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'Resident Evil: Afterlife': Unshakeable

The Resident Evil movies reflect the videogames on which they're based. The story moves forward nominally while more or less hitting the reset button each time.


Resident Evil: Afterlife

Director: Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts
Rated: R
Studio: Screen Gems (Sony)
Year: 2010
US Date: 2010-09-10 (General release)
UK Date: 2010-09-10 (General release)
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The last Resident Evil movie, Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), ended with superheroine Alice (Milla Jovovich) vowing to take down the evil, virus-unleashing Umbrella Corporation with help from her genetically engineered superclones. You may not remember this because the Resident Evil movies are not really designed to be remembered. They're action-horror diversions slipped in between bigger events in both of those genres. Regardless, Resident Evil: Afterlife does indeed fulfill the promise of an army of Milla Jovoviches laying waste to an underground post-apocalyptic bunker.

The mission to destroy Umbrella's headquarters serves only as a prologue, though, and soon Alice is back to her usual business, not just the business of previous Resident Evil movies, but that of any number of zombie movies from Romero onward. She finds a group of disparate survivors, and together they must fight their way toward a chance for freedom. In the past, this has taken place in an underground lab, a quarantined city, and a barren desert; in this fourth installment, the humans are barricaded in an abandoned prison. Even the telepathic powers Alice developed in the third movie are chemically subdued in this one, though to what degree, the movie is characteristically unclear.

This has become something of a Resident Evil trademark, promising ever more expansive and/or apocalyptic story turns in the final moments of one film, only to revert back to less ambitious zombie-shooting in the opening moments of the next, and getting away with it because no one remembers what happened in a Resident Evil movie from three years ago. In a sense, the Resident Evil movies serve as a canny reflection of the videogames on which they're based. The story moves forward nominally while more or less hitting the reset button each time.

Resident Evil: Afterlife coasts on the same energies as its predecessors -- ample inanity, convincing action figures, enthusiastic borrowing from every genre movie in sight -- and is more or less equally dependable as B-movie entertainment. In other words, the fact that founding director and continuing screenwriter Paul W.S. Anderson returns to the helm here is only minimally notable -- apart from his abiding love of slow-motion, which must add at least 10 minutes to the film's running time. Indeed, Anderson isn't even as solid a craftsman as, say, Russell Mulcahy, the Highlander vet who steered the third movie, but his work is watchable. His slow-mo fetish at least makes the ridiculous action clear rather than hideously overcut, which in turn makes the 3D version of the film agreeable rather than headache-inducing.

Anderson also holds unique qualifications in the specialized field of Jovovich adoration. She's his real-life spouse, and key to this franchise, too. B-movie rules allow her to play tough like Angelina Jolie without shoehorning in quasi-feminine vulnerability. Alice is unshakeable. No matter the weapon at her disposal -- shotguns, machetes, swords -- she will find a way to hold one in each hand while doing flips.

It's all quite familiar, then, but Resident Evil movies are not about surprise or nuance. Anderson adds the tiniest morsel of satire by having this new, Los Angeles-based group of survivors consist of Hollywood types (a producer, an intern, an aspiring actress), but he won't allow this to mess with his zombie-ensemble formula. If athlete Luther West (Boris Kodjoe) seems like a strong, sexy, stand-up type of guy, that's probably how he'll behave, and if sleazy producer Bennett (Kim Coates) seems like a wormy, disloyal type, then, well, the movie's videogamey code writes itself.

And if Umbrella baddie Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts) menaces Alice at the front of the movie and then disappears, you can guess when you'll see him again, promising big things for Resident Evil 5. Most likely it'll be about as good as Afterlife, which even steals from geek movies that not many geeks even like all that much (it's the software of Matrix Reloaded meets the hardware of Land of the Dead!). Just as likely: it will show again that silly genre exercises don't have to be expensive, pretentious or incoherent.

5

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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