Nine things we learned about “Alien: Covenant” at SXSW

SXSW Day One. A mess of journalists and bloggers. A small room at Trio, the restaurant at the Four Seasons. Director Ridley Scott and actors Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride, there to talk about the new movie “Alien: Covenant.” Let’s do this. Ridley Scott would like to do “Alien” movies indefinitely. “(‘Covenant’) is, dare I say, clever and violent and everything you kinda want,” Scott said. “I think it’s a cut above what’s happened before and leaves all kinds of things open for the next one. I enjoy doing them so much I would like it to go on forever.”Scott does not believe an AI could be authentically creative. “Can you have a computer write a book or a screenplay or a poem?,” he said. “Yeah, but it’s always going to be very derivative and only based on what has been done in trillions of different ways before, so it’s going to be a cross-collateralization. It can only be that.” Whereas Waterston takes a grimmer view. “A human can’t replace an ant, but it can kill it, and that’s what’s so scary about it,” she said. “They might not be able to write a poem as beautifully as Robert Lowell, but they can kill you.” No word on the forthcoming John Ashbery robot CalTech is working on. Tell us all your thoughts on God. Scott talked about hanging out with mathematicians and physicists while making “The Martian” and what happened when they were asked if they believed in God. Four raised their hands. One of the mathematicians apparently said, “When I come against a wall in mathematics, I am constantly impressed in who invented this wall because I know there is an answer on the other side.” This led Scott to equating God with that which is superior to us that we cannot understand. Which led into Scott discussing a conversation with Carl Sagan 30 years ago and in which Sagan said, according to Continue Reading

Everything we learned about (probable) aliens in 2017

The truth is probably already here. The evidence that aliens exist has been slowly mounting for decades and 2017 marks the most convincing year yet for the belief that life must exist beyond our planet. And believing in the extraterrestrial is no longer reserved for conspiracy theorists in tinfoil hats. Nearly half of humanity believes aliens are out there, according to a recent study, and in June, the European Space Agency signed off on a $668 million mission that will hunt for other life forms 932,000 miles into space. Meanwhile, scientists continue to be baffled by a bunch of mysterious signals that keep emanating from faraway galaxies. Here are five stories that prove it’s only a matter of time before we meet our celestial neighbors. Scientists have long presumed that if we’re going to find life on other planets, we’re going to find them in the “Goldilocks zone” — spots throughout the universe where conditions are just right for water to exist. The intergalactic search for our neighbors grew more promising in 2017 with dozens more “super-Earth” discoveries. And even though we don’t yet have the technology to reach these planets, 2017’s “super-Earths” have included: In June, NASA’s Kepler telescope found 10 “Goldilocks-zone” planets and in October, the telescope found 20 more “hiding in plain sight.” “Are we alone?” Kepler scientist Mario Perez asked at a news conference following NASA’s June discovery. “Maybe Kepler today has told us indirectly, although we need confirmation, that we are probably not alone.” In February, a doctoral student found that UFO sightings have hit an all-time high and that most of the sightings come from the US. Sam Manafort, who’s studying Human Factors and Applied Cognition at George Mason University, crunched numbers from the National UFO Reporting Center. In his report, he found that since Continue Reading

These were the top 50 movies of the year, according to Google

Sci-fi movies and action films ruled in 2017.  That's according to Google's ranking of the top 50 movies of the year. The annual list highlights the  top 50 movies of 2017 based on the most popular content worldwide on the Google Play store. It's important to note that Google's list is not a critical ranking, but is based entirely on top sellers. The year's hottest films included action-adventure films like "Wonder Woman," "Rogue One," and "Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2," and also left room for sci-fi movies like "Arrival" and "Life." Animated movies were popular too, scoring three of the top 10 spots.  While almost every film came out in 2017, a few were released at the end of last year. Here are the 50 films that dominated our screens this year:50. "The Dark Tower" (2017) Sony  49. "Baywatch" (2017) Paramount Pictures    48. "Patriots Day" (2016) CBS Films    47. "Masterminds" (2016) Relativity Media    46. "A Dog's Purpose" (2017) Amblin/Walden Media    45. "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" (2016) Constantin Film/Davis Films/Impact Pictures    44. "Captain Underpants: The First Epic Movie" (2017) DreamWorks    43. "La La Land" (2016) Lionsgate    42. "CHiPs" (2017) Warner Bros.    41. "Fist Fight" (2017) Warner Bros    40. "The Girl on the Train" (2016) Universal    39. "Life" (2017) Sony Pictures Entertainment, Inc.    38. "xXx: Return of Xander Cage" (2017) Paramount    37. "The Great Wall" (2017) Universal    36. "War for the Planet of the Apes" (2017) 20th Century Fox    35. "Underworld: Blood Wars" (2016) Sony    34. "Power Rangers" (2017) Lionsgate    33. "King Arthur: Legend of the Sword" Continue Reading

Ridley Scott reveals ‘Alien: Covenant’ is first of three more ‘Prometheus’ flicks leading into ‘Alien’

"Alien" director Ridley Scott is making up for lost time — and space. The filmmaker revealed that his next film, "Alien: Covenant," a sequel to 2012's "Prometheus," will be the first of three prequel movies that flow into the events of his 1979 sci-fi horror classic that made a star out of Sigourney Weaver. "Prometheus 1 was borne out of my frustration that on Alien 1 in 1979 — I only did one as I don't normally do sequels," the filmmaker, who turns 78 on Monday, said at a press conference in Sydney, Australia, according to the Hollywood Reporter. "I was amazed that in the 3 that followed that no one asked the question, 'Why the Alien, who made it and why?' Very basic questions. So I came up with the notion of Prometheus 1, which starts to indicate who might have made it and where it came from," Scott said. "So I'm now going to the next one, which is the next evolution directly connected with the first one ... and we'll kind of pick it up there and it will evolve." Many franchise fans, however, felt their chests burst with disappointment over the lack of a direct connection between "Prometheus," starring Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender, to the "Alien" saga for a supposed prequel. There was, however, an "Alien"-like creature that made a cameo in the 2012 movie's final scene. "Alien: Covenant," which is set to start shooting in Australia in March, will focus on the crew of a colony ship that stumble on a dangerous planet whose sole inhabitant is Fassbender's synthetic killer David. "When that's finished there'll be another one and then another one which will gradually drive into the back entrance of the film in 1979," Scott said. "So in other words, why was this space jockey there and why did he have an Alien inside him? "And those questions will be answered," he added. The film, set for an Oct. 6, 2017, release, may be set in the same universe but Continue Reading

Neill Blomkamp posts concept art from his ‘Alien’ movie

Maybe in space no one can hear you scream, but that’s certainly not the case on social media after director Neill Blomkamp posted concept art from his upcoming “Alien” movie. The image posted on Blomkamp’s Instagram Thursday night shows no sign of the titular beasties, but does offer glimpses of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley and Michael Biehn’s Corporal Hicks. Both actors are reprising their roles from the 1986 film, “Aliens.” “#alien going very well,” the director wrote in the caption. “Love this project.” Blomkamp essentially landed the job of bringing the sci-fi horror franchise out of stasis by teasing his ideas he had for a new installment on Instagram. He told Uproxx earlier this year that working with Weaver on the set of “Chappie” "set off a bunch of thoughts in my head.” Intrigued by the creatures first created by director Ridley Scott and screenwriter Dan O'Brien in 1979's "Alien," he started brainstorming his own take. "When I came back to Vancouver, I had an entire year to work on 'Chappie,'" Blomkamp told Uproxx. "And when I wasn't needed in the edit, I could think about 'Alien.' So, I basically developed an entire movie and I did all of this artwork as well." Concept art of Ripley inside a sleek "space jockey" helmet and a screaming alien queen he posted in January went viral — and all the Internet attention piqued the interest of 20th Century Fox, the studio that holds the rights to the franchise. Bloomkamp got offered the job and is currently in pre-production with an eye towards a 2017 release date, a year after “Prometheus 2,” the “Alien” prequel, lands in theaters. Continue Reading

Letters to the Editor, Sunday, Oct. 22, 2017

History repeated?The Hollywood left has caught the vapors over the outrageous behavior, particularly against women, by movie producer Harvey Weinstein.It is reminiscent of the executive who spotted a lowly subordinate employee in the lobby of a hotel and ordered one of his guards to bring her to his room. Once she was there, she accused him of sexually harassing her.After she sued him for sexual harassment, he was accused of perjuring himself during a sworn deposition. And yet the mainstream media and the entire Democrat Party, including his own wife, rallied behind him.That was Bill Clinton. While he was president, a barely legal intern said she performed oral sex on him in the Oval Office.And I keep hearing that Trump's tweets are below the dignity of his office. Steve Kissell, Fort Myers  Rearrange prioritiesI just saw an unbelievable headline on one of the newspaper’s top stories: “How California wildfires could affect our wine festivals.” Give me a break. People are losing loved ones and their homes. Are we so small that our concern is focused on our wine festivals? Time to rethink how we headline stories. Al Holaday, Naples  So long, farewell, auf wiedersehenIn his  letter to the editor published Oct. 14, John Hooley asks, "How would we react if Californians were voting to become an independent nation?"I say goodbye. Goodbye, “Hanoi Jane” Fonda.  Goodbye, movie producer Harvey Weinstein. Goodbye, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Goodbye, tens of millions of undocumented aliens. Goodbye, massive welfare payments to or for undocumented aliens, partially funded by citizens of other states. Goodbye, trashy and juvenile TV shows and movies, such as what they called "Californication." Could you take with you as you leave metro New York, Boston and Chicago, leaving behind the hardworking taxpaying citizens of those states?I hear the Sound of Music: "Auf wiedersehen, goodbye." James A. Continue Reading

Letters to the Editor, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017

Cancellation bad for country, worldPresident Donald Trump’s administration’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan — and promote coal use — is clearly bad for the planet’s future. More importantly, this one will begin harming Americans very quickly.Coal plants release a lot of pollutants, including mercury (which damages children’s brains) and particulate matter, including bits of unburned coal small enough for people to inhale. These bits of coal cause asthma, strokes, lung damage and heart attacks. So the rollback of the Clean Power Plan is bad for nearly everyone.We don't need to burn coal, a dirty source of energy, to satisfy our energy needs, and the Trump administration knows that. It's all about playing to a relatively small number of coal miners and money for the pockets of the mining companies.The government can and should provide programs to help miners make the transition into a job market that doesn't include digging coal out of the ground. It would be a small price to pay for cleaner, healthier air. Theodore Brown, Bonita Springs  Ignoring violence in American societyWhat I found to be astonishing besides the scale of the attack in Las Vegas was the quickness with which it was declared not to be a "terrorist" operation. Some were relieved to hear it was just another "lone wolf" single shooter with no obvious motivation.But what if it was a terrorist plot by a declared enemy? How would the public and government officials have reacted to this incident?SEAL Team 6 would have been ready for deployment. We would be demanding answers as to how he had so many automatic weapons and how he got them into his room, plus other actions he planned to take to inflict the most damage. This included explosives and shooting at fuel tanks in an attempt to have them explode. This single "lone wolf" in a matter of 11 minutes was able to kill 58 people and wound 530 human beings.So, because it wasn't a Continue Reading

Letters to the Editor, Monday, Oct. 30, 2017

Make better choice in next electionThe Oct. 21 letter which purports to describe how President Donald Trump will repair the "damage" created by former President Barack Obama requires a response.The first issue that needs to be addressed is the reference to exploding the national debt. The writer needs to be reminded that there were multiple extenuating circumstances during the Obama terms of office. The most significant of these was the worst recession since the Great Depression, an economic crisis that no president has had to deal with since Herbert Hoover. Stimulus spending was the economists' recommendation to remedy this disaster and it required deficit spending to accomplish that goal.It is ridiculous to think that opening our borders lets in drug dealers and illegal aliens. They will find a way to get in whether the borders are open or closed. Those individuals who enter the country by legitimate means come with the intention to be good and productive citizens, not seeking ways to engage in unlawful practices.Finally, the writer promises the undoing of all that Obama accomplished, which I fear may be true. But if the president will indeed keep us safe, why am I more frightened and worried about the potential for nuclear holocaust than I have been since the Cuban missile crisis?I neither love nor hate Trump. His history of poor judgments and indiscretions make it impossible to respect him. I just hope we can make it through four years without a major disaster and that the American electorate becomes better informed and uses common sense the next time we select our national leader. Suzanne Herman, Naples  Condolences difficult to expressPerhaps those who have condemned the president's recent condolence call know just what they would have said instead. Perhaps not. But almost anyone who has suffered the painful loss of a loved one -- not only a husband -- can tell you they have read or heard many hurtful things, such as:  "He's in a better Continue Reading

Cannes Film Festival 2017: Who won, who lost in the first week?

CANNES, France — The 70th annual Cannes Film Festival is in full swing on the French Riviera, where espresso-swilling journalists far outnumber the spiffed-up actors and directors unveiling their latest projects. Despite heavier security and softer star power than years past, cinephiles have been blessed with a bounty of awards hopefuls and streaming options since Wednesday's kickoff. We round up the highs and lows of the fest so far. LOSER: NetflixThe biggest name on the Croisette this week wasn’t Clint Eastwood or Kristen Stewart, but Netflix, which made its inaugural trip to Cannes in competition with two films: Bong Joon Ho's zany sci-fi adventure Okja and Noah Baumbach's neurotic New York comedy The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). But it hasn’t been smooth sailing for either title, since festival organizers announced that starting next year, movies without a French theatrical release won’t be eligible for the prestigious Palme d'Or award.Both movies earned boos from festival-goers during their opening credits, while Okja hit an additional speedbump when the film was stopped roughly seven minutes in because of a projection error, spurring even more shouts from the agitated crowd until it restarted 15 minutes later. WINNER: NetflixThere's no such thing as bad publicity. The streaming giant all but dominated the conversation throughout the week and became a go-to topic at most news conferences. It helps that Okja and Meyerowitz are among the best-reviewed films of the festival so far, with enough star power to drive viewers' interest no matter the platform. WINNER: WonderstruckTodd Haynes’ eagerly anticipated Carol follow-up may put the director back in Oscar contention this year, after earning mostly raves from critics for his tender, whimsical crowd pleaser, which tells the parallel stories of two deaf children (Oakes Fegley and Millicent Simmonds) in different eras. Nominations for score, Continue Reading

‘Aliens’ director Neill Blomkamp brings back Michael Biehn to play Cpl. Hicks

"Aliens" vet Michael Biehn will apparently be reporting for duty for another tour of duty with the franchise. Director Neill Blomkamp has recruited Biehn to reprise his role as a space marine from the 1986 "Aliens" in the eagerly awaited upcoming sequel. "It's official," Biehn posted on his Instagram page, before taking it down. "I will be reprising my role as 'Cpl.' (Not for long…) Dwayne Hicks," he added, according to Flickering "With the go-ahead, Hicks will return with Ripley in mid 2017. Perhaps Hicks and Ripley well eventually get to second base in this one…" (Left photo, L to R) Actors Hugh Jackman Sigourney Weaver and Sharlto Copley pose with director Neill Blomkamp during a New York photocall for "Chappie" last month. (Right) Michael Biehn will return to play Cpl. Hicks in the new "Aliens" film. Though Hicks was bumped off in the opening credits of "Aliens 3," Blomkamp has publicly promised that his movie would take place after the events of the first two flicks in the sci-fi horror series. In January, the South African director essentially assigned himself an "Aliens" movie by posting concept art for his idea of a new installment. Spending time talking to original "Alien" killer Sigourney Weaver on the set of "Chappie" "set off a bunch of thoughts in my head," Blomkamp told Uproxx last month. All the Internet attention piqued the interest of 20th Century Fox, the studio that holds the rights to the franchise. "Um … So I think it's officially my next film. #alien," Blomkamp posted on his Instagram page on Feb. 18, confirming that the project was official. Continue Reading