I always think of Aliens as a precisely choreographed ballet. Director Cameron moves his large cast–though it does winnow over time–around in these cramped sets and everyone has something to do; Cameron draws the viewer’s attention to one character, but the rest are in motion setting up the next moment in the scene.
Watching the film this time, I noticed how Cameron’s subtle introductions to each character later define them. Sure, there’s a handful of characters who don’t get much focus, but about nine do. It’s like a ballet on wires.
Cameron’s script is also able to keep up its urgency throughout. The titular aliens don’t even appear at the start of the second act; Cameron holds them off as long as possible, which later lets Aliens constantly break expectations. Cameron organically sets up and knocks down various possibilities for the film… all while following some definite horror genre standards.
Aliens is meticulous–Ray Lovejoy’s editing is truly astounding, whether he’s passing time with a fade or perfectly cutting the action scenes. Adrian Biddle’s photography’s excellent–as is the effects work–but Lovejoy’s editing is simply wow.
All of the principals are excellent. Obviously Sigourney Weaver, but Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen and Paul Reiser are great too. Carrie Henn is fantastic in her difficult, understated scream princess role. I love how the script implies character relationships developing offscreen. It’s wonderful.
Cameron achieves a major success. Aliens is exhilarating. Like most great films, it gets better with every viewing.
Directed by James Cameron; screenplay by Cameron, based on a story by Cameron, David Giler and Walter Hill and characters created by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett; director of photography, Adrian Biddle; edited by Ray Lovejoy; music by James Horner; production designer, Peter Lamont; produced by Gale Anne Hurd; released by 20th Century Fox.
Starring Sigourney Weaver (Ripley), Carrie Henn (Newt), Michael Biehn (Hicks), Paul Reiser (Burke), Lance Henriksen (Bishop), Bill Paxton (Hudson), Jenette Goldstein (Vasquez), William Hope (Lt. Gorman), Al Matthews (Sgt. Apone), Mark Rolston (Drake), Ricco Ross (Frost) and Paul Maxwell (Van Leuwen).
Alien vs. Predator series:
Posted in 1986, 20th Century Fox, Action, Adventure, Color, English, Sci-Fi, Thriller, UK, USA
Tagged Adrian Biddle, Al Matthews, Bill Paxton, Carrie Henn, Dan O'Bannon, David Giler, Gale Anne Hurd, James Cameron, James Horner, Jenette Goldstein, Lance Henriksen, Mark Rolston, Michael Biehn, Paul Maxwell, Paul Reiser, Peter Lamont, Ray Lovejoy, Ricco Ross, Ronald Shusett, Sigourney Weaver, Walter Hill, William Hope
The last time I tried to watch Near Dark, I failed miserably. This time I suppose I made it through the running time–I think that still image at the end is supposed to be some profound statement–but not all of my brain cells made it with me. They abandoned ship as the film progressed.
The only conceivable reason I can come up with for Near Dark‘s popularity is its mid-1990s rarity. It was a reuniting of memorable Aliens cast members and it wasn’t readily available on video–there was an old HBO Home Video release and I’m not sure it got another release until DVD. There was a laserdisc too, I believe, and it went for a lot on eBay (even pan and scan).
Bigelow doesn’t direct it poorly. She’s definitely mediocre, but her direction is far more competent than her script. Apparently she and Eric Red were going for a modern Western. They fail miserably, sort of because Bigelow–as a director–lets that analog be so quiet. Tim Thomerson searching for his “abducted” son is a Western, but it’s not if the main character is the son (a trying really hard Adrian Pasdar).
Lance Henriksen, Jenny Wright and Thomerson are good. Bill Paxton’s bad, like he’s Hudson doing a hick vampire impression. Jenette Goldstein and Joshua John Miller are both atrocious.
Near Dark‘s one of Tangerine Dream’s better scores and it does have great special effects.
But those don’t save it from being incredibly stupid.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow; written by Bigelow and Eric Red; director of photography, Adam Greenberg; edited by Howard E. Smith; music by Tangerine Dream; production designer, Stephen Altman; produced by Steven-Charles Jaffe; released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group.
Starring Adrian Pasdar (Caleb Colton), Jenny Wright (Mae), Lance Henriksen (Jesse Hooker), Bill Paxton (Severen), Jenette Goldstein (Diamondback), Tim Thomerson (Loy Colton), Joshua John Miller (Homer) and Marcie Leeds (Sarah Colton).
Posted in 1987, Color, De Laurentiis Entertainment Group, Drama, English, Horror, Romance, Thriller, USA
Tagged Adam Greenberg, Adrian Pasdar, Bill Paxton, Eric Red, Howard E. Smith, Jenette Goldstein, Jenny Wright, Joshua John Miller, Kathryn Bigelow, Lance Henriksen, Marcie Leeds, Stephen Altman, Steven-Charles Jaffe, Tangerine Dream, Tim Thomerson
Lethal Weapon 2 opens with the Looney Tunes music. It’s appropriate. I don’t think any other film series has so successfully adapted the sitcom to the big screen. The whole point of Lethal Weapon 2 is not to think–maybe as a ten year-old, I believed the South Africans could get away with all their crimes on U.S. soil under the veil of diplomatic immunity (hey, it’s not like there’s any oil in South Africa, so it’s totally unrealistic)–you’re not allowed to think about the plot, Mel Gibson falling in love with Patsy Kensit (which also seemed a lot more likely when I was ten or eleven) or, I don’t know, anything else. It’s a crowd-pleaser, one where the good guys are good and they win.
How the film diverts attention is rather simple, but interesting. The villains–instead of necessarily having to do bad things–are automatically villains. The terrorists in The Delta Force were more human. The South African villains–Joss Ackland is an amazing creep, he looks like he’s going to lick Kensit’s face in one scene–are perfect. They’re bad and it’s fun to watch them get killed off in interesting ways.
Gibson’s okay in this one–his character is a little too tame, so much so, when he goes wild at the end, it seems forced. Danny Glover’s got a lot of one liners but he’s good. Joe Pesci’s funny. Derrick O’Connor is a solid villain.
It’s a perfect waste of time.
Directed by Richard Donner; screenplay by Jeffrey Boam, based on a story by Shane Black and Warren Murphy and on characters created by Black; director of photography, Stephen Goldblatt; edited by Stuart Baird; music by Michael Kamen, Eric Clapton and David Sanborn; production designer, J. Michael Riva; produced by Donner and Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.
Starring Mel Gibson (Sergeant Martin Riggs), Danny Glover (Sergeant Roger Murtaugh), Joe Pesci (Leo Getz), Joss Ackland (Arjen Rudd), Derrick O’Connor (Pieter Vorstedt), Patsy Kensit (Rika van den Haas), Darlene Love (Trish Murtaugh), Traci Wolfe (Rianne Murtaugh), Steve Kahan (Captain Ed Murphy), Mark Rolston (Hans), Jenette Goldstein (Officer Meagan Shapiro), Dean Norris (Tim Cavanaugh), Juney Smith (Tom Wyler), Nestor Serrano (Eddie Estaban), Philip Suriano (Joseph Ragucci), Grand L. Bush (Jerry Collins), Tony Carreiro (Marcelli), Damon Hines (Nick Murtaugh), Ebonie Smith (Carrie Murtaugh), Allan Dean Moore (George) and Jack McGee (the carpenter).
Lethal Weapon series:
Posted in 1989, Action, Afrikaans, Color, Comedy, Crime, English, Thriller, USA, Warner Bros.
Tagged Allan Dean Moore, Damon Hines, Danny Glover, Darlene Love, David Sanborn, Dean Norris, Derrick O’Connor, Ebonie Smith, Eric Clapton, Grand L. Bush, J. Michael Riva, Jack McGee, Jeffrey Boam, Jenette Goldstein, Joe Pesci, Joel Silver, Joss Ackland, Juney Smith, Mark Rolston, Mel Gibson, Michael Kamen, Nestor Serrano, Patsy Kensit, Philip Suriano, Richard Donner, Shane Black, Stephen Goldblatt, Steve Kahan, Stuart Baird, Tony Carreiro, Traci Wolfe, Warren Murphy
I can’t forget so I need to open with it. In this ‘rah-rah, go USA’ twiddle, Sean Connery actually hijacks a eulogy at a Medal of Honor winner’s funeral to resolve his issues with his daughter. It’s a hilarious close to the movie, which has such bad jokes throughout, a laugh track wouldn’t be out of place.
The film’s actually incredibly important in terms of 1980s film history–it’s Paramount trying to repeat pass success without the people involved with those successes. The Presidio is basically a Simpson/Bruckheimer production (down to the terrible script from Larry Ferguson), just without their particular brand of cinematic styling–for all the lame chases and exploding cars, Peter Hyams is not a bad director… he has a good understanding of using a Panavision frame to tell narrative, apparently just not the sense to know how to fix a bad script. The film’s missing a hip score and Eddie Murphy. Mark Harmon’s in the Eddie Murphy role, though I’m not sure if Simpson and Bruckheimer would have gotten rid of Connery. (He’s actually not terrible in it, with his native… ability–or long experience–above the script).
Harmon’s pretty terrible, with his bouffant hair doing most of the “acting” for him. Casting Harmon as a tough cop was a ludicrous decision and he spends most of the film utterly lost, kind of like a deer in headlights. Meg Ryan, however, is pretty good.
Hyams takes advantage of San Francisco as a location (not just for the frequent chases) and it gives The Presidio a classier look than it deserves. But as a Paramount executive shepherd’s pie–I’m wondering if all the principles were fulfilling contracts since all three did Paramount work just prior–it’s a gem. It’s atrocious, with simpler politics than First Blood (how they didn’t get a Reagan cameo, I don’t know), but it’s always rare to see a film so empty of any artfulness.
And what was Jack Warden doing in it? From The Verdict to The Presidio… it’s inexplicable.
Directed and photographed by Peter Hyams; written by Larry Ferguson; edited by James Mitchell; music by Bruce Broughton; production designer, Albert Brenner; produced by D. Constantine Conte; released by Paramount Pictures.
Starring Sean Connery (Lt. Col. Alan Caldwell), Mark Harmon (Jay Austin), Meg Ryan (Donna Caldwell), Jack Warden (Sgt. Maj. Ross Maclure), Mark Blum (Arthur Peale), Dana Gladstone (Col. Paul Lawrence) and Jenette Goldstein (Patti Jean Lynch).
Posted in 1988, Action, Color, Crime, English, Mystery, Paramount Pictures, Thriller, USA
Tagged Albert Brenner, Bruce Broughton, D. Constantine Conte, Dana Gladstone, Jack Warden, James Mitchell, Jenette Goldstein, Larry Ferguson, Mark Blum, Mark Harmon, Meg Ryan, Peter Hyams, Sean Connery