Friday, August 18, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #3: "Alien" (1979)

Note: The disc I received gave me the option of watching either the 1979 theatrical release or the 2003 director’s cut. I chose the theatrical release.

Movie Stats:
Released 1979 (USA)
American & British, in English
Director - Ridley Scott
Stars - Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, and many others

Plot Summary:
When the crew of a commercial space vessel, on its way back to Earth with a load, is diverted by a distress signal, they encounter a hostile alien. Weaver stars as crew member Ripley & Skerritt as crew captain Dallas.

Warnings:
Heavy blue language; violence; extreme gore; brief female nudity (breasts only) via nudie pics on a wall.

Bad Stuff:
I think this movie is incredibly slow, especially in the beginning.

On the one hand, I can’t blame her because I’d be freaking out too, but on the other hand, Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) is supremely irritating. Why couldn’t she [SPOILER] die first [SPOILER]?

[SPOILER]
I can’t decide if the film was trying to imply that the company put Ash (Ian Holm) on the team specifically to bring back the alien or not. It’s stated that he was added last-minute. The rest of the crew didn’t know he was an android. So was he placed there in case the company needed to make sure it had someone on the team who would do whatever it said? Or was the alien the prime directive all along? [SPOILER] This plot point raised a lot of questions without answering them, and that bothers me.

Good Stuff:
As I mentioned in my review of the sequel, I love that Ripley isn’t a natural bad ass. She’s just a person who finds it in herself to do what has to be done in order to survive.

The practical effects are phenomenal. This movie is nearly 40 years old and it still looks great.

I like the soundtrack.

The Verdict:
I’ve never been a huge fan of this film. I don’t hate it, but it’ll never make any of my personal top 10 lists. Mostly, I think the pace is too slow. It bores me. Perhaps I wouldn’t feel that way if I’d been old enough to see it when it first came out. This is one of those movies where it’s difficult not to know practically everything about it. I saw spoofs of the famous scene long before I saw the actual scene itself. If I hadn’t, perhaps this movie would’ve held a lot more tension and scares for me. I think it’s a good story, and I appreciate that it doesn’t suffer from an overabundance of the “horror movie stupids,” wherein people in horror movies do stupid things simply to move the story along. I also think the acting is pretty good. Lastly, I like the way the crew interacts with each other. It feels like natural co-worker relationships. Overall, I think it's a solid film, even if I’m not its biggest fan.

I give it 3.75 stars.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Sleepy Dog Pics

I haven't been getting out and about lately, so I thought I'd take a brief interlude to show you some pictures of my sleeping dog. I have approximately one million of them. My dog is either absolutely hilarious or ridiculously cute when he's sleeping. At least, that's what I think. You be the judge!

He opened his eyes & ruined this one, but here he is, snoozing in his Seattle Seahawks jersey (he has a Portland Timbers one as well).


He loves to "burrow." A lot of times, he won't settle until you put "his" blanket on top of him, even though he gets overheated very quickly.


Sometimes he sleeps with his mouth open. He snores a lot.


Sleeping with his butt sticking out after burrowing.


A friend got him this toy (it's Lamb Chop). He loves it! Likes to sleep on top of it.


Soaking up the sun.


All tucked in.


You give him the whole bed to sleep on & he wants to be right up in your business. That's my leg he's snuggled up against.


Contortions.



Hope you enjoyed! Maybe next week I'll post a few of the million pictures I have of my sleeping cat.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #4: "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" (1977)

This movie was previously reviewed as part of my AFI Top 100 Movie Project. Below is the pertinent information about it: the movie stats, plot summary, and the rating I gave it. You can read the full text of my review HERE.

Movie Stats:
Released 1977 (USA)
American, in English (lots of French, mostly translated; some Spanish & Hindi, mostly not translated)
Director - Steven Spielberg
Stars - Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon, Francois Truffaut

Plot Summary:
The appearance of visitors from outer space affects the lives of energy worker Roy Neary (Dreyfuss), mother Jillian Guiler (Dillon), and scientist Claude Lacombe (Truffaut), amongst others.

Rating:
2.5 stars

Friday, August 11, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #5: "Aliens" (1986)

Note: If you’ve never seen “Alien,” then you should probably skip the plot summary below, unless you don’t mind spoilers. It’s sort of impossible to summarize this film without referring to the film that came before it.

Movie Stats:
Released 1986 (USA)
American & British, in English
Director - James Cameron
Stars - Sigourney Weaver, Carrie Henn, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, and many others

Plot Summary:
In the sequel to “Alien,” survivor Ripley (Weaver) is found & awakened from stasis after 57 years, where she discovers, to her horror, that a corporation has colonized the planet where her ship & crew were destroyed by an alien. Henn co-stars as young Newt, one of the planet’s colonials; Biehn as Corporal Hicks; and Reiser as corporate shill Burke.

Warnings:
Extreme violence; extreme gore; heavy blue language.

Bad Stuff:
One of my least favorite sounds in the world is children’s screams. There’s A LOT of that in this film. Soooooo annoying.

This is one of those sequels that’s basically a replica of the original. Similar plot line, and almost the exact same events, such as [SPOILERS] Ripley going back after she gets out to save something (cat in the first movie, girl in the sequel) & Ripley ejecting the alien into space, etc. [SPOILERS] It’s the original “turned up to 11,” so to speak.

The set-up takes way too long, which makes the film drag. All I could think was, “We all watched the first film, which means we’re all here for the same thing. Let’s get to the aliens & horrific death already.”

Good Stuff:
Excellent practical effects! It still looks very, very good.

I really appreciate Ripley as a character. She’s not a bad ass “just because.” She’s the type of person who’s able to rise to the occasion. I like that she starts this movie meek and frightened, traumatized by what she endured. There’s a moment where you actually see the flip switch, when she “turns on” her bad assery. That was nicely done.

I’m not normally a fan of Paul Reiser, but I thought he was excellent in this. [SPOILER] Even though I kept expecting him to turn out to be a stealth asshole, he did such a great job at playing sensitive and caring for long enough that I began to doubt myself. Just as I did, it turns out I was right. [SPOILER]

The Verdict:
This is one of those sequels that’s beloved & I don’t quite understand why because it’s essentially a carbon copy of the first film, minus the suspense & tension that makes the first film great, but with the questionable addition of an annoying child character. I don’t think it’s terrible. In fact, there’s a lot about it that’s very cool. But I wouldn’t say that I was overly impressed.

I give it 3.25 stars.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Up with Geography: Djibouti

Country Name:
Djibouti

Capital:
Djibouti

Continent:
Africa

Maps:

African continent. Djibouti marked with a
black box because it was too small to outline.

A close-up of Djibouti & its neighbors.

Neighbors:
Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia

Water Borders:
Bay of Ghoubbet, Gulf of Tadjoura, Gulf of Aden

Total Area:
8,958 square miles

Five Largest Cities:
Djibouti, Ali Sabieh, Tadjoura, Obock, Dikhil

Famous Geographical Point:
Lake Assal

Famous Person:
Hussein Ahmed Salah, Olympic bronze medalist in the 1988 marathon

Book Set In/About:
The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper by Abdourahman A. Waberi

A collection of poetry about the landscape of Djibouti.

Movie Set In/About:
"Laan" (2011), directed by Lula Ali Ismaïl

This short follows the lives of three young girls, friends, as they navigate a society highly dependent on an addictive plant called khat (apparently this is a serious problem in Djibouti). The internet tells me that Ismaïl is the first Djiboutian director ever. I could find only 3 other films set in Djibouti, all of them by non-Djiboutians, and none of them really about Djibouti. Ismaïl was filming Djibouti's first feature-length film in 2014 but I can find no evidence that she finished it.

Headline of the Day:
"China Opens First Overseas Base in Djibouti" on aljazeera.com

Monday, August 7, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #6: "Star Wars" (1977)

This movie was previously reviewed as part of my AFI Top 100 Movie Project. Below is the pertinent information about it: the movie stats, plot summary, and the rating I gave it. You can read the full text of my review HERE.

Movie Stats:
Released 1977 (USA)
American, in English (made-up alien languages, some translated, some not)
Director - George Lucas
Stars - Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford, Alec Guinness

Plot Summary:
It’s the classic hero’s tale. When young, restless farmer Luke Skywalker (Hamill) intercepts a message from imperiled Princess Leia (Fisher), he sets off on a rescue mission with the help of handsome rogue Han Solo (Ford) and the aged knight Obi-Wan Kenobi (Guinness). Along the way, they find themselves caught up in a rebellion.

Rating:
3.75 stars

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #7: "Brazil" (1985)

Movie Stats:
Released 1985 (France)
British, in English
Director - Terry Gilliam
Stars - Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro

Plot Summary:
In a dystopian future where bureaucracy is king, Sam Lowry (Pryce), a man with low ambition but romantic dreams, falls in love with a stranger (Jill Layton, played by Kim Greist) and becomes embroiled with potential terrorist Harry Tuttle (De Niro).

Warnings:
Violence; gore; blue language; brief, partial female nudity (breasts seen through a sheer shirt).

Bad Stuff:
This is one of those movies that I know is supposed to be funny but which I don’t find particularly amusing. I think I smiled maybe once or twice.

It’s just too much for me. Too many moving parts, too much ridiculousness, too loud, too many story lines that seem superfluous.

Good Stuff:
I enjoy it as a social commentary on the tyranny of bureaucracy and complacency.

The cameo from Bob Hoskins (as HVAC repairman Spoor) was probably my favorite part of the whole film.

I like its dark edge.

The Verdict:
This film definitely isn’t my cup of tea. While I feel that it had some interesting things to say, it was too over-the-top for me. My predominant feelings while watching it were boredom and annoyance. I kept thinking to myself, “Just get to it already!” So much of it seemed pointless. I feel so “meh” about it that I’ve had a hard time getting around to writing this review. I just kept putting it off and putting it off. Anyway, I do recognize that most of my problems with it are more of a personal taste issue. I can see why other people like it. Do you typically enjoy Terry Gilliam comedies? If so, then you’ll probably like this film.

I give it 3 stars.