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By midlandsmovies, Aug 26 2019 09:00AM

Memory – The Origins of Alien


Directed by Alexandre O. Philippe

Opening in Greece with shots of bugs & ancient hieroglyphs, a group of witches chant incantations in a strange beginning for a documentary about Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror classic Alien.

However, what the film attempts to convey is how the historical symbolism and metaphorical signifiers of the film are actually curated from an underlying “global set of myths”.

Focusing “mostly” on the film’s writer Dan O’ Bannon, the documentary explores his rural upbringing, obsession with sci-fi and monsters and his many influences. One such is “Seeds of Jupiter” – a comic book about a man whose alien infection eventually escapes his body and scuttles off his military location. Sound familiar?

A competent artist in his own right, his early version of Alien (the awfully-titled “Star Beast”) was injected with a new lease of life when Swiss artist H R Giger became involved.

His sexual, mechanical and biological amalgamations were the perfect aesthetic for Bannon’s alien. Giger went to Egypt as a child and was obsessed by black bones and in early storyboards, the derelict spaceship was actually a Pyramid. Unbelievably Fox fired the artist but when original director Walter Hill exited the project, it was Ridley Scott who brought him back on board.

The documentary has the usual talking heads and I must admit that the fact Alien is one of my favourite films of all time helped maintain my interest even when the film didn’t quite work. It argues that the alien has its roots in Renaissance demons and medieval dragons and that it resonates with the human race’s deeper fears.

For me, this only partially rings true. Maybe its longevity can be traced to these themes but I’m not convinced the script of “Star Beast” had such illusions explicitly added. I would argue many of the “theories” are more Room 237 than they are intentional. It puts forward the notion that the 70s economic downturn, terrorism and corruption are represented, which is an interesting if less believable proposition. And the documentary loses some focus elsewhere too BUT I’d caveat that too many theories are probably better than too few.

That said, the combination of the dark psyches of O’Bannon, Scott and Giger together certainly helped bring deeper meaning to the film. Their obsessions of exploration of the ancient past and creation – a theme Scott would come back to in Blade Runner as well as Prometheus – give Alien much more depth than other monster movies.

Like Alien itself, the documentary builds to the iconic chest scene and an in-depth breakdown. With its male pregnancy fetishism, the quote of the film comes from actress Veronica Cartwright who describes the chest burster thus: “It frankly looked like a penis… with teeth”.

From paintings by Francis Bacon to a nice eulogy about Dan O’Bannon from his wife Dianne, The Origins of Alien casts its net very wide. Yet it‘s festering with curious but interesting philosophies and gives birth to a number of thought-provoking ideas about one of the greatest films ever made.

Michael Sales

MEMORY: THE ORIGINS OF ALIEN in cinemas 30 August, on VOD and DVD 2 September

By midlandsmovies, May 18 2017 08:15AM

In May 2017 with the release of Ridley Scott's latest entry into his sci-fi franchise, Alien: Covenant, Midlands Movies held a brand new competition for our readers.

To celebrate the release, we offered one lucky reader the chance to win a BluRay box set of 5 of the Alien films including Scott's original and its prequel Prometheus.

We had over 400 entrants and we have randomly picked one lucky person out of the "egg" and the winner is....

Twitter user >>>> https://twitter.com/_mia_mills_

Congratulations! Please get in touch via direct message to claim your prize.

Thanks for everyone who took part and please keep following on Twitter for more great giveaways

Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, May 16 2017 09:00AM

Alien: Covenant (2017) Dir. Ridley Scott

After offering some universe building themes in the much maligned Prometheus – a film I coincidently enjoyed against the tide of criticism – Ridley Scott returns to his Alien ‘franchise’ in this new sci-fi horror exploration. Whilst not mine, the general consensus was that Prometheus’ lofty subject matter of creators and deities overshadowed the crowd-pleasing terror of the earlier Alien films. Well, Covenant has sadly gone even further with his quasi-religious side-stories rather than rein them in and even I am losing patience with Scott’s obsessions.

In an absolute carbon copy beginning, and one that removes any sense of tension, we are introduced to a set of poorly-fleshed out stock characters as the crew of a colonist ship follows a signal to a mysterious planet. They send a party down to a mountain-filled landscape only to discover an extraterrestrial ship which they enter. Sound familiar at all?

Well, this dullness last for almost 40 long minutes and plays out EXACTLY as Prometheus did which was, and even I have to concede this, not the most interesting original opening in the first place. Rather than drama and dread, the film is as dull as dishwater then delivers the inevitable alien infection/quarantine scene – again, a duplication of things we’ve seen so often before.

And so we come to a point where it finally follows up on Prometheus as we find that film’s android, Michael Fassbender’s ‘David’, sneaking around the planet. Wearing Skywalker-esque robes he goes on to explain some fishy goings-on about the alien goo from the first film. He seems to know the score, both physically and metaphorically. By this, I do mean the actual musical score. The film jumps the shark as he teaches the crew’s own synthetic life form (Fassbender again as ‘Walter’) to play Prometheus’ orchestral main theme on a flute. Scott’s presenting a character playing the film’s theme tune?! That’s like Indiana Jones humming John Williams in the middle of an adventure!

With two robots now introduced, Scott spends an extraordinary amount of time on them and their ‘profound’ (think The Matrix’s ‘Architect’) discussions and interactions. Yet neither one contains the humanity needed to care about their actions. And when they begin fighting, I cared even less.

That aside, the film has further niggles with over-use of poor CGI to recreate the Xenomorph, and its genetic spin-off animals, and much of the film plays out in harsh daylight. Some JCB product placement made me question if the film is now set in “our” future. Which would be like an Apple logo suddenly appearing on a lightsaber. These flaws add up and by the second act, had me gritting my teeth in frustration.

[SPOILER PARAGRAPH] The film also pulls an ‘Alien 3’ by killing off the main character we engaged with from the previous movie. Noomi Rapace’s feisty Elizabeth Shaw is shown only as a corpse experimented on yet she is strangely replaced by a carbon-copy character played by Katherine Waterston. She is now the female in the tight crop top yet the film is consistently unsure who the main character should be anyways. And the mildly-interesting space-jockey engineers? Oh, they’re wiped off the face of the planet in a sequence lasting just seconds. [END OF SPOILERS]

The disappointment of the summer so far, Alien: Covenant is an absolute mess. I would go as far to say that Scott’s 1979 original is one of my top 10 films of all time. Cameron’s superb war action film not far behind too. Yet Scott is intent on focusing this new set of films on a bottomless pit of exposition and thesis based around an android’s god-like goals and dreams. And without Alien’s terror and Aliens’ excitement, Covenant falls into the worst place possible – it’s simply dull and elicits very little emotion at all and is as underwhelming as any film I’ve seen recently. Scott must do better if he’s to continue otherwise he may blow this franchise out of the airlock forever.


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Aug 1 2015 08:38AM

Horror blog Runs in Rivers made plans to make everybody scream in space at Leicester’s National Space Centre with a summer screening of Ridley Scott’s Alien. Midlands Movies Mike (and Marek) headed down to this exclusive showing making sure our priority one was to bring back some great memories. All other priorities rescinded...

On a lovely Summer evening in July, me and my fellow film friends Matt, Tim and Kath headed to the National Space Centre in Leicester for an evening of movie amusement. Picking me up from my base in the city centre – I decided to bring along my recently purchased plush facehugger (a kind of horrific teddy bear of movie memorabilia) – we drove to one of Leicester’s premier tourist attractions to watch the 1979 horror sci-fi Alien.

None of us had seen a film screened in this one-of-a-kind location before but we were very excited owing to Runs in Rivers plans to show it within the planetarium of the venue.

Runs in Rivers themselves are a local horror blog reviewing indie, underground and extreme horror and this special screening was a chance for many local sci-fi fans to catch Ridley Scott's classic on the big screen – some, including myself, for the very first time.

With the unique venue ensuring a suitably cosmic setting, the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium is just one part of the National Space Centre. Opening in 2001 (!) the centre’s odyssey begins with six main galleries of exhibits and visitor activities covering flight, astronomy and cosmology. We however would be enjoying Weaver, Skerritt and co inside the Digistar 3 dome cinema.

We pulled up around seven in the evening at the centre’s main car park and after a quick “vape” we waited by the first attraction that is situated nearby called the “space catapult”.

This launch cradle is designed to hold a satellite inside the cargo bay of a US Space Shuttle eventually “flipping” it out into space spinning like a top to keep it stable in orbit. However, given its name we discussed its use by Wile E. Coyote or Bart Simpson and the unfortunate fact that it simply looked like a bit of space junk! However, this merely begins a brilliant journey inside where visitors can see more exciting fare like the gigantic Blue Streak and PGM-17 Thor space-craft, both housed in their Rocket Tower.

Walking under one of the few Soyuz capsules in Europe, the automatic “cargo” doors of the centre already had us excited for our exploration and Runs In Rivers choice of venue could not have been better.

As we grabbed a couple of space beers (actually just Heinekens) to warm up, the friendly staff and organisers made everyone feel comfortable with their welcoming chats and warm hospitality. In addition, they had provided a full on Alien (see pic) for the evening whose working jaws were a great touch. The Alien often crept up on unsuspecting visitors who were queuing, resulting in big laughs from us all. Nevertheless, I got caught out later by the same thing as I leapt in the air after the Xenomorph lunged over my shoulder. It was at this point I met up with our writer Marek. Unbelievably, since launching Midlands Movies, Marek has contributed an amazing amount of articles, reviews and features for us and bar a brief moment one morning (where neither of us was quite sure of who we were) this was the first time we had met. In three years!!

Along with Marek was fellow film fan Paul Crowson, the self-styled Dr. Action of the awesome movie blog Dr. Action and The Kick Ass Kid Commentaries. Check them out here http://dractionkickass.blogspot.co.uk

After a great chat, it was soon time to enter the auditorium and with a vista of stars covering the planetarium’s dome, the excited whispers turned into enormous approval of the location for this exceptional showing.

We sat down on the cinema’s chairs – which go back to an almost horizontal angle so be careful not to fall asleep – but with the film close to start, the thrilled crowd were unlikely to nap during the scares and jumps aboard the Nostromo.

And what of the film itself? Well, there’s very little to add to what has been said many times before. You know the story. The H. R. Giger-designed extraterrestrial creature stalks a space crew after being picked up via a contaminated John Hurt (a Midlands local from Derby no less). Outer space never looked so vast on the planetarium’s projection though, whose slightly curved screen meant that the view was a true representation of your eyesight, making you turn your head across the wide shots such was the size of the screen.

The Oscar winning effects looked as great as ever and the most startling aspect of a film that was 36 years old was that I commented that it looked like it “had barely aged one bit”. Bar a few dodgy 70s-style shaggy haircuts, the brilliant set design, perfect blend of SFX with the actors and Scott’s foreboding direction gives the film such a timeless quality it could have been made in the last few years.

An iconic movie, it has since been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry and appeared in our Top 50 Movies of All Time voted by our readers alongside it’s equally lauded sequel Aliens by director James Cameron.

We said during the vote: “Perfectly directed, the film influenced a slew of imitators and launched a franchise behemoth that he would return to in 2012’s Prometheus. Featuring Alien-rape, the film is a superb blend of scares, screams and spooks in space with excellent special effects and a new heroine in Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley”.

As the credits rolled we discussed what a great night it had been. Scott’s “starbeast“ continues to amaze and astonish even after all this time and a perfect evening was had in a perfect setting and all credit must go to Runs In Rivers for putting on an impressive cosmic celebration.

This is Mike, last survivor of the Space Centre, signing off.

For more info on Runs in Rivers and to book future events please see their website here:


Email runsinriversblog@gmail.com

To visit the National Space Centre in Leicester check them out at this link:


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Jun 4 2015 04:20PM

Midlands Movies catches up with Runs in Rivers, a horror website due to screen Alien at the National Space Centre in Leicester

James Pritchard from Runs in Rivers is excited to announce that the seminal Ridley Scott 1979 sc-fi and horror classic, Alien – the film that started a behemoth of a franchise – is going to be shown on the big screen in the Midlands.

On July 31st 2015 Runs In Rivers will be hosting this very special screening in the Sir Patrick Moore Planetarium in Leicester’s National Space Centre.

Following a run of sell out events in the Bristol Science Centre earlier this year, Leicester will now play host to a unique cinematic experience, a chance to watch a true horror gem in amazing quality and in a suitably cosmic setting. As a big fan of the first 4 Alien films (with the first two in our Top 50 movies of all time) and even Prometheus Midlands Movies will be there reporting from the event.

The National Space Centre is the UK’s largest visitor attraction dedicated to space and welcomes a quarter of a million visitors each year.

Opening in June 2001, the centre was the idea of the University of Leicester, with support from Leicester City Council and has hosted an amazing variety of events.

Some of these events include visits from legendary astronauts such as Buzz Aldrin, Helen Sharman, Michael Foale, and Piers Sellars to various sc-fi related days such as Star Wars and Doctor Who.

With a bar on site for pre-film drinks this event is not one to be missed by sci-fi and horror film fans with tickets at a reasonable £15.00 that can be bought here: https://ti.to/runsinrivers/alien-at-the-national-space-centre/

A strictly over-18s event, more updates and information can be found at Runs in Rivers’ Facebook event page at this link: https://www.facebook.com/events/959118454134334/

Doors open at 19:00pm and the film starts at 20:00pm

Runs in Rivers Official website:


National Space Centre website:


Midlands Movies Mike

By midlandsmovies, Dec 29 2014 08:52AM

With a 73% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes I suppose with a bit of hindsight the film has not been quite as mauled to death as my Twitter feed would suggest but with such strong opinions and many a fan-boy claiming it to be a disaster of Queen-sized proportions I thought I would take another look at Ridley Scott’s polarising sci-fi film Prometheus.

Released in 2012 to a round of naysayers, I enjoyed the larger issues it tackled inside the “Alien” universe and it seemed that a lot of people went in expecting what Ridley Scott told them not to expect – i.e. a direct Alien prequel – and wondered why they were disappointed. His perfect summary that it contained the “D.N.A.” of the Alien story was a great description for his film that dared to do something new rather than an easy re-hashing of Alien’s scares or Aliens’ shooting thrills.

So what criticisms have been levelled against it? Well, as I’ve mentioned above, some felt that it was nothing like Alien or Aliens (the 2 most revered films in the franchise). Well, I’d argue that there is no need to have a strong connection or a repeat of themes and sequences we’ve all seen before. This is a good thing.

For example, have we all forgotten Lucas’ trilogy spoiling Star Wars prequels? Or even his return to Indiana Jones? Shoe-horning in Ripley’s “mother” or some relative of Hicks (or even Vasquez!) would have been cringe-worthy - see Chewbacca’s appearance in Sith – so Scott decided to introduce us to a whole new crew of characters who have an air of familiarity (Rapace’s hairdo and post-hypersleep sweat is all 70s Sigourney) but with subtle twists that help embellish the story. Fassbender’s robot is neither the violent Ian Holm or the pacifist Lance Henriksen but thankfully occupies a wholly new sociopathic (and subversive) corporate entity.

And the accusation of slow pace? Have you seen Alien or Alien 3? Scott avoids any Michael Bay-like histrionics in favour of a dark and foreboding atmosphere in which he tentatively assembles the story. Like the building blocks of life he’s so keen on analysing, his film begins with a measured and constructed set up referencing the past (or future, really) with nods to Weyland Corporation, the Space Jockey and aggressive creatures hosting within bodies.

Other huge positives for me was a genuinely great sequence involving a riff on the chest buster scene using an automated medical-pod which rips out a growing alien embryo from Rapace’s body in (another) shameless gore-fest based upon birth and gestation.

This body horror has continued in all the Alien films as has the use of technology to create human-cyborgs – in this instance, David, played by the previously mentioned and unbelievably good Michael Fassbender. Scott returns to the explorer nature of his first film and doesn’t skimp on the big money shots and his ambition and grand scale of vision is nothing short of breath-taking making Prometheus the best looking sci-fi film in a decade – maybe since the blue-hues of Spielberg’s Minority Report (another underrated classic in my books).

For me, I first saw Prometheus in Summer 2012 at Westminster’s IMAX and to this day it is still one of the best visually stunning films I have seen at the cinema (in the last few years it joins Inception and Gravity as one of the best looking films since 2010) and the gorgeous visuals including the planetoid surface filmed in Iceland and the glass front of the spaceship itself displaying the infinity of space, being a joy to watch. Filmed in “proper” 3-D, Scott pulls us into this world with the explorers, where we find things out along with them in this strange world.

The dazzling visuals compliment the weighty themes of scientific knowledge and religious faith that are questioned throughout, whilst some found that the unresolved plot elements and unanswered questions (which I’d argue are not that many – the main one being simply, who created these creators at the film’s end) were a distraction. I would argue simply providing an answer to these would take away from the film’s beauty and Kubrick hardly serves up a clear-cut message in 2001 so wonder why it was considered such a negative in this film.

Again, I think people had an “idea” of an Alien film in their heads which created a big (but imagined) promise of a film that wasn’t going to exist and then subsequently felt let down by the film they got. However, although I agree that the viral marketing was way over the top – it was the film that actually stopped me from watching TV spots and spin off clips from then on – your expectations are not the film’s fault. Another negative I am happy to acknowledge was the casting of Guy Pearce – one of my favourite actors in fact – but there was no need to artificially age him into a pensioner when a genuinely older actor could have simply portrayed the “search for youth” with more conviction.

The final criticism to tackle was said to be an inconsistent set of character motivations with some venom being specifically placed upon the scientist “poking” his hand at an unknown species in the cave. I never for once thought this was unrealistic for that character – maybe for you or I but we’re not the character – who came across as an inexperienced and foolish adventurer, exactly the type of selfish/inquisitive idiot Weyland would fill his ship with.

With Weyland’s ruthless god-complex, bringing along an unprepared scientist set up to become alien feed seemed exactly the kind of sick twisted (and morally repugnant) act he has developed as he clings on to life and allows others to be killed in his vain search for answers.

As a set of movies then, Alien’s horror made us think whilst Cameron’s Aliens pushed us into fully-fledged action territory before Alien 3 went back to philosophical themes before we finished on the B-movie action of Alien: Resurrection, which then seems entirely appropriate that a return to a thoughtful ambient piece (away from AvP films too) was the better choice for Scott to venture down.

In summary then, Prometheus was the prequel that refused to shoe-horn in parts of the previous film which in my book was a HUGE plus point yet with slightly more subtle nods to the franchise, this evolutionary sci-fi film was both a head-scratcher and face-hugger in one.

Midlands Movies Mike

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