Tag Archives: Ridley Scott

Pop Culture Happy Hour: Alien: Covenant and Veep

ALIEN: COVENANTMy pal-for-life Glen Weldon is Down Under this week—like Quigley, like Jackman, like Michael J. “Crocodile” Dundee—but I was glad to be part of a reduced Pop Culture Happy Hour panel along with host Linda Holmes and regular Stephen Thompson to dissect the messy but fascinating prequel-sequel Alien: Covenant and to marvel at how the political satire Veep has stayed so strong for six seasons. At the end of the episode, I give a little love to little-loved—by me, anyway—replacement 007 Sir Roger Moore, who passed away this week at the age of 89. You can hear the full episode here or embedded below.
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Handling the Fingering: Alien: Covenant, reviewed.

ALIEN: COVENANTMy fanboyish impulses mostly come out whenever there’s a new ALIEN. Mostly.

I tried not to splash too much corrosive blood on the deck in my dissection of Alien: Covenant.

Pop Culture Happy Hour No. 264: The Martian and How-To Stories

Matt Damon portrays an astronaut who faces seemingly insurmountable odds as he tries to find a way to subsist on a hostile planet.

…wherein I join PCHH host Linda Holmes and regular panelists Stephen Thompson and Glen Weldon to talk about where the beloved hit movie fits into director Ridley Scott’s oeuvre and its fidelity to Andy Weir’s novel.

I suggested How-To Stories as a companion topic, since The Martian — in both its incarnations, albeit moreso in prose than onscreen — goes into unusual detail about the stuff its stranded-astronaut hero Mark Watney must do to survive on a planet that (so far we know) does not sustain life. We all struggled to come up with suitable examples of favorite stories in this genre, and to thread the needle between a How-To and a Procedural. I could’ve talked about several different Michael Mann films, but particularly Thief, Manhunter, Heat, or even The Insider. As is often the case, I didn’t think of that until later. Continue reading

Let the Children Lose It, Let the Children Use It: The Martian, reviewed.

Matt Damon portrays the titular hero in THE MARTIAN.

“There are a bunch of severe psychological effects that would happen to someone being isolated for almost two years. And also the anxiety and stress of being on the verge of death from various problems for so long—most people would not be able to handle that. The loneliness, the isolation, the anxiety, and stress—I mean, it would take an enormous psychological toll. And I didn’t deal with any of that. I just said like, ‘Nope, that’s not how Mark Watney rolls.’ So he has almost superhuman ability to deal with stress and solitude.

“And the reason I did that was because I didn’t want the book to be a deep character study of crippling loneliness and depression—that’s not what I wanted! So the biggest challenge were the psychological aspects, and I just didn’t address them and I hope the reader doesn’t notice.”

— Novelist Andy Weir, to Ars Technica’s Lee Hutchinson, last year.

“Let the children lose it

Let the children use it

Let all the children boogie.”

David Bowie, “Starman,” 1972.

My review of The Martian, screenwriter Drew Goddard and director Ridley Scott’s inspiring and so-good-I’m-mad-it’s-not-great adaptation of Andy Weir’s superb novel, is up at NPR now. Further Reading: My interview with Martian star Matt Damon for Air & Space / Smithsonian.

I’m Interviewing Matt Damon

Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) finds himself stranded and alone on Mars, in THE MARTIAN. (20th Century Fox)

I’m a big fan of Andy Weir’s debut novel The Martian. I was actually listening to the audiobook on the day in April when I visited NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, where the book is partially set. (It’s also set in space and on Mars.) I was out there doing some reporting for my day job with Air & Space / Smithsonian, and it was in that capacity that I got on the phone this week with Matt Damon, who plays the story’s protagonist, stranded astronaut Mark Watney, in Ridley Scott’s film adaptation, due out Oct. 2. The film hasn’t screened for critics yet, but the fact its release date was moved up by nearly two months suggests the studio is convinced it works. Continue reading

Making-of documentary The Furious Gods reveals the people who actually made Prometheus had no idea WTF, either.

Because I routinely make terrible decisions about how to spend my ever-dwindling supply of time on Earth, I paid $24.99 (50% of MSRP) for the four-disc, 3D Blu-Ray edition of Prometheus, a film I’d harbored huge hopes for but ultimately found disappointing. A Ridley Scott film, in other words.

​I don’t have the gear or the inclination to watch a 3D movie at home, but the deluxe set that includes the 3D version of Prometheus (along with the plain-Jane 2D in three different formats, because what price piece of mind?) is the only way to get The Furious Gods, a three-hour, 40 minute (!) making-of documentary by Charles de Lauzirika, a nonfiction filmmaker whose insightful, well-edited making-ofs for similarly lavish reissues of Scott’s only two great films — all together now, Alien and Blade Runner — have already claimed many irreplaceable hours of my life.

​I’ve yet to make it all the way through the documentary. It’s long, sure, but actually it’s longer, because I’ve been watching in “enhanced mode,” meaning that when an icon appears at the top of the screen I can press a button on my remote and watch an “enhancement pod” — a video footnote, basically — containing even more nerdily trivial information about whatever specific aspect of the film’s conception and production is being discussed at that moment.

When Scott talks about casting original Dragon Tattoo Girl Noomi Rapace in the movie, you can watch her screen test. When production designer Arthur Max reflects on the creation of the movie’s titular spacecraft (which was still called the Magellan for a long time, did you know, even after the Untitled Alien Prequel acquired the name Prometheus), you can click through dozens of drawings and schematics of the ship, which I think that all of us regardless of our political differences can agree is fucking rad. You can even watch an enhancement pod about the film’s many rejected titles. Alien: Tomb of the Gods, anyone? Continue reading

There Will Be Acid-Blood: Musing on Prometheus

I owned this.

Over at NPR Monkey See today, I write about about the Sisyphean task Ridley Scott has taken on in trying to make his breathlessly-awaited, origins-of-life epic Prometheus compelling enough to compete with my adolescent obsession with the seminal films of the ALIEN franchise. (Ongoing, sadly. My fascination, not the franchise. But that’s ongoing too, obviously.)

I had fun writing it. I hope you like it. Prometheus is the sort of problem film where you know that diagnosing its failings and parsing its mysteries is the greater, more lasting pleasure than actually watching it (though I did enjoy watching it), a trait it shares with the latter two ALIEN joints. The best I can hope for is to go to my grave having purchased only one home-video version. If you’re interested in used VHS copies of the original release cuts or extended special editions of ALIEN or ALIENS, or the ALIEN Quadrilogy DVD set, I will totally give you a deal.