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Category: Sci-Fi Café


Review by C.J. Bunce

Everyone likes Paul Rudd, right?  Rudd is the center of a new comedy-drama on Netflix that began this weekend, Living with Yourself And his fans won’t be disappointed.  The same struggling character reaching for success–but just missing it–in shows like Ant-Man, Anchorman, and Clueless is back, but this time his character is actually characters, plural, and, like Ant-Man, this show has a sci-fi twist.

In fact you could spend the 3.5 hours of the eight episode, half-hour series spotting all the sci-fi tropes picked up in the script by Timothy Greenberg (The Daily Show).  It all begins with a twist on Orson Scott Card’s short story Fat Farm (found in Isaac Asimov, George R.R. Martin, and Martin Greenberg’s collection, The Science Fiction Weight Loss Book).  In that story, a person goes to a secret clinic to lose weight, not realizing he is actually being cloned, and the “real” him shuffled off to a work farm for the rest of his life, while “new him” returns to his life slim and trim not knowing the difference.  In Living with Yourself, it’s Rudd’s character Miles who is unhappy not with his weight but his underachievement and overall dissatisfaction with himself.  A co-worker puts him onto a pricey spa that can solve his problems, which turns out to be a third-rate, pop-up cloning shop, where, unknown to clients, they get replaced with like-new clones of themselves and their old selves get suffocated and buried in the woods.  The cloning tech isn’t quite so refined so Miles experiences something like Total Recall’s schizoid embolism–instead of killing Miles’ older self, he wakes up in a shallow grave and must confront his new, cloned self.

This all plays out like another Arnold Schwarzenegger film, Twins, with old Miles left to forge ahead with his stale, unrefined DNA and new Miles “cleaned” and ready to conquer the world.  But this is just in the first half hour.  If you stay around for all eight episodes (and Rudd is fun playing two characters, so why not?), expect to catch scenes straight out of Multiplicity, Gattaca, Rachel Rising, The Last Jedi, Harry Potter, even Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, and more.  Rudd’s performance in dual roles is done so much in the actor’s laid back style that the double duty goes unnoticed, seamlessly, until the two halves confront each other in the season finale.  It’s not that kind of complex, award-winning visual effects work we saw from Tatiana Maslany as a dozen-plus characters in Orphan Black, but it doesn’t need to be.  The series hits on the classic internal struggle of man versus self, but this is first and foremost a comedy.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Typically a sci-fi movie’s tech manual is a compilation of spec designs and blueprints used in a film’s production, from designs and drawings, model making and miniature effects, drafting, and set building.  Graham J. Langridge′s new book turns that around.  Alien: The Blueprints is the culmination of more than a decade of side projects by Langridge, an architectural student when he began creating ship drawings for the franchise, and now he’s the artist and designer of an expansive set of blueprints based on the ships and sets from the franchise.  It’s all timed to coincide with the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic, the original 1979 film Alien, which sees a return to theaters this month as part of the Fathom Events series (details on that below).

Similar to tech manuals you may have seen from other series and intended to be read in conjunction with the 1995 book Aliens: Colonial Marines Technical Manual, this month’s follow-up work Alien: The Blueprints discusses the creative work behind the ships of Alien, Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, Prometheus, and Alien: Covenant.  But the bulk of its 156 over-sized (10.5-inch by 14.6-inch) pages consists of detailed, newly-created engineering drawings.  These are the key ships and creations anyone who has seen the films will be familiar with:  the Nostromo (with ten pages of detailed drawings), the Narcissus, and refinery from Alien, the Sulaco (with 11 pages of drawings), the alien ship, space jockey, armored personnel carrier, dropship (10 pages of drawings), powerloader, Hadley’s Hope (16 pages of drawings), and tractor from Aliens, the escape vehicle and penal colony facility from Alien 3, the Betty and Auriga from Alien Resurrection, and the Prometheus and Covenant (10 pages of drawings) from the latest films, and a lot more.

Along with an afterword by the author explaining his process, a section on each film discusses the film designers, with contemporary quotes and reference information from Roger Christian, Ron Cobb, Martin Bower, Syd Mead, H. R. Giger, Norman Reynolds, George Gibbs, Nigel Phelps, Sylvain Despretz, Steve Burg, and Chris Seagers.  A few close-up photographs of models of the actual ship props and original concept artwork fill out each chapter.  As a bonus, the Suloco and Covenant ships get full pull-out, double-page spreads for their design drawings.  The entirety is an end-to-end compilation of finely detailed artwork for the diehard Alien fan.  And each page is printed on thick, glossy paper, making them ideal for framing.

Check out this preview of a few of the ship and tech blueprints in Alien: the Blueprints:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A new cookbook has the recipes to get you through your travels wherever you are in the ‘Verse.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook pulls together foods seen throughout the series and some just inspired by it with lots of good in-universe commentary from Mal Reynolds and his crew.  I’ve been a fan of the sci-fi series since the San Diego Comic-Con 10th anniversary reunion (discussed here), and have reviewed every tie-in from the series released so far here at borg.  Banter of the crew is a great feature of many of the Firefly books published in the past ten years, and author Chelsea Monroe-Cassel gets all the characters right in her latest cookbook.  Firefly: The Big Damn Cookbook is now available for all Browncoats from Titan Books–you can take a look at a preview of recipes below courtesy of Titan Books, and order a copy here at Amazon.

Among all the tie-ins, this is the first foray into the food of the series.  A great focus is placed on the types of meals that make sense in the ‘Verse for a ship’s crew, as well as Joss Whedon’s incorporation of a future filled with Asian influences.  Five-spice is a common seasoning incorporated into the recipes, along with ginger and soy sauce, and that simplicity of nomadic life that underscored the travels of Serenity come through, too, with everyday ingredients, like honey for a sweetener, and white sauce, brown sauce, and biscuits a key component.  You’ll find foods discussed on the series by the crew of Serenity, other foods tangentially seen on screen, with some added in a creative way to fill in the blanks in between.  The author includes appropriate specs for meals with simple ingredients but also some dishes from more extravagant fare (like you might find at a formal shindig on Persephone).  The only way to tell if a cookbook is good is to dig right in.  So I tested four of the recipes that appealed to me the most on paper.

First I made Simon’s Eggy Oat Mush from the Recipes for Shipboard Living section.  This turned out to be a hearty breakfast concoction, a savory oatmeal cooked with veggies, egg, and garlic.  The egg brings the flavors all together and it will fill you up for the day.  It had a unique flavor profile for anyone only accustomed to oatmeal with brown sugar, cinnamon or other sweeteners–different enough that you could see being stuck on a ship and coming up with this as a staple.  It took only 15 minutes to prepare, and would also make a good dinner side dish.

The prep for River’s Meat Pie could hardly have been simpler.  This recipe was in the Recipes from the Core Worlds–Underbelly section (as opposed to an “upper crust” item).  The result was a tasty dish, highlighted by the right amount of fennel, onion, and garlic, and a perfect pastry dough crust (pictured above, top).  I halved the cookbook recipe and it made four perfect hand pies, great for carrying to lunch any day of the week (think Hostess fruit pies, but savory).  The crust was well-suited for a hand pie, sturdy enough to hold everything in, yet nice and flaky.

Next up was the Blue Sun Canned Peach Cobbler:

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The man in space saves the world.  Cue up Armageddon or Interstellar, not to mention hundreds of lower budget, often better space adventure films.  The new Brad Pitt movie Ad Astra–that’s “to the stars” from the first century philosopher Seneca’s quote per aspera ad astra, meaning “to the stars through adversity”–looks a lot like it’s aiming to be one of those films.  We might have skipped this one if we were to rely on the first two trailers alone.  But space pirates?  That’s something different altogether.

No one can deny the callback to Armageddon here, particularly with that movie’s co-star Liv Tyler appearing to be resurrecting her key scene in the Ad Astra trailers.  And the intentional comedy drama Space Cowboys also featured Tommy Lee Jones as astronaut in similar space garb (he plays the father of Pitt’s character).  Legendary dramatic and genre actor Donald Sutherland and genre veteran John Ortiz play supporting characters along with the Academy Award-nominated co-star Ruth Negga.

Maybe it’s more like the original Total Recall–the classic, not the remake.  Is this cast, some respectable outer space visuals a la Gravity, and space pirates enough to get you into the theater?  After watching all the trailers released so far, you may correctly feel like you’ve watched a quarter of the film.  How will writer-director James Gray (The Lost City of Z) and co-writer Ethan Gross (Fringe) tie it all together?

First up, these are the two latest trailers for Ad Astra:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

It’s as good as it gets for Michael Crichton fans.  Not only is The Andromeda Evolution a new thriller being released more than a decade after the author’s passing, it’s a sequel to a Crichton classic novel–his original science fiction cautionary tale The Andromeda Strain.  Created by writer Daniel H. Wilson (Robopocalypse) in collaboration with Crichton’s estate (CrichtonSun LLC), The Andromeda Evolution is nicely timed to arrive 50 years after The Andromeda Strain was first published, the book that launched Crichton’s fame as master of the technothriller.  The Andromeda Evolution has all the components of Crichton’s best works–the trademark structure of a team of unique experts colliding to prevent catastrophe, the integration of cutting edge science to both inform the reader and carry the plot forward, and the surprising juxtaposition of the improbable and the unimaginable.  And the ripped-from-the-headlines timeliness is eerily creepy–it all begins with a disaster in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, complete with government clashes and misinformation campaigns, and ends with a surprise that will stop you in your tracks.

Nothing defines Crichton’s storytelling as much as his interaction of characters, always an unlikely grouping of personalities that some far-off puppetmaster thinks is the right team to solve problems.  A  mix of the wise, the pragmatic, the cerebral, the sensitive, and the reactionary, common to the Crichton elite team are individuals who must struggle to get along like any group trying to complete a project in the real world.  Everyone has a piece of the puzzle, but can everyone survive long enough to contribute their piece?  In The Andromeda Evolution that first means introducing us to Dr. James Stone, son of The Andromeda Strain bacteriologist Dr. Jeremy Stone.  The son is a late addition to a core unit assigned to investigate and prevent the spread of what appears to be that dreaded, fast-moving viral strain his father faced so many decades ago that almost destroyed Earth.  Haunted by a lifetime of living with the threat of the virus’s return, Stone has acquired expertise under his father’s wing.  With the alert of a new threat, on a moment’s notice he’s dropped at Ground Zero with only hours to collect data with other similar elite minds to try to save the world again.

In The Andromeda Evolution, everything you think you know about the constructs of modern science and technology was a lie, dating back to the original Andromeda Strain virus, documented in Dr. Michael Crichton’s original account (recall Crichton was in medical school when he began his career as author).  Hidden by world governments, never losing ground as the world’s primary threat to security and survival, the Andromeda Strain was real.  NASA, the Center for Disease Control, all the framework for technological initiatives we think about every day from the 1970s forward have been preparing humanity for the return of the dreaded AS-1 and AS-2.  And the biggest secret is staring us all in the face.

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Fans of CBS All Access’s Star Trek Discovery have a new series interlude to check out, and it follows the continuing exploits of a fan-favorite character.  IDW Publishing launches the new comic book mini-series Star Trek Discovery: Aftermath this Wednesday.  The series follows the ongoing exploits of Captain Christopher Pike.  The “aftermath” of the title?  The story looks into the crew of the Enterprise in the aftermath of the season two finale, featuring other series regulars including young Spock and Number One.

The three-part story is written by Star Trek Voyager novelist Kirsten Beyer and IDW’s longest-running Star Trek writer, Mike Johnson, with artwork by one of IDW’s top Star Trek artists, Tony Shasteen (his likenesses of Rebecca Romijn as Number One in particular are excellent) and colors by JD Mettler.  Old Federation rivals the Klingons take center stage in a bit of an homage and callback (call forward?) to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, “A Matter of Honor.”  The art of Angel Hernandez is featured on the standard covers for the series, with an alternate cover for the first issue by George Caltsoudas, plus a photo cover.

 

Here is a preview of Star Trek Discovery: Aftermath, courtesy of IDW Publishing:

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Welcome to the day after Judgment Day.

It’s been 35 years since we first heard the message from Kyle Reese given to Sarah Connor, “There’s no fate but what we make for ourselves.”  Producer James Cameron is back in the franchise for the first time since Terminator 2, with Tim Miller (Deadpool) directing the November release Terminator: Dark Fate.  This time we’re told audiences are supposed to ignore everything that came after Terminator 2, and substitute this next chapter, similar to the “picture hopping” the Halloween movie franchise has become known for.  The original Sarah Connor is back with Linda Hamilton reprising her role also like Jamie Lee Curtis has done for Halloween.  (Although this is only Hamilton’s third movie as Connor, compared to Curtis logging four leading performances as Halloween’s Laurie Strode plus two more in the works–not that we’re keeping score).

The CGI-heavy action sequences we’ve seen so far look closer to the original film The Terminator than Cameron’s groundbreaking effects on Terminator 2: Judgment Day–we’re not sure that is what audiences were hoping for.  Newcomer to the series Mackenzie Davis is “almost human,” and Gabriel Luna plays a villain, making them the faces of the next Terminators, following in the footsteps of Jason Patrick, Kristanna Loken, Byung-Hun Lee, and Jason Clarke.  And, best of all, Arnold Schwarzenegger will be back, as promised.  Although it’s difficult not to cringe when Hamilton says she hasn’t seen Davis’s kind of Terminator before, since audiences have, with Loken’s great Terminatrix in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.

Wouldn’t it be great if they just brought back Michael Biehn as a parallel timeline Kyle Reese?  The studio has announced Edward Furlong returning as John Connor, so anything is possible with Cameron and Miller here.

First here’s the new poster, followed by the brand new trailer just released, and seven additional teaser reels released yesterday, August 29, the franchise’s “Judgment Day”–

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Something in the air is hinting that autumn is on the way, and that means Halloween and more horror movies are coming.  This weekend a new twist on a modern trope arrives in theaters with director Jacob Estes’ new film Don’t Let Go Estes is a relatively new director, with the horror classic Ring sequel Rings under his belt.  His latest project is billed as drama, fantasy, horror, mystery, and thriller, and it’s from Blumhouse, so expect plenty of blood and gore.  The trailer suggests it has a science fiction element, too.

That’s the part that looks like the modern sci-fi movie classic Frequency (later made into a TV series), which starred Dennis Quaid and James Caviezel as a father and son who can communicate via HAM radio, years after the father’s death.  In Frequency (despite the rantings of how time travel works in Avengers: Endgame, ahem) you are able to alter the past, and in Don’t Let Go it looks like it relies on the same understanding of time.  After a man’s brother, sister-in-law, and their daughter/his niece are murdered, he gets a phone call from the niece, only she’s calling him her funeral–from two weeks ago.  So just like in Frequency, it’s up to the lead character to prevent a murder.  Time travel with a twist, this time with a horror set-up.

Don’t Let Go stars David Oyelowo (The Cloverfield Paradox, Star Wars Rebels, Jack Reacher, A Sound of Thunder, As Time Goes By) as an ex-L.A. cop, with Mykelti Williamson as his partner, Alfred Molina as their boss, Brian Tyree Henry as his brother, and young actor Storm Reid as his niece.  Whodunnit?  The cop, his partner, his brother, or the criminal element laid out in the trailer?

Here’s the trailer:

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Disney and Lucasfilm have rolled out a two-minute clip relying primarily on the nostalgia fans have for the original trilogy, but also carefully selecting other bits from the franchise’s past (notably excluding anything from the spin-off films Solo and Rogue One) to get audiences ready for December’s last film in the third trilogy, Episode IX, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker Callbacks include an image of Billy Dee Williams as Lando Calrissian laughing (footage the first trailer already showed being echoed again in the coming Episode IX), multiple shots of Alec Guinness and Ewan McGregor as Obi-Wan Kenobi (to affirm there’s a Kenobi series on the way), Jeremy Bulloch’s Boba Fett (to remind us all that The Mandalorian series is coming next), even a reminder of that carbon freezing chamber that preserved Han Solo, that The Mandalorian series trailer also echoed this past week.

But the biggest idea now is foreshadowed with both the inclusion of Ray Park’s Darth Maul and his double saber, and the absence of images of similar bad guys from the prequel trilogy (like General Grievous or Christopher Lee’s Count Dooku).  And that idea is that Rey–now with what appears to be the same configuration of lightsaber, is related to Darth Maul, boosted by the surprise insertion of the Sith villain into Solo: A Star Wars Story, which confirmed the Rebels animated series take that the character didn’t really die in The Phantom Menace.  Or maybe those new red lenses on C-3PO mean he’s been carrying some Sith message for his master, Anakin Skywalker, later Darth Vader, that is only relevant now.  Or maybe they’re all red herrings.

A new official poster for the movie reveals what many think is Emperor Palpatine, but what could easily be a cloaked Mark Hamill returning as the ghost of Luke Skywalker (Hamill referred to the poster Monday with the hashtag #lukethespook), and he looks happy as Daisy Ridley’s Rey and Adam Driver’s Kylo duel atop what we understand to be part of a destroyed Death Star.  How much of the voiceovers have been Luke, and how many have been the Emperor, and could they all somehow really be the same manipulator?  It’s only a trailer, so there are no spoilers here, and it’s anyone’s guess what it all means.  Take a look for yourself:

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At Disney’s annual “D23” Expo this weekend, attendees can expect to get another big fix of Disney, and that includes costumes.  The costumes are from the more recent Disney years, with one display showcasing the new Mary Poppins Returns outfits, Time from Alice Through the Looking Glass, and Captain Jack Sparrow and Barbossa’s costumes from the Pirates of the Caribbean series.  Another wing featured Disney’s recent animated-turned-live action movies, and another focused on the villainy of the live-action films, all within a gallery of dozens of costumes foreshadowing a new book coming next month, The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between, available now for pre-order here at Amazon.  Check out a 16-page preview of the new 176-page hardcover volume below.

The book isn’t about Star Wars costumes (for that, we recommend Brandon Alinger’s Star Wars Costumes: The Original Trilogy, reviewed previously here at borg, and Trisha Biggar’s Dressing a Galaxy: The Costumes of Star Wars, reviewed here).  But that didn’t keep Disney and Lucasfilm from showcasing a dozen costumes of Star Wars armor tracing back a design history of Star Wars stormtroopers.  Check those out below.

Lucasfilm also previewed the new hero cast costumes from The Mandalorian streaming series from Disney+ (previewed here yesterday).  And note: Ewan McGregor confirmed he will be reprising the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi in a forthcoming Disney+ series.

 

Check out this preview of The Art of Disney Costuming: Heroes, Villains, and Spaces Between and some Star Wars franchise costumes on display at D23 this weekend:

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