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Movie Weeks

It’s Alien Week!

It’s 2021. Yeah, we don’t know how that happened either.

So, in the wake of the brutal realization of the continual passing of time, we decided to cling to something a little more palatable: Aliens.

That’s right, aliens. It only seems fitting to divulge in something “out of this world” after a year that made us want to get off of this world.

So here it is, a weeks worth of alien movies, accidentally curated to be three double features (Contact/Arrival, The Last Starfighter/E.T., Alien/Aliens), plus a bonus movie (Save Yourselves!) if so desired.

Watch them with friends, alone in the attic crawlspace, in the middle of a wheat field, or maybe even with your family. Let them pour out of your head as easily as they poured into your eyeballs, or maybe mull them over and stew in the alien flavored broth that is this list. Keep them neatly organized as separate entities or perhaps compare and contrast as you go. It’s up to you.

As a final disclaimer, we are not suggesting the following films are the best alien movies out there. Or the worst, or… anything, really. They’re just seven movies – that contain aliens – that made our week a little bit better.

Enjoy.

Eden & Meg

1. Save Yourselves! (2020)

Directors: Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson

  • Stream on Hulu (with subscription)

Summary: A young couple from Brooklyn (Sunita Mani and John Paul Reynolds) retreats to a cabin upstate in order to unplug, only to discover that the planet had been invaded by aliens while their phones were off.

Eden’s Take: Save Yourselves! (2020) is the only comedy on our list. Through its extremely likable main characters, this movie delivers consistent comedic dialogue that will make you laugh more than you ever thought you would while watching an alien movie. You might even encounter a line or scene that you can’t refrain from quoting or referencing in future conversations. Despite an unsettling ending that seems poorly executed by the writers, the journey is enjoyable and, therefore, worth watching. 

Meg’s Take: Highly relatable characters in what would initially seem like a highly unrelatable scenario. While the hipster vibe of the two leads may speak to a younger audience, the cornerstones of  their personalities are those of any great rom-com duo. While, as my colleague notes, the ending leaves the viewer wanting, or rather, sitting on their couch with a mix of confusion and disappointment, it’s worth the watch anyway. Why, you might ask, would we recommend a movie with an unsatisfying ending? Because plot is to this movie what the musical guest is to Saturday Night Live. It really doesn’t matter. I would watch these two characters do almost anything. The fact that aliens are involved is just the proverbial icing on top.

Final Takeaway: Come for the aliens, stay for the hipsters. 

2. Contact (1997)

Director: Robert Zemeckis

  • Available for rent on Amazon Prime Video and Youtube

Summary: Astronomer Dr. Ellie Arroway’s (Jodie Foster) personal and professional life are upended after she and her team receive a message from the Vega star system. 

Eden’s Take: I’d watch Jodie Foster do anything. Make her an unapologetic, confident scientist who goes after what she wants despite backlash or criticism and I’m making popcorn. Despite a scene or two with questionable effects (it was the 90s), I really enjoyed watching this. For an added layer, the movie also explores the similarities and differences between science and religion; a choice that makes this particular alien movie stand out from others.

Meg’s Take: If you’re going to watch one movie on this list, this is it. As a disclaimer, I am incredibly biased. I not only love, and have loved, this film for most of my life, but I’m a huge fan of any film that includes a strong female scientist leading a rag-tag research crew against the judgemental sneer of The Man (I’m looking at you Twister). The fact that this narrative is pulled from the mind of Carl Sagan just makes it that much better. Add in a seasoned director who knows his way around a transition and some gorgeous mirror tricks, and you’ve got a  beautifully made film. Add in Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaghey and you’ve got one hell of a movie.

Pull Quote: “Well, not if they use their laser blasters and photon torpedoes.”

3. Arrival (2016)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

  • Available for rent on Amazon Prime Video and Youtube

Summary: Linguist, Louise Banks (Amy Adams), and physicist, Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), are recruited by the United States government to communicate with extraterrestrial beings when twelve ships suddenly touch down on Earth. As tensions rise and disagreements ensue between world leaders, Louise takes charge in finding the truth about the aliens’ intention.

Eden’s Take: I’m not going to beat around the bush here, I love this movie. I only wish I saw it in theaters, rather than on demand a few months after its release, but watching this in my parents’ basement did not deduct from my viewing pleasure. Although the general premise is derivative (there’s some similarities with Contact), the narrative and character details are unique and intelligently selected. Overall, this is a very compelling film with a fantastic performance by Amy Adams. Also, in a genre where science takes a forefront (obviously), I’m still fascinated by the use of linguistics and the sort of philosophical approach to language. I’m so glad Meg finally saw this one, because I’ve been sharing my admiration for years. 

Side note: Watching Contact (1997) and Arrival (2016) back-to-back sparked an idea that the alternative theme of the week should be “listen to women.” 

Meg’s Take: The bowl of molasses to Contact’s cup of coffee. I’ll spare you my musings so I don’t spare you the joy of walking into this one cold.

Final Takeaway: Why doesn’t Amy Adams have an Oscar?

4. The Last Starfighter (1984)

Director: Nick Castle

  • Available for rent on Amazon Prime Video and Youtube

Summary: After achieving the high score on his favorite arcade game, Starfighter,  teenager Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is thrust into a sci-fi adventure that he won’t soon forget.

Eden’s Take: In my personal opinion, The Last Starfighter (1984) is the lighter of the two family-friendly, 80s classics on this list. It’s a bit silly in nature, but certainly entertaining if you can get past the occasional awkward dialogue. 

Meg’s Take: If you’re anything close to a normal human being, you may find yourself asking “why I am I watching this?” during the runtime of the prolific enigma that is The Last Starfighter. To that question, I say: why not? I highly doubt there is anything better to do on any given night than to watch young Alex Rogan save the universe and convince his girlfriend to move to space with him. Is it campy? of course. Is it so 1984 that it’s hard to watch at times? Quite possibly. Does Lance Guest somehow upstage himself as the  titular character’s beta unit? You bet. But of all the bad 80s sci-fi out there, you could do so much worse than this. At its core it’s a good little hero’s journey. Campbell would approve. 

And if that still isn’t enough reason for you, then you, my dear fellow film buff, are watching for the history, as this film boasts the accolade of being the first motion picture to use CGI to depict reality. You historian, you. 

Pull Quote: “What do we do?”

                       “We Die.”

5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Director: Steven Spielberg

  • Free (with short commercials) on Peacock
  • Available for rent on Amazon Prime and Youtube

Summary: A young boy named Elliot (Henry Thomas) befriends an alien that has been stranded on Earth. He and his two siblings try to keep the alien’s existence a secret while formulating a plan to help their new friend return home.

Eden’s Take: In comparison to the aforementioned 80s classic, E.T. (1982) carries a bit more weight and certainly more heart. Admittedly, E.T. is a childhood favorite and I didn’t see The Last Starfighter until now (at 24 years old), so my opinion is certainly biased. Also, can we talk about how adorable Drew Barrymore is in this?

Meg’s Take: Embarrassingly, this was my first time watching this film. And while the main characters are endearing, and the filmmaking is nifty, I spent too much time thinking about what those damn keys were for. I, maybe stupidly, thought there would be a big third act reveal and the keys would unlock something. Silly me. Turns out they were just an audio- visual character marker. 

I wonder if Peter Coyote was upset that his belt loop got more screen time than him.

Final Takeaway: All hail queen Gertie.

6. Alien (1979)

Director: Ridley Scott

  • Stream on HBO Max (with subscription)
  • Available for rent on Amazon Prime

Summary: The crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is plunged into peril when a mystery organism finds its way aboard their ship.

Eden’s Take: Alien (1979) has everything one would expect from a movie about aliens: disturbing (and often slimy) creatures from outer space, a suspenseful narrative that often has the audience wondering who, if anyone, will make it out alive, and a hero that no one listens to until the situation escalates. Although I enjoyed the movie, by the end I still had one unanswered question, “Why is this robot full of milk”?

Meg’s Take: Hard to have Alien Week without Alien. It’s as simple as that. 

Pull Quote: “molecular acid”

7. Aliens (1986)

Director: James Cameron

  • Stream on HBO Max (with subscription)
  • Available for rent on Amazon Prime

Summary: Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), lone survivor of the starship Nostromo,  awakes from hypersleep hellbent on destroying the alien species that killed her crew.

Eden’s Take: Aliens (1986) is more suspenseful and action-packed than its predecessor. Somehow it’s darker, slimier, and milkier too… More importantly, it further supports the “listen to women” theme, which I love to see. 

Meg’s Take: Another “no duh” moment on our part. Highly recommend watching these last two as a double feature, for obvious reasons. But if there is only so much Ellen Ripley you can take, I, strangely, recommend the sequel. Why is this strange, you ask? Because dear reader, as I am sure you will come to know whole heartedly, I am not a huge fan of James Cameron. In my very humble — but not easily swayed– opinion, the man has two good films. This is one of them. The other is The Abyss (originally on our list, but, due to streaming issues, had to be dropped). But while we have to give Cameron credit here, the ensemble cast is why you watch this movie. Heck, watch it for Bill Paxton alone, nobody would judge. 

Pull Quote: “Is this gonna be a standup fight, sir, or another bug hunt?”

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