Alien: Ressurection

alienDirector: Jean-Pierre Jeunet. Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Ron Perlman, Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Brad Dourif, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott. USA, 1997. Budget: $60 mln. Box office: $160 mln. IMDb: 6.2. RT: 55%. My rating: 3/4. Xenomorphs… shaken & stirred.

– Hey, Ripley. I heard you, like, ran into these things before?
– That’s right.
– Wow, man. So, like, what did you do?
– I died.
(a dialogue from the film)

It may seem strange and irrelevant to write about ”Alien: Ressurection” more than 20 years after its release, especially given that it’s mostly known as a faulty sequel abruptly suspending the franchise for 15-20 years. Or less, it depends how you count. Plus it is the lowest rated movie of the franchise. So why even bother?

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Honestly, I think there was some misunderstanding. Mostly it happened for two reasons:

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  • The tonal mismatch tone of the new xenomorph’s movie was strickingly different from any other entry of the series and many couldn’t stand it… even considering that 3 previous movies was totally different flicks as well (namely: a horror, a blockbuster, a thriller). But in many ways ”Alien: Ressurection” was totally wicked and wry, as if Terry Gilliam directed it (hint: he didn’t, but the director Jean-Pierre Jeunet was directly influenced by Gilliam as a filmmaker).
  • Weak final which worsens the aftertaste of the film

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Lets also have a quick look at how the xenomorph’s formula works… worked:

  • Alien (1979) = 8.1 IMDb – $11 mln budget + $104 mln box office + 7 years till next sequel
  • Aliens (1986) = 8.0 IMDb – $18 mln budget + $130 mln box office + 6 years till next sequel
  • Alien 3 (1992) = 6.4 IMDb – $50 mln budget + $160 mln box office + 5 years till next sequel
  • Alien: Ressurection (1997) = 6.2 IMDb – $60 mln budget + $160 mln box office + 15/20 years to a real prequel

Then the franchise started to twitch all over, detox and show some remote signs of life thanks to 2 crossovers, namely…

As the detox period ended, cracked-and-close-to-dementia Ridley Scott started to sweat…

  • Prometheus = 7.0 IMDb – $120 mln budget + $400 mln box office + the wow effect  + because it really was quite a solid sci-fi thriller with a brilliant cast and cool designs
  • Alien: Covenant = 6.5 IMDb – $97 mln budget + $240 mln box office + unclear future of the franchise
  • Unknown Covenant sequel which will concentrate more on the A.I. than xenomorphs and will supposingly link the events to the original film

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I think that in its own wicked way, ”Alien: Ressurectioncould have easily been considered as one of the most creative and dazzling entries of the franchise. By no means the film is a masterpiece, but it’s not a cash-in, trying to blindly copy/rehash the success of the first two movies (like ”Alien: Covenant” just did). It does have its own style, full of grim grotesque, weird humour and surrealism. It’s not a balanced movie, but it’s exactly the case when you think ”oh at least they tried”.

 

15 years before Scott started digging his own shit again with ‘Prometheus‘ and 20 years before ‘Alien: Covenant‘, Jean-Pierre Jeunet (and Joss Whedon, whose contribution as a witer is important, even if he – in his own words – hated the movie) weren’t afraid to approach the creepy theme of genetic modifications and alien/human crossbreeding.

 

They had enough balls to modify the main character (the main reason why Marvel movies prosper so much nowadays – they’re not afraid to tweak, weaken or strengthen their characters) and dig deeper into the essence of human and xenomorph nature. While many wish the movie maintained a more serious tone, I think that given the whole ridiculousness of the plot, the tone set was quite right. Otherwise it just would be even worse.

C’mon, you cannot have a storyline like that and stay serious. That would be too much. That’s why I kinda like the movie – it knows its shortcomings, it dares to create something new and not simply rehash the old stuff, it has enough humour to smooth things over.

 

Without giving away too much of the plot, there are 3 particularly remarkable episodes that set the tone. I wasn’t too sure about the first one as it had really impressed me as a teen, but after rewatching it nowm 20 years later, I feel as good about it which rarely happens. Here we go, this is the episode where you see that xenomorhps can learn and adapt (just some GIFs as I don’t want to give away too much of the plot):

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Here’s another episode where we learn that Ripley’s character was ‘tweaked’…

It’s exactly what a sequel like this needs and what ‘Alien: Covenant‘ was missing. The lesson is simple, Ridley – if you can’t make it as creepy as hell, at least don’t be so serious. Please.

Finally, the 3rd episode that I find particularly significant and valuable to the core of the franchise is when Ripley enters the crossbreeding laboratory. A perfect example of the new direction the franchise could easily take, especially considering the final part of the movie and Whedon’s ideas about the battle for Earth.

 

It has always surprised me that among all the cast only Sigourney Weaver has been considered as the core value of the franchise – each of 4 movies always featured strong and charismatic supporting characters, and I don’t see what was the problem of making a 5th Alien movie without Ripley (no, I don’t mean ‘Prometheus’ which I must admit did have a strong cast, I mean the real sequel). Lack of good ideas, probably, but not having Sigourney Weaver onboard is no excuse.

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The production. Before moving to the film itself, I’d love to mention some facts about the crew and the production. Jean-Pierre Jeunet directed several curious flicks such as ”Delicatessen” (post-apocalyptic black comedy), ”City of Lost Childern” (fantasy tale, also with Ron Perlman) and ”Amelie”. The script was created by Joss Whedon (”Serenity”, ”Avengers”) and it wasn’t an easy task – he wrote multiple versions of it, all of them denied by producers and Sigourney Weaver as well as she was not interesed in that kind of setting… The original script had a third act on Earth, with a final battle for Earth itself. Here’s what Whedon said in 2005 about the film:

“It wasn’t a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines…mostly…but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do. There’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking, because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script…but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.”

On the contrary, H. R. Giger loved the film. I’m with Giger this time.

Worth watching? So, what a paradox, if you think of ”Alien: Ressurection” in terms of pure geeky nerdy fun, I think it could easily qualify as one of the best sequels ever, because it’s not afraid to turn upside down and expand the original cult movies and very little sequels have enough balls to do so. It could have been much better, yes, but it is far from being as bad as many claim. I really recommend it, if you like wry humour and don’t sit and pray the whole day for the sacred 1979 horror (which is as delicious now as it was back then) and 1986 blockbuster (which in my opinion was an absolute breakthrough for its time, but from other point of view reduced the sense of danger coming from the xenomorphs, making them more similar to an insects…). Finally, it’s that kind of movie that even if you hate it, you can still enjoy it. Just know that it’s different.

Spectacularity: 3.5/4
Acting:  3/4
Directing: 3/4
Screenplay: 2/4
Final vote: 3/4

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Here’s a lovely poster of Alien 3 for those who don’t agree with my review.

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Westworld TV Series Debuts Season 2 Set Design Featurette

Sleuth News

Since I know most of the people on Sleuth News are adamant about the upcoming second season of Westworld, you might enjoy a cool featurette released today that delves into the production design of the fantastical science fiction show. The featurette is told from the perspective of acclaimed set decorator Julie Ochipinti. Check it out below:

Season 2 of Westworld is set to premiere on HBO on April 22nd.

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Starship Troopers

Starship Troopers” is way more subtle that may seem during the first viewing. I’ve watched it multiple times… the first time was at the tender age of 7, and I am still under its spell. Wonderful analysis, Jaime Rebanal.

”….it only ends up reinforcing its own cleverness here because if this is all that one sees, then a viewer has indeed bought into the propaganda that Starship Troopers has designed itself to “sell.” It sells a shallow idea that humans are good and aliens are bad, but because of the glamor present within the image, the exciting nature of the action sequences even becomes deceiving in the most clever manner.”

Works like a propaganda film, reflecting another sort of truth.  (✯✯✯✯✯)

Full post here: Starship Troopers – Review — Jaime Rebanal’s Film Thoughts

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Update.  Love this comment by The Celtic Predator of Express Elevator to Hell Blog:

”Something I discussed ad nauseum in my review of this film is how much flack it gets from fans of the Robert Heinlein novel it’s supposedly adapting. While Verhoeven’s nth hyper-violent social satire was undercut upon release by critics who ironically swallowed its fascist propaganda at face value, as you noted above, most of the ensuing criticism of this film I’ve encountered in the 20+ years *since* it’s release has been from bibliophiles, not cinephiles. You know how book-lovers are — they treat their source material like Scripture.

Look up Robert Heinlein if you haven’t already. He had the opposite life experiences of Paul Verhoeven, and most of his military predictions have come true in Western democracies, e.g. all volunteer service, male and female combat personnel, etc. He also had a rather privileged upbringing, served as an officer in the US Navy, and to my knowledge never saw combat in a foreign war — a stark contrast from Verhoeven’s childhood under Nazi occupation.”

My favourite ‘Alien’ stills, pt. 1

It may sound strange, but what I love most in this film is not the creature itself, but the atmosphere. Don’t get me wrong – the xenomorph’s design, the editing in the scenes it appears and their pacing are iconic, but for me it’s always been the atmoshere, the photography and the production designs that make this movie something sooo remarkable. It’s a believable world, full of details. A deadly one. With each view there are more of them to find. Here’s the first part of my favourite stills.

The awakening…

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Obscure corridors…

1b

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The helmets…

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The crew…

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4

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The giant and menacing spaceships…

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Details…

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To be continued.

Peter Jackson vs Alien

A curious excerpt from an old Peter Jackson’s interview.

– If 20th Century Fox asked you to direct the next ALIEN movie, would you jump at the chance? I think you would do a great job.

– I was asked to direct Alien Resurrection but I passed. I just can’t get excited about doing an Alien film.

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Some sources say the man owns an huge Alien Queen model in his collection though. That gives him some extra points.

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Attack The Block

Director: Joe Cornish. Starring: Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Nick Frost, Luke Treadaway. UK, 2011. Budget: $13 mln. Box office: $5.8 mln. IMDb: 6.6. RT: 90%. My rating: 3.5/4. A fucked up version of E.T.

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– No idea. Not a bloody clue. Maybe there was a party at the zoo, and a monkey fucked a fish.
(Nick Frost’s character about the alien the boys found)

– You’re quite fit you know? Have you got a boyfriend?
– Yeah.
– You sure about him? Where is he? Cos he ain’t exactly lookin’ out for you tonight.
– He’s in Ghana.
– You going out with an African then?
– No… he… he’s helping children. Volunteers for the Red Cross.
– Oh… is it? Why can’t he help children in Britain? Not exotic enough is it? Don’t get a nice suntan. Tsst.
(conversation between two teens)

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This one is a true gem with a distinctive British flavour. A lovely movie indeed and it’s much more than it seems. It’s kind of a bad street teenager with rough manners, but with a good heart buried deep inside, sentimental and ready for the next adventure. The story starts with a teenage street gang of mixed race in South London suburbia – they find themselves right in a middle of an alien invasion. So i20170205_210824magine mixing the life and language of street teenagers who try to seem cool and control, as they believe, through fear and minor crimes, with the sudden attack of the monsters. Hilarious, scary, atmospheric and sentimental. And all that wrapped in a social context.

Dedicated to all fans of Cornetto trilogy (the director Joe Cornish is a long-time collaborator and friend of Frost, Pegg and Wright).

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”Maybe there was a party at the zoo, and a monkey fucked a fish.”

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Like in most good sci-fi, the aliens are just a premise for something bigger. The gang members, who l20170205_210726ook rather unpretty in the beginning of the movie when mugging a nurse (and most of them are barely 15 years old), start to gain our sympathy and trust. They learn how to find their own voice and character, to surpass their previous social and ethnic prejudice. I would even dare to say that it makes the film pretty unique. There are plenty of movies where some bad guys are locked up in a place and are forced to protect it and then finally we start to like them more and more (Hi, John Carpenter!). But these kids are not just some c20170205_212226onvicted murderers in prison. They are real teenagers who live in that way, for one reason or another. And you have a chance to see them in a unique environment with aliens and stuff. Even leaving aside all the social context, this is a wonderful and entertaining sci-fi movie.

Surprisingly great acting by mainly unknown to me actors (except of Nick Frost… plus I wrote this review around January 2017, when John Boyega wasn’t fighting one more time against the Dark Side!). If you enjoyed such movies as ”Shaun of the Dead” and ”Hot Fuzz”, then for sure don’t miss this one (by the way, Nick Frost starred in all of them). The effects look great and the monsters’ design is awesome. Minimal, but extremely effective. Here it is:
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Interestingly, this is a debut for both director Joe Cornish and (now famous) John Boyega. Jodie Whittaker has made since then a great appearance in one of my favourite ”Black Mirror” episodes – ”The Entire History of you”. It had a great reception on festivals and from critics. $13 million budget with $5.8 million box office.

By the way, Cornish 20170205_212135describes ”Attack the Block” as “a fucked-up version of E.T.” (one of movies that influenced him most). He is right, it’s pretty fucked up, and it gets quite bloody and violent at times as well. But like I said, remember that street boy. He might be not what he seems, just give him time.

 

Acting:  3.5/4
Spectacularity: 3/4
Originality: 4/4
Pathos level: very low
Final vote: 3.5/4

Some cool fan-made posters:

 

The 10 most popular photos of aliens (before digital era)

Found here.

”Photos of supposed UFOs abound. Most of the time they show dark stains or bright dots in the sky, of varying dimension and quality, which could be due to a lot of things: military aircrafts, weather balloons, birds, meteors, etc. Sometimes the UFO is well focused, but the flying saucer always looks suspiciously similar to a pan lid suspended from a thread or a lamp holder or a wheel cap thrown in the air. And of course today the possibilities for digitally retouching an image are endless.

What are lacking, however, are credible photos of the creatures that should be flying these UFOs—the actual aliens or extraterrestrials. It appears there are no more than fifty such photos shot in the past eighty years, but once you take out those plainly fake and the more suspicious looking ones all you are left with are about ten photos. These are, essentially, “mug shots” of wanted extraterrestrials. Here is my personal list of the best (or worst) photos of aliens.”

All of them are absolutely ridiculous, however, it’s curious that each of these stories got some notable popularity.

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