I find my relation to DVDs is a lot like the one I have with my teddybears: I don't own a lot of them, but the ones I do I could go tosleep with just about every night.
Like I've probably watched Aliens about 20 times this year.
This is a little misleading, as I don't really "watch" these moviesso much as have them playing in the background while I do much moreimportant things, like spending hours setting up an ancient operatingsystem to play SimTower, the game that combines the thrills of parkinggarage engineering and elevator traffic management. (On my TVas I write this: The Dark Knight.)
Admittedly, my first instinct wouldn't be to call something asmainstream as Aliens "art," but there's some real artistry inmaking anything that rewatchable. When, like James Cameron, you cancreate that kind of movie one after the other, like the inspirationnever stops, you have to start wondering if he's got naked pictures ofthe Muse herself.
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As part of the plan to relocate an alien species called the Na'vi offtheir ore-rich homeland, the human mining corporation has brought inSigourney Weaver's avatar program. Through these avatars — bodies grownto resemble the Na'vi, but remote-piloted by humans — they hope to finda diplomatic arrangement beneficial to both sides.
When paralyzed ex-marine Sam Worthington is hired as security forWeaver's small team, corporate mercenary Stephen Lang recruits him fora second task: infiltrating the Na'vi and discovering how to defeatthem. War looms, but the closer it gets, the closer Worthingtonbecomes to the aliens, who've adopted him as one of their own.
Writer/director James Cameron is the definition of a populist. Hiscombination of epic stories, endangered love, unobjectionable nudityand gigantic explosions has made him one of the biggest directors ofall time. His films have made so much money he could buy a controllinginterest in God. Anybody that big will have their detractors. When myfriend naysayed him as another Michael Bay, my reply — "Yeah, but he'sthe thinking man's Michael Bay" — was meant as a hugecompliment.
But it's been 12 years since Titanic, which, forperspective, is longer than most of its fans had been alive at thatpoint. Avatar's trailer's were drenched in CG — the last refugeof the scoundrel. I had my doubts.
They weren't dispelled immediately, thought right off the batAvatar is so gorgeous fans are marrying it in the states wherethat sort of thing is legal (such as our overly permissive neighbor to thesouth).
Normally when you say "the CG looks good," you mean "the CG looks goodconsidering it was obviously CG." Avatar's is so good Isometimes couldn't tell the practical effects from the computer-drawnones. Unless Cameron's spent the last dozen years building a Dr. Seusszoo where every creature looks like it was grown from bioluminescentKleenex, I'm reasonably confident the alien animals were CG, but asfor the avatars' faces, you got me.
I got hooked once I realized Cameron was doing just about everythingelse right, too. His pacing, as usual, took as much time for characteras for the big fat action, elevating his cast above the standardcliches. More important than staying consistent with physics, hisspace opera science is consistent with itself. Though it occasionallywanders off into its own Sense o' Wonder, and the Na'vi feel more likea mashup of tao-voodoo-Mohicans than a wholly alien culture, Cameronalways steers the train back on track.
My last doubts were erased by no less than a battle between rocketships and space dragons. Rather than filming some feel-good Ewok blockparty, Cameron wasn't afraid to spike his finale with appropriatecruelty and brutality. I won't be surprised when Avatar makesback its history-blowing budget. I was surprised it was so damn good.