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Tag Archive: 2001: A Space Odyssey


Review by C.J. Bunce

So many books that go behind the scenes of films take a similar approach, skimming the surface with interviews of only top production heads, providing diehard fans of the property who have read all the fanzines little that is new.  So when you get an immersive treatise like The Making of Alien, you must take a few weeks to digest every story, quote and anecdote found inside.  Maybe it’s because so much of the inception of the other classics J.W. Rinzler has written about is the stuff of sci-fi movie legend, but Rinzler’s research this time around is completely enthralling.  Writer Dan O’Bannon, writer and initial director Walter Hill, concept artist H.R. Giger, director and storyboard artist Ridley Scott, actors Sigourney Weaver, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright, and Ian Holm–Rinzler’s chronology is framed by the entry of these people into the project and their key roles.  The account of their intersected careers and efforts resulting in the 1979 sci-fi/horror classic provide a detailed understanding of studio productions in the 1970s.  For fans of the film and the franchise, you couldn’t ask for more for this year’s 40th anniversary of Alien.

Rinzler, who has also created similar deep dives behind the scenes of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, the Indiana Jones films, and last year’s The Making of Planet of the Apes, has established the best format for giving sci-fi fans the ultimate immersive experience.  In many ways The Making of Alien is an account of the necessary vetting process behind any major creative endeavor.  The first draft of any story is never the best, and sometimes neither is the 100th draft.  But the best books and the best movies get reviewed by other people, usually producers, editors, studios, departments, some with prestige and money backing them, sometimes over and over, with changes made to every chapter, with creators and ideas that are tried on for size, dismissed, re-introduced, and sometimes brought back again.  By the end of many a film, the contributors are exhausted and disenchanted, some even devastated.  Only sometimes this is alleviated by a resulting success.  It was even more difficult working on a project like Alien–a mash-up of science fiction and horror pulled together in the 1970s, when drama was in, and science fiction meant either the cold drama of 2001: A Space Odyssey or the roller coaster spectacle of Star Wars.  Behind the scenes there would be overlaps in creative types, like famed set “graffiti artist” Roger Christian and sound expert Ben Burtt.  But ultimately Alien had to be something different to get noticed.

The stories of O’Bannon and Giger’s contributions and conflicts are the most intriguing of the bunch, and if you’ve read everything available on the film you’ll be surprised there is far more to their stories you haven’t read.  The influence of John Carpenter was paramount to getting the idea of the film past the first step, particularly his films Dark Star and The Thing.  Along the journey other creators would intersect with the project–people like Steven Spielberg, Alan Ladd, Jr., John Dykstra, Brian Johnson, Nick Allder, Ron Cobb, Jerry Goldsmith, and even Jean “Moebius” Giraud.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A giant new photographic essay of the space program reads like a behind the scenes account of the greatest production ever attempted.  And it might be just that.  Space Utopia: A Journey Through the History of Space Exploration from the Apollo and Sputnik Programmes to the Next Mission to Mars is the result of a decade of collaboration between photographer Vincent Fournier and the world’s most important space and research centers.  Fournier worked with researchers at NASA, the European Space Agency, the Russian Space agency, the European Southern Observatory, and other locations to identify those intriguing parts of earthbound facilities, historical locations, and physical objects that have gone to space and back, seen through an artist’s eye.  From space suits and environmental suits to spaceships, satellites, Soyuz trainers, ballistic missiles, and rovers, to training facilities and environments, to experimental items used on the International Space Station and flown to the moon, Space Utopia is a one-of-a-kind look at the history of the space program in pictures.

Through his photographs Fournier is attempting to explore humankind’s myths and fantasies about the future.  According to Fournier, “My aesthetic, philosophical and recreational fascination for the space adventure undoubtedly comes from the pictures and books I saw and read in the 1970s and ’80s —  movies, television series, science fiction novels, documentaries and news reports — that have mixed and superimposed in my memory like a palimpsest…. Space explorations emblematic locations are like cinema sets where Tintin might meet with Jules Verne in Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey…”

THE SPACE PROJECT – Fournier’s Space Shuttle Discovery Nose Landing Gear, J.F.K. Space Center [NASA], Florida, U.S.A., 2011 (from theravestijngallery.com)

Has the future already happened or does something more lie ahead?  Some images are stunning and colorful in their brilliance–high-tech concepts at their finest.  Others are stark and haunting, like posed space suits from Buzz Aldrin and Gus Grissom.  Space shuttles frozen in their retirement like the dismantled Discovery and immovable Independence, and the Atlantis standing majestically poised for its final flight all appear as ghostly, solemn relics, while the futuristic sound chambers. the dexterous robotic humanoid Robonaut 2, and Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America evoke an optimistic future ahead.
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Review by C.J. Bunce

How can a movie get better on repeated viewings?  What makes that possible?  After three viewings of the home release of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story–the Digital HD edition, the Blu-ray, and the 3D Blu-ray–it’s apparent the film on repeated viewings is indeed as good as the initial theatrical viewing if not better, a rare feat in any genre.  Naysayers who didn’t like the CGI effects of Grand Moff Tarkin and Princess Leia–the primary criticism of the December theatrical release–should find even a home theater big screen television will mask any distractions seen on a 30-foot theater screen.  The Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray provide the best, clearest picture and sound of any prior Star Wars release.  The 3D transfer is as good as any 3D Blu-ray release to-date, and the special effects, clothing details like stitches and seams are clear and vivid, as is the weathering (or lack thereof, when logical) on props.  As with most 3D movies, outdoor scenes, like the Scarif ground battle, are even more vivid with sharp foregrounds and backgrounds.  Check out the complete review of the film from December here.

The special features disc includes a version of the bonus features viewable together as an entire documentary and also viewable by chapter.  The extra disc available through Target stores only includes two short extra chapters, and although the creature shop feature is excellent the two extras wouldn’t normally be enough to tilt a buyer toward the Target edition–costs being the same–and some may instead opt for packaging, like Steelbook boxes (Best Buy only) or Connexions cards (available only in the Wal-Mart edition).  Fun bits in the features to look for include Bodhi actor Riz Ahmed’s audition tapes for Edwards, a feature documenting many Easter eggs from the show even the best eye likely never identified, and interviews with motion capture actors Guy Henry (Grand Moff Tarkin) and Ingvild Daila (Princess Leia), both who look little like Peter Cushing or Carrie Fisher, proving that simply using lookalikes or prosthetics would not have been a realistic option for re-creating these characters.  The standard bonus features included with the bundles are K-2SO: The Droid, Baze & Chirrut: Guardians of the Whills, Bodhi & Saw: The Pilot & the Revolutionary, The Empire, Visions of Hope: The Look of Rogue One, The Princess & the Governor, Epilogue: The Story Continues, and Rogue Connections (the Easter eggs list).

Rogue One easily merits ranking as the third best film in the series after Star Wars: A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back–but truly in a league with those two films.  One of the best war movie stories put to film, the best prequel or prequel that is also a sequel (yes, even considering the great Godfather II), the best space battle, the best use of spaceship filming (director Gareth Edwards avoids 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Trek: The Motion Picture-era overly-long ship takes and instead uses his imagery only as necessary to drive the story forward), while featuring one of the all-time best heist movies.

It really has it all.

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Iconic scenes 2001 A Space Odyssey

If you love 2001: A Space Odyssey or Stanley Kubrick, just walk away now.  More than any other science fiction movie it stops me in my tracks.  Every five years or so I re-watch it, thinking, like tomatoes, I may finally bite right in and say “tasty!”  The movie is absolutely a treat for the eyes in much the same way as Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  These are great looking movies.  But when it comes to storytelling?  Ask fans of the film, those with a critical eye, and no two will describe what the film is about in the same way.  Yet 2001: A Space Odyssey is often on lists of the best movies of all time, lists made by clever people who know good movies.

Only after reading the Cliff’s Notes version of 2001 (the film, not the book) do I understand what Kubrick was going for.  I’m still left scratching my head.  The dialogue is flat like the lines in the Star Wars prequels.  Kubrick admitted he wanted the viewer to have his/her own understanding of the film.  That’s “the point”.  Hey–if you’re a fan of ambiguity it’s the film for you.  If you tried making a movie like it today you’d end up with something like Punch-Drunk Love or the remake of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.  Slow, boring, long, dull.  Most of the film is just banal.  But the star baby!  The black monolith!  So he takes a film and overlays it with well-known classical music and juxtaposes some cryptic symbolic imagery.  Just because someone hasn’t done it doesn’t mean it’s groundbreaking.  If I want cool images and great music sans linear story, I’ll take Powaqqatsi.

2001 huh black monolith

Maybe it’s because I like excitement in my science fiction, not this documentary-style filmmaking.  For that give me a NASA IMAX movie and educate me along the way.  Give me Star Wars or Star Trek II.  Has anyone ever referred to 2001 as exciting?  Great looking films minus a big story to back it up may be why I shy away from mainstream science fiction movies, the kind that get nominated for film awards like Gravity or Interstellar. 

So why is it on the American Film Institute list of best science fiction films at #1 and on the Library of Congress National Film Registry?

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Waltz and Thewlis in The Zero Theorem

The director of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Time Bandits, Brazil, The Fisher King, Twelve Monkeys, and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus has a new film coming soon to a theater near you.  Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem stars two-time Oscar winner Christoph Waltz, that incredible actor who dazzled in the two Quentin Tarentino films Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained.  He plays a very, very strange computer hacker named Qohen Leth who is attempting to use science to explain human existence, but keeps getting interrupted.  If you checked out the borg.com recommended reading Numbercruncher reviewed here last month, this off-the-hook film may be right for you.

The first trailer for The Zero Theorem swept like wildfire across Twitter and Facebook in the past two days.  Like many of Gilliam’s prior screen works, or even a Tarentino film, this movie oozes with the bizarre.

zero theorem

Other selling points are the fine British genre thespians David Thewlis, who played our favorite Hogwarts mentor Professor Lupin, and Ben Whishaw, star of The Hour and the new Q in the last two James Bond films.  Oh, yeah–and Matt Damon plays the “Management.”

Here’s the newly released trailer for The Zero Theorem:

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Room 237 biking

More so than Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, or The Shining, writer/director Rodney Ascher’s documentary Room 237 seeks and finds the heart of obsession and insanity.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing.

Documentaries often feature thought-provoking, intelligent, smart people with some appropriate credentials espousing new theories.  You will likely walk away from Room 237 thinking your own descriptive words about the participants in the film.  These may include:  Eccentrics.  Crackpots.   Batshit crazy.  Although the film gives these participants ample opportunity to prove their theories, and despite some obvious effort on their part, no rational person would likely use these words to describe them by film’s end:  Geniuses.  Visionaries.  Lucid.

The title Room 237 comes from the numbered hotel room in the Kubrick film adaptation of Stephen King’s The Shining, where a lot of the terrifying horror plot is centered.  (King reportedly hated Kubrick’s adaptation of his book).  The documentary is predominantly the voices of five fanatics who have watched The Shining far too many times for their own good, who we never actually see in the film.  The voices are carried over clips of a variety of Kubrick movies that serve to attempt to prove the theories being discussed.  Room 237 was acclaimed by a number of critics and was named an official selection at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival and nominated for several other awards.

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EUROPA-REPORT-Poster

We’ve previewed the first trailer for Matt Damon’s science fiction film, Elysium, earlier this year.  Writer/director Neill Blomkamp offers his next entry in the science fiction as social commentary vein following his very successful District 9, one of the few films ever nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture.  This second trailer for Elysium reveals a far more layered and interesting film than that shown in the first preview, however, it suffers from the problem on the other side of the spectrum:  It just reveals too much.  It’s possible the marketing folks think they need to show more to get people interested and into the theaters, but you wish there was a better, middle ground to be found.  Still, it looks great.

Check out the second trailer released for Elysium:

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Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi cover

Review by C.J. Bunce

If you think you’ve watched all the science fiction movies worth watching, odds are there’s something out there you’ve missed.  You’ve probably seen the modern blockbusters from Star Wars to Terminator and maybe the older classics, like The Day the Earth Stood Still (the original) and Forbidden Planet, and every sci-fi flick that has landed in theaters since your eyes first opened to the amazing genre as a kid.  But are you sure you’ve seen everything?

The Syfy Channel has teamed up with Universe Publishing to release a giant book of 100 years of sci-fi movies and TV, from A Trip to the Moon to Hugo, in The Science Fiction Universe… and Beyond: Syfy Channel Book of Sci-Fi And although the Syfy Channel continues to look outside the boundaries of Syfy for new TV dramas and reality series, this 256-page, full-color, coffee table hardcover is out to remind everyone why we like the Syfy Channel in the first place.  And better yet, when you’ve run out of the obvious to watch on TV or stream on Netflix, you can use the book as a guide to catch up on the obscure and the overlooked.

RoboCop with Ronny Cox

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100 Film Warner Bros banner

Not long ago the idea of having all your favorite movies available for viewing instantly was as far out there as hover cars.  With streaming options like Netflix you can have access to thousands of movies and TV series in a flash, only limited by the speed and quality of your own home access and viewing technology.  But just like online news will never replace the physical daily newspaper, streaming will never replace the home video library.

Back in early December we previewed here at borg.com four movie collections as gift ideas of varying price ranges, from the three-film The Dark Knight Trilogy from Warner Bros. to the eight-film Tarantino XX 8-Film Collection from Lionsgate Miramax to the 15-film Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection from Universal Studios to the massive 22-film Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection from MGM.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Ridley Scott suggests a “sequel to the prequel” is a possibility in the feature material to the October 9, 2012 release of his is-it-or-isn’t-it-a-prequel to Alien blockbuster Prometheus on Blu-Ray, 3D, and DVD.  The trailer to the video release gets it just right–there are so many unanswered questions left in this summer’s big-budget blockbuster, sci-fi release that you may think you’re watching 2001: A Space Odyssey.  What was this Dr. Manhattan-looking being in the distant past and in our distant future eating that dissolved him into the ocean?  How does that being relate to the rather squiggly creature that emerged in one of the movie’s key scenes?  Why didn’t Scott just come out and call this a prequel?  Surprise, people!  It’s a prequel!  It’s actually really good at being a prequel, because unlike other prequel movies, it doesn’t re-hash every bit of the original film or films.

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