Tag Archives: Sigourney Weaver

Working Girl (1988) 3.71/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 75.8
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Duration: 113 mins
Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Melanie Griffith, Harrison Ford, Sigourney Weaver

Of its time but in the best ways possible, Mike Nichols’ Working Girl is a superior rom-com starring Melanie Griffith as an ambitious secretary who, on discovering that her ruthless boss (a delightfully obnoxious Sigourney Weaver) has stolen her idea for a lucrative merger, assumes the role of an executive to close the deal herself. Along the way, she inevitably falls for the man helping her to put it together (Harrison Ford in top comedic form) while evading any and all situations that might disclose her real identity to him and everyone else. Working Girl achieves that priceless balance between the drama and romance by laying out a well developed plot and seamlessly weaving it with the various romantic angles. Nichols compensates for Griffith’s acting limitations by setting a comedic tone just wacky enough to forgive her flat delivery but not so much that it detracts from the relative sophistication of the story. Ford greatly assists him in this endeavour as he demonstrates, yet again, his impeccable timing and instincts for light comedy while Weaver proves equally critical with a brave and perfectly judged turn that she uses, like Ford, to coax the best out of Griffith. Nichols composes the entire thing with polish and remains master rather than victim to the business and fashion cultures from which so much of the humour is derived but the jewel in the movie’s crown is undoubtedly Kevin Wade’s witty screenplay that Ford in particular has a ball with. All that plus an electric Alec Baldwin as Griffith’s old squeeze, and some glorious cameos from Oliver Platt and Kevin Spacey ensure that Working Girl sits right at the top of that era’s genre offerings.

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Alien: Resurrection (1997) 1.43/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Ugly – 65.1
Genre: Action, Science Fiction
Duration: 109 mins
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman

200 years after she threw herself and the alien growing within her into a molten pit, military scientists genetically re-engineer Ripley and her parasite back to life in order to harvest the alien embryo. Fortunately for the surviving crew of the inevitably doomed ship, the mingling of the two species’ DNA left her with a few special abilities. First things first. Alien: Resurrection backtracks on the finality of Alien 3. It introduces an overtly comic-bookish plot and a host of caricatured personalities into a series of movies that were always defined by tight plots and layered characters. The genre defining set-pieces of Alien and Aliens and the admirable attempts of Alien 3 are replaced by contrived, blockbuster, slow-motion explodathons. The most interesting aspect to the story, writer Joss Whedon’s notion of Ripley’s ‘rebirth’, is completely misinterpreted by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet. The incisive dialogue of the first three instalments replete with its organic wit and charm is replaced by a one-liner infested script which plays to the sound bite. The lavish production design jars completely with the more elegantly simple aesthetic of the first three. Similarly, the sleek and dark naturalism of H.R. Giger’s creature design is ultimately replaced with a quasi-surrealist Cronenberg-esque body horror. And lastly, and perhaps most unforgivably, the steely fear and breathless tension that so defined Scott’s, Cameron’s, and Fincher’s movies is relinquished in favour of gore, gore, and more gore resulting in yet more outlandish events that feel so ‘alien’ to the series.

With all this in mind, if one is going to enjoy Alien: Resurrection, one must take it entirely on its own merits and treat it as a standalone feature. For those who can do that, there’s a fairly enjoyable action/sci-fi/horror romp lurking beneath the ashes of the great series. Sigourney Weaver is back in her darkest Ripley incarnation and she eats up the opportunity to play with the well worn role. The movie comes alive when she’s on the screen and she is the most important factor in its partial redemption. There are also a host of fantastic character actors (e.g., Brad Dourif, Ron Perlman, Dan Hedaya, J.E. Freeman) playing the various secondary roles and caricatured as they are, the quality of the actors inhabiting them makes them fun to watch. The creatures look better than that which most sci-fi horror movies offer up and can even be enjoyed from the perspective of the franchise. As mentioned above, inappropriate as it may be to the Alien series, the production design and creature effects are still first rate and when combined with the motley gang of badasses led by the gnarly Ripley, the whole thing becomes quite entertaining.

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Alien 3 (1992) 3.07/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 75.5
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 114 mins
Director: David Fincher
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Charles Dance, Lance Henriksen

Picking up where Aliens left off, the concluding part of the original trilogy, sees Ripley crash landing on a maximum security prison planet among murderers and rapists and yet another alien that has stowed away in her shuttle. An initially unsettling presence to the entirely male population “who have found God at the ass end of space”, she inevitably helps to organise the weaponless rabble against the alien.

Though never courting the same level of adoration as Scott’s Alien or Cameron’s Aliens, David Fincher’s film has a lot to recommend. There’s a coherent and focused story set within a context that gives the film a modest philosophical angle. Furthermore, stylistically speaking, it has a very strong sense of itself and no little amount of directorial class. The bridge between Aliens and this film is deftly constructed as credits are interrupted with snippets of the Sulaco’s ill fated return journey and of its face-hugging intruder. That style is stretched out more subtly throughout the remainder of the film reasserting itself fully only twice more. Once when Fincher and co. parallel the burial of Hicks and Newt with the birth of the mature alien (the “chest burster”) and again in the final scene. It’s this style that allows Fincher to crash the two ostensibly duelling themes of Alien 3 together, that of spiritualism and nihilism, while ultimately turning the entire film into a tome for a type of nihilistic spiritualism. It’s a clever conceit and one that is really quite effectively drawn out despite the director’s exit from the project before completion of post production.

Fincher’s withdrawal and his subsequent disowning of the movie was only one of several issues to arise during the production and the conveyor belt of script writers and treatments which ran through the project can be most clearly felt in how peripheral the actual alien becomes to the whole thing. There’s certainly an attempt to have the alien and Ripley define each other but the former pops up in such an understated manner that it inevitably drifts into the background. This leads us to the real problem with Alien 3, namely, that it never quite feels like it belongs to the same universe of the first two instalments. In addition to the alien playing second fiddle to Ripley, the production design, though rich and impressive, is exceptionally dreary and after a while, as the pessimism of the story bleeds through, it all begins to wear heavily. Moreover, whereas the first two films were strongly technological in their visual conception, the story here demands a technologically spare approach. All this makes Alien 3 the least visually interesting of the original trilogy and rather out on its own.

Of course, it could be argued that this distinction gives it a powerfully dark edge over the original films and the sinister manner in which “the company” is depicted in the final twenty minutes does support that. Nonetheless, there is one department where Alien 3 undeniably falls far short of its predecessors. The aforementioned disharmony in the last stages of post production ensured that the creature effects are inconsistent and often excruciatingly bad. Moreover, Alien 3 is a far less exciting movie as the action is restricted to the final act and with the restrictions in the story, it plays out in a comparatively flat manner when placed alongside Aliens and even Alien. That said, in the same way that Alien and Aliens were separable by genre (sci-fi horror vs action sci-fi respectively), Alien 3 can be simply understood to be maintaining that tradition by setting its stall out as a sci-fi drama. It certainly allows for greater exploration of the dramatic subplots and we see a new dimension to the well established character of Ripley as she and Charles Dance’s medical officer develop a brief but intriguing romantic partnership.

Dance is outstanding but this movie more so than any of the other movies in the franchise (four at this point not counting the recent Prometheus) is all about Sigourney Weaver. She hand picked writer David Giler and insisted Walter Hill be brought back on board to properly tease out Ripley’s potential and though the script was ultimately worked on by a troop of other writers, much of their contributions to her story were maintained. Weaver responded with a wonderful turn and one that is strong enough to shoulder the entire film. Ironic as it may appear, given she’s the only female cast member, that strength combined with some overarching themes of motherhood give the film a very feminine vibe. Fans of traditional horror won’t be too disappointed though because this, after all, is a David Fincher film and consequently there’s plenty of squirming scenes.

Overall, Alien 3 is a laudable effort to bring yet another layer to the franchise and indeed overcome the production issues which beset it from early on. It’ll always divide opinion among fans of that franchise and it’s the most independent in style but that just adds to its intrigue.

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Ghostbusters (1984) 4.14/5 (1)

 

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Rating: The Good – 76.7
Genre: Comedy
Duration: 105 mins
Director: Ivan Reitman
Stars: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Sigourney Weaver

“When someone asks you ‘Are you a God?’, you say ‘Yes!!’” Although it’s been mainly remembered as nothing more than an enjoyable children’s film, Ivan Reitman’s film was written by and starred the golden generations of both Saturday Night Live and SCTV. The result is a totally original, unbelievably witty, and eminently quotable landmark in movie history. Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Bill Murray play three scientists who make a name for themselves as paranormal investigators and exterminators who go into business just in time for a major paranormal event to hit New York city. Overt humour, subtle humour, legendary comedy actors, unique story, groundbreaking special effects, and one of the most memorable movie soundtracks, Ghostbusters has it all. The three leads are perfect in their assigned roles and their long established understanding of each other gives their on-screen relationships real depth. Throw Sigourney Weaver into the mix as one of their clients and romantic interest for Murray’s legendary Dr. Venckman and there you have it. “Back off man, I’m a scientist.”

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Aliens (1986) 3.86/5 (2)

 

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Rating: The Good – 85.8
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Duration: 137 mins
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Bill PaxtonLance Henriksen

The last survivor of the Nostromo, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), is found drifting in space after 57 years of hypersleep. Her account of what happened naturally makes the powers that be curious so they quickly order the colonists of the now populated planet to check out the co-ordinates where Ripley reported to have located the crashed spacecraft. When things inevitably go bad, Ripley is sent to the planet with a team of hi-tech marines to exterminate the alien threat.

In taking on the unenviable task of creating a sequel to Ridely Scott’s original sci-fi classic, James Cameron pulls a masterstroke by bringing the premise firmly into the action genre. The result is a qualitatively different film to the original, allowing for a whole raft of new ideas to be explored. As is typical with all Cameron’s films, Aliens looks amazing. The set-design, the special effects, and the creature effects (Stan Winston – who else?) are extremely impressive and are as good as anything you’ll see today. The chemistry between the various actors is splendid as are the performances themselves. Cameron regulars Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, and Lance Henriksen are all present and in top form. So is Weaver who, in this film, confirmed Ripley as the most interesting and authentic of all screen heroines. The dialogue is tight and tech-savvy and the tension is built perfectly through Cameron’s expert direction.

Of course, the stand-out strength of this film is the action and Cameron again uses the science-fiction context to raise the stakes and create imaginative new ways to capture the audience’s fascination. He also takes his time building up to said action which makes it all the more rewarding when it finally gets going. It’s a testament to Cameron and co. that when all is said and done, Aliens will remain not just one of the best sci-fi films of all time, but also one of the best horror and action films of all time.

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Alien (1979) 4.9/5 (7)

 

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Rating: The Good – 93.5
Genre: Science Fiction, Horror
Duration: 117  mins
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Harry Dean Stanton

Ridley Scott’s seminal film is a classic of both the sci-fi and horror genres. It tells the story of the mining ship Nostromo and its crew who are asked to land on an uncharted planet to investigate a crashed spacecraft. Things take a turn for the horrific when one of the crew comes back with a creature attached to his face. Made with a level of discipline and patience not often demonstrated in Hollywood films, this genuinely terrifying film slowly reels you into its futuristic world by gently introducing you to the ship, the crew, the technology, and finally the hostile planet they have landed on. The symmetry of the interior shots on board the Nostromo is clearly influenced by Kubrick’s 2001 but Scott’s vision is somewhat darker. Unlike the clean spartan spacecrafts of 2001 we have a grimy and cluttered industrial ship, an idea that took root and defined almost every space-based sci-fi flick ever since. The action doesn’t get going until about midway through but the wait only serves to heighten the tension of the later scenes and the sense of alien intrusion. And once the alien does appear, H.R. Giger’s design of the creature (in its different stages of maturation) combined with Scott’s notion for how it should behave are so deeply primal and bone-chilling that they seemingly tap into the deepest reaches of our psyche.

The cast, replete with serious heavy hitters, is uniformly superb and their freedom to improvise their lines paid off in spades as the authenticity that Scott’s vision generates so well is only compounded. John Hurt, Ian Holm, and of course Sigourney Weaver as Ripley deliver truly masterful performances but the rest aren’t too far behind them. Alien is what happens when every piece of the film-making puzzle comes together in mutually inspiring fashion. Scott’s direction was commanding, the cast’s acting was perfectly in sync, Jerry Goldsmith’s haunting score was revolutionary, Dan O’Bannon’s story & screenplay was as imaginative and as disciplined as they come, while Giger’s creature design and Michael Seymour’s production design were on a different level to anything the science fiction genre had offered up before. Yes, Alien is truly a case of cinematic perfection.

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Avatar (2009) 1.89/5 (5)

 

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Rating: The Bad- 58.5
Genre: Science Fiction
Duration: 162 mins
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver

A paraplegic Marine takes his brother’s place on a mission to integrate with the indigenous life on dangerous planet. However, after becoming attached to a particular tribe he finds his former loyalties to the military tested as they take command of the mission and with it, a much sterner approach to the aliens.

Before anything else, one must firstly acknowledge the quality of this mega-blockbuster’s visual effects. With or without the 3D this film looks spectacular. The world of Pandora and the indigenous tribes are brought to life in such rich detail that you really do get the feeling that you are right there in the middle of everything. The action is also very good and there are some really well crafted action scenes that use the expanded physical possibilities of the alien world to great effect. Add the 3D experience on top of all that and this movie becomes an awesome visual experience.

However, despite all this, when one is forced to objectively review Avatar as a film, there can be no escaping the realisation that there are some fundamental and critical problems which even the visuals cannot compensate for. In many ways, Avatar is “Dances with Alien Wolves” but with inexcusable writing problems. The characters are all uninteresting (despite Sigourney Weaver’s best efforts) and are all variations on cliched action movie themes. The dialogue is clunky at the best of times and downright awful at others. The story is wafer thin with seriously trite plots and sub-plots. Concerning the wider plot, there are gaping holes in the logic and, as if to confirm the audience’s suspicions that the story was indeed an afterthought to an otherwise technological project, they come up with the idea of a magic tree to encapsulate a crudely conveyed hack environmental “message”. This hack emotionality and the battle sequences which attempt to drive it home like a rusty nail are certainly the most jarring problems with the movie. One of the most unforgivable things a film-maker can do is to disrespect the audience by trying to dupe the them into thinking the film is of weight when it’s really just a crass load of nonsense. It could be argued that Avatar imparts a simplistic “message” in far too childish a manner to be guilty of that crime and that the writers simply devoted too little attention to the script to be aware of the mistakes they were making. However, given that it took almost a decade to make this film, there can simply be no excuses for having overlooked something as crucial as the story.

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