Film review: Riddick (2013)


“Riddick” with Vin Diesel, Jordi Mollà, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff, Dave Batista, Bokeem Woodbine, Raoul Trujillo, and Karl Urban

Directed by David Twohy, Written by David Twohy

Riddick 3 PosterRiddick (at least in its current iteration) is the lovechild of actor Vin Diesel and writer/director David Twohy. Vin Diesel has played the title character in all the film and video game adaptations. However, not only has Diesel always portrayed the gravely rogue, Diesel also vied and won the rights to Riddick due to his cameo in “Fast & Furious” as well as levied his own home to procure the necessary investment required to make the third installment, “Riddick.”

As mentioned, “Riddick” is the third feature film starring the eponymous character; David Twohy and Diesel seemed to have amalgamated the better parts of the prior two films to create something entirely new and better with a relatively small budget. It seems as-if the personal investment of the film has been quite successful for the two, so here is to hoping that more Riddick is down the pipeline.

The film starts off by recapping the events of “The Chronicles of Riddick” and tying them into Riddick’s current predicament. After being Lord Marshall of the Necromonger fleet for five-years, Riddick has grown restless and inevitably takes the bait when Commander Vaako (Karl Urban of “The Chronicles of Riddick”) dangles a carrot that Riddick can’t resist. Vaako offers Riddick the supposed location of Riddick’s home planet Furya, which has been lost to all record. Riddick obliges, and ends up being double-crossed by Vaako’s right-hand man and left for dead on an unnamed, hostile planet buried beneath the rubble of a cliffside.

The real heart of the film “Riddick” begins here with Riddick’s survival and subsequent plan of attack concerning his escape from the planet. The first third of the film was the most enjoyable. Riddick is beaten and tattered with a myriad of broken bones (specifically a rather bad compound fracture in his leg), and is required to shed his near-kingly garb and mentality to become more primitive in order to survive. The film introduces a host of wild and creative creatures that constantly test Riddick’s endurance.

During these sequences, director David Twohy uses wide sweeping shots that show the horror and beauty of the alien world that Riddick currently resides.

Riddick 3

After quite a bit exploring and mending, Riddick finally stumbles across a co-op mercenary bunker belonging to any mercenaries planetside. In order for Riddick to acquire passage off of the planet he has to essentially call the men and women who want to kill him for his bounty. The remainder of the movie focuses on this aspect of the storyline. Two bands of mercenaries answer Riddick’s call, both with very different agendas, and proceed to hunt and be hunted by Riddick while the planet’s creatures rally in kind.

The only remnants of “The Chronicles of Riddick” are visage are the special effects and backstory. Some of the shots of the planet and creatures are incredibly intricate and eye-catching, while on the whole, the plot and relative structure more closely follow Riddick’s freshman effort, “Pitch Black.”

Ultimately, the film manages to blend the best of the both earlier entries by creating something that honestly has a lot of heart and soul. It’s an action movie through-and-through, but because Vin Diesel owns the role so completely and the series continuously pushes forward even with such great setbacks, any filmgoer can tell that it is a labor of love rather than a quick paycheck.

Personally, I would rather see a solid action flick made by people who just want to make a movie than a solid drama that aims only for accolades.

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Film review: It’s a Disaster (2012)


“It’s a Disaster” with Rachel BostonDavid CrossAmerica Ferrera, Jeff Grace, Erinn Hayes, Kevin M. Brennan, Blaise Miller, Julia Stiles, and Todd Berger

Directed by Todd Berger, Written by Todd Berger 

its_a_disaster“It’s a Disaster” is an art-house, black comedy starring Rachel Boston, David Cross, America Ferrera, Jeff Grace, Erinn Hayes, Kevin M. Brennan, Blaise Miller, Julia Stiles, and Todd Berger; it is also directed and written by Todd Berger who is most notable for his work on the film “The Scenesters” and the acclaimed television show “Parks and Recreation.”  Not only is “It’s a Disaster” an understated comedy that manages to create laughter with death, divorce, infidelity, and Nerve Gas, it does so under the horrible pretense of Armageddon!

“It’s a Disaster” explores the inner workings of couples and relationships all under the premise of destruction and death.  It is clever and witty when it needs to be, but also raw and heartfelt.  This adds to its charm by creating an emotional dichotomy between the characters, which not only escalates throughout the film but results in a fabulous twist that really cinches everything together in an epic finale.

The plot is fairly mundane in the fact that it primarily deals with couples, their relationship with one another at different stages of their pairing, as well as the couples’ interaction with one another in a public setting.  In this instance, the public setting is the popular and much joked upon, ‘couple’s brunch.’

However, like aforementioned, this mundane situation is all under the umbrella of the Apocalypse.  Essentially, the ensemble cast gets trapped in the host’s home during their regular brunch due to a series of dirty bombs that get released in their hometown.  Jim Emerson’s synopsis on RogerEbert.com describes it succinctly:

Seven friends and one newcomer gather for a Sunday “couples brunch.” Because most of them have known one another for years, and because they are fairly petty and duplicitous, they embed covert barbs and hidden agendas in almost everything they say and do. Conversations appear familiar and convivial on the surface but carry a disconcerting undertone of cattiness that’s almost a private language.

its_a_disaster-1Emerson, quickly hits upon the attenuation of the film.  A lot of the conversations seem casual on the surface, but on a close (or second) watching the alternate meanings become more-and-more prevalent.  The acting needed to be nuanced to pull off the script and for the cast pulls it off; each couple stands out uniquely against the next and thus brings something different to the proverbial table than the couple next to it.  This is then bolstered by the quality writing; the jokes are frequent but subtle, which add to the overall tone of the film.

The only faltering aspect of the movie was the ending.  I felt that such a carefully crafted film would have a more poignant conclusion, but the last seconds of the movie leave the audience feeling left empty.  This doesn’t ruin the entire film, but it is a shame to leave such a great story left unfilled.  On the whole though, I would still recommend “It’s a Disaster”; the journey alone is worth the viewing.

I would suggest “It’s a Disaster” to anyone interested in a charming, unique comedy that has a tendency to strike the dark side a little more frequently than most.  “It’s a Disaster” garnishes four-out-of-five stars.

Film review: The Wolverine (2013)


“The Wolverine” with Hugh Jackman, Hiroyuki Sanada, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima, Famke Janssen, Will Yun Lee, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, and Brian Tee

Directed by James Mangold, Written by Mark Bomback & Scott Frank

02Comparing “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” to “The Wolverine” is like comparing apples to oranges.  They are both about Marvel’s burly and animalistic Wolverine, but they could not be any more different.  Origins seemed to explore a bit of Wolvie’s past under the framework of the prior X-Men movies (i.e. familiar characters, settings, and themes), but unfortunately it didn’t hit home like the prior X-Men films.  The writing fell flat, because 20th Century Fox took odd twists and turns with fan favorites like Gambit and Deadpool and then never expanded on them in future films like they promised.  Instead of bridging Wolverine’s backstory to the acclaimed X-Men trilogy, Fox ended up widening the gap.

However, “The Wolverine,” takes an entirely different approach to the eponymous character.  Audiences get to see the Adamantium and claws stripped away in a more emotionally driven film.  Wolverine is facing an existential crisis.  Following the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand” filmgoers get to see the Wolverine battle is own mortality, or rather near-immortality, during a series of dream sequences centering-around Jean Grey, which is reprised by award-winning Dutch actor, Famke Janssen.  This creates a great underlying plot, and immediately sets “The Wolverine” apart from the other X-Men films.

Surprisingly enough, “The Wolverine” closely follows the original comic book volume of Wolverine, Chris Claremont and Frank Miller’s four-part miniseries, that set the tone and standard for Wolverine and his story arcs.  Even though the film is set after the events of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” instead of “X-Men Origins,” “The Wolverine” accurately showcases the events of the 1982 comic book series.  Slight changes have been made to modernize and fit the screenplay into the continuity of the X-Men franchise but on the whole I was incredibly surprised by the amount of source material represented in the movie.

06Following the conclusion of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” in which Jean Grey (aka the Phoenix) is killed by Wolverine in order to stop her from committing genocide, Wolverine    once again takes to the Canadian Rockies.  Living as an animal, Logan only ever comes down from the mountains to garnish what little supplies that he needs.  After a particularly unjust hunting party pulls Wolverine from his introspection and a mysterious Japanese woman shows up to escort Logan to her adoptive grandfather, the films gains traction.  The remainder of “The Wolverine” takes place in Japan with an almost all Japanese cast, and focuses on Wolverine’s relationship to a (now) elderly Japanese man who Logan saved during the closing days of World War II after the atomic drop over Nagasaki.

Rivals emerge and mutants aid both sides, but at its heart “The Wolverine” is primarily focused on Wolverine.  It discusses his mental state after killing Jean, his own mortality as he confronts an old acquaintance, and ultimately his place in an ever shifting world.  Hugh Jackman portrays the character perfectly.  He is, for lack of a better phrase, the only actor that could ever play Wolverine.  He is the best he is at what he does.

Aside from the phenomenal adaptation and Jackman’s performance, the action sequences are tight and the revelations are legitimately surprising.  There are only a handful of lines that came off forced or cheesy, but they can be forgiven considering the overall quality of the film.  The pacing is so smooth and cyclical, that I personally had difficulties telling where the climax of the film landed; this left me without a frame of reference.  Usually I can tell when the conclusion is eminent, but this time around I had difficulties nailing it down.  I think that this is a byproduct of closely adapting a mini-series into a film.  It felt more like a series of mini-climaxes akin to the conclusion of four separate issues culminating in the finale of a series.  Regardless, the flow was appropriate and I never felt that the film hung in exposition or action for too long.  It had great balance.

This is a solid superhero film that pays homage to its source material better than most and keeps with the character’s integrity after nearly fifteen years.  Cheers to Hugh Jackman and the whole crew for “The Wolverine.”  “The Wolverine” garnishes four-out-of-five stars.

Also, do not forget to stick around for the after the credits scene.  It ties wonderfully into “X-Men: Days of Future Past,” which is slated to release May of 2014.  Its got surprises a plenty and if it doesn’t get you excited for the next X-Men film then I’m not sure what would.

(SOURCE: Film review: The Wolverine (2013))

“(500) Days of Summer” Posters, Stills, & Quotes


During the composition of my “(500) Days of Summer” review I came a cross a mountain of alternative posters, movie stills, and inspirational quotes tied to the film.  There is an insane amount of material for this movie.  The fan have successfully ‘cultisized’ it, so I decided to do a supplementary post showcasing some of the cool promo pieces that the studio and the fans have come up with–check it out!

“(500) Days of Summer”


“(500) Days of Summer” with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel, Geoffrey Arend, Chloe Grace Moretz, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Clark Gregg

Directed by Marc Webb, Written by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber

(500) Days of Summer“(500) Days of Summer” struck me, and not in a good way.  I enjoyed it upon reflection, but not at first.  I felt sad, depressed, and filled with angst immediately following my Valentine’s viewing of “(500) Days of Summer.”  However, like aforementioned, my initial reaction was more based in the circumstance, rather than the actual quality of the film.

“(500) Days of Summer” falls into a sub-genre of the standard romantic comedy–one that I can’t really put my finger on.  I am almost positive that there is a name for it, yet my knowledge of film classifications is most impressive once I strike moot.  At parts “(500) Days of Summer” fit the rom-com bill perfectly; however, on the whole it’s an entirely different beast.  It exists in a subset.  It tries to more deeply explore the idea of love, rather than giving audiences another difficult kindling of a couple not meant to-be/meant to-be.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays, Tom.  I wouldn’t call Tom ‘helplessly romantic,’ but he is definitely more-inclined to romanticism.  He believes in true love and the concept of a soulmate.  His counterpart, Summer played by Zooey Deschanel, feels oppositely.  She possesses that certain kind of ‘x-factor’ and subsequently has been hit on her whole life.

So what would happen if these two met and fell in love?

That is precisely the intent behind screenwriters, Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber’s “(500) Days of Summer.”  The plot is uniquely structured in that it skips around a 500 day period of Tom’s life during which Summer played an influential role.  The two obviously fall in love (after meeting as coworkers), but the real heart of the movie begs the question: Is this the one?

Ringo Starr Quote from (500) Days of SummerAs an audience member we get to see the goofy moments, the fights, the make-ups, and all-of-the other little joys and horrors of life’s relationships.  The story skips around never linearly progressing through the ‘500 days,’ yet the conversations amongst Tom and the rest of the cast compound to create a cohesive and synergetic film.

Funnily enough, the end of the film is quite surprising and poignant in the fact that it doesn’t end in the manner that you would hope or expect it to.  Not only does “(500) Days of Summer” focus on the trials-and-tribulations of relationships, but the gray.  That area between Venn Diagram circles that causes most so much anguish and joy.

I found the acting to superb.  Joseph-Gordon Levitt nails his performance and Zooey Deschanel is excellent company.  They have wonderful onscreen chemistry.  It seems a bit of a different role for her (not the typical Manic Pixie Dream Girl role), but it works.  The supporting cast is small, but their scenes are wonderful.  Tom’s friends and sister, played by Geoffrey Arend, Matthew Gray Gubler, and Chloë Grace Moretz, add to Tom’s personality by creating a funny trio (sometimes quatro) of banter–a type of banter that we have all had with our friends and can easily relate to.  Clark Gregg’s portrayal of Tom’s boss is perfect.  At times, I wish I had such a pragmatic boss!  Talk about rolling with punches and playing to people’s strengths during a time of emotional turmoil.

The nonlinear structure definitely plays to the quality of the cinematography in a very positive manner.  Life is chaotic and doesn’t make sense, until you start to piece it together after the fact.  The cut of the movie accentuates this, which (again) furthers the relatability of the film.

Directing-wise, Marc Webb keeps things in focus when they could easily have gotten off track and into confusing tangents that would have been detrimental to the film.  His skill is definitely praiseworthy and on that note I will leave you with this:

Check out “(500) Days of Summer.”  It’s not your typical romantic comedy.  It’s something more.  Something to be covenanted and something to entertain ideals with in spare moments.  It’s a great film.  Even with my initial reaction I can say this comfortably.