A perfectly imperfect organism: The beautiful metamorphosis of the ‘Alien’ quadrilogy

“Strange fascination, fascinating me / Changes are taking the pace I’m going through” – David Bowie, Changes

“If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.” – Jim Rohn

“The saddest journey in the world is the one that follows a precise itinerary. Then you’re not a traveler. You’re a f**king tourist.” – Guillermo del Toro

“Do what you haven’t done is the key, I think.” – Ridley Scott

Over the past few days there has been quite the influx of retrospectives regarding the Alien franchise. Such is the cycle of a franchise, particularly one that’s been around as long as this one.

Surely there will be much to be said of the first two film’s influence. There will be in-depth histories into the making of each, focusing once again (most likely) on the first two films and rightly so. Both Alien and Aliens are absolute masterclasses, representing the pinnacle of what can be achieved in their respective genres and their influence is obvious in just about subsequent, similar film that came afterwards. Released in 1979, Alien remains the standard of the wonders of horror and science fiction. Its sequel, Aliens, bares one of the distinct honors of being a rare sequel that meets the level of success its iconic predecessor if not wholly surpassing it. Much can also be said about the franchise’s refreshing and outright progressive steps in showcasing a genuinely badass female protagonist in the form of one Ellen Ripley, who actually showcases characterization outside of “badass female protagonist.” -COUGHJYNERSOCOUGH-

Reviewers will be quick to praise the success of these two films, all while quickly dismissing the two films that followed them (Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection respectively). Now while these films are far, far, FAR from perfect, I argue they are also very far from terrible and in some respects even almost secretly phenomenal. Now you are well within your right to argue to the contrary but I posit that each and every one of these movies have merit and that’s what I’m here to convince you of here and now.

I’m here to put forth that this franchise deserves commendation for a reason I don’t see cited all that often by critics or fans and if I can somehow convince you to see this series out, then I call that a win for both of us.

The first four Alien films stand singularly as a franchise benefited by multiple cooks in the kitchen, not least of which is the fact that each sports a different director at the helm with Ridley Scott tasked with the first film, James Cameron the second, David Fincher the troubled-third and Jean-Pierre Jeunet bringing in the rear with the utterly insane (once thought to be) final chapter. The utterly unique thing about them combined is that none remotely resemble each other in regards to their tone. Each perfectly represents what their respective director brings the table and I absolutely love that. I’d argue it may just be the most director-driven franchise we’ve yet to see.

Much like the xenomorph itself, each entry adapts to the vision of its host or in this case, the director. Over the years, this monster has evolved and warped to whoever oversaw it. Like the Mad Max films, there isn’t too much of an emphasis on continuity but there is, at the very least, a through-line through the first four; that being Ripley (Signourney Weaver), the Weyland-Yutani Corporation and the xenomorph itself. So there is a cannon and I’m all for that, but there’s also wiggle room to take the story in directions free from the constraints of your typical, more episodic narrative. I’d almost argue the DVD/Blu-ray collection should be called the Alien Anthology rather than the Quadrilogy.

Now it’d be ridiculous to fully credit each of these movies to the efforts of a single person. As someone whose never fully subscribed to the auteur theory, I think the individuality of each entry can be attributed to small armies worth of folks both in-front of and behind the camera. Watch the bonus features on the Alien Quadrilogy box set (perhaps the greatest DVD/Blu-ray release of the past decade given the absolute wealth of material) and you’ll lose track of just how many people played in important part in each, a fact we often lose sight of with every movie. The BTS material on this set covers every single aspect of the production of each film, beginning with their origins and spanning all the way to the final product’s release and reception. Every individual interviewed is refreshingly candid, unafraid to share their personal thoughts regardless of whether it paints them in a pretty picture. The making of each entry is as interesting (if not more so) as the films themselves.

Also important to note that I’m really only going to get into the first four films as well as a little on Prometheus later on so that means no Alien vs. Predator or its equally terrible sequel.  I don’t really consider either of those movies to be honest-to-Ripley sequels because outside of featuring xenomorphs, they largely stand apart. The sooner I, and the world, can forget about scenes like the one below, the sooner we can heal.

Also those movie are lack any sort of merit beyond just being bad and I’m trying to bring us up rather than down…at least in relation to the first four films. There will be plenty of Prometheus-bashing soon.

I’m not divulging that in-depth in relation to the plot of these movies but there will be some frank discussion about plot points in each film in the series meaning of course the ending or major twists will come up at one point or another.

So yeah there are some spoilers, Nick.


The gist:

“After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious life-form, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.” – IMDb.com

So here’s our template, the movie that sets the tone for all that comes afterward. Almost all the major beats that take place a viewer from today may pass off as cliché neglecting the fact this is the film that not only created the cliché but perfected it. Typically, when EVERYTHING about a movie is iconic, it’s because more than one person was doing their job.

But another thing it deserves all the credit in the world for is just how dadgum relatable everything is. Yeah, I know. It takes place in space. Yeah, I know. There’s a face-hugging, chest-bursting monster at the center of it all. But as with the rest of these films, it’s really smart in its execution.

Our crew isn’t a group of scientists like in Prometheus. Nor are they an elite group of marines as in Aliens (with the term “elite” being used very, VERY liberally in this instance). They’re space truckers, and only one of them makes it out alive by the end. Even then, it’s by the absolute skin of her teeth. I think a lot of this reflects on the time this came out in the 1970s, where there was this larger push for the realistic; where films began to mirror documentaries in their presentation. Like A New Hope, Alien does not exist in a pristine future. It’s a world that’s been lived-in, where dated technology still exists and the grime carries over. This goes hand-in-hand with the way our character’s talk to one another. A lot has been said of the subtle yet noticeable way the crew talks over one another, similar to the way large groups of people do in real life. This is due to Scott trusting his actors in this case, allowing them to play off one another rather than fully adhering to the script.

It’s also incredibly important to point out how simple the whole affair is. The original theatrical cut clocks in at 117 minutes, chump change compared to today’s standard tent-pole but by no means a breezy movie either. But I can count only one hand how many major plot points there are, and I stress that the movie isn’t filler. It all comes down to the power of good pacing, matched with clever dialogue and stunning presentation.

In more cases than not, simple is the best option. Scott was setting out to make Dune (an adaptation he was originally supposed to direct funny enough before opting to do Blade Runner instead). There’s a much larger world in Alien, yes, but it’s at the service of the characters first. Go back and watch Alien and make a point to notice how all (or most) of the world-building is subjected largely to the background. That’s because Scott, at his best, is a MASTER CLASS world builder. When matched with a great screenplay, I argue he works best. It doesn’t hurt that he had the insight to bring in Swiss surrealist artist H. R. Giger to form his monster but everything involving the alien, ensuring a visual consistency on LV-426 and the crashed Space Jockey ship. I could go on but YouTuber kaptainkristian spoke in-depth on the matter and I’ll pass the baton off to him.

Another reason just about everyone loves (snobs and paupers alike) is that it appeases everyone’s sensibilities without ever once being condescending. It’s moody and dark, building tension to white-knuckle levels (Dallas in the vents), and it provides the ever-important gore (the chest-burster). Science fiction fans love the hardware, but those who don’t are never bored with techno-babble. It’s progressive in how it doesn’t fit any of its character into a box. No one is a damsel or tasteless stereotype. 

It checks off every box, making for as perfect of a film as there ever has been. I’d be lying if I thought it even needed a sequel let alone a franchise. But seeing as it made an estimated ALL OF THE MONEY in 1979, a sequel was all but assured. The question was however would said sequel be more of the same, but on a bigger scale or a different experience altogether set within the same world. The answer was a resounding….yes/no.


“Fifty seven years after Ellen Ripley survived her disastrous ordeal, her escape vessel is recovered after drifting across the galaxy as she slept in cryogenic stasis. Back on Earth, nobody believed her story about the “Aliens” on the moon LV-426. After the “Company” orders the colony on LV-426 to investigate, however, all communication with the colony is lost. The Company enlists Ripley to aid a team of tough, rugged space marines on a rescue mission to the now partially terraformed moon to find out if there are aliens or survivors. As the mission unfolds, Ripley will be forced to come to grips with her worst nightmare, but even as she does, she finds that the worst is yet to come.” – IMDb.com

Hard to ever really accurately gauge but if I were to make an informed guess, I’d say Aliens is the fan favorite. I’d certainly argue this as I’d say it is hands-down my favorite two films as well.

Something that’s been noted in recent years is that Aliens, for all its bells and whistles, is practically the exact same movie as Alien in that it hits a lot of the same narrative beats. The key difference is where Scott took us inward, favoring claustrophobia and paranoia; director James Cameron went much bigger, favoring action beats and encompassing scope. The connecting tissue (at least thematically) is that bigger themes weren’t lost in the shuffle.

Cameron took the mantle from Scott effortlessly, taking the world he had established without going too large. This is a tight-rope too many sequels fall short of, simply taking a “bigger is better” approach. Aliens growth all flows naturally. Informed by the insect-like design of the monster, Cameron built on that and made his monsters hive-based going so far as to have a queen. Informed by the treachery of Ash in the last film, Cameron plays with our expectations with Bishop and allows for ready-made tension. 

For all intents and purposes Aliens is an action blockbuster but as with a majority of Cameron’s films, it is an exceedingly intelligent one. Too often I see folks criticize the space marines for being one-dimensional, but Cameron and the cast do an incredibly skillful job at characterizing them all. Who is to say we really need to hear the life-story of all of these guys and gals? There’s a great deal many more of them than there were Nostromo crew members, so efficiency is key. Largely, we get all the info we really need within a few seconds of meeting each new squad member.

I love, love, love that most action-oriented of the series is the most about female empowerment as well. The image of Ripley we so often see is the one she becomes in this movie, and the great thing is that it doesn’t just happen. Ripley just barely survived the film and it had a great deal to do with luck. This is Weaver’s best outing with the character by a large margin reflected by the fact she received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her efforts; something typically unheard of for science fiction and horror.

She plays Ripley as a woman looking to find her footing in an unfamiliar world. In the Director’s Cut, we learn that her daughter died while she was floating around in space. The only thing left to her is her cat (who really needed an epilogue now that I think about it). Deciding to return to LV-426, she finds a new purpose in Newt and in doing so reclaims that lost motherhood.

This plays larger into her conflict with the Alien Queen during the film’s climax (given Ripley saw fit to torch all of her babies), which boils down the movie to a knock-out, drag-down war for motherhood told through the prism of an old-fashioned war story.

It’s easily the most accessible of the four as well. Where Alien and Alien 3 may (wrongly) be accused of being “boring” and Resurrection too weird, Aliens is just the right mix of action/horror/comedy that reaches a wide audience. It’s no coincidence that, in many cases, some saw this movie before Alien.

And that accessibility without sacrificing genuine storytelling is something I don’t think Cameron gets nearly enough kudos for.  He’s been credited for raising the bar of where effects can take us time and time again, but he always does so in a way that compliments the story too. Sure, he can be written off as unoriginal but more often than not he’s falling back on the grand tradition of acquiring a previous work and running with it.

Aliens represents a sequel done not just well, but perfectly. Anything that followed would have considerable shoes to fill. Unfortunately, the series really never recaptures the glory of its first two films. But as I said before, that doesn’t mean the two final films were failures. In fact, I argue they’re secret successes.

Alien 3

“After escaping from the alien moon, the ship carrying Ellen Ripley crashes onto a remote and inhabited ore refinery. While living in the ore refinery until she is rescued by her employers, Ripley discovers the horrifying reason for her crash: An alien stowaway. As the alien matures and begins to kill off the inhabitants, Ripley is unaware that her true enemy is more than just the killer alien.” – IMDb.com

When I talk about Alien 3, I get kind of defensive due in no small part to the involvement of director David Fincher, a man for whom I give a great deal of admiration to.

I’ll concede that the theatrical cut is a bit of a mess, a clear victim of retooling and cuts. The effects are also a series low point when it comes to seeing a dog-like xenomorph (or a cow as is the case in the Director’s cut) fully in motion. This is something I think speaks more to the limitations of technology at the time and its an admittedly a cool idea to give us a new type of creature, enhanced by a canine rather than a human. It branches out the mythos in a subtle way rather than immediately throwing elephant xenos or tiger xenos. That said the effect looks pretty bad even by early 90’s standards and probably could have used some re-tooling.

I’m mainly drawing from the 2003 Assembly Cut, a version of the film that is exactly what it sounds like. Adding in about 37 minutes of new or unused footage, this version fits in line more with Fincher’s original vision. Now it too isn’t a perfect movie, but I’d wager it’s a much more complete, comprehensible of the narrative. Not that I fault the studio all that much for making the cuts they did.

If one watches the BTS features on the Quadrilogy set (something I once again whole heartedly recommend), you’ll pick up on the fact that making each one of these movies was an absolute nightmare. Based on the production stories from Alien 3‘s surprisingly frank making-of documentaries, it’s a minor miracle that the either cut of the film is watchable at all.

Where Aliens was a big, loud, bombastic statement, Alien 3 brings everything inward; it cleans the slate, bringing everything back to a simplistic core. What it lacks in scope however it more than makes up with lofty ideas and imagery. It’s the closest the series has to an art film, something I attribute to Fincher and the early involvement of Vincent Ward, who brought forth a lot of religious context and themes to his original vision before Fincher took over. Fincher, to his credit, scaled things back considerably in favor of taking the series back to its roots. 

The last film sought to build Ripley up, elevating her to the badass we see often in the iconography.  Too often we neglect Alien 3 however, the movie that brought her right back down to lowest point we had yet to see her.

I think a lot of the hate this movie receives deals largely with the fact it is almost nothing like its largely revered predecessor. It’s in no way a fun movie and it isn’t a summer blockbuster. Hell, our movie opens with the death of Newt and Hicks. In the Assembly Cut, Newt’s autopsy is a critical scene for Ripley. There are very, very few scenes of levity to balance everything out so it is a really long, dour affair at the end of the day. I argue Fincher’s best stuff is pretty bleak though. He’s dabbled in darker comedy (Fight Club) and even prestige, feel-good whimsy (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button), but his greatest movies (Seven, Zodiac, Gone Girl) match his (presumably) dark soul.

In Fincher’s hands, Alien 3 is an excursion into nihilism on a dilapidated, claustrophobic prison planet populated by celibate fundamentalist prisoners so it at least removes the immediate threat of sexual violence where they’re concerned which is refreshing. The xenomorph, in all its forms, is kind of one big sexual allegory any way so to add that unpleasant layer would have in no doubt been a major detractor given this series is sort of built upon “subtle” sexual imagery due in no small part to the involvement of Giger.

However I must concede that Alien 3 never fully recovers from just how bleak it is. Still there is a lot to be said about its stylistic bravado and the courage it has in taking the series’ darkest turns. Killing of Ripley was a bold, fitting move and one almost wishes this had been the final chapter. She and the xenomorph go down together, their fates forever entwined and closed.

But alas, nothing ends in Hollywood as long as there is money to be made.

Alien: Resurrection

“200 years after the conclusion of Alien 3, the Company is able to resurrect Ripley through the process of cloning and the scientists successfully take the Queen Alien out of her. But, Ripley’s DNA gets mixed up with the Queen’s and she begins to develop certain alien characteristics. The scientists begin breeding the aliens, but they later escape. Soon the Xeno-morphs are running amok on the ship, which is on course to Earth. The Queen then gives birth to a deadly new breed of alien, which could spell disaster for the entire human race. It’s up to Ripley and a band of space pirates to stop the ship before it reaches Earth.” – IMDb.com

At last, we arrive at the black sheep of the family.

Alien: Resurrection is hands down one of the most insane wide-releases I think a major studio has put out in the past 3 or 4 decades. It’s just so utterly bizarre it deserves a litany of think-pieces examining just how this storm came together.

Weirdly enough, it’s also the one that seems to have gotten the least amount of studio notes.

Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet had only done two movies at this point and had yet to complete the film for which he will forever be associated: Amélie.

Suffice to say, he doesn’t automatically scream franchise material. Let alone the million dollar behemoth that the Alien franchise represented at the time and unlike Fincher, I don’t think the studio hired him to be some puppet to blindly accept notes. I think this movie really only represents Jeunet’s single stab at making a Hollywood movie, and it’s really fun to see what exactly he brought to the table having since seen him find his groove outside of the system.

Oh and did I mention the screenplay comes from nerd messiah Joss Whedon? Now this may seem like an odd fit, but if you actually watch the movie you see Whedon’s finger prints all over the damn thing with all of its quippy dialogue (at inopportune times) and playful jabs at genre conventions. There’s even a pre-Firefly wacky family dynamic with the crew of the Beatty; not to mention Whedon inherits one of the most empowered female leads in cinematic history, something he made a staple throughout his work. (That said, it makes no logical sense to have Ripley be in this outside of just finding an excuse to include Weaver and the reason provided for Ripley’s “resurrection” is quite the stretch. Then again, a stupid cloning aspect fits in perfectly with all of the other stupid shit celebrated therein.)

To be fair to Whedon, he’s gone on record more than once that he’s not a fan of the final product. He’s quoted as saying:

“It wasn’t a question of doing everything differently, although they changed the ending; it was mostly a matter of doing everything wrong. They said the lines…mostly…but they said them all wrong. And they cast it wrong. And they designed it wrong. And they scored it wrong. They did everything wrong that they could possibly do. There’s actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking, because everything that they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from the script, and people assume that, if I hated it, then they’d changed the script…but it wasn’t so much that they’d changed the script; it’s that they just executed it in such a ghastly fashion as to render it almost unwatchable.”

All credit to Whedon and he is fully entitled to his own opinion (it is a screenplay he wrote after all), but I humbly disagree. I think this a movie exudes a confidence that a lot of others of its scale at the time lacked and in that we find the spectacle.

You can almost get the sense Jeunet wanted to go crazier but was limited by plausibility and budget…probably the studio to a degree as well. This is the rare entry that probably could have used a bit more supervision to be sure. Frustratingly enough however, its utter insanity is what most elevates the movie from a forgettable chapter to arguably the most memorable if only for what your mind is assaulted with. It carries an odd integrity, consisting more of half-formed ideas combined with the ambitions of a French madman.

The one (of many) stupid things that probably could have used a touch up was….this stupid thing.

Look at its stupid face.

And my problem is more of nitpick because this…thing is supposed to be a half xenomorph/half human hybrid….even though the xenomorph is already supposed to be a half human hybrid. That said, I give it a pass because we get to see it die in a fashion that remains unmatched in the annals of cinema.

An element worth commendation that the movie never really executes is how it finally somewhat explores  the series-long thread of weaponizing the xenomorph. There’s a truly unsettling scene early on where the military is “farming” the aliens with live, human hosts they’ve essentially kidnapped. Unfortunately really never goes too in-depth with this aspect. It’d be interesting if a future movie examined this further.

While Resurrection is probably the weakest movie of all four, it features enough strong scenes like the one I just mentioned to keep it from devolving into simple schlock. It’s a roundtable movie, demanding discussion that all fall prey to it.

So while far from perfect, the Alien franchise had submitted its place as perhaps the most diverse cinematic franchise up to that point in that each entry represented something new, something different, something exciting. No two entries were ever the same. They didn’t always land, but they were distinct. In a world where studios are more concerned with consistency and inter-connecting episodic threads rather than something so risky, these movies would be downright revolutionary. 

Then Ridley Scott came back and fucked everything up…

Perhaps it’s unfair to join the masses in beating a long dead horse, airing my complains about a movie I’ve made sure to harp on in the past so I’m going to be as concise as I can before I send you out on your way. I could dedicate more than a few thousand words regarding plot holes, but that would be screaming into the abyss at this point. Add in the fact redlettermedia took on that task much more eloquently and concisely than I ever could.

Unlike AliensPrometheus doesn’t take risks with tone. It plays things safe, something no other entry had done up to that point. I can’t really stand on a chair above it, pretending I know what would have made a better movie or even that it’s a lazy movie. The production design and effects, for what they’re worth, clearly had a lot of effort put into them. It’s nice to say basic effort at least carried over where the visuals were concerned.

It would be unfair to say the movie is without merit and had it nothing to do with the world Scott helped begin all those decades ago, I’m sure my displeasure with it would have been tempered. In fact, I may have even enjoyed it a little bit more…not by much, but at least a little. The notion of Scott returning to a genre he helped define was enough to make one giddy. However it instead came off as Scott painting-by-numbers rather than be the innovator we all know him to be.

It was Alien but with a shittier coat of paint. Sure, it looks nice and new but the old layer hadn’t remotely begun to chip yet. There’s nothing distinctly praise-worthy about Prometheus outside of its visuals, a couple of half-baked unanswered questions and Michael Fassender’s turn as the android David, a character so developed and nuanced he’s a disservice to everyone else who comes off as flat and one-dimensional.

The comparisons to its forebear would have been there with Scott’s involvement alone but instead its hitched its trailer to a franchise it initially appears to share very little connective tissue with outside of its hard R-rating. I think this can possibly be faulted to pre-release build up that really wasn’t clear whether the film was indeed a prequel rather than a science fiction in the same vein as Alien. Given we now know it is a prequel, I believe comparisons are completely fair.

I hate accusations that a lot of hardcore Alien fans dismiss this movie because it “breaks from the formula.” This is something Scott has said in promoting the newest film, adding this is what led to said film’s creation and implying he’s “giving us what we want to see.”

I’ll get into it more in a bit, but this is probably the thing that enrages me most about Prometheus as a whole. It suggests we want to be spoon-fed rather than surprised. I could be wrong given how much money movies like the Beauty and the Beast remake make every year. It suggests audiences typically only want the same thing time after time. Sure, we love familiarity but there’s room for new stuff too…he said kind of simplistically.

Well if you want the same thing, look no further than Prometheus; a movie that could best be described as if Alien thought its audience consisted of nothing but morons. Where Alien had characters that felt like actual people, Prometheus “elevates” itself with dialogue no human being (not even a scientist) would utter.

Maybe it just falls back to personal preference. Where the characters in Alien were largely concerned about things like overtime and pay checks, the Prometheus crew are concerned with intangible concepts. “Is there a God?’ “Who made us?” “Why did he/she/it make us?” “Did I leave the stove light on?” These are not inherently boring ideas. They could be pretty interesting if framed properly. But Prometheus doesn’t really go for that. It largely hinges on the mystery. But in asking so many questions, it never really feels the need to answer any of them, leading to frustration. In a way, it undermines what made the original so great in the first place, complicating things that shouldn’t be all that complicated.

And it extends to matters beyond just dialogue as well. Whenever a new threat presents itself, the crew of the Nostromo make a point to map out to a degree their next course of action and in turn this allows us a chance to know them specifically as characters. The Prometheus crew, which I must remind you we are led to believe is a group of trained scientists that represent the highest potential in their respective fields (otherwise why else would they be recruited for potentially THE SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT DISCOVERY OF ALL TIME), lumber around like idiots, never really taking any time to discuss any intimidate action. We’re granted plenty of questions, but literally no payoff.

Hence my lack of excitement for the impending release of Alien: Covenant, yet another entry by Scott. From the grapevine I hear word that it is a soft reboot, meaning it is a reboot in everything but name so therefore could also be considered a prequel and/or sequel. There’s connective threads to what came before, but everything else is entirely new. Think of the Force Awakens, Jurassic World or the movie I just got done bitching about Prometheus as recent examples.

I have yet to see it, but I predict my reaction may be akin to how I gradually felt about Jurassic World, another soft reboot. I’m excited at first, seeing a franchise return to its roots but cools every single time I watch afterword.

Given it’s attached to Prometheus (thereby….sigh….attaching the two franchises), I also assume it’s a prequel. If there’s anything I didn’t need it was where the xenomorph came from. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but this is a monster that was much more interesting when my mind was allowed to fill in the gaps. Given they’re creatures that we’re not really ever asked to feel sympathy for (well, most of the time), in what instance is an origin needed.

One of the great joys in Alien is our characters land on LV-426, find a downed space ship they know nothing about. All we know is some insane parasitic creature has killed everyone on said ship, thereby making the jump to humans. Who is to say what they originally looked like? That’s never been a question lingering in my mind. I always viewed as this brilliant/terrifying coincidence that humans ran into this species at all. And as kaptainkristian pointed out so truthfully in his video essay, this is a creature we understand without any explanation. Thanks to the design, we fundamentally understand all three life stages of the xenomorph without all our characters gathered around a table to exposit each stage’s purpose.

And that’s why it sucks (to me) why Scott has saw fit to apparently take this series back under his wing, favoring a unified vision rather than experimentation. I fear we’re only going to get the same variation of the same movie year after year, joining the rank-and-file series it once set itself apart from. This isn’t to say I’m not in favor of a director overseeing an entire series. Without going down the entire list we have Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, James Gunn with the Guardians of the Galaxy and Richard Linklater’s Before trilogy for some prime examples. I’m simply arguing we could use more room for franchises that mix things up by letting new directors with different visions mess around and not in the same way as the James Bond series does, a franchise so beholden to its own formula it’s a point of humor in later installments.

Imagine how much more interesting if the Pirates of Caribbean series would have been if it ditched an over-arching narrative in favor of new directions with each entry? Much like the Back to the Future films, it dedicated its second and third to go hand-in-hand, leading to two movies that just sort of bleed into another without each really making a substantial impression. Whereas I argue the latter BtF films are marginally better, Pirates kept going after its original trilogy and appears to be going for something I’d initially consider a step in the right direction. Unfortunately it kind of comes too late. On Stranger Tides was so forgettable I struggle to remember a single thing that happened in or if I saw it all, and Dead Men Tell No Tales looks to be in the same vein. What that series could have benefited from is a new director each time, maybe focusing on someone other than Jack Sparrow and ditching a traditional arc; opting instead to bring us to new locales and adventures each outing.

This all wraps into why I’m here today, making a case for a series many dismiss as formulaic when in fact it’s a franchise (that once) was something special, something that changed from movie in the way a musical artist plays around with different genres; artists like Kanye West, Childish Gambino, Lady Gaga, David Bowie, Gorillaz and Bob Dylan.

I think we’ve largely grown complacent with sequels that barely register as mildly entertaining, and for what’s worth that’s not exactly the worst thing, but it also doesn’t really get the blood-pumping in a serious way either.

When you look back at the original four Alien films, you see a new vision each time. You see risk rather than safe, lazy imitation. For all its faults, Fox inadvertently created a highly, unique franchise (something that’s clear given they kept trying to bring back Scott and Cameron throughout the years), set apart from just about anything else of its scale in the Western studio system.

Does everything work? No. Not by a long shot but in a cinescape dominated by the “safe” and “episodic” there should still be room for a series that doesn’t adhere to a code, and mixes things up even if there are mistakes. So what if every beat doesn’t always land when the jump was completely watchable?

I argue these movies are anything but formulaic. There may be beats you expect, but tonally they could not be any more different. They match the tastes of four incredibly masterful and diverse directors, each sporting an entirely different feel than the last.

I can’t sit here and tell you what I want out of an Alien movie because my “dream Alien film” is one that I wouldn’t expect or at the very least one that is set apart from its predecessors. It would be one that does what this series and its monster (used) to do best: evolve.


‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’ impresses with its maturity and continued personality

Editor’s Note: In an attempt to keep some resemblance of consistency, I’m actually getting another review out the gate faster than I thought I would. I’ve written a review for almost every Marvel movie (Thor: The Dark World and Ant Man) since Iron Man so I wanted to get this out there as quickly as I could. Actually really liking the movie didn’t hurt either. 

The first Guardians of the Galaxy is definitively my favorite of the Marvel Studios’ canon at present period. I wouldn’t say there was a single terrible movie in the batch. It mainly falls to some being much more memorable than the others, and out of all of them I’d wager Guardians is the one to beat in that regard.

My review of the first film can be found here.

Writer/director James Gunn just brought such a voice to that film movie it  transcended beyond anything the company had done up to that point. Much credit to Marvel for actually allowing the guy to down his thing albeit within the confines of their big picture. I just wish the same sort of situation could have worked out for Edgar Wright and his Ant Man movie which I would have thought to the be the one that topped Guardians but I digress.

Going into the sequel, I didn’t have much doubt I’d enjoy it particularly since Gunn was coming back along with the entire original cast. The question was whether it could actually surpass the original. Too often sequels go too big, favoring familiar rather than innovation. Luckily Gunn is a smart enough filmmaker to largely bypass some sequel (Chris) prat falls other directors do, delivering a product that may not be as good as its predecessor but comes mighty damn close in some respects.

This will be a spoiler free review, Nick.

The plot:

“Set to the backdrop of ‘Awesome Mixtape #2,’ Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 continues the team’s adventures as they traverse the outer reaches of the cosmos. The Guardians must fight to keep their newfound family together as they unravel the mysteries of Peter Quill’s true parentage. Old foes become new allies and fan-favorite characters from the classic comics will come to our heroes’ aid as the Marvel cinematic universe continues to expand.” – IMDb.com

The review: 

Thankfully that all important personality I was drowning on and on about in the preface carries over here, almost even more so. There are so many weird things I want to talk about because Gunn goes for some off-the-beaten path pulls this time around. I remember freaking out in the first film when he went so far as to include Howard the Duck (who returns briefly) near the end. Here we have Ego the Living Planet as a major character as well as shout-outs to the original Guardians of the Galaxy (led by an actor I’m surprised wasn’t included in the marketing more) and even the Watchers.

Pardon me as a scratch off yet another thing I assumed I’d NEVER see in a major motion picture.

It’s also a movie bursting to the brim with color, unafraid to embrace an entire palate rather than brood in the shadows providing yet another line-in-the-sand for Marvel against their distinguished competition over at DC.

Gunn is our sole credited writer this time out and it shows, given this movie does something almost unthinkable in relation to the sequel-dominated cinescape we find ourselves in today: rather than expanding this insane universe, Gunn brings us inward. At times, this movie is downright intimate; given that once again a talking raccoon and sentient tree are major characters, this is all the more shocking.

From the offset, Gunn shows us how these characters have changed since last we met. Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt) is a little less reckless, recognizing himself as the caretaker of his team’s larger-than-life personalities. Gamora (Zoe Saldana) is less hardened, actually opening herself up to genuine care and affection. The same could be said of Drax (Dave Bautista), who is downright jovial this time around. Conversely, Rocket (Bradley Cooper) is a much more bitter; his wise cracks sporting a sharper edge.

Also Groot (Vin Diesel) is now a baby….referred to as Baby Groot, obviously.

Oh by the way, Gunn communicates all this subtly within the first ten minutes of the film; no easy feat to be sure, particularly just how many characters I just listed without even getting to the rest of the returning cast and new recruits.

Largely focused on the idea of a family being what you make of it (much like the first film), Vol 2 splits our characters off from one another for portions of the film, partnering them up with another guardian as to allow for some further development/playing of each other in different ways. 

Think of it like the fourth season of Arrested Development only here we actually have multiple scenes of the entire family altogether.

As you may have guessed, the story kind of takes a back seat in this entry leaving a film that is much more leisurely in its pacing. The larger MCU doesn’t really factor into the events, leaving our characters to take the reigns which I actually ended up liking quite a bit. It doesn’t hurt that these are such lovable and weird characters obviously.

The cast is again uniformly outstanding. Dave Bautista’s Drax is yet again the comedic highlight and in many ways come to represent the heart of this franchise. He gets to spend some quality time with Mantis (Pom Klementieff), a personal favorite of mine from the comics. Their interactions are basically everything I wanted and more, leading to some of the movie’s funniest bits.

I was kind of worried Marvel was going to lean in really hard on Baby Groot, who is obviously very adorable, but luckily he’s used effectively and more or less sparingly.

If the movie were to belong to anyone in front of the camera, it’d be Gunn mainstay Michael Rooker pictured below with a local drunk.

Rooker’s Yondu is partnered with Rocket and the two really get down to the nitty gritty as to why their characters are they way that they are, both of whom share arguably the best arcs in the entire film. Quill’s notion of “building your family around” is something that obviously stemmed from Yondu, and is explored to poignant effect here.

Rooker’s one of those character actors that is basically good in everything he appears in, which is no easy feat given the sheer scope of his body of work as a character is. Seriously go check out his IMDb page and come back. So know I’m serious when I say this may just be his best performance to date. I won’t divulge into specifics but the movie’s best beats (both comedic and dramatic) all go to him, and I feel it’s a performance we’ll all be talking about for a while. Given the guys super talented, it should come as no surprise and it’s awesome to see Gunn give his friend such a hefty role in such a huge movie. Not that he needs it, but I hope this means we’ll only see more of him in bigger films.

This film also passes the bechdel test, which is something I always like noting in major blockbusters. Zoe Saldana’s Gamora, perhaps the least developed of the guardians, is given much more time with her adopted “sister” Nebula, played by my favorite companion Karen Gillan. The two share quite a few nice story beats throughout, playing once again into the whole family theme.

If anyone gets shortchanged, oddly enough it’d be Chris Pratt’s Star Lord, who is paired with his father Ego (of course he’s played by Kurt Russell). Pratt really doesn’t do a whole lot another the final act and it’s not like he’s out of commission a majority of the movie. He’s just a lot lest dynamic to the plot outside of he’s just met his apparent father. To go another further would be too spoiler-y, but even though it’s kind of late in the game, Pratt is consistently in his element here. Unlike Jurassic World or Interstellar, Pratt is the perfect quasi-level headed mantle piece for this insane galaxy to rest its shoulders. He’s an insanely charismatic everyman, unafraid to look stupid or take a joke at his expense.

So if I were to take any qualms with this one it’d be that it’s almost too easy on plotting, drifting off in some sections where some tightening could have been beneficial. This becomes increasingly apparent during the middle section where we linger on beats that drag on just a tad too long. This becomes jarring once things ramp up in the third act and we have action happening at a lighting fast rate.

The film’s soundtrack, following in the footsteps of the unlikely mega-hit that was the Awesome Mix, Vol 1, is similar to the film itself in that it is perfectly great but just not up to the exact bar of its predecessor. Their are certainly some stellar tracks put into play here though with my favorite Fleetwood Mac song of all time being the largest standout for me personally.

Although Glen Campbell’s inclusion was also a worthy of note too, particularly the ludicrously silly scene it accompanies.

To be a nitpick, I’d argue the songs in the first film “fit better” in that each and every one was obviously carefully picked one-by-one as to go specifically with each scene in which it appears. Vol. 2‘s soundtrack, while also doing this to a degree, feels just a little bit more like an oldies jukebox. There’s really nothing wrong with that. It kind of just boils down to personal preference. It comes no where near the level of ego/incompetence behind the ADD music cues in Suicide Squad, which were part showing off and part shamelessly attempting to emulate the success of the first Guardian‘s soundtrack.

In the end, it doesn’t really matter whether Vol. 2 a better movie than the first film; it’s a hell of a lot of fun all while being much more mature, opting not to rest solely on the past accomplishments of its predecessor to make it great. It builds on them. Think of this as the Paul’s Boutique to the first film’s License To Ill. Sure it lacks the populace appeal of the first outing as well as its conciseness, but it’s deceptively simple as it hides layers of complexity to be discussed and examined beyond its initial release.

I for one can’t wait to see this motley crew back in both Avengers 3 and the third (and presumably final) film with Gunn on writing and directing duties. Like it or not (why would you not), Gunn has carved out a whole universe for himself; largely undictated by the larger demands of the MCU and a sandbox for which he and his team may let their collective imagination run rampant.

‘Split’ paves the way for the long awaited M. Night Shyamalan “return to form” once thought to be a pipe-dream

I’ve said some…less than kind things about the canon of M. Night Shyamalan. I’ll admit it. I stand by them. To clarify, I have nothing against the man personally. But let’s be clear:

Signs – Watchable but not a good movie.

The Village – A promising start, all undone by uneven pacing and a weak twist.

The Lady in the Water – Misguided and completely forgettable.

The Happening – Utter garbage on almost every front.

The Last Airbender – Possibly the worst adaptation of ANYTHING I have ever seen, and the drop off point in terms of my Shyamalan viewing. (The more I read about the production however the less Shyamalan seems to be at fault in this instance.)

With exception of The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, I don’t think Shyamalan has a single film to his credit I’d consider good. The vary on the scale of adequate to outright terrible. His first two aforementioned films however are so strong that there was always a tiny, rapidly dying flame I’ve carried that he’d at some point get his mojo back. Unbreakable in particular, an INCREDIBLY underrated superhero flick that was largely overshadowed by The Sixth Sense. 

From the offset, I wanted to write this one off too. To be frank, I probably would not have even given it a shot were the word-of-mouth not been as strong as it has been. 

And in this one, brief instance: that word-of-mouth had some solid validity to it. Having now seen the movie, I can say it’s easily the writer/director’s best in well over a decade and actually provides a glaring light of quality in a January typically designated as a dumping ground for studios.

Just to be clear: I’m going to avoid spoilers here. I’d normally say, fuck it. But we’re talking about an M. Night movie here. The man has built a career on his twists. While I’d argue the one in Split isn’t all that earth-shattering, particularly if you are well-versed in the man’s other films (HINT, HINT), I’ll still keep it an air of mystery as the rest of the internet appears to have done so.


The plot: 

“After three girls are kidnapped by a man with 24 distinct personalities they must find some of the different personalities that can help them while running away and staying alive from the others.” – IMDb.com

The review: 

The film’s main strength, as is the case with many I find, is its relentless likability achieved by just how bonkers it dares to go. For my money, Split is the campiest, funniest movie Shyamalan has ever gone and the movie is only made better for it. It’s really impressive as the movie walks a very, VERY fine tight-rope between

It’s also the first in well over a decade to play to its writer/director’s main strengths. An oxymoron to be sure. Similar to Sense and Unbreakable, the film operates on a relatively low budget but what it lacks in fund it more than makes up with  with in sheer confidence. I didn’t see The Visit, but from what I gather it is similar in that it represents M. Night getting “back-to-basics.”

It goes a step further by waving away the overly-somber atmosphere of those earlier two films. Don’t get me wrong. There are some heavy things are work here with child abuse only being the tip of the proverbial iceberg, but the movie never really loses sight of how goofy its initial premise is and at the very center is a complex, wacky, layered performance from James McAvoy.


Without an actor like McAvoy, someone really unafraid to commit while also dedicate the time to making each personality distinct, the movie would have crashed and burned like so many others in  Shyamalan’s canon. Films, by their very nature, are collaborative in nature. One thing goes wrong, it could spell disaster for the entire production. Now, I understand this is incredibly obvious but I only say it to make a point. This movie stands on the shoulders of McAvoy and his success is its success. There’s just no way around that.

Is his performance(s) Oscar-worthy? I don’t think I’d commit to that necessarily, but it is a performance worth commending and dissecting. We don’t see all 24 personalities that make up Kevin, but the 4 or 5 that are showcased are fully-developed, understandable characters. Much more than any that appeared in Rouge One. You get a feel for who these characters are through tiny, at-times exaggerated, non-verbal actions rather than extended, monotonous monologues explaining who they are.

It should also be noted that the movie is gorgeous. Shyamalan recruits It Follows cinematographer Mike Gioulakis, who allows scenes to simply play out in extended, single-take shots. I had forgotten how good Shyamalan is at establishing tension and simply allowing it to play. He’s finally teamed with a cinematographer with a natural gift for it as well with the results being tiny wonders and a testament to the “less is more” approach to horror.

The movie has more than its fair share of issues. For one, I’m not sure all three aspects of the story gelled all that cohesively. We get Kevin’s adventure with his three-kidnapped victims as well as his interactions with his therapist Dr. Karen Fletcher (Betty Buckley), who is not convinced everything is fine with her most fascinating patient. We also get flashbacks regarding a nightmarish hunting trip taken by one of the three girls Kevin has kidnapped, played by The Witch‘s Anya Taylor-Joy. I don’t know. On the whole, all three narratives are fine but I feel like there could have been some trimming, particularly to the overly gratuitous flashbacks, and the film would not have lost all that much. To speak anymore on it however would be trimming the border of spoiler territory however.

I will say that the flashbacks really hammer home the themes of trauma and mental illness that I think Shyamalan is going for (much as he did in The Sixth Sense), and for that it gets a pass if only for being well-intended. I just feel as if there was a way to convey the information we get from them as subtly as we learn about each of Kevin’s personalities.

Another case could be made that the other two girls in Kevin’s clutches (played by Haley Lu Richardson and Jessica Sula respectively) are largely pointless. I argue however their purpose is supported by their final fate in the film, but once again…


So, there you have it. Split is by no means a classic, but it represents something that warrants discussion and that is a hopeful return to form for a director that is long in need of one. It’s a movie that unabashed trashy, all while being much smarter than it initially lets on. In other words, my favorite kind of genre-movie.

The Not-So Amazing Spider-Man 2

I really hate it when movies frustrate me this much.

I’ve gone on record almost too many times to count about how Spider-Man is my favorite superhero. While I will always have faults with the character, but I still point to him as the best the comic book medium has to offer in terms of spandex.

I’ve also gone on record with my “less-than-enthused” reaction to the 2012 reboot of the Spider-Man film franchise. While it had its moments, (thanks in large part to the infectious chemistry of Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone as well as a new wise-cracking Spidey) it came off as a rushed, soulless mess made for the pure sake of keeping the franchise within Sony’s grasp and out of Marvel Studios’.

Sadly while it wasn’t as bad as the last movie, there is still quite a bit more improvements that could be made to the latest cinematic adventure of Old Web Head.


The plot:

“We’ve always known that Spider-Man’s most important conflict has been within himself: the struggle between the ordinary obligations of Peter Parker and the extraordinary responsibilities of Spider-Man. But in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, Peter Parker finds that his greatest battle is about to begin. It’s great to be Spider-Man (Andrew Garfield). For Peter Parker, there’s no feeling quite like swinging between skyscrapers, embracing being the hero, and spending time with Gwen (Emma Stone). But being Spider-Man comes at a price: only Spider-Man can protect his fellow New Yorkers from the formidable villains that threaten the city. With the emergence of Electro (Jamie Foxx), Peter must confront a foe far more powerful than he. And as his old friend, Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan), returns, Peter comes to realize that all of his enemies have one thing in common: Oscorp.” – IMDb.com

The review:

As always let’s start out with the good. First off, this movie is leaps and bounds better than first installment of the reboot Spidey franchise thanks in large part to the origin story well out of the way. This at least feels like a Spider-Man movie.

Andrew Garfield continues to be above the material he is given, and he is by far the best Spider-Man to grace the big screen. I want you to note that I said Spider-Man and not Peter Parker however. When he is in the suit, Garfield brings the character to life in the exact ways that you would want him to. Spider-Man has always been a character that always separated himself from a majority of the pack by being a true hero of the people. I loved all of the little scenes with Garfield just being Spider-Man and stopping smaller crimes. I also love Spidey as a wise-cracking annoyance who never shuts the fuck up meaning he doesn’t just beat criminals up; he gets under their skin by frustrating them. We only got glimpses of that aspect in the Sam Rami films, but in this new series it is on full display and quite possibly the biggest improvement overall.

Emma Stone is also once again does a quality job as Gwen Stacy. He scenes with Garfield are some of the best in the film if only for the palpable chemistry between the two. Gwen isn’t the constant damsel in distress like Mary Jane was in the Rami trilogy. She actually participates in the action to the best of her ability.

And while it is far from perfect, I’ll at least give Jamie Foxx a pass in terms of effort. He is trying his damndest to sell Electro as a good villain. While the writing of the character ultimately falls short, I would say at least when Foxx is in the make-up and his voice has been tinkered with, Electro at least looks and sounds cool. His coolness wained when I realized he has the EXACT same backstory as the Riddler from ‘Batman Forever’ however.

The rest of the cast barely registers sadly as the movie feels the need to keep up pace.

The action is stepped up quite a bit this time around as well with a spectacular fight scene taking place in Times Square that movie never really comes close to topping. (Unfortunately this sequence is about half-way through the movie.) The stuff with Paul Giamatti’s Rhino was also pretty fun, and harkened back to classic Spider-Man comics. I appreciated Giamatti’s scene chewing as well. Since he barely registered as a villain, I found it appropriate to have this silly side-story with an over-the-top stereotype.

While a lot of people seem pretty divided on the Hans Zimmer composed and Pharrell Williams produced score, I actually dug it for the most part. Beyond that stupid Phillip Phillips song rearing its ugly head, I think everything worked. Hell, I even dug the dubstep/whisper of the Electro theme. At least it was memorable.

Some of the fan service was cool as well, but kind of just felt like Sony scrambling to build a cinematic universe to rival big brother Marvel’s. (Note to Sony: Spider-Man is never going to have as viable a universe with just Venom and the Sinister Six to fall back on.)

This leads me to my (numerous) complaints about the film. Get comfortable, folks. We are going to be here for a bit.

For a movie that is over two hours, this went by really quickly and I do not mean that in a good way. Everything feels rushed with the direct consequence being that none of the bigger character moments feeling earned or appropriately heavy. It is incredibly frustrating to have Sony making the same mistakes they made with Spider-Man 3. THE. EXACT. MISTAKES.

I give no fucks about the backstory with Peter’s parents or the Oscorp conspiracy. I can’t even say if either of those elements were cut out the movie would be better as it essential to the plot thread these movies are build upon. I feel bad for director Marc Webb who has to adhere to all of that bullshit while the guys over at Marvel are like, “Yeah we have a connected narrative, but we don’t build each movie on it.” Take the recent Captain America sequel. That movie was phenomenal and played into a bigger universe as it should because the Marvel MCU works. There are a lot of moving parts. A Spider-Man cinematic universe does not work. It would work in the higher context of an MCU. That would actually give it the space it needs to actually contain some substance with competent narrative thread (pun totally intended) and actually some investment. But when you confine it like this, the only thing we have are a fuck-ton of contrived conveniences (all of the villains are made by Oscorp!).

Also can I add that I LOATHE the “revelation” that the Spider DNA was tailored to Peter? It’s one of the dumbest moves since midichlorians. There is dumb, and then there is DUMB. Speaking of dumb…

The character of Harry Osborn. Holy shit. I thought the Rami movies did a sub-par job handling his character with the whole amnesia bullshit. Then I saw….this.


What is this? Why? Can we not have a decent looking Green Goblin in a movie? The last one looked like a fucking Power Rangers villain and now we get…Jager pilot Gollum?!

Anyway, back to the character. He basically registers as this movie’s Venom which means he is a completely unnecessary villain that only serves to drag on the story for the sake of recognizably and fan service. Even pre-Goblin, Harry is possibly one of the most annoying characters I’ve seen in a movie in quite some time. I am a fan of actor Dane DeHaan. He’s done some phenomenal work in movies like ‘Chronicle’ and ‘Kill Your Darlings.’ I place no blame on him, or at least not a lot. The character is just so poorly written. I got no sense of him and Peter being life-long friends, and the screenwriters never really give us a reason to buy it either. All of the scenes he has with Andrew Garfield are flat or uncomfortable. His motivations make about as much sense as Electro’s…meaning not at all. (“I hate Spider-Man because I did the thing he told me not to do, but I did it anyway, and then it blew up in my face. Now I’m going to show up at the end of the movie for no reason. HEHEHEHE.”)

It’s no secret who dies in this film, (the marketing department has made it abundantly clear through the numerous television ads and trailers) but for the 4 people who are not aware I will not spoil it here. It is a direct lifting of one of the most iconic deaths in comic book history so it is kind of hard to classify it as a spoiler anyway, but who am I to judge people that have never read a comic? I digress. My point is, this death should feel bigger and a hell of a lot more heavy than the film grants it. Props for actually making said scene tense, but I don’t think it felt earned. Especially in this movie.

Needless to say, I did not think this was a great movie. Hell, I struggle to say it was even a good movie. I’ll settle on saying it was mediocre at best with some above average elements in it. I really don’t care for the direction Sony is taking this franchise anymore, and I find that sad. I want to care about Spider-Man, but until they get some competent writers to put together a story worth telling, my interest turns to former “B-level” characters like Iron Man and Captain America.

‘Pacific Rim’ is the movie I’ve always wanted

Just go see this movie, and come back. Nothing I can say can really do the sheer scope and spectacle that Guillermo del Toro has brought to life within ‘Pacific Rim.’ This is ‘Avengers’ big, people. This is the movie we’ve been waiting for ever since we would make our toys fight each other, or pretend we were giants terrorizing the city.

The main reason I delayed this review was to hopefully allow some time so I can just fanboy out, and not oversell the movie. Now that it has been a few days, I think I can appropriately remove myself…somewhat. Expect a full amount of geekgasms throughout the review. It’s nice to have a movie that I actually have a lot to say about. The past few weeks have been filled with a mediocre metonymy filled with movies like ‘World War Z’ and ‘The Lone Ranger.’ It’s great to have a breath of fresh air in the form of a giant robot.


The Plot: 

“When legions of monstrous creatures, known as Kaiju, started rising from the sea, a war began that would take millions of lives and consume humanitys resources for years on end. To combat the giant Kaiju, a special type of weapon was devised: massive robots, called Jaegers, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. But even the Jaegers are proving nearly defenseless in the face of the relentless Kaiju. On the verge of defeat, the forces defending mankind have no choice but to turn to two unlikely heroes-a washed up former pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Rinko Kikuchi)-who are teamed to drive a legendary but seemingly obsolete Jaeger from the past. Together, they stand as mankinds last hope against the mounting apocalypse.” – Warner Bros.

I should really start off with the element of this movie that is going to get asses in the seats: giant robots fighting giant monsters. Not since ‘The Raid: Redemption’ have a seen a movie deliver on a premise that, while ultimately familiar, revitalized a genre in way that makes me cheer. The sheer scope of the Jaegers and Kaiju are just jaw-dropping. Del Toro is a director that excels at putting his boundless imagination on to the screen, and it is quite clear that this is a movie he was born to direct. Every single frame of the film is pure del Toro. Something that I couldn’t help but noticing is that every creature and robot has a weight to it. While the premise is incredibly absurd, there is a grounded element to the fantastically. Every part of the Jaeger has a purpose and works like an actually machine would. Every Kaiju is beautiful, and resembles so Earth animal in one respect or another. And when they fight? HOLY SHIT. I literally said that (probably way too loud) more than once during the Battle of Hong Kong sequence. This is effects porn done right. It’s excessive, but it never overstays its welcome. See this in IMAX 3-D. Seeing it in any less format is an injustice to yourself.

From what I can tell, the biggest criticisms are stemming from the human aspect of the film with some arguing that the human characters are not interesting and cliche. There is some truth to these accretions as most of the archetypes on display here have been seen numerous times before in similar films. We have a grizzled vet with a past, a book-smart newcomer, the comic relief nerds, the asshole Iceman-like character with a heart of gold, and even an angry black authority figure. Hell, you could argue this is like every buddy cop movie mixed with ‘Independence Day’ and ‘Destroy All Monsters,’ with a little ‘Evangelion’ thrown in for good measure. However, unlike every Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay movie ever, the archetypes here have a little more depth to them which I accredit to solid writing and a great cast. Take Charlie Hunnam for example. He plays the main hero, Raleigh Becket, (the names in this movie are a nightmare for spell check) a character type that I think has existed since the invention of fire. At this point, the role would normally be expected to quite vanilla. However, Hunnam is talented enough to make me care about a character that I would otherwise yawn at the thought of. The same could be said about the entire cast. My crush on Rinko Kikuchi that began in ‘The Brothers Bloom” is only strengthened here. I think the scene where she first steps into the drift is just fantastic. Idris Elba is reliably badass, while also providing the film with some much needed heart. (He has my vote for the next Batman.) There are a lot of complaints concerning the subplot concerning the two scientists played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman with a lot of critics equating them to annoying comedic relief. While they do provide the film with a majority of its lighter moments, I found there segments some of the best in the film that didn’t involve a robot beating the shit out of a monster with an oil tanker. It’s refreshing to see the smart guys take an active part in the action for once. This is a global crisis where not every problem can be solved with fisticuffs. Also, fuck anyone that thinks more Charlie Day in any movie is a bad thing.


There’s just a lot of great mold breaking to found here. This is the first big budget film where the stakes feel a lot bigger than to the constant threats we’ve seen to the United States in film. There isn’t a forced love story to slow the film down..at least for now. One could argue that Becket and Mako are attracted to one another, and the story is leading to them hooking up, but I would also argue that they have Drifted together. That led me to believe that they are now connected in a way that isn’t necessarily romantic, and that is honestly refreshing. We hardly see relationships between men and women in movies that aren’t romantic so here’s hoping if there is a sequel that they keep it platonic or at least find an interesting way to put a romantic spin on their relationship.  I also appreciated the overall lack of cynism in the film as it didn’t serve only as an extended toy commercial which is pretty surprising given the subject at hand. Hell, that makes me almost want there to be toys even more. I would have killed for a movie like this when I was a kid. I grew up with Godzilla, Gamera, and the giant monsters of Ray Harryhausen but to have something this scale, I find myself envious of the kids that now get to grow up with it, and collect all of the action figures. There aren’t any shit/dick jokes, no vapid pop music filling the soundtrack, no blatant product placement, or an over abundance of pop culture references. I guess you could say that this is a “Michael Bay-esque” movie done right. The common troupes are there, but the cynism isn’t. This wasn’t a shameless cash grap. Hard work, and thought went into this movie. It’s what separates it from a majority of films that have come out this summer. It has an overjoyed geeky heart beating within its giant metallic shell.

The film is fantastic in the sense that it entertains, but never talks down to its audience. This is a film by a nerd, who happens to be one of the most talented storytellers of his generation, given access to the best sandbox imaginable, and we get to witness it. Del Toro is one of us, and it is a joy to see the guy get the keys to a property as big as this. Here’s hoping Disney wises up, and lets him do something with Star Wars.

It’s sad to see this come in second to “Grown-Ups 2” (shivers), as I want to see more movies like this: a basic concept executed well and is fun to watch in and of itself, not a moody hero’s journey movie of a superhero we already know that’s just setting up for more mediocre sequels. But where that movie will ultimately be forgotten, I foresee PR staying in the public’s memory for years to come.

Now, I am sorry for the delay of this review. Hopefully whatever comes next will come in a timely fashion. I’m thinking something video game related.

“The Evil Dead” is why I love movies

The Evil Dead franchise is MY horror franchise. Not in the sense that it belongs to me, or something pretentious like that. No, this is a franchise that my heart beats for. I can go back and watch any of the three original films, and revert back into my 10-year-old self, lavishing in all of the gore, and comedy. I idolized Ash Williams. I longed to wield a “broomstick.” I can quote ‘Evil Dead 2’ and ‘Army of Darkness’ to next week. My man-crush on Bruce Campbell is no secret. I know I am not the only one to feel this way either. Millions of people love this series. It’s really hard not too actually.

Me with the cast of 'Evil Dead: The Musical,' holding a condom. Yeah, I was that excited.

Me with the cast of ‘Evil Dead: The Musical,’ holding a condom. Yeah, I was that excited.

Needless to say, when the very mention of remake was announced I had my pitchfork at the ready. The quick announcement that Ash would not be appearing was gasoline on the fire, as well as Diablo Cody coming in for rewrites. The more news I heard, the more bitterly indifferent I became. This was going to be a travesty, and I wanted no part of it.

However, as its release came closer and closer. I kept hearing great things about it. The red band trailer is what eventually turned me around. Seeing some good-old practical gore always makes my heart beat just a little bit better.

I always love it when I am wrong about movies. It’s always a pleasure to have a movie go, “Fuck you, and your preconceived notions of whether I was going to be good, Tyler!” The recent Dredd remake is a perfect example of that. I never try to assume, but I can’t help it with certain films. I do my best to reserve judgment  but being “the Evil Dead remake” is going to be an uphill battle in that regard.

But in the words of Dr. Manhattan, “I was wrong.”

This movie may be the most fun I’ve had watching a genre film since ‘The Raid’ last year. I felt exhausted by the end of it. In the best possible way. Is it going to win any awards next year? Of course not, unless its an audience award. By the way, see this movie in a crowded theater with the best possible sound system. Feel free to thank me later.


It’s very clear that director Fede Alvarez is going for the tone of the first Evil Dead movie. It wasn’t until the sequels that comedy became a crucial element. I think that’s the smartest move the filmmakers could have made honestly. Without taking itself too seriously, this is a horror movie that actually has some genuine scares. This isn’t a comedy…unless you are a demented fuck like me because I had a blast with this movie while still getting freaked out at parts of course. It’s so refreshing to go into a scary movie, and not be treated like a toddler. Having something jump out and go “BOO!” isn’t scary. It’s annoying. It’s just primal instinct kicking in. It’s the equivalent of someone playing peek-a-boo with a baby. Luckily, this movie relies on some good old fashioned tension, and practical effects.

I am happy to report there is minimal CGI gore, and it elevates the movie so high. We have some classics like arm removals, and tree rape, with some new favorites like car amputations and nail gun fun times. I honestly can’t wait for the unrated DVD/Blu-Ray to see what they actually had to hold back on.

On an acting level, the film is above average, especially given that this is a horror film, and thus knowing that the audience isn’t there for them. This film follows the grand Sam Raimi tradition of putting the actors, and by extension, the characters, through hell. There isn’t an Ash like character in the bunch for which I am thankful. The star of the movie is without a doubt Jane Levy, and I would like to see her continue on in this universe as the main character. I thought it was a nice twist to have all the characters out in the woods for a more meaningful purpose of helping her character, Mia, kick herion as opposed to just going to get laid. It doesn’t add a lot of depth, but more so than I am accustomed to seeing in the common horror movie. You can also tell she is having blast playing Evil Mia as well. Who wouldn’t honestly?



Shout out to Lou Taylor Pucci as well, who plays Eric, the dumbass that inevitably reads the incantation from the Necronomicon. He gets punished quite severally throughout the film for this, and it is pretty tough to watch at times.

This film looks beautiful as well, with cinematographer Aaron Morton doing a bang-up job of recapturing some of that classic Raimi camera work.

As a sidenote, hurry the fuck up and put the score for this movie on iTunes already. Roque Banos nailed the score, and it just screams Evil Dead.

Another major plus this film has going for it is that it let’s you know where it fits into the Evil Dead universe. While it isn’t clear yet, I’ve read enough interviews to know what the intentions in regards to the direction this franchise is going.

Warning: I try my best to keep my head on a swivel when it comes to writing reviews these days. It’s one of the main problems I have with people like Harry Knowles. Letting your emotions get the better of you can cause you to completely oversell a movie, and turn some people off. I have a problem keeping this in check when I write about movies like this. Now I know this isn’t an exact science. There is no way to correctly review something. Roger Ebert, arguably the best critic of our time, taught me that its okay to have passion for what you are writing about. Whether it be negative or positive, I love discussing movies. I love talking about what I hate about movies. I love talking about the things about movies that make me happy. So you know what, in honor of Mr. Ebert, I’m going to write passionately about something that made me happy without restraint. I only wish I could convey the love I have for movies with one tiny sliver of the way he conveyed his.




I recalled hearing something along the lines of “stay after the credits” in one of the advance reviews I read, so decided to give it a shot. After a change of underwear, I can say I am happy that I followed my intuition.

The second Bruce Campbell’s outline hits the screen, I hit euphoria. It’s literally only for 10 seconds, but it could have been 10 hours for all I care. There is no context as to why he appears, but who gives fuck?! IT’S FUCKING ASH WILLIAMS ON THE BIG SCREEN AGAIN! I will tell anyone within earshot that Ashley J. Williams is my favorite cinematic character of all time. There is hardly anyone that comes close. To see and know that Bruce Campbell could possibly be returning to the role is just…good. It’s that simple. This is better than Harrison Ford returning to Han Solo for me. To know that the Evil Dead Franchise can now continue with the foursome of Campbell, Raimi, Alvarez, and Levy is right up there with Star Wars coming back, and Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is not a remake. It is a “sidequel.” Unlike ‘The Bourne Legacy’ though, it doesn’t have to make constant note of its place in the universe. It completely stands on its own, with both halves hopefully meeting in the near future. It will be interesting to see how Ash and Mia play off of each other…knowing Ash, she will be a potential love interest.


!!!!!!END OF SPOILERS!!!!!!!


I truly hope this movie makes a lot of money, or at least enough to keep the franchise afloat. I hope talented filmmakers like Alvarez stay on, and keeping pumping new life into the series on a cinematic level. This is an incredibly strong first feature for the director, and I hope this isn’t the last time he plays around in the horror genre.

Like The ‘Cabin in the Woods’ and ‘The Raid’ last year, ‘The Evil Dead’ rejuvenated not only my love of good horror, but in movie as a whole. This is a “gather around with your friends, and yell about how fucking awesome the film you all just witnessed was” type of movie, and frankly they don’t make enough of those anymore. It’s so fitting that this, and the rerelease of ‘Jurassic Park’ are coming out on the same weekend. I can celebrate the old, and the new, all while raising a glass to a man that helped me love movies all the more. RIP Mr. Ebert. See you all at the movies!

It’s time to celebrate the nonsense

Well, I have finally made the leap…metaphorically speaking. I am too out of shape to warrant an actual leap at this point. No, this leap is much smaller, and even less impressive. I have made the move from Facebook blogging to WordPress blogging.

I put a space there to hold for all of your applause.

Still waiting.

C’mon already! I don’t have all day.

What’s that?

Zero fucks are given?

Okay, moving on. The purpose of this post is to ‘set the mood’ so to speak as to what this blog will be about. It’s fairly difficult for me to make an opening blog that doesn’t sound cliche. Hell, that sentence is probably cliche at this point. Well, if you noticed the “well-thought out” title, it may come off as completely nonsensical. That’s what the point of that joke was in the first Austin Powers film, right?

For those of you who currently hold real estate under rocks or have investments in actual lives, please see the link below.

Well, when you boil it down, yes, this blog will be about nonsense. Nothing special in terms of blogging. I will probably share my opinions on things like Batman, Doctor Who, Space Jam, and various other nerdy shit that the ladies find so attractive these days. Trivial things that some people would consider nonsense, much like a shark with a laser beam attached to its head. But there are so many things people consider nonsense these days: Politics, sports, personal problems; the list goes on. It’s all a matter of perspective. I could give two shits about football. I will never understand the intense passion some people have for it. It rivals golf in terms of how quickly I can fall asleep with it on the television. But still, so many people can speak hours and hours about that goddamn game which leaves me scratching my head. They wait for hours in line just to have shitty seats to a game that doesn’t even have “bowl” in the title.

But then I try to look at one of my passions through an outsider’s eyes. Someone who doesn’t get why Harry Potter is such a driving force for some people. I and thousands of other people waited in line for 9 hours for the last movie. That’s insane to some people, but completely normal to me. Hell, I live for shit like that.

“Look at those fucking dorks!” I am the dork on the left…in the Harry Potter shirt…I’ve lost weight.

It’s my football conundrum flipped on its head.

If I had to make a mission statement for this blog it would be this: I promise to celebrate nonsense. One day, I may decide to post something about why the ending of ‘Batman Begins’ makes me choke up almost every time I see it. The next I may discuss the absurdity of this Chick-Fil-A fiasco. Both of these are nonsense to some, but important to others. I will be careful to tread lightly though. Some may view the coverage of the Aurora shooting tragedy nonsense. I take issue with that, and who knows? Maybe it will come up at some point.

You can also expect a movie review or two. Some people hold my opinion on films in high regard. Those people are labeled as “crazy.” (I love you guys.)

I can’t promise I won’t piss someone off. My  smelly atheist, liberal views tend to do that. But I hope to never insult. That will never be my attention. If you don’t like my opinion, voice yours. I’ll gladly welcome it. But if you need a face to hate, check out this bad boy.

“Single and ready to mingle ladies,” said his gravestone.

So that does it for my first post. If you noticed every grammar mistake, get ready for more or stop reading. Until I find an editor who will work for free and is on call 24/7, I’ll post these right as I finish them. Kind of sad for an English major, but who gives a fuck in the end? Speaking of the end, I should go. I need to watch the new Doctor Who trailer for the 20th time today. Take it easy, everyone!