Posts Tagged ‘Vin Diesel’

Short takes: ‘The Iron Giant,’ ‘13 Ghosts’ and ‘Ad Astra’

April 27, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
April 27, 2020

The 1999 animated feature The Iron Giant is a science-fiction story set in the late 1950s in Rockwell, a quiet coastal village in Maine. The night after an immense robot plunges into the ocean during a major storm, it’s discovered and then rescued by a smart, lonely boy with the unlikely name of Hogarth Hughes (voiced by Eli Marienthal).

The pair strike up a friendship, but this is the height of the Cold War, and foreigners — be they Russians, robots or extraterrestrials (let alone extraterrestrial robots) — are not looked upon kindly. When a haughty federal agent named Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald) comes nosing around the farm where Hogarth lives with his mom, Annie (Jennifer Aniston), Hogarth is forced into an uneasy alliance with Dean McCoppin (Harry Connick Jr.), the beatnik artist who runs the local scrapyard.

The movie is loosely adapted from The Iron Man: A Story in Five Nights, a bedtime tale that Ted Hughes devised for his children and published in 1968. (The British poet, who died in 1998, is credited as a consultant on the film.)

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Funny? Meh. Fun? Yeah!!! (In which I explain why you should probably have seen ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ already.)

September 4, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 4, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy, the most recent release from the Marvel Comics movie empire, is a fun, light-hearted science-fiction action-adventure film that you probably should have seen several weeks ago if you have any interest in that type of thing.

The movie’s protagonist is the wise-cracking, bubble-gum-chewing Peter Quill (Chris Pratt). In a brief prologue set in the 1980s, Peter is abducted from Earth by an alien group known as the Ravagers moments after the death of his mother. This isn’t quite as shocking to Quill as it might have been to the ordinary middle school student, since his mother had always told him that his father was an extraterrestrial.

Roughly two decades later, we find Quill visiting an abandoned alien city, where he combines advanced technology and 1970s aesthetics. On his way to recovering a mysterious orb, Quill dances to a portable tape cassette playing one of numerous vintage songs featured in the movie.

With the job nearly accomplished, Quill (or Star-Lord, as he sometimes calls himself) is accosted by some second-tier alien villains whose names I did not catch. (I thought of them as Chief Henchman and the Expendables; all are employed by a notorious religious fanatic named Ronan the Accuser.) The human uses skill, daring, clever gadgets and luck to make his escape, but his troubles are only beginning.

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An efficient, intriguing and gorgeous ‘Riddick’ almost lives up to the high standards set by ‘Pitch Black’

September 30, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
MEMwrites.wordpress.com
Sept. 30, 2013

In 2000, writer-director David Twohy helmed a modestly budget science fiction actioner named Pitch Black. The film, made for $23 million, starred Vin Diesel as a violent criminal named Richard B. Riddick who is stranded along with a handful of other people when their commercial transport crash-lands on a backwater desert world.

The tautly paced 109-minute movie begins with the thoroughly harrowing crash. Every subsequent bit of the story chronicles the castaways’ battle for survival — a struggle that sometimes pits them against each other even as the group must face down swarms of malevolent predators that soon emerge from their new surroundings.

Riddick, a violent and menacing presence whom a lawman named Johns struggles to contain, is the dark heart of Pitch Black. But to its credit, the film — co-written by Twohy along with Jim and Ken Wheat — is populated with several other fascinating characters. Viewers are not only entertained by the action sequences but intrigued by the task of working through just what is happening on the planet and by puzzling out just who among the survivors might be trustworthy.

Pitch Black was followed by a 2004 sequel, Chronicles of Riddick, another collaboration among Diesel, Twohy and the brothers Wheat. I’ve only seen this film in parts (much in the same way as I initially became familiar with Pitch Black), but I know it works a much broader canvas. The film dispatches its antihero to at least two different worlds and pits him against a villainous horde intent upon conquering the universe.

Chronicles of Riddick, which was made for about quintuple the budget of Pitch Black, opened to a lukewarm critical reception and reportedly made back only about half of its budget.

For the recently opened Riddick, Diesel has reunited with Twohy, who this time goes solo on screenwriting duties. The new movie has a scaled-down story and budget (just $38 million) in comparison with its predecessor. It looks stunning, efficiently cranks up the tension and delivers reliable thrills, but unfortunately, it lacks some of the zip of the original.

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