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Tag Archive: sci-fi horror


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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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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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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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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ripley-and-newt

Review by C.J. Bunce

Aliens is a film like no other, a rare sequel that is arguably as good or better than the original.  It’s horror, but even more so than the original Alien, it is a science fiction classic in its own right.  Aliens was ahead of its time, a successful blockbuster from James Cameron, who quickly put together a story treatment and sold the studio on his vision of the follow-on to Ridley Scott’s unique and acclaimed original.  Last month here at borg.com we reviewed Aliens–The Set Photography, a new book chronicling the creative work behind Aliens released for the film’s 30th anniversary.  Action-packed with top-notch acting from Sigourney Weaver and a great supporting cast, plus some of Stan Winston’s best creature work, Aliens rightfully is getting the 30th anniversary treatment this month in Blu-ray.

Aliens is one of about a dozen science fiction or horror films to earn Academy Awards.  It won two, for visual effects and sound editing.  It was also nominated for art direction, sound, film editing and original score.  Better yet, Sigourney Weaver earned her much deserved first nomination for best actress.  Weaver’s Ellen Ripley is among science fiction’s best performances, and Weaver the core of what made the franchise and this film successful.  The anniversary release includes two previously released versions, the 1986 original theatrical version and the 1991 extended edition.  If you missed the extended edition, it’s well worth your time.  Ripley gets more screen-time, and more character development, including the dichotomy between the death of Ripley’s daughter mirroring the Alien queen’s protection of her offspring–it’s great fun to see a character you think you know in scenes not included in the original version you saw in the theater.

aliens-30th-anniversary-edition-release

The extended edition commentary track is as good as you’ll find on any disc.  Where most releases these days include the director or producer and one or two cast members, the commentary accompanying the extended edition includes far more–a treasure trove of content and insights into the film.  You’ll hear details on movie making from director James Cameron, producer Gale Anne Hurd, the late, great, alien effects creator Stan Winston, visual effects supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, miniature effects supervisor Pat McClung, and actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn, and Christopher Henn.

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10 Cloverfield Lane clip

J.J. Abrams has managed to monopolize entertainment news for months now because of his directing gig on Star Wars: The Force Awakens.  Now there is this very strange conversation going on about the first trailer out of the gates for J.J. Abrams’ next release, 10 Cloverfield Lane.  Is it a sequel to his 2008 surprise sci-fi horror hit Cloverfield?  Is it part of an anthology?  Does it matter?  Abrams is cagey as usual in responding.  What if the title itself is the sleight of hand and the surprise is completely different?

Abrams seems to be set on making one of every possible major genre film type.  With Cloverfield Abrams made his Godzilla-monster movie.  He’s made his Star Trek, Mission Impossible and Star Wars interpretations.  In Super 8 he made his Spielberg coming of age picture.  He’s making his cyborg movie with his Westworld series.  He’s done spies (Alias), rom com (Felicity), and survival (Lost) series.

But this first trailer for 10 Cloverfield Lane looks like a different type of creepy thriller.  Maybe a bit of The Happening, The Village, Signs, or The Lady in Water?  Those special creepy sci-fi/horror flicks that don’t fit neatly into a sub-genre that before we thought only M. Night Shyamalan had cornered the market on?

10 Cloverfield Lane poster

Check it out for yourself.  It’s a great, creepy trailer for Abrams’ 10 Cloverfield Lane:

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Alien Out of the Shadows

Review by C.J. Bunce

You might think you’ve seen it all with five Alien feature films featuring the vile and merciless Xenomorphs.  You might really think you’ve seen everything about Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley from the spaceship Nostromo.  Ripley, the tough-as-nails heroine of the franchise played by Sigourney Weaver, was the lone human survivor of Alien (1979), and she led the charge against a Xenomorph attack in the sequel Aliens (1986), to come back again after her escape pod crashes onto a penal colony planet in Alien³ (1992), and finally return 200 years later as a human/Alien, Terminator-inspired hybrid clone in Alien: Resurrection (1997).  Ripley is on so many best-of lists, like Best Action Heroine and Top 100 Best Genre Character, that it’s impossible to count.  Ripley didn’t make an appearance in either Aliens vs Predator (2007) or Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien universe in 2012’s Prometheus, but has appeared in various incarnations in comic book spinoffs.  Well you haven’t seen the last of Ripley.  To quote the series’ often used tagline, The bitch is back.

A new trilogy series begins later this month, with Tim Lebbon’s Alien: Out of the Shadows.  Surprisingly it bridges the period between Alien and Aliens.  That’s right, Alien: Out of the Shadows pulls apart what you think happened to Ripley between entering into her deep stasis sleep at the end of Alien and her rescue from that sleep at the beginning of Aliens.  And Lebbon does it in a way fans of the series might not flinch at.  More importantly he takes Ripley on a nonstop, perilous mission that is as engaging as the grittiest and most exciting scenes in the franchise, the military mission in Aliens.

#1 Ellen Ripley

Chris “Hoop” Hooper works as chief engineer on a mining vessel called the Marion, as part of a Kelland Mining Company search for a rare metal called Trimonite.  Kelland is, of course, a subsidiary of Weyland-Yutani—the company that controls everything in the future.  Without wasting any paper, Lebbon catches us up with the Marion as two mining vessels go out of control in response to an invasion by certain familiar space “monsters.”  The ships ram the Marion–limiting anyone’s chances at survival, at ever leaving the orbit of the seemingly unextraordinary planet below, and causing the Marion to slowly descend to be burnt up in the planet’s atmosphere.  Jordan is the Marion’s experienced captain (and Hoop’s former love interest), Lachance is a level-headed pilot but he’s a pessimistic sort, Josh Baxter is the ship’s communications officer (and makes a good cocktail), Karen Sneddon is a hardened, intelligent science officer, Garcia is the nervous medic, and Kasyanov the doctor, with Powell and Welford engineers that keep the Marion’s crew alive for more than eleven weeks until Ripley’s shuttle auto-docks with them, 15 days before they predict they will get too close to the planet and burn up.

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