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Tag Archive: Alien


Review by C.J. Bunce

Thanks to Fathom Events and other film retrospectives over the years, movie audiences can revisit their first viewings of some of the best films ever made.  In that league comes The Muppet Movie, which just wrapped its 40th anniversary with two days of screenings.  Like the one-of-a-kind The Beach Boys and The Bee Gees, and the symbols of goodness everywhere: Mr. Rogers, Bob Ross, and Steve Irwin, The Muppets are a truly unique team, and Jim Henson and his $65 million box office hit The Muppet Movie reflects why they created the word “iconic” in the first place.  It says something when a retrospective anniversary screening can make the week’s Top 10 box office after 40 years.  The Muppets are as accessible and necessary as they’ve ever been.

Paul Williams’ musical score and powerful songs might be the high point of the movie, from “The Rainbow Connection,” to “Movin’ Right Along,” to Gonzo’s emotional “I’m Going to Go Back There Again.”  Or maybe it’s the magic, the forgetting we’re absorbed in characters played by actors that are a frog and a pig and a bear and a dog and whatever Gonzo is.  Or maybe it’s the behind the scenes magic.  Filming in the lagoon once used for Gilligan’s Island, Henson spent an entire day perfecting the scene with Kermit singing in a wetsuit under water, perched inside a metal tank, reaching upward to give Kermit his character.  You wouldn’t know any of it happened that way from the perfectly still water and multiple angles the song is filmed from.  Or that Kermit was operated my remote control for the Schwinn scene (but Kermit the Muppet really was riding that bicycle, no strings attached!).  Jim Henson can’t be overstated as sitting among the kings of creating the fantastical.

But even all of those great components can’t beat the storytelling.  Full of honesty and heart, Kermit’s path is a classic reluctant hero’s journey, equal to that of Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, Luke in Star Wars, Frodo and Bilbo in Tolkien’s stories (Fozzie is a great Samwise), Harry in J.K. Rowling’s series.  Here our green felted friend assembles a group of new friends to help him succeed by story’s end.  The Muppets had already been known to us through The Muppet Show, yet this movie succeeded in getting audiences to meet them all over again.  The story is playful, too, allowing its own script to become a plot device with the characters.

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The 24 issues of Matt Kindt′s Dept.H series is everything we look for at borg–science fiction, action, adventure, retro, mystery, noir.  And it all arrived in one comic book series from Dark Horse.  Writer/artist Matt Kindt has said his series Dept.H was inspired by 1970s G.I. Joes, Fisher Price Adventure People toys, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Jacques Cousteau, and readers felt all of that come through. From the patch on the underwater crew outfits that evoked the classic 1960s/1970s G.I. Joe Adventure Team to the SP-350 diving saucer from the famed Calypso in the craft that takes the characters to the depths of the ocean floor in the opening pages, to the setting and Department H Headquarters based on the ocean floor that screams H.G. Wells, Dept.H is one of the decade’s top comic book series.  And it’s now coming your way in two paperback omnibus editions beginning next week.

Best known for his run on his Mind MGMT series, Eisner Award nominee Kindt wrote and illustrated the story, with coloring supplied by Sharlene Kindt, his wife.  In part the series is an Agatha Christie-inspired closed room case.  We meet Mia Hardy, who has been asked to find the mole in the undersea lab, a mole who is believed to have sabotaged the base and murdered her father.  Mia has worked with the suspects before, providing the opportunity for the writer to hold back information and share with us bits and pieces when necessary.  Who killed Mia’s father?  Was it Q, the head of Dept. H security?  Her father’s business partner Roger?  The frenetic head of research Jerome?  Demolition expert Bob?  Her childhood friend turned enemy Lily?  Her own brother Raj?  Or Aaron, the research assistant?  Or was it someone topside?

 

Readers feel the pressure of undersea operations as Mia is plunged into her own peril, as the facility again is sabotaged before she can work her way though all the suspects.  How long can Kindt take us for this suffocating adventure before letting us come up for air?  The page design even features a graduated flood gauge at the pages’ edges that slowly “fills up” with water issue after issue.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For the 40th anniversary of Alien, OVID.tv is streaming a stunning, eye-opening documentary about the life and visual creations of H.R. Giger, who won an Academy Award for his design work on the science fiction/horror classic.  Dark Star: H.R. Giger’s World features interviews with Hansruedi “H.R.” Giger (pronounced geeger) at his home and during his travels in the weeks before his death in 2014.  Interspersing archival footage and interviews with those who knew Giger best, his wife Carmen, his ex-wife, a psychiatrist, his former partner, his agent, the archivist of his personal collection, and others (even his Siamese cat Müggi makes several appearances), writer/director Belinda Sallin assembles a picture of the complex man, his unique creations, and his influences.

If you’ve viewed footage of Guillermo Del Toro’s vast collection of horror memorabilia (via interviews or in books like his At Home with Monsters), all housed in a lavish setting, imagine a home as fabulously creepy but built like an old abandoned grotto, centered around Giger’s horror paintings and statues, complete with dark corridors, and those eerie squeaky doors and stairs of a recluse’s hovel in a vine-covered corner.  His “biomechanik” artwork, sculptures, and storage drawers are wall-to-wall, his book collection haphazardly stacked on shelves and in the bathtub, (real) skulls are tucked into nooks and crannies, a set of doors inside the modest front door is covered with paintings of his trademark human-alien hybrid characters, and an Academy Award is filed between dusty objects on another shelf.  A mini-train ride through the vines outside the house take visitors on a haunted house ride through birth, life, and death.  This is a haunted house, but devoid of spirits.  Ray Bradbury’s attic in every way, only it isn’t.  It’s Hansruedi Giger’s house.

Artists of any genre and fans of the Alien franchise can get an unprecedented, detailed, personal look at a man known for his disturbing imagery.  Dismissed for decades by the mainstream art scene for Giger’s popular status in Hollywood, Alien indeed made Giger famous just as Giger made Alien famous.  The influences behind his often dark and grotesque images will not be surprising: his father bought him his first human skull at the age of six, and his sister took him to a museum to scare him by showing him an actual mummy.  Both of these things frightened the little boy, but he forced himself to look at these things repeatedly until, as he says in the documentary, he overcame his fears.  But the nightmares never seemed to dwindle.  He speaks of his dreams as a key influence, but he told a psychiatrist that the frightening images he saw lost their power when he committed them to canvas.  He also acknowledges LSD use as the prompt behind some of his work.

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With the exception of the vast expanded universe of Star Wars and Star Trek, probably no other sci-fi property has branched out in as many exciting ways as the Alien universe.  Every new tie-in novel consistently has been packed with suspense and innovative takes on Weyland-Yutani and its influence years before, during, and after the events of Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie.  Each year fans of Alien celebrate April 26 as Alien Day, reflecting not a specific day inside the Alien universe, but the designation of the moon in the film Aliens: LV426.  There’s even more reason to look back this year, as 20th Century Fox is celebrating the 40th anniversary of the release of the original Ridley Scott film.  Check out the Fox contest (expires tonight) here.  The recognizable Reebok stomper worn by Ellen Ripley in Aliens is coming back, too–part of the contest, and expected to be for sale soon here.

Next week for the first time U.S. audiences can access a documentary on legendary Alien concept artist and designer H.R. Giger streaming on OVID.tv, and we’ll be reviewing it soon here at borgDark Star: H.R. Giger’s World is a documentary on the artist’s unique vision, available May 3.

An eagerly awaited book for Alien fans is coming.  You’ll want to pre-order the new J.W. Rinzler guide to the 1979 film, The Making of Alien, here (we’ll be reviewing it in July).

No book or film has portrayed the people behind the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as more vile and despicable as author Alex White envisioned them in his novel released for Alien Day 2018, Alien: The Cold Forge, a sequel to the second film in the franchise, James Cameron’s Aliens.  The Company is proceeding to fulfill one of its initial ideas, to weaponize the Xenomorphs for military use.  Alien: The Cold Forge is Aliens as if written by Michael Crichton, a blend of Congo and Jurassic Park with aspects of the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy tie-ins and Project X.

Last year we reviewed Alien Covenant: David’s Drawings by Dane Hallett & Matt Hatton (check out our review here).  This boxed edition contains two books, providing readers an insight into the most intriguing character from the Alien prequels.  The in-universe sketchbook contains more than 200 illustrations from the set and will take you inside the mind of David.  Plus Developing the Art of an Android provides an interview with Hallett and Hatton, the artists behind the sketchwork.

And there’s Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo by Rory Lucey (reviewed here), which reminds us: In space, no one can hear you meow.  Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, Jonesy leads a simple life enjoying The Company cat food and chasing space rodents. Until one day his cryostasis catnap is rudely interrupted.  The humans have a new pet and it’s definitely not house trained.  This full-color illustrated book offers a cat’s eye view of all the action from the movie Alien.

Not enough?  You say you want a full-on fix of Alien today?  Check out any of these Alien tie-ins and films previously reviewed here at borg:

The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, by Owen Williams

Alien Covenant: Origins, by Alan Dean Foster

The Art and Making of Alien Covenant, by Simon Ward

Aliens: Bug Hunt, anthology

Alien: The Coloring Book

Alien: The Weyland-Yutani Report, by S.D. Perry

Aliens: The 30th Anniversary Edition

Cinema Alchemist: Designing Star Wars and Alien, by Roger Christian

Aliens: The Set Photography, by Simon Ward

The borg interview with Alien universe author Tim Lebbon

And yep, there’s more…

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Two new book releases will get you (or your favorite writer) back on track, whether you’re trying to write a novel or communicate any other way.  “Words have meaning” is the theme of That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means, a look at the most incorrectly used words in the English language–and how to turn around your usage if you’re doing it wrong.  The second book is a new look at a classic work on writing, Save the Cat! Writes a Novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need, a step by step approach to address the writing process if your goal is to write the next Great American Novel.

It’s not just a good paraphrased line from Inigo Montoya.  For That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means, sister and brother writers Kathryn Petras and Ross Petras (authors of You’re Saying It Wrong) researched surveys, dictionaries, language usage panels, and language experts to identify the 150 most commonly confused, abused, questioned, and misused words and phrases in the English language.  It’s a small but jam-packed book that should go next to your copies of Strunk & White, The Chicago Manual of Style, and The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage It also will help anyone preparing for their SATs, as words on this list have been commonly used in past tests.  The handy pocket-size also might make this a good choice for stocking stuffer.

Each word or phrase is listed by its frequent mistaken usage followed by quotes by celebrities, periodicals, or online articles getting it all wrong.  Even the most critical writer will agree with the authors’ selections of the way you should or shouldn’t use the term, although you might disagree with one or two along the way and purists may think a few times the writers have caved to modern usage choices.  The authors will reinforce, remind, or educate readers about many traps.  Can anything ever reach a crescendo?  No.  Is “contiguous United States” almost always used incorrectly by nearly everyone?  Yes.  If you regularly use words or phrases (or non-words in some cases) like chronic, begs the question, cliché, alright, in regards to, just desserts, from whence, peruse, verbal, verbiage, and utilize, and you’re not sure of what you’re doing, you probably need this book.   The Petras’ book should be required reading in every high school senior English or first year college English class.

An excerpt from That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means.

Writers of screenplays and novels may have already heard about one of the handful of books on writing for film, Blake Snyder’s 2005 book Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, one way to approach writing for movies.  In Save the Cat! Writes a Novel, author Jessica Brody takes Snyder’s original book and tweaks it for novel writing, arguing the same basic rules for storytelling apply for novels and film.  If you’ve read the original you’ll be familiar with the approach taken here: the best stories include 15 basic “beats” or plot points.  The theory is that if your novel includes these beats and applies them correctly and in the right places, you’re more likely to have a story that agents, publishers, and readers will take note of.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The ginger tomcat named Jones, aka Jonesy.  He co-starred with human actor Sigourney Weaver in Ridley Scott’s science fiction classic Alien.  Now nearly 40 years later, Jonesy gets his own book.  Recounting from his perspective the events aboard the USCSS Nostromo on its fateful mission encountering xenomorphs, Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo is now available in bookstores.  It is much, much, better than you might think.  And it’s a contender for best gift idea for the holiday season, especially for anyone who likes cats.

Lots of books aim for humor and don’t quite get it right.  The balance between cutesy and adhering to the parameters of the source material is not an easy thing.  Writer-artist Rory Lucey has cats and he is a fan of Alien.  When he showed the movie Alien to his wife for the first time, her natural question was: Does Jonesy survive?  From there, Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo was born.  And like a really fabulous look at a day in the life of a dog, Matt Fraction and David Aja’s Hawkeye Issue #11 (2013’s single best comic book issue), readers will not encounter any actual words in this book.  And that’s as it should be.

That’s the original Jonesy in Alien (left), and Rosie the cat (right), who is just a little afraid of what Jonesy might encounter in this new book.

Lucey takes his knowledge of cat behavior and fills in the blanks of the film–those times when we didn’t see Jonesy hissing at the xenomorph behind you, what was he up to?  Scratching, taking a bath, sleeping, licking things he shouldn’t be–yes, all that, and much more.  And all of it fits into the story from the original film perfectly.  It’s even better than A Die Hard Christmas.  Here are some images from the book:

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As we previewed here at borg.com, toymaker Super 7 featured great exclusives at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con with both an onsite presence and an offsite store featuring both a Masters of the Universe theme and a Universal Monsters theme.  If you were early enough you could have even scored a pair of four different styles of limited edition Universal Monster-themed Saucony shoes.  We think the best nostalgia draw from Super 7 is their multi-license classic Kenner style 3 3/4-inch ReAction figure line that we’ve covered here at borg.com since Day One.  We previewed some of the latest ReAction figures in our coverage of 2018 New York Toy Fair (here), but Super 7 showcased some brand new prototypes, packaging, and exclusives this weekend.

Probably the best display featured the figures of the new Hellboy line.  These two-pack sets look great in person, and will likely become only more popular as we get closer to the release of the new Hellboy movie.  The Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins prototypes based on the classic arcade game were also fantastic, giving fans a look at the final pieces in the first series (back row) and the next series (front in grey) that’s underway.

Of course the next series of the original Super 7 ReAction line, Alien, looks great and the sculpts and packaging have only gotten better.  We’re going to need to pick up one of those Ripley’s the Jonesy the cat at a minimum.  And Kane after his attack in his spacesuit–Wow!

Below are photographs from the Super 7 booth featuring other figures from the ReAction line: the exclusive convention Universal Monsters, The Fiend and Alien exclusives, Masters of the Universe, and Robotech.

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With the exception of the vast expanded universe of Star Wars and Star Trek, probably no other sci-fi property has branched out in as many exciting ways as the Alien universe.  Every new tie-in novel consistently has been packed with suspense and innovative takes on Weyland-Yutani and its influence years before, during, and after the events of Ridley Scott’s original Alien movie.  Each year fans of Alien celebrate April 26 as Alien Day, reflecting not a specific day in the history of the franchise, but the designation of the moon in the film Aliens: LV426.

No book or film has portrayed the people behind the Weyland-Yutani Corporation as more vile and despicable as author Alex White has envisioned them in his new novel released for Alien Day 2018, Alien: The Cold Forge, a sequel to the second film in the franchise, James Cameron’s Aliens.  The Company is proceeding to fulfill one of its initial ideas, to weaponize the Xenomorphs for military use.  Alien: The Cold Forge is Aliens as if written by Michael Crichton, a blend of Congo and Jurassic Park with aspects of the modern Planet of the Apes trilogy tie-ins and Project X.  Never before in the Alien stories will readers want to see a corporate rep get his just desserts as the brutal, psychopathic corporate exec Dorian Sudler, embarking on a resource slashing audit of the experimental science station RB-323.  A dying woman must carry out her own secret gene research project among the layers of secret projects within Weyland-Yutani–if she is to survive.  Exciting?  Yes.  Suspenseful?  Definitely.  Readers will also learn the true name of the Xenomorphs, and encounter an entirely new use of the Weyland-Yutani borgs (like Bishop and David) that we haven’t seen before.  Order your copy of Alien: The Cold Forge now, here at Amazon.

Coming later this year is Alien Covenant: David’s Drawings by Dane Hallett & Matt Hatton.  This boxed edition contains two books, providing readers an insight into the most intriguing character from the Alien prequels.  The in-universe sketchbook contains more than 200 illustrations from the set and will take you inside the mind of David.  Plus Developing the Art of an Android provides an interview with Hallett and Hatton, the artists behind the sketchwork.

In the vein of fun tie-in books like A Die Hard Christmas, get ready for Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo by Rory Lucey.  In space, no one can hear you meow.  Aboard the USCSS Nostromo, Jonesy leads a simple life enjoying The Company cat food and chasing space rodents.  Until one day his cryostasis catnap is rudely interrupted.  The humans have a new pet and it’s definitely not house trained.  This full-color illustrated book offers a cat’s eye view of all the action from the movie Alien.

While you’re at it, check out these Alien tie-ins previously reviewed here at borg.com:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For a niche area of publishing, you might be surprised how diverse the range of coverage you can find in art books delving behind the scenes of the latest movies.  In Titan Books latest artbook Tomb Raider: The Art and Making of the Film, two key elements stand out compared to prior examinations of film.  First, the cast and crew were deeply passionate about the film, reflected in their great contributions to the book.  Second, audiences have probably not seen production sets and stunt sequences that created realism in the adventure genre as much as Tomb Raider since the Raiders of the Lost Ark series, although it’s no secret that Raiders of the Lost Ark was the principal inspiration for many key sequences.  In the theater it’s easy to get into the story and not hone in on the background details, but thanks to this latest entry in the artbook realm fans of the film will see how it became a mix of James Bond-level stunt work built on a classic adventure style full of exciting special effects.

As with Guillermo del Toro’s significant contributions to The Shape of Water artbook, Tomb Raider director Roar Uthaug contributes insight into his vision in nearly every segment of the book.  He references his love for Raiders of the Lost Ark when creating his film for its mix of action, humor, archaeology, mystery, and great characters.  He also looked back to Ripley and Sarah Connor in Alien and Terminator 2 as he carved out the lead role for Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft.  Other executives and crew members explain significant aspects of the creation of the film: producer Graham King was perhaps the earliest advocate for a reboot film in the series, production designer Gary Freeman (Maleficent, Everest) knew exactly how he wanted to create the major environments for the adventure, cinematographer George Richmond (Kingsman 1 and 2) discusses challenges filming the visual effects sequences, costume designer Colleen Atwood (Arrow, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them) provides particular insight into her creation of the look of each character and how she sourced materials, and stunt coordinator Frank Henson (Never Let Me Go, Sherlock Holmes) had a greater responsibility in this stunt-heavy film than a stunt coordinator in most movies with its variety of action scenes.  Star Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) recounts the experience of playing the popular character as a sort of prequel or origin story for the character.  Vikander contributes heavily to the behind the scenes detail of the book, in addition to the other key players in the film, including co-stars Daniel Wu and Walton Goggins.

The film all centered around leaving the past films in the past and honing in on the 2013 video game reboot of Tomb Raider.  It is not likely any prior adaptation of a video game has come as close to its source as the new film, which included many storyboarded scenes from the 2013 game sequences.  From the London training facility where Lara trains in MMA fighting, to the planning and execution of the exciting fox-and-hound bicycle race on the back streets of London (one of the few scenes where Vikander didn’t do her own stunts was the crash), to the very Indy Jones-esque crypt under Croft Manor, to the chase scene at a full-scale mock-up of Hong Kong’s Aberdine Harbor, to building the cargo ship from the game–the weathered vessel Endurance–on a giant hydraulic gimble (set dresser Raffaella Giovannetti used real materials from similar ships to give it the realistic appearance), to Vikander’s twelve days submerged under water in a tank–the book is filled with production how-to knowledge for any aspiring filmmaker, movie aficionado, or anyone who is just a fan of Lara Croft.  Roughly half of the volume covers the scenes that take place on the island.  Author Sharon Gosling points out Vikander was filmed in the raging rapids sequence in the facility where the 2012 Olympics were held, and the parachute drop scene came straight from the game.

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We’ve reviewed dozens of books from the Alien franchise over the past six years at borg.com.  The latest book blends the look and style of the Batman v. Superman Tech Manual (reviewed here at borg.com) and the virtual world potential of Pokémon Go.  The Book of Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual, by Owen Williams, allows diehard fans of the franchise a new way to immerse themselves in the world of the U.S. Colonial Marines.  With a nod to real world guides like the U.S. Army Survival Manual this future version is interactive, merging a free Alien Augmented Reality app that readers can download to their smartphones with the preparatory lessons and guidance in the book.  The Alien Survival Manual is entirely in-universe, featuring explanatory material for the reader newly stepping into the boots of a new Marine.

The book features historical data on six past missions.  You’ll revisit or learn for the first time what went wrong on key case study missions involving the xenomorph aliens: USCSS Prometheus–the first recorded encounter with the aliens, USCSS Covenant–a colonization ship is annihilated by xenomorphs, USCSS Nostromo–an ovomorph and xenomorph encounter, USCSS Sulaco–less information is on file from this mission, and lastly, the Fiorina 161 mission–two facehugger aliens board the ship, and USM Auriga–the perils of attempting to clone this unpredictable alien species.

Once trainees are up to speed on their history, it’s time to engage via your smartphone or Surface/iPad with six real-world training missions.  An embedded separate workbook inside the Alien Survival Manual incorporates some basic augmented reality features, placing the familiar aliens in the virtual space of your own room when used with the Alien AR app.  The goal of each mission?  Survival.

Mission #1 is engaging a xenomorph egg simulation.  Mission #2 is a drop-ship simulator, where Marines must maneuver a ship onto a designated landing surface.  Mission #3 is an alien autopsy simulation.  Mission #4 is a chestburster simulation.  Mission #5 is an alien queen encounter (hint: just drop your phone and run).  And Mission #6 is weapons training.  Grab that M41A pulse rifle!

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