Halloween Scene: Alien (1979)

alien poster The Alien franchise is pretty revered both amongst my circle and many of the people I know and respect. And yet, I have very little experience with the series. It’s not that I had anything against it, I just didn’t get around to it. I remember watching Aliens on VHS  in high school and thought I’d seen Alien, but while watching the Blu-ray version and writing this post, I now remember that I meant to get the first film, wound up with the second and just went with it. I’m sure I’d seen bits and pieces of Alien here and there, but much of it seemed new to me. And yet, when I saw the Alien Anthology Bluray box set go on sale for something like $22 last year, I asked my wife to pick it up for me for the holidays. It seemed like the kind of series I’d be into if I just sat down and watched it.

Even as a novice, I was familiar with the basic story of Ridley Scott’s Alien which finds the crew of a tow ship investigating a potentially alien transmission on a planetoid that just so happens to contain huge ruins and a particularly nasty brand of alien that makes its way onto their ship. While onboard, the menace makes short work of the crew — which consists of characters played by  Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt,Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto — before they go on the offensive and try to save their lives and at least part of the ship. It’s a taught, scary film that gives you enough time to get to know the characters and then doesn’t let up as it races towards the final.

I don’t think there’s any arguing that Alien is a classic film, expertly put together and acted. While reading about the movie, I discovered that one of my all-time favorite filmmakers, Walter Hill, had a hand in it. He not only produced, but also rewrote Dan O’Bannon’s script. We’ll probably never know exactly how much which people got through to the final film, but it shows Hill’s versatility and radness.

But there is one problem with Alien and it has nothing to do with the movie itself. By being such a successful film with a fairly simple plot (alien hunts down people in strange place) it’s been talked about, homaged, parodied and flat-out copied for decades. Even if you haven’t seen the chestburster scene, but are otherwise well versed in horror or film history, you’ve probably seen the scene on a countdown show of some kind. Heck, you probably also know going in that the cast’s reaction was real because they didn’t know exactly what was going to happen.

A few years back I watched the Shout Factory double feature of Roger Corman’s Cult Classics: The Terror Within / Dead Space. I don’t remember much about either movie aside from the fact that, even without being familiar with the source material, one or both of them were rip-offs of Alien. Sometimes, that can work out well, like in the case of Jason X, but usually it just feels old, tired and unoriginal.

So, what’s the solution to this problem? See Alien as soon as you can. It’s just one of those movies that’s so iconic and so influential that it’s best to get it in your system as early as possible so you’re comparing all of the copycats to the original instead of an idea of the original you’ve formed from being part of the pop culture landscape. I’m to far gone in that regard, but I figure a few more solid viewings in glorious Blu-ray will help to retroactively fix the problem.

Dwayne Johnson Shows Off Hercules Battle, Co-Stars

As we’ve come to expect, Dwayne Johnson’s Twitter account has been a treasure trove of information and images about Hercules, the film he’s currently shooting with Brett Ratner. Based on the Radical comic Hercules: The Thracian War, the movie removes the supernatural elements from the Hercules myth, pitting the warrior and his crew against a very dangerous, but very human threat.

The man also known as The Rock recently revealed the trio of images seen above. The largest features a battle scene and the message, “A fine day for battle. #MyKindOfWeekend #HERCULESMovie” He also heaped praise on his co-stars with, “Academy Awards & BAFTA’s. Honor to work w/ brilliant actors Joseph Fiennes & John Hurt. #MasterClass #HERCULESMovie” And finally,  he wrote “’22 inches of heaven buddy’ Daily 4 hour make up & hair transformation. #SillyAF #HERCULESMovie” along with a behind-the-scenes look at the hair and make-up process for the film.

Brett Ratner’s Hercules is scheduled for a July 25th, 2014 release.

Trailer Time: Snowpiercer, Vikingdom, Transformers Prime Predacons Rising & The Tiger Mask

Norse mythology and star Dominic Purcell take center stage in this spot from Epic Pictures Releasing’s Vikingdom which hits theaters and VOD on October 4th.

The word is still out on whether the Weinsteins want to cut 20 minutes from Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer starring Chris Evans, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Octavia Spencer, Kang-ho Song, Ed Harris and Jamie Bell or not. But you can still check out this mostly-in-English French trailer for the all-of-humanity-on-a-train revolution film which hits August 1st in the States.

The Last Days On Mars is probably more of a space-adventure-horror film, but this trailer from Magnet featuring Liev Shrieber, Olivia Williams and Elias Koteas is pretty intense. The film opens on December 6th.

If you’re a fan of The Hub’s Transformers: Prime or just morphing robots in general, you might want to check out the original home video presentation of Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising on October 8th.

Finally, this trailer for The Tiger Mask is like one big “getting ready for something awesome” scene without the actual “something awesome.” Still, the movie as described by Asian Movie Pulse sounds pretty rad.

Outlander Was Surprisingly Good

I say surprisingly because the only thing I ever heard about Outlander (2008) is that it feature Vikings vs. aliens. In fact, when it was released on DVD in the last couple of weeks everyone referred to it as such. So, I added it to the top of my queue as I’m want to do with delayed movies and forgot about it. I was pleasantly surprised with the results.

The funny thing about watching movies on the train is that I don’t have any information on the movie, just what’s in front of me. Having put the disc in the player the night before and not reading any of the Netflix disc info I thought I was watching a really impressive movie from no name actors. It wasn’t until I looked the movie up on IMDb that Jesus himself starred. I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen Jim Caviezel in anything, so he just looked like any other dude to me and I definitely didn’t recognize Ron Perlman with all that Viking gear on (and sans Hellboy trench coat). William Hurt’s in it too, but he just looked like an old guy to me.

I’d like to flesh out the plot a little bit more for you guys too, assuming there aren’t a lot of people who saw it (according to Wiki it was only given a one week release, which is a shame because it’s one of the best original sci-fi movies I’ve seen in a while). It’s kind of a mix between Halo, Planet of the Apes, Predator, Alien, Pathfinder (but not shitty) with a few other references/homages thrown in like The Fugitive. Our main character is actually an alien of the space marine variety. He crashes on Earth during Viking times and helps them fight a rad-looking alien monster thing called the Moorwen.

Speaking of the Moorwen, the filmmakers did a great job creating the beast and really had fun with all the tail-whips and whatnot, but the really interesting aspect of the creature for me was the fact that it utilized bioluminescence to lure it’s prey (and to look like a rave at times). It’s just a cool idea that I haven’t seen before and the effects looked really good. Maybe it’s because I was watching it on a tiny screen, but I hope it would have looked just as good on my big TV.

It might sound kind of a straightforward plot, but there are all kinds of reveals and not the crazy twist kinds, just past-revealing moments that really flesh out the plot. Turns out our hero may not have been such a good dude and the Moorwen might have been victims themselves. There’s also a whole other mess going on between Hurt and Perlman’s people. Plus, the films I rattled off above don’t get copied exactly by any means, it’s just hard to watch any alien movie without thinking of Alien or Predator. Outlander takes all the elements, adds their own twists, mixes in the Viking stuff and blends them together in a nice cocktail, kind of like how Doomsday took all these rad elements and put them together, though I think it’s a bit smoother in Outlander (and with fewer ingredients).

If you’re an action, sci-fi fan or even a horror fan (there’s lots of blood, caves, monsters and corpses), you should definitely check it out.