Sometimes you just have to stand back and marvel at the sheer audacity of a franchise. There have been plenty of sequels over the years. Some are great — like The Empire Strikes Back, Toy Story 2, or The Dark Knight — and serve to elevate the original to a new level. Most are lucky if they’re just okay. And then there is the oeuvre of Vin Diesel, the once and future king of unnecessary sequels.
Of course, Diesel (seen above in his earlier break-dancing days) doesn’t hold the sequel title. Not yet. That honor still goes to Sylvester Stallone, who has a collective nine sequels to his name, including the Rambo, Rocky, and Expendables franchises. With talk of John Rambo returning in a television format and an Apollo Creed spin-off from the Rocky series, it’s possible that no one will ever catch the formidable Sly. But Diesel, undaunted, still has his eyes on the prize. After returning to his car-crashing franchise with Fast and Furious 3 through 6 (with a seventh on the way), he insists on bringing his growling, scowling space badass Riddick back for another violent go-round.
And you know what…? It looks kind of good.
Riddick (Savoy 16 IMAX): The third film in the Riddick trilogy goes back to the roots of the franchise. Riddick now is on a very hot alien planet with bounty hunters who want to kill him as a source of pride. But the one thing this crew forgets (other than Never try to kill Riddick as a source of pride) is that there are creatures on this planet that don’t take kindly to visitors.
Why to Watch: This series will never go down in history as a great sci-fi achievement, but it will be known as one of the few vehicles to make Vin Diesel’s gravel-like deep voice useful. I love Vin in films like these because they provide him with a chance to capitalize on his physicality and terrifying menace. Hopefully this new film gives the franchise a good name again. See it for the same reason you saw Pacific Rim: robotic warriors and giant monsters. And yes, both of those are descriptions of Vin Diesel.
Showing on IMAX @ 11:00 a.m., 1:50 p.m., 4:40 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 10:15 p.m.; showing on normal-sized screens (which will almost contain Vin Diesel) @ 11:15 a.m., 2:05 p.m., 4:50 p.m., 7:40 p.m., and 10:25 p.m.
The Room (The Art Theater Co-op): This film by writer/director/actor TommyWisseau explores the question can you ever really trust anyone.
Why to Watch: This film is so ridiculously bad it has entered the pantheon of a cult masterwork. The performances are as dry as year-old Corn Flakes, and you can make a drinking game out of the name Lisa. It’s one of those experiences you can only have at The Art Theater Co-op. Says Steve Rose of the Guardian UK: “To make a movie that’s so bad it’s good you need vision, drive, luck and obsessive vanity. Fortuitously, The Room‘s writer/producer/director/star Tommy Wiseau appears to possess all of these qualities, combined with a total lack of acting talent.”
Showing Wednesday @ 10:00 p.m.
Blue Jasmine (The Art Theater Co-op): In this riff on Blanche Dubois, Jasmine (Cate Blanchett) is a wealthy woman married to an Enron-type named Hal (Alec Baldwin). When Hal loses all of his money in an investment and becomes poor, Jasmine is then forced to re-examine her life and lower herself to live with her “ordinary” sister (Sally Hawkins) and her unkempt cohorts (including Bobby Cannavale, Andrew Dice Clay, and Louis CK).
Why to Watch: This film subtly answers the question of how would you be affected if you went from having everything to living with nothing. Cate Blanchett has an excellent amount of range on display in this film, owing to the wonderfully witty yet frank dialogue written by Woody Allen. This film will be remembered come Oscar season. Go see it for the wonderful performances and honest storytelling.
Shwoing Monday through Thursday @ 7:30 p.m., with additional screenings Wednesday @ 2:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. and Thursday @ 5:00 p.m.
The Spectacular Now (The Art Theater Co-op): The story of popular high schoolstudent Sutter Kiely (Miles Teller) who has no idea where he wants to go in life and has no plans to change that. Sutter’s attitude shifts when he meets local geek Amy (Shailene Woodley), and the two teens, who lead completely different lives, learn how much they have in common.
Why to Watch: I saw this film (from the writers of 500 Days of Summer) at Ebertfest, and I was blown away. Woodley and Teller put in honest, vulnerable performances as two teenagers figuring out life in different ways. The supporting cast is exceptional, and there are moments that feel so organic that the audience may feel like voyeurs. This film is everything a coming of age film should be. See it!