Tagged Acid

Ridley Scott’s Alien: Gorgeously Horrific Isolation

Alien. 1979. Directed by Ridley Scott. Screenplay by Dan O’Bannon; story by O’Bannon & Ronald Shusett.
Starring Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, Bolaji Badejo, & Helen Horton. Brandywine Productions/Twentieth Century-Fox Productions.
Rated R. 117 minutes.
Horror/Sci-Fi

★★★★★
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I’m not even a huge science fiction fan. Of course I love any good movie, no matter the genre. But even as a nerd, someone who grew up loving Star Trek: The Next Generation and plenty of other science fiction, it isn’t my first choice. Yet you can’t keep a great film down. No matter if it’s your preferred genre or not. Now, when you start to mix genres together, that’s my favourite. So at a crossroads between horror and sci-fi, Ridley Scott’s Alien converges on my tastes to make for an altogether frightening experience. The undeniable legacy of the film is plastered over many genre films that have come out since. Likely that’ll be the case for a long, long time. Scott’s genius as a director is matched in the writing of screenwriter Dan O’Bannon, collaborating here on the story with Ronald Shusett. Working on the isolation of space, in ’79 still a relatively new frontier with untold terrors lurking in its dark and uncharted territories, Alien coils you into madness through its horrifying scenario playing out on a previously quiet ship called the Nostromo amongst a bunch of shipmates trying to get home to Earth.
The atmosphere here is tantamount to actually being out there in the depths of outer space, stuck on a ship somewhere where nobody can hear you scream. Scott makes you feel the despair, the fear, the isolation and its effects. Each set piece is better than the last, every corner and hallway exudes the sense of a real environment. The writing of O’Bannon is one thing. The imagination of Scott is entirely another beast, one that isn’t finished working as of this writing. But the clever effectiveness of one of his most satisfying works never fails to hook me. Watching it right now, nearly 3 AM here in Newfoundland, I’m watching Harry Dean Stanton’s Brett walk through the corridors alone, calling out for Jones the cat. And when he finds that facehugger skin, the chills still run up my spine.
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First and foremost, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley is obviously the star of the show. What I dig, though, is how O’Bannon sets the entire crew up as characters. Once we get to the excitement and all the wonderful thrills(/chills), Ripley is our woman. She carries us through the action, the horror, as our tour guide almost. Regardless of her status as protagonist, O’Bannon gives us the time to get to know the others around her, so as not to stick us totally in one perspective. It’s a testament to good writing when a screenplay is able to setup a cast of characters behind the one real main character, to make them interesting, to have us spend time with them and let each one build instead of ending up as simply expendable victims for the alien to kill. Mostly, O’Bannon writes the characters so that they’re natural. In any genre, any writer will have a better chance at making their script more powerful if the characters feel like they’re organic. With a crew like those on the Nostromo, the chemistry has to be tight, like the sort of chat and relationships you’d generally see from any group that spend so much time together. Add to that a bunch of good actors who give it their all and you’ve got one enjoyable feast of emotions that run the gamut from strength to paranoia to bald fear and everything in between.
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That first reveal of the Xenomorph is forever etched in my mind. Having the cat there makes it unique. Those shots of Jones hissing, then the eyes watching poor Brett get nibbled up, they’re really something spectacular. Not sure why it’s so interesting. Perhaps to see a cat, a fine predator in its own right, witness such an apex predator at work is the reason this scene works to such a degree. Either way, when the Xenomorph, so quiet, drops down behind Brett, there’s a HOLY SHIT moment, and you immediately understand how threatening this creature is truly. Forget the size, the look, the nasty jaws and acid blood, just the sheer physical prowess of the Xenomorph to curl down from above, slow, silent: that is horrifying. Later, the scene with Dallas (Skerritt) and the Xenomorph is the stuff of which nightmares are made. Then things only get more frightening, the tension mounts until you feel your spine sucking up against the inside of your stomach. There’s a lot of downright exciting moments, too, but it’s the frights that keep me enthralled with Scott’s work in this movie every damn time.
My favourite sequence? When Ash (Holm) goes haywire. The first time I’d seen the film I never once expected it to happen. Now, I’m still impressed. The eerie way Holm plays the scene, the unsettling close-ups shot tight on Ash’s face as he starts leaking a bit of liquid, starting to go crazy. Then when Parker (Kotto) discovers the secret Ash is hiding, the nastiness of the simple effects make it all the more wild.
The sets are elaborate and Scott is able to take us away to another place. You become completely absorbed in the future world. Right down to how they’re shot and the way we initially follow a tracking shot through portions of the Nostromo before coming upon the crew in their stasis. A fine opener to the film, but a visual aesthetic Scott keeps up throughout the film’s entirety. The coldness of the camera, the silence, I find it works well with the advanced looking technology of the ship itself. At certain times you’re sure to be reminded of Stanley Kubrick. Others, you’re most definitely in a Scott landscape. What I like most are the exteriors, as opposed to the clean looking interiors. Outside we get this idea that yet it’s the future, but it is a dirty, rough and tumble one.
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There’s no denying Alien is a whopping 5 stars. A fantastic ride into the heart of science fiction-horror. Scott blew everybody away, and still does with this piece of work. When people try to tell you horror or sci-fi can’t be art, you show them this film. Tell them they’re wrong. The imaginative direction on Scott’s part, the writing of O’Bannon. The strong central performance of Sigourney Weaver as the beloved Ripley, the beyond excellent support of a cast with the likes of John Hurt and Ian Holm. There is much to love. I can never get enough. I personally love the first three films of the series, and Prometheus.
But this one started it all. The dangerous aliens of the outer reaches have never been so vicious, so adverse to humanity as they are in this Scott masterpiece. Feast on it. Learn from it. This film won’t ever get old, except in the way that it gets better with age in all its horrific, science fiction goodness.

Breaking Bad – Season 1, Episode 2: “Cat’s in the Bag…”

AMC’s Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 2: “Cat’s in the Bag…”
Directed by Adam Bernstein
Written by Vince Gilligan

* For a review of the Pilot – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “…And the Bag’s in the River” – click here
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Beginning right after the events of the pilot, “Cat’s in the Bag” starts with Skyler (Anna Gunn) and Walter (Bryan Cranston) making intense, sweaty love. He staggers into the bathroom afterwards.
Cut back to 12 hours ago, in the desert after things with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) went wrong, and Krazy-8 (Max Arciniega) got involved. Walter manages to get the Winnebago out of its predicament. But inside are still the two bodies. And Walt’s determined to part ways with his new partner, which stands vice versa, as Jesse wants nothing to do with it all either. Only they forgot a gas mask in the desert. Plus, Krazy-8 isn’t a corpse: he’s still alive.

 


Waking up on the bathroom floor, Walt starts his day on uncertain terms. Naturally, Walt Jr (RJ Mitte) knows something’s up, but it’s Skyler whose scepticism shows. Her worry, too.
Then Jesse calls, first pretending to be an AT&T salesman. This of course causes Skyler to wonder even further. Already there’s an imbalance to their relationship, especially once she calls back the number on the phone getting Pinkman’s ridiculous answering machine message. It’s easy to see how torn Walt and Skyler will eventually become, even within the first couple episodes.
In his chemistry class, Walt talks about a two-sided compound. Such as thalidomide, which has two very different effects. We almost get a parallel of the “mirrored images” in Walt himself – the good, the bad. He can see this on his own. Especially when he hears a student wrong, asking if this will “be on the murder“; except he actually says “midterm“. The guilt in Walter is already rearing its ugly yet rightful head. Afterwards, he picks up some acid from the chemistry department’s stockroom. Oh my.
Over at the Pinkman place things aren’t going so smooth. Jesse hears a bunch of noise from the Winnebago outside, finding a commotion inside where there is no body. Only duct tape, bonds untied and dropped on the ground. Then when Walt heads back with the acid ready, he finds Krazy-8 stumbling down the middle of the road. A bit wild, no?
Skyler is busy trying to track down who called earlier for Walt. She ends up tracking down Jesse’s number, ending up a terribly dated website full of surprises: “Milfs?” she wonders to herself, “Whats a milf?”
The first of many heated arguments between Jesse and Walt begin. Certainly, Mr. White is unimpressed with his former student and the lack of attention he gave to Krazy-8 in the Winnebago. Jesse describes how Krazy-8 is “a distributor“, as Walt puts it. The older of the two wants to find more out about the guy, he wants to get hold of the situation. For now they don’t need to worry much about their captive. He was messed up fairly bad in the rolling meth lab. They now have to figure out something to do with him, whatever that may end up being. Walt and Jesse fight a little before they can manage to come to any sort of conclusions. As for the other body, the plan is to dissolve it in acid. Things have clearly spiraled out of control since the beginning of this decision to cook drugs. From drug suppliers to murderers to full-on career criminals in the span of a couple days. Walt determines they each should take a task – one on the body and acid, the other taking care of Krazy-8. A coin toss puts Walt with Krazy-8, unfortunately for him.

 


It might’ve been a good idea for Walt to deal with the acid. For one, Jesse ends up really making a bad move on his own. Then there’s the fact Walt can’t work himself up to dispatching Krazy-8. It’s got to be tough, regardless of how mathematical and scientific Walt can break down the situation. Walt is becoming someone he likely never imagined becoming, and in a terrifying sense. He mulls over various weapons, trying to figure out some quick, painless – for him – way to do the job. The guns in the plastic bag are one option, but loud. Suffocation also crosses his mind. There’s an unsettling part to watching Walt descend into the world of criminality. Yes, there’s a thrilling aspect. But morality has to kick in, we have to realize this is no longer about providing for his family. This life is grasping on and transforming Walt into a monster. As of now, he’s fighting back against that tide.
We get an excellent in-between-scene here, as Walt finds a pile of weed on Jesse’s counter and tries rolling a joint. Y’know, to calm his nerves. Hilarious lighthearted moment to crossover here until Jesse arrives home, ready to get the acid and bodies together. When he comes in Walt is kicked back smoking his joint. What a scene. “Make yourself at home, why dont you?” says Jesse.

 


With Skyler finding out more and more about Jesse, asking why he’s calling, Walt is backed further into a corner. She has a ton of questions, especially after he spent an entire night on the bathroom floor. He gives up the goods: “He sells me pot.” An obvious lie, but a decent one. For now. She scolds him for smoking weed, reminding him that Hank (Dean Norris), his brother-in-law, is a DEA Agent. Walt tries his best to talk her down a bit. After all, he’s the one with cancer. All the while he’s doing nefarious things.
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Walt: “Right now, what I need, is for you to climb down out of my ass. Can you do that? Will you do that for me honey? Will you please, just once, get off my ass? You know Id appreciate it. I really would.”
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Both Walt and Jesse are feeling the strain. Each in their own way. Walt mumbles to himself during class. Jesse smokes a bowl full of meth.
Deciding it’s time to dispose of the dead body in the R.V., Jesse starts to haul it into the driveway. At the perfect time, Skyler shows up. She scolds him now, too. Asking for him to stop selling her husband marijuana. At least that’s the story Walt told her, if not I can imagine Hank would be busting the door in fairly quick. Also, she lets that slip. Makes things awkward between Jesse and Walt, their drug dealing and all.
But back to Jesse and the body. He decides, without consulting Mr. White, the body should go in the upstairs bathtub with a couple bottles of the acid. Except that acid is tricky. This hydrofluoric stuff won’t eat through particular plastics and other substances. It, however, eat through ceramic, like a tub. After a few minutes when Walt shows up the acid eats through the tub and crashes through the second floor, down to the first floor. Whoopsy daisy, Jesse. A fine mess for them to clean up.

 


The final scene sees a couple kids playing in the New Mexico desert. They come across the gas mask, which Walt and Jesse accidentally left behind while out on their fatal run.
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Next episode, “And the Bag’s in the River”, will show us how Walt cleans up the mess with Krazy-8. And Skyler starts moving closer to figuring out the truth about Walt’s new self.