Alien (12/20/12)

AlienMovie Two Hundred Ninety

The crew of a ship returning to Earth investigates a strange signal from a small planet and discovers the horrors of Alien.

The Nostromo is traveling back to Earth from a mining expedition with a crew of seven but picks up a strange signal from a planetoid LV426 and are forced to investigate. Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt), and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) set out to investigate the signal where Kane encounters a strange egg that opens up and a creature attaches itself to his face. Brought back on-board the Nostromo, the creature eventually pops out of his chest and the rest of the crew has to find it. Along with the rest of the crew, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Ash (Ian Holm), Brett (Harry Dean Stanton), and Parker (Yaphet Kotto), they are trapped with the alien creature on board when they discover that Ash is actually an android and the discovery of LV426 was actually a secret directive from their employer.

In this post-Prometheus world we live in, I imagine people will either strongly side with Alien or welcome the “prequel” with open arms. Watching Alien again after several years actually made me appreciate Prometheus a bit more from a broad view. On its own, however, Alien is still a terrifying and claustrophobic film that has aged incredibly well and manages to maintain its status as one of the best sci-fi/horror movies ever made. Also, having watched the director’s cut of the film from the blu-ray anthology set, I didn’t notice any real differences in the film.

Much has been made of Ripley as a strong female lead for a film but in Alien, much of her survival is based on being at the right place at the right time. If she had gone out onto the planet, she might have ended up like Kane. She could have been killed by Ash, but Parker is there to help. If she had gone with Parker and Lambert in search of the alien, she might have been killed. There are obviously situations in which she is smart and strong, but in 1979, Ripley was not much better equipped for a situation like this than anyone else on-board the Nostromo.

I’m not a big fan of defining genres of films and Alien is a shining example why. Is it sci-fi or is it horror? Frankly, it’s both but I would argue that it’s more horror. The setup of Alien is not very different from a film like Texas Chainsaw Massacre where a group of people stumble on a bad situation and have to survive. The only difference here is the location is space, hence the sci-fi connection. Other films in the series take a different path, to varying results, but Alien proves to be a favorite among many fans of the franchise – and with good reason.

Personally, I prefer the more action-oriented sequel, Aliens, but Alien is a film that utterly chills me every time I watch it. I know the twists, I know the parts that make me jump, but they still have a profound effect on me even after multiple viewings. I’ll change what I said at the beginning of the this review; Alien is definitely one of the greatest horror films ever made.

I give it 5 chestbursters out of 5.

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Paris, Texas (4/30/12)

Paris, TexasMovie One Hundred Nine

Paris, Texas is a beautiful film from Wim Wenders about a man looking to make his life complete.

From the start, Paris, Texas is a slow building film about realistic characters living their lives. Travis (Harry Dean Stanton), a seemingly mute amnesiac, is wandering the desert and ends up at a roadside doctor. The doctor finds his brother, Walt (Dean Stockwell), who travels from L.A. to get Travis. We learn that Travis’ son has been living with Walt and his wife, who adopted him when Travis and his wife disappeared one day. The film follows Travis on his journey to find Paris, Texas and reconnect with his son.

The last Wim Wenders film I wrote about (Wings of Desire) was a beautiful film, both visually and audibly, but to me, Paris, Texas is a more touching, personal film. For the first hour, you may be wondering what could possibly happen in the film and how it could even end, but the final sequence is so moving that when the film ends you will still be reeling from what you just witnessed. For me, it’s a film that stays with you long after the end credits begin rolling.

As a huge fan of Criterion Collection releases, Paris, Texas is one of the best sets available. Aside from being a fantastic movie, the special features are plentiful and the sound and picture of the Blu-Ray is spectacular. While the film is not for everyone, those willing to have a slow paced character film will likely be touched and I think it may jump to some favorites lists. The first time I watched this, the ending was sort of interrupted and while I was still quite impressed with the film, a second viewing was necessary and an absolute joy to get to watch again. I look forward to my third time viewing Paris, Texas.

I give it 5 wandering Travis’ out of 5.

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Repo Man (4/13/12)

Repo ManMovie Eighty

Please don’t judge Repo Man by it’s atrocious cover art, it’s actually a very smart action/comedy/sci-fi movie that is surprisingly fresh even all these years later.

In a nutshell, Repo Man is about an LA punk rocker named Otto (Emilio Estevez) that gets tricked into reposessing a car by Bud (Harry Dean Stanton) and finds out he really likes the life of a repo man. As all of this is happening, there is a man driving around something in his trunk that vaporizes anyone that opens it. Obviously, the two stories eventually intertwine and we learn the truth of what is happening. It’s actually quite well done.

Repo Man does not fit in many conventional standards. It’s not an action film. It’s not a sci-fi film. It’s not a comedy. Though there are certainly large portions of those genres and maybe a few more, the tone is constantly evolving. The inclusion of all those genres does not come at the expense of the others either, it’s all balanced nicely.

If you live in Region B (Europe, Africa, Australia, et al.) then I would strongly suggest picking up Eureka’s Masters of Cinema entry. It looks absolutely fantastic. Those of other in Region A…Pray for a Criterion release or get a region free player. It’s also available on Netflix Instant Watch for now.

Repo Man is a movie that I was expecting to be really schlocky and qualify as so-bad-its-good. While the acting and some of the dialogue is not very good, the film doesn’t suffer because of it. In fact, it seems to make a point to rise above it. Harry Dean Stanton in particular is wonderful. I was not expecting to enjoy Repo Man nearly as much as I did and I’m afraid I will be unable to do it justice in merely writing about it. It’s a film that just needs to be seen.

I give it 4 trunk vaporizations out of 5.

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