Pitch Black Owing a major debt to Alien and its cinematic spawn, Pitch Black is a guilty pleasure that surpasses expectations. As he did with The Arrival, director David Twohy revitalizes a derivative story, allowing you to forgive its flaws and submit to its visceral thrills. Under casual scrutiny, the plot's logic crumbles like a stale cookie, but it's definitely fun while it lasts.
A spaceship crashes on a desert planet scorched under three suns. The mostly doomed survivors include a resourceful captain (Radha Mitchell), a drug-addled cop (Cole Hauser), and a deadly prisoner (Vin Diesel) who quickly escapes. These clashing personalities discover that the planet is plunging into the darkness of an extended eclipse, and it's populated by hordes of ravenous, razor-fanged beasties that only come out at night. The body count rises, and Pitch Black settles into familiar sci-fi territory.
What sets the movie apart is Twohy's developing visual style, suggesting that this veteran of B-movie schlock may advance to the big leagues. Like the makers of The Blair Witch Project, Twohy understands the frightening power of suggestion; his hungry monsters are better heard than seen (although once seen, they're chillingly effective), and Pitch Black gets full value from moments of genuine panic. Best of all, Twohy's got a well-matched cast, with Mitchell (so memorable with Ally Sheedy in High Art) and Diesel (Pvt. Caparzo from Saving Private Ryan) being the standouts. The latter makes the most of his muscle-man role, and his character's development is one more reason this movie works better than it should. --Jeff Shannon
Dark Fury - The Chronicles of Riddick (Animated) Taking a page from The Animatrix, Dark Fury is part of a new trend of bridging theatrical sequels. As an official product of a franchise, the 35-minute anime benefits from having the original actors voice the characters, including Vin Diesel as Riddick. This story opens with the new action hero and the two other survivors of Pitch Black already caught by a giant spaceship filled with dread. The sinewy leader has a unique--and creepy--jail for master villains and she has her sights set on Riddick. The film--indeed the series--is indebted to animator Peter Chung, who brings his techno style from his Aeon Flux series. His smooth animation for Riddick doesn't reinvent the character as much as give him a new, appealing fluidity. As anime goes, there's nothing really new here--plenty of action, cool killers, and dramatic spurts of blood--but it's a building block for how this genre might enliven movie series and sequels in the future. --Doug Thomas
Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 03/31/2009 Run time: 119 minutes Rating: Pg13
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