[Oscar Madness Monday] Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Screenplay: Dan O’Bannon

117 mins. Rated R.

  • Academy Award Winner: Best Effects, Visual Effects
  • Academy Award Nominee: Best Art Direction – Set Decoration

IMDb Top 250: #53 (as of 4/29/2020)

 

Recently, in April, Alien fans everywhere celebrated Alien Day on 4/26 (as in LV-426, the moon where the Facehugger Eggs are first discovered in the original film), and it seems like a great time to revisit that very important film, one that changed many minds about the strength of horror films and sci-fi films.

The commercial transport ship Nostromo is returning to Earth with Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt, Contact, Lucky) and the other six members of the crew in stasis sleep. They are awoken by the ship’s computer it detects a transmission coming from a nearby moon. The crew sends a team down to discover the origins of the transmission, and what they uncover on the planet is more horrifying than any of them have ever known.

This comparison has been made many a time, but Alien shares a lot with Jaws. Now, everyone is going to say that the less-is-more comparison is obvious, but I’m looking at it from a different angle. The use of darkness and perspective in particular highlights all of the strengths of the film, particularly in their central monster. Director Ridley Scott (The Martian, All the Money in the World) understands what will work and what won’t, and he utilizes his tools well. Looking at some of the behind-the-scenes photos of the film, and particularly the xenomorph (played by Bolaji Badejo) showcase that this movie could’ve looked damn goofy, but the way it was shot and the way it was lit helps to focus the mood of the film, and it still, to this day, looks gorgeous as much as it looks gruesome.

Actor John Hurt on the set of “Alien”. (Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

The cast is fantastic, with specific emphasis thrown toward Sigourney Weaver (Avatar, Ghostbusters II) as Ripley, the warrant officer, and Ian Holm (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, 1066: The Battle for Middle Earth) as Ash, the science officer. Everyone gets at least one great moment in the film.

The script is very strong and runs along very smoothly. This movie just cruises along, with no extra fat. Looking at Alien as a screenplay, it could very simply boil down into a slasher film as the xenomorph moves through the ship trying to pick off the crew one-by-one, but thankfully, the Dan O’Bannon (Dark Star, The Return of the Living Dead) screenplay is stacked with flavor and atmosphere that Scott was able to play off of.

Ridley Scott’s strong directing and Dan O’Bannon’s screenplay combined to make a truly excellent atmospheric horror film. This is one that has aged like a fine wine, and it features some incredible set pieces, including the dinner scene with John Hurt’s (1984, The Elephant Man) intense performance is still one of the most shocking movie moments of all time. This is a movie that shows that not everything needs explaining and that, in fact, some films are stronger without all the answers. Stick with the Theatrical Cut as Scott’s Director’s Cut no longer makes full canonical sense within the confines of the xenomorph’s life cycle, but both versions of Alien are well-worth your time.

 

4.5/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

 

 

For my review of Ridley Scott’s The Martian, click here.

For my review of Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World, click here.

The Big Push: Sony Bumps Its Summer Releases Into 2021

Well, COVID-19 has caused another studio to push a lot of properties into 2021. To my knowledge, F9: The Fast Saga, the latest in the Fast & Furious franchise, is the only film that was pushed into 2021. Now, Sony has added several more films to that list.

Sony Pictures has adjusted the release dates for Morbius, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Uncharted, and Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway into early 2021. The Kevin Hart film Fatherhood was moved from 2021 into October of this year in all the shuffle, and Greyhound, the Tom Hanks-scripted and starring film, was removed from its June date.

The only significant Sony film that didn’t adjust is Venom 2, the upcoming sequel to the very-successful Venom film from 2018. Let’s break this down…

Morbius, starring Jared Leto, was set to be the second film in Sony’s Spider-Man Character Universe. It was set to follow the first Venom film and it had a lot of questions surrounding it. The trailer featured posters of Spider-Man as well as a moment with Michael Keaton potentially playing Vulture again, which would be mind-blowing because many believed that Disney would not allow Sony to do that with the current deal in place. Many wondered if Morbius was firmly plant itself as MCU-adjacent, and the question therefore came to, “Will it connect to Venom as well?” Now that Morbius will come out after Venom 2, that seems to tell us that the films won’t crossover. If they did, Morbius would likely have taken Venom 2‘s spot and Venom 2 would have likely moved to 2021.

Ghostbusters: Afterlife is something I’ve been very excited for, but this film has a lot to accomplish. I was really excited to see how this film would pick up the franchise and get it going again, but the biggest hurdle of this sequel isn’t Ghostbusters II. It’s 2016’s Ghostbusters: Answer the Call. I know, they aren’t related, but not everyone will connect that. What people will connect is how they didn’t like that film. Ghostbusters: Answer the Call was very mixed in its reactions. I really enjoyed the 2016 film myself, but I know there were a lot of people that didn’t love the film, and now we have this upcoming sequel to Ghostbusters II that has a new, potentially concerning release date. Release dates are an economic science, and choosing a date can make or break your release.

Uncharted, like The New Mutants, seems cursed. This movie just cannot catch a break. This most recent push just signals that the film may never happen.

As far as Peter Rabbit 2: The Runaway goes, I couldn’t care less. The first wasn’t great but not horrible, but I don’t need to see another one.

So there you have it. A lot of changes, and a lot more waiting. You may be asking “Why? Why bump these movies so early?” It’s all for marketing. If you cannot guarantee the release date, you can’t spend millions marketing a movie.

So what do you think? Which of these adjustments hits you the hardest or do you not care about any of them? Let me know/Drop a comment down below!

 

-Kyle A. Goethe

The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

or “The Living Don’t Entertain”

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Cast: Bill Murray, Adam Driver, Tilda Swinton, Chloë Sevigny, Steve Buscemi, Danny Glover, Caleb Landry Jones, Rosie Perez, Iggy Pop, Sara Driver, RZA, Carol Kane, Selena Gomez, Tom Waits, Austin Butler

Screenplay: Jim Jarmusch

104 mins. Rated R for zombie violence/gore, and for language.

 

The Dead Don’t Die might have the greatest cast of 2019, but everyone in the film is a guest star in someone else’s movie, but no one knows who that someone is.

In the sleepy and small town of Centerville, the dead have started to rise. Polar fracking has caused the Earth to fall of its axis, causing strange phenomena like sunlight at odd hours or cell phones dying, and of course…zombies. Chief Cliff Robertson (Bill Murray, Lost in Translation, Ghostbusters II) and Officer Ronnie Peterson (Adam Driver, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, BlacKkKlansman) don’t know how to stop the phenomenon, and Ronnie has a feeling that this is going to end up bad. The only residents in town that seem to understand the stakes are Hermit Bob (Tom Waits, Seven Psychopaths, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs) and a mortician with swordplay skills named Zelda (Tilda Swinton, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Avengers: Endgame).

The first sin of this zombie comedy is boredom, and it is visited upon the audience rather quickly. I never would have thought a zombie film with this impressive cast could bore, but it did. Director and screenwriter Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai) seemingly pays tribute to zombie history in film, but he does it with what feels like an ineffective laziness, never really giving his zombies any bite. His tone is never struck sharply enough to affect the viewer. It’s clear that he studied the genre, but he never delivers on any of the elements the genre requires. His knocks on the current political climate work well enough, from the Make America White Again hat worn by Farmer Frank (Steve Buscemi, Fargo, TV’s Miracle Workers) to the claims of Fake News on the television concerning the cause of the rising dead.

As I said before, most of the cast listlessly moves through the film with deadpan wit. Some of the jokes work, but most do not, and the way the film is written, with Driver and Murray aware that they are in a film, is neither executed fully nor elaborated beyond three lines of jarringly useless dialogue. If that had been the full conceit, that some of the actors knew they were in a zombie film and understood the rules, that would be one thing, but it is never elaborated on enough to really mean anything. In fact, the characters would behave no differently in the film if I had replaced the zombie problem with something like one of them forgetting to turn off the oven at home.

The Dead Don’t Die has moments of greatness, but they are few and far-between. The cast is wasted on a subpar script and an attitude that shows no real love for the genre. Boring is a tough thing to achieve when you have creatures eating human flesh, and it that was the goal, it was met.

 

2/5

-Kyle A. Goethe

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