Riddick / Pain & Gain

120px-Film-stripA very belated post for these two films as I’ve been so short of time, recently. Weekends taken up with Duke of Edinburgh expeditions has eaten into writing time! We saw these almost two weeks ago, I think…


“You’re not afraid of the dark, are you?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: see-in-the-dark ex-slave-and-planetary-ruler Riddick finds himself stranded on a dangerous planet and wonders how to get off again

See it if you like: Aliens and First Blood.

Following on from Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick, this third instalment sees our anti-hero marooned on a scary big planet, seemingly with no way off. This may have happened at the end of CoR, but I can’t remember as I didn’t like the film and may have fallen asleep partway through.

Riddick is much better, though, and more in line with the first film in the series. It’s almost two films in one. The first half documenting Riddick’s (Vin Diesel, in case you didn’t know) escape from the barren half of the planet to somewhere a little more foliage-covered; the second half his battle against bounty hunters who turn up to claim his head.

Much reference is made to the first two films, so if you’re a fan then a repeat watch may be ideal before you take on this one.

Effects are good, dialogue is suitably silly, bad guys are wonderfully over-the-top (especially Jordi Mollà‘s Santana and Katee Sackhoff‘s overly-butch Dahl), and there is a decent story going on around all the by-the-numbers character-slaying.

Don’t take it too seriously and it’s a good romp. My favourite of the three films, anyway.

Pain & Gain

“Unfortunately, this is a true story.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: based-on-a-true-story series-of-heists gone wrong comedy action where people with biceps bigger than their brains show how not to get rich quick

See it if you like: looking at men with ridiculously large musculature while having a giggle

Michael Bay is more famous for his stupidly huge films like Con Air and those ones with the robots that turn into cars. However, he has done a fair few films based more on story and less on fuelling special effects labs. This is one of them.

Based on a true story from around 1995. How close to the truth it is would require some research, but there are some key scenes which I think are documented. Best of all is that they are some of the stupidest. This is a story of success and failure. And succeeding at failure. On a huge scale.

Bodybuilder Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) decided he’s sick of other people being rich when he does all the hard work. So he decides to attempt to extort one of his customers. He enlists the aid of a friend, Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie) and they, in turn, draft in some additional muscle in the form of reformed ex-convict and musclebound Jesus-freak Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson, formerly “The Rock”).

And it all goes horribly wrong. With hilarious consequences. Especially when they bugger everything up and try again with another victim.

Not a family-friendly film, but one with with plenty of dark and grisly humour. There are some genuinely funny moments, and Dwayne Johnson finally proves that he’s not just got a screen career because of his bulk. He’s genuinely good in this.

Very enjoyable – surprisingly so if I’m honest.


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The Eagle, Faster, Sucker Punch and Mars Needs Moms

Four films in a contracted form due to me being knackered after a long week!

The Eagle

“I hate everything you stand for.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Roman goes in search of something belonging to his dad that some Scots pinched.

Originally titled The Eagle of the Ninth and based on a 1954 novel by Rosemary Sutcliffe, this is the story of a young Roman, Marcus Aquila (Channing Tatum) who heads to Britain in charge of a small fort. There, he begins a promising career despite the black mark on his family’s history caused by his father losing a whole bunch of soldiers and a gold eagle standard.

Events give him the chance to team up with a slave, Esca (Jamie Bell), and head north of Hadrian’s Wall into a land of savages and cut-throats. So kind of like a stag night in Glasgow, then.

Visually lovely, with the majority of the filming being done in Scotland itself. The remainder, just out of interest, taking place in Hungary. The sets, costumes and scenery are wonderful. The dialogue isn’t bad, and I enjoyed the way the non-Roman speech was done in what I assume is an old form of Scots Gaelic and subtitled.

It’s not the most complex of storylines, but the source material is aimed at young adults. Don’t think this is a kids’ film, however. Though definitely tamer than the likes of TV’s recent Spartacus – Blood and Sand, the combat is still moderately bloody.

I did miss the first five minutes, but this didn’t cause me any problems. In fact, if anything I enjoyed the trip just that bit more as it meant I didn’t have to sit through that bloody Orange advert for the millionth time.

Good stuff and worth seeking out for an entertaining bit of viewing.


“God can’t save you from me!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: There’s a plot? Oh, yeah. Something about people getting shot.

This film is a deliberate homage to 1970’s action films and it shows, with the rumbling engines of stupidly big cars, cringe-making dialogue and utterly mental storyline. It’s cheesier than a cheese factory made of cheese.

If you can handle the smell of stale socks, though, it’s not a bad bit of film in a dopey way.

The main characters are known simply by their titles. Driver (Dwayne Johnson) is seeking revenge for his brother’s murder as the upshot of a robbery which also landed him in prison. He’s being hunted by Cop (Billy Bob Thornton) and a hired Killer (Oliver Jackson-Cohen), who happens to be banging a bloody hot chick played by Maggie Grace. She’s only a side character, but by Jimminy. WOW.

If ever there was a film where you could switch your brain into “drool”, this is it. The relentless Driver is simply there to bulldoze through any attempt at plot and kill people. The Killer adds the cool and the Cop adds the “troubled soul heading for retirement”. Hell, one of his first lines is the fact that he’s only a few days from retirement.

A guilty pleasure, but pleasing all the same.

Sucker Punch

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: I’ll get back to you once I figure out what the hell it was about.

I believe this is Zack Snyder‘s fourth film and I’ll give him this – he’s consistent. I’ve consistently found his films just not quite getting there in terms of enjoyment. Visual spectacle, perhaps. But otherwise somewhat empty. Sucker Punch leaves you winded.

The opening ten minutes or so are completely dialogue-free as we’re rushed through the back story. The character we come to know as Baby Doll (Emily Browning) loses her mother, falls under the wing of an evil uncle who needs her out of the way to claim the inheritance, accidentally shoots her sister while trying to defend herself from aforementioned bad man and ends up being committed.

Here, she it put into some kind of programme whereby she dances for rich people as some kind of therapy. When she does this, she regresses into some inner fantasy as a kind of escapism. Or something. I think. Anyway, what happens in there (during some incredible CGI scenes) marginally mirrors the “real” world.

I think.

Basically, ignore the plot – what there is of one. Enjoy the visuals, which are staggering. Leave the cinema and wish they’d put as much effort into a decent story as they did into the graphic design.

Pretty but ultimately unsatisfying. Like any girl band you care to mention.

Mars Needs Moms

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Young boy has a fight with mother who is then kidnapped by Martians. He sets about rescuing her.

I saw this with Mister 3-Year-Old only as Miss 10-Year-Old had been sulky and her punishment was to go shopping instead. I think she might have got a bit more out of the film, especially as it’s about learning to realise how important your mother is to you when you’re a child.

The thing is, for a kid that age the film may come across as mawkish or at least trying to force a point. To the younger audience it’s simply not colourful enough. The majority of it is deliberately grey and drab to emphasise the Martian world since The Supervisor (Mindy Sterling) took over and separated male and female babies for life.

That is until she kidnaps Milo’s mom (Joan Cusack) and finds Milo himself (Seth Green / Seth Dusky) running rampant around Mars when he inadvertently hitches an interstellar lift.

There are a handful of action scenes, but until late in the film these are still all in shadow and greyness. Not much for a 3-year-old to fixate on.

While I thought it was kind of alright, the little mister did very well to sit still for the whole of it. If you want to see Seth Green doing good animation, watch Robot Chicken. It’s somewhat adult, but small children will find more enjoyment watching toys being dismembered.

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Planet 51

Planet 51
Planet 51

Planet 51 was actually my first film of the day, and a great little cartoon it was too.

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Earthling astronaut lands on alien planet where he’s treated much as E.T. would have been in 1950’s America.

It seems that computer animated films are really doing well right now. It used to be that PIXAR made the only good ones. Then Dreamworks started to weigh in with the likes of Shrek. Now more companies are adding their fare to the pile and the quality is holding high.

Planet 51 is definitely worth a look. The whole setting is lovely with a green-skinned alien version of 1950’s America being used. As far as they’re concerned, humans are evil creatures bent on taking over their planet and turning them all into zombies. And they only exist in movies. Until Captain Charles T. Baker lands in Lem’s back yard.

As with so many animated films these days, it’s the background touches that really make it. The little in-jokes like the bicycle flying across the moon, or the pet dog that looks like an “Alien” alien. It even pee’s acid. And the little subplot with the postman and the dog.

The whole look is excellent, too. The way the architecture and so forth has all been planned out and kept consistent. The vehicles and how they work. It actually made me think of Robots in that it’s a familiar and yet alien environment.

The vocal talent doesn’t really stand out, though. The performances are good enough, but the only instantly recognisable voice for me was John Cleese. Dwayne Johnson (formerly known as “The Rock” and thank gumption he’s dropped that) does actually sound like an actor – certainly more than he manages to carry off in live-action films.

It’s not the best animated film this year by a long chalk, but it’s definitely worth catching.

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