Blu-ray Review: “Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition” and “John Carpenter’s The Thing: Collector’s Edition”
Just in time for Halloween, two of the 80s greatest sci-fi/horror films have spectacular new Blu-ray releases.
Just in time for Halloween, two of the 80s greatest sci-fi/horror films have spectacular new Blu-ray releases.
Author Christine Sneed talks about a few of her favorite movies.
[caption id="attachment_119957" align="alignleft" width="300"] Great idea[/caption] In space, no one can hear you scream. On the Nostromo, you can hear almost everything. Alien is a masterpiece of sound design. Every second is dominated by a dense, carefully constructed soundscape, where the natural noises in the spaceship are
“The truth be told, a villian’s the best way to go. Playing a bad guy…it’s better lines, it’s more colorful, audiences vicariously love you because a lot of times everything they want to do in real life but they can’t do, which you can do in the movies. Contrarily, women…it’s taken them so much longer to be comfortable in playing the villains. When I look back to when I was producing [One Flew Over the] Cuckoo’s Nest, and all the actresses that turned down the part of Nurse Ratched because they didn’t want to play a villain…Louise Fletcher gets an Oscar for playing it well.”— Michael Douglas, discussing villainous roles on Alec Baldwin’s podcast, Here’s the Thing.
As I was putting together this list, I thought a lot about Hollywood’s definition of “villain,” particularly in the context of female villains. For example, Hollywood tends to like its female villains in the form of witches, evil queens and wicked stepmothers whose dastardly deeds are often motivated by vanity and jealousy. Other female villains are evil because of men — men who wrong them, who try to leave them, who cheat on them, who won’t date them. And if you are a woman who is with the man desired by a female villain, you better watch out. Sometimes, female villains — often those in horror films — are just plain batshit crazy (although a man often has something to do with this as well). Then there are the female villains who are hungry for power, money, and fame, motivations typically attributed to male villains (personally, I prefer this type of female villain).
I also found that, particularly in modern films, Hollywood seems to feel the need to make female villains more complex than male villains. If she isn’t an evil queen or a wicked stepmother, much importance is placed on the backstory of a female villain. For example, you might have a film in which a young woman seduces and kills older men, and when she’s finally caught, it is revealed that she was raped by her father as a teen and that traumatic event caused her to go crazy and murder men who reminded her of her father. I find it fascinating that there is more of a need to explain away the actions of a female villain that that of a male villain, to make the audience feel sorry for her rather than loathe her. Why do we have such a hard time accepting that a woman can be horrible for no reason other than she just is horrible?
After researching this piece, I don’t know if I necessarily agree with Mr. Douglas’s take on women playing villains — there are a lot of great female villains in film and, even though they may have been reluctant to play villains at first, all of these actresses seem pretty comfortable in their roles. I had a difficult time narrowing my list of favorites down to a manageable number because there are so many wonderful female villains. I’m sure I’ve left off some loathsome ladies you love, so let me know who they are in the comments!
Warning: some of the clips below are spoiler-y, so watch at your own risk.
So many things didn’t sound right. For one, the original film’s director Ridley Scott had nothing to do with it. Secondly, the plot would involve the sole survivor of Alien, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), to be somehow convinced to return to the alien planet. Still, my butt was in the seat opening day 25 years ago on July 18, 1986, when Aliens opened — a rare sequel that in many ways (though it may be sacrilege to say) surpasses the original.
It was in 1983 when James Cameron met with Alien producer David Giler to discuss possibilities for a sequel. Giler had been impressed with Cameron’s screenplay for The Terminator, which had come across his desk. Cameron, about to complete pre-production on The Terminator, began writing a treatment for Alien II. A scheduling conflict with Terminator star Arnold Schwarzenegger caused a production delay, affording Cameron the time to begin writing his screenplay. Although he wasn’t able to complete the script, it was enough to impress the heads at 20th Century Fox — so much so that they actually waited until Cameron was available again and told him he could direct the Alien sequel if The Terminator (1984) turned out well.
When Ripley is rescued after 57 years of hypersleep, her account of events on the Nostromo is met with extreme skepticism and she looses her space flight status as a result. She is also informed that colonization has already begun on LV-426, the very planet where her ship’s crew had first encountered the face huggers, only one of which managed to wipe out everyone on board.
You Again is one of those slapstick farces in which you, the viewer, have to put aside most of your expectations and just sit back and have some fun. If you’re able to admit that Moe Jelline’s screenplay is serviceable, yet rife with cliches, then you’ll be able to enjoy the fine direction by Andy Fickman and the excellent cast having a good time. Their good time is infectious and makes You Again a silly, mindless popcorn movie good for a Saturday night with your significant other or even your kids.
The talented Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Veronica Mars) plays Marnie, a successful PR rep has to make a trip home for her brother’s wedding. What she doesn’t realize is that her brother, Will (James Wolk) is marrying Joanna (Odette Yustman), the girl who tormented Marnie in high school and made her life a living hell. In one of those “only in the movies” contrivances, Joanna claims to not remember Marnie. Thus, Marnie sets out to prove that the too good to be true Joanna does remember torturing her and that she’s a phony.
Some time last spring, I acquired the soundtrack to the Mike Nichols-directed romantic comedy Working Girl (1988), but I hesitated writing about it because I know how much derision Carly Simon gets around these parts.
However, I watched Working Girl (terrible title for this movie, isn’t it? It makes me think it’s a movie about a hooker) over the holidays and said, “fuck it. I love this movie and I want to write a post about it, even if no one reads.”
If you’ve never seen the film, which was nominated for a boatload of awards after it’s release at Christmas in 1988, here’s a recap. Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith) is a secretary at Petty Marsh, a Wall Street investment bank. She lives on Staten Island with her boyfriend, Mick (Alec Baldwin), who winds up cheating on her with another woman. She also works with her best friend, fellow secretary and Staten Islander, Cyn (Joan Cusack), who always has Tess’s back.
Because she dreams of a better life with a better job, Tess is always trying to better herself and find ways to move up within the company. After her previous bosses basically try to pimp her out to a cokehead in another department, she transfers to the mergers and acquisitions department and begins working for Katherine Parker (Sigourney Weaver), an aggressive businesswoman who has newly arrived at the firm’s New York office.
Tess is delighted to work for a woman and feels as though she has an ally in Katherine, someone with whom she can share her ideas and who will mentor her. When Katherine breaks her leg skiing while on vacation in Germany, Tess must do her best to handle Katherine’s business while she’s away. While doing some chores at Katherine’s house, Tess discovers a proposal that Katherine has put together based on an idea that Tess shared with her that Katherine has decided to pass off as her own.
Angry, Tess decides to take it upon herself to put her idea into action and contacts Jack Trainer (Harrison Ford), who works at another firm, about working with her on the deal. The two work closely to make the deal happen and, well, you know — it is a romantic comedy, after all. Unbeknownst to Tess, though, Jack is Katherine’s boyfriend. The intrigue!
Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, the $65 million Broadway musical featuring songs by U2’s Bono and the Edge, may have finally made its way into previews late last month, but due to cast injuries and technical difficulties its opening has been pushed back once again, this time from January 11 to February 7. In the meantime, theatergoers in Chicago are encouraged to embrace another pop-culture mash-up of nontraditional source material, albeit one with a considerably smaller budget that’s being staged in a nightclub a few blocks from Wrigley Field: Alien Queen, a “sci-fi rock parodyssey,” combines the story lines of Ridley Scott’s Alien and James Cameron’s sequel, Aliens, with the music of Queen for an ultraclever, laugh-out-loud evening of gender-bending theater.
Describing Alien Queen to the Chicago Sun-Times in November, creator-director Scott Bradley said, “The aliens in ‘Alien’ are androgynous and Queen’s Freddie Mercury made the transformation from hyperfeminine to butch and back again through his career. It all just seemed to work.” Bradley and executive producer Jonny Stax are partners in the Scooty & JoJo Show, a theatrical outfit that previously hammered the soft rock of the Carpenters into the plot of John Carpenter’s 1978 horror film Halloween to create Carpenters Halloween. (They’re also responsible for Tran: The Atari Musical, which will be due for a revival if Tron: Legacy is a hit in movie theaters this Christmas.)
Without giving away too many details about Alien Queen‘s song score, which is performed by a four-piece band that accompanies the cast, suffice to say that “Killer Queen” and “Another One Bites the Dust” have made the cut, and “Don’t Stop Me Now” pops up, so to speak, in an unexpected place. But this isn’t a “jukebox musical” revue of Mercury and company’s greatest hits: album tracks like “Get Down, Make Love,” from 1977’s News of the World, are given equal time alongside the Top 40 smashes.
It took me a while to get around to seeing Avatar. One reason for that, also coincidentally one of the reasons I have been a pretty lazy contributor to Popdose lately, is because I have been trying to finish my own film project for well
Eli Stone: The Complete Second and Final Season (2009, Buena Vista)
purchase from Amazon: DVD
It’s disappointing that the earnest, big-hearted series Eli Stone never found a large enough audience to stay on the air. You may recall this ABC show as the one about a lawyer who begins having visions that show him future events that he must do everything within his power to prevent. Jonny Lee Miller stars as the titular character, playing Eli with so much charm and likability that the show’s failure to catch on is surprising. The storylines aren’t bogged down with heavy issues, which is gratifying considering this was a series that dealt with faith and a belief in a higher being. Moreover, the show never comes off as preachy and always offered a counterpoint to Eli’s spiritual callings. Alas, television is a business, and if a series doesn’t produce good ratings, its fate is pretty much sealed. Buena Vista (which owns ABC) has released the complete second (and final) season of Eli Stone on DVD. Fans of the show should rejoice because every episode is there for the viewing, and the character of Eli Stone will continue to live on your shelves, even though he’s not on television each week.
Galaxy Quest Deluxe Edition (2009, Paramount)
purchase from Amazon: DVD
While the new Star Trek film continues to soar through the box office to become one of the most popular movies of the year, Paramount has decided that it’s time to take another look at the hilarious Star Trek parody, Galaxy Quest. Amazingly, it’s been 10 years since the film’s theatrical release, yet it remains one of the brightest and funniest comedies of the last decade with one of the strongest casts you’ll find in any movie.
Tim Allen stars as Jason Nesmith, a washed up actor from an ’80s sci-fi television series called Galaxy Quest in which he played Captain Peter Taggart. Since the cancellation of the show, Nesmith and his TV crew castmates have been stuck on the convention circuit, selling autographs and opening supermarkets. That crew includes Sigourney Weaver as Gwen DeMarco, the sex interest on the original Galaxy Quest, a droll Alan Rickman as Alexander Dane, a Shakespeare-trained actor relegated to performing in makeup appliances and uttering the words “By Grabthar’s hammer, by the suns of Warvan, you shall be avenged!” Tony Shaloub as Fred Kwan, and the always great Daryl Mitchell as Tommy Webber, whose character on the original show was a child. Tommy is now an adult and having to come to terms that his glory years were when he was a kid.
An alien race comes across the original episodes of Galaxy Quest and mistakes them for actual documentary footage and builds a functioning replica of the starship. The aliens are led by the brilliant Enrico Colantoni and feature a then-unknown Rainn Wilson as a member. They recruit Nesmith to help them. Nesmith goes along, believing the gig to be yet another promotional opportunity. When he discovers the mission is real, he recruits his old castmates, along with an incidental from the original series (hilariously played by Sam Rockwell). The entire crew is beamed into space in the middle of a REAL intergalactic confrontation, going up against some nefarious creatures that come to us courtesy of the legendary Stan Winston. The Galaxy Quest crew must put aside their differences, overcome their fears and unite as a team and help the aliens defeat the enemy.