As kids, my brother and I had a penchant for wrapping our plastic weapons together with duct tape and tip toeing through our home in search of extra-terrestrial life. “Check those corners,” I would say while clasping my Nerf gun turned pulse rifle, which was attached to a yellow and green Super Soaker turned grenade launcher. At some point, one of us would yell, “Contact!” before leaping about the floor and blasting imaginary Xenomorphs to smithereens. Inevitably, one of us would always get sprayed by acid and (oddly enough) morph into the Alien King.Yeah, it didn’t make much sense then, either, but when your 11-year old life revolves around James Cameron’s 1986 masterpiece Aliens, you do what you can with what you got. (To be fair, there weren’t a lot of Aliens-themed toys on the market aside from those 1992 Kenner figures.)I first saw Aliens on network TV sometime in 1990 or 1991 on a school night, a detail I remember because my parents turned the film off immediately after Ripley and Co. blasted off to space, which meant I was robbed of the big Ripley vs. Queen fight that occurs in the final final part of the flick. It didn’t matter. Everything I saw up until that point was magic — Ripley’s badassery, James Horner’s fierce score, the mind-blowing set pieces, the intense action, the quotable lines (“Game over man!”), Sigourney Weaver’s Academy Award-nominated performance, the strong supporting cast led by Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Paul Reiser, Lance Henricksen, Carrie Henn and Jenette Goldstein … Aliens was pure gold.The film often played on FOX Night at the Movies or during Sunday afternoons on random channels like WGN where the editing and dubbing was particularly egregious. We had several recorded copies over the years with varying degrees of quality and I actually memorized when each commercial break occurred so that I could zip through them on our high-tech VCR — for some reason, the networks decided it was a good idea to cut to commercial right before Dietrich happened upon the cocooned woman; and later, right after Newt slid down the chute following Vasquez and Gorman’s death. Talk about ruining the tension.Still, I didn’t fully appreciate Cameron’s epic until I purchased the 1997 Widescreen Series VHS — my first-ever widescreen purchase, in case you were wondering — and really got a good look at those astonishing VFX. From that point on, Aliens has steadily risen on my All-Time Favorite Movies List.Make no mistake, this is one of those films you have to include when playing The Desert Island game — and not as one of Meredith’s guilty pleasures, ala Legends of the Fall, Legally Blond, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Bridges of Madison County — because it really is that good.So, what makes Aliens work so well? And why does it actually look better than most movies produced today? The film cost $18.5M in 1986 (on par with Top Gun, The Karate Kid Part II and other films released the same year) but actually looks like a $100M+ blockbuster, which is really hard to do.The answer to the above questions regarding why Aliens works so well is easy: James Cameron. The man. The myth. The legend. Cameron has directed just eight films, but each one (aside from Piranha II: The Spawning) is a classic — The Terminator, The Abyss, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, True Lies, Titanic, and Avatar. Wow.Aliens came right after Terminator and helped cement Cameron amongst the power players of the 1980s. I won’t delve too much into the intense production — read J.W. Rinzler’s fantastic The Making of Aliens for all the juicy info — suffice to say, Cameron did a lot for very little utilizing a ridiculous amount of unique techniques he learned while working under Roger Corman in the early 80s. Cameron’s attention to detail and willingness to go the extra mile (and, by default, pushing others to their absolute limits) is what makes Aliens such a special cinematic creation.[embedded content]Of course, no film is complete without characters or story, and it’s here that Aliens truly excels. Interestingly, Cameron follows the basic template laid out by Ridley Scott’s equally stupendous Alien in 1979 — i.e., a distress signal lulls a group of unwitting travelers to LV-426 where they encounter nasty extraterrestrials, Ripley assumes command when the leadership fails/dies and eventually goes it alone in the third act before battling the big bad one-on-one in the climatic finale — but ups the ante by expanding the character of Ripley and her mysterious foes.RELATED: Aliens: Fireteam Elite Release Date Revealed for Late SummerIn Alien, for example, Ripley was part of a seven-member crew heading back to Earth. We learn very little about her person, except that she can handle herself and take charge when needed. In Aliens, Ripley grapples with the events of the first film and hesitantly agrees to return to LV-426 with a group of Space Marines if only to purge her personal anguish.“Just tell me one thing, Burke,” Ripley says. “You’re going out there to destroy them, right? Not to study. Not to bring back. But to wipe them out.”“That’s the plan,” responds Carter Burke. “You have my word on that.”“All right, I’m in.”Much like Rambo, in Aliens Ripley is a reluctant hero who agrees to do a job because she has no other choice and doesn’t trust others to complete the task. She simply cannot stand idly by knowing the Xenomorph exists somewhere in the vacuums of space.Plus, at this point, what does she have to lose? We learn Ripley was adrift in space for 57 years in between films; and a deleted scene further reveals she left a daughter behind, a character beat that aids in her emotional connection with young Newt later on in the film. (Why was this scene cut?!)Newt is the film’s biggest gamble. Look, most films featuring kids usually suck. In this case, Newt works because she fleshes out Ripley’s character and gives the character something meaningful to fight for. Plus, it adds more layers to the overarching Mother vs. Mother conflict.Also, as an aside, Carrie Henn is terrific as Newt.[embedded content]Cameron also ensures the action in Aliens serves the story. Here, every character choice (no matter how positive or negative) carries repercussions that sets up the next scene or Act.For example, when Drake and Vasquez defy orders and fire their M56 Smartguns during the firefight in the Alien Hive, the cooling towers are ruptured thus setting up a need to flee LV-426 as quickly as possible. Carter Burke then accelerates his plan to harvest Ripley, Newt, and the remaining Marines by haphazardly dumping two face huggers in the Med Lab … which leads to the Futile Escape sequence … which leads to Vasquez and Gorman’s death … which leads to Newt’s capture … which leads to Ripley’s Rescue … which leads to the Alien Queen smackdown.It’s awesome.Cameron never includes action scenes just for the hell of it. Like a well-oiled machine, everything happening in his films works together to serve a larger purpose to the central narrative.RELATED: CS Reviews The Making of Aliens by J.W. Rinzler[embedded content]Likewise, the climatic Ripley vs. Alien Queen showdown packs a punch because both characters have pre-established motives based around their figurative children — Ripley must defend Newt, while the Queen must avenge the loss of her eggs. In a weird way, we understand the Queen because her rage matches the anger Ripley displayed earlier when she lost Newt.Indeed, it’s interesting how both mothers react similarly when their children are taken from them.[embedded content]Cameron also ensures all of Ripley’s actions throughout Aliens are almost always directly related to the events of Alien where Ripley, despite her better judgment, relented to her superiors, namely Dallas, Kane, Ash, and Mother; and failed to impose her will until it was too late.By contrast, in Aliens, Ripley blatantly ignores Lieutenant Gorman’s orders during the Alien Hive battle and takes control of the situation immediately following the initial alien encounter.Ripley successfully changes her life for the better. When we first see her, she lies in cryosleep alone, save for a cat, and endures horrible nightmares. By film’s end, against all odds, she has eliminated her greatest fear, saved Bishop and Hicks and gained a daughter in Newt.In other words, she takes back everything that was taken from her in Alien, which is why it’s so upsetting when Alien 3 randomly erases all of these accomplishments during the opening credits.I mean, imagine if John Conner was killed following the events of T2! That would be really stupid and basically negate all of his actions.[embedded content]Even side characters like Lt. Gorman and Vasquez enjoy powerful arcs. I love how, facing death, the duo clasp hands similarly to how Vasquez and Drake did earlier in the film. There’s also the bit where Burke labels Hicks “a grunt” before adding, “no offense,” which Hicks echoes later when they have Burke cornered. These minor character details are as important to Aliens’ success as the aforementioned technical aspects, and a reason the film holds up all these years later.Look, I’ll be frank: Aliens is a perfect film. No, really, it’s a perfect film. Everything about this movie works, and I haven’t even delved into James Horner’s pulse-pounding, anvil-clanging score that plays over my favorite sequence:[embedded content]Aliens is one of those movies I wish I could go back in time and watch with an audience on opening night. Can you imagine this moment with an exuberant crowd?Thirty-five years later, Aliens remains damn near unmatched because James Cameron took the time to deliver a pulse-pounding, action-packed, character-driven sequel that rivals the genius of its classic predecessor.Aliens isn’t just a great sequel, it’s one of the greatest films ever made.
James Cameron, Christopher Nolan and Others Pen Letter Urging Congress to Save Theaters Movie theaters have been hit hard during the COVID pandemic due to restrictions that more or less discourage moviegoing along with an utter lack of high profile films to lure audiences out of their homes with. As such, a number of high profile filmmakers, including James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Clint Eastwood, Zack Snyder, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese, M. Night Shyamalan and Edgar Wright (among many others) have reached out and called on Congress to reallocate funds from the CARES Act proposals to movie theaters in order to keep them alive. RELATED: Bill & Ted Face the Music Earned Around $32 Million from PVOD Release It’s great to see some of Hollywood’s finest come together in order to save cinemas, which have lost absurd amounts of money. In an article in the LA Times, it was reported that AMC Theatres, the world’s largest cinema operator, “posted a massive loss for its most recent fiscal quarter” totaling $561 million as a result of the pandemic. Yikes. Hopefully, this letter moves Congress to some sort of action to save the theatrical experience from vanishing altogether. Here’s the letter in its entirety (via Deadline): Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy: Thank you for your leadership at this challenging time for our country. As you consider forthcoming COVID-19 relief legislation, we ask you to prioritize assistance for the hardest-hit industries, like our country’s beloved movie theaters. No doubt you are hearing from many, many businesses that need relief. Movie theaters are in dire straits, and we urge you to redirect unallocated funds from the CARES Act to proposals that help businesses that have suffered the steepest revenue drops due to the pandemic, or to enact new proposals such as the RESTART Act (S. 3814/H.R. 7481). Absent a solution designed for their circumstances, theaters may not survive the impact of the pandemic. The pandemic has been a devastating financial blow to cinemas. 93% of movie theater companies had over 75% in losses in the second quarter of 2020. If the status quo continues, 69% of small and mid-sized movie theater companies will be forced to file for bankruptcy or to close permanently, and 66% of theater jobs will be lost. Our country cannot afford to lose the social, economic, and cultural value that theaters provide. The moviegoing experience is central to American life. 268 million people in North America went to the movies last year to laugh, cry, dream, and be moved together. Theaters are great unifiers where our nation’s most talented storytellers showcase their cinematic accomplishments. Every aspiring filmmaker, actor, and producer dreams of bringing their art to the silver screen, an irreplaceable experience that represents the pinnacle of filmmaking achievement. As well as their critical cultural impact, theaters are economic force multipliers. In addition to the 150,000 employees working in cinemas nationwide, the industry supports millions of jobs in movie production and distribution, and countless others in surrounding restaurants and retailers that rely on theaters for foot traffic. Movie theaters are also leaders in employing underrepresented groups, including people with disabilities, senior citizens, and first-time job holders. Cinemas are an essential industry that represent the best that American talent and creativity have to offer. But now we fear for their future. Theaters need specific relief targeted to their circumstances. We urge you to come together on abipartisan solution that provides this relief, by reallocating unspent funds from the CARES Act toward programs designed for industries like movie theaters, or by enacting new proposals such as the RESTART Act. These solutions would fulfill Congress’s intent in helping severely distressed sectors of the economy and ensure that our resources are focused on the industries that need them the most. Please fight for our country’s beloved and essential cinemas by including relief for them in anyforthcoming COVID-19 legislation. Thank you for your leadership and for considering this request. Sincerely, John Fithian President & CEO, NATORuss Hollander, National Executive Director, DGACharles Rivkin, Chairman & CEO, MPAThomas Schlamme, President, DGA Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Wes Anderson, Judd Apatow, Jon Avnet, Sean Baker, Noah Baumbach, Michael Bay, Susanne Bier, Barbara Broccoli, James Cameron, Antonio Campos, Damien Chazelle, Jon M. Chu, Sofia Coppola, Alfonso Cuarón, Lee Daniels, Dean Devlin, Clint Eastwood, Andrew Erwin, Jon Erwin, Paul Feig, Shana Feste, Scott Frank, Cary Joji Fukunaga, Greta Gerwig, Evan Goldberg, Paul Greengrass, Leslie Greif, Luca Guadagnino, Catherine Hardwicke, Alma Har’el, Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu, Barry Jenkins, Patty Jenkins, Rian Johnson, Miranda July, Nicole Kassell, Jon Landau, Francis Lawrence, Mimi Leder, Ang Lee, Rob Letterman, Shawn Levy, Richard Linklater, James Mangold, Sam Mendes, Adam McKay, Steve McQueen, Ted Melfi, Reed Morano, Christopher Nolan, David O. Russell, Todd Phillips, Guy Ritchie, Seth Rogen, Joachim Rønning, Michael R. Roskam, Martin Scorsese, M. Night Shyamalan, Zack Snyder, Steven Soderbergh, Joey Soloway, David E. Talbert, Betty Thomas, Emma Thomas, Liesl Tommy, Denis Villeneuve, Taika Waititi, James Wan, Lulu Wang, Chris Weitz, Paul Weitz, Michael G. Wilson, Edgar Wright, Joe Wright, Cathy Yan, David Yates.
James Cameron Says Filming on Avatar 2 is 100% Complete In a recent chat with Arnold Schwarzenegger ahead of the 2020 Austrian World Summit (via EW.com), director James Cameron revealed the state of his long awaited Avatar sequels. Good news is, the first sequel is already done shooting. Bad news is, we have to wait until December of 2022 to see it. You can check out the full discussion below! “COVID hit us like it hit everybody… We lost about four and a half months of production,” Cameron said. “As a result of that, we’ve rolled around one more full year for a release in December of 2022. That’s been announced already. “Now that doesn’t mean I have an extra year to finish the film because the day we deliverAvatar 2 we’ll just start working on finishing ‘Avatar 3,'” he added. “So where we are right now, I’m down in New Zealand shooting. We’re shooting the remainder of the live-action. We’ve got about 10 percent left to go. We’re 100 percent complete on ‘Avatar 2’ and we’re sort of 95 percent complete on ‘Avatar 3.’” This is one of those “I’ll believe it when I see it moments,” but it sounds as though Avatar 2 is actually going to see the light of day, and Avatar 3 is close behind. But we still have to a wait a long time to see it. RELATED: James Cameron Responds to the Avatar Sequel Delays The cast of the Avatar franchise includes Kate Winslet, Edie Falco, Michelle Yeoh, Vin Diesel, Jemaine Clement, and Oona Chaplin alongside a slate of young actors. Returning cast members include Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, Stephen Lang, Matt Gerald, and Sigourney Weaver. Cameron recently explained that Stephen Lang’s Colonel Miles Quaritch is coming back for all four sequels and will be the main villain throughout the story. Filming officially started on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 on September 25, 2017. RELATED: James Cameron Says Avatar Re-Release Will Top Avengers: Endgame After some shuffling of the schedule, Avatar 2 has been pushed back a full year from December 17, 2021 to December 22, 2022. While Avatar 3 has been pushed back from December 22, 2023 to December 2024 with Avatar 4 to open two years after that on December 18, 2026 (originally December 2025) and Avatar 5 will drop on December 22, 2028 (originally December 17, 2027). Although Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 will only be released with director James Cameron’s caveat that Avatar 2 and 3 are successful at the box office.
New Avatar 2 set photos feature human soldiers in battle mode Producer Jon Landau took to Instagram to reveal two new behind-the-scenes photos from the New Zealand set of James Cameron’s long-in-development Avatar sequels, providing us with our first look at the return of the first film’s villains in the form of RDA’s Security Operations team which was previously led by Stephen Lang’s Colonel Miles Quaritch. Also featuring our first glimpse of one of the upcoming film’s battle sequences, you can check out the full photos below! pic.twitter.com/psmjiXM7sC — Avatar (@officialavatar) September 23, 2020 RELATED: James Cameron Responds to the Avatar Sequel Delays The cast of the Avatar franchise includes Kate Winslet, Edie Falco, Michelle Yeoh, Vin Diesel, Jemaine Clement, and Oona Chaplin alongside a slate of young actors. Returning cast members include Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Joel David Moore, Dileep Rao, Stephen Lang, Matt Gerald, and Sigourney Weaver. Cameron recently explained that Stephen Lang’s Colonel Miles Quaritch is coming back for all four sequels and will be the main villain throughout the story. Filming officially started on Avatar 2 and Avatar 3 on September 25, 2017. RELATED: James Cameron Says Avatar Re-Release Will Top Avengers: Endgame After some shuffling of the schedule, Avatar 2 has been pushed back a full year from December 17, 2021 to December 22, 2022. While Avatar 3 has been pushed back from December 22, 2023 to December 2024 with Avatar 4 to open two years after that on December 18, 2026 (originally December 2025) and Avatar 5 will drop on December 22, 2028 (originally December 17, 2027). Although Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 will only be released with director James Cameron’s caveat that Avatar 2 and 3 are successful at the box office.