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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Saturday, Oct. 25, 2014

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Milla Jovovich continues her fight against the undead in "Resident Evil: Retribution" this Friday.
Milla Jovovich continues her fight against the undead in "Resident Evil: Retribution" this Friday.

The five most tolerable video game movies

Ever since "Super Mario Bros." disappointed children everywhere in 1993, video game movies have been synonymous with abominations. Though video games have increased in mainstream popularity over the past twenty years, they haven't increased in quality. However, in honor of the somehow fifth "Resident Evil" movie hitting theaters this weekend, I'll attempt to be optimistic and list the five most tolerable video game films.

5. "Resident Evil: Apocalypse"

The second installment of the lifeless, yet somehow immortal "Resident Evil" saga is not a particularly good movie. The special effects are goofy, the performances are embarrassing, the costumes are hilariously distracting and the action is the series' usual brand of unconvincing wire-fu kicks and punches. However, I would argue that "Resident Evil: Apocalypse" is the closest the series has come to being fun. It's got the feel of an old-school zombie movie, bringing the series closer to the actual source material. If written and made a little smarter, it could have been an entertaining, "Piranha 3D"-like combo of B-movie chuckles and scares. Instead, most of the laughs and enjoyment are of the unintentional variety.

4. "Resident Evil"

When you ask most people what the best video game movie is, the majority of film fans will say 2002's opening installment to the "Resident Evil" franchise. It's not glaringly flawed and features a few decent action scenes and jump scares. Plus, since it's the beginning of Alice's battle with the idiotically devious Umbrella Corporation, the plot isn't quite as nonsensical as its successors (but it still makes no sense).

That being said, there's something inherently depressing about "Resident Evil." Writer/director/hack Paul W.S. Anderson took the essence of the original video game series, threw it out the window and replaced it with a loud, generic Euro-trash action film with a bland lead (who has improbably become the series' main character despite not existing in any of the games) doing fake-looking flips and kicks. It is watchable, though, which is more than I can say about "Alone in the Dark."

3. "Max Payne"

The Max Payne video game series, a gritty noir saga about a cop with a tragic past, came essentially pre-made for a movie. The 2008 adaptation takes a few of the ideas from the game but for the most part is a convoluted mess involving dead families, evil drugs and strange winged demons. It also features Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis attempting to act with cold intensity, but it mainly comes off as just not acting.

However, in a genre strewn with cheap-looking "Matrix" knock-offs and other bland features, "Max Payne" has a visual style that is actually pretty impressive. Director John Moore may not have many ideas about storytelling or guiding his actors, but his black-and-white slow motion visuals are often captivating. It's a painful movie to think critically about, but at least it's pretty to look at.

2. "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life"

Much like "Max Payne," the "Tomb Raider" series of video games seems perfect for a movie adaptation. They're essentially just Indiana Jones adventures but with a lot more misogyny. The first film, unfortunately, was a confusing slog. All I particularly remember is a climactic dream sequence in which Angelina Jolie and the villain run up opposite sides of a pyramid. Or at least, I think that's what happened.

The second film, directed by "Speed"'s Jan de Bont, isn't a great feature by any stretch of the imagination. Its story, though streamlined, is still weak, and if a chase or action scene isn't breaking out, "Cradle of Life" loses most of its already minimal steam. Thankfully, De Bont has a decent sense for stunts and action, so if a moviegoer goes in expecting just some fun chases, the second cinematic adventure of the world's worst archaeologist isn't awful. And for a video game adaptation, "isn't awful" is like a four-star review.

1. "Doom"

2005's "Doom," the cinematic adaptation of the ridiculously popular 1993 first-person shooter, is not a great movie. It is not even a particularly good movie. It's a far dumber, far cheaper version of "Aliens" directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, the man behind "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li," one of the worst films I've ever seen.

What "Doom" manages to do, however, that no other video game adaptation has, is entertain on an almost consistent basis. The horror-infused action has some moderately cool, creepy moments, and it stars Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who is unmatched when it comes to radiating macho charisma. There's even an effective twist near the end, an unexpected feat for a video game movie. "Doom" can be defined by a sequence near the end that replicates the first-person perspective of the original video game. It's silly and technically sketchy, but what the heck, it's goofily entertaining.

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