Friday, September 13, 2013

Get Riddick

Riddick is one of Hollywood’s archetypal anti-heroes.  The sole survivor of a warrior race called the Furyans, Riddick is the quintessential lone wolf, a soft-spoken yet barely contained force-of-nature whom you do not want to mess with if you care about your health.  The third installment in the cult-favorite sci-fi series, ‘Riddick’ follows in the wake of the well-executed ‘Pitch Black’ and the somewhat underwhelming ‘The Chronicles of Riddick.’
Self-proclaimed Dungeons & Dragons geek Vin Diesel, who reportedly leveraged his own house to finance this latest venture himself because the studios wouldn’t back it and it’s his passion project, infused the titular character with the quiet menace and brutal efficiency we’ve come to expect from this badass mofo.  In one scene, just when a chained Riddick was (Warning: Spoiler a-head!) about to have his head chopped off by a merc with a machete who's not named ‘Machete,’ he turned the table on the poor guy (because the merc never stood a chance) with a fluidity of motion that is simply beautiful to behold.  Kudos also goes to Katee Sackhoff (best known as ‘Starbuck’ on Syfy’s reboot of BSG) for not only playing the role perfectly type-cast for her as a tough female merc but also answering my prayers and showing a bit more skin than expected in a gratuitous shower scene. 
‘Riddick’ isn’t particularly profound or groundbreaking, but it is an entertaining sci-fi B-movie about a flawed man prevailing against the odds and surviving on an inhospitable death world while hunting (ahem, being hunted by) mercenaries.  It is a simple story well told, something that’s not too much to ask for but is all too rare in Hollywood nowadays.
Grade: B+

And he will hunt them..... (see poster for 'You're Next')

Saturday, September 7, 2013

The lamb, the fox and the tiger

'You're Next,' the self-referential, tongue-in-cheek satire of home invasion slashers from the director/writer team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, is a tightly plotted, suspenseful and well crafted piece of indie filmmaking.  Like Wes Craven's 'Scream,' Michael Haneke's 'Funny Games' and Joss Whedon's 'Cabin in the Woods,' the movie's a game-changer that's not afraid to bend or break genre conventions and, in so doing, give us something we haven't encountered before.
With its sinister masked-killers-terrorizing-a-family plot, 'You're Next' at first glance resembles other home invasion thrillers like 'Them,' 'The Strangers,' 'The Collector' and 'The Purge.'  However, as the story progresses and the twists are gradually revealed, culminating in the unexpected and delicious ending, we discover that 'You're Next' has about as much in common with those other films as 'Scream' has in common with 'Friday the 13th,' 'Halloween' or 'A Nightmare on Elm Street.'  Indeed, so good is 'You're Next' that I find it hard to believe this is only the second full-length outing from Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, the first being the highly acclaimed 'A Horrible Way to Die' which I most definitely will have to check out now.
Violent, bloody, darkly humorous and with a charismatic and resourceful post-modern feminist heroine played by Australian newcomer Sharni Vinson who, like Macaulay Culkin in 'Home Alone,' chose fight over flight, 'You're Next' is an immensely entertaining and highly satisfying film that's a must-see for all horror buffs.

Grade: A

Sunday, September 1, 2013

It's the End of the World as we know it....

Following 'Shaun of the Dead' and 'Hot Fuzz,' the third and final entry of Edgar Wright's so-called Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy is an epic "pub crawl" with Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Martin Freeman and Eddie Marsan.  Owing to sci-fi classics like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers' and 'The Stepford Wives,' Wright described 'The World's End' as "social science fiction" because its theme deals with the human condition.
In what may be his best performance of the trilogy, Pegg plays Gary King, a middle-aged 'rebel without a cause' and slacker who sought to recapture the lost glory of his youth by completing the 'Golden Mile,' an epic pub crawl (what we Americans call bar-hopping) of 12 pubs with names like 'The Famous Cock,' 'The Two-Headed Dog,' 'The Mermaid' and, of course, 'The World's End.'  You can read more about these fine drinking establishments here:  He recruits his old buddies, who are by now all middle-aged men with real jobs and families, to join him in finishing what they couldn't before when they were carefree teenagers with their airs of invincibility, which is recounted brilliantly in the movie's snappy opening montage.
'The World's End' combines slacker/stoner comedy with alien invasion sci-fi and social commentary.  When Gary defied 'The Network' by making his rousing speech that he'd rather be a flawed human than a soulless automaton and thereby bringing about the apocalypse, Wright is really commenting by proxy that our society as a whole has given in to conformity and that we have lost our individuality.
Witty, funny and filled with numerous references that you'll likely only catch with repeated viewings, 'The World's End' is trademark Edgar Wright and makes for a fine ending to the Cornetto Trilogy.  As the R.E.M. song goes, "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine."
Grade: A