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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast:
Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Dominique Pinon, Ron Perlman, Gary Dourdan, Michael Wincott
Writing Credits:
Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Joss Whedon

Tagline:
Witness the resurrection.

Synopsis:
Sigouney Weaver and Winona Ryder star in this terrifying, highly-anticipated sci-fi action thriller! Ellen Ripley died fighting the perfect predator. Two hundred years and eight horrific experiments later, she's back. A group of scientists has cloned her-along with the alien queen inside of her-hoping to breed the ultimate weapon. But the resurrected Ripley is full of surprises for her creators, as are the aliens. And soon, a lot more than all hell breaks loose! To combat the creatures, Ripley must team up with a band of smugglers, including a mechanic named Call, who holds more than a few surprises of her own.

Box Office:
Budget
$70.000 million.
Opening Weekend
$25.789 million on 2415 screens.
Domestic Gross
$47.748 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
Spanish Dolby 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned

Runtime: 116/109 min.
Price: $99.98
Release Date: 12/2/2003

Only available as part of The Alien Quadrilogy.

Bonus:
Disc One
• Both 1997 Theatrical and 2003 Special Edition Cuts of the Film
• Audio Commentary with Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Editor Herve Schneid, Alien Effects Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., Visual Effects Supervisor Pitof, Conceptual Artist Sylvain Despretz, and Actors Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, and Leland Orser
• Jean-Pierre Jeunet Introduction
• Deleted Footage Marker
• THX Optimizer
Disc Two
• “From the Ashes: Reviving the Story” Featurette
• “French Twist: Direction and Design” Featurette
• “Under the Skin: Casting and Characterization” Featurette
• “Death From Below: Underwater Photography” Featurette
• “In the Zone: The Basketball Scene” Featurette
• “Unnatural Mutation: Creature Design”  Featurette
• “Genetic Composition: Music” Featurette
• “Virtual Aliens: Computer Generated Imagery” Featurette
• “A Matter of Scale: Miniature Photography” Featurette
• “Critical Juncture: Reactions to the Film” Featurette
• Test Footage: Creatures and Costumes with Optional Commentary
• Test Footage Part 2: Hair and Makeup
• Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Rehearsals
• Still Photo Galleries


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RELATED REVIEWS


Alien Resurrection: 2003 Special Edition (Alien Quadrilogy Boxed Set) (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 13, 2003)

Note that this review of Alien Resurrection includes some elements that might be regarded as spoilers. I tried to keep these fairly vague, but they do spill a few beans. If you don’t want to know about those bits, skip to the technical portion of the article.

Are 1992's Alien 3 and 1997's Alien Resurrection on a par with the first two films, 1979's Alien and 1986's Aliens? No, they aren't, but how many movies are? Those are two of acknowledged classics; movies like that don't come along every day. Both Alien3 and Resurrection are actually very good pictures; their main sins are that they aren't quite as revolutionary as their predecessors.

As I think the negative feelings about Alien3 can be narrowed down to a few issues, I believe I can sum up the general distaste for Alien Resurrection even more succinctly: Winona Ryder, and the lil' alien baby. These are uniformly the most widely disparaged aspects of the film; while I'm sure its detractors can find many other facets to detest, these two areas pretty neatly sum up why it seems to be the most despised film of the four.

Like Alien3, I think that Resurrection is a film that needs a second chance for it to really succeed. In my opinion, the lil' alien baby is the Alien series' Jar Jar Binks. Of course, they're rather dissimilar characters except for the fact that large percentages of the population seem to loathe them. Upon first viewing of Resurrection, I pretty much agreed with the consensus view that the lil' alien baby was a disappointment and a dud. However, just as I started to like Jar Jar much more the second time I saw The Phantom Menace, the lil' alien baby works a lot better when you see Resurrection again. The figure looks less ridiculous and its "personality" and menace become more evident. While the presence of the lil' alien baby still undercuts the drama of the film's end, I don't think it has a significantly negative affect; in my opinion, the movie ends on a fairly strong note.

As for Ms. Ryder, many of the complaints about her seem to revolve around the strength of her presence in the film, or the lack thereof; critics felt that she looked out of place among the violent action film doings. You know what? They're right; Ryder maintains a vague "deer in the headlights" look throughout much of Resurrection and she seems like a decidedly unlikely participant.

Unfortunately, these criticisms miss the point. Ryder's character Call is an android, but her model was one built by other androids in an apparent attempt to make something "more human than human." These robot-creators leaned a little heavy on the "emotions" button and as such Call and her brethren are apparently a really touchy-feely group. It's an interesting concept, that synthetic creatures who are pretty much by default devoid of emotions would take that aspect of androids to the opposite extreme when they make robots of their own.

In this context, Ryder's performance makes sense. She's an android with self-awareness, enough so that she possesses strong emotions that make her hate what she is; Call is a robot so in touch with "humanity" that serious self-loathing ensues. I won't argue that Call is a great character or that Ryder offers a fantastic performance; I thought both areas were good but not great. Nonetheless, I disagree with the strongly negative appraisals of her work since her acting was definitely in keeping with what the role asked.

I do, however, take exception with some of the other casting. For the most part, the cast is serviceable; they don't live up to the fantastic legacy of the actors in the first two films, but they don't trash the joint either. The best work comes from Ron Perlman as scaggy nasty-boy Johner - he brings surprising vitality and nuance to what should have been a one-note role - and from Brad Dourif as the scientist who's um... maybe just a little too fond of the aliens; he's wonderfully creepy and goofy all at once. Let's not forget the king of hyperventilation, Leland Orser, as Purvis, one of the alien's impregnated victims. Orser seems to be making a career for himself by performing variations on Veronica Cartwright's death scene from Alien. Hey, more power to him; he knows what he does, and he does it well.

As for the rest of the group, most of them are fine but unexceptional. On the shallow end of the pool we find the two performances that I definitely thought stunk. Dan Hedaya makes for a fine comic actor, but his intense broadness looks way out of place here in his role as General Perez. Basically it seems like he plays everything for laughs; I don't think this was really the intention, but he doesn't appear able to do it any other way. This greatly undercuts any impact his character might have made.

I also found J.E. Freeman's work as sleazy doctor Wren to be over the top. In his attempt to make the character nasty and menacing, he just seems much too emotive and his performance definitely enters the realm of camp. Thankfully, both Hedaya and Freeman don't play especially major roles in the film, so their work doesn't provide a strong negative impact. Still, I thought those two offered the worst performances of the entire series.

Weaver offers some of her best work as clone Ripley. She clearly relishes the opportunity to portray her as something other than her crusading, saintly self, which, since the clone has some alien cells in it, she gets to do. Weaver's performance is a continual delight; she underplays her menace but makes it evident nonetheless as she makes the audience question which team it is for which she now plays. Clone Ripley lacks the emotional nuance that made Weaver's work in Aliens so notable, but it's a great performance anyway.

As for the depictions of the aliens themselves, they work decently. Resurrection takes a page from the Aliens model and serves up a whole bunch of the nasty critters. In addition to the much-maligned lil' alien baby, we get another queen alien - who plays a much smaller role than in Aliens - plus the usual warriors. The only twist on the latter group comes from the aqua aliens, which are underwater swimming creatures. They add a nice twist and offer something a little different, although they're somewhat underused.

Effects-wise, the creatures work very well and probably look the best from the whole series. Some of the CG images for the aqua aliens seem a bit dodgy, but overall the critters appear very convincing. Hey, even the lil' alien baby works in a realistic manner; it's just his physical appearance that bothers so many people.

Overall I found Resurrection to be a very entertaining and frequently thrilling flick. Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet shows a nice flair for the many vivid action scenes. One thing I think people forget when they attack later Alien films in comparison with the first two is just how hard it must be for these directors to create something new while they still stick within the accepted Alien universe; fickle Alien-philes want it to be the same and different all at once.

I, for one, don't really understand or agree with the viciously negative reaction that Alien Resurrection has encountered. Certainly, the film has flaws, and since the most widely cited problems occur at the end of the movie, those so-called failures are even more noticeable. (Audiences forgive a movie that starts poorly but ends well, but if it goes the other way around, forget about it - that film will be savaged!) Even if you have already seen Resurrection and disliked it, give it another try. Like me, you may be very pleasantly surprised; I've now seen it five times, and I've enjoyed it more with each successive viewing.

The comments above address the original theatrical cut of Alien Resurrection. This DVD release also includes an extended “special edition” version of the film. It expands the original’s 109 minute running time up to 116 minutes. Most of this comes via short additions to existing scenes. The majority of the additions occur during the first act, though a fair number of extended bits occur in the film’s final third; only the second act proceeds pretty much as original displayed. We get an alternate opening that does nothing other than to begin the film on an oddly comic note, and we get a darker ending as well.

The extra segments flesh out the film moderately, but they don’t make it a different experience. Detractors who hope the changes will significantly alter the flick will leave disappointed. I prefer the alternate ending, though, and I think the variations improve the movie slightly. I could live without the silly opening, but even so, this is the version I plan to watch in the future.


The DVD Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus A

Alien Resurrection appears in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Given its status as the most recent Alien flick, I expected Resurrection to present a positive picture, and it delivered.

Across the board, sharpness appeared solid. A couple of shots demonstrated some slight softness, but those occurred infrequently. Otherwise, the image was tight and well defined. I saw no problems with jagged edges or moiré effects, and edge enhancement caused no concerns. In addition, print flaws appeared absent. I witnessed no signs of specks, grit, or other defects.

None of the prior Alien flicks offered vivid colors, and Resurrection followed suit. In general, the movie displayed either mild brown or green tints. Within those parameters, the hues looked accurate and well depicted, but nothing unusually vibrant occurred. Black levels seemed nicely deep and rich, while the film’s many low-light situations came across with fine definition and clarity. Overall, the image of Resurrection appeared concise and distinctive.

How did this compare with the original 1999 DVD? Both seemed fairly similar, but the 2003 disc brought a new and slightly improved transfer. The old one demonstrated a few small source flaws and also presented light compression artifacts and some mild edge enhancement at times. Otherwise, the two discs seemed identical. The improvements found here weren’t massive, but they made the 2003 disc the more attractive one.

Although bits and pieces of added and extended scenes appeared throughout the movie, you’d be hard-pressed to differentiate new from original. Some stood out due to dodgy effects work; for example, the bug in the alternate opening looked crude. Otherwise, the new sequences melded very smoothly with the original footage. I noticed nothing to make those elements stand out from the theatrical cut.

While the 1999 disc included only a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack, this 2003 version added a DTS 5.1 mix as well. To these ears, the pair sounded very similar. As usual, the DTS edition seemed slightly more dynamic and a little more transparent, but not enough improvements occurred for me to differentiate between the two in regard to my grades.

As the only truly contemporary soundtrack, I expected Resurrection to sound the best of the bunch, and it did. Though not a showy mix, the soundfield presented a rich and engaging piece. Elements seemed appropriately localized and they blended together smoothly. Panning appeared neat and concise, and all five speakers offered a lot of audio. The front soundstage dominated to a degree, but the surrounds added a good level of unique material. Those elements created a fine sense of atmosphere, and they jumped into the action well during the film’s livelier scenes. I couldn’t identify any “demo” sequences here, but the whole thing was well executed.

In addition, the audio quality appeared excellent. Speech always came across as distinctive and natural, and the lines demonstrated no issues connected to intelligibility or edginess. Music seemed nicely bold and dynamic, as the mix reproduced the score with fine clarity. Effects also were detailed and true. They showed no concerns with distortion and appeared accurate and full-bodied. In the end, I felt very pleased with the audio of Alien Resurrection, and it presented the strongest sound of the four films.

Of the four Alien DVDs released in 1999, Resurrection easily presented the fewest extras. Happily, the 2003 version greatly expanded on these. One main change: we can now watch either the theatrical rendition or the 2003 extended cut. I already discussed this in the body of the review, but I figured I should mention it as a supplement too. The DVD uses seamless branching to cut between them. In a nice touch, if you watch the alternate version, you’ll find a deleted footage marker that notes all the originally excised material. The words “special edition” show up in the bottom right of the screen when new footage appears.

If you select the “special edition” cut, the movie opens with a Jean-Pierre Jeunet introduction. In this 45-second clip, the director explains that he feels content with the theatrical version and considers it to be the “director’s cut”. He notes that he created the modified version to offer something of interest to the fans.

Next we find a new audio commentary with director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, editor Herve Schneid, alien effects designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff Jr., visual effects supervisor Pitof, conceptual artist Sylvain Despretz, and actors Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, and Leland Orser. A complicated compilation, it sounded like Jeunet, Schneid, and Pinon sit together, while Perlman and Orser appear together. Gillis and Woodruff form another pair, as do Pitof and Despretz. At least that’s what I think – sometime it’s hard to tell, especially since not all of the participants introduce themselves, but that’s the way it appears to me.

Whatever the case may be, the group provide a commentary that never achieves greatness but that usually comes across as informative and interesting. The track covers a nice variety of subjects. We get information on the script and changes made to it along with Jeunet’s use of storyboards to plan the shots. We also learn a lot about the creation and execution of the effects, elements changed between the theatrical and special edition cuts, and various notes from the set. A little too much praise appears – Jeunet seems especially prone to express his fondness for different elements – but overall this offers a useful and fairly rich discussion.

Note that the content of the commentary varies somewhat dependent on the version of the film you watch. The special edition and theatrical cuts feature a few different elements. Thjs makes sense but becomes slightly frustrating for those of us who want to learn everything we can about the movie, as it means we need to sit through many redundant elements to get new tidbits. If you select the theatrical edition of Alien Resurrection, you’ll get access to deleted scenes. Note that these simply show the alternate sequences from the special edition cut; nothing different than what we find in that version appears in this section. It’s too bad the commentary for those scenes isn’t available as you watch them; that’d solve the problem of the redundant elements.

DVD One features the THX Optimizer. Also found on many other DVDs, this purports to help you set up your system for the best reproduction of both picture and sound, ala stand-alone programs such as Video Essentials. I’ve never tried the Optimizer since I’m happy with my settings, but if you don’t own something such as Essentials, the Optimizer may help you improve picture and audio quality.

With that we head to DVD Two, where a slew of extras lie. These divide into three areas, and we begin with Pre-Production. The first featurette, From the Ashes: Reviving the Story fills 10 minutes and four seconds and offers the usual mix of movie snippets, archival materials, and interviews. We hear from screenwriter Joss Whedon, alien effects creators Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis, producers David Giler and Bill Badalato, visual effects supervisor Erik Henry, and actors Sigourney Weaver and Winona Ryder. Here and elsewhere, most of the interviews come from modern sessions, but a moderate amount of mid-Nineties comments appear as well. (Oddly, though we find recent interviews with Weaver for the first three flicks, only clips shot during the production of Resurrection pop up here.)

”Ashes” offers a decent examination of how Resurrection came into being as an early entity. We get some notes about the studio’s decision to restart the franchise along with some opposition to this plan. Whedon goes into his script and we hear reactions – both positive and negative – to it. This show sets the table for the actual making of the flick and does so well.

Biggest surprise in “Ashes”: the inclusion of a 1997 comment from Weaver in which she expresses her disdain for the concept of an Aliens Vs. Predator flick. Given that movie comes out in the summer of 2004, I’m surprised the suits at Fox let this one onto the DVD.

The next featurette, French Twist: Direction and Design lasts 26 minutes and seven seconds. It includes statements from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Gillis, Woodruff, visual effects cinematographer Conrad W. Hall, Badalato, Weaver, conceptual artist Sylvain Despretz, Whedon, costume designer Bob Ringwood, visual effects supervisor Pitof, and cinematographer Darius Khondji. We learn of Jeunet’s recruitment for the flick as well as his befuddlement about why Fox wanted him. We then get notes about his crew and various concepts related to sets and costumes as well as the decision to shoot in Los Angeles. The program becomes somewhat dry at times, but it nonetheless covers the topics in a fairly thorough and informative manner.

Under the Skin: Casting and Characterization runs 12 minutes, 43 seconds and features notes from Jeunet, actors Ryder, Weaver, J.E. Freeman, Leland Orser, Ron Perlman, Brad Dourif Kim Flowers, Gary Dourdan and Dominique Pinon. As implied by the title, this discusses how some of the actors got their roles, and we also hear about work on the set with the performers. More than a little “we had a lot of fun!” fluff appears, but we find some nice notes, such as how Jeunet worked with Weaver.

After this we get Test Footage: Creatures and Costumes with Optional Commentary. This fills nine minutes, 49 seconds and includes remarks from Alec Gillis. We see early shots of alien eggs, facehuggers, a spitting alien head, Call’s damaged torso, the lil’ alien baby’s facial skin, skull and body for the end of the film, and some other nasty-looking elements. It’s an interesting reel of development material. Gillis offers some notes that narrate what we see and what they attempted to do with the elements.

Test Footage Part 2: Hair and Makeup runs four minutes, 39 seconds. We see shots taken of Sigourney Weaver in different looks for Ripley. Most of these focus on her as an almost-developed clone. This provides another nice glimpse of early footage.

Up next we locate Pre-Visualizations: Multi-Angle Rehearsals. This presents an early rendition of via three angles: Storyboard, video rehearsal, and composite screen with final film. It also offers two audio choices: rehearsal audio and final film audio. We check out a few different sequences such as the one where a newly cloned Ripley attacks Wren and the piece in which the facehuggers latch onto their kidnapped victims. These offer some cool views of practice material. A fight scene shot with toy guns seems especially entertaining.

“Pre-Production” concludes with some “Still Photo Galleries”. Most intriguing is the First Draft Screenplay by Joss Whedon. Much of this text appears in the final film, but a few important exceptions occur, especially during the third act. It offers an interesting read.

The Mark Caro Portfolio presents 21 of the artist’s early sketches for various characters. The Art of Resurrection Conceptual Art Gallery breaks into seven areas: “Title Designs” (31), “Ship Designs” (84), “Prop Designs” (52), “Clone Designs” (27), “Costume Designs” (38), “Alien Designs” (27), and “Earth Designs” (five). Finally, Storyboards splits into eight domains: “Experiment on the Auriga” (91), “The Betty Arrives” (69), “Aliens Escape” (196), “Survivors Regroup” (164), “Underwater Ambush” (140), “Ladder Fight” (154), “Queen’s Hive” (78) and “The Newborn” (130).

Next we shift to Production and open with a featurette called Death From Below: Underwater Photography. It takes 31 minutes and 35 seconds as it presents comments from Jeunet, Pitof, Khondji, underwater cinematographer Pete Romano, production supervisor Billy Badalato, Gillis, Woodruff, and actors Freeman, Perlman, Pinon, Orser, Weaver, Ryder, Flowers and Dourdan. “Death” obviously focuses on the flick’s big underwater sequence. We get notes about its execution, with an emphasis on the actors’ training and work. We find lots of interesting shots from the set and learn of the various dangers and issues related to the scene. It’s a rich and fairly interesting examination of the piece’s creation.

After this we find a featurette called In the Zone: The Basketball Scene. It fills six minutes and 41 seconds and offers information from Hall, Weaver, Pitof, Jeunet, Freeman, Perlman, and Orser. They tell us a little about the set-up for the shot, but mostly we hear of Weaver’s basketball training and her big shot. At times, this feels somewhat fluffy as it lavishes praise on Weaver for actually making the tough basket, but it’s such a fun element of the film and so cool that she did it that I liked “Zone” anyway.

The final “Production” featurette, Unnatural Mutation: Creature Design runs 26 minutes and 21 seconds and includes remarks from Gillis, Woodruff, Weaver, Jeunet, and Pitof. As one might expect, Gillis and Woodruff dominate the piece. They discuss their alterations to the various alien designs, the swimming aliens, the “viper pit”, the Ripley clones, and the lil’ baby alien. As usual, Gillis and Woodruff cover their work in a thorough and informative manner. We get lots of good material here related to the creation and design of the elements in this solid program.

The “Production” domain finishes with two more “Still Photo Galleries”. Production Gallery divides into nine areas: “Production Props: Weapons” (seven shots), “Extracting the Queen” (32), “The Betty Arrives” (35), “Aliens Escape” (53), “The Clone Horrors” (12), “Underwater Attack” (34), “The Queen’s Nest” (17), “Falling to Earth” (52), and “On Earth” (five). Within ADI’s Workshop, we find 156 shots of their creations for the film.

As we head to the Post-Production area, we launch with a featurette called Genetic Composition: Music. It lasts 13 minutes and eight seconds and presents statements from Jeunet and composer John Frizzell. We briefly hear how the composer got the gig, and he then goes over his themes and general work on the flick, with some emphasis on unusual instrumentation and the use of electronic elements. “Genetic” gives us a reasonably positive examination of the film’s music.

The next featurette, Virtual Aliens: Computer Generated Imagery takes nine minutes and 52 seconds as it offers information from Hall, Henry, Pitof, Jeunet, Gillis, Woodruff, and visual effects producer Susan Zwerman. They go over the visual planning process and then discuss the different groups that worked on various CG elements and a few specifics about their creations. It doesn’t offer a lot of depth, as we hear from no one at the various effects houses. Still, it touches on some topics in a moderately useful way.

After this we go to A Matter of Scale: Miniature Photography. The 22-minute and 49-second featurette offers comments from Henry, Pitof, Despretz, Khondji, Hall, miniature supervisor Matthew Gratzner, miniature fabricator Ian Hunter, and miniature cinematographer Rich Fichter, They cover subjects like the design of the Auriga and the Betty, the lighting and photography of the ships and matching it to first unit shots, the use of the ENR process and its complications, and other areas. Probably the driest of the various featurettes, this one seems a little slow at times. It does include some useful material, however, and it elaborates on its subjects well.

For our final featurette, we discover Critical Juncture: Reactions to the Film. It takes 14 minutes and 26 seconds as it features interviews with Jeunet, Pitof, Orser, Despretz, Romano, Ringwood, Khondji, Gillis, Gratzner, Woodruff, Frizzell, Henry, Giler and Whedon. They go over their personal reactions to Resurrection and speculate where the franchise might go from here. Given the generally negative critical and fan reaction to Resurrection, we don’t hear many criticisms here. Despretz presents some small knocks on it, but most of the participants express their pleasure with it. It seems odd to create a featurette of this sort and mostly ignore the popular consensus. The thoughts about what the participants would like to see from future Alien flicks are fun, though.

“Post-Production” concludes with more “Still Photo Galleries”. Visual Effects Gallery gives us 122 shots, most of which show the miniatures created for the flick. Finally, the Special Promotional Shoot offers 31 publicity pictures.

In a nice touch, the DVD allows you to watch all the featurettes as one long program. All together, these fill a whopping two hours, 53 minutes, and 46 seconds. It also collects all the artwork and photos into their own respective domains, though those options seem less useful. I enjoyed being able to check out all the featurettes as one long show, but with so many stillframe options, trying to work through them as a gigantic conglomeration seemed awkward and unpleasant.

Lots of people hate Alien Resurrection, but I think it presents a generally successful tale. The movie achieves something different and furthers the Alien saga in a satisfying and intriguing manner. The DVD offers very positive picture and audio with a strong set of supplements. I don’t know if anything here will change the minds of the flick’s foes, but for fans and those with open minds, I definitely recommend it.

Does the 2003 release merit a repurchase if you own the 1999 DVD? Yes, unless you have no interest in the extended version of the film and also don’t care at all about supplements. If you simply want to watch the theatrical cut, the 1999 disc is generally fine. The audio seems identical for both releases, and though the new one presents slightly improved picture quality, it doesn’t seem remarkably stronger. However, the 2003 disc includes the extended edition of the film plus a surfeit of excellent extras, so I think the vast majority of Resurrection fans will want to get the new release.

Footnote: as I write this, the 2003 version of Alien Resurrection appears only in the Alien Quadrilogy boxed set. However, the 2-DVD version will come out on its own in early 2004.

To rate this film, visit the original review of ALIEN RESURRECTION