Just how far would you go to do what you think is the "right" thing? This is the question that torments all the characters in Prisoners, the latest thriller from Incendies director Denis Villeneuve. Hugh Jackman gives an amazing performance as a father whose daughter has been kidnapped and is now missing, along with his neighbors' daughter (played by Viola Davis and Terrence Howard). On the trail of the kidnapper is Detective Loki, a tattooed Jake Gyllenhaal. Now, I don't want to give any more away although the trailer spoils a ridiculous amount of the plot. If you plan on seeing this: STAY AWAY FROM THE TRAILER. But I really thought this was a great film with a great cast that goes all in. The dread was palpable and I was seriously getting nervous at various points in the film. It also has just some great "shots" (like when Gyllenhaal inspects an RV at night in the rain, with the only light source coming from his flashlight). It was a beautifully disturbing picture, although I do think it loses some steam with its final "reveal" - not that it was bad or unearned, but simply felt a little hokey. But seriously, this is a pure and simple, well-crafted thriller. And god damn Hugh Jackman is the best.
James Wan must be on top of the world right now. After The Conjuring scared up $136 million dollars this summer (on a $20 million budget), Insidious 2 made $41 million opening weekend (the second-highest September opening over), AND Fast and Furious 7 will have his name on the director's chair, I'd say he knows what he's doing. But how did this sequel, sandwiched between two of his biggest projects, both compare to the original and work on its own? Well, for this particular horror nerd it was a mixed bag. On one hand it did have some creepy moments, it worked well within the mythology the first created, and Patrick Wilson channels his inner Jack Torrance - but it ultimately felt forgettable and lacked the more nuanced horror of the first. This one was much more garish, feeling more like a 70's giallo than a haunted house flick. It was just so "alright" I almost would've rather seen a terrible movie. Against what everybody else thinks about it, I actually liked this more than The Conjuring and even though it had all the typical tropes, there were some cool new visuals to chew on (like the "Ouija dice" and a creepy sequence involving ghosts wrapped in white sheets - imagine that).
Nobody was asking for more Riddick after The Chronicles of Riddick, a boring, overlong "space opera" way worse than the Star Wars prequels (Vin Diesel was nominated for a Razzie, but lost to George Bush in Fahrenheit 9/11). But Vinny D was hell-bent on keeping his glowy-eyed badass in theaters, and pushed this sequel into production. Not being a huge fan of the original films (other than the Xbox game Escape from Butcher Bay), I didn't really care one way or the other if I saw it, but I think Riddick is marginally best of the three films so far, sneaking past the first by a fraction. This time around it's back to basics - just Vin Diesel doing what he does best and kicking things' asses. No more of that space epic BS that plagued Chronicles. I loved the opening 15 or so dialogue-free minutes of Riddick, reminiscent (in a good way) of Pixar's WALL-E with Vin Diesel going around a barren planet and surviving waves of different wildlife out to eat him. That opening sequence is enough to recommend the film for me, but after that it starts to go downhill. You don't care about the characters and you just start to grow numb to the fights after a while. It's a solidly put-together action/sci-fi film, but totally forgettable.