Friday, July 18, 2014

Fox (Anniversary) Friday: Aliens

To wrap up this Friday of Fox, it's time to celebrate the release of one of my favorite movies of all time, Aliens.  Hitting theaters on this day in 1986, James Cameron's war movie sequel to Ridley Scott's 1979 atmospheric slasher flick has been a constant in my life since that fateful Saturday night I saw it on cable as a child.  Just this year I've met Lance Henriksen and read his book, been on a plane with Michael Biehn, seen Bill Paxton at his first conventions, stood outside a restroom next to Ricco Ross, witnessed the cast reunite in another country, listened to stories from James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver and seen the movie twice on the big screen.  What's so fab about it?  I dunno, I've just always enjoyed the simmering pace that builds to exciting crescendos, the intricate yet large scale and lived in design, the cast of likeable and memorable characters, an amazing score, fantastic practical creature and model f/x, the terrific cast and just the feeling of being transported to a world not your own. 

It was also the film that introduced me to James Cameron, Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton and Lance Henriksen, who's work has always been among my favorite.  Cameron of course gave us classics The Terminator, The Abyss and True Lies before becoming the most successful director of all time with Titanic and then Avatar.  He's an inspirational fellow and reminds us to educate ourselves while seeking out new challenges to take on.  Starting with sensitive yet capable men of action roles in The Terminator as Kyle Reese and Corporal Hicks in Aliens, Michael Biehn has been one of my favorite actors for a long time.  His subsequent performances in Rampage, Navy Seals, Timebomb, K2, Tombstone, The Rock, Dead Men Can't Dance, The Art of War, Cherry Falls, Dragon Squad and Planet Terror show his abilities as an intense dramatic actor and under the radar action star whose inclusion always elevates a film's likeability factor.  Frequent co-star Bill Paxton nearly steals the show in Aliens as the squawking, high-strung yet hilarious Private Hudson and adds a goofy charm to just about anything he's in like Streets of Fire, Next of Kin, Predator 2, True Lies, Twister, Vertical Limit and the recent Edge of Tomorrow.  Gravelly voiced presence Lance Henriksen would also work with Cameron several times and class up joints like Stone Cold, Tales From the Crypt, Hard Target, No Escape, The Quick and the Dead, Alien VS Predator and Abominable later on while also just being a pretty cool dude.  After seeing their natural chemistry and skills at playing interesting, cool, fun and plain kick ass characters in 3-4 James Cameron films each, you just wish they'd keep on going appearing together in more films.  Maybe in Avatar 2 or 22...

Made for $18 million, James Cameron and producer Gale Ann Hurd set out to utilize the world that Scott's film had created but move in a different direction tonally to create a war film/roller coaster ride experience.  After battling a stubborn English crew seemingly more interested in tea time and group lottery pools, Cameron and company completed the film after 10 months.  Aliens opened up #1 on July 18th, 1986 with a $10 million dollar gross and retained the top position for 4 weeks on it's way to $85 million dollars, making it Fox's biggest hit of the year.  Since then, Cameron has only made one film outside the studio, 1991's biggest hit, Terminator 2: Judgment DayAliens' performance was good enough for 7th on the years top grossers list behind the likes of Top Gun, Crocodile Dundee, Platoon, The Karate Kid II, Star Trek IV and Back to School.  Other notable titles released in the same year includes Transformers: The Movie, Highlander, Big Trouble In Little China, Heartbreak Ridge and The Golden Child.  The legacy of Aliens has lived on through 3 so-so sequels, 2 films with the creatures facing off with fellow Fox franchise Predator along with comic books, novels, video games and toys galore.

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