RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE US Theatrical Release: September 10, 2004 (Columbia - TriStar) US DVD Release: December 28, 2004 Running Time: 1:33:48 (Note that the time code runs to 1:36:23, but the film ends and returns to the menu at the 1:33:48 mark.) (28 chapter stops) Rating: R (Non-Stop Violence, Language, and Some Nudity) Video: 2.40:1 Anamorphic (the package says 2.40:1, but on my screen it looks closer to 2.20:1) and 1.33:1 Full Screen on the same side (selected upon first playing the film; not changeable without removing the disc.) Audio: English DD5.1 (Extra features, including commentary tracks: English DD2.0) Subtitles: English (Extra Features: none) TV-Generated Closed Captions: English (Extra Features: None) Menus: Lightly animated and skippable. Trailers play automatically when the disc is inserted, but they may be fast-forwarded or skipped by pressing the Menu button. Packaging: Dual-disc, single-thickness keep case plus outer slipcover; single-sheet insert contains cover images from other titles on one side and an offer for a free t-shirt with purchase of the Resident Evil 4 video game. MSRP: $28.96 THE WAY I FEEL ABOUT IT: 3/5 Looking for witty dialogue, an engrossing plot, or Oscar-caliber performances? Look elsewhere. But if you're looking for cute chicks with guns, ambling zombies, gruesome monsters and big ol' explosions, then you could do worse than Resident Evil: Apocalypse. While not quite worthy of being called a classic of the genre, this film competently achieves what it sets out to do. It begins with a stylishly presented recap of the first movie, then picks up the action shortly before the original's ending. The first few minutes overlap to explain the shocking situation that closed out the first film. The zombie-generating T-Virus is loose and spreading in Raccoon City, which conveniently has a high wall around it, a la Escape From New York. A few gun-toting about-to-be heroes and heroines are trapped inside, along with a veritable army of famished zombies and terrifying CGI beasties. You do the math. This time around, Alice (Milla Jovovich), the heroine of the first film, teams up with video game characters Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr, of The Mummy fame), along with a few other choice cuts of zombie chow. Their only chance to escape is to find and rescue the young daughter of the mysterious Dr. Ashford (Jared Harris, son of the late Richard Harris), who is also trapped somewhere in the city. While the Happy Fun Zombie-Slayin' Gang is searching for the missing girl, battling "Thriller" extras and a few computer-generated demons, the sinister Umbrella Corporation is watching their every move. Umbrella has created a powerful, non-CGI creature called the Nemesis, and it's unclear how they plan to use it. Perhaps it will have a showdown with our heroine towards the climax of the film -- one can only speculate. Long-time second unit director Alexander Witt does a nice job with the material in his first feature at the helm. The pace is just relentless enough to keep up the intensity without leaving the audience behind. CGI is kept to a minimum, providing the viewer with some neat stunts. The actors -- well, they look good and fight hard. The film could have used a few more one-liners, but the dialogue is passable. In short, if this is the type of film that appeals to you, then it's worth checking out. If you're not that interested in this sort of thing, then it's not going to change your mind. THE WAY I SEE IT: 2/5 Oy. First, the good. I saw this film in the theater, and the transfer does a good job of preserving its dark, grainy look. The story takes place almost entirely at night, with a shadowy, deep blue tinge throughout. The few daylight scenes are bright and realistic in color. Some edge enhancement is apparent. I've seen worse, but it is there. It ranges from negligible to blatant, tending generally to reasonable. The much bigger issue is the cornucopia of compression artifacts. Putting both widescreen and fullscreen versions of the film (with four audio tracks) on a single DVD-9 was an unfortunate choice. There are scenes where dark areas of the screen look like rendered animation from PC games circa 1990. Note the fade-in at 7:24 for an egregious example. It's especially noticeable in some of the night flying scenes as well. This won't be a terrible issue for those with smaller monitors, but if you're watching on a big front-projection system, then you may get a headache. You might want to wait for the probable Superbit edition (no confirmation on that as of yet, though) if you don't care about the special features. THE WAY I HEAR IT: 4/5 Unlike the video, there is little to complain about with the audio. Only a single 5.1 DD track is included, but it is quite enjoyable. The surrounds are very active throughout the film, immersing the viewer in hordes of zombies and blazing gun battles. Some big kablowies will give the subwoofer a decent workout. My only criticism is that the music tends to be very low in the mix. Dialogue is crisp and clear, and the effects will shake the walls, but the background music is subtle at most. THE SWAG: 4.5/5 (rating combines quality and quantity) Disc 1: Trailers: Two trailers play when disc 1 is first inserted: Boogeyman (2:21; anamorphic; DD5.1) and Steamboy (1:26; non-anamorphic; DD2.0). They may be skipped. Commentaries: Director Alexander Witt, Producer Jeremy Bolt & Executive Producer Robert Kulzer: Dominated by Kulzer, with his deep voice and Austrian accent (yes, he bears a bit of a vocal resemblance to everyone's favorite Governator), the filmmakers have a mostly scene-specific discussion of the production. They go through the standard stuff, but the standard stuff here is really very interesting. One trivial tidbit that they mention is that the graveyard in the film is not a set, but a real cemetery in Hamilton, Ontario -- home of HTF Reviewer Herb Kane. Hey Herb -- BOO! Stars Milla Jovovich, Oded Fehr, & Sienna Guillory: This track alternates between Guillory talking about her experience working on the film and Jovovich joking around with Fehr. It appears to be a mix of two separately recorded tracks. Guillory has some interesting things to say, but the others are more entertaining than informative (if you dig that sort of thing). Between this, the commentary on the first film, and her appearances in the featurettes, Jovovich seems like a real hoot. I wonder if she warms up for these things with a few cold brewskis. At any rate, she's definitely invited to my Super Bowl party. Writer/ Producer Paul W. S. Anderson and Producer Jeremy Bolt: Similar to the first commentary, it's mostly further discussion of the production. Fortunately, there's enough going on to fill two interesting commentaries. This one goes a bit more into things like the genre and the film's influences, inspirations, and homages. It has a few more pauses than the first, but it's still very good. Disc 2: Game Over: Resident Evil Reanimated: A set of six featurettes, which can be played separately or via the ever-trusty "Play All" button, that add up to just under 50 minutes total running time: Game Plan: (11:15) Cast and crew give an overview of the production. A fairly standard promo piece of middling depth. Running, Jumping, Fighting: (9:05) A discussion of the stuntwork and fight scenes. Zombie Choreography: (7:40) The choreographers who were hired to design zombie movements for the film and teach them to the actors and extras talk about their work. A very unique and interesting piece -- you haven't seen a featurette quite like this one before! Building Raccoon City: (6:38) The production designer talks about the locations and sets as well as some of the scenes from the game series that the filmmakers tried to reproduce. Big Guns: (4:15) In the words of the immortal Clarence Boddicker: "Guns, guns, guns!" The gun wrangler and actors tell us about how much fun they had shooting their prop guns. Smoke And Mirrors: (9:35) Some of the FX crew discuss their work on the film. They used some interesting combinations of CGI and non-CGI FX. Featurettes: Three additional featurettes are also included: Game Babes: (11:04) Cast and crew talk about women as action stars, with an emphasis on the training that Milla Jovovich and Sienna Guillory underwent to prepare for this film. Symphony Of Evil: (7:42) A montage of FX shots, stuntwork, conceptual art, zombie and actor screen tests, and storyboards, set to music. Corporate Malfeasance: (2:53) Cast and crew talk about the huge, omnipotent corporation as movie villain. Deleted Scenes: (11:56) 20 short deleted scenes are included. There is no commentary or introduction, but none is really required. Mostly they're little extended pieces of existing scenes. They range from throwaway to fairly amusing. Outtakes: (2:53) Outtakes are outtakes, but to be honest, this is actually one of the funniest reels I've seen on a DVD. Good stuff, especially if you like tongues. Poster Gallery: Fans designed and submitted their own posters for the film as part of a contest on the movie's website. The five winning entries are on display here. This is a cool idea, and certainly more interesting than the "Fan Credits" included on the Lord of the Rings discs. However, they don't give the names of the winners, which is a shame. Trailers: Nine trailers are included on disc 2. I personally prefer them to be on disc 1 so that I can check them out as an appetizer for the feature, but this set does include a couple on disc 1, so I can't really complain. Note that the trailers for both Resident Evil films and for House of Flying Daggers are anamorphic and have DD5.1 audio. Resident Evil: Apocalypse Theatrical Trailer (2:33) Resident Evil: Apocalypse Theatrical Teaser(1:24) Resident Evil (2:17) Underworld (2-disc Extended DVD Edition) (0:17) Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid (0:32) The Grudge (0:32) The Forgotten (0:32) House Of Flying Daggers (0:46) The Fifth Element (2-disc Special DVD Edition) (1:43) SUMMING IT ALL UP The Way I Feel About It: 3/5 The Way I See It: 2/5 The Way I Hear It: 4/5 The Swag: 4.5/5 As with the first Resident Evil film, Apocalypse was unfairly trashed by the critics. True, it won't appeal to those who aren't fans of sci-fi/ horror, but it certainly works well within the genre. My only real quibble with this release is the video quality, which, while not terrible, was clearly hurt by the inclusion of widescreen and fullscreen versions on the same single-sided disc. It's a real shame, especially considering the outstanding audio track. On the other hand, those who want better video quality can hold out for the inevitable (but not yet announced) Superbit release. As for the extra features, this 2-disc special edition does not disappoint. Three worthwhile commentaries plus more than an hour of good (albeit non-anamorphic) supplements add up to a super bang for the buck. Despite the video issues, Resident Evil: Apocalypse is RECOMMENDED FOR THOSE WHO ENJOY THIS SORT OF THING.