Marvel Legends Black Widow Action Figures

I know it’s been forever since I last posted on here. Hopefully this year I’ll be able to make more than the occasional post.

Well, in a few short months the Black Widow movie will be released. The character of Natasha Romanova has been one of my favourite comic book characters long before she turned up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe movies.

So here’s a look at some of the new Hasbro Marvel Legends 6” scale action figures of the character.

First is the deluxe figure featuring the movie Black Widow with a Scarlett Johanssen likeness. She’s wearing the white costume as seen in the trailer. It comes with various explosion accessories plus a display stand by the looks of it.

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That white costume in the movie looks like it’s inspired by a similar white costume from the 2010 Deadly Origin comic miniseries. And as it happens Hasbro are also doing an exclusive figure of the comic book version.

 

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Finally there’s another exclusive figure of Black Widow in the lesser seen 1980s grey outfit with shorter hair from the comics. If I had to choose I much prefer the character in the black outfit and longer hair but I have to say I do like this alternate look.

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There is another wave of figures which includes a black costume Black Widow from the movie that I have not included here.

Blade Runner 2019 comic book

This was announced a couple of months ago but I’m only discovering it now. There’s going to be an official Blade Runner comic book set in the time period of the original movie. This seems to feature another blade runner so I’m guessing Deckard doesn’t appear in it.

Titled Blade Runner 2019 it is to be a 12-part series and Titan Comics are putting the first issue is out in July.

Here are the four variant covered, including one that is actually concept art by Syd Mead.

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I’d pretty much stopped buying comics but I can see myself making an exception for these.

The Making of Alien by J.W. Rinzler

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I’ve just spotted an essential purchase online. The Making of Alien by J. W. Rinzler is to be published next year, no doubt to tie in with the 40th Anniversary of the movie Alien. That movie is one of my all time favourites so this will be a day 1 purchase for me.

Comprehensive and definitive volume telling the complete story of how Alien was made, featuring new interviews with Ridley Scott and other production crew, and including many rarely-seen photos and illustrations from the Fox archives.

In 1979 a movie legend was born, as Twentieth Century-Fox and director Ridley Scott unleashed Alien and gave audiences around the world the scare of their lives.

To celebrate the movie’s fortieth anniversary, author J.W. Rinzler (The Making of Star Wars) tells the whole fascinating story of how Alien evolved from a simple idea in the mind of writer Dan O’Bannon into one of the most memorable sci-fi horror thrillers of all time.

With brand new interviews with Ridley Scott and other key members of the original production crew, and featuring many never-before-seen photographs and artworks from the archives, The Making of Alien is the definitive work on this masterpiece of popular cinema.

The making of Alien is to be published on 23 April 2019.

Rogue One prequel tv series

First of all, yes I know, it’s been ages since I posted anything on here. Life stuff.

Anyway this is moderately exciting news out of the blue. Disney have announced they are going to make a Rogue One prequel TV series featuring the Cassian Andor character as played by Diego Luna.

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Actually this is very exciting. Rogue One remains my favourite of the four Disney Star Wars movies to date and any return to that era and type of gritty storytelling will be very welcome.

Both this series plus The Mandaloran will be on the new steaming service called Disney+ along with some Marvel TV shows I believe.

It’s probably not likely that the other Rogue One team members will appear, seeing as Cassian only met Jyn, Baze, Chirut and Bodi during the course of that movie. Maybe K-2SO is a posability, but I don’t know that the makers want to include an expensive cgi droid in every episode.

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But I’d be happy if we even saw Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma turn up every now and again to give Cassian his new mission. Kind of like M and Bond.

Hey, I’ve just realised that makes Mon Mothma MM…

Solo movie review

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So now some of my initial thoughts on seeing Solo. I’ll avoid any major spoilers.

To be honest I find myself in the position of looking forward to these spin off movies more than the “episodes”.

Episode 7 was “fine”. Well, to start with anyway, but as it went on I got more frustrated with its inability to do anything original.

Rogue One on the other hand I loved. I ended up seeing that in the cinema three times, something I’ve not done since I was a kid.

Then episode 8, again “fine”. Yes I’m damming with faint praise, but at least it tried to do something different.

But really I’m treating the sequel trilogy as glorified fan fiction where I’m not particularly thrilled with the new characters and the direction it’s going in. And I find I’m not particularly looking forward to Episode 9.

So here we are with the Solo spin off, with its very troubled production history and shouts of “no one wanted this movie” and “you can’t recast Harrison Ford” and “I’m boycotting it because The Last Jedi sucked.” Seriously.

Well I liked Solo perfectly fine. It’s nothing Earth-shattering but I found it fun. It’s a very different movie from the other instalments. All of the others to date have been about the “Star War” if you will. Including Rogue One as that’s inextricably linked to the original Episode IV. Solo is the first movie to be set in the Star Wars universe and not really have anything to do with the War. I find this quite welcome.

The early scenes are set on Han’s home planet Corellia where the teenage Han (Alden Ehrenreich) and Qi’ra (Emilia Clarke) are teenagers pressed into working for an alien crime boss lady. Han wants nothing more than to escape with Qi’ra off Corellia and they flee to a spaceport where they try to get on a ship. I found those scenes very effective with Han being chased by both the criminals and also trying to avoid running afoul of the Imperial Stormtroopers.

Things don’t go to plan and Han finds himself enlisting in the Empire with the intention of becoming a pilot. Some folk online have not liked the origins of Han’s surname here via the recruiting officer but I liked it fine. I always thought the name Solo might have originated because of something like this. Incidentally I liked the recruitment office’s use of the Imperial March in universe

Flash-forward three years and Han is not the pilot he dreamed of being but is stuck as infantry in a ground war on the muddy planet Mimban. Here we have a very World War 1 kind of vibe complete with trenches, going over the top and a new type of Stormtrooper with a gas mask. It is on Mimban that Han first encounters Tobias Becket (Woody Harrelson) and sees a chance to get away from the Empire.

(I don’t believe that the name Mimban is used in the movie. It previously appeared in the first Star Wars spin-off novel Splinter of the Mind’s Eye by Alan Dean Foster, published exactly forty years ago in 1978.)

There are certain boxes that need to be ticked in a Han Solo origin movie. How he met Chewie. How he met Lando. How he got his hands on the Millennium Falcon. Oh, and maybe about how the Millennium Falcon made the Kessel run in less than twelve parsecs.

And it is great fun and very satisfying to see Han and Chewie meeting for the first time and quickly becoming inseparable.

There are a number of big action sequences, the most notable being a train heist and later on another heist in the Spice Mines of Kessel. As well as that Kessel Run

The droid character L3 seems to be divining opinion. A lot of people seem upset by that character but I found her quite amusing. She delivered one of my favourite lines in the movie plus there’s a lovely bit of business to explain why the Millennium Falcon’s computer gave C-3PO such headaches in The Empire Strikes Back.

Special mention to Paul Bethany who played the principal villain, crime lord Dryden Vos with such impressively casual insincerity. Donald Glover is also clearly having fun playing the smooth cape-loving Lando.

The movie exhibits a bit of a Western vibe in places. The train heist sequence and the confrontation with the marauders near the end come to mind. Also the marauder leader Enfys Nest turned out to be a more interesting character than I expected.

So what about the casting of Alden as Han Solo? I have to say I liked him perfectly fine. I think he played the more youthful Han very well. There is enough of Han’s trademark attitude and swagger there. One of my favourite moments is when Beckett tells Han not to make eye contact with the guests of Dryden Vos and Han casually mingles with eyes downcast. But Alden also portrays younger Han as having a little more youthful optimism and idealism. He tries to convince Qi’ra that he’s a bad guy but she calls him out on it. She and the audience know Han is anything but.

The end of the movie keeps things very open for a sequel. Who knows if that will happen? Apparently Solo has been underperforming at the box office. If we don’t get another instalment it would be a shame.

So in summary Rogue One remains my favourite of the new movies but I liked Solo much more than either of the “episodes”.

Star Wars The Last Jedi review

7EBA0DD7-9938-4BAB-A15D-ECF614F45AD3The following review includes lots of spoilers and assumes you’ve seen The Last Jedi.

Overall I enjoyed the movie. While I don’t think it’s a masterpiece and I think it’s flawed in parts I don’t quite understand the hate it’s getting.

To start this off I think I have to explain how I’m approaching the sequel trilogy movies. When I first saw The Force Awakens in the cinema I was entertained, although I did have reservations, especially about the use of the Starkiller base weapon and the introduction of the new elements to the universe without any context, such as the First Order and Snoke. Where did they come from? It was just a bit too convenient to have these ready-made adversaries there without knowing their origins. But never mind.

After enjoying Rogue One much more that The Force Awakens I realised that the sequels are probably not going to please me as much as the spin-offs. So I thought I’d just take The Last Jedi as I found it.

Over all I liked it. I certainly like it a bit more than The Force Awakens as there a little more meat on the bones of the story and while it does lift elements from Empire and Jedi it’s not a complete remake like The Force Awakens was of A New Hope.

That being said there were a few things I didn’t like about it so I’ll deal with those first.

The humour, especially the Poe-Hux comedy routine right at the start of the movie. It actually felt like something that should be in a parody movie like Spaceballs. It was very bad judgement to include something so comedic, especially right at the start of the movie. Plus they turned Hux into a comedy straight man throughout the rest of the movie.

The constant “we have a bigger ship” routine. This started with the Dreadnaught ship appearing which was much bigger than the already large Star Destroyers. We are expected to believe that Poe in his small fighter can single-handedly rid it of the defence cannons. Then Snoke’s ship appears which is supposedly 60 km wide. And on the planet at the end they have a gigantic battering ram cannon (much larger than the supersized AT-ATs) just to knock a tiny hole in a door. It just feels like overkill and again like self-parody.

The use of the Luke character. I really don’t think Luke has been well used in these movies. The Force Awakens reduced him to a cameo without dialog. This one has him hiding on a distant planet pretty much being very grumpy and refusing to help Rey. I do find it hard to believe that the Luke of the original trilogy just gave up and hid himself away. And then he goes and dies at the end. Indidently Mark Hamill is apparently on record as sayin he doesmt recognise this version of Luke.

The Mary Poppins scene. Or if you like the scene where Leia was blasted into space but used Jedi powers to “fly” back into the ship. Heavy sigh. It was one of those moments where I sat in the cinema asking myself “just what the hell am I looking at here?”

The side mission to the casino planet. Again with the inappropriate humour, especially an inebriated patron putting coins into BB8 mistaking him for a slot machine. This allows BB8 to later fire the coins like a machine gun. Face palm. They also got in a very unsubtle “be nice to animals” message.

BB8 driving a scout walker. Puts head in hands.

There was however much that I liked.

The opening bomber raid on the Dreadnaught was something a little bit different and was quite gripping. The bombardier on the last remaining bomber is unable to press the all important “drop the bombs” button so it’s up to gunner Paige to retrieve said button and drop the bombs without a thought for her own survival. A very tense and eff3ctive opening.

(It occurs to me that I’d like to see a Star Wars movie about that, a single bomber crew on a specific mission with the odds against them.)

Some of the stuff with Rey on Luke’s planet was good. I liked the bit where she has a Jedi vision of herself multiplied. There was some good visually interesting stuff going on.

There was a lovely little moment where R2D2 shows luke the old hologram of Leia asking Obi-Wan for help.

(But that reminds me, R2 was hardly in the movie. That’s two movies in a row he’s hardly used. Why are they so reluctant to do stuff with R2?)

The lightsabre battle with Rey and Kylo having to team up against the Praetorian guards was pretty impressive and was probably one of the strongest sequences in the movie.

The DJ character was interesting. Of course it’s Benicio Del Toro. Respect. But besides that it opened up the universe a little. I liked the scene where DJ shows Finn the holograms of what weapons the arms dealer supplies. There’s the Tie Fighters that the Empire used, and then unexpectedly there’s an X-Wing.

There’s some interesting commentary here on arms dealing in the Star Wars universe that perhaps touches on explaining how the First Order could come about, that war is good for business. But it’s not developed. (That’s another movie I’d like to see.) In the end DJ isn’t really used much.

As a side note some time ago when I heard they were going to a casino planet and would meet Benicio Del Toro I did think “well, Lando betrayed Han, I guess Benicio Del Toro will do the same…”

And I really liked the bit where the Laura Dern character turned her ship and went into hyperspace pointing at Snoke’s ship and basically cuts it in two. The use of silence for that sequence was impressive.

Another highlight was when Luke appeared on the planet at the end to face off against the walkers and Kylo, especially the moment where he brushes the dust off his shoulder.

In general looking back on it I like just how dark things get for the Rebels. They lose their base, they gradually lose their fleet and then their escape shuttles are picked off one by one. There isn’t the expected last minute rescue for the majority of the Rebels. There’s really only a handful of personnel left to continue the fight.

But I’m not sure how I feel about the basic plot, i.e. the Rebels are chased by the First Order at sunlight speeds. For the whole movie. The First Order can’t catch up but the Rebels can’t get outrun them either. It just feels a little limited. I almost wish they had lifted the asteroid sequence from Empire to spice things up a bit. Maybe the Rebel ship could hide in an asteroid and have to wait out the bombardment. But then I’d be complaining that something else was copied from Empire.

What I really find perplexing is that they are making up these movies as they go. George Lucas always had an idea of where each trilogy was heading as he made the earlier movies. I had assumed that Lucasfilm would have done the same for the sequel trilogy. But apparently JJ Abrams just created the story for The Force Awakens, setting up all those mysteries, principally who is Snoke, and who are Rey’s parents.

Only now Writer-Director Rian Johnson has shown that he doesn’t particularly care to answer them so he just killed off Snoke and decided that Rey’s parents were some random people we never met.

Not that I mind Snoke being killed off. He was never that interesting to me and it was a nice surprise that they chose to do it in the middle of the trilogy, replacing him with Kylo.

Unfortunately JJ Abrams Is back to do episode 9. We can anticipate more pointless CGI creature chases. I can’t pretend I’m looking forward to it.

Again this reinforces my thoughts on the sequel trilogy. If you’re going to do a trilogy then you should plot it all out in advance, not make it up as you go. Otherwise why bother making a trilogy at all?

Also the main saga is sometimes referred to as the Skywalker saga. Fine, only now you’ve killed off Luke Skywalker.

While JJ is getting his people to design some new CGI creatures Rian Johnson is going to develop a new Star Wars trilogy. My bet is that it will be about the kid with the broom at the end.

So overall I liked the movie but am aware of its many flaws.

Bond in Motion diecast car collection

Some years back there was a partwork called The James Bond Car Collection. It featured 1:43 scale cars from across all the James Bond movies. Issues came out every two weeks for £7.99 if I recall. I ended up subscribing, as did many others as the collection was successful enough to keep getting extended. In total there were 135 issues. (Do the math…)

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Now Eaglemoss have decided to rerelease the collection. Apparently it’s only going to be for 50 issues. (The words ‘yeah’ and ‘right’ come to mind.) But, get this… The cost per issue is now going to be £12.99. Plus if you subscribe they stick on another £2.99 per delivery of two issues.

Still, these are nice models and if you didn’t get them the first time around you may want to look into it.

Personally there’s no point in me getting them all again. I will however pick up any new vehicles they might have from Spectre or Skyfall, or indeed any additional ones from the older movies. Hint: they never did the Kenworth tanker truck from Licence to Kill. Yeah, I know it’s a long shot.

Fortunately issue one appears to be the Aston Marin DB10 from Spectre which wasn’t included last time around as the collection had stopped by then. Plus it is just £4.99 so I will be picking that one up.

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You can read more about the collection at bondinmotion.herocollector.com

Blade Runner 2049 review

IMG_0535Here are my thoughts on Blade Runner 2049. I will be staying clear of major plot spoilers as this is a movie that you need to go to see knowing as little as possible.

Like the 1982 original this one opens with a text crawl to get us up to speed with what replicants are and what a Blade Runner is. But also we learn what happened between 2019 and 2049. Basically there was a “blackout” of electronic information a few years after the events of the first movie. And this was accompanied by even more ecological collapse.

Just for good measure we then get a close up of an eye staring back at us. Yes indeed, this is Blade Runner.

It’s worth mentioning the first sequence of the movie featuring Ryan Gosling’s character, Blade Runner K, confronting Dave Bautista’s fugitive replicant Sapper Morton. I think this is a reworking of a scene that was in an earlier draft of the first movie where Deckard sits in a farmhouse in the country waiting for the farmer to return home. After “retiring” the farmer the Blade Runner detaches the farmer’s jawbone where a serial number is stamped, revealing that the farmer was a replicant. This scene certainly seems to be inspired by that one.

Without going into any detail at all K discovers something that will lead him, and others, on a quest to find former Blade Runner Deckard.

Back in dystopian Los Angeles K goes home to Joi (Ana de Armas), the perfect wife/girlfriend. It turns out she is an AI companion who appears as an intangible hologram. She’s just a product, a bit of software, but she certainly seems to have a connection to K and he to her. Elsewhere in the movie it is asked if a replicant can have a soul. Joi got me wondering if an AI can have a soul. Everything she does for K is completely selfless. Is she just software? Or is there something more at work?

We also meet what are essentially the villains of the piece, Niander Wallace played by Jared Leto and his enforcer Luv played by Sylvia Hoeks. Wallace has taken over the Tyrell corporation and the production of replicants, but as it says in the trailer he can only make so many. What if there was another way to make replicants? But he’s a nasty bit of work, quite happy to dispatch a newly created replicant on a whim.

Luv I suppose is the Roy Batty of the piece, a constant presence dogging the heels of K as he looks into the case which seems to be bleeding into his own past.

He recounts a memory from his childhood. Might it be an impant? Later he finds himself in the same place as the memory. Might the memory be real after all? Is it his memory or is it someone else’s?

It was heavily shown in the trailers so It’s not too much of a spoiler to say that K will eventually find Harrison Ford’s Deckard in an abandoned Las Vegas. I’ll mention one scene in particular that impressed me. K finds himself being pursued into an automated show with a holographic Elvis Presley appearing and disappearing, in silence and then momentarily with sound. Other dancers and musicians appear and disappear. It’s an impressively unsettling backdrop to the pursuit.

Gosling is pretty good in this. It’s an understated performance, appropriate for the character he’s playing, but with moments of unrestrained anguish.

The movie is quite simply visually stunning. At times it was almost overwhelming how much detail there is on the screen. There are many moments where I knew I was probably looking at cgi but it was totally photorealistic. For example K follows a lead outside Los Angeles to an area that is basically an endless junkyard that goes on for miles in all directions. There are large segments of ships that have been broken up for scrap and overturned domes which may once have been the dishes of radio telescopes. It is completely convincing.

(One aside. Thanks to the original movie of Blade Runner I became a big fan of Philip K Dicks novels. And I particularly liked the cover art that the British artist Chris Moore produced in the 1990s featuring Blade Runner inspired futuristic cityscapes. At times when watching Bade Runner 2049, especially the Las Vegas segments, it struck me that I could be watching a movie of some of those book covers.)

I’ve also got to mention the sound design. There is an almost constant unsettling hum accompaning the visuals, part music part vibration. Try to see the movie in a cinema with a decent sounds system.

I’m really very glad that the movie turned out not an action movie. Looking at some of the trailers I was a little concerned that this would prove to be Blade Runner, The Action Version. But director Denis Villeneuve has kept things very much in keeping with the tone of the original. It’s a character driven piece.

The movie with credits is an eye watering 163 minutes long. If you chop the credits off it’s still 152 minutes long.

And word this weekend is that the movie is perhaps underperforming. Part of me thinks that was always going to be the case, a sequel to a 35 year old movie that a lot of today’s audience won’t have seen, a long running time, not much in the way of action, or indeed humour. Actually it would be very appropriate that the movie would flop just like it’s progenator and perhaps find an audience in years to come on DVD and blu ray and on a streaming service, just like the original found it’s audience on vhs in the 1980s and 1990s. Time will tell.

But it would be a shame if the movie flopped as so much effort has gone into making it. You’d like to think intelligent and thoughtful movie making would be rewarded. Plus word has it hat Villeneuve was set to make a version of Frank Herbert’s novel Dune next. I’d hope that would not be jeopardised by an underperforming Blade Runner sequel.

In the meantime you probably won’t see as an intelligent movie in the cinemas this year, so go check out out.

Alien Covenant review

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Being a big fan of Alien I have been really looking forward to Alien Covenant which I saw on opening night. Here are my initial thoughts. I avoid major spoilers but as always be warned for general plot information.

Just for the record Alien Covenant is a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus and a prequel to 1979’s Alien. And apparently we can look forward to at least one or two more entries taking us up to Alien.

The movie opens with a close-up of an eye which immediately put me in mind of a similar shot at the start of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Indeed later on in this movie the android David says a line that reminded me of a line spoken by Roy Batty in Blade Runner. Certainly these Alien prequels deal with much the same themes as Blade Runner did in relation to android intelligence and searching for one’s creator.

(And just in case you didn’t know, there’s a long awaited Blade Runner sequel out later this year…)

Anyway the close-up of the eye is from what turns out to be an intriguing little prelude with the android David (Michael Fassbender) from Prometheus in a white room responding to question from his human creator Charles Weyland (Guy Pearce). Both actors have returned from Prometheus and it strongly implies that David has only just recently been born/activated by his ‘father’ Charles Weyland.

Then the movie proper starts. And we get a lovely moment with the letters of ALIEN COVENANT gradually forming, accompanied by some of Jerry Goldsmith’s music from the original. It’s a lovely call back that put me in the mood. So who cares that it’s taken 38 years for another Ridley Scott Alien movie…

After the title we discover that it’s 2104, ten years on from the events of Prometheus. The colony ship Covenant is on its way to start life on a new world. On board are 2000 colonists and 15 crew members, all in hyper-sleep. Only android Walter is awake, again played by Michael Fassbender. We get a little glimpse of some of Walter’s chores before Something Goes Wrong. Walter orders the crew awoken to deal with the emergency.

While fixing the ship one crew member detects a signal apparently of human origin on a world where no human should be. The crew change course to investigate what is potentially a better location for their colony. A landing party is sent down including the acting captain Oram played by Billy Crudup and Daniels played by Katherine Waterston.

As you would expecting the landing party find they have bitten off more than they can chew when some of their number get infected by… something. This leads to a very tense sequence as they race back to the landing craft and it’s medical facilities.

And Things Go Very Wrong.

Without going into too much more detail we are soon reintroduced to android David, the last survivor of the Prometheus. He takes an immediate interest in the Covenant crew, and in particular his “brother” Walter.

Overall I found the movie suitably thrilling. It’s a big improvement over Prometheus. Prometheus itself I consider a fine movie and I knew there weren’t going to be any Aliens in it. However I was disappointed that it never became the tense space thriller that I thought it was going to be. So the action and suspense of Alien Covenant are very welcome.

It’s not perfect. I have no issues with the early part of the movie featuring the space sequences and up to the landing on the planet and the first crew infections. However to be honest the middle part of the movie did drag a little for me. I think it might have benefited from a little more of a base-under-siege dynamic. Still there are enough creepy goings on with the creatures and questions over David’s honesty to keep the viewer engaged.

(And without going into details there is a revelation in this part of the movie that turns what we thought we knew about the origin of the Aliens upside down…)

Then the movie picks up again as the survivors of the landing party (few as they are) escape from the planet and return to the colony ship in orbit. And you can be sure that something has got onto the ship with them. If anything I’d have liked a few more close calls with the creature on the ship as that sequence worked quite well. It’s during these scenes that Daniels finds her inner Ripley and the audience find themselves on familiar ground, realising they’re watching another Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott.

My only other real criticism is that with something like 15 human crew members it’s hard to get to know any of them in the way we did with the Nostromo crew in the original. The ones that are most memorable are probably Katherine Waterston as Daniels, Danny McBride as Tennessee and Billy Crudup as Oram. And of course Michael Fassbender in two distinct performances as David and Walter.

The movie is gorgeous to look at. One sequence that stood out for me was the Covenant landing craft flying over the planet’s landscape looking for a place to set down. The final action sequence in a cargo bay on the Covenant was also extremely well done.

Plus as mentioned earlier I really appreciated the use of the Jerry Goldsmith Alien theme to tie the movie to its predecessor/successor. I hope they do the same as appropriate in the next movie.

And there surely will be another movie. The ending of this one (which directly links back to the Weyland-David prelude at the start) doesn’t so much leave it open for another but pretty much promises one.

Well, I await it with much anticipation.

Highly recommended.

Life movie review

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Life is a science fiction movie set in the near future on board the International Space Station.

The premise of the movie is that a Mars sample return mission is bringing evidence of Martian life back to Earth. The scientific community cautiously (and as it turns out sensibly) decided not to bring that alien life down to the Earth’s surface where there might be risk of contamination. Instead the samples will be studied in Earth orbit by a team of scientists on the ISS.

The team includes crew members from the USA, UK, Japan and Russia.The actors playing the two American astronauts are the big names on the poster, Ryan Reynolds inevitably playing the wise-cracking American and Jake Gyllenhaal playing the more soulful American who doesn’t want to return to the crowded Earth. I was also glad to see Rebecca Ferguson getting a major part. I became a fan after seeing her in the BBC’s The White Queen some years ago. She was also in Mission Impossible Rogue Nation back in 2015.

The astronauts manage to bring a dormant Martian cell back to life by mimicking the atmosphere of primordial Earth. The cell starts to grow into a creature that can see and make sense of its surroundings. The creature some demonstrates it has intelligence as it tries to escape the confines of its lab box.

After one of their number becomes injured the astronauts realise how dangerous the creature is and they struggle to contain it. Central to this is the notion of “firewalls”, or different levels of containment. As each firewall is breached the threat of the creature making it to Earth becomes more real.

This leads to a series of very tense scenes including one that shows the creature is resilient enough to survive in the vacuum of space. With each encounter the stakes are raised. I found the movie to be thrilling and absorbing in a way that few other recent releases have been.

I also appreciate the attention to detail to make the depiction of space seem authentic. I’m pretty amazed at how the makers managed to simulate the zero gravity environment of the space station for the complete running time of the movie. And as someone with a long time interest in space travel I enjoyed the “nuts and bolts” of the hardware very much.

The ISS does look recognisably like the one currently in orbit although the makers have given themselves artistic licence by having the movie set in the near future where the station has been expanded by the addition of new modules.

When I inevitably get the blu ray of Life it will sit well on the shelf beside Gravity and The Martian which are the other two authentic looking space movies I can think of. And that’s pretty good praise right there.

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