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Tag Archive: Ridley Scott


Review by C.J. Bunce

As much as you may hear general moviegoers asking if we may be near the end of the Alien franchise–and earlier this month Alien director Ridley Scott said as much, that the franchise has basically “run out”–you probably won’t hear that from fans of Alien who keep coming back for more.  But no worry: two future movies are expected from the franchise.  Along the way tie-in authors continue to expand the universe before and after the first film that premiered way back in 1979.  The best of these so far is arguably Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows (reviewed here at borg.com along with an interview with the author here).  In that novel Lebbon cleverly intercut between films a new tale of Ellen Ripley encountering xenomorphs again.  Earlier this year we reviewed an anthology, Alien: Bug Hunt here, and a new interactive in-world book in the Alien universe will be reviewed here soon.  Ridley Scott returned to direct another film in the series this year with Alien: Covenant, and a new tie-in novel bridges the gap between 2012’s Prometheus and Covenant.  Titled Alien: Covenant–Origins, it features the return of one of fandom’s favorite writers, Alan Dean Foster, and readers will find the story completely unexpected.

Since the 1970s Foster has written famous science fiction expansion stories that brought classic films home to audiences before the days of home video, including the novelization of the original Star Wars and the first Star Trek tie-ins.  His success with those would lead him to write the novelizations of the first three Alien films and Alien: Covenant, Terminator: Salvation, The Chronicles of Riddick, the first two Transformers movies, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Star Trek (2009), Star Trek Into Darkness, adding to a catalog of books that include The Thing, The Black Hole, Outland, The Last Starfighter, Starman, and AlienNation.  So Foster knows the Alien world well and with Alien: Covenant–Origins, Foster looks beyond the monstrous xenomorphs of the franchise to the political and corporate machinations behind the first effort to colonize outer space by Earthlings.  Springboarding off what we can imagine to be a Michael Crichton’s Rising Sun-inspired corporate takeover of CEO Peter Weyland’s tech company by competitor Hideo Yutani after the events of Prometheus find Weyland lost in space, we encounter the new Weyland-Yutani Corp. as it prepares to send a ship full of colonists to habitable planet Origae-6.  But on Earth the company first encounters espionage, intrigue, and sabotage, earthbound topics wrestled with similarly in Carl Sagan’s classic novel Contact. 

More action-thriller than sci-fi, Foster plants us into a mad dash to get the Covenant into space, with Yutani’s daughter kidnapped, assassination attempts, and a strange faction bombarding the company at every step to stop all efforts to go into space to avoid what one human is foreseeing as an invasion of horrible alien demons in Earth’s future if Weyland-Yutani proceeds with its flight.  It’s the same warning Sagan and NASA encountered from members of the public when the United States sent two Voyager space probes to the edge of the galaxy and beyond in the 1970s–what if aliens find us and they’re not so friendly?

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jean claude van johnson

Sometimes you vote and your nominee wins.

That’s what we were hoping when Amazon Studios asked audiences last August what series they wanted to see move forward with a full season.  The underdog contender was a pilot called Jean-Claude Van Johnson, starring 1980s and 1990s B-movie superstar Jean-Claude Van Damme.  If you’re a fan of Van Damme, you probably would agree he has never failed to deliver a solid Van Damme action flick, whether it’s Bloodsport, Kickboxer, Lionheart, Double Impact, or TimeCop, or whether it’s Van Damme as a villainous voice on Kung Fu Panda 2, or star villain among a bunch of other “has-beens” in Expendables 2, Van Damme always delivers as promised.  We thought he did it again with a great series pilot last year.  And Amazon Studios agreed.

Amazon Studios has released a new trailer and a teaser plus a firm release date for season one–it’s available next month.

Jean-Claude Van Damme stars as a meta-Jean-Claude Van Damme in Jean-Claude Van Johnson.  We reviewed the incredibly fun pilot here at borg.com last year.  Jean-Claude is a retired action hero, going through the motions, living the life we would expect of this famed, otherworldly-superhero-acrobatic-martial-artist-extraordinaire known as the “Muscles from Brussels”.  He awakens to a ho-hum average day, among all the products which have licensed his name (JCVD soap, after shave, slippers, an iron statue, etc.), with the obligatory supermodel exiting his bed.  He moves on to a Ramen noodle restaurant for lunch only to encounter a lost love, played by 39-year-old ex-Weeds and Royal Pains actress Kat Foster (Van Damme is 57).  She is leaving for a gig in Bulgaria and shuns his affections.  This prompts Van Damme to visit his agent, played by Phylicia Rashad.  She has some lame (and quite funny) acting parts for him, but–no–he wants to return to his other job.  It turns out Van Damme was doing what many of us dreamed about over the years–a story where these movie tough guys were actually put to the test in real life.  That’s right, Van Damme was America’s real-life answer to James Bond.  As Johnson, Van Damme was the world’s most dangerous undercover operative.  And he’s back.

And he has plenty of disguises.

Here is the new teaser and full-length trailer for Jean-Claude Van Johnson:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Credit for the success of Blade Runner 2049 as a worthy sequel to 1982’s Blade Runner is a shared prize for director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario), the writers, including screenwriter Michael Green (Logan, Alien: Covenant), source material creator Philip K. Dick, and original Blade Runner screenwriter Hampton Fancher (The Mighty Quinn), plus at least two dozen other unnamed creators whose early science fiction works were mined for the story.  Predictable, derivative, slow-paced, and overly long, Blade Runner 2049 still lands as a solid sequel and will no doubt please fans loyal to the 1982 film.  The beauty of the sequel is the earnest, ambitious effort of Villeneuve under the eye of executive producer and original Blade Runner director Ridley Scott to give the story a reserved touch.  The sequel has the now classic dystopian look of the Mad Max or Terminator: Salvation variety, stretching the original Syd Mead futurism and punk noir vibe into a different but logical new direction–think Blade Runner with the lights turned on.

From the first scene Villeneuve & Co. dig in to not just sci-fi tropes but cyborg heavy themes that sci-fi fans know very well from similar explorations in countless books, television series, and films since the early 1980s, when the idea of adapting something like Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? into a big budget film was something less familiar to film audiences.  The filmmakers touch on many classics–Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein, Pinocchio, Shakespearean tragedy–to countless episodes of the Star Trek franchise (lead character and Replicant K/Joe played by Ryan Gosling revisits several direct themes the android Data explored in Star Trek: The Next Generation.  More than ten minutes is spent revisiting the latest technology called an “emanator” that Star Trek Voyager fans will be familiar with as the Emergency Medical Hologram’s “holo-emitter,” a device allowing holograms to move around the world.  What in the early 1980s may have wowed audiences is here not so eye-popping because of the legacy Trek tech called the holodeck.  But none of these flashbacks to sci-fi’s past really take anything away from the elements re-used in Blade Runner 2049 because they are all stitched together into a clean story.  To some it will be a Where’s Waldo? of sci-fi storytelling and to others the simple nostalgia of exploring Isaac Asimov’s themes of the Robot and the Self will be worth a revisit.

Many questions are asked in the lengthy 2 hour-and 43 minute-long film, and some, but not all, will be answered, disappointing a few loyal fans of the original.  Deaths of characters and actors since the original limit the return of certain characters from the original, but where they happen it’s done right.  One scene, however, is a complete misfire–a character walked onto the screen to the gasp of this reviewer’s theater audience, only to find it wasn’t really who was expected based on the build up of the scene.  But the biggest misfire is Villeneuve’s use of sound and score.  Thankfully for the reputation of Vangelis, which scored the original film, Villeneuve turned to Benjamin Wallfisch and Hans Zimmer this time, creating a dreadful use of sound in a film.  Where the use of Vangelis’s synthesized cautious, futuristic melodies took a backseat to story and dialogue in the original, here Wallfisch and Zimmer lean on dissonant John Cage-esque chords and blare noises like someone sitting on a piano or a kid plugging his guitar into an amp for the first time, over and over, at full volume–the aural equivalent of J.J. Abrams lens flares.  The poor sound really takes away from a visual work that could have benefitted by a closer reflection of the use of sound in the original.  I.e. take at least one earplug along, especially in an IMAX or other digital theater.

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Narragansett Brewing Company has a new Lovecraft beer available this summer, complete with an excellently creepy and fantasy-rich marketing campaign.  The latest in Narragansett’s series of Lovecraft offerings features a tale of a classic copper-helmeted deep-sea diver, and the presentation is the kind of design that beer can collectors will want to get their hands on.  Born in 1890, the same year that Narragansett Beer was founded, H.P. Lovecraft spent the majority of his life in Providence, Rhode Island, as a struggling author, only achieving literary fame posthumously.  Commonly referred to as the “Father of Modern Horror,” he influenced authors and artists from Stephen King to Metallica to Ridley Scott.  H.P. Lovecraft is probably best known for creating Cthulhu, a fictional deity described as being part man, part dragon and part octopus.  It is this creature that inspired the Cthulhu Mythos, a cultural lore and shared fictional universe of Lovecraft successors.

Past Lovecraft beers in the series have featured homages to Lovecraft’s The Shadow Over Innsmouth, Herbert West–Reanimator, and The White Ship Now ushering in the Halloween season, inspired by Lovecraft’s incredible short story The Temple, Narragansett’s latest includes a great video to accompany the release (check it out below, and you can read Lovecraft’s original stories online at the links in the above titles).

Now that autumn has arrived it’s also time for Oktoberfests, and Renaissance Faire season is in full swing.  Narragansett has that covered as well, with a richly drawn medieval theme in its new Fest Marzen Lager.  Featuring an image of the mythical King Gambrinus based on an 1898 illustration, the orange can echoes the coming falling leaves and contains the company’s Bavarian style beer offered in the 1960s and 1970s.  The Fest product was the most requested beer by fans of the company in a recent poll, and this is the first time the company is releasing it to market in three years.  To celebrate the “Return of the King,” ‘Gansett is launching release parties and even a half marathon with pumpkin pie at the finish line.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Syd Mead, the famed “artist who illustrates the future,” is an icon of visionary design and illustration.  No other creator has shown the world a utopian vision of a possible future in so many ways.  At the same time he has created a world we want to see develop that lies ahead, we have seen his future begin to be realized.  His aerodynamic designs have influenced auto design in recent decades from car makers including Chrysler, Ford, and GM.  He has created the look of space technology that we all accept as believable thanks to his concept art–art that has influenced the art direction of films for four decades.  A new book published this month provides an in-depth intellectual review of Mead’s style, influences, and impact on the history of design.  The Movie Art of Syd Mead: Visual Futurist is a college level, art design course book of sorts that takes movie concept art to an entirely new level, a serious look at his style that will appeal to serious artists in any field, and a popular work for fans of the films he has inspired.

“What makes Syd’s vision so compelling,” says the book’s author, architect/designer and professor Craig Hodgetts, “is not only the means he employs to convey it, but the acute physical and environmental awareness: the endless curiosity about how the world works; the precise level of detail and the practical engineering knowledge that he brings to even the most fantastic devices.”  Beginning with the look of the both geometric and organic mechanical villain V’ger from the year 2273 in 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture to a mid-21st century casino and hotel in this year’s Blade Runner 2049, Mead’s sketches, drawings, illustrations, and paintings have inspired and influenced the art design of dozens of movie productions.

   

Mead’s most groundbreaking and memorable cinematic visionary creations came in the 1980s with four films.  Returning to our theme of celebrating 1982 films, for Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner Mead was influenced by Edward Hopper’s desolate cityscapes.  To translate author Phillip K. Dick’s writings into visual form, Mead and Scott took an idea of sculpture artists Robert Rauschenberg and Richard Stankewicz and author William Gibson.  The filmmakers lay claim to be the first to use their ideas of “retro-fitting” on film–the process of creating a unique object by means of a strategic assemblage of allied components; by harvesting parts from abandoned or obsolescent “donors” and re-assembling them, a new entity is created.  In the same year as Blade Runner, Mead saw his designs realized in the very different world of Tron, modelling a convincing digital world by extrapolating from the patterns of computer motherboards and other now obsolete technology of the era.  The giant screen-filling image of Master Control, the labyrinthine pathways for the lightcycles, and Sark’s hefty transport vessel all hailed from the mind and pen of Mead.  Taking the look of James Cameron’s original Alien film and modifying it significantly, Mead skipped the “slick shapes of Star Trek” and the “greeblies of Star Wars” to create what he envisioned as a “highly-engineered, purposeful vessel” where each feature could have a function, in the 1986 sequel Aliens In the same year, Mead created what would become an iconic image of the 1980s, Number Five the robot, the friendly star of the film Short Circuit.

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When a movie director can re-create the right look and feel of a time and place, the film can take audiences in a darkened theater into the past as well as any time machine.   This year the re-creation is July 1973 and the place is Rome.  The subject is a celebrity family kidnapping that has faded in the memories of most and unknown to the rest, the kidnapping of oil baron and “The Richest Man in the World” J. Paul Getty’s grandson, and the efforts taken to get him back.  All the Money in the World is based on the book Painfully Rich by John Pearson, with a script by David Scarpa (The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)).  The real-life account of the kidnapping is the stuff of great drama, full of strange decisions and bizarre actions by all involved.  The kidnapping is best known for the ear that was put in the mail–and delayed by a postal strike in Italy–sent by the kidnappers to press the Getty family to pay the ransom.  The story has plenty of room to illustrate the bumbling and the Reversal of Fortune-esque actions of the uber-wealthy that occurred along the way.

The film is directed by Ridley Scott, and stars young actor Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher Plummer) as J. Paul Getty III.  Michelle Williams portrays Gail Harris, mother of the kidnapped Getty.  Kevin Spacey looks believable as the aged and eccentric billionaire Getty and Timothy Hutton plays his lawyer.  And Mark Wahlberg, the highest paid actor in Hollywood, portrays the preposterously–but actual–named Fletcher Chase, a “tall, craggy-faced American” who was an ex-CIA operative from San Diego sent by the billionaire to assist in the release of his grandson.

The 1970s era (although the early part of the decade instead of the later) and a key role by a single hardened CIA-trained operative echoes Ben Affleck’s 2012 Best Picture Academy Award winner Argo.  The 1970s look and feel in All the Money in the World is provided by Oscar-nominated production designer Arthur Max (Gladiator, Blackhawk Down, The Martian, Kingdom of Heaven, Prometheus) and set decorators on several productions featuring Italy of the past, Letizia Santucci, Cristina Onori, and Gianpaulo Rifino.  The film also features acclaimed genre cinematographer Dariusz Wolski (Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Martian, War Machine, Dark City, Alice in Wonderland, Alien: Covenant, and the 1980s best rock videos from Aerosmith and Van Halen to The Bangles and Suzanne Vega).

Check out this first trailer for All the Money in the World:

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Yes, the celebration of the movies of 1982 just keeps getting better.  As Blade Runner turns 35, Warner Bros. has partnered with Alamo Drafthouse theaters to present a new 4K restoration of Blade Runner: The Final Cut.  You thought you saw the final version of Ridley Scott’s original vision with the 2007 version?  Well you did, primarily.  Blade Runner: The Final Cut was in theaters only briefly then it was issued in several home variations.  The Final Cut featured restored and re-mastered original elements, plus added and extended scenes, added dialogue, along with new and improved special effects.  The version returning to theaters for the Alamo Drafthouse event updates the 2007 film version with 4K resolution, promising a more immersive theatrical experience than seen before.

All told, Blade Runner is one of the most modified and re-released films around.  The Final Cut was the eighth edition of the loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi classic novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, and this new edition is basically the same as 2007 with a sound and picture upgrade.  Does that make it the ninth version?  That depends on who you ask.  The biggest difference between the original and the earlier director’s cut was the elimination of Harrison Ford’s narration, Philip Marlowe style.  If you’re a fan of classic noir like we are, you really missed the narration in the later editions from the original theatrical release–that narration gave a nice retro feel in contrast to such a darkly futuristic film.  Legal entanglements, cuts for TV and DVD, and more, and a resolution or two later and here we are with this new upgrade.

Leading up to the October 6 release of the long-awaited–unlikely–sequel, Blade Runner 2049, Warner Bros. is releasing a 35th anniversary edition home release of Blade Runner: The Final Cut, coming September 5, including director commentary.  You can pre-order the Ultra HD Blu-ray Combo Pack and Digital here at Amazon now.

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Author Simon Ward has crafted a new behind-the-scenes account of a sci-fi film, this time the latest entry and third Ridley Scott-helmed film in his Alien series, Alien: Covenant.  As you would expect, The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant features hundreds of photographs from what is probably the goriest film in the series.  Like another sci-fi/horror mash-up film 10 Cloverfield Lane, it also has its share of surprises, particularly as it leaves viewers in suspense as they learn the kind of horror film unfolding isn’t what they first thought.  Ward’s new book doesn’t reveal all the surprises, but enough to encourage readers to wait until they’ve seen the film to read the book.  Since a book like this is mainly for the diehard Alien fan, this won’t be an issue to most of its readers.

The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant, like Ward’s previous works The Art and Making of Independence Day: Resurgence (reviewed here at borg.com) and Aliens: The Set Photography (reviewed here) is more about the making of the film than a traditional “art of” film resource.  so don’t look for the typical concept art.  You will see plenty of film stills, behind the scenes shots with the actors, and some good visuals of the film’s set design.  Ward also moves step-by-step through the film, pulling in production staff and actors to give insight into the filmmaking process for this unique movie.

Ward interviewed director Ridley Scott, revealing Scott’s thought process behind this film and its place in the series, each key cast member discusses their view of their characters.  Concept artist Steve Burg describes the differences between Alien: Covenant and the last film in the series, Prometheus.  Creatures supervisor Conor O’Sullivan reveals the influences in the new Xenomorph designs.  Director of photography Dariusz Wolski provides a look at scene set-up and his lighting and cinematography choices.

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What exactly is Atari doing in 2049?

Ridley Scott’s neo-noir, sci-fi masterpiece Blade Runner is one of science fiction’s classic films. Released in 1982, Blade Runner, a loose adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electronic Sheep? revealed a world of life-like borgs called Replicants hiding among us in the year 2019.  Scott is back, this time as an executive producer, for the surprise sequel Blade Runner 2049, directed by Denis Villeneuve (Sicario, Arrival).

Top billing this time goes to Ryan Gosling, who wasn’t born yet when the original was in production.  Harrison Ford returns, as seen in the trailer released this week by Sony and Columbia Pictures.  Blade Runner is known for its brilliantly realized future city, and the teaser includes no indication of whether it will be set in the giant wonder of technology that was the city where Harrison Ford’s Deckard hunted Replicants and befriended one in Sean Young’s beautiful damsel in distress, Rachael.  Young appeared in last year’s Western Bone Tomahawk.  Will she have a surprise cameo in Blade Runner 2049?

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Other actors appearing are Suicide Squad’s Jared Leto (a pretty gross fellow in the trailer), The Princess Bride’s Robin Wright, Ant-Man’s David Dastmalchian, and Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre’s Dave Bautista.  Here’s the new full-length trailer for Blade Runner 2049:

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When you think of the Alien franchise, what iconic images come to mind?  Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley in a giant power loader suit or going face-to-face with a Xenomorph?  The first facehugger?  Hicks, Hudson and Vasquez realizing they were facing something hopeless?  Queen of sci-fi Veronica Cartwright’s scream at the first terrifying chest burst?  Ridley holding Jonesy finally sighing with relief that they survived the alien onslaught?  Dozens of these and other iconic images are packed into a new adult coloring book, Alien: The Coloring Book, coming this May from Titan Books.

The adult coloring book business is gaining steam with publishers taking extra efforts to see that the artwork inside meets the standard of the franchise.  Alien: The Coloring Book has pulled together artwork that resembles the actors and key scenes from the movie, but also does so in a visually interesting manner and conforms to the whole point of these books: to give fans a chance to color their favorite scenes (in or outside the lines).

Creating scenes from all of the Alien movies featuring heroine Ellen Ripley are artists Leandro Casco, Wellington Diaz, Vinz El Tabanas, Salvador Navarro, Guilherme Raffide, Rubine, Vincenzo Zerov Salvo, Adriano Vicente, and Daniel Wichinson.  Eighty pages provide Xenomorphs, chestbursters, Xenomorph eggs, your favorite characters, spacesuits, ships, Ridley Scott’s futuristic sets and H.R. Giger-inspired designs.  One of the fun illustrations features Lance Henriksen’s cyborg Bishop playing mumbletypeg with the hand of Private Hudson (played by the late Bill Paxton).

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