Sunday, February 27, 2011

Aliens (1986)

Aliens (1986)
Aliens, this is not only a sequel, but also an equal!
Ok maybe I got a little ahead of myself then. Aliens is the sequel of masterpiece Alien by Ridley Scott. Upon hearing on the idea, Cameron just stole this from Ridley, I was not too impressed, and I found this out shortly after watching Avatar as well. It turns out Cameron can make a movie, he's made a few great movies, but there's no denying his ability to 'sell' a movie no matter how bad it is. Aliens is a large exception to the common rule of sequels being a horrible excuse to make money, many say that this is better than Alien, which I do not agree with, but I can accept that they are close. Although Aliens has many differences from Alien, such as a larger scale and A LOT more action, the similarities is what makes Aliens such a great sequel. Cameron's eye for detail is the most impressive aspect of Aliens, it does not throw-out all of Ridley's ideas and start fresh, and instead it handles the plot and alien species with great care. Although Alien creates such iconic scenes and an alien species, Aliens admirably and respectfully builds onto the story and legend. Aliens asserts itself not only as one of the best sequels, but a fantastic movie by its own rights.

The plot well as I said it is dealt with such care. It starts directly where we left in Alien, well kind of; it is 57 years later, but it is still Ripley in the cryogenics machine. Shortly after hearing the news of her long 'hyper sleep', she finds out she out-lived her daughter. Ripley tells the board of whatever about her encounter, they stick their heads in the sand and talk about how she destroyed company property, no sign of the Alien apparently. Anyway they lose contact with a colony, which has been settled on the planet for about twenty years, Ripley think it's the aliens again, and a military group convince her to go and check it out. Therefore, Ripley goes as a consultant with a small military group and the lawyer/science guy, which asked her to come in the first place. So off they go to this planet, with the military guys/girls (which look like guys) just laughing at whatever Ripley says. Then they get to the small colony, its empty, they find a little girl, the only survivor. She likes to be called Newt, child actor alert! Then they find out where the aliens are hiding, they get their asses kicked, and the remaining soldiers get a reality check as it turns out Ripley was telling the truth. Now with the limited resources they have, they must try to survive and find a way off the planet.
The plot, is nothing drastically experimental, it reads as you're above the average action/science fiction, yet the substance levels in here make Aliens one of the best actions ever. Of course, I watched the director's cut, and the story is well developed, and most importantly grows on Alien, opposed to remaking the idea completely. Yet we are given a more entertaining and less scary perspective of the story. For example, one alien for Alien, in Aliens there is probably a couple hundred of them, but it still does not go ridiculous like Alien vs. Predator.

The acting is surprisingly good. The common rule of action is you trade acting for large explosions, but both acting and action are so organic in Aliens, it has a natural relationship, which is what makes Aliens such a success. Unlike Alien, we have a main character, which is of course Ripley. So in turn, Sigourney does a much more effective performance, that does not mean that it is better, it just means she is given a lot more material to work with, which does not make that a better aspect. Cameron probably pushes the heroine idea a little too much, which Alien did not do. With that said, this would probably be one of the best female performances ever, rarely do women really step outside the boundary, which men do often. I'm not trying to be sexist, but women tend to just be the support cast, yet Katy Bates and Sigourney Weaver are both prime examples of strong performance with some risk taken. I really do not think there is a another female actor who could have pulled off this role as well as Weaver. She gets loud, dirty and highly unattractive at many stages to do this role, which very few women are willing to do.
The support cast are not as perfect as in Alien. They have distinguished characters and they are well developed for an action, well for any genre really. Unfortunately, Cameron shows one of his many weaknesses by having some cliché characters, but that is to comparison with Alien, compared to the average action, every character is like a Donnie Darko. The support is well set up, and although they are not exactly new, for a support cast they are fantastic. The acting itself is generally good the child actor is awful. She is responsible for one of the most frustrating plot turns as well. Like in Alien where Ripley risks her life to save a cat, Ripley does the same for this little girl Newt. That really frustrates me; it makes me want to smash the projector when Cameron uses one of the most tedious and oldest tricks in the book. If it were I, I would just leave; I am not risking my life for some little girl who cannot act. The military are great for their characters. A few such as Hicks have emotional effectiveness as well, but even the manly girl is tolerable in the most feministic cliché ever made. These days it's as if they have to slap a steroid fuelled girl into the battlefield, because war is for men and women the feminist union will tell you.

The monster himself James Cameron, the responsible for that desecration of a film Avatar turns out to be a good director, well used to be anyway. It turns out he can make the best sequels around, Terminator 2 being his other success. Yet even in his masterpieces, they are always an action, which is one of the lowest forms of filming, and he always as a commercialised presence in his films. He never escapes cliché story and characters; Avatar was just him suppressing it for too long, and it all just bursting out into one of the worst movies ever. It is kind of sad actually, because he directed Aliens beautifully. Aliens is well edited, entertaining and has a style, which is a stamp-proof of a great film. Cameron never rushes the film, when most films reach a climax; they often get bored and just rush everything. Cameron of the other hand carefully builds suspense and never rushes the story. The violence is also well controlled and not just mindless. Although the ending gets some, well not exactly plot holes, but plot stupidity?

Aliens has taken out almost universal positive reception. Like Alien, it is seen as a masterpiece. Easily one of the best sequels ever, there is not a lot wrong with Aliens. It is just Cameron getting a little too cliché at times and protracting the plot too much near the end. Let us not forget the whole, risking everything to save someone who is probably dead, that was just as frustrating as it can get. Yet in saying all this, we must remember it is an action, and it is really amazing just how well an action can be. It is the lack of style, which most actions fail. Cameron was lucky because he already had something to work with; he just respectively built on the story.
Overall, I am not one to say this is better than the original, although it is more entertaining and reaches more of a modern audience. Aliens manages to continue the story with great care and diligence, while still adding a different aspect to the story. By adding action/science fiction/horror in one, we get a truly entertaining ride, with the substance to back it all up, although it does get slightly cliché and protracted.

Alien (1979)

Alien (1979)
Alien, rarely does one come across the words 'Horror' and 'Science Fiction' in one film. In fact, it is even rarer for this combination to result in a masterpiece, and one of the best horrors ever made. While to call Alien an authentic horror would be a little naive, it definitely fits in the genre somewhere. I of course watched the director's cut. The great thing with Alien is it's a fresh changed from all the cliché horror tricks, instead of an old haunted mansion, we have a giant transport ship in the middle of space. As well as the Science Fiction point of view, in Alien, it is less concentrated on space itself; in fact, space seems to be well conquered in Alien. Although for a Science Fiction, it holds-up well against the ravages of time. Is it just me though, or were the 70's infatuated with grids? They just assumed the future of navigation would be on a grid format, well Ridley seems hooked on the idea. Now we have holographic screens, let us see how that looks in thirty years.
I think the saddest thing of all with Alien was that the cover of the film said "From the Director of 'Gladiator'" It's like Blade Runner just doesn't exist...

The plot, well after the millions of sequels and spin-offs the Alien/Predator franchise has spat-out, the plot is well known. Yet for all those who love the latest instalments such as: Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, I will indulge you with some GOOD plot work.
As it is well known, it follows Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, sounds suspiciously like Ridley?) - well actually no, despite the sequels, Ripley is quite a small character until the end. Therefore, it follows the seven-crew members of the Nostromo a commercial transport spaceship, on its return from Thedus back to Earth with a load of mineral Ore. On the trip, they get an unknown transmission from an uncharted planet. After exploring the distress call (or warning) and finding an alien ship, one of the crewmembers - Kane - is attacked by a little alien, which attaches itself to his face. They take him back and try to get it off him. Yet, the creature has acid blood, despite how silly this sounds, it works well and causes a dilemma, which is until the alien dies and Kane is fine. Well Kane is fine until an alien burst outside his stomach during dinner and disappears into the large ship. The crew search for it as they slowly disappear one by one.
The plot is not the most complex of plots, but it does a reasonably simple plot to perfection. Throughout the whole film, we always have an eerie suspense. It also has a little Das Boot in it as it goes through the life of the average commercial space ship. The whole uncharted planet thing is not exaggerated, but treated as just an average day on the job. In fact, it is very realistic; they worry more about their paychecks then the dangers of space and so on. I think what the main drive for the whole movie, is mainly the search for the alien, like what is it? They have created quite an interesting alien, so most of the audience is in engaged in what's the alien like, as well as crew survival. It also gets a little Jaws-ish, it does not flaunt the alien around like nothing. Very little of the alien is on screen, and it is a great effect Ridley manages to pull-off.
Unlike 'horrors' though, Alien seems to be like a survival tale, with horror elements. It has all the scares and shadows for a scary horror, but a story and scale to be a fun Science Fiction, although it takes on a more dark and poetic aspect.
The Face Hugger
The acting is exceptional. Sigourney may be the main character and pull-off a great performance, be we do not really see that until the end of the movie. In fact, this guy Dallas seems like main character material, he's good looking, macho and so on and his name comes first in the ending credits! It really does not centre any particular character, but they all are great actors. To say they are a landmark in acting would be wrong, but for their shared performances together, they are all fantastic. They all fit their characters, but do not rely on poorly made cliché characters.

Ridley seems to be quite fascinated with the idea of Androids. Although in here it is not the main ethical question like Blade Runner, we get the idea Ridley likes to put them in his movies. Truth is, Ridley is not the greatest director, he is good, but really does not have the level of many others. He also is rather poor outside Science Fiction, yet he continues to leave the genre to take on films that are more mediocre, like Robin Hood (2010). The direction and Cinema Photography are excellent. It shows Ridley has the potential, and with two of his movies, the direction is of the highest quality, absolutely magnificent in this film. Ridley has made a suspenseful and memorable film. The special effects are so memorable, the alien design is probably the most famous type of alien in film. The Chest Bursting scene and the Face Hugger are all well known and so notable. Therefore, Ridley has already succeeded in giving us a visually memorable movie, which is what Lucas did with Star Wars, but Ridley does a lot more to Alien. Ridley gives Alien substance, which Star Wars lacks in many parts.
Ridley gives us similar direction to Das Boot, a claustrophobic feel inside a large ship, with the fear of an alien lurking in the shadows. The use of the shaky camera is superb; an often-hated style of camera work is one of the highlights of direction with Alien. Watching Ripley run through the dark corridors with the camera shaking all-over the place, the suspense goes through the roof. Beyond those attributes, Alien is also an easy film to watch. A Modern Classic it may be, but it is still enjoyable for the simpletons of our Earth, although James Cameron's Aliens has a lot more action. Alien on itself is a highly entertaining horror, which is seldom boring. There is always something happening to keep you captivated, and it is all well balanced. "In space no one can hear you scream." - now that is memorable stuff Ridley has made.

So are there any major problems with Alien? No not really, the whole film is imaginative and well directed, and perfectly acted. Alien is well loved by critics and the general 'idiotic' public alike, although there is small amount of criticism. Yet I can confidently say that criticism is not credible. Such criticism Alien receives would be that it does not reach the chilling potential we expect; people's problem is they expect a horror movie. Alien is not a horror, but a horror sub-genre, so do not expect the scares of say Halloween or whatever trash horror shoots out. I personally believe this is some of the best horrors out there, despite it being a sub-genre. I think my personal criticism would have to be that instead of helping the crew load up for their escape, Ripley goes to get the cat! That was just so frustrating to watch, I wonder what happens to the crewmembers...
The famous Alien

As well as substance and entertainment, Alien crosses many ethical questions as well. Although in some cases, Androids are shown in a bad light, that is not the focus. We are asked the question to what expense will we sacrifice for a new weapon, or unstoppable force? That really is the main idea of the story, which is similar to Aliens. It really makes you wonder what is happening out there, what missions are just phony so someone can reap the benefits. Just off the top of my head, many claim the Gulf War to be a conspiracy to get free oil. This is what Alien portrays, people being played as puppets for someone else's greed wants and needs. So maybe the Android just happens to be that cause of it this time, opposed to Ridley trying to warn us how much he hates them.

Overall, Alien is a landmark achievement in modern film. It's one of the greatest Science Fictions ever made, but manages to be as entertaining as it is a masterpiece. While it may be a little too unconventional to full throw it into the horror category and say it's the best horror, but in sub-genre horror it's definitely one of the best. It really is essential viewing for critics and the general 'idiotic' public alike, unless they are a really narrow-minded Avatar junkie. Alien resides as one of the most notable and recognisable films.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Click (2006)

Click (2006)
Click, well I must admit, I have a soft spot for Adam Sandler. I have always found him to be an interesting watch, and before my ‘transition’ (watched Avatar and decided to bring justice to the world by telling you what is a good film), Sandler used to be a favourite of mine. Ever since Grown Ups I had lost faith in him, so I thought, I might open up on one of my old favourites. No, Click is not the masterpiece I remember from my younger years, but for Sandler this film is remarkably sad and tear jerking, unfortunately when I first saw this I was expecting a hilarious film. So perhaps Sandler managed to deceive us into watching his almost non-existent ‘emotional’ stuff. This for many is just more Sandler trite, but to be honest I really enjoyed this, although I rarely do it, this is a film I can passively watch.

So the plot is nothing new, its similar to It’s a Wonderful Life, but to a degree. It follows Michael Newman (Adam Sandler, of course) an architect – is it just me or is architect the career of nearly every ‘average family man’? Michael has a lovely family, Donna (Kate Beckinsale!) and his two-cliché children, boy and a girl of course. Oh, let us not forget Sundae, the dog that likes the hump their toy duck. Sandler has the usual problem of juggling family over work, so after a little late night fight, he decides to match those neighbours, which always seem to be better than his family, and get a universal remote. So he stops at Bed, Bath and Beyond for some reason, I mean really is that the best place they could think of for him getting a universal remote? Anyway, Adam goes into the Beyond section and meets Morty (Christopher Walken) where he receives a free universal remote. Yet there is a few strange things happening with this free gift. Soon he discovers he has the power to control time with the remote. Does it get to his head? Will he abuse his newfound ability?

This plot is actually a nice change for Sandler. Although yes it is still a comedy, the whole time travelling thing does have a nice effect. Although in the end, this is not much of a comedy. At the beginning it has funny in parts, but I think it’s just the novelty of the time travel, Sandler was never been genuinely funny, I thinks just his whole relaxed way of acting, which is appealing to some. Therefore, this is not an original film, but really, it is a fresh idea, we have not had a time travelling film like this for a while. Although do not expect nonstop laughs, Click happens to be a very sad film. My father cried in this one, and he is not the type to cry. In addition, this really is just fun to sit down and relax, there is not too much gross out comedy, so I think it is a pleasant viewing for the most parts. Personally, I found quite a few parts quite humours, the main problem for a comedy goer is that about the time we reach the halfway mark, almost all the comedy is lost. It just turns into a cry-fest, but the comedy of the whole film manages to make some of the sad parts, rather over-the-top and cliché, but despite all this, the emotional parts are as effective as you will see in a modern day comedy.

Good Old Christopher

Well like many people out there, they hate Adam Sandler. I am not going to stand here and say he is a great one, but he is not particularly bad. Although his character was nothing new, he does it well and by the end of the film, we know the characters well. The acting is nothing spectacular, but there is nothing wrong with it either. Kate Beckinsale, well I do not really care about her acting, she just has a great ‘presence’. The child actors, well they were pretty bad, but they do not say anything too complex, so they did not destroy the film. The rest of the cast, well I sit here to watch this and get some entertainment, and that is what I got, none of the cast stand out bad. Say all you want about Sandler, in here we end up caring for his character. Of course, we have Walken as well, this may just be my personal opinion, but he has always had such an odd stage presence, I have never really found him to be a comfortable actor to watch. Yet in here, he is still his weird way, but it adds a little extra to this movie, which I do not think anyone else could have done. David Hasselhoff, well let us just say I hate Baywatch...
Oh yes Rob Schneider is in here as well, those cameos they have. I did not even recognise him at first, so do not worry no eye gouging required.  

Kate Beckinsale!!!
Overall, Click is a surprising film. We go into the cinema with expectations of something that will make us laugh, or like many out there, expect to cringe at Sandlers uninteresting and simple comedy. Click also commits money-grossing suicide by advertising itself as a comedy, while being an emotional rollercoaster, which can be a little too much for the average simpleton to fathom. I say just sit down and watch this for entertainment value only. People say watch Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen for some entertainment, I really do not understand such trite to be ‘entertainment’, but my soft spot for Sandler allows me to enjoy his films; although Grown Ups was a pathetic film, and I cannot wait to sink my teeth into more of his garbage. Click is a decent film, plain and simple. It is not out there and original, but it is not a complete rip-off. We see Kate Beckinsale, it’s just a fun movie, what more do you want? The morale of the story may be nothing new, ye olde ‘Family before Work’, but it is done quite tastefully – in a melodramatic way.  


Monday, February 7, 2011

Top 3 List Bonanza: Part One

Well to kick-start my new Blog, I thought I would do a top 3 of 3 different categories. One is being Favourites Scenes in Film. At the moment I will only do the top 3 for each category, as I plan to expand each one as time permits.  Therefore, I will start with the best scenes. I would like to warn of SPOILERS for 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Godfather. So hopefully you will enjoy Part One.

Part One:

3. A Clockwork Orange Intro

Wow, this scene just blew me away. Kubrick yet again directed an absolute masterpiece. The film transitions from the opening credits while we hear the tune of The Funeral of Queen Mary, then quite rapidly we are opened to Alex, and his Droogs Dim, Pete and Georgie. They sit staring into what looks like nothing, while Alex (Malcolm McDowell) stares right down the camera, drinking his drug-laced milk in the Korova Bar, with rather suggestive furniture. This scene was so well shot, A Clockwork Orange has a lot of great scenes, this was definitely the best.

2. The Shutdown (Murder) of HAL 9000

From one of the greatest films ever, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the greatest director ever Stanley Kubrick makes his second instalment on my list for greatest scenes. This for me was the most effective and poetic scenes of this complete philosophical masterpiece. It is shortly after HAL 9000 has killed the rest of the crew of the ship, and attempted to kill Bowman. Yet Bowman manages to get in, and the way he strides towards HAL's motherboard. He just does not look back, while HAL pleads for him helplessly. It was almost like a rape in a sense, it was just such a show of power, when shortly before Bowman was the one in danger. Kubrick is a masterful filmmaker, and too many may not be the best, but he is definitely brought us the best scenes in films.

1. The Baptism/Assassination

This is the greatest scene ever from the greatest film ever, The Godfather. I rather feel sad for Kubrick, he has to be the most consistent director, yet Coppola managed to strike gold here. This is shortly after the death of Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando), where his son Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) has been running the 'family business'. One of his father final words of wisdom is that he is about to be tricked into an ambush. Therefore, Corleone beats the competition, killing them before they kill him. During the baptism, we witness nothing describable other than perfection. We get action, suspense and drama all in the excellent scene, the greatest scene ever.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Black Swan (2010)

Black Swan 2010
Black Swan, this is probably one of the favourites for the 2010 Oscars for Best Picture. As well as that, Natalie has basically been given the best Female Actor Award (I say that because apparently 'Actress' is politically incorrect, so let's see how that plays). The film itself was excellent, I have not seen Requiem of a Dream, and so this was my first taste of Darren Aronofsky. Black Swan is an excellent physiological thriller, dark for the mainstream pond, and is a real surprise. The Hollywood glitter is not present here; instead we get a rustically beautiful tale of madness from one's dedication. It is passionate, daring, ingeniously thought, and at some stages can be cover your face scary; yet despite all of these ingredients brought together to create an instant masterpiece, it does not create the finished product we hoped for. Instead we are left with an experience falling short of all its potential we hope to get.

The plot is quite an interesting one. This is the first Ballerina film I have seen, so this was a completely new experience for me, a film I found remotely similar to this one was Michael Haneke's The Piano Teacher. The Piano Teacher was a sadistic and harrowing film, while Black Swan comes nowhere near this sickening level, it does remind you of a sick film though. To say Black Swan was a clean film would be naive, but not as bold as it should have been. It follows Nina (Natalie Portman) as she goes for the part of Queen Swan in the highly prestigious theatre performance of Swan Lake. This Swan Lake has been given a dark twist, and guess what, she gets the part! Nina though still lives with her mother, and is treated as a child, still to let herself free from her nostalgic existents. The director loves her White swan dance, she is perfect at that, but it is her Black Swan role, which she has to let herself go, something she is not used too. Soon she will immerse herself into a physiological nightmare, on a self-destruction run to reach perfection.
The plot is fantastic, complex, respectively melodramatic and original. The idea was great; unfortunately, the execution is where the film lets itself down. Black Swan deals with many of the horror show scares, and does it quite elegantly, but we never seem fully immersed into the horror show. It never fully seems to explain itself, and when the plot comes, we are given an unsatisfying half answer, which in this case was not purposely done. It was unpolished, and the characters were never fully developed, even Portman's motives were not always clear, nor do they become clear. Do not let this criticism put you off; this plot was fantastic, elegantly told with the occasional blood splatter. In fact there are some scenes where I would say this is how you make a decent horror, just a little too rare for it to be a horror.

The acting was for Portman excellent, here we see her at her best. Although she was not exactly a great beforehand, despite what people say she never stood out as she does here. Trying not to sound sexist, rarely does a female actor step so far out the circle, Kathy Bates in Misery was successful at getting rid of the stereotype where a girl is no more than a support for a man. Portman takes off as a main character, and such a bold performance is rare with female actors. I would not say Portman does a flawless performance, but I dare say one of the best fifty female actor performances. The only problems for her act would be lack of development and motivation, we see her strive for this part, but were not really sure why she is trying so desperately. The support cast. Well to be honest they were rather mediocre, but we must remember this is modern mainstream, so the support acting is a cut above the rest. Portman steals the show though, and the other characters really are not that interesting and can be under-developed, the mother for me was just out of place. The director still needs some development as well, after a short time he just seems to fade-out of the spotlight. This film had time to do so as well.


The direction for me was a bit of both spectacular and mediocre. Aronofsky gives us excellent shots; we really live in the Ballet world. The stage shots are fantastic, and the mirror effects were only describable as over-whelming. Then again, in between the glossy sets I was not really impressed. There was a case of the shaky camera, and the really the whole camera work beyond stage sets were average and uninteresting. Many of the aspects of the film did not really fit with the rest of the aesthetics and got uneven. Most of the horror parts were well done, but others just did not fit. He really was a creative director in this film, but certain parts just lacked inspiration.

Now one of the most notable aspects of this film is the rather explicit sexuality. Mainstream films a notorious for throwing movies through their 'Department of Censorship and Propaganda'; Disney would be a major user of this 'company'. This proves Black Swan was made for the sake of creating art, opposed to making money, not to shame anyone, Avatar...
Black Swan combines sexuality with its horror, and sexuality is shown as a dark lust driving the Black Swan, and Nina's wild side. This is why the film is so effective and different, the deep atmosphere it creates, showing sexuality almost as a vent and path to self-destruction. After watching The Room, and the atrocities of sex scenes, this as a fourteen-year-old boy was a godsend (I mean that in an atheist-ish way of course). Best of the entire majority was lesbian, yet it was portrayed so tastefully, you only respect Aronofsky for not giving us filth as a selling point to teenagers, yet effective art.
Despite being put in admirable context, I would not watch this with my parents. If your grandma after years of hiding due to her Agoraphobia and Genophobia decides to go to the cinemas with her grandson, do not choose Black Swan! By all means though take your friends, or even a date, I do not know about you, but I got lucky.

Some of the 'interesting' content.

Overall, Black Swan was a fantastic film and one of the bests of the year, although I believe The Social Network wins over this one hands down. The Social Network was just higher in quality, which is the only way to compare the two. After a second viewing of The Social Network, I can comfortably say that it reigns supreme over all I have seen so far. The King's Speech and 127 Hours are in my sight. Black Swan is a fantastic film, but its level quality is due to great work, but never exceeds excellences. I think the best way to describe it would be we never get a heavy amount of empathy for the characters, and it is lacking a certain amount of substance, which I cannot quite pinpoint.