ridley scott director's cuts

Few filmmakers have embraced the extended director’s cut as much as Ridley Scott. Plenty of other directors dabble in the form, but results vary. When George Lucas revisited the original Star Wars trilogy, adding new special effects and splicing in scenes that were originally left on the cutting room floor, fans grew irate. When Steven Spielberg digitally swapped-out rifles for walkie-talkies in a re-release of E.T., it was viewed as pointless. In the cases of Lucas and Spielberg, the filmmakers were attempting to improve on things that perhaps didn’t need improving, leading to the age-old question, “If it ain’t broke why fix it?”

But for Scott, the director’s cut is something of an art form. The Post-Impressionist artist Paul Cézanne was famous for frequently not signing his name to his paintings, because he didn’t want to admit the work was done. He recreated the same painting again and again, sometimes even destroying canvases, in an elusive quest for perfection. Perhaps this is what Scott is doing as well; leaving the corner of the frame blank, delaying the final signature.

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Alien Covenant

(Because of the mixed reactions to the film from critics across the internet, we are running two reviews of Alien: Covenant. Here’s a negative take on the movie. For a different take, you can read Karen Han’s positive review.)

Ridley Scott has made two great films: Alien and Blade Runner. In spite of the sequel to the latter coming this fall, Scott has chosen to cross-breed these two science-fiction classics in making Alien: Covenant. Based on that title, you might hope that this will right whatever wrongs were incurred by his 2012 film Prometheus, which professed to start the origin story of the feared xenomorphs while populating that story with some of the dumbest characters in recent memory. You would be wrong. Alien: Covenant is basically the answer to a question that shouldn’t have been asked: what if Roy Batty was the lead of an Alien movie?

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alien covenant

(Because of the mixed reactions to the film from critics across the internet, we are running two reviews of Alien: Covenant. Here’s a positive take on the movie. For a different perspective, you can read Josh Spiegel’s negative review.)

The planet upon which most of Alien: Covenant unfolds is not unlike the movie itself: it’s a vast and beautiful thing, though not without its share of dangers and unexplored territory. Covenant is an epic that sprawls across genres and ideas, some of which are better addressed than others, but in its final act, it shines just two beacons through the darkness. There’s its base DNA in the self-contained drama and horror of 1979’s Alien, and there’s the near-biblical story that director Ridley Scott now wants to tell about man and post-humanity, and the creation of life. The resulting mix is a thrill, in no small part because — for a franchise that seems so determinedly nihilistic — it’s surprisingly earnest.

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Twin Peaks refresher

I’m still shocked that David Lynch and Mark Frost’s Twin Peaks aired on a major television network – let alone in primetime. The series heavily influenced a lot of prestige TV that followed its cancellation after its second season back in 1991, but I can’t think of another show that’s ever run the gamut of styles and genres quite the way this one did. The original run of episodes was thrilling because we had absolutely no idea what kind of show it would be from one moment to the next. Twin Peaks was the absolute king of tonal shifts, often whipping from surreal to comedic, from melodramatic to genuinely heartbreaking, from profound to eye-rollingly dumb. This show contained multitudes. But through it all, it remained enigmatic, eccentric, exciting, and distinctly Lynchian – even when Lynch himself scaled back his involvement during the show’s questionable second season.

With the limited series revival heading to Showtime this weekend, now’s a good time for a refresher about what you need to know, some questions left unanswered, and a bit of good old-fashioned speculation about what we might see in the future. Grab a cup of damn fine coffee, a slice of cherry pie, and join me for a whirlwind trip to small town America in the Pacific Northwest.
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Star Trek Discovery Trailer Breakdown 20

The first trailer for Star Trek: Discovery has arrived, and that means one thing: it’s time to go through it frame-by-frame to see what we can uncover.

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Blackout Overlook

I fit the giant brass key into the door lock, turned it, and was terrified to hear it click open. This wasn’t my hotel room, and I didn’t know what was waiting inside for me. I just knew it was nothing good.

My life had taken a strange turn in the past day, and I was living inside a horror movie at the Timberline Hotel, the iconic hotel that served as the outdoor setting for The Shining and the host of the horror-centric Overlook Film Festival. Like any old hotel, it has its share of ghost stories and we had been essentially snowed in the day before. There was so much snow that it came to the window of my second-floor room. Last night screams echoed through the hallways. They could have been drunken revelers or something far worse.

And now, here I was, participating in Blackout, an experience that has been dubbed the scariest “haunted house” of all time. This was the absolute last place I should be walking around, entering strange bedrooms. I hesitated for a second, hearing what sounded like static coming from a radio, and strained my ears hoping to get a hint of what else might be in the room. No, nothing good would come of this.

I took a deep breath and pushed on in.

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best alien moments

In space, no one can hear you scream. Or make lists ranking the best moments from the Alien film series.

With Alien: Covenant hitting theaters this week, Jacob Hall and Jack Giroux revisited every movie featuring a xenomorph (yes, even the Alien vs. Predator movies) with one purpose: to watch for the scenes and beats and lines of dialogue that resonate the most. In this particular case, a “moment” is a malleable term. What stands out, really stands out, when we think back on these six movies?

We’ve included videos when available. And yes, there will be spoilers for the series from this point onward.

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The House of Special Purpose review

(Every week, we’re going to kick off discussion about Fargo season 3 by answering one simple question: who f*cked up the most this week?)

Emmit Stussy’s (Ewan McGregor) neck is currently in the clutches of the big bad English wolf of Fargo season 3, V.M. Varga (David Thewlis). The Parking Lot King has fallen from his comfy throne, and in “The House of Special Purpose,” it looks like he’s helping to bring a few folks down with him. Then again, we could say the same for the entire ensemble on Fargo, who are all working together to help to seal each other’s fate.

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in defense of prometheus 7

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or sets their sights on a movie seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: a defense of Ridley Scott’s controversial Alien prequel Prometheus.)

Like most of you, I walked out of my first screening of Ridley Scott’s Prometheus in some combination of confused and angry. That was the Alien prequel we’d spent the past two-plus years anxiously anticipating? The film that absolutely wasted Charlize Theron and Idris Elba, featured some of the worst character beats I’ve ever seen in a science fiction narrative, and bled all over the memory of Scott’s original Alien film? No matter how I approached the film – how charitable I tried to be in my interpretation of its story – all I saw was a barren wasteland where a promising Alien franchise might’ve stood. My hatred of Prometheus ran deep and pure.

And then a funny thing happened. A few months ago, as 20th Century Fox began to roll out new footage from Alien: Covenant and people in my social network started talking about Prometheus as if it wasn’t the worst thing since death and taxes. A few friends even argued passionately on the film’s behalf, suggesting that Prometheus, despite its flaws, was one of the boldest science fiction films to hit theaters in a good long while. This put me in an awkward position. I had spent more than four years nursing my grudge towards Scott’s film, and while I remained convinced that the film would only get worse on a re-watch, I knew it would be disingenuous of me to argue against the film without at least giving a second shot.

So I popped Prometheus into my Blu-ray player again, and wouldn’t you know it? That movie grew up a helluva lot in our four years apart.

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star wars the last jedi trailer 23 luke skywalker

“It’s time for the Jedi to end.”

Those seven words, some of the first we’ve heard from the mouth of Luke Skywalker in the Sequel Trilogy era, set the internet ablaze last month when the trailer for Star Wars: The Last Jedi debuted at Star Wars Celebration Orlando. Whether you’re a die-hard fan who takes in every bit of Star Wars you can find or a casual fan of the movies, those words had a heavy sensation to them: what in the galaxy could Luke mean?

Of course, with that question comes worry and speculation. If the Jedi end, what does that mean for the galaxy? What does it mean for the Force? What does it mean for our heroes like Rey, who ostensibly wants to train as a Jedi? We’ve been taught by decades of Star Wars storytelling that without the Jedi there can be no balance to the Force. It’s literally in the opening dialogue of  Star Wars: The Force Awakens, courtesy of Max von Sydow’s Lor San Tekka.

But let’s face it: The Last Jedi, or even the “end” of the Jedi, won’t be the end of Star Wars. With games, TV series, movies, books, and comics all in development for after the film’s release, it’s obviously not the end of the franchise, or even of the story of the Skywalker family and the Jedi as a whole. So what does it mean? Well, some of those other canon projects may be gearing us up for a new understanding of the Force, and a new type of Force user altogether.

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