Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.


Life – Rethinking that Trip to Mars


We earthlings are obsessed with finding signs of life on other planets. Why? Are we afraid of being alone in the cosmos? Do we hope that alien beings know things we don’t know and can solve our serious problems, like global warming or acne? In Daniel Espinosa’s Life, six astronauts on the Mars Pilgrim 7 Mission discover a blob, and they can hardly contain their excitement.

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Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) with David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal)

Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds) is the cowboy of this international group, donning a space suit to repair whatever goes wrong outside the station. David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a physician who has been in space for so long – nearly 500 days – that he can’t imagine being back on earth. Sho  Murakami (Hiroyuki Sanada) becomes a father in space, talking his wife through the birthing process, then displaying to everyone a photo on his iPad of his new daughter. Ekaterina Golovkina (Olga Dihovichnaya) is the mission’s commander, while Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson) brings a much-needed calm to the entire operation.

Hugh Derry (Ariyon Bakare), a Brit and the lead scientist, is in charge of the discovery, isolated in the capsule’s lab as a safety precaution. The one-cell life form, placed in a petri dish, looks like those paramecia with cilia that undulate that we used to study in science. While Hugh’s upper body resembles that of an athlete, he’s paralyzed below the waist. Weightlessness in space allows him to move freely about the capsule, but he fantasizes that “Calvin,” the name given to the life form, might be a super stem cell, able to mend his injury.

Ryan Reynolds

Rory Adams (Ryan Reynolds)

Healing humans, however, is not on Calvin’s agenda. In a short period of time, Calvin is killing off the astronauts in gruesome ways and rapidly growing into a monster with a brain. Calvin has no respect for Hollywood royalty, so A-list stars like Reynolds and Gyllenhaal soon find themselves in danger, along with the rest of the crew.

In D.C., the press screening was held in an appropriate place, the Lockheed Martin IMAX Theater in the National Air and Space Museum. The 75-foot screen receives images from a “dual 4k laser projection system with a 12 discrete channel sound system” providing audiences “with the sharpest, brightest, clearest, and most vivid digital images ever combined with a whole new level of immersive audio.” Translated that means this screening was an intense experience, for sure. The audience felt it was in that space capsule along with Reynolds and crew, scrambling to keep one step ahead of Calvin. (If you have the option, see the film at a theater offering IMAX.)

David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) in Columbia Pictures' LIFE.

David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal)

Life will undoubtedly be compared to Alien where Sigourney Weaver fought a much scarier opponent. Calvin is not nearly as frightening (although it will probably be some time before you can eat octopus again), but Espinosa certainly heightens the tension. The claustrophobic setting in the space capsule adds to the suspense. There are only so many places the astronauts can hide, and Calvin seems to have the ability to squeeze through small spaces with ease. It’s a no-win situation.

Connecting with the crew, learning more about each member, brings a personal element into the story. We root for the astronauts, not only because the alien life form is so evil, but also because anyone who signs on for such a challenging mission to benefit mankind deserves our support and respect. Space travelers are heroes, risking everything to explore a new frontier, knowing they may not come back alive.

Perhaps it’s time to rethink all those missions to Mars.

Photos courtesy of Columbia Pictures
Top photo: David Jordan (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Miranda North (Rebecca Ferguson)

John Hurt – An Actor for All Seasons


Legendary British thespian John Hurt passed away on January 27th, 2017 at the age of 77 years old. Born in a small coal mining town in Derbyshire, England to former actress Phyllis Massey and Anglican Minister and Mathematician Arnould Hurt. An apathetic student, he would later find his true passion was acting. He was admitted into the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and would make his stage debut in 1962. He only really began to rise to prominence though, with his performance as the conniving Richard Rich in A Man For all Seasons in 1966.

From then on he worked pretty much constantly. Indeed his career which spanned over six decades would include over 120 film roles not to mention dozens of television appearances. Here are a few highlights. In 1976 his performance as English heroin addict Max in Midnight Express for which he won a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.  In 1979, he played Kane in Ridley Scott’s masterpiece Alien and was nominated for another BAFTA. In 1980, he played the titular character in The Elephant Man and was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe, and also won—another BAFTA.  In 1984 he played Winston Smith in 1984, which won Best British Film of the Year at the Evening Standard British Film Awards. In 1997, he starred as crusty old civil engineer Chuck Langer in the award winning The Climb. He was creepy wand-maker Mr. Ollivander in the Harry Potter franchise, kindly, wise, old Professor Broom in Hellboy, totalitarian fascist leader Adam Sutler in V for Vendetta, and ancient vampire Christopher Marlowe in Only Lovers Left Alive.  

One of his most recent appearances was that of rebel leader and mysterious mentor figure Gilliam in 2013’s Snowpiercer. The last film he was featured in before his death was Jackie alongside Natalie Portman as Father Richard McSorley. But fans will still have another chance to see him as Neville Chamberlain in the upcoming British war drama Darkest Hour directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) opposite Gary Oldman and Ben Mendelsohn.

God speed John Hurt. You truly were an Actor for All Seasons.

Top photo from Bigstock: John Hurt attends The 66th Annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festival on May 25, 2013 in Cannes, France.