"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.
More than a year has passed since the last Entourage episode (thanks, writers’ strike!), but in season five (premiering Sept. 7 at 10/9c on HBO) it feels like the boys never left. Which is a testament to Doug Ellin and Co.’s sorely underappreciated writing, because a lot has changed and, in fact, some of the boys have left.
Last we saw Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier), he was poised to become the toast of the Cannes Film Festival before his movie Medellin flopped miserably. Season five opens with film critic Richard Roeper simultaneously recapping Vince's Cannes demise and voicing his disgust with Medellin--which, by the way, was relegated to a straight-to-DVD release. Ouch!
Ever since, Vince has been in self-imposed exile on a Mexican beach inhabited by supermodel-ish servants who attend to his every need--a few of which aren’t sexual. He has also grown an I-don’t-give-a-f*** beard that’s reflective of his six months of inactivity.
Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), being the caring and loyal mooch, er, friend he is, has tagged along to watch after Vince--and pounce on any of his female leftovers.
Meanwhile, back in L.A., Vince is never far from the minds of his other entourage members, who have more or less gotten on with their lives since the Medellin debacle.
Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) is still the oldest cast member on his Edward Burns-created TV show, still vain as is humanly possible, and still dating Jacqueline, the Frenchwoman with whom he was caught frolicking on the beach in Cannes. They’re trying to make their intercontinental relationship work via Webcam, which is both difficult and hilarious for obvious reasons.
Then there's Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Ari (Jeremy Piven), who, despite their continued hatred for one another, have almost become interchangeable. Yes, sadly, E is a genuine “suit” nowadays with a fledgling talent-management company (and even a receptionist!) whose non-Vince client roster consists of one person: a rising actor named Charlie, played by Shad Moss, aka Bow Wow, aka Lil Bow Wow.
Early in the episode, Eric and Ari come across a script for Danger Beach, which they both agree is atrociously titled but would be perfect for Vinnie’s proverbial comeback movie. But there’s one problem: Vince is in full-on stubborn mode. (OK, two problems: That beard makes him unemployable!)
So E and Ari private-jet down to Mexico to persuade Vince to consider the movie, and Vince’s reluctance to accept the deal is mirrored by the movie industry's reluctance to accept him post-Medellin.
Thus season five exists in heretofore uncharted territory, whereby Vince is genuinely at the top of Tinsletown’s s**t list (or at the bottom of its in-demand list).
The themes of redemption and vulnerability are such a welcome change from one of constant invincibility--or more aptly put, inVince-ibility.
And while it’s a safe bet that Vince will at some point this season rise again to A-list status (that’s a guess, not a spoiler), it’s nice to see that he is, at least for now, not immune to the hot-cold dynamic that is Hollywood. Indeed, this might be Entourage’s peak in terms of realism.
Elsewhere, everyone’s favorite aspects of the show are still in place--including but not limited to Ari’s vulgar one-liners hurled at his beleaguered assistant Lloyd (Rex Lee), and the bevy of cameos and guest stars.
The latter is in full swing in the second episode, during which Tony Bennett and (Entourage exec producer) Mark Wahlberg have cameos, Leighton Meester (Gossip Girl) and Carla Gugino reprise their roles, and Giovanni Ribisi and Lukas Haas become the latest guest stars.
Rapper Bow Wow has joined the fifth season of the hit TV show Entourage.
The hip-hop star, real name Shad Moss, has landed a recurring role as a stand-up comedian who is managed by Eric Murphy, played by actor Kevin Connolly.
Moss--who says he aims to take on more acting roles in an attempt to "be the next Will Smith"--has also been cast in the upcoming sports drama Patriots opposite Forest Whitaker and Isaiah Washington, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
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