Amazing Moving Pictures
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Directed by: Henry Selick
Screenplay by: Michael McDowell, Caroline Thompson
Year: 2014
Running time: 121 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Based on: The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton (poem)

Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman) is the most respected of all the monsters in Halloweentown, a town dedicated to scaring the world each Halloween. However, he finds that he has become bored with celebrating the same holiday year after year. When Jack discovers Christmastown, the home of Santa Claus (Edward Ivory) and his toy factories, his lust for life is reinvigorated. But his fascination with Christmas begins to spiral out of control, spelling disaster for the world.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is notable first and foremost for its wonderful animation and art direction. The settings are really creatively done, using festive iconography to create fascinating fantasy worlds. Additionally, each character looks totally unique and interesting. It’s especially a treat to watch Jack move about.
The story itself is pretty good, and certainly complex by “kid’s movie” standards. While there is a villain in the narrative, the real antagonist is Jack, with his own hubris and misplaced affection causing the central conflict. Both him and Sally (Catherine O’Hara), a Frankenstein-esque reanimation, are actually pretty emotionally involving characters (although the latter is unfortunately pushed to the side about halfway through).
The movie is a musical, and there are certainly several memorable, fun numbers that stuck with me after I finished watching. I especially liked “Town Meeting Song”.

Overall: Come for the amazing visuals, stay for the great story.

Nitpick: Why is Jack “The Pumpkin King”? He uses like one pumpkin in the whole dang movie. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Directed by: Henry Selick

Screenplay by: Michael McDowell, Caroline Thompson

Year: 2014

Running time: 121 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Based on: The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton (poem)

Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman) is the most respected of all the monsters in Halloweentown, a town dedicated to scaring the world each Halloween. However, he finds that he has become bored with celebrating the same holiday year after year. When Jack discovers Christmastown, the home of Santa Claus (Edward Ivory) and his toy factories, his lust for life is reinvigorated. But his fascination with Christmas begins to spiral out of control, spelling disaster for the world.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is notable first and foremost for its wonderful animation and art direction. The settings are really creatively done, using festive iconography to create fascinating fantasy worlds. Additionally, each character looks totally unique and interesting. It’s especially a treat to watch Jack move about.

The story itself is pretty good, and certainly complex by “kid’s movie” standards. While there is a villain in the narrative, the real antagonist is Jack, with his own hubris and misplaced affection causing the central conflict. Both him and Sally (Catherine O’Hara), a Frankenstein-esque reanimation, are actually pretty emotionally involving characters (although the latter is unfortunately pushed to the side about halfway through).

The movie is a musical, and there are certainly several memorable, fun numbers that stuck with me after I finished watching. I especially liked “Town Meeting Song”.

Overall: Come for the amazing visuals, stay for the great story.

Nitpick: Why is Jack “The Pumpkin King”? He uses like one pumpkin in the whole dang movie. 

Changing My Mind

Sometimes, opinions change, and I think I should amend my reviews to reflect that. Here are three films that I feel I was too harsh towards, or too easy on.

Mulholland Dr.

Honestly, this is a really well crafted film. While my anger over the plot has not totally subsided, I realize that if I had gone into the movie knowing that the central mystery would not be resolved, I probably would have really enjoyed it for its atmosphere and tension.

When Harry Met Sally

Okay, it’s not all that bland. The acting is quite good, and it really is a very enjoyable movie, certainly above average for the genre.

Django

Good? Definitely. But “pitch perfect”? A “must see”? That may be going a bit far. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine film, but in retrospect, it’s a bit poorly assembled and paced, and ultimately relies on gruesome violence to distract from the subpar character development.

Doctor Who: The Matt Smith Era

Hello geeks, whovians, and assorted tumbl-folk! With only a few days left until the premier of the new season of Doctor Who… well, a few hours… oh, it’s over? Man, I gotta stop procrastinating! Anyways, I thought that I would take a look back at The Smith Era of Doctor Who, comprising series 5-7, and why it didn’t really work.

The Smith Era was marked both by a huge influx of new fans and the alienation of many of the older ones. It was heavily controlled by the new showrunner, Steven Moffat, a controversial figure both for his writing and his personal remarks (which will NOT be talked about here. That’s a whole different thing.)

Before I get into the review proper, I should note that, unlike my normal reviews, there will be MANY SPOILERS in this article.

I did enjoy the Smith Era. Even most 11th Doctor haters admit that Matt Smith did a fantastic job of portraying our favorite Time Lord, with a performance unsurpassed since… well, the last guy. It’s been a good few years, okay?

Additionally, as with most eras of Doctor Who, those who didn’t enjoy the running arc managed to get into the standalone episodes, which have only been improving with the inclusion of more writing talent and significantly higher production values. However, this has been easily the most arc-heavy era of Doctor Who, surpassing even the rubbish “Key to Time” episodes, and unfortunately, there were many things that made the arc hard to enjoy.

One of the big problems was in the tone: dark, but really not dark enough. The idea of the Doctor being a morally ambiguous character is hardly without precedent, going back to the manipulative 7th Doctor, or even the ethically apathetic 1st Doctor. “The Waters of Mars” is considered by many (including me) to be one of the better episodes of the show because it tries to look at the negative side effects that comes with immense, history-altering power. However, like that episode, the Smith Era doesn’t really go far enough.

The first real sin the Doctor is accused of is of putting his companions in danger, forcing them to put their faith in him and ultimately letting them down. The problem is… it really doesn’t hold up. The Doctor never forces people to join him, and is always shown as totally willing to drop them off at home should the danger to them become too great. Additionally, almost every companion joins the Doctor during some life-or-death adventure, so it’s not like they don’t know that there are risks that come with TARDIS trips. And hell, even when the Doctor straight up lies to his friends, it’s always to trick them OUT of harms way, never into it.

Later on we get “The Day of the Doctor”. Now for the record, I did enjoy this episode for being well-written, well-acted, really epic, and altogether fun. But I did not like what came out of it. With one wibbly-wobbly deus ex machina, Moffat managed to write out seven seasons worth of guilt. No longer was the Doctor the man who had to choose between killing his people and dooming the universe. All his angst and self-hate, as we discovered, was the result of time-travel induced amnesia. Even worse, it could have been totally avoided. Changing history is a staple of the show, so it could have been that he DID kill the Time Lords, but ended up changing his mind, going back in time, and stopping himself. But nope! It turns out the destruction of Gallifrey never even happened.

That’s not the only thing wrong with the Smith Era, sadly. Fact is, Moffat, as a writer, doesn’t care about logic. Don’t get me wrong, many of his stories make perfect sense. However, enough of his work on Doctor Who simply demonstrates that he’s more about making a spectacle than telling a good story. Whether it’s a giant Weeping Angel in Manhatten or the televised abomination that is Plastic Rory, Moffat does not think it’s important that things are explained, as long as they look cool and seem interesting.

There are more problems, of course, many of which were inherited from previous writers. RTD’s sexism, if anything, has increased under Moffat’s tenure, with the Doctor acting as some sort of intergalactic aphrodisiac for 21st century British women. I was sick of this crap by “Planet of the Dead”, and was literally yelling at the screen during “Time of the Doctor”. C’mon, Clara! I was really enjoying your platonic dynamic!

The whole trend of the universe being constantly imperiled and saved, something which started during the 4th Doctor era and only increases in frequency, is on full display here, with the Doctor saving all of creation at least three times in as many seasons. A word of advice: ramping up the stakes is not a good way to keep people interested, especially when the stakes literally cannot get any higher!

Overall, though, I still liked the Smith Era of Doctor Who. It was messy, half-baked, and illogical, but it was also epic, emotional, and had plenty of fun, creative episodes, both from Moffat and the others. It’s a good time for Moffat to hand the show over to someone else, but as that’s clearly not happening, I can only hope his writing will continue to improve.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Directed by: James Gunn
Screenplay by: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman
Year: 2014
Running time: 121 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (graphic novel)
 
After being abducted by aliens as a child, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has become an interstellar adventurer and rogue, travelling the galaxy with nothing but his starship and collection of pop music.  He locates an ancient sphere with intent to sell it, but finds that possessing it makes him a target of religious fanatic Ronan (Lee Pace). Running from new enemies and old debts, he must band together with a rag-tag group of scoundrels and mercenaries to stop a threat like the galaxy has never before seen.
Guardians of the Galaxy has succeeded in bringing high-budget space opera back to the big screen, and more than a full year before Star Wars VII! As an avid fan of the comic series this was based on, I was really excited, and am now happy to report that I was not disappointed. The movie is everything a space adventure should be: colorful, energetic, creative, fun, epic, visually stunning… The writing, while unlikely to surprise anyone familiar with the tropes of blockbuster action, is crisp and funny, successfully playing up the more humorous elements of the film. The characters, though not incredibly deep, are interesting and unique, especially in comparison to other entries in the genre (looking at you, Riddick). The art is fantastic, with beautiful CGI landscapes and battles.
Mind you, as an adaptation, Guardians of the Galaxy is nearly a total failure. The few characters that remain from the original team have been heavily changed, either in backstory (Rocket Raccoon), personality (Starlord and Gamorra), or both (Drax and Groot). The two main alien races bare almost no resemblance to their comic counterparts, and neither do the film’s key locations. In fact, the main mcguffin, the mysterious sphere, never even appeared in the series proper. If these changes are not the sort you can overlook, I would advise you to avoid this one.
From a non-adaptation standpoint, there is one big problem. Ronan, our main antagonist, is terribly bland. He has next to no personality, barely a sense of real motivations, and ultimately, just isn’t in the movie very much. The lack of a good central antagonist prevents me from giving this film full marks.
To end on a positive note, the soundtrack is great, integrating both orchestral pieces and pop music surprisingly well.
 
Overall: It’s not MY Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s probably the most fun you’ll get out of a summer blockbuster. 

Guardians of the Galaxy

Directed by: James Gunn

Screenplay by: James Gunn, Nicole Perlman

Year: 2014

Running time: 121 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Based on: Guardians of the Galaxy by Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning (graphic novel)

 

After being abducted by aliens as a child, Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) has become an interstellar adventurer and rogue, travelling the galaxy with nothing but his starship and collection of pop music.  He locates an ancient sphere with intent to sell it, but finds that possessing it makes him a target of religious fanatic Ronan (Lee Pace). Running from new enemies and old debts, he must band together with a rag-tag group of scoundrels and mercenaries to stop a threat like the galaxy has never before seen.

Guardians of the Galaxy has succeeded in bringing high-budget space opera back to the big screen, and more than a full year before Star Wars VII! As an avid fan of the comic series this was based on, I was really excited, and am now happy to report that I was not disappointed. The movie is everything a space adventure should be: colorful, energetic, creative, fun, epic, visually stunning… The writing, while unlikely to surprise anyone familiar with the tropes of blockbuster action, is crisp and funny, successfully playing up the more humorous elements of the film. The characters, though not incredibly deep, are interesting and unique, especially in comparison to other entries in the genre (looking at you, Riddick). The art is fantastic, with beautiful CGI landscapes and battles.

Mind you, as an adaptation, Guardians of the Galaxy is nearly a total failure. The few characters that remain from the original team have been heavily changed, either in backstory (Rocket Raccoon), personality (Starlord and Gamorra), or both (Drax and Groot). The two main alien races bare almost no resemblance to their comic counterparts, and neither do the film’s key locations. In fact, the main mcguffin, the mysterious sphere, never even appeared in the series proper. If these changes are not the sort you can overlook, I would advise you to avoid this one.

From a non-adaptation standpoint, there is one big problem. Ronan, our main antagonist, is terribly bland. He has next to no personality, barely a sense of real motivations, and ultimately, just isn’t in the movie very much. The lack of a good central antagonist prevents me from giving this film full marks.

To end on a positive note, the soundtrack is great, integrating both orchestral pieces and pop music surprisingly well.

 

Overall: It’s not MY Guardians of the Galaxy, but it’s probably the most fun you’ll get out of a summer blockbuster. 

Animal Crackers
Directed by: Victor Heerman
Screenplay by: Morrie Ryskind
Year: 1930
Running time: 97 minutes
Rating: Passed
Based on: Animal Crackers (play) by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, Bert Kalmar, and Harry Ruby
 
In the early 20th century, wealthy socialite Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) is holding a grand function at her house to celebrate the return of famous explorer Jeffery Spaulding (Groucho Marx). There, art collector Roscoe Chandler (Louis Sorin) plans to display an expensive new painting he has purchased. However, multiple parties are scheming to steal the artwork, complicating events.
Animal Crackers can be summed up by one word: “apathy”. The whole movie gives one the impression that the filmmakers just didn’t care. The characters are illogical and superfluous. The actors trip over their lines and break the fourth wall. The editing is atrocious, and the sound mixing embarrassing. The shots are almost always too long. Yet I can say, without irony, that this is a very enjoyable – perhaps even good – movie.
It really feels as though the actors are actively fighting against the script. The scripted scenes have this stiff, unrehearsed feel to them, while the improvised moments have this stiff, unrehearsed hilarity to them. Imagine if you got a bunch of dramatic actors and a bunch of your comedy sports buddies and got them to film a low-budget mystery-thriller-musical over the weekend. Except that your comedy sports buddies are internationally famous. And your movie goes on to be a critical and commercial smash hit.
Speaking of musicals, the musical numbers here are, for the most part, painful. They mostly serve to remind you that you could be watching things like Captain Spaulding and Signor Ravelli (Chico Marx) duel wits, but instead are stuck listening to generic Broadway tripe (as in, these are bad by Broadway standards). There are very few of them. On one hand, better too few than too many, but on the other hand, it only makes them seem more out of place.
 
Overall: Rarely does such little effort make such a fun movie. 

Animal Crackers

Directed by: Victor Heerman

Screenplay by: Morrie Ryskind

Year: 1930

Running time: 97 minutes

Rating: Passed

Based on: Animal Crackers (play) by George S. Kaufman, Morrie Ryskind, Bert Kalmar, and Harry Ruby

 

In the early 20th century, wealthy socialite Mrs. Rittenhouse (Margaret Dumont) is holding a grand function at her house to celebrate the return of famous explorer Jeffery Spaulding (Groucho Marx). There, art collector Roscoe Chandler (Louis Sorin) plans to display an expensive new painting he has purchased. However, multiple parties are scheming to steal the artwork, complicating events.

Animal Crackers can be summed up by one word: “apathy”. The whole movie gives one the impression that the filmmakers just didn’t care. The characters are illogical and superfluous. The actors trip over their lines and break the fourth wall. The editing is atrocious, and the sound mixing embarrassing. The shots are almost always too long. Yet I can say, without irony, that this is a very enjoyable – perhaps even good – movie.

It really feels as though the actors are actively fighting against the script. The scripted scenes have this stiff, unrehearsed feel to them, while the improvised moments have this stiff, unrehearsed hilarity to them. Imagine if you got a bunch of dramatic actors and a bunch of your comedy sports buddies and got them to film a low-budget mystery-thriller-musical over the weekend. Except that your comedy sports buddies are internationally famous. And your movie goes on to be a critical and commercial smash hit.

Speaking of musicals, the musical numbers here are, for the most part, painful. They mostly serve to remind you that you could be watching things like Captain Spaulding and Signor Ravelli (Chico Marx) duel wits, but instead are stuck listening to generic Broadway tripe (as in, these are bad by Broadway standards). There are very few of them. On one hand, better too few than too many, but on the other hand, it only makes them seem more out of place.

 

Overall: Rarely does such little effort make such a fun movie. 

Mary and Max
Directed by: Adam Elliot
Written by: Adam Elliot
Year: 2009
Running time: 92 minutes
Rating: NR

In the year 1976, Mary Daisy Dinkle (Toni Collette) is an 8-year-old from Australia. She is poor, awkward, and unattractive. By pure chance, she finds a pen pal in Max Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a New Yorker with Asperger syndrome. Over the years, they bond over their mutual unpopularity and love of chocolate.
The film is one of the darker comedies I can think of, with the humor doing little to relieve the bleakness of the story. That being said, the movie isn’t all sad, and there are many funny or uplifting moments. I ended up feeling shaken, but overall happy by the time the conclusion rolled around.
The main problem with the plot is that it often seems driven by coincidences, and implausible ones at that. There are many plot points that are rather hard to swallow. That best parts, by far, are the exchanges between the titular characters, which provide poignant and hilarious insights into their psyches.
The animation is great, and even breathtaking at times. The claymated characters are really well done, but it’s ultimately the incredibly detailed sets that steal the show.

    
Overall: Depressing, but worthwhile.

Mary and Max

Directed by: Adam Elliot

Written by: Adam Elliot

Year: 2009

Running time: 92 minutes

Rating: NR

In the year 1976, Mary Daisy Dinkle (Toni Collette) is an 8-year-old from Australia. She is poor, awkward, and unattractive. By pure chance, she finds a pen pal in Max Horowitz (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a New Yorker with Asperger syndrome. Over the years, they bond over their mutual unpopularity and love of chocolate.

The film is one of the darker comedies I can think of, with the humor doing little to relieve the bleakness of the story. That being said, the movie isn’t all sad, and there are many funny or uplifting moments. I ended up feeling shaken, but overall happy by the time the conclusion rolled around.

The main problem with the plot is that it often seems driven by coincidences, and implausible ones at that. There are many plot points that are rather hard to swallow. That best parts, by far, are the exchanges between the titular characters, which provide poignant and hilarious insights into their psyches.

The animation is great, and even breathtaking at times. The claymated characters are really well done, but it’s ultimately the incredibly detailed sets that steal the show.

Overall: Depressing, but worthwhile.

Notice

My opinions on several of the films I’ve reviewed have changed over time, so please take these entries with a grain of salt. Thank you!

-Ben

Ben reviews Django
Directed by: Sergio Corbucci
Written by: Sergio Corbucci, Bruno Corbucci
Year: 1966
Running time: 92 minutes
Rating: UR

Note: My opinion of this movie has changed. UPDATE 
One day in the old west, a sex slave (Loredana Nusciak) is rescued by a mysterious gunman named Django (Franco Nero). She follows him into town, where it soon becomes apparent that he has a plan involving Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) and Hugo (José Bódalo), the region’s rival warlords.
Django is one of the most influential westerns of all time, and has been hailed as a classic of the genre. It’s clear why. Despite a slow opening and weak climax (which I will discuss in the spoilers section), the film is a tense action-thriller that measures up to contemporary westerns.
The violence is high, but it doesn’t feel forced (although Django’s godlike gun skills are a touch goofy). The graphic fights convey great atmosphere and help round out our villains.
The cinematography is quite good, and the pacing is perfect for the most part. It’s just a shame the romantic subplot feels so tacked on.

Overall: While the first and third acts are a bit rough around the edges, most of this movie is a pitch-perfect thriller. A must see for fans of westerns or heist movies.

Spoilers: The best scene of the movie comes when Hugo’s men break Django’s hands. In the space of a few minutes, Django loses his gold, his love, and his greatest weapon. It’s so stark because, up until this point, Django is portrayed as an unstoppable badass who’s always in control of the situation. The sudden reversal of fortune is executed flawlessly, and leaves a big impression on both the characters and the audience. 

Ben reviews Django

Directed by: Sergio Corbucci

Written by: Sergio Corbucci, Bruno Corbucci

Year: 1966

Running time: 92 minutes

Rating: UR

Note: My opinion of this movie has changed. UPDATE 

One day in the old west, a sex slave (Loredana Nusciak) is rescued by a mysterious gunman named Django (Franco Nero). She follows him into town, where it soon becomes apparent that he has a plan involving Jackson (Eduardo Fajardo) and Hugo (José Bódalo), the region’s rival warlords.

Django is one of the most influential westerns of all time, and has been hailed as a classic of the genre. It’s clear why. Despite a slow opening and weak climax (which I will discuss in the spoilers section), the film is a tense action-thriller that measures up to contemporary westerns.

The violence is high, but it doesn’t feel forced (although Django’s godlike gun skills are a touch goofy). The graphic fights convey great atmosphere and help round out our villains.

The cinematography is quite good, and the pacing is perfect for the most part. It’s just a shame the romantic subplot feels so tacked on.

Overall: While the first and third acts are a bit rough around the edges, most of this movie is a pitch-perfect thriller. A must see for fans of westerns or heist movies.

Spoilers: The best scene of the movie comes when Hugo’s men break Django’s hands. In the space of a few minutes, Django loses his gold, his love, and his greatest weapon. It’s so stark because, up until this point, Django is portrayed as an unstoppable badass who’s always in control of the situation. The sudden reversal of fortune is executed flawlessly, and leaves a big impression on both the characters and the audience. 

Ben reviews 47 Ronin
Directed by: Carl Rinsch
Written by: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini, Walter Hamada
Year: 2013
Running time: 119 minutes
Rating: PG-13
Vaguely inspired by: The Forty-Seven Ronin (folk tale / real life)

Yes, I’m back! You can all stop holding your breath. I know my absence was sorely missed.
Yeah, probably not.
It took another bad idea of Patrick’s to spur me into reactivating this dusty old blog. My god, someone has to review 47 Ronin. Even though many people already have. Whatever.
What’s it about, you may ask? Who cares! You, probably! But you shouldn’t. This is, by far, the most unspectacular film I’ve seen in my entire life. Not good enough to not be bad, but not bad enough to be really bad.
Basically, it’s about a bunch of samurai in feudal Japan. Their boss, the wise and archetypal lord Asano (Min Tanaka), is framed for attempted murder by rival lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his witch friend (Rinko Kikuchi). After Asano is put to death for his crimes, his old friend Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) vows vengeance.
You may have noticed that I did not mention Keanu Reeves. That’s because, in the grand scheme of things, he isn’t even the protagonist. Odd, right? That doesn’t mean it’s okay to just randomly make the one white character in this movie the center of the entire marketing campaign. But I digress *coughrascismcough*.
47 Ronin is minimal effort in the form of a movie. The writing is beyond simple. The editing is basic, and too choppy during the fight scenes. The acting is good, but held back by the writing.
The story is a mess of loose ends, nonexistent character development, and clichés. This is actually worse than After Earth, if you can believe that.
In fact, it feels like this was edited down from a film about twice as long. If there exists some three and a half hour version of this film, it actually might work.

Verdict: I can’t feel things anymore.
 

Alternative: 13 Assassins, a far superior feudal Japanese revenge film.

Ben reviews 47 Ronin

Directed by: Carl Rinsch

Written by: Chris Morgan, Hossein Amini, Walter Hamada

Year: 2013

Running time: 119 minutes

Rating: PG-13

Vaguely inspired by: The Forty-Seven Ronin (folk tale / real life)

Yes, I’m back! You can all stop holding your breath. I know my absence was sorely missed.

Yeah, probably not.

It took another bad idea of Patrick’s to spur me into reactivating this dusty old blog. My god, someone has to review 47 Ronin. Even though many people already have. Whatever.

What’s it about, you may ask? Who cares! You, probably! But you shouldn’t. This is, by far, the most unspectacular film I’ve seen in my entire life. Not good enough to not be bad, but not bad enough to be really bad.

Basically, it’s about a bunch of samurai in feudal Japan. Their boss, the wise and archetypal lord Asano (Min Tanaka), is framed for attempted murder by rival lord Kira (Tadanobu Asano) and his witch friend (Rinko Kikuchi). After Asano is put to death for his crimes, his old friend Oishi (Hiroyuki Sanada) vows vengeance.

You may have noticed that I did not mention Keanu Reeves. That’s because, in the grand scheme of things, he isn’t even the protagonist. Odd, right? That doesn’t mean it’s okay to just randomly make the one white character in this movie the center of the entire marketing campaign. But I digress *coughrascismcough*.

47 Ronin is minimal effort in the form of a movie. The writing is beyond simple. The editing is basic, and too choppy during the fight scenes. The acting is good, but held back by the writing.

The story is a mess of loose ends, nonexistent character development, and clichés. This is actually worse than After Earth, if you can believe that.

In fact, it feels like this was edited down from a film about twice as long. If there exists some three and a half hour version of this film, it actually might work.

Verdict: I can’t feel things anymore.

 

Alternative: 13 Assassins, a far superior feudal Japanese revenge film.

Ben reviews The Riddick Trilogy
Created by: David Twohy
 
This cult sci-fi series stars Vin Diesel as Richard B. Riddick, an escaped convict who flees across the galaxy from the long arm of the law. Each film has a mostly self-contained story, and details a particular episode in Riddick’s life.
 
 
Pitch Black
Directed by: David Twohy
Written by: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, David Twohy
Year: 2000
Running time: 109 minutes
Rating: R
Riddick has been captured by his longtime rival William Johns (Cole Hauser). However, while traveling to prison, the pair crash lands on an uninhabited planet. They must band together with the other survivors in order to escape the sunbaked world before they are killed by savage wildlife.
The first film in the series is a good example of low-budget sci-fi. You’ve got twelve stranded survivors who you just know are going to get picked off one-by-one by some danger. It’s not bad, but it’s hardly great either, suffering from an overuse of clichés and some lapses in logic.
 
 
The Chronicles of Riddick
Directed by: David Twohy
Written by: David Twohy
Year: 2004
Running time: 119 Minutes
Rating: PG-13
Years after Pitch Black, Riddick is again on the run from the law. However, the universe is a different place, as the vicious armies of the Nercromongers are spreading from planet to planet. Riddick is recruited by an old friend to deal with the menace.
This movie is the odd one out. While Pitch Black and Riddick are closer to “space horror” films, this one has a grand, epic feel to it. It’s massive in scope, with battle scenes between warring factions instead of the humans vs aliens vs Riddick fights of the other two.
While the effects aren’t spectacular, the scenery is diverse and detailed, making each planet stand out as a unique setting. The action scenes are fun enough to retain interest. The movie’s biggest problem is that it feels too big for its running time. The backstories of the different races involved in the cosmic conflict are hardly explained at all, and the central conflict feels too big for only two hours of film.
Also, the camera angles are often tilted for no discernable reason.
 
 
Riddick
Directed by: David Twohy
Written by: David Twohy
Year: 2013
Running time: 119 minutes
Rating: R
This movie resolves the ending of The Chronicles of Riddick rather quickly and introduces a new story. Riddick, now stranded on a distant world, hatches a plan to steal a ship and escape. The only problem is that he must use himself as bait in order to lure some greedy bounty hunters.
While the bigger budget is a promising sign for this movie, it’s in many ways the weakest of the trilogy. It starts off as a unique and interesting tale of wilderness survival, but the plot is whittled down until the second half, by which point the movie seems like a retread of Pitch Black.
While there are some great cat-and-mouse moments in the film, most of the characters aren’t interesting enough to make the audience care. Speaking of characters, the less said about Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), the better. I’ll put it this way: I doubt this movie is going to do well with the feminist crowd.
 


Overall: While none of these films are anything more than good, they do occupy a unique enough position in the cinematic world to justify their existence. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what order you watch them in, or even if you watch more than one. Just know that each film ruins the ending of the previous one.

Ben reviews The Riddick Trilogy

Created by: David Twohy

 

This cult sci-fi series stars Vin Diesel as Richard B. Riddick, an escaped convict who flees across the galaxy from the long arm of the law. Each film has a mostly self-contained story, and details a particular episode in Riddick’s life.

 

 

Pitch Black

Directed by: David Twohy

Written by: Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, David Twohy

Year: 2000

Running time: 109 minutes

Rating: R

Riddick has been captured by his longtime rival William Johns (Cole Hauser). However, while traveling to prison, the pair crash lands on an uninhabited planet. They must band together with the other survivors in order to escape the sunbaked world before they are killed by savage wildlife.

The first film in the series is a good example of low-budget sci-fi. You’ve got twelve stranded survivors who you just know are going to get picked off one-by-one by some danger. It’s not bad, but it’s hardly great either, suffering from an overuse of clichés and some lapses in logic.

 

 

The Chronicles of Riddick

Directed by: David Twohy

Written by: David Twohy

Year: 2004

Running time: 119 Minutes

Rating: PG-13

Years after Pitch Black, Riddick is again on the run from the law. However, the universe is a different place, as the vicious armies of the Nercromongers are spreading from planet to planet. Riddick is recruited by an old friend to deal with the menace.

This movie is the odd one out. While Pitch Black and Riddick are closer to “space horror” films, this one has a grand, epic feel to it. It’s massive in scope, with battle scenes between warring factions instead of the humans vs aliens vs Riddick fights of the other two.

While the effects aren’t spectacular, the scenery is diverse and detailed, making each planet stand out as a unique setting. The action scenes are fun enough to retain interest. The movie’s biggest problem is that it feels too big for its running time. The backstories of the different races involved in the cosmic conflict are hardly explained at all, and the central conflict feels too big for only two hours of film.

Also, the camera angles are often tilted for no discernable reason.

 

 

Riddick

Directed by: David Twohy

Written by: David Twohy

Year: 2013

Running time: 119 minutes

Rating: R

This movie resolves the ending of The Chronicles of Riddick rather quickly and introduces a new story. Riddick, now stranded on a distant world, hatches a plan to steal a ship and escape. The only problem is that he must use himself as bait in order to lure some greedy bounty hunters.

While the bigger budget is a promising sign for this movie, it’s in many ways the weakest of the trilogy. It starts off as a unique and interesting tale of wilderness survival, but the plot is whittled down until the second half, by which point the movie seems like a retread of Pitch Black.

While there are some great cat-and-mouse moments in the film, most of the characters aren’t interesting enough to make the audience care. Speaking of characters, the less said about Dahl (Katee Sackhoff), the better. I’ll put it this way: I doubt this movie is going to do well with the feminist crowd.

 

Overall: While none of these films are anything more than good, they do occupy a unique enough position in the cinematic world to justify their existence. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what order you watch them in, or even if you watch more than one. Just know that each film ruins the ending of the previous one.