Snakes on a Plane

I confess. I have not yet seen Snakes on a Plane.

Not that I don’t want to. I’m curious, and it sounds like fun. But I don’t have time to see every movie that attracts me, and there are plenty of other new films out there right now that are higher priorities (top of the list: Little Miss Sunshine). Besides, the Castro’s 70mm festival has drawn me away from new pictures this week (more on that below).

SoaP (as the picture’s been abbreviated) may be the first successful, interactive theatrical B movie. But it was only interactive before it was released. That’s when fans (can ansnakesonplane unreleased movie have fans?) convinced the studio to reshoot some scenes and bring the planed-as-PG-13 feature up to an R. They also insisted that the suits keep the artless but direct working title (which, I suspect, was also the pitch used to sell the story to studio executives).

Something bothered me about SoaP’s pre-release media coverage. Many early articles, written before the picture was even finished, assumed that it would be a bad movie. Okay, we knew from the title that it would a thriller with a ridiculous plot, but that’s no reason to assume it’s bad. New Line Cinema increased these suspicions by declining to preview SoaP for critics, generally a sign that the studio knows the movie stinks.

The funny thing is, it’s been getting pretty good reviews. According to Rotten Tomatoes, the reviews are 68% positive (as I write this), probably a record for a movie not screened for critics. While SoaP ruled the box office last weekend, I plunked my money down for two films that had been screened for critics, Lower City (which I really wanted to see) and Step Up (my 10-year-old daughter’s choice). Their Rotten Tomatoes scores were 58% and 22%, respectively. I probably would have had a better time with Snakes on a Plane.

hamlet96 But life wasn’t all bad. I also saw Hamlet, Cleopatra, and Titanic in 70mm at the Castro. Hamlet is a much better movie than I remembered; the good parts easily overwhelmed the bad. The beauty of 70mm presentation turned the first half of Cleopatra into a very good movie, and the second half into a watchable one (well, often watchable). Since Titanic was shot in 35mm, 70mm presentation didn’t make the difference that it did for the other two, but it’s still the best way to see that movie. (By the way, my attending the Titanic screening Thursday night is the reason this didn’t get posted until Friday morning.)

I’d like to commend the Castro’s staff for the excellent job they did with the 70mm presentation, especially for Cleopatra, a movie designed for old-fashioned roadshow engagements. The house lights came down slowly throughout the overture, with the curtain opening on the studio logo as the music finished. Just perfect. There were some sound problems with Hamlet, but not enough to mar the otherwise spectacular presentation.

If I ever do see Snakes on a Plane, it will probably be at the Parkway. Somehow, the movie seems fitting for a theater that sells pizza and beer. In the meantime, here are some other films worth checking out, all without serpents onboard fixed-wing flying vehicles.

Recommended: Capote, Creek Park, San Anselmo, Friday, 8:00. I can’t think of a historical figure more challenging for an actor than Truman Capote–you can’t do that voice without sounding like a broad comic parody. Yet Philip Seymour Hoffman makes it work in an Oscar- winning performance. The story sticks to the years that Capote researched and wrote his last and most-praised book, In Cold Blood. Hoffman creates a witty and self-centered Capote, utterly unable to handle his mixed feelings about a cold-blooded killer, or the sudden literary success of his research assistant, To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee (Catherine Keener). Like all Film Night in the Park presentations, this one is on DVD.

Recommended: Half Nelson, Rafael, opening Friday. Half Nelson is about drughalfnelson addiction the way Citizen Kane is about journalism. The drug addict in question (Ryan Gosling in the best performance of the year so far) teaches history in an inner-city middle school, and teaches it well. But when school is out, he consumes as much cocaine as he can buy, smoking crack when he can’t afford the expensive stuff. His drug-fueled life is coming apart at the seams, but he can’t step outside of his destructive path. And one student whose difficult life may be turned around by his teaching (Shareeka Epps) discovers his habit and finds herself tempted by the business ends of the drug economy. Filmmakers Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden have created a work about high ideals and low achievements that avoids clichés, melodrama (even the drug dealer is sympathetic), and easy answers.

Recommended: Scoop, 4Star, opening Friday. It’s official: Woody Allen is back in form. Match Point was a good movie, but Scoop is better than good; it’s funny. Scarlett Johansson proves herself Allen’s best muse since Diane Keaton, while Allen himself returns to the luckless schlemiel of his early work, and discovers the character to be even funnier as an old man. Johansson plays a journalism student following a hot tip on a serial killer (given to her by a ghost), and Allen plays a magician who helps her against his better judgment. Hugh Jackman does the romantic lead chores as the suspect who turns Johansson’s thoughts to love.

Recommended: Who Killed the Electric Car?, 4Star, opening Friday. In the mid-90’s,A scene from WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR?, playing at the 49th San Francisco International Film Festival, April 20 - May 4, 2006. General Motors released an electric car so wonderful that Chris Paine made this documentary about it. But GM leased these cars rather than selling them, and very few people got their hands on one. Then GM pulled the plug (so to speak) on the entire line, ceasing production and reclaiming all existing cars. Paine turns all of this into an informative, very partisan, yet breezy documentary. Interview subjects include a GM saleswoman turned activist, NIMH battery inventor Stanley Ovshinsky, and movie stars who were among the few people allowed to lease these cars (this may be the only progressive documentary with a positive image of Mel Gibson).

Not Recommended: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Creek Park, San Anselmo, Saturday, 8:00. An object lesson in how to turn a good book into a bad movie. Screenwriter Steven Kloves and director Chris Columbus follow J.K. Rowling’s novel almost scene by scene, but what worked on the page seems flabby and excessive onscreen. At least it’s better than its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, if only because Kenneth Branagh has so much fun as Professor Lockhart. To make things worse, this is a Film Night in the Park DVD presentation.

Recommended: Best In Show, Dolores Park, Saturday, 8:00. Christopher Guest’s dog-show mockumentary has more than its share of hilarious moments. The rest of it is pretty funny, too. Yet another Film Night in the Park DVD presentation.

Movies in Red Bluff

Cinematic civilization isn’t just a big city affair.

I had reason to spend last Friday night in Red Bluff, a hamlet of 13,000 considerably north of here on Interstate 5. I took a walk early Saturday morning, and spotted an old single-screen movie theater that had clearly seen better days.

You’ll find these in almost every small town. Some are split up so they can still do first-run business, although even in sections they can’t compete with a multiplex at the nearby mall. All too often, the old theater is dark. I approached this one wondering what I’d find.

The last thing I expected to see was a marquee advertising Citizen Kane. Certainly the place hadn’t been closed that long.

The State Theatre doesn’t show movies daily anymore, and doesn’t even have a 35mm projector. But the volunteers working to keep it alive show classic films every month (along with Rocky Horror midnight shows) via DVD projection. Other movies coming up include Stagecoach, My Fair Lady, and Young Frankenstein.

But in small towns as in big cities, revival cinema just isn’t the draw it once was. Executive Director Venita Philbrick told me that “The cost associated with showing movies is high – audience low… so we’ll see how it nets out next May.”

I wish them luck.

Of course, you don’t have to go to Red Bluff to see a great movie. Here are a few showing locally:

Recommended: Safety Last, Stanford, Friday, 7:30. Harold Lloyd’s iconic image, hanging from a large clock high over a city street, comes from this boy-makes-good-by-risking-his-neck fairytale. Lloyd made better pictures, but even mediocre Lloyd is funnier than most comics. And when he starts climbing that building, the laughs don’t stop. Accompanied by Chris Elliott at the Wurlitzer pipe organ.

Noteworthy: South Pacific, Castro, Saturday. Not a great movie, but an important one in the history of 70mm. South Pacific was only the third film shot in Todd-AO and thus the third released in 70mm with 6-track magnetic stereo sound. But because the process changed considerably after the first two (Okalahoma! and Around the World in 80 Days), South Pacific is really the first film released in 70mm as we came to know it. Part of the Castro’s 70mm series.

Noteworthy: Tron, Castro, Saturday, midnight. I haven’t seen Tron since it was a new movie showing on very big screens. I remember a dumb story but an entertaining light show. In those days, whatever computer geek in-jokes it contained went over my head. Today, I suspect Tron would have considerable historical interest. It was the first feature film to extensively use what we now call CGI. It was one of only two Hollywood films shot in 65mm between 1971 and 1992. And it was probably the last big movie about computers made before they became household appliances. Another part of the Castro’s 70mm series.

Recommended: High Noon Stanford, Saturday through Monday. Gary Cooper discovers who his real friends are (just about no one) when criminals are coming to get him in Carl Foreman and Fred Zinnemann’s simple fable of courage under fire. A stand-out great western from an era of great westerns, and arguably the best without input from either John Ford or John Wayne. Foreman’s last produced screenplay before getting blacklisted, High Noon can be interpreted as a parable to a Hollywood gripped in McCarthyite fear. On a double-bill with Love in the Afternoon.

Recommended, with Reservations: Hamlet, (1996), Castro, Sunday. There’s a lot to like about Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, and a lot to not like. But then, as the only film of the play’s complete text, resulting in a 242-minute running time, there’s a lot, period. On the plus side, Branagh has a unique and valid interpretation of the story, visually equating a dysfunctional royal family with a sick nation. The lead actors, including Kate Winslet, Julie Christie, Derek Jacobi, and Branagh himself, are all spot-on. But Branagh fills the picture with unnecessary visual flourishes and distracting movie star cameos, some by performers who have no business doing Shakespeare. The result is brilliant–except when it’s laughable. This was the last feature film shot in 65mm. More of the Castro’s 70mm series.

Noteworthy: Cleopatra (1963) Castro, Monday. At 243 minutes, this widescreen epic clocks in as the longest single theatrical release by a major American studio. And at an estimated 40 million 1963 dollars, it’s probably the most expensive. I found the first half mildly entertaining and the second half boring (despite a torrid off-camera affair, Burton and Taylor fail to light up the screen), but then I’ve never seen Cleopatra under good conditions. I’ve heard that properly shown, this very big film comes alive as a visual feast. Happily, the Castro is properly showing a new 70mm print in a screening postponed from the 12th; they needed to upgrade the sound system for it. Note: I accidentally stated here that Cleopatra will be shown on Saturday. I corrected my error on Friday, 8/18.

Recommended: Playtime, Castro, Tuesday. Monsieur Hulot adrift and befuddled in modern Paris. That’s all there is of plot in Jacques Tati’s masterpiece, and that’s all that’s needed. One of the funniest films of the 1960’s, but in an odd, almost meditative way. And even when you’re not laughing, you’re fascinated by the little details of Tati’s city-sized universe. Tati spent (and lost) a fortune on Playtime, building a giant set and shooting the movie in 65mm for 70mm release, and the result is ours to enjoy–immensely. Yup; it’s in the Castro’s 70mm series.

Noteworthy: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Castro, Wednesday. I loved this movie when I was nine years old, but when I saw it as an adult (on laserdisc about twelve years ago), it had lost a lot of its luster. Three hours of solid slapstick is a bit much, especially when performed by nightclub and television comics experienced in getting laughs while standing still, and directed by a man with no comedy experience of any sort. Yet this screening at the Castro’s 70mm Series is hard to resist. Mad World was one of only nine features shot in Ultra Panavision (aka MGM Camera 65), a 65mm process with the widest aspect ratio ever used in Hollywood. This screening will be the first proper Ultra Panavision presentation of any movie in Bay Area in more than 40 years, and the first such local screening of Mad World ever.

Recommended: Titanic, Castro, Thursday, 8:00. It went insanely over budget, then went on to become the most successful film of all time, thanks largely to teenage girls who couldn’t get enough of Leonardo DiCaprio. No wonder so many cinephiles hate Titanic. Too bad for them. This is a big, broad, rousing entertainment told on an epic scale. Writer/director James Cameron perfectly balances intimate melodrama of doomed love with big adventure of a doomed ship, giving us romance, class warfare, history, tragedy, suspense, sex, and plenty of special effects. Closing night of the Castro’s 70mm series.

Lousy and Expensive

What this country needs is a really good, big budget, escapist action flick.

No, that sentence is neither oxymoronic nor sacrilegious. These things exist. Last year we had Star Wars III, Batman Begins, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, King Kong, and Narnia, all superb entertainments providing plenty of fun and computer-generated spectacle, while still managing to tell good stories.

This summer, so far, we’ve had Superman Returns and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. That’s overbloated, overlong, and underwritten, times two.

I won’t go into detail. It’s been a crazy week for me, so I’ll cut right to this week’s movies.

Recommended: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Castro, Friday. I used to worship Stanley Kubrick’s visualization of Arthur C. Clarke’s imagination. But it hasn’t aged all that well; we’ve all seen the actual year, and know that Clark and Kubrick got almost everything wrong. Yet there’s no denying the pull of 2001’s unorthodox storytelling and visual splendor–if you can see it in the right theater. 2001 was shot for 70mm projection on a giant, curved, Cinerama screen, an experience that’s simply not available today in the Bay Area. The best we have is 70mm on the Castro’s flat screen. That’s good enough to make it worth catching. Part of the Castro’s 70mm Series series.

Recommended: Notorious, Stanford, Friday through Monday. One of Hitchcock’s best. In order to prove her patriotism, scandal-ridden Ingrid Bergman seduces, beds, and marries Claude Rains’ Nazi industrialist, while true love Cary Grant grimly watches. Sexy, romantic, thought-provoking, and scary enough to shorten your fingernails. On a double-bill with Casablanca.

Recommended: Casablanca, Stanford, Friday through Monday. What can I say? You’ve either already seen it or you know you should. Let me just add that no one who worked on Casablanca thought they were making a masterpiece; it was just another movie coming off the Warner assembly line. But somehow, just this once, everything came together perfectly. On a double-bill with Notorious; you don’t get two better films for one admission price.

Not Recommended: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, 4Star, opens Friday. Yet another bad sequel to a good movie. Whereas the original Pirates of the Caribbean tread lightly over its silly story, this one takes itself seriously. But as there’s nothing serious about the shallow and meaningless story, all we get is dark imagery and poor attempts at character development that get in the way of the fun. Worse yet, it ends with a cliffhanger; no one is supposed to see Dead Man’s Chest and skip the third installment. The two good action scenes aren’t enough to justify an otherwise dreary 2 ½-hour movie.

Recommended: Scoop, Balboa, opens Friday. It’s official: Woody Allen is back in form. Match Point was a good movie, but Scoop is better than good; it’s funny. Scarlett Johansson proves herself Allen’s best muse since Diane Keaton, while Allen himself returns to the luckless schlemiel of his early work, and discovers the character to be even funnier as an old man. Johansson plays a journalism student following a hot tip on a serial killer (given to her by a ghost), and Allen plays a magician who helps her. Hugh Jackman does the romantic lead chores as the suspect who turns Johansson’s thoughts to love.

Noteworthy: Cleopatra (1963) Castro, Saturday. At 243 minutes, this widescreen epic clocks in as the longest single theatrical release by a major American studio. And at an estimated 40 million 1963 dollars, it’s quite likely the most expensive. I found the first half mildly entertaining and the second half boring (despite a torrid off-camera affair, Burton and Taylor fail to light up the screen), but then I’ve never seen a good print of Cleopatra. I’ve heard that properly shown, this very big film comes alive as a visual feast. Happily, the Castro is properly showing a new print in their 70mm Series.

Recommended: Lawrence of Arabia, Castro, Sunday and Monday. Lawrence isn’tjust the best big historical epic of the 70mm roadshow era, it’s one of the greatest films ever made. Stunning to look at and terrific as pure spectacle, it’s also an intelligent study of a fascinatingly complex and enigmatic war hero. T. E. Lawrence–at least in this film–both loved and hated violence, and tried liberating Arabia by turning it over to the British. This masterpiece isn’t worth seeing on DVD and barely worthwhile in 35mm. Shot in Super Panavision 70, it takes 70mm to reach it’s potential. Lawrence will be shown that way as part of the Castro’s 70mm Series.

Recommended: Baraka, Castro, Wednesday and Thursday. Strange, haunting, beautiful, and terrifying, Baraka defies description. Without plot, narration, or explanation, it simply presents images of nature, humanity, and humanity’s effect on nature. Even if you don’t see a message (there is one), you’re captivated by the music and the clear and perfect visuals. Baraka was one of the last films, and one of the few art films, shot in 65mm. Part of the Castro’s 70mm Series.

Glorious 70mm

Fifty years ago, Hollywood desperately needed to tempt people away from their TVs. They turned to bigger, wider techniques for shooting and presenting movies. A lot of formats were tried, but only one survived for 40 years as a way to make that movie at that theater an extra-special treat: 70mm. The Castro‘s second 70mm Series, starting next Friday, gives us a rare chance to enjoy big movies on a big screen, projected from a very big piece of film.

A quick, technical and historical explanation: There was 70mm in the silent era, and Imax uses 70mm film today. But when film buffs talk of 70mm, we generally mean a specifictoddao presentation standard introduced with the Todd-AO format and the movie Okalahoma in 1955. Except for revival showings, that type of 70mm died in the mid-1990’s.

Todd-AO films were shot on 65mm film and only presented theatrically in 70mm; the additional five millimeters were for six tracks of high-quality magnetic sound. Some 40 big-budget movies were made that way, not always with the Todd-AO brand name, over the next 15 years. 65mm production was all but dead by 1971, but 70mm blow-ups of films shot in 35mm enjoyed huge popularity from the late 1970’s until digital sound robbed the format of 70mm its audio (but not its visual) specialty. For more on the technology and history, see the Todd-AO, Super Panavision 70, and Ultra Panavision sections of Martin Hart’s American Widescreen Museum. You’ll also find informative articles at in70mm.com.

The Castro put together an exceptional series this year, with 12 films–nine shot in 65mm–that illustrate how filmmakers used the large format to show off the big and the beautiful. These 12 films include the third film released in the still-new format (South Pacific) and the very last one (Titanic), three of only five American films shot in 65mm in the last 35 years (Tron, Baraka, and Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet), the two longest films ever released theatrically by major American studios (Cleopatra and Hamlet), two films that cost more than any film before them (Cleopatra and Titanic), the Bay Area’s first anamorphic Ultra Panavision85_lawrence_of_arabia presentation in 40 years (It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World), the current box office champ (Titanic), two Best Picture Oscar winners (Lawrence of Arabia and Titanic), and two pictures that frequent "Greatest Films of All Time" lists (Lawrence of Arabia and 2001: A Space Odyssey).

My sources at the Castro promise no faded prints this year. Although the oldest movie is from 1958, the oldest print is from 1984, after slow-fade stock was introduced.

No 70mm this week, but we have some good films in 35mm (and even on DVD).

incontruthRecommended: An Inconvenient Truth, Lark, opens Friday. If Al Gore had been this charming and funny in the 2000 election, the world would be a better place. Basically a concert film of a multimedia slideshow, An Inconvenient Truth explains the science and dangers of global  warming in a manner so clear, concise, and entertaining that it can enthrall a ten-year-old (and I know because I saw it with one). I’m generally skeptical about political documentaries as a force for good, but if it’s possible for a movie to have a major, positive effect on the human race, this is the one.

Not Recommended: Superman Returns, Balboa, ongoing. Back in 2000, Bryan Singer turned the comic book superhero movie into art with X-Men, combining an intriguing concept, political symbolism, emotionally believable characters, and great action sequences. So it’s a big disappointment that he fails so utterly with the most famous superhero of them all. The big problem is in the casting; it takes someone special to make you believe in their powers and care about their inner demons. His Superman, Brandon Routh, is anything but special. Kate Bosworth’s Lois Lane is a perfect match for Routh; she’s lousy, too. The great special effects and Kevin Spacey’s wonderful turn as Lex Luthor help, but not enough to fill a 152-minute movie. On a double-bill with Lady in the Water.

Not Recommended: Cars, Elmwood, opening Friday. So much for the animation studio that could do no wrong. Pixar’s first bad movie suffers from two inexcusable faults. First, the protagonist is neither likeable nor interesting, despite being voiced by Owen Wilson, who is quite capable of being both. And second, the 116-minute picture is too long for its few laughs and predicable characters. Cars lets the mind wander, and mine wandered towards some very basic problems with the premise that wouldn’t have bothered me in an entertaining movie.

azumi Not Recommended: Azumi, 4Star, opens Friday. Does the world really need a self-consciously hip samurai movie? The young fighters in Azumi use words like "cool" (at least in the English subtitles) and fight to electronic, semi-rock music. That would be forgivable if the characters and story were interesting, but it’s hard to care about a group of youthful government assassins with a master who tests his students by ordering them to kill their best friends. (The youngsters occasionally question such orders, but never enough to rebel.) Nor is there much to like about the endless, Hong Kong-inspired fights, filled with the now clichéd flying people and overloud sound effects, all washed down with more gushing blood than a busy day in a slaughterhouse.

Recommended: On Native Soil: The Documentary of the 9/11 Commission Report, Roxie, opens Friday. The attacks of that day were a horrible, deeply personal tragedy for thousands of people. For many of the survivors and those who lost loved ones, the pain is sharpened by the disorganization and ineptitude of just about every organization involved (with the unfortunate exception of al-Qaeda). onnativesoil We get to know some of those living victims in Linda Ellman’s documentary, which also details the mistakes and broken systems that worsened this already horrible atrocity. Ellman’s TV roots show up in unfortunate ways; fast editing synced to an overly emphatic musical score gives On Native Soil the desperate-not-to-bore feeling of an E! biopic. But the documentary still gives you as clear, complete, and emotionally resonant a view of that day as you can get in two hours.

Recommended: Four Weeks in June, Rafael, Saturday, 6:45. An alienated young woman in trouble with the law befriends an old woman with a secret past. By keeping close to the dark edges of both characters, writer/director Henry Meyer avoids the story’s obvious sentimentality and gives us two wounded souls in search of healing. Think of it as Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont with fully-developed human beings. Part of the Jewish Film Festival.

Recommended: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Ross Common, Saturday, 8:00. I agree with common wisdom: Raider of the Lost Ark is a masterpiece of escapist actionindianajones3 entertainment. But I split with the herd on this second sequel; to my mind, it improves on near-perfection. The action sequences are just as well done, but the pacing is better; this time Spielberg knew exactly when to give you a breather. Best of all, adding Sean Connery as the hero’s father humanizes Jones and provides plenty of good laughs. Just don’t confuse The Last Crusade with the wretched Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And don’t confuse this DVD presentation by Film Night in the Park with the real Indiana Jones–at least in 35mm but preferably 70mm–experience.

Recommended: Strangers on a Train, Stanford, Saturday through Monday. One of Hitchcock’s scariest films, and therefore one of his best. A rich, spoiled psychotic killer (the worst kind) convinces himself that a moderately-famous athlete has agreed to exchange murders. The athlete soon finds himself hounded by suspicious cops who think he’s killed his wife and a psycho who thinks the athlete owes him a murder. On a double bill with Rebecca, the only Hitchcock movie to win a Best Picture Oscar.

Recommended: Local Call! Roda Theatre, Berkeley, Saturday, 9:30; Rafael, localcallMonday, 8:45. What’s scarier than your dead father calling constantly from beyond the grave? The phone bills. That’s what Sergio Castellitto discovers in this very funny French comedy that app ears to be inspired by the Book of Job. As his father (voiced by Michel Serrault) continues to harass him about a coat, and the phone bills send him into poverty, every other aspect of his respectable, middleclass life falls apart. Director/co-writer Arthur Joffé meditates hilariously on memory, communication, Jewish spirituality, and the precariousness of our comfortable lives. Part of the Jewish Film Festival.

Recommended: Forgiving Dr. Mengele, Rafael, Sunday, 12:00 noon. "Getting even has never healed a single person.– I didn’t think there was anything new for a Holocaust documentary to say, but then I’d never before seen one about Eva Mozes Kor. A survivor of Mengele’s notorious "experiments– at Auschwitz, and now a real estate agent in Indiana, Kor devotes herself to keeping the memory of the Shoah alive, even running a small museum in her adopted home town. Yet this feisty little woman has done something altogether remarkable, and controversial among survivors. She has publicly forgiven the mass murderers who killed her family and turned her childhood into a living hell. An expertly-made documentary about a remarkable human being. Part of the Jewish Film Festival.

alien Recommended: Alien, Parkway, Tuesday, 9:15. In 1975, Jaws broke box office records. Two years later, Star Wars jumped light years over Jaws’ grosses. Is it any wonder that Hollywood would soon put a scary, carnivorous creature on a spaceship? No, the wonder is that screenwriter Dan O’Bannon and director Ridley Scott did such a great job. First, they created the most realistic space jockeys yet to grace movie science fiction–eight working-class astronauts who talk about their contract and complain about the food. Then they placed them on a ship that seemed both believable and creepy. Finally, they added a difficult-to-see, constantly changing, and very hungry monster with a talent for camouflage. And let us not forget Sigourney Weaver in the role that made her a star. A benefit for the Chiapas Support Committee.

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