Director Neill Blomkamp is known for inventive depictions of extraterrestrial warfare, like in District 9 (2009) and Elysium (2013). True to form, his latest short, Rakka, features a richly textured post-apocalyptic world where humans and otherworldly creatures battle over their entwined fates. And in keeping with sci-fi tradition, the queen of alien ass-kicking, Sigourney Weaver, leads a group of people who have planned a rebellion against the creatures who “came here to exterminate us.”
Rakka does feel somewhat like an extended trailer, and that is by design. The film is the first release from Blomkamp’s new venture, Oats Studios, which is an experimental incubator for feature-length ideas and new storytelling formats. The studio has released the film for free, but asks audiences to support its future work by voluntarily paying for the work in return for some digital assets like scripts, concept art, and 3D models.
Blomkamp told The Verge that Rakka is just the seed of a larger project, whose form is yet unknown. “Rakka feels like it could almost be more of an episodic thing,” he said, “because there’s a lot of avenues to explore. The footage is too unconventional and weird [for a mainstream feature], and the audience has to think of the footage as a snapshot of the window of this world.”
Rodrigo Cortés made a name for himself with a film that premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival: Buried, based on Chris Sparling’s black list script about a man buried alive who has to figure a way out of his coffin before his air supply is used up. The film starred Ryan Reynolds, and was critically praised for it’s direction, a tough task considering the 95-minute film takes place completely inside a casket.
Cortés returned to Sundance two years later with the $15 million thriller Red Lights, which he also wrote. The story follows Psychologist Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her assistant Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy) as they study and disprove paranormal activity, parascience and psychics. But can they take down world-renowned psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro), who has come out of retirement after three decades?
According to /Film: “Red Lights has great fun building your expectations with sound science and skeptic-based theories, and later playing with these ideas, making you question if extrasensory perception might be possible (if only in this movie). The film also sets up a few great scares and jumps, which had the Eccles theatre screaming.”
Sir Ridley Scott (born 30 November 1937) is an English film director and producer. His most famous films include ‘Alien’ (1979), ‘Blade Runner’ (1982), ‘Thelma & Louise’ (1991), ‘G. I. Jane’ (1997), ‘Gladiator’ (2000), ‘Black Hawk Down’ (2001), ‘Hannibal’ (2001), ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ (2005), ‘American Gangster’ (2007), ‘Body of Lies’ (2008), and ‘Robin Hood’ (2010).
Scott was born in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England, the son of Elizabeth and Colonel Francis Percy Scott. He was raised in an Army family, meaning that for most of his early life, his father — an officer in the Royal Engineers — was absent.
He went on to study at the Royal College of Art where he contributed to the college magazine, ARK, and helped to establish its film department. For his final show, he made a black and white short film, ‘Boy and Bicycle’, starring his younger brother, Tony Scott, and his father. The film’s main visual elements would become features of Scott’s later work; it was issued on the ‘Extras’ section of The Duellists DVD. After graduation in 1963, he secured a job as a trainee set designer with the BBC, leading to work on the popular television police series ‘Z-Cars’ and the science fiction series ‘Out of the Unknown’. Scott was an admirer of Stanley Kubrick early in his development as a director.
He was assigned to design the second Doctor Who serial, ‘The Daleks’, which would have entailed realising the famous alien creatures. Working with Alan Parker, Hugh Hudson and Hugh Johnson at RSA during the 1970s, Scott made television commercials in the UK including most notably the popular 1974 Hovis advert, “Bike Round” (New World Symphony), which was filmed in Shaftesbury, Dorset.
‘The Duellists’ (1977) was Ridley Scott’s first feature film. It was produced in Europe and won a Best Debut Film medal at the Cannes Film Festival but made limited commercial impact in the US. Set during the Napoleonic Wars, it featured two French Hussar officers, D’Hubert and Feraud (played by Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel). Their quarrel over an initially minor incident turns into a bitter, long-drawn out feud over the following fifteen years, interwoven with the larger conflict that provides its backdrop. The film was lauded for its historically authentic portrayal of Napoleonic uniforms and military conduct (often compared to the Stanley Kubrick film, ‘Barry Lyndon’), as well as its accurate early-19th-century fencing techniques recreated by fight choreographer William Hobbs.
Scott’s box office disappointment with The Duellists was compounded by the success received by Alan Parker with American-backed films — Scott admitted he was “ill for a week” with envy. Scott had originally planned to next adapt a version of Tristan and Iseult, but after seeing ‘Star Wars’, he became convinced of the potential of large scale, effects-driven films. He therefore accepted the job of directing ‘Alien’, the ground-breaking 1979 horror/science-fiction film that would give him international recognition.
While Scott would not direct the three Alien sequels, the female action hero Ellen Ripley (played by Sigourney Weaver), introduced in the first film, would become a cinematic icon. Scott was involved in the 2003 restoration and re-release of the film including media interviews for its promotion. At this time Scott indicated that he had been in discussions to make the fifth and final film in the Alien franchise. However, in a 2006 interview, the director remarked that he had been unhappy about Alien: The Director’s Cut, feeling that the original was “pretty flawless” and that the additions were merely a marketing tool.
After a year working on the film adaptation of ‘Dune’, and following the sudden death of his brother Frank, Scott signed to direct the film version of Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. Renamed ‘Blade Runner’, starring Harrison Ford and featuring an acclaimed soundtrack by Vangelis, the movie was a disappointment in theatres in 1982 and was pulled shortly thereafter. Scott’s notes were used by Warner Brothers to create a rushed Director’s Cut in 1991 which removed the voiceovers and modified the ending. Scott personally supervised a digital restoration of Blade Runner and approved the Final Cut. This version was released in Los Angeles, New York, and Toronto cinemas on 5 October 2007, and as an elaborate DVD release on 18 December 2007. Today, Blade Runner is often ranked by critics as one of the most important science fiction films of the 20th century and is usually discussed along with William Gibson’s novel Neuromancer as initiating the cyberpunk genre. Scott regards Blade Runner as his “most complete and personal film”.
In 1985 Scott directed ‘Legend’, a fantasy film. Having not tackled the fairy tale genre, Scott decided to create a “once upon a time” film set in a world of fairies, princesses, and goblins. Scott cast Tom Cruise as the film’s hero, Jack, Mia Sara as Princess Lily, and Tim Curry as the Satan-horned Lord of Darkness. A series of problems with both principal photography, including the destruction of the forest set by fire, and post-production interference (including heavy editing and substitution of Jerry Goldsmith’s original score with a score by Tangerine Dream) hampered the film’s release. Legend received scathing reviews and was a box-office failure, however the movie found a cult following on VHS, largely due to Curry’s incredible demon.
The Nostromo, an interplanetary mining ship loaded with ore, is on it’s return voyage to Earth. The crew are woken early from their hibernation tanks by Mother, the ship’s computer, after a radio transmission from an unexplored planetoid has been detected. Company policy requires making contact with alien life-forms whenever possible. Upon landing, crew member Kane (John Hurt) is attacked by a octopus-like parasite. Days later, a hideous alien erupts from Kane’s chest. The alien escapes and the crew start a hunt through the ship’s dark, claustrophobic passageways. The alien grows at an alarming rate and begins picking them off one-by-one. Warrant Officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) fights for her life and tries to escape in a shuttle but she discovers that the Alien is also aboard…
32 years ago today, Alien was released (May 25, 1979). The film arrived in between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back as a stylishly malevolent alternative to George Lucas’s space fantasy. The Ridley Scott directed film became an instant classic and set a tone of its own, offering richly detailed sets, ominous atmosphere and relentless suspense. The HR Giger designed Alien was an incredible shioft in style from those in previous space-set movies, Giger so impressed Ridley Scott that he was hired to design the alien fachugger, chestburster and the alien sets. They would become iconic.
The cast are all exceptional, Sigourney Weaver as Ripley setting the tone for all the action heroines that followed; Ian Holm is creepy as android Ash; John Hurt almsot steals the movie with his iconic ‘chestbursting scene’; Harry Dean Stanton, Yaphet Kotto, Veronica Cartwright and Tom Skeritt are all good.
Scott would further enhance the Sci-fi genre a few years later with his equally ground-breaking Blade Runner (1982), though that film was initially not well received it has since become a cult hit.
Alien spawned a further 5 sequels of differing quality. The best of which was James Camerons excellent action movie Aliens (1986); David Finchers directorial debut Alien³ (1992) and Jean-Pierre Jeunets awful Alien: Resurrection (1997). There were also two cross-franchise movies where the Alien(s) battle with versions of the Predator in Alien Vs. Predator (2004) and Alien vs Predator requiem (2007)… both should be avoided at all costs. Scott is currently filming ‘Prometheus’ a rumoured prequel/sequel/re-imagining of the first Alien. No one is really clear what it is about, but at least with Scott back at the helm of the franchise he started we can at least be reassured that it is in good hands.