Dead Rising: Endgame (2016)

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Last year, we covered the first Dead Rising game, “Watchtower”, and despite me not being a particular fan of the games, I rather enjoyed it. Nice sense of humour, decent special effects, well-shot action, for a computer game movie produced for a website, very good indeed. It was either a success or they just shot two movies at the same time (possibly the latter), so now we get this.

 

Returning from part 1 are investigative reporter Chase Carter (Jesse Metcalfe), his sort-of-girlfriend Jordan (Keegan Connor Tracy) and General Lyons (Dennis Haysbert), who’s gone from the moral ambiguity of the first movie to full-on villainy in this one. It’s two years since the events of “Watchtower”, Jordan died in Army custody and Chase is still going into the quarantined area of East Mission City to find stories about how the army is treating the people there. Zombrex, the drug which stops infected people turning into zombies, is now administered via a chip with a year’s worth of concentrated doses, implanted into the body.

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Given that it’s supposed to be a quarantine area, there’s very little evidence that humans still live there – it’s basically Army guys, investigative reporters and zombies. It’s a bit “well, we have this set but not enough money for extras”, I suppose. One day, Chase finds evidence that General Lyons is involved in human trafficking, and there’s a mysterious something called “Afterlife” which seems to have got a lot of people interested. Factor in the biotech company Phenotrans (who, we’re supposed to think, started the zombie outbreak in the first place) and you’ve got yourself a good mystery.

 

The writer of part 1, Tim Carter, returns, but he’s got a co-writer this time, Michael Ferris, who got his start on “Bloodfist 2” back in 1990, and also wrote “The Game” (Michael Douglas version), “Terminator 3” and “Terminator Salvation”. While it’s a leaner and probably slightly better movie, the oddball sense of humour part 1 had is all but lost, and that’s a bit sad. One definite plus in changing crew was Zach Lipovsky, director of part 1 (and also of the rotten “Leprechaun: Origins”) getting replaced by long-term Canadian TV director Pat Williams.

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So, with conspiracy everywhere, Chase assembles a team to help him get the truth out. There’s hacker / new love interest Sandra (Marie Avgeropoulos), whistleblower George Hancock (Ian Tracey), Chase’s producer Jill (Jessica Harmon) and Garth (Patrick Sabongui), who’s a bit of a tech genius – we see him playing “Dead Rising 3” as his character’s introduction, which is only surprising in that it took them til half an hour into movie 2 before they did it. It turns out “Afterlife” is…well, no spoilers, but they need to get to a server “farm” located right in the middle of the quarantine zone to stop it.

 

The fight scenes are really well done. Chase swings his home-made weapons about like a pro (even though he’s, y’know, a TV reporter) and they use that hand-held camera to great effect. Perhaps they’re a bit over-choreographed? But this is small potatoes. There’s also a really nicely done escalation of the threat facing our heroes, as they discover Phenotrans has been working on new strains of the zombie virus, which turns the undead super-strong and fast. While it’s not terribly original, anyone watching a sequel to a movie based on a computer game wanting originality ought not to be allowed to watch B-movies ever again.

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Casting is strong – despite Dennis Haysbert looking like he’s waiting for his cheque to clear, then he’s right off set and never looking back, everyone else is fine. There’s a nice Billy Zane cameo, who’s presumably annoyed James Spader stole his look for “The Blacklist”, and I imagine it was a fun set to work on, as almost all the actors are Canadian TV veterans who have worked together before (two actors from “The 100”, and four who were on “Continuum”, including Victor Webster, who apparently plays the star of the second computer game. No idea).

 

With the sort-of announcement of a “Dead Rising” TV series, I imagine this will be the last movie. It’s less of a shame than I’d have said after the end of part 1, because that installment’s humour and structure set it apart from a lot of the pack. This, while slicker, and a bit better acted, is sort of samey – when you’ve seen one conspiracy to do something scientific with the undead, you’ve seen em all. Although, I suppose, you don’t see tons of zombies get offed with a baseball bat with a knife shoved in the end, and nails driven into it. If you have access to Crackle, you should definitely put this on and you’ll have a fine time.

 

Rating: thumbs up

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Dead Rising: Watchtower (2015)

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While your Netflixes and Amazons are getting into the original “TV” series game, other popular websites have worked out there’s money to be made by producing their own movies. So far, we’ve had College Humour making “Coffee Town”, Splitsider and “The Exquisite Corpse Project” (plus a standup compilation movie, but that barely counts), and now this. Crackle were known for distributing old, forgotten TV and movies for free – so, years ago, you could watch “The Tick”, “Battledome” (I loved that ridiculous show) and a ton of anime, with the only cost being adverts – a business model which clearly did pretty well for them. Saying that, Crackle also made the “Joe Dirt” sequel, but there’s no way in hell I’m deliberately watching a David Spade movie.

So, “Dead Rising”. I’ve played the first game, a bit, but I got bored of how quickly your weapons would break and how there’s no end to the zombies, ever. I presume someone (should anyone read this) would tell me this isn’t the case, but I’ve killed every zombie in *enclosed area* only to turn round a few seconds later and find it full of the shuffling bastards again. But this isn’t “Mark’s Computer Game Reviews”, because they’d all be “why is this happening so fast? Stop making it so difficult to control!”

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I know enough about the games, though, to know that there are a ton of references in here for fans. Making bonkers weapons out of two unrelated weapons (a sledgehammer taped to a chainsaw, for example) is the main one, and there are a few props and “scares” lifted from the game too. But, the one I was most interested in, and the thing that got me to watch the movie from the trailer, is the presence of comedy superstar Rob Riggle as the first game’s protagonist, Frank West. He became something of a star after surviving the mall outbreak and is in the studio, being interviewed by UBN news. He’s like the expert interviewee as the small town of East Mission, Oregon is in the middle of its own zombie outbreak, with quarantine areas and distribution of the anti-zombie drug “Zombrex” and so on. His bits are hilarious, as he gives advice based on how he survived the first game, ignoring the calming attempts of the news anchor (Carrie Grenzel, also funny).

The rest of the movie is every other zombie movie you’ve ever seen. Two reporters (Jesse Metcalfe and Keegan Connor Tracy) for an online news site are in East Mission, doing a story about the government attempts to control the outbreak. The town is being evacuated, slowly, but this all goes to pot as the Zombrex appears to stop working, leaving people to go full zombie right left and centre. Add in a beautiful and mysterious woman (Meghan Ory, “Once Upon A Time”) and a grieving mother (Virginia Madsen, and yes, I was surprised to see her in this too) and you’ve got yourself a group of protagonists! Then, because Capcom – the game company behind “Dead Rising” – seem determined to plagiarise every last bit of “Dawn Of The Dead”, we get an evil biker gang; and for a little “Day Of The Dead”, we’ve got a morally ambiguous group of soldiers too, led by Dennis Haysbert. Our heroes are trying to find evidence that Zombrex was made bad on purpose and to stop the firebombing of the town, and the people on the outside are feuding about how to deal with it.

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It starts off surprisingly well, I think. Riggle is brilliant, and the movie as a whole has a strong sense of humour, moves quickly, is well acted and has clearly had a lot of money spent on it (I reckon Capcom must have ponied up quite a bit of money for this, because Crackle Original movies shouldn’t look this good). There are some wonderfully horrific images from time to time as well, such as a zombie Dad with his baby in a carrier, taking the occasional bite as he’s strolling along. Okay, the characters are a bit generic, but one shouldn’t expect too much in a movie based on a computer game.

It does get sluggish, though, and part of that is the almost 2 hour running time.  There’s a rather long opening sequence that then cuts to “24 hours earlier”, but they then repeat most of that sequence as well as have the moment where the movie catches up to the opening come at around the halfway point, leaving it sort of pointless. It didn’t teach us anything and wasn’t directly related to the ending, so it just feels like padding in a movie that really didn’t need it – and I’m beyond tired of that device being used in movies. I could have done with a bit less of the weapon POV camera as well – a fun device once, but adds nothing the tenth time.

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“Dead Rising: Watchtower” has a nice occasional comedic tone, which makes the lurches into military conspiracy a bit odd to watch. And it obviously had no idea how to wrap things up, which leaves us with a world which is worse at the end of the movie than it is at the beginning, and no real resolution to any of the stories. I imagine if this does well (and I’ve got no idea how they’ll judge the success of a movie which was released effectively for free) we’ll get a sequel, which will no doubt leave a bunch of hanging threads for the end of the trilogy, and…it’s good enough to bother getting annoyed with the things it does wrong.

Rating: thumbs in the middle

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Alone In The Dark 2 (2008)

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You will be pleased, but unsurprised, to find out that this is better than part 1. Being kicked in the head for 2 hours is a bit better than part 1, though, so we’re starting from a very low threshold. Uwe Boll is merely the producer this time, and the budget is substantially smaller – the only casting choices of note in this are Danny Trejo in an uncharacteristically subdued little role and Lance Henriksen as the mysterious expert on all things supernatural.

 

We have a slightly smaller scale than part 1, which is also welcome. The first twenty minutes or so are very curious, as we’re introduced to people who we’d expect to be stars of a Boll movie (Natassia Malthe, too good for this garbage; Jason Connery; and Zack Ward, who we’ll be meeting again in “Postal”), only to have them killed off, and then have people who seem completely unrelated to the central conflict suddenly know all about it and become the stars of the rest of the movie. There’s a choice between “this was heavily edited, so it makes no sense” and “this just makes no sense” and neither of them reflect well.

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After sort of inheriting top billing in this movie from Ward, we meet Edward Carnby. That was Christian Slater’s name in part 1, but here he’s an entirely different character, and played by Rick Yune, who you may remember from actually good movies like “The Fast And The Furious” and “Die Another Day”. What he’s doing slumming it in this movie is anyone’s guess. He’s taken in by another group of independent, “Supernatural” style occult investigators, who are trying to kill an immortal witch-spirit who…nah, her motivation is definitely a bit unclear.

 

In fact, everyone’s motivation is unclear in this. I don’t need a set of life stories, but at least some reason why these people have chosen to dedicate their lives to tracking down a ghost would be handy. It might also have been handy for a movie called “Alone In The Dark” to have the characters be alone, in the dark, for at least some of the movie. But that might just be me, picking fault. Your opinion may be different. Also, if I’d fired a thousand bullets at a smoke-figure and done no damage whatsoever, I’d probably give up on the shooting thing. Not these guys though!

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Okay, it’s not quite as aggressively bad as part 1, but it’s like they were trying to make it terrible! What have the filmmakers got against explaining anything to us? The witch is all ghostly and made up of smoke at one point, then later on she’s fully corporeal, with no reason given for how she went from one to the other. Why was the witch so fixated on this one group of people? Why not go after a random few people, as at the very least they won’t have all sorts of spells and potions to try and fight you off?

 

Actually, I’m not convinced this is better than part 1 now. I apologise for my somewhat slipshod review, readers, but this movie is tough to pin down. It feels like the final two episodes of some TV show we never got the chance to see.

 

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I thought it would be funny to use pictures from the game, sorry

Honestly, it’s probably best to avoid both of these. Why anyone would want or pay for a sequel to one of the most universally reviled movies of the 21st century is beyond me, but is probably down to some obscure clause in a contract somewhere. Sorry, good actors and crew who worked on this movie! You deserved better.

 

Rating: thumbs down

Alone In The Dark (2005)

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Our “Uwe Boll: The Computer Game Years” series continues with this, based on a game I’ve never played. I’m guessing there’s a lot of being alone, and in the dark, but other than that I’m stumped, and it would appear I’m not the only one, as there is a serious wall of words to ease us into things (“Star Wars” being the reigining, and only, champion of “good films with pages and pages of text right at the beginning”). But not just text – presumably relying on the stupider end of society going to see this movie, they read the text out at the same time!

We have Section 713, led by Stephen Dorff, kind of a supernatural FBI; they’re tracking down artifacts from the ancient Abkani race, because they can open a portal to a demon dimension. Also on the hunt for this stuff is a baddie Professor with a Yorkshire accent and his assistant Tara Reid; plus former agent Christian Slater.  Slater is also, it turns out, one of 20 orphan kids who the baddie Professor experimented on 22 years ago and turned into “sleeper agents” – now ancient magic is stirring and the sleepers are waking up, although exactly why is still frustratingly out of reach. For reasons completely unknown, the baddie Professor wants to open the portal and let all the dark creatures through, even though some of them have made it through already. None of this is ever explained to us.

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You are forgiven if you read that paragraph, shake your head and go “huh?” If I had to describe this movie in one word (which would make reviewing easier) I’d call it “chaotic”. If I had another two words, I’d go for “bloody horrible”. Let’s see if I can bring all the skills I’ve picked up over nearly 500 reviews to try and puzzle out the twists and turns of this movie!

Ye gods, this is difficult. Reading around, a lot of criticism comes from this being nothing like the games, but as I’ve never played them and know nothing about them then that doesn’t bother me (and shouldn’t bother you, either, 7 years after the last one). What should bother you and me is EVERYTHING ELSE. I’ve been pretty kind to Uwe Boll recently, but this is the absolute pits, a movie that justifiably sealed his reputation as one of the worst directors of all time.  Plot holes!!! How did the weird Alien-looking creatures make it to Earth when the portal was closed? How did Baddie Professor capture one, and then how did he figure out that injecting himself with its blood would turn him into an alien-controlling super-villain? If the Abkani were wiped out, why did they take such care to bury all their artefacts in far-flung locations? Why not just destroy them if they were that dangerous? Just in case they fancied popping back over to Hell Dimension in a few millennia? Why did the Nun, who seems like a nice lady, let Baddie Professor have 20 kids to experiment on?

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With too many people and groups, there’s no sense that any of them have any motivation for doing what they do. The 20 “sleepers” are just cannon fodder for the end of the movie, have no dialogue or reason to exist other than to bulk the movie out a bit. They’re virtually impossible to kill at the beginning but drop like flies at the end…it’s like a fractal image of badness. Every time you think you’ve got to the bottom of it all, new levels of suck-complexity continue to reveal themselves. NOTHING MAKES ANY SENSE

I’m sorry, readers. If the aim of reading these reviews is to decide whether to watch a movie or not, I hope I’ve already made my position clear, but I can’t stop thinking about how bad it is. The second half of the movie is set in a giant cave complex handily located underneath the orphanage where Baddie Professor found his test subjects, and it’s just people shooting and stuff blowing up and dark corridors and huge halls and absolutely no explanation for anything whatsoever. I couldn’t tell you the reason for any of its existence, or why Dorff and Slater have the sort of relationship we’ve not seen since Iceman and Maverick in “Top Gun”. Or why a song called “7 Seconds” is playing as Slater and Reid have sex, and if that’s a subtle joke or just a horrid coincidence. Or why someone decided to cast Christian Slater as a ripped tight-vest-wearing action hero. Or why all the bulletproof vests had an outline of pecs and a six-pack on it, even those worn by women. Or why the city was evacuated at the end, or by whom. Or if Dorff survived. Or how they know the portal was closed. Or why they bother to set up that the aliens are super-sensitive to light, only to have one attack our heroes in broad daylight at the end.

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To save my blood pressure, I’m done. This is right down at the bottom of all the movies we’ve done here, and I can’t see it being dislodged from its position of shame any time soon. This is one of the movies that makes me curse my life choices, as people gave Uwe Boll money to make this, and the last time I got money for nothing was when I found a pound coin down the side of my sofa.

Rating: thumbs down

In The Name Of The King 3: The Last Mission (2014)

Know what might have been fun? Wearing this armour in the movie

Know what might have been fun? Wearing this armour in the movie

The more you think about this movie, the more any meaning it might have slips away from you. It’s so…empty, like the shell of a movie they forgot to add anything to. I’ve got no idea who it was made for, or why; it’s not crazy like a lot of Uwe Boll’s other films, and his sense of humour really struggles to come through. For a fantasy movie, a good third of it is set in present-day Sofia, Bulgaria (the home of choice for low-budget US filmmaking for a good 15 years), too.

 

Dominic Purcell, stoic co-star of “Prison Break”, doesn’t exactly stretch his range by playing an emotionless assassin. Given the job of kidnapping a couple of children (their father is a politician or something) he does so, because he’s a badass, but then finds one of them wearing a medallion that matches a tattoo he has on his arm. BOOM! Just like part 2, he’s through a portal and into…medieval Bulgaria! But luckily, a version of Bulgaria with magic and dragons and so on. He meets two beautiful sisters who are also super-fighters and gets sucked into a rebellion against the evil Prince or King or whatever, who has the replacement medallion he’ll need to get home.

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In case you were wondering, none of this is remotely related to the events of the first two movies (which did have some continuity, after a fashion). Although the computer game that started this franchise is a distant memory, thinking of this movie like it’s a game is the only way to wrestle any meaning from it. Purcell keeps his future-clothes on the entire time he’s in the past, he cruises through both “levels” of the movie almost entirely unhurt, learns new weapon skills quickly and finds himself a beautiful “girlfriend”. It would have been game-normal if he’d got some artefact in the past which helped him in the present, but all he got was a supportive speech.

 

There’s two funny bits, which makes me sad that the person who thought of those didn’t have more control over the entire thing. With the same snappy editing that was used to illustrate Dominic’s kills, he makes himself a cup of coffee in the hotel room of the man he just assassinated (it plays funnier than it sounds); and later on in the movie, in the middle of a ton of flowery medieval speeches, the evil King says to our hero “You’ve come to kill me”, to which Dominic, not missing a beat and not changing his expression one bit, replies “Yup”. Little touches that deserve a better movie around them.

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I was ready to kill the camera operator by the end, though. I’m never normally bothered by shaky-cam, but it honestly felt like they were trying to make me sick. If you suffer at all, then just close your eyes until the sound of metal on metal stops (you won’t miss anything). Luckily, he stopped wobbling long enough to show the castle where the final battle takes place, and I’d bet £££ it’s the same castle used in one of the later “Deathstalker” movies. That’s the sort of analysis you can only expect from the ISCFC!!

 

Poor Dominic Purcell, he at least sort of tries. A bit. Every single other member of the cast is Eastern European, and the accents are pretty thick – to be fair, their English is better than my Bulgarian – which adds another annoying layer to it all. Even if you can make it through all that (and I enjoyed parts 1 and 2, sort of), there’s still that overwhelming sense of “why on earth was this made?” I was really surprised at how little I hated the Uwe Boll movies I’d seen in our recent series on him, but this one broke the trend, and hard.

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For a film that’s one third modern Eastern European action thriller, two thirds medieval wander-through-the-woods adventure, it’s…even worse than that sounds. I suppose, to a smart film fan reading this, the first thing that’ll spring to mind is “Army of Darkness”, but aside from being vastly superior in every single way to this, that spends a great deal less time in the “present”. And it linked the two eras, whereas this just doesn’t bother. If you’re desperate to watch an accidental time-travel action adventure, definitely watch that instead.

 

Rating: thumbs down

In The Name Of The King 2: Two Worlds (2011)

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Our friend Uwe Boll decided, after losing the rights to the “Dungeon Siege” name (oh no, said no-one, ever) to just make a sequel to “In The Name Of The King” anyway, only with none of the names or locations from the first one. Throw in a money saving plot, and you’ve got yourself a “winner”.

The tax loophole that Boll had exploited to such wonderful effect closed in 2006, so despite financing already being in place for his next few movies (I’d suggest 2007’s “Postal” being the last movie to benefit), by 2011 and this movie funding had become a great deal tighter. Gone were the days of the first movie’s insane casting choices – all we get here is Dolph Lundgren, a fine fun B-movie leading man, but he’s no Burt Reynolds. Aside from a too-good-for-this-movie performance from Natassia Malthe, the only other casting choice of note is Lochlyn Munro as the King, a guy who (in part 1 comparisons) isn’t close to the level of even Matthew Lillard or Leelee Sobieski.

Dolph is basically the perfect guy. A former Special Forces soldier, he runs a dojo where he trains kids and also does a class for cops, for free (they leave donations for the young ‘uns). As he toasts his fallen comrades, a bunch of weird hooded figures suddenly appear in his home and start trying to kill him. And to let you know this movie isn’t messing around, then Malthe shows up (listed as “Manhatten” on IMDB, but that can’t be her name, surely?), helps him out and pulls him through a magic portal to Generic Fantasy World.

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Only this one is significantly smaller than that of the first film. We see a run down old castle, some forest and the odd hut – the remote Canadian locations are absolutely beautiful, but there’s not many of them. The film cleverly tries to handwave away there only being like 50 people in this entire kingdom by having a plague set loose by the mysterious Raven kill nearly everybody, including everyone who survived the first movie – they can’t refer to any names or places, but the continuity attempt is there.

Anyway, it’s double-crosses and fantasy quests and all that good stuff, with the added bonus of a 21st century guy doing some wise-cracking, questioning why he’s part of some prophecy or other. Honestly, when the word “prophecy” is uttered in a fantasy movie my brain just checks out…plus this movie uses generic fantasy speech more than perhaps any other movie I can remember. No contractions, lots of thees and thous…I hope my mediaeval ancestors swore like troopers, to be honest.

I’ll get the good things out of the way first. Dolph using modern fighting styles in a fantasy setting feels like a fresh idea, and it’s done well. He’s a fine leading man, and Natassia Malthe is great too. In fact, most of the acting is strong, apart from Munro, who seems drunk the entire time. Talking of Munro, when we first see him he’s visibly putting on a wig, but this ludicrous hair plays no part in the rest of the movie, leading me to doubt my own eyes.

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The bad is, unfortunately, everything else. The dialogue is rotten, the plot is incomprehensible and stuff that happens at the beginning makes no sense when related to stuff that happens at the end. The ending manages the impressive feat of being hilariously stupid and unsatisfying at once, and when you realise you’re watching something that rips off the Martin Lawrence movie “Black Knight”, you know you’re in for a bad time.

Still, not all “thumbs down” ratings are equal, and I’d call it an entertaining bad movie, which you’ll have fun mocking. It’s got plenty of bizarre technical goofs (elasticated underwear in the olden days? Plus, you can apparently see cars parked through the gates of the castle at a few points, but I didn’t notice them and I’m not going back to check) for the eagle-eyed or easily bored among you.

Rating: thumbs down

In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale (2007)

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Wondering why Uwe Boll bothered to licence “Dungeon Siege” as the game to make a movie from is almost as much fun as the movie itself. The game was never a mega-hit, seen as the poor cousin of the “Elder Scrolls” series of games (and a weak combination of “Ultima” and “Diablo” in terms of gameplay). I assume money was involved somewhere, which may point to the $60 million budget of this. $60 million! For Uwe Boll! You might even have been surprised to learn that the movie was based on a computer game, so minor was the link (“A Dungeon Siege Tale” was much smaller on the posters); and the link was completely broken for its two sequels, which are “In The Name Of The King” movies only.

One of the main criticisms thrown at our friend Boll is his rather odd casting choices, like the people he assembles don’t really belong in the same film. This could be exhibit A in that weird pointless court case – as well as a starring role for Jason Statham, we get John Rhys-Davies, Leelee Sobieski, Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, Clare Forlani, Matthew Lillard, and Burt Reynolds as the King. Burt Reynolds! He seems to be in that late-period Marlon Brando mindset of not wanting or having to try, just turning up being enough for him. Even though they’re a surprising bunch to see together, I don’t mind it.

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Statham is Farmer, an orphan boy who’s grown up to be a good solid adult. He farms (obviously), has a beautiful wife (Forlani), a young son, has been trained by the village badass (Perlman) to be a great fighter, basically your general all-round hero in the making. The King’s nephew (Lillard) wants the throne, as the king has no children, so he throws his lot in with evil wizard Ray Liotta; he takes over the Krug race (sort of the Orc’s poor cousin) and they try and take over the Kingdom. One of the villages they overrun is Farmer’s, one of the kids they kill is his son, so he puts down his turnips and picks up a sword. If you want an extremely detailed recap of the plot, get yourself to Wikipedia. I’m all about trying to psychoanalyse Uwe Boll through his movies.

But we must talk of my favourite “Sliders” alumnus. John Rhys-Davies and Leelee Sobieski (as the father-daughter good wizard duo) feel like they’re survivors from some previous rewrite; the JRD / Liotta fight at the end is pure Obi-Wan / Darth Vader, but none of the other characters conform to the stereotype so it all feels a bit odd and undercooked.

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Originality is definitely not one of this film’s strong suits. The primary inspiration is obviously “Lord of the Rings”, but there’s little flavours of a dozen other films in there. Why are there ninjas on the side of the good guys? Because Uwe Boll, that’s why. To anyone who says “there’s no way ninjas would be in this era / time period”, there’s also no way they’d have magic and weird gross orcs either, so quit your worrying. No-one really seems to bother about sticking to “fantasy conventions”, and while I’m quite glad about that you might not be. A conversation you need to have with yourself before thinking of viewing? Perhaps best not to think about the lots of little cul-de-sacs the film gets itself into, and you may have to just enjoy the spectacle with this one.

But the spectacle is great. Filmed in Canada, it does a great job of doubling for a fantasy kingdom, and they use the huge trees and uniquely Canadian landscape to good advantage. Boll really did a good job of making the movie look good, with nice special effects (the flying / teleporting thing is really well done) and many fairly hefty battle scenes. You can see where every penny of the $60 million went.

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Is it any good? That’s a slightly trickier question. It’s certainly better than the near-hysterical negative reviews it got at the time, which mocked everything about it, giving it Razzie nominations, a long-term bottom 100 IMDB rating, with some site ranking it in the ten worst computer game movies of all time (it’s not like there’s thousands of them, so this isn’t the worst thing in the world). The more you think about it, the sillier it seems, but Boll’s movies at the very least have a sense of humour and don’t take themselves especially seriously. Well, most of the characters do, but then you get Statham (who takes everything very seriously) vs Liotta (who realises just how big a joke this all is) and the style-clash does baffle a little.

I can sense this becoming a trend – years after the Boll mockery died away and you can watch his movies with fresh eyes, they’re…not so bad. They’re not great, by any stretch, but compared to more recent genre fare they look great – top actors, decent special effects, well-paced. I laughed with this movie way more than I laughed at it, and I think if you’ve got a relatively open mind you will too. Honestly, if the me of 2007 could see the me of now…first up, he’d be sad my beard was going grey, but then he’d mock me for saying nice things about Uwe Boll movies.

Rating: thumbs up

House Of The Dead 2 (2005)

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Having wasted my best line about this in a Twitter exchange with the excellent HorrorHoneys – “House of the Dead 2 makes House of the Dead look like Dawn of the Dead” – I found myself with not tons to say about this movie. It exists, and that’s about it.

Uwe Boll had nothing to do with this one, and the main way you can tell is it’s gone from crazy to boring. The one and only thing about “House of the Dead” (games and first film) is that they never let up. You kill a lot of zombies, pause to have the barest minimum of plot, then kill more zombies. This has, after a wildly sexist “raid the sorority house” opening, some scientists and a group of army guys trying to make their way through a school campus to get to the lab where the professor apparently started this particular zombie outbreak, but taking their sweet time about it.

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There are a couple of fun scenes as we’re introduced to the characters. Main scientists / agents Emmanuelle Vaugier and Ed Quinn establish their flirty relationship early on, and then the army people are sketched out (including Victoria Pratt from “Mutant X”). Nothing spectacular, but competent, and done relatively briefly; and the way the “antidote” MacGuffin becomes important for different reasons to everyone is a nice basic bit of storytelling. It’s just everything else that’s the problem.

There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. I lost count of the number of times people had blood from zombies splash onto their face with zero ill effects; yet a zombie-mosquito bite is enough to finish one guy off. Our main people run through huge crowds of zombies and don’t get bitten, as if all of a sudden our walking dead friends suddenly forgot how to do it (yet there’s other scenes where one zombie finishes off several people). Worst of all is the pacing. We come to a crescendo of sorts at 1:10, so I was quite happy that the experience would be over quicker than anticipated. But it just keeps going, and the ending is just the previous 15 minutes of the movie, sort of repeated. It’s weird. And bad.

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Worse than movies that are terrible are movies where there’s no real reason for them to exist. It’s a sequel to a computer game movie, made by people who (I’d hazard a guess) never played or even saw any of the games it was based on; it just feels sloppy, like they couldn’t be bothered outside of a few key scenes. Leave this off your Uwe Boll bad movie night playlist, because people will be falling asleep.

Rating: thumbs down