Monday, September 30, 2013

Rush (2013)

Title: Rush (2013)

Director: Ron Howard

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Daniel Bruhl, Olivia Wilde, Alexandra Maria Lara

So I’m not a big sports fan, actually, talking sports with me will result in a big ole blank stare right in your face because I know nothing! I’ll go see a boxing match every once in a while, but most of the time I don’t know who the hell is fighting till the very moment I’m seeing the fight with my friends, for me sports are more of a social thing. Same goes for basketball, football…I am a huge sports void. And yet I found myself attracted to this movie, for various reasons, one of them being that Ron Howard was behind the director’s chair and he’s always been a director that I respect and whose films I enjoy. Also, the previews made it look like a cool movie about race cars, which it was. I wasn’t even aware that the film was based on the true story behind the rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt during the 1976 Formula One Racing Championship, which as it turns out, now I know a little more about.

The real life Niki Lauda and James Hunt

The film centers on these two diametrically opposed racers, one is James Hunt, who lives his life like a rock star, bedding as many ladies as he can, drinking, partying, doing drugs. Basically, Hunt is the kind of guy who wants to have his kicks before the whole shithouse goes up in flames. And on the other hand we have Niki Lauda, a calculating, disciplined and methodical racer who knows a lot about what makes a race car go faster. He takes only calculated risks and really thinks his way through things, while Hunt has no problems with a) having sex before a race, b) driving hung over or c) pulling off a couple of unsavory tricks in order to win the race. Who of the two will have what it takes to become the world champion? 

The marketing for RUSH makes it look like it’s going to be a James Hunt biopic. I mean what else can you think when Chris Hemsworth’s face takes up the whole poster? Immediately you think Hemsworth is going to be the center of the film, and in a way he is but in a way he isnt. You see truthfully, this is the story of two guys, Hunt and Lauda, but when we really get down to it, the movie might as well have been called ‘The Niki Lauda Story’ because in my opinion, the film has more of Lauda than Hunt. Of course this could have something to do with the fact that Lauda is still alive and served as a consultant for the film, which of course means that the memories and anecdotes are all coming from Lauda’s side of the story. But then again, it could also have something to do with the fact that of the two, Lauda was the better racer. True, Lauda had a near fatal accident in which he was almost burned alive, but everyone seems to agree, had Lauda not had that terrible accident, he would have beat Hunt who up to that point was struggling to keep up with Lauda, who was way ahead of him. In the end, it’s Lauda’s story of overcoming great personal tragedy that brings us some of the more heartfelt and interesting moments in the film.  

Hunts story is that of a playboy racer, the rock start of the racing circuit, having sex like a mad man and partying like its 1999. This is the reason why he was the peoples favorite; people liked him because of this party animal persona. In contrast, Lauda seemed like this uptight dude who took things to seriously. The film does focus on the rivalry between Lauda and Hunt, but it also shows that they had admiration for each other. The competition between the two pushed them to their limits, and while they were battling over who’d become the world champion, they also admired each other because they knew they were competent rivals. But when we compare both stories, Hunts story seems superficial when compared to Lauda’s tale of survival. After seeing the film, I liked Hunt but felt that Lauda’s the one worthy of admiration. I mean, the guy went through all that he went through and he still continued racing! Lauda was so driven that just a few weeks after his terrible accident, he put his helmet back on and kept on racing. A truly admirable feat considering the degree of burns he acquired in the accident. In that sense, Lauda’s story reminds me of Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (1994), where we learn how Bruce Lee overcome a horrible back injury yet went on to become a legend anyways, nothing was going to stop him. These are stories of remarkable human beings with real talent who suddenly face themselves with a potentially life destroying event. What I like about stories like these is that they portray characters whose wills were so strong, that nothing deterred their plans for living an exceptional life.

In terms of direction, the movie has a very unique look to it, emulating the look of films from the 70’s. Ron Howard puts the camera in some very interesting places on this one. When it comes to the races, they get pretty exhilarating, loved how Howard put the camera on the cars and the helmets of the racers. There’s lots of extreme close ups on this film, so you might get to feel like your right there in the car with the racers. Bottom line is , I might not love sports, but I do love movies that show how we can achieve anything if we put our minds to it, and RUSH is one of these movies. The real life aspects of the film were actually truthful this time around. By this I mean that often times films that are based on real life events take so many artistic liberties that they end up being extremely different from the “real life events” they are aiming to depict, but from what I hear, RUSH is actually pretty accurate portrayal of Hunt and Lauda’s story. So much so that Lauda himself loves it and has a approved of it: "When I saw it the first time, I was impressed. There was no Hollywood changes, or things changed a little Hollywood like. It is very accurate, and this really surprised me positively" - Niki Lauda (Carjam TV Interview, September, 2013) So at least you know you are getting the true blue story behind the whole thing, Niki Lauda gave it the okay, and considering what a stickler he is for detail, I’d take that as a good thing. And considering how I’m a stickler for good movies, I’d take my high rating as a good thing as well!  

Rating: 5 out of 5

James Hunt exploiting his playboy image

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Suburbia (1983)

Title: Suburbia (1983)

Director: Penelope Spheeris

Cast: Chris Pedersen, Christina Beck, Flea

So there I was last night at a punk show, listening to a band that’s been playing for 15 years (but I’d never heard of in my life) and suddenly it dawned upon me how I’ve been following the Puerto Rican punk scene for more than 13 years; going to the shows, enjoying the energy, but never being a “punk” perse, kind of like that character in SLC Punk! (1998) played by Jason Segel, you know, the one who didn’t look punk but was the craziest of the bunch, well, I wasn’t the craziest of the bunch, but I’ve always been there, as an observer of human behavior, documenting with my video camera as much as I could. So anyways, I asked the lead singer of one of the bands what he thought punk was all about, he told me it was a mentality, then he went on about how audiences had changed, the violent mosh pits still occur, but with less frequency, audiences are not so much into hurting themselves in the mosh pit anymore. Apparently, Punk Rockers are more into listening the music and lyrics than jumping up and down like mad men, in a way, audiences are more ‘cerebral’. It was good to hear from a true punk rocker, that one thing hadn’t changed about the scene, it’s all about the mentality which is always, inevitably infused with the music. Another element remains a constant: punk rockers are outcasts of society. The ones who turn their backs on a world they don’t agree with, just like the kids in Penelope Spheeris’s seminal punk rock film Suburbia (1983).

Like SLC Punk! (1998) or The Doom Generation (1995), Suburbia is another one of these films that depicts angry, angst ridden youths rejected by the very society they despise, the atypical outcasts. Most of the time, these films take place in dilapidated neighborhoods, forgotten by society and ignored by their governments. Suburbia feels almost post-apocalyptic in nature with its rundown, abandoned  neighborhoods that feels like something out of John Carpenter’s Escape from New York (1981). The director of this film, Penelope Spheeris, filmed the whole thing in a completely abandoned neighborhood in L.A. The neighborhood chosen for the shooting of the film had been emptied in order to make way for a freeway that was going to be built there. The place looks like a lonely ghost town filled with empty houses with broken windows and walls filled with graffiti, a lonely, ugly place to be sure, but not entirely empty. The gang of punks that we follow in this film who call themselves ‘The Rejected’or the 'TR's' for short; all live inside one of these abandoned houses, they’ve gone and made it their home. They are all running away from something in their lives, be it abusive or alcoholic parents, a dysfunctional household or simply “society as it is”. One way or another, society has kicked the TR’s in their collective asses; it is this quality that brings them together.

The film sets its bleak aura from its very first frames when we first meet this punk girl hitchhiking in the middle of the night. A car stops and gives her a ride; unfortunately they immediately get a flat tire in the middle of nowhere! This neighborhood they’ve stumbled upon isn’t a pretty place, packs of wild dogs run around the neighborhood looking for humans to munch on! And they seem to have a craving for babies because they immediately attack the ladies baby and eat him up! Seriously! That’s how this movie begins! So Suburbia grabs your attention right away, it immediately sets the mood for the kind of film you can expect; just so you know what you’re getting yourself into. The symbolism in that scene didn’t pass unnoticed for me, this is a movie about youth under attack. A film about young people who feel the world is wildly chewing them up and spitting them out. So just so you know, this isn’t going to be a sweet old tale with a happy ending, Penelope Spheeris made a film about young people striving to survive in a harsh, violent world that turns its back on them and attacks them every chance it gets. The shock continues as we discover the sorry state in which these kids live in, surrounded by roaches and rats, actually, one of the characters actually has a rat for a pet!

The Rejected are the result of a world where everything is done for them, everything is pre-packaged, prepared, there’s no joy for these kids in a world where everything is bought, especially when they have no money to buy anything with. They don’t want a job that will chain them down; they want their freedom to do whatever they want to do, when they want to do it. In this respect, I feel them. I wish I could roam around the world aimlessly, trying to have as much fun as possible (actually this is still my mentality whenever I’m not working!) but I have to eat and I have to have a roof under my head and these things don’t pay themselves. Unfortunately, the truth is that this care free lifestyle is intimately entwined with poverty. The T.R.’s want their freedom, but the price to pay for leading this lifestyle is going through life without money, which inevitably leads to stealing. One of the more memorable scenes involve the kids breaking into various suburban households raiding refrigerators and stealing from convenience stores and supermarkets. Sure this is a question of survival, but they probably also feel they are kicking “the man” squarely in the balls. You want to take away our freedom? You reject us? We take your food! If you want to create a harsh world, then its dog eat dog, only the strongest survive! 

In many ways, Suburbia feels more realistic and authentic than other punk films. One of the elements that aids the films authenticity is that with the exception of one or two actors, most of the characters are performed by real life punk rockers or band members from real bands, for example Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers plays ‘Razzle’ the dude who attempts to eat a live rat. So these are punk rockers as actors, not actors trying to portray punk rockers, which in this case, works like magic. Another asset to this punk rock anthem is that it was directed by Penelope Spheeris the director behind the celebrated documentary on the L.A. punk scene called The Decline of Western Civilization (1981). According to Spheeris, many of the situations that we see depicted in the film are based on real life events she witnessed herself in the L.A. punk scene, or are based on news articles she read. I wouldn’t doubt this to be true, from my own personal experiences; I’d say the way the punk rock lifestyle is depicted here is pretty accurate. It doesn’t glamorize the lifestyle, it shows it like it is, or at least how it was in the early 80’s in L.A. Still, I’ve found some similarities with the Puerto Rican Punk Scene, so if you’re a punk rocker, you will more than likely find some similarities with the scene in your country/area. Another positive aspect of the film is how low budget it feels. Suburbia was a Roger Corman production, a producer who’s always prided himself in producing low budget cinema; Suburbia only cost 1 million bucks to make! This low budget quality of the film fits perfectly with the subject matter, it makes everything that much darker and grittier. Finally, this is a tragic tale that focuses on the lives of a group of extremely troubled kids trying to make sense of the world they are living in, I highly recommend any punk rocker out there to check this one out! It is essential Punk Rock Cinema.

Rating: 4 out of 5  

Penelope Spheeris, setting up a scene

Friday, September 20, 2013

SLC Punk! (1998)

Title: SLC Punk! (1998)

Director: James Merendino

Cast: Matthew Lillard, Michael A. Goorjian, Christopher McDonald, Devon Sawa, Jason Segel, James Duval

SLC Punk! attempts to explain what living the Punk lifestyle and being an Anarchist is all about. It takes you to the shows and the parties and the mayhem filled nights and all the stories and dramas behind them. It achieves this by having its main character -a Punk Rocker and Anarchist named Steve-O- break the fourth wall and speak directly at us, explaining to us the ins and outs of the anarchist/punk lifestyle. Kind of like the way that Ferris Bueller would show us how to “fake out parents” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). In SLC Punk! we have Matthew Lillard, not Matthew Broderick taking us on a tour of the Punk Rock World. It deconstructs it, analyzing what’s bullshit and what isn’t, the benefits and the downsides. Just what is Punk Rock? Is it the music? Is that what drives it? Is it the clothes you wear? Your hair style? Is it just a state of mind?  

On SLC Punk! we follow Steve-O through the landscape of Salt Lake City Utah’s Punk scene. We meet his friends, we go with him to a wild and crazy punk show, we go with him to a house party, we see the drugs they take, the booze they over do and we see them not give a fuck. Basically, these are a group of kids, who say they are anarchists, who say they hate the status quo, who say they hate posers, yet their actions sometimes contradict them. Steve-O, the main character in the film, is going through an existential dilemma, and we go on the ride with the guy. He is questioning everything, even himself. He is a character who unlike 80% of humanity, is fully awake, so, what comes next?

Punks have always been portrayed as stupid, angry, and lazy. In films, they are always depicted as alcoholics, drug addicts, with nothing better to do than sniff some glue, or break a couple of windshields with a bat. Though this depiction of the punk rock might be a generalization, I have to admit that for the most part, this portrayal is dead on. I mean, I was part of the Puerto Rican Punk scene back when it was thriving, and this is pretty much how it went down. I didn’t dress like a punk, but I went to the shows, I hung out, and as I always do, I analyzed human behavior, I was a little bit like Steve-O in many ways, always observing and commenting. The   impression I got from my observations of the punk scene during the early 00’s was that most of these kids were pissed off at the world; they knew the world was upside down and they hated that fact with a passion. And so, the mentality was “fuck the world, let’s party and burn ourselves out while we’re young!” The mentality was also, no job, no money and no plans for the future, a “let the chips fall where they may” stance on life. The angry nature of punk music only fueled the anger and the discontent in the air. I get the punk scene and I understand where the anger comes from, we live in a pretty messed up world, being angry at it seems like a natural reaction. And I love the energy in these shows, I still go to them for this very same reason, I want to see people reacting to the world! At times the whole thing feels cathartic. The mosh pits, the head banging, the beer flying through the air, the screaming; sometimes these shows feel like going to the church of Punk Rock in which the lead singer preaches it like it is and the audience jumps and screams as if the Holy Spirit has possessed them! The way I see it, we need to vent out that anger and frustration, punk rock gives you away to do that because at the heart of punk rock beats with anger and rebellion. The punk scene still exists in Puerto Rico, only not as intensely as I remember it. I guess the Punks grew up, got jobs…they joined the system after all.

And that’s why I enjoyed SLC Punk! so much, it feels genuine. While the film can be seen as a homage to what being a Punk is all about (warts and all) it also criticizes the Punk lifestyle and sees many faults in it. The film goes to great lengths to identify the ‘posers’, the fakes that aren’t really punk, they just want to look cool. It also asks the question, should being angry be the only thing that you do? Or can you do more than that? What I got from the film was that yes, the punk/anarchist lifestyle is directly entwined with the music, because the music, speaks about the frustrations and concerns of the world we live in. In many ways, Punks are awake and conscious about many of the harsh realities of the world we live in, the injustices, this is where the anger stems from, which is something I like about the whole thing, these are characters that don’t like to take things for granted, they question, they fight, they protest. Matthew Lillard’s Steve-O is an angry young dude, who hates his town, hates his parents, but loves his friends, loves to party, he is basically a guy looking for happiness in a very unhappy world. But he’s going through a process. He analyzes everything; he is always being inquisitive, always questioning things. Actually, there’s this cool moment when he states “I am wide awake!” I love how he is constantly questioning himself. Why am I who I am? Where am I in life? How can I bring forth some true change to this world and how can I go about it? I like the fact that Steve-O is an individual who is a punk rocker, an anarchists, but is intelligent enough to question his own beliefs, which is something we should all stop and do at various stages of our lives.

SLC Punk! Functions in the same way that Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) does, it’s the kind of film that’s about a bunch of messed up dudes and dudettes, some do lots of drugs, some are inclined towards violence, some are crazier than others, some are gonna die, some are going to choose life, grow up and change. Because at the end of the day, no matter how punk rock you are, you’re gonna have to face the facts that you have to eat, you have to have a place to live, you have to find some sort of way to give something to society and the only way to do that is to make some money, somehow. Matthew Lillard by the way, turns in a good performance, this is probably the role for which he will be most remembered by, he comes off as likable, and there’s actually a scene where the dude got to me with his performance.  Interesting how the proposed sequel will be called Punk’s Dead. I don’t know if it will ever get made or not, but it would sure be interesting to see where these characters have gone to after all these years. Did they mature? Did they join the system? Did they end up dead in a ditch somewhere? Did they leave Punk rock behind or is it still a part of their lives? James Merendino, the director behind SLC Punk!, mentions that the sequel will have all the previous actors reprising their roles. Merendino says he owes it to the fans of SLC Punk! To do a worthy sequel, I’m looking forward to seeing where Steve-O has ended up in his post punk years.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Title: Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013)

Director: James Wan

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Lin Shaye, Ty Simpkins, Barbara Hershey, Steve Coulter

What do you mean James Wan is no longer doing horror films? What? This guy was born for this! I was shocked to learn that Wan will not be making horror films anymore; according to Wan himself,  Insidious: Chapter 2  will be his last one. Too bad, I mean, the guy got started thanks to the horror genre with the highly successful franchise starter Saw (2004), a film that shocked me the first time I saw it. I remember I immediately saw it again; with a friend of course! I wanted others to experience that jolt to the system that the first Saw film gave me. Same with The Conjuring (2013), a horror film that I quickly recommended to as many people as possible, I mean, that was a great horror movie man! The Conjuring brought 70s styles scares back! It brought the supernatural horror film back in a good way, not in a goofy way which is what usually happens. Sometimes I go see these supernatural films hoping to see the next The Exorcist (1973), but end up with films like the extremely crappy Lost Souls (2000).The Conjuring has been a huge hit for director James Wan, it’s still in theaters and so far it’s close to reaching the 300 million dollar mark worldwide. So, hot on the heels of The Conjuring, here comes Insidious: Chapter 2. Can James Wan deliver a double whammy of horror excellence? And why is he abandoning the horror genre?

(Above) Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013) (Below) Carnival of Souls (1962)

Insidious: Chapter 2 picks up exactly where the previous film left off, with the Lambert family recovering from the events that took place in the first film in which Josh, the dad of the family, had an out of body experience and actually visited the afterlife in order to find his sons spirit, which was lingering somewhere in "the other side" or "the further" as they call it in these films. Problem is that apparently, when Josh and his son came back, they didn’t come back alone, an evil entity came back with them and now it haunts the Lamberts! It's seems evil spirits just don't want to leave this family alone! What does the entity want with this family and will they ever lead a normal life again?

James Wan is awesome as a horror director, and it’s a real pity he doesn’t want to continue doing horror.  He says he doesn’t want to be pigeon holed into making only one type of film. He mentions that Hollywood loves to put you in a box, and if the box they put you in is the horror box, then that’s all you’ll ever be. But Wan wants to break with that, he wants to do all types of films, not just horror. Which is understandable, I mean, sure, every horror director eventually branches out and decides to venture in other directions, even the most hardcore of horror directors does a film that has nothing to do with horror. I mean, look at George Romero’s Knightriders (1981), Wes Craven’s Music from the Heart (1999) or Stuart Gordon’s The Wonderful Ice Cream Suit (1998). Hey, for further proof just look at Sam Raimi who was at one time one of the most popular horror directors and what is he now? He’s gone mainstream Hollywood for Christ’s sake! Horror films have always been a breeding ground for great directors. Many of today’s best directors started out with a horror film, just look at Oliver Stone’s The Hand (1981) if you don’t believe me. So Wan’s move doesn’t surprise; he is currently shooting Fast and Furious 7 (2014). Of course directing a huge summer movie like Fast and Furious 7 is a tempting thing for Wan. I mean, here’s a guy who started making independent horror films and now he’s been given the opportunity to direct a summer blockbuster, with a budget many times over the micro budgets he was used to working with. Of course he’ll take the opportunity, it’s a smart move economically and career wise, but trust me; he’ll be back! They always come back to horror! Just look at Sam Raimi’s who returned from his horror hiatus to direct Drag Me to Hell (2009). So let’s hope that we haven’t seen the last of James Wan’s incursions into the horror genre.

The thing about Insidious: Chapter 2 is that after seeing Dead Silence (2007), Insidious and The Conjuring (2013), this fourth supernatural horror film from James Wan feels just a tad repetitive. I mean, there are only so many scenes of doors slamming by themselves that I can take before I feel like I’m watching the same film over and over again. With Insidious: Chapter 2, you definitely get the feeling that we’re walking on familiar ground, sadly, it falls on repetition. Wan has a couple of things he finds scary one of them is spooky looking dolls, which is a motif that pops up in all of his horror films, even as far back as Saw. He also finds old ladies scary, he went over this in Dead Silence (2007) which was about this old lady ventriloquist and again, there was a spooky old lady ghost demon thing in Insidious (2010), and yet again in Insidious: Chapter 2 (2013). So all of Wan’s supernatural horror films have a similarity to them, they kind of feel like they exist in the same universe or something. But my first impression with Insidious: Chapter 2  was  that Wan and his writing partner Leigh Whannell are running out of ideas. Apparenty, The Conjuring was the apex of Wan’s explorations in supernatural horror, Insidious Chapter 2 feels like one supernatural horror film too many. He should have taken a stab at some other type of horror film. Don’t forget boys and girls, horror films are not composed of supernatural horror alone.

Another element that makes you feel Wan is walking on tired ground is that Insidious: Chapter 2 feels like a mix between The Amityville Horror (1979) and Poltergeist (1982), weird thing is that the same can be said for Wan’s three previous horror films, they all draw from the same two films. Let’s see in Poltergeist characters have to venture to the afterlife to rescue family members…in Poltergeist we got a funny, nice old lady clairvoyant who helps the family. In Poltergeist we have these supernatural investigator types exploring everything…the similarities are there. Then we have the whole “dad turns evil” scenario that was so effectively used in The Amityville Horror and The Shinning (1980), by the way, there’s a couple of nudges to Kubrick’s classic here as well. Some moments also reminded me of Carnival of Souls (1962), especially those scenes with the ghosts and "the further". So what we have here ladies and gents is Wan and Whannell drawing from the same movies they’ve been drawing inspiration from since the first Insidious.   

Still, even though it feels a bit repetitive, I say Insidious Chapter 2 is not a bad horror film at all. It has some genuinely creepy moments in it, some really well thought out scares. I gotta give it to Wan again, he sure knows how to construct a suspense filled moment, he knows how to build that tension. Also, there’s a cool spooky story in there to hold the whole film together. This time around, Wan amps up the comedic relief by way of the two paranormal investigators. The way this film ends, you kind of get the feeling that these two geeky guys are going to branch off into their own series of films, ala Ghostbusters (1984). I wouldn’t mind at all, I’m actually one of the guys that’s dying to see that Ghostbusters film that doesn’t seem to want to ever take off. The comedic relief on Insidious: Chapter 2 might be welcomed by some as a means to release some tension, but for those of us who like our hardcore, dreadfully dreadful horror vibe, well, these comedic elements might feel out of place. Still, I don’t think your enjoyment of this film will be hindered by the mild comedy. Final word: kudos to Wan for making a horror film that creeps up on you with a mere 5 million bucks! This film is making such a profit that it’s not even funny! Oren Peli (the films producer)sure knows the formula for success and he’s using it: make  a quality low budget film (keword: quality) and people will back it. Not only that, since you didn’t spend all that much, you’ll get your investment back! It’s a win-win situation! So anyhow’s my people, Insidious Chapter 2 is a solid piece of supernatural horror. Now if only we could all collectively convince Wan not to “retire from horror!”

Rating:  3 1/2 out of 5  


Monday, September 16, 2013

The Lords of Salem (2013)

Title: The Lords of Salem (2013)

Writer/Director: Rob Zombie

Cast: Sherri Moon Zombie, Bruce Davison, Ken Foree, Dee Wallace, Maria Conchita Alonso, Meg Foster

From the very beginning, when I first saw House of a 1000 Corpses (2003), I always thought that Rob Zombie was a horror film director with lots of potential. House of a 1000 Corpses wasn’t a perfect film, but there was something there that screamed "this guy is promising". What gives Zombie the edge that other horror directors don’t have is that he knows horror inside and out; he’s obviously seen thousands of horror films and genuinely loves the genre.  Add to this the fact that he’s directed many of his own music videos and you’ve got a guy with the knowledge and understanding of the horror genre as well as the necessary experience behind the camera to make a decent horror film. He took a stab at making commercially viable horror films with his remake of John Carpenter’s Halloween (2007) and followed that one with his own thing called Halloween II (2009), but according to Rob Zombie himself, making these two films wasn’t exactly the happiest of experiences. Working under the yoke of oppressive movie producers just isn’t Zombie’s style! He needs to let those creative juices run wild and free! And so, thanks to Oren Peli and his Haunted Films label well, Rob Zombie was given carte blanche to do a movie his way, and so here we finally have The Lords of Salem, a true blue Rob Zombie horror film. How was it?

The Lords of Salem revolves around Heidi Hawthorne, a radio DJ whose life begins to take a twist towards the dark side when she receives a mysterious package addressed to her. The package says it comes from “The Lords of Salem” a heavy metal band that she’d interviewed on her radio show. The package is addressed directly to her.  She soon discovers it’s a vinyl record, when she plays it out of sheer curiosity, she goes on a trance, getting these weird visions of witches being burned alive. What's happening to Heidi? Why is she seeing these horrible images? To make things worse, she has a mysterious neighbor who looks at her from the shadows of his apartment down the hall. She tries to be friendly to the new faceless neighbor but the neighbor only slams the door in her face! What gives?

I’ve always said that Rob Zombie is kind of like the Quentin Tarantino of horror films. Same as Tarantino, Rob Zombie watches a bunch of movies, puts them all in a blender and then makes his own thing with them. Take for example House of a 1000 Corpses, which was a homage to Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part II (1986). He took elements from both of these movies and mixed them with his own brand of craziness, the result was an experience, uneven at times, but an experience none the less. For The Lords of Salem, Zombie put an even larger amount of films in the grinder! First up, Rob Zombie bows down to one of the greatest directors of our time, Stanley Kubrick. Many shots on the film have that Kubrickian perfection to them; for example Zombie has these long shots of a hallway that echoed those long shots on of the hotel hallways in Kubrick’s The Shinning (1980). I must say that this careful attention to constructing a shot was something new for me in a Rob Zombie film; most of the time Zombie’s camera is kinetic and crazy, moving about in scattershot fashion. On Lords of Salem you can tell that Zombie was going for a slightly more elegant horror film, in this way he paid his respects to Kubrick, which I immediately dug.

Then we have these crazy dream sequences that looked like they came straight out of a Ken Russell film. You ever seen Ken Russell’s Altered States (1980) or Lair of the White Worm (1988)? On these films, Russell’s characters always end up having these crazy dreams that feel like acid trips, with religious iconography being profaned. Images of goats and crucifixes and nuns being raped and all that?  Well, on Lords of Salem you will see these types of tripped out dream sequences, one look at them and you can tell Zombie watched a couple of Ken Russell’s films. I’ve yet to see Ken Russell’s The Devils (1971), but something tells me that The Devils was a huge influence on The Lords of Salem because that film is also about witches. I also caught similarities with films like Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby (1968), because of this idea of having a paranoid character surrounded by a bunch of devil worshipping neighbors, and yet another film it reminded me of was The Sentinel (1977), a film about a woman who lives in apartment building that ends up being a gateway to hell. And if I go deeper, then I can also tell ya that certain scenes, especially those involving the witches and their satanic rituals reminded me a lot of Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922). The scenes with the witches dancing naked in the fire and spitting on babies and the such…right out of Haxan in deed. On one scene they put this mask on a witch, an obvious homage to the opening sequences on Mario Bava’s Black Sabbath (1963). So the influences on this one are like a Smorgasbord of horror. What can I say, Rob Zombie knows who to borrow from.

What surprised me the most about Lords of Salem is that Zombie has constructed a film that relies more on mood and feel than on words, like an Italian horror film, there’s very little dialog, the film tells it’s story more through images.  Every shot of the film is dark, brooding, depressive…Zombie really created a permeating, dreadful atmosphere with this one. The film isn’t loud and in your face like House of a 1000 Corpses, this one takes its time, building up the scares. Cheap jump scares are out of the question on this one. No, with this one Zombie wants’ to get inside your head, it is more about creating a sense of impending doom, loved that about it. This isn’t a film where people are running around screaming and running from a chainsaw, nope, this one is about the slow scares that creep up on you, so in that sense it’s a very different type of Rob Zombie film. And yes, it is style over substance, but that’s a good thing in my book when it comes to certain directors. What I mean is that Rob Zombie is an incredible output of artistic energy, the guy is a bonafide Rock Star, still pumping out cool tunes to this day (listen to Dead City Radio if you don’t believe me!), the guy has done comics, cartoons, films…he’s done independent horror films as well as commercial ones, the guy has even done freaking television commercials! Hell, Lords of Salem even has a novelization! In other words, Zombies all about the art, so I like the fact that this movie is not so much about the words and more about the visuals and the mood. And speaking of visuals, Zombie out did himself; at a certain point the film simply turns to eye candy for me, couldn’t take my eyes off. The colors, leaping off the screen! 

Final word on Lords of Salem is that it isn’t a film for everyone, at times it can result truly shocking, especially when it comes to those scenes involving witch rituals. Normally, films about Satanism come off as goofy to me, but when they are done right, it works. And this one pulled it off brilliantly. Like Alucarda (1977), this film is all about people hailing Satan and requesting his presence and all that, which I’m sure will prove to be just a bit too much for some viewers, especially those of you inclined towards Christianity. You’ve been warned! In this movie, there is no hope, it’s all gloom and doom. At the same time, I have to tell you guys that this is without a doubt in my mind Rob Zombies best film; it’s far superior to anything he’s done before and for that I salute the Zombie. I believe Zombie can go even further, but this one was close to being perfect in my book. So if you ask me, Rob Zombie continues to grow and evolve as a horror director, he keeps surprising me and I’m happy he’s still making horror films. He’s turned into one of this generations greatest horror directors. I’m sure he’ll keep it going, I certainly hope he does, which reminds me, there’s hope for horror yet!

Rating: 4 out of 5

Friday, September 13, 2013

Hudson Hawk (1991)

Title: Hudson Hawk (1991)

Director: Michael Lehman

Cast: Bruce Willis, Danny Aiello, Andie McDowell, Sarah Bernhard, Richard E. Grant, James Coburn

Sometimes we like a movie even though everybody else thinks its crap, and Hudson Hawk is one of those movies for me. Lambasted by critics when it was first released, Hudson Hawk was deemed “unspeakably awful” by Rolling Stone magazine and “implausible” by AMC Film Critic; to that I say “where’s your sense of humor people?” Yeah it’s silly and over the top, but when was that a sin? Last time I checked there’s room in the universe for films like this; in fact, sometimes it’s exactly what I need to watch. Bruce Willis was part of the group of writers that were responsible for the film; that’s right my friends, Bruce Willis partially concocted the story for this film. The film was such a horrendous flop that Willis never dabbled in the script department of any film ever again. The thing is that I perfectly get what Bruce Willis wanted to convey with Hudson Hawk, I get the vibe, I get the style of comedy, I get the tone of the flick, what I don’t get is why other people don’t find it as entertaining as I do! Really this movie is tons of fun!

Eddie Hawkins a.k.a. ‘Hudson Hawk’ is a master thief who has just gotten out of jail. He’s done his time, it’s over, he’s out. Problem is that he is such a great burglar that the minute he steps out of jail, he is immediately offered an irresistible job to steal a famous work of art from an auction house. The piece? None other than Davinci’s ‘Sforza’. And so the tale unfolds, soon Hudson Hawk learns that the ones who want to steal these famous works of art are the head honchos of a corporation known as Mayflower Industries; a corporation run by two genuine whackos know as Darwin and Minerva Mayflower, a husband and wife duo who want nothing more than to destroy the very economical foundations of society! So once Hudson Hawk realizes what the deal is, of course, he has to stop these two power hungry megalomaniacs.

So Hudson Hawk is the kind of movie that doesn’t really care much for logic and reason, it simply wants to be fast paced, tell a couple of jokes and one liners along the way, maybe put a smile on your face and finally entertain ya. This isn’t Shakespeare and it never tries to be; this is a heist movie tinted with a little bit of adventure and  sprayed with a little bit of gangster film shenanigans for good measure. You see, Hudson Hawks best buddy is a guy called Tommy Five Tone, the owner of a bar where gangster go to talk shop, eat and drink. Cool part is that Tommy Five Tone is played by Danny Aiello and what says “gangster movie” more than Danny Aiello right? There’s a group of actors out there who always end up in gangster movies because they have that Italian gangster face and Aiello is one of them. So anyways,  Tommy Five Tone runs this bar, but on the side he sometimes organizes a heist or two, and Hudson Hawk is his right hand man. Here’s an element of the film that lets you know how lighthearted it is: Tommy and Hawk pull off their heists while singing Bing Crosby and Paul Anka songs! They actually time their heists to however long the song lasts. The chemistry between these two characters is one of the elements that keeps the movie entertaining, the one liners, the jokes, the funny back and forth. Listen carefully; the subtle word play is hilarious on this one. I mean, one of the crime families in the film is named The Mario Brothers! 

Calling this movie implausible, as a critic called it is simply stupid, because plausibility is not something I look for in a movie like Hudson Hawk, in fact, in this kind of tongue in cheek movie, plausibility is the last thing on the list. On this kind of movie you get the complete opposite, which is why I enjoy the elements in Hudson Hawks that border on fantasy, I like the over the topness. I like seeing Willis pulling off a heist while singing ‘Swinging on a Star’. I like how the fights and the action where pulled off in a cartoonish fashion, it at times feels like you’re watching a Three Stooges short. And speaking of over the top, out of all the performances, Sara Bernhard’s ‘Minerva Mayflower’ stands out as the most over the top character of all! Bernhard has been a comedian for many years, even performing to sell out crowds in Broadway. I remember her the most from her role in Martin Scorsese’s  The King of Comedy (1983), a film in which she played opposite Robert DeNiro and Jerry Lewis. On this one she is loud, intimidating and larger than life. It is obvious she relished playing the lead villain. As a suggestion, if you feel like checking out the special features, check out this really funny featurette in which Bernhard explains how she loved playing Minerva, its hilarious!

The film was directed by Michael Lehmann, the same director behind such films as Heathers (1988) Airheads (1994) and Meet The Applegates (1990), here he does a good job, in my opinion the film has slick production values, they even shot some scenes in Rome which was pretty cool. Unfortunately for Lehman, Hudson Hawk was shot down from the skies, it was a bomb, probably because it was a very misunderstood film. It was marketed as an action adventure film, and so people were probably expecting something along the lines of what they’d seen Willis successfully pull off in Die Hard (1988) and Die Hard 2 (1990) and so that probably caught people off guard. They weren’t expecting a goofy, cartoonish action/comedy, heist movie, they wanted more of John McClain! Instead they got John McClain via The Three Stooges, not a bad combo if you forget all about expectations!   

Just how cartoonish was this film you ask? Well, during some of the fights you’ll hear cartoon sounds, just like you’d hear in those old Warner Bros. cartoons that’s how cartoonish this movie was! The fights? Very slapstick in nature, usually, the main characters will be in peril, but everything turns out good in the end, it’s that kind of movie. I say that if they had marketed the film for what it was, it wouldn’t have disappointed audiences and it might have had a chance. When released in theaters, it was marketed with the tagline “Catch the Adventure, Catch the Excitement, Catch the Hawk!” which suggests it’s a full blown action flick. Yet, after the film tanked, they switched the word “Adventure” for “Laughter” for the films Home Video release, but by then it was too late. My take on it is that audiences don’t like to be lied too. I’ve seen this happen with many other movies, the first one that comes to mind is Nicholas Cage’s Vampires Kiss (1989) which was marketed as a comedy, but was actually a dark, weird film. Lesson for Hollywood: don’t lie to your audience just to get their butts in the theater, your film will suffer for it. Now here’s The Film Connoisseur telling it like it is, now you know what kind of movie Hudson Hawk is, go check it out, you’ll more than likely have a good time.

Rating:  3 ½ out of 5

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Leon (1994)

Title: Leon (1994)

Director: Luc Besson

Cast: Jean Reno, Natalie Portman, Gary Oldman, Danny Aiello    
The most controversial aspect of Luc Besson’s Leon (1994) is the suggested romance between Mathilda, the 12 year old girl who wants to become an assassin, and Leon, her protector and mentor. Mathilda is a little girl who lives in a very troubled household in which everybody is always screaming at each other, everybody spews hatred, you know, you’re a-typical ass backwards dysfunctional family. Mathilda’s father even steals cocaine from his drug dealers and therefore places his entire family in jeopardy! Of course Mathilda hates living there, which is why she spends most of her time outside of the house, smoking cigarettes behind her abusive father’s back. One day, Mathilda’s father has to answer to a crooked DEA officer about some missing cocaine, and since the coke never turns up, Mathilda’s father is killed, and so is her entire family! Lucky for Mathilda, she was out in the convenience store buying milk for Leon. One thing leads to another and Leon ends up taking Mathilda, unwillingly at first, into his life. Will this new lifestyle workout for Leon?  Can he take care of something else other than himself?  

So why does a little girl fall in love with a man three times her age? Well, she develops feelings for Leon because he protects and cares for her, something she never got from her family. Leon also ends up saving her life at one point. He doesn’t slap her around the way her father did either, so she begins to fall for the guy even though he is considerably older than she is. Relationships with huge generational gaps are not unheard of in cinema, examples of this are Kubrick’s Lolita (1962), Adrian Lyne’s Lolita (1997), Harold and Maude (1971) and Birth (2004). But after a test screening in L.A. in which the audience reacted negatively to Mathilda’s advances towards Leon, these elements were deemed too racy and so director Luc Besson decided to edit the film in order to omit those Mathilda/Leon scenes that displayed some intimacy between the characters. Jean Reno says he wanted to portray the character of Leon as slow of mind, as a character who wouldn’t even think about having a relationship with Mathilda; this element of Leon comes across exactly like that. He is shocked beyond measure when Mathilda confesses her feelings to him. In reality, Mathilda’s affections come off as childlike and more than likely misguided, but you get the vibe that her feelings are of genuine affection for Leon. If you watch the American version of the film entitled ‘The Professional’, then you are getting the edited version. You’ll get less scenes of this interplay between Leon and Mathilda, but if you get the deluxe edition, then you’ll see a bit more of what goes on between them, which by the way is not in bad taste, Luc Besson handles things extremely well displaying Mathilda’s affections, which come off as nothing more than a harmless child hood crush. 

The film was also edited in other ways, for example, the character of Mathilda is a 12 year old girl who wants to become “a cleaner” or a hired assassin. So we have scenes of Mathilda cleaning her guns, dismantling a gun and putting it back together again, we even have a scene in which she threatens to kill herself by putting a gun to hear head. Images of kids handling guns in a film are always a risky because it’s an idea that will be seen in a negative light by ultra conservative audiences and the Motion Picture Association of America. Why? Because it’s an idea that we don’t want to propagate; the idea of children carrying instruments of death. If you choose to show scenes such as these on your film, you have to make sure that it is justified or else your film will more than likely get flamed by critics and moral snobs. Many times a film will receive a cold reception at the box office if it gratuitously displays children handling guns in one form or another. For example, Irving Kirshner’s Robocop 2 (1990) got a lot of heat because it depicted a 12 year old kid running a drug cartel, cursing like a sailor and shooting machine guns. The Monster Squad (1987) suffered from the same malady; on that one we have kids stabbing female vampires square in the chest and a character called ‘Fat Kid’ loading a shotgun, cocking it and shooting The Monster from the Black Lagoon with it. Most recently, Kick- Ass (2010) and its sequel Kick Ass 2 (2013) also got criticized for the character of Hit-Girl, a gun totting, sword carrying teen. But while the violence in some of these films I’ve mentioned might come off as gratuitous (yet tons of fun to watch) on Leon it feels justified. Mathilda feels threatened by the world she lives in, she was abused physically by her own father, she lost her entire family to a mad man and now avenging her little brother’s death is what drives her.  She has nowhere else to go, and the only father figure she knows is an assassin named Leon, you do the math. I say Mathilda is a character that speaks volumes about adapting in the wake of adversity.  

True, the scenes in which Mathilda asks Leon to train her to become a killer and the subsequent scenes in which he actually takes her on an assignment to kill somebody will probably result shocking to some, to me it’s just a movie with high entertainment value and good ideas. I like it when a film attempts to shake me up a bit. But behind the controversy and the violence, at heart there is a good film about two people who actually need each other. Mathilda obviously needs Leon for the reasons I’ve already mentioned, but Leon is an extremely lonely man. When he is not killing, he is training or going to the movies, or cleaning his plant, which he calls his best friend. At heart, we have a man whose life is empty and sad; a man who needs the light that Mathilda brings to his life. There are some great scenes where both characters are simply having fun being all silly and goofy around each other, lightening up their lives as best they can. So the film isn’t as violent as you might be led to believe, it’s actually a sweeter film then it is violent.

An astounding element of this film is the cast; starting with Natalie Portman who was 11 years old when she was cast for this film. The numerous array of emotions she conveys on her performance is amazing and made even more amazing when we take in consideration how young she was 11 when she made this film. The casting director was going to say no to Portman because she was so young, but when Besson saw her audition, he gave her the part! The film basically revolves around the character of Mathilda so the right casting of this role was essential.  The young actress who would embody Mathilda needed to convey a plethora of emotions necessary for the part. In my opinion, they couldn’t have made a better choice than Portman, who is amazing here. There’s this awesome scene where Mathilda is getting drunk in a restaurant…awesome stuff, in some scenes she's terrified, in others she's crying beyond redemption, she really displays a whole spectrum of emotions. Gary Oldman is an amazing actor who used to play a lot of villains earlier in his career and this is one of his best ones, if you ask me, Oldmans character on this film is right up there with ‘Drexl’ from True Romance (1993) in terms of craziness. Oldman is bat shit insane on this film, even more so when he takes his pills! In turn, Jean Reno plays his character with a cool mellow vibe, he’s got a childlike innocence to him; he will be the nicest killer you’ve ever met. Funny how this film makes you feel empathy for a cold blooded killer!

The idea for Leon came to Besson while making La Femme Nikita (1990), if you notice, both films share a few similarities, starting with the fact that they are both about women who want to become killers. On La Femme Nikita, Jean Reno also plays a killer who even dresses in the same fashion as Leon. Besson always felt that he could expand on this character, center a film around the killer, so he wrote Leon, always having Jean Reno in mind for the part. Funny how this film was the film that Besson made while waiting for Bruce Willis’s schedule to clear up so he could finally film The Fifth Element (1997) with him. In the interim between that waiting, Besson wrote Leon and shot it! The Fifth Element was a dream project of Besson’s, yet it is Leon, the film he made in between his big dream project that is considered to be the superior film. Me? I say they are both good on different levels, each good within their genre. So my final words is, if you haven’t seen Leon, do yourself a favor and check it out, it’s filled with awesome performances all around and let’s not forget, this was Portman’s breakout performance! She does an astounding job in this film, you’ll love her character, a little girl who struggles to survive as best she can in this harsh world.  

Rating: 5 out of 5

Monday, September 9, 2013

Riddick (2013)

Title: Riddick (2013)

Director: David Twohy

Cast: Vin Diesel, Jordi Molla, Katee Sackhoff, Matt Nable, Dave Bautista, Karl Urban

The Riddick franchise has been a very strange franchise in the sense that is goes up and down in tone, like the rising and falling of the tide. The first film, entitled Pitch Black (2000), was a simple monster flick about a group of people trying to get off a planet before these nasty carnivorous critters eat their asses. In comparison the second film, Chronicles of Riddick (2004), is epic in scale, with Riddick defying a group of dictators who call themselves ‘Necromongers’;  a race of beings that go around conquering planets and destroying those who don’t won’t join their crusade. I love both movies for different reasons; the first one successfully fuses the horror and sci-fi genres. It’s dark, it’s got awesome visuals and it’s entertaining; it kept things simple yet effective. The second film I like because it’s a more lavish production that expands on the universe that David Twohy created on the first film. Still, no matter how epic in scale Chronicles of Riddick was, the problem with this second film was that even though it was a more ambitious production, it didn’t make its money back at the box office and so, this is the reason why we had not seen a new Riddick film in such a long time. Studios won’t give you millions if your previous flick failed. But both Twohy and Vin Diesel don’t want to let Riddick die, and so they’ve decided to give the character another spin. Vin Diesel even went as far as putting up his own money to make this one happen, so that turns this one into a passion project for both Twohy and Vin Diesel. So finally, we get a third adventure in the Riddick franchise. Was it any good? Is it a worthy sequel?

This time around, same as in the first film, Riddick is trying to survive on a planet filled with deadly wildlife, a planet in which you can’t walk five steps without some fanged creature trying to kill you. But if you know Riddick, then you know that’s just the way he likes it. It seems the guy was meant to thrive in adversity. Like Mad Max or Conan, Riddick works best alone and under strenuous circumstances.  So it isn’t long before he learns to survive on this deadly planet just fine. But it seems this planet won’t leave Riddick alone, soon the weather starts to change and Riddick decides that this planet is no longer fit for him to survive in, so he does something unexpected, he calls a bunch of Bounty Hunters to come and “get him”. In reality, Riddick’s just luring them in so he can take their space ship and get off this dangerous planet he currently resides. But the bounty hunters seem to think they actually got a chance of capturing the famous escaped convict. All they care about is capturing Riddick, chopping off his head and getting double their pay. Question is: do these guys have a chance in hell? Don’t they know their messing with one of the baddest mothers in the universe?

So yeah, that synopsis you’ve just read is in a nutshell what this movie is all about. It’s not a very complex film which is where it differentiates itself from the previous one; Chronicles of Riddick is Shakespearian by comparison, while this third film is like going back to basics. Its closer in tone and feel to Pitch Black (2000), the first film, which means that yeah, we’re back in monster flick territory again. Not a bad thing if you ask me, the problem is that people are going to be expecting a film that would bring a conclusion to the second film and Riddick is the furthest thing from that. You know how the second film ends with Riddick sitting on a throne, essentially becoming some sort of King to the Necromongers? The film ends like Conan the Destroyer (1984) saying “but that’s another story” and so of course we’re all expecting a big conclusion to that story line with this new film, we all want to see what Riddick would be like as a ruler, will he change things? Would greed devour his soul? Would he be a good king? Riddick the Conqueror, that’s what I wanted to see! And well, this new movie kind of explains what happens when Riddick becomes king, but in a few seconds, which isn’t fair. It brushes through his whole king phase in five seconds, as if it didn’t matter all that much, as if it was some footnote in Riddick’s history. I mean really, we only get a glimpse of his days as a king; I wanted the full story! 

But that’s not what you’ll get, so scratch that idea from your noggin. What you will get is Riddick surviving on a bad ass planet fighting off monsters and greedy bounty hunters. You’ll take that and you’ll like it! I see what Twohy and Vin Diesel are doing. They’ve brought down production costs so that this third film will turn in a profit; in this way assuring that they can make a fourth film, basically, they are attempting to save the franchise, which in my opinion is a franchise ripe with stories to tell. So here’s how it went down: Chronicles of Riddick (2004) costs 105 million dollars, unfortunately it was a box office bomb and didn’t make its money back. This of course spelled tragedy for both Vin Diesel and Twohy, their beloved franchise was apparently dead on its tracks! But wait, suddenly Vin Diesel’s Fast and the Furious franchise is making kajillions! The actor has reached an all time high; each of the Fast and the Furious films making more money than the last! So now the studio can risk making a third Riddick movie, considering how popular Vin Diesel is these days. But of course, the studio will only make a calculated risk, so they make a smaller film, a more personal story on a much smaller budget. This is the reason why Riddick cost “only” 38 million, because they want to make their money back. A lot is riding on this film, they want it to be successful so they can make another, so the franchise can live on. So my friends, this is the reason why this story is smaller in scale; still, I have to admit I liked this more personal take on the character.

Unfortunately, the film will feel like filler to fans of the Riddick films, like it’s not an important story in the life of Riddick, in all honesty, it feels like just another day in the life of this character; surviving and wiping out his enemy from the shadows. What I did like about it though is that we get to spend some time with Riddick; we get to know him a bit better, the loner, the survivalist, the bad ass mother. Those scenes with Riddick surviving in the alien planet reminded me a whole lot of those first scenes in Conan the Barbarian (1982), in which Conan is out in the world for the first time, fighting off wild dogs and scavenging the world for food and women. Other scenes reminded me of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981), especially those scenes in which Riddick gets himself a dog like companion, just like Max did in The Road Warrior. So you’ll get a lot of scenes of Riddick against the planet, all on his own. It’s the second half of the film that turns into a wild goose chase, with the Bounty Hunters running after Riddick. And if that doesn’t keep your butt on the seat, then you’ll certainly have fun with the deadly creatures that inhabit this dangerous planet, which were pretty cool creations. Monster fans should be happy with this one. And if that isn't enough, fan boys should love the fact that the beautiful Katee Sackhoff is on this one! There's something about that lady! Wowzers! 

So, taking in consideration that this is a smaller film, and not the one we were expecting, I still think this is a solid slice of sci-fi. Visually speaking, the film doesn’t look less expensive, which is an asset. I mean, usually a smaller budget means cramped sets and a cheaper looking film, but this is not the case with Riddick, the film still looks majestic and awesome, so my hats down to David Twohy for achieving a good looking picture with considerably less amounts of money. As I type this, Riddick stands number one at the box office, this is its first week out in the world, let’s hope that like its main character, the film manages to survive in the big bad Box Office. If it makes it's moolah back we can expect a bigger adventure come next film. So in many ways, it's up to the fans of this franchise to save this one. You hear me fanboys of the world? The future of the Riddick franchise lies in your capable hands! So go see this one! Now!

Rating: 4 out of 5   


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