Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

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Aliens (1986)

Aliens are pretty scary, but humans can be even worse.

After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). And while no one on-board really knows who Newt exactly is, or why she was all by herself on this huge ship, Ripley takes a liking to her and trusts her with all her might. Little does she, nor everyone else know, that there’s literally a huge colony of aliens waiting to get rid of them all and it’s up to these rough and tough soldiers to step up, stand together, and get rid of the threat, because lord knows that if they don’t get rid of it in space, it may just come closer to hitting Earth and causing way more problems than they could have ever expected.

Say what you will about James Cameron, his scripts, his cheesiness, and his knack for going over-the-top, but the man can direct a freakin’ action movie, for gosh sakes. I mean, literally, there’s not a minute in Aliens that isn’t packed with some sort of fun, or intensity, or excitement in the air; it’s literally two-and-a-half-hours of pure, unabashed adrenaline, mixed in with some speed for even better times. While some movies like to pride themselves on being a piece of absolute energy from start-to-finish, very few of them actually are and it’s why Aliens, all of these years later, still reigns supreme as one of the best action movies of all-time.

Okay, so yeah, Jimmy Cameron clearly recycled some ideas.

That said? Is it stupid? Hell yeah, but with James Cameron, it works. See, whereas Alien was much more of a slow-burning horror-thriller, Aliens is way more of a slam-bang action-thriller, where instead of taking our time, feeling the mood, it’s a pure straight-shot from the get-go. While that may sound bad and a downgrade from the original, it actually works in the movie’s favor; we still get to feel the mood, we still get to know some of these characters, and yeah, we still get thrown on the edge of our seats. All the stuff that made the original so great are here still, but they’re just heightened to a point of where they seemed to have been replaced by something far better.

It’s like something we didn’t even know we needed.

But that’s why James Cameron is such a master at his craft – he knows what a movie-going audience wants and absolutely delivers on it all. Sure, he hasn’t met a cheesy one-liner he didn’t like, nor does he seem to stray away from macho-posturing, but it really doesn’t matter, because it’s so fun to watch and listen as these goofy characters all talk, scream, and pose their muscles. In other words, Aliens is the perfect movie for a nerd to enjoy and not feel threatened by, but also for the jocks to enjoy and not feel like they’re losing their reputation as one of the cool guys.

In other words, everyone can find something here to love and enjoy and at the end of the day, even get along.

See what I mean?

Now, isn’t that what movies were made for in the first place? Not just entertaining people, but bringing them together, no matter how different they may be from one another? To me, that’s what movies are about and it’s why Aliens, while definitely not the heartfelt, sentimental flick I’m making it out to be, is just a near-masterpiece. It’s got some stupid moments and Paul Reiser’s character, more often than not, feels like an unfortunate villain that the movie just falls back on for unnecessary conflict, but for the most part, every bit of it works.

And mostly, it all comes circling back to Sigourney Weaver in the title-role of Lt. Ripley. See, in the original, while Ripley was still a strong character, she wasn’t quite given nearly as much as she’s given to do here and it’s why Weaver’s performance tops everyone else’s here; she’s got presence and seems like she’s as tough as she makes herself out to be. But she’s also the kind of character that isn’t asking for us to love, adore, and praise her – she’s just a rough and rugged S.O.B. that isn’t afraid to stand up to those around her and speak her mind.

In other words, she’s the perfect woman. But also a little scary.

But that’s fine, because Weaver is great at these kinds of characters. After all, she’s practically made a career out of them and it seemed to have started with Ripley. While yes, even those on the side of her like Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn, and the late, always amazing Bill Paxton are great to watch and have here, it’s Ripley’s show the whole way through. She reminds us not why strong female characters matter first and foremost, but why strong characters matter in general.

Especially in something that is basically an alien shoot-em-up.

Consensus: While undeniably cheesy and over-the-top, Aliens is also undeniably fun, exciting, compelling, and perfectly directed by James Cameron, that you almost forget how great Weaver is in the lead role.

9.5 / 10

Move aside, fellas!

Photos Courtesy of: Horror Freak News


Mama (2013)

A mother’s love can be just so damn smothering sometimes, am I right fellow young adolescent males?

After the Stock Market crashes, Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) kills his wife and takes his two daughters somewhere unexplained to us. However, as he’s driving around in the mountains with the kiddies in the back, his car, literally, takes a sharp turn for the worse and lands the three in a remote part of the snow-infested woods. And then, lo and behold, Jeffrey finds a remote cabin these woods and decides that it’s time to not only end his life, but his kids’ lives as well. Just as he’s about to off his kids, he is all of a sudden snatched up and killed by something very, very mysterious that the girls are originally scared by, but in a strange way, embrace. Fast forward five years later, and we have Jeffrey’s identical twin brother Lucas (still played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) searching for these girls as if they were his own. Just as Lucas is about to give all sorts of hope and call it quits on the search parties, something miraculous happens: THE GIRLS ARE FOUND!! They’re pretty messed-up in the head, but being stranded, all alone, and left to fend for yourselves for a whole five years will do that to ya, so Lucas decides to take them in and raise them in a normal family they deserve. Two problems though: 1.) Lucas gal-pal (Jessica Chastain) doesn’t really take kindly to children, and 2.) that very, very mysterious being that snatched up and killed his brother all of these years before, is somehow still with those girls, AND IN THAT HOUSE!!

Save paper! Color the walls!

Save paper! Color the walls!

Okay, so yeah, maybe I went a bit overboard with that plot-synopsis, but regardless, you get the drift of this movie: Creepy girls get adopted, creepy girls start doing creepy things, innocent people get thrown into the mix, doors start closing and opening unexpectedly, heads start flying, etc., etc. You’ve all seen it done a million times before, and trust me, Mama is no exception to the rule. It’s essentially a haunted house movie where kids act strange, have an “imaginary friend”, and better yet, feature characters that have never, ever dealt with this type of paranormal activity in their lives before, EVER. Lucky for us though, none of them have the ability to work a hand-held camera (from what we know of), and even luckier for us, the movie ain’t all that bad, especially if you take into consideration just how truly lame and unoriginal the horror genre has gotten as of late.

So yeah, what makes a horror movie a good horror movie, is the scares, which this movie has plenty of because it focuses on its dark atmosphere and mood. For once, I felt like I was watching a horror movie where not only did the scares feel deserved, but they continued to have me expecting the most conventional thing to happen, and then somewhat surprise me giving me something new in front of my face. Doesn’t always happen, and once our ghost of the two-hours shows up more than a handful of times by the end, it feels like a jumping-of-the-shark, but nonetheless, the movie caught me off-guard more times than I expected. And that’s coming from somebody who isn’t the biggest horror fan, and from somebody who knows what to expect, when, and how when it comes to a horror movie. Don’t get me wrong, I can still have fun with a horror movie, but you have to make me feel like it’s worth my time and effort.

This was one of those times, and that’s partially credited to the fact that the movie also has characters worth caring about and investing your emotions in. For the most part, anyway.

Perhaps the oddest selling-point behind this movie that probably worked wonders for it back in late-January when it first came out (aka, the same time around when Chastain was up for an Oscar), was that she suddenly went all goth for this role. She has the black hair, the arm-tats, the extraneous amount of eye-liner, and heck, even plays bass in a pseudo-punk rock band. So basically, she’s supposed to be this wholesome, cutie pie, dressed down and all dolled up to look like this anarchistic bad ass that doesn’t like kids and never, ever wants to get preggo. In essence, she’s the woman of my dreams, minus all of the black make-up and hair. That I can do without.

"Too method", I guess?

“Too method”, I guess?

Appearances aside, Chastain is still very good as Annabel because even though she is a bad ass that doesn’t give a flying hoot about having kids, or better yet, raising them, she still makes for a sympathetic character because her transition from “arms-length adoptive mother, to loving and caring adoptive mother”, feels real and honest, even if her main competition for these girls’ whole heart, love, and affection is the ghost of a woman who died almost hundreds and hundreds of years ago. But hey, maybe that’s why she’s one of the most exciting and promising faces we have out there working today! We need an actress like her to take material that’s conventional and by-the-numbers, and find some emotion behind it all that goes deeper than the surface-level. More of her will definitely do us all good. You can count on that fact.

And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau ain’t so bad either as her more endearing boyfriend, Lucas, but he gets knocked out of the game about half-way through due to a coma, which leaves us plenty of time to care for Annabel, as well as these little girls, Victoria and Lilly. Speaking of these girls, both Megan Charpentie and Isabelle Nélisse do some solid jobs with what they had to do, which didn’t look easy since a lot of it consisted of being creepy, using their eyes to convey emotion, and just being kids, while also not being over-bearing and annoying like most kids in movies seem to come across as. While one has more lines to say than the other, both girls show that they may have a bright future ahead of themselves, if they don’t let mommy and daddy take over their lives and get an edumication. Because honestly, when you’re the centerpiece of a major, big-budget horror movie that goes #1 for two weeks in a row, do you really need to worry about learning how to write in cursive? Hell naw!!! Lord knows I didn’t want to and look how I turned out…..

Consensus: May not be a game-changer in the slightest bit, but Mama is still an effective horror flick that’s chock-full of some worthy scares, worthy characters, and best of all, a worthy story that takes some surprising turns you don’t expect it to go through with, especially with that ending.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

Christmas Card material? You bet your ass it is! Especially if you're a sick, twisted fuck like me! Mwhaahahaah!

Christmas Card material? You bet your ass it is! Especially if you’re a sick, twisted fuck like me! Mwhaahahaah!

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