Guardians of the Galaxy – Hour of the Wolf Movie Review

(l to r) Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt tap their inner Han Solo in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.
(l to r) Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt tap their inner Han Solo in GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.

Welcome to August, the month when studios, having already fired off all their high-profile (not to mention high concept) summer guns, unleash what amounts to their second tier of releases, the stuff that doesn’t automatically trigger broad media attention, things with a more… “culty,” shall we say?… appeal, and things that are, let’s just say it, no durn good. However, since even the big tent-poles can now be somewhat inconsequential in their story-telling and quality (AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2, anyone?), it’s become less surprising that a dog-day release could have been just as welcome, if not more so, in the weeks preceding.
Such is the case with GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, a fun space adventure based on a Marvel comic book that racked up record box office in its opening week, and earns its goodwill in a number of ways. I take a look at the film in my latest review for Jim Freund’s HOUR OF THE WOLF — click on the player to hear the segment, or right-click on the title to download.

Hour of the Wolf Movie Review: GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY


RIDDICK, Hell Baby & Dead Before Dawn: CFQ Spotlight Podcast 4:35

Vin Diesel (left), Katee Sackhoff (center), and Matt Nable brave the perils of a hostile planet in RIDDICK.
Vin Diesel (left), Katee Sackhoff (center), and Matt Nable brave the perils of a hostile planet in RIDDICK.

Somewhere in Riddick (Vin Diesel), the fugitive criminal with the crazy, glowing eyes that can see in the dark, exists a character engaging enough to build a film franchise around. Somewhere in RIDDICK, the third film featuring the antihero, is evidence of a wise move to put the guy into a tighter, more stripped-down scenario better suited to him than the bloated, Robert E. Howard pastiche that was THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK. Unfortunately, stranding Riddick on a hostile alien world and tasking him with the challenge of outwitting two teams of bounty hunters — headed up by Jordi Mollà and Matt Nable and including Katee Sackhoff  — for one of their spaceships hasn’t quite elevated this entry above the misconceptions of character and plotting that the first film, PITCH BLACK, neatly sidestepped.
Cinefantastique Online’s Steve Biodrowski, Lawrence French, and Dan Persons differ in opinion on how seriously RIDDICK is undone by its flaws. In a lively conversation, they discuss writer/director David Twohy’s conception of the character, whether the mantle of Nietzschean superman rests comfortably on Riddick’s shoulders, and the difficulty in creating adversaries able to maintain their credibility while being outwitted by the protagonist. Most pressing, they also debate who in this scenario is the roadrunner, and who’s the coyote?
Then: Steve gives his impressions of the comedic horror film HELL BABY and a preliminary impression of DEAD BEFORE DAWN, and Dan provides a capsule review of the post-apocalyptic, comic book actioner, BOUNTY KILLER. Plus, what’s coming to theaters next week.

Riddick in IMAX theatres September 6

Universal Pictures releases the next chapter in the Riddick saga, produced by One Race Productions and Radar Pictures. Vin Diesel returns as the titular anti-hero. The supporting cast includes Karl Urban (STAR TREK), Katee Sackhoff (BATTLESTAR GALACTICA), Nolan Gerard Funk, Dave Bautista, and Noah Danby.
David Twohy is back in the director’s chair, working from a script co-written with Oliver Butcher & Stephen Cornwell, based on characters created by Jim and Ken Wheat.
Rated R.
Theatrical Release: September 6, 2013

Trailer #1


Riddick one-sheet resize

Vin Diesel to return as Riddick

Movieweb recycles some details from the Hollywood Reporter, regarding the as-yet untitled second sequel to PITCH BLACK, in which actor Vin Diesel will return as Riddick. The character, a wanted criminal whose survival skills proved more than a match for a mess of carniverous critters in his debut film, was recycled in CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK, which proved to be an overblown box office disappointment. The third installment promises a back-to-basics approach.  David Twohy, who directed both films, will write and direct the third, whose plot is described thus:

…the script features the character — the most wanted man in the galaxy — left for dead on a barren alien planet, dealing with “trisons” (three-legged bisons) and “mud demons.” He must then contend with two squads of bounty hunters, one of which ride rockets called jetcycles.

Pitch Black (2000) – Retrospective Review

Pitch Black (2000)A busy screenwriter in Hollywood during the ’80s and ’90s, when he churned out various horror, science fiction, and action pictures (CRITTERS 2, WARLOCK, THE FUGITIVE, TERMINAL VELOCITY, WATERWORLD), David Twohy made his directorial debut with 1992’s TIMESCAPE and followed up four years later with THE ARRIVAL, starring Charlie Sheen (during the decline in Sheen’s movie stardom that eventually led him to turn to TV sit-comedy in the form of TWO AND A HALF MEN). THE ARRIVAL was an interesting take on the old alien invasion scenario, using the structure of a paranoid conspiracy thriller instead of the global destruction sceen in INDEPENDENCE DAY the same year. However, the film lacked thrills and could not find an audience, even in an era primed for that kind of thing thanks to the popularity of THE X-FILES. After scripting G.I. JANE, Twohy returned to the directing chair with a script he rewrote from a draft by Jim & Ken Wheat. PITCH BLACK is another science fiction tale involving an alien menace, but this time the approach is of a more straightforward variety, emphasizing action and special effects; the result is a fairly efficient science fiction monster film, somewhat in the mold of an old 1950s B-movie. In fact, with its high concept premise, limited cast of characters, and isolated location, PITCH BLACK suggests an old fashioned Roger Corman production, but with improved production values, special effects and performances.
The plot follows the survivors of a transport spaceship that crash-lands on an arid, desert world surrounded by three suns. It soon becomes apparent that some ravenously efficient predators decimated the planet, but they are confined to the darkness of underground tunnels. As fate would have it, the planet falls into the shadow of a solar eclipse once every twenty-two years, and (you guessed) the eclipse is due within hours. The film becomes a race against time as the characters struggle to repair an escape craft that will take them to safety. Needless to say, they don’t make it in time, and find themselves having to outrun the voracious aliens eager to make a meal of them.
With writing credits on WATERWORLD and TERMINAL VELOCITY, Twohy has a penchant for big action set pieces, often at the expense of a strong narrative. That problem doesn’t arise here, as the simple story allows for a string of action scenes driven relentlessly forward by the characters’ need to keep moving or die. As a director, Twohy also shows a good eye for the strong visual, one that is not just flashy but which has a genuine dramatic impact. Particularly memorable is the revelation that what looked like trees from a distance are actually the rib bones of dinosaur-sized skeletons strewn like some vast elephant’s graveyard across the desert plain.
Characterization is also reasonably strong for this kind of film, thanks to the help of the cast, particularly Vin Diesel, Claudia Black, and Cole Hauser. In the film’s perverse moral scheme, we’re supposed to relate to Diesel’s homicidal convict because his survival skills are so essential under the circumstances, while many of the characters we expect to be “good guys” turn out to have moral failings of their own. In fact, the film is set up as a fairly interesting dramatic thriller even before the intrusion of the monsters, which creates a pressure cooker effect, boiling previously unseen aspects of the characters to the surface.
The special effects are strong overall, but the aliens themselves (designed by GODZILLA’s Patrick Tatapoulos) are fairly generic. (It’s hard to tell whether a flock of smaller creatures is a different species or simply younger versions of the ones already seen.) The telltale CGI look is also in evidence; a little bit more live-action work would have helped sell the danger even better.
In the end, Twohy wants to present his film as a story of redemption. In a fun, popcorn movie kind of way, he pulls it off. Grafting themes like this onto the story help raise the film from being a standard issue monster movie, but it is still a monster movie. The obligatory genre touches are all there: bloody deaths, wisecracking comic relief, and a cross-section of characters types who serve as potential victims. The one-liners aren’t always that funny, but most of the dialogue works; it’s as if the film were afraid of taking itself to seriously, and felt the need to play down to genre expectations. The result may not be a blockbuster of ALIEN proportions, but it works on its own level, generating enough screams and scares to jolt fans with a pleasant rush of fear, while those who prefer suspense and decent characterization will be pleasantly surprised as well.
PITCH BLACK (2000). Directed by David Twohy. Written by Jim Wheat & Ken Wheat and David Twohy, story by Jim & Ken Wheat. Cast: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David, Lewis Fitz-Gerald, Claudia Black, Rhiana Griffith, John Moore, SImon Burke, Les Chantery.