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Tag Archive: alien movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

Last year’s winner for most surprising film to be discussing at the water cooler was A Quiet Place, a uniquely quiet but suspenseful horror thriller that held back the true nature of the threat in its previews similar to Midnight Special, Signs, and 10 Cloverfield Lane.  And as with those films we’re definitely looking at an otherworldly threat for the film’s protagonists.  Critics and audiences seemed to go for this mix of sci-fi and horror, possibly out of an affinity for director and co-star John Krasinski (The Office, Jack Ryan) and his on and off-camera wife, co-star Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns, The Adjustment Bureau, Edge of Tomorrow).  It’s now streaming on most major platforms, including Amazon Prime, Vudu, Hulu, YouTube, Google Play, and Fandango, as well as Blu-ray, 4K, and DVD.

Few movies were hyped in 2018 as much as A Quiet Place, although come awards season it only received a nomination for best sound editing and Emily Blunt took home the Screen Actors Guild Award for supporting actress, despite her clearly starring role in the film.  If there is a reason to watch the movie it’s for Blunt, who steals the show in any film she appears in.  In A Quiet Place, for better or worse, she lets go from an acting standpoint and offers up a beginning-to-end melodramatic and possibly over-the-top emotional performance, similar to her portrayal as an amnesiac in The Girl on the Train.  Some subtlety would have been a good thing, because in contrast to her ever-stoic husband she comes off as hysterical.  We’ll chalk this up to a quirky misstep by an inexperienced director (it’s also an instance of his character doing all the smart and brave things, and Blunt’s all the dumb things, which gets old quickly).

But this one has been done before, especially as seen in the above-referenced films, and multiple episodes of The Twilight Zone.  The plot is thin.  A family of five are among the only people living (on Earth? in the region? we don’t know).  A blind insectoid alien menace (think Blunt in Edge of Tomorrow only here she’s not the badass Angel of Verdun) will slaughter anything and anyone it hears with its sonic-locator brain.  So everyone is quiet all the time.  Only they aren’t–we hear them make all sorts of body and movement noises for the first half of the film, only to learn later from the father that they don’t listen for soft noises.  The daughter of the family (played by Millicent Simmonds) is deaf, and so she doesn’t know when noises are happening around her, leading to the key dire circumstances throughout the film.  The audience can’t help but put themselves in the positions of the characters.  What would you do?  Unfortunately the film is full of many tropes like you’d find in teen slasher flicks:  so many times characters make decisions that are similar to a teen walking outside their cabin in a thunderstorm at night in their underwear after hearing a mass murderer is on the loose.  Any viewer would think the circumstances are more dire than the characters in A Quiet Place.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

When I was a kid Star Wars blew me away and when I think back it was the “wretched hive of scum and villainy”–specifically the creature cantina at Mos Eisley spaceport–that first introduced me to the idea of a wide, wide universe of alien beings.  Countless characters–makeups and costumes designed by movie artists in the real world–all milled about in one place and it was about as cool a thing as anyone could put on film.  My next great appreciation for aliens came from the Star Trek films, in particular the delegation of members of the United Federation of Planets in Star Trek IV: A Voyage Home–this bizarre assemblage of leaders, all wearing the common United Federation of Planets maroon officer uniforms, but each representing some far off world with all sorts of strange and exotic denizens.  Much of my excitement for aliens would come from Michael Westmore’s wonderful “aliens of the week” in the various television incarnations of Star Trek–I am a fan and self-proclaimed expert in the aliens of Star Trek more than any other corner of that great franchise.  Later I would be dazzled by the unique alien designs of Doctor Who’s 21st century Renaissance, where the British series really upped the ante of how unique and complex a weekly show could illustrate the potential of who is “out there.”  The updated Mos Eisley for science fiction fans would reach its zenith for me in two great ways in 2016 and 2017:  In the diverse cultures of the Yorktown space station in Star Trek Beyond and in the immensely populated Big Market in Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets.  As much as the original Mos Eisley still stands strong on film, these two modern updates of “strange new worlds… new life and new civilizations” represent the best modern creativity in the world of cinema.  Makeup artist Joel Harlow, who won an Academy Award for his makeup work for Star Trek (2009), returned to the franchise for Star Trek Beyond, and in honor of the Trek’s 50th anniversary his team created 50 new alien races for the film.  A new book just released, Joe Nazzaro’s Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow documents in photographs and descriptions the development and creative ideas behind each new race for the film.  As a fan of aliens and Star Trek and this fabulous film, I haven’t anticipated a new publication as much, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with the result.

Journalist Joe Nazzaro assembled Star Trek Beyond: The Makeup Artistry of Joel Harlow unlike most behind the scenes accounts that only punctuate descriptions with the odd quote from a creator, instead providing his narrative as a reporter would–interviewing and sharing Harlow and his creators’ complete, firsthand accounts of developing, designing, casting and even applying many of the makeups.  We hear about Star Trek (2009) and Star Trek Beyond from Harlow and creators behind the scenes including concept artists Neville Page, Allen Williams, and Carlos Huante, sculptor/makeup artist Richie Alonzo, and designer/sculptors Don Lanning, Joey Orosco, Lennie MacDonald, Norman Cabrera, and Mike Rotella.  This is the kind of access to the minds of movie creators that fanboys and fangirls dream about.

Let’s start with Jaylah.  By my count, in the vast world of great Star Trek female characters Jaylah (portrayed by Sofia Boutella) is the most developed, most intriguing, best badass heroine of them all.  Harlow, Neville Page, and Richie Alonzo really flesh out for readers the idea to application method of the unique makeup for this lead character from the film.  Although it may not be the most complex makeup design at first look, it required elaborate and surgical artistry to replicate it each day, and balanced many requirements to allow the actor to move freely through action sequences and stand out as the driving force behind the plot of the film.  Equally important to the film was the villain Krall (portrayed by Idris Elba) a character made up of all the alien races he had absorbed (which included callbacks to Star Trek’s Jem’Hadar) requiring additional complexity in design and style via its character’s backstory.  Creators Harlow and Joey Orosco delve into the creation of the four phases of Krall’s design made for the movie.

The most brilliant makeup is no doubt the alien Natalia (who appears on the book cover), the fabulous, spectacular nautilus-headed design by Allen Williams and Don Lanning and sculpted by Joey Orosco with contributions from Werner Pretorius, Lennie MacDonald, Steve Buscaino, Cristina Patterson, and Toby Lindala.  The head, bust, and arms for Natalia must reflect one of the best creature designs to ever emerge from Hollywood, and yet, like many of the 50 new aliens designed for the film (technically 56 according to Harlow) the character did not get much screentime.  In fact many of the aliens were for background shots and astonishingly a few did not make it into the final cut of the film.  The artists in the book also confirm the H.R. Giger influence on some of their designs for Star Trek Beyond–his designs also influenced alien creations of earlier Trek incarnations.  One of my favorite footnotes to the Star Trek franchise, and certainly one of the most obscure references in classic Star Trek is an intercom on the Enterprise-D in Star Trek: The Next Generation paging Dr. Selar to the Null-G ward–which we never actually get to see–but the Abe Sapien-meets They Live alien called Satine (designed by Allen Williams and sculpted by Matt Rose) is exactly the type of alien I envisioned you’d find there.

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The 5th Wave invasion

The aliens have arrived.

It’s flat-out one of our favorite sci-fi sub-genres.  The alien invasion flick.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), The Thing from Another World (1951), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), E.T, the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), Predator (1987), Alien Nation (1988), They Live (1988), Independence Day (1996), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Men in Black (1997), Starship Troopers (1997), Signs (2002), War of the Worlds (2005), Cloverfield (2008), District 9 (2009), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Edge of Tomorrow (2014).  These are some of the most exciting and fun sci-fi movies to watch and re-watch.

Kick-Ass and The Equalizer’s Chloë Grace Moretz stars in a new Sony/Columbia Pictures release, The 5th Wave, which looks like it’s mixing the alien invasion film with the disaster movie, the epidemic movie, and the body snatcher movie.  The only thing missing is zombies.  But body snatchers are close enough.

Alien ship in The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave co-stars Office Space star Ron Livingston, X-Men Origins and The Sum of All Fears’ Liev Shreiber, and Prime Suspect and Assault on Precinct 13’s Maria Bello.  Is Moretz a normal Earthling or one of us taken over by the aliens?

Check out this first trailer for The 5th Wave:

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