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Reminds us of the heights that cinema can soar to
In Birdman's opening moments then we are introduced to Regan (Kearon) as he meditates in his underwear and levitating a few feet off the ground. It is a rare moment of tranquillity that he rarely gets throughout the film. But it is not long before the Skype alarm goes off and he is thrown back into a world that continuously mounts the pressures upon him as he tries to mount a stage show to revive his career and reclaim his former glory he had when he played the hero Birdman.
It is this lurking shadow that appears to haunt the entire film with his conscience acting as a dark reminder of how far gone his heyday is. As he looks to the sky he imagines soaring once more to the heights he previously had above everyone else in the world. On top of which he constantly tackles the fears that this stage show is going to be a failure and he no longer has a true place with the fear that he just doesn't matter any more.The film makes some interesting statements on both the current nature of modern cinema (with his thoughts telling him that all people want now is explosions and monsters) with the desire to be respected and validated as an actor but fearing he will never get this recognition he deserves. As these pressures build with the constant drumming that follow us throughout the film, we are brought to boiling point as we witness the pressures that past fame can be and the dark daemons it can create.
Iñárritu's vision of combining the entire film into what appears to be a single continuous shot is one of the most ambitious pieces of filmmaking in recent years. Just like any theatre production there is no chance for error with every actor, every prop and the camera movement having to work to be perfectly timed so as not to ruin these long takes. In spite of all this risk the film is carried out near flawlessly with all the comedic timing performed incredibly with not a single moment wasted in the film, constantly passing from scene to scene seamlessly. It's a mixture of technical mastery and cinematic genius that Iñárritu has used to create this masterpiece as through these shots he can switch from showing us Regan's reality before transitioning to beautiful and at times dark fantasies as the film blurs the line between the two and throws us in to the constantly shifting mental state of our protagonist as he longs to fly again to the heights he once flew.
With the long continuous shots there are many times in the film where the film focuses on nothing but the actors performance to guide the scene. Fortunately the entire cast were up to the challenge with every member of the cast giving a standout performance. Though it must be said that Keaton particularly gives the performance of a life time. Obviously Keatons background as the caped crusader and the many parallels between Keaton's life and the character creates an additional element of relevance. But what really makes him perfect for the role is how he incredibly matches both the comedic tones and the emotional hardships that the script calls for. Throughout every scene Keaton nails everything in the script going from a silly clown one minute walking merrily down the street in nothing but his underwear to becoming an emotional wreck questioning his entire production in the very next scene. The film clearly hinged on getting a spectacular lead and without a doubt they got one in Keaton.
Every actor assembled similarly gives a career high performance, with each deserving all the acclaim that can be given. They all handle the long takes in stride ensuring that every line delivers the comedic or emotional punch that the scene calls for. And the script is perfect at facilitating these masterful performances ensuring that each character gets a stand out moment ranging from Stone's emotional explosion as she tells her father that he doesn't matter to Norton fighting Regan in his underwear. Each character in the film is well fleshed out even taking the highlight off Keaton at points.
Dark, emotional and constantly funny, Birdman is astonishing. It's flawless performances mixed with Iñárritu's visually stunning style to create what is nothing short of a masterpiece that reminds us the unbreakable limits that cinema can soar to.
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Keep your hands off my lobby boy!
Always entertaining and constantly funny 'The Grand Budapest Hotel' introduces us to another beautiful and imaginative world plucked from the mind of Wes Anderson.
Its focus remains on Gustave the concierge and Zero the lobby boy. After a wealthy tenant dies and Gustave is named the heir of her fortune, he is also framed and sets out to clear his name and fortune. It's a story unlike Andersons previous films, but he tackled it in the same way he would with any film with unusual characters and a visual beauty leading the story.
With a cast with as many big names as this has (Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Willem Dafoe to name a few) and many of them having less than 5 minutes screen time you would usually assume that the film would be selling out. Normally you'd be right and such a cast would just be an attempt at cashing in at the box office.
But gladly that's not the case. No matter how small the role, every part of this film comes across as both lovable and memorable. Each characters personality is distinct and the actors ensure that no matter how short the screen time they make their presence in the film remembered. Every character feels as if they are vital to the film and every character just makes the film even more charming.
Though as good as the entirety of the cast is, Ralph Fiennes still stands out with his memorable performance as the lead Gustave H, the hotel's concierge. Fiennes shows his great talent for comedy through his brilliant delivery. One moment he shall be a refined English gentleman, speaking with grace and modesty as one would expect from any fine concierge. Then the next he swears like a fu*king sailor.
Take for example his reaction when he sees 'Boy With Apple' where he comes across a priceless work of art "Blond, smooth skin as white as that milk, of impeccable provenance. One of the last in private hands, and unquestionably the best. It's a masterpiece. The rest of this sh*t is worthless junk." Fiennes switches between the two so naturally, yet somehow remaining charismatic throughout to create a peculiar and unique character.
These characters are mixed with Anderson's distinct visual style to create the beautiful world in which the Grand Budapest is set in. Short of 'Fantastic Mr Fox' this is probably where his directing style comes across strongest, with the film filled with his trademark centred shooting style and panning shots. Mixed with this is his usual charming dialogue and unusual storytelling style. This time Anderson experiments with a unusual narrative spanning 80 years in the first 10 minutes.
In the modern day a young girl is reading a book. In this book the author recounts a time when his younger self met the mysterious millionaire Zero Moustafa. Moustafa tells tells of the inter war years when the hotel was at its prime and under the leadership of Gustave H and the adventures that they went on. Through his smooth style the intro feels as if it were plucked from a book through the authors descriptive tone to explain the narrative and Andersons smooth style passing through scenes as if one was turning pages in a book.
This narrative also plays a significant role in Andersons visual style, most importantly that of the hotel. Due to the films narrative then there are two designs to the hotel. The first from the 30's where the bulk of the story is set. With this the hotel is a grand design, with stunning hallways constantly crowded with the wealthiest individuals, impeccable service and with brightly coloured cinematography to emphasise the beauty. It is nothing short of an ideal hotel, creating an illusion full of life and happiness.
The second design is from the 60's where in contrast the hotel is aged after the war. The halls are no longer crowded. Service is lazy at best. The bright colours are less defined. And it is no longer full of life as it once was. Whether it is to demonstrate how the war has destroyed the beauty of the hotel or to serve as a reminder of how the heyday of the Grand Budapest will be remembered for generations to come, Anderson uses the visuals of the hotel to give greater meaning and weight to Gustaves story. It makes the life seem all the more beautiful then and makes us desire even more to experience it.
And that's what makes the film truly special. Anderson not only creates his unique image of a world but makes us want to be a part of it. Whether it's the charm of Gustave and every other character or the Grand Budapest itself, Anderson hypnotises us to the screen through the films charm and beauty. It's certainly a film that I'll want to revisit time and time again.
The Road to El Dorado (2000)
An adventurous and funny nostalgic classic
Some people often try comparing Dreamworks features to that of their biggest competitor Disney. Sometimes those comparisons are worthwhile with the likes of Antz and Bugs Life, but for the most part Dreamworks always create their own style of fun. One of the best films at showing this is Road to El Dorado, with a unique setting and a sense of adventure unlike any put to animation before.
After winning a map to El Dorado in a fixed game of dice, Miguel (Branagh) and Tulio (Kline) search the city of gold. Part of the film follows their adventure, over land and sea to desperately find the legendary land. Many films would focus on just this part of the story, but luckily in this film it's only the first act. The rest of the film follows as the pair arrive in the city and deceive the city into thinking they're gods so that they can leave the city with as much gold as possible. It's like mixed Indiana Jones with a con film like the sting and remains funny the entire time.
It succeeds at this through some very funny and memorable dialogue and visual gags. Whether you're a kid laughing at the horse dancing funnily or an adult laughing at the hidden meaning behind "Holy ship!" this film is funny for all ages. It packs in enough jokes to ensure that you'll get a good laugh for every scenes and keep the film fun throughout.
But what really makes the film so funny is the two leads Miguel and Tulio. Miguel is the one who lusts for excitement and adventure, who sees El Dorado as the trip of a lifetime. Whilst Tulio wants as much money as possible, viewing El Dorado as a possible score of a lifetime. Alone they're interesting characters and fun to watch. But together they make one of the best animated pairings put to screen. In large part due to the lively camaraderie and great delivery from Branagh and Kline. This comes from both recording their lines in the same room rather than separately so they could better read of each others reactions.
The film even has some great musical moments with a soundtrack by Elton John and Tim Rice (both of whom worked on the Lion King soundtrack). Sometimes it will just be used to add a greater sense of beauty when seeing the city and other times it will let the music take over to create some lively and exciting music sequences like 'The Trail We Blaze'.But whenever it's used you always get a good and memorable musical moment.
It is purely a fun movie. It never tries to be serious or meaningful. Instead the film just lets us enjoy the jokes and embrace the adventure of the film. It's a shame this film never caught on more, as it really is one of Dreamworks best movies. Road to El Dorado is a film that is fun from start to finish thats good for all ages.
Four Rooms (1995)
Half bad and half good
At the early point in the careers of Alison Anders, Alexandre Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino they all came together to make this anthology film. It's a frame story where we follow the nameless Bellhop (Time Roth) through the night as he interacts with the different bizarre tenants of the hotel ranging from drunk Hollywood directors to witches.
There's not much linking the different stories other than cameos from the some similar characters between sketches, a few references to previous segments and the constant presence of our nameless bellhop. Other than this, each sketch follows its own distinct style and story to give the filmmakers greater control of their own shorts. This is partly beneficial as it creates originality. But it also lacks consistency between segments, with even the character of the Bellhop's personality switching between segments.
The Missing Ingredient- By far the weakest segment, it follows a Covent of witches who need to complete a ritual. However they are short of a mans semen and decide to get it from the bellhop. The entire sketch is mostly annoying from start to finish through its mixture of bad performances and dreadful writing from Alison Anders. There's not even many jokes in this segment and most of the attempts at humour were creepy. 4/10
The Wrong Man- When the bellhop goes to the wrong room, a couple forces him to join in on their strange game. This time the sketch does actually have good performances with David Proval giving an enjoyably over the top performance. But unfortunately he doesn't have much to work with as just like Anders segment, Rockwell made a weak script that's light on jokes. 5/10
The Misbehavers- The bellhop must look after a pair of kids, so their parent (Banderas) can have fun at a party. But every time he leaves the room they both get into more and more trouble. This is where the film becomes enjoyable and has some entertaining situation comedy moments. It's like a prototype version of Spy Kids (albeit with some adult humour thrown in) showcasing Rodriguez great flare for slapstick style comedy. It's witty, memorable and is enjoyably eventful. 6/10
The Man from Hollywood- This is by far the films greatest segment. Mostly based around a Hitchcock episode by Roald Dahl, Chester Rush (Quentin Tarantino playing a parody of himself) wants the bellhop to cut off their friends finger if he loses the bet. The segment is well made with many of Tarantino's usual traits being present in the film and includes one impressive long take to open the scene. On top of this it follows a very tense build up before getting to a very enjoyable and funny pay off. 8/10
It's very much a roller-coaster film, with some high points but also some low points. The first 2 segments are dull and unenjoyable. But then it does pick up for both Rodriguez and Tarantinos segments. Whilst it may not feel like it at first, the film is worth watching with some memorable and entertaining moments picking up speed as it goes.
Alien: Resurrection (1997)
This resurrection should have been aborted
I'm not certain of why this film came about. Whether it was because of a desire to end the franchise in a better way after the failure of Alien 3 or just cashing in on the name of a popular franchise. Either way Alien Requiem is a weak addition to the Alien franchise and one that does not live up to the legacy that preceded it.
This time it doesn't even feel like a sequel, but rather like a reboot. 200 years after she died, Ripley is resurrected by a mad scientist who wants to use her DNA to create a new form of Xenomorph. But the aliens escape their cage using their acid blood (why they didn't put them in a special jail that wouldn't melt with acid is one of many plot holes) and take over the ship. Thus it's up to Ripley and a group of space bandits to defeat the Xenomorphs before they make it to earth. It's a bizarre story that is alright, but out of place for the tone of the franchise.
The idea of space bandits is a good one (as evidenced by the fact Whedon used the same idea later to make the hit show Firefly). But unfortunately it is not executed particularly well here. Each character does have a memorable feature that will ensure you do remember the different characters, but it seems to lack the usual quick witted charm that makes most of Whedon's work so memorable. Whedon states the reason for this is a weak execution of the source material and some script changes after his draft. Possibly this comes from the fact that the director Jean Pierre Jeunet's style does not blend well with Whedon's with his melancholy, dramatic approach not being best suited for the script.
Unfortunately just like Alien 3, Resurrection screws up the most important thing in the franchise. The Xenomorphs. Once again we see too much of them. What made them so iconic in the first two is that we hardly saw them. It was the fear of the unknown that made them so memorable. Here they appear a no better than some run of the mill monsters. They never feel as if they're too much of a threat and even their designs are different.
On top of this they do some incredibly strange plot points with the Xenomorphs, the strangest coming within the final act. Out of nowhere a Xenomorph/human hybrid is born merging Ripleys DNA with the alien. That sentence alone felt strange to write They even attempt to add some drama in to it with the alien viewing Ripley as its mother, even trying to make us feel sorry for it. But when they constantly switch between sympathetic child and murdering monster the whole thing just loses its impact.
Ultimately there's nothing in this film that is particularly memorable. There's little reason to watch the film since it doesn't add anything interesting to the franchise. But if you do watch it then don't enter with any expectations.
Thor: The Dark World (2013)
Enjoyable, but flawed
Thor Dark World starts two years after the events of 'The Avengers' as a great evil known as the darkness possesses Thors girlfriend Jane Foster (what a random coincidence!). Thus Thor must save her and the rest of the world from dark elves who seek to use the darkness to destroy the universe. The stakes are supposedly higher, but it never feels that way. Even in the final fight then it never feels like Thor is ever in any real peril. The dark elves just never appear as that much of a challenge in the film.
Not only do they not pose a threat but they never appear as interesting characters either, even the leader of the Dark Elves Malketh doesn't get much attention. Whilst Ecclestons performance is impressive and the makeup design is interesting, the villain doesn't get any background. Malekth's sole motivation in the film is to destroy the universe. Why? Because he is evil! At least that's all we really get from him. Largely because the dark elves don't get that much screen time. More time seems to get put towards bringing back the fan favourite Loki to the film.
This could be good if he were written in properly. But the problem is that he isn't. Loki was only written in after the success of the Avengers and doesn't really have any role to play. They try to justify his inclusion in the plot at times, but the truth is he is there for fan appeal alone. He's the kind of character who you could remove all of his scenes from the film and you'd still get a complete story regardless. Saying this, Loki does still have many enjoyable moments. He still has the same memorable wit people loved from the Avengers and Hiddelston does have quite a few scene stealing moments.
Thor is still an enjoyable hero in this one. Though his story isn't as interesting. In the first we got to see his transition from a reckless soldier to a noble warrior to gain the worthiness of his hammer Monjir. But here he doesn't really progress at all. But for what he has to work with Hemsworth gives a good performance once again as the Norse god of thunder. His presence alone is one of great power and his delivery does make for some hilarious moments.
On the downside many of the action scenes in the film are pretty forgettable. Largely because most of them don't feel particularly well choreographed. Most of the earlier fight scenes try to look like a big epic battle scene, but they never really feel that way. They'll always be in some interesting backdrops ranging from fantasy cities like Asgard to the populated city of London. But they will usually lack any real sense of excitement that we expect from the Marvel universe.
Luckily the final fight does make up for this with a fight between Malketh and Thor stretching across several worlds. It makes little sense with the teleporting between worlds lacking any real sense of cohesive logic. But it still makes for both some cool visuals and funny moments.
Out of the entirety of Marvel Phase 2, this is the weakest outing. It doesn't add anything original that we haven't already seen from the marvel franchise. In the end it's really nothing more than mindless action with a little bit of comedy thrown in. If that's all you want from a marvel film you might enjoy it. But if you're expecting the same charm and heroics of the rest of the marvel universe then you'll likely get let down.
This is not just a film. It is an important piece of history.
Shoah was not just an important film to make. It was a necessary one. It was directors Claude Lanzmann's intention to document all of the survivors experiences on film. With so many horrors in history being forgotten over the years he wanted to ensure that the holocaust would never be forgotten. Therefore he chose to film these testaments to ensure that all future generations would know of the horrors that transpired during World War 2 needlessly to an entire race of people.
Lanzmann made the decision not to recreate any of the horrors of the war through reenactments and not to use any existing pictures or articles relating to the holocaust. Instead he used only the testimonies of people who either lived through the holocaust, witnessed it and even some of the orchestrators. Neither was he interested in stating how or why it had begun either. There are already enough documents and documentaries about how that came about. He wanted to show how these people saw the horrors that transpired and show the many ruined lives resulting from it.
Through this then in many ways he created a far more brutal picture of the holocaust. Many of their descriptions create ones of true horror, with one Polish man who visited the ghetto stating that it was "a place without humanity". His words alone create such a dreadful yet truthful image of the horrors that people had to go through under the holocaust, far worse than a recreation could have done.
But even more horrifying than this are the expressions of these people as they relive the horrors in their mind. Their expressions of pure despair tell a story that could not be told in any other way. Lanzmann used many long stretching takes as people relieve their stories with no dubbing and only subtitles used so the full emotion of these survivors can be witnessed. The film ensures that we see from their perspective. It makes us consider how we would feel if we had lived through such an event.
At times some of the interviewees will want to stop, due to be so horrified at reliving their terrible memories. But Lanzmann's style of questioning is very forceful, getting them to talk even if they don't want to. He sees great importance in ensuring that those who witnessed its horrors document their testimony. He gets them all to go in to every detail of what happened from the number of people there to whether they could get used to things like hearing the screams of people dying beside them. He wants us and all future generations to know the complete image of everything that happened to them.
Instead of seeing pictures of the death camps or trains as they were, we instead see how these places are now. Sometimes it will be of the villages around the camps or even the camps themselves. But these camps have all been destroyed, with many of them being destroyed by Nazis before the end of the war. It's strange to see how such normal places such as a field of grass is a grave for so many innocent people. If it weren't for our knowledge of what had happened in a place like this it would have been likely that you would never even know what had happened there.
And this film tries to ensure that we never forget what happened there. Shoah confronts the issue of the holocaust and make sure these testaments are documented. Because we shouldn't look away. Villages around the death camps simply turned the other cheek and allowed the horrors to go on. So the film shows their perspectives so we know the true horror caused in those events. The only way to ensure that such a terrible history shall never repeat itself again, we must understand the horror that it was torturing the lives of so many people.
A disappointing sequel
Alien 3 is not a dreadful film. It has a few good moments. But it also has a whole lot of bad moments. Moments that are badly paced or that have incomplete cgi effects. After expectations were risen so high by the previous two films, this one was certain to be a big let down.
It starts just after the events of Aliens. The ship crashes on a prison planet of around 20 convicts. Ripley is the only survivor and begins to realise that it was one of the Xenomorphs that sabotaged the ship. It quickly becomes a fight for survival as Ripley works with the prisoners to destroy the monster.
It's not a bad story (even if the logic of putting 20 prisoners alone on a planet is questionable) but I would question the decision to kill off the rest of the survivors in the last film. They were very likable personalities and wouldn't have needed any exposition to build their characters. Instead we're left with 20 characters who we never learn much about and none of whom are memorable. I could go years without watching Aliens and remember all of those crew members. I've only just watched Alien 3 and feel like I've already forgotten most of the characters.
But whilst the prisoners may be forgettable, luckily we do still get Ripley. Whilst the character isn't really expanded on, Weaver does bring an great performance to the role. This time she shows a true sense of anguish. The feeling that there is no hope. She shows total despair knowing that she has lost everything. But she never gives up. She refuses to back down and keeps fighting no matter what demonstrating a very real and grounded sense of bravery. She's one of the few reason that this film was in any way worth watching.
But unfortunately the film does screw up the Xenomorph. Largely because we see too much of him. In the previous two films then the Alien barely even gets any screen time, with our image of the alien being built up through quick glimpses to create a more mysterious and threatening creature. Here he appears on screen far more and we see too much of him. He's less imposing and seems more like a run of the mill monster than anything else. .
On top of this the decision to use computer generated effects to make the monster was a bad one. This was before effects could create a realistic figure and because of that when the alien does appear through cgi it never looks like it's really there. Worse yet many of these cgi shots were incomplete or done badly, causing many shots of the alien in the final chase to be extremely green or have a weird colour scheme. It's particularly unfortunate as when practical effects are used in the film they do seem genuinely impressive.
What's annoying about this film is that it does have some brilliant elements to it. It could have been a decent film with the claustrophobic prison scenery and returning to the simplistic survival horror of the original Alien movie. But it's mixed with the likes of slow paced action scenes and the entire prison population having either underdeveloped or uninteresting characters.
Probably this comes down to studio interference as Fincher cited it as the reason he left the film during editing as it did not let him achieve his vision of the franchise. He even believed it was so bad that he has since disowned the film. It does still have some enjoyable moments, even if they are few in number. Just don't expect it to live up to either of the previous films in the franchise.
Machete Kills (2013)
Some funny moments, but gets repetitive
Rodriguez's B movie, Mexploitation action hero returns. But honestly, this probably would have been better if it had existed only as a trailer. Whilst the first was fun and had some cool moments, Machete Kills just doesn't seem to add anything new. Instead it just does the same thing, just told in a less enjoyable way.
This time Machete is sent by the President (played by Carlos Estevez (also known as Charlie Sheen)) to stop a nuclear threat that threatens to destroy the world. Thus begins an hour and a half killing spree where Machete must take on corrupt cops, assassins, prostitutes, Mexicans and crazy businessmen who want to get to space.
The only memorable part of Machete Kills is the celebrity cameos. They're by far the best parts of the film with all of them being as ridiculous as the last. Most of them come from a hit-man who changes his face who is played by Walton Goggins, Cuba Gooding Jr., Antonio Banderas and Lady Gaga. They all hardly get any screen time and remain as over the top as they can in their short time on screen. But the best cameo is definitely Sheen as the President, who legalises pot, sleeps with 5 women and has a slogan of "Winning was only the beginning". It's just about as ludicrous as what would happen if he really did run for President.
But other than these short cameos, there's not much to make this film worth watching. It seems to cut between nothing but exposition and Machete killing people. Whilst the films ugly cgi and over the top gore is funny at first, it gets old quick. There's only so many times that you can laugh at how bad the film looks. On top of this all the battle sequences are mostly either very basic sword fights or dull gun fights. Even Machete had some memorable moments such as attacking the limo or the priest with the shotgun. But here the fight scenes just blend into one another, especially when they cut to another random action sequence every 5 minutes
On top of this the dialogue in the film is unpleasant with lines like "I chewed my fathers balls off with my teeth!" It ends up sounding more like a SciFy channel film like Sharknado. Whilst this is the intended joke of parodying the way these films were badly made, the film relies too much on the joke of deliberately sloppy filmmaking. At first it was a nice callback to the old grind-house movies. But he's now based 3 films around this joke (Planet Terror, Machete and Machete Kills) and at first it was funny. But now its become worn out, like an old stand up trying to relive his heyday.
It can still be enjoyable at times, but after a while the films bad cgi and weak dialogue becomes too repetitive. Whilst the film teases a sequel in the films opening tease trailer, after this film it would seem better if they were to just let the franchise end at this point. Unless something new can be added it would be best to just let the franchise come to an end.
"Game over man! Game over!"
Aliens was in many ways a significant change in tone of the franchise. Whilst there was still an element of fear to the aliens the focus went from a horror to a full on action. It was a risky move and could have felt like they were ruining the franchise. Luckily it never felt like that. Instead it feels like a natural progression. It brings back what we loved about Alien without rehashing ideas, whilst significantly expanding on the universe and making it an even more lovable franchise than it previously was.
After struggling to get over the fear of the Xenomorph attack in the last film, Ridley joins a crew of space marines who are going to the planet the Xenomorphs were found to investigate the lack of communication with the colony who have been placed there. Of course the Xenomorphs have attacked and it turns to a fight for survival as Ridley and the Marines begin a desperate fight to escape the planet.
What makes this film extremely powerful is that it doesn't go straight to the action. A great deal of the films first half is devoted to the marines. It lets us know them. More than that it shows them as real bad-asses, like super soldiers. They have these massive plasma weapons and flamethrowers. Some have cocky attitudes treating the threat of the Xenomorph like it was nothing.
But then the Xenomorphs strike. The moment when they strike the numbers quickly begin to dwindle and it happens so quickly there's even difficulty in tracking just how many have died. The super tough soldiers have been cut down into these victims, beginning to break down and panic that they're going to die. Through this Cameron maintains the legacy of Scott's Alien. He ensures that the Xenomorphs appear just as powerful and imposing as they've ever been. It gives us the immediate assurance that this is still a survival film. The Xenomorphs are still the hunters. And we are still the hunted.
Surprisingly Sigourey Weavers portrayal of Ripley actually improves in this film from the already incredible character she played in the first. She goes from a hardened survivor to a fully fledged hero. The change isn't sudden, but as she begins to undertake the responsibility as the film goes on. On top of this side stories such as caring for a child named Newt (the last surviving colonist) keep the character extremely grounded and human. To this day she remains one of the most powerful female figures in film because of how kick ass she can be.
Then there's James Cameron, who seems to truly be in his element with sci-fi. The studio even waited a while for him to finish his work on Terminator just so he could do the film, which was without a doubt a great choice. Watching films like Terminator and Aliens is like watching a piece of dynamite with a lit fuse. He makes us enjoy the tension of waiting for the action to happen. Then when it blows it's fast and keeps us gripped to the screen. He makes seeing a Xenomorph explode just about as exciting as you can and yet still maintains their presence as threatening figures.
Aliens completely changes the original story of the previous film. In the first then it was based around a threat that was unknown. But now the threat is known and it's time to fight back. But at the same time it never loses sight on the fact that the marines are still the hunted here. It's a fight for survival and one that we want to keep watching.