"Sorry if my snoring bothered you."
Those are not the first words I'd expect out of the mouth of someone who got up on a Friday morning to catch the 10:30 AM screening of a new movie but that is more or less what the fellow who'd been sitting behind me said as I passed him on my way out. I'd heard him snoring over the constant rat-a-tat-tat of bullets and butt-kicking being doled out by Milla Jovovich et al in this latest iteration of the never-ending Resident Evil series (this time in IMAX 3D) but I figured maybe I was hearing things. Nope he was asleep.
I used to play Resident Evil on my ancient PlayStation when it first came out. It scared the crap out of me. I enjoyed the first two movies — hey they included the skinless zombie dogs! — but I lost interest soon after that. How many times can you make the zombie apocalypse exciting? How many different skintight outfits can Jovovich wear while killing grotesque creatures who shoot evil grasping tentacles out of their mouths? Why should we care about all the blood and guts when we know the people we're supposed to be emotionally invested in will never die? We don't.
Try as he might there are only so many ways for writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson to give the Resident Evil series fresh new layers for each new movie. The Umbrella Corporation is the big bad. They were playing with biological weapons and somehow there was an accident that let one of the viruses loose... and boom you've got a zombie apocalypse on your hands. Our heroine is Alice played by Milla Jovovich and there is a rotating cast of characters who help her fight the good fight against the hordes of brain-eaters and whatever is left of the Umbrella Corporation that's now after her. There are some parallels to the video game series but Paul W.S. Anderson (a gamer himself) has taken lots of liberties with the basic plot over the years. While Anderson's flashy style is especially suited to these types of movies there's not enough plot to make it work.
We don't go to video game movies for plot of course but there has to be something to hold onto; otherwise why would we care if our protagonist were in danger? Anderson tries some neat tricks to snap us back to attention like bringing back characters that were killed in previous movies and throwing in a cloning subplot that calls into question some of the characters' true identities but it's still hard to get worked up about anything onscreen. However it ultimately sidesteps any deeper ideas that might take our attention away from all the guns. And there are so many guns and explosions and elegant butt-kickings doled out by Milla and her pals (or former pals in the case of Michelle Rodriguez's character Rain) that they blend together.
It is especially difficult to work up any interest in the story because it's a franchise and no matter how many times the stars or director might say they're not that interested in doing another everyone is just waiting to see how much money this will make before deciding to go forward. There is no question how franchise movies will end; there will be no derring-do on the part of the writer or director to actually kill off a beloved character permanently. At one point it seemed like Anderson was going to pull the old "And then she woke up!" trick which would have been bold both because it's such a hackneyed idea that it would make writing professors' heads explode all over the world but also because it would have required Anderson to play in a different universe and expand his repertoire a bit. Alas like Alice and Anderson himself we just can't seem to escape this rabbit hole.
As with its two predecessors the animated/live-action hybrid Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is positioned to open during the holiday season when demand for family entertainment is high and standards are grievously low. How low you ask? The first two episodes in the franchise 2007’s Alvin and the Chipmunks and 2009’s Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel earned over $800 million worldwide combined. It hurt to write that last sentence.
You’d think such success would instill a certain pride of craftsmanship in the filmmakers but almost everything about Chipwrecked suggests the opposite from the hackneyed screenwriting to the lazy acting to the cheap-looking production design. The only aspect that truly impresses is the animation of the CG characters who are crisp and detailed and vibrant – a far cry from their human counterparts.
After sitting out much of the Squeakquel Jason Lee his schedule freed up following the cancellation of My Name Is Earl returns as the Chipmunks’ beleaguered manager Dave Seville. Also back for another quick payday as the primary nemesis Ian is David Cross no doubt ruing the three-picture contract he signed.
Dave Ian the Chipmunks and their female counterparts the Chipettes are aboard a luxury cruise liner when a mishap triggered by the ever-disobedient Alvin (Justin Long) casts them overboard and onto a remote tropical island where they embark on a series of sub-comic misadventures finding time in between for the odd ear-splitting rendition of a contemporary pop tune. Songs covered include Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance ” Pink’s “Trouble ” Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor ” Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair ” and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”
What’s always amazed me about these films is the impressive roster of actors recruited to voice the Chipmunks and Chipettes – including Long Anna Faris Amy Poehler and Christina Applegate – when digital helium added in post-production renders them all but unrecognizable. Aside from differences in pitch the characters’ voices are nearly indistinguishable from each other.
For those parents who find themselves forced to endure Chipwrecked the best thing I can say about it is that it will keeps your child’s brain occupied without doing serious damage to yours – provided you don’t get a concussion from repeated face-palming.
S06E07 This was a fantastic episode. A+. 10/10. Everything Moffat teased and I hoped for, happened. It was glorious. It simultaneously began in the middle of action, answered major questions, gave us more questions, and then set up the series for YEARS to come. How could I give it anything less than my best?
We'll go through the highlights of the episode, first before delving into its implications. Perhaps my favorite thing about the opening is that it begins completely in media res. We’ve seen the Doctor rally up an army (the end of season 4 comes to mind) and the first half of this episode feels like the second half of a really good “The Doctor takes on a giant army” episode. Even the triumphant music feels like it should be at the end of an episode, not halfway through it! And perhaps that’s why it's such a good episode - we expect it to be over, but then it keeps going and it gets better! From a narrative standpoint it was amazing - we’ve grown used to the Doctor, we expect him to come out on top, so let’s see him how we expect to see him and keep going with more twists. Excellent, excellent, excellent.
Demons run, when a good man goes to war.
Night will fall and drown the sun, when a good man goes to war.
Friendship dies and true love lies.
Night will fall and the dark will rise, when a good man goes to war.
Demons run but count the cost. The battle's won but the child is lost.
Right at the beginning we get two great scenes cutting back and forth. Amy starts talking to her (absolutely adorable, SO CUTE) baby, the lovely Melody Pond. She tells her that even though she’s being taken away she is always loved and someone is coming after her - her father. Cut to Rory back in Roman garb. He has a question (WHERE IS MY WIFE???) and a message from the Doctor (BOOM!). Amy warns them to be braver because you do not come between a companion’s daughter with the Doctor on her side. Then back to Rory being all suave and badass and shit. Now, are we still confused about who the father of this baby is? They played it up here and they made it seem questionable later on, but I thought this was settled? Oh well, I guess a little tension here and there always helps.
Then boom - we’re off to the episodes single serving characters who conveniently explain the plot. Now the really interesting thing about this was just how on the nose Moffat made it about how dispensable these characters are. True, why bother naming them when he’s the fat gay anglo preacher marine? And he’s the skinny one. It was a nice unexpected comment on the series. But anyway, the girl is a little disobedient by sewing in her free time but the guards don’t care. They’re more interested in the headless monks. The fat one gets taken as a sacrifice and he eventually has to do something with an empty box and a head but then it cuts away before we find out what happens.
So what’s the Doctor been up to this whole time? As the fat blue man points out - the eye patch lady took someone he cares about very deeply (at a very important time in her life) and that means only one thing. He’s raising an army. Turns out, that’s exactly what he’s doing. He’s calling in a bunch of old favors and debts so we get a semi-montage of all the people he’s gathering up. Now, I have no idea (or desire to do the necessary research) if these people he’s gathering up have been people we’ve seen before but does it matter to the story? Not really (actually the fat blue guy is from the New Earth episode back in season 2). The Doctor rescues people. He has a bunch of people in his debt. It just makes sense. So he gathers a (lesbian, katana wielding) Silurian, a Sontarian, a Rhino Fro-Yo-No-Go guy and probably more people that we didn’t see.
And who are we fighting? Apparently the religious military that has started who has partnered with the headless monks seen earlier. They do everything they can to dispel the mythology of the Doctor that had grown over the centuries through the universe. He’s not a ghost, he’s not a demon, he’s a man. And he can die. Well, except he’s not a man. But that’s a small point (kinda). What does matter are those headless monks ARE ACTUALLY HEADLESS. AND THEIR NECKS HAVE A TWIST TIE LIKE A GARBAGE BAG! PUNK ROCK! That was kinda creepy but you know what took it to the next level? The Doctor’s entrance!
‘Surprised?’ - The Doctor
The Doctor goes off and does his thing. He disappears into the dark and makes the monks turn against the army. We almost think the army outsmarts the Doctor when they lay down their arms to regain the trust of the monks but of course the Doctor thought of that. As soon as their unarmed BOOM - the Doctor’s army appears. Ahaha, the Doctor disarms them and captures them without firing a shot. Lizard lady was right - the Doctor has never risen higher.
But how could he possibly fall farther than ever? Has to do with Amy, of course. Rory makes the appropriate entrance and the new parents have their teary reunion. Sweet as it should be. However, did anyone else think Rory looked, I’m not even sure, angry when he turned around to the Doctor? Like, he should have been smiling or something when he told him to get down there. Small complaint, I know. Anyway, turns out the Doctor can speak baby and little Melody Pond (the superhero!) even thinks bow ties looks stupid. But no they don’t - they’re cool.
Never mind that, no matter how cute it is - why did this army want Amy and her baby? That’s the question. Doctor goes off to find fat blue dude and Lizard Lady analyzing what the army had been up to with the baby but not before delivering another badass monologue. It’s often said that the Doctor is never more terrifying when he’s talking quietly and this was a text book example of it when he deemed the general General Runaway. But that was that. Turns out - there is a little bit of Time Lord DNA mixed in with some human DNA. Was that another red herring that the Doctor might be the father? Seriously, another? Eh, whatever. It led to some fantastic awkward dancing dialogue as the Lizard Lady asked the important question of, you know, when that baby, umm, began. The Doctor thinks back and it turns out that the first time Amy and Rory spent on the TARDIS in this time line was, oh god, on their wedding night. BOW CHIKA WOW WOW.
As they say in Jurassic Park - life (in this case: Time Lord) finds a way.
Eye Patch Lady pops up right then (timely!) and the Doctor confronts her. What does she want with the child? Well, to fight in the war. War against who? The Doctor, of course. Aha. Then she starts rubbing it in how she tricked him twice and the Doctor figures out what is wrong. Melody was a fake too! Oh noes! (A trick within the trick and we have a little Inception with the conception happening) He starts running (always with the running) back to the hangar where he had left the rest of the team. They figured out something was wrong when the lights started going out, the monks started chanting, and a force field appeared around the TARDIS. Clues, they are helpful. Rory poses up in the most awkward pose ever, Amy tells him to let everyone else die first, and the battle begins. Speaking of the monks and battling, seriously? Lightsabers? I mean, I know they were electrical swords but you cannot have a sword like weapon and put electricity on it and not compare it to lightsabers. But whatever. They were creepy.
But alas, the Doctor does not get there in time. SAD FACE. He goes off to talk to the girl who wanted nothing more than to see him one more time. They reminisce about the time they ran through the forest together before she eventually bites it. It was sweet and that was the moment River decides to show up. Why now? Because she couldn’t take part in it. He finally confronts her about who she is and she finally tells him that she has been telling him. He looks at the crib that turned out to be his but instead sees the little cloth the forest girl had sewn for Amy. Like a bolt of lightning everything finally comes into focus for him and he rushes off without really saying anything (besides giggling like a little school boy who just got caught by the parents - which, turns out, he just kind of did). Amy looks confused, grabs a gun (cause that’s what you do) and demands to know what she is talking about. She reminds them that the only water in the forest is the river and that the TARDIS translation stuff works slower on written stuff and when she finally turns it over -
OH MAN RIVER SONG IS MELODY POND AND AMY’S DAUGHTER!!!
‘Hello.’ - The Doctor
‘Hello.’ - River (or should we say Melody Pond?!?!?!)
As if it couldn’t end any better: the episode they return on is called Let’s Kill Hitler. Absolutely perfect.
So what does this mean? Let’s take a look at everything we know, everything we can assume because of what we know now, and what that can possibly mean.
River is Amy’s daughter: so that means the Doctor eventually gets the baby back. Is that why he was smiling? Possibly. Combine that with the fact that River knows the Doctor’s name (and we usually assume that means she is his wife) of course he would giggle. So, was it River (or do we call her Melody now? Eh, I like River better) in the spacesuit that kills the Doctor? Maybe. And had River already escaped when they find the space suit before they were able to send her through time, creating a new timeline? Or is that wishful thinking? I guess eventually she’ll regenerate into the current version of River. Ugh, that’d be annoying as a parent - always having a shapeshifting child. Also, Moffat has expressly stated that both River and the Doctor have definitely died when we see them pass. Which doesn’t make sense to me since that would end the show but I’m sure there is some wiggle room (or Moffat is lying about the Doctor dying).
Does the Doctor know he's going to die? Amy told one version of him that he would die but was that the flesh? Quite possibly. So, does he go through with it? What greater purpose does it serve? Who could benefit so much from his death that he would go through with it? If it's River then there's something else we don’t know about her.
As for what’s to come: I’m going to guess that River will be the next companion. Matt Smith is back for another year though Karen and Arthur aren’t. I’d imagine this is the year that River and Doctor go off and do their thing and it will be grand. Moffat says he has a plan (this I definitely believe) and it shall be fantastic. I deem it such.
It also explains all of last season: they were going after Amy using a classic Terminator plan. Can’t get the enemy? Kill the parents. Why they didn’t try sending a cyborg back through time instead of destroying all of time and space, we shall never know. All we know now is that River is definitely destined to be something important since the TARDIS basically flung the Doctor towards Amy to ensure her safety and the eventual birth of River.
But as we all know - time can be rewritten.
Attempting to delve into one of Tinseltown’s most curious scandals--the mysterious suicide (or was it?) of the original TV Superman actor George Reeves--the story begins after Reeves (Ben Affleck) is found dead of a seemingly self-inflicted gunshot wound during a late night party in his Benedict Canyon home. The case then unfolds through the eyes of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) a street-smart publicity hungry private dick hired by Reeves’ grieving mother. As Simo slowly peels back the layers of Reeves’ seemingly glamorous life he discovers an actor of charm talent and sophistication whose every opportunity for a big break fizzled forcing him to lead a frustrated existence slumming in the superhero show he deemed beneath him. Gradually identifying with Reeves’ failed expectations for himself Simo discovers a host of candidates who may have actually pulled the trigger on the actor including his young party girl paramour (Robin Tunney) his longtime lover and patron (Diane Lane) and his lover’s husband a powerfully connected studio “fixer” (Bob Hoskins). It is Brody not Affleck who carries the bulk of the film on his shoulders and the Oscar winner delivers a finely etched turn as Simo who’s fractured potential mirrors Reeves’ but quite simply Simo’s story isn’t nearly as dark or engaging as Reeves’ life or the mystery surrounding his death. Affleck an actor who has had his share of ups downs duds and disappointments in Hollywood delivers one of his most charming and fully realized performances to date even if his spot-on recreation of Reeves’ speech pattern is a bit distracting. The luminous Lane’s acting talents remain in full blossom in a character she’s well-suited to play—the aging beauty fearing the road ahead—and she commands every scene she’s in. Unfortunately there should have been many many more of them. She’s almost criminally underused. Hoskins more menacing then ever and the reliable stable of supporting players like Joe Spano are all top-notch as well; only Tunney apparently trying to channel both Betty Boop and Bette Davis simultaneously seems a bit off her game as the wannabe femme fatale. Best known for his strong turns helming many of the best episodes of television series such as The Sopranos Sex and the City and Six Feet Under first time feature director Allen Coulter’s cool assured hand and meticulous recreation of Cold War Los Angeles are major bonuses here. Even when Simo’s story sags in comparison to Reeves’ Coulter keeps us interested particularly when staging the Rashomon-like sequences depicting the various theories behind Reeves’ demise. But by skimping on Reeves’ story in favor of a less compelling fictional framework built around a private detective investigating the case we never see one key suspect’s possible murder scenario enacted visually and it comes off as a glaring omission.
She's a hip-hoppin' be-boppin' mean ol' nanny who whips a mean stew and your butt for not doing your homework—and now she's back! Alas we don't speak of the Mrs. Doubtfire sequel but rather that of Big Momma a.k.a. FBI Agent Malcolm Turner (Martin Lawrence). Agent Warner has cut ties with the FBI at the behest of Sherry (Nia Long)—who as you no doubt recall is the granddaughter of the real Big Momma—since she's pregnant with Malcolm's baby. But wouldn't you know that he gets sucked back in after a former colleague is killed. Posing as Big Momma he's hired as a nanny to a suburban family the deadbeat dad of which is involved in the murder and a crime plot. She does it all—cooks cleans dances and even runs down bad guys but it's a race against time to stop the potential national security crisis. That is a race against the film's (mercifully) short running time. Although Lawrence's resume includes some of the dregs of comedy it's hard to argue that he is truly blessed when it comes to physical comedy and comedic timing. He continues both trends here this time without the help of the breakthrough actors of the past two years Paul Giamatti and Terrence Howard who yes both starred in the first Big Momma's House. That means Lawrence's urban mania is truly on its own and absurd and juvenile as the film may be even film snobs can't hold back a few laughs at his Big Momma outlandishness. Longreturns for no more than a select few scenes and to provide a minor conflict in the story. The notable newcomer is CSI's Emily Procter as the sterile mother who hires Big Momma. She does a serviceable job as a suburban Petite Momma. Might she be the next Giamatti or Howard to bolt to bigger and better things in time for the next sequel? No.
Big Momma's House 2 is right up director John Whitesell's alley. He's the guy behind such misses—though not necessarily financially—as Malibu's Most Wanted and See Spot Run and he's right at home here. Whitesell doesn't hold back in (literally and figuratively) pulling the robe off Big Momma but he clearly knows that nothing is to interrupt Lawrence's antics not even the thin story line. Aside from that he knows quite well how to execute thinly veiled rip-offs of the aforementioned Mrs. Doubtfire as well as countless other hidden-motive comedies (i.e. Kindergarten Cop Houseguest et al). Because while the main guise is the Big Momma fat suit Whitesell parades the film about as a feel-good/family flick.