Valdosta Daily Times

September 17, 2013

Diesel gets 'Riddick'-ulous

Adann-Kennn Alexxandar
The Valdosta Daily Times


"Riddick” (Action/Science-Fiction/Thriller: 1 hour, 59 minutes)
Starring: Vin Diesel, Karl Urban, Matt Nable, Katee Sackhoff and Jordi Mollà
Director: David Twohy
Rated: R (Strong violence, profanity, some sexual content and nudity)
Movie Review: If one has seen “Pitch Black” (2000), which also starred Diesel and directed by Twohy, one has also seen “Riddick.” Both films are about Richard B. Riddick (Diesel) attempting to get several people off a planet before deadly alien creatures attack them. Therefore, “Riddick” is nothing new.
After he's thought dead on a desert planet, Riddick activates an emergency beacon. Two vessels arrive on the planet. One is a group of mercenaries led by Santana (Mollà). They want the bounty placed on Riddick’s head. Boss Johns (Nable), a man wanting answers about the death of his son, manages the other vessel. Only Riddick can offer answers. These dozen people must survive each other, but they are not the major threat. Deadly creatures that only live in water areas are arriving with an approaching storm system. Riddick and the crews of the two vessels must work together to get off the alien planet.
As mentioned previously, “Riddick” is very similar to its prequel, “Pitch Black.” It easily appears to be a remake more than a new debut. This is definitely a cookie-cutter Hollywood production with stereotypical characters. Imagination is missing.
“Pitch Black” was gratifying because it was original — the first time Riddick debuted on the big screen. It had better acting and a better plot. In addition, it was more believable.
This script has weak dialogue. It is just an action film, so the use for clever dialogue is unimportant. The sad part is the moments are not action scenes one will remember. Scenes are all about making Diesel the unlikely, masculine hero when he is already the epitome of masculinity via appearance.
The major problem is Diesel and others in this film are not convincing and overly masculine. They are all merely part of a mediocre action film, a soulless ride that is about as engaging as sitting in a car at a traffic light.
Grade: D- (Riddickulous!)
“The Family” (Comedy/Action/Crime: 1 hour, 51 minutes)
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dianna Agron, John D’Leo and Tommy Lee Jones 
Director: Luc Besson
Rated: R (Profanity, strong violence, sexuality, brief nudity, gore, and sexual innuendo)
Movie Review: The Manzonis, an ex-mafia family, are in a witness-protection program, after Giovanni Manzoni (De Niro), an important American Mafioso, snitches on The Family. The U.S. government relocates him and his family to Normandy, France, and changes their names. They become the Blakes: Fred (De Niro), Maggie (Pfeiffer), Belle (Agron) and (D’Leo). The family does its best, but the group is unable to fit. Despite their attempts to behave, they resort to brutal tactics to achieve their goals.
The family is one of those enjoyable movies, although is it not compelling. It plays as both a comedy and an action film. The problem is that the comedic moments are funny when smart; otherwise, they are just brainless material in between violence and profanity.
The cast makes the film. The reason is that they appear to enjoy their work here. De Niro is in his element. He appears to genuinely enjoy playing a gangster again, even if a retired one.
Pfeiffer ably joins De Niro. She appears aged in this role, but that fits her and the character. She plays the family’s matriarch with zeal. Like De Niro, she appears to relish her character’s actions.  Three others are also a part of this cast. Agron and D’Leo play their children. They appear to enjoy their turns, too. Tommy Lee Jones is one cast member who is just there. He is a waste here. He is a solid actor, but this role gives him little to do.
The cast is very likable, the story is terrible and contains a scattered plot, a screenplay concocted by Director Besson (“The Fifth Element,” 1997) and Michael Caleo and based on Tonino Benacquista’s "Malavita." This is an over-the-top piece that never feels quite real. One has a chance to get to know characters but not the story in which they exist. More knowledge of the Manzonis before their fall would be nice. Part of the story appears to be missing. Thus, these characters lack a decent historical establishment.
Even more, a duplicity regarding the story is present. It is never a comedy or an action movie with certainty.   
Grade: C (All in the family in a terrible plot.)
“The Ultimate Life” (Drama: 1 hour, 49 minutes)
Starring: Logan Bartholomew, Drew Waters, Austin James and Bill Cobbs
Director: Michael Landon Jr.
Rated: PG (Mild violence during brief battle scene and thematic elements)
Movie Review: Michael Landon Jr., the son of famed actor-director Michael Landon (patriarch Charles Ingalls of "Little House on the Prairie," 1974-1983), directs this mild film. A faith-based film, it does not really preach. Instead, it provides a story about a man learning valuable lessons, letting its message unfurl as its story progresses.  
Jason Stevens (Bartholomew) runs his grandfather Howard "Red" Stevens’ foundation. Several members of Jason’s extended family are suing him for part of the billionaire's fortunes. Jason also faces losing his long-term relationship with Alexia (Ali Hillis). Just when all appears lost, Jason’s family attorney, Ted Hamilton (Cobb), gives Jason a journal, detailing Grandfather Red’s poor life to becoming a billionaire. The story of Red’s life details how money became Red’s focus and how he forgot the most important matters in life — love, family, and friendship. Red (played respectively as they age by James, Waters and James Garner), through his journal, teaches Jason what the ultimate life is.
Mild dramatic moments deliver an intriguing story. That is the most powerful of this photoplay. The characters are likable, especially a teen Red Stevens as played nicely by newcomer Austin James. The story is worthy, but quality, especially the acting and monetary resources to make it a better story, is missing.
Director Landon, mainly a television director, does a good job helming the actors, but the flow could use improvement. The plot also needs focus. Certain segments are intriguing while others are not convincing. In the end, a good story’s message is good, but the envelope in which it arrives is frayed.  
Grade: C (The ultimate life manages to be a so-so life.)
“Insidious: Chapter 2” (Thriller/Horror : 1 hour, 35 minutes)
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Rose Byrne, Ty Simpkins and Barbara Hershey
Director: James Wan
Rated: R
Movie Review: “Insidious” (2010), also directed by Wan, started a series. “Chapter 2” comically and haphazardly continues the story started in the prequel. The Lamberts thought they had left a life of evil apparitions behind in a realm called The Further. The malevolent beings follow the Lamberts to Josh Lambert’s childhood home, where his mother still lives. Once again, the family must fight frightening beings.
Something neat exists when watching thriller genre movies with nearly a full audience. Characters onscreen commit stupid actions, and members of the audience yell at the characters. Clearly, these characters irritate moviegoers, but viewers continually watch. Audiences are repetitiously committing the more unintelligent act. 
Attendees of thrillers and horrors enjoy this, as it is part of the entertainment process. If the characters did the right thing, most movies of these genres would only be 30 minutes. 
“Chapter 2” is comical to the point that one spends as much time laughing as experiencing frights. While this makes moments entertaining, it also makes scenes less serious for a thriller/horror type production.
Cheap thrills are also present, making this sequel less scary than its prequel. Popcorn entertainment is the result, meaning just entertainment without merit.         
Grade: C+ (Insidious cinema.)