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Aliens

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Can you see a bit of Avatar in this shot?

Jenette Goldstein and Mark Rolston as Privates Vazquez and Drake in Fox’s 1986 Aliens.

Believe me, I’d prefer not to. I may be synthetic, but I’m not stupid.

****

I started watching this movie in Toledo, OH in the Summer of 2010. In August of that year I started my movielog, publishing my first review—Crimson Rivers 2–Angels of the Apocalypse. It has a rating, a quotation, and five sentences. That feels like so long ago. My internet connection sucked in Toledo, so I gave up about an hour into Aliens. Almost six years later I am flying back from Maui on American Airlines and our plane has individual screens and a sizeable movie library. After watching The Big Short I still have about 90 minutes left in my flight. Those of you who know me from my pre-movielog days probably heard me mention “the crap barrier.” The only reference in a review to this metric that I have made so far was in 2012 in my review of the horrid Ghost Dad. Thus I could either watch a movie that was probably crappy, or, clearly, finish Aliens since I had 70 minutes left according to my memory. I decided to watch Aliens (had 75 minutes left, it turned out) and finally got to find out if most of the humans survived their encounter with the Aliens—they did not.

The characters are straight forward, as one might expect from a James Cameron screenplay, but the dialogue works pretty well. That is the highest praise I can give for dialogue in Cameron’s work. Recently I chose Rambo1 for a Shot post, which reminded me that Rambo was actually written by Cameron and Stallone. I choose to imagine Cameron coming up with a cool line while writing Rambo, not wasting it, keeping it to himself, and then using it here. The similarities between Rambo and Aliens are manifold, but one had Weaver and was cool, while the other was like watching fireworks on the 4th of July, but with worse dialogue. In Aliens the mood and the environments are great at creating tension and making you feel like you are on another world. More than just being on another world, it makes you feel like you are on a dangerous foreign planet with almost no hope of survival beyond the coolheadedness of Weaver’s Ripley.

Ripley, Newt (Carrie Henn) & Bishop totally safe with no Alien Queens lurking nearby.

Ripley, Newt (Carrie Henn) & Bishop totally safe with no Alien Queens lurking nearby.

Much has been written about Ripley and Cameron, and the role of the female hero in cinema. So why add to it when my experience with women in cinema focused on Soviet films.2 Anyways, I want to add that the robots in these movies are always great, including Lance Henriksen’s Bishop. Despite my preference for Ridley Scott as a filmmaker, I think that this is better than Alien. This is James Cameron’s best film until he made Avatar, and yes that includes Titanic, for which he won Best Director and Best Picture. Aliens has two Oscars of its own for its special effects, and I support the nominations it received for Best Actress (Weaver) and Best Score (James Horner).

1 The original film in the Rambo series was First Blood which meant that when making a sequel, the producers opted to go for The Godfather Part II, except with First Blood instead of The Godfather. With the success of Rockys I–III, and Rocky IV coming out the same year, a five letter R name starring Stallone might help boost the box office on Part II. Part I made $47m domestically, and $78m internationally. The Rambo: First Blood Part II. Part II got a $44m budget, which was an increase of $30m! This made $150m domestically and internationally, more than doubling the gross on the better First Blood. Next up, Rambo III, which means no The Godfather portion at all. The budget went up another $20m, but brought in $10m less domestically than it cost to make (grossing $54m). Foreign intake dropped to $125m, making it still a huge success, despite being somehow even worse than Rambo/Part II, or whatever you want to call it.
2 If you are looking for a recommendation, Moscow Doesn’t Believe in Tears (Москва слезам не верит) is great, but easier to find might be the Criterion Collection’s Wings (Крылья).

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For Your Eyes Only

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As I said with Never Say Never Again, IF I were to have live tweeted this movie, here are some of the things I would have tweeted:

So this is how Ernst Stavro Blofeld dies? Until his resurrection in Spectre our last image is his wheelchair falling into a smokestack from a helicopter.

I have learned why they did that. Spite towards the man who owned the rights to Spectre and Blofeld.

I will buy you a delicatessen! Stainless steel! Actual quote from the film before Blofeld dies.

Title sequence: Sheena Easton is visible. I cannot remember another singer whom you see singing the theme in a Bond movie.

Why is there a British sailor handcuffed to a console?? Anyone who can invade the ship and would be able to move this “ATAC” system would not be stopped by one handcuffed man!

Ahhh now I get it! Handcuff is so there can be an underwater corpse/skeleton handcuffed to it later! Now it makes sense!

I can’t find a photo of it, but I swear that M is talking to English Commissioner Gordon (from the Adam West Batman).

This is who I'm talking about, Neil Hamilton from Batman 1966. And that's the Batphone, or course.

This is who I’m talking about, Neil Hamilton from Batman 1966. And that’s the Batphone, or course.

Gogol’s KGB office looks like a set piece last used in Sergei Eisenstein’s Ivan the Terrible. That is impressive in a really odd way.

WOW Moneypenny’s MI-6 gadget is a popup makeup display. So, so sexist.

Bond stopping his Lotus to read a map is surprisingly amusing. So not sexist.

I think of different actors in varying degrees when someone says Bond. If someone said it during this movie, I would think of Roger Moore. Since he is currently on screen.

Walther PPK IS NOT STANDARD ISSUE FOR THE BRITISH SECRET SERVICE!!

Okay so maybe it is. But Bond used to love his Beretta. He also was issued a Magnum in the books.

FYEO crossbow

No gun needed. Carole Bouquet’s Melina looks awesome with her crossbow.

The Chinese have a saying, “Before setting out for revenge, dig two graves.” Believe it or not Mr. Go-Rogue-For-Revenge James Bond said this!

Bond must have dug forty graves by now.

If this were a spaghetti western, he would have said, “Oh, gravedigger, three coffins please.” <10 minutes pass> “My mistake, four coffins.”

Close that door James! You’re in the Alps and left the door open on your balcony!

I think it is the Alps. I have never heard of Cortina.

I think it is in Italy.

Italian sleigh driver predicting “amore amore” for Bond and Melina. Having seen the movie before, I bet he’s right.

I do like the teenage girl forcing Bond to kiss her. Still creepy, but less sexist!

The East German biathlon champion is supposed to be a dick because he won’t stop his OLYMPIC RACE* to say hi to the teenage girl yelling to him.

*In hindsight, this might not be the actual Olympics.

WHAT!? He is forfeiting his lead to try to kill James Bond?! The East German team is more evil than I thought!

It is great how this place is both hosting the Olympics AND open to the public. That is just wonderful.

While absurd this skiing vs cycling scene has been awesome.

We had downhill!

Shooting!

Ski jump!

AND now bobsled!

Skiing on a bobsled track is crazy. Ditto for riding a motorcycle.

No no no no no! Not the hockey scene! So so dumb.

Huit! and Neuf! We must be playing baccarat! How Bond is this?!

And Bond plays his gut, not the odds. HOW IS HE SO GOOD AT CARDS!??! Answer—it’s scripted ya big dopes!

Took a break, but now I am back.

While my laptop was closed the countess wooed James and then got run over by the nefarious guy in glasses. It looked like he actually ran her over. That poor actress or stunt woman!

Okay, Bond has run up about 10 flights of stairs now. No way. I just don’t believe it. He’s like 50.

Yes! It is worth it though because he is about to kick the nefarious guy in glasses off a mountain. Sorry, kick his car with him in it off!

These underwater Greek ruins are awesome. But how did they get there?

We need to conserve oxygen. – James Bond. 30 seconds before talking solely to make a quip.

Mini-sub fight! The attacker is much better at this than Bond and Melina.

The beep-boop-bop sound effects of the attacking mini-sub are stellar. I’m thinking Oscar nom for sound editing.

5000 year old ruins!? What civilization made them? I am starting to think this was just created for the movie and not existent.

I feel like the element of surprise is a great idea, but also having lots of backup to come in once the defenders know an attack has started would help. Just some tips for Bond in the future.

I like how the technology was not good enough to zoom in too close with perfect resolution. It made it seem like we were looking through the binoculars too.

Hot shot guard kicked Bond off the cliff. Now go tell your friends! Or…try to finish him off before you get backup, I mean, it’s your funeral buddy…

I am sorry to see the body which fell like 800 feet did not explode. I mean, come on! Where is the realism?!

Impressive how Colombo knew Bond was manually signalling him through a wooden door. Maybe it was just telepathy?

Ahh the über-East-German seems much tougher than Bond. Although the 800 foot drop might give Bond the upper hand.

Bond was very busy trying to convince Melina not to kill the main bad guy for revenge while the bad guy got ready to stab Bond. That would have taught him to not be such a hypocrite.

Final thought—there was a character named Tanner, which means he was not invented for the Daniel Craig movies!

 

 

 

Never Say Never Again

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IF I were to have live tweeted this movie, here are some of the things I would have tweeted:

M to Bond, “Eliminate all free radicals.” Ha! Ha! Get it? I hope you do, because this movie is nothing but lazy puns!

Edward Fox—General Horrocks in A Bridge Too Far—does have a good demeanor for playing M.

FoxM

Did you know that this is a remake of Thunderball?

Did you know that the theme song to this is infinitely worse than Tom Jones’ Thunderball?

Tom Jones’ Thunderball would make a good name for a band.

Where is the Bond music? The fight scenes work less well without that, or some equally good theme.

Disconnecting the weights from a universal bench press decreases the weight, no the reverse. Oops.

Having the beefy henchman throw the janitor right when the janitor wakes up again is pretty funny.

Why is the beefy henchman dressed like an Australian karate chauffeur?

What just got thrown into the eyes of the Australian karate chauffeur?? And why did it kill him?

James Bond’s urine. From a sample. WHAT DOES HE CONSUME THAT MAKES IT HYDROCHLORIC (instead of uric) ACID!?

Also, the henchman crushed a bunch of glass into his own back post-urine splash.

The plan is to make this US airman betray his country by altering his eye into matching the President’s. Can’t believe it’s working!

In Thunderball they steal the plane, but in this they fire the nuclear missiles…even if they were “dummies” why would we practice this!?

Ha, the missiles went from 10 km away, to 4 km, to 5 km, to 3 km. Silly math!

Max Von Sydow is awesome as Blofeld. I could listen to him define S.P.E.C.T.R.E. all day.

The 00 section has been reinstated! Huzzah! I worried that the movie would become mostly Bond filing papers.

This dancing scene with Kim Basinger is pretty creepy. Why is her audio ADR-ed? I wonder if Largo (Klaus Maria Brandauer–The Russia House) got ADR-ed too?

Wow, Goldeneye ripped off the whole “bureaucrats and computers” running MI-6 complaints from this movie. Tsk tsk.

Young Rowan Atkinson! He is pre-Mr. Bean!

I like how Fatima Blush’s boat looks like the disco volante!

The Disco Volante being Largo’s big ship, duh.

Is that a bomb she put on Bond’s scuba tank? Of course not! That would never work! It’s  shark homing device!

This shark is a good actor.

No! He trapped the shark! Its’ jut a movie, it’s just a movie, it’s just a movie.

Wow, James Bond reeled in by a woman wearing only overalls! Classic 1980s side boob.

And now Fatima has taken my advice and decided to use a bomb. #Learning

The original Black Felix Leiter! His name is Bernie Casey and he played Cal Hudson on Star Trek: DS9. I knew I recognized him from Star Trek.

Domino (Basinger) has the opposite reaction most people would have to learning that their masseuse was in fact some random stranger not employed by the facility.

The more she thought about it, the more aroused she seemed to get.

Does she have a random stranger touching her without her knowing it fetish?

Is that a fetish?

The video game! There is so much in the movie that I associate with the Bond movies that I did not realize!

“It’s called Domination.” Creeeeeper.

You get shocked when you’re losing. Makes me not want to play this game.

Okay, so why would Fatima be so pleased about killing someone other than James Bond?

Her mission was to kill James Bond.

The female French agent? Totally not James Bond.

Her plan to capture him has worked great though! #SpokeToSoon

Her outfit. Is. Amazing.

Fatima0710-never2

I wish I could find one with a good view of those pants.

“I’m doing this for two reasons…one I’m trying to provoke an answer…and two, because I always wanted to.”

Wow this just turned offensive in northern Africa. #Slavers

This clearly influenced The Living Daylights wih the AKs and horses and Muslims.

Missed an opportunity for a Wilhelm Scream there!

Jumping off that castle into the water on a horse was Fast 5 level insane.

Why would Domino (Basinger) care about Bond after knowing him for like two days? He’s just not that likable.

I can’t even…

It makes more sense if you realize they were fired from a submarine...

It makes more sense if you realize they were fired from a submarine…

James Bond with a Mac 10, aka an uzi? To quote James Bond in Goldfinger, “shocking.”

How do the henchmen get these jobs? I like how one of them really appreciates the beauty of his surroundings.

As much as I like seeing Kim Basinger in a tiger bathing suit, I do not want to have to see Sean Connery in thin white trunks.

“I always have a martini at five.” — Alcoholic or OCD?

*** or somehow ½ star less than Thunderball. I gave Thunderball 3 & ½ stars!? And Entertainment Weekly gave it an A-?!?

And that concludes the first and only time I will do this. I will never fake live tweet a movie again.

“Never?”

“Never.”

<Cue theme song “Never say never again”>

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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***½

I was forced to love my mother, but not this dog. You know, Tomas… maybe… maybe, I love her more than I love you. Not more. I mean in a better way. I’m not jealous of her. I don’t want her to be different. I don’t ask her for anything.

This is a story set in the Prague Spring¹. It tells of a surgeon, Tomas, who enjoys a vigorous sex life. He is everything a woman could ask for, except monogamous. He falls in love with a barmaid, Tereza, and marries her. They also get a dog at their wedding dinner. This chafes at Sabina, Tomas’s best friend, whom he told he would never marry—he would not even spend the night with women after sex. Sabina is an artist and Tereza becomes a photographer, just in time for the Soviet invasion of 1968. They eventually flee the country, but Tereza returns, unable to stand Tomas and his infidelity. Tomas realizes he needs Tereza, and thus returns to Prague. Neither gets to keep their own passport. Tomas recants his anti-Stalinist article, but refuses to go beyond that. For this he gets reduced to a mere window washer by profession. Tereza wants to flee again, but without passports they cannot leave Czechoslovakia. Thus they go to the countryside. At almost every stage there is nudity and sex. In fact, the film is now mostly known for its passionate love scenes. If the past 15 years are any indication, this will only grow stronger in people’s minds as even movies that are explicitly just about sex—like the just released 50 Shades of Grey—have abandoned showing it. Based on the sex appeal, if this movie came out in 2015, it would have made two bazillion dollars over the Valentine’s Day weekend.

Tomas (Day-Lewis) and Sabina (Olin), in her apartment with that hat, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Tomas (Day-Lewis) and Sabina (Olin), in her apartment with that hat, The Unbearable Lightness of Being.

Tomas is played by a young Daniel Day-Lewis—Lincolnand he does an excellent job. Juliette Binoche—Caché—who is even younger, plays Tereza, and she does an excellent job. Lena Olin—The Ninth Gate—reminded me of Minnie Driver, but her performance was better than any I can remember from Driver; she portrays Sabina. None of their accents bothered me, which was a pleasant surprise.

I read the novel that this film is based on, which was written by Milan Kundera. Learning of the existence of this film blew my mind. I doubted that anyone, even Philip Kaufman, could turn it into a coherent film. My skepticism came from the strength of the novel being bereft of its plot. The relationships and the feelings between the characters mattered so much more than the earth shaking events around them. It is a novel that criticizes everyone in sight without falling victim to pessimism. Even though the movie fails to impart that genius, it did remind me of the novel, and that is a success of sorts. At times, even at 2:51, the story seems rushed to me. I wanted to see more of Sabina’s life, which veers off from the others about two-thirds the way into the film. Maybe if I were unfamiliar with the book I would not have felt that way. I did not feel the nostalgia that I expected, which disappointed me; perhaps I should just read the book again. The very end, though, touches upon the non-linear nature that I remembered from the book, and that was nicely bittersweet.

I can't help but tear up when I see this.

Karenin and Tereza (Juliette Binoche), at the end. © 1988 Orion Films.

Despite the death and suffering of humans, the character whose death affected me the most was definitely that of Karenin the dog. A woman with puppies gives the dog to the newlyweds, Tereza and Tomas. They banter about what to name the dog. Tereza proposes Anna, for Anna Karenina. But Tomas says that she ends so poorly, and thus Karenin is the appropriate name.² Tereza objects to having a male name for their female dog before acquiescing. Aleksei Aleksandrovich Karenin, as portrayed in the first book of Anna Karenina is one of my favorite characters of Tolstoy. This endeared me to the dog and when he gets cancer his owners want to save him from a painful end. In their own way, they wanted to save her from becoming an Anna. Tereza’s (Binoche’s) sadness and failing strength, combined with Tomas (Day-Lewis’s) cracking stoicism, touched me. He never showed that emotion when operating on humans. Tereza only showed equal emotion when confronting love itself and the unbearable lightness of being. There was nothing light about Karenin’s death, nor much in their lives, only heavy tears.

 

¹ The Prague Spring refers to 1968, and the time right before it, when Czechoslovakia—a socialist republic of the two current states of the Czech Republic and Slovakia—tried to go in a more democratic direction. As a result the arts flourished as the citizens felt safer from harsh Communist reprisals.

² In Slavic languages, like Russian and Czech, last names have gender. Aleksei Karenin was married to Anna Karenina. The name appearing in the middle, Aleksandrovich, is his patronymic, which tells the first name of his father. Aleksandr-ovich. Aleksandr (or Александр) + ovich or o/evna. It like in Hebrew when the name would be Alexis ben Alexander (Alexis son of Alexander).

No Holds Barred

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I won’t be around when this check clears!

 

Brell (Kurt Fuller) risking (life and) limb poking Rip (Hulk Hogan) in the chest. © 1989 WWE, No Holds Barred.

Brell (Kurt Fuller) risking (life and) limb poking Rip (Hulk Hogan) in the chest. © 1989 WWE, No Holds Barred.

Hulk Hogan, born Terry Bolea, plays Rip, the WWF heavyweight champion. Based on the above quotation you might expect that he signed the check and had deposited it into a bank, where, after it had been sent to a clearing house, funds would have been transferred into his account, probably a couple of days after he left the bank. What he meant to say was, “I don’t accept this check, brother!” The check was offered by Brell—Kurt Fuller—an immoral TV executive¹. Brell thinks that his network should be number one and that he needs Rip to do it. Unfortunately, Rip shoves the check into Brell’s mouth. When Rip turns him down he hatches a plan to make Rip wrestle for him and dispatches the love interest, Samantha—Joan Severance, to trick him into betraying the WWF. Part two of Brell’s plan is a show called “The Battle of the Tough Guys.” Gee, I cannot see why Vince McMahon—owner of the World Wrestling Federation/Entertainment— did not save that one for himself… On this stupid show one champion emerges: Zeus! Surprisingly Zeus is a really big black guy portrayed by Tommy “Tiny” Lister—the moral convict in The Dark Knight who *Spoiler Alert* throws the detonator off of the ferry. There have been allegations leveled against the WWF/WWE and Vince McMahon of racism, and the character of Zeus is pretty damning evidence thereof. Zeus arrives wearing prison issued blues. He has a lot of lines in this movie, but 95% of them are just him yelling “Argh!” He does not think for himself and just does what Brell tells him to. And this was written by McMahon and Hogan.

A reasonable question to ask is, in what world does this movie take place? Essentially, these are the facts: there are real people, or at least real characters, in the movie, for example “Mean” Gene Okerlund, Jesse “The Body” Ventura and Howard Finkel. But then there are also people wrestling under different names like “Rip” and “Jake Bullet”, who was one of the guys from the tag team Demolition. The last thing that most people are unaware of is the term “kayfabe”. That is the term for the fictional reality that pro wrestling is real. Breaking kayfabe would be being seen getting a drink with your hated rival, or talking about how the outcomes of matches are scripted. This movie absolutely takes place in a kayfabe universe. A kayfabe universe where there is a WWF, but no Hulk Hogan. This is a stupider world than even that of our own pro wrestling—Okerlund calls it a “big foot” instead of Hogan’s classic “big boot”. It was kind of absurd.

Brell (Fuller) & Zeus (Tommy "Tiny" Lister) after Zeus has won the first Battle of the Tough Guys. Note the stereotypical black thug clothing he is wearing. © WWE 1989, No Holds Barred.

Brell (Fuller) & Zeus (Tommy “Tiny” Lister) after Zeus has won the first Battle of the Tough Guys. Note the stereotypical black thug clothing he is wearing. © WWE 1989, No Holds Barred.

Nevermind, it was full on absurd. Rip and Samantha go out for dinner because she wants to talk business with him—even though he has told Brell to F-off—and Rip appears to want to have sex with her, despite his over-the-top gentlemanly exterior. They eat dinner in a church.² A church that Rip frequents enough to know the chef, but not so frequently that the waiter does not prejudge him based on his looks. Also absurd, women snorting in a bar with no cocktails or wine and that becoming the home to the inaugural “Battle of the Tough Guys”. I counted only one wrestling move in the entire movie—a gorilla press slam. And that happened outside of the wrestling matches. While I cannot find a clip of it, you can see the aftermath of the carnage, as said slam was through the windshield of a limo. It also results in the infamous “dookie” line.

After all of that madness³ I was left with two unanswered questions. One, the villain in this is a wrestling promoter, Brell, who tries to script the outcome of a wrestling match. Is this just ironic or is this an amazing new level of self-loathing that McMahon had for staying kayfabe, thus lying for a living, and using so many steroids? Two, how insane of an ending is this? Fans are cheering after a man has been electrocuted to death! F’n marks! Just marking out for the Hulkster or Ripster, or whatever. Lastly, I did not say spoiler alert because that would have implied that this movie could have been spoiled. Which it could not. Had this at ** but thinking about this much has made me like it that much less. Still, if you were/are a Hogan fan, this movie is a must watch.

 

¹ In the excellent How Did This Get Made podcast, Episode 84, with Thomas Lennon, they focus on the details of the scene and how terrible Hogan’s acting was, more than on the absurdity of the line.
² Same episode as above, and their description of the scene is much funnier than mine. It is also able to be heard unlike this review.
³ I wanted to say garbage, but that is unfair. But this is a Garry Marshall level bad movie, despite it not being in his style of terrible movie.

The Beast

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***

You’re a good soldier Anton. You can be counted on when they ask you to shoot your mother.

I forgot to review this movie! It was a tense thriller set inside of an isolated Soviet tank being hunted by the Mujhadeen. And it stars the ORIGINAL star of “Law & Order” George Dzundza. Plus Stephen Baldwin, Jason Patric and Erick Avari. No foolin’.

Back to the Future

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****½

Marty, I’m almost 18 years old. It’s not like I’ve never parked before.

Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines in Back to the Future, © 1985 Universal Pics.

Lea Thompson as Lorraine Baines in Back to the Future, © 1985 Universal Pics.

I noticed something different this time—what is playing at the movie theater. Before Marty, Michael J. Fox, goes back in time, the name of the movie playing is “Orgy American Style.” Upon his return it is “The Assembly of Christ,” with Reverend So-and-So. The implication is that with a few small changes that Michael J. Fox made in 1955 his family’s life greatly improved, the town got much nice, and Biff Tannen’s life worsened. But the internal logic of the film does not fit fully, since Doc Brown–Christopher Lloyd–gets shot by the terrorists and is already wearing his bulletproof vest. I do not know if that mistake or the Christian propaganda is the worst goof in the movie. Regardless, it is still amazing. Oh, now I remember the worst goof, the awful Chuck Berry phone call joke.

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