Friday This ‘n’ That – Alien edition

I have an Alien problem.

Alien

I first saw Alien at the theater in 1979. I was fifteen years old and my friend John Gervais and I were waiting in line at the Dadeland theater. We were a little nervous about sneaking in but talked a young couple into purchasing our tickets. Not only did Alien scare the pants off me and warp my fragile little mindĀ but it made a lifelong impression.

Alien and Aliens are my two of my three favorite horror movies of all time (John Carpenter’s The Thing being the third). Alien 3 is a terrible mess (though the ‘director’s cut’ fixes quite a few issues) with some nice visuals. Ditto Alien Resurrection (love the underwater scene). Alien vs. Predator is stupid, short, and PG-13. No Alien film should be PG-13. The sequel Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem was just a slasher movie dressed up with Aliens. Prometheus was a well-meaning misfire that tried to shoehorn in an Alien at the end.

I watch all of these films periodically because I just love the Aliens. I’ll also gladly fork out my money to see Prometheus 2 and Alien 5 in theaters. Recently I picked up Alien Isolation for my Xbox (though I haven’t found time to play it yet). I’ve previously shared photos of Alien figures and the Alien quilt my wife made.

Recently she bought me an Alien Buddha off of Etsy:

Alien Buddha

I haven’t decided where to put it as yet.

Alien game

I also couldn’t resist this expensive card game, simply because it features Alien.

Own the first ever Alien Deck Building Game! Use Legendary moves from battling Super Villains to battling chest-bursting, face-hugging, acid-for-blood-having Aliens. This game features some of Alien’s greatest protagonists, including Ripley, Dallas, Bishop and Private Hicks, as they go to battle against some of the most terrifying creatures in the universe. Players must work with each other to defeat the terrifying Xenomorphs!”

I haven’t found the time to play it either. Like I said I have a problem.

Now when oh when am I going to get to see Alien 5?

 

 

Friday This ‘n’ That – Vudu

I am lazy. I don’t mind admitting it.

Vudu

While blu-ray picture and sound quality are unsurpassed (at least until 4K becomes established), if I’m going to put on a random movie to watch, I’ll turn on Vudu (or Netflix or Amazon or Hulu) rather than get my lazy butt up and find the blu-ray. This is made easier by having most new movies come with digital copies that work on Vudu.

Wal-Mart has a program where some percentage of the films they sell will automatically come with a copy if you enter your receipt into their savings catcher. This has never worked for me personally but perhaps I’m not purchasing the right films.

What does work is that you can download VUDU togo on your computer and convert DVDs and Blu-Rays (if you have a drive). They charge $2 per movie for blu-ray to HD or DVD to standard. They charge $5 for DVD to HD. This is fine for a movie or two but gets pricy if you have more.

Thankfully, Wal-Mart will give you half-price if you convert ten or more titles. Conversion is easy if a bit time consuming. The time consuming portion is that there are a ton of titles not supported. Still it is a nice tool when it works.

Vudu also makes it easier to watch a marathon without getting up.

Alien

Pardon me but I’m queueing up the first Alien movie.

Alien – Titans Vinyl Nostromo Collection

My wife made me send her a list of my sixteen favorite horror movies in order the other month. I quickly jotted down about a hundred and then had trouble crossing the losers off the list. My top two slots went to Alien and Aliens.

Alien figures

 

I got a lot of these figures for my birthday. They are Titans vinyl figures and are way too expensive to collect. They are $10 a pop which isn’t awful but they are in blind boxes so you have no idea what you’re getting. Facehugger Kane and Spacesuit Ripley are commons but the bleeding-white-robotic-fluid Ash is a rare. Strangely, I haven’t gotten the Ash common.

Alien figures

 

I just love how much the Titans look like their movie counterparts while still being stylized. I find them to be much better than the similarly priced ReAction figures (although with ReAction, you see exactly what you are getting).

Alien figures

 

I have all of the characters from the movies, even though I am missing four of the figures: Common Ash, Regular Ripley, Rare Ripley (underwear?), and Rare Egg. I won’t need to buy any more unless I find them on clearance.

Alien figures

 

Embarrassing admission: The open mouth alien is the rare Alien BUT I somehow missed the extendable jaws in the box and now they are gone forever. So check your boxes carefully. I only found out when I googled to see a picture of the rare egg.

Embarrassing admission two: I forgot to take a picture of Captain Dallas.

I hope these did well enough that Titans wants to do Aliens…or Predator…or Terminator…or…well enough of reliving my childhood.

Alien 5, Prometheus 2, Yes Please!

Terminator Genisys was a disappointment but not hugely so. The first two entries in the franchise are classics but the third one was a step down and the fourth a slapdash hodgepodge so that Genisys would not live up to the first two is not a surprise and at least it was better than Salvation (which is remembered more for Christian Bale’s offscreen antics than his onscreen performance).

Alien 5

So why should I be excited that my absolute favorite franchise is getting an eighth movie (ninth if it comes out after Prometheus 2)? Neill Blomkamp made an exciting feature debut with District 9. District 9 was an excellent science fiction movie that proved that Blomkamp could handle unique extraterrestrials and weave in social commentary without it being overbearing or pedantic.

Alien 5

Then Blomkamp made Elysium which was interesting science fiction but unfortunately was overbearing and pedantic and just okay. I haven’t yet braved Chappie because it looked just awful – Short Circuit should never be a model for a movie. However Blomkamp has always avowed his love for the Alien franchise and his concept art for Alien 5 makes it clear that he wants to correct Alien 3.

Alien 5

Alien 3 certainly had an intriguing concept (Ripley crashlands on a prison planet with no weapons) but somewhere along the line, someone decided to give the finger to fans of Aliens and killed off two of the four survivors in the opening credits and still wasn’t through. It is not that nihilism in a franchise is bad and certainly right from the start, we knew that Weyland-Yutani considered crew expendable. It is just that the unceremonious dumping of half the cast is really poor storytelling.

Honestly, Dark Horse comics came out with a ridiculously large series of Alien comics miniseries. The first three would have made excellent movies and began where Aliens left off. After Alien 3 was released, all further rereleases of the comics had to be scrubbed and the characters of Ripley, Hicks, and Newt were all renamed.

Clearly the Blomkamp concept art showing a burned Hicks along with Ripley indicates a desire to revisit Alien 3’s plotline. With the two actors being thirty years older now, I’m not sure where Blomkamp intends to go but I’ll certainly buy a ticket. Of course I’ll buy a ticket for Ridley Scott’s Prometheus 2 as well.

Movie Tchotchkes for my Home Theater

Vincent Price

The walls in our movie room (living room) are decorated with all kinds of movie posters. Most are standard small 11×17 with a few exceptions for prized items like my original The Last Man on Earth full-size poster (Thanks, Maya!)

Pennywise

Last year for my 50th birthday, my wife got everyone to give me those Funko Pop dolls so I have rows of those all over the movie room.

Alien

 

With apologies to Ridley Scott’s Prometheus 2, I am ridiculously looking forward to Neil Blomkamp’s Alien 5.

Sad Jason

 

Jason misses his mother

Back from vacation soon. Enjoy!

Exodus – Gods and Kings

I went to see Exodus: Gods and Kings in the theater recently

Exodus

 

Exodus: Gods and KingsĀ (2014) – Rated PG-13

The defiant leader Moses rises up against the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses, setting 600,000 slaves on a monumental journey of escape from Egypt and its terrifying cycle of deadly plagues.”

Follow me and you will be free. Stay and you will perish.” – Moses (doesn’t this sound just like the classic Terminator line, “Come with me if you want to live”?)

I love Ridley Scott. He makes three kinds of movies: classics, absolutely fascinating missteps, and the occasional forgettable film. His classics are Alien (spawning five sequels and a prequel), Blade Runner (an incredible adaptation of film noir sensibilities to a science fiction setting), Black Hawk Down (still the best movie ever made about modern post-WW2 combat and a true story to boot), and Thelma & Louise (still a feminist hoot).

Unfortunately, Exodus falls in the forgettable category. It is not that Exodus is bad but it does not gel very well at all. Scott tries to ground everything in realism, which is an interesting approach for a tale full of miracles. Moses’ visions are certainly open to interpretation in the movie.

Part of the reason the movie doesn’t gel well is the need to cram too many ideas into two hours and twenty minutes of film. The showpiece, the parting of the Red Sea and the crossing, is given plenty of time to breathe. The special effects are wonderful and the scene is very well-handled but it takes a large chunk out of the running time. The plagues are all jumbled together into what practically amounts to a montage sequence.

The movie comes across as a mixture of Exodus highlights together with what are supposed to be personal moments but the personal moments don’t really work. The characters are not very fleshed out and some of the roles are poorly cast, particularly Sigourney Weaver (who I normally like). On the other hand I suppose I can’t complain about casting when The Ten Commandments had Vincent Price and Edward G. Robinson as Egyptian overseers.

First, I have a bone to pick with two very stupid moments in Exodus. One of the moments has a group of Hebrews trying to light a fire. They lay a line of flammable liquid and then strike tinder to some straw and touch the burning straw to the liquid. This would be all well and good but at least three of the Hebrews are carrying LIT torches.

The second is a shot of the Sphinx without a nose. There are several main theories as to when the Sphinx lost its nose. There is a hoary old chestnut about Napoleon’s artillery gunners shooting the nose off. Weather and gradual erosion may have taken it. There are also several other martial candidates who may have defaced the monument as there is quite a bit of evidence that the damage existed prior to Napoleon’s time. However all of the theories agree that the damage occurred between 1200 and 1801.

I am glad I got to see Exodus on the big screen, especially the parting of the Red Sea, but there was no emotional investment and I doubt I would revisit this film again.

Attack of the Director’s Cut!

Things only last in their pure form for a short while after they have been named. So it is with the director’s cut. The director’s cut of a film took on significance when it was substantially different from the version released by Hollywood. It did not take Hollywood long to co-opt and market the term into insignificance.

Most director’s cuts are simply a matter of a scene or two inserted into a film that does very little to change a film. The only more useless term is ‘unrated’. Unrated is used constantly on horror movies that were watered down for an all ages PG-13 release then they add back the few seconds of violence that was trimmed when it is released on home video and no longer needs a PG-13 rating.

Alien

Still there are some director’s cuts worth noting. The director’s cut of Alien does not appreciably change the film, simply changing a few takes and adding a fan favorite scene that slows down the narrative at a crucial moment. The original cut is actually better and clearly Ridley Scott should not be allowed to tinker too much as there are now, I think, five versions of Blade Runner available.

Speaking of someone who should not be allowed to touch his completed films, George Lucas actually took his original Star Wars trilogy (you know, the good one) and made it worse by cramming special effects shot after special effects shot into an already classic series of films. Since he owned the rights at the time, they weren’t even called director’s cuts. Obviously there is some hope now that since Disney owns the rights, Han will shoot first in the future.

Aliens

Getting back to Aliens, James Cameron’s directors cut of Aliens is almost half an hour longer than the U.S. cut. There are some great scenes reintroduced but the overall theme of motherhood is no longer subtle but seems rather sledgehammered home. I enjoy the director’s cut more but the U.S. cut is definitely tighter.

Aliens 3, one of David Fincher’s first films, is an incomprehensible mess. The longer cut, which restores much of his work, is not an actual director’s cut as Fincher has disavowed it. It does make the film much better than it has a right to be. The basic premise of Alien 3 was a huge middle finger to those that loved Aliens. It was also made at the dawn of CGI and the CGI is just awful in many scenes.

Kingdom of Heaven

In addition to Blade Runner and Alien, there is also a director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven. Ridley Scott filmed a fabulous epic of the Crusades that suffered from three faults. First, it starred Orlando Bloom who, while not bad, cannot carry the film. Second, it presents Muslim characters in a reasonable light and shows many Christian ones as fanatics. While that is historically accurate, this was too soon after 9/11 for audiences to embrace. The third fault was that the studio decided to cut it from well over three hours (epic length) to just under two and a half (summer blockbuster length). Gone were many subplots and much comprehensibility. The director’s cut restores the subplots making the film the near-classic it should have been.

Which brings us to tomorrow’s topic: the highly anticipated director’s cut of Clive Barker’s Nightbreed

A Movie Room Birthday

My wife is celebrating my 50th birthday all month. She has alphabetized her gifts, giving me one each day. Here are the first five editions – some pictured before my beloved granddaughter shredded the boxes.

Alien

 

A is for Alien

Cornelius

 

C is for Cornelius

F is for Finn

 

F is for Finn

Gru

 

G is for Gru

Hulk

 

H is for Hulk.

R.I.P. H.R. Giger and Malik Bendjelloul

 

H.R. Giger

H.R. Giger has passed away at the age of 74 in Switzerland. While not part of the Hollywood machine, Giger, designed the iconic look of the Ridley Scott’s Alien. This endeared him to me as the Alien series is probably my favorite. Alien and Aliens are both in my top three films. I thoroughly enjoy the remaining four films and Prometheus, in spite of the quite variable quality of those endeavors.

Future-Kill

Giger also had a hand in the design for Species, a guilty pleasure of mine. He designed the poster for Future-Kill (above). He was a conceptual artist for Poltergeist II and his works were the basis of the videogame Dark Seed and its sequel. Unfortunately, Netflix streaming does not have any of his films. Amazon Prime has Species III but it is pretty meh.

Malik Bendjelloul

 

Malik Bendjelloul died on May 13th, 2014 as a result of suicide. He was the director/writer/editor/producer/title designer/illustrator of Searching for Sugar Man which won the Oscar for Best Documentary last year. Searching for Sugar Man is not available on Amazon Prime or Netflix streaming.