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On Second Thought: Alien Resurrection (Special Edition)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus in the United States this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

So this is Earth, huh?

This is Earth.

– Call and Ripley try not to sound too disappointed…

I am not the biggest fan of Alien: Resurrection. I think it is, to be frank, a mess of a film – the result of a director and a writer who seem a very poor fit for one another, with Jeunet’s macabre design aesthetic at odds with Whedon’s sardonic irony. It would take a fairly radical reworking of the film to solve that fair fundamental tonal dissonance… and the Special Edition is not that much of a reworking. Indeed, Jeunet himself has gone of record stating that his own definitive version the film was the original theatrical cut. He introduces the Special Edition on the superb anthology collection with that confession, “The special edition version you are about to watch is not the director’s cut, because the director’s cut is the version you watched in theatres in 1997.”

So it’s no surprise that while the Special Edition does add a bit more shading, nuance and complexity to the film, it doesn’t salvage it.

Not quite what the doctor ordered…

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On Second Thought: Aliens (Director’s Cut)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus in the United States this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

It seems that James Cameron’s Director’s Cut of Aliens is the only alternate cut of an Alien film preferred by any of the directors. Ridley Scott has gone on record stating that he considers Alien: The Director’s Cut to be an “alternative” cut of the film intended for long-time fans. David Fincher has explained that the only way he’d produce a version of Alien³ that he’d be happy with was if he were to shoot it from scratch. Jean-Pierre Jeunet believes that the theatrical cut of Alien: Resurrection is his preferred version of the film. So it seems that Cameron is the only director who has been able to successfully reintegrate material to produce what he feels to be a definitive version of the film.

And, to be honest, I’d agree. Aliens: The Director’s Cut is probably the best example of how to enhance an already superb film through the addition of previously excised material.

On LV-426, everyone can hear you scream…

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On Second Thought: Alien³ (The Assembly Cut)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

Alien and Aliens are, quite rightly, considered classics of the science-fiction horror subgenre, superbly constructed examinations of the monsters lurking in the darkness. Unfortunately, the two sequels, Alien³ and Alien Resurrection are not so highly regarded. One would imagine that producing a film about a monster in the future really wouldn’t be that difficult, but the films were both dogged by their own pre-production turmoil. In particular, this third film went through several painful iterations before reaching the big screen – and, even then, there was a sense that nobody was especially happy with the result.

However, this series of films has also benefited from a great deal of affection, attention and examination from both creators and fans. As such, it isn’t really a surprise that even the creators have returned to help patch them up from time to time, lovingly repairing and restoring and updating the installments in this landmark franchise. While Alien³: The Assembly Cut is not a literal Director’s Cut, it does afford the viewer a rare insight into what David Fincher’s version of the film might have looked like.

Back against the wall…

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On Second Thought: Alien (Director’s Cut)

To celebrate the release of Prometheus this week, we’ll be taking a look at the other movies in the Alien franchise.

Alien: The Director’s Cut is a curious beast. It’s more of an alternate cut than a director’s cut of Ridley Scott’s iconic Alien. It actually runs a few seconds shorter than the original theatrical cut of the film, although it contains more than five minutes of different footage. While five minutes of footage can have a significant impact on the final cut of a film, I’d be hard-pressed to argue that they add considerable depth to Scott’s science-fiction masterpiece. Aliens: The Special Edition re-inserted scenes that expanded and developed the themes of Cameron’s sequel, while Alien³: The Assembly Cut offers a glimpse of a movie far different from the one released. In contrast, Alien: The Director’s Cut… doesn’t really do much of anything. It’s just an alternative to the theatrical edition.

Ship shape?

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On Second Thought: Apocalypse Now (Redux)

I wrote in my review of the original version of the movie that the two-and-a-half-hour cut captured a great deal of the insanity that seems to have been a defining characteristic of the Vietnam War, with the movie feeling like a crazed surrealist trip into madness, a collection of abstract meditations on the American condition that felt compressed at over two hours. If that is the case, Apocalypse Now Redux captures another aspect of the conflict. It’s now less insane, but the instability and absurdity appear more systemic and endemic. It’s bloated, terrifying, harrowing and seemingly eternal.

Much like the war itself.

Back into the Heart of Darkness...

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Todd Philips & “Unrated” Editions: Directors Above All?

Todd Phillips, the director of Due Date and The Hangover, has come out blasting Warner Brothers for releasing extended “unrated” cuts of his movie without his input or consent. He makes a strong case, and threatens to take it to the DGA:

Warner Bros., they’ll make your movie; your movie does well, and they want to create an unrated version, which is entirely against DGA rules because it’s not your cut. And they can’t call it the ‘Director’s Cut’ — they’ll call it ‘Unrated’ or some ridiculous term. Really all it is, is about seven minutes of footage that you cut out of the movie for a reason.

I’ve stuck for directors’ visions in the past – I mourned the passing of Del Toro’s Mountains of Madness or hoped that someday Frank Darabont’s Fahrenheit 451 might (against all odds) make to screen. Studio interference on films like Brazil, for instance, is almost unforgivable – and I was delighted to see justice was eventually done to Blade Runner. However, I can’t find myself entirely agreeing with what Phillips says here.

Let me tell you a spiel...

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Is a Film Ever “Done” These Days?

I was reading last week about how George Lucas is planning yet another re-release of Star Wars in 2012. This time in glorious 3D. Glorious post-conversion 3D. Yes, that was sarcasm. It’s interesting that Lucas continues to push for editing and updating the saga, especially considering his earlier position on updating existing films (in this case arguing against converting black & white films to colour): 

“I am very concerned about our national heritage, and I am very concerned that the films that I watched when I was young and the films that I watched throughout my life are preserved, so that my children can see them,” he said. He furthermore remarked: “In the future it will become easier for old negatives to become lost and be ‘replaced’ by new altered negatives. This would be a great loss to our society. Our cultural history must not be allowed to be rewritten.” 

And yet, he has repeatedly demonstrated over the past decade or so that he is devoted to rewriting his version of Star Wars, arguing that it is simply never complete – he’s moving it closer to complete with every update. In this era of directors’ cuts and special extended editions, is becoming commonplace to accept that the theatrical release of a film isn’t the “finished” or “completed” version. 

The infamous "everyone rocks out" deleted scene...

 

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