Evil in residence

 

One of many Alices. This time with two guns.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been grinding my way through the chaotic labyrinth that is the Resident Evil film franchise. As I point out in my notes, at some point writer-director Paul W. S. Anderson seems to have just started making things up as he went along. The results are disorienting, if not totally incoherent. Yes, it’s all a big video game, but even so these movies are crazy. Here’s the line-up:

Resident Evil (2002)
Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)
Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)
Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)
Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (2016)

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Hellboy goes to the movies

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching the movies made out of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy comic books (which I really like, though they get repetitive). The first two, by Guillermo del Toro, were both OK, aided by del Toro’s fandom and Ron Perlman’s rugged portrayal of the eponymous demon spawn. The 2019 reboot was not good, hamstrung by a chaotic plot and poor CGI. My sense is that Mignola’s Hellboy universe is just too large and sprawling for a movie (or even a series of movies) to try to encompass. The movies needed to be a little less ambitious, and, at least with regard to the reboot, less Marvelesque.

Dance, dance, die

Sussing things out.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching Suspiria then (1977) and now (2018). Dario Argento’s original is a classic and a movie I still enjoy. Luca Guadagnino’s version is terrible. I can appreciate that Guadagnino wanted to do something different, but I don’t think anything he did worked. What a shame. I had been really looking forward to it.

Liam Neeson, action star

A man with a certain set of skills.

Over at Alex on Film I’ve been watching some Liam Neeson movies. I think he surprised everyone in rebranding himself as an action star with Taken, soon to be followed up by a bunch of other genre flicks. And then he surprised everyone again by blowing himself up in a press interview last year. I’ve heard he doesn’t want to do any more action movies, so maybe that was his way of signing off. It’s too bad, because even though few of these movies were any good, I think he did well in them.

Taken (2008)
The Grey (2011)
Taken 2 (2012)
Taken 3 (2014)
Non-Stop (2014)
The Commuter (2018)
Cold Pursuit (2019)

Don’t know much geography

Whose flag?

It was an oft-repeated criticism of American involvement in Vietnam that the U.S. was waging a war in a country that few of its citizens would be able to find on a map. That was a zinger, then and now, though, in the American public’s defence, at the time Vietnam was only twenty years old (it had most recently been French Indochina).

I was thinking of this recently when preparing my notes on the movie They’re Watching, which was set in Moldova. This threw me. Before finding out this little tidbit of information, if you’d asked me if there was a country of Moldova I would have said there wasn’t. I associated the name with a province in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire and thought that the filmmakers were invoking it as an imaginary place like Ruritania or the Duchy of Grand Fenwick. But actually Moldova is a sovereign state, having been one of the Soviet Socialist Republics and gaining independence when the Soviet Union collapsed.

This was humbling. I thought I knew enough of the basics of world geography that the existence of a European country I didn’t know of came as quite a surprise. But as I went flipping through a pocket atlas recently I found other examples of my ignorance of how the world is divided up. Just as surprising to me as the existence of Moldova was the discovery that there’s a part of Russia that isn’t connected to any other part of Russia (what’s called an exclave). This is the Kaliningrad Oblast, the old Prussian K√∂nigsberg. Who knew? Well, probably a lot of people. But I didn’t.

Political boundaries are often in flux, which justifies the printing of new atlases. I found several such boundary issues in my browsing. Suriname, for example, claims big chunks of both Guyana and French Guiana (the countries to its west and east respectively). I have no idea how valid these claims are, but on a map they look significant. Meanwhile, Western Sahara has been administered since 1979 by Morocco, but is still considered a (huge) disputed territory. I knew nothing of this.

The upshot is that I don’t have the right to make fun of anyone else’s ignorance of geography. There are plenty of places I not only couldn’t find on a map but that I’ve never even heard of. I guess I’m not a man of the world.