I saw 3 new films by people I'd call 'fringe directors', i.e. directors who have never really been given much attention in critical circles. Some of these directors make decent box office, some don't even have a good box office record. Examples from the past would be people like Jacques Tourneur, Samuel Fuller, Edgar G. Ulmer, Robert Aldrich, Nicholas Ray (at least not until Cahiers Du Cinema started giving them the ink they deserve) and many others. So here are the films reviewed.
THE CHRONICLES OF RIDDICK
Directed by David Twohy. I'm sad to say that of all the David Twohy films that I've seen, this is surely the weakest. It is quite simply incomprehensible. I've been an admirer of his ever since I saw Pitch Black and The Arrival, both are films with lean and mean scripts, executed with such dogged determination that they become elegantly intelligent cinema despite the genre limitations. Even the submarine flick, Below, was a unique genre picture. But Riddick, I think, is a victim of a big budget and probably the director's own ambition to craft his own space opera in the vein of Star Wars. The surprise success of Pitch Black surely convinced the Universal executives to greenlight this grand project, that is as ambitious as Lord Of The Rings, in its attempt to create a universe all its own. But LOTR had a legendary book as its source, and millions of devotees who'd already known that world beforehand. To try and do it with only a little seen film (Pitch Black) as a source is simply too ambitious for its own good. Somewhere within the first 10 minutes of the film is a scene that people who hasn't seen Pitch Black will find difficult to understand. Hell, even the whole story about Jack/Kyra will baffle those who've never seen Pitch Black. I won't even try to sum up the story for you, as it is pretty bewildering even for a Pitch Black fanboy like me. Let's just hope that he gets a chance to correct this with another instalment in the story of Riddick. (5 out of 10)
Directed by Renny Harlin. Do you like Renny Harlin? I think I do. At least I've enjoyed most of his films, except for Driven, which was kind of bad. But Cliffhanger, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and most of all Deep Blue Sea, I enjoyed a lot. So here comes a new film, starring some pretty young things plus Christian Slater, Val Kilmer and LL Cool J. It's about a group of trainee FBI profilers sent for training on an island where they discover that they're being hunted and killed and need to figure out who the killer is pronto!! It's a fairly simple and predictable premise, but it sure does kick a lot of ass doing it. There are some very imaginative death scenes worthy of the first Final Destination. And the final showdown employs the already done to death Matrix-style bullet time effect, except here it seems logical and will blow your mind away!! And be prepared too, cause Renny just loves pulling a Deep Blue Sea on us viewers (remember how Samuel L Jackson was one of the first ones who died and surprised the hell out of us in Deep Blue Sea?). So folks, just turn your logic brains off and enjoy a spectacular ride, courtesy of Mr Harlin. (7 out of 10)
Directed by Matthew Bright, who previously did Freeway, Freeway 2, and Bundy. I read that the director disowned this film when it played at Sundance, as he claimed that he was fired by the producers after shooting wrapped and never got to finish the film. I loved his previous films for being fearless and inventive in playing with the themes they're tackling. Freeway was basically a modern retelling of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale, and Freeway 2 was a modern retelling of Hansel & Gretel. They're thematically audacious films with scenes that will disturb your mind long after you've seen them. I was very surprised with this film because of its gentle spirit. It's about Steven (Matthew McConaughey) who's in a serious relationship with Kate Beckinsale, who's now pregnant with his baby. What she doesn't know is that Steven has a twin brother named Rolfe (Gary Oldman) who's a dwarf, and that his parents are also dwarves. This is a romantic drama, with a little bit of comedy thrown in, so I was very relieved that the obligatory 'crisis' among the lovebirds does not involve the girl being freaked out, then breaking off the relationship, and finally learning that dwarves are humans too. That would've made me turn off the movie in a heartbeat. But the 'crisis' is with Steven, who grew up amongst the 'little people', and knows first hand what that would entail, mentally and physically. Yes, the screenplay sometimes feel like a class in understanding the basic things about dwarves, but I think as a whole, the script is sensibly written, and the direction wonderfully direct. The film moves to logical and sensible conclusions, and has a generosity of spirit that I think is quite rare today. This film was totally trashed by the Sundance crowd, but I understand why. It is not 'hip', nowhere near 'edgy', it is just a simple story well told. But I love it. And I think this is Matthew Bright's brightest moment yet (excuse the pun!). I saw it yesterday and it definitely made my day. You should too. (8 out of 10)