Kevin Spacey: Separating the artist from the art

The summer of 1994 brought the death of two people in Los Angeles, California. I had never heard of either of these people before, but the aftermath brought the names of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman to the ears of most of America. Whether you have an opinion as to whether Nicole’s ex-husband, O.J., committed both murders, what can be agreed on is the very limited entertainment career of Simpson was over from that time on.

Worse for some, including me, is that the three movies he made that had any sort of repeat viewing value, The Naked Gun Trilogy, now sits in a sort of limbo on the shelf. I have not watched the series more than once since 1994, even through I transferred the collection from video cassette to DVD sometime in the early 2000’s.

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As I watched them all, the very enjoyable supporting performance of O.J. as the ironically named Detective Nordberg stood out like a sore thumb. He did some yeoman’s work there, seemingly taking an endless amount of bumps and bruises with a smile on his face. He’s always the loser, until the last film when he catches the baby and in his exuberance nearly spikes it on the ground in celebration.

I was never a huge fan of O.J. and I didn’t really consider him much of an actor, but those films I enjoyed. Not any more.

For Kevin Spacey, the library of films and his acting in them is much more extensive and talented. Again, regardless of your opinion of who he is and whether he did any of the things for which he is accused, the allegations and his own actions since they have surfaced have to have some sort of effect. Ridley Scott just made the decision to completely eradicate him from the upcoming film All the Money in the World in favor of Christopher Plummer.

The move is unprecedented in its complexity and ambition. He’s doing all of the reshoots and still plans to have the film released at its original December 22 date. Some see this as virtue signalling. Knowing that the film is being released in Awards season, however, points to another reason. This film would have no chance to get any sort of recognition in current form.

allthemoneyintheworld
Destined to become a trivia question

For another 2017 contender starring Spacey, there will be no such opportunity at revising history. Baby Driver is one of the best films of the year. And up until the moment these allegations began to surface, it was my favorite film this year. It was great for many reasons besides Spacey, but it was also great because of him. It will likely and somewhat unfairly sink into obscurity now.

The film as it stands works with the our present image of the artist that is Kevin Spacey. His character, Doc, is the leader of an ever changing group of thieves. The one constant is a young man, Baby, who is completely under his control. The story is about Baby’s discovery of life outside of Doc’s never-ending series of heists and onto his own life with someone he loves by his side.

That these robberies benefit Doc more than anyone and that Doc is a puppet master only benefits the experience of film for the viewer. We know Baby is a victim, just as we know Doc is really his abuser, as much, if not more than the other antagonists in the film. Kevin Spacey as a puppet master and a manipulator?  Who’d imagine…now more than ever.

The point is, few people will want to.

If one looks back on the career of Kevin Spacey, most of his films are good. Nearly all of his performances are great. I personally own copies of at least 8 of the films of which he’s been a major part.

Now begins life after Spacey’s been revealed for who he is at his worst.

For the films in which he plays a bad or somewhat unprincipled guy, one might be able to get through them. The films made where he’s a shining star, like Pay It Forward, The Negotiator, The Shipping News…well its not like anyone had talked about those films lately anyway.

The real test for Hollywood is what does one do with American Beauty? This is literally a film in which its Oscar Winning star is lustful of an underage teenager (Suvari) while literally being hunted down by a homosexual (spoiler alert). This film’s aggressive handling of social mores is not an easy watch to begin with. Even I got rid of it by 2005, after getting married and having two daughters. Does the Academy continue to recognize this film or does it fade into obscurity.

Likewise The Usual Suspects. Spacey’s performance was good enough to get a supporting Oscar, but how is it viewable now? I hadn’t watched it since the 90’s, but I always kind of knew it was there, for when I wanted to watch it in the future.

L.A. Confidential is a crucial film in many ways. Although Spacey isn’t technically one of the leads, his Det. Sgt. Jack Vincennes is a crucial supporting character and is possibly my favorite Spacey performance. His character is perfectly played. The smooth operator who has a chance to be real life hero. He is undone in site of the finish line, never to see true reward. This story is not his to be told, though, and the way it unfolds is a remarkable example of film making. Indeed, we’d never see Curtis Hanson come close to this height again.

For each of these films there are excellent performers beyond Spacey. Watching Crowe beat down a spouse abuser and threatening to “slap a kiddie raper” charge on him is an ironic start for the rising of his star, when the next scene features Spacey. Fortunately for the likes of Crowe, Guy Pearce, Annette Bening, and Robin Wright, they already have established careers before Spacey’s misdeeds came to light.

The people who took part in those films and the show House of Cards extend beyond established stars. Hundreds of people made their living off of these shows and films. What will happen to their future royalties?

What will happen to those who helped to create Spacey’s more recent work, including the unreleased Gore? This will have an affect, and that is unfair.

Just like everyone who worked on the classic trio of Leslie Nielsen films, who surely lost out numerous sales on home video when O.J. went through trial after trial asserting his innocence.

All of these works of art had people who depended on the works profits as some sort of living. They were deprived of this by actions they took no part in and most certainly did not condone.

Human nature takes its toll, however. We can’t control how we react to the image of two people viciously slaughtered while watching great comedies. Nor can we push the image of an older man taking advantage of younger actors while we try our best to work through any of myriad films or television shows of a prolific career.

For my part, L.A. Confidential loses none of its power. It’s such a rich and coldly cynical story, one can’t help but be overwhelmed by the vastness of its presentation of the deep undercurrent of sickness of Hollywood, California post WWII. That Spacey leads a dual life as police detective and star only serves to underscore how little anything has changed in the years since the story that is portrayed.

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The undercurrent of the undercurrent

If the Naked Gun films weighed on my morality in my 20’s, being almost 50 gives me pause in wondering how I will ultimately react to the work of Kevin Spacey.

I will not ever stop watching the films of David Fincher, even if I skip his work on House of Cards. The Usual Suspects, with its Director Singer also under a cloud of suspicion – might sit on the shelf a while longer. GlenGarry Glen Ross doesn’t  get as much viewing as it does referencing for most.

American Beauty, for all of it’s analysis if the deviance of modern America, is likely pretty much done. There was already too much going on in that film for comfortable evening viewing, much less a Sunday afternoon.

Horrible Bosses and its second film were never considered to be long lasting fare. It was for money, not for posterity. Superman Returns is all but forgotten at this point. If you liked A Bug’s Life, you are amazing, because most people can’t even remember that is the movie they released after the first Toy Story.

This brings us back to Baby Driver. It’s not a movie that deserves to be overlooked, though I am pretty sure it will be kicked to the awards curb. As it stands, I still think this film is one of the most incredibly well directed films of my lifetime. Kevin Spacey being abusive only makes it’s creation more apt and just as amazing.

Don’t let this man’s life outside of his art diminish the work others created in his presence.

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CPE & Em: Iron Man 3 grows into Downey, Jr.

Iron-Man-3

Iron Man 3 – 2013

Director Shane Black
Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Jon Favreau, Rebecca Hall, Guy Pearce, Ben Kingsley, James Badge Dale, Stephanie Szostak
Screenplay by Black and Drew Pearce

“Don’t shoot! Seriously, I don’t even like working here. They are so weird!”

Shane Black is the most original screenwriting voices to emerge, submerge and re-emerge from Hollywood.  After bringing the first 2 Lethal Weapon films into the world, he sold a few more well-received scripts (Last Boy Scout and Long Kiss Goodnight) and one complete dud (Last Action Hero) before taking a sabbatical.  What he did during that time, I have no idea.  Looks like he stayed healthy, though.  His return to the world of movies in 2005 in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang featured Robert Downey, Jr., who worked a delicate comedic balance with Val Kilmer.  Even if the film was overlooked, Downey, Jr. remembered Black when it came time to make this, the third film in the series that catapulted Marvel to the top of the comic book movie heap.

The series being forced into a new direction after the insane success of The Avengers sent Iron Man out of the range of a mere comic book hero.  As bad guy Aldrich Killian (Pearce) says: “…ever since that big dude with a hammer fell out of the sky, subtlety’s kinda had its day.”  Black’s decision resulted in a deft move to life outside the suit.

As the story begins, we see Tony as a man who is unable to get a full night’s sleep, but at least he is putting the time to good use.  His efforts have brought the suits up to a Mark 42.  This suit is unique in its ability to work remotely.  This gives the concept of Iron Man a unique new twist that is put to use effectively more than once.  For any one who thought that the cat left the bag for good after he revealed his identity, this new twist should spice things up a bit.

The story is a familiar one for those who have read more than a few of the comics.  There’s always someone who wants to work with Tony Stark.  There’s even more people that he just rubs the wrong way.  Then there is the Mandarin (Kingsley).  How one responds to his character is dependent upon whether or not one read the comics or not.    Personally, I thought it was quite inventive, if predictable.  In the time of publicist/terrorists it does make sense.  What will the decision mean for the future of the franchise?  Will it matter?  It will if one wants to avoid a recurring story line of the mad inventor/scientist/business man.  This series could use a little mysticism.

Even so, the set pieces for Iron Man 3 are spectacular.  The destruction of the home in Malibu, the barrel of monkeys and the dockyard are all excellently drawn and inventive.  The first time through, it was a little frustrating waiting for Black to obey the convention of the suit and just make Tony fly around and shoot things, safe and stoic.  A second viewing allowed the realization that Black and Downey, Jr. were making brave choices, and introducing real peril to the cash cow.

Harley Keener: So now you’re just going to leave me here, like my dad?
Tony Stark: Yeah. Wait, you’re guilt tripping me, aren’t you?
Harley Keener: I’m cold.
Tony Stark: I can tell. You know how I can tell? ‘Cause we’re connected.
[Drives off]
Harley Keener: [sighs] It was worth a try.

The best thing about Iron Man 3 is the dialogue.  For once it seems like the writing has caught up with the character of Tony Stark.  There are so many excellent lines that flow through the film, it feels like you are right there, beside them in real-time.  The effect is better than any special effect could ever be.  One great sequence involves Tony with a little kid.  The meeting has sappy disaster written all over it.  Tony’s reaction to the kid’s sob story makes it apparent that the combination is a win.  The lines are fast and smart, without being smarmy.  The punchline to the Killian statement “…The early bird gets the worm, but it’s the second mouse that gets the cheese….” comes so smoothly, you could almost miss it.  But pay attention.  It’s worth it.

The ending to Iron Man 3 is filled with all sorts of ambiguity.  One is left with a genuine anticipation for what lies ahead.  It is completely the opposite feeling one expects to have in the conclusion of a blockbuster.  It’s likely that if you have read this review, you’ve already seen the film, but still there is no need to discuss it further.  Black has left the character balanced on a pendulum.  It’s unsettling, but it keeps you looking forward.  That is what a good film should always do.

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Em’s Review: 

I give Iron Man III ****1/2 (4 in a half) stars out of five.

My favorite parts were when

1. When Tony (aka) Robert Downey Jr. put magnets in his skin and pulled his suit on him and one part that goes to his private part hit him hard there.

2. When Pepper (aka) Gwyneth Paltrow (spoiler) killed Killian (aka) Guy Pierce (who would name their little boy Guy?) and she said “That was so violent!

That was so violent!
That was so violent!

3. When the little kid said to Tony “You’re gonna leave me like my father?”  Tony said, “Yes.” 

“I’m cold.”

“Too bad,” and he drove off.

Parts I did not like where 1. (Spoiler) When Killian came back after he was blown up.

Lawless shows everyone at the top of their game

Lawless – 2012

Director John Hillcoat
Starring Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf, Jessica Chastain, Gary Oldman, Guy Pearce, Mia Wasikowska, Jason Clarke, Lew Temple, Dane DeHan
Screenplay Nick Cave based on The Wettest County in the World by Matt Bondurant

Lawless is one very rare movie indeed.  I can’t recall seeing a film where there are so many high-caliber actors who are doing what they do best.  Part of this is due to the freedom of having a great script and a fearless director.  Many times when one expects a cliché to pop up. we are met with the surprise of a world in our history, but not often shown so vividly.

The backdrop is historical Franklin County, Virginia, where the 3 Bondurant brothers carried on a bootlegging operation of epic proportions in the 1930’s.  The brothers, Jack (LaBeouf), Forrest (Hardy) and Howard (Clasrke) are fearless, determined and rumored to be invincible.  This is an assertion that is put to an extreme test. Jack is the more sensitive of the brothers, with his lack of experience often at odds with the leader and middle brother, Forrest.  Older brother Howard provides muscle and fortitude.  It’s a role that is generally a thankless one.  Clarke is a good actor of some renown in his native Australia, but the least known of the three.  Truly, this is usually the brother that always dies first.  Fortunately, this movie doesn’t go that way.

The film does have the girl seeking redemption, in the form of Maggie, played with a seductive frailty by Chastain.  Her very presence is like a wound with a smile.  If you aren’t paying attention, you would never see it.  Forrest sees this, of course, while he is busy missing other, more obvious signs.

Wasikowska is Bertha, a German Baptist Preacher’s daughter who is wooed by Jack.  Her portrayal is winsome, and somewhat rebellious.  This was another role that would have been easy to mail in, but like every other performance, it is not a wasted one.

Guy Pearce has been in two other Hillcoat films, The Proposition and The Road.Each time he comes out with a distinct character.   Here, as Special Deputy Charlie Rakes, his character is the most riveting of the movie.  Something of a cross between Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and J. Edgar Hoover, his monstrous trans gender wickedness looms like a shadow over the scenes he inhabits.  This shadow is countered, somewhat by the exuberance and power of the brothers.

Gary Oldman makes an appearance as a local legend, Floyd Banner.  He has few scenes, but he owns them.  His chameleon-like ability is movie star big, but normal as anyone you might meet.  He has few peers, some of them are in this film.

Hardy’s performance is subdued, almost to the point of paralysis.  It’s necessary, though, to counter the foolishness of his younger brother.  LaBeouf gives Jack everything the character needs.  His performance is fearless in his willingness to show Jack as a young, scared man who moves eventually to a man driven to stand with his brothers.  I thought so many big films (Transformers, Indiana Jones) would have made him a shameless cheese by now, but he brings the humility, as well as the joy.  Both brothers are given a dynamism with each other and the women that they pursue.  They are living and breathing history.

The characters that fill this story are brought to life by the uncanny wordsmithing of Cave and the wry direction of Hillcoat.  The chemistry of their past work together is clear here in the willingness to move off of the middle of the road stuff like Public Enemies.  They show things somewhat more for what they really may have been, as compared to the same crud we’ve seen before.  It’s not just a bunch of name actors dressing up and playing period.  It is an accomplishment.

The shootout of the finale has some basis in history, but it varies a bit from the actual events.  In the movie it was a staged confrontation that comes off effectively, almost like the classic scene from Matewan.  The event as reported was a bootlegging run that got caught on the same bridge.  It would have been more interesting, I think, if they had gone with what really happened, but it’s not bad at all.  Just not as good as it could be.

Hillcoat is an artist whose work gets more interesting with each watch.  He is moving up into Nichols, Nolan and Fincher territory.  One can’t help but look forward to the future, or even the past, as he presents it.

(****1/2 out of *****)

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is very nearly a classic

Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark – 2011

Directed by Troy Nixey
Starring
Katie Holmes, Guy Pearce, Bailee Madison, Jack Thompson
Written by 
Guillermo Del Toro, Matthew Robbins based on the original story by Nigel McKeand

Guillermo Del Toro has a fascinating sense of what makes something scary.  Each of the films he has written and/or directed have a variety of astonishing creatures.  Some are awe-inspiring, some  adorable, some menacing and some are quite ambiguous.  There is no question which type is on display in Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark. From the opening moments where the Lord of Blackwood Manor is convinced to perform heinous acts to recover a kidnapped son.  The man believes that by sacrificing others, the creatures will relinquish their hostage.  He is mistaken.

Forward to the present day, we see Alex Hirst, with his girlfriend, Kim, waiting for Alex’s daughter, Sally, arriving via airplane.  Sally’s birth mother and Alex had determined a change of pace might help young Alex recover from the malaise she is now suffering.  This lends itself into myriad potential for cliché, most of which are employed in this film.  There is a difference in hitting clichés and making them work for you.  Like Fright Night, Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark is a remake.  Unlike the first film, this one improves upon the original in every way.

The director, Troy Nixey, is a first timer, hand-picked by Guillermo after he submitted a short film called Latchkey’s Lament to Del Toro for review.  Guillermo was impressed enough to give him the keys to this medium budget B-Flick with 2 A-Listers (Pearce and Holmes) riding in the coattails of a young and very talented actress (Madison).

Don't be scared, don't be scared...

The result is a better film than the plot deserved.  Madison has vastly more experience than her 12 years would have one believe, and she makes exceptional use of it.  Along with Nixey, she shows that a child actor is most effective when they are not geniuses or smarter than all the adults.  The back and forth between her, her father and Kim is one of the strengths of the film, as each of them bring something to their situation to the mix that the communication issues more authentic.  Sally’s curiosity, regret and then abject fear is excellently drawn by Madison.  One has much to look forward to in her acting future, should she decide to pursue it.

You can bear the weight of it all...

That Katie Holmes has been out of the spotlight for so long (4 films and a mini-series since 2005’s Batman Begins) is quite a shame.  She has procured a real amount of depth as she has gotten older.  She projects an uncommon mixture of intelligence and compassion as Kim.  This allows for a natural bond to form between Kim and Sally.

For his part, Pearce brings a realism to perhaps the most thankless role of the film.  He is supposed to stay dense the longest, allowing the characters who are more frail in stature to figure it out and be imperiled due to his willfully stubborn ignorance.  That he is able to project the frustration of carrying the financial load so effectively allows him to not seem so much as uncaring as preoccupied.  As a father, I can recall many times where I let the big picture get in the way of the smaller, more important details, like why I am doing it in the first place.  Pearce shows how I feel in those times.  A lesser actor would have made Alex an idiot, or worse, an idiot windbag.

You don't want to see this thing at full size...

The directing of Don’t Be Afraid… is sublime.  The use of shadows and sounds of scurrying are almost unparalleled and exceedingly creepy.  These tactics are employed confidently, as the special effects shots of the menace are on par with anything Del Toro has ever done.  It goes to show the talent of true direction, versus the derivative nature of 3D in the hands of less competent directors.  While there is somewhat less gore in this film than many PG-13 films, it still was rated R, due to  the fact that it is legitimately scary.  Del Toro’s use of the works of Arthur Machen, even more than that of the writer of the original story, helps to give the film a true supernatural feeling about legends that we long have accepted, but never truly thought about.  Where Nixey’s influence starts and Del Toro’s ends is very difficult to figure. That is the best thing about it.

The only thing that keeps this from being a classic is that well-worn paths are just a little too often employed, however effectively.  The last act is incredibly awkward, until an epilogue brings a twist that puts everything once more on its ear.  If you are not sure what is happening, try using subtitles.  This film is a must for anyone who appreciates Del Toro.  Indeed, it is a must for anyone who wants a great scare.

(****1/2 out of *****)

CPE’s Prometheus / Predator / Alien Universe Chronological Timeline Reviews

Prometheus, June 2012

With the release of the first good Predator film in almost 25 years, and the making (by Ridley Scott) of an Alien prequel, Prometheus, now is a great time to review the two series as a whole.  Both series have gone to hell and back (sometimes together), but overall, the entire series has provided many intense, exciting moments and the chance to imagine a frighteningly brilliant set of premises, and, eventually, bring them together with varied results.

I am starting with Predator because, chronologically, in the universe these movies inhabit, the events in that movie happen first.  It’s kind of geek, I know.  However, it’s not nearly as geek as putting my movies in order by director, which, for sanity’s sake, my wife forbade me from doing.  Following that order of events, I will give brief synopses and reviews for each film.  One may disagree with the overall scores for each movie, but I think it is pretty obvious that many will agree with my assessment of the best and the worst films.

Predator (1987)

Director – John McTiernan

Writers – Jim Thomas / John Thomas

Starring – Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Carl Weathers, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Sonny Landham, Bill Duke, Richard Chaves, Shane Black, Elpidia Carrillo, Kevin Peter Hall

Timeline – 1987

Here me now and believe me later…we’re gonna get stomped.

Synopsis – Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer  is brought into a search and rescue mission with his Delta Force / CIA SOG team by former Green Beret buddy and current CIA Agent George Dillon.  What is not known to them is they are following another team in there that had been summarily wiped out, and the thing that wiped them out is still out there, waiting for them…

Review – This is the cream of the crop for Predator movies.  The plot is threadbare, but the dialogue is great and the direction is sharp.  Given that this is McTiernan’s first film, it is remarkably professional.  Excellent performances by Schwarzeneggar, Shane Black, Jesse “The Body” Ventura, Bill Duke and Kevin Peter Hall as The Predator.  The intensity is unlike any other Predator film, and the reason for this is the director, more than anything.

Rating – (****1/2 out of *****)

—-

Predator 2 (1990)

Director – Stephen Hopkins

Writers – Jim Thomas / John Thomas

Starring – Danny Glover, Ruben Blades, Bill Paxton, Gary Busey, Maria Conchita Alonso, Kevin Peter Hall, Adam Baldwin

Timeline – 1997

Synopsis – Glover portrays Lt. Mike Harrigan, L.A. Police officer who, along with his fellow officers are caught in the midst of a war between (inexplicably) Jamaican and Colombian Drug gangs.  Inserting himself in the midst of this war is another Predator, on another hunting spree.

Snagging a couple of Raggae man gangsters. Whoopee!

Review – Horrible sequel has a lot of good parts (Glover, Paxton, Blades, Alonso) but fails to use them.  The setting of then futuristic L.A. didn’t help.  For some stupid reason, they insert a Jamaican gang in the middle of the major West Coast city.  My nearest guess was so that they could have the wild-looking Rastafarians portrayed in an insultingly prejudicial way.  And they thought Jar Jar was bad.  This is, of course the place on celluloid where we first see a crossover to the Alien world, with a skull in the background of the ship, there’s the interaction with the old couple in the apartment building, and there all of those average special effects…still this movie nearly buried a vibrant franchise.

Rating – (** out of  *****)

—-

Alien Vs. Predator (2004)

Director – Paul W.S. Anderson

Writers – Paul W.S. Anderson, Shane Salermo

Starring – Lance Henriksen, Sanaa Lathan, Raul Bova, Ewan Bremner, Colin Salmon

Timeline – 2004

Synopsis – Charles Bishop Weyland (Lance Henrikson, evoking both his Aliens character Bishop and the corporation Weyland-Utani) leads a team of  scientists to examine some heat signatures discovered under the island of Bouvetøya near Antarctica.  Of course what they find there are not only Aliens…but Predators as well.  Turns out the Predators have used a Pyramid temple there for hundreds of years to raise Aliens for combat tests.  In the end, one of the dead Predators gets a chestburster for his troubles on the ship heading off planet.

Review – A decent concept with some nice special effects that is compromised by its PG-13 rating.  Lots of running, jumping and quick cuts do not a suspenseful movie make.  If Anderson had been given free rein to make the movie with an “R” rating, it might have been better, but cutting out the gore made it more excusable to bring the young teenagers and translated to easily the most successful Predator movie, while an average grossing Alien film.  The acting is what you’d expect and it is on par with the dialog.  Why give good lines to a bunch of targets, after all?  Still, the Predators fighting the Aliens are pretty cool.  If you want some real entertainment, check out the commentary track with Henriksen, Lathan and Anderson.  Lots of yuks there, but not ones that any of the participants should feel proud of.

Rating (*** out of *****)

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem – 2007

Directors – Colin Strause, Greg Strause

Writer – Shane Salermo

Starring – Steven Pasquale, Reiko Aylesworth, John Ortiz

Timeline – 2004

Who wants to see more of this crap?

Synopsis – So, after the chestburster jumps out of the Predator in AvP, somehow it grows to fighting pro status (called a Predalien) while the Predator ship is still in Earth’s orbit, beats up the Predator pilot, and forces the ship down somewhere in Colorado.  Next thing you know, it escapes along with a bunch of other Alien facehuggers, taking out a dad, his son and some local bums.  Hearing a distress signal for the ship that went down and a lone Predator goes to Earth to clean up.  Havoc ensues and many people die.  In the end, Ms. Yutani lands herself a Predator blaster cannon.

Review – This movie is complete and utter trash.  Breaking all sorts of rules of common sense storytelling through bad editing, bad script-writing, bad decisions in plot development.  The only good thing about the movie is the design of the Predalien.  They don’t do anything with it, though.  Instead, we get the worst possible scenarios dreamed up by fanboys in a series of disconnected scenes.  The worst possible scene involves a row of pregnant women in a hospital who are there for no discernible reason other than to fulfill some freak’s fantasy.  This movie is a dead-end.  For completists who want to be disappointed and immature males only.

Rating (1/2* out of *****)

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Predators (2010)

Timeline – 2010

For full review click here

Rating (**** out of  *****)

—-

The Historical Timeline for Peter Weyland, born 1990, takes place predominantly here, between then and the events of the movie, Prometheus:

Timeline of Peter Weyland and Weyland Industries

Prometheus (2012)

Director – Ridley Scott

Writers – Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof

Starring – Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Logan-Marshall Green, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Patrick Wilson, Kate Dickie, Benedict Wong

Timeline – 2073

Review: Click Here

Rating: (****1/2 out of *****)

Alien (1979)

Director – Ridley Scott

Writers – Dan O’Bannon, David Giler, Walter Hill

Starring – Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton

Timeline – 2122

Synopsis – The USCSS Nostromo, a commercial towing spaceship, is on a return trip from the planet Thedus to Earth, when they are awoken from hibernation.  The reason for the interruption is revealed to be a transmission of unknown origin from a nearby planet.  They land, and while members of the crew are surveying another ship that landed there, they see a pilot frozen in place with his chest opened, seemingly frozen in time, and then they see a cavern filled with pods…after one of the crew gets a little close, out from the pod jumps a facehugger.  The crewman, Kane (Hurt), is brought back without quarantine onto the main ship against protocol and the orders of Warrant officer Ripley (Weaver).  Trying to examine the facehugger, acid pours from a cut from its skin and almost goes through the ship.  After the facehugger dies, everyone thinks Kane is fine…until they see the chestburster.  Soon after, as the crew tries frantically to evict what they think is a small alien, they are, one by one, introduced to the full-grown version.

A star is born, before a chestburster is born…

Review – Easily the best film of the series, and one of the greatest science fiction films of all time, Alien sets the mark with suspense, common sense and respect for the viewer’s ability to figure out what is happening.  A remarkable cast is in full force here, particularly effective are Skerritt, Holm, Kotto and the magnificent Sigourney Weaver.  This is a film that should not be missed if you like movies.

Rating  (***** out of *****)

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Aliens (1986)

Director – James Cameron

Writer – James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill

Starring – Sigourney Weaver, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein

Timeline – 2179

Synopsis – Ripley’s escape vessel is lost for 57 years.  In the meantime, she’s lost a daughter to old age, been held accountable by Weyland-Yutani for destroying the Nostromo, and discovered that there have been terra-formers colonizing the planet they landed on for over 20 years.  After she is hung out to dry, she is informed that contact has been lost with the colony, and asked if she will return to help wipe out the Aliens.  Heading out there with space Marines, they are quickly outmatched and forced to fight for their lives.  It doesn’t help to have a representative of the company along to “help.”

One of the many iconic shots from Aliens

Review – Another indisputable classic, James Cameron wrote and directed this right after creating The Terminator, and it is clear that his creative juices were still flowing.  Weaver, nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of Ripley, gives the performance of a lifetime, realistically expounding on her portrayal from the original and adding relevant depth and nuance.  The plot is given a depth with the special edition not allowed in the original release, and the introduction of the hive, with its Queen, give a layer of mystique to the mythos of the Alien that the later sequels fed off but could never add to.  The last half hour is among the most exciting cinematic achievements in the history of film.  Henriksen, Biehn, Henn, Paxton and Goldstein give performances of a lifetime.

Rating – (***** out of ******)

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Alien3 (1992)

Director – David Fincher

Writers – David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson, Vincent Ward, David Twohy, William Gibson, Eric Red, John Fasano, David Fincher and Rex Pickett

Starring – Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dutton, Charles Dance, Brian Glover, Pete Postlethwaite, Lance Henriksen and a bunch of indistinguishable Brits.

Timeline – 2179

Synopsis – Almost immediately after the events in Aliens the ship Sulaco is destroyed and an escape pod carrying Ripley, Newt, Hicks and what is left of Bishop crash lands on a prison planet, Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161.  The planet is an near empty prison with about 20 British men (and Charles Dutton) sprinkled in following a cult version of Christianity.  Lo and behold, a facehugger escapes the crash, impregnates a dog, and creates a new, ultra fast and mobile Alien that begins to pick off everyone but Ripley.

I can’t remember when you haven’t been part of my life…

Review – As one can tell from the myriad writers that took shots at the script, this film is a mess.  Given that they took so long (6 years) to make the 3rd film, they had to get rid of Newt.  As a result, they start Alien3 with the worse possible premise, killing off all the hope from the second film and throwing Fincher the dregs of a story.  Also, since they filmed Alien3 in England, they went cheap and hired only local “talent.”  Oh, and Charles Dutton.  This creates an inexplicably Anglo movie and to what effect?  Not much.  Given so little to work with, Fincher makes the best of it, and manages to make an allegory for AIDS with the movie.   His camera work is exquisite, as well.  He really does his best to make chicken salad out the this chicken excrement of a plot.  The chase scenes from the perspective of the sleek canine-born Alien.  Dutton and Weaver add what little life there is to the film.  Entirely forgettable, except for the effect it had on Fincher, which was to motivate him to become one of our greatest directors.  Another note about the film, is that one of the earlier drafts – the one with a monastic planet made of wood, written by Ward – is roundly considered to be, as London Times writer David Hughes puts it one of the “Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made.”  Bummer.

Rating (**1/2 out of *****)

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Alien Resurrection (1997)

Director – Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Writer – Joss Whedon

Starring – Sigourney Weaver, Winona Rider, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Dan Hedeya, Brad Dourif, J.E. Freeman, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott

Timeline – 2381

Synopsis – 205 years after the last film evil Scientists for the United Systems Military find some DNA of the impregnated Ripley from Fury 161 and decide to take unwitting kidnapped humans and make them into vessels for the eggs of the Queen derived from the Ripley clone.  Of course things go haywire and everyone is forced to fend for their lives.

Special effects to good use…
Dominique Pinion from Alien Resurrection: one of the more intriguing characters in the Alien universe

Review – An intriguing premise and somewhat wacky in its presentation, this movie has the one of the best casts ever assembled for an Alien film.  It is by far the slickest film in the franchise.  Watching the Aliens slither about, one cannot help but realize that they are, for the most part, computer animated.  Closeups have the real thing, and that scene underwater is pretty cool.  The most horrifying shot in this film is actually not an Alien.  It’s Dan Hedeya’s hairy arms and torso.  Weaver is especially effective in the freshness of being back from the dead, with no strings attached, except those left over from her connection to the Aliens that she is “mother” to.  She saunters around to her own beat, and her flippant attitude is very appealing.  Rider adds an interesting character to the mix, as a robot with a past connected to Bishop.  Perlman and Pinon, however, are almost worth the price of admission themselves.  They are the best characters in the entire series, outside of Weaver.

(***1/2 out of *****)