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ALIENS
Collector's Edition

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn
Director:  James Cameron
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  20th Century Fox
Features:  See Review
Length:  137 Minutes(theatrical),154 Minutes (special edition)
Release Date:  January 6, 2004

"Mommy always told me there were no monsters...no real ones.  But there are."

"Yes, there are."

"Why do they tell kids that?"

"Most of the time it's true."

Film ****

How do you go about topping an original and popular sci-fi movie like Alien? Well, for starters, you bring in James Cameron to write and direct. Cameron's philosophy has always been bigger is better, and more bang for your buck, and his approach to the sequel film Aliens delivers action and thrills galore.

Ripley (Weaver) is back, discovered adrift after 57 years of hibernation to find that nobody believes her story about the vicious monster that killed off the rest of the crew of the Nostromo. That is, until a colony established on the planet where they discovered the aliens' eggs disappears. Reluctantly, Ripley agrees to serve as an advisor and accompany a loud, rude, gung ho troop of Marines on a mission to wipe out the deadly predators.

It doesn't take long for the arrogant soldiers to realize they're in over their heads, and if you thought the single creature was brutal in the first film, wait until director Cameron unleashes a colony of them, complete with a queen, which is bigger and worse than any foe Ripley had yet encountered.

Unlike the first movie, which relied heavily on style, deliberate pacing and much set up, this film is all about one action sequence after another. More gunfire, more explosions, more bloodshed...in short, bigger and louder than its predecessor. And it works. This is a thrilling movie going experience.

Weaver is a terrific actress, and with a meatier role for Ripley this time around, she actually garnered an Oscar nomination for her work. She is backed up by a terrific Henriksen as the new android crew member Bishop, Paul Reiser in a non-comic role, and a hysterical Bill Paxton in one of my favorite performances by him ("Game over, man! Game over!").

This disc includes both the theatrical version and the later director's cut, supervised and approved by Cameron, which contains an addition 17 minutes of footage, including scenes of the lively settlement on the planet early on to contrast with the eerily barren and quiet ruins the team later explores.  Seamless branching lets you enjoy whichever version you choose, but I actually prefer the longer one...it's quite impressive how the movie is capable of gripping you for over two and a half hours.

Video ***1/2

"It'll be dark soon, and they mostly come at night...mostly."

This is a mostly good anamorphic transfer from Fox...mostly. It looks better than a lot of 80s movies on disc, but it's not quite as stellar as Alien. From time to time, there is some noticeable grain, but overall, the picture is sharp and clear, with good coloring.

Audio ****

"You hear that??  They're all OVER the place!!"

The original release of Aliens was a little thin sounding for my taste, but this new Collector's Edition delivers the full on explosive soundtrack we all knew it was capable of.  The dynamic range is incredible, from the eerie quiet moments to the full out scenes of combat.  In between, spoken words are always clean and clear, and no undue noise is there to spoil the effect.

Features ****

"Get away from her, you BITCH!!!"

Two discs' worth of materials make this a terrific re-release.  The first disc features a short introduction by James Cameron to the longer special edition, and a commentary track featuring Cameron, producer Gale Anne Hurd, actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn and Christopher Henn, along with some of Cameron's special effects gurus.  It's actually an enjoyable track all the way through, with Cameron doing a great deal of the talking.  The Marine cast members are in a group, which is great fun, and the Henn siblings pair up to share their own memories.  There is also a subtitle feature which you can activate during the special edition version that will let you know exactly which scenes were added for it.

The second disc contains a big documentary "Superior Firepower", which you can watch all at once or navigate through the pre-production, production and post-production.  It features new and archived interview footage with Cameron, his cast and crew.  You can also peruse Cameron's original story treatment for the film and explore many photo and production galleries.  An Easter egg tells an amusing tale of how one of Cameron's associates got in with him by building a fully functional loader as a Halloween costume!

Terrific menu screens with sound round out the extras...the original trailer is not included. 

Summary:

Aliens is a sequel that delivers, giving the audience more screams, thrills, and cheers as they watch the good guys do battle with an army of ferocious beings. Cameron's style of loud big action helped take an already solid premise into the next level, and fans won't be disappointed with this quality double disc offering from Fox.

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