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    Oct 2001
    St. Louis, MO

    BLU-RAY REVIEW: Alien Anthology

    The most complete Alien experiance hits hi-def home video...

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    Truly a film legacy, iconic in not only design and production but in character and direction as well, the Alien film series which began over 3 decades ago has finally received the true hi-def release it deserves in Alien Anthology, a 6 disc, book-like set of all four films featuring over 60 hours of special features and beautifully remasters films in hi-def.

    So where to begin? How about 1979...

    The film that started it all, Alien, was directed by one of this generation's greatest film makers - Ridley Scott - and helped make actress Sigourney Weaver an icon. More a horror sci-fi film than anything, Alien introduced fans to one of the most recognizable and frightening beasts to ever grace comics, film, or TV.

    The remastered 1080p video features beautiful blacks, deep shadows, haunting contrast and some of the most impressive contrast to be seen on a 30+ year old film in hi-def. The audio likewise is beautifully captured in a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track that delivers plenty of frightful sounds from all channels.

    The special features for Alien are abundant (as are the special features for all four films) and include both the original 1979 film with director commentary as well as the 2003 director's cut with director intro and audio commentary with director Ridley Scott, writer Dan O'Bannon, executive producer Ronald Shusett, editor Terry Rawlings and actors Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skeritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, and John Hurt. The disc also includes an isolated score in Dolby Digital 5.1 by Jerry Goldsmith and a Composer's Original Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith in Dolby Digital 5.1. The disc also includes a few deleted and extended scenes.

    Jump ahead 7 years to 1986 and one of James Cameron's masterpieces: Aliens. A much more action-oriented film compared to its predecessor, this intense, militaristic, futuristic alien battle became for many fans of my generation the standard for which all sci-fi action films would be judged. Not only are there aliens with acid blood battling futuristic Marines, but we're once again reintroduced to Ellen Ripley (Weaver), whom fate would have it is destined to battle the alien beasties for as long as she's alive (and then after her death as well!)

    Like it's predecessor, Aliens features a completely remastered and visually gorgeous 1080p video which director Cameron boasted about before the release. While it might not be as amazing as the director first stated (there's still some graininess to portions of the film), it's still hands down the best video of this film seen yet. And, thanks to the rip-roaring lossless 5.1 DTS-HD audio, screams resonate, bullets zing, and explosions rock.

    As for special features, the Aliens disc includes both the original 1986 Theatrical Version as well as the 1991 Special Edition with director James Cameron intro, audio commentary with director James Cameron, producer Gale Anne Hurd, Alien effects creator Stan Winston, visual effects supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung, and actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, and Christopher Henn (no Sigourney Weaver). Other features include the final theatrical isolated score by James Horner in Dolby Digital 5.1 and the composer's original isolated score by James Horner in Dolby Digital 5.1. Lastly, nearly 20 minutes of deleted and extended scenes are also included.

    Jumping ahead to 1992 finds us at Alien3. While somewhat of a letdown to many fans, Alien3 found Ripley crash-landed on the prison planet Fury 161 and the aliens again loose and ready to cause havok. Surrounded by unarmed inmates, Ripley learns a terrible truth that both isolated and ostricized many fans of the iconic character as well as set up writers to develop the 1997 film Alien: Resurrection. Again, finding its roots more in the horror/suspense genre than its predecessor Aliens, Alien3 was the feature film directorial debut of David Fincher, who would go on to direct fan-favorites Se7en, Fight Club, and The Social Network). Featuring a solid storyline which expanded the mythos of Ripley while helping introduce the character of Charles Bishop Weyland, a key component of the series later featured in the Aliens vs. Predator films.

    Again, both the video and audio are well done, with fans who've only seen the DVD in for a joyful surprise. Though one can tell less money was spent both on this and the Alien: Resurrection remastering (due no doubt to these being the less popular of the series), that's not to say the video or audio on either aren't impressive. Again, a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 surround track delivers plenty of sound effects, voice exclamations, and sheer terror while a crisp, tight and well-deserved video update graces the screen.

    As for special features, Alien3 includes both the 1992 theatrical cut (with audio commentary by cinematographer Alex Thomson, editor Terry Rawlings, Alien effects designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., visual effects producer Richard Edlund and actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen (again, no Sigourney Weaver) as well as the 2003 Special Edition. Again, the disc features the final theatrical isolated score by Elliot Goldenthal in Dolby Digital 5.1 and an amazing 50 minutes of deleted and extended scenes (many that found their way back into the film in the 2003 version).

    Lastly, but certainly not least (at least in my opinion) is Alien: Resurrection. Again, while not the most popular entry in the series, this film attempted to re-establish the series with new gun-tottin', slam-banging characters with hopes of finding the success of predecessor Aliens. While falling quite short of Aliens triumph, fans of the action-oriented genre found Aliens: Resurrection a boost over Alien3. With the introduction of a group of space pirates, stuck on a battle cruiser polluted with Aliens and a hybrid of unknown origin, this film set up the (as yet) untold story of an earth populated with aliens. One only hopes they find the time to make that doozy of a film...

    Again, video and audio are remastered and updated, the 1080p video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 surround track ensuring fans have something to smile about. Likewise, special features include both the 1997 original version and the 2003 special edition with director intro. An audio commentary by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, editor Herve Schneid, Alien effects creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., visual effects Supervisor Pitof, conceptual artist Sylvain Despretz and actors Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, and Leland Orser is included as is a 5.1 Dolby Digital final theatrical isolated score by John Frizzell. Lastly, just under 12 minutes of deleted and extended scenes are also included.

    This brings us to 2010 and the inclusion of what has to be the largest collection of special features to ever grace a movie series on home video. Spread across 2 discs, the Alien Anthology includes so many special features it's almost ridiculous to list them all, but we're going to anyhow.

    First, however, we want to mention the MU-TH-UR Mode. An "Interactive Experience to Access and Control Enhancement Pods," MU-TH-UR allows allows fans access to a variety of special features during the film's showings, including changing between audio scores and trivia tracks (ala the "Weyland-Yutani Datastream"). The most impressive part of the MU-TH-UR mode however is the ability to personalized the special features (included specifically on discs 5 and 6) through bookmarks which allow one to access the specific bonus material you want to watch later on. Say you want to know more about the Colonial Marines' weapons in Aliens? Mark it during your watch through of Aliens and then later pop in disc 5 to see the 15 minute featurette "The Risk Always Lives: Weapons and Action." It's that simple and allows you to watch only the special features you want to watch at any given time.

    While most die-hard fans will find themselves eventually watching through all 60 hours of bonus material, it's nice to be able to sit down, watch one of the movies, and mark something you want to know more about at that time. MU-TH-UR allows it.

    Now, on to the complete list of bonus materials on discs 5 and 6.

    Disc 5: Making the Anthology

    The Beast Within: Making ALIEN

    Star Beast: Developing the Story
    The Visualists: Direction and Design
    Truckers in Space: Casting
    Fear of the Unknown: Shepperton Studios, 1978
    The Darkest Reaches: Nostromo and Alien Planet
    The Eighth Passenger: Creature Design
    Future Tense: Editing and Music
    Outward Bound: Visual Effects
    A Nightmare Fulfilled: Reaction to the Film
    Enhancement Pods

    Superior Firepower: Making ALIENS

    57 Years Later: Continuing the Story
    Building Better Worlds: From Concept to Construction
    Preparing for Battle: Casting and Characterization
    This Time Itís War: Pinewood Studios, 1985
    The Risk Always Lives: Weapons and Action
    Bug Hunt: Creature Design
    Beauty and the Bitch: Power Loader vs. Queen Alien
    Two Orphans: Sigourney Weaver and Carrie Henn
    The Final Countdown: Music, Editing and Sound
    The Power of Real Tech: Visual Effects
    Aliens Unleashed: Reaction to the Film
    Enhancement Pods

    Wreckage and Rage: Making ALIEN3

    Development Hell: Concluding the Story
    Tales of the Wooden Planet: Vincent Wardís Vision
    Stasis Interrupted: David Fincherís Vision
    Xeno-Erotic: H.R. Gigerís Redesign
    The Color of Blood: Pinewood Studios, 1991
    Adaptive Organism: Creature Design
    The Downward Spiral: Creative Differences
    Where the Sun Burns Cold: Fox Studios, L.A. 1992
    Optical Fury: Visual Effects
    Requiem for a Scream: Music, Editing and Sound
    Post-Mortem: Reaction to the Film
    Enhancement Pods

    One Step Beyond: Making ALIEN RESURRECTION

    From the Ashes: Reviving the Story
    French Twist: Direction and Design
    Under the Skin: Casting and Characterization
    Death from Below: Fox Studios, Los Angeles, 1996
    In the Zone: The Basketball Scene
    Unnatural Mutation: Creature Design
    Genetic Composition: Music
    Virtual Aliens: Computer Generated Imagery
    A Matter of Scale: Miniature Photography
    Critical Juncture: Reaction to the Film
    Enhancement Pods

    Disc 6: The Anthology Archives

    ALIEN Pre-Production

    First Draft Screenplay by Dan OíBannon
    Ridleygrams: Original Thumbnails and Notes
    Storyboard Archive
    The Art of Alien: Conceptual Art Portfolio
    Sigourney Weaver Screen Tests with Select Director Commentary
    Cast Portrait Gallery

    ALIEN Production

    The Chestbuster: Multi-Angle Sequence with Commentary
    Video Graphics Gallery
    Production Image Galleries
    Continuity Polaroids
    The Sets of Alien
    H.R. Gigerís Workshop Gallery

    ALIEN Post-Production and Aftermath

    Additional Deleted Scenes
    Image & Poster Galleries
    Experience in Terror
    Special Collectorís Edition LaserDisc Archive
    The Alien Legacy
    American Cinematheque: Ridley Scott Q&A
    Trailers & TV Spots

    ALIENS Pre-Production

    Original Treatment by James Cameron
    Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Videomatics with Commentary
    Storyboard Archive
    The Art of Aliens: Image Galleries
    Cast Portrait Gallery

    ALIENS Production

    Production Image Galleries
    Continuity Polaroids
    Weapons and Vehicles
    Stan Winstonís Workshop
    Colonial Marine Helmet Cameras
    Video Graphics Gallery
    Weyland-Yutani Inquest: Nostromo Dossiers

    ALIENS Post-Production and Aftermath

    Deleted Scene: Burke Cocooned
    Deleted Scene Montage
    Image Galleries
    Special Collectorís Edition LaserDisc Archive
    Main Title Exploration
    Aliens: Ride at the Speed of Fright
    Trailers & TV Spots

    ALIEN 3 Pre-Production

    Storyboard Archive
    The Art of Arceon
    The Art of Fiorina

    ALIEN 3 Production

    Furnace Construction: Time-Lapse Sequence
    EEV Bioscan: Multi-Angle Vignette with Commentary
    Production Image Galleries
    A.D.I.ís Workshop

    ALIEN 3 Post-Production and Aftermath

    Visual Effects Gallery
    Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive
    Alien 3 Advance Featurette
    The Making of Alien 3 Promotional Featurette
    Trailers & TV Spots

    ALIEN: RESURRECTION Pre-Production

    First Draft Screenplay by Joss Whedon
    Test Footage: A.D.I. Creature Shop with Commentary
    Test Footage: Costumes, Hair and Makeup
    Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Rehearsals
    Storyboard Archive
    The Marc Caro Portfolio: Character Designs
    The Art of Resurrection: Image Galleries


    Production Image Galleries
    A.D.I.ís Workshop

    ALIEN: RESURRECTION Post-Production and Aftermath

    Visual Effects Gallery
    Special Shoot: Promotional Photo Archive
    HBO First Look: The Making of Alien Resurrection
    Alien Resurrection Promotional Featurette
    Trailers & TV Spots


    Two Versions of Alien Evolution
    The Alien Saga
    Patches and Logos Gallery
    Aliens3D Attraction Scripts and Gallery
    Aliens in the Basement: The Bob Burns Collection
    Dark Horse Comic Cover Gallery
    Patches and Logos Gallery
    MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience Just wow. I'll be honest, I didn't get a chance to watch through all of these special features as of publication of this review, but I'm slowly but surely working my way through all of the amazing featurettes, galleries, trailers and TV spots not only learning a lot about the film series that shaped an entire genre, but enjoying every minute of it too.

    For die-hard fans of the Alien film series, this is a simple sell. It's no doubt the most complete collection of information on the Alien films found anywhere and, like the alien itself, wrapped in a sexy package that's dark, streamlined and full of awesomeness.

    If you've yet to pick this up and you're a fan, add it to your holiday gift list now. If you've already got it, congratulations...amazing, isn't it?!?

    Alien Anthology is available on DVD and Blu-ray wherever fine home video is sold.

    - Jess C. Horsley
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    "Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"

    Jess C. Horsley

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