Category: Fantasy

300: Rise of an Empire

300_Rise_of_an_Empire_Eva_Green_PosterBack in 2006 I stumbled onto 300 in the cinema as a “nothing else on” choice. I had watched the trailers and had been generally underwhelmed. In the end I enjoyed both the visual style and the ‘over macho’ performances of all involved and so I was rather looking forward to seeing this year’s sequel.

Zack Snyder and Kurt Johnstad are back converting the original Frank Miller source to the big screen, but this time around Snyder passed the directing duties onto Noam Murro. I have never come across this gentleman’s name or work before, but he picked this movie over the terrible Die Hard 4, so he clearly has some smarts! Continue reading “300: Rise of an Empire” »

The Zero Theorem

The-Zero-Theorem-melanie-thierryFor the majority of film makers today the biggest obstacle to getting their projects made is money. It does not matter how good the story is and, in most cases, who is attached. It all comes down to support. It has become something of an art form in recent years for producers to obtain funding via any number of schemes and options. One film maker who has struggled with financing and to a lesser degree a lot of bad luck is Terry Gilliam. If you are sitting in a cinema and see the words ‘A Film By Terry Gilliam’ pop up, you know that there will be a back story of struggle and tenacity associated with the production. It gladdened the heart to see those words appear for his new film The Zero Theorem. Continue reading “The Zero Theorem” »

The Chronicles of Riddick

vin-diesel-riddickIt is difficult to find a contemporary Sci-Fi film that doesn’t try to please everyone. The gritty Elysium from last year, had a storyline that was almost a joke due to it’s overly earnest nature. It eventually results in the anti-climactic and clichéd sacrifice that we have become overly familiar with in movies in recent years. Instead of looking to the classics of Star Wars and Metropolis, I looked towards the 2004 film The Chronicles of Riddick to provide me with a slightly different experience. The film is full of stealth action scenes, parkour with explosions and excessively violent fight scenes and terrible one liners.

The Chronicles of Riddick is set five years after the events of Pitch Black. The first film found its place in the home medium after a modest cinema run film which turned out to be successful enough that a sequel was financed. In the film, we follow Riddick (Vin Diesel) on his quest to find out the identity of the person who has placed a massive bounty on his head. The trail leads to Helion Prime, a world which has very strong echoes of the cities and desert landscapes of Arrakis from Frank Herbert’s Dune. It is this world that showcases some stunning visuals that draw the audience into the story. Although the special effects do not rival that of Avatar, the $105 million budget is very evident on the screen.

Vin Diesel gives a very good performance. The fact that he plays pretty much the same character whatever the film is of little consequence. He knows exactly what the audience wants and he delivers. He relishes the slightly daft one liners and is obviously enjoying taking on the role for a second time. He carries the majority of the film and some of the smaller cast roles are pushed to the side to give his screen presence more impact. That does not mean that other actors do not get a look in.

thandie-Newton-karl-urban-chronicles-of-riddick Karl Urban as Vakko is the main adversary for Riddick and he growls and snarls his way through the film with gusto. It is an almost pantomime bad guy performance which sits well within the confines of the film. Thandie Newton acts alongside Urban as his wife. Her role is a cross between Lady MacBeth and Cruella DeVille. She chews the scenery with her over the top performance which again never feels out of place in the spectacle. Bizarrely Dame Judi Dench also features as Aereon, an elemental. She is of a race of beings who believe in the balance of the universe and have a talent for prophecy. Dame Judi appears to be having a good time hamming it up with the rest of them.

The storyline is nothing special which is both a good and bad point. It’s excellent as the film focuses on the often explosive action and unbelievable elements that truly make a good sci-fi flick. Unfortunately, the film’s lack of in-depth story leads to the action scenes becoming the main driver of the film with the ‘major’ plot points being used as a connective device. For example, when Riddick is interred in an underground prison and for some unexplained reason is left hanging while bounty hunters haggle over money. He of course escapes his chains and is immediately greeted by violent prisoners and a standard fight scene that last only a few moments.

Another major flaw is the colour design. This is reflected in several scenes and none more apparent than during the battle for Helion prime. The fight sequences are very dark and it is a struggle to see what is going on. We are then subjected to a first person view from Riddicks point of view. There is an almost lazy purple light over everything that would give anyone a sore head.

The ultimate problem lies within its originality. As mentioned earlier, Helion prime is very much like Arrakis from Dune. Unfortunately the main issue found is its likeness to certain aspects of the Star Trek universe. I am obviously referring to the unnamed security guard that is killed within ten minutes of appearing. This happens repeatedly as bounty hunters and security guards alike are massacred by Riddick and the armies of the Necromongers, the principal evil presence.

In conclusion, The Chronicles of Riddick is a very good film. The action and adventure is relentless but the overall enjoyment doesn’t wear off and the story doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Troll 2

troll-2. 1Films as a general rule, are meant to entertain.  And in order to entertain, regardless of the genre, it is generally accepted that a few principles need to be adhered to.  For instance, the acting and the script has to be of a standard that make the characters believable; the story and plot should be interesting enough to keep us captivated; and the effects have to show enough realism so as not to shatter the illusion. Now and then however, a film will arrive on our shelves that will take all these principles and just piss all over the top of them. Troll 2 is one of these films. Continue reading “Troll 2” »

Hunger Games: Catching Fire

catching-fire-1Firstly, can I just say how nice it is to see so many people online who are cine-literate enough to reference Kinji Fukasaku’s 2000 film Battle Royale when issuing online put downs of the Hunger Games series. Who knew that so many were firm fans of Japanese Manga-art and films!

Indeed much of the success of the Hunger Games franchise is that it seems like it was made by a committee. There is a healthy amount of the afore-mentioned Battle Royale, some social commentary on Reality TV, a love triangle to keep pining Twilight fans happy and just enough girl power to keep both teenage boys and girls happy. How can it fail? Continue reading “Hunger Games: Catching Fire” »

The Dystopianest Dystopia Ever

dystopia 1What happens when you take a view of the modern world with its seemingly increasingly reliance on technology and take that view to one very logical conclusion? What could be possibly be facing in the future? The answer to these questions can be found in the short film The Dystopianest Dystopia Ever. Continue reading “The Dystopianest Dystopia Ever” »

Endtrip

endtrip 1 The visualisation of an overdose is something that has been portrayed a number of times on the cinema screen. One of the most memorable for me was the scene in trainspotting where Renton sinks into the floor as he has one hit too many. It is a difficult idea to pull off successfully as the film maker can only use the tools at hand, their imagination and experiences primary among them.  Continue reading “Endtrip” »

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug

Only just released is the first official trailer for the second part of the Hobbit trilogy. The Desolation of Smaug finds our band of heroes fresh from their initial adventures with the one ring in their possession.  They must battle on to try to regain all of their lost gold by overcoming the obstacle that is the Dragon, Smaug. Continue reading “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” »

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

city of bones 1Just released is the new trailer for the  The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. Adapted for the screen from the first of the of the highly successful young adult book series, the story finds a young girl Clarissa (Lily Collins) witnessing a murder in a New York night club that apparently no one else can see. It turns out that there is an alternative New York populated by all manner of demons that are invisible to the Mundanes (normal people).  Continue reading “The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones” »

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Hansel-and-Gretel-Witch-Hunters1Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters takes the fairy story most of us heard a thousand times growing up and tells the story of what happens next.

The original story and the titular characters’ subsequent transition from abandoned children to adulthood is done through an animated montage through the opening credits which appears shockingly graphic and over the top…  This theme continues into the rest of the film as H&G battle to rescue some lost children and avert a witch apocalypse. Continue reading “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” »