Maybe it’s because it’s the end of the year, and the assumption is that most of the gift-giving is done and over with, but this week brings us precious few choices in home video. First off, we’ve got the latest George Clooney vehicle, in which he plays a contemplative international operative. Then, we’ve got the latest in a popular video game-based franchise. To round things out, there are also a couple of poorly reviewed dramas, one starring a former WWE star and one from Joel Schumacher. The majority of the remaining choices are direct-to-dvd releases, so we limited our list to new titles. Have at it, and we’ll see you next year!
Resident Evil has proven to be one of the more successful video game-based film franchises, spawning something of a cult following for its horror-infused action extravaganzas. Earlier this year, director Paul W.S. Anderson and stars Milla Jovovich and Ali Larter returned for the fourth installment of the series, Resident Evil: Afterlife, which boasted the use of 3D technology developed by James Cameron. This purported final chapter sees Jovovich’s heroine, Alice, teaming up once again with Larter’s Claire Redfield to lead a band of survivors to a mobile safe haven known as Arcadia. Now, none of the previous Resident Evil films has received anything higher than a 34% Tomatometer score, and Afterlife continues this trend, but chances are, if you’re a fan of the series, you’re probably not going to care what the critics said about it anyway. Expect nothing more than plenty of zombie-killing and big, spectacular action set pieces and you’re probably sure to find enough to enjoy.
If you go into The American expecting a fast-paced, action-packed spy thriller, prepare to be disappointed. If, however, you’re in the market for an ennui-laden, moody character study – the kind that Michelangelo Antonioni made in his prime – you might find The American to be a cool, intelligent throwback. George Clooney stars as an assassin who decamps in rural Italy after a particularly gruesome hit. There, he befriends a kindly priest and romances a mysterious woman – but can he really hide from his past? Though Fresh, The American drew mixed notices from critics, who admired director Anton Corbijn’s sleek aesthetics and atmospherics, but decried the film’s slow pace. The DVD contains a featurette on the making of the film, plus audio commentary and deleted scenes.
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson capitalized on the star power he amassed in the WWE to embark on a successful film career, so it’s only natural that some of his former colleagues might attempt to do the same. Unfortunately, John Cena hasn’t been able to achieve quite the same level of success that Johnson has, starring mostly in poorly-reviewed action flicks. Enter Legendary, a more “serious” film whose story somewhat mirrors that of recent hit The Fighter. Cena plays Mike Chetley, a former wrestling champ who’s become estranged from his widowed mother and younger brother after a car accident claims the life of his father. In an attempt to pull his family back together, the younger sibling, Cal (Devon Graye), joins his high school wrestling team, hoping that Mike will return to train him. Though the film boasts the talents of Patricia Clarkson and Danny Glover in supporting roles, critics were so unimpressed by the heavily formulaic story that it managed to earn only a paltry 17% Tomatometer score. Not the best showing for all involved, but for better or for worse, it’s available on home video this week.
Joel Schumacher is something of an enigma as a director. He’s helmed a couple of nostalgic ’80s classics like St. Elmo’s Fire and The Lost Boys, a couple of decently-reviewed John Grisham adaptations, thrillers like Falling Down, and even a version of The Phantom of the Opera… And then there’s the oft-criticized entries in the Batman franchise, which are so infamous for being terrible that they’ve virtually overshadowed all his past successes. Well, don’t expect that to change with Twelve, a bleak look at the lives of privileged high schoolers in New York that critics found so shallow and soulless that they saw fit to reward it with a paltry 4% on the Tomatometer. Chace Crawford is White Mike, son of a wealthy restauranteur who spends his free time dealing drugs to his classmates, and Emma Roberts plays Mike’s gal pal from the poorer side of town; they’re surrounded by a bevy of rich ne’er-do-wells who engage in all the shockingly naughty activities we’ve come to expect from films like this. Unfortunately, Twelve, based on a novel by Nick McDonell, suffers from comparisons to films adapted from Bret Easton Ellis novels (Less than Zero, American Psycho) and ultimately falls flat in its efforts to present a thoughtful look at teenage delinquency.
Written by Ryan Fujitani and Tim Ryan