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Alien: Covenant (2017)
The Greatest Questions Ever Asked Baked Into An Episode Of Scooby Doo
I entered the cinema with high hopes but moderate expectations. Promethus held promise. Standing alone it was another Sci Fi movie, but in the context of a larger narrative, it could be redeemed.
What Ridley offers is in effect one of the greatest questions ever asked baked into an episode of Scooby Doo - complete with the fact that the Caretaker did it, and classic lines like, 'Let's split up to search'.
Alien Covenant (AC) starts well. Its opening scene is both weak and strong. Weak in the sense that Peter Weyland (Pearce) when discussing the more philosophical themes barely seems to have a real grasp on the nature of the questions he ought to be thinking about, and David (Fassbender) makes basic observations but completely misses the big questions he ought to be asking (It's the kind of philosophical questioning i'd expect from high school students and not from the leader of major space exploration company or a cutting edge droid - to me this was a warning that this film hadn't been thought through enough, or if it had, the people doing the thinking were not as smart as the franchise really needs). Strong in that it opened the door and made me think this movie really might go in the right direction and offer the kind of depth this franchise needs to be more than a lucky monster flick set in space.
Other reviewers have listed a litany of issues with this movie. I will offer some which IMO were the most troubling, not just with the movie, but reveal the lack of thought, or a blatant the disregard of the audiences intellect by the writers.
The crew - Let's be frank, you wouldn't let this lot crew an oil tanker across the pacific let alone be in charge of 2000 colonist lives. The crew resembled an AA meeting, or perhaps a collection of Occupy Artists. What they did not resemble was a crew of individuals educated and qualified to be in space. The average 'trolly dolly' on a United Airlines flight would've done a more rational and sensible job over those in this movie.
Sci Fi as a genre can be really poor or stunning. It can dredge the lows of the genre or set out a really solid story with a highly intelligent characters in which events unfold that genuinely stretch the thinking of the brightest viewers and land new ideas or expound on old questions in an original way that leaves the audience thinking about the depth of the movie long after it is over. AC in not the latter and is most assuredly heading toward the former.
With a crew this bad you begin to see why i have likened the film to Scooby Doo, because effectively we have Shaggy, Scooby, Wilma, and Fred etc haplessly wandering around on an alien planet only to find out that the villain is ...wait for it....David the caretaker.
In this movie i learned - That an advanced race of aliens (the engineers) have no air traffic control protocols or security measures. That their population exists in a place similar to the Vatican square. That you can just fly in and bomb them all with no problems. That they build out of stone and seem to have excellent eyes as well lit rooms are not important to them. The Engineer concept is great and was a great introduction idea in Prometheus, but it has been unpacked very poorly to the detriment of the concept.
The movie also fails to address 'growth', how a xeno can grow inside a human at that rate without absorbing material, and once out of the host move from about a foot in size to about 10 feet tall without consuming organic matter to fuel its growth? You can't have intelligent science fiction without addressing these major holes Ridley, and if you're not doing intelligent science-fi than you're making B movie junk.
David and Walter - the moment David cut his hair we could all tell where this was going. But for a crew like this, i'm sure that went right past them. The same crew that has just one landing ship and chooses to try to land during a storm, that rather than sending a drone to explore the planet sends the crew, that rather than flying over the signal area in a first pass lands 8 miles from their objective and decides to walk, that wears no protective gear beyond 1950's Norwegian Kagools, that smoke, sniffs plants of unknown make up, washes their face in alien water... the list of stupid goes on and on and on.
So you see, you combine one of the most important questions ever asked 'where does life come from, who is our creator' with Shaggy, Scooby, and the Gang and hey presto - Alien Covenant.
Finally, the explanation of David as flawed (the reference to Shelley vs Byron) struggles to address the pointlessness of David's quest. Unless David is purely in psychopath territory his quest seems misguided. All life forms share some degree of intelligence, it is our intelligence that is a common factor, a unifying factor. Yes we behave differently, but all species evolve and typically evolve up to greater intelligence. Therefore intelligence is the real directional marker, not life itself. Where is intelligence going? Producing xenomorph's that behave like ants is a step back. It doesn't address any question. It's nothing more significant than playing with biological Lego. I'd expect a 'being' like David to see this. To see into the complexity and realise that biological forms are all moving in a direction that brings them closer in the end not further away but then to wonder why and where this might end.
Knock Knock (2015)
Eli Roth - Please, give up you suck
So i'm sat at home and looking for a movie and i see this is on. Then i read it is an Eli Roth film and immediately i'm aware that the last two movies i'd seen of his were terrible, utter sewer garbage. But i think, hey, Keanu Reeves, maybe...but no.
Eli, if you ever read these reviews, please, your movies suck. They are always totally silly and focused on pointless violence. Excessive, with next to no plot or motive, you're like the test harness for special effects. "Hey we've invented a new blood pack that explodes - i'll see if Eli Roth can write a movie around it".
Please, don't waste your time with this movie. How on earth Keanu was persuaded to appear in it with such a pathetic plot i don't know. If it is by Eli Roth, suspend your brain, don't expect anything worth watching to happen. He's become a by word for total junk.
Eden Lake (2008)
A clichéd and unrewarding theatre group production
well that was a waste of my time. A UK film about a gang of children and one teen that attacks the worlds weakest couple in the local woods. The weak couple are easily overcome and seem incapable of finding a way out of said woods, despite the fact that about an hours walk in any direction in the UK puts you on a main road.
It's impossible to find the kids credible. Yes kids can form gangs, but stabbing and burning bodies is somewhat of a stretch, albeit it remains a possibility. But this plty blunders from one moment of threat to another owing to the tired use of silly moves again and again by the couple trying to escape.
Now, Fassbender and Reilly actually do a credible job, and if it wasn't for their presence you'd be watching a movie i'd suspect was written by kids who asked their parents if they'd appear in their school project.
The ending is brutal, and this is one of those movies that became popular in the UK in the 70s where the bad guys win, and the contract with the viewer hoping to see redemption or escape and revenge is broken.
All you end up watching is brutality, which serves no purpose in a world that we know is already brutal enough. This film has no redeeming element to the storyline. It's basically a rehash of a tired formula that is usually set someone in the deepest part of white trash inbred America who happen to come across the happy college campers and brutalise them.
Perhaps i just don't get why they have to tell the same old story again, and again, and again, with the plot dependent on the ineptitude of the victims. The good news is, this was made in 2008 and there hasn't been a part 2 to drag it further in to the gutter.
I love the horror genre, but this isn't a clever or remotely original idea (like say The Autopsy of Jane Doe), it's just another cheap slasher film.
Marco Polo (2014)
Very well done - enthralling
This show surprised me. I wasn't sure what i was going to get, but as someone that has overlooked much history outside of that of western history i found this show to be as rich in tales as ancient Greece, Rome, or Medieval Italy and Britain.
First, the cast is broad. The story provides for a broad cast of characters and they're all really well thought out and developed.
The acting is superb. The Great Khan really stands out (Benedict Wong), but then the cast of this show are really strong and work well together.
The action sequences are fantastic. Yes they are very typical of Chinese kung fu myth, but this show isn't a documentary, it's a dynamic portrayal of history. As such, the action sequences, battles and fights are superbly choreographed.
Set and costumes - all the way through they bring the background to life. They support the cast by making the setting look authentic.
Yes i'm very supportive of this show. I've seen both seasons now and think this show is something i hope the cast and production team are proud of.
Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (2016)
This is a Jean Claude Van Dame level movie B-
This is worse than part 1. Part was wasn't too bad, but this is plain awful. It is wrong on many levels - the plot is incredibly weak, the acting is awful, and the script is straight out of a 70s B movie.
In an alternate universe this movie star Jean Claude Van Dame. However in this universe Tom Cruise appears to have failed miserably, as did direction, script writing etc.
Corny lines like, "They ran out of Medal" when referring to how heavily awarded this former MP is, happen to be just one example amongst the many.
Then there is the plot, the pointless proactive attempt by the bad guys to lock up and kill Major Smulders, follow Jack Reacher, create a professional baddie that takes things personally.
This may well be the tipping point decline in the career of Tom Cruz, he just looked past it, slow, completely unbelievable.
I won't say much more, this movie isn't worth wasting the time on the critique.
Sinister 2 (2015)
Goth makes murder flicks - thinks he's scary - rolls eyes.
Following on from the first movie, this one continues to see a silly goth looking dude (Bughuul)trying to act in a spooky manner and sharing his collection of freak videos with kids. There is no rationale behind this behaviour, having borrowed his make up ideas from Brandon Lee's Crow movie, he then uses an old cine film projector to show the next kids footage of former murders.
Is this spooky? Not really. It is twisted in a repulsive way, but not nothing about it is scary. It's more deranged than inherently frightening.
That said, this movie does have some good jumps, but in fairness, these are not original. They're just a rehash of decades old clichés of poorly lit scenes when something steps out, things suddenly moving into shot, and unexpected events that catch the viewer off guard with a little bit of misdirection.
I didn't find the freak monster (BUghul) scary. As a rational person, i'd question why a demonic type being seems to need to use so much white powder on his skin, and feels the need to contrast this with dark eyebrows and dark eye shadow. In the tangible world, scary things have evolved with a purpose - like lions teeth and claws.
Further, I really wanted a strong narrative to explain both his origin and purpose. That never emerges. The story ends up being a mash-up of 50s cine tech, old radios, and goth make up likely selected because they create a marginally more spooky atmosphere than a modern canon or Sony HD camera with some sicko from the garbage Eli Roth puts out.
So in this movie, the acting is fine, the camera work and SF great. In fact i was happy with most of it. The reason it only achieved a 5 from me is that the underlying premise simply has no credible rationale.
When viewed with 21st century eyes, these demonic type movies come across a bit silly. I still want the spook, but in the absence of a decent premise all we end up with are a collection of jump scenes.
Disappointing. On too late for kids, too low brow for adults.
When i saw Beowulf in the TV listings, i immediately hoped that a decent drama had been created, based on the historical poem, and produced to a high standard. I was quickly disappointed.
Although the story is very loosely based on the old English poem about a Scandinavian monster terrorising a Danish King, that is pretty much where the similarity ends. You are very quickly introduced to CGI trolls working a in human village in place of oxen, turning a wheel. It is at this point you realise the slant is farther toward the fantasy realm drama than the historical realm drama.
In terms of the characters, they are rather cliché and lacked depth. The sets are OK in parts and in others look like cheap fantasy set pieces. They also seem inconsistent as great halls with cast relief gates in bronze are hardly likely to be the product of a 20 person village. The grandeur of some of the buildings is far out of whack with the population size and any semblance of industry or agriculture.
Casting, and cast diversity - within minutes you are introduced to characters that are obviously Indian Asian, and also Black (African). There are quite a few characters with diverse ethnic origins. Again, if you were expecting something akin to the fantastic 'Vikings' or even the Stars productions like 'Spartacus' forget it.There is no attempt at historical, cultural, or geographic realism as a backdrop for this show.
A Black male actor appears in Arabic dress who speaks with a solid south England accent. I totally get diversity in a modern TV show about modern society, or even in culturally mixed locations like Rome, but in something apparently 'based' on an AngloScandinavian tale/poem it hardly fits. This reality works in both directions, if i were watching a show about the rise of a chieftain in Africa in 300BC, then i'd hardly expect to see the cast featuring heavily with Chinese and white Australian sounding actors (it just drags you out of the show). It's another element that constantly reminds the viewer that there is no historic setting for this and it is little more than a uber low budget Lord of The Rings rip off merged merged with the title Beowulf.
If this show were targeting adults, one has to ask, who watches stuff like this? The script, acting, story seems quite immature. It does feel more like a teen show, however it is on UK TV in a late evening slot. For this reason i suspect it won't pick up the viewers, and won't make a second season.
Huge potential for a charming, historical, magical, and gritty show that falls off a cliff into some homosexual rape and torture fetish film
There is so much that is good or has potential in this show. The opening music (love it), the opening titles (very well done), the basic premise (loved it).
But despite IMO a strong start, the story fails to get off the ground. Although the show puts in place a strong foundation, and presents a superb opportunity to see a story develop that permits it to showcase the fascinating historic events of that period, and exploit the lead characters perspective with her added insight gleaned from being born 200 years later and exposed to antibiotics, air travel, the radio, petrol, etc, all of this seems missed by the writers.
Instead it turns too quickly into a rather contrived romance between Claire and her captor beau (Jamie). The morality of the lead (Claire) falls too quickly into question when one sees how quickly she forgets her past life and her husband, without considering the possible torment the poor man might be living through in wondering what happened to his wife, is she dead, alive, kidnapped and being tortured and raped etc, or buried in a bog somewhere? Instead Claire marries her beau and abandons her other life with little apparent thought.
But Claire herself is incredibly disappointing. Although well spoken, she seems incapable of making a single good decision. No matter how much forethought and time she has, each time she encounters the villain (Randall) she makes a completely amateur pigs ear of the situation and gets herself in more trouble. You can live with this for a while, but after a while you simply stop routing for her character and just recognise she's too dumb and will only ever dig herself deeper into trouble whenever chance presents itself (which by the end of season 1 she does for her and Jamie) which by the way makes her character seem pathetically weak and intellectually unattractive.
There is a glint of potential when the other 'healer' turns out to have come from the 1960's. But that opportunity passes by without expansion.
After that it trawls through one poor plan after another, with Claire adding no value as a heroine, no clever insights, no real ability to shape events using her knowledge. In fact, overall she is pretty useless and unremarkable.
However, the cliff really appears in the last two episodes. Once again Claire blindly charges in and makes matters so much worse for her Beau. Without even a half baked plan she gets him into so much more trouble and results in his rape. This is where the show transforms IMO into something much darker and really destroys the positive and promising aspects of the show.
The show spends near two episodes exploring the evil side of Jack Randall by demonstrating his villainy on Jamie. We see all kinds of torture going on and on and on and on and on. The FX are superb, but what really is the point, it doesn't add to the show. It doesn't add to the plot. It doesn't make us hate Randall more than we already do for simply being a bad guy. It's not remotely subtle or clever, its just completely in your face and caricature bad. Instead it just descends into a detailed portrays of man on man prison rape. It doesn't even appear to have much of a logical reason behind it.
The graphic scenes of Homosexual Rape are long, and probably offensive to everyone. As someone who fully supports the LGBT movement and supported equal rights in marriage, i found the use of homosexual rape troubling (as i would a detailed portray of heterosexual rape), overly graphic, and nothing to do with really progressing the story.
By the end of the season (all 16 episodes) the show had IMO died. It had morphed from a show that had genuine magical potential, to deliver a wonderful composite of time travel giving us a glimpse into the gritty historical world of 1700s Scotland, and add in the dimension of a strong lead gently drawing on her insights to shape the story imaginatively, into a sort of Silence of the Lambs skinning and torture fest. They could have drawn multiple strong seasons out of the former, but the way they played it i don't expect it to make it to season 3.
All the potential, the magic and allure in the show was pretty much obliterated. I finished the season feeling that i had no interest in whether Claire lived or died. She was broadly useless as a character (certainly as a lead). Jamie was too haunted by his experience. The 1940s situation wasn't adequately addressed emotionally. And the lighter elements of the show were blotted out under the need to use the show as a platform for soft porn scenes that are longer than the real porn videos you can view for free on the internet tube sites.
Seriously writers, how do you have something with so much potential and then turn it into 'Hostel' or 'Saw 7 set in 1700s Scotland'?
The balance resides in skirting that fine line between the magical time travel narrative and the threat from the environment and opposition characters. Unfortunately the show swung so far over to the villainy side that it plunged into the dark depths of the Mariana trench.
Production strengths decimated by the silly premise
There is much to like about this film, the sets, the costume, the cast. However, all of that is cast to nought if the basic premise for the movie is utterly silly.
Again and again horror movies face this problem. The basic premise is, there is a malevolent force caused by the anger of some wretched soul. That 'force' plays creepy, spooky games, that build up to violent inexplicable acts. The problem is, the premise just isn't sound. Why would some dead person be able to carry out such acts against the living? How do they exist as a spirit being yet exert the power to control minds, move objects, etc? And why is it, when good guys get killed they aren't mighty ticked off with that malevolent force and go give it some of its own back?
Throw into this the usual mix of the two common types of 'jumps' or scares:
1. The false spooks - a bird suddenly flies into the window. 2. Horror spooks - in that 'something' appears in shot or sound, some phenomenon.
This movie makes use of both.
As some critics have commented, the lighting is pretty dark throughout. I often find this a cheap addition, it adds fear of the dark, fear of what you cannot see, but in reality is a cheap way of getting around the idea that writers struggle to think up things that are scary in the daylight.
So overall, we have the usual silly premise of an evil force from an annoyed dead person, a fews spooks both false and horror, the use of mind control on protagonists, building the the partial reveal of the unexplained baddie and a few cgi shots or her angry face 'roar' - to which a rational person simply tells it to sod off and stop being such a Muppet to kids. Obviously psychiatric care does not extend to the afterlife, all practitioners simply give up and let psychotic spirits roam free to cause destruction.
The only disturbing thing in this movie was the use of children for the 'murder' scenes. I found that distasteful. Drowning children, strangling or suffocating them is in poor taste.
As for continuity errors - that inlet seems to have gotten so much deeper than in Movie 1. In this one they get pulled 30 feet underwater, despite the fact that when the sea is out you can see the depth is only a couple of feet at most on to sludge.
Great set, great costume, good acting on the whole ruined by a very silly story. Come on guys, sort it out.
Brigham Young (1940)
Not a reflection of the reality
I'm LDS, with a significant interest in history, and although this film was OK, and I enjoyed the cast, the story was inaccurate and somewhat glossy in many places.
In contrast to some of the other reviews, I'd note that Joseph Smith was arrested on a legitimate charge. He destroyed a newspaper press and the papers in Nauvoo. Freedom of the press is protected in the US under the constitution, so he broke the law. Further, having read that edition of the Nauvoo expositor I find that although there is hyperbole within it the basis of its claims are founded in fact, revealing that Joseph taught polygamy long before it was openly announced. Having read Richard Lyman Bushman's 'Rough Stone Rolling', and Todd Compton's 'In Sacred Loneliness' Smith is also acknowledged by Church Historians to have married 11 women that were actually married to other men alive at the time - some of which he had sent away on missions before proposing to their wives whilst they were away serving. So if anything, this movie underplays it.
Brigham Young, was a strong leader, and he did indeed establish SLC, and build a thriving community there. Our history is far more troubled and nuanced than is portrayed in this movie. The story did little to portray a well rounded view of the harsh reality both within and without the church.