by Coop Cooper
“Riddick” – Based off of the prequel films “Pitch Black” and “The Chronicles of Riddick,” Vin Diesel once again finds himself stranded on desert planet full of hostile wildlife after his duplicitous compatriots double-cross him and leave him for dead. Raising an alien wolf and becoming an interplanetary version of Robinson Crusoe, Riddick discovers a secret about the planet that compels him to quickly find a way off of it. He locates a remote mercenary supply depot and alerts them to his presence despite the ever-increasing bounty on his head. Two competing bounty hunter ships arrive, causing a dangerous standoff between them, Riddick and the impending alien danger that approaches.
I like the character of Riddick and how perfectly Diesel plays him. I respect that Diesel and director/writer David Twohy loved the character so much they financed this film themselves and risked financial ruin to make it. I hope it is at least a moderate success despite being a mediocre film that unnecessarily sidetracks the franchise. Additionally, it repeats and recycles so many of the elements from “Pitch Black” it feels almost like a remake. Their were also some needless throwbacks to the previous films that would baffle anyone unfamiliar with or too far removed from the franchise to understand character motivations or what the heck is going on.
Still, I liked it and felt it had enough quality sci–fi and action elements to recommend it to anyone who liked the previous films, the animated shorts or the video games associated with the character of Riddick. He really is one of the most interesting and iconic characters in sci–fi history and I hope Diesel and Twohy are able to keep him alive with films like this.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
“You’re Next” – Here’s a very simple premise: A family meets in a remote country home for a tense and long-overdue reunion when suddenly three masked maniacs start picking them off one by one. Unfortunately for the maniacs, a girlfriend (Sharni Vinson) of one of the family’s sons has a special set of skills that allows her to fight back against the attackers.
This indie film got so much attention at the larger film festivals this year that it secured a modest theatrical release. Critics hailed it as a genre game-changer and a masterpiece. I’m sorry to say the film is neither, but it is at least a solid and entertaining paint-by-the-numbers home invasion horror film with a few fairly predictable twists. I wasn’t blown away by the story or the lead character who didn’t really have any dark or shocking reason for her unexpected survival skills, some of which reminded me of gags from the PG “Home Alone” films. I saw a lot of potential, but I saw even more missed opportunities. It’s a slightly above-average example of the subgenre but I did appreciate its retro-style.
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
“The World’s End” – Directed by “Shaun of the Dead,” “Hot Fuzz” and “Scott Pilgrim” director Edgar Wright, this story concerns five middle-aged childhood friends in England who are conned into returning to their hometown by the group ne‘er-do-well (Simon Pegg) in attempt to recreate a legendary twelve pub crawl they failed to complete in their youth. In the process, they run afoul of an army of body-snatching alien androids with plans to take over the world… but they refuse to let that stop them from finishing their crawl to reach the final pub called ‘The World’s End’. Their task becomes increasingly difficult due to their rule that they must have at least one pint at every pub.
The rapid-fire British wit on display in this all-star ensemble film is dizzying. The jokes and sight gags come so fast and furious that you hardly have time to finish laughing before the next one drops. Pegg (“Star Trek’s” Scotty) leads the cast supported by Nick Frost, Martin Freeman, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan and Rosamund Pike. The acting is top-notch, the writing is flawless and the comedy is reasonably palatable for a non-British audience.
This is one of the most refined and well-done comedies of the year. It all depends on whether you can ‘get’ this brand of comedy and decipher the relatively mild British accents. I also like the manic, boozy chemistry between the actors, the creepy Doctor Who-like villains and the familiar sci–fi tropes it explores. This is a quality sci-fi/action/comedy hybrid with a lot of heart. Highly recommended.
Rating: 4 and 1/2 out of 5 stars