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Blu-ray Reviews

Riddick Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted January 23 2014 - 06:32 PM

Riddick Blu-ray Review

Riddick rasps its way onto Blu-ray in an edition that presents two versions of the movie and close to an hour of special features. The high definition picture and sound are solid, although the seams do show in some of the many CGI shots used throughout the movie. Fans of Vin Diesel’s antihero Riddick will likely enjoy his latest adventure, but more casual fans are better advised to watch the first, best, installment in this series, Pitch Black.

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Studio: Universal

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, English DVS 2.0, Spanish 5.1 DTS

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

Rating: R

Run Time: 1 Hr 59 Mins (R-Rated) 2 Hrs. 7 Mins (Unrated)

Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraViolet

Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)

Region: ABC

Release Date: 01/14/2014

MSRP: $34.98




The Production Rating: 2/5

In 2000, a tough little R-rated science fiction film was released early in the year, providing Vin Diesel with his first lead role in a motion picture. That movie, Pitch Black, was a fairly effective mood piece, spotlighting the low-voiced Diesel as the title character, a mysterious, dangerous man with eyes that see in the dark. Over the course of that movie, Riddick went from a potential villain to something closer to a hero, in his own way, as he and the other characters fight crashland on a strange planet and encounter hostile creatures. Pitch Black did surprisingly good business, particularly on home video, thus prompting Diesel and writer/director David Twohy to revisit the character in 2004 with The Chronicles of Riddick. This second film was a big budget adventure for Riddick that provided a much more sprawling canvas and made a point of using as many real sets as possible. It also was edited down to a PG-13 rating in the hopes of appealing to a wider audience. Sadly, the 120 million dollar movie did not do as well as hoped, an animated adventure with Riddick didn’t get much attention, and the character seemed to have been retired. Which brings us to the subject of this review, the newest installment in the series, Riddick. Made in 2012 on a budget of roughly 1/3 what was spent on the 2004, Riddick is an attempt to bring the series back to basics. As written and directed once again by Twohy and led by Diesel, the movie restores the original’s hard R rating, and throws Riddick onto another hostile planet. As with the first movie, the plot is fairly simple, while the violence is fairly bloody and creative. Karl Urban shows up for the briefest of cameos, pretty much to tie up loose ends from the 2004 movie. Much of the film is taken up with a decent but uninspiring cast, including Katie Sackhoff (reprising a version of her Starbuck character from Battlestar Galactica) and fighter Dave Bautista. Frankly, most of the characters are simply cannon fodder, waiting to be killed either by this planet’s deadly creatures or by Riddick himself. Given how little story there is, the movie’s two hour length really drags. Beyond that issue, it’s fairly clear that the lower-budgeted production has been shot on a greenscreen stage. Where the 2004 movie prided itself on having realistic environments, this movie is forced into the CGI world by its budget, and many of the shots look blatantly artificial.The Blu-ray holds a longer cut of the movie, adding roughly 8 minutes of footage into the mix, including an alternate ending, which we’ll discuss in the next paragraph. For the more casual viewer, suffice it to say that this movie is really geared more to Riddick and Vin Diesel fans. Jumping into this movie without having seen the 2004 film is likely to cause a lot of confusion. And frankly, the movie is simply not as interesting as the original film from 2000. For the uninitiated, Pitch Black will make a more interesting and coherent evening at the movies.SPOILERS HERE: While the movie starts by simply dropping Riddick and the audience into another hostile planet, flashbacks quickly establish how Riddick left the Necromongers and wound up in this desolate place. The longer director’s cut adds to the flashbacks, showing Riddick’s situation to actually be a bit more treacherous in civilization, what with the constant attempts to assassinate him. Once Riddick has established himself on this planet and begun to tame it, in his own way (he adopts a jackal-like creature and fights his way past some pretty scary uber-scorpions), the movie takes a step into incoherence. Riddick looks up at approaching storm clouds and concludes he must leave the planet ASAP. Only by thinking about the plot later does it become clear that he’s concerned about the scorpions coming out of the mud everywhere – on the first viewing it simply appears that he’s decided he wants to leave. So Riddick finds a small, uninhabited mercenary outpost and activates a beacon to announce his presence. And sure enough, two teams of mercs arrive to apprehend him – one of them being led by the father of a merc killed in the first movie. Which is where the movie gets its supply of expendable, huntable humans. Other than a gratuitous shot of the humans killing Riddick’s jackal, the movie settles into the usual confrontations between Riddick and the mercs, followed by an onslaught of the scorpions once those storms arrive. As with the first movie, Riddick literally must fight his way off the planet. The longer director’s cut adds an additional coda, wherein Riddick returns to the Necromongers to take his revenge, and to find out what happened to the only trustworthy man he knew there. This really isn’t enough to sustain a 2 hour movie, and the coherence problem is exacerbated by an intelligibility problem. Diesel tends to rasp much of his dialogue, sometimes to the point that it’s impossible to understand what the heck he’s saying. The international cast, particularly Jordi Molla, are also a bit hard to understand at times, what with a multitude of accents and inflections. Frankly, it’s not a good sign when the viewer must repeatedly rewind scenes and turn subtitles on to figure out what is happening.SPOILERS COMPLETED NOW, SAFE TO READ: The one advantage of the lower, tighter budget for this production seems to be that they’ve actually been able to get to the break-even point very quickly. Given that the movie earned about 100 million in theaters from a 38 million dollar budget, it’s not hard to see the movie making a bit of a profit in home video over the next year or so. Which means it’s very possible that we’ll see another Riddick update a lot sooner than a decade. And that’s a good thing, if for no other reason than that it will keep David Twohy busy with these movies and not doing things like A Perfect Getaway for a few years…Riddick was released on Blu-ray and standard definition on January 14th. The Blu-ray includes both versions of the movie and all the special features in high definition. The DVD, which is included in the Blu-ray packaging, includes the theatrical cut of the movie, a trailers menu and three of the features, totaling about 25 minutes of material.


Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA

Riddick is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer (@ an average 24 mbps) that presents the movie in crisp high definition. Some of the material is actually so clear and detailed that it becomes obvious when we’re looking at CGI vistas and creatures. This is again the ironic result of needing to shoot this movie on a greenscreen stage rather than on an actual location. The transfer itself is good – but the level of the CGI in this movie varies. When it’s good, it’s excellent. When it’s not, and this happens more than once, the HD transfer doesn’t give the filmmakers anyplace to hide.



Audio Rating: 4/5

Riddick is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English (@ an average 4.6 mbps, up to 5.2 mbps), which happily fills the speakers of the home theater and gives the subwoofer plenty to do. This is an active and directional mix, with effects coming from all over the place including the surrounds. The only issue here, as noted earlier, as that there are multiple points where the dialogue is simply unintelligible. This is mostly due to the actors’ line readings, but I repeat – if the viewer must repeatedly rewind the movie and turn on the subtitles, something is really not being done right. The Blu-ray also includes a Spanish DTS 5.1 track, and an English DVS track for the theatrical cut.


Special Features Rating: 3/5

The Blu-Ray presentation of Riddick comes with about an hour’s worth of special features, and two versions of the movie, including the longer director’s cut. The Blu-ray packaging also includes the DVD of the movie, which holds only the theatrical cut and has roughly half the special features of the Blu-ray.I note that nearly all of the featurettes contain MAJOR SPOILERS, so if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I would not start by watching the featurettes.The Twohy Touch – (6:22, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers the work of writer/director David Twohy. It’s mostly a collection of quotes from the cast talking about how much they enjoyed working with him and his workstyle. A bit of footage of Twohy at work on the set is included as well.Riddickian Tech – (10:14, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette goes into heavier detail about the various set pieces, devices and costumes. The appropriate department heads are interviewed, and their comments are intercut with some on-set footage. One specific note shows the obvious differences between the two teams of mercs, as expressed through their costumes and their props.Vin’s Riddick – (8:50, 1080p) (AVAILABLE ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This featurette, as one might expect, focuses on Vin Diesel and his character. Diesel discusses having financed this movie himself to make sure that it happened. (He includes the fact that he even put his house up as part of the collateral – something most filmmakers have learned not to do since Francis Ford Coppola tried that one on Apocalypse Now). Diesel insists that he produced this movie (and he’s been a producer on this series since the 2004 movie) to answer multiple fan requests for another adventure.Meet the Mercs – (10:44, 1080p) (AVAILABLE ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This featurette really covers the rest of the cast, including interviews with all the actors playing the various mercenaries. Katie Sackhoff gets some time to discuss her character and what she was able to bring to the table. The other actors each add some commentary, with the most interesting parts being the real accents they present when not speaking the scripted dialogue. Matt Nable in particular has a strong Australian accent that really jumps out. Actress Keri Hilson is also featured here, with the note that her audition for Sackhoff’s role was strong enough that they wrote a small walk-on (really run-on) role for her to play instead.The World of Riddick – (10:50, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette is more of an overview of the shoot, including discussion of how they shot it on HD cameras inside a large, unused train depot in Canada. The creative staff all praise the idea of shooting this movie under controlled circumstances with greenscreen background. Some footage is also shown of the cast interacting with standins for the various CGI creatures.Riddick: Blindsided – (5:29, 1080p) (AVAILABLE ON DVD & BLU-RAY) – This is actually a Motion Comic, or perhaps an animatic for the early scenes on the Necromongers’ ship. The material here actually plays in the longer director’s cut in a slightly different form. The crude animation here is played against the actual dialogue from those scenes in the movie, with the actors voicing their own characters. (Frankly, it sounds to me like they just lifted the dialogue from the filmed scenes and put them over the animation)DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the theatrical cut, presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.40:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English and Spanish. (448 kbps). The DVS track is also included. The special features on the DVD are Vin’s Riddick, Meet the Mercs and the Riddick: Blindsided motion comic. The DVD also contains a Previews menu, holding trailers for The Mummy, Van Helsing, Werewolf (The Beast Among Us), Serenity, Battleship, Oblivion, the Jurassic Park Trilogy and some movie called Pitch Black.Digital Copy – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device.Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.


Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Riddick is an intermittently thrilling movie, featuring Vin Diesel’s antihero in his third major adventure. The movie runs too long and has some coherence issues, but fans of Diesel and Riddick will likely enjoy the ride. The Blu-ray has great HD picture and sound – with the caveat that the heavy CGI work is fairly obvious and that the dialogue is sometimes unintelligible. The Blu-ray also contains a longer cut of the movie, including some scene material to clarify the connections to the 2004 installment. Casual fans who have never seen a Riddick movie are better advised to watch Pitch Black. Something tells me that dedicated fans have already picked this up.


Reviewed By: Kevin EK


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#2 of 5 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted January 24 2014 - 12:50 PM

As a fan of the first two films, I enjoyed this one as well and hope we get another adventure in the near future. Riddick seems to be a fave character of Vin Diesel. I think this film exists in no small part due to his value to Universal and the Fast & Furious franchise.

 

If Universal wants to keep him happy, perhaps they'll fund additional Riddick films, too.

 

The only issue here, as noted earlier, as that there are multiple points where the dialogue is simply unintelligible. This is mostly due to the actors’ line readings, but I repeat – if the viewer must repeatedly rewind the movie and turn on the subtitles, something is really not being done right.

 

I find many action films have this problem. The dialogue is mixed so low that you have to crank the volume to hear it, then you get blasted out of your seat when the sound FX and action scenes arrive.

 

I find most TV shows are mixed at a much more dialogue-friendly volume than most films.


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#3 of 5 OFFLINE   Kevin EK

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Posted January 24 2014 - 05:36 PM

Malcolm, I agree with your conclusion on the varying sound levels.  But I'd add that there are also plenty of TV shows where the show itself seems to be mixed low - so you crank the volume to hear the dialogue there, and then the commercials arrive FULL BLAST...



#4 of 5 OFFLINE   Todd Erwin

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Posted January 26 2014 - 01:27 PM

Malcolm, I agree with your conclusion on the varying sound levels.  But I'd add that there are also plenty of TV shows where the show itself seems to be mixed low - so you crank the volume to hear the dialogue there, and then the commercials arrive FULL BLAST...

Off-topic somewhat, but I remember CBS used to be the biggest culprit of this practice, until the FCC began cracking down on it.



#5 of 5 OFFLINE   Malcolm R

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Posted January 27 2014 - 10:26 AM

I was thinking more about TV on blu-ray and DVD (so no commercials). I have a regular movie night at my house were we usually watch a movie, then an episode of a TV series, all on blu-ray.

 

For the movie, you have to turn the volume higher to hear the dialogue clearly (then are usually deafened by the FX in action scenes). The TV show dialogue can be heard quite clearly at a significantly lower volume.


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