Max Payne

The Movie Critic Next Door™: Watching the Bad Movies so You Don’t Have To.
And yes, this one was really bad. Not that I expect much from a movie based on a video game, but even with low expectations it was still a disappointment. In a video game, it’s probably very useful to be able to identify the main villain at first glance, but in a film it’s just boring. When you know who the villains are, but the hero doesn’t (and should), then it gets both boring and frustrating. You can see where I’m going with this.
The previews looked pretty cool, at least as far as visual effects, but unfortunately, that’s about all of the visual effects, so if you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve pretty much seen everything there is to offer here. There’s certainly no plot to hold your attention — Max (Mark Wahlberg, displaying his usual range of emotions, annoyed and confused) is a cop in cold case, filing things, mourning the loss of his wife and child. They say the child was killed, but there’s absolutely no visual evidence of that. In fact, there’s almost no blood, which was kind of a shocker. I was expecting a lot. But it’s still a video game in that you’re either barely bruised or completely dead, especially if you’re a hero.
Anyway, he got two of the killers but missed a third, and he’s been hunting the guy ever since, but every lead goes to a dead end. Sometimes literally, because people do die a lot, they just don’t show much. Then, about a third of the way through the movie, he gets a glimmer of an idea that he should’ve noticed years ago, and the hunt takes a new turn. Actually, I think he figures it out then, but later he seems surprised to notice that again, so I’m not absolutely sure.

payne.jpg
Mark Wahlberg is the one on the left.

He joins forces with Mona (Mila Kunis, “That 70′s Show”), the sister of one of the recently dead — the dead sister was just a party girl, I think, but the other sister speaks softly and carries a big gun. A REALLY big gun. She implies she’s an assassin, but I’m not sure about that, either. The five-inch heels make it a tad doubtful, and the fact that she couldn’t hide that gun unless she was wearing a full nun’s habit makes it even less likely. None of the women wear much, of course — there’s an unintentionally funny bit where Max tries to get an informant to talk by threatening to search all of the guests at the party he’s hosting. It’s funny because 90% of the guests are female, and 100% are wearing just barely enough to keep them PG, so I’m not sure why he expects a search to find much.
There’s a strange street drug (it’s called Valkyr, looks like Windex, and makes everyone who uses it hallucinate the same bizarre things); an evil corporation (one room has a giant eyeball on the wall watching all the workers); and lots of cops blaming everything that goes wrong on Our Hero. And there’s those scary looking winged things from the previews, but they weren’t quite as cool as I’d hoped. When it isn’t snowing, it’s raining, and sometimes it even rains inside. The sun only shines in flashback, because those were the good old days. For atmosphere, several of the bad guys like to burn lots and lots of candles, but because they’re bad guys, they often recklessly leave them unattended. I suppose since it rains indoors so much that’s really not as hazardous as it sounds, though.
I’d better stop there. All you really need to know is that this movie gets one and a quarter idols. I might have been willing to stretch it to one and a half, but then they went and added a teaser about a sequel, and I just can’t have that. I’m making a stand against bad movies based on questionable source material! And thankfully, I didn’t even accidentally support this one with my dollars — I had a free pass.

Quarantine

Longtime readers (Hey, you never know, I might have a few of those) may recall that I described Sunshine as being a little like 28 Days Later in space, because so many of the same people worked on both films. Now we have Quarantine, which is 28 Days Later in a Los Angeles apartment building (the darkest apartment building on earth), only without any of the same actors or crew, and not quite as good.
It isn’t bad, either, but frankly, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before — except maybe the closeup view of a compound fracture of the leg, and I could’ve lived just fine without seeing that. There’s also the part where you get a close up view of someone being beaten to death, from the point of view of the weapon, but I could’ve lived without seeing that, too.
Anyway, it’s like 28 Days Later, that’s the point. It’s this small group of people fighting to survive as everyone around them starts going crazy and homicidal, except in this case it’s the residents of the apartment building and those few unfortunates that are trying to help them that are in trouble; and the rest of the world is okay. Probably. It’s also like Cloverfield because the story is told through a camera in a sort of first-person view, so be prepared for a lot of weird angles and the picture bouncing around all over the place. The middle-aged lady behind me complained about that. She also didn’t understand the plot and had to keep asking her friend what was going on. I don’t know how I always seem to end up within earshot of these people.

quarantine.jpg
The film is actually never this well-lit, but it’s nice to see what the actress looks like.

A reporter, Angela Vidal (Jennifer Carpenter, from that Dexter TV series), and her cameraman Scott (Steve Harris) are following around two firemen for the night, like on Cops. She follows them on what seems to be a fairly routine medical call, to help an old lady living alone who started shrieking for no apparent reason, and I’m sure she quickly wishes she hadn’t followed them, but such is the life of a reporter, I guess. One fireman (Jake, played by Jay Hernandez, who was a cop in Lakeview Terrace) wants to hit on Angela, of course, while the other is the mouthy comic relief. But actually, the characters are very believable for the most part, and it really does seem like you’re eavesdropping on things as they happen. And that’s cool.
The building tension is also very good, though the explanation at the end is only so-so. But as things get worse, you do feel like you get pulled in to the situation, so in that sense, the film really works. When the credits started rolling, no one in the theatre moved. Before this, someone always bolted for the door as soon as that first name appeared, so that was pretty strange. By the time the last credit rolls, I’m generally the only one left and the theatre employees are by the exit with brooms, dustpans and barely concealed impatience, waiting for me to leave. But not this time!
So it was an enjoyable 89 minutes, except for the gory parts. And you might get motion sickness, but this time I planned ahead and took dramamine, so I’m going by the middle-aged lady’s complaints, because I was fine. Yes, I am way too pleased with myself about that. Three and a quarter idols out of five this time — like I said, the reason behind all the death isn’t the greatest, but the acting is so good I’m inclined to forgive that little problem. It even demonstrates why having an antenna TV like mine is better than cable — at least when you’re under seige by the CDC.

Synthetics

Pure Attitude
Starting out with only synths, it moves to a heavy orchestral-electronic mix. Very nice.
BlockMan
Written for a side-scroll retro video game, this piece also introduces some very new elements.
Blipotron
Intro of a nasty distorted bass, this piece changes position a few times. Full of bleeping goodness.