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Non-Review Review: Life of Pi

Life of Pi is visually stunning. It is an amazing accomplishment. I’ll be the first to admit that I am skeptical of 3D, but in the hands of the right director – Martin Scorsese, James Cameron and, now, Ang Lee – it is a fascinating storytelling tool. The computer-generated imagery is magical, as are the compositions and scene transitions. There’s no doubt that Ang Lee is a superb craftsman. Indeed, the visual majesty of the film is enough to make you dismiss some of the lighter narrative elements, accepting some of the incongruities as expressions of “magical realism” or simply a function of allegorical storytelling. It’s not the densest, or the most insightful, story you will see, but it’s well-told.

Unfortunately, then you reach the end, and Life of Pi tries to get considerably smarter than it actually is. It pulls a clumsy narrative trick that leaves the audience feeling a bit disoriented and more than a little manipulated. Life of Pi finds itself torn between trying to be a beautiful allegorical story of survival and a deeper commentary on the stories that we tell. Forcing one undermines the other. While Life of Pi might convince you that a boy and a tiger can share a lifeboat, the two competing aspects of Life of Pi sink the story.

Not quite a glowing recommendation...

Not quite a glowing recommendation…

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Non-Review Review: Alien vs. Predator – Requiem

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.

Alien vs. Predator: Requiem is pretty close to indefensible. I’m not the biggest fan of the original Alien vs. Predator, but I’ll concede the film throws a few interesting ideas into a disappointingly generic and less-than-enthusiastic monster mash run-around. While the first film wasn’t original, it at least looked to acknowledge its hokeyness in places. In contrast, the sequel is just soul-destroyingly mundane, taking anything that had been unique or compelling or interesting about these two iconic movie monsters and rendering it all completely pointless as it devolves them to the equivalent of generic teenager slasher villains.

Death of a franchise…

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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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Non-Review Review: Alien vs. Predator

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.

I like cheesy movies. I have a fondness for those old fashioned mix-and-match creature features from back in the day. I have a remarkable tolerance for some of those incredibly awkward B-movie adventures featuring relatively bland characters trapped in a strange and slightly illogical situations. As such, I’m probably a bit fonder of Paul W.S. Anderson’s creature-feature fight-night beat-’em-up schlock-fest Alien vs. Predator. I’m not so fond that I’d argue it’s a good movie – in fact, I’d readily concede that it’s a disappointing lifeless husk of a movie. However, I will concede that there are some interesting concepts and ideas buried quite deeply in the middle of that film.

Natural born predators…

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Non-Review: Alien Resurrection (Theatrical Cut)

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

I always feel a little hint of trepidation when I return to a movie that I know I didn’t like the first time. Part of me is reluctant to watch it again, even for the purposes of examining what exactly went awry during production, while some small part of me holds out hope that the film might be redeemed – that I might somehow magically get it the second time around. So, completing a marathon rewatch of Ridley Scott’s Alien and the sequels it spawned, I left Alien: Resurrection until last.

Unfortunately, it was just as flawed and messy as I remember it.

Reflecting on his behaviour…

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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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Non-Review Review: Aliens (Theatrical Cut)

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

I think Aliens might be my favourite James Cameron movie. Of course, the guy has any number of iconic movies vying for that position – The Terminator and Terminator 2 both come to mind, for example – but I can’t help but admire how efficiently the director constructed his first big budget motion picture. Regardless of its place within an iconic science-fiction franchise, Aliens is practically a guidebook on how to effectively construct a movie, from writing the script to directing the action and absolutely everything in between. It’s hard to look at Aliens as anything less than a complete triumph, no matter which angle you examine the film from.

Queen bee…

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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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My Heart Will Go On: Titanic & We Need to Talk About Calvert…

It’s funny the things we pick up on after seeing a movie a few times. I had the pleasure of attending a preview of Titanic 3D last week, and Cameron’s film still holds up as an epic romance in a style that Hollywood simply doesn’t do anymore. It still has its problems, but it is one hell of a cinematic accomplishment. Still, as I was watching the film, my attention may have wandered a bit, and I found myself thinking about things that were unseen, as opposed to those moments Cameron had explicitly shown. Specifically, I thought about Rose Dawson’s life after the sinking of the ocean liner but before her trip to the salvage crew. In fact, I thought quite a bit about Calvert. Who is Calvert, you might ask? Calvert is her husband, the father to her children and the grandfather to her granddaughter, who is entirely absent from the film as we pay homage to the love story between Jack and Rose.

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Non-Review Review: Titanic (3D)

James Cameron’s Titanic is still a breath-taking production, even sixteen years after the fact. Sure, its huge budget and even bigger box office returns, coupled with its enormous pop culture impact, have all combined to make it a bit of a target for movie critics in the years following its initial release. To be honest, while I wouldn’t rank it as anywhere near Cameron’s finest accomplishment, I’ve always admired it for what it was: a romantic historical epic, perhaps the most recent film like that which Hollywood has produced. Even a decade and a half later, Titanic remains one hell of spectacle and a well-constructed piece of cinema, with Cameron displaying a mastery of form and an innate skill for story-telling. Couple with the best post-conversion 3D that I have ever seen, there’s no reason for anybody with a genuine interest in the film to stay away from the big re-release.

Her heart will... go on, finish it...

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