Reel Critics: 'Riddick' fun, but you've seen it all

Science fiction joins Wild West action with R-rated violence in Vin Diesel's latest turn as the anti-hero "Riddick." This time, he's stranded on a distant planet populated by voracious creatures. They look like a genetic blend of giant scorpions and velociraptor dinosaurs. But he manages to slice, dice and disembowel dozens of them at a time.

Riddick tames a predatory canine to help him survive the dangers of the barren yellow landscape. But to add to his troubles, he's also an escaped convict with a huge price on his head. A bevy of intergalactic bounty hunters are in hot pursuit.

This begins a bloody game of cat and mouse with his grungy adversaries. Katee Sackhoff ("Battlestar Galactica") plays a buff babe who can handle any of the men in her bounty-hunting clique. She adds a touch of humor with a real punch to the enterprise.

It's all predictable, but it definitely delivers the goods for the target audience of teenage males who love the search-and-destroy genre. Call it "Rambo" meets "Aliens" who "Die Hard" with cutthroat efficiency.


Warmth, laughs 'Included'

It's not often that a Spanish-language film debuts in the top 10 box office, so I had to check out "Instructions Not Included" and understand the movie's broad appeal. What an imaginative, charming story.

Scruffy little Valentin (Eugenio Derbez) lives an idyllic life in Acapulco as a ladies' man until one of his ex-lovers leaves a baby girl at his door. He tries to track her down in Los Angeles to return the baby but lands a job as a movie stuntman, and so raises baby Maggie on his own.

Six years have passed, and Valentin and the adorable, smart Maggie (Loreto Peralta) lead a life anyone would love. He has turned their home into a fantasyland and is so caring he sends Maggie fake letters from her mama so Maggie won't know she's been abandoned.

In turn, Maggie serves as Valentin's interpreter, even on the movie sets. The stunt sequences are hilarious and Derbez (who also directed, co-wrote and co-produced this first feature film) has a terrific flair for physical comedy.

Things turn more poignant when Maggie's mother Julie (Jessica Lindsey) reappears, anxious to know her daughter. The movie evolves from a loopy "One Man and a Baby" to "Kramer vs. Kramer" as the little girl gets torn in her loyalties and affection for both parents.

"Instructions Not Included" is full of laughs, and while it does turn very soapy toward the ending, the film speaks to kids and parents alike and there's a twist that will simply floor you. Highly recommended.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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