Revisiting Alien

Screenshot 2018-06-02 23.00.41In preparation for a video on the Screenphiles Youtube channel, I re-watched Ridley Scott’s Alien (the 2003 Director’s Cut, which adds a few scenes not in the theatrical version) and doing so reminded me of a colloquialism, namely you can never go home again because not only is it overrated, it’s also a bit silly in places.

And I fully admit to being impressed by the movie at the time, but it doesn’t wear particularly well.

We see earlier, when the exploratory party encounter the derelict and the ‘Space Jockey‘ that something exploded outward from it’s chest.

We know this because Dallas (Tom Skerritt)  comments that bones were visible, which directly contradicts most of what we see in 2012’s Prometheus, which claimed that the Space Jockey was wearing some sort of space suit.

And speaking of the Space Jockey, in Alien it’s literally three or four times the size of a regular human, while in Prometheus the Engineers are not significantly larger than an ordinary person.

Which makes me wonder:  Did Ridley Scott think that no one would view earlier films in the series?  Has he ever heard of ‘forced perspective?’  Why make changes that contradict what came before?

For instance, when Ash (Ian Holm) and Dallas examined Kane (John Hurt), didn’t anyone notice that a parasite had taken up residency in his stomach?

It’s a really irritating point and one could take the perspective that maybe Ash was altering the medical information, except for the fact that the movie–which implies throughout that he’s not to be trusted–not only doesn’t explicitly show that happening but shows that Mother–the ship’s computer–is working with him, so there is no need for him to do so.

A running theme through the Alien movies is that the ‘Company,’–Weyland Yutani–wanted the alien for the bio-weapons division, but nothing in the movie actually establishes that.  Originally it’s a theory offered by Ripley as to why Ash allowed Kane abroad the ship in the first place, and it’s a good explanation as any but never verified as fact (though I think it was mentioned in Alien 3 as well).

Alien is a trailblazing movie and an almost perfect synthesis of a British esthetic and an American big-budget thriller.  It’s a well done, at times clever movie but it doesn’t hold up particularly well (which ironically has more to do with Ridley Scott’s more recent efforts that the movie in and of itself).

 

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Hereditary – Official Trailer

img_0032I need to see this movie.

I read a week or so ago that the trailer was shown in a theater in Australia and it freaked everyone out (though to be fair it was prior to a showing of Peter Rabbit, with an audience likely made up mainly of children and their parents).

What I find remarkable is that a trailer upset them so much (it’s okay, a bit more atmospheric than most but nothing remarkable) when they live in a country that’s–if you have seen any of the myraid of nature specials on television–indicative of how virtually every other creature in the country seems engineered to kill humans.

Did Solo Really ‘Bomb’ In China?


img_0027-1 Words matter, so if you read ‘China Box Office: ‘Solo’ Bombs With Third-Place $10.1M Opening’ from The Hollywood Reporter you’re likely to assume that the movie failed there.

And in a sense it did, though Star Wars movies since being purchased by Disney have underperformed in the Middle Kingdom before–Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($69 million) and The Last Jedi ($42.5 million), notice the downward direction of those figures?–with perhaps the exception The Force Awakens ($124 million).

So, my question is why Solo: A Star Wars Story would be any different?

In fact, what should worry Lucasfilm is not it’s performance in China but it’s domestic take which at just over $83 million is problematic.

And it’s worth remembering that Ron Howard’s reshoots likely added somewhere in the ballpark of $50-100 million to the budget (that’s a guesstimate though I wouldn’t be at all shocked if it weren’t even higher),

A similar thing happened to Warner Bros Justice League when Joss Whedon replaced Zach Snyder.

So it’s not impossible that Solo will have the weakest opening of any of the Star Wars films under Disney, but could still eke out a profit when all is said and done though I but I wouldn’t be so quick to call–or imply–that it’s a bomb (even in China).

You Can’t Be Missed If You Won’t Go Away

I just read an article about how Zach Snyder’s plans for the DCEU were supposedly so “epic, grand, emotional, joyful and unforgettable” which bothers me more than a little bit because we’re hearing more about Snyder’s plans for this and intentions for that now than when Justice League was actually in theaters.

As I have said before, Zach Snyder is a talented director, but his vision left A LOT to be desired and was by no means fitting for the characters he was developing.

And his greatest problem was an attempt to apply a ‘one size fits all’ esthetic to DC characters (inspired by Christopher Nolan’s work on the Dark Knight trilogy).

A dark, gloomy feel works fine for Batman–though the constant murdering? Not so much–but the problems start when you try to apply the same esthetic to apparently EVERY character in the DCEU.

Superman is–virtually by design–the polar opposite of Batman. He exudes optimism and hope, and while Batman–who isn’t necessarily nihilistic or pessimistic–does embody a world weariness of sorts, a feeling that the individual is constantly fighting against the tide.

So Zach Snyder–either by design or accident–misread the essential nature of the characters he was working with, and made them look like those most of us have been familiar with and instead twisted them into weird, strange versions of themselves.

And the worse thing is, all Snyder and the executives at DC Films had to do is follow the example of what Marvel Studios did with Captain America, namely double-down on those traits (his honesty, forthrightness and a relatively ‘simple,’ black and white worldview) that were defining traits for the character for most of their existence.

in other words, Superman changed to fit the world we live in today, while Captain America stayed pretty much as he was in 1941, in all his squarish glory and was witness to the world changing around him to a time when his values and (relative) moral simplicity once again came back into vogue.

So Zach Snyder essentially ruined Batman and Superman as millions of people knew them so we need time to forget his funhouse mirror interpretations of our much loved superheroes, which won’t stand a chance of happening if he (or those in his orbit) keep implying that the only that was wrong with movies like Man of Steel, Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad was that we just weren’t clever enough to get it or maybe if we were just a bit more patient the wonderfulness infrequently seen would somehow make an overdue appearance.

The Happytime Murders – Red Band Trailer

Screenshot 2018-05-21 11.18.16The trailer for the Happytime Murders is admittedly funny, but the idea of children’s television characters acting inappropriately has a long history in television and movies.

Here’s a scene from the ‘Smiletime‘ episode from Angel (1999).

And Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988) revolved around cartoon characters interacting with the ‘real’ world–as opposed to puppets–though the same idea of subverting tropes typical to children’s television are still evident.

And there are certainly others.  I’m sure that there are television shows and movies that I haven’t included here (you could even go back to the ‘Living Doll’ episode of The Twilight Zone (1963) and the Puppetmaster (1989) franchise.

Though, back to The Happytime Murders.  As I have already stated it’s not nearly as subversive as it likes to think that it is though to be so all they had to do is include Muppets that people are already familiar with (like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and so on) though there’s no way that Disney (the current owners of the Muppets) would allow them to do so.

 

Do the ‘One Step Forward, Two Steps Back’

If you’ve visited these parts before, you probably picked up on an undercurrent, a intimation of dislike if you will, for the Syfy Channel.

If so, let me be clear: My irritation with Syfy is like a rash that flares up often enough that a more sensible person would have sought medical attention long ago.

My most recent problem?  They cancelled The Expanse, a series that had only been on the air for three seasons.

Why does that bother me, you may ask?  After all, I think I saw maybe two episodes–if that?

You see, I’m still smarting over the cancellation of Dark Matter, which was also in it’s third season when things went…well…dark.

And let’s be clear.  Three seasons is barely enough time to develop a storyline, especially one as ambitious as Dark Matter’s

Though to be fair I think I get it.  Dark Matter and The Expanse were likely expensive series to produce, so why bother when you can produce drek like ZNation or wrestling (what science fiction has to do with wrestling is a bit beyond me, until you take into account that wrestling means ratings).

So that’s the long and the short of it.  Syfy apparently places greater value over ratings as opposed to quality.

And I honestly get that though what it does mean is that it’s even more unlikely that the next Battlestar  Galactica will come from the channel.

And that’s the rub, especially since what Syfy is supposed to do is develop–and I know that this is a reach here–science fiction/fantasy-based series.

BlackkKlansman – Official Trailer #1

Spike Lee can be a very controversial director, though I typically find his movies somewhat difficult to watch.

This is due less to the subject matter–though he can be a bit pedantic at times–than he has certain stylistic tendencies (such as putting the actors on dollies and pulling them through a scene) that typically feels more distracting than illuminating.

In fact, the more ‘conventional’ Lee’s movies appear–such as Inside Man and Clockers, though so recall both have dolly scenes–the more I tend to enjoy them because they’re less about directorial affectation than telling a story as efficiently and as effectively as possible.

I can’t tell which camp BlackkKlansman will fall in, though I find it interesting that a similarly-titled movie was released in 1966. 

What I find particularly interesting about Lee’s film is that it’s supposedly based on a true story (which triggers my bs sensor because when that phrase is typically so loosely applied that it becomes almost meaningless).

Though the thing is that the premise of BlackkKlansman (a black man infiltrates the Ku Klux Klan) sounds so ludicrous that I’m willing to bet that a lot of it will be end up being true.