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Alien, Street Fighter, and everything else we watched this weekend

Watch Ridley Scott’s Alien. All other considerations secondary.

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The facehugger hugs a guy’s face in Alien Image: 20th Century Studios

Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony was one for the the history books, with Nomadland winning this year’s Best Picture award, Chloé Zhao becoming the first woman of color and the second woman (period) to win the Academy Award for Best Director, Frances McDormand winning Best Actress (amid some really weird banter), Another Round earning the award for Best International Feature, and Soul unsurprisingly — winning the award for Best Animated Feature.

But the biggest upset of night was Sir Anthony Hopkins receiving the award for Best Actor for his performance in Florian Zeller’s drama The Father ... and not being around to receive it! Who could’ve seen that twist coming? Certainly not Sir Hopkins, that’s for sure!

Besides the Oscars, we watched a whole bunch of other cool stuff over the weekend. From the season final of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier and David O. Russell’s The Fighter to 1988’s Midnight Run and the so-bad-it’s-great Street Fighter movie, here are a few of the shows and movies we’re enjoying watching right now, and what you might enjoy watching as well.


A robot’s head decapitated with white goop on its face in Alien Image: 20th Century Studios

Happy Alien Day, everyone! The annual fan celebration of Ridley Scott’s 1979 film Alien (derived from the designation of the planet where the Nostromo crew first encountered the Xenomorph hive— LV-426) has been a yearly occurrence for as far back as 2009. It wasn’t until 2016 that 20th Century Fox, then-producers of the franchise before the studio was acquired by the Walt Disney Company in 2019, began formally sponsoring the event to promote merchandise and memorabilia tied with the original film’s 30th anniversary.

While James Cameron’s 1986 sequel Aliens has been all but thoroughly cannibalized across the far stretches of film, television, and games, Ridley Scott’s original film remains singular in its perfect synthesis of horror, mystery, and anti-capitalist subtext. What sets the film apart is its expositional patience and grace, spending a full five-minutes panning through the interior of the USCSS Nostromo and immersing the audiences in the world of its many blinking vestibules, smoking hallways, and padded chambers before we even get a glimpse of the main characters. Set in the distant future, Scott’s sci-fi horror opus follows the crew of a star freighter who are redirected to an alien moon to investigate a mysterious distress signal. What they find poses a threat not only their own lives, but the fate of all human life in the universe. Weyland-Yutani, the monolithic mega-corporation whose invisible machinations thrust the unsuspecting crew of the Nostromo into the double-mouthed jaws of danger, is the true villain of the film; an unseen force otherwise made manifest and known through every winding stretch of the ship’s darkened corridors. The Xenomorph might be the quote-unquote “monster” of the film, but it’s far more honest and way less terrifying than the so-called “Company,” which treats every consideration— even human life — as secondary in its myopic pursuit of profit. —Toussaint Egan

Alien is available to rent on Amazon Prime Video.

And everything else we’re watching...

The 93rd Academy Awards

a close-up of a giant Oscar statue with an Oscars sign behind it Photo: Mladen Antonov/AFP/Getty Images

This years’ stretch of COVID-compliant awards ceremonies have all been unusual in different ways, trying to approximate their pre-pandemic glitz as best as possible given the circumstances. Of these, the 93rd Academy Awards ceremony, which aired Sunday night, was perhaps the most radical, taking the opportunity to reinvent the entire show under the guidance of director Steven Soderbergh.

The result was mixed: a visually inventive show that was gorgeous in motion but awkward in scope, breaking with tradition in ways that were equal parts interesting, and unfortunate. The most talked about will likely be the show’s decision to invert the Acting and Best Picture awards, which presumably left room for the show to end with a posthumous Best Actor win for the late Chadwick Boseman. If that was the plan, it backfired horribly, with the not-present Anthony Hopkins winning and the Academy accepting on his behalf, souring the whole enterprise with a feeling of cynicism and disaster.

This is unfortunate, as the Oscars could use more radical experimentation, and creative choices like presenters giving quick bios of the nominees in lieu of movie clips are good ideas, even if they didn’t quite work in context. (The ceremony showed a baffling commitment to ignoring the fact that the public saw few movies in theaters this last year.)

Mostly, this year’s Oscars was an awards show that was both bold and somehow lacking in conviction; using a terrible and abnormal year as an excuse to revamp one of the stodgiest events in pop culture to show one possible way forward. It’s not a bad one to workshop further and try again with lessons learned, and it wouldn’t be terrible if it was scrapped altogether for an entirely different kind of reinvention. This year’s ceremony got one thing right: It felt like a party, a show put together for the people in the room. If there’s a way to invite more of us into that fun, maybe the Oscars will be on to something. —Joshua Rivera

Criminal Minds

The cast of Criminal Minds stare pensively at something off-screen Photo: CBS

The way I watch Criminal Minds is that I forget the show exists for months at a time and then one day decide “Huh, I’m in the mood for mind-numbing, comfy murder” so I turn it on and then it is the only thing I watch for weeks. Anyway, I am currently in a renewed Criminal Minds phase and the highlight of the episodes I watched this weekend involved a man convinced that his dead mother was telling him to murder the wives of the devil. And he was keeping his sister hostage in their fancy manor and murdering women who looked like the cast of the Merry Wives of Windsor production his dead mother had been in when she had her psychotic break and he dressed them up in POISONED RENAISSANCE GOWNS after dunking them in water to see if they were witches. Whack. —Petrana Radulovic

Criminal Minds is streaming on Netflix.

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Anthony Mackie soaring into action as Sam Wilson, the new Captain America. Image: Marvel Studios

Like so many other people, I caught the finale of the MCU series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier this weekend, but seemingly unlike so many other people, I mostly enjoyed it. Sure, it felt rushed after all the different things showrunner Malcolm Spellman tried to unpack over the course of six episodes, and above all, John Walker sure got off the hook easy after murdering a foreign national in a horrifically gory way in public, in front of dozens of cellphone cameras. You would think becoming a walking PR disaster would be fairly prohibitive for someone whose primary job was PR in the first place, but nope, one armored car full of sketchy diplomats, and all is forgiven.

That said (and various critiques acknowledged, about the show’s weird shifting politics and poorly defined terrorists-wait-not-terrorists), at least The Falcon and the Winter Soldier always felt like it was trying to accomplish something, and communicate something. It’s a more nuanced portrayal of grief, loss, and reconciliation than WandaVision, which tried the same thing but whiffed the ending, and Spellman’s interest in exploring racism in America feels a lot more pertinent to the world than the MCU movies that are just exploring “What if a guy with a magic thingie was really evil?” It’s far from a perfect show, but it had moments of emotion and connection that have often been lacking in the MCU as a whole. —Tasha Robinson

The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is streaming on Disney Plus.

The Fighter

Dicky (Christian Bale) drapes his arm over his brother Micky’s (Mark Wahlberg) shoulder in The Fighter Photo: Paramount Pictures

A movie snagging a Best Picture nomination is not a factor in its continued appreciation. I would argue David O. Russell’s The Fighter, which dramatizes the turbulent relationship between boxer Mickey Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother and trainer Dicky (Christian Bale), has no legacy, despite garnering all the hype — and winning Bale and Melissa Leo acting Oscars — back in 2010. The movie is not among the top-dog boxing flicks in sports movie history, nor is it a stark drama with an athletic twist like The Wrestler. It’s just kind of an entertaining movie where Boston accents are part of the joke! It’s like Ted with less talking bears and more bloody noses. Divorced from expectations of greatness, it’s polished, adult-oriented fun. We don’t get a lot of that outside the Oscar context, but we should.

Wahlberg, who knew Mickey Ward while growing up around Bah-stahn, is the creative engine of the movie, and the sacrificial lamb that makes it work. This is not Marky Mark’s best work by a mile — that would be The Departed, Ted, and The Other Guys — but he’s ripped, and shows up to punch guys. That’s enough to make everyone else around him come alive. Bale is astonishing as a crack-smoking burnout who also finds highs in the ring. Leo jabs just as hard as the overbearing matriarch of the Ward family, who knows their only way out of poverty is her son’s fight career. Amy Adams’ role as Mickey’s significant other, Charlene, (or “MTV Girl” as Mickey’s sisters nag her with over and over and over again), is the most cliched “Supportive Sports Girlfriend” character imaginable, but she’s also ferocious and piercing with her wisdom. Russell spends the whole movie combating his weird sense of humor from movies like Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees with more traditional, Scorsese-ish filmmaking, making for a strange blend of prestige drama and character romp. The Fighter is shaggy as hell, more so than you’d expect from a past Oscar contender, but that’s also the joy of it. —Matt Patches

The Fighter is streaming on Cinemax and available for rent on Amazon, Apple, and Vudu.

Midnight Run

Jack Walsh (Robert De Niro) answers the phone while handcuffed to Jonathan Mardukas (Charles Grodin) in Midnight Run Photo: Universal Pictures

It’s trite to say “they don’t make ’em like this anymore,” but listen, studios really don’t make movies like Midnight Run anymore. A bounty hunter played by Robert De Niro must transport a mob accountant played by Charles Grodin from New York to Los Angeles, all the while evading the FBI, mafia hitmen, and a rival bounty hunter with a tendency to get TKO’d. Think Planes, Trains & Automobiles meets Blues Brothers.

In 2021, this movie would be shrewdly converted into a superhero television series, but in the 1980s and ’90s mid-budget action flicks hit theaters every other month. That said, few of Midnight Run’s contemporaries matched its quality. The action is well-choreographed. The humor has heart. And if you really need more reasons to watch this joy of a movie, I’ll give you four “That Guys”: Yaphet Kotto, Dennis Farina, Philip Baker Hall, and the one and only Joe Pantoliano. —Chris Plante

Midnight Run is streaming on HBOMax.

Street Fighter

Ensemble freeze frame shot of the cast of Street Fighter including Jean-Claude Van Damme, Ming-Na Wen, Kylie Minogue, and Byron Mann Photo: Universal Pictures

Instead of actually watching the well-reviewed Mortal Kombat on the weekend it became available, my friends and I watched the far less acclaimed fighting-game-to-movie adaptation: 1994’s Street Fighter. This may seem like an inexplicable choice, but at least it allows 2021’s Mortal Kombat to shine in comparison.

There is so little actual fighting in Street Fighter, at least through the first three-quarters of the movie’s somehow bloated run time. There are a lot of trucks interrupting potential fights, gun fights, prison breaks, failed science experiments, and double crosses before characters actually go toe to toe. And while the movie makes a big show of transforming each character into their game-accurate costume, the character choices unintentionally increase the comedy. There’s Jean-Claude Van Damme’s “American” accent and ever-shifting stars and stripes tattoo; Raul Julia’s all latex, final boss Bison costume and commitment to every ridiculous line, even the ones much-memed touch points like “to me, it was Tuesday”; and the entire Blanka transformation, which takes a whole movie to turn him into a bright green superhuman, but never actually lets him have an action moment. But for a product of its time — a decade full of video game-inspired stinkers — it’s worth looking back on, especially because it’s obvious how much fun the cast is having. —Chelsea Stark

Street Fighter is streaming on Peacock.