71 Fragments of a Chronicle of Chance

71 Fragments of a Chronicle of Chance (1994) movie poster

(1994) dir. Michael Haneke
viewed: 03/28/08

My “numbers” film series, movies beginning with a number, allowed me to queue up one of director Michael Haneke’s earlier films, 71 Fragments of a Chronicle of Chance, part of his “early” period, in which his films were more “experimental” and fragmented.

I stumbled onto Haneke via his film Caché (2005), and have gone on to see a couple other films of his, including The Piano Teacher (2001) and his 1997 film Funny Games, which has his name in larger form around the United States, with its “re-make”, which the more I think about it, the less I feel the need to see it.  That said, from watching his other films, I have all of his films now queued up and I even queued up a list of what I’d read were his favorite films.  I think he is that good.  However, Caché and The Piano Teacher are the best that I’ve seen, and though this film here offers some radical narrative aspects, I think some of his earlier work seems somehow dated.

Perhaps, for instance, with Funny Games, whose turn on the audience’s implicit compact with cinematic violence is questioned, out loud, I am not sure that such a message so plainly stated has the impact that something more subtle could have.  With 71 Fragments, some of the issues are similar.

The media, the American government, global though localized war, the psyche of a culture.  Perhaps, the landscape is broad, but it’s also a bit “hot button”-ish.  A spree killing centers the narrative, though it’s brought to the audience in fragments, broken via time, culminating in a single act, a ripple effect through a multitude of issues.  A Romanian child refugee.  A mother with post-partum depression.  An “ace” college student, seemingly clean-cut, seething with rage.

Ultimately, perhaps one of the film’s significant qualities is that it does pull in the headlines of the day.  The structure, reflecting on the news presentation of the spree killing, amidst various reportings of child molestation (Michael Jackson’s second go around) and wars in Bosnia, Somalia, Ireland, and other tragedies, locate this film very much in its period of the early 1990’s.  Children also seem a central theme through this film, from the homeless refugee to the adoption of a socially-challenged young girl, to the college student whose frustrations become paramount…perhaps that is why Michael Jackson catches the heat whereas everything else seems much more worldly.

Haneke has a proficiency with the camera and editing, his glimpses, his fragments still resonate, communicate, yet force the viewer to fill in gaps.  It’s funny, but his target with Funny Games was Quentin Tarantino, who actually brought at least some narrative misalignment to Hollywood, some less straightforward telling of story.

Again, like Funny Games, 71 Fragments has a datedness to its approach.  Maybe that is in its reliance on current events that pushes that feeling more than its true core.  I think there is more to consider in this film, more going on.  But Funny Games, for its obviousness that somehow diminishes itself, also features some striking narrative manipulation.  And even if you can critique that nature of cinema or cinematic narrative style (as Haneke does), I am still more awed by his mastery therein.

Actually, another of his early films is playing tonight down at the Roxie and I would like to go see it.  I don’t think I will end up doing so (Benny’s Video (1992)).  I think this film might have been better on a larger format.

Still, he’s far more interesting than a lot of directors out there.  I hope that he stays that way.

36 Fillette

36 Fillette (1988) movie poster

(1988) dir. Catherine Breillat
viewed: 03/28/08

Though this film was familiar to me from its name and its poster, I had never seen a Catherine Breillat film before.  I recall first queueing her films when I’d read a review of Fat Girl (2001) though I’d never gotten around to seeing any of her films.  Her films, based on descriptions, deal largely with feminine sexuality, specifically the sexuality of young women.  36 Fillete deals with a 14-year old French girl (in the contemporary of 1988) on holiday with her family, trying to lose her virginity.

Oddly enough, there are quite a few films about males looking to lose their viriginity, but maybe less so for females.  Though, oddly, the beautiful Delphine Zentout, who plays the far more than precocious Lili, resonates with a number of other actresses, but most frequently (for me) Jennifer Jason Leigh, who did her own role as the young girl coming of age in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982). One of the major differences, however, is that Zentout performed this role at the actual age of 14, in mostly full nudity, something that the United States would not condone nor necessarily be comfortable with.

That is one of the interesting things about Breillat’s film.  It features what would now be typically portrayed as utterly “evil” pedophilia by her would-be “seducer”, the middle-aged computer importer.  But this film is shot largely from her perspective, not without his portrayed, but without completely condemning nor condoning him.  Perhaps it’s simply a less stratifying issue in France, where sexuality is more accepted than in the United States.  Don’t worry, I’m not assuming nor asserting.  It’s strange.  It’s part of the film’s strangeness.

The film has a terrible transfer to DVD.  Not only is it not letterboxed, but the print has clear deficincies, taking away perhaps from its aesthetics.  It’s also muddled and dark in places, too.  It feels low-budget especially at times.

Being filmed in 1988, when I can still claim to have been a teenager myself, there is still the part of me that identifies with Lili, the headstrong, contentious, angry, and individualistic girl who wants to assert her sexuality and identity while still being far too young to understand herself or what’s at stake.  I have known people like her, when I was younger, and really see this story as one of identification above others.

Beyond that, these days, I am probably more close in age to her parents or her seducer.  My kids are not yet anywhere near Lili’s age, but still, it makes me take more than just a single perspective on this film.

Also, it reminds me of when I first saw Lasse Hallström’s My Life as a Dog (1985), his wonderful film of childhood strangeness, in which there is a prepubescent girl who is shown naked in a very moving, vivid sequence which in the United States would be considered child pornography.  Not only does 36 Fillette show another, rather developed underage girl, which has a power of its own, the verity of the body, but it is far less charged.  No such film could be made here, right or wrong.  It just couldn’t.

I don’t ultimately know how I feel about this film on the whole.  It certainly had its viscerality and discomfort and challenge.  It also had its identification and distances.

I would say that I am interested enough to see others of her films.  Ultimatley, it made it onto my priority queue because of my “number theme” or “number series”, which I appreciated before having even watched because of the variety it offered.

I don’t know.  I think that there are some people I know who could appreciate this, though probably not everyone, definitely not the average “American”.

51 Birch Street

51 Birch Street (2005) movie poster

(2005) dir. Doug Block
viewed: 03/21/08

51 Birch Street is a documentary shot on video, featuring some semi-home movies, in which director Doug Block merely wanted to catch his parents in their actuality, talking about their lives a bit, not so much for creating a theatrical film, but simply for posterity.  But after his mother dies, his father suddenly shacks up with a former secretary, who he had been close to for 35 years, triggering a series of reactions and questions in his children about the reality of his parents’ relationship.

Block’s mother, who battled depression in the mid-1960’s, started detailed diaries, notebooks and notebooks of them, boxes of them.  These also come to surface when his father marries his former secretary and leaves the house that he’d live in for more than 50 years of marriage.

Block dives into this material and his exploration of his mother and father and their relationship has true depths, attempting to understand the mysteries that have surfaced, understanding the hidden lives and the surface lives of his parents.  Perhaps this is a really interesting thing, in a sense, for anyone.  Understanding our parents, who we are too young to understand when they are young, who we know as protectors and teachers and nurturers, more powerful than us as children, but who as we become adults ourselves, do try to understand as people who we could have known or identified with.  We always have the years of separation from ever really knowing.

Block delves pretty hard, going through the reams of diaries, photographs, effluvia.  He turns the camera on himself (quite literally), putting his own marriage and children under the lens as well, personalizing beyond an already highly personal story.

This is part of the film’s strengths but also its weaknesses.  It’s very touchy-feely, soft-hearted, and whiny.  And ultimately, the film’s subject matter isn’t really as rich as he feels it is.  In fact, maybe this film would be more interesting made by someone else, with more distance and objectivity…the opposite of this film’s approach.  It is interesting, but in thinking of the crazy story that is Crazy Love (2007), another documentary about a New York man and woman and their long story (only vaguely similar — this is a bit of a stretch to compare them), but the core story of Crazy Love is actually much, much more fascinating.

Maybe Block shouldn’t have made 51 Birch Street, a question that he asks in the film more than once.  Maybe it isn’t as significant a story to sit through.  Maybe it is more a small tale, a segment of something potentially bigger.

The film did make me think about my own marriage and my children, as well as the break-up of my parents’ marriage and the secrets and reality that I was unaware of as a child.  It’s not that I didn’t find the movie somewhat provocative, just ultimately not all that interesting and not all that special.

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad

The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) movie poster

(1958) dir. Nathan Juran
viewed: 03/21/08

After watching the DVD of 20 Million Miles to Earth (1957), I turned on the little documentary that the DVD featured of Ray Harryhausen and his work, showing lots of clips of all his films, plus discussing his techniques and history.  My son wasn’t all that excited about 20 Million Miles to Earth, but he started getting excited about seeing a Sinbad film and since I am on my little “number marathon”, I figured that The 7th Voyage of Sinbad would work fine.  It was always my favorite of the three Sinbad films that Harryhausen worked on.

I recall seeing it in the 1980’s and being sort of disappointed with the corny acting and some of the effects…I mean the bulk of them are brilliant, but every once in a while you get a shot that is pretty clearly doctored, double-exposed or transposed…but you know, it’s purely silly to complain about that stuff.

Harryhausen was a brilliant animator, who worked with his producer Charles H. Schneer and director Nathan Juron, who also handled the live action direction on 20 Million Miles to Earth.  I always loved the battle between the cyclops and the dragon.   And the original skeleton sword fight.  The cyclops is one of Harryhausen’s signiture characters, images of his films, showing the characterization and performance of the monsters.

The kids actually really enjoyed this film and have been talking about it a lot today, even play-acting the roles and characters.  I think that I’ve figured out that Felix likes the movies with “battles” between monsters or characters.  I think that was his disappointment with 20 Million Miles to Earth, in which the Ymir merely “battles” an elephant.

We watched a little of the Harryhausen doc on this disc, too.  And it’s kind of neat seeing Felix get excited about the films enough to sit through the documentary portions.  But I can tell you, there will be more Sinbad films here, probably relatively soon.  But not until I finish my “number marathon”, silly as it is…I need to see it through.

30 Days of Night

30 Days of Night (2007) movie poster

(2007) dir. David Slade
viewed: 03/18/08

30 Days of Night sets an interesting premise for a vampire/horror film.  The story is located in “Barrow, Alaska”, the northernmost city in the United States, in which there is one “night” that lasts 30 days.  So, for the vampires, who don’t dig daylight, this is the perfect scenario for feasting on an entire community, trapping them from communication and cut off from the world.

Ah, but they didn’t count on having Josh Hartnett there, did they?  He’s a inhaler-sucking asthmatic sheriff, with a very cute ex-girlfiend, a kid brother, and a grandma all at the sheriff’s office/jail.  He’s going to foil their fun, isn’t he?

Actually, this is not too bad of a vampire/horror flick.  Clearly it reflects the times, with vampires running about like predatory modern zombies (the ones who are super-fast) and of course they can jump really far and are also super-strong.  Their mouths are jammed full of sharp teeth, they speak in a language that is weird and gutteral, and they are more scary than sexy.  Ruthless.  Modern in terms of a trend of scariness.  Things don’t creep up on you.  They grab you and rip you to shreds before you know what’s going on.  Fear is based on hopelessness.  No way out.  Being destroyed by some crazy force greater than oneself randomly, viciously, painfully.  What does that mean, really?

Like I said, the premise is decent and the film is not bad.  I do have to say that the handling of the passage of time was a weakness in the end.  The whole film doesn’t carry the weight of having transpired over a month.  It’s more like one longish night, maybe more like “a day and a half of night” or something.  Maybe that would have made more sense, but didn’t make for such a punchy title (film #2 in my “numbers fest”).

Josh Hartnett is quite a bit like a humorless Ashton Kutcher.  Tall, dark, and good-looking, but bland at the soul.

His girlfriend, Melissa George,…she was pretty cute.

Maybe a modernized, larger body-count sort of like John Carpenter’s brilliant The Thing (1982), re-make of The Thing from Another World (1951), equally horror set in a freezing cold, isolated death-trap.  But maybe better than a lot of the crap that comes out.  Directed by David Slade, whose film Hard Candy (2005) didn’t necessarily tell you what kind of movie his 30 Days of Night would be, and adapted from a horror comic book mini-series, this is one of the more decent films probably to come out in this genre for 2007.  That said, it’s not grand, just enjoyable…if you like decapitations and random violence, people tormented, lots of blood…

Isn’t that what you said you liked?

Paranoid Park

Paranoid Park (2007) movie poster

(2007) dir. Gus Van Sant
viewed: 03/18/08 at the Bridge Theater, SF, CA

I hadn’t made it to the Bridge Theater on Geary in years.  Literally.  I don’t think I’ve been there since I started this film diary, which is 6 years at least.  I think that maybe the last film I saw here was John Waters’ Cecil B. DeMented (2000).  I really like the few single screen theaters that still exist in San Francisco and would support them more if I was in better proximity to them.  Sadly, the best ones are on the other side of town (besides the Castro), and so I don’t make it out there often enough.  However, Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park did manage to get me there.  And I am very glad I went.

Van Sant is currently filming (or has just finished principle shooting) of his upcoming film, Milk (2008), and with the reviews of this film, I managed to rent Elephant (2002), part of what is coming to be known as his “death trilogy”, with Last Days (2005), which I have yet to see.  As I mentioned when I watched Elephant, my feelings about Van Sant are mixed, as is his catalogue of films, varying from interesting and entertaining to god-awful, from indie to mainstream and back again.  I found Elephant intriguing, moving, poetic.  Paranoid Park is a less polemic subject matter (not referencing the Columbine High School Massacre as in Elephant or the suicide of Kurt Cobain as in Last Days), Paranoid Park has less hanging over it in terms of cultural baggage.

It’s a loose, choppy narrative, rolling back and forth in time and place, as put down by the protagonist, Alex, a high school skateboarder in Portland, Oregon, who finds himself thrust through the “coming of age”, the loss of innocence and tries to understand where he lands, in identity and morality.  Beautifully photographed by the legendary Christopher Doyle, Portland is painted in shadows and light, fluctuating constantly, flickering on faces, film stock, and movement.

The use of the soundtrack is very interesting.  Like the constantly shifting narrative through time and emotion, the photography that trails and follows characters through movement and relocations, the music moves in trippy differences from all types of genres and tones, some longer lingering modern trippy music, with some soundtrack lifts from dramatic films, hardcore punk, country, all sorts of variations in tone and mood, reflecting the “paranoia” and the shifting consciousness of Alex.

Alex is played by , a non-professional actor, which has been part of Van Sant’s aesthetic in this series of films.  His non-actor status, as with a couple other primary figures in the film, are pretty obvious at times.  Again, even his weaknesses in acting are part of the film’s aesthetic.  He has a pretty face, like he could have been one of the “Hanson” brothers, shaggy hair and a sweet nature. He is drawn to an “underground” skate park (actually under a freeway overpass or bridge) where the hardcore skatefolk reside, ride, skate the hills and valleys, and just “hang out”.  He states in repetition that he doesn’t know if he is ready for this place, “paranoid park” as it is known among the youth.  His friend tells him, again in repetition, that “no one is ever ready for paranoid park”.  While this is the aspect of “coming of age” in which a youth explores the night alleys and meets new people, it turns out to be an initiation into a series of very adult situations.

There is a killing of a security guard, very gory, very significant, and yet totally accidental.  There is a mystery around this death, one which unfolds with the telling of the story.  Alex also loses his “innocence” with a girl, though his innocence, or virginity is not as explici

20 Million Miles to Earth

20 Million Miles to Earth (1957) movie poster

(1957) dir. Nathan Juran
viewed: 03/16/08

20 Million Miles to Earth was one of my favorite monster movies of my childhood.  I always loved the stop-motion animation of Ray Harryhausen, and I loved the monster, who like King Kong (1933), the movie monster that inspired Harryhausen, 20 Million Miles to Earth‘s Ymir, the monster from Venus, a displaced and misunderstood beast who dies from a perilous fall.  The ymir, who is never called that in the movie, is a reptilian humanoid, brought back by a disasterous U.S. space mission to the planet Venus, and rapidly grows to monsterous size on Earth (interestingly in Italy).  I always loved it.  I got the kids excited about it.  We watched it.

Years and years later (I can’t recall the last time I actually saw the film), I still found it completely excellent.  I had started down a path of 1950’s science fiction with The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), Invaders from Mars (1953), and The Thing from Another World (1951), and I have to say that 20 Million Miles to Earth is among the best of the period.  It certainly features an amazing monster.  And it’s been interesting hearing how inspirational Harryhausen’s work has been for special effects technicians who have taken over the mantle since the 1970’s who were so swayed and impressed by Harryhausen’s monsters.  You do have to take them from their period, when unanimated monsters were stiff and hidden through much of the films.  In Harryhausen’s work, the monsters take the screen in full form and in action, the fantasy element is alive and real (comparatively).

While my kids were less impressed with this film, I was still completely enjoying it.  The setting in Rome and Sicily is actually such a notable feature.  Perhaps setting a monster to attack in a non-American setting seems odd for such a traditional 1950’s American mentality monster movie, but it has its charms.  The shots of Rome and the entire utilization of the bridge and the Coloseum is rich and well-done.  It always stayed with me as a child, who didn’t necessarily have much of an understanding of geography.  It is odd and perhaps one of the reasons that this film hasn’t reached the level of cultural impact that other Harryhausen films did, in attacking New York, San Francisco, or Washington, DC.  After all, the science fiction of the 1950’s is very much an American set of metaphors, the xenophobia, the fear of science, Communism, and cultural angst.  The Italians were inventing Neo-Realism.  (This statement is meant to be mildly humorous, so don’t take it too seriously.)

While Jason and the Argonauts (1963) is often cited as Harryhausen’s greatest films, his personal favorite, and I agree largely with this summation, I have to say that 20 Million Miles to Earth may be my favorite of his films.  And, as I have stated, I think it’s perhaps one of the best science fiction films of the 1950’s, not simply for its effects, but for the development of narrative around the effects, the characterization, the vivid action and vision.  It’s good stuff.

And by the way, this is the first of what I will refer to as my “Number Fest”.  I like grouping movies in various ways, and so the theme of the next several films that I will watch on DVD will be that they all begin with a number.  This is a broad categorization, with films from numerous genres, styles, eras…just noting it.

 

Horton Hears a Who!

Horton Hears a Who! (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Jimmy Hayward, Steve Martino
viewed: 03/15/08 at AMC Loews Metreon 16 with IMAX, SF, CA

From the studio behind the Ice Age movies, neither of which have I ever sat and watched in their entirity, we have the latest take on Dr. Seuss in big time Hollywood feature film.  That said, I have seen bits and pieces of them here and there enough to estimate that I have seen the bulk of both of them.  The key to my selections for this diary is that I only write on films that I sat and watched through in their entirity.  So, I have seen Blue Sky Studios’s work and I have to say that I like what I’ve seen.

My take on the two Ice Age films is that they have some vivid animation, but their strengths have been in the wordless segments featuring the rugged squirrel and his acorn that he’s sought relentlessly.  These segments feature both great slapstick comedy and brilliant character animation.  They would have been five star works as shorts, if I had to guess.  They are pretty brilliant.  My other guess is that saddled with the bigger narrative, characters with more story arc, and the intent to deliver “a message” with their main stories, they’ve failed pretty badly (though no more badly than average) and this has brought their films down to the level of excellent animation, some great character animation, and many strong features, but ultimately nothing better than average.  My take.

The trailer for Horton Hears a Who! featured an animation sequence much like this, with the figure of Jo Jo Who ascending to an observatory via some whimsical, Rube Goldbergian means with a nonchalance and character that promised well.  Of course, the film also featured some big name voices including Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell, and the wonderful Carol Burnett, handling the larger breadth of the narrative and its “meaning” with more traditional requirements behind it all.  And, like my takes on those Ice Age films (for which a 3rd installment a trailer for next year was shown), my assessments stayed within prior estimates.

I did try to wrangle out any deeper meaning to be squeezed out of this film: some semi-religious faith in things non-tangible and greater (or smaller) than sensate, some anti-authoritarian rebellion against those who do not have faith, and some really sappy father-son crap that’s been done to death and over again.  It’s pretty moot, I’d say, to go here.  The film only meanders in these directions.  I mean, they’re trying to make a non-denominational, non-religiously specific film here.  They can’t say what they might, perhaps.

In stretching a relatively short Dr. Seuss picture book to 80 minutes or so, there are inevitable moments of asides and filler.  Some of it works better than others.  None of it is special or mentionable, actually.  The style of humor for the most part, even in the delivery of the dialogue, is pretty typical for contemporary comedy, nothing new or notable.

It’s in the smaller moments of the film that flashes of character and brilliance rise to the surface.  Little moments have character.  This studio should work on a “voiceless” animated film, an entire film without dialogue, just with characterization via action and acting via expression and events.  I think they could make something interesting in that.  I really do.

But that’s me.  The kids liked it pretty well.  And that’s why we went ultimately.

Elephant

Elephant (2002) movie poster

(2002) dir. Gus Van Sant
viewed: 03/14/08

This was an odd choice to follow up Resident Evil: Extinction (2007), which I watched just prior in an act of decompression after a bad day.  But I’ve been reading a lot about directer Gus Van Sant’s new film, Paranoid Park (2007), which has gotten very good reviews.  Elephant won the Palm d’Or at Cannes when it was released there and recieved a broad mixture of reaction in its time.  Roughly re-working a setting much like the Columbine High School massacre, in which two boys, heavily armed, enter a school with the intent of killing as many people as possible.

The subject matter, being as probably depressing as one would imagine, added to my lack of interest at the time of its initial release.  Van Sant was at one time a very interesting “indie” filmmaker.  His Drugstore Cowboy (1989) and My Own Private Idaho (1991), were strong and interesting films.  They felt unique and compelling, despite seriously annoying flaws (just my opinion here, but the Shakespearian dialogue in My Own Private Idaho?  It just didn’t work for me.)

But then Van Sant started moving mainstream.  His first big film was To Die For (1995), which I actually liked.  But from there, it was straight to hell.  Good Will Hunting (1997) and Finding Forrester (2000)…ugh.  I thought his remake of Psycho (1998) was a bizarre and at least an interesting idea.  It sucked though.

Apparantly, Van Sant ditched the mainstream and started making a series of smaller films, closer to the world that he best inhabited, the world of young people, particularly those of his native Portland, Oregon.  Elephant is set there, and the outdoors are colored with bright green grassess and trees and tons of yellow and red leaves covering the ground.  Shooting in a local school, the landscape is very recognizable and natural.  It’s the ‘burbs.  The Portland ‘burbs.  But the ‘burbs.

The film has a beautiful visual style, with the camera tracking smoothly a la steadicam, tracking the actors through their pathways in and out of the school through a normal day, though it is a normal day that will become highly abnormal.  Van Sant follows several kids around the school, in little moments, brief conversations, little actions.  There is story and explication but its light and loose and at first it’s hard to know who will be the killers and who will be killed.  (Though I am not sure that is the point, per se.)

There is a lack of meaning in the actions of the two boys.  They are just ready to go and to kill. Though they fuel up with watching a documentary on the Third Reich, their actions and their choice of victims is largely random.  The lack of explication perhaps is a large part of the point.  There is no easy explanation.  No way to understand why these things happen, why this event would happen.

There is one little weird aside as the two boys engage is a shower and a kiss together just before the killing.  Again, there is not enough explanation to figure out what is happening.  Is this the first time?  The one boy looks a little surprised.  Or is this a significant part of their relationship?  What does it mean to inflect homosexuality onto these largely opaque and normal kids who are ultimately killers?  I don’t know.  I just note it.

It reminded me vaguely of Larry Clark’s Kids (1995), which I had found very disturbing.  Like Clark’s film, Elephant is heavily improvised with mostly non-actors in the lead roles.  This isn’t abnormal territory for Van Sant either, but it’s there, a resonance.

I have to say, Van Sant’s camera loves the faces of the young men in the film in a way that the females are not filmed.  As the camera does follow the actors through the hallways, we often see them from the back, but at a certain point a group of three bulemic girls are tracked behind their sets of long hair, just like figures, not so much like people.  Van Sant most tenderly lingers on the face of John, with his soft, skater-boy style mop of bleached blonde hair and the rosiness in his cheeks.  Again, it’s just something I note.  Take that for what you will.

It’s not so much a film to like or hate for me.  It has an aesthetic visually that carries a good deal of appeal, but due to its subject matter, again like Kids, though not nearly so strongly, it’s too much of a downer to really ever want to watch again.  Still, I am interested in Paranoid Park.  Maybe I’ll get to see it in the theater.

Resident Evil: Extinction

Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) movie poster

(2007) dir. Russell Mulcahy
viewed: 03/14/08

Man, I’ve had the worst day today.   I needed something completely mindless and stupid to take my mind off of things.  I dropped into the video store.  And came up with…Resident Evil: Extinction, the third in a series of films adapted from a video game and starring Milla Jovovich as an ass-kicking genetically engineered babe in a post-apocalyptic world filled with raging zombies and no hope.

Ah, insanely dumb sci-fi action and violence soothes the troubled brain.

Actually, it did to an extent.  I felt better after I watched it, though it was not particularly good, nor original, nor interesting.

I had seen the “original”, Resident Evil (2002), some time ago.  And I’ve seen another of Jovovich’s ass-kicking sci-fi action flicks, Ultraviolet (2006).  She is one of those actresses who is bad-good.  She’s visually appealing, dressed like a sultry sexy militant army gal.  It’s the stuff of comic convention fantasies.  I guess that’s why there is a third one.

Oh yeah, and there is plenty of room laid out for a sequel.

I don’t know, I was thinking something about the zombies versus the corporation versus the sexy ass-kicking babes (all post-apocalyptic chicks that kick ass are hot, apparently).  What is it about zombies?  They used to signify the end of the world, the rising of the dead, and also even cultural critiques.  Here, zombies are zombies.  They eat people.  Not because they are hungry.  Just because.  That’s what they do, man, even the scientist says so.

To paraphrase and bastardize Sigmund Freud, “Sometimes a zombie is just a zombie.”

And sometimes, that’s enough.