The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014)

★★½ / 👎

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) poster

Continues the wonderful Peter Parker / Gwen Stacy relationship drama while providing a legitimately amazing (if not ultimate) Spider-Man. And, other than the consistently terrible villains’ character designs, the film looks great. Alas, the episodic plot and wildly uneven tone subject the audience to even worse whiplash than Iron Man 2.

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Easy Money II (2012)

★★½ / 👍

Easy Money II Hard to Kill (2012) poster

There’s a lot wrong with this sequel: very little actually happens, what does happen is wildly implausible, and almost nothing makes sense without reference to the superior original. However, the languid pace allows us ample time with the characters, who are more complex and interesting than your average crime-thriller fodder. If I were watching this film theatrically I’d be disappointed, but viewed as an episodic drama in the tradition of Traffik it has a lot going for it.

Terror Train (1980)

★★½ / 👎

Terror Train (1980) poster

Better than most of the first wave of slasher film cash-ins, but that’s not saying much. An extended stalking/chase sequence—and only that sequence—is shot, edited and scored with energy and style. Historically-minded enthusiasts of the genre should see it if they haven’t already; not worth seeking out otherwise.

Riddick (2013)

★★½ / 👍

Riddick (2013) poster

Twohy jettisons the Dune fanfiction for a return to the slasher/creature-feature mashup that made the first film work. Diesel once again commits fully to Riddick as growling sociopath ubermensch. The result is grim and bloody and surprisingly effective.

I’ve subtracted a full star from my rating for Riddick‘s embrace of slasher-movie tropes: one-dimensional characters who exist to be killed, flat dialogue, and problematic gender/sexual politics. After the baroque mess of Chronicles, I can see why Twohy might want to simplify, but minimalist archetypes can also come across as deeply lazy. (If you’re going to hire Katee Sackhoff, “Starbuck meets The Vasquez” should be the starting point, not the entire character concept.)

I enjoyed Riddick, and would recommend it to genre (or Vin Diesel) fans; but I am also uninterested in defending it.