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Alien: Covenant (2017)
Terrible Script, Terrible Effects, Utterly Boring
The film is in all ways worse than literally every Alien film that has come before it and I actually include the god-awful Aliens vs Predator films because at least they didn't over- promise and under-deliver so grotesquely. This film is filled with deus ex machina, clichés, bad techno babble, worse dialogue, and overused tropes. It is not only bad, it is laughably bad. There are extensive spoilers in this review, nevertheless I urge you to read on so that I can save you from this piece of absolute garbage.
The nonsense begins pretty much in the first minutes of the film. A disaster befalls the colony ship Covenant, which has stopped in deep space to unfurl its sails to recharge for some reason. I guess the ship runs on solar power or something because the people writing the script figure that's how it'll work in the future, and didn't bother checking with a technical consultant. So this disaster a giant neutrino burst caused by a nearby star farting or something damages the ship's solar sails, and causes fires to break out all over and steam vents to start spraying steam, and most notably killing the ship's captain James Franco whom I imagine had a larger part but saw where this mess of a script was going and cut fence along with Noomi Rapace who really only appears in likeness, but I digress.
So the flight crew of 15 (the rest of the ship's population of colonists are kept in hanging freezers that just kind of swing around like they're on coat hangers) has to fix the sails. Whilst Danny McBride is outside the ship doing this his helmet intercepts a cryptic signal of some one singing a I'm not even kidding John Denver song. Apparently only Danny McBride's helmet could pick this up because the ship has "communication buffers" that block out communication attempts I guess because that's how the communication systems aboard solar powered space ships of the future will work.
The replacement captain who no one trusts because he is "a person of faith" decides to take the ship off course to investigate the source of the transmission because it is coming from a planet that is awesome, way closer than their original destination that is still 7 years away, and yet that they somehow missed when selecting a planet to colonize. Of course it turns out the planet they find is the planet that Noomi Rapace and Michael Fassbender from the previous movie ended up on.
This is deus ex machina at its absolute worst. The odds of a ship in the vastness of space, just happening to run out of gas and getting a flat tire in front of Planet Bates Motel completely undermines the rest of the film, which even without this silly contrivance would have been terrible.
The colonists organize a landing party with their only shuttle, because of course they do. They find an eerily dead world because of course they do. Some of their number get sick on spores and end up birthing some monsters because of course they do. Things get particularly bad once David makes his appearance.
Yes David has survived since the events of Prometheus, his hair has grown out because I guess Weyland Corp makes androids that need hair cuts. Some more nonsense happens I'm not going to go into it in detail because it is just so hackneyed and predictable. Suffice it to say more people die. And then the first huge twist of this pathetic film: David invented eggs and face huggers. That's right. David the android, still doing his best Peter O'Toole impression, stranded on a dead engineer world inhabited by monsters, decided that with all of this time on his hands he may as well invent the alien menace because he was mad about, I don't know, something, and wants to take it out on humanity by inventing a penis-headed monster. Maybe because he was made without a penis, I'm not really sure, they don't cover it. It is never adequately explained how he even does this or what tools he uses, or even how he knows how to do this in the first place.
We stumble across the preserved and vivisected corpse of Noomi Rapace that David has kept for some reason ala Bates Motel, as well as an art studio filled with of creepy poster sketches David made of her I guess this planet had a Hobby Lobby. What ensues is a bad, nonsensical, utterly devoid of suspense or tension, chase sequence with terrible creature effects. I won't bother to tell you how it ends, it's just as stupid and predictable as the rest of the film.
To make matters worse, one of the script writers who churned out this turd also wrote the script for the upcoming Bladerunner sequel for which I now have absolutely zero hope. I don't know what is wrong with Ridley Scott. He keeps working with absolutely terrible scripts. Does he read this garbage beforehand? Does he show up on day one of shooting and just say "to hell with it, let's get this crap in the can"? Maybe he is just taking these projects on in order to set up trust funds for his kids I don't know where the budget for this film went, it looked like it could have been filmed for less than a quarter of what went into it. Skip this film. And just to be safe skip any other films that happen to follow it. Nuke the whole god damn mess of a franchise from orbit. I can only hope this is the final nail in the coffin of this series I once loved.
JFK: The Smoking Gun (2013)
A complete farce, from the charlatans who brought you "The Monster Shark Lives" and "Amish Mafia"...
This "documentary" is another travesty perpetrated by the Discovery Channel, and should be taken about as seriously as their farces such as "Eaten Alive" and that balderdash about a prehistoric shark.
In one hand they'll tell you the primary author of this cockamamie theory is a firearms expert, with impeccable credentials, and then in the next they'll show him trying to recreate the trajectory of a bullet by feeding a dowel through a smashed up fake skull. What kind of science is this? Is this a joke? A five year old should be able to figure out that there is no way to tell precisely at what angle JFK's head was during the precise moment the bullet impacted it, and there is no way that you could trace exactly where the round (or what was left of it) exited when half of the man's head was missing! Under that criteria he could draw a line tracing the path of the bullet to Jackie Kennedy (who besides, had motive to murder Jack for all of his infidelity)! The size of the entrance wound being used as evidence that the 6.5mm round from Oswald's gun couldn't have entered the President's head is another fallacy. First off, the documentary makes the case that the whole autopsy was slapdash and botched, so how can any evidence from it suddenly be useful? Secondly, the entrance wound recorded was not measured from Kennedy's bare skull, it was measured as being the hole in his scalp, and assuming it was "too small" as the documentary claims, what the documentary completely misses is the elasticity of skin. Skin stretches and contracts, there's no reason the entrance wound in the skin had to be exactly the same size, or larger than the bullet.
Lastly, eye witness testimony is used to corroborate claims of a cover-up, it's taken at absolute face value, yet every eye witness that corroborated the report of three shots coming from the book depository is outright ignored? On top of this, all of these stories about skullduggery in the operating theatre, shifty Secret Service agents - and yet - not one eye witness came forward claiming they saw the secret service car fire a shot into the president? Come on...
Presenting this nonsense as a documentary, or anything resembling a factual investigation is an insult to anyone capable of critical thought.
Cloud Atlas (2012)
Long-winded new-age mess . . .
I'm not sure what to say about this film. It was attempting to be all things to all men . . . literally, but failed so miserably I cannot conceive of how it is regarded highly by anyone who saw it. The only thing more embarrassing than the pacing, directing, editing and performances in this film was the make-up, which especially when Hugo Weaving appears dressed in drag as a middle aged nurse reminded me of a less convincing Mrs. Doubtfire. Hugo's transformation feels uncomfortable and half-hearted, designed for cheep laughs because the audience knows this is a man who is far more comfortable in a g-man suit and shades and not in knit-sweaters and comfortable shoes attempting to capture the nuances of Nurse Ratched. If it weren't for the fact that each story is edited together and connected by some goofy new-age reincarnation mumbo-jumbo it would amount to little more than a series of fairly pedestrian clichés in genre-fiction. The fact that the same 15 or so actors (about 2 or 3 of whom are better actors than this film allows) are jumbled between the plots makes the film even more difficult to enjoy. Imagine you're being served a 6-course meal, and for some reason the chef has decided to use the same 6 ingredients in every course . . . Including the ripe old cheese that was Tom Hanks in this film. The worst performance by far was turned in by Doona Bae, whose character seems to be built around 95% hairstyle, 2% skimpy skirts, 1% never having shoes on for some reason, 2% passively reciting her lines in a sort of monotone sigh. A scene where she is supposed to be giving a speech that will cause a revolution in her world sounds like it could have been read from a cue card by a shy 9 year old, this even after her character has only recently found out that her sisters have been getting ground up into juice boxes and fed to her. The scenes set in Neo-Seoul (apptly named since the Wachowskis directed this sequence) are nothing new. A futuristic dystopian cityscape has been done so many times since Blade Runner did it best 30 years ago that there's no wonder left in seeing them, especially since no-one has successfully improved on the original. There is of course plenty of martial arts, gun-fu, and even a Neo in Neo-Seoul, but the effects look rushed and unconvincing. At nearly 3 hours this film is a ponderous plodding mess that needs to be put out of its misery and converted in to a drinkable form for those who enjoyed it, so they can simply sit there and consume it without taking up theatre space from better films. They can put Deepak Chopra's name on the box to help sales.
Battle for Haditha (2007)
Imitation Documentary/Imitation War Movie
In this review I will attempt to keep my personal political views out of it as much as possible. It's obvious to anyone who knows about the film that it is heavily political and expresses a strong anti-war and anti-US sentiment. Although this sort of thing is nothing new as films like Platoon and Casualties of War have expressed strong political sentiments about another unpopular war especially anti-American sentiments, the subject matter of this film sets it apart from those and other war films as the events depicted are supposed to be based on real events that took place in Haditha one tragic day in November of 2005 where 15 non combatants were allegedly killed by Marines in retaliation for a marine being killed in a roadside bomb. In the media the event is called "the Haditha Killings" or the "the Haditha Massacre". Although made to look like a documentary the film is equal parts fact, rumor, speculation and outright fiction. The writer/director Nick Broomfield is famous for his documentaries such as "Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer" documenting the life, trial and execution of female serial killer Aileen Wuornos. I've always enjoyed Broomfield's documentaries and the way he breaths humanity into his larger-than-life subjects, especially "Aileen . . ." for its unflinching look at an obviously insane woman and the equally insane justice system that is about to execute her. But because of its documentary style, there is a certain amount of dishonesty in "The Battle for Haditha" that I find difficult to accept.
The film starts off with Marines driving around listening to heavy metal, and then goes into a sequence of 'interviews' in the style of Full Metal Jacket on what the soldiers think of the conflict. It is unanimous that the soldiers don't want to be there, and don't understand why they are fighting. Their training is portrayed as extremely brutal, and meant to encourage violence. "Kill kill kill!" is chanted many times. One soldier shows another soldier a war wound that he says could have gotten him discharged with 10% pay, but decided to remain in the service so that he could collect his full pay, even though he apparently hates the war and feels his country is neglecting him. I don't understand this logic; why would one risk their life for low pay in a conflict they didn't believe in for a country they resented, rather than simply take an out when it is offered and go get a job in the civilian world? Even a low paying job you don't like would be better than a low paying one that you don't like that is incredibly dangerous.
The most interesting part of the film is the portrayal of the Iraqis. While the Marines are demonized, and so to are the "foreign Al-Qaeda fighters", the Iraqis on the other hand are played as innocent victims. We're introduced to a young Iraqi insurgent who by day runs a video store that sells DVDs to US soldiers while leading a double life where together with his uncle (a disgruntled former Iraqi soldier) he smuggles weapons and plants roadside bombs. The uncle is "pissed off" by checkpoints, war and the damaged infrastructure of Haditha left by the 2003 invasion. Most of all though he seems angry that when the US disbanded the Iraqi army all he was given was fifty US dollars for his years of service. And so instead he decides to work for another group of foreigners who'll pay him one thousand dollars every time he successfully blows up an American vehicle with a primitive IED. The other characters we're introduced to are a young couple and their child who are on neither side, and are simply trying to live their lives as best they can in the midst of war and chaos. They see the insurgents planting a bomb, but instead of warning the Americans, they tell their Sheik, who tells them to pray. They are afraid that if they tell the Americans what the insurgents are planning that they will be targeted and executed by the insurgents.
Ultimately the morality of this film portrays the Americans not only as 'shoot first, ask questions later' types but also as plain bloodthirsty. They march and chant "kill kill kill" they sit in their bunks plotting vengeance, they're rude to the Iraqis whose country they have invaded, they don't understand or care about the cause they are fighting for and they blare heavy metal music everywhere they go. In reality American patrols spend far more time handing out food, water, medical supplies and gifts to the Iraqis than they do shooting at anyone. I'm not saying there aren't tragedies happening, and that there aren't soldiers getting out of line, but these are the exceptions. This film tries to portray the exceptions as the rule while ignoring the fact that insurgents routinely and as a matter of policy target civilians in market places and funeral processions. The worst part of this film though is that the tragedy that took place in Haditha is still under investigation, it is only a few years since blood was spilled there. This film presents an explanation and a verdict before the smoke has even cleared, and it stirs up sentiment that will not help end the conflict in Iraq. Even if there is a full US withdrawal from Iraq, the insurgents will still be there. If the US leaves Iraq in the state it is in right now, would the Iraqi people be better off living under a group that routinely slaughters innocent men, women and children as a matter of policy? Not dealing with these kinds of questions is an injustice to everyone involved in the Iraqi conflict. It is compounded by the fact that it is shot in a documentary style in an attempt to present itself as the truth when it is simply, like any other dramatic film: just one point of view.
The Exorcist (1973)
The Most Overrated Film Of All Time: The Exorcist
Honestly, this was never a good film, it sucked in the 1970's when it was made, and it still sucks today when it is worshipped. How it ever passed for a good film is beyond me, but somehow millions of people still flock to screenings of this stinker while the Catholic Church continues to be outraged for some reason. The honest truth of this film is simple: it is not a great film, and it shouldn't be a controversial film. Its portrayal of the Church is if anything rational and progressive; "What do you mean your little girl is possessed, what are you, stupid? This is the 20th century." Face it people, the emperor is naked. There's barely anything passing itself off as a plot, just a series of sad, scary and sometimes silly scenarios that are largely unrelated to each other and a rather ridiculous premise when you actually examine it. Not to mention the lamest portrayal of a character in film history; that of the Devil. It is established that young and unfortunate little Regan is possessed not just by a demon, but (oooh insert scary music) the Devil himself . . . because she played with Ouija board . . . Right . . . Honestly, this is the best the Devil can do? His major forays into the world of mortals consist of puking green slime and making lewd remarks? When did the devil become little more than a drunken frat boy at a kegger? I mean sure when it's a little girl doing it, it's kind of odd, but throw a backwards hat on her and a baggy Lakers Jersey and she'd fit right in at the next Kappa Beta Gama pledge night. Why didn't he do something creative and take over the president and start a nuclear war, or take over a Georgia Prosecutor and then get her to leave law after a string of misconducts only to start her own lousy talk show? If I was Father Merrin I'd be relieved that this is the worst thing the Devil could come up with, pull up a chair next to the bed, throw on a Cheech and Chong movie and have some laughs, and then wonder if the reason Lucifer was actually cast out of heaven was for being obnoxious and lighting his own farts while everyone was trying to watch UFC.
Meanwhile all of the other supporting characters have an emotional range that spans the vast gulf of human expression ranging from "concerned" to "disturbed", oh there's a few party scenes but those get spoiled too and everyone goes back to "concerned". There's a sort of half-assed side plot involving a priest losing his faith because his mother dies, a half assed side plot involving a movie actress, and another of a sort of wandering exorcist priest wandering through poor countries looking to cast out demons (apparently demons don't hang around in country clubs or boardrooms, but only in those Sally Struthers countries). The widest range of emotions come from Regan/Satan who goes from looking uncomfortable while being probed by doctors to grinning like an idiot while she grosses everyone out with her cooky demonic antics.
If you're going to watch this film for the first time, watch it objectively. Ask yourself what exactly is scary about the premise for this movie. Ask yourself why the devil couldn't come up with anything better than freaking some people out and making a big mess of a little girl's room. Then after you've done this, go and pick up a copy of the only good Friedken movie: The French Connection.
I don't understand the complaints against this film, really I don't. It delivers exactly what every other Jones film promises save for one thing: Indiana Jones fighting Nazis. But honestly, Indy has had his fill of the Nazis at this point, I mean; the man rode on the back of a German U-boat, a Panzer, and he even met freaking Adolf Hitler. How much more Indy vs Nazis do we have to see? Also, how would you explain the age difference between the character and the actor? Ford has been out of the Indy saddle for 20 years! How would you explain a 58 year old man running around in the 1930's/40's when in film time he was only in his late 30's just a few years ago in 1936? No, I'm sorry people, Indy has aged, his world has aged with him, and it is time to deal with it.
I've heard HUGE complaints about using Russian Agents as the villains for a number of silly reasons. What, the Russians are off limits as villains in action/suspense films? Oh, I supposed we'll have to phone up Ian Fleming and tell him to make some changes. I've read that even Communist Party honchos in Russia are calling for the film to be banned and for any actors or crew involved with it to be barred from entering Russia because of the way it negatively portrays 1950's era Russian KGB agents (as though those guys were saints delivering Teddy Bears or something, yeah, sure). What is wrong with these people? This is an homage to the serials of Spielberg and Lucas's youth! It is meant to be as accurate a portrayal of the historical and cultural nuances and intricacies of the Cold War McArthyist America as much as it is meant to be an accurate non-fictional documentary on Archaeology! What they were going for was the pop-culture era of the 1950's, and they got it right, there were greasers, malt shops, mysterious men in black hats, and nuclear bomb tests. What more could you ask for? There was also a not so subtle commentary on the how the McAarthyists and the J. Edgar Hoover style FBI witch hunts were indeed wrong during the conversation between Indy and the Dean of his university.
If you are able to reconcile that the world of Indiana Jones had to evolve if it wanted to use Harrison Ford back, you will love this film. It delivers everything an Indiana Jones film promises: suspense, comedy, mystery, ruins, car chaises, bad guys, stunts, brawls, using a whip to grab stuff out of people's hands, a fedora, showing a montage of an airplane journey over a graphic of a faded yellow map with an animation tracing the journey's progress: it's a pretty simple formula really. They're not setting out to adapt a Cormac McCarthy novel to film. If you are disappointed by the fact that Indy is seemingly able to survive impossible situations I think you need to sit down and re-watch the original films along with a few episodes of Myth Busters. SURVIVING ANYTHING, ESCAPING FROM ANYTHING, DISCOVERING ANYTHING IS INDIANA JONES' SHTICK! Deal with it people! This is not Fargo or Goodfellas, only the bad guys die or get shot in these movies! Maybe people are losing their sense of nostalgia for classic characters, what with all of the "re-launches" going on. Maybe they should have hired an actor 20 years younger to play Indy, and set everything up just the way people remember it so that they're not challenged in the slightest to take in anything new and could just sit there eating their popcorn and texting on their cell phones. Maybe they should have just done a remake of Raiders with Vince Vaughn as Indy or something, I don't know, I'm no film executive. What I do know is that this film measures up just fine against the other films of the series and delivers everything I expected from an Indy film. For people who can't see that, I suggest chucking your copies of the rest of the series because if you sit down and re-watch them through the same filter you've watched Kingdom, you'll find those cherished childhood memories of an Archaelogist in a Fedora fighting bad guys and making amazing discoveries are gone forever and even Raiders is just an unrealistic and portrayal of its time with just as many negative cultural stereotypes.
Great Ninja Action Movie
First I should say that I watched the subtitled version of this film but apparently there is an English dub on the North American release. Make no mistake, this IS an action movie. It is not as heavy on plot or characterization as similar films of the genre, and focuses more on matrix-like ninja fighting and great costumes. This is not necessarily a bad thing though as it does these things very well. The special effects are some of the best I've ever seen in a Japanese feature, and the overall cinematography is great. The story is pretty light and you really want to know more about some of the characters who are introduced in a totally classic "Good The Bad and the Ugly" style with their names being displayed on the corner of the screen as they are introduced.
The story centers on a pair of star-crossed lovers from rival ninja clans. The Tokugawa Government has just taken control of Japan and a new era of peace has broken out. To preserve this peace the Shogun decides that the two ninja clans must be destroyed, for their abilities are simply too dangerous and unpredictable. So the Shogun orders the two clans to each pick their five best warriors who will then battle to the death for the favor of the Shogun. Chosen to lead their respective clan's teams are the two unfortunate lovers who thought a new age of peace would allow their love to bloom, as rivalry between their clans was no longer necessary in their view now in a cruel twist of fate they must battle to the death. This is pretty much where the story ends, and the rest of the film is a cat and mouse game between the two ninja teams as they use their seemingly supernatural abilities against each other. The team members themselves are all very interesting and I found myself wanting to know more about them but was disappointed by the rate in which they are killed off.
Overall the film is well worth watching and is smarter than your average action film, but not by much.
King Arthur (2004)
The 'True Story'? Right . . .
Long before I went into 'King Arthur', the latest Jerry Bruckheimer film, I predicted that the film would have three things in accordance with the Bruckheimer formula.
1: A repetitive soundtrack provided by Hans Zimmer.
2: Lots of helicopter shots of lush scenery to make up for the lack of interesting dialogue.
Well now I've seen it, and even though the last item on the formula seemed unlikely seeing as how this was supposed to be a historically accurate telling set in the DARK AGES, it somehow found a way to throw big fiery explosions into this mix of drab and boring mud covered battle sequences and perhaps an even more dry and uninspired love story than the one in 'Star War: Attack Of The Clones'. The humour in this film is locker room at best (a joke from Austin Powers 3 was actually used), and was crafted to appeal to the under 18 'bathroom' crowd. I say 'bathroom' because there are a lot of intelligent teenagers, the humour in this movie is not for them - the jokes in this movie are for stupid teenagers. In fact during one particularly lame joke, I found it hard tell apart the laughter on screen from that of the four 16 year old guys sitting behind me, who were the only ones in the audience to find the joke about one of the Knights having a penis so large it was like "a baby's arm holding an apple" funny. The dialogue is dry and tedious, as is the pacing of the film. A scene involving a gate SO RUSTY AND HUGE that it takes two huge war horses to pull it open takes so long I thought I was going to pass out from lack of oxygen as the audience collectively yawned, and yet later in the film the door is opened by a single mortally wounded soldier in a matter of seconds I guess even in the Dark Ages they had some WD-40.
The film's logic is so preposterous that it actually makes the simple mistake of KILLING THE NARRATOR and yet having him summarize the story at the end of the film! Perhaps the writer completely misunderstood the purpose of a narrator in a film - that the narrator has born firsthand witness to the story and lived to tell about it. How could the Narrator tell the story if he's DEAD?! Never mind, don't ask questions like that at this movie. At the start of the film Arthur and his Knights are sent on one final mission from Rome to rescue the beloved pupil of the Pope, who for some reason lives with his family in the middle of hostile territory. Why or how the Pope's star pupil came to live in the middle of Barbarian infested England is another question you're not meant to ask. The villain, a Saxon chieftain is like a really bored cross between Captain Barbosa and Darth Sidious, Guinevere looks like an angry 15 year old girl at an Avril Lavigne concert in her battle getup and is about as convincing as one when she's supposed to be noble and inspiring in her queen getup, and Arthur is a completely implausible moral centre of the film. Arthur in this story is a former Roman Centurion who is completely shocked when he witnesses torture. That's right, a Roman soldier, serving the country that invented such lovely devices as the Catherine Wheel and Crucifixion is shocked by torture! I'll leave you to figure that one out for yourselves.
A film with the audacity to call itself the 'true story of King Arthur' must be held to a higher standard than that of a fun popcorn flick, which is all this film seemed to be trying for. The sad fact is that this movie doesn't pull off even that meagre feat. This movie is not fun, it's drab, it's uninteresting, and it's boring. You'll have more fun eating your popcorn than you will watching this movie.