The Things You Find On Netflix: The Loft (dir by Erik Van Looy)


The Loft‘s journey to Neftlix was a long one.

A remake of a Belgian film, The Loft was originally filmed in 2011 and was meant to come out in that year.  It was due to be released by Joel Silver’s Dark Castle Entertainment and Warner Bros.  However, when Silver had a falling out with Warner Bros and moved his operations over to Universal, he took The Loft with him.  And it turned out that Universal was in no hurry to distribute The Loft.  After sitting on the film for three years, Universal announced that they would release it in August of 2014 but, at the last minute, they changed their mind and instead released the horror film As Above, So Below in the spot that was originally set aside for The Loft.  Dark Castle then dropped the film, leaving The Loft in limbo until Open Road Pictures picked up the distribution rights and gave it a limited release in January of 2015.  The critics hated it, audiences were indifferent, and The Loft quickly vanished from theaters.  It’s now available on Netflix.

And, having watched the film, I can understand why the studios weren’t exactly enthused about it.  It’s not the type of film that works on the big screen.  The characters are too unlikable.  The plot is an unstable combination of silliness and melodrama.  The big twists are more likely to inspire groans than cheers.  It’s just not the type of film that you want to spend too much money on.

And yet, it’s the perfect film for Netflix.  What may seem over-the-top and annoying when viewed in a public theater becomes a lot more entertaining when viewed in the privacy on your own home.  The Loft is a film that works best if you don’t spend too much time thinking about how little sense it all makes.  It’s the perfect film to watch while you’re doing something else.

And if that sounds like faint praise, it’s not.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Loft without once mistaking it for being a “good” film.  Instead, it’s an over-the-top melodrama, with all that entails.  It’s ludicrous, it’s silly, and — when taken on its own terms — it’s also a lot of fun.

The film is about five friends and the loft to which they all have a key.  All five of the friends are married and all five of them have secrets.  Vincent (Karl Urban) is the unofficial leader of this group of friends, an architect who is also a compulsive cheater.  Luke (Wentworth Miller) is a nervous guy who appears to worship Vincent.  Marty (Eric Stonestreet) is an alcoholic who always manages to say the wrong thing.  Chris (James Marsden) is a psychiatrist who often seems to feel that he’s morally superior to his other friends.  And Phillip (Mattias Schoenarts) is Chris’s half-brother, a mentally unstable and violent guy who snorts cocaine and may have incestuous feelings towards his younger sister.

The five men use the loft to cheat on their wives.  The men are all confident that only they know about the existence of the loft and that they are the only ones who have a key.  So, naturally enough, they are all a little shocked when a woman turns up dead in the loft.  As the men gather in the loft, they debate who killed her and we get numerous flashbacks to how this all came to be.

Of course, it all leads to many secrets being revealed.  This is one of those films that simply cannot stop with one plot twist.  Instead, every twist leads to another twist until eventually, it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with who knows what.  In fact, the film features so many twists that it all quickly gets a bit silly.  But, at the same time, it’s also undeniably entertaining.  Strangely enough, the fact that it doesn’t make much sense only add to the film’s melodramatic charm.

As for the five men — well, none of them are particularly likable but at least they’re all interesting to watch.  Wentworth Miller is properly strange, Matthias Schoenarts is properly sleazy, and Eric Stonestreet is properly pathetic.  James Marsden often seems wasted in mainstream films (like Straw Dogs and The Butler) but he’s actually very charming when he appears in B-movies like this one and Walk of Shame.  And finally, you’ve got Karl Urban, doing great work and turning Vincent into the epitome of every middle-aged guy who has ever tried to flirt with me while I was waiting at a red light.

The Loft may not have got much respect when it was released into theaters but it’s entertaining enough for Netflix.

Film Review: Resident Evil: Afterlife (Dir. by Paul W.S. Anderson)

Last Friday, I saw the latest Resident Evil film — Resident Evil: Afterlife.

What can I say about Resident Evil: Afterlife?  I’ve been trying to figure that out for two days now.  For obvious reasons, this movie — like the other Resident Evil films — is just a video game put up on screen.  The film is a collection of set pieces that are all built around various characters having to complete tasks in a certain amount of time.  You can almost imagine various instructions popping up on the screen: “Clear the roof so that Alice can land her plane.”  “Swim through the basement to get the weapons cache.”  “Reach The Underground Tunnel Before The Building Explodes.”    In the lead role of Alice, Mila Jovovich still can’t act and director Paul W. S. Anderson still seems to believe that any cinematic weaknesses can be covered up by slow motion.

(By the way, there’s a chance that you might see the name Paul W. S. Anderson in the opening credits and you might say something like, “I guess he has to make movies like this so he can make movies like There Will Be Blood.”  Do not say this out loud because, while it’s totally understandable that you might be hyperactive and therefore, you sometimes say the first thing that pops into your head or maybe  you just sometimes get in a kinda ditzy state of mind and you might just happen to forget that Paul W. S. Anderson is not Paul Thomas Anderson, the people you saw the movie with will still be making fun of you at least two days later.)

This is the type of movie that critics hate and that , all things considered, I should probably hate too.  After all, I’ve devoted a lot of time and energy to criticizing Avatar for having a predictable plot.  So, how can I not hate a film, like Resident Evil: Afterlife, that doesn’t even have a plot to begin with?

Well, I didn’t hate Resident Evil: Afterlife.  I certainly didn’t love it and I think that it’s a total failure of as a zombie film (but then again, we all know the Resident Evil films aren’t really zombie films to begin with) but the movie is really the epitome of stupid fun.  The movie doesn’t pretend to be anything other than that. 

Sometimes, you just have to stop worrying and go with the flow.

I have to admit that I’ve never actually played the Resident Evil games before and whenever I’ve seen any of the movies, I’ve had to take my good friend Jeff with me so that he could explain what was going on.  To be honest, I’ve made him explain it to me several times and I still don’t quite get it all but he’s so cute when he tries.  I did try to watch him play one of the Resident Evil games once.  At one point, he started talking back to the imaginary people on the TV screen, saying, “No, how about you go down there and find them!?”  So, to be honest, that’s what I think about when I think about Resident Evil

(And, to be honest, I kind of wish that — at one point during the movie — either Alice or her sidekick Claire — played by Ali Larter — had said something along those lines instead of just blindly agreeing to run off alone into hordes of zombies.  It’s what I would have said.  “You want me to go swim through the flooded basement to retrieve those weapons?  Hey, fuck you, Mr.  Man.  You go do it if you want those freaking guns so much…”)

Anyway, I’ve been told that the big deal in this film is that Wentworth Miller shows up playing Claire’s brother, Chris.  Apparently, Chris is a big deal in the game.  He doesn’t really do much in this film but that’s okay.  Jovovich and Larter kick more than enough ass on their own.  Since I’m always a fan of any movie that features women fighting back (as opposed to just waiting to be rescued), that was fine with me.

Anyway, the demonic dogs and all the usual zombies all show up but, to be honest, their presence is almost an afterthought.  They don’t have much to do.  If I did really have any huge complaint with this unambitious film, it’s that you never really believe that the zombie apocalypse would be that hard to survive.  The zombies, quite frankly, are way too metrosexual.

But as I said before, this is a fun film as long as you don’t think about it.  It’s a movie to see with a group of friends so you can all take turns making silly comments.  On the plus side, the film’s opening — in which Tokyo is destroyed — is very well done and the film has an excellent musical score.  This is a movie that was designed to be played loud.

Oh — and the 3-D effects?  Actually, the 3-D effects were surprisingly good and Anderson actually makes good use of them.  Admittedly, they made me feel car sick but that’s on me.  Don’t blame the movie.