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Pitch Black: Unrated Director's Cut

One of the better Alien knock-offs, Pitch Black was the surprise cult hit of 2000. Filmed in Australia (mostly in the southern desert of Coober Pedy) for $23 million, it ended up making about $40 million (and the film made $14 million its opening weekend, thanks to an effective trailer). The story begins in space: A transport ship taking 40 passengers in suspended animation to far-flung corners of the universe (among the destinations is New Mecca) is struck by meteors and crash-lands on a desert planet. Among the survivors is the de facto captain Fry (Radha Mitchell of High Art), the criminal in custody Riddick (Vin Diesel) and his custodian Johns (Cole Hauser), and several others (including Claudia Black of Farscape). Though at first the film goes in the direction of suggesting that Riddick and the others will be at odds, the real enemy is the planet's residents, a herd of raptors who kill everything in sight, even each other if they are bored. They only come out at night, and hate light. Thus, Riddick becomes essential as his eyes have been modified to see in the dark, like night-vision glasses. Your basic "and then there were none" tale of people you usually aren't interested in being picked off slowly, Pitch Black nonetheless is very effective. Director David Twohy (The Arrival) exacts legitimate suspense from the situation in Jim and Ken Wheat's essentially derivative script, which does, however, contain some surprises. Universal's DVD edition offers a good anamorphic transfer with audio in 5.1 Dolby Digital or DTS. The package comes with two informative commentaries, one with director Twohy and actors Diesel (who is also a film director) and Hauser, the second with Twohy and producer Tom Engelman and special-effects supervisor Peter Chiang (whose work on the film is superb). There's also a four-minute "making-of" featurette (just an extended trailer really), two theatrical trailers, production notes, talent files on seven cast and crew members, and promotional items for Universal. Perhaps the weirdest offering is Raveworld Pitch Black Event, a 20-minute collection of footage from a rave party, interspersed with images from the film, put together by something called Raveworld Network. The footage is executive produced by Mark Lacey. One knows that one has grown too old when such offerings don't make any sense. Keep case.
—D.K. Holm

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