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Riddick Returns

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Autumn in Whistler is all about living cheap and watching horror movies, so the download of the week is The Conjuring, a based-on-true story about a 1970s family with way too many daughters that moves into a haunted house and is forced to enlist a husband-wife ghost hunter team to help them keep their heads on straight.

With everything from a hanging tree to a murder pit hidden beneath the floorboards, director James Wan (Saw, Insidious) continuously pushes the tension almost to the breaking point then delivers good, solid scares. It borrows heavily from the vault of horror standards but The Conjuring is certainly a good way to kill a rainy September night.

Also Wan's Insidious: Chapter 2 opens next week (Friday the 13th). Ever wonder what happens to those families that live through hell when a child gets possessed? Apparently it doesn't get any easier.

This week at the Village 8, Riddick features Vin Diesel returning to the role that made him a star in 2000's Pitch Black as some kind of futuristic badass killer who can see in the dark. Astute fans may recall 2004's overblown, dog-fart-sucking Chronicles of Riddick which nearly sank the franchise, but everyone is back for round three, and this time around Diesel and returning director David Twohy pare things down and stick with what works.

Riddick opens the film alone on some dusty alien planet and his only hope of escape is to alert bounty hunter teams to his location then kill them all to steal a ship. Cue the clichéd characters but also the blood, violence, aliens, nudity and a whole lot of gravely voice-overs, cheesy one-liners and Diesel's patented icy stares. It's not a life-changer but at least Riddick is a rough, violent film that doesn't pull punches or pander to a Disney/overseas audience like a lot of action flicks do these days.

These days are also a golden era of documentaries although you wouldn't know it from this week's offerings. I'm almost embarrassed to admit I watched I Am Street Fighter, a 70-minute doc about Street Fighter, the 1990s video arcade game that apparently set the standard against which fighting games still strive. While nowhere near as engaging as The King of Kong, this flick examines the worldwide cultural phenomena of dorky kids finally connecting with other people over a game about travelling the world kicking ass. It's interesting to see just how big and encompassing the Street Fighter universe is. Paired with 1994's terrible Street Fighter live action film starring Jean-Claude Van Damme this one will give middle-aged men a nice trip down nostalgia lane (and very little else).

Back on the big screens (but probably not in Whistler), Salinger is an outsider's look (the only kind there is) at the life of reclusive author J.D. Salinger. Best known for The Catcher in the Rye, Salinger died in 2010 and has long been one of literature's most alluring mysteries. Through interviews with those who knew the author (plus some random actors and a guy who saw him pick up his mail once) Salinger uses cheesy reenactments and tabloid "cult-of-celebrityism" to shed light on a man who spent much of his life avoiding just that.

Lit-geeks will surely find some great moments and tidbits hidden amongst all the Hollywood phonines but I suspect somewhere Mr. Salinger is probably trying to ninja-punch his way out of his coffin like Uma Thurman did in Kill Bill so he can stomp out an end to this madness.

Sadly, this probably would have been better if it had been a zombie film. Happy Autumn.

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