Monday, September 13, 2010

Resident Evil: Afterlife - Have Icee, Will Suspend all Disbelief

I've recently fallen in love once again with an old friend: the Icee.

It's a decadently sweet frozen treat, with just a hint of bubbles that spread the cherry-flavored sugar over your tongue in brain-freeze inducing bliss, and there's not an ounce of redeemable value in it, but isn't it just delicious?

It was the perfect beverage to accompany me when I went to go see Resident Evil: Afterlife in 3-D. I've been a longtime fan of both the movies and the video game series of the same name, and I've been waiting for the fourth installment with a giddy excitement that only comes with being a bit of a groupie.

Part of the reason is my weakness for all things zombie. The other part is the fact that for four movies, a female action hero has carried a movie with the same amount of badassness that a man would, and aside from an occasional Angelina Jolie vehicle, those types of characters seem to be regulated instead to character-driven dramas on cable.

Now, let me just get this out of the way: Resident Evil: Afterlife is a silly, silly movie. It's not nearly the horror-laden gore-fest that the first Resident Evil movie was, it's not the 'band of survivors zombie flick' that the second movie became, and it's not calculated and smart like the third movie.

And I'm not going to even try to mention the Resident Evil games, which are magnificent and genuinely terrifying (at least some of the better incarnations, like Resident Evil: 4). The simple fact is, the film franchise's heroine Alice is not in ANY of the videogames.

Resident Evil: Afterlife really just becomes a zombie-inspired Charlie's Angels flick, with action scene followed by action scenes, completely implausible situations, the ability to walk away from helicopters crashing into mountains and and find perfect make up when there's not a Wal-Mart to be found.

No matter what the circumstances, from being the last standing survivor in a apocalyptic world, to being drenched in sewage and blood, the leading ladies of Resident Evil: Afterlife will never look anything but slightly unruffled. Even Ali Larter's 'Claire', who begins the movie covered in dust and acting like a wild woman in arid Alaska, soon cleans herself off and has found mascara, blush, eye shadow and the perfect shade of lipstick, ready to stand beside Milla Jovovich and compete for the 'best pose while dripping wet in slow motion' award.

The script itself? Hokey and full of plot-holes the size of Antartica, following a formulaic-brand of shock-and-awe that leaves very little surprises. Two lead actors and a bit player jump into the water to swim to an armory. Guess which won't come back? Two lead characters and a bit player stand at the edge of a hole. Guess who is going to be sliced in half by the boss character who just showed up for no reason?

It kind of goes like that for the entire movie. Time for a fight scene! Time for Alice to look bad ass! Wait, has someone been mauled by a zombie in the last five minutes? Fixed it! Wait, we need some slow motion fight scenes with a completely implausible exit! Done! Let's have a guy keep a plane from sliding off a building with only his brute strength! He can do it! Yes he can!

But that's the point, isn't it? Resident Evil: Afterlife was shot in 3-D, with that same technology that brought us Avatar, and the result? A great looking movie. Everything about it is visually stunning. The women are stunning, the action is stunning, the cinematography is gorgeous, and it goes down as sweet and as sugary as an Icee.

The point is, if you're looking for a zombie movie? Rent Zombieland or Shaun of the Dead. Go see Resident Evil if you want to see hot chicks kicking ass, looking fantastic while they're doing it. Go see Resident Evil if you want to see awesome fight scenes, and get your adrenaline pumped. Resident Evil: Afterlife is worth watching if you can suspend your disbelief, go with the flow, and tell yourself that it's all just pretty movie-making.

And splurge a little and buy yourself an Icee to go with it. Trust me, it helps.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Costa Rica in the Rainy Season

Do you know what happens when you go to Costa Rica in the Rainy Season, and you travel with the same group of white people and you're the only Latina who looks golden brown and also speaks passable Spanish?

You're mistaken for the tour guide. A lot.

Not that I wouldn't be an awesome tour guide. I'm quippy and not afraid to get dirty and I don't mind riding in the front of the bus or translating a lot.And I'd probably get paid better. And I'd be getting commission anyway because, I'll be telling anyone anyways that Costa Rica? Is awesome. I live and die by the guide book. And before the trip I put together a binder with our flight itineraries and our agendas and helpful information about each area. Yes, I'm a nerd. But don't you wish you had someone like me on your trip? Our trip was booked through, and they were awesome. Picked us up right at the airport, handed us a detailed itinerary and made sure we were taken care of every leg of the journey. We had shuttles everywhere, which was a good thing because people drive like maniacs in San Jose.

Ethnocentric, you say? We were at a stop light and saw a car rear end a taxi right next to us. Yeah.

No one batted an eye.

Adventure 1: San Jose and Whitewater Rafting

Our trip began on the outskirts of San Jose, where we were to spend the night before being picked up to head to our white water rafting adventure. Being of the determined sort, I decided we needed to see the country's capital before we left, so we hopped in a taxi and headed in to San Jose. Right before this happened, I decided to douse myself in bug repellent. Did you know I'm allergic to bug repellent? Particularly, this stuff called 'Deet' in the bug repellent? Yeah I didn't either.

I found out soon enough when my skin began burning in the taxi and I was scratching myself quite improperly around my boobs and my back and my arms. What began as itchy morphed into feeling like I was being flayed alive. Did we come prepared with anti-allergic stuff? Of course!

Did we leave it at the hotel room? Of course we did!

Our trip to the gold museum was detoured to a trip to a Costa Rican pharmacy. No, we didn't take pictures. Still, the Gold Museum was interesting enough. When we headed out, we were greeted by a heavy torrent of rain. Because, you know, it's the rainy season.
Fear not! You think, we knew this, so of course we packed ponchos and the hotel hands out umbrellas, right?Of course! Except we left the ponchos in the hotel room with the allergy medicine and we neglected to bring an umbrella. Five blocks later, we managed to buy an umbrella from an entrepreneurial guy who sold it to us for 4 bucks, and landed drenched to 'Nuestra Tierra', a Costa Rican tourist trap that was recommended to us by the taxi driver.

We paid 60 bucks for mediocre chicken, steak and beans and rice.

The next morning, we were loaded in a bus and driven out of San Jose to an outdoor adventures company that does white water rafting. We were told all about the Paquares river, with class III and IV rapids and amazing waterfalls and canyons! It was going to be amazing!

Then we were told, yeah, we're not doing that one. It's too high and we're doing the Carmen instead, the baby river with class II and III rapids and a lot of mud.The majority of our time was spent laughing with the guides and splashing other boats. Not quite the adrenaline rush I was looking for.

Oh well.

From there it was a two and a half hour bus ride to La Fortuna.

Adventure 2: Arenal Volcano and the Tabacon Hot Springs

Rural Costa Rica is absolutely breathtaking; a tangle of jungle and cows and rivers, with an occasional town dotted in between. We were staying in tiny La Fortuna, mostly a tourist town thanks to the Arenal Volcano that looms over it.

Here, after a nature hike where we saw leafcutter ants in action, we headed to the Tabacan hot springs, where water heated by the volcano is gathered in 18 different pools that you can wander around and steam in before heading to the cooler pool to cool off.

It was decadent, and I wanted more time there.

Also, there was a water slide.

The next day, there was a shuttle to the manmade lake of Arenal, and a boat ride across it, where I was mistaken for the tour guide. Then a van picked us up on the other side of the lake and a two hour drive up a gravel, rickety road to the Monteverde Cloud Forest Preserve, where we are up so high we're literally blanketed by condensation.

Adventure 3: Monteverde and the lack of hot water
At first, we were in love with our little cabin. Then we discovered that we had either scalding hot water or frigid cold water for a shower, and no in between.

We were less in love.
But we did get picked up for our SkyTrek and Canopy adventure, where we got strapped into rigs, put into the little cars that ride on long lines (like at Disneyland) and taken into the jungle, where we then zipped across wilderness and canyons, high above the landscape, being tossed and battered by the wind and the rain.

On the shuttle ride back, we were dropped off at the Frog Pond, where we got a guided tour of all the native frogs of Costa Rica. Think it's silly? It was awesome.

Less awesome? Trying to take a shower after all that.

Adventure 4: Tamarindo surfing and puffer fishies
Our shuttle drive to the beach involved a two hour drive down that gravel road, which seemed bumpier and gravelier than ever. But four hours later, we had arrived in Tamarindo, at our beach resort.

We had three days here, and so there was time for lots of adventures and misadventures. This involved surfing (and a bruised knee), atv driving (through rivers! My socks turned brown), horseback riding in the rain (our camera broke), and snorkeling on a sunset cruise (remember the rainy season? There was no sunset).

And guess what? Our hot water fled us again.

Adventure 5: Trying to find the Coffee Farm

After the third day, we got picked up bright an early by a shuttle driver who promised to take us back to San Jose, to a coffee farm. The problem? He didn't quite know where it was.

There was a lot of driving on gravel roads (a habit in Costa Rica), before we landed as the place that farms coffee for 'Tres Generaciones' coffee.

We learned about coffee. It was interesting. Seriously.

Then we got to buy some coffee, went into a butteryfly garden, and were taken to our four star business hotel for the night.
We had hot water. I almost cried.

I got home on Sunday exhausted. Flopping on my bed, too tired to sleep, I turned on my television and took a look at my tivo to see what I had missed.

Saved on the DVR? The Southpark Episode that dealt with the kids joining 'Getting Gay with Kids' and getting lost in the Costa Rican rain forest.

I laughed my ass off.