It's a rare day when the movie I pay to see is not only a good movie, but exactly the movie I needed to see that very day. This was, however, the case with The Chronicles of Riddick. David Twohy's second outing with the charismatic sociopath Richard P. Riddick is a gorgeous, breathtaking spectacle of a film. Spooky and I loved it. Make no mistake, this is a very different sort of film that its predecessor, Pitch Black (2000), much the same way that Alien and Aliens were very different films. The Chronicles of Riddick wisely chooses to set its protagonist on a very different sort of quest this time, rather than simply sending him on another "bug hunt." In many ways, this is the sort of change in direction I wanted to see for the Alien series post-Aliens. "A sequel about Ellen Ripley without the aliens," was what I told a friend I wanted. Essentially, that's what we get here, Riddick having to deal with other humans instead of predatory xenoforms. Of course, the humans in question aren't all exactly human anymore, and they are exquisitely predatory. Someone on my discussion phorum remarked that this was like Star Wars made by Alex Proyas (a favorite director of mine, this I, Robot thing aside). I pretty much agree. This is a gritty, wonder-filled delight, and I was hard pressed to look away for even a few seconds. It was nice to see Keith David reprise his role as Abu 'Imam' al-Walid, and to see the story use Jack (Kyra) as an integral element (though I was a little sorry to see the role filled by Alexa Davalos instead of Pitch Black's Rhiana Griffith). And the casting of Dame Judi Dench as the Elemental being Aereon felt a lot less gratuitous than I'd expected. The art direction, CGI, and matte paintings were superb, and Graeme Revell gives this film almost as exciting a score as he gave to Pitch Black. Indeed, there was little here I didn't like. I could have done without the Imam's wide-eyed brat, who felt a little like a fugitive from a Coca-Cola commercial. I didn't find the story more complicated than necessary (as someone on my phorum suggested), but did find it feeling just a little rushed at times. With a measly one hour and fifty-nine minutes running time, and the fact that this was originally given an R and recut for the coveted PG-13, is enough to tell me this rushed feeling almost certainly resulted from the deletion of important moments here and there. A shame we can no longer make adult movies for adults. But at least we can expect (as with Pitch Black) an unrated Director's cut on DVD. Is this as "smart" a film as Pitch Black? Maybe. Maybe not. The depends what you mean. But in its own way, it's as good, and by no means is it a "big, dumb movie." Vin Diesel is firmly established as the thinking geek's action hero. If you're still pissed about the sanitized smarm-fests passing themselves off as the last two Star Wars films, I'd say you might want to give The Chronicles of Riddick a try.
If not for the headache, yesterday would have been stellar. But it was for the headache, which wasn't too bad throughout the movie, but when we reemerged into the sun and the heat and the parking-lot noise, it went off like a siren. Sometime after dinner, it finally let me go, and I only felt like ass the rest of the evening. Spooky and I ate "girlwiches" and watched the beautifully filmed, nicely understated Shurayuki-Hime (i.e., The Princess Blade).
I took Ambien, then woke at about 5:30, unable to sleep. I watched the sunrise, made an entry in my paper journal, and then downed another Ambien. But at 7 a.m., I was still awake, and Spooky dragged me off to my office, the only room with the windows blacked out. I lay awake until about 8 a.m., when I finally dozed off again and slept until about 10:30. It's not too bad, if you add it all together, I suppose. But I've had it with the Ambien, especially after Spooky's discovery this afternoon that insomnia is a rare side-effect. I'll make-do with kava kava, thank you very much. Sometimes, the cure is at least as bad as the sickness and, in those cases, I prefer to remain sick. And, though expensive for an herb, kava is about half the price of Ambien.
Now, today, I have to deal with the second-pass page proofs. So long as production did what they said they were doing, this will only be a hassle.