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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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.”

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.

attack the block posters

– 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.”

***

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:

 

Liquid Sky

Director: Slava Tsukerman (also co-writer, co-producer). Starring: Anne Carlisle, Paula E. Sheppard, Otto von Wernherr, Bob Brady, Sousan Doukas. USA, 1982. Budget: $500,000. Box office: $1.7 mln. IMDb: 6.1. RT: 94%. My rating: 2.5/4. A crazy dive into the 80-s punk, new wave and fashion youth subcultures in New York with an unexpected alien visit.

– Young people with no faith in their heart must be punished; but there are more creative ways of doing that and such film as “Liquid Sky” is a prime example of this.
(Michelle King)

– Come on, teach me. Are you afraid? You’re right, because they’re all dead. All my teachers.
(Margaret, one of the film’s main main characters)

– I’m sorry, but duty is more important than shrimps.
Oh. Well, the duty is yours, the house is mine. And in my house, shrimps are more important than duty.
(The German scientist is being seduced)

Sometimes remembering the experience of watching a film provides more enjoyment than actual viewing, and Slava Tsukerman’s first foreign experience may be a good example of it (and, to some extent Alex Cox’ cult film “Repo Men” – both films share a lot in common, even if the latter is much an easier watch for an unexperienced viewer).

“And I am androgynous not less than David Bowie himself. And they call me beautiful, and I kill with my cunt. Isn’t it fashionable?”

The first 30-40 minutes of the film captivate you with its striking origininality, an attempt to express the feeling of alienation through real aliens and a dive into a sexual androgyny that was widely discussed in the media at the time. However, later the films starts to replicate itself, and the middle part is just overly long, even if the final episode proves to be quite a big satisfaction.

New wave and punk scenes that celebrated themselves, sex predation and drug addicts, sexual promiscuity and fashion industry, aliens and alienation – all these wonderful elements intertwine into one hallucinating mix in “Liquid Sky“. This independent film, created on a rather small budget ($500,000), quickly acquired a cult status among cinephiles of that time and was well received by American critics, and it’s no wonder – imagine Andy Warhol shooting some cheesy 50-s science fiction, because this is how “Liquid Sky” looks like.

“Me and my rhythm box! Me and my rhythm box!”

Glam and decadance. The film made a certain effect when released and was even profitable. Many call it a cult. Now, from my unbiased-2017-point-of-view the film seems to be slowly fading into oblivion, just like “Hardware“… However, if you browse across the web, there are various references to the film here and there, or even inspired photoshoots or mockery:

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The plot. A tiny alien spaceship (imagine the size of a salad bowl) lands in New York, right above the house or Margaret, once a well-behaving girl from Connecticut and now an aspiring bisexual model (by Anne Carlisle, who did a double role in the film). The bodiless visitors don’t interact with humans, their aim is unknown. However, a German scientist Johann, another alien in the Big Apple, seems to have a theory – invisible aliens thrive on a substance produced by the human brain during the orgasm, which they manage to extract from the victim, killing it in the process. Margaret, who is going deeper and deeper into the downward spiral of promiscuous sex and violence, grasps this concept quicky and starts to use it for her own benefit…

The film is shot in a totally deadpan manner with a little amount of humour. Apathy and indifference prevail the minds of this self-absorbed youth, and that is supported by a gloomy monotone synth soundtrack and flamboyant, acid colours and designs.

Worth watching?Liquid Sky” is a particular film, not in good or bad sense of the word. I love weird slow stuff. I enjoyed some early Harmony Korine’s film (“Gummo“). But with this… I felt that there was more style than substance, and that’s the case when you need to love the style to enjoy the film. So I cannot recommend it directly to anyone due to its prevailing sense of otherness and dazzling individuality – decide by yourself. Played mostly by non-professional actors and shot by newly arrived in New York Russian immigrants-filmmakers (hence the dominating sense of an alienation, probably?), it’s a time capsule of the New York club scene of the 80-s and shows many kinks many of us could’ve never imagined, and does it from an unusual perspective. Finally, this is why we watch the movies, isn’t it?

“Liquid Sky” is one of the favourite films of Nicholas Winding Refn (who directed one of my all-time favourites “Drive“, plus he did a confusing flick called “The Neon Demon“…), among “Suspiria“, “Videodrome“, “La Dolce Vita” and some others. All these movie are well-known for their style domination. Have you seen anything the Danish director did? 😆

Spectacularity: 2.5/4
Acting:  ?
Directing: 2/4
Originality: 4/4
Final vote: 2.5/4

P. S. Здесь красочное интервью на русском языке.

Top 10 Soviet Science Fiction Movies

Here is my Top 10 Soviet sci-fi movies with a dozen of modern trailers I made specially for it while studying some video editing.

†1924-1988 selection.

Beautiful new ambient, shoegaze, dreampop, synthpop and techno soundtracks included.

 

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1. ”Stalker”, 1979.

A cerebral timeless masterpiece by Andrei Tarkovsky, probably the most renowned and influential Soviet/Russian director. Loosely based on a story by important Soviet science fiction writers Strugatsky brothers (and seen by many as a prophecy for several upcoming catastrophes including Chernobyl), “Stalker” could be interpreted as a philosophical tale about destiny and choices. But there’s much more that that. It’s simply one of the most important cinema achievements ever, let alone science fiction. The story follows three men as they penetrate deeper into into a mysterious area called “The Zone”, each of them for a different purpose. A thinking sci-fi geek’s must-see. This movie is like a Universe, there are always new layers to discover. Read more here and here.

Music by Bowery Electric.

2. ”City Zero”, 1988.

Theatre of the absurd, a mysterious tragicomedy, a dark metaphor. The late 80-s, without doubt, were the most prolific period for the underground culture in Soviet Union, especially rock music but also cinema. ”City Zero” is the finest dark offspring of that epoch. The film is normally classified as sci-fi/mystery – but if you analyze every single scene separately, there’s nothing completely impossible. It’s the sum of all parts that is greater than the whole… The famous headcake scene actually happened once in Russia. But looking at the whole story makes you feel like slowly drowning in the swamp… It’s kind of ”Donnie Darko” goes on ”Mulholland Drive” in ”The Twilight Zone” atmosphere. My full review here. Watch online here.

Music by Auktyon (Аукцыон).

3. ”Dead Man’s Letters”, 1986.

Directed by K. Lopushansky, surely the most faithful of all Tarkovsky’s followers (he worked as assistant on ”Stalker” set), this film is a heavy and realistic portrayal of the end of the world. Endless piles of rusty metal, interminable yellow twilight, dirty radioactive puddles of mixed water and blood. And dead bodies. Dead bodies everywhere. Men, children, women. Everywhere. There is no hope here. It’s finished. There is no ”if”. The doomsday clock has moved. We are just witnessing the final decay of small group of survivors that will last several months, probably. There is not even a single hint about their survival. It’s a death rattle. Just a matter of time. My full review here. Watch online here.

Music by Ital Tek.

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Alien / goofs

I’ve always considered this film to be a perfect one (and still think so), just these 2 shots bother me each time I see them… The doll of Ash on the left should have been done way more carefully.

10 Cloverfield Lane

Director: Dan Trachtenberg. Producer: J. J. Abrams.Starring: John Goodman, Mary Elisabeth Winstead, John Gallagher Jr. USA, 2016. IMDb: 7.2. My rating: 4/4. Exemplary sci-fi thriller.

– It’s the end of the world and he’s upset about a dead pig.cloverfield-lane
(one of the main characters)

“10 Cloverfield Lane” will beat you up, drag down the stairs and then suddenly act like an old friend who will tell you some good jokes and offer a few beers. Just to beat you up to death again 10 minutes later. And with all due respect to Dwayne Johnson, it’s John Goodman who should be called The Rock. Damn. It’s such a relief to finally see a great thriller, one of the most abused genres probably. And a good sci-fi thriller is even a more rare specimen.

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Arrival

Director: Denis Velleneuve. Starring: Amy Adams, Forest Whitaker, Jeremy Renner. USA, 2016. IMDB: 8.0. My rating: 4/4. Science fiction poetry.arrival

– If you could see your whole life from start to finish, would you change things?
– Maybe I’d say what I felt more often. I-I don’t know.
(conversation between main characters)

Arrival is a beautiful reminder that when we gaze at the stars we actually look at ourselves. Shot mostly in dark colours, it is full of internal light. It is a poem, a reflection, a meditation. A story about the most valuable things we have, our fears and desires. About humility, our (in)ability to hear each other and what makes us human. The visual style of the movie tries to bring up Tarkovski’s movies – and not many modern science fiction movies can be proud of that. Still, ”Arrival” combines that in a modern and accessible way that makes the film not an art-house experiment but rather a story for all of us, if we let it in our heart. ”Arrival” is that kind of film that even though not perfect but it makes you feel ashamed for having even a slightest intention to criticize it.

20170329_013106 Continue reading