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DVD Reviews: Alien Quadrilogy

The Final Say!

Review Score
Reviewed by Andrew B
Review Date: December 2003
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox






Alien Quadrilogy - Alien (2 Discs)

It doesn't get any better than this and to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Alien, 20th Century Fox have released a nine disc set of the entire Alien legacy entitled Alien Quadrilogy. These movies contain everything from horror, action, science fiction, romance and even comedy that not only pushed the current movie market but also set a new standard for science fiction. The first movie called Alien, revolves around the crew of Nostromo, a mining craft that is finally returning to Earth. Unfortunately for the crew of Nostromo, they receive a distress message from an uncharted planet that will have a devastating effect on their lives.

While exploring the mysterious craft, a small alien attaches itself to one of its crew members who unbeknown to the crew is actually impregnating the host. Without spoiling the film any further, the alien soon grows to maturity and systematically starts to hunt the entire crew down. Director Ridley Scott does an amazing job at installing fear and suspense into the audience and this movie is still one of the most nerve wrecking movies that I have ever seen. The original movie also contains a bevy of professional actors that include Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley and John Hurt as Kane, with a small supporting cast that include the very talented Tom Skerritt, Ian Holm, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and Yaphet Kotto.

The image transfer of Alien is almost crystal clear and considering how old this movie is, the distributors have done a brilliant job at cleaning up the footage that you could almost be forgiven in thinking that it was filmed yesterday. The picture quality is extremely sharp and all the colours are vibrant and bright that really helps in immersing viewers into this thoroughly entertaining title. It should also be mentioned that CGI never existed in the late 70's and all the puppet like special effects included in this movie still holds up quite well against the current CGI blockbusters. Alien is presented in  2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen that simply looks amazing on high definition television sets.

The sound quality of the disc is phenomenal and contains both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS for some of the most brilliant sound effects to have ever graced a movie. As with the image transfer, the audio quality of this movie has also been cleaned up, resulting in extremely clear and audible sounds that make great use of home entertainment speaker setups.

The first two discs of Alien Quadrilogy contain two discs devoted to the first movie Alien that contain a plethora of extras on both discs. Everything from documentaries, photo galleries, screenplays and production notes are included. Apart from the documentaries, the deleted scenes are probably the most interesting of the Special Features that lace the first two discs of this series.

Alien Quadrilogy - Alien Special Features

* 7 Deleted Scenes
* Screenplay
* Production Notes
* 9 Documentaries
* Storyboard
* Picture Disc

Alien Quadrilogy - Aliens (2 Discs)

Six years after the first Alien movie was released in 1979, James Cameron decided to tackle one of the most complex and exciting movies of the Alien legacy. The movie is based 57 years after the first film that once again returns Sigourney Weaver in her role as Ellen Ripley. After the devastating events of Alien, Ellen Ripley placed herself in cryogenic sleep and hoped that someone would discover her spacecraft. She was discovered by the Company, a futuristic fascist corporation that demands to know why Ripley destroyed the mining craft Nostromo. Ripley also learns a shocking discovery that the uncharted planet where they first encountered the new alien species has now been colonized.

After communication with the colonists is severed, Ripley must now accompany a group of military marines to re-establish contact. Unlike the first movie in the series, Aliens features a larger cast of actors that include Michael Biehn as Corporal Hicks who is Weaver's love interest, Paul Reiser as the scheming company man Burke, Lance Henrikson as the android Bishop and Carrie Henn who plays a child colonist called Newt. Although Cameron does a brilliant job at recreating the suspense for this movie, the entire film is one huge rollercoaster ride that features futuristic weaponry and of course a plethora of deadly aliens that compliments the first movie nicely.

The image quality of second movie is spectacular and features a transfer ratio of 1.81.1 widescreen that really helps immerse viewers into the world of Aliens. The picture quality is sharp but I did notice a few errors and graininess while I reviewed this movie. Generally on the more darker scenes, the graininess is a bit more noticeable. Although the colors are extremely sharp and vibrant, the movie itself is an extremely dark tale, so don't expect too many trips to wonderland with this title.

The sound quality of Aliens supports both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS for some spectacular sound special effects, especially the sounds of pulse-rifles being fired at the deadly aliens. The audio quality is extremely clear and audible that goes hand in hand with the soundtrack of this film to produce one of the most brilliant sounding movies to date.

As with the previous two discs, the distributors have not skimped on any extras with the second entitlement of the legacy and everything from deleted scenes, documentaries and storyboards have been included in this package. Probably one of the most interesting features of Aliens is the audio commentary by James Cameron that also features a variety of actors (unfortunately no Sigourney Weaver) and the people behind the scenes such as visual effects supervisors.

Alien Quadrilogy - Aliens Special Features

* 14 Deleted Scenes
* 7 Documentaries
* 4 Featurette(s)
* Storyboard
* 1 Feature commentary by James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd, Stan Winston, Visual Effects Supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, Miniature Effects Supervisor Pat McClung, and Actors Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Bill Paxton, and Carrie Henn
* Storyboard
* THX Optmiser

Alien Quadrilogy - Alien 3 (2 Discs)

Alien 3 directed by David Fincher strays away James Cameron's former epic and returns viewers to a more subtle thriller that is a cross between Alien meets music video. Although the survivors of Sulaco destroyed the Alien menace in the previous instalment, their thorough sweep of the vessel failed to locate an alien egg that was laid by the alien queen. Not only did this alien hatch but it also destroyed key components aboard that star craft that led to the deaths of Newt and Corporal hicks who were suspended in cryogenic pods. Crashing upon the prison planet of Fiorinia 161, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is once again the sole survivor of this alien menace. Joined by Weaver are a plethora of talented actors that include Charles S. Dutton, Charles Dance, Brian Glover and Lance Henrikson who are just a few of the stars that grace this film.

Unlike Aliens, this movie involves only one deadly alien that runs rampant upon the religious denizens of Fiorinia 161. Although the original movie was quite literally butchered by editors and movie studio heads, there are two versions as with the previous movies available in this set. The two versions include the original theatrical release and the Special Edition that runs a little more than 30 minutes longer than the original. This is probably one of the darker movies in the quadrilogy with some extremely disturbing religious undertones mixed with some extremely gruesome violence that leads to a very clichéd ending. As with most people, this is probably one of my least liked alien movies but I do recommend that people watch the special edition version of the movie that really goes beyond the original theatrical release.

Once again the video transfer of the third movie is spectacular and is presented in anamorphic widescreen that features a variety of vibrant colours and sharp images that are mixed well with the special effects of the movie. The discs do contain a little graininess in certain sections of the movie but thanks to the digital enhancements, it looks like it was created yesterday at the movie studios.

The audio quality of the discs features Dolby Digital 5.1 for a stunning surround sound experience that features crystal clear sounds and a beautiful music score that pays homage to the aliens universe. It should be noted that there are a few audio problems on the Special Edition Alien 3 version but that's because they are trying to mix footage that was never really meant to appear on the original movie itself, although it's nothing too distracting.

Once again Fox does an amazing job at including a variety of special features that include a variety of pre and post production documentaries, deleted scenes, galleries and a variety of special effect featurettes that really goes beyond the film. One must also wonder why certain deleted scenes were cut from this movie because they do increase the experience of this movie with information that actually adds and not distracts from the storyline.

Alien Quadrilogy - Alien 3 Special Features

* 26 Deleted Scenes
* 6 Documentaries
* 5 Featurette(s)
* Storyboard
* 1 Feature commentary by Cinematographer Alex Thomson, Editor Terry Rawlings, Alien Effects Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, and Actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen

Alien Quadrilogy - Alien Resurrection (2 Discs)

Alien Resurrection is the final instalment of the Alien legacy that returns Sigourney Weaver two hundred years later into her role as Ellen Ripley. Ripley may have died in the previous movie but through the wonders of genetic technology and alien DNA, Ripley returns as the ass kicking chick to help liberate mankind from this alien threat. The movie is directed by French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (City of Lost Children) who does a wonderful job of transforming the script Joss Whedon (creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer) into another entertaining saga of Aliens. The company may be long gone but this time the military has decided to take advantage of alien DNA in an attempt to create and train these deadly aliens as soldiers.

Unfortunately for the denizens of this hidden military science vessel, playing with aliens has never been considered a good idea. Probably one of the most strongest cast of actors since the first movie, Alien Resurrection features some strong performances by the beautiful Winona Ryder, the extremely talented Dominque Pinon and of course Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott, Kim Flowers, Dan Hedaya and Brad Dourif. Alien Resurrection works so well because not only does it use an American/French cast of actors but unlike the other movies, does not try to take itself too serious. This is probably my second favourite movie of the entire Alien series as it features some amazing action scenes, some humorous anecdotes and of course some extremely vicious alien critters. The movie also contains two versions of Alien Resurrection, the original theatrical release and of course the special edition.

Alien Resurrection features the cleanest transfers of image quality and is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen that can be used as a reference quality DVD. The colours are vibrant with extremely sharp images and I detected no errors whatsoever on this instalment of the series. Some of the special effects, especially the underwater scene looks quite simple spectacular.

The audio of the disc once again uses DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 for some down amazing special effect sounds and a beautiful musical score that really makes this movie a fun watch. With clear and exceptionally sharp dialogue, this movie cannot be faulted at all.

The discs are also littered with special features that includes audio commentary by Director Jean-Pierre, a variety of deleted scenes and some extremely interesting documentaries.

Alien Quadrilogy - Alien Resurrection Special Features

* 10 Deleted Scenes
* 4 Documentaries
* 7 Featurette(s)
* 1 Feature commentary by Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Editor Herve Schneia, Alien Effects Creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., Visual Effects Supervisor Pitof, Conceptual Artis Sylvain Despretz, and Actors Ron Perlman, Domique Pinon, and Leland Orser

If there is one DVD collection that you must buy this year than I would highly recommend that you purchase Alien Quadrilogy because not only does it contain four extremely entertaining movies but also some of the most ambitious special features to have ever graced a DVD Collection. Not only does the collection give you a look beyond the movie and into the alien universe but it also shows the hardships and people behind the scenes. If you're an alien fan... then it doesn't get any better than this! It should also be mentioned that this collection contains a bonus 9th disc for some extra alien information.

- Andrew B

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