Monday 21 February 2011

Greatest Movies I Ever Saw

Welcome to another week at E14. Today, I've been inspired by my weekend to write a positive piece. Friday saw my two-year, unplugged RPG lull broken for the first time in...two years, when a group of fine folks and I (some of whom contribute to this very blog) engaged our brains in a rousing game of Call of Cthulhu. While it was much needed and much enjoyed, the evening was concluded by another game based on one of my favourite movies of all time, the subject in fact of today's contribution from yours truly.

Ladies and gentlemen, Aliens.

With a screenplay written by James Cameron (That guy responsible for both some of the highest-grossing movies of all time and some of the most E14) and starring a number of site favourites such as Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn, Aliens' star power is certainly nothing to be sniffed at from the off, with a cast of real quality pulling out all the stops in a day when sequels didn't have to automatically be met with a complete air of scepticism.

The movie has some great music, as well as an opening scene of considerable drama and suspense (before they remove the wool from your eyes and let you see that you've been expertly duped - those dastards!), and the initial scenes are comparably relaxed in relation to the rest of the film, with the most excitable scenes taking place in an inquest with a cold, clinical silence sans music or any other distractions. As if that wasn't enough, the first twenty minutes also include a short appearance by Mac McDonald, also known as Captain Hollister from Red Dwarf, arguably deserving of a place amongst the most E14 TV series.

Of course, a sense of foreboding grips you around seventeen minutes in when a family on recently colonised LV-426 (the setting for the first movie, since terraformed and declared safe) stumbles across a wrecked spacecraft and all hell breaks loose. Before long, Ripley finds herself once again on a team sent to investigate. This time, they're prepared for the struggle and have a shit-ton of weaponry at their disposal.

So why this movie? Alien was awesome, so why not the first movie in the series? Well, granted it is an absolutely awesome movie, but Aliens is preferable to me. Why not Alien 3, directed by David Fincher of awesomeness fame? Well, funnily enough, despite my love of the series' concept, I'm not actually a fan of that movie. Why not Alien: Resurrection? Oh ho, ho ho ho. I could scarcely write that down while keeping a straight face. Awesome. Joking aside, that movie blows despite the inclusion of the strangely attractive Winona Ryder.

The primary answer is simple: Firstly, Aliens is an awesome movie. Action-packed, scary but with enough funny moments to make it feel pretty real, the movie works on several levels. From the moment the crew of the ship comes out of stasis, and the first thing Apone is screw a cigar into his mouth, you can tell that the gags, while not being stuck in on a par with something like Galaxy Quest, are going to be in there to make the film considerably more realistic. I've always been a firm believer in the fact that real life is pretty funny, even when people are in dire straits (not the band, though their presence in place of the crew of the ship could arguably improve this movie).

One of the things that the film does well, which other films have tried to do but not nearly as well since, is the human element. Early on, they establish Vasquez as a bad-arse female Rambo, but when she goes off on a macho tirade, Ripley cuts her right down to size by calling her on her machismo. "I hope you're right, I really do" is enough to get Vasquez from spouting bad-arse clichés from looking pensive and sullen. From then on, there's this grudging mutual respect from both parties, as well as the rest of the team taking Ripley more seriously as an expert on the xenomorph menace. Similarly, Hudson goes from a complete douchebag, akin to a surfer type spouting similar clichés to Vasquez, to a terrified soldier as the film progresses.

The atmosphere, as well, is absolutely incredible throughout. I've already talked about the sombre tone set by the lack of music, but just as important is the presence of music in the movie. It's only during the team's descent into LV-426's abandoned colony that the music begins to ramp up again from before, and it's done to great effect as the idea is to set the scene as the team works its way into the colony from the APV. Lighting as well is a key focus, particularly during the introductory entry into the colony, with the camera showing the doors opening outwards akin to the mouth of a great beast. Once they enter the colony, the lighting and the use of darkness is at times clever and at others ingenious.

Something that gets overlooked, which hopefully should resonate with the E14 males (and doubtlessly some of the females as well) amongst the readers, is that Sigourney Weaver in her pants and a vest (neither of which are particularly revealing items of clothing) is that much sexier than almost anything that Hollywood has tried since to tittilate the youth of today. With the possible exception of the odd slow-motion walk towards the protagonist brought back in Scrubs to great comedic effect, much of what Hollywood does is insufficient next to Ripley in her two-piece set of Primark-quality sex appeal. Besides, if her in the power loader at the end doesn't give you insta-wood, cut it off.

As stated earlier, the characters are really well developed. Brushing aside the macho stuff, Ripley is a really well-rounded character, with elements of maternal protectiveness developed really early on with the death of her daughter while she was in stasis. The whole film has that motherly element to it, really, even in so much as the processing plant looks like a womb in the Queen's lair. What's really impressive as well is how well the female marines are distinguished from Ripley, with the latter womanly and maternal, and Dietrich and Vasquez muscular and clinical. In the scene where Apone collects magazines, and Vasquez hides herself a sneaky one, she establishes herself as one of the boys (as well as, in hindsight, somewhat of a dumbarse).

Interestingly, despite the title of the film, as with the first one there's a considerable amount of time before the aliens first appear in any significant way, but when they do all hell breaks loose. Brad made a good point to me while we were both watching this movie at the same time in different counties, in that the movie works as a Vietnam movie. Well-armed overconfident forces get taken to pieces by forces with inferior weaponry but a better knowledge of the environment. True, the aliens aren't indigenous by the traditional definition, but they know their way around the environment much better than the marines.

Aliens for me works equally well as a science-fiction movie as well as a horror movie, even though the first movie was probably more like the horror part of that spectrum. As far as video games upcoming are concerned, I couldn't be more excited about the possibility of Aliens: Colonial Marines. And yeah, Newt is piss-annoying, but she never did another movie, so that's somewhat of a consolation. Plus if you imagine really hard, you can imagine Lando Calrissian in her place, and the movie still sort of works, plus it's awesome to boot.Words: Rob Wade


From director Jang Cheol-soo, the new South Korean name to watch, the tale of two women. One wants to escape to the idyllic island of Moodo, the other wants to leave it for the big city. Seoul banker Hae-won once visited Moodo to see her grandparents and had befriended Bok-nam a girl who still writes despite Hae-won never bothering to reply. But on Moodo again to regain balance to her life, Hae-won is shocked to see everyone treating Bok-nam like a slave.

As practically the only young woman on the island, she is a plaything for the men and a workhorse for the women. But true to form Hae-won remains indifferent to Bok-nam's pleas for help, not wanting to become involved in complicated situations. Then Bok-nam loses the only thing that had kept her going and finally snaps, a sickle in hand to mete out the bloodiest of revenge.

Thanks to our friends at Optimum Home Entertainment UK, we've got three copies of Bedevilled on Blu-ray to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Monday 28th February, making sure to put "Bedevilled" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy of each book!

Don't forget to put "Bedevilled" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Bedevilled is available from Monday 28th February. Pre-order now: DVD Blu-ray

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

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