Every couple of years there's another new "Resident Evil" movie. And every couple of years we go see it and yawn. This year's entry was possibly the most videogame-like of the entire videogame-based franchise (this is the fifth "Resident Evil" movie – no, we can't believe it either), in the sense that it really felt like you were watching someone else toggle through levels on some home console – exploring areas, collecting items, and fighting gooey bosses. This isn't exactly the most entertaining experience you can have in the theater, and the fact that the movie ends on some bullshit cliffhanger promising further adventures of latex-clad Milla Jovovich is even more infuriating. Also, this one took place in some kind of giant underground geodesic dome. These are about the only things we can remember from "Resident Evil: Retribution;" even minor thrills of ultra-violence and rubbery monsters have been replaced with a dreadful feeling of repetition and visual effects that are better suited for a Syfy Channel original movie and not a large-scale Hollywood production. In 3D this shit is even sillier.
There’s a special place in movie hell for films that are not only bad, but interminably long. “Rock of Ages” should be burning for boring us with 136 minutes of bad singing, worse acting and Russell Brand. Two-plus-hours of off-key performances at the worst bridge-and-tunnel karaoke bar imaginable, but without the numbing benefits of alcohol. The film's other sins include making the ‘80s and the Sunset Strip look even worse than they were, wasting the dancing skills of both Catherine Zeta-Jones and Julianne Hough (in a freaking musical) and proving along with “Total Recall” and “John Carter” that Bryan Cranston will take on any role, regardless of his immense talent and the script’s inverse relationship to that. The script here is particularly bad but at least the actual dialogue between poorly covered songs is kept to a minimum, which is a boon to any scene with Diego Boneta. He may be pretty – even with the bad ‘80s haircut and wardrobe – but has all the charms of an empty can of Aquanet. We’d love to consider his casting as commentary on the superficiality of the decade and the hollowness of beauty, but that seems like giving director Adam Shankman far too much credit.
It doesn’t seem like it would be all that difficult to follow up 2008’s Liam Neeson-destroys-France slugfest. The original was a no-frills actioner with throwback morals that suggested we endorse this patriotic superman for saving the oldest-looking teenage daughter in history, destroying half of a foreign country in the process. The formula should have been simple as far as recreating went, but instead the only element that survives in the Olivier Megaton-directed sequel is the toothless Ugly Americanism that plays like Zucker-level parody more often than not. Xeroxing the more superficial elements of the first film was easy enough -- Neeson is still brooding and musclebound, Maggie Grace is still far-too-old -- but who made the decision to lift the action from a direct-to-DVD movie and the music from “Drive”? “Taken 2” is the worst type of Hollywood product, the listless paycheck grab that insults others who actually put effort into their films, as it generates zero suspense, features no surprises, and, somehow, has no real ending of any sort. How did this franchise go from “Death Wish 2” to “Death Wish 5” in only two installments?
What is it about Adam Sandler that forces him to keep finding a way to lower the bar? Over the course of a big screen career that saw him (intentionally?) morph his idiot manchildren into “common man” types, he’s found unique ways to drop the standards of broad studio comedy, to the point where something like Seth MacFarlane’s “Ted” comes across as early Woody Allen in comparison. Sandler really outdid himself this time, elevating the material to an R-rating this time around, and using a punishing 114 minute runtime to tell a story about a degenerate Dad and his estranged son (Andy Samberg, as excited as a Gitmo prisoner) that revolves around rape, pedophilia and incest, giving zero laugh lines to Will Forte but leasing the spotlight to not-exactly-skilled jokesters like Tony Orlando and Vanilla Ice. You always know what you’re going to get in a Sandler film, but somehow Sandler’s embrace of the R-rating (and freer use of profanity and cruelty) makes the pandering that much more difficult to manage. It clashes perfectly with Sandler’s absolutely shameless product-whoring, not only having his character carrying Budweiser cans like an extra appendage, but attempting to re-introduce the prominent brand’s “Wazzup” catchphrase, a joke about product placement that, coincidentally, manages to move units. It says a lot about all involved that Budweiser complained about its placement in “Flight,” about an alcoholic, but had no problem carrying half the jokes in a film that glorifies the rape of a minor who can’t help but be so charming.