Alien: Covenant (2017)

Alien: Covenant – IMDB

 

alien Covenant

 

As a fan of this beloved series, I read articles, watched interviews, and looked out for the anticipated teaser trailer released last Christmas. My hopes couldn’t have been higher. A return to the dark and dangerous universe of Alien. Prometheus opened a whole new world for us to explore and upon initial viewing I loved it, then hated it, then as time passed it grew on me and I have accepted it for being a stand alone film and an unique entry in to the franchise. With that being said, there was a lot to be expected from Ridley Scott taking yet another lead in the xenomorph franchise. And then finally, FINALLY. A full red band trailer was released. I watched. As the trailer for Alien: Covenant burst from its organic egg shell, revealing it’s gooey innards. I couldn’t help but be exposed to the spoilers on screen as one colonist after another were dying showcasing their deaths to entice and scare viewers demanding it’s attention. AND THEN, my questioning began, “Is this really going to be good, it looks like Alien? Should I lower my bar of expectations? Is this the sequel we deserve?”

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I see nothing but death.

I believe Ridley Scott listened to those shouting and screaming Alien fans and their hatred for Prometheus without consideration of those who spoke softly for their love of a film that took a risk in a new direction. Scott himself wanted to create something new that centered around creation and a story that provoked the thought of origins for life. And not just any life, but birth of the hissing xenomorph. I understood Prometheus was set in the same universe but placed far before the original. And it was this movie that many were apparently down right upset about. Movies age like wine, many show their true colors and morph into something flavorful later on down the road. The tick with this film is Scott took a chunk of Alien and a spice of Prometheus. When instead it should have been vice versa. It felt like he wanted to please the audience and new comers with an over cooked monster and playing it safe. When, in fact, I would have chosen the risky route. Continue Prometheus mission.

This is the biggest fault of the film. Alien: Covenant wanted to spring into an Alien movie so badly it left many ingredients that made it’s predecessor stand alone. There’s reviews that could go on about what Prometheus did wrong and what not. Yea, yea, we know. A great sequel would add to the first’s mystery, answer questions and then some. Frankly, the sequel does not. You want to know if Shaw gets any of her questions answered? Who cares. Want to know any more about the Engineers? Nah, irrelevant, they’re just a plot device. Alien: Covenant moves forward in a storm abandoning almost everything behind. Leaving a mess of a film.

There are good points in the movie and I will say it definitely is not a waste of time. By far my favorite is watching the androids, Walter and David, both played by the magnificent Michael Fassbender, interact with one another. Their conversations and differences make some compelling dialogue. They are by far the best part of the film. David is becoming more of a solid character in the franchise as Ripley. It’s exciting to think about. **Spoiler** Seeing as David’s relationship with Weyland is submissive in the the shadow of his creator, David holds the ability to create, and to create he does. The perfect being. And this is justified (if not hard to swallow) in the beginning  when Weyland talks to David on his initial creation. This bit I loved. Discussion of art, creation, and Gods. It is what is expected of a Prometheus sequel.

Androids were not the only ones who were good, those looking for a more serious role for Danny Mcbride actually has a good standing here. It was a pleasure to see him on screen and provide a drop of comical relief and play a driven husband to the end. A part I was looking forward to. And Katherine Waterston who played the down beat Daniels. She did good but nothing to stand out or even complain. She is in grief of losing her husband so her character hardly has an uplifting moment. With that to say the movie as a whole is quite atmospheric and despairing.

In relation to the other characters I really wish they were more fleshed out. Especially Oram and Karine. This couple could of had some deep conversations. Oram (Billy Crudup) could have used a lot more text and background on why and how he is religious. I think personally he is the most interesting character besides David. With Shaw out of the picture, Oram could have real conversations with David. If not him, Daniels or Tennessee about the future humankind’s path is set on or the Engineers’ purpose. Potential once again lost. Oram is just another guy with faith providing no meaning or value to his own asset to the story of origins. Like the trailer,  Alien: Covenant provided  meaningless scares and predictable deaths. There’s no exaggeration. The deaths are predictable, good acting, but predictable, signing on a new cast dying for a paycheck.

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Some effects I enjoyed but couldn’t help but feel it was a slight downgrade from Prometheus. Times I felt practical effects could have been used but weren’t. i.e. animatronics. The aliens themselves are creepy. Mainly the new one, the neomorph. The original isn’t welcomed like an old friend coming home. Not that it should as it’s history in terrorizing the screen for the past 30 years. We all know what you’re capable of alien, step aside. The neomorph is here and shows it’s origins but where is it on the scale of the Engineers’ existence? Where does it stand? We still know little about the goo from the previous movie. Why couldn’t we just get proper sequel instead of an Alien prequel? You are draining this series dry, Ridley Scott.

The music itself is terrific. With moments calling back to Alien and Prometheus scores gives a hybrid vibe of the universe that’s currently existing and was happy to hear. The additional music was also good, emanating a dark ominous howl. Creating a subtle hint of intense terror that’s not exploding in your face.

It’s interesting to see where the franchise is going.  Not to be sexist but I was hoping not another heroine in this picture. But it’s not all we got. And I hope she isn’t the only one. We’ve had a Ripley. Please, present something new. And try not to kill everyone in the opening credits, so learn from the mistakes. If by chance Scott listens and isn’t a crazed old man looking for a come back and says “F***  it this is how the story is gonna be” we can fix this average film into what the franchise needs: back to answering and asking questions Prometheus introduced. We’ve had our Alien films, bring us something else. Tease us with Alien, give us Engineers and a space to explore with new findings. Our minds are bigger than this. What is life without expanding our boundaries? It’ll be hard to trek back around this film and find our footing once again. Maybe in time this will grow but who knows. We still have stupid characters and a lazy, messy plot that wants to entertain with the occasional questionable dialogue.

I saw a lot of promise when Michael Green was attached (creator/writer of Penny Dreadful, writer of Gladiator). We’ll see where this takes us. Scott proclaims at this moment that the series is pinned for an additional three movies that lead up to the original Alien. Anything could happen. Am I worried? At this point, yea, I am. A Prometheus like sequel will be welcomed. Scott needs to figure out his vision for the future of the franchise. Do I still look forward to the next entry? Hell yea, I do. However, we need innovative ideas. It’s time for the reigns to be passed on Ridley Scott. If you need attention, get a dog.

In the end, I liked the movie. Since Aliens no Alien movie has been perfect. Close calls but no perfect specimen. If Scott plans to release these next few additions then he needs to find that vision and stick to it. Pleasing the audience with a cooked monster will do nothing. Possibly the goriest entry along with Alien Resurrection, we need more than shock and fright. Story much? Missing the chemistry David and Shaw had we can only look forward now after a grim experimentation. One can hope for the director’s cut. As I and fans alike look for the missing parts not already integrated into a film we anticipated for.

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Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace

Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, what have ye done? Taken your beloved franchise and downgraded it you have. This child-like installment had a positive force surrounding it’s premier showing, bringing back humanity’s favorite universe. Phantom Menace takes us to the beginning, to when there was balance in the force, to where we meet a young pod-racing slave, Anakin Skywalker, who contains too much “midichlorian” for his own good. Qui-Gon Jinn, a jedi master, informs young Annie the power he holds, that he is to be taught in the ways of the Jedi and is, in fact, the chosen one. This starts an epic journey across the galaxy of hardship and a dark personage with a sinister agenda.

We don’t just follow Skywalker’s first steps to becoming a Jedi, but we witness the start of a secretly planned, and I must say it is cleverly planned, that shadows this first trilogy. The Trade Federation becomes greedy, taxing resources higher, fueling a war with Naboo. The Republic’s army is weak and rumors of a Sith Lord has spread throughout the galaxy. This starts an unforeseen chain reaction throughout Episodes I, II, and III that only the unsaid mastermind himself could stop if only it didn’t benefit him in the future. The over arching story is subtle in its manifestation where it’s aftermath, the second trilogy, is more straight forward, which all can be described into one word: EPIC.

Another pro for this installment is some of the characters that were created. Like Qui-Gon Jinn who is Obi-Won Kenobi’s master during his young apprenticeship. Qui-Gon, played by Liam Neeson, as one of the best Jedi Knights and masters in Star Wars history. Most notable mention is Darth Maul, possibly the scariest, most badass, and most underused character in the whole universe! This, needlessly to say, ticked me off. Darth Maul has the awesome double sided lightsaber and horns erupting from his black, fire-like face. Oh, and really bad teeth. He had an onscreen presence that would soak up more light than Darth Vader. Although I wouldn’t go as far to say he was more powerful than Vader but definitely had the moves. Now an additional character I thought was rather sloppy and gave a childish aura was Jar-Jar Binks. As a child, myself, I thought he was funny, but now i don’t find him quite amusing as I did before. After recently watching this, I would have preferred his friend, who’s name escapes me, but you can spot him helping Jar-Jar in the Naboo scenes rocking a Fu Man Chu mustache. I would’ve liked to see him have more screen time and Jar-Jar, not erased, but less time so his comedic effort isn’t so overwhelming. And finally the wonderfully played Anakin *cough*. Again, on my first viewing i was about his age and everything was fine. But dear me, his acting would’ve been better in a Disney Channel original. However, let’s not piss this guy off, alright? He’s got enough emotions to deal with…

When Phantom Menace was released in 1999, it was during an era where almost every movie was trying out this wondrous thing that got rid of prosthetics and do this impressive thing called CGI. The CGI usage is strong with this one, and lemme tell you it’s not that impressive. This first edition to the beloved saga could have used a bit more authentic special effects. Although the pod racing scene is definitely one to check out.

I remember my dad purchasing this movie on a double VHS special edition. It had an intro before the film by George Lucas and had a Making of featurette. Good memories. Watching this movie years later and understanding the backstory and noticing the subtleties has given a whole new outlook and understanding on the second renowned trilogy. Although flawed and cringe worthy dialogue moments, this and it’s two sequels are worth watching for it’s in depth story and amazing fight scenes that range from duels to epic battles among the stars.

Bargain Bin 1

With so many movies releasing every year it’s hard to keep up. A lot of time is spent on which one to watch?  Hoping you wouldn’t regret your decision after the two hours are up. You may choose one through networking because a friend told you to watch it. Or this other flick was hailed by a bunch of critics. Or perhaps you decided not to listen to anyone and watch some random movie out of the mainstream or whatever the case may be. Well, here’s someone else not to listen to: me.

I have compiled a small list that shouldn’t take up much of your time to skim through; a random selection of movies on different budgets, languages, genres, and other rubbish you may find amusing. Whether whatever weather outside, you sit on fur or leather, this is your chance to be pickey-choosey for your pleasure.

Here you go:

Hunter Prey (2010)

This small film caught me off guard. Whilst i was binge surfing on Netflix I decided to give this movie a try. I knew nothing about it and was rather impressed. A small squad is traveling with a cloaked prisoner on a distant planet when he gets loose and they must find him. Simple right? Hunter Prey is really well done for what it sets out to accomplish. Even though the soldiers’ costumes look like they were borrowed from the Clone Trooper sweat shop, it’s easy to write off for it’s still believable and the make up is also well done. Just please, do not watch the trailer. You are better off not knowing anything since the trailer somewhat ruins the twist and makes it seem more like an action movie.

PS: If you liked Enemy Mine you’d like this.

13 Assassins (2010)

I love Japanese culture and their art style. I love samurai movies even more. Takashi Miike gives himself a break from his outrageous horror/gangster films and brings us a story about thirteen samurai who are set on taking down a corrupt, evil leader. And he is evil. The film is set up in two parts basically, the first is build up. This is when Shinzaemon Shimada collects the twelve other samurai on a suicide mission and in contrary, the evil lord shows us just how evil he is. For some, the first hour may seem slow as it really lets us get to know a little bit about each character. Those who are patient, however, will be rewarded. The last hour is nothing but blood shed as the thirteen face off the many in epic fashion.

PS: I love the wide range of colors presented in every frame. Most notably when Japan’s landscape is shown. 

Session 9 (2001)

A little known horror film that came across my way through a friend. This wasn’t a movie i thought he would even like in the first place so when i watched it I was surprised that HE was the one who found it. Session 9 doesn’t need jump scares, no need for gore, just the real Danvers Mental Hospital to film in. At first, everything seems easy enough for our asbestos cleaning crew in an eerie, haunting asylum. But not everything is what it seems in this psychological horror. Hiding secrets can result in brutal fatalitie. Brad Anderson’s editing, shots, and music is what really creeps up your nerves. As well as the session tapes. There’s something about this place that will leave you feeling mental.

PS: Even though the movie isn’t widely known, those who have seen the ending and were left scratching their skull were not satisfied for it’s rather ambiguous. This is a movie worth watching with some people who are open for conversation. I, myself, loved this film for it will have you thinking for days to come.

The Fisher King (1991)

What to say about this delightful movie? I blessed myself when i purchased this without giving it a first look and  it was the one of the best decisions i ever made. It’s a story about fate and moving on from the past. When a radio DJ (Jeff Bridges) who lost his fame due to assisting a woman’s suicide, crosses paths with a looney hobo (Robin Williams) with a tragic past, becomes a comedic tale of redemption and love. Jack (Jeff) befriends the bum hoping he can help him find his true love and aid his past. All performances  are top-notch giving Robin enough room to be weird and heart warming, and letting Jeff be the down-beat cool guy. A favorite of mine from Terry Gilliam.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

I’m a little butt hurt this movie isn’t more well known, or to my knowledge it is not. You have a kick a** cast and amazing one liners. Scrap that, the whole script must be heard. Val Kilmer and Robert Downey Jr are perfect together, seeing that Val nearly steals the show in every scene.  Their chemistry and delivery couldn’t be any more pluperfect. The story line is a little everywhere which will take you a couple times to re-watch this. That’s not a complaint though, do yourself a favor and have fun solving this jazzed up mystery. I couldn’t recommend it enough.

PS: Still reading? Stop, i found your movie. 

Chef (2014)

Chef (2014) via IMDb.

Ah, Chef. Man, if this isn’t in my top 5 (there are a lot of movies out there) then it’s in my top 10 for sure. The music, the vibe, the characters, and the story kept my interest throughout the entire film. Like it was promising me an authentic cuban sandwich by the end of it. Every time  food was being stirred, boiled, or fried I just wanted to reach through the screen and snatch it. I could smell it.

Jon Favreau has a fun and deliciously enjoyable film. By far a favorite of mine that has been cooked up from his mind. It’s about friendship, love, family, and the changing world around us. The best way to display this was between the father and son. The father: lonely, out of touch with the world and self-centered. Then his son: who needs his father and helps him rekindle a lost flame and discover the power of social media. Their bond is the perfect link between the old and new. And the storytelling is so dynamic leading one place to the next. I honestly didn’t know what to expect first time round, but really enjoyed it. Second time i fell in love. It gave me warm happy feels with a smile that resisted giving in. Especially when the food was on screen, I’d say that was the star of the show.

Everyone bounced off each other so well. You’d believe you just walked into these people’s lives for a split second to see it turn for the better. I loved it. It was made with so much love and passion. Everyone involved seemed to have fun making this as well. The dynamic flow of the film and the character interactions left no dull moment, just one tasty pleasure after the next.

Someone once asked me if i were to have made a movie, what movie would it have been? I didn’t know how to answer at first, but now, now I have found it. Did you smell it? Or maybe you started tapping your foot to the music? It’s Chef everyone. A nicely blended fiesta for everyone to dig in. Make a meal, grab a friend, poor some wine, and enjoy, my friends.

BTW: This movie is similar the French film called Le Chef. Although that film follows more along the lines of Ratatuoille. Le Chef is worth checking out when given a chance.

House of the Devil (2009)

House of the Devil (2009) – IMDb

A movie hailed by few, hated by many, and stuck somewhere on the middle ground with a few more. Many critics praised this movie giving it a lot of hype. Even the trailers looked promising. So, does it deliver? Yes and a resounding No. Ti West has a great idea on his hands, much like the rest of his films, but somehow they fall flat, or rather in this case, too short. House of the Devil has a slow but suspenseful build up that ends abruptly enough before we the audience can be satisfied.

Normally, I choose a different cover photo for movies so they can ‘stand out’ from the norm. However, the original cover looked so good I had to use it. It’s really what hooked me in to the movie and looked like it guaranteed a spooky good time. Yes, House of the Devil is quite spooky, even creepy. But this doesn’t happen towards the end. The beginning is when we meet a nice girl, Samantha, who needs to find enough rent for her new apartment. Job searching isn’t easy, but when she finds a babysitting job that’s in need of her presence, it’s all too good to be true. It becomes increasingly suspicious and unsettling what this job may actually offer. The actual atmosphere doesn’t settle in until we reach the house. Even then, when we meet the Ulmans who seem to be kind but something doesn’t settle right. Mr. Ulman seems to keep forgetting he’s told Sam the pizza number is on the fridge, like she should be comfortable and not leave. Mrs. Ulman is also kind, starting up a light conversion asking her questions as if nothing is to worry. The confrontation of this couple has an ominous darkness about them that fit inside the genre really well.

Although the house is full of brood and mystery behind every door, we watch Samantha become bored. We become bored. The Ulman’s are gone and it’s time for her to do her job: sit and wait. She meanders about a bit but nothing really happens. Did I mention House of the Devil is shot and set in the 80s? The song she plays by The Fixx “One Thing Leads to Another” fits the movie perfectly. But still, we’re stuck watching a build up to a bloody, horrifying climax. To be honest, It’s this climax that if it lasted for another fifteen minutes and didn’t end so abruptly, I’d say we would have a destined classic. Because then we could forget about the hour we spent waiting. It leaves you unfinished questions that happens to our main character. Time was spent liking this character and rooting for her then BOOM, that’s all folks. I like this movie but can’t help feeling cheated and wanting more. With a great premise that should’ve gone a little further. I’ll list my spoiling questions at the bottom, they need to be heard.

I have strong hope Ti West will have his breakthrough film, one that will sure enough become classic. He’s got it in him, he just needs to find his right ritual to conjure a demon of a film. Ti’s shots are very well orchestrated with perfect natural lighting. My favorite shot is when Sam is walking down the unlit hallway holding a knife. His writing is exceptional, too. It was strong, supported the movie, and  even the actors delivered. i also appreciate a director who edits his own films. You’re truly seeing someone’s vision. The last half hour was just creepy. Starting with the lights going out to the unrelentless pulsating frames is it’s darkest half hour. Its hard for me to recommend House of the Devil, It cuts off too soon to fully appreciate what happens and the slowness doesn’t help either. If you decide to watch it, it must be in the dark, late at night, so you can still see flashing images of mother’s face.

***SPOILER***

Does Samantha ever heal? And if/when she does What does she do with the child? Kill it or herself? Do people believe her story? Does she still get the apartment? Is there an investigation? Do they find the bodies? What was in the basement?? Is Mr. Ulman found? Does he take revenge? Possible sequel? Why did it end so soon??

Spring (2014)

Spring (2014) – IMDb

From the minds of Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson (Resolution) comes a fantasy tale of love disguised as a creature feature. Spring is a different movie and is similar to Richard Linklater’s talkie, but romantic Before trilogy with a monster twist. The movie is set on the coast of Italy, a beautiful setting with a labyrinth of brick roads. Age old buildings tower above the white cliffs overlooking the ocean with a taste of vino and smell of greenery in the air. This is where our protagonist, Evan (Lou Taylor Pucci), escapes from drama in the U.S. of A. after his mother passes, and he loses his job. He arrives in Italy and makes some quick acquaintances who help him to a few drinks and some fun.  Suddenly, Evan meets this beautiful ‘goddess’ of a woman, Louise (Nadia Hilker).  She is beautiful. If she told me she was a 2,000 year old mythical goddess, I would believe her. Louise is a man’s fantasy come true, inviting Evan to come away with her when they first meet. As easy as he could take her up on this offer, he simply wants to sit down and have a drink with her, get to know her more.  However, love has a way of ‘transforming’ things.

Lou Taylor Pucci and Nadia Hilker have wonderful chemistry. At first, you can sense Evan wants this girl, whether it’s lust or love; and you can sense Louise being distant with him, but still likes his close company. The dialogue between them feels like we’re listening in on a conversation between two complete strangers who found a connection. The writing is authentic and quirky, and each character has their own characterized way of speaking, even the smaller roles. Spring is a slow paced movie, but is still ever so engrossing with the dynamic writing, beautiful scenery, and the unfolding of the mysterious, pretty lady’s dark, inner secret. The move is not scary, naturally. It has horror elements and themes, and the climatic monster reveal is both shocking and peculiar.

I blindly purchased Spring due to it’s interesting setting and plot, and after from what I heard, and instinct was telling me, we found each other at a local Best Buy as fate has brought us. I enjoyed this movie and the connection between the two leads. Lou Taylor Pucci is a well rounded actor. I have seen him in a few flicks now and find find his talent underrated. In Spring, he is charismatic and very likable as Evan, even funny; same goes for Nadia Hilker’s role. Although, I watched a special featurette where the makers felt the ending was premature, so they went out and shot an extended ending with their iPhones. To be honest, I was happy with the original ending and thought the new one turned Evan into an unlikable character.

Anyways, Spring is a unique film. It’s labeled horror, but it’s different and not what you’d expect. If you’re expecting something like Species or The Howling, then this might not be for you. If you want something fresh, change of pace, like HoneymoonI do recommend it as a date night movie. Spring stands out from the rest of the body horror/creature feature flock, possibly becoming a cult classic.