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Posts Tagged ‘Riddick’

We have spent a lot of the 21st century gazing at the stars, or at least CGI versions of them.  The century started with the second and third movies in the Star Wars prequels trilogy, Attack of the Clones (2002), and Revenge of the Sith (2005).  A series of films that are constantly being revaluated, I’m not sure if they are officially good or bad at the moment.  Star Trek ran out of steam, with the last movie from the Next Generation Crew Star Trek: Nemesis (2002) not being very good.  But then in J. J. Abrams came along and with the help of some wibbily wobbly timey wimey stuff (if I may quote a TV series in an article about movies) created a new timeline to retell the story of the original crew of the enterprise.  The first film Star Trek (2009) was excellent, the second Star Trek Into Darkness (2013), then Abrams jumped ship and the third film Star Trek Beyond (2016) directed by Justin Lin was a partial return to form.  There may be a fourth film in the series eventually, it keeps getting pushed back or going into turnaround.  There may also be a further film in the universe that by Quentin Tarantino, that is looking less and less likely. Star Trek Wars

The reason J. J. Abrams jumped (space)ship, was to go and work for the enemy, Star Wars.  The director of the first and final movies in a new trilogy, a third and final trilogy to bring the Skywalker saga to an end.  The films came about after Disney’s acquisition of Lucas Film (for a staggering amount of money).  All three films have their fans and detractors in a hugely polarized and quite amusing social media battle among a certain type of fanboy.  For me, the middle film, The Last Jedi (2017) written and directed  by Rian Johnson is the best (and the most controversial).  The Force Awakens (2015) is the safest of the three, but good fun and it introduces some great characters, and brings back some old favourites.  The Rise of Skywalker (2019) is certainly the weakest but is still good fun and gets to a satisfying end (except for that certain group of fanboys).  Along the way, we also got two Star Wars Anthology films, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) tells the story of the events leading up to the origonal 1977 film, and for me is the best film outside the original trilogy.  The flipside to that, Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) is totally unnecessary origin story of fan favourite Han Solo.  it isn’t terrible, just pointless.The end of the Skywalker sagaNot satisfied with just Star Wars, Disney went to space with their other big acquired property: Marvel.  They started in 2014 when they took a less well know Marvel property Guardians of the Galaxy and had a smash hit with a more, fun and comic take on the superhero genre.  a sequel Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 (2017) followed.  To be fair parts of The Avengers movies were also set in space, and Thor is from another planet.  It wasn’t until Thor: Ragnarok (2017), Taika Waititi’s brilliant but bonkers take on the character that you would call it a space adventure.  After a decade, and about 20 movies Disney finally gave a woman a leading role in a Marvel movie.  While a lot of the movie is based on earth, Captain Marvel (2019) is an intergalactic character, as is Marvels big bad Thanos.  All the characters of the MCU came together to fight an intergalactic battle with the big purple one in Avengers Infinity War (2018) and the biggest film of all time (if you don’t adjust for inflation) Avengers Endgame 2019.  That brings us nicely onto Avatar (2009), with an even higher boxoffice if you adjust for inflation.  James Cameron’s first movie since 1997 when he made a little film about a shipwreck.  As you would expect from Cameron, it made great advances in effects and technology, especially in 3D.  I am not a fan.  As yet he hasn’t made another film yet, but understand he is filming about 100 sequels back to back with the first due for release in about two years. Marvel goes to spaceDC’s ventures into space were less successful.  The Green Lantern (2011) about a group of intergalactic supper powered policemen was rubbish.  Man of Steel (2013) was a reboot of a 1970’s movie about a man called Kal-El who is sent to earth as a baby before his home planet is destroyed.  He ends up fighting against bodies from his home world.  It isn’t bad, but not as good as the 1978, and 1980 movies, and like those movies, all subsequent sequels are terrible. DC and AliensRidley Scott decided that we were all wrong, the most interesting thing about his Movie Alien (1979), and James Cameron’s sequel to it Aliens (1987), wasn’t the Xenomorph, or Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley.  It wasn’t the brilliant world building of the story where corporations are more powerful than countries.  He decided the derelict alien ship, and how the Aliens got there was more important.  He then gave us two extremely average films, Prometheus (2012), and Alien Covenant (2017).  There are some excellent characters that aren’t used very well, and some who don’t know how to run to the side.  almost realLets not be too tough on Ridley Scott, he has given us an excellent movie in the genre, The Martian (2015).  The story of a man left behind on Mars.  This is part of a crop of Sci-Fi movies that feel more realistic and closer to where we are now than Star Wars or Star Trek.  The pick of these for me was Gravity (2013).  A film so spectacular in IMAX 3D (the only good 3D experience I have had) that I have not re-watched it again, it just won’t be the same on TV.  Other films in this sub genre could include Christopher Nolan’s excellent Interstellar (2014), Danny Boyle’s underrated Sunshine (2007), Claire Denis bleak but brilliant High Life (2018), and James Gray’s disappointing Ad Astra (2019).   A film doesn’t have to be fiction, or particularly outlandish to be compelling, providing it is told well, and there are two such examples from the last two years: Damien Chazelle’s telling of the first man on the moon, Neil Armstrong in the film First Man (2018), and the documentary on the same subject: Apollo 11 (2019).  The latter is breathtaking look at the mission using stunning NASA images, no talking heads, or voiceover. smerfs monkeys aliens and the sunI wouldn’t include Passengers (2016) in the list of realist sci-fi movies, as it is too glossy and Sci-Fi, it is however worth seeing for the interesting plot, that is more disturbing the more you think about it.  Part of the premise of the film is people in hypersleep on their way to a distant planet.  Obviously something always goes wrong in these movies.  Others worth watching are: Pandorum (2009) a film that takes these ideas, and gives them a horror and survival adventure spin.  Pitch Black (2000) is an even better take on the horror space adventure, possibly the best and most original since the first two Alien films.  It’s sequel The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), was terrible, but the third film Riddick (2013) isn’t bad, although its attempt to recreate the original are a little forced.  Life (2017) has the almost real world setting, a fictionalised version of The International Space Station, it rapidly turns into Alien when an alien life form gets loose.  It isn’t Alien, but it isn’t bad. Horror in spaceThe man who gave us The Fifth Element (1997) Luc Besson, was back this century, with another bold and bonkers tale: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017).  The film had mixed reviews, as Besson’s work often does, I liked it.  The title is a little misleading and under serves one of its characters, based on the French science fiction comics series Valérian and Laureline; Laureline is the more interesting character and probably has a larger part in the story than Valérian.  That asside, it is bright and bold and like nothing else, except maybe The Fifth Element!a mix of fact and fantasy (1)Saving the best for last.  When I went to see Joss Whedon’s Serenity (2005), I had not seen (or even heard of) Firefly, I have since watched the whole (short) series more than once.  The movie is nothing short of a masterpiece.  It works whether you have seen the TV show or not.  It is all the more impressive, as it was Whedon’s feature debut as a director.  The budget was less than $40million or about a quarter of Revenge of the Sith that came out the same year.  This doesn’t show, as the film looks amazing, largely thanks to clever photography and practice sets/effects over CGI.  Ticking every box for a space adventure, and a western, the film is fun, and often very funny, but there is a far deeper message about society, about right and wrong, but it is far more nuanced than anything you will get from Disney or Star Wars, it isn’t black and white, or light and dark, The Alliance is not The Empire!SerenityI have probably missed lots, but these are the ones that spring to mind.  I pleased to say the genre is in good health at the movies, and on TV, but that will have to be an entire article in itself. 

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This months movies are made up of sports biography, B movie horror, dumb action and gritty thrillers. I enjoyed them all, even the ones I didn’t expect to.

Rush: The true story of the rivalry between F1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda during the 1976 season. Chris Hemsworth and Daniel Brühl are excellent as Hunt and Lauda. Ultimately it is a story about people not about racing making it suitable for audiences who are not F1 fans, the story is close enough to the real story to keep race fans happy.Rush

You’re Next: Having debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival’s Midnight Madness program two years ago the low budget home invasion slasher movie finally makes it to UK and American cinemas. The direction isn’t great, a lot of the acting is poor and the dialogue is often terrible. Despite this, I really enjoyed it largely for a likeable performance from Sharni Vinson and a plot that has just enough twists and turns.You’re Next

Riddick: A series of plot contrivances put Vin Diesel’s Richard B. Riddick back in a situation reminiscent of his first outing in 2000’s Pitch Black. Not as good as Pitch Black but a vast improvement on The Chronicles of Riddick.Riddick 2013

White House Down: Die Hard in the West Wing part two. Fun and funny, very knowing and self aware it is considerably better than Olympus Has Fallen and A Good Day to Die Hard. Channing Tatum, Jamie Foxx and James Woods are all on greet form and clearly having fun, Maggie Gyllenhaal is grossly underused.White House Down

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints: 1970’s Texas, an escaped convict heads home to see his wife and the daughter her has never met. The dreamlike narrative, long lingering visuals and muted tones have been compared to Terrance Malick, while less interesting than Badlands it is worth seeing for great performances from Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck and Ben Foster.Ain't Them Bodies Saints

The Call: Halle Berry plays a 911 operator and Abigail Breslin the kidnap victim she takes a call from. Silly, predictable and derivative thriller that is surprisingly enjoyable.The Call

Prisoners: Often stark and grim thriller about two abducted children from French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve making his English-language debut. The story cleverly manipulates the viewers and has an interesting and timely subtext. The all star cast (Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Maria Bello, Terrence Howard, Melissa Leo, Paul Dano) are all on great form. Too grey and grim to be completely enjoyable but certainly a compelling watch.Prisoners

Blue Jasmine: When her banker husband is revealed to be a crook, New York socialite Jasmine moves to San Francisco to live with her working class sister. Described by many as Woody Allen’s best movie in years, I’m not sure its better than Midnight in Paris, but its certainly good. Cate Blanchett and Sally Hawkins are both sensational. Anything less than a best actress and best supporting actress Oscar nomination would be a travesty.

Blue Jasmine

Runner Runner:Slick but lightweight crime thriller set against the backdrop of online gambling.  Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck are both good but Gemma Arterton isn’t given much to do.  Its predictable and cliched but worse than that, it is unoriginal (its basically a pale imitation of Gilda)  and has nothing of interest to say on the subject.Runner Runner

The Movie of the month is:Rush movie poster

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riddick movie posterBack in 2000 I was lucky enough to see a preview of Pitch Black about six months before it went on general release. Director David Twohy succeeded in creating a sci-fi action adventure with elements of horror that was both engaging and containing some original ideas, most importantly he did it on a relatively low budget. The cast consisted of largely unknown actors, Vin Diesel was at the time best know for a small part in Saving Private Ryan or as the voice of The Iron Giant, the rest of the cast were vaguely recognisable from TV. The reason the movie worked so well was a combination of factors. With just enough exposition to help us understand the setting, the movie got on with its business from the start introducing an array of interesting characters with believable if lightly sketched back stories, the key all these characters were flawed in some way. The heroes weren’t very heroic and the villains had redeeming features. The creatures they found themselves up against were both original and well conceived. The lack of stars made it impossible to tell who would survive and who wouldn’t. It was fresh and original and offered something we hadn’t seen since Alien more than two decades before. Unfortunately all the great work was undone by a terrible sequel. The Chronicles of Riddick was the right thing to do in theory, take the character from Pitch Black and put him in a new scenario telling a new story and exploring the character further. Sadly it just didn’t work, the idea was too big and grand for the execution and most seriously it changed the character too much, that and the fact the film was dull as hell. Costing twice as much to make as Pitch Black and Riddick put together, it was a self indulgent folly.Pitch Black & the chronicles of riddick

It therefore came as a surprise that Diesel and Twohy were re-teaming for a third instalment. Happily the plot contrives to put Riddick back in a similar environment to the first movie and it returns to a relatively low budget. Betrayed by the Necromongers (see The Chronicles of Riddick if you really want to know who they are. The new film will still make sense if you skip that instalment) and left for dead on a planet that turns out to be “Not Furya” (Furya, being Riddick’s lost and forgotten home planet). This first act is a risk as it is light on dialogue other than a dour voiceover, but it really works and is possibly the best part of the film. As Riddick rediscovers himself as the character we fist met he finds a way off the planet by luring bounty hunters to catch him. As this unfolds we get an interesting second and third act culminating in something reminiscent of but just different enough from Pitch Black.Riddick

The film has its problems notably Katee Sackhoff as Dahl. She is the most interesting new character in the movie and looks at times like she will be as important to the plot as Radha Mitchell in Pitch Black. Unfortunately the character is underused and at time only exists for titillation or comedy. She is also the subject of some misjudged dialogue where the filmmakers can not decide if Riddick is the sociopath killer we were first told or a roguish anti hero. Then there is a possibly unnecessary connection to Pitch Black that becomes distracting as the actor involved is about twenty years too young to play this character. These are small complaints as anyone watching this is here to see Riddick and not the supporting players.Katee-Sackhoff-in-Riddick-2013-Movie

The end result is a film that is far from the great original film but a vast improvement and a return to form in comparison to the misjudged first sequel. It is stage two of Vin Diesel returning to the characters that made him successful. In 2009 he returned to The Fast and the Furious franchise after sitting out the first two sequels (except for an after credits cameo). The final instalment of this renaissance is due in a couple of years with XXX: The Return of Xander Cage. As for Riddick, as mentioned it has its problems but also has its moments, fans of either of the first two movies will probably like it, it will also hopefully introduce a new audience to the character who will go on to see Pitch Black.Riddick 2013

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