Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Bait 3D (2012) review

BAIT 3D 2012

Richard Brancatisano (Rory), Xavier Samuel (Josh), Chris Betts (Lockie), Sharni Vinson (Tina), Julian McMahon (Doyle), Dan Wyllie (Kirby), Alice Parkinson (Naomi), Phoebe Tonkin (Jaime), Damien Garvey (Collins), Lincoln Lewis (Kyle), Cariba Heine (Heather), Alex Russell (Ryan), Adrian Pang (Jessup), Qi Yuwu (Steven), Martin Sacks (Todd)

Directed by Kimble Rendall

The Short Version: This Aussie-Singapore co-production is a tightly woven, heavily melo-dramatic disaster-killer shark movie. It gets right to the action virtually from the start in this tale of people trapped in a flooded underground supermarket menaced by Great White sharks after a freak Tsunami hits a coastal community. Characterization is light till the clutch of potential heroes and villains are trapped together, then we're treated to the barest minimum of exposition. This is successful in some cases and not so much in others. As general entertainment, this surpasses every other cookie cutter shark flick that's flooded the marketplace these last few years. The live action effects work very well, while the CGI is what you'd expect, yet better than most. If you're a horror fan, take the BAIT for a fun night of escapism, Coke and popcorn munching.

Shortly after two criminals hold up an underground grocery store nestled within a thriving Australian coastal community, a freak Tsunami hits trapping and killing a diverse group of people in a supermarket and the parking garage below. What they don't realize at first is that two Great White sharks are trapped inside with them. As the water rises and the thought of rescue diminishes, some of the individuals attempt to make an escape to keep from becoming the sharks next meal.

Kimble Rendall is relatively new to the directors seat, but his AD and Second Unit Director credits on some major Hollywood productions serve him extremely well here in this Australian lensed co-production with Singapore that was in the works as far back as 2009. At that time, famed HIGHLANDER helmer, Russell Mulcahy was attached as director. It was reported some time in 2010 that he had stepped down as director, but stayed on as a writer and Executive Producer. The two plus years it took to make it to the screen (only a limited release here), the plot changed slightly. 

Originally it was to be packs of Tiger Sharks menacing the cast. The go-to shark when it comes to rampaging man-eaters, the Great White, was substituted. Instead of a pack, we get two big ones. It was also reported in late 2009 that Paramount was attached as the North American distributor. Ultimately, it fell to Anchor Bay to handle what little theatrical dates they could followed by their DVD release this passed September.

Considering the glut of water logged monster movies of the last several years (not to mention the damage done by numerous, and atrocious SyFy Channel time-wasters), it's no surprise BAIT was essentially lost at sea.

Sadly, fans of this genre must wade through murky waters to find a conch amidst dozens of broken clam shells. BAIT gets by on some decent suspense, some occasionally funny moments, and regular intervals of comic book style heroism. The numerous attack sequences are also well done despite being telegraphed a lot of the time. There's a healthy amount of practical effects, blood and body parts spread around, and it's not all exclusive to the shark violence.

The script is fine, but what ends up onscreen is a standard action-horror-peril scenario that's also derivative of the Disaster films that found popularity in the 1970s, followed by their revival in the 90s. The action is divvied up between the large group of people trapped in the flooded supermarket and the few at the mercy of another White shark in the parking garage below. We have a varied bunch of people, many of whom we learn little to nothing about save for dialog that clues us in on how high up they are on the asshole meter.

The main character is Josh, and the first half of the film paints him as a tormented soul who feels guilt for watching his fiance's brother gobbled up by a shark at the beginning of the movie. It's not elaborated on, but his fiance, Tina, leaves for Singapore alone and returns with a new beau. Of course this provides for an interesting arc that never quite plays out as powerfully as it could have. This applies to most of the other myriad character types, and there's a lot of them; all vying to be the next snack for the sharks.

But this is more DEEP BLUE SEA than JAWS, which isn't a condemnation. The only true negatives one can levy at BAIT are some so-so CGI shark shots and the noticeable lack of fear in the face of being eaten alive by a big hungry fish. Virtually none of the cast show much in the way of a believable degree of fear in the possibility of ending up in a sharks stomach. Instead, the level of worry is akin to having to face the bully after school. This is the ARMAGEDDON of shark pictures. Just about everybody jumps at the chance to give their lives for some reason or other. It's actually quite overwhelming at times the breadth of bravery oozing from the cast.

One instance involves Tina's new Chinese boyfriend who decides HE will make the jaunt to shut the power off in an effort to avert damaged electrical lines contributing to an already dangerous situation. The group then build a make-shift "protective suit" fashioned from the shelf gratings and bent up shopping carts. It's actually pretty ingenious, if dubious in its effectiveness. When the character eventually meets the shark (no, he's not eaten, amazingly), there's nary a glimmer of terror on his face.

Some of the attack scenes are silly, such as the opening stunt where a shark sends a surfer airborne before itself goes flying up out of the water. It's not unheard of for a shark to leap entirely out of the water, but this fish catches a lot of air. A later scene in the film again shows off the sharks agility when one of them does a killer whale impression. With all the man-eater gymnastics, comic book characters and creative instances of peril, one waits for a helicopter to figure into the mix, or Chief Brody to make a belated appearance. The deaths of the sharks are also different from the usual 'blown to bits' fish finish.

While it's never actually scary, the suspense is palpable at times unlike some of the unbelievable actions of some of the characters. It's still a great deal of fun from start to finish and miles away better than more recent spoiled chum like SHARK NIGHT 3D (2011) and SHARKTOPUS (2010). If you have a 3D TV, you can watch the cast get eaten in three dimensions.

This review is representative of the Anchor Bay DVD/Blu-ray 3D combo release.

Cool Ass Cinema Gets Evil: 15 Years Surviving the Horror Part 4


RESIDENT EVIL 5 was announced in 2005, and while I'd begun to lose slight interest in video games once again, I just had to get it since part 4 had made such an impression on me. After seeing a TRAILER for the game online in 2007, it looked to be just as entrancing as RE4, but with an awful lot of daytime gameplay. The setting was moved to Africa after the deadly virus linked to the Umbrella Corporation had spread to the dark continent.

The plot concerns Chris Redfield (whom you'll remember from RESIDENT EVIL, RESIDENT EVIL CODE: VERONICA X and RESIDENT EVIL 6) being sent to the fictional Kijuju, Africa to find and arrest Ricardo Irving, who has stolen a deadly bio-organic weapon with plans to sell it to interested, and no doubt insidious parties. 

After the fourth game, I was as excited as a kid on Christmas morning after seeing the trailer. Unfortunately, it would be some two years before we'd see the finished product due in no small part to one massive stumbling block that became bigger than the game itself. RESIDENT EVIL 5 came under serious fire akin to a mob zombie attack for alleged racism, which, judging by the rantings of detractors, was thick as molasses as found in a 2007 E3 trailer. In fact, as late as AUGUST OF 2010, a year and a half after it was released in the United States, folks were still going on and on about how racist it was and also about what Capcom was going to do to not make such a careless mistake again. Incredible.

Despite there being black protagonists in the game and black actors and actresses contributing their voices, the sight of the white Chris Redfield shooting down waves of infected black "zombies" (The Ganados in RE4 and Majini here) rubbed certain parties the wrong way; unnecessarily turning a popular game franchise into something political. I guess it's okay to gun down white zombies in the first few games (although there's blacks in some of those, too) and Hispanics in the fourth installment, but a setting populated by predominantly black citizens is off limits. Well, the game does take place in AFRICA. Personally I never saw the trailer as racist. In my view, it's these "better interest groups" who are displaying racial tendencies in cases like this. They're doing nothing to dispel racial tensions, but perpetuating them. That's the only way to keep such an inflammatory scenario alive is to create an issue where one never existed (or exacerbate those that do). In this case, the target is a fucking video game.

An example of this gaming as a political issue, a writer named Tolu Olorunda had this to say in an excerpt from 2008 -- "The Video Game industry is one which has profited immensely from the casualty of black on black hostility. Notable products of its faculty include, 50 CENT: BULLETPROOF, DEF JAM: ICON and GRAND THEFT AUTO This $10 billion market owes the majority of its inspiration to the tragic decisions of young black and brown teenagers..." -- Even when you have black protagonists as your lead characters in a video game (as some of these do) ya still can't win! Oddly enough, some of the actual websites proclaiming RE5 to be racially inclined have removed those posts, showing up as dead links instead.

With that political nonsense out of the way, the game itself is fun, but if you're expecting anything resembling RESIDENT EVIL, you might be disappointed. I have yet to finish it, but do plan to go back to it at some point. I felt more like I was playing a video game version of MAD MAX, but with monsters. Much of what I played took place in broad daylight. It was suitably intense and extremely gruesome and also integrated offline co-op play; which hadn't been seen in the series before. 

Still, it's more RAMBO than RESIDENT EVIL. Rife with gun action, thousands of bullets fired, car chases and explosions, it's all rather exciting, but much farther away from the familiar horror machinations than the series as yet seen. However, some could look at this as a natural progression for the franchise while maintaining the revolutionary approach integrated in the mechanics by series creator Mikami in the fourth entry.


This unique 2001 'Survival Horror' game took Japanese history and wove horror-fantasy elements around them. The plot has depth, yet it's simplistic in this tale of Samanosuke Akechi doing battle with an undead Nobunaga Oda to save Princess Yuki from armies of demonic creatures. There's lots of flashy fighting moves, magic, impressive sound effects and some spooky moments spread out. The game was a huge success which led to the even bigger ONIMUSHA 2: SAMURAI'S DESTINY. Yagyu Jubei is this games main character in addition to a band of other wildly diverse characters you play throughout the game. Occasionally convoluted and drawn out, it's still a fun, if overblown action-fantasy fest. ONIMUSHA 3: DEMON SIEGE from 2004 brought the pain and the scope. A simply amazing game. Samanosuke returns (as does famous Japanese actor Takeshi Kaneshiro) in this bombastic third entry that introduces a time traveling plot device. Actor Jean Reno features in this game as an unlikely ally for Samanosuke against the enormity of the Genma hordes. I never played DAWN OF DREAMS released here in 2006. I would love to see this series get resurrected on the PS3.


In 1999, it was announced that Playstation's massive horror hit would become a live-action film under the direction of George Romero, the king of the Undead. Romero was already familiar with the RE series having directed a commercial for Japan's BIOHAZARD 2 (RE2). His version of the film would have followed the original game very closely. 

Sadly, the producers didn't like his script. Unfortunately, Paul W. S. Anderson ended up directing the picture from his screenplay. Incidentally, his film deviated a lot from what made the game great. Most of the characters are killed off in a single sequence leaving a few left alive to run and gun against zombies. For whatever reason, the Tyrant was decided against as the main menace. Instead, the Licker, the four legged version of the Hunter from RE2 was now the main monster. 

I saw the film twice in the theater because the first time, the sound was seriously screwed up so myself, and everyone else got a free pass for another showing. Needless to say, I disliked it immensely both times. RESIDENT EVIL (2002) was a success which led to more sequels, most of which I avoided.

I saw a portion of RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (2004) when it hit DVD. About the point where they made RE3's Nemesis look like a joke, being beaten up by series regular, Alice, I tuned out and didn't finish the movie. Since then, we've gotten RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (2007), RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE (2010), RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION (2012) and next year, we'll likely get RESIDENT EVIL: AD INFINITUM.


If ever 'Survival Horror' got a shot in the arm, it was by 2008s DEAD SPACE. Not since Playstation's original RE juggernaut from 1996 (not counting the later REmake on GameCube) had their been a game with this level of fear and intensity. In it, the essence of 'Survival Horror' returned in a big way. You play as Isaac Clarke, an engineer who finds unending horror aboard a mining ship in outer space. 

Essentially RESIDENT EVIL in outer space, DEAD SPACE distinguishes itself with some intriguing additions for the maximum in visceral thrills. There's no HUD (Head's Up Display). Instead info like your life bar is visualized via holographic imagery seen on your suit. The ability to target body parts is an ingenious method in dealing with hostile alien lifeforms. There's a distinct lack of high powered weaponry in the traditional sense, so Isaac must use mining tools as his weapons of creature destruction. It's simply a spectacular game all around. DEAD SPACE 2 was released in 2011.


RESIDENT EVIL 6 has just come out earlier this month (October 2nd, 2012) and after the lack of a true feeling of RESIDENT EVILness in the fifth chapter, I was hesitant to pick this up. The gaming bug had bit me again, and I had extra cash burning a hole in my pocket and figured why the hell not? Upon getting home with RE6 (and also the new TWISTED METAL and RESISTANCE 3), I went online to read up on it (something I should have done ahead of time) and found lots and lots of negative reviews. I'd never seen an RE game of the main story arc receive such a low rating before. So I put the game in fearing the worst.

While I've so far played only a small portion of it, it does put the evil back in RESIDENT EVIL and zombies are zombies again (although they do pick up weapons and throw them at you), there's a Fulci styled blood geyser of gaming additions that threatens to derail the whole enterprise instead of keeping it on track. 

From the very start, one gets the impression the makers were gunning for the closest to a movie-gaming crossover experience as possible. It's movies, movies, movies crammed with Qick Time Events that often give off the impression they would rather you WATCH RESIDENT EVIL 6 as opposed to actually PLAYING IT. The co-op play returns as does the dark ambiance of those early games. Collecting herbs has now been modified where you have to put them into these tablet things to use them. Fighting game style maneuvers have also been integrated to help out in hairier situations and bullets seem to be in less abundance compared with the last few games.

I've not played enough of it yet, but so far, I'm fairly disappointed with it. It seems to be the most sharply divided amongst fans and critics of the series thus far. Capcom seem genuine in their perseverance in taking the series in new directions to keep it fresh and viable. However, closing the door on the series at this point and starting over from scratch might also be worth thinking about. RESIDENT EVIL has strewn so far away from what made it "Survival Horror", that if it continues on this path, the name itself will need to evolve to keep up with the innumerable changes the various Umbrella Corporation contagions have inflicted on this once mighty franchise.


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Cool Ass Cinema Gets EVIL: 15 Years Surviving the Horror Part 3


When news broke that the very first RE was being remade, I was elated. But that excitement turned to serious concern akin to being the guest of honor at a zombie cook out when it was revealed the series was going to be exclusive to the friggin' Nintendo GameCube. It was pretty easy to cure this melancholic mood, though. I just had to buy a GameCube system. I never cared for Nintendo systems, mostly because they were known mainly for Mario and other kiddie style games (I did like Playstation's CRASH BANDICOOT series, though), which I was never a big fan of.

Later it was revealed that this exclusivity deal was for three titles, one being the next official installment in the franchise. I didn't actually buy the GameCube system till RESIDENT EVIL 4 hit the streets; and when I got the system, I also got the RE remake and also the other GameCube exclusive, RESIDENT EVIL 0. This game explored the origins of the events that led up to that fateful night in and around the Spencer Mansion.

Purchasing all three at once ensured that lots of evil would be encountered. I first gave the RE remake a spin, having heard rave reviews about it and also in how fucking difficult it was to play. And it was all true. The whole look of the game was one of the most beautifully macabre things I'd ever seen. To say the game looked gorgeous is an understatement. It also reinforced the fear factor that the first game did so well. The ability to scare hadn't evaporated from the series, but it wasn't on the level of that iconic first game till this GameCube entry. The RE do-over multiplied the terror times a hundred and amped up the difficulty level, too. 

For this revamped version, everything was overhauled and major differences were implemented. About the time I realized why the "dead" zombies hadn't disappeared from the hallway and room floors after I'd put them down was about the point where frustration overpowered me and I shut the damn thing off.

I didn't have a strategy guide and hadn't bothered to look at one online. But I was curious why there were gas cans and gasoline about. I continued to play and once I left the house and returned, I discovered, much to my horror that the zombies have returned from the dead again stronger than before and nearly invulnerable. After emptying bullet after bullet back into them to no avail I went online and learned that you have the burn them or else they come back to life even more powerful than before. But from what I have played so far, this was an amazingly detailed, absolutely terrifying game. I can only imagine what the remainder is like. Hopefully, I can get around to trying it again in the near future.


"This is one intense action/horror game. You gotta play this one, man -- it'll blast you against the wall." -- John Carpenter

Now here's a game I could play again and again. John Carpenter even gave it a great review! The game itself is something of a sequel to the actual Carpenter film of the same name from 1982. Captain Blake is a member of two different teams sent to both the US and Norwegian arctic camps to find out what has happened there. When Beta team loses contact with Alpha team at the Norwegian camp, Blake heads for their location. The rest of the game is made up of mountains of suspense, horror, gore and tons of monsters.

The game is highly innovative in that you can have multiple people on a team. The AI is great and they'll engage in a heated firefight as opposed to just standing there like in other games. Trust is an important part of the game, too. If you accidentally shoot one of your men, they may lose trust in you and try to kill you, or they're possibly infected by the Thing and you'll have to kill them instead. Also, the stronger monsters can't be killed with conventional weapons. They must first be weakened by bullets then destroyed with the flamethrower. You also have a life bar and when you're outside in the extreme cold, there's another bar that, if it runs out before you get back inside, you'll freeze to death! 

Fans of Carpenter's movie will be pleased with nods to his version of THE THING and rewarded by an appearance from a familiar face during the big boss finale. A shame the sequel game never got released.


Putting that one aside, I dove straight into the other two. RE0 was an interesting, if seemingly detached prequel game. I liked it, but it had an odd feel about it that didn't seem to gel with the others. Possibly because the storyline wasn't as engaging as some of the others mirroring the bland plot of RE3, yet RE0 has no other game to feel like it's an expansion pack to. It also lacks the familiarity of some of the series' more recognizable names. 

It was different in that you played two characters (Rebecca Chambers and ex-Marine deathrow captive, Billy Coen) onscreen at the same time. You controlled one and the computer controlled the other. It's pretty much par for the RESIDENT EVIL course here with little variation. The ability to drop items at random spots and pick them up later was a nice touch. 

The familiar monsters are all here with some new additions like the Leech Zombies (which foreshadow the beyond creepy Regenerators of RE4), mutant scorpions and these rabid ape monsters called Eliminators; which are basically the Hunters, just as damn dirty apes. I don't remember a great deal from RE0, but one part in particular really "jumped out at me"; it was a scene on the train when a zombie burst out of a refrigerator for a snack.


This was a particularly brutal game from 2004. It's about a condemned man named Torque about to be executed for allegedly murdering his entire family. The night Torque arrives at his new prison home, the Earth cracks open and out pops all manner of horrifyingly demonic creatures. Torque must escape the island alive in an effort to learn what really happened to his family. This was an incredibly gloomy, yet kick-ass game filled with tons of hallucinogenic and nightmarish imagery. It differentiated itself from RE by having the main character make decisions whether to help, kill, or ignore innocents, or other prisoners. His actions determine a possible outcome at the end. It also added an Insanity meter that when at full capacity, Torque could change into a powerful monster. The game was also unique in that Stan Winston designed the impressive menagerie of monsters. A sequel game was released the following year, but I never did play that one.


The meat of all this monster mayhem is undoubtedly RESIDENT EVIL 4. This game remains my all time favorite game. I remember buying GOD OF WAR around this time and as great as that game is, Kratos is Krushed by the monstrous might of RE4 and its insurmountable number of enemies and magnificently macabre, epic atmosphere. A complete and total overhaul was in order, so the series originator was brought in to take the reigns of this groundbreaking, series altering fourth entry. The antiquated pre-rendered backgrounds and alternating camera angles were tossed out the window as were other familiar mechanics of the series. Replacing them was an innovative "over the shoulder" angle and unique aiming system.

Also revitalized were the franchises most famous, and recurring creatures--the zombies; only these shufflers weren't actually zombies. They were individuals turned ravenously insane by these parasitic creatures called Las Plagas. Upon learning that there weren't any flesh-eating dead in this upcoming RESIDENT EVIL game, that was cause for alarm. But after playing it, this was a great direction to take the series. Los Ganados, as they're referred to in the game, turn out to be a far more vicious, and dangerous adversary than the standard gut-munching zombies. These homicidal human monsters talk, run, duck, dodge and throw weapons at you! There are also other types of Ganados that have various types of parasitic beings that erupt from their heads after taking damage. The various types of reptilian insectoid things are all hazardous to your health.

Also, the entire game takes place in fog enshrouded European locales. Much of the scientific gobbledy-gook that loomed large over the previous entries is overshadowed by Los Illuminados, a vile cult who has kidnapped the daughter of the president of the United States. Leon Kennedy, last seen blowing away zombie hordes and assorted monster scum in RE2 is tasked with the job of rescuing the presidents daughter.

Not since RE1 had a video game had me so enthralled that I didn't want to put it down. It's that damn good. It's also a lengthy adventure that alternates between outright horror and action-adventure. I suppose it's the natural progression of the series, but from here on out, the "Survival Horror" portion of the series takes a back seat to gun action, car chases and big explosions. RESIDENT EVIL also introduces Quick Time Events to the series for the first time. These heighten the intensity of numerous sequences whether you're battling El Gigante or engaged in a knife battle with the mercenary Jack Krauser.

This was the first time I had encountered actually playing, or interacting with a cut-scene. I remember putting the controller down expecting the game to take over for a time, not knowing it was going to put me in control of how the scene would play out. Needless to say, I found this new addition to the series pretty amazing. The high point of this was the aforementioned knife battle between Leon and Krauser as perfect timing was key to surviving the scene.

I've never actually been a HUGE video game fan. I go through spells where I play them, than may not touch the damn things for months or more. RESIDENT EVIL 4 rekindled my interest in gaming. Not long after, I purchased GOD OF WAR, an awe-inspiring barbaric bloodbath that was probably what CLASH OF THE TITANS would've looked like if it were directed by Chang Cheh. As gloriously over the top as it was, I thought RE4 nudged passed it in pretty much all areas. Something about RE4 grabbed me, and thankfully it wasn't one of the numerous nasty nightmare monsters healthily spread throughout the games lengthy running time. The game rightfully won several awards and also remains the biggest selling entry in the franchise up to this point.

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