Michelle Rodriguez: Home Truths Hurt Amiga

Michelle Rodriguez photo op
Michelle Rodriguez, who has made a career out of playing ballsy women who say and do what they think, learned that home truths can hurt, eh amiga? When asked about the rumor that she was being considered for the part of Jessica Cruz in Green Lantern, she laughingly retorted that this was the “dumbest” thing she had ever heard.

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Resident Evil: Retribution (2012) Penultimate Project Alice?

Well, writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson has done it again. He has managed to surpass every other film in the Resident Evil franchise. With what appears to be the run up to Resident Evil 6 (projected for 2014) he and his partner Milla Jovovich as Alice have proven that science fiction escapism is still fun and may possibly end after “Resi Evil 6” hits our screens.

When Resident Evil premiered in 2002 it was met with mixed reactions. Quite a few fans of the game disliked the film and pretty much disowned it. But what Anderson did then (and is still doing) was to tap into the escapist nature of the game and recreate the verse in a parallel line that used the game as a blueprint but did not follow the game’s plotline religiously.

The introduction of Milla as Alice in the first film allowed us to see this new character as a blend of the different “heroes” of the game verse. With the information that she had been exposed to the T-virus and that her cells had merged and mutated with it; the film gave us a heroine that would continue to adapt as each film came out.

And adapt she certainly has. In the first film, Alice has lost her memory as a result of exposure to a nerve gas. She finds out that she has certain “capabilities” that are obviously second nature to her, memory or not. She turns out to be pretty “kick-ass” and this trend carries on through each film.

Alice gun’s blazing at the beginning of the film.

In the fourth film, arch-villain Wesker (head of the Umbrella Corporation) takes away her “powers” and she is left to continue without her added strength and computer hacking ability. Despite having her “mojo” taken away from her, Alice is still a strong and capable protagonist able to face Umbrella and a multitude of virus infected zombies.

The beginning of Retribution features a slow motion “rewind” of events that take place after the end of the fourth film in the franchise (Resident Evil: Afterlife) when the events reach the “actual” end of the fourth film and the opening credits have finished we see Alice blown off the ship  into the ocean. Fade to black.

When Alice awakes, she is married to Todd/Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr ) and they have a hearing impaired daughter, Becky (Aryana Engineer) it is all happy families until a zombie attacks Todd. Becky and Alice flee. They bump into a young woman, Rain Ocampo (Michelle Rodriguez) who tells the two to get in her car. They drive off and the car is hit by a cement truck. Both Alice and Becky escape. Alice tells Becky to hide and she gets attacked by zombie Todd.

Alice wakes up in an Umbrella holding cell and is being interrogated by Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory). A computer hacker causes the mainframe to shut down and Alice escapes.

Watching this film was like attending a Resident Evil family reunion. Michelle Rodriguez, Colin Salmon, Boris Kodjoe, Sienna Guillory, and Shawn Roberts (as the Wesker replacement from Resi Evil Afterlife) all show up for a real mind-blowing experience. The addition of game regulars Leon Kennedy (Johann Urb) and Ada Wong (Bingbing Li) added to the fun. Even a few of the franchise’s secondary characters make a reappearance.

A quick word about Bingbing Li: I first saw the Hong Kong actress in the 2008 film The Forbidden Kingdom. The casting God’s must have realized even then that she was perfect to play Ada Wong. No one could have managed to look so much like the game character let alone bring her so brilliantly to life.

Ada Wong aka Bingbing Li. She could have been born to play Ada.

While I’m ladling out praise, I have to say that Johann Urb was very, very good as Leon and Michelle Rodriguez played two completely different versions of herself. Rodriguez played her stereotypical badass and a peace-loving non-violent gun protester. Of course Milla Jovovich continues to knock it out of the park as Alice, growing in different ways with each film.

The setting (or settings) of the film was epic in design and proportion. The CGI was faultless and the wire work seamless. The choreography for the action and fight scenes was impressive, none more so than the final fight at the end of the film. That fight alone was worth the price of admission and so worth waiting for.

The added touch of having old (and dead) characters reappear was spot-on and gave a new dimension to the film. Sadly I never got to see the film in 3D at the cinema, but looking at it in glorious Blu-ray 2D still gave an idea of how it must have looked. I can only hope that the film gets a re-release in the near future or that I suddenly become rich enough to buy all the 3D gear for my house.

With the ending of this film so clearly making way for the sixth in the series you have to ask if that will be the last one. I am sure that they could keep making these films until Alice starts kicking zombie butt from her wheelchair but, logically, I think ‘6’ will be that last. Here’s hoping that the next film is as good as this one was.

In a 5 star rating system, I’d have to give Resident Evil: Retribution a 6 for full-scale, Capcom style escapism. It is definitely a film to own; even more so if you had the cash to have all the 3D gear on hand.


Milla teaching Michelle Rodriquez how to shoot. Priceless.

Battle Los Angeles (2011): Battling Big Bugs for L A

Region 1 DVD cover for the 2011 film Battle of...

Directed by Jonathan Liebesman (Wrath of the Titans Darkness FallsBattle Los Angeles was almost universally panned by critics. But taking into account that the 70 million dollar production has raked in over 211 million dollars in gross profits since its release, somebody must have liked it.

With a cast of mostly unknown actors (at least feature film wise), the film starts off with an almost documentary feel about it. Not too much, but just enough that it doesn’t feel like a typical Hollywood blockbuster. Of course the mid-film entrance of Michelle Rodriguez did slap me into reality. It was nice though to see Ms Rodriguez’s character not die before the end credits rolled.

English: Actress Michelle Rodriguez on the Bat...

The biggest complaint from critics though, was that the movie was a conglomeration of war film clichés. And yes the film did have a lot of those. But, in my opinion, these were kind of necessary. The film was in essence a war film. The only difference was the enemy, who fell into the ‘big bug from outer space’ territory.

Liebesman wanted the focus to be more on the Marines and their interactions as a fighting unit and less on the invading ‘bugs.’ And using that approach is what makes the film work for me. The only important thing about the invading aliens was their purpose in choosing Earth.

These creatures have a need for water and as a news program helpfully tells us, Earth is the only planet that has so much surface water in the galaxy. The same news program explains that the creatures need to exterminate us in order to take over the planet.

Battle Los Angeles is clichéd, predictable to a degree and it doesn’t boast the most original plot, Independence Day got there first, but damn it,  it’s entertaining. Who doesn’t enjoy seeing big bad aliens beaten back from their invasion of our fair planet?

Aaron Eckhart was brilliant as the Staff Sargent who has the tarnished reputation and has his retirement postponed so he can take over a squad of Marines who don’t like or trust him. Eckhart also has to me what is the best scene in the film.

The Marines find a wounded alien and Eckhart’s character SSgt Nantz, gets them to drag the thing in, so he can discover their weak spot. Great scene. Of course Nantz gets to shine on a couple of occasions in the film. He has to, in order for his men to turn around and become loyal enough to help defeat the aliens.

The mostly CG aliens are brilliant and the special effects for the film are for the most part spot on. The film itself ends with just enough dangle to guarantee a sequel (which is still being touted as a done deal by Liebesman) and I for one am looking forward to it.

The final verdict on Battle Los Angeles? Great clichéd war film fun. Grab a couple of bowls of popcorn and enjoy the spectacle.

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