Reviews for region 1 discs From Ultimate DVD #12

Pitch Black
Mission: Impossible 2

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PITCH BLACK R / Unrated
Don't let the sun go down on me...

The Movie

Mercilessly bounced around the schedules throughout this year by the UK arm of Universal, Pitch Black finally achieved a much-delayed British opening on November 10. Which means, of course, the Americans got the DVD before we get the movie…

The distributor's utter lack of faith in the picture is astounding, given that many critics deemed Pitch Black to be one of the most stimulating sci-fi shockers for ages. The premise is intriguing: a transport ship carrying the deadly prisoner Riddick (Diesel) crashlands on a desolate world. The motley survivors are left with a dilemma: not only has Riddick escaped, but the planet is home to millions of creatures that devour human flesh. Fortunately, the aliens are repelled by the light. Then the planet enters into an extended solar eclipse - and the feeding commences.

Pitch Black may suffer from minor comparisons to Alien, but recent entries to that franchise should aspire to be this good. Never sticking by the rules - people are not what they seem, women and children may not survive, good doesn't necessarily triumph over evil - director/writer Twohy delivers a masterpiece in suspense suffused with a remarkable otherworldly vision. The creatures are nightmarish, the barren Australian locations are unsettling, while the decision to bleach the film stock and use saturation colours accentuates the unease.

I'd go as far to say it's one of my favourite films of the year.4 stars - Damn Good Disc

The Extras

Released in two separate versions: the R-rated cut, and the unrated director's cut (which contains three extra minutes of material).

The Making of Pitch Black lasts just five minutes, and follows the usual template for short featurettes. However, the rough cuts of CG work are cool, and it's interesting to see the cast looking so jaded while filming on location.

Two commentary tracks seems a little excessive. The first, with Twohy, Diesel and Hauser (who plays Johns), reveals the trials of filming in the desert, while the star bemoans his chains and blindfold, recalls Riddick's shoulder-crunching escape and admits to on-set tensions. Twohy responds "It could have been worse", points out the new footage, then reveals there were 30 minutes of cut scenes. So where are they?

The director repeats himself a little in the second commentary, here paired with visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang. Essential for CG nuts, this could alienate more casual viewers.

Two trailers in 1.85:1 paints this as a must-see movie, there are 10 pages of illustrated production notes and some cast/crew bios. Oddly enough, Universal also throw in 20 minutes of footage of the Raveworld Event - a strange marketing ploy whereby the 'Pitch Black Experience' was taken to nightclubs throughout the US. In other words, it shows a load of doped clubbers leaping up and down with light sticks. Avoid this bit.4 stars - Damn Good Disc

David Richardson

Credits
Pitch Black DVD

Cast
Vin Diesel
Radha Mitchell
Cole Hauser
Keith David
Director • David Twohy
Year • 2000
Duration • 112/109 mins
Screen Ratio • 2.35:1
Anamorphic • Yes
Audio • Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Chapters • 18
Languages • English, French
Subtitles • English, French
Release Date • October 24
Distributor • Universal

 
 
 

Highlight

Actually, the real highlight is a jaw-dropping moment of surprise, which, if mentioned here, would be completely ruined. So let's go for a pretty cool substitute that sticks in the memory...

Chapter 9 - Darkness Falls
…and the swarm arrives.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
From Ultimate DVD #12

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 Rated: PG-13
Cruising along in low gear

The Movie

In the extra features on this DVD, scriptwriter Robert Towne reveals that the stunts for MI:2 were invented first, and then he was called in to write his script around them. Oops, clang.

Irritatingly unbalanced and overlong, MI:2 begins in style with a double action whammy of plane hijack and Cruise rock climbing, then nothing much happens for the next hour. Taking on board the criticism levelled against the original movie - that it was a tad overcomplicated - Cruise and his producing partner Paula Wagner have simplified the mix, but the result lacks urgency. The plot is promising - renegade agent Sean Ambrose (an excellent Scott) plans to profit from releasing the killer pathogen Chimera on the world - but the misjudged romance between Ethan and glamorous thief Nyah (Newton) defies the genre. Think Mission: Impossible re-invented as a soppy Bond clone, replete with glamorous locations.

The good bits: the last hour, full of Woo's trademark choreographed chaos and some balletic violence from Cruise. Nevertheless, MI:2 just seems like… well, a load of stunts that had a story written around them.3 stars - Worth a watch

The Extras

It's an immaculate package, with complex graphic menus that combine dizzying effects with useful information (each feature is titled and summarized with an exact running time).

Mission Database contains all the important extras, like Behind the Mission, a 15-minute collection of interviews with the stars and production team. Knee-deep in prepared platitudes, it's mildly informative but way too Tinseltown.

Two featurettes focus on the stunts: Mission Incredible (5 mins) shows Woo's instinct for action, while Impossible Stunts (35 mins) uses interviews and clips to break down 11 key sequences.

A Metallica music video (I Disappear) is hideously bland, the Alternate Title Sequence is really not that different, five DVD-ROM features are a bonus, while the MTV skit Mission Improbable is a hoot. Six minutes long and featuring both Cruise and Woo, it takes place on set as we meet stunt double Tom Crooze (Ben Stiller). It's wonderful deadpan hilarity, in which Crooze doubles Cruise on the sets of Magnolia, Cocktail and Risky Business.

Finally there's Woo's commentary, full of the usual trivia, but not easy listening because of the director's strong accent. He touches upon being chosen for the project by the star (isn't it normally the other way around?), the similarities between action movies and musicals, and his terror for Tom during the rock climbing sequence ("I couldn't bear to watch the monitor"). Bless him.3 stars - Worth a watch

David Richardson

Credits
Mission: Impossible 2 DVD

Cast
Tom Cruise
Dougray Scott
Thandie Newton
Ving Rhames
Director • John Woo
Year • 2000
Duration • 123 min
Screen Ratio • 2.35:1
Anamorphic • Yes
Audio • Dolby Digital 5.1
Chapters • 17
Languages • English, French
Subtitles • English
Release Date • November 7
Distributor • Paramount

 
 

Highlight

Chapter 14 - Race Against Time
Woo does the western with bikes. Fab.

 
 
 
From Ultimate DVD #12

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