Plus "Fullmetal Alchemist: The Sacred Star of Milos"
"The Divide" presents agony as entertainment but ends up making entertainment a form of agony. For two hours, Xavier Gens guides his cast (including Michael Biehn, Rosanna Arquette and Courtney B. Vance) through an obstacle course of degradation, betrayal and lurid violence. Survivors of a nuclear attack holed up in an apartment building basement, they endure a tournament of brutality that winnows down the cast list to single digits. Their ordeals recall the standard outrages of prison movies: ritual humiliation, bloody power struggles, sexual exploitation, plus the added bonus of radiation poisoning. By the time the inevitable Final Girl makes her getaway, survival seems a questionable goal.
Generous viewers may take this dispiritingly grim tale as a microcosm of humanity under duress. Then again, "microcosm" is a pretty big word for "The Divide's" target audience. The film's only point appears to be lurid delight in topping one atrocity with another.
I'm a newcomer to the long-running and phenomenally popular anime series "Fullmetal Alchemist" (now showing on cable TV's "Adult Swim") but I think I could develop a taste for it. It's set in a lushly imagined parallel world of 1920s technology, political intrigue and magic.
Teen protagonists, Ed and Al (who is an empty suit of armor; no time to explain) have harnessed the power to transmute matter, which puts them in conflict with a werewolf-like chimera, a flying legion of bat-soldiers and a rival alchemist whose ice missiles and power bolts make Lord Voldemort look like an underachiever. The story zooms along at breakneck speed and I can't claim I digested all the geopolitical twists and rebel uprisings that fuel this episode (people with too much time on their hands should feel free to trace references to the Balkans, Tibet and Palestine).
The incomprehensible back story didn't dim my enjoyment much. The movie is a crackerjack audio-visual thrill ride. If you're mourning the loss of "Harry Potter" and can't wait for the next "X-Men," this is just your cup of sake.