Saturday, April 10, 2010

Ripley is a beast!

I promised you I'd continue my SciFi fest with the next chapter of the Alien saga and, so, here it is. It was a dark and stormy night...oh, wait, that's not right. Well, actually it was a stormy night as we sat down on the couch to watch the James Cameron film, "Aliens." I had even talked my daughter who is terrified of scary movies into watching it with us. We huddled on the couch as the opening music came on and we see Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) and Jonesy (the cat) sleeping peacefully as their escape pod is picked up by a salvage ship. They are awakened and Ripley learns that she has been drifting out in space for 57 years. She tells her story of what happened to her ship and the crew but they don't fully believe her and she is horrified to learn that the planet (LV-426) where she and her crew encountered the Alien has been colonized by the "Company." Contact is eventually lost with the colonists on LV-426 and a rescue party is put together that includes Ripley, a representative of the "Company" (Paul Reiser with very '80's hair) and a tough bunch of Marines. From the minute they set foot on the planet, the suspense is palpable and grows with each passing scene. We are trapped in the buildings on the planet right along with the characters, in darkness, not knowing what is around each corner. The Aliens don't show up at first but once they do, they do with stealth and horror. The Marines are sent out to discover what has happened to the people stationed at the colony and are forced to use a tracking device that only shows heat signatures. It's a little bit like "hot, hotter, colder..." only with your life on the line. When the life forms do show up on the device and the Marine holding it tries to steer the other Marines away from it, the tension is unbelievable. You feel as if you are stuck in that hallway or air shaft with "something" baring down on you. You can't see it or hear it until suddenly it's right on top of you. The camera work is brilliant and so evocative of being trapped in darkness and close spaces. The battles between the Marines and the Aliens are horrific and the Aliens seem to just keep coming and coming.

They discover a very young girl, Newt (Carrie Henn), who seems to be the lone survivor at the colony and take her in. Ripley and Newt become very close and eventually it's Ripley's desire to save Newt at all costs that brings about the destruction of the Aliens (until they get resurrected in Alien 3, of course, but we won't talk about that.) Newt knows the station inside and out so she is a very valuable asset for the Marines as they attempt to fight their way out. However, all the Marines gradually give up their lives, except one, Cpl. Hicks (Michael Biehn, in his first of many rolls like this.) He seems to be the only one who really believes Ripley and when they discover that the "Company" has actually been capturing and studying the Aliens for use as weapons, he bands with her to do whatever they can to make sure that doesn't happen.

The most famous scene is, of course, the last battle between Ripley and the mother "Alien." Both females are furious at the prospect of their young being harmed and they fight it out in an epic confrontation that has Ripley driving a full-body forklift and some how managing to fling the Alien into an airlock. Ripley gets pulled down with it but good trumps evil once more as Ripley pushes the button to open the airlock and out goes Mama Alien. I make it sound a heck of a lot easier than it really is and I highly recommend that you view this film for yourself and watch one of the greatest female heroes of our time. I guarantee you will be screaming "Get away from her, you b*&^%/!" right along with Ripley and cheering as that Alien goes squealing into space.

And then you'll turn on every light in your house and not sleep for a week....

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Alice in Weirdoland

Now, don't get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this film, as I have always been a fan of Tim Burton, but really, I don't think Lewis Carroll had this in mind when he penned this story. It's dark, even creepy at times, with lots of humor and goofiness thrown in, as only Mr. Burton can do. The story begins with Alice attending a party in the English countryside (the scenery is gorgeous but I felt that the 3d actually made it look flat.) Her friends are introduced to us through conversations and then you start to notice that many of her friends look familiar, such as the two sisters who have on striped dresses like two little characters who show up later in the film. Alice then discovers that the party was actually thrown in her honor and that her suitor, a very stiff and stuffy young redhead named Hamish, was going to propose to her in front of the 100's of guests. When he does, Alice runs off following the White Rabbit she had seen earlier in the garden and falls down the same hole that she had fallen down as a child. That's when the 3d really takes hold and the mayhem begins. The scenes in the house as she's trying to get out are wonderful as she first becomes small, then large and then small again. She finally gets out the little door and continues on her adventure. She meets the Tweedles, who are very odd little people very similar to the very scary (at least to me) Ooompa Loompas, the White Rabbit again, and many other very strange creatures in her new world. We all know this story so I won't go into further detail but I do want to mention the stand out performances. I am very glad that Mr. Burton choose to use a relatively unknown actress (Mia Wasikowska) as Alice. She was delightful, strong, willful, and very funny at times. A perfect casting choice. Johnny Depp was very good as the Mad Hatter and the relationship that develops between he and Alice is very touching and believable. But the show stopper is Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen. Go see this film just to see her and the very funny Crispin Glover (remember Back to the Future's George McFly?) as her knight, Stayne. Crispin and Helena steal the movie. There are many other famous voices (Alan Rickman, Michael Sheen, Stephen Fry) and Anne Hathaway does a fine job as the White Queen, despite her bushy black eyebrows that I couldn't stop staring at. So, I guess I'm recommending this film but if you don't get to see it at the theatre, it's okay. Even without 3d, Weirdoland is still Weirdoland - I sure wish I could hear what Mr. Carroll thought about it.