"The Weekend Rent offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Friday."
The only new release opening wide in theaters this weekend is Riddick, the third chapter in The Chronicles of Riddick series featuring Vin Diesel as an escaped convict with a "shine job" on his eyes that allows him to see well in low light. It has been nine years since we last saw Riddick on-screen, and when we meet him again in the imaginatively titled Riddick, the muscle-bound antihero has been left for dead on a sun-scorched planet populated by an alien race of predators that thrive when it rains. That's bad news for the mercenaries who come to the planet hoping to collect the bounty on Riddick's head.
Riddick is directed by David Twohy, who directed all three of the Chronicles of Riddick movies, starting with 2000's Pitch Black. That wicked little sci-fi creature feature was a breakout role for Diesel as an action antihero after appearing in Saving Private Ryan and voicing The Iron Giant. In Pitch Black, we meet Richard B. Riddick as he escapes from a spaceship that crash-lands on a planet that normally has no nighttime. When the survivors discover that an eclipse is approaching that will bring out nocturnal, carnivorous creatures that destroyed a whole community of previous explorers, the survivors reluctantly team up with Riddick in an attempt to make it off the planet. Like Riddick tells them, "All you people are so scared of me. Most days I'd take that as a compliment. But it ain't me you gotta worry about now." Riddick further proves how badass he is by hiding from them in plain sight while he has a drink and by shaving his head with a knife (a "personal grooming appliance"). An unrated director's cut of Pitch Black is available on DVD and Blu-ray.
The new movie Riddick shares more DNA with Pitch Black than its sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick (yes, the second movie confusingly has the same name as the series). Both Riddick and Pitch Black are R-rated sci-fi horror movies with monsters. The PG-13 The Chronicles of Riddick is a more ambitious sci-fi epic that expands the mythology of Riddick, who has been eluding bounty hunters for years. When he meets up with the holy man he rescued in Pitch Black in New Mecca on Helion Prime, we learn that Riddick is the last Furyan—a race of warriors thought to be extinct. This greatly interests the Necromongers, an evil race of religious fanatics who want to conquer Helion Prime and convert all of its denizens, including the last living Furyan. Diesel personally asked Judi Dench—an actress he greatly admires—to be in this movie, and she accepted, playing the role of a mysterious Air Elemental. Karl Urban also appears as one of the Necromongers, as does Thandie Newton. The Chronicles of Riddick is available in an unrated director's cut on both DVD and Blu-ray.
Although the Necromongers (and Karl Urban) do appear at the beginning of Riddick for continuity's sake, the new movie jettisons the mythology built up in The Chronicles of Riddick and reverts back to a hard-edged sci-fi horror show like Pitch Black. That movie came out 13 years ago, so if you only have time to see one movie before Riddick, rent Pitch Black. The Chronicles of Riddick will excite those who geek out for the Riddick character, but casual fans can skip it and go right to Riddick in theaters without getting too lost.
Both Pitch Black and The Chronicles of Riddick are available on DVD and Blu-ray as well as various VOD services.
Follow Robert B. DeSalvo @zuulboy
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