The Right Stuff

  • Directors: Philip Kaufman
  • Producers: Irwin Winkler
  • Writers: Philip Kaufman, Tom Wolfe
  • Genres: Adventure, Drama, History
  • Actors: Fred Ward, Dennis Quaid, Ed Harris, Scott Glenn, Sam Shepard, Barbara Hershey, Lance Henriksen, Veronica Cartwright, Jane Dornacker

Muroc Army Air Field in 1947 sets the scene for the start of the movie. This dusty, arid air force base is where high-speed aircraft are being tested in secret including the rocket-powered X-1, poised to fly at supersonic speeds. When a number of test pilots have died in the attempt to break the so-called “sound barrier,” the base liaison officer, war hero Chuck Yeager (Sam Shepard) is offered the chance to fly the X-1. While on a horseback romp with his wife Glennis (Barbara Hershey) through the underbrush surrounding the base, Yeager collides with a tree branch and suffers a couple of broken ribs. Refusing to admit defeat, he triumphs (with the aid of a sawed-off broom handle) in flying the X-1 faster than the speed of sound, beating the “demon in the sky.”

The film travels forward to 1953, where Edwards Air Force Base (renamed for one of the test pilots killed at the base) remains the place to be for the “prime” pilots with Yeager engaged in a contest with test pilot Scott Crossfield (Scott Wilson).[1] Crossfield and Yeager were fierce but friendly rivals for speed and altitude records. Edwards is both a very different place and yet remains the same with the celebrated Happy Bottom Riding Club run by Pancho Barnes (Kim Stanley) still the gathering place for those with the “right stuff.” New pilots such as Gordon “Gordo” Cooper (Dennis Quaid) and Virgil “Gus” Grissom (Fred Ward) are part of a constant stream of “pudknockers” as Barnes characterizes them. Cooper’s wife, Trudy (Pamela Reed) questions the need for pushing dangerous boundaries to the limit, but is resigned to the fact that her husband like all the others, is driven by ambition as well as chasing fame. Other wives that share similar feelings have to learn to suppress their fears. By that time, the press are a familiar part of the background, recognized as the key to ensuring that essential funding never dries up.

The films concludes with Cooper’s successful launch in May 1963 – the last in which an American flew alone into space.

Appaloosa

  • Directors: Ed Harris
  • Producers: Ed Harris, Robert Knott
  • Writers: Ed Harris, Robert Knott
  • Genres: Crime, Drama, Western
  • Actors: Ed Harris, Viggo Mortensen, Jeremy Irons, Lance Henriksen

Appaloosa is centered around lawman Virgil Cole (Ed Harris) and his deputy Everett Hitch (Viggo Mortensen), two friends who are hired to defend a lawless 1880s town from Randall Bragg, a murderous rancher (Jeremy Irons). Their efforts are disrupted and friendship tested by the arrival of a woman (Renée Zellweger).

Upon drifting into a troubled Western outpost and discovering that the helpless locals are being terrorized by a ruthless rancher and his brutish hired hands, two rugged, straight-shooting peacemakers decide to stick around and put things right.

Bragg believes himself to be above the law, a stance that’s forever cemented when he guns down the town marshal and two deputies in cold blood. Soon thereafter, Virgil and Everett, two roaming mercenaries arrive, declaring that they’ll resolve the issues with Bragg if the locals will only grant Virgil the complete power. After becoming marshal, Virgil appoints Everett his deputy and ushers in an era of uneasy peace, arresting Braggs thugs and killing several when they attempt to resist. Later, when the local stagecoach arrives in town, a woman named Allie (Zellweger) catches Virgil’s eye, and he uses his position to convince the tavern owner to hire her as a piano player. Meanwhile, a temporarily subdued Bragg begins to display signs that he may not be finished with this town just yet.

The movie shares many narrative similarities with the 1959 Western Warlock, directed by Edward Dmytryk and starring Henry Fonda, Anthony Quinn and Richard Widmark. There is also another Western named The Appaloosa with Marlon Brando, but it is unrelated to Harris’s film.

Alien

  • Directors: David Fincher
  • Producers: Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill
  • Writers: Characters, Dan O Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Story, Vincent Ward, Screenplay, David Giler, Walter Hill, Larry Ferguson
  • Genres: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Charles S Dutton, Charles Dance, Paul McGann, Lance Henriksen, Pete Postlethwaite

Following the events in Aliens, the Colonial Marine spaceship Sulaco experiences an onboard fire and launches an escape pod containing Ellen Ripley, Newt, Hicks, and the damaged android Bishop who are all in cryonic stasis. The pod then crashes on Fiorina ‘Fury’ 161, a foundry facility and penal colony inhabited by all-male former inmates with “double-Y” chromosome patterns. As the inmates recover the pod and its passengers, an Alien facehugger is seen approaching their dog. Ripley is taken in and awakened by Clemens (Charles Dance), the facility’s doctor, and learns that she is the only survivor of the crash. Many of the ex-inmates have embraced an apocalyptic, millenarian religion which forbids sexual relations, and Ripley is warned that her presence among them may have extremely disturbing effects.

Suspicious of what caused the escape pod to jettison and what killed her companions, Ripley requests that Clemens perform an autopsy on Newt. She fears that Newt may be carrying an Alien embryo in her body, though she does not share this information. No embryo is found in Newt’s body and it appears she simply died in the crash, however, the colony’s warden (Andrews) becomes increasingly angered that Ripley’s unusual behavior is agitating the prisoners. They perform a funeral for Newt and Hicks in which their bodies are cremated in the facility’s gigantic furnace. In another part of the facility the dog goes into convulsions and an Alien erupts from its body. The Alien soon begins to attack members of the colony, killing several and returning one man to his former insane state. To get answers, Ripley recovers and reactivates the damaged android Bishop, who reveals that there was an Alien on the Sulaco and that it came with them to Fiorina in the escape pod. She then informs Andrews of her previous encounters with the Aliens and suggests that the group hunt it down. However, Andrews does not believe her story and also informs her that there are no weapons in the facility anyway. Their only hope of protection is the rescue ship being sent for Ripley by the Weyland-Yutani Corporation.

Just as the Alien is killed, the Weyland-Yutani team arrives, including a man who looks identical to Bishop, claiming to be the creator of the android. He attempts to persuade Ripley to undergo surgery to remove the Queen embryo. Ripley refuses and commits suicide, throwing herself into the gigantic furnace just as the Alien queen begins to burst out from her chest. However, as she is dying from the wound, Ripley grabs the Alien Queen and holds it as she falls in the furnace. The film ends with a sequence showing the facility being closed down, the last surviving inmate (Morse) being led away, and a shot of the Sulaco escape pod as the sound recording of Ripley’s final lines from the original Alien film is heard.

Tarzan

  • Directors: Chris Buck, Kevin Lima
  • Producers: Chris Buck
  • Writers: Tab Murphy, Bob Tzudiker, Noni White
  • Genres: Animation, Adventure, Drama, Family
  • Actors: Tony Goldwyn, Minnie Driver, Rosie O Donnell, Glenn Close, Brian Blessed, Lance Henriksen, Wayne Knight, Nigel Hawthorne

In the late 1880s off the coast of Africa, a young couple and their infant son escape a burning ship and land on the unexplored rainforests of Africa, where they craft themselves a treehouse in which to live using salvaged ship parts(“Two Worlds”). Meanwhile, a gorilla couple named Kerchak and Kala are traveling with the rest of their group when their infant son is killed and eaten by a leopard named Sabor. The next day, the still-heartbroken Kala hears a distant child’s cry and, following it, stumbles upon the treehouse. She enters the treehouse to find it trashed, and blood covered paw prints, as well as the corpses of the couple, on the floor. Kala rescues the baby from a still-hungry Sabor and returns with it to the rest of the group, but Kerchak despises the boy for his appearance. Nevertheless, Kala decides to raise the boy as her own, naming him Tarzan (“You’ll Be in My Heart”).

A few years later, Tarzan makes friends with feisty young female gorilla Terk and an elephant named Tantor (“Son of Man”). Despite his inability to compete with the rest of the gorillas, Tarzan perseveres and eventually grows into a strong, capable, and gorilla-like man. When Sabor attacks the group again, Tarzan successfully fights with and kills her, earning Kerchak’s respect. Tarzan then notices a group of humans arriving: Professor Porter and his daughter Jane, who have traveled to Africa in search of gorillas, along with their hunter guide Clayton. Jane then has an encounter with a horde of angry baboons, who chase after her. Jane runs towards a cliff and tries to jump to the other side, only to be caught mid-leap by Tarzan. She screams as she is taken to a branch, where she demands to be put down. Tarzan puts her down, but then the baboons get closer and she screams, “No! Pick me up!” The chase then rages on, but finally, Tarzan gets Jane to safety. Curious about Jane, Tarzan proceeds to examine her, at one point playing with her feet, tickling her. He then notices her gloved hand. Taking off the glove, Tarzan places his hand against hers, then puts the side of his head to her chest and listens to her heartbeat, and this is when he realizes that he and Jane are the same. He takes Jane back to her camp.

Jane and Professor Porter prepare to depart for England. However, realizing where her heart belongs, Jane returns to the jungle and is soon followed by her father; the three of them reside happily in the jungle among the animals and gorillas (“Two Worlds Finale”).

Aliens

  • Directors: James Cameron
  • Producers: Gale Anne Hurd, Gordon Carroll, David Giler, Walter Hill
  • Writers: Story, James Cameron, David Giler, Walter Hill, Screenplay, James Cameron
  • Genres: Action, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller
  • Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the only survivor of the space freighter Nostromo, is rescued and revived after drifting for fifty-seven years in hypersleep. At an interview before a panel of executives from her employer, the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, her testimony regarding the Alien is met with extreme skepticism as no physical evidence of the creature survived the destruction of the Nostromo. Ripley loses her space flight license as a result of her “questionable judgment” and learns that LV-426, the planetoid where her crew first encountered the Alien eggs, is now home to a terraforming colony. Ripley is visited by Weyland-Yutani representative Carter Burke (Paul Reiser) and Lieutenant Gorman (William Hope) of the Colonial Marines, who inform her that contact has been lost with the colony on LV-426. The company is dispatching Burke and a unit of marines to investigate, and offers to restore Ripley’s flight status and grant her a commission as a lieutenant if she will accompany them as a consultant. Traumatized by her previous encounter with the Alien, Ripley initially refuses to join, but accepts when she realizes that the mission will allow her to face her fears. Arriving aboard the warship Sulaco she is introduced to the Colonial Marines, including Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews), Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn), Privates Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein) and Hudson (Bill Paxton), and the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen), towards whom Ripley is initially hostile due to her previous experience with the android Ash aboard the Nostromo.

Ripley and an injured Hicks reach Bishop and the second dropship, but Ripley is unwilling to leave Newt behind. She rescues Newt from the hive in the processing station, where the two encounter the Alien queen and her egg chamber. Ripley destroys most of the eggs, enraging the queen, who escapes by tearing free from her ovipositor. Closely pursued by the queen, Ripley and Newt rendezvous with Bishop and Hicks on the dropship and escape moments before the colony is consumed by the nuclear blast. Back on the Sulaco, Ripley and Bishop’s relief at their narrow escape is interrupted when the Alien queen, stowed away on the dropship’s landing gear, tears Bishop in half. Ripley battles the queen using an exosuit cargo-loader. The two of them tumble into a large airlock, which Ripley then opens, expelling the queen into space. Ripley clambers to safety and she, Newt, Hicks, and Bishop enter hypersleep for the return to Earth.