Forget the by-the-numbers box-office bonanzas of summer 2004—writer- director David Twohy's underappreciated, over-the-top sequel to his 2000 Pitch Black was the junk spectacular of the season.
Haven't seen Pitch Black? No problem. Just know that Vin Diesel's Riddick, the universe's most hardened criminal (so hardened he's had his eyeballs filed down so he can see in the dark), saved some adoring tomboy from death. In Riddick (on DVD Nov. 16), she's all grown up to look like a Guess model, although now she's a hardened criminal locked away on a prison planet that's hot enough to melt your skin. Guilt-ridden Riddick finds his way to her, but not until he's informed by "an envoy from the elemental race" (yep, Judi Dench) that he's some kind of ancient hard-ass who's the only hope to save the world from the soul-sucking, fascist Necromongers, led by the Lord Marshal (Colm Feore). There's also a Macbeth subplot in which a slinky Necromonger (Thandie Newton) tries to get her sexy husband to dethrone the Lord Marshal. In the meantime, there are man-eating hellcats to avoid, bounty hunters to outwit, and butch, blasé one-liners to unload that must have Gov. Schwarzenegger clenching his jaw in jealousy.
Riddick is wall-to-wall special effects, but it's all of a piece—everything on display is designed to look ornately makeshift, as though there were nothing in this galaxy that couldn't be repaired with a large, futuristic wrench. And, better, Twohy and producer-star Diesel never forget that Riddick himself has to be the main attraction; the movie hysterically fetishizes Diesel as the meanest motherfucker of mankind.
You'd hope that Vin and Twohy would stick around for a commentary track. No such luck, though they both appear in fluffy, film-geeky extras: Twohy in a discussion of the effects; Diesel as our gushing guide for a short walk through the sets. Even geekier is the Pop-Up Video–style "Riddick Insider" feature, which allows you to watch the film accompanied with footnotes like, "Underverse was discovered by the first Lord Marshal: Covu the Transcended." The film itself should be gloriously geeky enough for anyone.
ALSO OUT NOV. 16, Criterion offers both five-disc and two-disc sets of Bergman's Fanny and Alexander; Altman's Short Cuts gets two discs that include a Raymond Carver interview. Will Ferrell stars in Elf. Clive Owen stars in I'll Sleep When I'm Dead. Also look for Guy Maddin's The Saddest Music in the World, with Isabella Rossellini.