Michael Scott

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Alien: 40th Anniversary Edition


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Movie: :4.5stars:
4K Video: :4.5stars:
Video: :4stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :3stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:



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Movie

It’s about time Fox got off their butts and gave us one of the original Alien films in 4k! There’s not a whole lot that can be said as this is a film that’s been reviewed a million times, but Alien is probably one of THE best sci-fi/horror movies in existence, and probably Ridley Scott’s magnum opus in terms of directing. The man has one of those “50% hits, 50% fails” type of records, but when he succeeds, he really succeeds and there is a reason Alien is hailed as a must watch for sci-fi fans everywhere. For this 40th Anniversary (has it really been 40 years?) Fox and Ridley Scott have gone back to the film’s original elements and done a full 4K remaster, using the film negative (done by Efilm in 2018) and remastered over at Fox, which was supervised by Ridley Scott and Pam Dery. The end result is an incredible upgrade that blows the 2010 release, that has been repackaged and resold in various editions over the last 9 years, straight out of the water.

I know, I know. We would have loved to have seen a full boxset for the Alien Quadrilogy. It seems Fox has a weird habit of releasing the first movie in a franchise on the 4K format and hopefully releasing the rest later (ala Die Hard), with the only outlier being the Predator trilogy, which got a single release for the first film, and a box set of the three originals to coincide with the new predator film late last year. So while I would have loved to have seen an 8-10 disc set of all 4 films, this new 40th anniversary edition of the one that started it all is quite a treat. The extras ported over are the same ones from the Quadrilogy Blu-ray set, albeit the extra 2 discs of special features on that boxset are naturally absent, and the same 5.1 and 4.1 DTS-HD MA tracks are ported over as well. The real treat is that 4K remastering of the film, as it was a mildly problematic transfer some 9 years ago on Blu-ray, and Ridley Scott personally supervising this one makes for a much more accurate presentation.

There are very few films that have disturbed me as a young boy as much as Alien did. It was a terrifying film that relied on what was NOT seen and suspense to build up tension rather than showing all of the blood and gore. Sure, there’s a few bloody moments in the film, but due to the technology at the time the Alien was best as a “heard but not seen a lot” prop rather than later films, which went overboard in terms of exposing the beast. I still remember my brothers (who were 11 and 13 years older than I) showing me this on late night television and it literally scaring the bejeebies about of a 9 year old boy. The sense of pure terror still resonates as an adult as well, and while I’m not terrified like I was as a child, that sense of claustrophobic anxiety still rings true as the mysterious Alien hunts down the crew of the “Nostromos” one by one.
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The plot is actually ridiculously simple if you think about it. A cargo ship named the “Nostromos” is kicked out of its normal operations and wakes up the crew out of hibernation for an unknown reason. This reason turns out to be a mysterious life form sensor that draws them to an unmapped planet where the crew finds a crashed alien spaceship. Inside are thousands of organic “pods” or “eggs”, which soon turns out be deadly when one hatches and attaches to the face of officer Kane (John Hurt). Taking him aboard the ship the crew tries to figure out what’s happening, only for Kane to turn out to be an incubator for an alien species who only has one motive. Destroy all life in it’s path. Now the crew of the “Nostromos” has to find a way to kill this thing, or get off the ship before they’re all destroyed by a being that is this close to being perfect in every way.

One can not deny the impact that this simple film had on history. The movie’s premise has been copied ad nauseum and has spawned 7 sequels (if you include the AvP movies), and Scott’s simple dynamics have influenced countless directors over the years. The movie is just shy of perfect, and while the effects are a bit dated being that it was made 40 years ago, the amount of pure joy that is taken from a watch is incredibly refreshing in a world of generic sci-fi movies that fail to evoke half the emotion that Alien does. While some may put Aliens as the best of the original 4 films, many viewers still stake their lives on Alien as being cream of the crop (I like both equally, with the slightest of slight edges for Aliens), but this is the movie that put Sigourney Weaver on the map as the biggest female “tough guy” out there, Ellen Ripley. Honestly, when you list off your favorite tough female heroines, who is at the top of your list? I can almost guarantee that Ripley is in your top 3 at the very least. She become a female icon as the tough as nails ships operator, who still managed to be and feminine. She was the anchor for the entire crew with her performance, and along with the ship’s cat Jones (Ridley did an awesome job at using Jones as a sympathetic element to bond the audience with Ripley, much like the puppy in John Wick did to humanize the assassin) makes for a heroine that you really root for.

On the opposite end of the spectrum we have the alien being itself. Cold, relentless, and so horrifically “alien” from us that we can’t even comprehend what is going on it’s head. Nothing is more terrifying than an enemy that you can’t reason with, can’t understand, and is infinitely more powerful than you are. Like Jaws or The Thing. Jerry Goldsmith’s cerebral score does a great job at setting the mood for the alien’s attack on the ship, and Dan O’Bannon’s script is so very naturalistic and raw that the all-star cast just feels so intimately human (supposedly there was a lot of unscripted conversations in the film that were just ad libbed by the cast). It’s a true masterpiece and one of my all time favorite sci-fi movies of all time.




Rating:

Rated R for sci-fi violence/gore and language (Theatrical) / Unrated (Directors Cut)




4K Video: :4.5stars: Video: :4stars:
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As mentioned in the opening paragraphs of the review, Alien was given a new 4K remaster from the original 35mm photo chemical film stock, supervised directly by Ridley Scott himself and re-color timed to imitate the theatrical experience more accurately. This new release is night and day better than the 2010 Blu-ray release, and fixes a lot of the problems introduced in that transfer. Said 2010 release had the colors a bit hot, and the color timing was over saturated, and was naturally discussed quite thoroughly back a decade (ish) ago. This new release dials back the color saturation a good bit, returning the film to its grim and rather bleak color grading that was present during it’s theatrical exhibition (I saw a 35mm print showing one time, and the Blu-ray WAS way too hot in the saturation department). The colors have been toned down, but they are still gorgeous to behold. The blues of the “Nostromos” stand out against the black and gray of the ship walls, and the special effects add in some much needed primary colors.

The use of HDR is more subtle due to the bleak color grading, and really is used to accentuate the really sharp primary colors (such as when Ripley is speaking to mother and her burnished orange emergency lights are flickering all around), and the black levels. The detail levels in the dark film are night and day better than the 1080p Blu-ray disc by a long shot. The scene where Ripley comes out of the pod is jaw droppingly sharp, as is then end of the film where we’re focusing on Ripley’s sweaty face as she races against time to set the ship’s detonation sequences. Textures are more deeply refined and noticeable, and the shadow detail is incredible.

However, there is a is flaw to the disc, and it stems from the director’s cut (which is really more of an extended cut, as Ridley Scott really doesn’t like the director’s cut, and only did it for contractual obligations. His preferred version, and mine, is the theatrical). The director’s cut wasn’t given a new 4K master but was rather taken from the same 2003 2K master that was used for the Blu-ray release. Luckily there’s only a few minutes of changed material, as the film uses the new 4K master for 95% of the movie, and splices in the director’s cut scenes via seamless branching. These scenes are not nearly as sharp as the new remaster, and there’s some wonky artifacting that shows up due to overlaying HDR on top of the old release. There’s some strange ringing around Ripley as she comes out of hibernation near the beginning, and some of the night time sky shots used appear blurry as well. Due to how the DC scenes seem to look o different from the new 4K remaster, it’s almost more homogenous to watch the DC on Blu-ray if you watch that version of the film. Still, no matter the minor flaws, this is a stunning looking encode and simply isn’t in the same ballpark as the old Blu-ray at the end of the day.






Audio: :4.5stars:
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In typical Fox fashions, there is no advanced Atmos or DTS:X object based track upgrade for
Alien. HOWEVER, this was not exactly Fox’s fault this time. According to Bill Hunt and several other industry insiders, Ridley Scott was offered the chance to do an Atmos mix during his overseeing of the new remaster and declined, as he felt that his 5.1 and 4.1 mixes (4.1 mix is for the theatrical release only) was adequate for his original intentions. These are the same two 5.1 and 4.1 DTS-HD MA tracks that were present on the Blu-ray release, and the tracks still stand up on their own as well as they did a decade ago. Comparing the 4.1 and 5.1 mixes together I lean towards the 5.1 mix as the vocal imaging between the two tracks is near identical. The 4.1 mix sounds a bit harsher and leaner than the 5.1 mix, but both have fantastic bass responses and the atmospheric tension built through claustrophobia and Jerry Goldsmith’s score is amazing. Vocals are clean and clear on the 5.1 mix and show a nice balance with the intense bursts of activity and the score. Surrounds utilize the little tings, drops and sounds of the “Nostromos” to great affect, and the score permeates every channel with it’s creepy mood setting. It’s a great track, and still worthy of being considered near demo worthy, despite the lack of Atmos.




Extras: :3stars:
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BRAND NEW 4K RESTORATION OF THE FILM, COMPLETED IN 2018 BY 20TH CENTURY FOX AT COMPANY 3/DELUXE ENTERTAINMENT SERVICES CORP., SUPERVISED BY RIDLEY SCOTT AND PAM DERY, WITH THE 4K SCANS DONE AT EFILM
• Theatrical Version (1979)
• Director's Cut (2003)
• 2003 Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott and the Cast & Crew
• 1999 Audio Commentary by Ridley Scott (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
• Final Theatrical Isolated Score – Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
• Composer's Original Isolated Score – Dolby Digital 5.1 (1979 Theatrical Version Only)
• Deleted Scenes







Final Score: :4.5stars:


Alien is a 100% bonafide classic, and one of the most seminal films in all of sci-fi/horror history. The irony is that it’s so hard to pigeonhole it as well. Is it more of a sci-fi film? Or more of a horror film? That particular “chicken and the egg” question has been discussed for 4 decades and no one can ever seen to really pinpoint which genre is more prevalent in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece. This 4K UHD disc is well worth the price of admission due to the stunning 4K remaster from the film’s negative. The audio and extras are the same from the Blu-ray release (and the Blu-ray release inside the set isn’t remastered, it’s the same “disc 1” from the Quadrilogy set from 2010), but that remaster blows the doors off of the old 1080p Blu-ray and had this nerd giggling with glee. Yes, I most certainly would have loved to have seen a boxset of the original 4 films, but with the amount of loving detail Ridley Scott put into this remaster, I’m hoping the subsequent films are given that level of TLC, as a quick boxset might leave us with subpar mastering for the rest of the franchise. Highly recommended.




Technical Specifications:

Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: Dan O'Bannon
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS-HD MA 4.1 (Theatrical Only), English DTS-HD MA 2.0 Surround, French, Castilian Spanish, German, Italian DTS 5.1, Spanish, Czech, Thai DD 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Castilian Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Italian, Norwegian, Swedish, Chinese, Czech, Korean, Polish, Thai.
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rated: R
Runtime: 117 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 23rd, 2019






Recommendation: Highly Recommended

 
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tripplej

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Thanks. Can't believe, 40 years. Time does fly by. Will check it out. :)
 

Todd Anderson

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Phew. KILLER review Michael. This one has me drooling all over the place.

I have the Blu-ray box set. I'm thinking this one needs to be bought on its own, tho...
 

Michael Scott

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Phew. KILLER review Michael. This one has me drooling all over the place.

I have the Blu-ray box set. I'm thinking this one needs to be bought on its own, tho...
I wouldn't blame you. It's a very VERY nice looking set and it IS probably the best of the series to many. I would have killed for a boxset, but as with Die Hard, I'll take what I can get
 

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Excellent review, Michael! I'll probably get this just to enjoy the updated audio mix : D
 

NoUDont

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i know some arent fans of film grain and want a pristine picture shot digitally for 4K. But for me, line up the classic films I love from a 35MM print and complete a 4K remaster that brings a tear to my eye!

Just seeing all the detail that went into the Nostromo, the uniforms, the water falling on Harry Dean Stanton's face. ! Gorgeous!
 

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i know some arent fans of film grain and want a pristine picture shot digitally for 4K. But for me, line up the classic films I love from a 35MM print and complete a 4K remaster that brings a tear to my eye!

Just seeing all the detail that went into the Nostromo, the uniforms, the water falling on Harry Dean Stanton's face. ! Gorgeous!
Couldn't agree more. I just got my copy... literally dropped off by UPS 20 min ago. Really look forward to the experience!
 

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One of my all-time favorites!
 

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The cover art on this disc is incredible. In person, it's iridescent. Just beautiful!
 

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I just finished watching my copy of the film and I was completely astonished as to how clean the picture was! I swear some scenes looked like they were filmed yesterday with the latest equipment..I have never watched Alien before with this caliber of fidelity. The sound is also nothing short of fantastic. The subtle surround cues from the Nostromo to crystal clear voices from the actors, I also give this disc a solid must have in anyones movie collection : )
 

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Purchased Black Hawk Down today and completely forgot about this one. I’ll be picking it up soon.
 
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