Sunday, July 25, 2010

Inception: On Backlashes, Second Viewings, and Dead Cats

Warning: Do not read on unless you have actually seen "Inception." And even if you don't care about spoilers, I command you to proceed with caution.
So, here we are. "Inception" has officially been in theaters for two weekends. It's also been a little over a week since I first laid eyes on it and made it out to be a magnum opus unlike any we've ever seen (or, unlike any we've seen since Kubrick or Scorsese and Coppola in their prime). Since then, the film has made a killing at the box office, and has been called both an epic masterpiece and an overrated piece of crap.

Yes, many have dared to call "Inception" overrated. Others have dared to call it resistant to criticism. This just shows how no one seems to know what "Inception" really is. And let's hope it stays that way.

I am going to assume that most everyone who has decided to read this article has either already seen "Inception" or just doesn't care if anything gets spoiled at all. I will be light on the spoilers, but a little more specific than last time. I don't know if I'm qualified enough to write about "Inception" again. Even after seeing it again, and I feel like I understand a great deal more, I still feel like I know nothing. Yet "Inception" is just one of those movies you have to talk and write about as much as possible after viewing them.

It is safe enough to say that "Inception" has received an overwhelmingly positive response. Some make legitimate arguments. Others are just hating for the sake of being contrarian. Others are exposing everything that is wrong with modern film criticism.


It is not just one group of people who are causing the problems. The haters seemed ready to hate "Inception" since before it was even released. This goes even beyond Armond White, the now notorious critical contrarian. I won't spend too much time on White, but I will say that it's one thing to not like a movie because it is flawed, and another to not like it because you feel it has enough love already.

And then there are those people who think that "Inception" should be shielded from all criticism. These people seem to think just because it is so unique that nobody should be allowed to point to its problems. Well, everyone has a right to their opinion, and in a time where the art of film criticism is in danger, telling a critic to shut it seems kind of dangerous. As much as I love Rotten Tomatoes, I might have to blame this on them. There is a sort of feeling these days that if a movie doesn't receive a perfect 100%, then it is no good. Right now, "Inception" stands at 87%. Most movies would dream to have that much approval.

But enough with the triviality of reality. It's time to delve into the world of movies. Specifically, the world of "Inception." And what a world it is. Even on a second viewing, there was still something amazingly unique about it. While some movies that are full of surprises feel less surprising on a second viewing, "Inception" is still filled with new things.

If you've only seen "Inception" once, chances are you are really confused. It makes sense why anyone would be confused after just one viewing, but the funny thing is that no one should be. With a close listen to the dialogue, you can see that almost everything is totally spelled out for you. Almost every single line of the film is pure exposition. Yet, it seems even breezier and more fascinating on a second listen. Exposition can be fine if it's actually interesting.

I found on a second viewing that I was paying less attention the spectacle and more attention to the actual story. Yes, the folding city and zero gravity fighting are still awesome, but there's nothing quite like seeing scenes like that fresh. But when you look at the scenery, you really can miss the depth. Many have found "Inception" to be weakest in its story. That might be thought of in one viewing. But there really is more than meets the eye.

What really stood out now were the film's themes. The central question goes well beyond is this reality or a dream. It is more like when does reality start and subconscious set in, and vice versa. The question could even extend to whether or not one or the other doesn't even exist, or whether they exist in the same place.

This can be seen when paying very close attention to Mal (Marion Cotillard). She's more than just a projection, she is Cobb's totem. While Cobb is constantly spinning the top to see if he is dreaming or not, that was Mal's totem. In that sense, he doesn't use it so much to see whether or not he is in a dream, but whether or not he will get to see his wife again. Perhaps the reason he didn't even pay attention to whether or not the top was going to fall in the end was because he had totally let go of his wife. Whether or not she showed up was irrelevant.

In the relationship between Cobb and Mal lies the film's true heart. And while others didn't notice, it is beating. In addition, despite the fact that the scene where Fischer (Cillian Murphy) confronts his dying father was imagined, there was something extremely satisfying about the revelation reached at the end of it. Fischer, like Cobb, could not function on his own without getting rid of the weight of his troubled past. Dreams are where we go to escape our troubled pasts, and our even more troubled presents.

Something that is harder to notice is the film's very keen sense of humor. Most of the jokes are quick enough that only someone who has viewed the movie twice can really catch them. They also manage to work well in part of the actors. Tom Hardy as the forger Eames added a dry sense of playful British humor to every scene he was in.

But the second time around, one laugh I didn't expect came at the end. After waiting in anticipation to see the fate of the spinning top (even though I knew the ending, I was still at the edge of my seat), the whole audience began to laugh once the screen turned black. They weren't laughing at the movie, but rather with it. Perhaps Nolan actually intended that ending to be a sick joke. Maybe the moment the screen faded to black the top either fell or kept spinning.

Yes, that final shot is just one tiny shot. But it really needs to be discussed. It is more of a paradox than the infinite staircase. Yet, at that point, it almost didn't seem to matter whether or not Cobb was dreaming or awake at that point. The last shot was a sort of Schrodinger's Cat: the ending is both relevant and irrelevant at the same time.

The top is so important because this tiny toy encapsulates the whole point of the movie. Perhaps the most important line in the film is when Mal tells Cobb there are three options in life: what you believe, what you want to believe, and what you know is real. In the case of whether or not the top keeps spinning or collapses, I could say I believe that Cobb is in reality, I want to believe that Cobb is dreaming, and I know that it's impossible to ever know which one it actually is. Any of these three answers, even the one about what is real, can be altered in some way. Just like dreams have different meanings to different people, the whole of "Inception" can mean so many different things. By opening up the possibility to us that nothing we saw took place in reality, Nolan was in effect performing inception on the audience.

That leads to a theory that's been widely discussed and is extremely plausible: "Inception" is a metaphor for the act of filmmaking itself. Each person who serves a role could also serve on a film set. Both involve artists meticulously creating worlds from scratch and keeping them from falling apart.

For one more second, back to that ending. There is indeed proof of multiple conclusions. Notice how the light in Cobb's house shines in the same way it did when him and Mal woke up. Notice also that this time, his children turned around while in his dreams they never did. Then again, maybe that's because he never bothered looking in his dreams.

So maybe it is too early to call "Inception" one of cinema's greatest. "Citizen Kane" wasn't called the best film in 1941. I'm not saying "Inception" has quite the impact on filmmaking as "Citizen Kane" did. But I do know that it will forever effect the way I watch and process film. It truly did push boundaries both visually and narratively. It simultaneously achieved mirror-breaking self-reflexiviness and it also became an allegory for the world we live in. I don't think I'm over-analyzing when I say that "Inception" reflects a world where people are more interested in creating their own worlds than fixing the one they actually live in.

Now, who here is ready for round three?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Movie Review: Inception

Dreams are not reality. Movies are not reality. They are both part of what he have in life, and mostly what we really want. That's why they're constantly a focus in movies. Though the whole "it was all a dream" ending had worn out its welcome. That is until "Inception" landed in theaters and completely redefined reality and imagination.

"Inception" is a film that's been hyped up for months. It brilliantly showed us gripping footage while keeping us totally in the dark. For once in your life, you'll feel like you walked into a movie not knowing a single thing about what it really is. It's more than the thriller you thought it would be. It's, well, maybe you should be kept in the dark about that.

I will give you something, maybe slightly more than you could get from some commercials. "Inception" brings us to what may or may not be a futuristic dystopia. Or else it is a slightly altered version of our own time. In this world, technology exists that allows one to enter the human mind through dreams and use that to gather and manipulate ideas. It's called Inception. Two "architects," Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), are experts at this. Cobb is addicted to exploring the world of dreams, so much so that it causes strains between him and his family.

Cobb and Arthur are hired by a shady businessman (Ken Watanabe) to find some information for them. The two team up with a bright, young student (Ellen Page) to embark on a mind-bending, possibly dangerous journey into the human subconscious.

It's hard to know where to begin with "Inception." The way to enjoy "Inception" is to suspend reality and be engrossed into the many worlds you are introduced to. That's why the set pieces and camera are so crucial. This is a rare film that actually uses its sets properly. And much of what you see is done without the aid of CGI. Christopher Nolan decided to go the old-fashioned way and actually build real sets. For that, I applaud him.

Every location and every shot of the film feels so authentic, and so imaginative. The laws of gravity and physics no longer apply. Cities runoff into the sky. People can float. Objects can move at any pace they want. This is a world without rules.

With the infinite possibilities that lie within dreams, Nolan is given the freedom to bring the story into whatever direction he wants. Most directors seem to stop at certain points because they don't want to lose their audience. Nolan doesn't care if you're following or not. He'll go as far as he wants, for however long he wants to.

Nolan though is trying to unite two different crowds: those who want a thought-provoking movie, and those who want high-class entertainment. "Inception" amazingly caters to both needs.

As an action movie, "Inception" keeps you in constant suspense and constant shock. Fight scenes, whether real or imagined, are given time and detail. They aren't filled with the insanely fast cuts that made movies like "The A-Team" almost unwatchable. Nolan lets the audience savor every blow delivered.

The one action piece you won't stop thinking about involves a hallway and a lack of gravity. Any amount of description I provide can't possibly ruin it for you. It looks accurate enough to have been a green screen.

"Inception" proves a conclusion that has already been reached: Nolan is a master. He knows how to turn spaces into haunting visual nightmares. The looming shots of Tokyo and other metropolises might as well be Gotham City. He can then take those landscapes and fill them with incredibly complex stories.

Nolan's narrative techniques are as interesting as his directing. Much of the dialogue in the film is expository, but hearing every step of the process is so fascinating that you won't mind. Intertwined is some enlightening discussion about the nature of dreams and the human mind. It's the kind of information that must've taken years of research. How Nolan could fit all that in while making two "Batman" movies is a mystery to me.

The plot of "Inception" unfolds very slowly. As the characters enter deeper levels into the dream world, new layers of plot unfold. Strangely, the more chaotic things get, the clearer the story becomes.

It's kind of hard for any one actor in this film to truly shine, as Nolan and the visuals totally steal the show. That's not to say there isn't some fine acting. "Inception" boasts a few of the most talented young actors working today. With both "Inception" and "Shutter Island" this year, DiCaprio has proven himself an actor responsible of mature and psychologically complex roles. He knows how to play people so torn up that they can barely even function as humans. He is starting to become the DeNiro of our generation. Gordon-Levitt and Page meanwhile, provide a perfect counterbalance of wit and charm along with both understanding and total confusion.

All of this leads me to say that beyond all of the action, "Inception" is truly a human story. It is about loss and regret and the dream being an outlet to both conceal and confront the darkest parts of our lives. Dreaming can be a means of both escape and confrontation.

"Inception" reminded me for the first time in a long time what a true moviegoing experience is like. The theater exists for a reason. That reason is when you have a story this complex and sprawling, you need a gigantic screen to fill the room and truly take in everything being shown. It is in a space like this where we are most able to suspend reality. Plus, when you have a film this good on a screen big enough, it can truly suck you into the story. At a time like this in a film like this, 3D seems irrelevant. Your mind creates the illusion of being in a third dimension.

To call "Inception" the best movie made in a very long time would be an understatement. Nothing has changed the rules of cinema this much since "The Matrix." It combines so many genres into one mesmerizing whole. At so many points it could've fallen apart but Nolan keeps it intact.

"Inception" is a thriller of the mind that won't leave your mind. After some movies end, you immediately know you have to see it again. Only with "Inception" will you know that from the very first scene.

If You Liked this Movie, You'll also Like: Memento, Mulholland Dr., The Dark Knight, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Matrix, Shutter Island, Fight Club, Blue Velvet, Blade Runner
For more awesome mind-bending movies, check this out.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Movie Review: The Kids Are All Right

Face it, all romantic films turn out the same. In that light, it doesn't matter what happens in the end, but rather how you get to that end point. That could include the events that occur throughout the film, or the larger context in which those events happen. In a world where romance seems dead, "The Kids Are All Right" is there to kick that notion right in the butt.

As much as people like to make fun of where the Indie genre has gone, give it credit for continuing to make common ideas seem fresh. "The Kids Are All Right" is a mixture of suburban boredom with teen angst and sexual confusion. The centerpiece couple is lesbians Nic (Annette Benning) and Jules (Julianne Moore). Nic takes on the uptight parent role, while Jules is more open-minded. However, they are both equally motherly.

Jules and Nic have two children: the brainy and sexually repressed Joni (Mia Wasikowska) and the just plain confused Laser (Josh Hutcherson). After discovering their origins, the two become curious about who their real father is. They find out he is a semi-hippie named Paul (Mark Ruffalo). Despite being a college dropout, Paul now runs a successful organic farming business and restaurant. The kids meet Paul, and they get along quite well. Something about Paul might seem strange, but Ruffalo's constantly calm and always reassuring voice quells all fears.

The rest of "The Kids Are All Right" is one of those films whose story doesn't stem off of a major event but rather a person. Every action that happens in the rest of the film happens as a direct result of the family's contact with Paul.

"The Kids Are All Right" goes at two contradicting paces. First off, it goes slow. It takes its time and enjoys itself while doing so. At the same time, it feels so energetic and lively. Even if you can feel the running time, you'll never feel bored. The film definitely chews up the beautiful Southern California scenery.

The music that director Lisa Cholodenko chose also fits in perfectly. The film's opening track is Vampire Weekend's "Cousins." I am usually irked when films use recent, popular music. It can feel like they're just capitalizing off of something popular rather than actually choosing the right songs. However, "Cousins" is well chosen. It projects both a strangely happy mood as well as a sense of the twisted family troubles on the horizon.

Once again, "The Kids Are All Right" doesn't contain the lightning-fast storytelling common place in most films made today. Even though I could definitely feel every moment, I would've been fine with sitting in the theater for another two hours with these characters. That's what good storytelling does: it puts you into a convincing universe and lets you out whenever it damn well feels like letting you out. "The Kids Are All Right" ended where it wanted to end because it earned the right to.

This film contains an ensemble worthy of a SAG Award. Benning shows so many flared up, mixed emotions both through her words and even more powerfully, body expressions. Moore is a powerhouse of warmth and motherly humor. Then there's also Wasikowska. I thought she showed potential in "Alice in Wonderland," but she just needed a project that was actually, well, good. After "The Kids Are All Right," she has proven herself ready to take on even more challenging roles.

Along with great acting, "The Kids Are All Right" certainly has one of the best screenplays this year. It's so insightful and downright hilarious. It embraces awkwardness at all the right moments.

But beyond its witty and thoughtful dialogue there lies something within the film that is almost groundbreaking. For one of the first times, a gay couple was portrayed just like any other couple would be portrayed. The film so truthfully shows what it would feel like to have two moms. That opening dinner scene felt so unbelievably real in the way the characters interact with each other. The "L word" isn't in site at any point. In an ever troublesome world, "The Kids Are All Right" is a sign of the times that actually makes me feel good about the time I'm growing up in.

Even though you know where the makers of "The Kids Are All Right" lean, this film never at one point tries to make a political statement. It is simply trying to tell a good story, which it does quite well. In its exploration of the meaning of family and the troubles of sex, it evokes the best social commentaries of the 1970s as well as such other great films as "Juno" and "American Beauty." "The Kids Are All Right" proves that maybe the kids will turn out all right. Hopefully, more movies will follow in its footsteps and turn out all right, too.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Movie Review: Despicable Me

Hey everyone, Pixar doesn't have to be the only studio allowed to make animated films. Competition begets creativity. In the case of animated competition, Illumination Entertainment gave us "Despicable Me." It might feel a little less grown up than "Toy Story 3" but that doesn't stop it from being entertaining and even a little touching.

I don't mean to keep comparing "Despicable Me" to Pixar, because it deserves to seen as its own separate entity. It reminded me a little bit of "The Incredibles" for the world of super villains. It's all about Gru (Steve Carell). Gru has a reputation for being the world's greatest villain. He's bald, has something of a hunchback, and has a creepy French accent that makes him sound a bit like Tommy Wiseau.

Gru's status as greatest villain is threatened. The young and clumsy Vector (Jason Segel) impresses the world of evil by stealing the Pyramids. This also puts a damper on some of Gru's biggest plans. Gru does what any evil genius would do: adopt three innocent little girls to secretly undermine for your operations. This works fine, until you begin to feel compassion.

"Despicable Me" doesn't quite look as well polished as some of the other big animated films. Yet, there's something about its animation that is both realistic and eye-poppingly alive. The animated world around the characters is more than convincing enough for the audience to totally buy it.

Even the characters come with a convincing reality to them. A few flashbacks make Gru's evil seem a little more understandable. Who said a movie for children couldn't have a little depth to it?

Another thing that adds to the characters is the excellent voice talent. Usually, recording a role for an animated film doesn't require much effort. However, the actors here actually add some personality to their roles. Segel weirdly feels like the awkward guy he always plays. Carell's never really played a villain before, yet he manages to pull of some of his dorky and lovable qualities that he's so good at.

What can make a children's movie go from children's movie to family film is how universal its story and themes are. "Despicable Me" gets that down right. It provides a framework that makes room for endless imagination. It has fun showing off both Gru's crazy inventions (which involve a ridiculous car and a shrink ray) and his pension for evil. While some animated films can get carried away with visual gags, the best jokes of "Despicable Me" come as a result of the imagery. At times though, you just have to look closely, or you might miss it.

Probably the highlight of the movie are the little Minions, Gru's assistants. What species they are is never stated, but they look like talking yellow Mike and Ikes. They speak a strange language and do nothing but cause problems. They seem like the kind of characters who would get their own short film before a big movie starts. Their running time was extended, with great results.

"Despicable Me" has a heart and a message to it that's beyond the typical "don't judge others" and "be nice" that you get from most children's movies. "Despicable Me" is about the value of family, and how much different life can be when you have someone to care for, and someone else who actually cares for you. This is so much more than you might get from say, "Shrek" or "Shark Tale," so why did it have to go with the typical dance sequence ending? "Despicable Me," you are better than that.

Besides that little hiccup, even if you don't have a kid, have a little heart to check this movie out. Hey, it probably has one of the more original stories this summer.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Halfway Through: The Best Films of the First Half of 2010

There has been an unreasonably large amount of articles lately chronicling the best films of the first half of 2010. As a journalist, I need to stay relevant. So, why not chime in as well.

So far, this year in cinema has been quite odd. So far, trash has just been piling on and on. Big films have either been disappointing or flat out awful. "Robin Hood" was an example of Hollywood desperately trying to market off an existing franchise. That one failed, miserably. Another movie, "The A-Team," is an example of the death of both originality and intellect.

Yet, maybe the financial troubles of those two films could prove that the public is actually starting to search for quality, not crap. But then again, some really great films also had trouble finding an audience. And yes, there have been a few really great films so far this year, ones that will most likely make it onto my year end top 10 list.

The best films so far this year are a mixture of independent and mainstream. Some are ultra violent, and others are ultra silly. Since we are only halfway through the year, I will do only half of a top 10 list. Here are my five favorite films so far from 2010. They are listed in alphabetical order, as I still have half a year to decide what is truly best.

Fish Tank
Nobody can do Realism quite like the Brits can. "Fish Tank" is a gritty and unflinching look at the troubles of a rebellious teenage girl living in a London slum. It's documentary-like style is almost painful; it introduces to moments that perhaps we aren't even supposed to see. But we're looking at it for the better. Even from a removed distance, we feel with the characters, and change with them. Challenge yourself to watch it; you won't regret it.


The movie to end all superhero movies, though it probably won't. "Kick-Ass" manages to be so many things. While it's a social satire about why superheroes can't exist in reality, it's also a fine entry into the superhero genre. It's one of the best made films in a while, and it contains some amazingly shot action sequences. It's also not afraid to get gory. In a world where few things seem taboo anymore, "Kick-Ass" is the rare film that actually feels edgy for all the right reasons. Oh, and I have to mention Hit-Girl. Believe me, you'll never stop talking about her.


By far the most underrated film of the year. Most unfortunately saw "MacGruber" as dumb and unnecessarily vulgar. Vulgar indeed, but not stupid. What exactly is the essence of the brilliance of "MacGruber"? Is it how it managed to take a one minute long sketch and develop it into a feature length story? Or is it how perfectly it mocked the action genre without repeatedly winking at the audience? I would say a little bit of both. I think what made "MacGruber" ultimately so satisfying is that it's truly, originally hilarious. It might not have made as much as "Killers," but I think we all know which one people will be talking about 10 years from now.

Shutter Island

If there's one person on the planet who could make a mainstream film feel like art, it's Martin Scorsese. "Shutter Island" could've been a total disaster, but all it really needed was someone with as extensive a knowledge of film as Scorsese has. The film is a throwback to '50s noir. It utilizes cinematography and soundtrack to the highest degree in order to elevate the extremely creepy atmosphere. It's brilliant technically, but it's also given a heart by the emotionally complex performance by Leonardo DiCaprio, who proves himself a better and better actor everyday. And unless you've read the book, there's a nice little surprise waiting for you at the end. "Shutter Island" is a movie made for movie lovers.

Toy Story 3

Few movies have the capacity to both make me cry and feel like a child again. Congratulations, "Toy Story 3," on getting nostalgia down right. "Toy Story" captured two very important moments in my life: the beginning of my childhood, and the end of it. I remember seeing the first one in theaters, and I'll never forget when I saw the third one. But if you didn't grow up with "Toy Story," then see it because it proves why animation is officially a respectable form of art in society. It's fun and it's filled with more actual jokes than just pop culture references. Pixar, keep being you.

A Few Other Good Ones: Hot Tub Time Machine, Greenberg, Cyrus, Winter's Bone, Splice, The Ghost Writer

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Movie Review: Aliens

It's time to put on your geek hat and forget for a moment the notion that all sequels suck. Just step back in a time machine and relive the days when summer blockbusters used to be really good, and sequels were more about completing stories than making more money. Today's sampling: "Aliens."

"Aliens" might've come from a time before advanced CGI, but still holds up as well as any older action film could. "Aliens" leaves off 50 years after "Alien" ended. The last surviving member of the Nostromo, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), has been asleep and floating through space for the past five decades.

Unfortunately, Ripley is not given a hero's welcome upon returning to Earth. Rather, no one believes her story and she loses her pilot's license. To top it all off, she is still haunted from the horrible events that happened on that ship (a.k.a. more excuses to show aliens popping out of people's stomachs).

Humans still remain ignorant of the dangers these creatures pose, and decide to colonize their planet. After some disturbances, Ripley is sent to the planet to investigate the problem. While there, she befriends a brave little girl (Carrie Henn) who's entire family has been killed, and runs into hundreds of the man-eating aliens. Ripley, it's time to get back into badass mode.

One thing I sometimes don't like about sequels is how most times they're the exact same story as the original, in a slightly altered package. "Aliens" is the rare sequel interested in actually continuing its original story and allowing for further character development. For example, this certainly is not the same Ripley from the first movie. She is at first more vulnerable, and less prepared. It gives her new levels of emotional depth to explore.

Perhaps the main differences between "Alien" and "Aliens" lies in its two very different directors. The original was helmed by Ridley Scott, and the sequel by James Cameron. Both men are infamous perfectionists, but Scott's filmmaking goes at a much slower pace. His action was less flashy, and it took much longer to build up to it. Cameron, meanwhile, loves to go all out. That is why "Aliens" is so much more of an action driven film.

I don't mean this to be a bad thing, as Cameron is a master at large-scale filmmaking. Look no further at his future work on "Titanic" and "Avatar." The action and the violence of "Aliens" are most definitely stunning. Cameron just knows how to elevate everything, from emotions to sound, to make everything more and more tense. Throughout the film you might hear a constant, creepy dripping of water. Or in another scene, when the background score is heard at different volumes in different rooms.

Cameron, like Scott, proves himself a master at utilizing space. The characters of "Aliens" don't inhabit a space as vast as Pandora. Cameron uses this to create a tighter, more tense mood. The space is also so complex, that the aliens could literally be anywhere.

What also makes Cameron so great is his attention to tiny details. He turns perfectionism into art. He lets the audience pay very close attention to metal bars falling apart when touched to a flame. He also seems endlessly fascinated and obsessed with the weapons his characters use. Small details like this are all a part of universe building. He manages to do this while still maintaining his story.

Before watching "Aliens," I wondered why Scott wouldn't come back to complete his own story. It makes sense though, this is Cameron's type of story. "Alien" was all about mystery; "Aliens" is all about intrigue. Since Cameron loves those details, he's great with exploring what exactly these aliens are and what they want with us. This comes even more in handy when we finally encounter the angry, bloodthirsty queen.

All of this contributes to a great sci-fi film because part of great sci-fi is the mythology behind it. There is the mythology of both the dystopian future humans have built, and the habits of the aliens. This is something that will continue to make the "Alien" series standout from most other sci-fi.

Some may view James Cameron as a filmmaking God. But he cannot be because if God exists, he would be flawless. Cameron is in serious need of taking some writing classes. The dialogue here is not as bad as in, say "Avatar." The movie does have its fair share of memorable lines, one in particular when Ripley faces the Queen.

However, there is so much excess dialogue. A perfectly good battle sequence could be ruined by Bill Paxton's running commentary of every alien he's just killed. Sometimes, the only sound we should hear are bullets banging and bombs exploding.

The dialogue is just a tiny little dent in a great product. "Aliens" also has something else most sci-fi movies lack: great acting. Mainly, that's done by Weaver. She exemplifies a great action hero: tough with a soft spot, and endlessly relentless. She's both hero and human.

Movies have changed much since "Aliens" first premiered, but it still remains a fine model. If more movies tried to be like "Aliens," then maybe filmmakers could finally find that perfect balance between intelligent and action packed. It's possible. To all those who forgave the stupidity of "The A-Team" because of its entertainment value, watch "Aliens" to discover that brains and entertainment can mix quite well.