Tag Archive: Alien


Review by C.J. Bunce

In art director and designer Roger Christian’s book Cinema Alchemist (reviewed here at borg) readers learn how the Oscar-winning set designer changed the way audiences see the future through intentionally distressed sets and props and the clever incorporation of real-world components.  In books like Dressing a Galaxy, Star Wars Costumes, and Star Trek Costumes, readers can see how costume designers create what we think of as the future.  Now writer Dave Addey takes science fiction fans back to visit how visionary filmmakers of classic science fiction used futuristic and sometimes even classic fonts and type styles to convey what lies ahead and in his book Typeset in the Future: Typography and Design in Science Fiction Movies, available now from Abrams Books.

At first focusing on what he believes to be the most pervasive font of the future, Eurostile Bold Extended–used in Back to the Future, Apollo 13, Battlestar Galactica, Independence Day, and hundreds of other films–Dave Addey highlights seven key science fiction films and how they used a wide variety of typeface designs to make us see the future.  2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, Blade Runner, Total Recall, Wall·E, and Moon (alas, no Star Wars, possibly because it is not technically science fiction per se) each get taken apart and dissected.  With numerous screencaps, and identification of several dozen font designs inside the films and used in marketing via posters and other advertisements, readers will be surprised what set designers came up with over the past 50 years.

Addey finds some of the fonts made famous in film have filtered into our daily lives as real-world corporate logos–Gill Sans Light, City Bold, Univers 59 Ultra Bold Condensed, Manifold, Futura Bold, Kabel Book, Computer, Micr, Data 70, Stop, Handel Gothic, Pump Demi, Swiss 911 Ultra Compressed, Gunship–these will all be familiar to you even if you don’t know them by name.  With his own pop culture knowledge and sense of humor, he has also built his own framework to analyze the success of these fonts, using manipulation via italic slant, curved lettering, straightening others, adding sharp points, adjusting kern or spacing, creating slices through letters, adding texture, adding a bevel or extrusion, and/or a star field background, although he says no title font has yet used them all to become the most futuristic of all.

Here is a look inside the book:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If only the movies since Aliens had been this good.

Wrapping up the year’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic Alien, coming next week from author Tim Waggoner is the next novel of the Alien universe, Alien: Prototype.  I’ve read most of the Alien tie-in novels, and this novel is right on the heels of the best of them, Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows.  Three tough-as-nails female characters drive this story.  Readers first meet Tamar Prather, a master of corporate espionage and all-around resourceful spy.  Tamar is self-driven and self-serving, and she breaks into Weyland-Yutani to steal a stasis pod housing a valuable trade secret, with a buyer at an opposing corporation ready and waiting.

Several hundred colonists live in the testing facility on the planet Jericho-3, and they’re about to meet a threat even worse than your typical Xenomorph encounter.  To protect them is Zula Hendricks (first introduced in the Aliens: Defiance comic series), a member of the security staff who has been training her squad for just this kind of alien encounter.  Hendricks knows first-hand what works and what doesn’t in combat, having lost her last platoon from her own bad judgment.  Working for the new corporation is a new take on the franchise’s synthetics, an upgraded cyborg named Brigette, and Hendricks’ synth friend Davis, now assisting her but no longer in your typical synth bipedal form.

Despite Alien: Prototype′s requisite, nasty, sci-fi monster–and this time readers will meet an entirely new version of the Xenomorph even more difficult to defeat than her predecessors–the real villains of the Alien-verse continue to be the corporate wonks who refuse to heed the warnings of those who have encountered the Xenomorphs in previous clashes.  But for the first time it’s not Weyland-Yutani that is behind the decision-making leading to the next disaster.

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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

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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