Sunspot observatory to reopen following mysterious closure

David Lynch
September 16, 2018 
Link to story on KOB.com: https://www.kob.com/new-mexico-news/sunspot-observatory-to-reopen-following-mysterious-closure/5072677/?cat=500

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – After mysterious circumstances closed the Sunspot Solar Observatory in southeast New Mexico on Sept. 6 – prompting conspiracy theories of close encounters and men in black suits – it was announced over the weekend that the facility will “transition back to regular operations” on Monday.

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Roswell’s first (human) visitors

71 years after a UFO allegedly landed in southeast New Mexico – instantly cementing the town of Roswell as a pop culture monument and Mecca to UFO enthusiasts – the memorialized crash site finally held its first public tour.

This is the story of that tour, and the five strangers who came from vastly different places and backgrounds to be there, united and joined by their belief.

For the full print story, published in the Albuquerque Journal, click here or here.

The truth is out there: Visiting the alleged Roswell UFO crash site

On July 5, 2018, the iconic site of the alleged Roswell UFO crash of 1971 was opened to the public for the first time.

The story of the five UFO enthusiasts who came from all over the country (and even outside of it) for the initial tour can be read here.

Click any of the below pictures to enlarge.

 

Review: ‘Life’ steals playbook from ‘Alien,’ still manages to be forgettable

In space, no one can hear you scream. We’ve known that for nearly 40 years.

But space, perhaps, could also the place where we can send “Life” so it doesn’t have to be endured by us Earthlings.

Daniel Espinosa’s tale of space-station-turned-house-of-horrors is enamored with the 1977 classic “Alien,” so explicitly so that its adoration makes those of us on the outside of this clearly one-sided relationship feel a bit disgusted and uncomfortable by the way it borrows its every influence.

And it’s evident from the very first shot, the camera slowly and eerily drifting through space just like the start of “Alien,” making us feel an isolation that has become almost like a second cinematic home in recent years (See: “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Gravity,” “Interstellar,” “The Martian,” etc., etc.).

Inside the International Space Station that eventually comes into view is a small crew of astronauts which has just captured the first irrefutable proof of alien life. One of the astronauts – Hugh, a much too optimistic scientist to be poking around in a petri dish of alien life – calls it “Calvin” out of a sense of affection. But (surprise, surprise) Calvin is a stone cold killer.

The movie wants you to think he’s offing the humans one by one out of a natural survival instinct, but let’s be real: Calvin is enjoying being a source of torment and terror once he breaks loose.

“Life,” admittedly, does an adequate job in the early going by steadily building momentum as Calvin squirms his way through the ship like he knows the place. There are one or two fairly memorable sequences as he terrorizes his victims, but for some reason the film feels the need to break that momentum at times by morphing from horror into character-driven drama.

There’s certainly enough backstory – too much, actually – to remind us that these bodies of flesh and blood have lives back on Earth. Well, that goes for everyone but Jake Gyllenhaal’s David, who prefers the lonely quiet of space (he’s been up there for over 400 straight days) to the chaos of life on our blue and green planet.

There’s too many characters for there to really be a leading force. For a film so heavily influenced by “Alien,” “Life” is missing its Ripley – the hero we know little about but has so much charisma that we can’t help but cheer them on.

By comparison, Gyllenhaal and co. are so lifeless that it’s hard not to look forward to Calvin play cat-and-mouse with them.

Speaking of Calvin, his appearance and cadence is an easy target for cheap laughs at first, but make no mistake that it doesn’t take long for him to turn into a human-sized storm of violence and destruction, even if his tentacle-y design is uninspired.

For a film with an R-rating, that destruction doesn’t seem to be as visceral as it should be, though. Take away a few pints of blood and the handful of F-bombs, and “Life” is a PG-13 film with a slightly higher box office intake. What Espinosa was trying to accomplish by dialing back on some of the horror elements, I’m not sure, but it certainly doesn’t work to keep “Life” back from its full potential.

And then there’s the ending, which is sure to polarize. I’m on the side of “that was completely unnecessary”; it feels like little more than a desperate attempt at relevance, a talking point for a movie that surely is aware that it doesn’t have much life of its own.

Ultimately what leads to “Life’s” downfall is its complete failure to make us care for its characters. At times it’s too morose for its own good. One minute we’re following Calvin as he crawls along the outside of the ISS, looking for a way in while the crew is desperately barring all hatches. The next minute, the astronauts are contemplating the meaning of life and questioning their mission, as if they could care less about the extinction of the human race.

“Life” a cheap knockoff of a classic in the genre, without actually being inspired by what made “Alien” so terrifying: a pinch of originality, a type of horror we’ve never seen. “Life,” meanwhile, would be tough to recommend over modern straight-to-DVD offerings that at least offer something new.

 

“Life” is rated R for language throughout, some sci-fi violence and terror

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada

Directed by Daniel Espinosa

2017

Review: ‘Arrival’ a near perfect sci-fi tale

An edited version of this review originally appeared in the ABQ Free Press, and can be viewed here.

Maintaining good communication – whether between governments of countries or two people in a relationship – isn’t always easy. Sometimes the mediation of an outside party is necessary.

For director Denis Villeneuve, it takes a visit aliens for humanity to discover its communicative flaws. At least, that’s the premise of “Arrival,” a film depicting a close encounters of a thrilling kind that takes the audience on a mesmerizing ride as intelligent as it is poignant.

Like some of the best sci-fi, “Arrival” utilizes an outlandish concept to make very relevant comments on the state of humanity, with Villeneuve deconstructing a concept as simple as communication by reminding us of the paranoia that can manifest when we take communication for granted.

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The story is told through the eyes of Louise Banks, a linguistics professor recruited by the military, along with another expert in Jeremy Renner’s (“The Hurt Locker,” “The Avengers”)Ian Donnelly, to help communicate with extra terrestrial beings. We don’t know if these aliens come in peace; all we know is they come via one of 12 pods resembling a slice of fruit in different places around the globe. And every day they hover a few dozen feet above the surface, humanity grows even more weary.

With “Arrival,” Villeneuve begins to cement himself as one of the premiere directors in Hollywood at exploring deep themes through multilayered, provocative stories. Like “Prisoners” and “Sicario,” his latest is a slow-burning escalation towards a mind-bending, tense finish that eventually places a new connotation on its title.

To be clear, this isn’t particularly an alien invasion movie – our visitors never even set foot on Earth – and the audience shouldn’t expect the normal sort of blockbuster action associated with that moniker. These are thrills of a much more subdued kind.

Amy Adams (“Man of Steel,” “American Hustle”) gives a subtle but powerhouse performance as Banks, the ever-anxious but curious expert whose personal ties to the mission anchor themselves in her believable quest to be able to communicate with our visitors. Renner is also terrific in what has to be the most vulnerable role we’ve ever seen him in.

“Arrival” isn’t just thematically astounding; the film is totally immersive, engaging nearly all our senses. Conversations between characters through headsets limit outside noise. We feel as claustrophobic as Banks does when she enters the alien craft in a hazmat suit. The IMAX-worthy camerawork is sweeping and gorgeous, bold in portraying the film’s grand scale. The music is daringly ambiguous too; conveying a tone that is all at once threating and captivating.

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The way “Arrival” plays with light, in particular, provides its own symbolic value. It makes excellent use of a dark, brooding aesthetic, with shadows playing a prominent role. Half-clouded faces and environments tease moral flaws, and the brightness associated with the spaceship’s interior resonates with the film’s central questions: Is language a gift, or a weapon?

In other words, it is very much like Villeneuve’s previous works as far as his focus on the visuals. It’s incredibly well-directed in that regard; all of the film’s elements work closely in tandem to deliver a memorable experience that rivals the best sci-fi of recent years, maybe decades.

 

“Arrival” is rated PG-13 for brief strong language

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Directed by Denis Villeneuve

2016