Fantasia Festival 2019: Paradise Hills (2019)

Paradise Hills (2019)

Paradise Hills

Director: Alice Waddington

Cast: Emma Roberts, Eiza Gonzalez, Danielle Macdonald, Awkwafina, Milla Jovovich, Jeremy Irvine

Paradise Hills is a 2019 American-Spanish science fiction fantasy film about girls put in a mysterious boarding school located on an island to be reformed into the women that others surrounding them want them to be.

Set in a dystopian future with flying cars and higher and lower society mentality, Paradise Hills is deeply grounded in its fantasy roots. The reform island that Uma (Emma Roberts) ends up is one that is a culmination of fairy tales. Apart from the room where she wakes up which is dark and fake, her first walk through the grounds is one that is full of pastel colors and resembles an Alice in Wonderland parallel, especially as the darker themes and there is a deeper knowledge of surrounding and different areas. Every new territory she discovers is both fantastical and mysterious. Filmed in Spain and Canary Islands, the location itself is captivating as a backdrop.

As she forms her sisterhood bonds with Amarna (Eiza Gonzalez), Chloe (Danielle Macdonald) and Yu (Awkwafina), Uma’s two week stay starts to settle in easier, even if she is still resistant to be changed into the girl that is desired by others. While Uma is a main character here and she has done similar roles like this in other indie films before, this one feels very complete. It also has to do with the actresses around her, Eiza Gonazalez, Danielle Macdonald and Awkwafina all portray different types of girls who live around people with different expectations and a varying level of accepting the situation that they are in despite the fact they can be seen as the rebels.

When faced with a passive-aggressive “headmistress”, The Duchess (Milla Jovovich), the conflicts between her and the four girls create tension and friction. Milla Jovovich has played a few roles of strong women and while a lot of her movies, such as Resident Evil has its cult following, The Duchess is one that shows off a lot of depth in the character. She commands each scene as The Duchess. Her costumes and her character design as a whole portray a powerful woman while her dialogue gives her a lot of manipulative and coersive nature, emphasizing her place. Her character is mysterious and cryptic at times but it all adds layers.

Adapted from the screen story by the director Alice Waddington herself and the script co-written by Nacho Vigalondo, who also wrote Colossal, Paradise Hills is one that executes the story it tells very well. It has a surface layer that is enjoyable to watch, especially in its visuals: costume, camera angles and the ambiance.  It never rushes to reveal too much too quickly and only hints and builds up its tension both as the characters discover more mysteries and search for their answers and the urgency to escape their uneasy situation. At the same time, it gives enough detail to keep the final act a lot of surprises, truly succeeding at making this an impressive thriller especially in the hands of a debut director.

Double Feature: Tracers (2015) & Ultraviolet (2006)

DOUBLEFEATURE (58)

Its time for the next double feature! The alphabet Netflix is going a bit awkward and weird and it won’t look like the whole alphabet at this point with doubles and triples here and there for various letters. Anyways, this is the penultimate one before we finish up the 26 movies in this rundown. This time, for the T selection I decided to go with Tracers which looks like some parkour fun. I liked Brick Mansions even if the plot was a bit thin and I’m expecting a similar experience here. For the U selection, I went on to look at the Ultraviolet.

Suffice to say, the ending two movies for this rundown is going to be not the rest of the alphabet but cut very short, either way, it needs to wrap up so some other random pairings can happen. 🙂 Anyways, let’s check out these two movies!

Tracers (2015)

tracers

Director: Daniel Benmayor

Cast: Taylor Lautner, Marie Avgeropoulos, Adam Rayner, Rafi Gavron, Luciano Acuna Jr., Josh Yadon, Johnny M. Wu, Sam Medina, Amirah Vann

Wanted by the Chinese mafia, a New York City bike messenger escapes into the world of parkour after meeting a beautiful stranger. – IMDB

Just as I’d expected, Tracers is an alright movie. Its not great because its pretty predictable in how things are going to go down but its also better than I expected because of the parkour and the setting. The characters are alright but they have quite a few so it also lacks some depth. In the choice between making it more action-packed and crime or giving it more of a character oriented drama, this one leaned more onto the former, which is a pretty good choice seeing as it took the twist of these groups of parkour youths pulling off some crime jobs like stealing stuff and whatnot.

Taylor Lautner is usually dismissed mostly because of Twilight, it feels but I thought he did alright in the few Twilight films that I saw. To be fair, the whole acting job here was a little meh but the parkour was fun to watch and everyone seemed to have the reason to be there even if the romance here felt a little forced and became like the pushing force for Taylor Lautner’s character to do this because, it always felt like while it was a perk to get to know the character of Marie Avgeropoulos, he did it for the fast money. So everyone has their agenda and it tried to do this twist with the leader of the parkour group which I guess makes sense to a certain extent. Talking about Marie Avgeropoulos, I grew to like her character in The 100 even if she is super stubborn and this character here is very reminiscent of that one where she’s a pretty tough girl.

Overall, Tracers was pretty middle of the line. Its not a very memorable movie because it played a lot of it by the books but it did exceed my expectations. Aside from all the nonsensical romantic angles that really just tried to flaunt some young bodies and romantic tension to give it more conflict, the parkour bits were pretty fun to watch. There’s some decent action in the escape scene near the end. The twist was alright as well even if it was a tad predictable. I didn’t expect much from it to begin with so it exceeded my expectations.

Ultraviolet (2006)

ultraviolet

Director (and writer): Kurt Wimmer

Cast: Milla Jovovich, Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund, Sebastien Andrieu, Ida Martin, William Fichtner, David E. Collier

A beautiful hæmophage infected with a virus that gives her superhuman powers has to protect a boy in a futuristic world, who is thought to be carrying antigens that would destroy all hæmophages. – IMDB

Honestly, there’s not much to say about Ultraviolet. Its a pretty bad movie. If it didn’t have Milla Jovovich as the main character and then some competent supporting roles like William Fichtner, I probably would have shut off the film. The premise of the film isn’t too bad set in the futuristic work and the whole blood angle and hemophages and such. All that stuff works well enough as the background premise of the story. The main issue is that the movie itself is pretty bad. The computer graphics are absolutely outdated at this point which makes it very unconvincing to watch.

At the same time, there’s a whole lot of bad acting from everyone else. Milla Jovovich might not have great acting skills but she fills up the space because its her unique attitude that always makes her stand out (even in the Resident Evil), making her the best part of Ultraviolet. Ultraviolet is a pretty bad-ass character with some fun one-liners, very reminiscent of Alice in Resident Evil, and I guess that really makes it work for her. Playing alongside her is Cameron Bright as the boy who can destroy all of the hemophages. I’ve only seen Cameron Bright in one other movie (that I remember) in Running Scared which I really liked him and think that he’s a pretty decent young actor and he does pretty well here even if his dialogue is quite scarce.

Overall, Ultraviolet is pretty meh. Nothing really does good and unless you are a fan of Milla Jovovich like me, you might even dismiss her role as Ultraviolet as well. But seeing as I am a fan of hers, this movie worked because she held it up and kept me watching. I can almost guarantee that I probably won’t be watching this again though.

That’s it for this double feature!
Have you seen these two? Thoughts?

Resident Evil: Retribution (2012)

Last night my boyfriend and I made it over to the theatres before it got pulled off on Friday to see Resident Evil: Retribution.  This is what happens when you are in a suburban area and the theatres focus on French version of Hollywood movies, but its alright as it meant that we pushed ourselves to see it faster.  Just a quick recap for you, I’m a newbie at Resident Evil.  I watched all the Resident Evils this summer.

Just to give you an idea of my thoughts on the first few:  The first one, Resident Evil, was the only one that should be categorized as a horror movie as it was the closest to it.  The tone was slightly eerie and the storyline was decent.  The second and third called Resident Evil: Apocalypse and Resident Evil: Extinction was really borderline.  I’m not really sure I’d call it “so bad its good”, at times I found myself rolling my eyes but it had its moments that I just laughed at the movie, but I mean it wasn’t really laughable and wasn’t very scary in general.  The fourth one, Resident Evil: Afterlife was a different story.  That was brainless entertainment 101 and it was so fun to watch.  I mean it was crappy acting, horrible (if any) storyline but altogether I had a fun time laughing and just enjoying the action.  It was a nice flick to just give your brain a little break.

Okay, so  now lets get down to business.  We get Resident Evil: Retribution which is the fifth one in this series.  When I saw the preview for this, I was seriously wanting to see it because it just looked so awesomely fun and c’mon, why pass up the chance for 3D fun when its made exactly for it? This movie was made for 3D, for all who didn’t know.  There is just that one choice: 3D.  Its all to say, I expected some great fun times at the theatres.

The question now is: Did I actually get what I wanted? Hell yes! Let me tell you why.  For starters, this movie you probably don’t really need to see the first few and thats usually the case for Resident Evil.  They always give you a recap of the stories beforehand and sometimes its the part relevant for this movie or linked in some way or another. This helps give the new audience a way to slightly understand what lead to the situation now. I had seen these during the summer so it was alright, I didn’t really need the recap but it helped me build the intensity the other movies had before, relive some of the action from before.

In a movie like this, you are talking about action matched a bunch of horrible acting and a very lengthened storyline that expands further (if you’ve followed the last few, it just builds from the first one sometimes if not mostly into very crazy ideas).  As much as these features usually would make a movie very unenjoyable, I would say that it has been a charm for Resident Evil series.  In this one, its the essence of the horrible acting and how they pull out those bad looks that made me laugh so much.

What I did thoroughly liked was the fact that they brought back a lot of the characters from previous movies.  I think to be able to bring back the same cast helps the audience that has followed these series feel more attached to the characters (no matter the acting skills).  So just a recap, Milla Jovovich stays as the main female role by the name of Alice who is the one who has been able to bond with the T-Virus that has been whats infected the world.   Her “enemy” from Umbrella Corporation, Albert Wesker (played by  Shawn Roberts) is back, bringing with him the video game characters of Ada Wong (played by Bingbing Li) and Leon (Johann Urb) also Barry (Kevin Durand).  I may not know all the actors very well but Bingbing Li is one I’ve seen her grow as an actress in Chinese movies and she’s alright.  Its nice to see her in a Hollywood flick. Aside from that, we get pulled into how come all the previous ones are back with Rain (Michelle Rodriguez) and Luther West (Boris Kodjoe).  Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) comes back as an enemy who is used by the Umbrella Corporation.  You know who they brought back to control Umbrella Corporation, The Red Queen.  I always thought that part was the essence of the horror in the first one.  So lots of action going on just from all that.   You bring in more people, more weapons, more fighting and more action.

As mentioned before, 3D was the main feature of this movie.  In the beginning and various parts, it was the 3D that really brought me back to jump a bit (but thats because I’m just easily startled) because when these zombies are coming at you suddenly or bursting through doors in the beginning, it can do that.  Other times, it just magnified all the action going on.  The computer graphics is bad though. Let me say, it brings out all the cheesiness and matches up when that pure entertainment, action and cheesy one-liners and glares between the characters.  Man, thinking about it just makes me laugh.

Before I end this and continue rambling on about how its “so bad its good”, which it is.  As someone who has seen all the previous ones, I can’t stop but think that Paul W.S. Anderson definitely has this down real good. The Resident Evils he did (1, 4 and now 5) was awesome in that way and same goes for Death Race and I just saw that he even did Event Horizon. All movies that I liked so I guess I’m into his kind of entertainment.  I’m already saying that if they pulled out a Resident Evil 6, I’ll be there also (which I think there will be) and you bet that Paul W.S. Anderson will be involved one way or another.  Especially if we get that “this is humanities last stand. The beginning of the end.”

So all in all, PLEASE and I’m begging you, an advisory to those that hated the first few or you just don’t like this brainless entertainment, blood splattering action, just stay far away.  If you do love that or simply, “so bad its good” movie, this one I would recommend.  I’m still debating whether the one before was better but for now, I’m happy with this one.  I’m fairly confident we’ll have a 6th one especially since they just brought out the video game characters.  I’d like to end this off with Alice’s favorite line  to start off the movie(she says this in variation for all the movies in this series), “Once again we find ourselves fighting for our lives”.