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SCREEN GEMS

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Paul W.S. Anderson
Cast:
Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Spencer Locke, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller
Writing Credits:
Paul W.S. Anderson

Tagline:
She's back ... And she's bringing a few of her friends.

Synopsis:
The fourth installment of the hugely successful Resident Evil franchise, Resident Evil: Afterlife is again based on the wildly popular video game series, and will this time be presented in 3-D. In a world ravaged by a virus infection, turning its victims into the Undead, Alice (Milla Jovovich), continues on her journey to find survivors and lead them to safety. Her deadly battle with the Umbrella Corporation reaches new heights, but Alice gets some unexpected help from an old friend. A new lead that promises a safe haven from the Undead takes them to Los Angeles, but when they arrive the city is overrun by thousands of Undead - and Alice and her comrades are about to step into a deadly trap.

Box Office:
Budget
$60 million.
Opening Weekend
$26.650 million on 3203 screens.
Domestic Gross
$60.128 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio Service
Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
English
French
Spanish
Portuguese

Runtime: 96 min.
Price: $34.95
Release Date: 12/28/2010

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Writer/Director Paul WS Anderson and Producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer
• “Undead Vision” Picture-in-Picture
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Outtakes
• Seven Featurettes
• Sneak Peek of Resident Evil: Damnation Animated Film
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Resident Evil: Afterlife [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 20, 2010)

Eight years after the first movie’s release, the Resident Evil franchise keeps on chugging. US box office tends to be lackluster – none of the flicks has ever made more than $60 million – but the films do well overseas and on home video, so we get more and more sequels.

As of 2010, we’re at movie number four in the franchise with Resident Evil: Afterlife. To my surprise, I see it’s the most successful of the four, at least in the US: it’s the one that nabbed that high gross of $60 million. With the series’ level of consistency, I suspect a fifth Evil effort will be out in a few years.

In the first flick, a chemical created a world mostly populated by zombies. An agent named Alice (Milla Jovovich) set out to find other survivors, to destroy the evil Umbrella Corporation that created the virus, and to halt the spread of the undead via a variety of violent means.

Four years after the first film’s events, that’s where we find Alice. In Japan, she takes the offensive to infiltrate the company’s regional headquarters. She does so to take down an Umbrella operative named Albert Wesker (Shawn Roberts). He possesses superpowers similar to hers, and she nearly offs him. However, as she plans to pounce, Wesker injects a serum into Alice that neutralizes her abilities. Before Wesker can kill her, the plane crashes, and Alice escapes unscathed.

From there we hop ahead six months and find Alice in search of a place called Arcadia; that’s where a survivors’ haven allegedly exists. Along the way, she re-encounters friends from earlier adventures and ends up in LA. A group of survivors live inside a prison; its walls are the way they avoid being killed by the undead. Alice and the others attempt to figure out how to get past the zombies and make their way to Arcadia – which they learn is actually a ship.

Since I’d not seen a Resident Evil flick in years, I examined my reviews to refresh my memory. To my surprise, I rather enjoyed the first two. I thought I’d not cared for them, but obviously I misremembered; while they didn’t dazzle me, I thought they delivered the appropriate videogame-style goods.

For reasons unknown, I skipped 2007’s Resident Evil: Extinction. Maybe I’d already forgotten that I liked the first two – who knows? Armed with my refreshed appreciation of those movies, though, I hoped to get further enjoyment from Afterlife.

Didn’t happen. After a good start, Afterlife quickly fizzles and loses its way. Part of this stems from its abandonment of the usual zombie-flavored activity. When we first see Alice, she – and her clones – deliver the kind of superheroic action we want from a nutty, over-the-top videogame movie. The opening in Japan is crazy in the right way.

And then – nuttin’. Or not much, at least, as Alice’s quest for Arcadia and her stint in the prison becomes awfully boring awfully quickly. We focus too much on the dynamics among the characters and too little on action.

I know this seems like an odd complaint – usually I gripe that fireworks too heavily outweigh story and personality development – but in this instance, the film loses too much steam when it concentrates on its dull characters. We find little reason to invest in them and their quest, and the plot device of their self-imposed imprisonment feels stale; it gives the film a tired Alamo vibe that it can’t overcome.

Maybe others will disagree, but when I come to a film like this, I want something wild, and this flick’s Alice is too tame. She lacks the badass feel of the earlier movies and can’t do much to command center stage. Even when the action starts, she doesn’t bring enough to the table to impress us.

The supporting characters don’t fill the void. They’re stock personalities without much to make them stand out to us, and you can predict their paths. We know the Wentworth Miller character will be a good guy because hey, that’s who Wentworth Miller plays. (Is it supposed to be clever that the Prison Break star portrays an unjustly locked-up inmate here?) And we can tell that Bennett will be bad because he’s a movie producer and kind of looks like Ron Jeremy; you can’t sport those style choices and be good!

Even when the action finally erupts in the climax, it feels rehashed. Wesker reappears and seems to channel The Matrix. He dresses like Neo and acts like Agent Smith. I thought bullet-time finally wore out its welcome around 2004 – is it 1999 all over again?

I can find only one impressive component here: ultra-sexy Kacey Barnfield. Do an Internet search for images of her and send me a thank you note later.

Other than the glorious Miss Barnfield, however, nothing about Afterlife boils my potatoes. After a good start, it quickly turns plodding and dull. Even the climax seems somewhat leaden and perfunctory. Maybe four films is too much and it’s time to retire the franchise; this Resident Evil adventure lacks excitement.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A/ Bonus B

Resident Evil: Afterlife appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. Though much of the movie looked great, a few minor faults kept it from “A”-level.

Actually, some mild, occasional softness was the only issue I found. While most of the flick offered excellent definition, a few shots could be a bit soft and tentative. I’d guess that some of this stemmed from the use of 3D cameras and iffy computer effects, but whatever the case, I thought the sporadic softness cropped up. I still felt quite happy with the delineation seen most of the time, as lots of the flick displayed terrific clarity.

At no point did I witness any jagged edges or shimmering. Edge enhancement appeared absent, and no artifacts or DNR showed up along the way. Of course, source flaws weren’t a factor; the movie was clean and fresh.

Colors worked fine. After a peppy start, the palette became more subdued; the Umbrella Corporation reds offered the most obvious tones. I felt the hues were consistently solid. Blacks seemed dark and tight, and I thought shadows displayed nice clarity. At times, this was a strong “A” transfer, but the occasional softness knocked it down to a “B+”.

No similar complaints attached themselves to the consistently excellent DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Afterlife. One of the most aggressive mixes I’ve heard in a while, the audio offered nearly constant material from all around the spectrum. Action sequences dominated and created an active, involving space with plenty of punch to be found everywhere. Bullets zinged, punches crunched, and explosions blew apart the room. This was a vivid, engulfing mix that used the whole room to great advantage.

Audio quality lived up to the soundscape. Effects were the most important factor, and they came through well. The various elements lacked distortion, and they cranked out some solid material; they were always vivid and concise. Music seemed bold and bright as well, and speech was natural and distinctive. If I wanted to find something about which to complain, I couldn’t; this was a very strong mix.

The Blu-ray comes with a nice complement of extras. These launch with an audio commentary from writer/director Paul WS Anderson and producers Jeremy Bolt and Robert Kulzer. All three sit together for this running, screen-specific discussion of sets and locations, shooting in 3D, cast and performances, stunts and action, various effects, costumes, some story/character issues and a few other areas.

All three men have recorded commentaries in the past, and Anderson has done quite a few of them. This means that they seem comfortable with the format but a little bored to be there. Maybe “bored” isn’t fair, but I don’t sense a whole lot of enthusiasm for the process. The three guys deliver a “meat and potatoes” discussion: it goes over the appropriate areas in a reasonably informative manner but it doesn’t become anything particularly engaging.

Another feature accompanies the film: the ”Undead Vision” Picture-in-Picture piece. Along the way, we see storyboards and previz, concept art, behind the scenes footage and interviews. It presents notes from Anderson, Bolt, Anderson’s assistant Sarah Crompton, director of photography Glen MacPherson, production designer Arv Grewal, producer Don Carmody, special makeup and creature effects Paul Jones, visual effects supervisor Dennis Berardi, prosthetic effects artist Kyle Glencross, and actors Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Sienna Guillory and Kacey Barnfield. The comments cover script and planning, story and characters, stunts and action, effects, sets and locations, cinematography and some other topics.

Picture-in-picture features tend to be hit or miss, and this one follows that pattern. While it offers some decent info and materials, I don’t find a whole lot to really pique my interest. It’s probably most useful if you like storyboards and that sort of stuff, as those images dominate; interview snippets aren’t terribly frequent. This is a decent extra but it can be slow-going.

Eight Deleted and Extended Scenes fill a total of six minutes, 48 seconds. These include “Intruders – Extended” (0:31), “Alice and Claire in the Plane” (0:35), “Alice Rolls Quarters – Extended” (1:05), “Getting Dirty” (0:22), “Crystal Volunteers” (1:08), “Claire and Luther at the Prison Gate” (0:27), “On the LA River” (1:02), and “To Arcadia – Extended” (1:38). The most useful character notes help expand Claire’s amnesia. Otherwise, the scenes tend to be pretty minor additions. None of them contribute much to the film.

Next we find four minutes, 30 seconds of Outtakes. These tend to be of the silly, goof-ridden variety. I guess people enjoy these, but I rarely get much from them, and this reel doesn’t do anything for me.

A collection of seven featurettes fill a total of 47 minutes, 33 seconds. In this realm, we find "Back Under the Umbrella: Directing Afterlife" (6:43), “Band of Survivors: Casting Afterlife” (6:39), “Undead Dimension: Resident Evil in 3D” (7:28), “Fighting Back: The Action of Afterlife” (5:31), “Vision of the Apocalypse: The Design of Afterlife” (7:29), “New Blood: The Undead of Afterlife” (7:32), and “Pwning the Undead: Gamers of the Afterlife” (6:11). Across these, we hear from Anderson, Jovovich, Larter, Bolt, Kulzer, Crompton, Carmody, Coates, Roberts, Kodjoe, Miller, MacPherson, Barnfield, Grewal, Berardi, Jones, film editor Niven Howie, and actor Sergio Peris-Mencheta. The shows examine Anderson’s attachment to the Evil series and his return to the director’s chair for Afterlife, the growth he attempted for this one, cast, characters and performances, stunts and action, shooting 3D, sets, locations and visual design, various effects and the creation of the undead, and echoes of the videogames.

While we do learn some decent info across these featurettes, they tend to be rather superficial. We hear a lot about how great various movie elements/participants are, but hard data doesn’t often come to the fore. Yeah, we learn an acceptable amount about the production, but all the happy talk makes the featurettes something of a chore to watch.

A few ads open the disc. We get clips for Takers, Piranha 3D, Sniper: Reloaded and Salt. Under Previews, we also locate promos for The Social Network, The Virginity Hit, Faster, Animal Kingdom, Justified, Ticking Clock, and Game of Death. Though the disc throws in an ad for the upcoming Resident Evil: Damnation CG-animated film, it lacks the trailer for Afterlife.

Four films down the road and the Resident Evil franchise takes a notable dip with Afterlife. The movie tries to deliver the usual thrills and fails, as it lacks the expected sizzle and excitement. The Blu-ray provides usually strong visuals, awesome audio, and an erratic but generally informative set of supplements. Maybe Resident Evil aficionados will get a thrill from Afterlife, but I can’t find much in it to like.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.6666 Stars Number of Votes: 3
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main