Monthly Archives: September 2004

The Chronicles of Riddick

You’re not going to see better sci-fi CGI this year, period. The film just looks glorious. (My favourite bit was the coronal loops around the sun on Crematoria.) The plot is also well structured, with a solid introduction, and a classic three-act arc beyond that. The character of Riddick is built up into more than just a hero: he is the archetype incarnate. And the ending has a delicious little twist that promises more and even better to come.

And yet…throughout the whole film I was wondering, “what the hell is actually going on here?” Much is shown, but very little is explained. Riddick’s background is only hinted at. The socio-politics of the future environment are essentially a blank slate. Who or what are the elementals? Even the Necromongers, whose quest for the Underverse provides the central conflict for the film, remain shadowy and underexplained. It might seem like a triumph of style over substance, but it always gave the impression that the substance was there–the filmmakers just chose not to make much of it.

What this adds up to is a very pure sci-fi action flick that satisfied all my cravings for heroic escapism, and left me wanting more of the characters and universe, but not disappointed by their absence here. It’s a good trick.


Simple plot, great script, and solid performances from comic actors who know how to deliver a funny line. Ben Stiller is fabulous as White Goodman (“Here at Globo Gym we’re better than you–and we know it!”), Gary Cole brings just the right amount of absurd professionalism as the sportscaster, and Rip Torn is hilarious as the crusty former dodgeball champ Patches O’Houlihan. Vince Vaughn keeps a cheeky but straight face throughout, and provides forward momentum to keep the to keep the whole thing from sliding into farce. Dodgeball doesn’t try to be fancy, or deep, only funny, and at that it succeeds admirably. Go see it now. (And stick around for the credits.)

Boogie Nights

The rise and fall of porn star Dirk Diggler. It’s a funny, sad, and sympathetic look at the fragile lives and egos of an group of hopeful, sad, and ambitious characters. The plot might be on the predictable side, but it is well executed. The way the early 1980s setting is played for laughs softens the harsh emotional roller coaster the characters find themselves on, and the overall effect is one of amused compassion. A well-rounded, and interesting film.

The Searchers

It’s hard to comment on such a seminal work, so I’m not going to try too hard. Instead, I’ll just stick to whether I liked it or not: mostly, I didn’t. The film’s racism bothered me. It can be argued that John Ford is peaking out against racism, but personally, I didn’t see it. The film belongs very much to its own time, the 1950s, and the world has moved on since then.

Also, its highly variable emotional tone (it swings from deep emotional anguish, to near-slapstick romantic farce, and back again) made it feel unbalanced and clumsy in comparison to modern, more tighly structured films. It certainly has some outstanding sequences, and the cinematography is undoubtedly beautiful, but overall, I think it’s now a movie to watch for its place in the history of cinema rather than for pleasure.