps go, this is definitely one of the better ones.

 

BEBE Logo_TransToBlackAlas, BEBE 2017, our eighth year, is over!  Movies, games and way too much food! Success!

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

Watch Some Zombie Movies

Check!  Only three this year, but everybody watched all three, even the teenagers! We’ll be doing full reviews of all of these in the coming weeks:

  • Zombeavers: So damn silly! Flaws aplenty, but fun enough to forgive them.
  • The Girl with All the Gifts: So damn good! There are a few shots in this that will stick with you for a long time to come.
  • Resident Evil – The Final Chapter: The last(?) movie in the storied franchise unfortunately underwhelmed.
  • Shaun of the Dead: So damn perfect! So damn, damn perfect!

Of course this weekend was kind of a perfect storm of nerd for us with the new seasons of both Doctor Who and Mystery Science Theater 3000 being released. We admit to cutting BEBE short to enjoy the first episode of MST3k (which we backed on KickStarter), “Reptilicus“. We were worried about the new cast, but the franchise is in very good hands!

Eat Lots of Good Food

Check! Too much Platter’s Chocolate and, as we’ve done since 2015, Crafty Zombie Cupcakes (although these didn’t come out very well since we tried to use last year’s decorative chocolate). Dinner was an obscene amount of ham, smooshed taters and fried corn.

Play Some Games

Check! It just so happens that Sony put the excellent Deadlight: Director’s Cut on sale for PS4 this weekend, so we gave it a go. It’s an excellent cinematic side-scrolling survival horror game set in, you guessed it, a zombie apocalypse. We ended up completing almost half the game. It’s an excellent game for $15, but at $5 it’s an absolute steal.

Spend Some Time with Those You Love

Check! This was a another nice, easy year for us. The kids actually spent with us, everything we did was worth spending time on and the weather was gorgeous; despite a few short rain showers. There’s something incredibly comforting about watching a great movie with your family while enjoying a cool breeze.

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 2018 for the the ninth anniversary of Boiled Eggs and Brain Eaters!