DID YOU READ

Five “Alien” facts to know before you see “Prometheus”

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After months of waiting, the release of Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus is finally here. Having sifted through all the posters, trailers, viral videos and press conferences, all of our theories about what the film will explore and how it connects to “Alien” will be revealed. Before they pull the curtain back, we decided to take one more dive in the the rich history of the science fiction classic that started the franchise and talk about some of the more obscure facts behind “Alien” that appear to be present in promotional materials for “Prometheus.” Note: This article contains spoilers for those who have not seen the original 1979 film.


1.) The temple from “Prometheus” was originally going to be in “Alien”

When Scott and his team first set off to make “Alien,” the egg chamber where John Hurt’s character Kane is infected was supposed to be in a temple separate from the crashed spaceship. In the original screenplay by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusset, the crew lands on the planet and investigates the Space Jockey’s ship, discovering a triangular shape etched in to the vessel’s walls by hand. As the crew begins to explore the planet, they spot the the pyramid, but ignore that the wall etchings were a warning rather than directions. Then 20th Century Fox cut the budget, so the egg chamber had to be built on the same set as the derelict spacecraft’s control room.

Now in “Prometheus,” Scott finally got his temple. It’s an interesting comparison in plot development that “Prometheus” is all about chasing a race that possibly created mankind across the galaxy based on cave drawings and winding up at a temple where horrible dangers may be waiting (which, we totally know it is).


2.) Hieroglyphics played a key role in the original screenplay

In losing the temple set, the film also lost the element from O’Bannon and Shusett’s draft where the evolution of the alien is presented to the crew in the form of hieroglyphics on the temple walls. The description shows the cycle of egg/squid/monster, and the crew don’t put the pieces together until they encounter the full grown xenomorph. They also eventually realize that if the monster has its way, they will transformed by the creature in to eggs, starting the cycle over again for the next victims who come across their craft.

Ridley Scott filmed the scene that shows Ripley finding the creature’s nest in the bowels of the Nostromo, where her crew members are being transformed, but later cut it for the theatrical release.

It’s significant that in the trailer for “Prometheus,” there are hieroglyphics in the temple that depict a creature that looks like H.R. Giger’s alien. It’s almost as if Scott and his writers liked the idea of explorers ignoring the blueprint of their own destruction sitting right in front of them so much that that had to resurrect the juxtaposition 33 years later. Now we’ll get the chance see if the characters are smart enough to figure it out. Anyone want to talk about the odds of that?


3.) Ripley was originally going to be a guy

Horror films have a pretty steady (and appalling) track record for their depictions of women being sexually victimized, but there was something about the string of movies in the later 1970’s that lit a fire under Dan O’Bannon. “Alien” was to be the exact opposite, with an entire male crew encountering a menace that violates its victims orally and impregnates its host, non-biased of gender. When 20th Century Fox brought in Walter Hill and David Giler to re-write the screenplay, they changed the cast around so that there would be both ethnic and gender diversity. In the end, while Ripley is the last member of the crew standing (albeit, after being chased around in her undies), Lambert (played by Veronica Cartwright) is the only one of the creature’s victim’s who ends up stripped and hanging from the ceiling, which defeats the original thesis. Even so, “Alien” and its sequel became praised for their depictions of Ripley as the ultimate sci-fi female protagonist.

I’m guessing from all of the screaming and underwear lurching we see in the “Prometheus” trailer, it doesn’t look like things are going to fair well for either sex in the new movie, but I did also notice that the characters played by Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron are the only two crew members we see running from the crashing alien ship. We’ll have to wait until the film comes out on the gender equality scale.


4.) The Android was an Add-On

Another change that Walter Hill and David Giler made to their draft of the screenplay was the addition of Ash, the science officer played by Sir Ian Holm that reveals itself to be a menacing android in the third act. After losing their captain to the alien, Ripley uncovers that Ash has been using them all along to get the creature home, and responds to getting caught by trying to murder her with a pornographic magazine (as if “Alien” needed more sexual subtext). In a film that’s all about physical violation, Ash adds even more injury in the betrayal of the crew’s trust, both in their co-worker and the company that employs them. Ash’s entire presence on the crew is to make sure that the cargo makes it home even if the crew doesn’t.

Ridley Scott’s next film “Blade Runner” continued to explore the idea of androids meant to serve, but not necessarily fond of their human masters. That “Prometheus” features an android completely undisguised as a crew member in Michael Fassbender’s David 8 is interesting, both to see what Scott does with the character in the story, and also to see why years later Ash has to pretend to be human. Having an android on the crew of a deep space vessel sounds like a great idea, especially when handling biologically hazardous entities. So what does David 8 do in “Prometheus” that the company starts hiding them in plain sight by the time Ash joins the crew of the Nostromo?


5.) Ridley Scott is wrong about the Space Jockeys

For the last few months of press conferences surrounding “Prometheus,” we’ve heard Ridley Scott repeatedly say that the “Alien” franchise focused on the monster and ignored the big dead guy in the chair. And while he’s right about that in regards to the movies, what it doesn’t acknowledge is that in 1988, Dark Horse comics published a sequel to “Aliens” that followed an adult Newt’s journey to the far reaches of the galaxy to find the origins of the creatures that had destroyed her youth, and winds up coming face to face with the Space Jockeys. In the book, it was revealed that the ship the Ripley and her crew mates encountered had been a bomber, sent to deliver the alien eggs as biological weapon that would devastate their enemy’s planet, only the pilot became victim to his own cargo.

“Alien 3” completely knocked this story out of canon (and subsequent re-printings have the changed Newt’s name to avoid confusion), but at the time it was an incredibly popular book with an intriguing theory about how the ship got there. Considering how well versed screenwriter Damon Lindelof is in science fiction and comics, I wouldn’t be surprised if he read those as well, and it will be interesting to see if they impact the back story in “Prometheus.”

Are you excited to watch the mysteries of “Prometheus” unfold this weekend? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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Weird Science

10 Weird Movie Substances That Had Hilarious Consequences

Catch The Nutty Professor this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

If you’ve ever opened your refrigerator to find some seriously gnarly days-old potato salad, then you know that sometimes the most harmless-seeming things can turn freaky. Movies have conjured up some truly bizarre stuff, often the work of crazed scientists. Before you catch The Nutty Professor on IFC, check out some of the icky-est, gooey-ist and just plain weird substances on the big screen.

10. Flubber

Flubber
Walt Disney Studios

Professor Brainard’s “flying rubber” increases its speed every time it bounces, and increases the chaos, destruction and unlikely basketball-dunkage of anyone who uses it. Thankfully the movie ends before its thermodynamic impossibility cause the incineration of the entire universe.


9. Quantonium, Monsters Vs. Aliens

Monsters Vs Aliens
DreamWorks

In Monsters vs. Aliens, both action-packed parties are battling over Quantonium, an exotic material which massively empowers anyone who holds it. Literally in the case of Susan Murphy, whose exposure turns her into Ginormica and enables her to fight against Gallaxhar’s invasion force.


8. Sustengo, Little Fockers

Sustengo
Universal Pictures

After finally finding favor with his hard-bitten father-in-law, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) finds himself strapped for cash and starts promoting Sustengo, an erectile dysfunction drug. Which means leaving boxes of ED drugs lying around a family who can’t even use a toilet without triggering a series of hilarious misunderstandings.


7. Iocane, Princess Bride

Iocane
20th Century Fox

Iocane is a deadly poison with no odor or taste that dissolves instantly in any liquid. The perfect tool for murder isn’t usually hilarious, but The Princess Bride makes everything funny. Hero Westley (Cary Elwes) tricks cunning Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) into drinking the poison in a game of wits. Vizzini lost, not knowing that the answer is “Don’t drink anything offered by someone who just talked about how awesome their poison is.”


6. PX-41, Despicable Me 2

PX41
Universal Pictures

The mutation compound engineered by PX-Labs turns anything into a purple, fluffy, indestructible killing machine. And when Despicable Me‘s famous Minions are dosed with it, look out. Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) crafts an antidote, PX-41 Antidote, proving he’s much better with chemicals than he is with names.


5. Mood Slime, Ghostbusters II

Mood Slime
Columbia Pictures

When the Ghostbusters came back for their 1989 sequel, the slime they encountered was sillier and scarier. The “Mood Slime” was a special form of ectoplasm utterly saturated in the emotions of everyone and everything around it. And while our heroes energize some positive vibes with Aretha Franklin tunes, the entire city of New York’s psychic outpourings are filling the sewers with something distinctly less positive.


4. The Stuff

The Stuff
New World Pictures

A science fiction soft-serve satire, The Stuff is about an oddly organic treat which is utterly delicious and zero calories. In fact it’s negative calories, because if you eat enough it’ll take over your brain and hollow you out from the inside.


3. Miracle Weight Loss Serum, The Nutty Professor

Buddy Love
Universal Pictures

The core component of The Nutty Professor‘s plot is a miraculous weight loss serum, a simple fluid which re-engineers human DNA all by itself. This allows sweet but sizable Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) to transform into the tight, toned and turbocharged Buddy Love (Murphy again). The serum is revealed to be fatally dangerous, but anything which allows Eddie Murphy to play himself cranked up to the max is pure comedy gold.


2. Cobalt Thorium G, Dr. Strangelove

Dr Strangelove
Columbia Pictures

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb is about a bomb built with Cobalt Thorium G. It’s a doomsday device designed to annihilate all human civilization and is, slightly worryingly, based on the least fictional materials on this list. Cobalt and thorium both have applications in nuclear weapon design. Luckily we haven’t got them up to G yet.


1. Ectoplasm, Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

The Ghostbusters live in a world where ghosts are real but physics is still in charge. So while the ghouls are flung around with proton packs, they get the boys in grey back with their appalling ectoplasm, or slime, trail. As Venkman says, getting covered in the stuff will make you feel all funky.

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Fast Times Jennifer Jason Leigh

Retro Grades

The 11 Best Movie Comedies of the ’80s

Catch Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

The ’80s gave us so many great things (Tab, anyone?), but when it comes to movie comedies, the Reagan years were a golden age of funny. In honor of IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we’ve selected the best big screen comedies from the decade that gave us Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and other comedy greats. And like one of the movies featured below, this list goes to 11.

1. Back to the Future

“A high school slacker goes back in time, takes his mother to a dance, and gets dangerously close to becoming his own father.” The elevator pitch for Back to the Future doesn’t sound so charming, but the 1985 flick starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover is declared by many as being the perfect movie. (Though we can’t officially say if the Eric Stoltz version would’ve been better.)


2. Ghostbusters

The sheer number of childhoods that were professed to be ruined by the recent reboot should tell you how beloved the original film is. A perfect blend of comedy, horror and fantasy, Ghostbusters has an indelible cast at the top of its game and a heap of one-liners worthy of countless casual references. They have the tools, and they have the talent.


3. Airplane!

Speaking of one-liners, it doesn’t get much more quotable than the 1980 Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic Airplane!. Almost a one-to-one parody of the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour!, Airplane! works so well because of how straight faced the zaniness is played — which is something its many imitators fail to notice.


4. This Is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer created the de facto mockumentary film with the hilarious 1984 rock diary This Is Spinal Tap. Heralded as one of the most accurate depictions of backstage life by actual real-life bands, the movie showcases an aging glam metal band struggling for the spotlight while keeping the group intact (especially the spontaneously combustible drummers).


5. National Lampoon’s Vacation

While Caddyshack and Fletch are quintessential Chevy Chase films, nothing beats the bumbling patriarch of the Griswold clan losing his mind en route to Wally World, America’s favorite family fun park. Yes, the sequels saw diminishing returns (aside from Christmas Vacation), but the one that started them all is endlessly watchable. Amen, let’s go!


6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe managed to capture exactly what high school life was like in the early-’80s. The awkwardness, the frustrations, the scares, the search for purpose and gratification, Fast Times presents its young characters as fully fleshed-out individuals (even the designated stoner shows nuance) and doesn’t talk down to its audience like many teen movies do. (Click here to see all airings of Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IFC.)


7. Beverly Hills Cop

A reminder of the days when Eddie Murphy was the edgiest comedian in showbiz, the one-two punch of Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. set the template for modern action comedies. We wouldn’t have the Rush Hour franchise and every Kevin Hart film without Axel Foley.


8. Trading Places

A treatise on the Nature vs. Nurture argument at the height of Reagan-era excess, Trading Places depicts the lives that are held in the balance when the mega-rich make friendly $1 wagers and just how joyous the retribution can be. Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis are terrific as the leads, the Duke Brothers are delightfully evil, and in all seriousness, that is a nice purse.


9. Better Off Dead

This 1985 Savage Steve Holland movie is teen angst at its most surreal and affably goofy. John Cusack stars as Lane Meyer, a high schooler still reeling from the loss of his girlfriend to a cocky champion skier. (Is there any other kind in an ’80s movie?) With bloodthirsty paperboys, foreign-exchange street races and stop-motion hamburger interludes, Better Off Dead doesn’t let realism get in the way of accurately portraying pure teen heartbreak.


10. Midnight Run

Of all the critically acclaimed pairings that actor Robert De Niro has had through the years, few are as entertaining as his reluctant team-up with a persnickety Charles Grodin in 1988’s Midnight Run. Perfect foils, the bounty hunter and mob accountant race against time, the Feds and mafia hits until mutual Stockholm Syndrome kicks in and the partnership stops becoming merely professional. (The counterfeit bill scene alone is worth the watch.)


11. Heathers

Heathers is the kind of pitch-black comedy that would never get a major release in 2016. Unflinching in its satire of school shootings, teen suicide and the tragedies that come with the need to fit in, the movie remains relevant to the kids currently growing up in a cruel and judgmental world. And the fact that it’s laugh-out-loud funny while also making a sharp point about youth culture is a testament to how great the movie really is.

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Bill Hader in Conan Star Wars Audition Sketch

Acts of Wars

Watch Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy and More Audition to Play Young Han Solo

The Documentary Now! star shows off his best Han and Chewie.

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Photo Credit: TBS/YouTube

Thanks in large part to The Force Awakens not sucking, the Star Wars universe is about to get a lot more expansive. Sequels, spin-offs, TV shows, and more are underway — which means a helluva lotta casting calls. Fortunately, Conan O’Brien got his hands on a few audition tapes of celebrities trying out for a role as a young Han Solo.

Check out Documentary Now!’s Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Portlandia favorite Jeff Goldblum, Todd Margaret star Will Arnett and other funny folks offering their takes on what that younger, brasher space swashbuckler would be like.

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