Reviews written by registered user
|3 reviews in total|
Seven years after barely surviving events on board the Nostromo in Ridley
Scott's classic sci-fi horror ALIEN, Sigourney Weaver reprised her role as
Warrant Officer Ripley for one of the most compelling and
critically-acclaimed sequels of all time. Canadian director James Cameron
had already struck gold with the Arnold Schwarzenegger starring vehicle
TERMINATOR (1984), after his somewhat inauspicious feature film
debut with the long-forgotten, Dutch-backed PIRANHA II: THE SPAWNING 3
earlier. ALIENS would further cement Cameron's growing reputation as a
first-rate director of high-tech, fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping action
thrillers, from which there would normally be no let-up once they got
When Ripley is rescued from drifting aimlessly through deep space, she is horrified to learn that not only has she been asleep for 57 years, but the planet on which she had encountered the original alien all that time ago has since been colonized. At first no-one will heed her warnings or completely believe the story she gives at an official enquiry as to what happened to her and her fellow Nostromo crew members. But then contact is lost with LV-426, and despite initially throwing Ripley "to the wolves" (as she herself puts in), The Company, through representative Carter J. Burke (Paul Reiser), suddenly finds itself in a position of having to ask Ripley for help, finally persuading her to return to the planet that still consumes her every nightmare, as an advisor to a motley group of very tough colonial marines expecting this to be just another run-of-the-mill "bug-hunt". But how wrong that assumption turns out to be!
I would argue that ALIENS far surpasses its celebrated predecessor in almost every aspect. Obviously the sheer spectacle of what is basically a Vietnam war movie in space is particularly awe-inspiring - the impressive sets, the many excitingly-staged combat sequences, the aliens themselves (interestingly enough, although through fast cutting and appropriate camera placement it seems as though there are hundreds of aliens being blasted to kingdom come - or else picking off the gung-ho marines one by one - in reality no more than 6 aliens are ever seen in any one shot). But the human drama element of this sequel is also greatly heightened, primarily by the introduction of "Newt" (wonderful little Carrie Henn, in her only film role), who turns out to be the sole survivor of recent events on LV-426, becoming a kind-of surrogate daughter to Ripley, which leads to several touching moments and gives the story a surprisingly effective emotional core in the midst of all the otherwise pre-eminent carnage.
Amongst the talented supporting players are Cameron regulars Michael Biehn (THE TERMINATOR, THE ABYSS) and Bill Paxton (bit part in THE TERMINATOR, TRUE LIES, TITANIC), and Cameron's punchy dialogue includes such suitably macho wisecracks as - Hudson (Paxton): "Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?" Vasquez (a pumped-up Jenette Goldstein): "No, have you?" Nominated for 7 Oscars, including Weaver as Best Actress (again this confirms the general class on display, as it is fairly rare for the Academy to recognize the acting qualities inherent in this type of predominantly action-driven movie), the film went on to win for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects Editing. Further, almost inevitable sequels followed in 1992 and 1997, but I prefer to think of the terrifying perils of Ellen Ripley as ending on this high note.
1994 proved to be rather a good year for Australian movies, with both this
and MURIEL'S WEDDING delighting international audiences with their cheeky
over-the-top humour, panache, pathos, winning performances, and fun
soundtracks. Both, of course, heavily featured the music of ABBA
has long had a particular love-affair with the Scandinavian quartet - it
probably no coincidence that it was decided to shoot the group's own
feature, ABBA: THE MOVIE, during the Australian leg of their 1977 world
concert tour). In MURIEL'S WEDDING the band's music is perhaps treated
more reverence and respect - Muriel Heslop is, after all, a huge fan, and
the film itself is of a far more serious, distinctly black nature.
PRISCILLA, on the other hand, constantly revels in its own bitchiness and
catty humour, and has countless memorable, and in many cases unprintable,
lines of dialogue, including stabs at the supergroup - "I've said it once
and I'll say it again - no more f***ing ABBA"; "What are you telling me -
this is an ABBA turd?" Of course ABBA is merely one of MANY verbal targets
for the film's three main protagonists, but far from this alienating us
any of them, we cannot help but be swept along by the sheer garish joy of
the entire venture.
The basic plot focuses on recently bereaved transsexual Bernadette (a magnificent, hardly recognizable Terence Stamp), who teams up with two younger drag artistes, sensitive Tick/Mitzi (Hugo Weaving) and screaming queen Adam/Felicia (Guy Pearce), so that they can travel half-way across Australia on board an all but dilapidated bus named "Priscilla", in order to perform a cabaret act at a remote casino run by an ex-partner of Tick's, soon revealed to be, horror of horrors, a WOMAN! Along the way they encounter all sorts of absurd situations and individuals almost as strange and unconventional as they themselves are, whilst Bernadette, against her better judgement, falls for gruff mechanic Bob (Bill Hunter, who also features in MURIEL'S WEDDING) that they pick up en route, and in so doing he loses his "mail-order" bride Cynthia (Julia Cortez), who in one especially memorable scene does things with ping-pong balls you just don't want to imagine!
The performances are really the thing here - Terence Stamp (who won numerous accolades for his cast-against-type labours) is amazing and totally credible as the quietly dignified transsexual, and it is hard to believe that Weaving and (especially) Pearce have not worked as flamboyant, lip-synching drag queens all their professional lives! The gaudy, outrageous costumes won a well-deserved Oscar, and the photography of the barren, surreal landscape is also masterful, as is Stephan Elliott's creative direction and hilarious, ultimately poignant script. The soundtrack may not be to everyone's taste, but it has enough camp classics to satisfy anyone yearning to relive the tacky heyday of the '70s - including ABBA's "Mamma Mia", the Village People's "Go West", and Gloria Gaynor's superb "I Will Survive", given a gloriously inventive rendition to a bunch of appreciative aboriginals, with one of their number joining in most enthusiastically.
A true kitsch classic, then - well worth re-visiting, again and again ... and again.
HERO is a funny, smart, vastly underrated screwball comedy about mistaken
identity, and what exactly it is that constitutes "heroism".
Dustin Hoffman plays Bernie Laplante, a small-time crook and generally unpleasant individual, who one rainy night is reluctantly drawn into helping rescue 54 passengers from a burning plane, after it has crashed into a Chicago bridge right in front of him! One of the survivors is Gale Gayley (Geena Davis), a glamorous news reporter, whose TV station decides to offer $1 million for an exclusive interview with the mysterious "Angel of Flight 104", who simply disappeared into the dark of the night before his act of bravery could be recognized, leaving one of his shoes behind amid the chaos.
However, the "Mr Cinderella" who subsequently steps forward to claim the reward, and thereafter becomes lionized by both the media and the public, is not Laplante (rather inconveniently locked up in jail at the time), but John Bubber (Andy Garcia), a handsome, charismatic, though destitute Vietnam veteran, who intends to share his new-found wealth with the city's homeless and other charitable causes. Bubber is able to convince as the real hero, because he gave Laplante a lift immediately after the accident (and is handed Laplante's second shoe as a thank-you, to "pay for the gas"), and thus heard the full story of Laplante's adventure firsthand.
British director Stephen Frears' third American outing (following 1988's DANGEROUS LIAISONS and 1990's THE GRIFTERS) was not a particular success at the box-office, and neither was it especially well-received critically. But I find that difficult to understand, as I think that HERO is probably the most downright enjoyable of all Frears' movies. The three leads are terrific - Davis looks sensational, Hoffman is suitably sleazy (and unexpectedly moving in scenes with his ex-wife, played by Joan Cusack, and his young son, James Madio), and Garcia injects his impostor role with warmth and credibility. The script (by the screenwriter of BLADE RUNNER and UNFORGIVEN) is bright and snappy, and there are fun, uncredited cameos from Chevy Chase (as Davis's pushy boss), Edward Herrmann (as a suicide victim - in a comedy? but yes it IS funny) and Fisher Stevens (as a film director, making a TV movie of the plane crash and using the real survivors as the actors).
HERO was known as ACCIDENTAL HERO (a more appropriate title, in my opinion) in various territories (including the UK), echoing, of course, one of Davis's earlier film triumphs, namely Lawrence Kasdan's splendid THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST (1988). This was also where Davis reunited with Hoffman, 10 years after the former made her brief film debut in the latter's cross-dressing smash TOOTSIE. Finally, the excellent song played over the end credits is "Heart Of A Hero", written and performed by Luther Vandross.