Riddick (2013)

When the third installment of the Chronicles of Riddick (following the movie of the same name, which itself followed Pitch Black, both of which I rather enjoyed, in different ways) was announced, I remember being excited: here was a sequel I’d really wanted to see, but almost didn’t get made, as I might have been one of the only ones who enjoyed CoR. In fact, I rather enjoyed Riddick at the cinema – so I wasn’t really expecting to loathe large swathes of it on a TV repeat viewing.

The first disappointment is how Riddick follows on from its predecessor – we’d last left Richard B. suddenly in charge of his enemies, the weird but intriguing Necromancers; a situation with no end of possibility. But no: let’s just sweep all that aside in a somewhat clunky opening. Bah.

What follows is a movie of two halves. First, Riddick must claw for survival, abandoned as he is on a hostile planet inhabited by nasty critters. Again, there’s some scope here, but in the re-viewing, all I could see was the ridiculousness of the hugely over the top ‘manly’ posing (including silhouetted in the buff, on top of a rock, for no good reason!) and completely unfeasible overcoming of terrible injuries. Oh yeah – and the cartoon dog. It’s not meant to be, but… o_O

Eventually we get some other cast members, and it is vaguely amusing to see the role call of big burly blokes, and laugh that they were in this before more recent roles: e.g. Dave Bautista, pre-Guardians of the Galaxy, or Matt Nable, more recognisable now as Ra’s Al Ghul from Arrow (if you’re me, and watch these shows, of course!). Less impressive, however, is our sole female character.

What amazes me is how little of the really, REALLY dire, misogynistic treatment of the character of Dahl (pronounced ‘doll’, of course!), both by the other characters and just generally how the role is used, went largely unnoticed by me when I saw this at the cinema. On repeat viewing, it was not only obviously but so distractingly cringe-worthy that I could no longer enjoy the mindless action or scenery, which will usually get me to forgive a lot in a popcorn movie.

Played by the usually wonderful Katee Sackhoff, Dahl isn’t just abused for being a woman in a man’s world – urgh, but she does kick ass in return! – but it’s the way she morphs into a bit of a girly purely through apparent awe of Riddick’s character. She’s in the script, it seems, to be threatened, ogled, and set as the ‘prize’ for the biggest, baddest man. What the hell?!!

As I say, I’m amazed and appalled that I didn’t  see this on first viewing (others did; I think I thought them oversensitive at the time). But even aside from that, even the action and scenery was really spoiled by the constant posing and (even within genre) unrealistic physical showing off, matching the arrogance and increasingly unpleasant smugness of the lead character.

Overall: hard to see now as anything other than a Vin Diesel vanity piece, and I’m actually disappointed.

Released: 4th September 2013
Viewed: 23rd March 2016 (rewatch)
Running time: 119 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 3/10

Black Trillium – Julian May et al

“In the Eighth Hundred after those of Ruwenda came to rule over the swamp wilderness called the Mazy Mire (though not completely, for they never mastered the intractable Oddlings), legend and history both awoke to record one of those great changes which now and then alter the very balance of the world.”

I wanted to like this book, really I did. It came with a recommendation from a friend’s warm memories of reading this as a youngster, and the new reissue that saw me grab a review copy from NetGalley made me hopeful of an old series finding a new audience.

Then I started reading. And, if that opening sentence doesn’t warn you enough, it is possibly the worst opening to a book I have ever read. Every single mistake writing classes/advice warn you about is present: the overly long, info-dump of a description of the fantasy world, written in that stilted, ‘high fantasy’-stylised tone, full of made-up names about places and events that you have zero context for and thus really don’t care about just now. Pages and pages of this, with no action or dialog.

When we do finally meet the main characters, they are not all that appealing: triplet princesses (a blonde, a redhead, and one with dark hair – ‘cos, y’know… o_O ) who are just lovely and stereotypical: the warrior, the ‘brain’, and the soppy one. Each is sent off on a quest, but all three will be needed to save the land from the invaders, ‘cos Prophecy.

I’m sorry, but my eyeballs are bleeding, and we’re only a few chapters in.

To be fair, the whole thing eventually improves – to the level of a bog-standard, 1990s fantasy cliche, I’m afraid. It’s not awful by the time it gets going, but I’m afraid I can’t say it makes up for the awfulness of the opening chapter. And while the concept of the three famous authors each writing a character is certainly intriguing, I couldn’t discern what it was adding to the whole.

That my friend remembered it fondly from years back implies that (a) it’s more for a younger audience, and (b) fantasy fiction has matured greatly in a quarter of a century (thank goodness!). I can imagine that back in the early 1990s having three female leads in a fantasy would have been wonderfully different from most of what was out there, but it certainly hasn’t aged well.

Paperback: 491 pages
First published: 1990
Series: The Saga of the Trillium, book 1 (of 5, with the original authors writing different books)
Read from 1st September 2015 – 31st January 2016 (it was a bit of a slog!)

My rating: 3/10 – harmless enough fluff after a dire start, but hasn’t aged well, alas

The Transporter Refueled (2015)

What can I say – it was a slim week for cinema offerings! And so I went along to this with low expectations… and was still disappointed!

The reason this didn’t work for me is almost certainly the charisma-free performance from Ed Skrein, utterly failing to be Jason Statham. Somehow he just doesn’t convince as the hard as nails ‘Transporter’ – he’s too… I dunno, emotional? Hmm.

The action – the raison d’etre – is alright, but again it fails to convince at certain key moments.

The plot and characterisation and all that – well, you surely weren’t expecting much of all that from a movie like this, were you?! 😉

And yet still: I’d rather watch this again that a repeat of Fantastic Four: Transporter was expectedly naff, F4 was disappointing. There’s a difference.

Released: 4th September 2015
Running time: 96 minutes
Rated: 15

My rating: 3/10

Fantastic Four (2015)

Well, it’s finally happened: the Marvel logo at the start of the film is no longer a guarantee of fun. This movie was pretty darn dreadful – I think they should have let Fox keep all the ‘credit’ and distanced themselves as much as possible from this po-faced, misjudged, badly edited, sorry excuse for a super hero dirge.

Rumours are that the studio are to blame for interfering with the director’s cut of the movie. It makes sense. The opening half isn’t so dreadful, with introductions to the characters before the ‘accident’. That the momentous events are caused by so much utterly unlikely shambolic behaviour from a bunch of supposedly bright scientists is perhaps excusable – IF the movie were any fun. Sadly, it isn’t.

The one saving grace, for me, is the explanation of why the four characters get different abilities from the one accident. That is it. Oh, okay – some of the special effects and sets look good (sadly, Kate Mara’s wig looks dreadful – how hard would that have been to get right, instead of distractingly dire?). And, alright: the characterisations are an improvement from the previous adaptation (especially the Invisible Girl) – but I still didn’t like a single one of them, and quite frankly they were given about as much to do as the scenery.

My advice is: when you see the ‘one year later’ card flashed across the screen, leave. My cinema-buddies seemed to enjoy it enough, but I couldn’t stand the blandness, the terrible (lack of) storytelling, the inconsistencies, and most of all the utterly humourless way it’s all done. Everything is finished off with the obvious setting up for a sequel I can only hope never sees the light of day!

Released: 6th August 2015
Running time: 100 minutes
Rated: 12A

My rating: 3/10