Falling Skies Rising

The science fiction war drama TV show Falling Skies just concluded its second season on TNT with the episode “A More Perfect Union”, and proved that it never rests on its laurels.

Falling Skies stars Noah Wyle as Tom Mason, an ex-history professor and now second in command of a rag-tag militia called the 2nd Mass. Originally based in the Boston area (and for the entirety of its first season), the unit abandoned New England early in the second season to head for the supposed safe haven of Charleston, South Carolina.

As with most filmed road trips stuff happened, usually to progress a storyline or develop characters. For instance, Tom started a tender relationship with the group’s field medic Dr. Anne Glass (Moon Bloodgood), dealt with recriminations from being abducted then released by the alien invaders (from the end of the first season) and had to accept that his children had grown up. The oldest Hal (Drew Roy) became a competent, deadly soldier and a future leader; the youngest Matt (Maxim Knight) grew up too fast and is now doing sentry duty; but the most interesting son is his middle one, Ben. He had been abducted (along with many of Earth’s children) by the aliens before the show started and fitted with a biomechanical device on his spine that enslaved him. Ben was rescued last season but this season covered the repercussions and gave Ben one of Falling Skies’ best arcs. It became clear that he had been altered by his experience, seen with his enhanced physical skills and the psychic links he shared with aliens whenever they were nearby.

This was instrumental in one of the main arcs. It was revealed that some factions of the arachnid-like alien Skitters were rebelling against their masters and were seeking help from the humans. Tom and others had to overcome their mistrust of the rebel Skitters and while some of the show’s plots moved along a bit too fast, this one had the right pace. This helped viewers to see that things weren’t black and white when it came to the aliens who conquered Earth.

So what waited for them in Charleston? Supposedly the city was the new capitol of the United States with a working government and armed military. More importantly to the beleaguered 2nd Mass., the city offered the promise of a return to normalcy: hot showers, meals and safety. In the penultimate show of the season, “The Price Of Greatness”, they discover that the city had moved underground, leaving behind ruins to throw the aliens off their tracks. Despite a warm welcoming and comforts, things weren’t so great in the underground city. Our heroes were caught between Tom’s old mentor (Terry O’Quinn), the civilian leader, who basically wanted to remain hidden from the aliens and the General Bressler (Matt Frewer), who wanted to go after the aliens. By that episode’s end, the military initiated a coup but that didn’t solve anything.

The final episode of the season had the 2nd Mass. undertaking a covert mission to assassinate an alien Overlord and destroy a cobbled-together installation. There was genuine tension, excitement, deaths and new developments to carry over to the third season. The acting and character development was very well done, it even made viewers feel for an inhuman rebel Skitter when it was killed. That alien never spoke and was quite hideous, but anyone would’ve felt its plight as it desperately tried to fight its alien enemies.

There are many questions unanswered in the show, chiefly, what do the aliens want with Earth? By the end of “A More Perfect Union” it seems as if the aliens are at war with another alien race, but it’s unknown if the new aliens can be counted as allies. Falling Skies gave viewers enough bait to entice them to keep watching.

Many second seasons for shows are make or break in terms of quality. Luckily for Falling Skies, it has found its bearings in the second season and like any worthwhile TV show leaves viewers eager for new episodes and new seasons.

Lewis T. Grove

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Polarizing Views On Prometheus

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ridley Scott’s film Prometheus brought out significant debate among our writers who fell into two differing camps. Presented are two separate viewpoints on the film, both pro and con. Warning: Spoilers ahead.

PRO: This is an excellent movie!

According to the folks behind the film, it’s supposedly “not-an-Alien-prequel” set in Ridley Scott’s Alien universe. The story revolves around the Weyland Corporation crew of the spaceship Prometheus searching for life on a far away planet. Not just any life, but searching for ones who may have created the human race.

Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron both did a great job in Prometheus portraying scientist Elizabeth Shaw and Weyland administrator Meredith Vickers respectively. Also, I should mention the acting of Guy Pearce (as Peter Weyland ) and Michael (X-Men: First Class’ Magneto) in another great role as the android David. Good casting all around.

The first Alien movie creeped me out for years. Jim Cameron’s Aliens was more action and suspense. Prometheus is more about discovery, revelations of the origin or mankind, alien biohazards and questioning religious faith in the disturbing world of the Alien universe. Fans of the original film were begging for Scott to return to the Alien Universe. After a few false starts, he finally was able to get the greenlight to direct Prometheus.

It should be noted that 1979’s Alien was a co-creation of a core team of brilliant filmmakers. Directed by Ridley Scott; alien designs by H.R. Giger; interior spaceship designs by Ron Cobb; spacesuits by comic book artist Moebius; produced by Walter Hill and David Giler and written by Dan’O Bannon and Ron Schusset. But no one individual could have produced the first movie on their own. There was no singular vision from one of them. It was a dynamically active collaboration between all of them during the production of the movie. It’s like they all have shared creative custody to the dreaded Alien creation.

After plenty of sequels which were not directed by Scott, it was nice to see many of Alien’s original founding fathers return—with plenty of ideas– Scott, producer Walter Hill, Giger and his designs. Many unexplored concepts that those original Alien founding fathers had are readily extrapolated in this movie.

The settings of the first Alien movie are there, like the space jockey’s horseshoe-shaped ship; the Weyland Corporation; a seemingly psychotic android; a relief sculpture inside the horseshoe spaceship, seen in darkness when a character points the flashlight on the wall that looks like Giger’s alien; human victims unwillingly hosting alien parasites (plenty of those). Also, all the ancillary Giger grey, bony biomechanical structures of the alien ship and tech are very well recreated. It’s got plenty of elements from the Alien universe.

The bio menaces in the movie are built up to show it’s not-the-face-hugger, not Giger’s alien, not-the-eggs, so there’s a whole new set of bio menaces in Prometheus. Believe it or not (can’t help it), Scott’s movie appears to take it in a new direction. Set-in-the-Alien-universe-but-seemingly-not-Alien this new movie proves that Scott is a sly guy. The final seconds of the movie reveal how this movie ties into Alien. Not to spoil it too much, but during the final seconds, the audience in my theatre expressed their approval by uttering, “wowwww”, “nice”, Oh, ok!”

The production design & CGI are truly well done, kudos to the crew. I’m ordering the book Art of Prometheus and the Cinefex issue with the article on the movie.

Thumbs up. Go see Prometheus in theatres. There’s nothing like being spooked by these master storytellers who helped create the Alien franchise. And finally, don’t believe the “not-an-Alien-prequel” marketing campaign. It’s a great addition to the franchise and stay to the end.

GEO

Con: While I do agree with GEO on many of Prometheus’ technical merits (production design, effects, acting), I had many problems with the film.

The first half of the movie was fine, good buildup and all. It begins with humanoid Engineers seeding a planet with their DNA, then Earth scientists in 2089 discover ancient clues leading to the Engineers’ planet. The film jumps ahead a few years later to a spaceship called Prometheus arriving at an Engineer planet with a scientific crew. At this point, I give the filmmakers credit for trying to do more than just a prequel to Alien and the approach was different. Instead of a grungy, beat-up and cramped spaceship like the Nostromo, we get a spacious, state-of-the-art explorer craft with eye-popping holographics (one of the best reasons to see Prometheus in 3D).

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But in the second half of the film, after the crew awaken things that should be left alone, then the film just fell apart thanks to the sloppy writing that left plot holes larger than those organic looking entryways into the Engineers’ ships.

Characters do dumb, illogical things, plot points are brought up, dropped without warning then taken up again; seriously how rushed were writers Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts? No one in production or in the editing room brought up these glaring mistakes?

Let’s go over some of them. During an expedition into the Engineers’ deserted pyramid, two scientist freak out and decide to leave the main expedition, but get stranded inside the structure when a storm approaches. So what do they do? They camp out in a chamber that holds countless vases with mysterious goo and after seeing a hammerhead slug-like creature they act like it’s a puppy, approach it and get attacked! Weren’t they scared by the entire place? Where did their scientific training go? Why not back away instead of leaving yourself open to attack? All of this could have been taken care of if the creature attacked them by surprise.

Later, the Prometheus crew goes back to look for them, finds only one body, make a comment about needing to find the other scientist and the matter is dropped for the next plot development. Of course, the other scientist shows up later and attacks the crew when a few thrills were needed.

Then there’s Elizabeth Shaw’s unexpected pregnancy. That entire plot development was chilling and worked well until after she has the alien fetus removed surgically. Shaw gets up and runs around afterwards after having major surgery! Any woman will tell you who had a cesarean, that running and even walking are impossible. That surgery slices open abdominal muscles that are needed for just walking. The film could’ve thrown in some line about advanced healing therapy in the form of an injection (as was shown later when a paraplegic Weyland was able to walk), something real quick could’ve been shown. But no, this glaring plot hole eluded the production team.

Another problem stemming from this sequence is that nothing is done about the alien fetus by the rest of the crew! No one really pays much mind to Shaw, despite the fact that by this point she’s running around all bloodied and that earlier she was treated as someone who was contagious! The list just goes on, but the point is that these glaring plot holes just took me out of the film.

Ordinarily, minor quibbles can be glossed over and forgotten but when a film just piles one shoddy mistake after another then that’s a problem. I can forgive the fact that the film never answers why the Engineers are so hostile to humans and so on. Those are valid questions set up for a sequel. But when characters lose all common sense and behave irrationally or plot developments don’t make sense, well then it’s time to admit that the film is flawed. Prometheus has many things to admire about it, but sadly too many detractions as well.

José Soto

The Alien Movies Ranked

The Alien movies are some of the most well-loved films in science fiction and with the upcoming prequel Prometheus about to be released in the U.S., here are the films that preceded it in order of my personal preference:

1. Alien (1979) Ridley Scott’s sci-fi/horror masterpiece set the standard for this genre. Over the years I have come to regard this one as the best of the bunch because of how well it works. These are the elements that work: the claustrophobic feel of the freighter ship, the slow, but scary, build up to the mystery of what is on the planet that the crew land on and what exactly is picking them off. The infamous chestburster scene is still effective to this very day. The director’s cut on DVD and blu-ray is also very good and even shows a scene where Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) finds Captain Dallas in a cocoon after being attacked by the alien and burns him alive to put him out of his misery.

2. Aliens (1986) James Cameron created a sci-fi war epic that is one of the best films ever made. It created the image of the space marine that is so prevalent in films and video games today and is a great thrill ride from start to finish. The main character Ripley was joined by Newt (Carrie Henn), Hicks (Michael Biehn), Hudson (Bill Paxton) and others that  audiences grew to love. The extended edition shows the back story of the colony Hadley’s Hope and how the aliens took it over. On a side note there will be a video game next year entitled Aliens: Colonial Marines for the PS3 and Xbox 360 that will continue the story.

3. Alien 3 (1993) An underrated David Fincher film that is striking in its visuals and feel. Lone survivor Ripley crash lands on a  prison planet and is followed by a single alien that proceeds to wipe out the prison population harkening back to the original film.  I think this movie is excellent and unfairly hated because fan favorites Newt and Hicks were killed off. Many wanted a follow up to Aliens and instead got a dark almost existential film about Ripley at the end of her rope. This film had a video game adaptation for the Super NES in 1993 that actually played like a side scroller action game with lots of guns and aliens to fight. Quite different from the actual movie. There is also an alternate cut of the movie available on blu-ray and DVD. It restores a subplot of one of the prisoners worshipping the alien and releasing it when it was trapped by Ripley and shows the alien bursting out of an ox instead of a dog as in the theatrical version. Definitely something for fans to check out.

4. Alien Vs. Predator (2004) I’m putting this one ahead of the 4th film Alien: Resurrection since it is simply a better movie. Why it is hated so much is strange. A very good film that shows predators coming to Earth to hunt aliens in the south pole that they placed there as a rite of passage for their young. The set up with the archaeologists finding the eggs and alien queen in the underground temple is great and the battles between the two franchise monsters is lots of fun.

5. Alien: Resurrection (1997) The last Alien film with Ripley. It is set 200 years after her death and has her cloned to extract an alien queen from her body. It has interesting concepts with Ripley actually having alien DNA and blood in her system. The scene where she finds the previous versions of herself is both fascinating and disturbing. The movie returns to the idea of multiple aliens chasing down a rag tag group of mercenaries trying to escape a doomed ship. Seeing Ripley finally returning to Earth is also a nice way to finish her story.

6. Alien Vs. Predator: Requiem (2007) This entry is the only real misfire of the bunch. A follow up to the much better Alien Vs. Predator, the idea of a predator/alien hybrid sounds okay but looks kind of dumb when seen on film. The characters are very forgettable and the whole thing feels more like a bad Syfy movie of the week. Although it is neat to see the aliens crawling around a present-day town in Colorado, since most of the other movies are set in space and the future. I get the feeling that under another director this would have been so much better since the core story of a single predator hunting down aliens on earth is good and there are some good battles between the creatures.

C.S. Link

‘Tis The Week For Trailers!

As this year winds to a close and the anticipation rises for next year’s film offerings one thing to whet our collective appetites are the trailers. This week it seems as if Hollywood as decided to send some gifts to us fans by releasing trailers for some of the most anticipated flicks for 2012.

Moviegoers who watch The Adventures of Tintin on Wednesday will be able to see a trailer for Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, which will be enough to fill the seats the same way those Star Wars: Episode I trailers filled then emptied movie houses once those trailers ended. In the same fantasy genre, there is another new trailer for Wrath Of The Titans the followup to Clash Of The Titans.

Released this week exclusively on iTunes and certain to be embedded soon is the official trailer for The Dark Knight Rises, and it looks just as badassery as the previous Batman film.

In addition to a new German trailer for The Avengers, a trailer was released today for another trailer due in three days: Ridley Scott’s supposed Alien prequel Prometheus. (Technically it isn’t a prequel since Ridley Scott just confirmed the Xenomorphs don’t appear in this film but it supposedly takes place in the same universe.) It sounds absurd, a trailer for a trailer, but after such a long wait and with so little to go on, it’s a terrific appetizer for the main course! And it’s really great hearing that eerie Alien music last heard waaaay back in 1979 during previews for the first Alien.

Waldermann Rivera

UPDATE: Well, here it is, the official trailer for Prometheus, and it’s pretty obvious that it’s a prequel to Alien. Frankly, the countdown teasers for this has been worth the wait!

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movie Monsters

 

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When it comes to monsters, the science fiction genre has many worthy contributions. Whether they’re from outer space, developed in a lab or a byproduct of our amok science, sci-fi monsters have thrilled audiences for decades and will continue to do so. Here’s the ten best sci-fi monsters on film.

10. Giant Ants (Them!): Sure they look hokey by anyone’s standards, but that spooky noise the behemoth ants created is memorable and the film (about efforts to destroy deadly gigantic ants created by nuclear radiation) is one of the best examples of giant animal monster movies from the ’50s.

9. The Judas Breed (Mimic): Guillermo del Toro directed this underrated monster movie about a genetically engineered insect (a cross of a praying mantis and termite) that evolves to feed on humans in subways and alleys. The creepy insects do this by appearing somewhat humanoid in the dark to lure their prey. Vicious, deadly and hard to kill, the Breed are a classic.

8. Ymir (20 Million Miles To Earth): An alien egg is brought back by a space expedition to Venus and hatches in Italy. The hatchling soon grows to humongous proportions and goes on a rampage in Rome in this Ray Harryhausen masterpiece.

7. The Creatures from The Mist (The Mist): Yeah the ending was too bleak but the film’s extra-dimensional creatures that plague the trapped shoppers in the supermarket are truly terrifying. An army experiment breaks the seal between dimensions unleashing a mist filled with assorted deadly carnivorous life forms that spit out corrosive webbing, lay eggs on human hosts and are just outright nightmare inducing.

6. Godzilla (Godzilla, King of the Monsters): The ultimate statement of nuclear radiation being bad for the environment as atomic bombs awaken and mutate a gargantuan dinosaur that destroys Tokyo with its atomic breath and destructive might. The original is still the best and most dire film of this genre. Let’s not talk about that abomination put out in 1998 which starred that Ferris Bueller guy.

5. Brundlefly (The Fly): David Cronenberg’s AIDS allegory cleverly updates and amps up the horror in this remake of the ’50s film. Jeff Goldblum’s scientist Seth Brundle has his genes accidently spliced with a fly when he teleports himself, and the result is a hideous amalgamation of the two.

4. T-Rex and Raptors (Jurassic Park trilogy): Let the extinct stay extinct! That message comes across in this Steven Spielberg classic about cloned dinosaurs that break loose and eat people in a soon-to-be-opened island theme park. The effects were groundbreaking then and are still impressive as the T-Rex is shown to be the badass that it was and the velociraptors nearly upstage the tyrant king with their cunning and agility.

3. Frankenstein’s Monster (Frankenstein): Boris Karloff’s quiet and eerie portrayal of the creature created out of dead human body parts by Dr. Frankenstein is still unsettling. Some thanks should go to Jack Pierce’s makeup and the atmospheric directing by James Whale in this classic statement of humanity’s folly in trying to control nature through science.

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2. The Thing (The Thing): John Carpenter’s 1982 remake of Howard Harwks’ film from the ’50s set a standard in moody paranoia and gross creature makeup effects. Not having a defined shape, the chameleon-like alien found by a doomed Antarctic research teams mimicked any life form it encountered. Including humans. But when the movie shows the Thing in-between transformations as its body disgustingly twists and contorts, it strained any viewer’s fortitude.

1. Alien Xenomorph (Alien films): The uber-space monster. Designed by H.R. Giger, this creature truly looked alien with its elongated skull, double mouth, exoskeletal structure and acidic blood. It’s a unique iconic look that few monsters have been able to match. Add to the mix, the fact that it can blend into its surroundings and it’s just plaine frightening.  Of course, what brought the movie houses down was the bloody debut of the serpentine infant alien that literally burst out of poor John Hurt’s chest.

Honorable Mentions: The Cloverfield Monster (Cloverfield),  the alien Predator (the Predator films), Hulk (the Hulk films), the Mutant Bear (Prophecy), the Bugs (Starship Troopers), the Mutant Baby (It’s Alive), Rhedosaurus (The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms), and the Gill Man (Creature From The Black Lagoon).

José Soto