More Films to See Before You Die: #98 Legend

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Legend (1985)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Tom Cruise, Mia Sara, David Bennent and Tim Curry

Synopsis: The Lord of Darkness (Tim Curry) is planning to end his isolation in the shadows by destroying the guardians of the Power of Light. Darkness instructs his goblin minions to kill the unicorns and bring him their horns so can be free to roam the world after it becomes an eternal night of cold darkness. Meanwhile, Princess Lili (Mia Sara) goes alone to the forest to meet her friend Jack (Tom Cruise), a forest dweller who teaches her the languages of animals before showing her the unicorns who have arrived to the forest. Against Jack’s pleas, Lili approaches the stallion before the unicorn is hit by a poisoned dart from Blix’s blowpipe. The unicorns bolt, and Lili makes light of Jack’s fears and sets him a challenge by throwing her ring into a pond, declaring she will marry whoever finds it. But as the stallion dies from the poison with the goblins taking his horn, the pond freezes over with Lili running off in terror before Jack manages to break free. Taking refuge in a frozen cottage, Lily hides when the goblins arrive and overhears how she “led the beasts to bay” as she follows them while vowing to make it right. The unicorn mare and Lily are kidnapped by Darkness in an attempt to make her his wife and banish the Power of Light forever. Now it is up to Jack and some new found friends led by the elf Gump (David Bennent) to free Lily and save the world from forever being engulfed by Darkness.

Trivia: Filming stopped when the “007” soundstage burned to the ground. The remainder of the film was shot on hastily-constructed sets. The famous scene in which Princess Lily is taken to see and touches the Unicorns by Jack was actually filmed within the gardens of Pinewood Studos as at the time of filming, the vast Forest set had been destroyed by a fire.

Why Should You Watch This?: This is a wonderful film in the vein of the Grimm fairytales that are so popular and still being adapted to this day. What makes Legend so special is that this an original fairytale created from the mind of Ridley Scott. Like Blade Runner another Scott film the production was very troubled and it took them 3 years to complete the film which started production in 1982. Also like Blade Runner, the Director’s Cut is in my opinion superior to the Theatrical Cut. What makes Legend so special are amazing looking sets and the incredible job done with prosthetics which in a time before CGI make it that much more impressive. Tim Curry’s scenery chewing performance alone is worth the price of admission.

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Alien

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Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt and Ian Holm

Synopsis: On its way home the starship Nostromo picks up a distress call from a local planet and wakes up the crew in order to go to the planet to investigate. The captain of the ship Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt) and one other decide to go on the surface of the planet to find the distress call, where they find a large spaceship. Inside they find an incredibly large dead alien with a hole in its chest, while inspecting the alien Kane falls down in a another part of the ship and he finds hundreds of eggs on the floor. While looking at one the egg opens and a parasitic creature latches onto his face prompting Dallas to rush back to the ship upon their arrival back to the ship. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), is the officer in charge and refuses to let them back on the ship until Ash (Ian Holm) over rides her and lets them aboard. While Kane lies unconcious in the medlab the rest of the crew agrues about what they are supposed to do with it when they decide to remove the facehugger its tightens its grip on his neck and proves to have acid for blood. Eventually the facehugger just falls off and dies leaving Kane alive and very hungry. During the meal Kane is eating like a horse when he starts having a sort of seizure before something starts to rip through his chest. The rest of the crew realize the facehugger laid some sort of larvae in Kane that takes on the features of its host. After they realize that their employers intend to bring this Xenomorph back to Earth to use as a biological weapon it becomes clear to Ripley and the rest of the crew that they need to kill this alien before it wipes them all out.

Trivia: The alien’s habit of laying eggs in the chest (which later burst out) was inspired by spider wasps, which are said to lay their eggs “in the abdomen of spiders.” This image gave Dan O’Bannon nightmares, which he used to create the story. But spider wasps (pompilidae) lay eggs on their prey, not inside them, after which the wasp maggots simply snack on the sting-paralyzed spiders. O’Bannon may instead have been thinking of either ichneumon wasps or braconid wasps. The ichneumon drills a single egg into a wood-boring beetle larva, whereas braconids inject eggs inside certain caterpillars. Both result in fatal hatch-outs more alike to O’Bannon’s alien.

How scary is this really?: I love Alien it is the only real scary one in the series and is also the best in my opinion. This is only Scott’s second film and is still one of his best. Sigourney Weaver does a phenomenal job as Ripley one that she continues throughout the rest of the series. An amazing movie and a perfect one to watch this time of year.

Prometheus

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Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce

Synopsis: In the year 2089 on the Isle of Skye off the shore of Scotland, archaeologist couple Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her boyfriend Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map in a cave which they record among the remnants of several otherwise unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the elderly founder and CEO of the Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific deep space research vessel called the USS Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon of LV-223 several light years from Earth.The ship’s crew travels in hibernation stasis at light speed while the android David (Michael Fassbender) stays awake at the pilot control to monitor their entire voyage. In 2093, the ship arrives in the orbit around LV-223. After being awakened from hibernation, the crew are informed of their mission to find the ancient aliens, called “Engineers” whom may be the original humans. They also view a holographic message from Weyland himself, who tells them about his funding for the mission and that he has since died. Mission director Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) orders them to avoid any direct contact and to return if the aliens are found. The Prometheus lands near an alien structure (resembling a large temple-like pyramid) and a team including Shaw, Holloway, and David explores it, while Vickers remain aboard the ship and monitors their progress. What they find on the planet is a horror none of them could have imagined.

Trivia: Was originally conceived as a prequel to Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, but Scott announced his decision to turn it into an original film with Noomi Rapace (who was already set to star) still in the cast as one of five main characters. Some time later it was confirmed that while the movie would take place in the same universe as Alien and greatly reference that movie, it would mostly be an original movie and not a direct prequel. The “beginning of time” sequence that opens the film was shot in Iceland. The whole shoot took two weeks to complete.

How scary is this really?: This is not a super scary movie but it is really good film. This is Ridley Scott’s triumphant return to sci-fi. Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron are very solid but its Michael Fassbender carries this film with a tremendous performance as David the android. This is a great film and comes highly recommended.

Prometheus: Film Review

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Prometheus (2012)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Logan Marshall-Green, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce

Synopsis: In the year 2089, archaeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and her partner Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover a star map among the remnants of several otherwise unconnected ancient cultures. They interpret this as an invitation from humanity’s forerunners. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the elderly founder and CEO of the Weyland Corporation, funds the creation of the scientific deep space research vessel called the USS Prometheus to follow the map to the distant moon of LV-223 several light years from Earth. The ship’s crew travels in stasis at light speed while the android David (Michael Fassbender) stays awake at the pilot control to monitor their voyage. In 2093, the ship arrives in the orbit around LV-223. After being awakened from hibernation, the crew are informed of their mission to find the ancient aliens, called “Engineers” whom may be the original humans. But the crew of the Prometheus is not prepared for what awaits them on LV-223 a terror beyond anything they could have imagined.

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Review: I am huge fan of the Alien franchise and when this was originally touted as a direct prequel I was admittedly worried until it was later revealed this would be a semi-prequel with only a few things tying it into the Alien franchise but clearly a part of the Alien universe. Part of why I love going to the theaters is no matter what your expectations are for a film it is highly unlikely that will meet all the expectations you have for it which I feel annoys most viewers. I have a feeling that the reason this film is not getting rave reviews from critics is because it is a thinking man’s sci-fi film which usually falls flat with U.S. audiences (no offense meant). You need to be patient with this film but I have no doubt this movie will be considered a classic in the years to come. Michael Fassbender steals that show as the android David, he is so good it is hard to believe that is a real person playing the character. Noomi Rapace was very good in her first starring role in a major Hollywood picture and Idris Elba was great as usual as the ship captain. The only complaints I had were that Charlize Theron seemed out of place as the cold and calculating Vickers and Guy Pearce is totally wasted in his small role as the elderly Weyland that makeup wasn’t as bad as I has heard but it probably would have been more effective to just bring back Lance Henriksen. I did not see it in 3D so you can bet that I will be going to see this a second time hopefully in Imax 3D. I had a lot of fun and this is definitely worth seeing especially since this is Ridley Scott’s first sci-fi film in 30 years. A

Films to See Before You Die: #11 Blade Runner

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Blade Runner (1982)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Darryl Hannah, William Sanderson

Synopsis: In 2019, humans have genetically engineered Replicants, which are essentially humans who are designed for labor and entertainment purposes. They are illegal on earth, and if they make it to our planet they are to be hunted down and killed. Their is a special unit within the LAPD called Blade Runner’s whose main task is to hunt and kill any replicants that have made it to Earth. After four Nexus-6 replicants from an off world colony have made their way to Earth in a quest to expand their live span. Replicants are only given a four year life span so they do not have the chance to develop a mind of their own. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former Blade Runner is brought in and explained the circumstances including a recently injured former colleague of  Deckards that is in critical condition at the hospital. Deckard is given no choice in the matter and i charged with hunting down and killling the escaped replicants. The leader of the replicants Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer) is searching for the head of the Tyrell Corporation, Dr. Eldon Tyrell for advancing his life span so he interrogates employees of Tyrell which leads him to J.F. Sebastian (William Sanderson). Roy realizing that he needs Sebastian alive in order to get to Tyrell instructs the youngest replicant his lover Pris (Darryl Hannah) to get friendly with Sebastian and eventually introduce the two. Meanwhile Deckard heads to the Tyrell Corporation to interview Dr. Tyrell about the recent escape where he meets Rachael (Sean Young), a replicant who believes she is actually a human. After meeting with Tyrell, Deckard follows up on a tip involving snake skin which leads him to one of the escaped replicants who tries to run from Deckard who in turn guns her down in the street. Afterwords he is attacked by the same replicant who had almost killed the other Blade Runner but before he can kill Deckard is shot by Rachael. After being introduced to Sebastian, Roy talks him into arranging a meeting with Dr. Tyrell. When Roy meets with Tyrell he is informed that there is no way that he can live longer and he responds to this by killing both Sebastian and Tyrell. Deckard lets Rachael go for saving his life but now must find the other two replicants. After finding where they are hiding Deckard kills Pris leading to a final confrontation with Roy.

Trivia: The term replicants is used nowhere in Philip K. Dick’s writing. The creatures in the source novel are called Androids or Andies. The movie abandoned these terms, fearing they would sound comical spoken on screen. Replicants came from David Webb Peoples’ daughter, Risa, who was studying microbiology and biochemistry. She introduced her father to the theory of replication – the process whereby cells are duplicated for cloning purposes.

Why I think you should see this: I have seen three different versions of Blade Runner: the theatrical cut, the directors cut and the final cut all are very interesting in their own way but my favourite version is the final cut because it is exactly that it just feels like a finished product. Harrison Ford is amazing a Deckard and Sean Young does a fine job as Rachael, Deckard’s love interest. The film would not be the cult classic/sci-fi masterpiece that it is without Rutger Hauer’s hauntingly brilliant turn as Roy Batty where he is somehow able to be both tender and vicious at the same time he was just amazing. I am cautiously optimistic about the planned Blade Runner sequel even though it will be helmed by Scott as well it just seems like one of those films that might be best left alone. If you haven’t seen this but enjoy science fiction then check this one out you will be pleasantly surprised.

Films to See Before You Die: #18 Alien

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Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, John Hurt

Synopsis: On its way home the starship Nostromo picks up a distress call from a local planet and wakes up the crew in order to go to the planet to investigate. The captain of the ship Dallas (Tom Skerritt), Kane (John Hurt) and one other decide to go on the surface of the planet to find the distress call, where they find a large spaceship. Inside they find an incredibly large dead alien with a hole in its chest, while inspecting the alien Kane falls down in a another part of the ship and he finds hundreds of eggs on the floor. While looking at one the egg opens and a parasitic creature latches onto his face prompting Dallas to rush back to the ship upon their arrival back to the ship. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), is the officer in charge and refuses to let them back on the ship until Ash (Ian Holm) over rides her and lets them aboard. While Kane lies unconcious in the medlab the rest of the crew agrues about what they are supposed to do with it when they decide to remove the facehugger its tightens its grip on his neck and proves to have acid for blood. Eventually the facehugger just falls off and dies leaving Kane alive and very hungry. During the meal Kane is eating like a horse when he starts having a sort of seizure before something starts to rip through his chest. The rest of the crew realize the facehugger laid some sort of larvae in Kane that takes on the features of its host. After they realize that their employers intend to bring this Xenomorph back to Earth to use as a biological weapon it becomes clear to Ripley and the rest of the crew that they need to kill this alien before it wipes them all out.

Trivia: Ridley Scott did all the hand-held camera-work himself. The rumor that the cast, except for John Hurt, did not know what would happen during the chestburster scene is partly true. The scene had been explained for them, but they did not know specifics. For instance, Veronica Cartwright did not expect to be sprayed with blood. A closer look at the alien eggs in the scene right before the facehugger reveals that slime on the eggs is dripping from bottom to top. Ridley Scott did this intentionally by shooting with the camera upside down.

Why I think you should see this: I love both of the first two alien films but the first is marginally better in my opinion because of how claustaphobic the feel of the ship is with the xenomorph aboard. I remember watching this as a kid and being terrified when Dallas was in air ducts with the sensor beeping. Ridley Scott is a great director and I have no doubts his return to the franchise with Prometheus will be nothing short of brilliance. Sigourney Weaver is amazing in her signature role and it is interesting to see her tangle with the xenoporph for the first time. This is a great film and I suggest you check it out sometime.

Films to See Before You Die: #40 Gladiator

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Gladiator (2000)

Director: Ridley Scott

Cast: Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Djimon Hounsou, Richard Harris, Connie Nielson

Synopsis: General Maximus Decimus Meridius (Russell Crowe), has just won a battle over Germanic barbarian hordes when he is visited by Emperor Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris). The dying emperor asks one last thing of Maximus and that is for his to become the leader of Rome after he dies and give the Republic back to the Senate. This decision however, comes as a shock to his son Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix), who was planning to succeed him as Emperor. In a fit of rage Commodus kills his father before he can tell anyone else that Maximus is to be the new Emperor. Commodus acts as if nothing has changed and assumes command and he demands Maximus’ loyalty then and there to which he refuses, Maximus and his family are sentenced to death. Maximus is able to escape execution but when he reaches his home he finds both his wife and son murdered. Exhausted and starving he is picked up by a traveling caravan that sells slaves and animals, they treat his wounds in an attempt to sell him. While recovering he meets Juba (Djimon Hounsou) a Nubian hunter that was captured months earlier and they become fast friends. Maximus and Juba are sold to Proximo who buys them in order to train them as gladiators. It is not long before Maximus is dominating the arena with his superior fighting skills earning the moniker “The Spaniard”, quickly winning the favour of the crowd. Proximo and his men are invited to Rome to join in a month long celebration honouring the late Marcus Aurelius moving Maximus ever closer to Commodus. When it is clear to key members of the Senate and his sister Lucilla (Connie Nielson) that Commodus is out of control they ask Maximus to help them giving him a chance at his revenge.

Trivia: Contrary to rumor, Enya didn’t record any music for the soundtrack of this film. The song simply sounds like something she would have recorded. The song, and in fact much of the soundtrack, was composed and sung by Lisa Gerrard. The real-life Commodus was in fact the only Roman Emperor in history to fight as a gladiator in the arena. However, he did it several times, not just once. Also, he was not killed in the arena but was strangled in his dressing room by an athlete named Narcissus.

Why I think you should see this: This movie has the honour of being the first DVD I ever owned as a kid and I have watched it many times since. A couple of years ago I checked out the extended cut which is about 16 minutes longer and while it isn’t way better it just adds a little more and makes it that much more complete. By far the best collaboration between Ridley Scott and Russell Crowe who tried to recreate the magic with Robin Hood but fell just short. Just a great film that is definitely worth a gander.