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Being different is being great

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Maybe I don't give the Hollywood studios enough credit, because somebody down there came up with the fun idea to release two films directed by Paul Anderson on the same day. The flicks are very different and completely unrelated but that's probably because there are two directors named Paul Anderson.

Paul Thomas Anderson directed one of the best films of the past 20 years — Boogie Nights, the '70s porn homage that made Mark Walberg a star. PTA followed that up with Magnolia, Tom Cruise's last real acting job, Punch-Drunk Love, Adam Sandler's only real acting job, and There Will Be Blood, an Oscar winner and Daniel Day Lewis showcase. Forty-two years old this year, Paul Thomas Anderson grew up in Studio City, Hollywood (his father was a voice actor). His body of work is pretty genius but much of his stuff fails to hit with the mainstream audience. Paul PTA is too smart for his own hometown.

This may explain why The Master, his latest, is only getting a limited release when it opens this Friday (which means you're driving to Vancouver if you want to see it). The Master is about an ex-WWII-sailor-turned-scoundrel (Joaquin Phoenix) who falls into some kind of strange religious-y cult run by a guru who's kinda/sorta/for-sure based on Scientology's L. Ron Hubbard. Boogie Nights scene-stealer Phillip Seymour Hoffman plays him with all kinds of old-school gusto to match near-perfect 1950s art direction.

But The Master isn't a simple Scientology expose. This Paul Anderson is artistically above that kind of thing. Instead, he's taken a crazy piece of an idea and hung his own movie on it, used the premise to delve deeper into stuff like human relations and power.

The Master is long (138 minutes) and it might piss a lot of people off with it's vagueness but I suspect, somewhere in there, there is some kind of insight into whether or not people can truly ever change. Or be changed by someone else. It's weird and different, but like they used to tell us in preschool, "Being different is being great."

The other Paul Anderson is Paul WS Anderson, a 47-year-old Englishman who hit the ground running with a low-budget smash-and-grab crime flick called Shopping. After arriving in Hollywood he banged out Mortal Kombat, Event Horizon, Soldier, Death Race, Alien vs. Predator and Resident Evil, which spawned the best zombie franchise since 28 Days Later. THIS Paul Anderson is an action-before-words kind of guy who excels in violence, gore and blowing shit up while maybe tossing in a chick in a tight suit for good measure. He's basically as different from the other guy as one can get.

But that doesn't make Resident Evil: Retribution any less great. And at the very least it helps us know what to expect. This is after all the fifth film of a based-on-a-video-game franchise that has grossed nearly $700 million worldwide.

This time around our hero Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up in the belly of the beast, some super-tech Umbrella Corporation base, to learn they have been screwing with her mind, body and memories and have basically used her to perfect their zombie t-virus to take over the earth. Alice is an ass-kicker who doesn't need any more reason than that to unleash all kinds of pain and exit wounds on basically anything that moves. Retribution!

Both ends of the cinematic spectrum are covered this week. Whether you like the smart-to-near-tedium kind of film, or a hell-bent-for-leather kick-in-the-adrenal-gland, Paul Anderson has got you covered.

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