Posts Tagged ‘Ridley Scott’

Alien: Covenant Movie Poster*** This review may contain spoilers ***

On the far side of the galaxy the colony spaceship USCSS Covenant takes a detour and discovers horrors on an uncharted planet.

Opening with a flashback of David being activated by Peter Weyland we are treated to an Alien-style title sequence. After a shocking neutrino burst opening we are then introduced to the characters brought abruptly out of hyper-sleep by Walter a synthetic model. Soon the crew land on a planet and after a series of hostile events meet David, a survivor of the Prometheus mission. David and Walter (Michael Fassbender in dual roles) are put centre stage. To Ridley Scott’s special effects team credit the androids are exceptional and you never question the illusion of the two characters being on screen at once.

Whereas Prometheus felt somewhat innovative and charted a different direction to the Alien series if you are a fan be warned, Covenant takes a step back with the Engineers and Shaw’s story thread ending abruptly. Aside from Guy Pearce’s Weyland’s cameo, ties from Prometheus are broken and even Noomi Rapace’s Shaw who appeared in Covenant’s promotions is substantially cut in the final film. This is in place of a standard three act Alien affair, without the suspense of Alien but all the brashness of Aliens, still director Scott’s moody, thoughtful style shines here. Naturally the aesthetics, cinematography, production design are of Scott’s high standards and Covenant moves at breakneck speed, from ship, to planet, back to ship à la Alien format borrowing also from Aliens and his own Prometheus and even a line from Blade Runner. In addition, Jed Kurzel’s soundtrack takes all the best cues from Jerry Goldsmith’s 1979 Alien score and hones a reminiscent hybrid of sorts.

Lead Katherine Waterston’s Daniels (terrible hair cut aside), does her best with what she’s given. James Franco appears briefly and like Rapace his part aside from body and video footage is left promo material hell. Waterston offers enough emotion to keep Franco’s Branson spirit alive throughout and you buy into her loss. Logical straight talking Callie Hernandez’s Upworth is notable along with Billy Crudup’s to the book Oram and Demián Bichir’s tough solider Lope is memorable. Fassbender’s dual performance is excellent. However, he unjustly steals the show and his position of prominence takes away what made (certainly David) so interesting as a secondary character in Covenant’s predecessor.

The various looking aliens on display are highly aggressive from the outset. The Alien effects are first rate and the introduction to a H. R. Giger style creepy white Neomorph alien (born from spores that grow inside you into a Neomorph Bloodburster) gives Pan’s Labyrinth chills. Nevertheless, there’s not enough suspense or stalking from the aliens, but plenty of running around. It felt like too many CGI beast shots and not enough practical effects. However, when the Neomorph stood upright in front of David it was quite impressive. When the traditional albeit upgraded version of the Alien turns up it’s a joy. There’s a missed opportunity to face off the old Xenomorphs Alien with the new Neomorph. Or even solely focus on the Neomorph as there is some interesting communication between David and the Aliens that is never fully explored. There’s also the thread that David may or may not have gone stir crazy due to his humanistic characterisations. (Incidentally, the novelisation through various passages and additional dialogue fill in the blanks, e.g. why they leave the landing ship without helmets, what happens to the other Neomorph, Shaw’s cross necklace and many more, it’s a shame these moments were either not filmed or cut.)

When things go pear shaped there’s plenty of blood and gore, the alien eggs, Chestburster and Facehuggers are finely tuned for screen, Scott also throws in fighting androids and Aliens-like shoot outs – there’s plenty to like about Covenant. Waterston along with Danny McBride’s pilot Tennessee look comfortable going head to head with the pesky Alien, even if it all feels somewhat rehashed and rushed. However, die-hard Alien fan’s will have to buy into facehugger embryos (?!), David creating eggs and incubation times. This is topped of by handful of writers who offer a frustrating ending which teases another follow up.

Overall, Scott plays it safe and delivers a sci-fi horror with a typical series of action setups that is basically there to appease action fans rather than create suspense which was the originals finest quality.

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The Martian Movie Poster

Thought to be dead an astronaut botanist has to live in the dangerous conditions of Mars, relying on his ingenuity to survive until the next mission arrives.

Matt Damon doesn’t understand why he was reduced to only saying his name in Team America, maybe it’s because the film-makers were being ironic, never more so in The Martian is this highlighted. Under director Ridley Scott’s auteur eye Damon shines here as Watney in Drew Goddard’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s novel. It’s tense, humorous and visually rich including planets, Martian landscapes, space crafts and NASA control rooms. It’s also smart and thrillingly realistic as they plan rescue attempts and Damon hones Robinson Crusoe on Mars, Grativy, Apollo 13 and the like. The sets, props, costumes and special effects CGI for the most part are excellent the locations both on Earth and the red planet really sell it.

The acting aided by Goddard’s first-rate script. Both Jeff Daniels and Kristen Wiig are notable here in serious roles. Memorable are Sean Bean as Mitch – a mission director, Benedict Wong plays Bruce Ng an engineer of the rockets for the rescue mission and Chiwetel Ejiofor is Vincent, a director and the first person to establish contact with Watney. There plenty of disco tracks as that’s all Watney has to listen to, but Harry Gregson-Williams’ Martian score is solid. Watney’s uses all his skills an intellect, stapling a wound, he rations food and grows his own in seemingly impossible conditions and uses different NASA equipment to aid him. Damon’s Watney at times is very witty and you warm to dryness and invest in his survival, rooting for him in his highs and lows. Back on Earth Scott offers digestible politics and PR but there’s a positive aspect with countries, individuals and departments working together with each other.

Goddard and Weir’s offering doesn’t contain any sci-fi metaphysical and/or horror tropes with The Martians realism and by default Scott remains focused on a humane elements and visual effects never delving into what made him a household name. It’s about human beings tackling problems and the exploration of Mars’ barren environment and like similar space disaster movies there’s plenty of emotion, even with its long running time it moves along at pace.

Overall, if red planet sandstorms, potato growing and space travel is your thing, it’s a must.

exodus_gods_and_kings_ver4Moses, an adopted Egyptian prince who becomes the deliverer of his real brethren, tries to release the enslaved Hebrews after a meeting with God.

You could argue that Cecil B. DeMille epic The Ten Commandments (1956) is predictable, the critics calling Exodus predictable is comparable to saying the Titanic’s ending is predictable.

Anachronisms, historical inaccuracies, religion and DeMille’s epic aside, Exodus is a half marathon and spectacular looking film. Ridley Scott’s take on the story of Moses does appear chopped and in turn the ending feels unjustly rushed. Just like the Kingdom of Heaven’s theatrical release (possibly to appease cinema showing times or demographics preview audiences who believe they’re Siskel and Ebert by the end of the evening).

The acting is at a level you’d expect, Sigourney Weaver is imposing in her limited screen time as Tuya, Joel Edgerton is notable and his Ramesses II is developed. Christian Bale gives another intense performance, his Moses is what you expect for a contemporary retelling. Sadly given its running time the great supporting cast including the likes of Aaron Paul and Ben Kingsley are underused. María Valverde’s Zipporah does steal every scene and the actress gives Bale a run for his money.

Arguably there’s more birds eye view shots than a family pack of fish fingers, still you can’t help enjoy Scott’s scope, sweeping camera work and direction which is unprecedented. The costumes are first rate and the Egypt setting is encapsulating. Although not as memorable as Gladiator 1999’s score, Alberto Iglesias music certainly complements the ancient setting, sets and special effects (some of which are more convincing than others).

Exodus (and the unnecessarily subtitled Gods and Kings) is dedicated to his late brother Tony, Scott’s offering is sober in its delivery, logical and palatable for the modern general audience, the 10 Plagues somewhat explained like a National Geographic Channel special, and the parting of the Red Sea Tsunami in nature. That’s said, Scott cleverly keeps it ambiguous, retaining its divine mystique. Is God real or in his mind, or is God a little child with great powers, it’s left to the audience to decide.

For such a well-known tale, and through no fault of its own, by default it’s difficult to be truly wowed and surprised. However, for those unfamiliar with the story and viewing it fresh it would be easy to be blown away by Scott’s vision, scope, sweeping camera work and direction.

A viral campaign has become part and parcel to accompany a film these days. A rule of thumb though is that its viral campaign ends when a film opens. However, this is not the case with Prometheus…

Ridley Scott‘s started in advertising and he’s obviously played a big part in this little spin. After the end of the credits of Prometheus it features the Weyland logo with the date 11th October 2012. Then there popped up a website called What Is 10-11-12? This featured another viral video of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, who was sorely underused in the film) after this short vid directed by Scott’s son a link appears to http://www.weylandindustries.com/timeline which seems to be the first part of several chronicling the history of the Weyland company.

Is this date setting up an announcement at Comic Con or just a novel way to plug the DVD/Blu-ray release? Only time will tell, but with Prometheus being a financial success and rousing lots of debate amongst fans, a sequel seems somewhat inevitable.

Ridley Scott’s lavish 1985 fantasy Legend had a taxing and interesting history, script revisions, the studio burned down, the film had to be reedited and Jerry Goldsmith’s score was removed from the US version and replaced by Tangerine Dream followed by a Brain Ferry track over the closing credits to name a few.
Despite there being a 140-minute rough cut, which was then cut down to a 125-minute work print, Ridley never intended an audience to see these versions. The 113-minute version is the Director’s Cut (which has now been released on Blu-Ray) and is as close to complete as Ridley Scott intended it to be. Legend is no Blade Runner, Alien or even Gladiator and still remains a flawed film yet there is something magical about Legend even if it doesn’t literally live up to its title…
After a unicorn is killed darkness falls across the land and a forest boy named Jack must save the world and his love before last ray of sunlight disappears forever.
1985’s Legend is simple fantasy tale of good versus evil that unusually leaves room for interpretation. Debatably it lacks any likable characters which is possibly the reason why Labyrinth (1986) and The Princess Bride (1987) fair better in comparison. Tom Cruise, Mia Sara and co are surprisingly subdued and William Hjortsberg’s screenplay is missing the required attention-grabbing dialogue and a sense of journey and adventure. That said, what legend does have is atmosphere, and abundance of it. Many of the visuals in Legend are far superior to the aforementioned and there is no doubt this is due to Ridley Scott’s handling of the production.
Tim Curry’s brief performance and make up design as Darkness is fantastic, as to is the makeup as a whole. A notable cast also include Billy Barty (Masters of the Universe) and Kiran Shah (The Chronicles of Narnia). Alice Playten’s Blix is sorely underused, Annabelle Lanyon is the peculiar fairy Oona and David Bennent is excellent as the eerie elf-like Gump.
The sets are wonderfully constructed this coupled with lighting create a enchanting environment. The Meg Mucklebones is segment is truly creepy reminiscent of the witches featuring in Clash of the Titans (1981). Jerry Goldsmith’s score (reintroduced in the director’s cut) gives the film a timeless feel and underpins the mystical element.
Ultimately despite being magnificently crafted it’s a fantasy that is too straightforward and underdeveloped for adults and too scary for children.
Hannibal Lecter was first let loose on the public in Thomas Harris’ 1981 novel Red Dragon. A murderous serial killer, a psychiatrist, an evil, yet, intellectual sophisticated charming man the who’s character has captivated readers and film goers for nearly thirty years . Although Anthony Hopkins was the second actor to portray the cannibal, his Hannibal was chosen by the American Film Institute a the number one movie villain and won  him many prestigious awards.
I’ve put together a collection of my thoughts and comments on all the films to date that have followed Hannibal escapades.
Sit back, eat your liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, and take a trip through the world’s most prolific fictional serial killer.
Manhunter (1986)
In Silence of the Lambs, just like Manhunter’s plot (also based on a Thomas Harris novel) an FBI agent seeks help from the notorious serial killer Hannibal Lector to capture a psychopathic killer holding a girl captive.
Michael Mann’s Manhunter (based on Harris’ Red Dragon) is sadly a victim of it’s time, Mann’s ‘Miami Vice’ look aside, lack of socks, blue lighting and intrusive score etc. Manhunter oozes atmosphere. Will Graham is played by William Petersen who is a FBI specialist that must track down a serial killer, assisted by incarcerated Dr. Hannibal Lecktor.
Brian Cox’s Dr. Hannibal Lecktor is incomparable to Hopkins Award winning interpretation of Lecter/Lecktor as Cox plays the killer nonchalant and smart, his normality is what makes him menacing in this version.
William Petersen gives a fine telling performance, for example in the scene where he flees from the killers cell, it’s his reaction that show the intensity and power of Lecktor. Dennis Farina is on usual top form as Jack Crawford who’d later be portrayed by Scott Glenn and Harvey Keitel. Stephen Lang (of recent Avatar fame) is memorable as the hypocritical reporter and Tom Noonan’s rendition of Francis Dollarhyde is quite chilling with his voice, demeanour and stator.
The majority of Manhunter is filmed on location, adding a distinctive atmospheric and realistic feel. Regardless of the film suffering from some poor sound and editing Mann’s sleek direction is first-rate and although dated, a product of it’s time it is still an attention-grabbing and an entertaining thriller. New comers ought to watch this gem if only to draw comparisons to Red Dragon (2002).
Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Director Jonathan Demme’s 1991 award winner was a smash hit that almost catapulted Hopkins into typecast hell. Ted Tally screenplay is excellent and the dialogue superb, however, surprisingly both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins picked up best actor roles for their melodramatic performances.
Nevertheless, Hopkins commands every scene he’s in but really isn’t that creepy. Inexplicably Ted Levine was not nominated for his role as Jame ‘Buffalo Bill’ Gumb, which is simply psychotic and chilling. Scott Glenn given an understated performance and the supporting cast are familiar faces which includes Anthony Heald as Dr. Frederick Chilton and Charles Napier. There’s even walk-ons by Roger Corman, George A. Romero and singer Chris Isaak!
Demme won best picture for this solid thriller, the scenes lighting and sets are fantastic, including Lectors cell, temporary holding and Bill’s House. The locations are distinct and some credit must go to Tak Fujimoto’s photography for this. The final reel is amazing thanks to Craig McKay’s slick editing coupled with tension of Howard Shore score.
To Silence’s credit it sets the foundation for Hannibal and Red Dragon. It is indeed a solid crime yarn but is overrated and lacks the sophistication of it’s sequel and prequel.
Hannibal  (2001)
Ridley Scott oddly took the job to direct this perfectly crafted sequel to the Oscar award winning Silence of the Lambs. After being located in Florence, Hannibal returns to America and attempts to make contact with disgraced Agent Clarice Starling.
While not following Harris novel to the letter and omitting a main character, Scott directs an atmospheric follow up. With David Mamet’s meaty, intellectual screenplay there’s plenty to like about Hannibal. There are terrific performance’s nobility by Giancarlo Giannini in a subtle and memorable take on Insp. Renaldo Pazzi. Unrecognisable, Gary Oldman is astounding as Mason Verger, the heavy disfigured paedophile and Ray Liotta replaces Lamb’s Ron Vawter and is on form as a sleazy F.B.I Agent, Paul Krendle.
Nurse Barney returns in a larger role, and of course Anthony Hopkins is back in his iconic role as Hannibal Lecter. Hopkins is given more to do and is out of his confinement (much to the announce of some film critics). Although possibly striped of some mystic, Hannibal is far more dangerous and interesting here, mingling with the general public and stalking his prey. They only thing I feel is distracting is the casting of Julianne Moore as Starling, and that is only from a continuity point of view as she delivers a gifted performance.
Blade Runner’s director Scott makes every shot interesting and this coupled with John Mathieson cinematography is first-rate, particularly in the Florence set ups, and US exteriors. Veteran musician Hans Zimmer’s score is mystical and heightening all that is taking place on screen.
Overlooked, misunderstood and fantastic film, that is a wonderful experience to watch.
Red Dragon (2002)
Comedy director Bret Rattner gives us Red Dragon. Ex-FBI agent Will Graham is assigned to help track down a serial killer; with the aid of the notorious criminal genius Hannibal “The Cannibal” Lecter who he imprisoned.
Based on Thomas Harris novel inevitable comparisons between Michael Mann’s Manhunter (1986) are unavoidable due to the same source material- in essence it is a remake.
It is big budget event including an expensive supporting cast Emily Watson, Ralph Fiennes and Philip Seymour Hoffman to name a few. The usual provoking Edward Norton sadly gives a monotone performance as Will Graham and those who are familiar with Manhunter will be disappointed. Memorable Anthony Heald reprises his role as Dr. Frederick Chilton and Frankie Faisonis is once again Barney Matthews. Anthony Hopkins is back as Dr. Hannibal Lecter, set before Lamb’s and Ridley Scott’s Hannibal it’s an odd casting choice if only from an aesthetic point of view. becasuse of his age. Also as in the casting of Julianne Moore in Hannibal, Harvey Keitel as Jack Crawford is peculiar from a link point of view as Scott Glenn was just as good. So there really was no need to have cast Hopkins as Lecter as continuity isn’t an issue here.
Danny Elfman’s score is surprisingly mediocre and uninspiring. Dante Spinotti’s cinematography is noteworthy and every scene looks great with some fantastic lighting especially when there’s a big set piece. Rattner’s film over all is fine looking, well constructed and is as well polished as most of the actors. Nevertheless, despite a great cast ensemble and a budget, Red Dragon lacks the on ominous edge of it predecessors.
To it’s credit it is worth watching if only for the opening scene and the joy of seeing Hopkins(albeit older)lurking in his (Silence of the Lambs) cell.
Hannibal Rising (2007)
Based on Thomas Harris’ intriguing novel, Hannibal Rising is an unnecessary prequel.
Where Brain Cox portrayal was forgotten, Hopkins made the character of Hannibal the Cannibal Lector his own topping the lists of fictional villains. The casting director and filmmaker’s fail to remember or ignored the publics love for Hopkins portrayal and overlooked that inevitable comparisons were going to be drawn. This hampers Gaspard Ulliel version of Hannibal Lecter from the outset.
As a stand lone film it is interesting watching a young Hannibal during World War II plotting revenge on those responsible for his sister’s death. However, Thomas Harris’ screenplay is clunky. With a slow build up to the first kill Peter Webber direction is acceptable but the film suffers from a low budget feel in places.
Brit actors Rhys Ifans, Richard Brake and the talented Kevin McKidd give notable performances. Sadly the whole film rests on Gaspard Ulliel and his Lecter and because of his mannerisms, accent and expression not emulating Hopkins it is difficult to connect with him.
Should a younger Hopkins had been mimicked, this could have spawned squeals. However, the producers tried to start with a clean slate but fall short as they set Ulliel has an impossible task of creating a young Hannibal rising that’s so detached from Hopkins. And while the character was still fresh in the views mind from Red Dragon (2002) Ulliel is just not exceptional enough to make that break.
A disappointing entry to a successful franchise that is entertaining as a standalone film.

If history has taught us anything it’s that father of three director/ producer Ridley Scott knows how to make a gripping movie.

Self proclaimed perfectionist born in 1937 Tyne and Wear, nominated and winner of Numerous Oscars, Scott is now surprisingly in his 70’s.

Rid’ Scott started in the TV commercials and become known for his stunning visuals, weeping landscapes and backdrops, at times coupled with a close-up of a character’s face in foreground. Scott has an array of films under his belt covering many genres which include The Duellists (1977), Legend (1985), Black Hawk Down (2001), Hannibal (2001) and Body of Lies (2008) to name a few.

While not part of the 70’s 80’s Hollywood in-crowd like heavy weights Spielberg, Lucas, Coppola and Scorsese, Scott’s seems to be the dark horse, a British, dry, witty guy and above all intelligent with a good business sense who loves a good cigar.

He has personally brought me hours of entertainment and if you are reading this he’s probably captivated you too.

Below are my thoughts both good and bad on a fist full of Ridleys finest moments.

Kingdom of Heaven (2005)

Possibly one of Scotts most intricate and underrated films. Orlando Bloom plays Balian of Ibelin who after a committing a murder travels to Jerusalem during the crusades of the 12th century. Soon he finds himself defending the city and its people.

Kingdom of Heaven (Director's Cut) [Blu-ray]With a fine cast including the likes of Philip Glenister, Liam Neeson and David Thewlis to name a few it’s a casting directors dream. Marton Csokas performance as Marton Csokas is exceptional and Michael Sheen has a small part and pivotal part (especially in the directors cut). Eva Green, Jeremy Irons and an unrecognisable Edward Norton are a great support. However, Bloom desperately wrestles with the substantial script and size of the film appearing a little uncomfortable at times. That said, even though he is the main character, the story, really revolves around the other characters. Balian appears more as a narrative tool.

The locations are breathtaking, from the misty woods and shores of France – to Holy sites of Jerusalem. Again Ridley, incorporating amazing sets and utilising visual effects, production designer Arthur Max, set decorator Sonja Klaus and crew painstakingly recreate the period. Janty Yates costumes are fantastic. Weapons, flags and props look authentic, all this attention to detail coupled with Harry Gregson-Williams score and John Mathieson Cinematography give the film a wonderful look and atmosphere.

All in all, one, if not the best crusade film ever.

Alien (1979)

Space, spaceships, androids and aliens, and no it’s not Starwars or Startrek…

Alien (The Director's Cut)Alien is a perfect blend of characterisation, visual effects, sound and score. What separates this from the two franchises above is the gritty realism, a brooding atmospheric and claustrophobic feel that has given the film both cult and classic status. So much so it spawned its own franchise.

The acting is provided by a perfect heavy-weight cast that includes John Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt. Dan O’Bannon’s screen-play, coupled with Ridley Scott’s visuals stop this becoming just another monster alien movie or space film. The subject matter is delivered completely seriously and you become immersed in the dread, fear and uncertainty as even the main characters get killed off (which has become common place these days). Who will be the hero or the heroine?

H.R.Giger creature designs of the face huger and Alien is the ace in the hole and Jerry Goldsmith score mixed with the sound effects gives the film a nightmarish feel that build up the tension to breaking point. Scott’s direction is outstanding, creating the most fantastic and memorable moments in film history which push your fear threshold.

Compulsive viewing for Sci-fi fans who want story over action or in this case a steak to digest instead of fast food. If you’ve never seen Alien what it treat it will be to watch it fresh.

Blade Runner (1982)

I must admit I’m a huge fan of Ridley Scott’s and Blade Runner is one of his finest moments, panned by critics and by most on its release, it was ahead of its time on every level.

Blade Runner (Five-Disc Complete Collector's Edition) [Blu-ray]Whichever version of Blade Runner you prefer, it has atmosphere, great costumes and a mood of gritty realism about it. The neo-cityscapes, the dark street life and polluted air; all paint a grim futuristic picture complimented by a Vangelis score; which is touching and haunting. The lines are memorable and there are fantastic performances from Rutger Hauer, Sean Young and Edward James Olmos. Harrison Ford is perfect as the moody ex- Blade Runner and Joe Turkel should have won an award as the Frankenstein -like creator.

Blade Runner is quite a simplistic tale that is complicated by the fantastic visuals and effects. Lying beneath the plot that many writers contributed to, there’s heart and soul, questions of what it means to be human and even delves into our own mortality.

Its edgy hi-tech art-house that brings science fiction to life and while it’s not the most fulfilling sci-fi film it certainly is a fantastic visual experience.

American Gangster [Blu-ray]American Gangster (2007)

Consistent Ridley Scott recreates 1970s America in the true life story of Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), a heroin kingpin from Manhattan. Russell Crowe plays Richie Roberts, an incorruptible detective, who works to bring down Lucas’s drug empire.

An interesting and contrasting character study on many levels, Russell Crowe performance is excellent, his personal life is in turmoil, yet he is totally focused on his work. Where as Washington’s character is in control of both his personal and ‘work’ life. Washington is on top form, equalling if not surpassing his Oscar winning performance in Training day (2001).

The costumes and makeup are excellent. The supporting actors give weight to the production and there are some memorable performances from Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin and Ted Levine to name few.

I’ve seen both the theatrical version the 175 min extended version that includes approx. 19 minutes of additional footage. While the extra footage doesn’t jump out at you, the ending is notably different but just as captivating. For a lengthy film America Gangster zips along at a fast pace, accompanied by a great music soundtrack and a enhancing score by Marc Streitenfeld.

The 1970’s is painstakingly created with amazing realistic set design. Scott’s direction coupled with Harris Savides cinematography captures the feel and tone of the time. Scott not only recreates Manhattan but also Vietnam and the war is at it’s height. Credit deservedly should g to Steven Zaillian’s

A perfectly crafted film and gratifying cinema.

Robin Hood (2010)

I hold Ridley Scott in the highest regard, one of the most creative and demanding directors of his time. However, Robin Hood is an unequivocally unnecessary prelude to a timeless folk tale of a man who fights against the Norman invaders. The direction, subtle effects, locations and so on are remarkable and are what you would expect from the director of such films as Gladiator and The Kingdom of Heaven to name a few.

Robin Hood [Blu-ray]The cast is superb, a mix of old greats and new comers that include Max von Sydow, Cate Blanchett, Scott Grimes, William Hurt and Russell Crowe as Robin the legend himself. With a heavy laden script for the seemingly padded out story the high calibre actors’ graft their way through the latest incarnation of Robin Hood with ease. There are a few droll moments but the screenplay appears unsure if it wants to be another Disney, Costner Robin Hood or a serious war movie tackling issues of the time of corrupt politicians, generals and monarchy.

With an estimated budget of $200,000,000 and the acting talent and creative people behind Robin Hood, you’d thing Scott would have suited to tackling a period piece not centred around the rise of Robin Longstride. Due to this it leaves the viewer unsatisfied.

It’s a lengthy movie and there is much to enjoy, the score, performances, cinema photography, action scenes are admirable. However, as a Robin Hood film it’s a bit of a miss, and you can’t help feel that as the last reel runs that that’s where the story should have begun.

Gladiator (2000)

Despite it’s historical inaccuracies Gladiator without a doubt deserves it’s 5 Oscars. The story follows Maximus, a Roman general who’s family is murdered after he is betrayed and left for dead. While the story is echoes The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Gladiator revenge theme is far more ambitious and poignant.

Gladiator (Sapphire Series) [Blu-ray]Meticulous portraying the social and political issues of the time, proved director Ridley Scott united with David Franzoni story and screenplay single handily bring back the sword and sandal epic prompting a flurry of copycat films. The opening scene is astounding, the fights are incredibly choreographed, however, Gladiator is far from perfect, let down by a variety of CGI shots, the lack of grandeur that other epics have and several hollow palace scenes. That said, Lisa Gerrard and Hans Zimmer score is exciting, emotionally moving as much as the actor’s performances.

Thankfully, Mel Gibson turned down the part of Maximus that Russell Crowe portrays with such conviction and energy. Even though it was Oliver Reeds last great performance and one of Richard Harris finest, as Marcus Aurelius, the new comers hold their own and are just as effective. Juaquin Phoenix. Connie Nielsen, Derek Jacobi and supporting actors are perfectly cast. Aside from the magnificent sets and locations to the cast credit it’s the ability to render the viewers concern for these characters is what separates Gladiator from being an run of the mill flick.

It’s no masterpiece but far from a gladiatorial coup de grace. Scotts compelling Gladiator is impressive, moving and exciting.

Prometheus (2012)

The near future 2089 Earths historical artifact’s and ancient paintings prompt an expedition into space to find our makers but puts the crew of the Prometheus in grave danger when they land on LV-223 in 2093.

Veteran director Ridley Scott gives Prometheus its own unique look and rightly so as the action, suspense takes place on LV-223 not LV- 426 as in Alien(s). Without getting bogged down with Alien (2122A.D) comparisons, this is a science expedition not a mining vessel. This change in location allows Prometheus to sit as a stand alone film.

Questioning our origins in a reasonable intelligent way the story written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof is intriguing and makes this film stand above your average sci-fi. That said, Prometheus does raise more questions than it answers yet it’s ambiguity is what makes this film special and allows set-ups for future instalments.

It’s excellently cast and includes international actors Guy Pearce (who is sorely underused) Idris Elba as everyday man Janek and Logan Marshall-Green to name a few. Charlize Theron is astounding as Meredith Vickers, a hard nosed corporate mission director. Notably is Michael Fassbender as David who is every bit as interesting as Bishop and Ash with added a quirky ‘fondness’ for Peter O’Tool. Main protagonist Elizabeth Shaw played by Noomi Rapace is not your typical Ripley clone and carries much of the emotion for the film.

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The effects are first rate, with the Space Jockeys, scenery, ships and Aliens wonderfully realised and rendered. Some of the effects are practical and look organic for the most part. The location and environment feels real and makes everything more palatable. A nod should go to Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography and Pietro Scalia’s editing.

Scott delivers a few standout creepy scenes some particularly gut turning, notably the arm breaking, infection and decontamination scenes- it captures some xenomorph magic.

Marc Streitenfeld’s music score is an effective mixed bag although is a little over used. Both writers and Scott ensure to include a few character twists and wisely incorporate some elements from the Aliens series (in keeping with that world) whether it be a vehicle, a line or setup to possibly appease die-hard fans but for the most part it feels fresh.

Prometheus tackles themes of origin, mortality and biological warfare to name a few and although it feels a little rushed it’s a grower just like the spores themselves.

The Alien film series produced by 20th Century Fox led to movie sequels, plus numerous books, comics and video game spin offs.

In addition to the franchise are the “Alien vs. Predator” films which I’ve left out as they don’t feature Lieutenant Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver).

Four very unique and visual directors brought the Alien to the screen giving a diverse visions of one subject matter, below are my comments and thoughts on the series that made aliens scary… and the latest spin off/ Prequel Prometheus.

Alien(1979)
Space, spaceships, androids and aliens, and no it’s not Starwars or Startrek
Alien is a perfect blend of characterisation, visual effects, sound and score. What separates this from the two franchises above is the gritty realism, a brooding atmospheric and claustrophobic feel that has given the film both cult and classic status. So much so it spawned its own franchise.
The acting is provided by a perfect heavy-weight cast that includes John Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and Tom Skerritt. Dan O’Bannon’s screen-play, coupled with Ridley Scott’s visuals stop this becoming just another monster alien movie or space film. The subject matter is delivered completely seriously and you become immersed in the dread, fear and uncertainty as even the main characters get killed off (which has become common place these days). Who will be the hero or the heroine.
H.R.Giger creature designs of the face huger and Alien is the ace in the hole and Jerry Goldsmith score mixed with the sound effects gives the film a nightmarish feel that build up the tension to breaking point. Scott’s direction is outstanding, creating the most fantastic and memorable moments in film history which push your fear threshold.
Compulsive viewing for Sci-fi fans who want story over action or in this case a steak to digest instead of fast food. If you’ve never seen Alien what it treat it will be to watch it fresh.
Aliens (1986)
The planet from Alien (1979) has been colonised, but contact is lost and a rescue team is dispatched. This 1986 sequel is action packed, bigger, louder, very gung-ho with Vietnam parallels.
I’m torn… I must say that at the time Aliens was the best action sci-fi films ever and probably still is), but overtime, I have grown less fond of Aliens and prefer the first Alien and re-edit of the 3rd.
What is superior about Aliens is that it builds on what Ridleys Scott created in first film, (even though some of Aliens ideas are based on cut scenes) surprise killings, misdirection and so on. The design and movement of the Alien is greatly improved, making the Alien far more menacing and agile than before.
There’s no doubt that James Cameron is an exceptional director and writer. All the characters are built up slowly, Lance Henriksen as the synthetic Bishop and Paul Reiser as Burke give subtle performances. Michael Biehn as Hicks and Sigourney Weaver are terrific. Ripley as a character is fleshed out further and the effects and sound are amazing (winning Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects).
Aliens is an unsurpassed solid sci-fi horror sequel packed with action and suspense but in retrospect it really is Alien pumped with testosterone and guns.
Alien³ (1992)

After a fire on the Sulaco an escape pod crash-lands on a refinery/prison planet killing everyone aboard except Lieutenant Ellen Ripley. As Ripley recovers she realises that fire was no accident and an Alien begins a killing spree that she must stop.The idea of coming away from Cameron’s Aliens (a fantastic mix of action, suspense and special effects) and go back to the gritty atmosphere basics of the first film was debatably a good idea. Producers, though misunderstood what director David Fincher was trying to achieve back in 1992.Plagued with creative differences, production and script problems the film was released… It seemed very disjointed and didn’t deliver the goods that the first two did…

After watching the new assembled version of Alien 3 I was pleasantly surprised. With the new version what you get is expanded and alternative scenes, more character development and a new subplot making it a more enjoyable Alien movie.

Like the previous version the Alien effects are still the same and not very well executed. That said, this version without a doubt is an improvement on the 1992 version coupled with a nice score, great performances, especially from Charles Dance and the sadly missed Brian Glover. Sigourney Weaver plays a very troubled shaven head Ellen Ripley convincingly. This time around with expanded scenes the supporting cast
get to show off their acting skills within the fantastic sets. Explained in the new cut is where and why some of the characters disappeared.

Overall with these adjustments the film finally sits nicely in the series. It’s dark, eerie and atmospheric.

Alien: Resurrection (1997)

I viewed the directors cut of Alien: Resurrection, it includes a few added bits – Lt. Ellen Ripley Clone #8 refers to Newt a few times, an alternate title sequence, a landing on earth and a few extra seconds here and there add to the mood making all the difference.
The down side though – some of the acting is too hammy, the Alien effects are computerised in parts which is just as distracting as they were back in 1997. They should have stuck to practical effects until CGI effects were perfected.
The New born is great and still gets my sympathy vote. The whole film isn’t a gritty as the previous but the sets are fantastic. Some characters do get developed,there are some memorable moments which usually include Perlman or Weavers characters.
The film including the extra bits bridge the earlier films making Resurrection a more enjoyable ride for Alien fans but to date, despite some good scenes it is the still the weakest of the series.
Watch if only to witness the resurrection.
Prometheus (2012)

The near future 2089 Earths historical artifact’s and ancient paintings prompt an expedition into space to find our makers but puts the crew of the Prometheus in grave danger when they land on LV-233 in 2093.
Veteran director Ridley Scott gives Prometheus its own unique look and rightly so as the action, suspense takes place on 233 not LV- 426 as in Alien(s). Without getting bogged down with Alien comparisons, this is a science expedition not a mining vessel, therefore differences in technology between the two is explained away at a drop of a hat. This change in location allows Prometheus to stand on its own.
Questioning our origins in a reasonable intelligent way the story written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof is intriguing and makes this film stand above your average Sci-fi. That said Prometheus does raise more questions than it answers yet it’s ambiguity is what makes this film special.
It’s excellently cast and includes international actors Guy Pearce Idris Elba and Logan Marshall-Green to name a few. Charlize Theron is stupendous as Meredith Vickers the cold hard nosed corporate mission director. Notably is Michael Fassbender as David who is every bit as interesting as Bishop and Ash with added a quirky ‘fondness’ for Peter O’Tool. Main protagonist Elizabeth Shaw played by Noomi Rapace is not your typical Ripley clone and carries much of the emotion for the film.
The effects are first rate, with the Space Jockeys, scenery, Weyland, ships and Aliens wonderfully realised and rendered. Some of the effects are practical and look organic for the most part. The location and environment feels real and makes everything more palatable. A nod should go to Dariusz Wolski’s cinematography and Pietro Scalia’s editing.
Scott delivers a few standout creepy scenes some particularly gut turning, notably the arm breaking, infection and decontamination scenes- it captures some xenomorph magic.
Marc Streitenfeld’s music score is an effective mixed bag although is a little over used. Both writers and Scott ensure to include a few character twists and wisely incorporate some elements from the Aliens series (in keeping with that world) whether it be a vehicle, a line or setup to possibly appease die-hard fans but for the most part it’s all new and fresh.
Prometheus tackles themes of origin, mortality and biological war fare to name a few. It’s a grower just like the spores themselves.
20th Century Fox hit gold with 1987 The Predator…

I don’t usually use the word cool but in 1987 that’s what the Predator was; sleeker and more equipped than any other E.T that had been seen before. The movie and its sequel lead to an array of spin offs, good and bad novel’s, comic book’s, toys and video games. I’ve chosen to include the Alien vs. Predator films that combine, with no surprise, the Alien creatures from the Alien film series. Here are my comments on the Predator feature films…

Predator (1987)

A team of commandos find themselves hunted by an extra-terrestrial hunter… John McTiernan directs the perfect cast including the likes of Carl Weathers, Bill Duke and Jesse Ventura who are just right in this action orientated alien film. Arnold Schwarzenegger is armed with some great one liners but packs in a good performance with some subtler moments. Apart from The Thing like shot at the very beginning, it’s and original piece that deservedly started a franchise.

To be picky only some of the editing and effects let the film down. Those aside, the music by Alan Silvestri is fitting with it jungle beats building up apprehension and suspense throughout the film. This film could have easy fallen into B movie territory, but the great Cinematography, creature effects and costume design keep it grounded.

The film builds up in true monster fashion by holding back the Predator’s reveal. Not since Alien has there been such hand iconic creature which Kevin Peter Hall wonderfully brings to life. John McTiernan notches up the tension in the final showdown and writers Jim Thomas & John Thomas give us a brave bold ending.

One of the most enjoyable rounded sci-fi films ever.

Predator 2 (1990)

The Predator is the star of this troubled sequel with its array of weapons a spear, pincers, Frisbee blade and net.

With editing re-cuts, budget issues and no Arnold Schwarzenegger its not all bad. The lead rogue cop played by Danny Glover and alien expert Gary Busey are fine. While the story is entertaining and there are some nice idea’s scenes and set pieces, setting it in the then future of 1997 was unnecessary and its credibility suffers. The film is let down further by the almost comical overacting sub-characters and it losses the semi-realism of the first.

It’s packed with Predator action graphic decapitations, shootings and mutilated bodies. The practical effects, accessories and costumes from Stan Winston look great, and Kevin Peter Hall as the Predator is once again out of this world. The music score is excellent and carries the same themes from the first, as to are the sound effects.

For fans an Alien skull show up on the wall of the Predator’s trophy room (to entice an AVP) and a tremendous thought provoking ending. Stephen Hopkins gives an enjoyable sci-fi but the film just let down by it’s Verhoevenesque future, hammy acting and over-the-top stereotypes.

There’s very little that is subtle in the 108 minutes, still its Predator and you can’t help but like it.

AVP: Alien vs. Predator (2004)

It shouldn’t have been mixed, Paul W.S. Anderson’s AVP: Alien vs. Predator was more so unjustly panned by critics and fans due to the hype and anticipation. It has the feeling of an Alien film, a great premise, stunning cinematography, some amazing effects and a fine score.

Paul W.S. Anderson is successful in bringing the franchises together, respecting ideas from both Alien and Predator movies. I haven’t seen a bad film that he’s made and I’m not sure why there is such a geek gang hatred against the mans work. The ever-improving Uwe Boll he is not!

The strong leads include Sanaa Lathan as the heroine and Raoul Bova,, however unfortunately actors Carsten Norgaard as Rusten Quinn and Tommy Flanagan as Mark Verheiden are killed off far too early. Overall the acting is good, Lance Henrikson show up as the ‘real’ Bishop but some of the characters lack development and the editing feels choppy in places.

The Predators and Aliens look great apart from some badly executed CGI. It not Ridley Scott or John McTiernan, but Paul Anderson pulls off the almost impossible task of putting these to aliens together on screen.

If there was not an Alien or Predator film prior to this it may have been haled as a science fiction adventure classic, but alas that’s not the case.

AVPR: Aliens vs Predator – Requiem (2007)

 Every day folk in a sleepy town get caught up in a fight for survival when a crashed spaceship releases Aliens on earth and a Predator is dispatch to clean up the mess.

It was always clear that the franchises should never have been mixed. Nevertheless, they’re here to stay and I have to say, even with their faults, their not too bad. Overall, AVRP appears have less CGI and more practical effects which is a good thing. There are plenty of nods to both Alien and the Predator movies, and the focus is more on the Predator in this instalment.

Shane Salerno’s story is fine but the script isn’t meaty and the characters are not gritty enough, the acting isn’t bad but it’s the clunky teen driven segments of script that bogs the cast and viewer down. Steven Pasquale is a strong enough lead, John Ortiz is not given much to do and limited screen time. Ariel Gade is a good enough actress but too reminiscent of Ripley’s character. The rest are a miss-mash bag of collective stereotypes.That said, there are enough set pieces and surprises to keep you entertained until the rushed ending.

At times the music distracting as it uses memorable themes from both series. Also there far too much shaky and dark camera work and you feel as if you’re not getting to see enough. Credit to directors Colin Strause and Greg Strause both Predator and Alien look fantastic and it’s nice to see that the film is more adult orientated.

Overall, the movie fails to satisfy.

 

Predators (2010)

Predators has been a long-time in coming, and any quality Predator film is a welcomed addition in my book. The story is that of a group of elite humans are hunted by members of a merciless alien race.

Things looked extremely positive with Robert Rodriguez as one of the producers with the excellent and talented director of Vacancy Nimród Antal at the helm. However, Predators really feels like a remake of the first film. Which isn’t a bad thing, however, there are just too many unnecessary on liners from the franchise which at times is distracting. The kills are too fast and there are other problems… Predators seems rushed, appears choppy and there’s just no characters you want to care for, they don’t have to be likable but you still want someone you root for.

There’s too much effort to put in new things like the bigger species Predators to excite the audience. The screen-play the actors have to work with is bland and lacks depth. That said the costume, set design , locations and effects are mouthwatering, it’s an atmospheric sci-fi complimented by John Debney’s reworking of the original score and fantastic sound effects.

The actors are first-class, notably new comer Alice Braga performance as Isabella. Broday carries the weight of the film and cult actor Danny Trejo puts in an appearance. ‘Arnie’ like Oleg Taktarov and Mahershalalhashbaz Ali stand-out. Sadly, Laurence Fishburne is wasted and Topher Grace is just out of place as a doctor who doesn’t tend to anyone. Nevertheless, the story is great and it nice to see the old style Predator in there played by Derek Mears of the Friday the 13th remake.

All in all it’s a good film but just isn’t great, let’s hope a sequel corrects this.

That’s all folks…