Riddick

Riddick Movie PosterRiddick returns Vin Diesel’s title character to the basics of what made Pitch Black, the first movie in this series, such a cult favorite without ignoring the continuity laid out in 2004’s The Chronicles of Riddick.

The movie opens with Riddick alone and left for dead on a desolate, unnamed planet.  Told via flashback, which includes a cameo by Karl Urban as Vaako, we learn that Riddick visited the planet believing it was his home world, Furya.  Instead, it was a trap laid by Vaako to kill Riddick so that he could take command of the Necromongers.

Gravely wounded, Riddick realizes that he’s lost his edge and that he’ll need to find it again to survive the hostile environment, which includes several types of deadly creatures.  Since this isn’t that short of a movie, I’m not giving anything away saying that Riddick accomplishes his goal of living.  That includes learning to defeat a poisonous, water dwelling creature and taming a wild dog-like animal.  About a year passes when Riddick finds an unmanned mercenary outpost and devises a plan to escape the planet.

He sets things in motion by activating an emergency beacon which is answered by two mercenary crews.  One, led by Jordi Molla as Santana, is there for the bounty on Riddick’s head (pays double to bring him in dead) while the other, led by Matt Nable’s Boss Johns, is there for a more personal reason.  Johns wants to capture Riddick so he can find out what happened to his son, William Johns (Cole Hauser), who didn’t survive his own encounter with Riddick during the events of Pitch Black.

At this point in the movie we return to what helped Black become such a fan favorite.  Riddick disappears into the background, showing up only in glimpses as he turns the two mercenary crews against each other and, eventually, against the deadly creatures on the planet.

Riddick turns up the blood and gore a little bit from the previous films, but there’s also some humor injected by both Riddick and the mercenaries that helps to even things out.  Katee Sackhoff as Dahl and Bokeem Woodbine as Moss make up part of Johns’ crew while Dave Bautista as Diaz and Nolan Gerard Funk as Luna are signed on with Santana.

David Twohy returns as director and writer but had some help with the screenplay by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell.  Vin Diesel once again receives producer credits on the film, but more importantly, he owns the rights to the character of Riddick.  It was recently reported that he obtained the writes in exchange for his cameo in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.  That ownership and his love for the character, plus support from Twohy, is what allowed this sequel to go forward after the lackluster box office Chronicles pulled in.  If Riddick does well, apparently there are plans for possibly another two films.  Can I pre-order tickets now?

Riddick borrows a few plot points from Pitch Black, but it’s not a copy and has its own payoff.  Riddick, as a character, is advanced in the movie and in some ways brings out a better performance in Diesel than his role as Dominic Toretto in the Fast and Furious movies.  I’m a huge fan of Katee Sackhoff and enjoyed her part as Dahl, including the cameo by her boobs.  Dahl is a take-no-shit merc and you never once question if she can hold her own even against guys the size of Diaz and Moss.  Santana is creepy and cocky, giving us a bad guy we can get behind seeing wasted.  Johns has a certain amount of honor and we’re left right to the end of the movie wondering whose side he’ll end up on.

The budget for Riddick, estimated to be about $38 million, was scaled back from Chronicles but the movie looks excellent.  The environment and creatures mostly work together seamlessly.  There are a couple of times with the hover bikes where the CGI was a little sketchy, but for the most part there’s nothing that really pulls you out of the film.  The plot is also pretty straight forward, shedding a lot of the mystical stuff from Chronicles, but leaves enough meat to build characters while providing plenty of action.

If you liked Pitch Black or are just a fan of Vin Diesel, or Katee’s nipples, I’d recommend checking this movie out at the theater, especially if that means future installments.  I’m going to deduct a point for the similarities to Pitch Black, a couple FX missteps and one plot hole that I didn’t care for even though it’s there specifically to explain one part of the story.  Four out of Five wheels of cheddar for Riddick.

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MyTube: 2013 – 2014 Television Line-up

MyTube Television LogoI’m looking over the listing of new television shows, like I always do this time of year, filling out a quick chart of where my returning favorites are and where the new shows fit in and I have to say, this season is looking weak.

Let’s take it day by day

Sunday

Sunday looks pretty much the same as last year with only one new show debuting, “Betrayal,” which is a whodunit court mystery with the twist being that the main character is married to the prosecutor in the case and having an affair with the defense attorney. Dropping into ABC’s lineup after the returning “Revenge” seems like a pretty good place for it but I think I’ll pass. I wish it well, but I’ll be finding out, finally, who Red John is over on “The Mentalist.”

Monday

Monday night is potentially a slow night, depending on when some shows return to the cable networks. But, “Castle” is back and I have high hopes for “Sleepy Hollow.” Yes, it sort of has a time travel thing going on but it’s right up my alley.

This new show “Hostages” looks kind of interesting; a doctor’s family is held hostage and she can save them by killing the president during an operation. There’s lots of star power in this one (Dylan McDermott, Toni Collette, Tate Donovan) but I have to wonder how it runs more than a season? Sounds more like a movie or mini-series than an ongoing show. I may check it out.

“The Blacklist,” on the other hand, starring James Spader and Megan Boone, sounds like any number of other shows we’ve seen; “a most-wanted fugitive works with a rookie FBI profiler to take down criminals and terrorists.” “Person of Interest,” “White Collar,” um, seems like I’m forgetting an obvious one… Meh. Pass.

Tuesday

Tuesday is gonna be a problem for me. I’m a die-hard “NCIS” fan yet it’s now matched up with my most anticipated show of the year, “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” Yeah. “NCIS:LA” and the new neighbor, “Person of Interest,” round out the killer CBS schedule.

“Chicago Fire” moves over to Tuesday on NBC so I may catch this after recording it.

The only new drama on Tuesday is “Luky 7” on ABC but we’ve already had that show, “Windfall,” which was not only not lucky, I’m sure none of the actors got ritch working on it either. Although “Windfall” did have a much better cast: D.J. Cotrona, Alice Creczyn, Lana Parrilla, Luke Perry, Sarah Wynter and Peyton List… Anyway, I’m yawning. Could be because it’s 1:30 in the morning as I write this, but probably not.

Wednesday

Ah, Wednesday. You return with “Nashville,” “CSI,” “Criminal Minds” and “Law & Order: SVU” while adding to the procedural fun with “Ironside.” Blair Underwood in a wheelchair solving crimes. Nah. Again, only 1 new drama on the dial, “Ironside,” and a bunch of other crap.

Oh, but “Revolution” moves to 8:00 on NBC. I have such a love/hate relationship with that show. I love to hate it for doing such stupid shit, yet it was one of the few new shows last season that I looked forward to every week. It’s the only thing on in its timeslot that’s interesting so I guess I’ll keep watching.

Thursday

I used to look forward to Thursday’s but this season it’s a wasteland of comedies (too many to list), music (“X Factor” & “Glee” on FOX) and prime time soaps (“Grey’s Anatomy” & “Parenthood”).

“Elementary” feels abandoned, left alone at 10:00 on CBS without “Person of Interest” to lead into it. I’ll stick with it, though, because I never did get into “Scandal,” although I do give that show props for creating what I’ve heard is a solid drama.

I am looking forward to one new show, however; “Once Upon a Time in Wonderland.” The spin-off from “Once Upon a Time” should make for some easy relaxation in the 8:00 hour.

Friday

Remember when “Moonlight” was on at 9:00 on Friday on CBS and Alex O’Loughlin chased bad guys with the hot Sophia Myles and he was a vampire and shit? Yeah. Man I miss that show. Good news, vampires are back on Friday nights. Bad news, it’s Jonathan Rhys Meyers in “Dracula” on NBC. At least Katie McGrath is in it. But, O’Loughlin is holding down the 9:00 slot on CBS again, in “Hawaii Five-0.”

Don’t care about that much, “Grimm” is where it’s at! Can’t wait for that show, and it does provide the perfect lead-in for “Dracula.” I’ll give that show a shot but I’ll probably mostly be over on CBS for the returning “Blue Bloods.” We must abide the mustache.

Notes

I didn’t look at The CW shows because, well, Time Warner is an insufferable piece of shit company that won’t pony up for even one channel of that network on the local cable dial. So I’m shut out of returning shows such as “Arrow,” “Supernatural,” “Nikita,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Beauty and the Beast,” as well as the new shows “The Originals” and “The Tomorrow People.”  That’s seven extra hours of advertising you could be bombarding me with, Time Warner.  Instead, fuck you.

One thing of interest, there are 8 debuting dramas this season and 13 comedies. Good luck with that.

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The Wolverine

The Wolverine Movie PosterIf you read my review of X-Men Origins: Wolverine you’ll know I wasn’t a huge fan, so I’d been back and forth on whether or not to see The Wolverine on opening night.  Or, at all, really.  But Hugh Jackman strapping on the claws once again?  Couldn’t really say no.

Unlike Origins which was a standalone movie, The Wolverine is actually a sequel to X-Men: The Last Stand and Logan’s demons over killing Jean Grey (Famke Janssen who cameos) in that film’s climax is a big part of what drives him in this outing.

Logan is invited to Japan by Rila Fukushima’s Yukio, where he’s to visit the deathbed of Yashida (Hal Yamanouchi), a former Japanese soldier who Logan saved from the World War II bombing of Nagasaki.  Yashida wants to borrow Logan’s healing factor and, in exchange, allow him to become mortal.  Logan declines but before he can leave Japan, Yashida dies and he finds himself in the midst of a power struggle for control of the family’s business.

At this point the plot starts to get muddled.  The main thread is Logan trying to protect Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), who has been willed the company over her father, Shingen (Hirouki Sanada).  To do that he has to figure out who is out to kill her; her father, her fiance Noburo (Brian Tee), her childhood friend Harada (Will Yun Lee) or the Yakuza.  His ability to protect Mariko is impaired by Yashida’s doctor, played by Svetlana Khodchenkova, who saps Logan of his healing ability, and his constant dreams of Jean, who he was unable to save.

If James Mangold, who directed, or Mark Bomback and Scott Frank, who wrote the screenplay, had been able to keep those threads at the forefront of the plot the film probably would have turned out better.  Instead, several of the characters have multiple layers of shifting loyalties which are hard to follow and the final showdown at the film’s climax is telegraphed in the first 20 minutes of the movie.

The Wolverine does not, however, lack action.  Some of it is quick and brutal, such as the opening sequence in Nagasaki, while some is long and drawn out, like the attack at the funeral.  Logan is tested through the entire film both physically and mentally and Jackman shines the whole time.  I did have a problem with the fight choreography on a couple of occasions and there were several moments during the funeral where Mangold cut the shit out of the movie, which ruined the flow and made things hard to follow.

The scenes between Logan and Jean did a lot to help advance Wolverine as a character and the love story between Logan and Mariko gave the movie heart.  Yukio played an interesting role in the film and I would be more than happy to see her pop up again in another Wolverine or X-Men film.  I’ve been a fan of Will Yun Lee for a long time so I’m always happy to see him in a movie but felt his character wasn’t used well this time around.

As is now the tradition with Marvel movies, there’s a scene during the credits that includes two awesome cameos which I won’t mention here.  But I will say that they set up X-Men: Days of Future Past which will be released next year.  Don’t miss this scene!

The Wolverine is one of those movies that left me walking out of the theater undecided on exactly how I felt about it.  I didn’t hate the movie but didn’t love it either.  There’s a lot to like but there was just enough wrong with the movie that it took me a day to digest it before posting this review.

I have to recommend seeing The Wolverine and even springing for the theater ticket price, although not the 3D showings.  If you boil the movie down to three beats; Logan dealing with the death of Jean, the love story with Mariko and the X-Men teaser during the credits, you’ll get your money’s worth.

I think I can only serve up 3 wheels of cheddar our of 5 for The Wolverine…but there’ll be wine and maybe some tequila on the table with it.

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Pacific Rim

Pacific Rim Movie PosterRemember when I got down on Man of Steel for all the destruction?  Well, the destruction in Pacific Rim makes Man of Steel look like a Woody Allen movie.  And that’s exactly how it was supposed to be.

Guillermo del Toro’s monsters vs machines film is an ode to Japanese anime and cinema, where films such as Godzilla and Mobile Suit Gundam have been staples for decades.  This time around, the giant monsters, or Kaiju, appear in the Pacific from an interdimensional portal at the bottom of the ocean.  To combat these aliens, the world has gotten together to create the Jaeger program, constructing giant, piloted mechs to protect the world.

Because the mechs are so complex, it takes two pilots, mind-linked through a process called drifting, to operate them.  Charlie Hunnam, as Raleigh Becket, and his brother Yancy (Diego Klattenhoff) are two of the best pilots, using their Jaeger, Gipsy Danger, to defend Alaska.  But after a battle goes wrong, and Yancy is killed, Raleigh leaves the Jaeger program.

Five years later, with the attacks becoming more frequent and the Kaiju larger, Raleigh is called back to action by his former boss, Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba).  There’s a plan to seal the portal in the Pacific and finally bring peace to the planet.  Of course, this being a movie, things don’t go exactly as planned.  Pentecost learns from two scientists, Charlie Day’s Newton Geiszler and Burn Gorman’s Gottleib, that the attacks aren’t random and are actually planned out by aliens who are intent on taking over the planet.

Their discoveries help Pentecost and Raleigh, with his new copilot Mako (Rinko Kikuchi), make their final assault on the portal where they face the largest Kaiju yet to invade.

Pacific Rim starts out with flashback scenes and narration by Raleigh, giving the viewers a history lesson on how we got to the point in time of the film.  The action sequences kick into high gear right from the jump and it only slows down a few times to introduce characters such as Mako and the scientists.

Ron Perlman as Hannibal Chau, a black market dealer in Kaiju body parts, has several funny moments with Newton that help break up the battles.  Max Martini and Robert Kazinsky, as Herc and Chuck Hansen, play the rule obeying poster boys for the Jaeger project.

I’ve given del Toro crap before for using similar creature designs in his films (notably Pans’ Labyrinth and Hellboy II: The Golden Army) but Pacific Rim has some unique designs along with a few that are reminiscent of the classic man-in-a-suit Godzilla movies.  The CGI in the movie is seamless and it looks gorgeous, especially considering the amount of water effects used.  Industrial Light & Magic has proven their mastery of CGI liquids numerous times and their expertise was appreciated.

The plot of Pacific Rim doesn’t stray very far from your standard hero’s tale of redemption but I didn’t find that to be a problem.  Much like Avatar, this movie is more about the spectacle of the world the director wanted to create then it is the story; you go to see Pacific Rim to watch gigantic mechs beat up on monsters and that’s exactly what was delivered.

Hunnam and Elba, who carried most of the film, did fine in the acting category with Hunnam falling a little flat.  Part of that may be that I couldn’t get his turn as Jax Teller from “Son’s of Anarchy” out of my head.  Elba, however, is very talented and he played Pentecost with the appropriate amount of swagger.  Martini’s fake Australian accent was a little odd but it was just nice to see him not be the bad guy.  The comedy turns by Day and Perlman created some of my favorite moments in the movie.  Besides, how can you have a del Toro movie without Ron Perlman?  Hint; you can’t.

As I said, the CGI was seamless in Pacific Rim, the mechs all had unique looks to them and the monsters fit the bill for giant battle scenes.  Since the movie relied so heavily on CGI, I did expect to see a little more indulgence in the actual fights between the Jaegers and Kaiju and, for the most part did, but there were a few times where the action was so frenetic that it was hard to tell what was going on.  Several of the large battles took place at night or under water which added to the confusion, but they didn’t miss a beat in taking out buildings, bridges and all the other man-made objects you’ll find in major cities such as Hong Kong.

Unlike Man of Steel, which I held to a higher standard, the destruction and over the top action was exactly what was called for in Pacific Rim.  The story was pretty straight forward and the plotting kept you in the loop for the whole 2 hours.  Unlike the recent Star Trek and Iron Man movies, or Transformers, this movie’s logic held together rather well and from that standpoint, may have been better overall.  Pacific Rim is not really like anything else we’ve seen in the US movie market before and for that I commend Guillermo del Toro for getting this made.

I highly recommend Pacific Rim to anyone that likes the big action films.  It’s a spectacle that should be seen on the big screen but not necessarily in 3D.  I’m slicing up 4 wheels of cheddar out of 5.

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Man of Steel

Antje Traue FaoraWhen you go to see a Superman movie and you come home thinking that the most interesting character was Antje Traue’s Faora, something’s wrong.  Not with Antje, cuz she’s hot, look at her, but with the movie.

Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer are responsible for the story and screenplay respectively.  Zack Snyder directed.  Man of Steel is a true reboot of the Superman franchise and follows on the heals of Nolan and Goyer’s successful Batman trilogy.  Unfortunately for DC, this movie fell short in a lot of respects.

The basic story is pretty solid; in the last days of Krypton, Jor-El (Russell Crowe) sends his son Kal-El (Henry Cavill) to Earth to escape the planet’s destruction.  General Zod (Michael Shannon), after a failed coup attempt, is banished to the Phantom Zone only to later escape and track Kal-El to Earth seeking revenge and to build a new Krypton on Earth.

Executing that basic story, however, turned into a hot mess of CGI destruction for the sake of destruction.  And yelling.  There was a lot of yelling.  And there was a whole Hulk -smash-puny-god riff.  And Superman punched a lot of stuff…with his fists and his face and the back of his head and he got tossed through a city and a town and space ship and stuff.

Wholly crap was it bad.  The final showdown between Superman and Zod was also a real what the fuck moment.  The outcome basically goes against everything you’ve ever known about Superman.

Oh, did I mention that Elliot Stabler was in this movie?  He was.  Sort of.  Antje Traue’s pretty sexy in the Kryptonian battle suit, right?  Did I mention that?

Amy Adams.  Almost forgot about her, she was Lois Lane.  I didn’t like her.  Wonder what Kate Bosworth was up to?  Jimmy Olsen wasn’t in this movie.  There is a girl named Jenny (Rebecca Buller) that I guess we were supposed to care about when Perry White (Laurence Fishburne) and Steve Lombard (Michael Kelly) almost died rescuing her.  Maybe she was supposed to be the Jimmy character?   Don’t know, had to look her up on IMDB to even find out her characters name so she probably wasn’t that important.

Diane Lane looked really old in the makeup she wore to play present day Martha Kent.  Kevin Costner, as Johnathan Kent, just looked old through the whole thing.  I don’t know if that was intentional.

Is this review making any sense or is it jumping around with me randomly inserting things as they pop into my head?  If it makes sense, you’ll like Man of Steel.  If it feels random and you’re confused, that’s how I felt about the movie.  Two wheels of cheddar out of five.

I should have gone to see Fast & Furious 6 again.  Or watched Pandorum on disc, because Antje Traue’s hot.

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