Commentary

December 14, 2012

Fly Over: ‘Resident Evil: Retribution’, ‘Rise of the Guardians’

On DVD:

‘Starship Troopers: Invasion’

It’s never fun being a fan of a series that constantly disappoints, as I’m sure most fans of the “Starship Trooper” films will confess. Now to handle the inevitable questions about the use of “film” in a plural sense, yes there have been direct-to-DVD sequels to the 1997 original and they were both terrible. “Hero of the Federation” (2004) lacked any of the charm or excitement from its predecessor, and “Marauder” (2012) over-did the social satire with a much poorer budget. Can the fourth film, Invasion, break this trend of bad movies with its switch to computer animation and the return of familiar characters? Bits of nostalgia aside, it cannot.
Taking place sometime after “Marauder,” with the war against the bug-like Arachnids still raging on, Invasion begins with Dr. Carl Jenkins (Justin Doran) commandeering Captain Carmen Ibanez’s (Luci Christian) ship for his hidden agenda. When the ship goes dark, Carmen and two units of the Mobile Infantry board the ship to investigate, only to find that it has been taken over by a supposedly captured “Queen Bug” who plans to steer the ship for Earth in order to infest it with her army. With some outside help from General Johnny Rico (David Matranga), the team must find a way to stop the Queen while also uncovering the new experiments Carl had been up to.
Personally, I don’t understand why all of the sequels feel the need to take this galactic war and compact it into small skirmishes. The first movie focused on a full military campaign, when the young Johnny Rico saw his friends die in battle after battle. With “Invasion,” characters get picked off so quickly I had to occasionally rewind and watch the scene again. I also found myself loudly asking the movie questions, like why one character managed to die not only silently (the Arachnids tear people to shreds), but to also assume a misleadingly crouched position. And did I mention the ship was also spiraling down towards a planet? And that there wasn’t a speck of blood on him? I got very frustrated. Still, I have to admit it was fun seeing Rico, Carmen and Carl back together.
Compared to the two films before it, the acting in Invasion was actually more than tolerable. Most of the characters kind of just fade into the background, so their voice actors didn’t have much to work with, but the main cast managed to take their roles seriously and avoid cheesy deliveries. It’s very disappointing that Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards and Neil Patrick Harris didn’t return for their respective roles as Rico, Carmen and Carl, but their replacements make the change bearable enough.
The film’s animation is clearly the best thing it has going for it. While it has some quirks, like the occasionally off lip-syncing (it was initially for a Japanese audience), I enjoyed looking at Invasion while I was yelling at it. The Arachnids, the spaceships and the soldiers’ armor were all highly detailed, and the weapons didn’t look like the fake, plastic toys seen in the other installments (which is so ironic it’s sad). All in all, it would be a good idea to keep with “Invasion’s” design if there are going to be any more additions to the franchise.
“Starship Troopers: Invasion,” when looking past the animation and the nostalgia, is just as big a disappointment as the rest of the sequels.
This film is rated R.

 

…..and on another DVD, ‘The Possession’

Ever since “The Exorcist” came out in 1973, it would take both my hands and the hands of several friends to count how many possession movies have been made. Some are terrible, but some of them are truly scary, prompting you to keep a vial of holy water on your night stand just in case. This year’s “The Possession” fits somewhere in the middle: Not a dull or terrible movie, but also not one that will be haunting people for years to come.
A year after his divorce, Clyde Brenek (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) takes his two daughters to spend the weekend with him in his new, rural home. During this time, he takes his family to a local yard sale, where his youngest daughter, Emily (Natasha Calis) comes upon an old, wooden box with Hebrew writing carved on its sides. When Emily accidently discovers how to open it, she suddenly begins to act strangely, distancing herself from her family and even becoming violent whenever someone touches her box. Concerned, Clyde tries to unravel the mysteries behind the box, discovering that it was meant to hold a demon, a demon that needs the pure, innocent mind of a child to give itself a new life.
Little girls becoming possessed by demons is nothing new (again, “The Exorcist”), but then, little girls can be very creepy, so I can’t really blame them for going this route. Still, nothing new is done with it. It also doesn’t help that the possessed Emily isn’t subtle about it from the get go, which kind of hurt the suspense for me. I will say, however, that “The Possession” nails something very important about horror movies by making you care about the hero. Clyde is a good father and an all-around nice guy, so as an audience member I really wanted him to save his little girl and not, well, die in the process.
Except for Morgan, there’s nothing really special to say about the film’s acting. From the first time he appears on screen, Morgan makes Clyde a very likeable character as well as a reasonable one. Calis does an OK job, as does Madison Davenport as her sister, and Matsiyahu as Clyde’s Jewish guide, Tzadok, is decent as well. However, Kyra Sedgwick as the mother seemed a little off to me, like she wasn’t quite into her role.
It took only one minute into the movie before I realized the film wasn’t going to have been edited properly. The film seemed to have an obsession with jump cuts, even when they weren’t even necessary. This is made worse with the musical score, which stops and changes abruptly in favor of transition to the next scene. As for the effects of the demon and its antics, they were adequate. What really stood out to me was the use of the demon’s voice, which was so low that I wasn’t even sure I heard it at times. Believe me, there are few things creepier than thinking you heard someone talk when there’s no one around you.
While nowhere near a revolutionizing film, “The Possession” managed to hold its own as another addition to the genre. Then again, maybe this film will serve as a cautionary tale on the importance of turning on the lights when confronting demons.
This film is rated PG-13.




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