Alien Covenant


Viewed – 03 October 2017  Online-rental

I was optimistic about this one.  I was initially a little hyped when it hit theatres considering that director Ridley Scott not only created the Alien franchise, but also helmed last year’s (for me) ‘movie of the year’ Martian.  So I was thinking, he’s back and bringing Alien back.  Oh was I wrong…

Alien Covenant

The crew of the Covenant are transporting a colony of thousands in hyper sleep, in search of a new planet to call their home.  After receiving a distress call from a near by planet, they choose to, albeit reluctantly investigate.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.  Sort of a direct sequel to the much hyped yet bewildering Prometheus, a film I came away disappointed by, this has returning character David, a synthetic android marooned on said planet who the crew of the space ship meet up with.  Amongst their crew is also an identical synthetic called Walter (both are played by Michael Fassbender), who soon finds himself bonding with his look-a-like by way of a drawn out flute lesson (yes you read that right…a flute lesson).

This is a movie in search of an identity.  It wants to be a survival horror typical Alien movie, and then like Prometheus it wants to be a philosophical origin story on both the creation of the Aliens and some mumbo-jumbo mythology involving mankind and bio-engineering.  The problem is it’s very hard to get invested in much of any of it, what with tedious characterisation and a plodding pace.  Fassbender tries his best but is let down by a poor script that is both over-complicated and boring.  Unconvincing CGI for the Aliens doesn’t help either and when crew members start dying off and you’re not even entirely sure which ones they were – the movie has problems.

Alien never needed a deep mythology.  It didn’t need a back story.  The mystery, the foreboding eeriness of H R Giger’s designs was enough – once a director attempts to explain it all, it ultimately kills it … which Scott is very much going to do if he insists on making the franchise something it never needed to be.

Verdict:  2 /5

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Top Ten Movies 2016


I watched a lot of movies this year.  I watched a lot of very good movies.  I also watched a few bad ones and several disappointing ones.  But the list below, in descending order compiles the movies that had the greatest impact on me during 2016.  A few may have actually been theatrically released prior to 2016 but I didn’t get to see them until this year.

10.

Zootropolis

Zootropolis

‘Disney does it again with very likeable characters, gorgeous animation and a fun, exciting story with plenty of great moments’

9.

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys

Shane Black writes and directs the spiritual sequel to Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang and the result is every bit as good as that sounds’

8.

The Witch

The Witch

‘One of the more original and genuinely disturbing horror movies of the year’

7.

The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book

‘It shouldn’t work but oh boy … does it.  Disney deliver a remake that really impresses’

6.

X-Men Apocalypse

X-Men Apocalypse

‘Underrated comic book entertainment and for me, the best X-Men movie since X2’

5.

Straight Outta Compton

Straight Outta Compton

‘The biopic of the controversial rap pioneers proves more emotional than I expected’

4.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Rogue One

‘A spin off movie every bit as good as the famed saga?  Oh yes and then some!’

3.

The Revenant

The Revenant

Alejandro G. Iñárritu delivers a powerhouse man vs nature survival epic that breaks as many hearts as it does DiCaprio’s bones’

2.

Sing Street

Sing Street

‘Feel good coming-of-age drama with great music, great characters and great performances’

1.

The Martian

The Martian

‘Ridley Scott proves without a doubt that he’s still got it and delivers a powerful, funny, breath-taking sci-fi drama with genuine heart’

A few almost as deserving ‘honourable mentions’ include:

When Marnie Was There

Arrival

Captain America: Civil War

It’s been another great year for movies and I am already looking forward to what 2017 has in store.  Happy New Year everyone and hoping next year is good to you all.

Craig.

The Martian


Viewed – 01 March 2016  Blu-ray

There seems to have been a bit of a trend in recent years for quality science fiction, or more literally quality space travel movies.  I think it began with Doug Jones’ acclaimed ‘Moon’ and then followed through with Gravity and then Interstellar.  Hollywood seems to have fallen in love with the great vastness of space again, and I have fallen in love along with them.  So this latest effort was high on my must see list.

the martian

Matt Damon plays astronaut Mark Watney who following an expedition to Mars, is left unknowingly behind by his crew following a freak sand storm.  With everyone thinking he is dead and a memorial back home, Watney has to learn how to survive on an alien planet until he can find out a way of communicating and hopefully getting rescued.  Based on the book by Andy Wier and directed by genre heavy-weight Ridley Scott, this is a gripping concept as we watch Damon put all his scientific knowhow to the test and learn to adapt to a harsh environment.  Back home Nasa and its myriad of boffins are also trying to figure out a way to save their man, headed by Jeff Daniels and supported by Kristina Wiig and Sean Bean amongst various other familiar faces.  Oh and the crew that left Watney jessica-chastain-the-martianbehind get the always watchable Jessica Chastian as their commander.  It’s clear to me this was a bit of a labour of love and is choc-full of detail and science terminology (even days are referred to a sol 1 and sol 2 etc).  Yet beyond some of the realism and authenticity the movie also finds room for well judged humour.  We also get a strongly potent emotional thread that builds and gets pretty heart-breaking.  Everyone here is on very good form but it’s obviously Damon’s show and he is simply superb…charismatic in the face of adversity and also very believable.  He’d have been my tip for Best Actor at the Oscars but sadly it wasn’t to be.

In addition to such a solid, layered performance however is excellent direction from Scott, who aided by cinematographer Dariusz Wolski, proves again he’s a master at capturing the perfect look and feel for Science Fiction, and redeems himself after the muddled Prometheus.  Some of the shots and vistas and photography here are jaw-dropping.  Honestly, there is very little I can say negative about this one apart from hey, where were Mark Watney’s parents??  And the first act is a trifle slow, but that’s some serious nit-picking.  If you are fascinated by space travel or are just attracted to decent human survival dramas, not unlike The Revenant I’ll add … then you have to see this.

Verdict:  5 /5

Tony Scott dies


I was shocked and saddened today to learn that much celebrated director Tony Scott (brother of Ridley Scott) had apparently committed suicide off the Vincent Thomas Bridge, San Pedro, California.  Considering he remained one of the top directors in Hollywood with recent hit movies like Unstoppable and The Taking Of Pelham 1,2,3 this came as quite alarming news.

On a personal note my favourite Tony Scott movie will always be True Romance, working from a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino.  He collaborated with stars like Denzel Washington, John Travolta and Tom Cruise, and had been rumoured to have been working on a sequel to Top Gun.

My thoughts go out to his family and those that were closest to him, and as one of the best directors in the business, he will be sorely missed.

R.I.P.

Tony Scott

21/06/1944 – 18/08/2012

Prometheus


Viewed – 05 June 2012  Cinema

When news hit that acclaimed director Ridley Scott (Gladiator) was revisiting the franchise that made his name, Alien, with a movie set before that legendary sci-fi horror – understandably the movie-viewing public sat up and took notice.   I had been awaiting it from the early word a year or more back, and with some interesting casting choices, anticipation built gradually, until when finally sitting down to watch it, I had to stop myself from cheering at the screen – especially when the title appeared in full Alien-franchise style, letter by letter.  Nice.

Two archeologists discover evidence of a race of beings from another world having made contact with ancient civilizations on earth, and so become involved in an expedition aboard the space ship Prometheus to land on an unexplored planet that may hold the secret to the birth of mankind.  Noomi Rapace (The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, Sherlock Holmes 2) heads up a recognisable cast featuring Charlize Theron, Michael Fassbender and Idris Elba.   The first thing I have to say about this, is it took a long time to kick into gear, and the first half of the movie was very talky, cave wondering and to be honest, a little boring … thankfully by the second half the proverbial shit hits the fan and it became more of a thrill ride.  Rapace holds her own next to bigger name stars, and proves a leading lady to watch.  Theron on the other hand seemed wasted as a stiff collared commanding officer considering her physical beauty (showcased in a gratuitous exercising moment), whilst Fassbender came off perfectly creepy as Android ‘David’.

When the movie focused on Rapace however, it found its voice and any scene with her livened up proceedings no end.  If it wasn’t for the trudging first half this would have been better, and the story certainly offers a new perspective on the Alien mythology, even if it left me with more questions than answers.  The movie also had a tendency to overlook some glaring scientific implausibilities  (scientists landing on a planet without sending probes first?  Then taking their helmets off?).  So to conclude … an entertaining but flawed return to a franchise that for a long time has struggled to get back on track.  Perhaps Ridley left it too late?

Verdict:  3 /5