Movie Review – Resident Evil: Retribution

Let’s start this off with an admission – I enjoy the Resident Evil movies.

Run, Milla, RUN!

I have rarely been able to watch a movie for simply popcorn value. There are few that I have enjoyed for simply the rollercoaster value of the story. Stories that get me excited usually have well-developed worlds, complex and intelligent characters, and unique stories. Some action movies can have these elements but they can get pushed aside or buried in all the eye-splosions.

I am also a huge fan of horror movies. Almost everything gets a chance except for torture porn. Never really found a purpose in it. The ones that are the most interesting are the ones with malevolent spirits, zombies, or horrific situations. Monster movies rarely pay off. Perhaps I’ll share my top list at some point.

With that out there – I fully acknowledge that the Resident Evil movies barely contains what I usually look for in good movies. It isn’t horror (anymore), the world is complex (through its convolutedness), and the characters are all one-dimensional (except for Alice who might actually have had an interesting character journey).

And yet – there are very few movies that blend all the elements that Resident Evil movies seem capable of doing. Since it exists so far outside of normal rules it seems capable of stretching believe-ability much further than other action movies.

I have been a fan of the Resident Evil movies since the first one came out in 2002. My exposure to the video games was fairly limited so I was able to enjoy the movies without a lot of passion for the series. I knew of various plotlines and some of the characters but as most movies deviate I wasn’t concerned. In college I was able to play about an hour of the original Resident Evil game on PlayStation and later played and won the remake on Nintendo GameCube. The games were complex and interesting with suspense, horror, action, mystery and surprise all rolled into one unique package. The only other one that I played was Resident Evil 4, which introduced the zombie strain of Las Plagas, which plays a dominant role in Resident Evil: Retribution.

Spoiler free comments to follow…

Resident Evil: Retribution is the 5th and most painful addition to the movie franchise. In the grand scheme of things this segment contributes almost nothing to the series. Characters long since dead are re-introduced, new characters are added with minimal background, and continuing characters feel included as fan service for this chaotic menagerie. There are entire sequences, using 3D holographic displays, that fly through the complex as if it were an actual video game. The characters literally have to go through zones, complete objectives, and then move on to the next zone. It felt like an odd reboot of “Running Man” more than a Resident Evil movie. It was also like the old-school game “Smash TV” – a game about a contestant who goes from room to room in an attempt to survive and win the game show. Once I put that layer onto the movie, it became much more enjoyable to watch the senseless and plot-less actions on the screen.

The action sequences were over the top with the odds being 1:50+ in many scenarios – and the bad guys unable to hit anything. And who are the good guys fighting against this time? The well-known zombies of past installments are gone and replaced with predominately big “boss” style monsters that continue to plague the characters. Let’s not forget that there are zombies that now wield guns and drive cars and tanks. Not really sure how to explain that one away in any reasonable way.

And typical of the end of each Resident Evil movie, this one ends with yet another cliffhanger. The entire movie ends up feeling like a setup for the next one. Paul Anderson says that if this one does well that the next one will be the final installment. I hope that this one does just well enough so that we can finally wrap this story up – but it saddens me that in order to get the completion of the story that I have enjoyed – I have to give them money for this. Bummer.

If you do end up liking the broader Resident Evil universe, there are a few cool anime movies that are worth checking out:
Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)
Resident Evil: Damnation (2012)

I wonder what will fill the void once these are gone. Have you heard about anything coming our way that sounds just as exciting? The World War Z movie has been having some issues but looks promising!

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What Kind of Gamer Are You?

There has been a lot of chatter on group classifications over the past year and long flame wars over topics like geek vs. nerd or casual vs. non-casual gamer. I participated in a few discussions on this lately and wanted to share at a really high level what I came up with.

For what it is worth – here were my quickly scribbled breakouts. I think these apply to video/pc games and possibly board games and pen/paper games.

Casual or Hardcore?

A Casual Gamer is someone who games infrequently and/or on a limited set of games, spends minimal amount of money purchasing games, may have little to no gaming related news on their radar, and can be very passionate about the few games in their wheelhouse, rarely has much to say about gaming.

A Gamer is someone who is informed about the industry/games they like, pays attention to magazines/websites/twitter, may have multiple machines, skilled enough to pick up most games, has time to game but not enough to usually be an expert or played everything out there, can carry on a gaming conversation.

A Hardcore Gamer is someone who takes their gaming seriously – from their machine(s), time spent on message boards/guides, pays for DLC/subscriptions/guidebooks/memberships, informed about games/industry, passionate around competition/multiplayer, gaming ability may be wide and shallow or narrow and deep, usually has plenty to say about games.

Thoughts? Where do you fall? What would you change here?

My Writing – Border Run

Border Run is the story of a once-great space pilot, over-promoted into uselessness and stationed at the far edges of known space.

Length: 3 pages

Genre: Science Fiction

Creation/Publication: 1994

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The story was loosely inspired by the PC game Wing Commander – which had a profound effect upon my youth. At the time I had only seen science fiction movies and read only a handful of books within the genre – so my ideas were fairly small. I decided to try putting pen to paper in this genre.

Stay on target…Stay on target!

Chris Roberts, creator of the entire series, wrote and directed the movie Wing Commander – which departed greatly from his established mythos. Curious as he was owner/writer/director for the property. It was a good popcorn flic – but could have been so much more. What was also interesting was the fact that the 3rd/4th/5th game installments revolutionized the full-motion video “movie-as-videogame” experience. They featured popular real life actors like Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, John Rhys-Davies, and Thomas F Wilson to name just a few.

They all look so young!

EA (after acquiring Origin) eventually released an XBOX game called Wing Commander: Arena which had almost nothing to do with the broader universe but was fun to see some favorite elements on the tv screen. It was nowhere near as revolutionary as experiencing the PC game intro for Wing Commander 2 – Vengance of the Kilrathi for the first time. It was one of the first games to introduce fully-spoken voice within a game. The introduction is still impressive after all these years – check it out!

The story can be read here: Border Run

If you’re interested in additional stories, check out the My Writing section for more reading options!

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A few items to note when reading these stories:

  • Please enjoy them and feel free to let me know your thoughts. A writer always appreciates feedback when attempting to grow their craft.
  • Many of them remain unedited since their original creation date and contain misspellings, improper grammar and made up words. These are in here for flavor and as a time stamp to reflect my age when they were created.
  • Over time, I hope to include “Directors Commentary” in all of my stories. Hopefully this adds some flavor and context for the creative process and my thinking as these stories were created.
  • These are being shared for the benefit of the community and ask for respect to all who read, share, and comment on the material within.
  • All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or part without express written permission. Contact skillpointstation@gmail.com if interested.

Speculative Stories – Inventivity #1 – Big In China Short Fiction Competition

This post kicks off another all-new on-going installment focused on the creation of speculative stories. The title is a bit limiting but for the time being it will suffice. The intention behind the series is to provide you and me with a catalyst for the creation of new writing.

The format will vary from quotes to articles,  picture to poems,  anything  that I can think up that will kickstart the creative process. I’ll try and come up with a deadline so we have something to focus towards.

If you decide to participate in this exercise, let me know in the comments below and I can determine how we can best share and discuss our finished writing. If you have other ideas on how to do this – please let me know. This is all new to me and would like to create something that works for as many people as possible.

Whatever I write will be posted back online for everyone to read.

The idea catalyst is actually being provided by a short fiction competition by H.A.L. Publishing. The details are below. Read through it carefully to make sure you understand. The finished piece is due by 10/1/12 – so we can work on this over the next 3 weeks together.

I can’t take any credit for knowing about this article ahead of time. This competition was posted by Kiersi on the Prolific Novelista blog. Check it out!

So with that…it is time to dive on in. Hopefully we get some interested takers. I’ll see you in a few weeks time with a finished piece!

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H.A.L. Publishing is proud to announce its first international short fiction (1,500 words) competition, The Big In China Short Fiction Competition. Deadline for entry is October 1, 2012 at midnight Pacific Standard Time. Winners will be announced by October 15, 2012.

via Big In China Short Fiction Competition.

Kiersi Burkhart: Blogging as a platform: Making a name for yourself in your target community

I just completed watching this outstanding video from a fellow author on Blogging as a Platform.

I work in digital marketing and have collaborated with some of the smartest social directors within my company on developing social voice and techniques. With all my previous exposure, Kiersi had some great insights that I hadn’t thought of before.

The video seems most useful for aspiring authors – but anyone working to learn how to create their social voice will benefit tremendously. Give it a watch and then follow her @kiersi

Kiersi Burkhart: Blogging as a platform: Making a name for yourself in your target community.

 

Movie Review – Gods and Generals

“Gods and Generals” – an excessively long and unnecessarily boring movie that surpassed the length of the Civil War! 

Every few years another war movie of epic proportion is released. Some are incredibly memorable, like “Saving Private Ryan” or “Band of Brothers”. There are others that are completely terrible such as “Battlefield Earth” or “The Conqueror” – a movie so bad it caused John Wayne’s cancer due to being filmed in a radioactive part of Utah! There are also those movies that look new but are really just fresh paint on an old story, like “Avatar”.

Then there is “Gods and Generals” … a touchy-feely movie masquerading as a civil war movie oozing with reasons for speechification. Released in 2003 with the screenplay and director credits belonging to Ronald F. Maxwell  and based off the amazing book of the same name by Jeff Shaara everything seemed like a surefire success.

The movie becomes a prequel to the successful movie “Gettysburg”, released 10 years prior in 1993. Jeff is the son of Michael Shaara, author of the book “Killer Angels”, which was the basis for the movie “Gettysburg”. Which means the source material and authenticity of “Gods and Generals” should be a great starting point for Ronald’s adaptation. Ronald was responsible for the screenplay and directing of “Gettysburg” as well – another plus. Finally, with almost all the original cast and crew reprising their roles from “Gettysburg” – how could you go wrong?

Gods and Generals – The book that reads quicker than the movie!

And perhaps this is why everything did go wrong…

Let me start this off with a confession: The movie “Gettysburg” is one of my favorite movies of all times. I loved the book it was based off of and even wrote a major paper about the battle of Gettysburg itself. Which meant I wanted  to love this movie just as much. I approached this as a fan of everything the previous movie had done. Which is what made the experience so painful.

Let me continue to confess: I watched the last 40 minutes of this excruciatingly long 3.5 hour movie in 1.5x speed. It HAD to be done just so I could get through it. The battle scenes went on and on and on. There was almost no dialogue, dramatic tension or ability to understand what was happening in the battles. Did they just assume that because everyone knew the South lost the Civil War (ya’ll know that, right?!) that any level of dramatic tension was pointless? Soldiers are constantly dying by gunshot, bayonets, or cannon. One soldier remarks that it is a challenge to differentiate between the North and South uniforms at one point – but does it have to be so confusing for the viewer? If the intention was to make us feel like we’re just as confused as the soldiers – it worked. I found myself wishing there was a little video game map in the upper right with a CNN ticker along the bottom to tell me how things were progressing in the battle.

The mini-map really helps me see what is going on!

They could have also made the battles much shorter if they didn’t use the same shot over and over and over again. It almost became a drinking game to see how many times the same shot could be used. I know it is expensive to film this stuff but perhaps find an alternative to extending your war scene and tighten it up through better editing and pull the camera in closer to touch on the emotions of the actual soldiers. Just a thought…

The length of this movie is felt through almost every scene as the viewer is drug along (probably because they fell asleep) from one long speech after another. The dialogue and accents used are the eloquent, educated, and elevated stereotype that has become some prominent with Southerners. Whether this is actually what they would have said and how they would have said it, it feels like a caricature of itself that makes the content almost impossible to digest. Conversations in the movie “Gettysburg” felt dramatically less forced then they did in here.

I loved that many of the same actors were back to reprise their roles from” Gettysburg”. Getting the same cast and crew to reprise their roles is probably the most impressive achievement this movie was capable of doing. It would allow for a more seamless viewing experience to go from one movie to the other – except in one place. Stephen Lang, who many probably know from “Avatar” or “Terra Nova”, reprises his role in this movie – except as a completely different character! This is one of the most confusing things I think I have ever seen in my movie viewing history. In “Gettysburg”, the movie many people probably saw prior to this one, he played the doomed General Pickett (of the infamous Pickett’s Charge) and in this movie he plays General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. They’re both popular Southerners and their affect, appearance and portrayals are different – but it is incredibly difficult to not to separate the differences between the two characters. In terms of trying to create a larger movie trilogy continuity, it is jarring and strange. He was great in the role but it was strange.

General Pickett

General Jackson

As in “Gettysburg”, some of the best lines are spoken by the only fictional character in the trilogy – Buster Killrain. The irascible Irishman lends an aged, old-world, “been there, done that” sensibility that directly contrasts with the North/South sensibilities seen in the movie. Once again, Killrain reprises his role of delivering short and pointed quips that have deeper impact on the viewer than 5 minute long monologues by other characters. I could listen to him verbally smack characters around all day long!

In the end the movie was a failure – costing $60 million to make and only bringing in $12 million. The plan was to film the 3rd book in the trilogy “The Last Full Measure” but with the abysmal failure of “Gods and Generals” – we will most likely never see that movie made.

There have been other great Civil War movies like “Andersonville”, “Glory”, “The North and the South”, and the Ken Burns Civil War Documentary.

Skip this movie and watch some of the other civil war ones mentioned here. If you like historically accurate and good character study books, make sure to check out Jeff Shaara’s other war-centric books. Coming soon I’ll share the paper that I wrote about Gettysburg back in 1993!

The Southern Civil War Generals…can anyone spot who doesn’t belong here?
(Spoiler: He financed the movie)

My Firstborn Padawan Turns Four

My firstborn padawn turns 4 today!

I am filled with nostalgia for days behind and excitement for the future days at the same time. There was a magical threshold crossed at around 4 years where my son started to evolve from being a baby to the beginnings of a “young man”. In geek terms, he has clearly demonstrated the ability to have favorite shows, books and characters. He can understand more complex stories and character motivations. He has even demonstrated he can scheme, lie and manipulate a situation.

He also has shown amazing empathy and resilience, astounding ability to comprehend complex concepts, incredible strength and fortitude, and a memory that rivals my own.

I am a proud Jedi parent!

One of my favorite accidental geek photos of my son was from 2 years ago. We went as characters from Star Wars Episode 3 (I was Anakin, my wife was pregnant Padme (because she was actually pregnant), and my son was R2-D2). I managed to capture the photo, with my shadow being cast over my son, and was instantly reminded of the Episode I teaser poster.

R2D2 Toddler

R2D2 Toddler

Star Wars Episode I - Anakin Teaser Poster

Star Wars Episode I – Anakin Teaser Poster