Colony Is A Compelling Sci-Fi Mystery In Its Second Season

 

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Out of the many sci-fi TV shows currently airing, the most surprising one happens to be Colony, now in its second season. The reason is that it continues to be intriguing and compelling to watch.

For anyone unfamiliar with Colony, the show is about life in Los Angeles about one year after mysterious aliens have taken over the world. Or that’s what we think. It isn’t flat out stated that aliens are our conquerors, but that is the general assumption. So little has been revealed about the conquerors and they’ve only been shown two times so far, and all we’ve been shown is something that is heavily armored and probably unable to breathe our air. This may be frustrating to some but anyone enjoying slow burns and reveals will be thrilled. For instance, we, and even Colony’s characters are unsure about the aliens and their objective. Why have they come? They’ve shown that they outclass humanity very easily and could have just exterminated the entire species. Instead, they were content to just take out our power grid and separate our cities with these giant walls. More importantly, they remain unseen and let human proxies run things for them with their ultimate goal unclear. The only clue we have been shown is that human prisoners on Earth and its moon are put to hard labor.

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While viewers have the overall mystery of the aliens, the show concentrates on the cost of alien occupation to humanity, in particular, the Bowman family. Led by Will (Josh Holloway) and his wife Katie (Sarah Wayne Calles), the family lives a desperate and paranoid life in a cut-off L.A. that is boiling with tension. The end of the last season had the human authorities, which Bowman is a part of, hunting down human rebels that managed to capture one of the aliens. What the rebels, (oh, by the way, Katie worked with them) didn’t realize is that acts of rebellion lead to cities being wiped out. So, L.A.’s existence is a precarious thing as shown in one cold opener this season where the human ruling council in Europe were trying to decide if the city should have been punished for the acts of a few rebels. Adding to this mess, is that the aliens and human authorities have increased their surveillance capabilities a thousandfold. Now as shown in the second season, every citizen in Los Angeles is actively and discreetly monitored. This has driven the human resistance deep underground and made the stakes much more dire. Frankly, we’re asking how can you fight back with the constant surveillance?

santa-monica-colonyMaking things difficult for the Bowmans are the issues with their three children. A driving force last season was the family’s search for their missing son Charlie (Jacob Buster), who was trapped in Santa Monica when the walls came down during the aliens’ arrival. Will managed to make his way into the city in between seasons and found him, but Charlie’s more of a feral child because Santa Monica is a literal hell hole where gangs and warlords rule. So, now this preteen is emotionally damaged and obviously has issues. Then their young daughter Gracie (Isabella Crovetti) is being re-educated by a creepy tutor (Erin Way) to worship the aliens. Finally, their oldest son Bram (Alex Neustaedter) was caught trying to cross the wall and is now sentenced to hard labor. Now we’re seeing the occupation from his point of view at a brutal prison camp.

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As all this is going on, we’re wondering how can humanity fight back and what will be the cost? It’s riveting watching the Bowmans trying not to attract attention and just survive. Is this even possible in the long run? Colony isn’t like V or other humans vs. aliens TV shows were it seemed that humanity had some kind of fighting chance. This show can seem bleak and will and katie bowmanhas shown that people are ready to give up. A case in point was shown in one episode that showcased Will’s co-worker, Jennifer (Kathleen Rose Perkins), who struggled internally with the idea of turning in Will and Katie for their activities. Unable to betray the family, and wracked with loneliness since her family is now gone, it was implied that she committed suicide. Other episodes show how the rebels are near the breaking point. As for the Bowmans, they just want to be left alone, but more and more they are realizing that is impossible and recent episodes have shown their coming to this conclusion.

Colony succeeds because it is able to deftly juggle being a spy drama, a sci-fi mystery and an entertaining look at family dynamics during a war and under occupation. A big hurdle was the sophomore curse and Colony has dealt with it nicely and in its own way has become must-see viewing in its second season.

Lewis T. Grove

 

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Arrival Brings Non-Linear Food For Thought

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Arrival is the new sci-fi First Contact movie directed by visionary director Denis Villeneuve and stars Amy Adams as Dr. Louise Banks, a linguist recruited by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) of the U.S. military to help communicate with newly arrived aliens. These aliens arrived on Earth in twelve giant spaceships that have taken up spots around the world and no one is able to communicate with them. What is at stake are rising tensions and paranoia due to the aliens’ arrival. As world powers grow more and more trigger happy, it’s up to Banks to find a way to break through the insurmountable language barrier between the two races before it’s too late.

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In film, the First Contact scenario isn’t anything new and Arrival echoes aspects of past sci-fi films in this subgenre like Contact, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and The Day the Earth Stood Still. Arrival also borrows elements from films such as Signs and Interstellar in regards to the worldwide reaction to alien arrival and head-spinning scientific concepts. What sets Arrival apart from other films in the subgenre is its mature tone and exploration of the hurdles humanity would face in this scenario.

These beings that have come to Earth are genuinely alien. Without spoiling their appearance, what can be stated is that they aren’t the standard humanoids with bumpy foreheads. In fact, their appearance belies the fact that they came from an environment totally unlike Earth’s and that was quite refreshing to see. Also welcome, was that the focus of the film was not on alien invasion with evil E.T.s and heroics from the military. Rather the fundamental dilemma, the driving force of the film is how can we communicate with beings from a completely foreign environment without any relatable frame of reference. It is bad enough that we have trouble communicating with each other so how can this be done in a First Contact situation without leading to war?

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Instead of going for pyrotechnics, Villeneuve sticks with this concept and the result is a slow burn of a film that delivers so much food for thought, especially in the final act. It’s a thought-provoking and wondrous journey thanks to Villeneuve’s careful direction and the cinematography. Every frame is carefully and beautifully staged to tell a story in a visual sense that quietly engages the viewer, while telling a personal story about Banks. Adams gives one of her best performances as her character feels the enormity of her task since she sees all around her the consequences of her failure to properly translate the aliens’ language.

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Without giving anything away, the last third of Arrival ramps up the tension while bringing forth high-brow concepts of non-linear time and how we perceive time in general. It should be pointed out in reference to the film’s tagline of why they are here, although this question is on the mind of many characters, the answer isn’t dwelled upon. Instead, the emotional climax of the film is on Banks herself and her own personal story, which has relevance to humanity’s plight in trying to establish a dialogue with the aliens.

For some, Arrival may be too slow moving, but it has a satisfying payoff for the patient viewer who does not go into the film expecting pyrotechnics or shoot-em-ups. This film is more serious and weighty without being pretentious. There is much to recommend about Arrival, from the performances from Adams, Whitaker and Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly, a physicist helping Banks, to Villeneuve’s strong directing and the visual look of the film. But the script by Eric Heisserer, which is adapted from the award-winning short story by Ted Chiang called “Story of Your Life”, is to be commended as well for taking audiences into unfamiliar territory and in examining how a First Contact situation between us and extra-terrestrial might actually play out.

Lewis T. Grove

Aliens: Looking Back At The Sci-Fi Action Classic

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When James Cameron’s classic Aliens was releases 30 years ago, it was instantly regarded as one of the best sci-fi films of all time. It is a fantastic blend of action, futuristic war, as well as a followup to another genre favorite, Ridley Scott’s Alien. The strengths of this sequel comes in many forms.

First is the continuation of having many interesting and aliens marinesiconic characters that inhabit this universe. The most famous is of course the only returning character from the first film, Ellen Ripley played to perfection by Sigourney Weaver. Her portrayal of Ripley as strong and reliable is balanced by her affection for the little girl Newt who is the only survivor of a distant colony overrun by the horrific Xenomorph aliens. Michael Biehn from Terminator fame plays the stoic colonial marine Corporal Hicks, and is a great counterpart to Ripley. The strong cast also includes Bill Paxton as the brash but somewhat bumbling Hudson, Paul Reiser as the slimy company man Burke and Lance Hendriksen as the android Bishop, someone Ripley hates and distrusts at first but later comes to see as an ally. This group of loud and tough space marines contrasts to Ripley’s apprehension and fear of what is coming when they travel to the colony Hadley’s Hope to investigate why contact was lost. Cameron’s depiction of futuristic soldiers was highly influential and has resulted in countless imitations in movies and video games that continues to this day. Everything from Doom to Halo and the film version of Starship Troopers all owe some debt to this film.

ripley and newtAnother brilliant aspect of the film is its perfect blend of action and horror. While Aliens is much more action packed when compared to its predecessor, it still has moments of tension and fear, especially when the marines first land on the colony and try to find any signs of life. The audience (as well as Ripley) already know what happened to everyone there, and the anticipation of finally seeing the deadly creatures definitely raises the tension level. When the aliens do make their appearance, an all out battle ensues with the marines suffering greatly despite their enormous firepower. The movie can go from quiet and nervous to chaotic and hectic in a flash, and yet it all works. Later in the film after another big battle between the marines and aliens, the film ripley and loadersuddenly takes on another scary tone when Newt is kidnapped and Ripley has to journey into the Alien Queen’s lair to rescue her. This foreshadows the epic climax when she fights the Alien Queen in a souped-up power armor/construction device while onboard the ship after the colony is vaporized after a pulse pounding countdown to its destruction. Ripley’s victory against the creature helped to cement her as one of sci-fi’s best heroines and added to her characterization as the ultimate survivor and great example of human ingenuity succeeding despite all odds. The quiet note on which the film ends again parallels the first movie and seemed to set up future adventures with Ripley and her new surrogate family of Newt and Hicks. Unfortunately this didn’t happen with the next film taking on a different direction.

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All of this is set against the backdrop of the fascinating Alien universe that has kept audiences coming back and not just in films. Many books, games and comics have explored this  world and perhaps the star attraction of it all is the alien creature itself. H.R. Giger’s unparalleled design that is both disgusting and captivating has kept fans always anticipating new adventures set in this universe. A universe of bleak distant worlds, corporate intrigue, and insidious alien beings that are perhaps the most deadly ever seen on film. Aliens was the first time that so many of these creatures were seen at once. Dozens of them swarming all over the place was terrifying and a sight to behold. The design of the Alien Queen was also new and the size of it was simply staggering. None of the subsequent films in the franchise have yet attained the level set by Aliens, but with a new Alien film by Neill Blomkamp on the horizon that is supposed to be a direct followup, hopefully another sci-fi epic will continue the story of Ripley, Hicks and Newt. Regardless, Aliens will always be seen as an absolute high point of the genre, one of James Cameron’s best films, and will be well remembered even 30 years from now.

C.S. Link

 

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

2012 Doomsday Scenarios: Month One

Okay it’s 2012 now, supposedly our final year according to the Mayan calendar. Earth was put on notice last week with that big solar flare that could’ve disrupted our satellites (but thankfully didn’t). With all the hoopla about the end of the world, one has to wonder if this is our swan song, how will it end? Here at Starloggers, we’re going to examine the possible doomsday scenarios each month as a sort of countdown.

Doomsday Scenario No. 12: The Aliens Are Coming, The Aliens Are Coming

Whether the E.T.s are friendly, cuddly visitors or blood thirsty, destructive invaders, it can’t be denied that once they do arrive life as we know it is over. So even if the first contact is benevolent our isolation in the universe is gone and with it the way we see ourselves. This scenario would bring about an end of our world. These are the possible scenarios:

  • Friendly, curious neighbors come by to say hello: Think of E.T. or Starman or the alien greys from Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. They mean well, they’re just explorers but their arrival is nonetheless disruptive. A variation of this scenario is explored in Carl Sagan’s book Contact (and film based on his work), where just the radio signals from another star changes our society.
  • We’re invited: Continuing to look at Contact, the aliens willingly or unwittingly give humanity the technology to travel to their world. This theme is also seen with the film Stargate and its TV shows, the John Carter books and Adam Strange in comic books.
  • The Enforcers: The gist of this scenario goes like this, aliens make first contact with humans. But we’re given a stern warning to clean up our act and play nice otherwise either  A) we can’t join their club or B) they’ll wipe us off the map. Option A was presented in Allen Steele’s Coyote universe books and option B was best shown with the classic The Day The Earth Stood Still.
  • Caught up in an interplanetary conflict: This is the plot for those Transformers films. We’re standing by innocently in our little blue world obsessed with nonsense like taxes, the presidential election and Snookie until BAM! A bunch of aliens from two different sides arrive and duke it out, using our planet as a battlefield. This also happened in the book The Last World War and the Aliens Vs. Predators films.
  • Aliens with a mysterious agenda: Most recently seen with the V series but a terrific example is Arthur C. Clarke’s novel Childhood’s End. What happens is that aliens arrive in mammoth motherships over major cities. They claim to be peaceful and want to help humanity but have another agenda they’re keeping from us. With V (the original show, the remake was pretty vague–could be why the show failed) the aliens wanted our water and us for food. In Childhood’s End the mysterious Overlords arrived to shepherd in our next evolutionary stage and move our descendants into the cosmos. Another example is that show from the late ’90s Gene Roddenberry’s Earth: Final Conflict, where the mysterious Taelons arrive on Earth bringing an era of peace but have secret motives for coming to our world.
  • This Petri dish Earth or we taste like chicken: The first V show and mini-series fit this bill. And if the UFO fanatics are to be believed, alien greys come to our planet to create human/alien hybrids and to conduct painful, invasive experiments on humans. On the big screen, this was best shown with the underrated film A Fire In The Sky.
  • INVASION: The tried and true plotline of alien contact. Aliens arrive in huge ships and proceed to stomp us into smithereens until the heroes in the third act find a way to beat them. Examples in film, shows and books are numerous and include War Of The Worlds, Independence Day, Battle: Los Angeles, Footfall, the Worldwar books, etc. A variation of the invasion scenario is the clandestine invasion where the aliens slowly infiltrate us until it’s too late. Check out the shows Threshold,  The X-Files, The Invaders, and First Wave (this invasion scenario is probably prevalent on TV for budgetary reasons) as examples. On film the most famous example is Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.

That’s one look at how 2012 could the end of the world as we know it (apologies to R.E.M.). One month down, eleven more to go; be prepared.

Special thanks to GEO for his contribution