Thursday, June 28, 2012

Harper Covered Up Torture


Canada's Military Police Complaints Commission came out with a report, this week, that cleared Canadian soldiers of knowing about -- or willingly being involved in -- our Afghan war prisoners being tortured, by local authorities. However, to the surprise of absolutely no one with a brain, the report also found that the Harper Conservative government blocked all attempts to get to the bottom of this war crime.

I know that remembering every political debacle from two and a half years ago, can be tricky, so I'll remind everyone of the highlights. When one of Canada's most respected diplomats, Richard Colvin, first reported on our war prisoners being beaten and mutilated -- something that is AN INTERNATIONAL FELONY -- the Harper government not only claimed to know nothing about it, but they personally attacked anyone who so much as brought it up. Liberal and NDP Members of Parliament, their supporters, or even just conscious members of the press WERE ALL CALLED TRAITORS FOR ASKING ABOUT THIS. The uproar became so massive, that Stephen Harper managed to trick the Governor General into shutting down Parliament, specifically to abort the investigation into what exactly the government really knew.

So not only did our government -- a government under investigation for stuffing the ballot box, by the way -- COVER UP WAR CRIMES, but they went to McCarthyist and fascist extremes, to shut down any discussion of it, so much so that it has done permanent damage to the unity of this country. That's not even getting into our international respect going down the toilet, more and more every day.

True to form, if one just goes to the comment page of the first article I linked this blog to, they will find no shortage of Conservative trolls, claiming that -- for some reason -- this shows that the NDP and Liberals owe our soldiers an apology. Leaving aside that AT NO POINT WERE OUR SOLDIERS BEING ACCUSED OF ANYTHING -- and the sheer ignorance of what the article was saying, makes me think the Darwin Awards missed a few people -- I can't help but notice that the phrasing of all of those remarks is almost exactly the same. So not only are Harper's opponents being proven right about him being a monstrous, criminal, hatemongering douchebag, but this says to me that there may be some truth to the CTV claims of Harper's trolls only being there because they're paid to do it.

So while I suspect I know how this will go... if any Conservatives would wish to apologize for being so blatantly WRONG, I am willing to listen. My recently-shaved hair might be down to my ankles, by the time it comes, but I'm willing to listen.

God Help Our Land -- Once Glorious and Free

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

My Right to Live or Die

I'm warning you all up front: this is about human euthanasia. It's fine if you are uncomfortable with that and want to say so, but any and all abusive comments WILL BE DELETED AND WILL RESULT IN YOU BEING BLOCKED. If you are incapable of an adult discussion, turn away now.

As you might have heard, the British Columbia Supreme Court has deemed Canada's anti-euthanasia laws unconstitutional, because they infringe on our right to liberty. So the federal government has one year, to update the law into something that would pass a Charter smell test. This was brought about by ALS patient Gloria Taylor, who is effectively paraplegic and dependent on a feeding tube. This is the culmination of an all-too-regular argument in Canada, that never really goes anywhere, despite widespread national support for the right of Canadians to decide for themselves when and how to die, in a situation like Taylor's. That's because, for obvious reasons, it's seen as a political hornet's nest.

There are a few different concerns, about legalizing what is often -- but somewhat inaccurately -- called "doctor-assisted suicide". Some of them are more rational than others, but because this is a delicate issue, even I will resist the urge to rip into various political and religious conservatives who invariably stick their noses into this. However, I will point out that the argument of "interfering in God's Plan" is more than a little dubious, coming from people who wish to hook you up to breathing tubes, when you're incapable of breathing on your own (and, by implication, being ordained to die, if you believe in such things).

One of the more valid ones, is the concern that this will lead to the elderly and disabled being "put down" by overzealous doctors. I would suggest that the way to prevent that, is rather obvious: make it the law to just assume a patient wants to be kept alive, unless they fill out a form -- with co-signers -- that says they wish to be euthanized. In principle, it would be the same as a Do Not Resuscitate form, which seems to work just fine for most people. Coupled with the fact that various regions around the world, with legalized euthanasia, show no evidence of major problems, it seems to me that the "abuse of process" argument is pretty well debunked.

With that out of the way, I think that "right to die" legislation MUST be legalized, for a very clear reason. It's the same reason why, despite personal misgivings about abortion, I will always be pro-choice: 99.9% of the time, none of us has a stake in the matter. If -- Heaven forbid -- I ever get a woman pregnant, or any daughter I have becomes pregnant while underage, THEN I would have a legitimate say in whether or not the pregnancy is aborted... AND THAT'S IT. The rest of the time, IT'S NONE OF MY BUSINESS. Should I ever find myself diagnosed with a terminal, lingering, and debilitating illness, the only people who really have a reason to keep me alive, are my girlfriend, my family, my closest friends, and finally myself. If you're none of those people, then I don't care what you have to say on my last wishes. They will not be listened to.

I'm not saying that I would rush to have a doctor put me to sleep, should I end up in that situation -- since I'm not bed-ridden, comatose, or on permanent pain-killers just to endure the day, I can't say for sure. However, I do know that the LAST thing I want, is to be hooked-up to life support, unresponsive, and incurable, just because some busy-body whom I've never even met has decided to interfere with my fate.

One of the few freedoms we seem to have left, is the basic right to control our own bodies. I have a REALLY big problem with the state or some church -- especially one that has shown no concern over my welfare, up to this point -- telling me that I belong to them UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. Whether you wish to be euthanized yourself, if the time comes, is up to you. But you should definitely be free to decide that for yourself.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Ezra Levant and Right Wing Hypocrisy

Canada's version of Glenn Beck, is a former Harperite bigot named Ezra Levant. He may be most infamous for his re-printing of the infamous Mark Steyn Mohammud cartoons, that so incensed Muslims in Europe that it sparked a race war. He regularly loves to spread hate speech, cloaked in the fake sanctimony of free speech -- I say "Fake", because he openly despises and assaults anyone who questions far-right policy.

So naturally, he's one of the headline pundits on Sun News... for the couple of dozen people who actually care enough to watch it. Sure enough, he regularly causes trouble, and just recently lost it with the head of Chiquita Banana by telling him ON THE AIR to "have sex with his mother". Granted, it was in Spanish, but enough viewers understood the obscenity to complain to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council, who slammed Levant and Sun News for airing the vulgarity.

True to form, Sun News has so far not apologized in any form, and Levant openly refuses to, calling it censorship of a private business (ignoring, as usual, that Sun News is subsidized by tax money). Now, the problem that the Northern Teabaggers refuse to get, is that the CBSC is AN INDUSTRY REGULATOR, not a part of the government -- which, let's be honest, would probably PRAISE what their propaganda people do, at all times. Furthermore, it's long been accepted that -- with very few exceptions -- YOU DO NOT SWEAR ON TELEVISION, especially towards a GUEST on one of your programs. Come to think of it, I wonder what these same mouth-breathers said, when Nipplegate caused the far-right to moan about the supposed lack-of-morality on our airwaves.

But I digress.

All of that is basically just back story. The main reason I'm writing about this, is because it's hardly the first time Ezra Levant has caused legal problems, over his big and unethical mouth. He has been sued MULTIPLE times, for libel, in his Sun Media newspaper columns -- and lost. In laymen's terms, he has been taken to the cleaners -- REPEATEDLY -- for LYING. Granted, I personally do not know what kind of flak his employers received, for those messes, but it's fair to say it wasn't something they wanted to deal with. And now, we have the same blundering idiot, endangering a multi-million dollar television network's broadcasting license -- and several people's jobs -- because he lacks the basic mental filter to act like an adult, with someone you invited to your workplace.

To be blunt, if I ever spoke like that, to someone in any job I have ever held, I would be immediately fired. If I were a big-wig at Quebecor (Sun Media's parent company), I would kick Levant's ass to the curb, not only because he's unprofessional as hell, but because HE COULD GET ME SHUT DOWN. Yet as of this writing, Levant is still employed with Sun Media. I can only assume, that it's because he generates controversy -- in other words, he's paid to be a troll. I know that people like this, completely lack a moral core, so I won't bother arguing with them about what such a disgusting association says about them. However, maybe they will finally get the message, when the CRTC looks at this complaint in a few years -- and Levant's response to it -- and decides that Sun News has no place on the air.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review of 'Prometheus'

I just saw Prometheus, on opening night, and I want to get my thoughts on proverbial paper while it's still fresh. Right off the bat, I need to get one thing cleared up: to hell with what the creative team says, this IS an Alien prequel... though in the sense that Knights of the Old Republic is a prequel to Star Wars; rather than directly linking to the events of the original film, it sets in motion some of the events that will lead into it.

Set eighty years from now, the Weyland Company has decided to fund an expedition into the far reaches of space, led by Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Dr. Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Based on hieroglyphs from all over Earth, they've deduced that extra-terrestrials visited humans, in the earliest days of our civilization, and have been contracted the starship "Prometheus", to test that theory.

Along for the ride, are the prototype android David (Michael Fassbender) and Company executive Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron), who are very skeptical of the whole enterprise, to put it mildly. The only reason why The Company has even invested the fortune needed for this mission, is because CEO Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) wants to meet his maker, in the final stages of his long life.

However, what the team finds, are that The Alien Engineers -- the Space Jockeys of the original film -- were far from the benevolent terraformers that they had hoped they were. Through various disturbing events, The Engineers' more elaborate creations attack and kill several crew members... and the sole survivor sets his sights straight on Earth.

To give the movie a lot of credit, the mystery is built of very well. While it becomes apparent fast, that The Engineers aren't exactly friendly, the movie takes its time to illustrate the specifics of this diabolical plan. And to be honest, if you thought the original aliens were horrifying, they may have some real rivals with the creatures shown in this prequel -- no joke, my friends and I gained about a week's worth of nightmare fuel, from this thing.

Ridley Scott has always been a director that's been great at finding upstanding actors and letting them do their best, and this film is no exception. All of the parts are wonderfully played, even if Fassbender and Pearce come a bit close to cartoonish super-villainy at times. Noomi Rapace came into the public eye as the ballbusting Lisabeth Salander, in the original Millenium Trilogy, and here she has more than shown herself to be a worthy successor to Sigourney Weaver's Ripley.

However, the main fault with Prometheus is a rather large one: it's one of those movies that asks a lot more questions than it answers (especially since the particulars of the Engineers' plan, are more than a little confusing). I don't doubt that Ridley Scott would claim that this was intentional, partly because of the promise of one or two sequels to come, but I still have problems with that because the general rule with what is basically the first movie in a new series, is that you have to make it solid enough to stand on its own. Considering that there's no guarantee that the planned trilogy will even remotely come to pass, you can see the problem: the creators may be setting up things that will never be paid off. And even if they do, there's no guarantee that it will be to the satisfaction of the fans (especially after all of the hype surrounding just this one).

According to myth, Prometheus is a god-like figure, who gave humans technology and allowed them to become the advanced race they became... but with all of the unanswered -- perhaps unanswerable -- conundrums brought up by the filmmakers, perhaps Pandora's Box will turn out to be a more appropriate title.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Alien: Resurrection (1997) and Wrap

If you haven't seen Alien 3, for the love of Murphy stop reading!

While Alien 3 wasn't exactly a runaway success, apparently it made enough money that Fox still thought it was worth harvesting the guts of this ravaged series... even though THE LEAD CHARACTER HAD DIED. Yep, that's right. The finale of Alien 3 had Ripley -- impregnated with an Alien Queen (egg-layer) -- making the supreme sacrifice, and taking her own life to stop The Company from getting their utterly idiotic hands on it (more on that in a minute). If the series had ended here, at least it would have been a moving conclusion... but no, some parasite in the big office, was so determined to SOMEHOW milk more money from this thing, that they decided to do something that was not only LUDICROUS, but it took a massive dump on the integrity of the Alien series... and as you'll find out, that too will be a recurring theme.

Anyway... about 200 years after the previous movie, The Company has been replaced with something called "United Systems Military" (yeah, same shit, different pile), which managed to find frozen blood samples that had been taken of Ripley, while she had the Queen embryo in her. So -- after several attempts -- they manage to clone her, and the Queen... but even this latest attempt, scrambles Ripley's DNA to the point where she's effectively half-alien (and therefore rather sketchy).

Now... right here, I have to stop the synopsis dead for a moment, because while I have very little faith in the common sense of massive corporations, this whole thing is REALLY stupid when you think about it. The Company turned up in Alien 3, right after the creature in that film had finished making mincemeat out of pretty much the entire prison population. According to the epilogue, they eventually dismantled the place, to be sold for scrap -- so they DEFINITELY would have noticed TWENTY FIVE SEPARATE PILES OF MUTILATED HUMAN REMAINS in the place. Or is this the reason why -- centuries after Dolly The Sheep -- it took them two hundred years to clone Ripley from a fucking blood icicle? Did even The Company have enough sense to stay the hell away from this idea?

Along the same line, we discover that it took USM seven separate tries, to get it anywhere near right -- and if you've seen the movie, you know that the beta tests weren't exactly encouraging (unless you think it's a good sign when you've cloned a 10 year old girl, WITH A METAL INNER JAW PIERCING HER SKULL). Granted, we never find out exactly how the economy is supposed to work, in this future, but somehow I can't picture these experiments being cost-effective enough to be worth these sort of massive -- and time consuming -- fails, especially when these people know for a fact that they're cloning a species that can render them like pulled pork.

ANYWAY... helping them in this scheme is a crew of smugglers, who have kidnapped people in suspended animation, to be revived as the aliens are ready to breed. You can do the math, from there. And if you've seen Jurassic Park, you can probably guess what happens when the aliens become big enough to be able to melt holes through the floor.

In some ways, Alien: Resurrection had the reverse of all of the problems that Alien 3 had. Despite the premise being fucking retarded, the script by Joss Whedon is actually alright (even if it made somewhat more sense before they shot the damn thing). The more glaring problems with the movie, have to do with the utterly HIDEOUS production design -- the movie looks like a cross between Heavy Metal and Dick Tracy -- and the acting. Much of it is either really over the top, or boring as hell (even Sigourney Weaver seems to be phoning it in, on this one, and suffice it to say I wasn't made a Winona Ryder fan by this movie). Either way, just the look and atmosphere of this thing is in such shambles that I almost want to stab myself in the temple just thinking about it -- and I've seen Reefer Madness!

As a bit of a Whedon-phile, it is amusing to look at this in more recent years, just to see the smugglers... given that in a lot of ways they are a prototype of the Firefly/Serenity crew. I'm not joking, it's really not a stretch to imagine the cast of that show playing just about all of these characters... and frankly, doing a lot better than the people in this movie. I'm not sure how much of it is to be blamed on the actors, or how they were directed, or even an epic brain fart on Whedon's own part, but either way IT DOESN'T WORK HERE.

And on top of all of that, there's the unforgivable sin of something claiming to be a horror movie: IT'S NOT SCARY. There's maybe ONE good jump scare, and even that is wrecked by the fact that it's prompted by the character involved acting like a total moron (namely, going down a long, deserted hallway, when all hell has already broken loose, to pick up a gun that's just lying on the ground... in a pool of slime). Beyond that, there's no suspense, no tension, no characters that are worth worrying about, and not even the most basic attempt at making a spooky atmosphere: turning off the freaking lights. I've shot COMING OF AGE DRAMAS that have more shadows than this damn thing!

On top of that, the brilliant original design of the aliens themselves, has been 100% raped and pillaged. The hive has been robbed of any anatomical structure, so what has previously resembled the inside of a giant skeleton, now looks like no more than a bunch of dark moss, growing on the spaceship's walls. And then there's the aliens themselves... because some idiot decided to paint the aliens are rather dubious shade of brown, I am not exaggerating when I say that there are honestly times when these brown and elliptical aliens, look like giant pieces of shit. The one time you get a great look at the legendary Alien Queen... she looks like a fifteen-foot long TURD. I can't think of a better metaphor for this movie, than that.

Honestly, give this movie a complete pass. Do not see it, ever, even as something to laugh at. Honestly, as bad as Alien vs. Predator is, EVEN THAT IS BETTER THAN FUCKING RESURRECTION. At least that movie has good action in it, and a basic grasp of what makes for a dark atmosphere. This damn thing is just annoying as hell. In fact, this is the only movie in the official Alien series, that I would say is made WORSE by the extended cut, because it just means you get MORE of the terrible acting, dialogue, visuals, etc.

I've purposely avoided reviewing the AvP movies, because -- on top of not liking the first movie, and not even remotely being interested in the second -- I don't really consider them to be part of the series. I'll be charitable and describe them as spin-offs only, and by all accounts they're really weak ones at that (hence why the subsequent movies in both series have ignored their existence). Just as Predators went back to the original formula, while giving us something genuinely new and interesting, Prometheus has taken us back to the beginning... not only with the derelict alien ship that started it all, but by bringing back the always visionary Ridley Scott to the series that he began.

So we wrap this retrospective on the Alien series, on the day that Prometheus opens in North America. I shall be back soon, to let you know if it's as good as the present buzz says. Until then, BoredomCorner out.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Alien 3 (1992)

So in 1986, Aliens came out and was an even bigger success than its predecessor. Massive box office... great reviews... another Oscar for effects, and even an Oscar nomination for Sigourney Weaver (for a sci-fi/action/horror movie)! So you know what was on Fox's mind: how soon can we get another one out? Their answer was Easter, 1990... then 1991... then finally May 22, 1992. Why the delays? Well, because some idgit did what is almost never a good idea, when making a blockbuster movie: locked in a release date, before having ANY idea what the fucking movie was going to be about. The result was an epic derpage, consuming three directors, a dozen or so writers, and a polarizing, mediocre movie that failed to meet any expectations.

Spoilers ahead

So in the end of Aliens, Ripley escaped the creatures, bringing with her Newt, and marines Hicks and Bishop. Sounds like they're home free, right? *smacks* Sorry. In the first five minutes, not only does an alien SOMEHOW appear on their spaceship (we never get an explanation for that), but its acid blood causes an electrical fire. Since this MILITARY SHIP somehow lacks a fire suppression system, everyone's cryotube is immediately dumped in an escape pod and fired into space... where it immediately falls into the ocean of a nearby prison planet. And since this MILITARY ESCAPE VEHICLE is about as safe as a Pinto designed by Facebook, the crash kills everyone on board but Ripley and the alien itself.

As if that's not enough, the locals are 25 maximum security prisoners -- murderers, rapists, child molesters, etc. -- who were allowed to stay in the abandoned prison, after finding religion (as long as they are watched by the asshat warden, his assistant with an 85 I.Q., and ex-morphine addict of a doctor). And despite this being A MAXIMUM SECURITY PRISON, there aren't even weapons locked up for emergencies. So you know the drill by now; the alien reappears, finds his human buffet, etc. etc.

In case my suddenly sarcastic attitude towards these reviews, hasn't made it apparent, this is a huge step down from the previous movies. First-time director David Fincher has taken a lot of heat over this, but speaking as someone who's actually read the script they finally shot, I can tell you that if anything, Fincher SAVED this movie. It's true that he deserves criticism for some things -- like the nihilism that goes so far that it kills several beloved characters OFF-SCREEN in the very beginning of the film, nearly all of the characters looking and sounding the same, etc. -- but 90% of the problems stem from the studio completely half-assing the script, and compounding the issue by constantly undermining Fincher as he tried to do his job.

It's true that Fox was overbearing to some extent on all of these productions -- like a lot of studios are -- but on this movie they took it to sheer dick moves. They hired a young director, who had never made a feature film before, to do a massive franchise picture... but gave him absolutely no support system that would allow him to do that (apparently an attitude also experienced by previous directors Renny Harlin and Vincent Ward, hence their departures from the project). Now, having been an independent producer, I realize that it's the job of those upstairs to make sure that a movie is made efficiently -- after all, it's their money being spent on the thing -- but there's a difference between cutting the fat and flat out sabotaging your investment. It is also indicative of Fox's rather low opinion of the series' fans, who responded so well to the previous movies, because they WEREN'T just average blood-and-gore fests. This is an attitude that has carried itself all the way to the home video releases, where the extended DVD cut was given a restored negative cut, full colour correction, new digital effects, a 5.1 surround sound mix... but they couldn't be bothered to have dialogue that wasn't garbled as hell. This was finally corrected in the Blu-Ray release, but it's still an incredibly unprofessional and insulting move, in my opinion.

I can't say that I would blame any Alien fans for wanting to just pretend this movie never happened, and that the series ended at Film Two. I can find things to enjoy about Alien 3 -- like the atmosphere, the visuals, and at least some of the mean atmosphere -- and believe it or not when I'm just WATCHING the movie I can find it easy to ignore the plot holes. However, many of the supporting characters are undeveloped redshirts (some of them literally just vanish, in the theatrical version), the effects work is more spotty this time, and in general a lot of the depth and intelligence of the previous films is just gone. This is improved in the extended version -- making it the only movie in this series to benefit from the alternate cuts available on the DVDs from 2003 onwards -- but there's still only so much blood to be drawn from this stone.

Overall, Alien 3 is passable as an average horror/action film. If you're a major behind-the-scenes nerd, you'll probably find it more interesting to get this, just to dissect the special features and learn how NOT to make a franchise movie/sequel, but as a follow-up to the truly incredible first and second movies, it leaves a lot to be desired.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Aliens (1986)

When Alien came out, in 1979, it shocked audiences all the way to the bank. With an Academy Award and a blockbuster take behind it, it seemed inevitable that Fox would somehow make a sequel (let's face it, sequels have been made of far less open movies, ie. Dirty Dancing and Wall Street). In the early 80s, they'd heard about a young writer and Roger Corman alumnus named James Cameron, who was generating a lot of buzz from just the SCRIPT of The Terminator. During a pre-production hiatus, he wrote Aliens just for the work, and the eventual success of Terminator gave Cameron just about all of the clout he would need to make his first big movie.

Minor spoilers ahead

The finale of Alien left Sigourney Weaver's Ripley alone and adrift, in a godless universe. She is found, in suspended animation, some 57 years later, alone and abandoned by a Company that holds her responsible for the seemingly inexplicable destruction of the Nostromo and its crew. Ripley is all but labeled a nut case, but her story of a lethal alien life form is taken much more seriously, when the colony set up on the original planet just seems to vanish without a trace. She is talked into joining a group of marines, to find out what happened, on the condition that not only can she get her old job back, but if they run into any of the creatures, they will be wiped out.

Of course, it's never quite that simple; Ripley and the marines discover that all of the colonists -- except for a little girl, named Newt -- have all been cocooned and killed by the aliens. Not long after that, an ambush takes out most of the soldiers and strands them, until they can jury rig and escape plan. On top of all of that, the resident Company guy-in-a-suit (Paul Reiser) is adamant that -- recent history be damned -- they will also smuggle an alien back to Earth, for study.

If you've seen Aliens, then it goes without saying that they more-or-less abandoned the horror sandbox with this one, and went more for hardcore action. If you'll forgive the pun, this has alienated some fans, ever since its release, but you can hardly blame the filmmakers for wanting to go in a slightly different direction. By changing the film's context just a little bit, they were able to keep the concept and aliens fresh and threatening.

Whatever you can say about James Cameron, these days, he was at the top of his game, making this movie (probably the only film he made that was better, was Terminator 2, another sequel that he'd made surpass its predecessor). He stayed true to Ridley Scott's claustrophobic and lived-in universe, without just outright copying the first movie (even if there are bits of the climax that come dangerously close). He also took the time to flesh out Ripley; previous rather cold, she is revealed to be a single mother, whose daughter passed away, alone, while Ripley was floating through deep space. While I have few complaints about the theatrical version of the movie, the sub-plot detailing this fact, is a welcome addition in the extended cut.

The casting of comedian Paul Reiser ("Mad About You") as the human villain, invariably raises some eyebrows, but I've honestly never had any problem with it. Reiser plays the role pretty straight, and he is adept enough of an actor that he believably progresses from a quiet pencil pusher to a full-on slimeball. If you were to show this to someone young enough to not know about his sitcom days, I'd bet you'd be hard pressed to convince them he was ever anything but a dramatic actor.

In general, while there are those who would have complaints about the tonal change, the fact is that Aliens not only set the new standard for the series, but it's undeniable that the series peaked, with this film. The acting is solid, the writing very rounded and gripping, the effects are never better than in this movie, and the creatures smarter, as well as eerie and menacing. If you're any kind of action/sci-fi/horror fan, this is absolutely a movie that you MUST see.

Scott Walker's Crooked Win

So Wisconsin's Tea Party Governor, Scott Walker, managed to survive the recall election, yesterday. This is despite crippling the state's economy, revoking worker's rights on several levels, and even being caught on tape trying to frame union workers for a staged riot.

Perhaps this has something to do with the plethora of robocalls that went out to Democrat voters, falsely telling them that if they'd signed the recall petition, they didn't need to vote. You know, sort of like the Conservative Party of Canada, sent robocalls out during last year's election, falsely telling non-Conservative voters that voting stations had been moved.

I'm just saying...

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Alien (1979)

This Friday, marks the release of the long-awaited sci-fi/horror film, Prometheus. Director Ridley Scott has been notoriously wishy-washy as to whether or not this is still the Alien prequel that he had been signed onto for the last few years, but by all accounts the film is set in the same universe as his 1979 breakout film, set before it as well, and clearly uses some of the same elements (which I will get into). So for my money, this is at least a loose prequel to Alien.

Anyway, since the movie is a classic, many of us know the plot; Tom Skerrit plays the captain of the Nostromo, a cargo-hauling spaceship that has been drafted into investigating an alien transmission from a desolate planet. The crew -- including Ian Holm, Yaphett Kotto, John Hurt, and Sigourney Weaver in her breakout role -- reluctantly land, and discover too late that the signal is a warning, to stay away from a crashed extra-terrestrial vessel.

Hurt's character is attacked by a parasite that clamps onto his face. Weaver's character -- the now-immortal Ripley -- knows that they need to get rid of the damn thing, but Holm's over-zealous science officer insists they keep it around, and thanks to a secret order from their employers, he gets the final word. Shortly afterwards, a smaller alien bursts out of Hurt's chest, and things only go downhill from there...

Without waxing my inner Cinema Snob too much, there is very good reason why this movie is still considered one of the all-time best horror films. Even in my personal favourite list, I group it alongside The Exorcist, Hellraiser and the remake of The Fly -- films that are truly horrifying and shocking, yet are also well-crafted, imaginative, and yet strangely quite believable. Alien doesn't plod, but doesn't rush into things either (which is more than can be said for many of its imitators and sequels). Nor does it get any more gory than it really needs to be -- despite the plethora of disturbing things we're made aware of. When you break it down on a technical level, much of it is even pretty straightforward in terms of the setting and plot... yet it all ticks down like a bomb you know cannot be stopped.

While many of the actors were subsequently relegated to minor character roles, they all bring their utmost to the characters. And while there is little overt exposition, the chemistry among the actors is so solid that you feel for every single one of them -- even the more sinister ones. And while I don't usually comment a lot on makeup and production design, it's impossible to write about the Alien movies, without talking about the alien itself; an erotic, biomechanical monstrosity, brilliantly conjured by Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger. By the way, do you want to know how I first "met" this thing? On Disney's Great Movie Ride, when I was six years old, and my idea of "haunted" was a goofy dark mansion that staged a ghostly song-and-dance routine... only to have this damn thing snarling at me from the ceiling AND the wall.

Anyway, I don't know what else to say about this movie. If you've never seen it, SHAME ON YOU. Even if sci-fi/horror movies aren't usually what you'd see, you owe it to yourself to give this a look, just to see how such movies SHOULD be made. This is a movie that has a brain, yet will terrify you to the very bowels of your soul.