REVIEW: “Me and My Moulton” (2014)


Hopefully last Thursday’s announcement of this year’s Academy Award nominees will drive people to see films in some of the smaller, lesser known categories. That’s one of the things I love about the Oscars – being introduced to new films that I otherwise would have missed. This year there are several well made gems that earned some attention on the festival circuit and now have received Academy Award nominations. The animated short film “Me and My Moulton” is a shining example.

Torill Kove writes and directs this semi-autobiographical look at childhood feelings we all can relate to. Kove, who won an Oscar in 2007 for her animated short “The Danish Poet”, draws from her personal memories and for 14 minutes places us in the head of a 7-year old girl from Norway. She has two sisters, one older and one younger. Her mother and father are unorthodox which sometimes discourages the little girl. Through this young child Kove reminds us of feelings and attitudes we surely had at her age.


The little girl is embarrassed by her parents and their unconventional ways. At one point she laments her father’s mustache saying “10,000 men in our town. One single mustache. And it has to be on my dad. It makes my stomach hurt.” We also see this through her envy of her friend’s family. Her friend’s mother buys them pretty and fancy clothes. Her mom makes her clothes. Her friend’s dad is handsome and adventurous. Her dad is plain and humble. Her friends have bicycles. Her parents can’t afford one. She wants the cool, normal, bourgeois family, but let’s just say something happens with her friend’s family that changes her perspective.

“Me and my Moulton” is a beautiful film both narratively and visually. The animation is simple but perfectly in tune with the story. It’s bright, colorful, and vivid as if shining through a child’s perspective. There are also subtle bits of humor and more heart than many feature length films can muster. It’s such an wonderful and touching little package that comes together in a perfectly satisfying ending. Torill Kove knows how to engage an audience. She also knows how to tell a great story and she doesn’t need two hours and $100 million to do it.


You can find “Me and My Moulton” HERE.

Random Thoughts on the 2015 Oscar Nominations


I love this time of the year. It’s awards season which some people like to dismiss and I certainly understand why. Personally I love it because it gives us a chance to talk about movies, to support the movies we loved from the previous years, to debate the merits of certain movies, and to dissect what the Academy got right and what they totally flubbed. This year is no different from the rest. The Academy offered some pleasant surprises. They also had some odd choices and some egregious snubs. As is the norm here at K&M, I’m throwing out some random thoughts on this year’s Academy Awards nominations…

  • Let’s get this out of the way first – How in the world was “The Lego Movie” not at least nominated for Best Animated Feature? This is the one true travesty of this year’s nominations.
  • “The Imitation Game” left with a surprising 8 nominations. I actually passed over it because I thought the reception was positive but nothing tremendous. Was I wrong?
  • Ok Academy, seriously? The Meryl Streep nomination thing had become a fun little joke but honestly it is becoming annoying. Deserving actresses are being left out for these ridiculous token nominations.
  • Dick Poop
  • “Birdman” and “The Grand Budapest Hotel” lead the pack with 9 nominations each. Of the two I like “Grand Budapest” the best, but Wes Anderson has a history of getting a lot of nominations but not that many wins.
  • Am I the only one who was broadsided by the strong showing of “American Sniper”? I knew there was some buzz behind it, but I didn’t think it was a ‘6 Oscar Nominations’ kind of buzz.
  • Many are pointing to “Selma” as Oscar’s biggest snub. Perhaps, but I think the movie is intensely powerful but also needlessly frustrating. I don’t think the movie was snubbed, but I do think David Oyelowo was. He absolutely deserved a nomination.
  • I loved seeing “Ida” nominated for its cinematography. It has absolutely no chance of winning, but I’m glad the Academy recognized its immense beauty.
  • Where is Amy Adams? Fresh off her Golden Globe win for “Big Eyes” I expected to hear her name. This once again proves that the Globes aren’t always the Oscar indicator that some think they are.
  • Do you realize that Bradley Cooper has received Oscar nominations for three straight years?
  • I’m always happy when I see Marion Cotillard’s name mentioned. “Two Days, One Night” still has opened up here, but I’m sure she is brilliant. She could have easily been nominated for “The Immigrant” as well.
  • Dick Poop
  • Do you think it was a good year for Alexandre Desplat? He was nominated twice in the Best Original Score category – for “The Imitation Game” and for “The Grand Budapest Hotel”.
  • It was quite frustrating to see “Force Majeure” left out of the Best Foreign Language Film category. It’s hard to gripe since I haven’t seen all of the nominees, but “Force Majeure” was an incredible movie deserving of recognition.
  • So in the Academy’s eyes Jake Gyllenhaal didn’t deserve a nomination for “Nightcrawler”? I would love to hear the thought process behind that. Gyllenhaal was superb and there is no excuse for leaving him out.
  • Three comic book movies were nominated in the special effects category and all three will lose. I’m rooting for “Captain America” but “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” has it wrapped up.
  • J.K. Simmons will be the biggest sure-thing of the entire show.
  • Actually all for acting categories have really strong frontrunners. Arquette, Simmons, Moore, and Keaton will probably all go home carrying a statue.
  • “Interstellar” is still my favorite film of the year. I would have liked to see it at least grab a Best Picture nomination. At least it was recognized in five other categories.
  • Sorry Jennifer Aniston. Some are pointing at Cotillard as the reason you weren’t nominated for “Cake”. Sorry Aniston fans, Cotillard is fabulous. Maybe you can point in another direction.
  • Interesting to see “Gone Girl” only grab one nomination. It didn’t make my Top 10 of 2014 but I know a lot of people were behind it.
  • Dick Poop

Those are a few random thoughts. Now, in case you missed anything, here is a complete list of this year’s Oscar nominees:

Best Picture
“American Sniper”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“The Theory of Everything”

Best Actor
Steve Carell (“Foxcatcher”)
Bradley Cooper (“American Sniper”)
Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”)
Michael Keaton (“Birdman”)
Eddie Redmayne (“The Theory of Everything”)

Best Actress
Marion Cotillard (“Two Days, One Night”)
Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything”)
Julianne Moore (“Still Alice”)
Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”)
Reese Witherspoon (“Wild”)

Best Supporting Actress
Patricia Arquette (“Boyhood”)
Laura Dern (“Wild”)
Keira Knightley (“The Imitation Game”)
Emma Stone (“Birdman”)
Meryl Streep (“Into the Woods”)

Best Supporting Actor
Robert Duvall (“The Judge”)
Ethan Hawke (“Boyhood”)
Edward Norton (“Birdman”)
Mark Ruffalo (“Foxcatcher”)
J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash”)

Best Director
Alejandro González Inárritu (“Birdman”)
Richard Linklater (“Boyhood”)
Bennett Miller (“Foxcatcher”)
Wes Anderson (“The Grand Budapest Hotel”)
Morten Tyldum (“The Imitation Game”)

Best Animated Feature Film
“Big Hero 6”
“The Boxtrolls”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of Princess Kaguya”

Best Adapted Screenplay
“American Sniper”
“The Imitation Game”
“Inherent Vice”
“The Theory of Everything”

Best Original Screenplay
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”

Best Cinematography
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Mr. Turner”

Best Visual Effects
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”
“X-Men: Days of Future Past”

Best Documentary Feature
“Finding Vivian Maier”
“Last Days in Vietnam”
“The Salt of the Earth”

Best Documentary Short Subject
“Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1”
“Our Curse”
“The Reaper”
“White Earth”

Best Film Editing
“American Sniper”
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”

Best Original Song
“Everything Is Awesome” (“The Lego Movie”)
“Glory” (“Selma”)
“Grateful” (“Beyond the Lights”)
“I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (“Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me”)
“Lost Stars” (“Begin Again

Best Production Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“Into the Woods”
“Mr. Turner”

Best Live Action Short Film
“Boogaloo and Graham”
“Butter Lamp (La Lampe au Beurre de Yak)”
“The Phone Call”

Best Animated Short Film
“The Bigger Picture”
“The Dam Keeper”
“Me and my Moulton”
“A Single Life”

Best Sound Editing
“American Sniper”
“The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies”

Best Sound Mixing
“American Sniper”

Best Costume Design
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Inherent Vice”
“Into the Woods”
“Mr. Turner”

Best Foreign Language Film
“Wild Tales”

Best Makeup and Hairstyling
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“Guardians of the Galaxy”

Best Original Score
“The Grand Budapest Hotel”
“The Imitation Game”
“Mr. Turner”
“The Theory of Everything”

5 Phenomenal Kevin Costner Films

This coming weekend will bring the release of Kevin Costner’s third (yes I said third) film of 2014. I’m a huge fan of Costner and I can say it’s great to see him back after a lengthy hiatus. So in light of his return I thought it would be cool to spotlight this great actor in this week’s Phenomenal 5. Now the wonderful movies that didn’t make this list are a testament to the fantastic career he has had. Considering that I wouldn’t call this the definitive list. Still I have no trouble calling these five Kevin Costner films absolutely phenomenal.

#5 – “Open Range”

In 2003 Costner headed back to the old west alongside Robert Duvall in “Open Range”. Costner also hopped back into the director’s chair and reminded us of what an incredible cinematic eye he has. The story revolves around free grazing cattlemen who run into an Irish land hoarder who doesn’t want them anywhere around. A violent wild west clash explodes between the two groups ending in one of the best western shootouts ever put on screen. Costner is fabulous both in front and behind the camera which is the main reason the movie works so well.

#4 – “Field of Dreams”


Kevin Costner has always had a heart for baseball movies. He made several throughout his career but for me his best is also the quintessential baseball film. “Field of Dreams” works for a variety of reasons. It captures everything that makes baseball so special to me. It also pricks my heart by telling a moving family story with a father as its centerpiece. And what a great cast. But Costner leads the way and he doesn’t miss a best. There is so much heart in this film and it’s one of those that I never get tired of watching.

#3 – “No Way Out”

No Way Out

If you look at Costner’s great filmography “No Way Out” is one that may get lost among the bigger titles and bigger hits. But I absolutely love the film and it is one of the best thrillers to come out of the 80’s. Costner plays a U.S Navy Lieutenant who gets caught up in a web of scandal, corruption, and espionage. There is a great supporting cast featuring Gene Hackman, Sean Young, and Will Patton but it’s Costner who ratchets up the nervousness and intrigue. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the story and it will keep you on edge right up to its big surprise finale.

#2 – “The Untouchables”


In many ways this is a nostalgic and sentimental choice but I can’t help myself. I love Brian De Palma’s “The Untouchables”. The film gives a very cinematic version of Agent Eliot Ness (Costner) and his Prohibition Era mission to bring gangster Al Capone (Robert De Niro) to justice. The movie takes a ton of liberties with the characters and the actual accounts but in terms of pure cinema it is hard to beat what De Palma gives us. Costner is perfectly cast and alongside the great Sean Connery he gives this story such vivid life.

#1 – “Dances with Wolves”


Many critics have viewed “Dances with Wolves” as a good movie but undeserving of the Oscar accolades it received. I have to disagree. I think the film is beautiful, captivating, and epic. Costner directed and starred in the film which won seven Oscars including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, and Best Original Score. There is no doubt that “Dances with Wolves” tinkers with historical fact for dramatic effect but it also tells a moving story and challenges many perceptions. But most importantly it is a great overall movie and despite the naysayers Costner pulled off a grand achievement.

So there are my five phenomenal movies from Kevin Costner. I automatically know a few that will be brought up (and should be) in the comments section below. I can’t wait to hear them and other Costner movies that may have made your list.

REVIEW: “Life is Beautiful”

LIFE POSTERWho can forget Roberto Benigni’s exuberance upon winning Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor Oscars for “Life is Beautiful”. His infectious enthusiasm and charm resembled that of the character he played in his wonderful 1997 Italian drama. Benigni’s Best Actor was notable due to the Academy’s usual reluctance to nominate or award performers from foreign films. His win is also considered an upset as he beat frontrunners Nick Nolte and Tom Hanks. Perhaps it was an upset, but to call Benigni’s win undeserving would be untrue. It’s a brilliant performance that serves as the centerpiece for this moving story.

“Life is Beautiful” is essentially broken down into two chapters. The first half starts in 1939 Italy and tells the story of a clownish, good-natured Jewish-Italian fellow named Guido (Benigni) who falls for a lovely upper-class teacher named Dora (played by Benigni’s real life wife Nicoletta Braschi). Guido’s happy and playful demeanor wins over many of the people he encounters and eventually Dora. We watch as he woos her through spontaneous meetings which don’t always sit well with the upper-crust establishment. The two fall in love and soon marry and have a son named Joshua.

The second chapter of the story takes a darker turn. Throughout the first half of the film we get hints to how Europe is changing as World War 2 approaches and anti-Jewish sentiment surfaces. But Guido wants to shield young Joshua from these things and he does it the only way he knows how. He puts on performances and depicts things in comical ways. His goal is to keep his son focused in the goodness and beauty of life. That becomes harder when Guido, Dora, and Joshua are rounded up and taken to a Nazi concentration camp. But even in those brutal circumstances and regardless of the death and misery surrounding them, Guido is determined to safeguard his son through his blithe fictional creations.


“Life is Beautiful” is really a fable. It’s not intended to be a by-the-books depiction of Nazi atrocities in the concentration camps. But some people have criticized Benigni for his incorporation of humor into such a serious subject. I find that to be an unfair objection. At no point does this film make light of the horrors. At no point does Benigni make a joke of the Holocaust or anything related to it. The humor ties in perfectly to the character. Guido isn’t a soldier or a fighter. He uses the only gift he has solely for the purpose of comforting and saving his family. There are several really big laughs but they never do disservice to the characters and they never go outside the bounds of taste and respect.

It’s obvious that the movie could do more to show the brutality and horror of the concentration camps. But not every movie on the Holocaust has to do that especially when they are telling a specific story that doesn’t require it. Benigni does a fabulous job of building his characters and telling his story while planting the reality of their situations in our subconscious. I knew the dangers and I knew the stakes were high. But yet in the midst of that this gentle and uplifting story is told with tenderness and care. And at the film’s center is Benigni’s spirited performance. He is vivacious, loquacious, and almost annoyingly positive especially to cynics like me. But there is nothing false about his performance, just a deep and genuine portrayal of a loving father.

I can see where some people may have problems with “Life is Beautiful”. Its uniqueness and unfettered optimism may be off-putting for those expecting an entirely different type of film. I really enjoyed its heart and I found myself drawn to these authentic characters and the happiness and sorrow they encountered. “Life is Beautiful” may not have the pop to make it stand out as a classic, but it is still a wonderful look at love, life, and the human spirit.


5 Phenomenal Actors Who Never Won an Oscar

A few weeks ago I looked at 5 phenomenal actresses who were never given an Academy Award despite their incredible talent and strong careers. Today we are focussing on the men. I found this to be a much tougher list to put together. The number of great actors that never won the highest acting award would surprise you. And I found it incredibly difficult to leave certain names off this list. But I think a great case can be made for the five that made the cut. Now, as with the ladies, Lifetime Achievement Oscars don’t count. I’m talking about men who never received the heralded Best Actor or Best Supporting Actor awards. With such a healthy selection, it would be silly to call this the definitive list. But it’s clear that these 5 Oscarless actors are certainly phenomenal.


While I’ve never been a huge fan of musicals, I’ve always appreciated the amazing contributions Fred Astaire made to the once flourishing genre. So it came as a big surprise to see that Astaire never won an Oscar. Now he did receive an honorary Academy Award after one of his retirement stints. But he was never recognized for his acting. Astaire was an amazing talent both with his dance and with his voice. But he was also a talented and always likable actor who made many quality films. There was a lot of doubt about whether he would make it in the movie industry but he would end up putting that to rest. He will always be recognized for his collaborations with Ginger Rogers. The two made a total of ten movies together including “Top Hat”, “Swing Time”, and “The Barkleys of Broadway”. He was superb in “Holiday Inn” alongside Bing Crosby. He would also make many well-received movies with the likes of Rita Hayworth, Judy Garland, Gene Kelly, and Audrey Hepburn. Fred Astaire made many films that should have garnered some Oscar attention. And this is coming from a guy not that crazy about musicals.


From an early age, Leonardo DiCaprio defined himself as an exceptional actor through several incredible performances. He first caught the attention of movie fans with his portrayal of a mentally handicapped boy in “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape”. This would earn him his first Academy Award nomination. He would star in several recognizable films before making his big splash (pun intended) in James Cameron’s mega-hit “Titanic”. Following it, he began a defining collaboration with Martin Scorsese in films like “Gangs of New York”, “The Aviator” (which earned him his second Oscar nomination), and “The Departed”. Hey would then earn a third nomination in “Blood Diamond”. He would continue to do top-notch work particularly in “Shutter Island”, his fourth movie with Scorsese, and the fantastic “Inception” with director Christopher Nolan. DiCaprio has an impressive resume and several intriguing roles lined up. He’s earned his numerous nominations but cases could be made that one or more of them could have translated to wins.


It’s hard to believe that an actor who was so highly revered and with so many good movies on his resume never received an Academy Award for his work. Such is the case with Robert Mitchum. Mitchum really made a name for himself in the film noir genre with movies like “Crossfire”, “Out of the Past”, and “The Big Steal”. He also starred in “The Story of G.I. Joe”, a solid picture that would earn him his one and only Academy Award nomination. After playing in a variety of roles, Mitchum would give a mesmerizing and menacing performance in “The Night of the Hunter”. The rest of Mitchum’s career would feature numerous Oscar worthy performances in some really good films such as “The Sundowners”, the creepy “Cape Fear”, “The Longest Day”, “El Dorado”, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle”, and “Ryan’s Daughter”. Mitchum had a recognizable look and unmistakable voice. But he also had a booming screen presence that made his performances all the more memorable. It’s truly amazing that the Academy never recognized him for his work.


Joseph Cotten had a long film career that spanned over five decades. He was an actor that was always working but was never quite as popular as many of Hollywood’s big names. But personally I loved Cotten and he starred in some of my favorite classic movies. You know things are good when one of your very first feature films in the beloved “Citizen Kane”. Cotten’s performance as Leland stands out and it’s one of the film’s many strong points. After another wonderful collaboration with Orson Welles in “The Magnificent Ambersons”, he would star in one of my very favorite Alfred Hitchcock pictures “Shadow of a Doubt”. In it he delivers yet another true Oscar-calibur performance. The 1940’s were a great year for Cotten as evident by his work in “Gaslight”, “Portrait of Jennie”, and a spectacular movie that I think may offer his very best performance “The Third Man”. While not as strong as the 40’s, the rest of his career would offer several memorable roles in films like “Niagara”, “Hush…Hush, Sweet Charlotte”, “Soylent Green”, and “Airport ’77”. It’s stunning to me that Cotten never garnered any recognition from the Academy especially for his early work.


It almost doesn’t seem possible. Has Cary Grant really never won an Academy Award especially when considering his brilliant resume? Nope, he never won an Oscar and he was only nominated twice! In 1970 the Academy did give him a “We Feel Terrible for Always Passing You Over” honorary Academy Award, but that doesn’t make up for the shunning. Cary Grant’s career stands on its own and it goes without saying that it was a great one. Grant’s good looks and undeniable charm always translated well to the big screen. He gave so many brilliant and charismatic performances from the 1930’s until his retirement in the mid-60’s. Instead of giving a history, let me just name some of the wonderful films he’s been in and you explain to me how he never won and Oscar – “Bringing Up Baby”, “Gunga Din”, “His Girl Friday”, “The Philadelphia Story”, “Penny Serenade”, “The Talk of the Town”, “Arsenic and Old Lace”, “Notorious”, “To Catch a Thief”, “Houseboat”, “North By Northwest”, “Operation Petticoat”, “Charade”. There are several other great Cary Grant pictures but I think you get the point. He was a wonderful actor who always commanded the screen. He also gave us some of cinema’s greatest films.

There you go. Those are my five phenomenal actors who have never won an Oscar. What say you? Agree or disagree with my list? Please take some time to share your thoughts on this week’s Phenomenal 5.



Personally, I don’t consider it a stretch to call Ridley Scott’s 1979 science fiction classic “Alien” a groundbreaking and incredibly influential film for the genre. It was a near perfect combination of horror and sci-fi which resulted in an intense and profoundly innovative thriller that still holds up today. Now when you have a movie so highly regarded, tackling a sequel is a pretty daunting task. You’re taking already great and established material and building on it while also creating a film that can stand on its own merit. Such was a the job facing James Cameron, writer and director of the 1986 sequel “Aliens”.

Cameron’s approach to the sequel centered around creating a story that captured both the horror and sci-fi elements that made the first film such a success and adding a militaristic action component to it. Much like Ridley Scott before him, Cameron is deliberate in setting up his story. “Aliens” starts with Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) being discovered by a salvage crew who come across her shuttle adrift in space. It turns out that she has been in stasis for over 50 years – since the horrible events on the Nostromo in the first film. She’s questioned by a group of executives behind the Nostromo’s mission who find her story questionable and her actions extreme.

Later she is visited by Carter Burke (Paul Reiser), a company representative who informs her that they had recently lost contact with a small colony on LV-426, the same planet where Ripley’s former crew had first came across the alien eggs. Burke asks Ripley to accompany him and a group of Colonial Marines to investigate. Ripley wants no part of going back but agrees after being reassured that the mission is to destroy the aliens and not study them. She sets out with Burke, the marines, and an android named Bishop (Lance Henriksen) to check out LV-426 and hopefully extinguish any threat they come across.

One interesting and recurring obstacle for Ripley is the constant disregard for her information and input. Planted right in the middle of a predominantly male environment, she constantly encounters skepticism and mockery. The corporate heads didn’t buy her story, Burke was skeptical of the severity of the threat, and the Marines laugh it off as a simple “bug hunt”. But Ripley not only turns out to be right, but she maintains the most calm and level-head of any of the group once the inevitable threat is realized. Through this, Cameron takes the tough survivor character from the first film and builds her into what I believe is one of the strongest female roles in cinema. Not only does Ripley adapt through physical toughness but you see a leadership that proves vital to their survival. But while she’s tough, I loved how we also see the gentleness and love she shows, especially after finding a young girl named Newt (Carrie Henn) alone in the ventilation systems of one of the colony office buildings. The two connect as Ripley takes on a mother-like role for a young girl who has seen horrors and lost everything.

The marines themselves cover all of the personality angles including the cigar-chomping Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews) the smart-aleck, wise-cracking Hudson (Bill Paxton), and the dependable, by-the-books Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn). We also get the tougher-than-all-the-guys Vazquez (Jenette Goldstein) and her heavy gunner partner Drake (Mark Rolston) and an inexperienced and sometimes incompetent Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) who was just assigned to be the squad’s field leader. We get some clichéd but fun military banter between the soldiers during the first half of the film and later see them in full combat mode, fighting for survival. For the audience it really becomes one of those “let’s see who survives” stories. But it works so well because even though these are tough and resilient soldiers, they are humbled by the realization that they are overmatched. There are no Rambos in this bunch, only desperate people trying to survive. And when everything does hit the proverbial fan, they have to rely on a lot more than just strength and firepower to stay alive. That’s one reason Ripley is such a force in the movie.

Cameron is very clever in the way he sets up the tension. Again, much like Ridley Scott, for most of the film the true horror isn’t in what you see but what you think you are seeing. You get fleeting glances of the aliens – only enough to project images into your mind. In a sense, Cameron has the audience paste these brief images together in their minds to create what these deadly creatures look like. It isn’t until the very end that we get an unhindered look at them. I still remember the first time I saw the film. The brief camera shots of the creatures in motion really created a sense of tension and suspense. Of course now all movie fans know what the aliens look like thanks to the internet, comic books, sequels, etc. But the way Cameron never fully unveiled them in the film until the end was very effective.

The Oscar-winning special effects of “Aliens” were another major reason the movie works. The skilled crew use an amazing assortment of miniatures, trick cameras and lighting, carefully designed costumes, and a large number of puppeteers that contribute to a visual world that still looks impressive even in today’s fancy CGI-driven age. So many cool details add pop to the film such as the marines futuristic armor, weapons, and vehicles as well as their technologies and sciences. The effects most certainly stand out but they always stay consistent with the movie’s gritty, dark tone. The action sequences throw the soldiers and crew right into the darkness and the unknown. Much like us, they don’t know for sure what they’re fighting. The brief glimpses of the aliens through gun flashes, shoulder mounted flashlights, and dim emergency lighting makes the combat intensely fierce. Ray Lovejoy’s editing of the action scenes is phenomenal as is James Horner’s score. As a result, “Aliens” delivers two of the most pulse-pounding battle/escape sequences you’ll see.

Another major accomplishment for “Aliens” is the recognition it received from the motion picture community. The movie received 7 Academy Award nominations, none bigger that Sigourney Weaver for Best Actress. Of course she didn’t win but the fact that a science fiction/ horror film would received such recognition was a major step forward for the genre. But Weaver was also surrounded by an excellent cast. I loved Henriksen as Bishop, the company android. He’s a cryptic character in the sense that we know from the first film that androids aren’t without, shall I say, glitches. But Henriksen is a believable “artificial person” and we, like Ripley, just aren’t sure we can trust him. I also really liked Michael Biehn’s performance. He’s a tough but open-minded soldier and when the situation goes bad he steps up. Biehn doesn’t play him as a testosterone-driven macho type. He’s at times unsure and he understands what it will cost to get his people out alive.

“Aliens” was an extremely ambitious sequel that took a pretty sacred first film and built upon it in the most satisfying way. It’s a fantastic sci-fi movie. It’s a fantastic action movie. It’s a fantastic horror movie. It blends all of these things together and creates what I consider to be one of best motion picture sequels of all time. With the exception of the stereotypical “we are soldiers” profanity, the dialogue is crisp. While some may describe the first half of the film as languid, I think the pacing is brilliantly deliberate. The special effects were astounding for its time and still hold up today. The acting from each character big or small is strong throughout the film. The direction, the score, the editing, and the sound design grab us and drag us into the unnerving world. It’s just a great movie. And while some may not respond to a handful of things that are connected to the decade the film was made in, “Aliens” is still one of my favorite movies of all time and while it is a sci-fi movie it’s also a great, great action picture.