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259. Alien – Halloween 2021 (#52)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Doctor Bernice Murphy and Joey Keogh, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, a Halloween treat: Ridley Scott’s Alien.

A mysterious signal from deep space awakens the crew of the shipping vessel Nostromo. Following standing orders to respond, the crew find themselves drawn to a hostile and barren world. They track the signal to the wreckage of a strange and mysterious craft. However, there might just be something sinister stirring deep within that wreckage.

At time of recording, it was ranked 52nd on the list of the best movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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256. Breach (Anti-Life) (-#69)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guest Joe Griffin, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, John Suits’ Breach.

Earth is dying. Mankind’s last hope lies in the stars. On board one of the last colony ships ferrying the handful of survivors to their new world, something inhuman is stirring. The vessel’s maintenance crew find themselves in a battle against an alien entity, with the fate of mankind in the balance.

At time of recording, it was ranked 69th on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Video! On How “Aliens” Responds to “Alien”…

So, as I have mentioned before, I am launching a new video series as a companion piece to In the Frame at The Escapist. The video will typically launch with every second Monday’s article, and be released on the magazine’s YouTube channel the following week. This is kinda cool, because we’re helping relaunch the magazine’s film content – so if you can throw a subscription our way, it would mean a lot.

This month, with Aliens celebrating its thirty-fifth anniversary, it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look at the film. In particular, how James Cameron designed one of the great sequels by refusing to simply repeat what worked about the original Alien. Instead, Aliens works in large part because it actively responds to and engages with Alien, in a way that enriches both films.

New Escapist Column! On James Cameron’s “Aliens” as a Challenge to Ridley Scott’s “Alien”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist this evening. James Cameron’s Aliens is thirty-five years old this July, so it seemed like a good opportunity to take a look back at one of the best sequels ever made.

Aliens works in large part because it’s smart enough to avoid directly challenging Alien, in that it avoids simply recycling the original formula with a shift in location or with a new cast. Instead, it offers a very different approach to the core material. More than that, James Cameron positions Aliens as a direct challenge to Alien, deliberately and pointedly inverting some of the core themes of the original film. This choice enriches both films, turning Alien and Aliens into a conversation.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

231. Mac and Me (-#83)

Hosted by Andrew Quinn and Darren Mooney, and this week with special guests Niall Glynn and Richard Drumm, The 250 is a weekly trip through some of the best (and worst) movies ever made, as voted for by Internet Movie Database Users. New episodes are released Saturdays at 6pm GMT.

So this week, Stewart Raffill’s Mac and Me.

Following a move to California, young Eric is feeling a little alienated and disconnected. However, the young boy’s life is quickly turned upside down following a chance encounter with a creature from another world that has a strange hunger for Coca-Cola and Skittles.

At time of recording, it was ranked 83rd on the list of the worst movies of all time on the Internet Movie Database.

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New Escapist Column! On Ridley Scott’s Science-Fiction Sensibility in “Raised by Wolves”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at The Escapist on Friday. With the launch of Raised by Wolves on HBO Max, I thought it was worth taking a look at the streaming science-fiction series.

The most striking thing about Raised by Wolves is the extent to which it feels like a Ridley Scott production. Scott did not write or create the show, the was Aaron Guzikowski. However, Scott directed the first two episodes, and they often feel like an extension of Scott’s work. There are obvious echoes of Scott’s iconic science-fiction work in classics like Alien and Blade Runner, but also shots and sequences that seem to have been lifted from Prometheus and Alien: Covenant.

This works rather well, as Raised by Wolves delves into some of Scott’s core thematic preoccupations. Like Prometheus, Exodus: Gods and Kings and Covenant, this is a story about religion. Like Prometheus, Gods and Kings, Covenant and All the Money in the World, it is also a story about parenthood and the responsibility of caring for a younger life. However, because Raised by Wolves is not tied to any existing intellectual property, it gives Scott a lot of space to work. More than that, it suggests that Scott is a brand unto himself.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On David as the Monster in “Prometheus” and “Alien: Covenant”…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. This week, Ridley Scott explained that he wanted to “re-evolve” the central monster from the Alien franchise.

This is an interesting argument, particularly given Scott’s long-standing criticism about the xenomorph, and his argument that the creature has perhaps outlived its relevance. Indeed, one of the most interesting facets of Prometheus and Alien: Covenant is the way in which David essentially updates many of the core thematic elements of the xenomorph. David takes the creature’s threat of sexual violence, and updates it for the twenty-first century.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

New Escapist Column! On the Bleak Nihilism at the Heart of Alien³…

I published a new piece at Escapist Magazine this evening. With “Alien Day” arriving tomorrow, I thought this was as good a time as any to celebrate the most under-appreciated film in the series.

Alien³ has a somewhat tarnished legacy. It was subject to a lot of criticism when it came out, some of which was justified and some was not. While director David Fincher’s original vision is lost to history, there have been welcome efforts to reclaim the film. The Assembly Cut is well worth any film fan’s time, and deserves consideration as a worthy entry within the larger franchise. Even allowing for this minor rehabilitation, the film is still undervalued.

Alien³ will never be as good or as iconic as Alien or Aliens. However, it is a worthy successor. The film’s unrelenting commitment to – and loud endorsement of – nihilism is very much in keeping with the spirit of the franchise. Alien³ is a massive and expensive studio blockbuster that argues for the horror of existence and the cruelty of a vicious universe. It is a $50m argument for self-negation in the face of such cosmic terror. These ideas simmered through Alien, but Alien³ allows them to come to a boil. It’s breathtaking.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

 

New Escapist Column! On the Fascinating Paradox at the Heart of “Alien: Covenant”…

I published a new In the Frame piece at Escapist Magazine yesterday. Because it was a light week for geek culture, I actually got to write a little bit about something I’ve thought far too much about; Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant.

Covenant is not a great film. It’s not even a particularly good film. However, it is a fascinating film. A large part of that is because it emerged in the middle of a wave of compromised big budget blockbusters like Suicide Squad, Justice League and Solo: A Star Wars Story, films that often felt like watching a wrestling match between the director and the studio. Covenant feels the same way, trying to reconcile Fox’s desire for an Alien prequel with Scott’s desire for a Prometheus sequel. However, what’s most interesting about Covenant is how that conversation seems to play out within the movie itself.

You can read the piece here, or click the picture below.

Non-Review Review: Alien – Covenant

Alien: Covenant feels as though somebody facehuggered Prometheus and ended up with Alien.

It is a very messy, very awkward, very clever piece of film. It is a genre movie that understands both what it wants to be, and also the reasons why it cannot be what it wants to be. It is a film aware of its own grotesque attributes, of the way that it has been warped and deformed in its journey from original idea to concept to screen. It is a movie very much aware of what it wants to be, but it is also cognisant of the fact that it cannot be that film. Alien: Covenant is the result of any number of compromises, but it is very pointed on the subject of those compromises.

Alien DNA.

Most likely driven by the critical and audience reaction to Prometheus, the sequel is a decidedly more conservative affair. For all intents and purposes, Covenant is wed more tightly to the Alien franchise than to its direct predecessor. Although one main character (and performer) carries over from Prometheus to Covenant, most of the major characters from Prometheus are relegated to small supporting roles and cameos. Even the Engineers, the alien race at the centre of Prometheus, are primarily relegated to an extended flashback sequence.

In contrast, Covenant embraces the trappings of the familiar Alien franchise. The soundtrack repeatedly samples Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score from the original Alien. The climax devolves into a hybrid of the most iconic action beats from the first two Alien films. The film lingers on the dramatic reveals of familiar Alien iconography, only barely teasing audience expectations before fulfilling them. It seems fair to argue that Covenant is a movie more consciously designed to appeal to fans of the Alien franchise than Prometheus was. The clue is in the title.

Bursting at the seams.

However, Covenant is most interesting when it plays up the tension between what it clearly wants to be and what it actually is, when the script throws the concept of sequel to Prometheus into conflict with the demands of a prequel to Alien. There is a strong sense of disillusionment and frustration in Covenant, particularly as explored through the story of David. Michael Fassbender’s enigmatic android is the only major returning character from Prometheus, and in many ways the central character. He reappears after being lost in the wilderness, angry and resentful.

Covenant is a big ball of Oedipal rage. It’s clever, awkward, messy and disjointed, but also entirely in keeping with the themes of the larger series.

The wilderness years.

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