Movies


On DVD


ALIENS
Special Edition

Written and Directed by James Cameron

One of the most interesting aspects of this DVD is that it contains a lot of raw test footage. These elements give the average film and video maker a look inside the process of making a special effects motion picture.

It also gives the budding video maker a look at how “mediums” compare to one another. Most of the “test footage” elements are shot on VHS video tape and you can readily see the “red” and “green” artifact tinges on objects. You can also see the low quality of the image caused by the “heterodyne” process of converting a 3 mega Hertz signal down to a lower frequency for the 240 lines of monochrome resolution as well as pulsing the 60 lines of color signal on the sync wave.

In the interview with a fellow writer whom I know, Don Shay (editor/publisher of the outstanding Cinefex magazine in the 1980’s), Shay used a much higher quality U-Matic ¾” system to video an interview with director James Cameron. Once again, in the white areas of Cameron’s shirt you can see faint red and green tinges, but these are far smaller artifacts.

The test footage elements show are those sent by the special effects films departments to the studio and director for approval and to keep them advised as to where they are in the making of the final project. We see the clay sculpting process. We see how custom parts are made and tested to generate movements of the Alien creatures. Most of these are silent (MOS - mit out sound) but a few have commentary from the special effects unit managers.

Finally we see the actual film, itself, which was shot in 35mm which is rated at HD quality of pixel imaging and converted to MP2 format at 486 lines for DVD. Here we see the final higher quality level of the professional video processes in action on the finished models.

The movie is one of the best. Starring Sigourney Weave who reprises her role as Ellen Ripley from the first move, Alien, along with Michael Biehn and Lance Hendriksen who both acted for James Cameron in his first major feature outing, “Terminator.” Paul Reiser co-stars as the “bad company guy.”

In the original Alien a “company” ship is pulled out of flight path because of largely unknown hidden instructions to investigate any strange occurrence that might resemble none human activities. Tom Skerritt (“Picket Fences” star) is the Captain and Ellen Ripley is one of the tech crew members. They find an “Alien” ship and discover a catch of “eggs” - one of which attaches to a crew members helmet. After the “egg” gismo comes off the helmet they think everything is fine, but then a small “Alien” creature bursts from the chest of that man as they are having a final supper before going back into hyper sleep. The little Alien create runs off and they cash it, only to find it quickly grows to very large proportions and excretes acid that eats through metal. The Alien manages to kill off one crew member after another before Ripley finally does it in by sending it through the airlock of her escape pod into deep space. She then goes into hyper sleep and drifts homeward.

A very dark and super tense movie directed by Ridley Scott.

Here is where Aliens picks up the saga, now under the direction of James Cameron (who gave us “Terminator” and later the multi Oscar winning “Titanic”). Ripley’s ship is found. She is tried and convicted of bad conduct and loses her flight status. She has bad dreams and nightmares about “Aliens” and things popping out of her chest.

Paul Riser is the “company man” who convinces her to go back to the original Alien planet, not a terraforming colony from Earth, to investigate why transmissions have stopped.

Along with a pool of Marines, including Biehn as a Corporal and Bill Paxton (co-star of “Twister” who is featured in many films starting way back with “Weird Science”) they go back down the planet and do it by the numbers, only to encounter many, many, many Aliens who quickly dispense with half the platoon.

Their landing ship destroyed, low on ammunition and with a Corporal now in command, assisted by Ripley, the technical advisor who he now relies on heavily because she know more than everyone else, and a little girl from the colony named, Knute, who is the only living survivor and managed to stay alive alone and with no weapons for weeks.

The make a last stand (reminiscent of John Carpenter’s “Assault of Precinct 13”) against the Aliens as synthetic person (i.e. android) Lance Hendriksen tries to bring down the second landing craft so they can get out of there before the whole place blows in 4 hours.

An outstanding action film that was nominated for several Oscars.

Chronicles of Riddick
Unrated Directors Cut Version

Written and Directed by David Twohy

Also: Pitch Black

Chronicles of Riddick is actually a third part in the series that began with the feature release “Pitch Black” in which Riddick, played by Vin Diesel, was the stand-out part of an ensemble cast of characters. Between this live action feature and that live action feature was an animated version that featured the voice of Diesel.

Riddick is a super anti-hero. Technically he’s a murdering criminal and he won’t mice words with you over that fact.

In the movie Pitch Black Riddick was shackled and on his way to a prison, part of the “chattel” in a deep space flight that crashes on a strange planet with several suns that inhabited by huge bat-like creatures that exist only in the dark or night or depths of caves. With several suns there is almost never a night. Almost. It just so happens that once every now and then all the suns leave view for a bit of a while and these creatures make their way up to the surface from the depths below and guess who’s up on top! Yep, part of that chattel from the crashed ship, including the co-pilot, a holy man, a young kid who everyone thinks is a boy but is really a girl, Riddick and a few others. They attempt to repair the ship and leave the planet, but to do that requires a trek across the lands and sunset is approaching real fast.

Riddick has very strange eyes and can see in the dark (we wears some fancy shades in daylight) and he leads the motley crew back from an indigenous encampment to their ship carrying fuel and other stuff. Along the way the creatures get a lot of the chattel, leaving only Riddick, the holy man who is looking for New Mecca and the young kid. Riddick pilots the ship off into space and everyone lives happily ever after, well for a few years at least.

You don’t have to see the first part to appreciate this installment, which picks up on a distant planet with a ship chasing down a wanted man. Guess who!

Riddick quickly dispenses with 3 of the 4 man bounty hunters and then dumps the pilot down and takes his ship looking for the one person who might have betrayed him: The holy man!

Riddick reaches a planet (home of New Mecca?) and finds his companion from the first episode, who introduces Riddick to the powers that be – most notably a spirit being played by Judi Dench (you know, the new “M” from the Jimmie Bond franchise) who tells Riddick of the Necromongers and their desire to enslave worlds as part of the plan to reach the Underverse (all right, this part is a bit comic bookish, but don’t for one minute take this movie totally seriously...gees, this is not Passion of the Christ). Riddick leaves simply saying “Not my fight.”

On his way out the Necromongers arrive and start making it Riddick’s fight and fight he does. “You know that game you like to play, who’s the best killer? Let’s play it!”

Lots of special effects. Lots of action. Lots of fighting. Lots of quips.

This movie is very entertaining in the genre of movies by Arnold, Segal, Van Damme and Stalone.

Vin Diesel (“Saving Private Ryan,” “Fast and the Furious” and “XXX”) is the new millenium action man and he does it quite well! Excellent action flick if you are into Sci-Fi. If this works well with you, get “Pitch Black” which is more Sci-Fi and less action oriented (one of my Sci-Fi friends feels it’s a better film overall).

David Twohy, who also did "Pitch Black" (as well as the feature film "The Fugitive") wrote and directed this sequel.


Stargate

Ultimate Version

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Kurt Russell, James Spader

I always liked this film and the new version is even better. It starts off with a prequel showing how Ra came to Earth.

There are also a lot of extra scene showing advanced warning of Ra and this civilization that the Army was privy to seeing before they actually go through the Stargate.

There is also a documentary about the author "Chariots of the Gods" on which Emmerich and Producer Dean Devlin based their ideas upon.

In The Future

Casino Royale

Expected to be the next in the James Bond series, with the rights apparently now secured from the original owner (this one and "Thunderball" were the only books not licensed by EON Productions, who makes the Bond series, originally from Albert Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, now Broccoli's daughter produces the series).

No actor has yet been tapped to replace Pierce Brosnan. Martin Campbell -- who directed "Golden Eye" -- is set to direct this one with a script from Paul Haggis ("Million Dollar Baby").

If things go well this could probably be a summer release.

Originally done as a spoof with David Niven, Peter Sellers, Orson Wells and Woody Allen, this new version will be like the other Bond films, bearing as much resemblence to the book as the first version of "Royale"! One of the high points of the original movie was a great theme song made into a #1 hit featuring Herb Alpert on trumpet.

News

Theaters are suffering a loss of patrons and it's largely due to bad movies, too many commercials before the movies and movies coming out on DVD far too soon, which is the sure sign a movie is a turkey.

The really big winner this year was the low budget foreign film "March of the Penguins" which is going to make more profit faster than most of the other summer entries.

Theaters are starting to do many new things to attract viewers, including installing Digital projection equipment so they can compete with HDTV by offering even better images than you get at home. They are also starting "luxury" theaters with valet, free popcorn, some theaters have restaurants and bars. Yes, they are allowing drinks into the movie theater in some areas of the United States!

Pretty soon they might start offering gambling! Who knows!

Maybe they'll go back to the good old days and offer a live stage show, double feature movie billing with a cartoon short!

 





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