Not only am I big fan of Vin Diesel’s, I’m an even bigger fan of both of his Riddick films: 2000’s “Pitch Black” and the much more ambitious follow-up, 2004’s “The Chronicles of Riddick.” “Black” is a hands-down brilliant B-flick, perfectly structured and paced with a well-executed concept and superb cinematography. “Riddick” is director David Twohy’s (he did both films) attempt to layer Diesel’s Riddick character in all kinds of mythology, something I felt worked beautifully thanks to a compelling story and a strong central performance by the underrated Diesel.
The failure of “Riddick” with critics and at the box office didn’t really surprise. People were expecting another lean, mean “Pitch Black, not a space opera. This initial reaction kept me from seeing the sequel in theatres, but when I finally caught it on DVD I was blown away. In fact, I remember the DVD stopped playing about 100 minutes in and making a frantic and rather pathetic near-midnight drive to Blockbuster for a replacement.
On television, “Riddick” appears to have finally caught on with its intended audience, which may be why a third chapter is being considered. Also, Diesel’s star is back on the rise thanks to the surprising popularity of his other terrific B-movie franchise, “Fast and Furious.”
In this pathetic era of overlong, complicated plots and meterosexuals, I have a great appreciation for Diesel, especially his work in the action genre.
The monkey still looks phony and please take a moment to notice that the bully in the clip has an American flag hanging from his house.
Yeah, Hollywood’s like that.
James Thurber’s original story is a joy to read and re-read. The story of a milquetoast clerk who uses every opportunity to escape into heroic fantasies is rich in ideas and theme. Unfortunately, though perfectly cast, Danny Kaye’s 1947 adaptation failed to hit the mark. It was much too episodic and ended up being nothing more than a formulaic boy meets girl romance.
The idea of a Hollywood remaking an old film with a great concept and a lousy execution is always appealing, but Stiller’s usual sensibility in this kind of story already seems tired.
There is good news, however. Steve Conrad, who wrote the marvelous “Pursuit of Happyness,” has had his hands on the script.
TODAY’S QUICK HITS
CLASSIC PICK FOR THURSDAY JULY 21, 2011
2:00 AM EST: Son of the Sheik, The (1926) — In this silent film, an Arabian knight protects a dancing girl from desert outlaws. Dir: George Fitzmaurice Cast: Rudolph Valentino, Vilma Banky, George Fawcett. BW-69 mins, TV-G.
Everyone should see at least one Rudolph Valentino film, if only to attempt a grasp at understanding an actor who was probably the most popular and universally adored movie star of all time. Valentino doesn’t really reach the consciousness of today’s audiences in the same way other classic stars like Bogie, Monroe and John Wayne do. We understand their appeal because we still live with their work. Unfortunately, silent films are less accessible than talkies, which makes them less connected to us and therefore we fail (and I include myself) to fully grasp the power the stars of that era had over the collective imagination of the American public. These were the first movie stars, the first celebrities, and their legacy and impact is still felt straight through to “Brangelina.”
“Son of the Sheikh” is not a great flick, but it is beautifully filmed, well paced, and historically fascinating.
I should also add that no one writes about the silent era with more knowledge and affection than my friend Robert Avrech, an Emmy winning screenwriter, who writes at Serpahic Secret — a must bookmark site for movie lovers and proud Zionists everywhere.
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