James Cameron took the reigns of Alien from Ridley Scott for Aliens, a sequel that perhaps could be used to define a great sequel. Aliens takes the brilliant approach of modifying the genre of the first film from a straight horror to action horror. I know some just say straight action but that undercuts the sequences, so expertly crafted by Cameron, that are so genuinely unnerving. It has to be said that this easily Cameron's best screenplay. Cameron takes off what was previously established in the first film and brilliantly builds off of it in new directions through the introduction of the space marines including a far less deceptive robot, as well as in terms of expanding the xenomorphs through the addition of a Queen. The success of the writing goes beyond concepts though. There is so much life in the well drawn characters with so many unforgettable lines throughout. It is also worth mentioning, which so many seem to forget, is the film builds Ripley's arc from sole survivor to true hero in such believable and effective fashion, aided of course by Sigourney Weaver's great performance. Of course the whole cast is great, including the sometimes derided Bill Paxton who deserves all the credit for his "game over" adlib. There is such a vibrancy in the characters, that some actually went onto define a certain types in later films, like Jenette Goldstein's Private Vasquez. The action and the effects both come together, yet never for a moment do they override the emotional connection to the characers. The film is one of the best sequels ever made as it successfully takes the franchise in a new direction into a different genre while making an almost equally captivating film in that alternate genre.
Monday, November 14, 2016
Looking at Alien is quite something as it might be the most overachieving film of all time. Just in terms of its central idea it’s a monster in a house thriller, but the house just happens to be a spaceship. The film knows no such simplicity, even though the plot itself does technically hold true to that form. The screenplay though isn't simple. I don't just mean that in the twists and turns, which should not be hand waved as the several twists in the film are some of the most effective twists you'll see in any film. It also cares so much for character. Although most of the characters are going to be killed, they are not just there to be killed. We learn about each of them as people, and there is real dynamic across the crew. Of course this is helped greatly by the film having one of the greatest ensembles of all time. There is not a wasted performance everyone adds something extra with how honestly they inhabit their characters in this film. Then there's every technical element of the film all utilized brilliantly by Ridley Scott's masterful direction. His vision takes the film to even greater heights as it crafts this world that is terrifying, awe inspiring, and lived in all at the same time. Alien as a horror film is encased in the atmosphere of a cold space, underlined with a tension and scares that few films can emulate, whether it is Dallas's lonely walk through the air vents or Kane's rather unhealthy meal. As a horror film is arguably the greatest of all time, yet it is also simply one of the greatest films of all time as well.5/5
Thursday, November 10, 2016
The English Civil War has the material for what seems could be a masterpiece, well Cromwell's not quite that. I won't disparage the film too much though because that does not mean it's bad either. The film reduces some of the complexity, the religious element is underplayed here, to make it more about a struggle for freedom in a more general sense. This makes Cromwell a fairly straight forward figure, as man who wants to do what is right, and Richard Harris plays him as basically a reluctant hero. The more interesting character is in Charles I played with great nuance by Alec Guinness. The depiction of the war it has a bit of fun with the parley, and the battle scenes are effective though not awe inspiring. The best portion of the film is actually after the war is over and the film allows for a bit more complexity as the winners struggle to decide what to do. We also get the most emotional scenes through Guinness's portrayal of Charles as a good man, but a bad leader. Cromwell is a good film, but I do hope they'll make a great film out of the events some day.
Diamonds Are Forever marks Connery's not so triumphant return to Bond. I mean Connery's there but he might as well not be at times. He's very detached most of the time, which means he's only still better than Roger Moore in all of his Bond films. There isn't anything inspired about this effort and there is a lack of fun for the most part. This Blofeld has nothing to offer, and though Charles Gray isn't bad in terms of his performance. The film is in particular a let down when one considers its predecessor On Her Majesty's Secret Service, which only major fault was Bond himself. What probably stands out most in this version is Jill St. John, just because she offers a lively presence compared to Connery's low energy one, and the ridiculous stereotype hit men after Bond throughout the film mostly because of just how over the top they are. There are worse Bonds, but this is not a very good one.
Thunderball, as opposed to You Only Lives Twice, stands right as a real middle of the road Bond film. Connery is good not great, the set pieces are pretty good, and the story more than serves its purpose. It's one where nothing about it stands out to the point that you'd ever say that was the best of Bond, but it's a film where you can watch it with ease. It's has enough entertaining Bond spectacle to be sure. Bond films can be more with a more devoted Bond, and a better villain. We don't get those here, but sometimes enough is enough.
You Only Live Twice was the first last Sean Connery Bond film, an odd statement but true due to Connery retiring three times from the role before it permanently took. You Only Lives Twice has several of the earmarks of a lesser Bond. Connery isn't exactly giving it his all, the action set pieces are not all that spectacular, though not bad, and the majority of the film is going through the motions. The one part of the film that seems against this is our Blofeld played by the very talented Donald Pleasance, even though he's good, he's also barely in the film. It's a film that is easy enough to watch, but honestly the most memorable part of the film, outside of Pleasance, is the worst part of the film. That being the bizarre sequence where Bond goes undercover as a Japanese man through some terribly unconvincing makeup that apparently is just as unconvincing to the film's villains.2.5/5
Monday, November 7, 2016
The second half of Deathly Hallows is also the final installment of the series. Now first with the negative, this film unfortunately struggles with a few elements from the book. The final battle is such a cluster that certain character deaths seem but afterthoughts. It also has that downright abysmal epilogue. The unambiguous epilogue itself was poorly conceived to begin, and it is worse in the film due to some very distracting attempts to age the young cast, past those problems though the rest of the film is pretty great. It is thrilling in its initial scenes with the raid on the bank, it is downright heartbreaking as we find out the truth behind Snape all along, and it is rather inspiring as certain character finally get their due particularly one Neville Longbottom. David Yates work does not disappoint for the most part nor does the work from the legion of British thespians particularly Alan Rickman and Maggie Smith. It is conceivable that a stronger finale could have been crafted; however this is still a worthy end to the series.3.5/5