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"Pitch Black"

Directed by David Twohy.
Written by Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat and David Twohy. 
Starring Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell and Cole Hauser.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  2/18/00 


As someone who fancies himself a movie fan, I must admit that the formula for a movie like "Pitch Black" is somewhat stale.  Using "Alien" as your plot structure tells most reasonably knowledgeable people what is going to happen during your movie.  What makes this so tough is that someone like me--a critic that tries to see each and every movie with an open mind—just cannot escape the formula as it unrolls on screen.  You know you do the same thing:  take "Deep Blue Sea", last summer's sharkfest starring Sam Jackson.  Right before each character met their untimely demise, you whispered to your buddy/brother/boy toy "yeah, he's dead any second."  It's more predictable than the morning sunrise.

So, with that in mind, let us make this much clear:  "Pitch Black" is not up for any Academy Awards.  Its plot is scarily by-the-book.  As you may have guessed, its cast members are hand-picked from almost every racial background in the world except Asian (for some reason, horror movies don't like Asians for gratuitous slashing; but, for good, racist storekeepers...).  Yes, even though our world contains millions and millions of blacks (you will never hear me say that a person whose forefathers and fathers before him are from New York City are "African-Americans", for PC reference), there is only one token black in the cast of about 12 characters.  As usual, the child with the most lines in the script survives, and all of the actors that have no name value die extremely early in the movie.

Knowing all of this, Chuck "Beans-Corn-Cream" Longer and I decided to do the Friday night movie with all of the other 17-year-olds in Falls Church at our local viewing establishment.  Hey, if you can't have a good time at a movie like this, where can you?  And, knowing that I would be able to hold Chuck's hand when things got really scary


Hey, now, calm it down; I'm man enough to admit that even after seeing a hundred of these movies, some of those scare effects still get me.  So, you ask, was it fun?  I must admit, while this movie is really not very good, and it has glaring holes in its methodology (yes, I just said that), I had a good time watching Vin Diesel--quite possibly Hollywood's coolest name—ham it up as a convicted murderer using his specially shined eyeballs to help his wrecked freighter survivor crew ward off light-sensitive alien pterodactyls on a distant desert planet.  Diesel gets to do all of the smack talking, gets all of the funny lines, looks extremely cool in slim wraparound goggles, and naturally, is the resident bad-ass that looks tough trimming his pate.  There are other people in the movie, and they all do a good job of introducing themselves, giving the audience one or two personality traits about why they are on the freighter or why they think they won't die, and then they are mercilessly killed off by the cookie-cutter script and David Twohy's masterfully cheese-hyped direction.  The deaths here aren't as good as in other movies of its type; and, since you see all of them coming, you've got to show me some cool slick deaths to keep me interested, and this flick doesn't do that.

I'll keep this simple.  The good:  Vin Diesel, genius use of white light in early desert scenes of the movie, a really different look print-wise with each scene, lots of actors diving for cover in slow motion.

The bad:  numerous plot holes (why can Vin's character not carry a light around with him and NOT get attacked, but everyone else does?  Are the aliens just scared of Vin's barrel chest?), a bad ending, periodically cheap-looking special effects, some of the worst sound effects editing I've ever not heard.

This is the type of movie that Chuck and I refer to as "C++"--it's average, but it's got two plusses' worth of flair.  We've all seen this movie before, but man, did I have a good time making fun of it.  It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, but this is better seen with a big audience, to laugh along with you.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09