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Reviews Written by
Jason C. Wilkerson "Bittah Prophet" RSS Feed (Grafton, WI)

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Collapsible Lung
Collapsible Lung
Price: $9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Collapsible Lung, August 27, 2013
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This review is from: Collapsible Lung (MP3 Music)
I've been a fan of Relient K since the release of their eponymous debut in 2000, back when their most popular song was "My Girlfriend" with the notorious line, "Marilyn Manson ate my girlfriend." I was at the Dance Party USA tour where they first debuted "May the Horse Be with You" from their (at the time) sophomore album, The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek. (Interesting bit of trivia: they were the openers for that tour, followed by Switchfoot, and the headliner was OC Supertones.)

This year saw the release of Relient K's seventh studio album, Collapsible Lung. Before I get to the review of their current album I think a little historic context for the band's previous album will help to understand their artistic choices on this album. In 2008, primary singer and songwriter Matt Thiessen and his long time fiancée broke up. After this, Thiessen went to Winchester, TN where he remained isolated writing songs for Forget and Not Slow Down. The result is an album that is very textured, personal, and emotional. The result has led many to believe, including myself, that it is the best of the band's career.

Where does a band go when they're on such a high though? Well, if you've crafted such an emotionally draining work of art, you may tend to craft a much lighter piece to balance things out. This is the case with Collapsible Lung. Relient K has been known to play around with their style since their start as a pop punk outfit throwing in elements of ska, new wave, folk, country, etc. Collapsible Lung, however, is the first album where they make extensive use of pop.

The result is an album that is, to say the least intriguing. It's very eclectic, largely owing to the array of songwriters on the album. This is the first album where the band uses songwriters outside of the band to assist with crafting the songs. At times you get tracks that are reminiscent of Maroon 5 or Justin Timberlake ("Lost Boy" and "PTL") down to Thiessen's falsetto croon, other times you get tracks that sound like Jason Mraz ("Can't Complain") or Butch Walker ("Gloria").

For long time fans of the band, though, the lyrics can be a bit of a letdown at times. On "PTL" Thiessen sings, "By the time I met you it was 12 past midnight/Told you I'd be the best you never had/ You said "Are you serious?"/ I said like a heart attack." A very cliché line that is almost saved by the chorus, "I never meant to be your part time lover/ Then again I've never been a full time man," but it's these inconsistencies that drag down the album.
There's a certain expectation when you come to a Relient K album, especially with a master of play on words like Thiessen (one of my favorite lyrics of all time comes from Thiessen on Relient K's previous album from the song "Sahara": "A lion on his side was it the lying or his pride that brought him down?/ Once the king of beasts but now hey feast on the thoughts beneath his vacant crown"), and this album doesn't fit that mold. I blame this on a case of too many cooks in a kitchen that definitely didn't need them.

Relient K started out as a Christian band, and has even maintained that through the height of their success on albums mmhmm and Five Score and Seven Years Ago, so Christian fans will find some of the lyric choices disturbing on this album. The band that once lamented a friend who enjoys Miller Light on the track "What Have You Been Doing Lately?" from The Anatomy of the Tongue in Cheek now sings lines like, "Believe me, she'll leave a bad taste in your mouth/ Can't drink enough to wash her down," and "Girl what was I drinking.../You were at my favorite bar..." Personally, I don't have a problem with the lyrical change (except the issues of cliché lyrics), but for those that do have an issue should probably look beyond Relient K to the myriad songwriters who assisted on the project.

The result is a fun set of songs, even if they do not meet the quality of the band's previous output. Diehard fans of Relient K will find plenty to love here, but if you don't want to wade through the pop tracks and want to get to the Relient K you know and love, I would recommend that you pick up "Don't Blink", "Gloria", "Disaster", "Sweeter", and "Collapsible Lung".


El Scorcho (Album Version)
El Scorcho (Album Version)
Price: $1.29

5.0 out of 5 stars El Scorcho by Weezer, January 5, 2012
Weezer's Pinkerton album was written largely while Rivers Cuomo was at Harvard. Having achieved some fame with their first album, Weezer (Blue Album), he felt somewhat disenfranchised by being a rock star and wanted to create something different. So musically the album is much rawer than the previous album and lyrically the album is much more personal than the previous album. The result was an album that Geffen A&R rep Todd Sullivan called a "very brave record" and the label said, "...no one's going to be disappointed."

Unfortunately upon its release almost everyone was disappointed. In Rolling Stone, Pinkerton was named by the readers the worst album of 1996. Rivers Cuomo himself said that it was a hideous record in 2001. (He amended his statement in 2008 calling it "...super-deep, brave, and authentic.") The disappointment of Pinkerton nearly caused the demise of the band as they wouldn't release another album for five years after its release. Actually it was the rise of Pinkerton that led to the re-emergence of Weezer. Rolling Stone readers would later name it the 16th greatest album of all time, and several publications would go on to list it in their must have albums list and best of the 90's.

The album wasn't helped by its first single, "El Scorcho", either. Many radio stations wouldn't play it and the video failed to get decent air time on MTV (yes, this was back when they actually did play videos and having your video on MTV could help your career). Of course for anyone looking for "Buddy Holly" or "Undone (The Sweater Song)" this seemed like quite the odd follow-up.

This song is a little rough around the edges, without the polished production of a lot of pop rock that came out at the time and since. At times the guitar riff seems to meander a bit and at other times the song gallops along with purpose. In its own way the song could be said to be somewhat progressive in its peaks and valleys. Throughout the song there are also these improvised vocals as if the song is being performed at a party or just a gathering for friends. It's a much different style of song than what was expected after their first album.

Lyrically this song saw Rivers Cuomo diving headfirst into a much more personal territory. It was inspired by a girl that Cuomo fell for at school but never had the courage to speak to. As always Cuomo takes a tongue in cheek approach to expressing his feelings, something that has set him apart from the emo artists that he helped to inspire. The subject matter could be taken very seriously, but Cuomo understands what he's doing: "How stupid is it?/ I can't talk about it/ I gotta sing about it/ and make a record of my heart."

5/5

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All About Eve (Two-Disc Special Edition)
All About Eve (Two-Disc Special Edition)
DVD ~ Bette Davis
Price: $9.99
52 used & new from $4.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars All About Eve, January 5, 2012
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Sometimes hearing the background story to a movie can be almost as interesting as the movie itself. This isn't quite the case of All About Eve which still remains a brilliant and highly entertaining film, but that doesn't make some of the backstage info less interesting. One tidbit to learn is that Zsa Zsa Gabor was in the running to play Miss Casswell in a role that ended up going to Marilyn Monroe. Her husband, George Sanders, landed the role of Miss Casswell's mentor Addison DeWitt. As a result Gabor kept popping up on set out of jealousy. (Ronald Reagan and his future wife Nancy Davis were also up for roles in the film as well.)

All About Eve for a long time held the record for most Oscar nominations with 14. In 1998 Titanic became only the second movie in history to garner that many nominations, but All About Eve still holds the record for most female acting nominations. Of particularly ironic interest is the fact that up and coming actress Anne Baxter possibly pressured the higher ups to market her for a Best Actress Oscar rather than Supporting Actress. This has lead people to believe that the Academy's vote was split between her and her costar Bette Davis, allowing Judy Holliday to win the Best Actress Oscar for Born Yesterday.

Eve Harrington (Anne Baxter) is a big fan of stage actress Margo Channing (Bette Davis), and when Margo's good friend Karen Richards (Celeste Holm) offers her a chance to meet her idol she jumps at the chance. Eve proves herself humble and idolizes Margo, and due to her past hard life, and the fact that she has nowhere to go, Margo moves her into her home and hires her as an assistant. Slowly Eve begins to move her way in with Margo's friends and colleagues and eventually tries to take her position on the stage.

All About Eve is constantly listed in the greatest movies lists (#21 in Entertainment Weekly, #28 in American Film Institute, #85 on IMDb) and with good reason. This is one of those rare occasions where everything comes together to create the perfect storm. The script provides us a brilliant look backstage at the theater, using it to parallel the still somewhat newer form of film at the time. In this way the film is still prescient to our ideals of ageism, and to a lesser extent sexism, in film.

The acting is impeccable. While everyone speaks highly of the performances given by Baxter and Davis, and they are extremely brilliant performances, the one that stands out to me is George Sanders as Addison DeWitt. Equal parts savvy and slimy, he commands and controls every scene he's in with a flair for control. Baxter must also be further mentioned for the subtleties of her performance. In order to reach the end effectively she must not give anything away, but when the truth of who she is comes out Baxter brilliantly reaches full bitch mode.

All About Eve helped to resurrect the career of Bette Davis whose relationship with Warner Brothers had just failed after a string of box office failures. It also helped launch Baxter's career as a leading lady after a decade in supporting roles, as well as Marilyn Monroe who was a relative unknown at the time. This is a film of many pleasures including one of the greatest lines of dialogue of all time ("Fasten your seatbelts. It's going to be a bumpy night.") If you haven't seen this flick I highly recommend you pick it up and give it a try!

5/5

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Slow Motion (2006 Remastered)
Slow Motion (2006 Remastered)
Price: $1.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Slow Motion by Third Eye Blind, January 5, 2012
After the release of their self-titled album exploded, Stephan Jenkins wanted to focus on backing away from the more pop rock styles and into more experimental rock territory for their follow-up album Blue. This was mainly inspired by the catchy pop sensibilities of "Semi-Charmed Life" that were remembered more than the deep subject matter. As a result Blue turned out to be a much darker album and at times not nearly as accessible as their debut. As dark as the album got, though, there was one track that the record executives would not allow to be released in its full version.

"Slow Motion" was originally released in an almost all instrumental form with the refrain, "Slow motion see me let go" appearing as the only lyrics in the song in the original versions of the album and removed in later versions. (In the original demo this line was, "Slow motion in the ghetto.") The lyrics were deemed to be too violent for the album's release date in 1999, particularly in the wake of the Columbine High School shootings of April of that year. I first came across the full track around 2002 since the full version was released internationally allowing it to leak back to the states. In 2006 the full version was officially released stateside as part of the greatest hits compilation A Collection.

The lyrics of the song open with a guy shooting his former teacher's son simply because, "...he owed me money/ With a bullet in the chest you cannot run." The song takes us through the singer doing coke with a girl who OD's, and shooting heroine while his sister (probably mentally handicapped from eating paint chips with lead in the paint) moans in the room next door and his neighbor beats his wife. His description of the neighbor beating his wife is actually one of the more disturbing points in the song: "There's a knock to his fist as it swings/ Oh man, what a beautiful thing." The real point of the song, though, isn't made in the violence and drug abuse though it's made in the line, "Hollywood glamorized my wrath/ I'm a young urban psychopath." The entire song leads to an indictment of Hollywood using real life stories like the one listed in the song and glamorizing it. That's a large part of why this song makes my top 10 list.

Musically, a song like this based on the lyrically content may seem like it may need to be muscular and heavy, but the music actually is more subdued leaning more on blues tinged guitar with a touch of piano and organ adding ambiance to the piece. I really admire the fact that Jenkins resisted any possible urge to add a moment when the rest of the band comes in for a huge musical finish, which would have also cheapened the message of the song. It's one of those rare sparsely written songs that comes out just perfect, but with a message that's fairly unique for this style.

5/5

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Alien Resurrection (ws) [Blu-ray]
Alien Resurrection (ws) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Weaver
Price: $10.49
25 used & new from $6.71

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alien: Resurrection, January 5, 2012
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"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 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 they could possibly do. That's actually a fascinating lesson in filmmaking. Because everything they did reflects back to the script or looks like something from it. And people assume that if I hated it then they'd changed the script...but it wasn't so much they changed it, they executed it in such a ghastly fashion they rendered it unwatchable." - Joss Whedon on Alien: Resurrection

This was Whedon's response to accusations that Jean Pierre-Jeunet deviated from the screenplay he had written. These accusations were brought forth by the fact that Whedon expressed his displeasure in the film. In reality he was upset with the fact that he had written the screenplay with a tongue in cheek tone, but in the end the director opted to play the film straight. The result became part of the inspiration for my favorite show from Whedon: Firefly. Needless to say that has gained more acclaim and a greater fan following than Alien: Resurrection.

Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), having died at the end of Alien3, has been cloned by the corporation 200 years after her death. She's become a blend of alien and human, the soldier that they have been looking for. In turn they have also created new aliens, but when they escape from their holding pin it is up to the alien hybrid Ripley to help a mercenary crew escape from the Auriga ship they are being held captive on.

Honestly, I don't get all the hate for Alien: Resurrection. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's a great movie but I did enjoy it more than Alien3 and people seem to enjoy that movie much more than this. That's something I've never been quite able to grasp. For me, anytime Ron Perlman is involved in a flick I stand up and take notice, and he does a great job at adding levity to the proceedings here. Sigourney Weaver also seems to be having more fun than she has the entire series as well. She's able to play around with the character she created in the first Alien and evolve, since she's a hybrid, into a somewhat ambiguous character.

While Jean Pierre-Jeunet did not completely keep to Whedon's script he still seems to be having fun with the movie. For a guy who codirected flicks like Amelie and Delicatessen, he keeps something of that French tongue in cheek spirit. I think that we as Americans sometimes can't exactly see that for what it is. At the same time though, do we really want that from our Alien movies? Alien and Aliens were brilliant pieces of work that didn't rely on levity in their proceedings, but Alien3 was so dark that it might have required such levity. Either way I think this is still the last decent flick in the series.

Looking back on the series I think Alien3 is the weakest link, unfortunately I seem to be in the minority. Alien3 had the benefit of being directed largely by future Oscar nominee David Fincher; whereas Alien: Resurrection was directed by Jean Pierre-Jeunet, who had not directed a flick alone or in English prior to this film (he required a translator on site in order to communicate with the cast). Jeunet regular Dominique Pinon, Perlman, Weaver, and Alien newbie Winona Ryder among a largely entertaining cast help make this film a lot more fun than people like to admit. I recommend this over Alien3, but then again I would recommend all of the Alien flicks to first time watchers. Even at its worst, it's better than most Science Fiction series.

3.5/5

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The Scientist
The Scientist

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Scientist by Coldplay, January 5, 2012
This review is from: The Scientist (MP3 Music)
One can get a lot of crap these days for liking Coldplay, particularly after the infamous, "You know how I know you're gay..." scene from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. I'll probably get even more crap for it later, but with over fifty million records sold someone is listening to them. (It should also be noted that Chris Martin and crew were flattered by the comments despite their negative connotations.) Of course any time a band or musician becomes highly successful there are going to be dissenters, and Coldplay has had their fair share.

While the single "Yellow" off their first album Parachutes put them on the global radar, it was with their second album A Rush of Blood to the Head that they became worldwide superstars. That album spawned four singles and garnered two Grammy awards for the band. Among these songs were some of the best released by the band; not that their output before or after has been lacking, but this was Coldplay at their peak. Among all of the tracks that made their way into the ether of the radio waves though, "The Scientist" remains my favorite.

"The Scientist" was actually somewhat born out of a spot of writer's block. With a recorder on, Martin sat at a piano and was trying to work out how to play George Harrison's song "Isn't It a Pity" and while he was unable to do so he hit on a chord sequence that he thought was simply lovely. Feeling that the album so far was missing something he used this chord sequence to write what the album was missing.

The lyrics of "The Scientist" deal with the singer apologizing to a woman in the midst of a break up. What makes this song brilliant to me is the realization of the song that when one is having relationship problems no matter what they do, or how important it is, the relationship is forefront in their mind. In this particular instance the voice of the singer belongs to a scientist who can't concentrate on his scientific work: "I was just guessing at numbers and figures/ Pulling the puzzles apart/ Question of science, science and progress/ Do not speak as loud as my heart."

Like the rest of the album, "The Scientist" is largely piano driven helping to give it an ethereal dreamlike feel. It works particularly well to create the fantasy of going back to the beginning to restart a relationship. The music builds from there until it reaches the end when the climactic emotional crescendo of the piece is expressed through Martin's mournful wail at the end of the song.

5/5

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Alien 3 [Blu-ray]
Alien 3 [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Charles Dance
Price: $11.99
30 used & new from $5.28

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Alien³, January 5, 2012
This review is from: Alien 3 [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
Vincent Ward was the fourth screenwriter/director to grace the Alien³ screenplay with his presence. All previous drafts of the screenplay had been scrapped due to producers or studio execs not being happy with the concepts. Ward's screenplay found Aliens' Sulaco spaceship crashing on an archaic wooden planetoid occupied by refugee monks. Once the creature stowed away on the Sulaco begins to make his presence known the monks believe that the titular alien is Satan itself, and Ripley is a test of their faith and purity. As a result they lock Ripley up in a sewer and ignore her warnings and advice on how to deal with the alien.

The thing that seems to stand out for most people who have read the screenplay and who have seen the concept art is just how astonishing it would have been once it had been pulled off. Sigourney Weaver called Ward's concept, "...very original and arresting." Empire magazine said of the concept that it was "...undeniably attractive - it would have been visually arresting and at the very least, could have made for some astonishing action sequences." David Hughes, a former journalist for Time, included Ward's version of Alien³ in his book The Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Never Made. Ward ended up leaving the project over disagreements with the producers.

After leaving LV-426, Sulaco's emergency sensors detect a fire on board the Sulaco and jettison an escape pod occupied by Ellen Ripley, Corporal Hicks, Newt, and the remains of Bishop. The escape pod lands on Fiorina 161, a prison planet occupied by all male inmates imprisoned for histories of sexual and physical violence. When Ripley is awakened by prison doctor Clemens (Charles Dance) she finds out that both Hicks and Newt have been found dead. Worried she asks Clemens to help with an autopsy on Newt to determine her cause of death despite prison warden Harold Andrews' (Brian Glover) protests. It is determined that Newt died of natural causes, but that doesn't mean that the alien hasn't found a different way to invade the planet.

Alien³ is a master-class in how not to make a film. After Ward walked away from the project, producers Walter Hill (who was one of the first choices to direct Alien, but gave it to Ridley Scott instead) and David Giler began the uneasy task of tidying up the script. They were given final say on the script by Weaver's contract, as Weaver felt that Ripley was a hard character to write and apart from James Cameron they were the only ones who could her correctly. With Fox ready to begin production with or without a finished script, they couldn't waste time hiring a new screenwriter or even coming up with an original concept. Instead they incorporated elements from each of the screenplays that had been turned down.

The end result is a hackneyed mess that suffers from too many cooks in the kitchen. A further egregious error in the development stage was made in killing off Hicks and Newt. The lack of an emotional core that could have easily been dealt with through the bond of Ripley and those to characters can be felt throughout the flick, what's left is a cold emotionless shell. While I would argue that this film isn't the utter and complete disaster than many have made it to be, the lack of anything with which the audience can connect to makes it seem much worse than it is. In the end, though, you can see flourishes of the director that David Fincher would become, even if the studio did try to suppress his vision by editing the film without his approval.

I can't say that I really recommend this film. If you haven't seen it the only real reason to watch it is because you're a huge fan of the franchise and have to watch all of the films in the franchise, you're a cinephile who must see it to fulfill your cinematic urges, or you're a huge David Fincher fan who wants to see where his cinematic journey started. I don't think this movie is as bad as it could have been, but it still could have been much better. Coming after the brilliance that was Alien and Aliens I would say it needed to be much better.

2.5/5

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Aliens [Blu-ray]
Aliens [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Sigourney Weaver
27 used & new from $1.81

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aliens, January 5, 2012
This review is from: Aliens [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
It's become common practice in Hollywood to create sequels/prequels/remakes of long dead in Hollywood for the past decade or more raising the ire of moviegoers all over America, and the world. A lot of cinema goers view this as a fairly new money making trend that the studios use to make money from audiences through brand name recognition. It's often forgotten that Alfred Hitchcock remade his own film The Man Who Knew Too Much, and Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 The Ten Commandments was a remake of his 1923 The Ten Commandments. Even more egregious in some viewer's eyes is when a sequel to a film gets green-lit years after the fact. Such was the case though with James Cameron's sequel to Alien, simply called Aliens.

While in preproduction on The Terminator, James Cameron turned in his initial treatment for Alien II to Fox in 1983. Initially, the executives liked the treatment, but then a regime change at the studio occurred, and the new management felt that Alien wasn't profitable enough to warrant a sequel. Undeterred, and free due to Arnold Schwarzenegger having to delay filming due to commitments to Conan the Destroyer, Cameron went into a self-imposed exile to further flesh out his treatment for Alien II. The execs were impressed with his treatment to grant him a green light on the condition that The Terminator did well in theaters. The rest, as they say, was history.

For 57 years the Nostromo has wandered aimlessly through space; its sole survivor, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) still held in stasis. Ripley is nursed back to health, and due to perceived negligence on her part she is stripped of space flight license. Furthermore she learns that a colony has settled LV-426, the planet her crew came across the derelict space craft harboring the alien that killed her crew. When her employers, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, find that they are unable to contact the colonists on LV-426, they request Ripley to accompany Representative Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) and a platoon of Colonial Marines to determine the cause of the radio silence.

Wisely, James Cameron opted not to follow the same format as his predecessor. As Cameron put it he wanted to focus "...more on terror, less on horror". As a result, his entry into the Alien franchise ramps up the action. Where the first film took place on a space ship and the acidity of the creature's blood rendered shooting at the alien an unwise choice, all-out war on the surface of a planet that has been terraformed for human survival is not out of the question. With that in mind the bullets and explosions rain freely down on the creatures of Aliens pumping an action thrill into the proceedings.

That's not to say that Cameron's film is simply a mindless action flick. Cameron chose to draw parallels between his film and the Vietnam War by looking at the idea of a seemingly superior and far more technologically advanced force fighting an adversary that is far more primitive and finding themselves out of their league. We see this in the cockiness of the Colonial Marines, but finding themselves utterly decimated by the unarmed but stealthy aliens. Also Cameron finds an emotional center in the relationship between Ripley and Newt (Carrie Henn). Having been missing for 57 years, Ripley finds out upon return to earth that her daughter has died. In Newt she finds a young girl whose family has been killed by the creature that needs nurturing. In a way they need one another and their relationship offers the emotional core of the film.

For Aliens Weaver had nicknamed Ellen Ripley "Rambolina" due to the fact that the film was heavy on action, and here she became more of an action star as opposed to Alien. Ever the consummate actress though, rather than using that as a reason to take it easy on her duties as a thespian she opted to use Henry V and classical Chinese literature with women warriors as a template for her performance as Ripley. Opposing her this time is Paul Reiser, who I never would have expected in such a role, but he's sufficiently sleazy as the Corporation representative who must at once ease his way onto Ripley's good side by must ultimately do whatever works best in the Corporation's favor.

While many people take sides in determining which is better, Alien or Aliens, I find such an argument for either film moot. While they may follow a timeline and contain the same characters they are still totally different films. With that they truly are masterworks that demonstrate how to properly make a film of their respective genres.

5/5

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Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 2, 2012 7:51 PM PST


Alien [Blu-ray]
Alien [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Sigourney Weaver
Offered by SpReAdLoVe
Price: $7.89
70 used & new from $3.69

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alien, January 5, 2012
This review is from: Alien [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
The 1970's were a time of major change at American movie houses. Where previously films were marketed to niche audiences, Jaws appeared in theaters in 1975 with a new title attached to it: blockbuster. As Hollywood is always want to do whenever a picture comes out to big numbers, they fast tracked production on copycat films to repeat the success of Jaws. The next big film to change the way Hollywood thinks, though, would be a film that at first no one wanted to finance: Star Wars. Superman would come out in 1978 further cementing Hollywood's changing landscape and approach to films.

Dan O'Bannon came off of working on 1974's Dark Star disappointed with the final result. The Sci-Fi comedy was made for a minimal budget of $60,000, resulting in the mischievous alien of the flick being portrayed by a beach ball. For his next film, O'Bannon worked with Ronald Shusett on what he wanted to be a low budget sci-fi horror film that would allow him to work with a more real looking alien. Inspired by the artistic work of HR Giger he started crafting Star Beast, but decided to retitle it as Alien. Initially no studio wanted the film, but B-movie horror producer Roger Corman was interested. That all changed when Star Wars became a hit and Alien was the only Sci-Fi movie script available and ready.

The Nostromo is a deep space mining ship carrying a crew in hypersleep that is awakened when the ship catches a distress signal on a nearby planet. Per their orders, the mining ship must respond to the signal, so they land on the planet to find a derelict alien space ship. The crew sends Kane (John Hurt) to search the ship, and he finds a cargo bay full of alien eggs. When one of the alien eggs opens Kane is found with an alien organism attached to his face. Now the crew finds themselves in mortal danger, and the whole situation may not be a mere coincidence.

Made for $8.4 million (adjusted for inflation to 2010 dollars that would be equivalent to approximately $24.8 million) Alien holds up remarkably well, and still looks better than some films made for $100-200 million with today's special effects. The claustrophobic feel of the Nostromo's corridors is palpable and lends to the air of suspense that comes from tracking an alien that's tracking you. That's not the only element that's horrific though, the addition of a dubious corporation wanting to capture and study the perfect killing machine at all costs.

Where most directors would have not taken this flick seriously relegating it to B-movie schlock, Ridley Scott was determined to make the finest movie he possibly make. (Robert Aldrich, and early candidate to direct the film, was asked about his plans for the design of the "facehugger" in the film. The studio decided not to hire him when he responded: "We'll put some entrails on the guy's face. It's not as if anyone's going to remember that critter once they've left the theater.") A large part of the success of this film is of course HR Giger's creature design, but also Ridley Scott's unique set designs. His initial design art in preproduction on the film inspired the studio to double the budget from $4.2 million to $8.4 million dollars.

At the time of Alien's release, Sigourney Weaver had not held a lead role, but her role in this film and its subsequent sequels changed the presence of women in action films. She's become an inspiration for many actresses who would go on to take lead roles in action/sci-fi films upping the ante on what women can do. Her brilliance in the role often overshadows the brilliance of the rest of the cast. Much of the dialogue by everyone is improvised throughout the film, and the infamous chestburster scene (one of the scariest moments in film history) was done in one take reactions and all. Ian Holm also has heavy lifting as Ash who has to walk a thin line between portraying human to the fellow characters and in reality being a droid working for the corporation that wants the alien.

Alien is one of those rare perfect films. The horror is palpable, and it consistently builds suspense. The titular alien is perfectly shot throughout the film; never do we see too much of him as he's always covered in shadows or filmed close up allowing us to never get a good look at him adding to his ominous presence. Everyone gives brilliant performances that allow the audience to empathize with them, and the script leaves no holes in logic or plot. This film is a masterpiece of science fiction and horror. If you haven't seen it then go out and pick it up right now, if you have it's time that you watched it again!

5/5

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Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 25, 2012 11:43 PM PDT


Get Smart - The Complete Series Gift Set
Get Smart - The Complete Series Gift Set
DVD ~ Don Adams
Offered by kylakins
Price: $136.99
9 used & new from $120.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Get Smart: The Complete Series, January 5, 2012
In the `50's and `60's there was a huge surge in interest for spy and espionage movies. After the Nazi threat had ended at the end of the World War 2, the Red Scare began and everyone thought eyes were everywhere. It was in 1953 that James Bond first appeared in Ian Fleming's novels and in 1962 Sean Connery immortalized him on the big screen. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. became a hit in 1964, and by this time the spy boom had become big enough to warrant a parody. It was with that in mind that Talent Associates approached Mel Brooks (The Producers) and Buck Henry (The Graduate) to create a spy spoof TV show.

In my home growing up the `50's and `60's were always playing on television. Here I became well versed in the cinematic exploits of John Wayne through films like El Dorado and McLintock! Back in the day when Nick at Nite, and later TV Land, actually played shows from before I was born rather than stuff that I recall watching when it first aired (making me feel really old) we would watch shows like Mister Ed, Dennis the Menace, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, etc. The favorite show around the house was The Andy Griffith Show. It was during this time that I became enamored with Brooks and Henry's creation Get Smart.

Get Smart follows a bungling secret agent named Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) who works for the secret spy organization CONTROL as he fights the secret spy organization KAOS which is based out of Bucharest, Romania but says it's out of Delaware for tax purposes. Despite being somewhat inept Max is the top spy at CONTROL, largely thanks to his much more competent female partner Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) and the fact that the spies at KAOS are equally inept. Together Max and 99 fight foes like Mr. Big (Michael Dunn), Siegfried (Bernie Kopell), The Claw (Leonard Strong, and often pronounced Dr. Craw), and Simon the Likeable (Jack Gilford) who is so likeable that no one can resist his charms.

Okay, let's be honest, I'm sure none of you out there considered the idea that Get Smart would place #1 on my top 10 TV shows list. Hell, TV in the 60's wasn't even respected as it is today and I'm a critical kind of guy; of course, the fact that TV wasn't respected doesn't mean that it didn't pump out some brilliant shows. The Andy Griffith Show was a brilliant show and before Lost there was Gilligan's Island (yeah, I went there), but neither show was on the same level of Get Smart. I also enjoy any show that works to subvert the already established order, and at that time, when this was largely Brooks's baby back before he even made a flick, this show changed some of the rules of television.

At the time comedies still focused a lot on family, so there was interest from the producers to give the show some heart by adding scenes with Max's family. This, of course, was nixed by Brooks, and as a result never in the series do we meet Max's parents. There was also a request for a lovable dog to be added to the series. This request was accepted in the form of the lazy and inept spy dog Fang, which worked for comedic effect. There was also the fact that Maxwell Smart is quite an idiot, which was something that was new for this kind of show. Brooks turned the idea of what a half hour sitcom was and changed it up, but not without a little bit of turmoil. When being shopped around to networks ABC rejected it for being un-American.

In the end Smart would have the last laugh though. It ran its first four seasons on NBC, and switched over to CBS for its final season. Throughout its run it earned Emmy awards for Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Comedy for Don Adams three years in a row, Outstanding Writing Achievement in Comedy, Outstanding Comedy Series two years in a row, and Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy. In 1989, ABC would air a direct to TV movie titled Get Smart, Again, and in 1995 the series was rebooted on Fox with Don Adams reprising his role as Maxwell Smart acting as chief of CONTROL and Andy Dick playing his bungling son. While the reboot of the series was nowhere near the excellence of the original series, it did make Get Smart the first show to appear on all four of the major TV networks.

5/5

Be sure to check out: Armadillo & Sands: Intellectual Properties at Work!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2012 4:42 PM PST


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