film

Alien: Covenant review

Synopsis

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.
— imdb

As one of those people who grew up watching - and enjoying - the first two of the Alien movies (The third I really enjoyed visually with its grimy, grungy atmosphere but it lacked some aspects in story which where somewhat fixed by the release of the 'assembly cut' which made it a better iteration but still not perfect. The fourth movie lets just say it was very 'meh'.) I could appreciate the opening title sequence for what it was. A resetting of tone back to the traditional roots of the 'Alien' movies with its riff on Jerry Goldsmiths opening title score for 'Alien'.

However, after this brief interlude we appear back into 'Prometheus' territory with its sterile white backgrounds and talk of 'god' and 'creation' with a very appealing turn by Michael Fassbender as the android with aspirations of being a type of 'creationist' himself as he talks with his 'Father' played with intensity by Guy Pearce. It is the 'setting up' of David as a villain if we didn't already gleam that from the first movie 'Prometheus'.

I seem to be in a minority of those that quite enjoyed 'Prometheus' upon its release. While far from a perfect film it did, however, offer a visual feast for the eyes that carries on into 'Alien: Covenent'. Even though the story was lacking it did at least offer a somewhat different approach to the material.

We are firmly back in 'Alien' territory with bulkheads and long corridors, moody lighting and an ensemble cast of characters. It is these characters - mostly one dimensional - that join us on our journey to Origae-6 a habitable planet that has been ear marked for a settlement of colonists aboard the ship. A tragedy strikes aboard the ship and 'mother' is forced to wake the weary crew seven years before arriving to Origae-6. In a blink and you miss it cameo James Franco's character dies horribly in stasis setting forth the angst that Karen Waterston's character portrays for most of the running time.

The crew intercepts a transmission from another habitable planet which is closer to them so the newly appointed captain - played by Billy crudup, not relishing seven more years in stasis - sends a landing party to take surface samples and to survey it as an alternative colonising site for their mission.

foreign land.jpg

From here the atmosphere builds with a terrific looking setting as a back drop. The inevitable infection happens which sets in motion a tense sequence involving small alien hybrids that are menacing in their intensity and blood letting. The culmination of which sees the crew stranded from the mother ship with only the android 'David' for company who may have sinister intentions for them.

It is here that the movie will either lose momentum for you or have you intrigued. We spend a long time in cinematic terms visiting with 'David' as he proceeds to teach 'Walter' the new upgraded version of himself to play the flute - played admiringly with menace by Fassbender - who makes playing both roles seem effortless.

When the inevevitable set up happens and David's plan is revealed (Spoiled bizarrely by the teaser prologue released a week before the film opened) there is a race against time to abandon the planet and regroup with the mother ship.

The tension rises again when the full 'Alien' finally reveals itself and tries with all of its prowess and skill to thwart the escape. It is a skilled sequence that was somewhat sullied by showing a portion of it in the official trailer. I don't quite understand the necessity to do that. It seems to be a current trend in the marketing departments for big tent pole movies.

In essence Alien: Covenant is a hybrid movie not quite a full 'Alien' movie nor 'Prometheus'. It is a bastard child that tries to mesh the best of both movies and doesn't quite succeed. However, where it does succeed it does so quite well. In other areas you may feel slightly aggrieved as it plays as a 'best of' compilation from other 'Alien' movies without adding enough new things to the mix to make it truly great. For instants, I would say that the movie isn't scary. Gone are the long lingering build up of tension scenes. Instead there is fast cuts and quick kills purely for shock value. Ultimately, you need to build tension in order for these shock kills to really hit home. Without that its just some quick blood letting without context.

There seemed to be a few odd editing choices, ending scenes abruptly either for rating or time - the shower scene immediately springs to mind as one scene which does this - to the detriment of the movie for me. I will be interested to see if a directors cut of the movie improves on some of these scenes. 

There is hope for the franchise as the end coda does potentially set in motion an interesting story for the next installment. I am hopeful that Ridley Scott may build on this and hopefully try to create tension aswell as spectacle as I don't believe they are mutually exclusive.  

Ultimately like Prometheus before it Alien: Covenant is not perfect but it is very worthy of viewing on the big screen and does offer some interesting sequences. Good but had potential to be great.

Trailer below:

 

 

GhostBusters 2016 review

GHOSTBUSTERS 2016 REVIEW

 
Ghostbusters 2016 teaser logo

Ghostbusters 2016 teaser logo

I ain’t afraid of no ghost
— Ray Parker Jr
‘Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.’  
— imdb
 

 

                                   

When I first read about the 'Reboot' to the 1980s movie 'Ghostbusters' I was more than a little apprehensive. To say that I'd had my fill of uninspired reboots would be an understatement.

When they released the first pictures for the main cast of the all female lead ghost busters, I at least thought maybe it might be funny. With the talent assembled here there was at least potential for comedy.

 
 

Then I watched the movie. Very few laughs were to be had. It felt more like 'throw as many jokes at the screen as possible and see what sticks' formula. And unfortunately not many did.

The movie follows a very similar set up of the original 'Ghostbusters', only deviating very slightly in story and set up. It should work. There should be moments of laugh out loud comedy but there isn't. There's a strain of comedy on display that, to me at least, isn't very funny. It seems the magic improvising potion got lost in translation resulting in a flat rendition of one liners that just don't really hit.

The actors themselves didn't seem to really know how to play with the characters and instead clutch at comedy straws that aren't really based upon character, instead wholly on props. A recurring 'joke' about wantons falls flat every time its used and its used a lot.

I'm not saying the original Ghostbusters movie was perfect, its not. But what it did get right was character. I engaged with them. I found them annoyingly like-able. And for the most part the comedy worked. 

So apart from the comedy was it an interesting movie to watch? Well, yes and no. I thought visually the hyper colourful images were very nice and the renders of the ghosts were nicely captured. At times, though, the actors seemed to be slightly confused in the CGI environment especially in the beginning of the movie at the haunted house.

Chris Hemsworth was probably the funniest actor in the movie, he plays an engagingly stupid receptionist called Kevin. You could tell he had fun with the role and the other actors bounced off him including Wiig who unashamedly undresses him with her eyes at every opportunity.

 
 

Kate Mc kinnon plays scientist Jillian Holtzman as an Egon lite character with a crazy edge. Her brand of humour didn't hit for me. Her one-liners falling flat and missing nearly every time. The expectation was clearly high as they cut to her character repeatedly for a one line zinger that doesn't quite work for the scene.

Which brings us nicely onto the movies Cameos featuring some of the original cast members. This and the constant call backs to the original movie were one of the movies biggest weaknesses. For me, they felt lazy, shoe horned into the movie without thought or conviction. Bill Murray sleep walks through his cameo seemingly uninterested in what's happening. And how he ends.. ahem spoiler alert is quite badly put together almost like the editor ran out of usable footage to complete the scene properly. One of a number of strange edit decisions in the movie. This admittedly, could be the result of scenes which were ad-libbed for comedy. 

When the finale rolls around, it becomes a CGI rampage with Ghouls and ghosts circulating downtown Manhattan. There is a big call back of sorts to the stay puff marsh mellow man from the original which did get a chuckle but ultimately the ending just came and went. It was a forgettable piece that wasn't really satisfying and deserved better. You could say that for most of the action scenes in the movie. They were nothing memorable and just ok. This seems to be the calling card of this movie and its lasting impression: nothing memorable.

1 and 1/2 * out of 5*