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ARIDDICKfine ulously return to form...

September 8, 2013


AFTER the car crash that was The Chronicles Of Riddick, you'd be forgiven for thinking the series that made Vin Diesel a star had run out of gas.

This third instalment proves otherwise. While it's not without its faults, this might well turn out to be the sci-fi film of the year which, admittedly, isn't saying much after also-rans such as Elysium and Oblivion.

We catch up with the ripped badass Riddick (Diesel) abandoned on a hostile, sun-scorched planet.

Hunted by the wildlife, he sets off a distress beacon that results in two rival gangs of bounty hunters touching down to bring him in.

With hints of Mad Max 2, Predator and even 1964's Robinson Crusoe On Mars, the film's first half is easily its most entertaining as we follow Riddick's attempts to stay alive in a threatening environment.

His battles with the native wolves and pond-dwelling beasts are great fun and laced with almost palpable danger, while his attempts to adopt a pet show he's not a 100% antihero.

Things are somewhat less exciting when the mercenaries - including Karl Urban and Katee 'Battlestar Galactica' Sackhoff - arrive, resulting in a second half that rips off the plot of the first Riddick film, Pitch Black (2000).

There are gunfights and multiple, grisly slayings, all of them against the backdrop of a looming storm that's about to blow in a swarm of nasty beasties.

Original? Nope, and the film's about 20 minutes too long.

Still, the length and familiarity are offset by some droll humour - the decapitation of a Mexican villain is a highlight - Diesel's brusque, devil-may-care stoicism and a refreshingly downbeat tone.

The effects are also spot on.

THE GREAT HIP HOP HOAX (18) UNABLE to secure a record deal, two Scottish rappers reinvented themselves as Californian homeboys in a documentary whose stranger-thanfiction narrative rivals last year's The Imposter.

The lads in question were Gavin Bain and Billy Boyd from Arbroath who, after renaming themselves Silibil 'n' Brains, headed to London in 2004 and were signed by gullible execs at Sony Music. Naturally, it all went horribly, horribly wrong.

It's a jaw-dropping look at deception on a grand scale, one that haunts both of the chancers to this day.

THE GREAT BEAUTY (15) PROFOUND or pretentious, this dreamy meditation on mortality is never less than ploddy. Arthouse fans and/ or those with large reserves of patience might consider this one of the year's highlights, but it's a movie whose charms wear thin over the course of two-plus hours.

Toni Servillo is ageing author Jep Gambardella, who is suffering from a severe case of writer's block, something he blames on being at the centre of Rome's social scene.

We meet him on his 65th birthday as he wanders through the Eternal City partying, engaging in existential debates with his pals and trying to find a meaning to his life via the clergy.

There are some striking images of Rome and many amusing sequences highlighting the sheer emptiness of its nightlife, before an ending too whimsical to reward our patience.

AIN'T THEM BODIES SAINTS (15) AMID a twang of banjos and the swirl of swamp mist, Casey Affleck's fugitive attempts to reunite with his family in a drab Southern-set thriller.

Despite being clearly inspired by Badlands, this is merely bad.

Escaping from prison, Affleck travels across the States where his wife (Rooney Mara) has struck up a friendship with the cop (Ben Foster) he was imprisoned for shooting.

The good? Not much. The bad? A plot that, dominated by moody silences, takes an awfully long time to go almost nowhere.

Then there are the ill-defined characters (there's no explanation as to who three men hunting Affleck are), a dearth of tension and seemingly endless shots of Mara sulking around in sweaty summer dresses.

MORE THAN HONEY (E) JOHN HURT narrates a perfectly acceptable little documentary about the lives of beekeepers and how their livelihoods are currently under threat.

The film doesn't put a foot wrong, but it isn't something I'd recommend paying to see in a cinema.

Exploring how the honey business has been transformed in the last few decades, the film features an interview with a keeper who transports his thousands of hives around the US to pollinate crops, and another who's decided to exploit the hardiness of the invading African 'killer' bee which now threatens the native breed.

There's also a look at how disease affects the insects and the dehumanising nature of industrialisation.

Worth catching, but only when it pops up on the TV in a few months' time.

Vin Diesel worked as a bouncer in New York at the famous nightclubs Tunnel (which has since closed) and Mars

As well as writing and directing Richard Curtis also helped to establish Comic Relief

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