Aliens: 30th Anniversary Edition is the Pick of the Week

This week brings us a special anniversary, a ghost story sequel, a comic book nerd's dream come true, and lots of classic films getting nice upgrades.
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I can’t remember when I first saw Aliens.  It was definitely the plural and not the singular (it would be years later than I’d finally sit down with the original Ridley Scott film).  I vaguely remember seeing it with my cousins.  I certainly discussed it with them and we quoted it regularly.  But the details fade.  My strongest memory of the actual film is the scene in which two of the marines are caught in a tunnel and one decides to take out as many aliens as she can by letting them come in close and exploding a grenade.

As a Evangelical young teen, that scene confused me.  I’d been taught that suicide was an unforgivable sin and yet here these marines were trapped in a no-win situation where they’d be killed no matter what they did so they chose to take a few monsters out with them while also not suffering the horrible fate of being eaten by aliens.  Would they still go to Hell if their suicides also saved others lives?

Junior theological questions aside, I loved the film.  It was a super-awesome sci-fi action film that kicked arse, took names, and made me and my cousins crazy happy.  In the years since, I’ve come to appreciate Alien, singular, more than its adrenaline pumping sequel but James Cameron take on the series is still loads of fun.

Cameron’s film mostly removed the darker, horror elements of the first film so that he could load it up with almost non-stop action.  It's notable that our protagonists have gone from a rag tag group of blue-collar workers to an elite grip of marines.  Aliens isn’t exactly interested in nuance but rather fills the screen with big emotions and even bigger set pieces.  Cameron has become an expert at this sort of thing and Aliens gets it exactly right.

The movie is excellent, but the question with this sort of thing is whether or not this particular release of the movie is worth the money.  The answer, I’m afraid, depends on which version you already own.  Fox previously released Aliens on Blu-ray as part of their Alien Athology set.  By all regards, that was an excellent set featuring good transfers and lots of extras.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of information to go on with this new Anniversary edition, but it appears they are essentially using the same disk from the Anthology for this set, just repackaged.  There are some new extras including a number of featurettes on the design and inspiration of the film.  It's all speculation at this point but the message boards all seem to think these extras will be included as a digital only because if they added them to the already crowded disk, then the actual film quality would have to be degraded.

Digital only extras are nothing new, but remain an irritation to me.  I get why they do it - saves the company money by not having to make additional physical disks -  but as more and more people simply purchase digital copies of films, leaving the collectors as the only people who want physical copies, it's really annoying that all too often they are pushing digital-only features with the physical copies.

In the end, it's up to the buyer to decide if these extras are worth the price.  Ultimately, I’d argue the Anthology is the better deal as it includes all four Alien films and the price point is not that bad (at the time of writing, Amazon lists it at $24.44).  But if you are less interested in owning all four films and enjoy anniversary editions and interesting covers (and if you are a collector, you probably are), then this might be worth your hard-earned cash.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Captain America: Civil War:  Call this The Avengers 2.5 as most of the superheroes show at at some point in this latest film from Marvel. You already know what to expect from these films.  I enjoyed it but I’ve also started sliding into superhero movie fatigue.

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping:  The Lonely Island comedy trio (Akiva Schaffer, Andy Samberg, and Jorma Taccone) take on Justin Bieber-style music documentaries in this Spinal Tap-esque mockumentary.  It got pretty good reviews but did terrible at the box office.  But you can bet it will run frequently in dorm rooms across America for a long, long time.

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum (Criterion Collection):  Japanese auteur Kenji Mizoguchi had made somewhere around 50 films before this one, but it is here that he really began to develop the style of filmmaking that would give him worldwide renown.  The film tells the tale of Kiku, the adopted son of a famous Kabuku family, who goes on a journey of self discovery to hone his craft.

Captive:  Cecil B. DeMille’s thought to be lost 1915 silent film about the forbidden love between an English lady and a Turkish nobleman who is a prisoner of war.  Only recently discovered, Olive Films has given it a Blu-ray upgrade.

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler:  The first film in Fritz Lang’s Dr. Mabuse series, which helped develop the crime thriller genre.

Marauders:  Bruce Willis and Christopher Meloni star in this bank-robbing action thriller.  It kind of came and went through theaters, and Willis has kind of been phoning it in lately, but I still like the guy and adding in Meloni to the mix gets me at least slightly interested in this flick. [Read Lorna Miller's review.]

The Conjuring 2:  Director James Wan once again directs Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren.  This time they head to England to investigate a poltergeist.  The first one got some nice reviews, but I’ve yet to watch it.  Maybe I’ll make it a double feature this weekend.

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