Alien: Covenant (2017) Review

Alien: Covenant (2017)

**Spoiler-free ranting below**

Directed by Ridley Scott

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.

My Opinion:

I’ll keep this brief and of course spoiler-free as I know Alien: Covenant isn’t yet out in America.

I’m a huge fan of the first two Alien films. I’ve never talked about them on this blog because I’m not a good writer and I find it hard to review the films I love the most (I made an attempt to review favorites, which I called CPD Classics, but gave up after a while as it took too long to write those). I can’t find the right words to express the awesomeness of those first two films. The H.R. Giger designs (above all else), the mood, the horror, the mystery, the action of the second film plus a great set of characters, Hicks (hottie), the knife/hand thing and, of course, a kick-ass female. Those first two films are perfection. I suppose that’s why every Alien film since those has been such a huge disappointment. How can you top those? You can’t. And Alien: Covenant is yet another massive disappointment.

I didn’t read any reviews at all before seeing this but the main comment I couldn’t help but see several times on Twitter was that “it starts out okay & almost feels like an Alien film but then turns into Prometheus 2“. That’s exactly right. If you liked Prometheus, you’ll probably like Covenant. If you hated Prometheus, I doubt you’ll like this one. I’m no fan of Prometheus. To be honest, I barely remember it now as I never watched it again after going to the cinema to see it. I wouldn’t say I hated it as I will probably always watch each & every movie that explores the Alien universe as it’s an overall idea that I absolutely love but, man – I wish they’d stop f*^king things up so much!

You know what? I actually think I like Prometheus slightly more now. Compared to Covenant, it’s probably the better of the two. Yikes. It’s like having to choose between two horrible candidates & having to go with the lesser of two evils. Prometheus kept things slightly more simple whereas Scott feels like he’s aimlessly & pointlessly overcomplicating things now. The mystery of the alien race in the first film is a big part of what makes the entire Alien universe so horrifying. Stop trying to explain everything. Stop showing us too much. Stop all the pretentiousness. Make an Alien film. Stop making Prometheus films, dammit. How are so many filmmakers & studios so damn clueless as to what the public actually want?

Okay – maybe it’s time to stop making these films altogether. Or perhaps let someone else take over again (Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 looks fairly promising so far). Either way, I’m pretty good at blocking things out of my mind when I want to and these sequels & prequels have yet to ruin the legacy of the first two films for me. But I grew up with the first two during my early teen film-loving beginnings. How much are these newer films damaging those first ones for the current generation?

I can’t be bothered with this “review”. I’m just annoyed. BUT, I did go in with very low expectations (I’m not stupid). Therefore, I’m not as annoyed as I seem since I got what I pretty much expected. Like with Prometheus, I didn’t exactly hate this film. I just try to think of these films as a separate sort of thing (kind of like with the Star Wars prequels). They mostly suck but there are moments that I enjoy thanks to my love of the original films (the moments that feel like an Alien film & not a Prometheus film and there are a few of these, luckily). Michael Fassbender (hottie) is very good. He steals the show. I just wish they could’ve made us care about this set of characters as much those in Aliens (but that wasn’t Scott). Other than Fassbender, everyone is very one-dimensional & their relationships felt forced for added drama (most of the those on the Covenant are married to someone else on the ship – what’s with all the romantic connections?).

Oops – I was trying to end with only positive comments to help explain why I’m not giving this a lower rating after all my bitching. Um. There’s a Xenomorph. There’s a facehugger. There’s bursting. That’s why the score isn’t lower. God I’m shallow. If they make another one of these movies, I know I’ll still watch the damn thing even though it’s 99% likely that at least 75% of it will suck. 😉 But if I had to rank all these now (not counting those AVP ones), Covenant is probably at the very bottom. That’s so not what I wanted. Why do I continue to live in the hope that there could ever be another good Alien film?

My Rating: 6.5/10*

*I’m being way too generous. Because it’s an Alien film. Sort of. But not really. Damn.

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The Martian (2015) Review

The Martian (2015)

Directed by Ridley Scott

Based on The Martian by Andy Weir

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Michael Peña, Kate Mara, Sean Bean, Sebastian Stan, Aksel Hennie, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Plot Synopsis: (via IMDB)
During a manned mission to Mars, Astronaut Mark Watney is presumed dead after a fierce storm and left behind by his crew. But Watney has survived and finds himself stranded and alone on the hostile planet. With only meager supplies, he must draw upon his ingenuity, wit and spirit to subsist and find a way to signal to Earth that he is alive.

My Opinion:

I finally saw this! Can you believe I didn’t see this one until now? Especially as I absolutely loved the book (which I reviewed HERE). Hmm. Yeah, it’s good! It’s of course not as good as the book (not many films are). I never enjoy a film as much if I’ve read & really loved the book and the same is true with this one. But I still really liked seeing the book brought to life.

First of all, I should say that Matt Damon did a good job. I was at first annoyed when he was cast as he’s not at all how I pictured Mark Watney but I managed to accept him as the character. I’m disappointed, though, that the movie really didn’t capture Watney’s great sense of humor. It tried & there was a bit of that but I still didn’t connect with the character in the film the way I did in the book. The movie was much more a “drama” than the book was but I suppose that makes sense as to make it too much of a comedy could have been a flop.

All in all, the movie was quite faithful to the book until the end when things were changed a bit & added. I can’t really complain – I’m happy it stayed as faithful as it did. I hated Kristen Wiig – she was the only mistake as far as the casting went. The film looked great & I far preferred all the scenes on Mars (as to be expected). The movie got a little cheesy at the end but I can forgive that as, if this was a true story and a man was really left behind on Mars, it would be a very big story and I believe the whole world would rally around him in the same way.

I was surprised to look this up on IMDB and actually see a lot of negative reviews. Really?! I can’t say I understand that. I got the impression that those giving negative reviews were either “bored” because of all the science or were bitching that the science was “wrong”. It’s a fictional story, for crying out loud – it’s just meant to be entertaining. And for those who were bored, I hope they don’t read the book because there’s waaaaay more talk about growing potatoes and making water. How dare they stick some science into a science fiction movie! Whatever. People suck.

I’m sorry – I’m distracted. I don’t feel like writing reviews much lately. I’ve just gone & started The Good, The Bad And The Ugly and I have no idea why as it’s 1,183 minutes long. I’m 36 minutes in. Does it get better?! Because, so far, I’d have to say that Once Upon A Time In The West was way better by this point. Well, at least the score is awesome. Yeah, I’m done reviewing The Martian, I guess. Here’s a summary!

Summary:

The Martian, although of course not as good as the throughly entertaining book, still manages to stay pretty faithful and mostly captures the spirit of the book. It’s not quite as much fun as the book and takes itself too seriously at times but I can see why they made it a little more dramatic. Damon was good, as usual, but he’s one of those actors that I always just see as the real-life person. Not his fault, I suppose – it’s just that way with certain actors. So it was more “Matt Damon is stuck on Mars!” than “Mark Watney is stuck on Mars!” for me. Overall, it’s a sci-fi movie and I am rarely disappointed by sci-fi movies (except for Elysium, which I watched after The Martian! Ugh). I’d recommend this movie but, as you can probably guess, I’d most definitely recommend reading the book first.

My Rating: 7.5/10

**I’ve now seen all the Best Picture Nominees other than Brooklyn & Bridge Of Spies. Sadly, they both become available on DVD just after the Oscars so I won’t be seeing them beforehand. Still, I’ve done well this year! Here are My Best Picture Nominee Reviews & Ratings (from favorite to least favorite):

Room – 9/10
Mad Max: Fury Road – 9/10
The Martian – 7.5/10
The Revenant – 7.5/10
Spotlight – 7/10
The Big Short – 5.5/10

Gladiator (2000) IMDB Top 250 Guest Review

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Today’s IMDB Top 250 Guest Review comes from Niall of Raging Fluff. He also reviewed North By Northwest HERE. Thanks so much for the reviews, Niall! 🙂 Now let’s see what he has to say about Gladiator, IMDB rank 63 out of 250…

There are still some movies up for grabs if anyone wants to do a guest IMDB Top 250 review. You can find the list of remaining films HERE. See the full list & links to all the reviews that have already been done HERE.

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Gladiator (2000)

*Spoilers That Echo In Eternity

What’s it about? Maximus is a Roman general who’s rather good at decimating bands of Goths (the tribe, not the pale waifs who listen to depressing music). Frail old Emperor Marcus Aurelius loves him like a son, which pisses off his actual son, evil Commodus (inventor of the toilet?). Commodus kills Marcus, betrays Maximus, and for good measure kills his wife and child. Maximus escapes, wanders the earth for a bit (you know, like Kane in Kung Fu), then becomes a gladiator – a gladiator who’s very popular with the mob; his fans are Maximaniacs. He makes his way to Rome for the Superbowl World Series Cup Final Bloody Slaughter Championship and plots his revenge.

In a Tagline? It’s Spartacus meets Wrestlemania.

Number of Times Watched? IV or V (see what I did there?)

Verdict? Duos Pollices (Two Thumbs Up)

Directed by Ridley Scott. Starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Richard Harris, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed, Djimon Hounsou, Derek Jacobi, David Hemmings.

For a film generally remembered as a rather shouty, violent, and gory sword and sandals revenge tale, it is worth noting that Ridley Scott’s Gladiator begins with a shot that wouldn’t be out of place in Little House on the Prairie: a hand moving across a field of wheat. The pastoral image – bathed in gold – will return at the film’s end when the hero is killed. Is it a memory of his beloved farm that he has not seen for many years or a premonition of his death? Is it, in fact, a vision of the Elysian Fields?

Gladiator was bestowed with all sorts of critical and commercial praise when it was released in 2000, and the film was a high watermark for most of those involved. It remains the biggest box-office success of Scott`s career; it marked the beginning of a working relationship between director Scott and actor Russell Crowe; it made Crowe a star and earned him an Oscar; it confirmed Joaquin Phoenix as a fierce talent; it introduced audiences to Djimon Hounsou; and it provided Oliver Reed with one of the best roles he ever had, and was his swansong.

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I have no idea how accurate Gladiator is as history, but I`m not sure I care. I`ve watched it several times and let myself be caught up in its sweep and enjoyed it for what it is. It`s no Spartacus, but it`s a whole lot better than most films of this type, mainly due to the performances and the craft with which it`s put together. Scriptwise, it`s a bit daft: it`s a rather simple tale that perhaps takes itself a little too seriously, and has a protagonist seemingly incapable of smiling (usually a bad thing). In fact, the film really only has one good joke, and it`s a film-trivia inside one: Maximus has the figures of two horses on his breastplate, and he tells young Lucius they are called Scarto and Argentio: that`s Trigger and Silver.

The film chiefly concerns fathers and sons, and much of the dialogue is rather ripe but would earn an A+ at the Hollywood School of Greco-Roman Studies. Luckily, it has actors who know how to nibble at the scenery rather than devour it: take note, Gerard Butler.

As Maximus, the betrayed general turned gladiator, Crowe had to carry most of the film and got most of the attention. I found him less interesting here than in his previous films – watch Romper Stomper and Proof  if you want to see him young and bursting with talent – in spite of the whole “Are you not entertained?” bit. He adopts the plummy voice he would use in other roles when he wishes to sound dignifed, and he falls back on his acting trick of staring into middle distance and frowning (it’s his go-to expression for sorrow, confusion, grief, and despair). Mind you, when he’s hacking off limbs and heads, he has a grand old time of it. He has become such a stodgy old fart these days, it’s worth seeing him here when he was young and in good shape and hungry.

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Phoenix gives the standout performance of the film for me. His Commodus is psychotic, vain, petty, childish, and cruel. Another actor might have played it over the top, but he manages the difficult trick of being a soft-spoken, sexually confused tyrant, and finds the tragedy in the character. Watch how he plays the scene where he kills his father, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris), and you can see the self-loathing in his face (the scene is very reminiscent of Roy Batty killing Tyrell in Blade Runner).

And then there is Oliver Reed as Proximo, the former gladiator who buys and then mentors Maximus. Reed was twice -blessed as a young actor in the 1960s; he had a foot in the door by virtue of being the nephew of Carol Reed, and he had an earthy, brutal sexiness at a time when many of his peers were fey. He squandered his talent in booze and many shitty films, but he is magnificent here: he plays the part as an old athlete on the sidelines – a coach who still yearns for the thrill of going on to the pitch (“win the crowd, and you’ll win your freedom”) – and when Reed drops his voice to a whisper, it’s haunting.

The action scenes are very well done, even if the tiger special effects look a bit naff at this point. Hans Zimmer’s score owes a bit of a debt to Gustav Holst, but it’s still one of his best, helped largely by his choice of instruments and by the ethereal voice of Lisa Gerrard.

As with anything by Scott, the film looks incredible, with detail and lighting that other directors seem incapable of. Scott has been criticised often for his poor storytelling, and of being more interested in the surface aesthetics than in any depth of character, but here I think he did a great job of delivering a grand old-style sword and sandals epic.

Niall McArdle

http://www.ragingfluff.wordpress.com

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Stoker (2013) Review

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Stoker

Directed by Park Chan-wook

Produced by:
Ridley Scott
Tony Scott
Michael Costigan

Written by Wentworth Miller

Starring:
Mia Wasikowska
Matthew Goode
Nicole Kidman
Dermot Mulroney
Jacki Weaver

Music by Clint Mansell

Running time: 99 minutes

Plot Synopsis:

India Stoker’s beloved father dies in a car accident on her 18th birthday. Soon after, the mysterious Uncle Charlie comes to stay with India and her cold & distant mother. India never even knew her father had a brother and she starts to suspect that Uncle Charlie may not be all he seems.

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My Opinion:

First of all, thanks to everyone for voting when I asked which film I should review next. Stoker was the winner.

I think it’s pretty well known that the inspiration for Stoker was Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow Of A Doubt. Being a pretty big Hitchcock fan and having just watched that one this year (review HERE), I can certainly see how similar the films are and how much Wentworth Miller clearly must love Shadow Of A Doubt. As to be expected, though, it’s not as good as Hitchcock’s film.

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I missed Stoker when it was in cinemas and I was so mad because it looked interesting & I really wanted to see it. But as it wasn’t Fast & Furious 23 or some shit like that, it was only on for one week at my local cinema. So, anyway, after fellow movie geeks seemed to love it despite some not so great reviews I think I had probably hyped it up too much in my mind & that may be why I was a little disappointed with the film.

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I’ve never seen Park Chan-wook’s Oldboy and had wanted to do this review along with that one but just haven’t had time to watch it. I’m assuming it’s a better film with all the best bits of Stoker, like some great visuals and all that director-y stuff that I know nothing about, but with a better story. Stoker looked great & it had this wonderful creepy atmosphere that I really liked. But the overall story wasn’t all that shocking or original and, with a different director, I think it would be a very forgettable film.

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I also think everyone did fine in their roles but no one really blew me away.
Mia Wasikowska was fine but I think plenty of other actresses could have played the role too. Matthew Goode has this insane look going on in his eyes so I think he was right for the role but, again, I think there are others who could have played Uncle Charlie and I can’t help but say that Joseph Cotten was a creepier Uncle Charlie in Shadow Of A Doubt. At least the character of India in Stoker has much more depth than Hitchcock’s Charlie, niece of the uncle with the same name. Nicole Kidman is also fine but she always is – I didn’t really feel like we were seeing anything new from her here.

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Overall I just found the story too predictable. It was too much “style over substance” for me. I don’t think it was bad but, if you’re going to make a film so clearly inspired by Hitchcock, I think you need to do a better job on the suspense in the film. You’re not going to top the Master in that regard but there are other films that have achieved a growing sense of anxiousness more than Stoker does, which never exactly had me on the edge of my seat.

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Summary:

Stoker is a very atmospheric film that is lovely to look at and one I’m sure that people who know anything about filmmaking would probably appreciate. In the hands of a less talented director (and without a certain shower scene), I think it would be a very forgettable film. It’s a good Hitchcock-inspired mystery but just can’t match his brilliantly suspenseful storytelling. But who can? Although it sounds like I almost hated Stoker, I did actually enjoy it. It’s a solid effort & I appreciate the attempt to make something other than the same old tired mainstream movie in this world full of horrible sequels, remakes, and “Ow, my balls!” comedies. Stoker is worth a watch for film fans but I would hope that everyone will have already seen Hitchcock’s biggest classics first to see the true master of suspense at work.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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And I’m on a Movie Haiku kick again so here’s one for Stoker. Warning if you’ve not seen it – SLIGHT SPOILER:

Strange Uncle Charlie
Masturbating in shower
Hitchcock this is not

Which leads me to two of my lists on which Stoker probably now at least deserves an honorable mention. 😉

My Top Ten Shower & Bath Scenes In Movies

My Top Five Movie Scenes Of Self-Pleasure

Wool by Hugh Howey – Wool Trilogy 1 (Book Review)

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Wool by Hugh Howey – Wool Trilogy Book 1

What It’s About:

Wool is a science-fiction novel that takes place in a post-apocalyptic future where people have been forced to live in a large underground silo hundreds of stories below the earth in order to survive in a world where the air is now toxic. It is part 1 of a trilogy with Shift and Dust being the 2nd & 3rd books.

I know the focus of my blog is movies but I do occasionally read a book. 😉 So to get your attention, I’ll say the film rights for Wool have been snatched up by 20th Century Fox and the person most-rumored to direct is Ridley Scott and to write the script is Steve Zaillian. I can’t find any up-to-date official information (IMDB currently lists J Blakeson as director but there’s zero other info) but Ridley Scott is the name most mentioned and would be an excellent choice for this dystopian tale. So hopefully I have your attention now. I think this book is certainly worthy of being made into a film by the director of Alien & Blade Runner.

My Thoughts:

Odds were pretty good that I’d like this book as I’m a sucker for all things apocalyptic and/or dystopian. I should maybe see someone about that… Anyway, Wool surpassed my expectations.

Wool starts out early on with a “cleaning”. The people living in the silo are forced to follow strict rules & regulations. The population numbers are controlled through a lottery. Those with curious minds are considered dangerous and are closely watched. The survivors in the solo have survived for many generations and very little is known of how and especially why they are living in this silo. They are simply told that the outside world is dangerous and to even talk about it (and especially to express an interest in it) can lead to the punishment of “cleaning”. Those who are sent to cleaning literally do just that – they are given a protective suit to allow them long enough to be sent outside & clean the silo’s camera lenses, which offer a view of the outside world through a large screen in the uppermost floor of the silo. The person sent to cleaning then dies as the toxic air eats through their suit. The days following a cleaning are a celebration of sorts, in which those living in the deeper levels of the silo will try to make the days-long trek to the top level to get the temporarily clearer view of the outside world.

Wool does start out a little slow as the characters of the silo’s mayor, sheriff, and deputy are developed. Howey does a great job fleshing out these characters and making you care about them and want to know more about them. I’ll never complain about time spent on character development – that’s very important to me in a novel. For those wanting to get to the action, though, they may be a little disappointed that it takes quite a while to get there. It also takes a long time to finally be introduced to the novel’s main character, Juliette, who works in Mechanical in the deepest depths of the silo and who they wish to recruit to come & work “at the top” as the deputy was very impressed with her when she helped them out once in the past.

Once we meet Juliette, the story really picks up as we start to learn more & more about all the secrets & lies within the silo. Juliette is a very strong-willed and curious person and curiosity in the world of the silo is a very dangerous thing. When I got to the final third of this book, I could NOT “put it down” (Man – that’s said all the time but I didn’t know how else to say it. Which is why I’m a reader and not a writer). 😉

Summary:

A fascinating book exploring a very possible & frightening future for humanity if we don’t shape the hell up. But how did the characters end up living in this underground silo? That’s not yet answered but I’m assuming all will be revealed in the further two books (the second one, Shift, is a prequel and the third one, Dust, picks up where Wool left off). As far as I know, anyway – I’m not reading too much about them yet in order to avoid spoilers as I’ll definitely be reading them both. Wool does stand well on its own, however, with a satisfying conclusion for those who may be worried at an abrupt ending as there’s a further book. I highly recommend the book and really do hope they make a film out of it – With the right people involved, it could be a great one.

As for Hugh Howey, I find his story of self-publishing interesting. For wannabe authors, you’ll probably want to look him up if you aren’t already aware of him (but you probably are). In another life, I’m a successful Young Adult author. But not this one. Because I’m rubbish in this life. It took me two hours to write this “review” and I still can’t do this fabulous book any justice! Just read it, dammit. 🙂

My Rating: 4/5