Saturday, February 25, 2012


Time to get scared…. Alien (1979), directed by Ridley Scott, is a good film for a bit of horror without losing too much sleep afterwards. Cast is limited: Sigourney Weaver, Harry Dean Stanton, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Ian Holm and Yaphet Kotto.
Indeed, story is what I’d call ‘behind closed doors’. A crew of seven people on a spaceship sent out there to mine and process ore receives a signal and lands on an unfriendly planet, where they stumble across eggs. Chaos ensues and by the time the crew is ready to resume their journey back to Earth, they don’t know an eighth passenger has made its way onto the ship…. No other character and the only contacts the crew have with their employer is actually by talking to the ship computer, an entity of its own nicknamed 'Mother'.

Personnally I found the plot a bit thin. But what makes the film good is that the viewer feels uneasy from beginning to end. The entire environment is hostile: the ship, the planet they land on, the crew don’t have any particular warm feelings toward one another. The characters are a bit underdeveloped, however the tension is felt all the time. The setting of the big impersonal ship makes it feel more like a prison, and one also feels at some points that it is both the alien and the ship against the humans.
There is little gory scenes, particularly compared to today’s standards, but I can imagine, putting this back into perspective, that at the time of release the movie came a great shock, and clearly ahead of its time. Special effects match those of Star Wars original trilogy, it is actually quite impressive. As opposed to Star Wars however, aliens are not cute little teddy bears but hostile entities with no feelings, adaptable to any environment and without mercy. The creature has the vague shape of humans, but that's the only similarity. Trying to find what motivates it would be a waste of time, since we assume it is without passions or rationality.
Also an interesting aspect of the film is the heroine Ellen Ripley, played perfectly by Sigourney Weaver. What makes her great is that she is a scared woman but doesn’t go into tears, screams and all the non-sense, and in the end, terrified not, she has no choice but to fight. The cat gives her more humanity -- after all, who on earth goes back for a cat when threatened by a blood thirsty monster?!

Finally, a little 'food for thought' dimension is given to the film after my favorite scene, when it turns out Ash is a robot (and a pretty good one!), where the crew learn they’re expendable and the corporation that hired them has pretty much turned its back on them. Big, bad, corporation, focused on power and money at the price of human life. That made me feel sorry for the poor girl returning to Earth where she’ll have to give detailed accounts of the events that took place, but anyway that might be pushing the thinking part a bit too far. All in all I found the whole thing a bit predictable, I felt the tension but I was not terrified, however I am perfectly happy to recognize the film’s intellectual significance as well as the excellent direction by Ridley Scott.
Ripley: Ash, can you hear me? Ash?
Ash: [in an electronic, distorted voice] Yes, I can hear you.
Ripley: What was your special order?
Ash: You read it. I thought it was clear.
Ripley: What was it?
Ash: Bring back life form. Priority One. All other priorities rescinded.
Parker: The damn company. What about our lives, you son of a bitch?
Ash: I repeat, all other priorities are rescinded.
Ripley: How do we kill it Ash? There's gotta be a way of killing it. How? How do we do it?
Ash: You can't.
Parker: That's bullshit.
Ash: You still don't understand what you're dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.
Lambert: You admire it.
Ash: I admire its purity. A survivor... unclouded by conscience, remorse, or delusions of morality.
Parker: Look, I am... I've heard enough of this, and I'm asking you to pull the plug.
Ash: [Ripley goes to disconnect Ash, who interrupts] Last word.
Ripley: What?
Ash: I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Man, I love the 1980s. I really do. Which is why I cannot understand why I had never heard of Footloose before a month or so ago. Film was released in 1984, directed by Herbert Ross, and stars Kevin Bacon, Lori Singer, John Lithgow and Sarah Jessica Parker.

Plot is easy and fairly predictable: Ren (Kevin Bacon) is a teenager who comes from Chicago and arrives with his mother in a small town where dancing and music are illegal. There he meets Ariel, the Reverend’s daughter. Gradually the town divides between the old conservative generation, led by the reverend, and the younger rebellious crowd, led by Ren.
So, yeah, this is a bit far-fetched and unlikely. While the characters are not super developed, this is still a movie along the lines of more famous Dirty Dancing and Flashdance, to only cite a few. This is not exactly the film of the century, however if you are looking for entertainment, humour, drama, great dance scenes and especially a great soundtrack, go, go, go!
Ren: [to Willard] Hey, I like that hat, man. They sell men's clothes where you got that?

Reverend Moore: If our Lord wasn't testing us, how would you account for the proliferation, these days, of this obscene rock and roll music, with its gospel of easy sexuality and relaxed morality?

Ren: You like Men At Work?
Willard: what men?
Ren: Men at work.
Willard: well where do they work?
Ren: No, they're a music group.
Willard: well what do they call themselves?
Ren: Oh no! What about the Police?
Willard: What about 'em?
Ren: You ever heard them?
Willard: No, but I seen them.
Ren: Where, in concert?
Willard: No, behind you.
Yes, this is a short review, but honestly pictures and videos speak a thousand words…:


Saturday, February 4, 2012

Lost in Translation

I have a feeling I may not be open-minded enough to see such a film : Lost in Translation, released in 2003, directed by Sophia Coppola, and generally acclaimed by the public. And it makes me sad. With so many positive opinions, I really thought I could pull it off.

Bob Harris (Bill Murray) is an ageing actor in Tokyo for a commercial. Charlotte (Scarlett Johansson) is in Tokyo with her husband John (Giovanni Ribisi), who is here on business. Charlotte feels neglected, Bob feels empty – the two of them form an unlikely bond. That’s it.  

The movie is incredibly slow, and it is difficult to get attached to Bob or Charlotte, as their characters are not developed enough for the viewer to actually like them. Not much is said, we don't know what they think. On an other hand, it is easy to dislike Charlotte’s husband, or the dumb actress Kelly (Anna Faris), who are just so self-involved it is almost a caricature. And I do like these actors, all of them, so I can hardly imagine what it would have been for me if I did not even have remote sympathy / admiration for them!
Bob: Can you keep a secret? I'm trying to organize a prison break. I'm looking for, like, an accomplice. We have to first get out of this bar, then the hotel, then the city, and then the country. Are you in or you out?
Charlotte: I'm in. I'll go pack my stuff.
Bob: I hope that you've had enough to drink. It's going to take courage.

Charlotte: So, what are you doing here?
Bob: Uh, a couple of things. Taking a break from my wife, forgetting my son's birthday. And, uh, getting paid two million dollars to endorse a whiskey when I could be doing a play somewhere.
Charlotte: Oh.
Bob: But the good news is, the whiskey works.

Charlotte: You're probably just having a mid-life crisis. Did you buy a Porsche yet?

I heard so much about Japan and Tokyo being a great destination and I still want to go, but still, that movie gives en awful view of Japan, and Tokyo especially. It takes place mostly behind closed doors, in the beautiful setting of the Tokyo Park Hyatt. One funny thing was one of the first few scenes, when the guys speaks in Japanese for what seems like ages, only to have an extremely short English translation. Or the scene where Bob goes to a talk show. Two laughs in two hours, that’s it.

I am still not sure whether it is a love story or not – they are so far apart, young vs old for one thing, both married, although I have a feeling Charlotte’s wedding might not last that long (and, on a more personal note, how she could have married John in the first place. Anyway). If I were to think about it a bit further I’d say this is a real love story, a true connection between two people who are so far apart in the end it is an impossible love. And what’s with the end?! We don’t know what he is whispering to her and I’ll probably wonder for the years to come. Knowing might have improved my impression of the movie. 
So, sorry for the critics who found this to be an outstanding movie, by my disappointment about the film equals the frustration of knowing I will never be able to get those two hours back.