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Bill Sienkiewicz Star Wars Return of the Jedi #2 cover






Star Wars (1977) unused Death Star matte painting



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Direct Beam Comms #76



Movies

Alien 3 25th anniversary

I’ve written a lot about the movies Alien and Aliens over the years, but I don’t believe that I’ve ever really delved into the movie Alien 3. When I saw that movie was turning 25 this week I thought it would be the perfect time to muse about that film.

Today, Alien 3 is considered by the fans to be a noble failure. That movie was directed by David Fincher before he was David Fincher, so it’s got all the visual stylings we would come to expect from the director, but something about the movie is off. Alien 3 kind’a tries to return the Alien franchise to its roots — an alien vs a bunch of people sans any real weapons — yet the story is so uneven in places that it never ever is able to “get going” and never takes the audience for the ride we were expecting to go on after Aliens.

I’d agree that Alien 3 is the weakest of the first three alien movies and I remember the first time I saw it, on VHS the winter of 1992, I was disappointed by it. I remember thinking that Alien 3 wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t nearly as good as the other two.

Here’s the thing, though. I think that if Alien 3 had somehow not been a sequel, that instead it was the first film of an Alien franchise instead of third, it would be widely regarded as one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made warts and all.

Alien 3 has its own unique look and feel. If the esthetic of Alien was of “truck drivers in space” and Aliens a sort of 1980s yuppie mixed with military fatigues, I think the look of Alien 3 can best be described as depressed industrial. Everything from the colors of the environment to the uniforms the characters wear is a sickly, rust-colored industrialization gone amok brown. There’s absolutely no bright colors in Alien 3 and everything looks worn and used and ready to fall apart.

And this esthetic would carry over to Fincher’s later films like Se7en and Fight Club which are both considered great films partially because of this esthetic.

It’s true that the story of Alien 3 isn’t great, the movie’s famously trouble production explains a lot, but it’s still enjoyable. The story centers Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) crash landing on a far-off planet that’s a sort of prison complex for some very bad guys. And because she’s arrived with the alien spore Ripley and the prisoners must do battle to the death with the creature since help isn’t coming and it’s a winner takes all situation.

Now that I think about it, the craziest choice in Alien 3 is that you’ve got at the time one of the most beautiful and famous actresses on the planet with Weaver who in this film has a shaved head and looks more like one of the ragged male prisoners than one of the most recognizable actors on the planet which is a bold chose to say the least.

All of which makes for one interesting movie to watch even if the story’s uneven at best. But since Alien 3 is a the third film, and since two of the most beloved characters in Aliens are killed off in the opening minutes on-screen and since the story’s not perfect means that to most Alien 3 is seen as the first failure in the franchise rather than an interesting film. I do wonder if anyone now would go into Alien 3 without any expectations, which admittedly is impossible, what they would think of the film? Would they agree with Siskel & Ebert who gave the film two thumbs down or would they see something more in this now mostly forgotten film?

Star Wars 40th anniversary

I’m old enough to remember when the 10th anniversary of Star Wars was a big deal and now that the movie turns 40 this week I thought it would be interesting to post a few articles I’ve written over the years on the franchise.

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior

Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, for years known simply as The Road Warrior in this part of the world, turns 35 this week. I saw Star Wars in the theater as many of my friends did, but I don’t know anyone who ever saw Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior there. I saw that movie many times edited for content on broadcast TV and I’m relatively sure I didn’t see the complete unedited version of the film until many years later on DVD.

Much like with Star Wars and Alien 3, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior is a part of a movie franchise that’s still going strong today.

War for the Planet of the Apes movie trailer

The Mummy trailer

Books

The Art and Making of Alien: Covenant

Out this week is the obligatory “making of” book for the movie Alien: Covenant. From Amazon:

This official companion book explores all the major environments, creatures and technology that feature in this exciting new movie. It explores the intricate technology of the eponymous colony ship and its auxiliary vehicles, designs of the crew’s uniforms and weaponry, artwork of key locations and breathtaking alien art imagery in amazing detail. Packed with fascinating sketches, blueprints, diagrams, full-color artwork, final film frames and behind-the-scenes shots from the set, Alien: Covenant – The Art of the Film is the ultimate literary companion to this highly anticipated movie event.

Toys

Alien: Covenant

NECA has released photos of all its action-figures set to be released from the movie Alien: Covenant including the already shown Xenomorph, but new Neomorph as well as other monsters from the film.

The Reading & Watch List

TV

Star Trek: Discovery series promo

The Crossing series promo

GLOW series promo

The Gifted series promo

The Orville series promo

Ghosted series promo

Black Lightning series promo

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1970: Beneath the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters
  • 1971: Escape from the Planet of the Apes opens in theaters
  • 1977: Star Wars premieres 40 years ago
  • 1979: Alien opens
  • 1979: Dawn of the Dead opens in theaters
  • 1981: Outland opens
  • 1982: Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior opens in theaters 35 years ago
  • 1983: Return of the Jedi premiers
  • 1985: Trancers premiers
  • 1988: Killer Klowns from Outer Space debuts
  • 1990: Back to the Future Part III opens in theaters
  • 1992: Alien 3 opens 25 years ago
  • 1995: Johnny Mnemonic premiers
  • 1997: The Lost World: Jurassic Park opens in theaters 20 years ago
  • 1999: The last episode of the TV series Millennium airs
  • 2010: The last episode of Lost airs



Direct Beam Comms #74



TV

American Gods Episode 1: C+

There’s been a tendency of late for series creators to embrace the model of season-long stories. The old model of TV was that each episode of a show would have a story that has a beginning, middle and end so that each episode wasn’t connected to other episodes stories in any meaningful way. Recently, more modern series began embracing season-long stories where episodes did have a beginning, middle and end but also were a piece of a season-long story that was also playing out throughout the year. But now some shows have abandoned each episode have a beginning middle and end and have started treating each episode as a “chapter” in a season-long story. So episodes are only a part of a larger story are used in service of that.

Which, if done right like in The Wire or True Detective can make some wonderful TV. But, if done not so right can make for some confusing TV, like I experienced with the first episode of the Starz series American Gods.

Adapted from the Neil Gaiman novel of the same name, the American Gods TV series was created by writer Bryan Fuller and Michael Green. Which I thought boded well for the show since Fuller adapted the heck out of the Hannibal story for NBC a few years ago and created a magnificent series in the process. That show about the early days of Hannibal Lector had episode stories as well a season-long story too. While this worked for Hannibal, with American Gods Fuller instead embraces the season-long story model which made for one weird episode of TV.

In the first episode, a guy named Shadow Moon (Ricky Whittle) is released from prison where he meets up with a guy named Wednesday (Ian McShane) who quickly puts Moon on his payroll of being his eyes and ears out in the world. It seems as if the gods of lore like Odin and new gods like Technology are real, and the new gods and old are on the brink of war with each other.

Except I didn’t get much of the gods plot from the first episode, that came from TV commercials for the show and reading up on the original novel. Most of the first episode of American Gods is about Moon trying to get to his wife’s funeral, Wednesday turning up in some unexpected places, the introduction of a few other gods and the weirdest human sacrifice put to film I’ve ever seen.

In fact, I don’t think that if I didn’t already know kind’a what was going in on American Gods that I would have had any clue as to what was happening whatsoever since the first episode, while beautiful to look at, had very little plot/story going on. While watching it I kept getting the feeling that people who’d read the American Gods book were also watching the show going, “Ohhhh, that’s the part where X happens and this is setting you Y down the road!” But to me I never really got a handle on what was all going on.

I get that the eight episodes of American Gods show will play out as a single story, it’s just how long do we have to wait until we get past the weird sex stuff and people being cut in half before we get to a little plot?

The Defenders TV commercial

Inhumans TV commercial

Comics

Creepshow

A new edition of the classic Creepshow graphic novel is back in print some 35 years after original was released. Creepshow collects all of the stories that went into the movie of the same name with illustrations from Bernie Wrightson, which that name alone is reason enough to pick this one up. I was a little too young to buy the graphic novel when it first came out and for whatever reason never bothered picking it up since so I’m really excited about picking a copy of this up as soon as its released.

From Simon & Schuster:

Now back in print: the graphic novel adaptation of Stephen King’s Creepshow, based on the 1982 horror anthology and cult classic film directed by George Romero (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead)—and featuring stunning illustrations by the legendary Bernie Wrightson and cover art by the acclaimed Jack Kamen! A harrowing and darkly humorous tribute to the controversial and influential horror comics of the 1950s, Creepshow presents five sinister stories from the #1 New York Times bestselling author—“Father’s Day,” “The Lonesome Death of Jordy Verrill,” “Something to Tide You Over,” “The Crate,” and “They’re Creeping Up on You”…unforgettable tales of terror to haunt your days and nights!

Star Wars: The Classic Newspaper Comics Vol. 1 Hardcover

From IDW this week comes a collected edition of the Star Wars newspaper strips that ran from 1979–1984. This first edition runs from 1979 to the end of 1980 and has something like 575 panels from that period. I don’t know why but I’m a nut for these collected adventure strips and can’t wait for this one to come out, even if I think I’ve already got a lot of these stories somewhere when Dark Horse ran them collected in comic book form.

From IDW:

The first of three volumes that present, for the first time ever, the classic Star Wars newspaper strip from 1979–1984 in its complete format — including each Sunday title header and “bonus” panels in their meticulously restored original color. Initially the color Sundays and black and white dailies told separate stories, but within six months the incomparable Russ Manning merged the adventures to tell brand new epic seven-days-a-week sagas that rivaled the best science fiction comics of all time.

Movies

The Dark Tower movie trailer

Games

The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 Board Game

I’m not much into board games, but I have to say that I’m very tempted to pick up the The Thing: Infection at Outpost 31 board game by Mondo from subject-matter alone.

From Mondo:

An alien lifeform has infiltrated a bleak and desolate Antarctic research station assimilating other organisms and then imitating them. In the hidden identity game THE THING ™ INFECTION AT OUTPOST 31, you will relive John Carpenter’s sci-fi cult classic in a race to discover who among the team has been infected by this heinous lifeform. The game has been designed to be as authentically cinematic as possible, ensuring that the players will experience the paranoia and tension that makes the film so great.

Toys

Prometheus Action Figure Series – The Lost Wave

Nearly five years after they were originally due to be released, the final three toys from NECA’s line of action figures based on the film Prometheus are finally set to be released this June. The first three figures in the set that did make it to shelves included David, the alien creature known as the “Deacon” and an “Engineer.” The lead character of the film Shaw and characters Vickers and Fiefeld were set to be released later, but later turned into never when the line was cancelled after poor sales. But never let it be said that NECA didn’t sense a golden opportunity when the new movie Alien: Covenant was announced and suddenly these three “lost” figures suddenly became found and are now set to be available again this summer and will retail for around $70.

From Big Bad Toy Store:

The 7″ scale figures are entirely movie accurate and feature over 25 points of articulation. Vickers (Charlize Theron) comes with flamethrower and removable helmet. Shaw (Noomi Rapace) comes with axe, removable helmet and the android David’s severed head. Fifield (Sean Harris) comes with flashlight and removable helmet.

LEGO® Ideas 21309 NASA Apollo Saturn V

This new Lego Apollo Saturn V rocket stands a whopping three feet tall, contains all three rocket stages as well as the command module, LEM and three micro figures. The kit will retail for about $120 and will be on sale the first of June.

The Reading List

This week in pop-culture history

  • 1971: Morgan Weisser, Nathan West of Space: Above and Beyond, is born
  • 1973: Soylent Green opens in theaters
  • 1984: Firestarter debuts
  • 1986: Short Circuit opens
  • 1989: The Return of Swamp Thing premiers in theaters
  • 1994: The Crow opens in theaters
  • 1994: The TV mini-series The Stand premiers
  • 1995: The Fifth Element debuts in theaters
  • 1998: Deep Impact opens in theaters



Star Wars (1977) comic book poster



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