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Alien: Covenant (2017)
I think the low ratings are largely because the film is just so depressing (spoilers)
I don't think this is a poor film, I actually think it's one of the better of the Alien franchises. But it's just very, very negative. Evil wins.
It's based around the idea of a robot (or 'synthetic') version of 'Kurtz' (David) from Conrad's Heart of Darkness, going 'rogue' on an isolated planet. Nothing wrong with this idea, but one really expects towards the end, that, like the character also based on Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, good might eventually right the wrongs of 'evil' and the rogue Kurtz-style robot might be knocked off or lose, but in this film that doesn't happen.
Not only does just about everybody get knocked off by the alien pathogen in typically gruesome fashion, the 'good' robot (Walter) gets knocked off by the rogue robot (David), and this bad robot then manages to take over control of the rescuing ship, as well as 2000 people in deep sleep, and the entire mission, (which is to colonize another planet), signaling his intent to infect them with the alien pathogen whilst they are in deep sleep and helpless. One couldn't think of a worse outcome, really.
One leaves the theatre feeling that 'evil' has won. I don't think I've ever seen as negative a movie as this, and I think people are so deflated by it that they vote that way.
The cinematography is outstanding, and the story makes some general sense, (except where the crew systematically fail to realize their danger on multiple occasions, for example; after a crew member sees one of the aliens murder a crew member in front of a non-protesting David, that crew member then completely trusts David when he shows him a vault full of alien experimentation, and so gets murdered by another one himself. I don't think so. Also, a superior robot is murdered in close combat not once, but twice, by a less superior one; now that's stretching things a bit. And how can a trained crew land on a remote planet with no measures or thoughts of protection from potential viruses or other pathogens? Wouldn't want to catch a cold with no immunity).
I would have altered the script to something slightly more palatable; one expects the next in the series to restore some balance in that respect, you can't have evil always 'win' and expect people to continue to like it. I also don't think people will want to see 2000 people eaten alive in deep sleep by aliens, which is logically where this might be going.
As good as ever
One of the best I've seen of Billy Connolly.
Take this: I've got Parkinson's disease, and I wish he had of f**ken kept it to himself!. Also called Shaking Palsy, and I'm f**ken glad he showed up!. And don't put your shaking hands in your pocket to hide it, whilst admiring a nude painting at an art gallery.
He talks about signing autographs on money and being mistaken for a drug dealer by the Scottish police, and a long story about a movie armorer lost in Scotland mistaking a sunbathing cat for one he had run over.
You just have to be there (or listen to this live recording). The beauty is, despite obvious stiffness from Parkinson's, he hasn't lost anything: the mind is as sharp as ever.
Lacks emotional resonance.
It's not that it's a bad idea, (the old switch the brain into someone else's body which has been done numerous times) it's just that it doesn't seem to go anywhere and the actors don't seem to care what is going on (except for a former wife, whose husband has been replaced). All they have added here is that the switching is done in an underhand way which I'll leave the details out to those who haven't seen it.
Take the music/soundtrack. It's terrible. Sounds like elevator music. Saved on budget perhaps?. Compare this to Blade Runner or Oblivion.
The movie doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. Melancholic like Blade Runner? No. Action packed like Minority Report, where the agent also goes underground to right a wrong?. Not really. He goes rogue but then meets associates throughout the film and they hardly even care. Paradoxical, unpredictable and intriguing like Edge of Tomorrow, within an existential threat? No, just a couple of people running some sort of identity scam. I came out wondering what was the point.
Yes, it had meaning for the individual characters, their lives and their identities, but there just didn't seem to be any emotional resonance or reason to what they were doing. It's almost as if the film-makers deliberately took out the emotional content, and told the actors they were all in some sort of dream and not to care too much about the details. And so the audience doesn't really care either.
Needed major re-writes/re-doing to get more emotional involvement and resonance.
Hang on to your seat
Well, if you like the intellectual science fiction genre, you will like this one.
In the same mold as Gattaca, the Island, Looper, and Minority Report, where science is misused for a cause, whether collectively by government or private organizations, or, as in this film, by rogue individuals working within such organizations.
This one involves time travel, and the innumerable paradoxes and bizarre outcomes when 'time agents' start over-stepping their brief, to stop crimes before they happen (shades of Minority Report, except here they travel back in time to stop them before they happen).
It's a complicated story that starts out as a tragic tale in a bar, but soon morphs into a time travel hunt for a rogue terrorist and other subplots including a kidnapping, at least one romance, revenge, time devices that malfunction, and misplaced life sympathy. You need to watch the ending closely, I didn't get it the first time, and as with most time travel movies, you could probably pick a few holes in the plot which don't entirely make sense. But that doesn't make it less interesting.
The key line is one in which a rogue time agent talks about 'a snake forever eating its own tail', which is how the time travel story progressively unfolds.
Star Trek (2009)
Not entirely Roddenberry
I found this Star Trek prequel mixed. Spock and Kirk and co. back in their Academy days. Huge plot potential. Is it well done?? Yes, and no.
The 2009 Star Trek is more complicated in plot than the 1960s style, more difficult to follow, and the characters resemble Melrose Place on steroids. People assume command without structure, risk taking has become more prevalent than ever, and Roddenberry's 1960s humanist-style idealism has been a little compromised. A little harsh maybe, but the 1960s Star Trek was visionary in terms of its humanist ideals, whilst this relies more on basic Hollywood action formulas than vision and substance. There are good, mild references to issues concerning unconscious racism, but not much else. There is no real build up of tension in this film (incidentally, Kirk's 'dramatic pause' has long gone from Hollywood, which I always liked), or mysterious twists in the plot, just one action scene blasts onto another. Outside of Spock and Kirk, character development is weak, including the villain (a time-disaffected Romulan), who gets about 10 seconds of back story.
For some reason it's rather crowded on the bridge now-there are no open spaces on these ships anymore. Spock and Kirk's relationship has changed-there is more disagreement, and less general co-operation. Kirk's entire first foray into space is essentially as a stowaway and illegal, yet he is able to assume command of a starship, with barely a whisper from anyone else. Time travel scenarios now go on so often in these Star Trek plots that there are people doubles everywhere, where you can bump into yourself, young or old, and the whole 'stability of the time-line concept' is a bit of a joke (although the original series did introduce these conundrums). Villains now have the entire time scale to plunder and pillage, especially the past, which is weaker technologically. Thankfully, reality isn't like that (excepting real-time cultural imperialism).
I wish they wouldn't use hand held cameras in every single action scene, so that you can no longer see what the hell is going on. It's dizzying, nauseating, and frustrating. Why does Hollywood always have to overplay a good idea? Hand held shots originally gave a feel of proximity and authenticity (usually in a documentary sense), but now every damn action scene has it. The brain actually has a natural 'image stabilizer' (you don't see dizzying images going up and down and all around you, do you-unless the images are moving at such speeds and to the point where the brain can't compensate anymore-which is not the typical action scene 'moving speed'), so one doesn't experience such shaking, dizzying, and moving images at normal action speeds; therefore overplaying the hand-held camera effect actually becomes self-defeating-you actually feel more like you are behind a camera, which is the exact opposite to what is intended. This is damn annoying, and overdone. I wish they would limit it to extreme action and speed changes (eg like a car accident), where it belongs.
Good special effects, an excellent opening scene (where we see Kirk's father and mother), a reasonable time-travel and coming-of-age plot, but I would have liked it as more circumspect and introspective (think Blade Runner, Batman Begins), humanist (1960s Star Trek), or ' basically gritty' (12 Monkeys), than Melrose Place or Top Gun in Space. But at least it's better than the overly simplified and dramatically weak Star Wars prequels.
Ned Kelly (2003)
More than meets the eye
Don't be put off by some negative reviews of this film, there is alot here for people who know what to look for. In some ways it is a bit like the film "Unforgiven"-give it a bit of time and the deeper elements grow on you.
The film is based on the true life story of Ned Kelly-Australia's most famous bushranger. Some people say that much of this film isn't historically accurate-making themselves self-appointed history experts. Actually the reverse is true-there is a lot here that is based on known events, eye witness accounts and reports that have come out only after some false "history" has been recorded. Controversial? Certainly. Although it should be noted that many quotes and events in this film are direct excerpts from letters, eye witnesses, and thorough historical research. Criminal or outlawed innocent? You be the judge.
But note some FACTS: times were extremely difficult, the Irish in 19th century Australia were deliberately discriminated against by an unjust and misplaced British aristocracy-including in matters between the police and the public (as in this case), his mother went to jail largely for protecting her family, Ned was quite happy to replace her to get her out, the Jerilderie letter quoted in the film is true and historical, and the Kelly gang had ample chance to leave the area but wanted justice for themselves and their families. The shootout at the end was pretty much how those who saw it, said it happened. Ned Kelly was just a young and slightly rebellious spirit who was caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. But he was no run-of-the-mill renegade bushranger, let alone a murderer.
There is some poetic license in this film, but not as much as some claim-there is also a great deal of history-both romantic and ghastly. A wild young man in a wild young country, trying to find a path to life and freedom. Not something to be dismissed lightly.
I thought the film was wonderful, and does justice to a widely known and respected story in Australian history.
Some suprises here
Like the books themselves, and then the film, this background to J.R.R.Tolkien's tale is a bit better than expected. There is a little bit more to the background of the trilogy than one might expect, as Mr Tolkien lived a somewhat unusual life.
Even though he repeatedly denied it, literary experts have found parallels to things he experienced in his life, and the tale of the Ring. He was involved in the Battle of the Somme in World War 1, where he lost many of his closest friends. He got trench fever. His sons fought in World War 11, and he disliked intensely the bleak industrialism which spread across the countryside he grew up in. He was much drawn to Finnish and Anglo-Saxon sagas, and wished to write about the forgotten Anglo-Saxon tales from before William the Conqueror's invasion of old England in 1066.
There was little doubt his sensitive soul was much affected by the horrible trench conditions of World War 1, the repeat of such in World War 11, and the industrial 'poisoning' of the beautiful countryside which he called home.
The documentary is delicately done, with the historical background a bit of an eye opener.