Tag Archives: alien

Alien: Covenant – Review

28 May

Since 1979, the Alien series has been consistently revisited. The original film is a classic, and the same can be said about James Cameron’s 1986 sequel, Aliens, which is my personal favorite in the series. David Fincher’s Alien 3 is a major disappointment, and an all around ugly film, while Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Alien: Resurrection is an off kilter, almost comic book adaptation. It’s an odd one but I like it. Ridley Scott returned to the series with his 2012 prequel Prometheus, which opened up a lot of new doors for the series and left many people scratching their heads and asking questions. Well, it’s time for those questions to be answered because we have a new movie in the series, and I was really hyped up for it. Alien: Covenant is a rollicking, violent, and disturbing summer blockbuster that filled me with plenty of emotions and made my gag reflexes work some overtime. This is a welcome addition to the series.

In 2104, the colonization ship Covenant is en route to the planet Origae-6, which will become a new home to humanity. After a disaster hits the ship, Walter (Michael Fassbender), the android watching the ship, wakes the rest of the crew from stasis. With the ship’s captain dead, the next in command is the faith based Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup). After receiving a signal from a nearby planet that looks habitable, the crew decides to check it out, much to the protests of Daniels (Katherine Waterston), the terraforming expert onboard the Covenant. On the planet, members of the crew are soon infected by spores which then produce creatures that erupt out of the bodies of the crew. They soon meet David (Fassbender again), who survived the Prometheus mission and is hiding out in a temple that holds more secrets than the Covenant team was expecting. Soon it’s the aliens against the humans, and David’s true motivations make survival all the more difficult.

When watching an Alien movie, I expect a certain kind of standard, and some of the movies in the series do not meet the criteria. This one certainly does despite some obvious flaws in character and storytelling. Let’s get some of the negatives out of the way first. For one thing, there’s a certain character that is completely wasted, and it isn’t the first time we’ve seen something like this happen in this series. Sure, there’s a moment of shock when this character’s fate is revealed, but it kind of left me wishing I could have seen more of them. There’s also a lot of exposition that crowds the middle of the movie, but a lot of this exposition is dishonest, which leads to more exposition, which then leads to confusion. Any fan of Prometheus may have well guessed that this prequel trilogy is not going to be a straightforward one, and the confusion and questions that Covenant raises just adds to that theory. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but when this all happens in a murky and dark and muddled part of the movie, that’s when there’s a little bit of a problem.

Much like the other films in this franchise, Alien: Covenant has a slow start, but that’s a wise way to tell this story in the grand scheme of things. Tension is built up for a long time, and when that tension is finally released, the screen explodes with terror and gore and just outrageous violence that sometimes made my stomach turn. This is easily the most violent Alien movie, and it shocked me in more ways than one. When an alien first explodes out of a crew members body, my mouth was side open at the shamelessness of it all. Ridley Scott clearly wanted this reaction and he sure got it. It’s so fun to be in a movie theater and hear gasps coming from all around the auditorium. The intensity in this movie is amped up to 11 and a lot of this comes from the incredible production design. The claustrophobia of the ships and the wide open spaces on the planet’s surface makes it very clear that no one is safe in this movie. There is one computerized effect that looked kind of weird, but the rest of the movie looked excellent.

Alien: Covenant takes what happens in Prometheus and builds off of it, so it would be hard to like this movie without liking its predecessor. The world building in Covenant is awesome and motivations for the characters feel very strong and often times tragic. A lot of the success has to do with Fassbender’s performance as both Walter and David. He is the crux of this whole prequel trilogy and he brings more menace to the screen than I was expecting. He is the perfect villain that this series needs and his calmness plays off the chaos of the xenomorphs perfectly. This is one of those movies that made me excited to see what more the series has to offer, and I really can’t wait to see what happens next, but that’s a review for another time.

Alien: Covenant isn’t the best film in the series, but it is the best film since Aliens and it’s just the sequel that Prometheus needed. This film is also not for the squeamish, but long time fans of the Alien series probably expect nothing less. Still, this movie managed to shock and horrify while also building the science fiction universe of androids, aliens, heroes, and the evil Weyland Corporation quite well. Fans of the series will have to check out this one out. If I  had to rank this movie, I’d say it’s my third favorite Alien film.

Final Grade: B+

The Blob (1958 & 1988) – Review

22 Aug

When I think about movies from the 1950s, I immediately think of alien invasion films. There are classics like The Day the Earth Stood Still and Invasion of the Body Snatchers, and then there are those that are classics for totally different reasons like Plan 9 from Outer Space. Arguably one of the most celebrated of these invasion films is the 1958 cult smash, The Blob. Like many sci-fi and horror films, it got a remake in 1988, but surprisingly enough, it stands up to and in many ways surpasses the original.

Let’s look at the original version first.

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Steve Andrews (Steve McQueen) and Jane Martin (Aneta Corseaut) are out on a date one night in rural Pennsylvania. The night seems ordinary enough, until Steve notices what looks like a meteor hurtling towards the woods. When the contents of the meteor, a small gelatinous blob, is inadvertently brought into town by an old hermit (Olin Howland) people begin disappearing. Steven finally notices the blob, which has grown a lot bigger, consuming the town’s doctor, but when he begins telling people, only Jane seems to believe him. As the night goes on and more and more people begin disappearing, the blob finally grabs the town’s attention when it attacks people in a movie theatre in its iconic climax.

What could have been a pretty standard B-grade alien invasion story is bolstered into becoming something of a genre masterpiece. But what is it that really puts The Blob a step above the rest? Like a lot of these genre films from this time, there’s an underlying theme of communism making its way into the American way of life, but it’s done with what I think is the most simple but affective way. The blob, which is red, literally consumes everybody and becomes bigger and bigger. This blob, by the way, is a real achievement of special effects. Sure it looks dated now, but there’s certain scenes that made me excited at the clever usage of practical effects.

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The 1958 version of The Blob is a lot of fun. So much fun that there’s even a festival named after it which is dedicated to celebrating the film and other movies like it. It’s also fun to see a young Steve McQueen, who would go on to be an action megastar, in probably his most timid role. Unfortunately, this movie really won’t appeal to everyone. You have to be a fan of the genre to really appreciate what this movie was trying to do and the ways it succeeded. Still, it remains a cult classic that will never be forgotten.

There was a sequel to this film in 1972 called Beware! The Blob, but I’ve never seen that one, and I really have no interest in seeing it. Instead, I’m gonna jump ahead to 1988 to look at the remake.

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, a meteor crashes in Arborville, California (that’s new) and is soon brought to the city by and old homeless man (Billy Beck) who gets it stuck on his arm. The amorphous, acidic substance soon disintegrates and consumes the man and begins working its way through the small town, growing larger and larger as it consumes more people. Brian Flagg (Kevin Dillon) and Meg Penny (Shawnee Smith) are two teens caught in the middle of all of the chaos which only gets worse when scientists and military personnel, led by Dr. Meddows (Joe Seneca), get involved and reveal a large government conspiracy that could be the end of the world.

Just like the original fit in nicely with other 1950s alien invasion films, this version of The Blob fits in great with the sci-fi/horror film of the 1980s. Like a lot of those films what really stands out to me in this movie is the special effects. The blob is much larger and much more aggressive, so the death scenes in this movie are much more explicit. This means we get a lot more of those practical effects I was talking about, except a whole lot better. People are disintegrated, snapped like twigs, limbs are pulled off, and faces are melted all in the name of cheesy horror.

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Another thing this version has is a great sense of humor that borders on the line of self awareness. There are a lot of jokes in this movie that genuinely made me laugh, and it’s pretty safe to say that everything that happens in this movie is done in a sort of tongue in cheek kind of way. That being said, the humor makes for characters that are easy to like which causes a reaction when one of them dies. Let me just say also, that this movie has some guts in killing off the people it does and when. There are plenty of shocks, laughs, scares, and great special effects that makes The Blob from 1988 not just a good remake, but a great and, dare I say, superior remake.

For both of the films, you have to already like the genre or be open to the idea of liking the genre. With the silliness of the first one and the excessive gore of the second one, these movies aren’t for everyone, but both have garnered praise and celebration which is all well deserved.

Prometheus – Review

31 Dec

The question of our existence can only be outmatched by the infinite amount of unknown questions that the universe still has in store for us, most of which we will probably never have time to ask. Prometheus is a movie that dares to ask, “what if?” To me, this is more than a science fiction movie that happens to take place in the same universe as the Alien franchise. This is a movie about philosophy, religion, and science with arguments for and against all of these points.

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After finding ancient cave drawings that point to the existence of much more powerful alien life forms that have a special connection to humanity, scientists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and  Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) lead a voyage funded by the Weyland Corporation to the moon LV-223. The moon definitely shows signs of life, especially a biosphere that contains hundreds, if not thousands, mysterious canisters. David (Michael Fassbender), an android, takes an especial curiosity to these canisters. Unfortunately for the crew of the Prometheus ship, both natural disaster and exposure to unknown biology starts to spread panic and death leaving little hope of anyone getting off the moon alive.

The plot to Prometheus is a little weird. Not the story itself, but how it’s presented. I hear a lot of complaints about how it’s slow or disjointed, and even that not enough is revealed. To me this just shows how desensitized audiences have become to straightforward storytelling. Yes, the movie is slow at points, but then erupts into satisfying sci-fi mayhem. Does this mean it’s disjointed? Not at all. Finally, of course not a lot is revealed. This is all a set up to a bigger picture. There’s going to be a Prometheus 2 and maybe even a third entry. Revealing too much would ruin the suspense and the surprises we have in store.

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Ridley Scott has never shied away from epic film making and this isn’t his first science fiction either (Alien, Blade Runner), but this is what I call epic science fiction. This movie looks absolutely huge. LV-223 looks so desolate, but also strangely majestic. I can’t take my eyes off the beautifully bleak scenery. Not only is the landscape and the ships huge, but also the feeling that one should feel while watching this movie. Nothing can get bigger than the universe, and Prometheus takes me to places I haven’t yet been in a movie. I feel like LV-223 is the farthest I’ve ever been from home. The movie also got me thinking about the absolute insignificance of our existence compared to everything else, and also made me curious as to what actually happened in the beginning and what will happen in the end. Questions that I will never know the answers to.

Let’s get out of the existential territory and talk about something more real: the performances. Noomi Rapace is a great leading lady and definitely does not have an easy part. Charlize Theron is pretty typical as the corporate ball buster, but Idris Elba does a great job as the pilot who realizes he is into something way stranger than he ever thought he’d be in the middle of. The person you’re really going to remember is Michael Fassbender as David the android. Talk about a difficult role. Fassbender is mesmerizing. His ability to make an android character who is mechanic, yet bizarrely human, believable can not be a simple task. Massive kudos.

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Prometheus is one of my favorite science fiction movies that I think surpasses Alien. It seems that you either love it or you hate it without any middle ground, and I can imagine that some people will think that the last sentence I wrote is some sort of film blasphemy. It’s existential themes and questions that still need to be answered are interesting and super intriguing. The special effects are only matched by the performances and the tie ins with the Alien universe will make any film buff squeal with excitement. I loved this movie very, very much and I can not wait to see what Ridley Scott does next with this story.

Also, to set the record straight, Prometheus is not a prequel to Alien. It is a spin off, or a tie in if you will. Things happen in it that relate to the events of Alien, but nothing that is directly connected.

Meatball Machine – Review

30 Nov

I gotta say, Japan is a pretty eccentric place, and I mean that in the best way possible. I know that they have very dramatic and artistic cinematic pieces, but what I’m going to be talking about today is something totally different. I’m talking about Meatball Machine, a film that’s in the same league as the outlandish Tokyo Gore Police. It’s gory, violent, hysterical, strangle romantic, and truly bizarre. That goes without saying, but is it any good?

Freakish and murderous creatures have begun popping up through all of Japan without any rhyme or reason. Some theories say space, but no one is sure. All that is known is that these parasites infect humans and turn their bodies into tools have war to not kill other humans, but other creatures. Yoji (Issei Takahashi) witnesses this first hand after the girl he is enamored with (Aoba Kawai) is infected. Yoji soon learns that the only way to save her is to put her out of her misery, but how?

I don’t even know where to begin. People may criticize this movie all they want, but you have to admit that it sure packs a wallop of imagination in its story and its presentation. The creature effects were designed by Yoshihiro Nishimura, who actually directed Tokyo Gore Police and some other movies whose reviews are to come! While the story is pretty cool, the effects are what steal the show. They look low budget and cheap at times, but they are! Nishimura still did an excellent job with what was available.

 

The thing with this movie is that it felt like it wouldn’t end. This movie isn’t even long, only 92 minutes. The climactic showdown starts off pretty bland, stays bland, then all of the sudden explodes into bloody awesome over the top goodness. I just felt like I had to wait so long to get there. There’s a point in the movie where all of the cool stuff has happened, and all we really want to see is the resolution. This is the weakest part of the movie, and the film makers should have pushed things along.

Everything else is still pretty solid as far as something as ludicrous as this goes. The acting was ok, and the writing was even well done. I feel like I don’t really have too much to say about this movie, which could be a bad thing, but I don’t really think it is. It’s just not really a movie to sit down and nit pick or compliment. It’s a movie to watch when you’re in that weird kind of mood, where a normal narrative with normal situations just won’t suffice.

 

I can’t say that Meatball Machine is a good movie, but I can’t say that it’s a bad movie either. As far as Japanese “splatter” movies go it’s not my favorite, but I can still appreciate it for what it is: an imaginative blood bath into mayhem. I said before, you have to be in a certain mood to watch this movie for it to really be enjoyable. Just have an open mind, know what you’re getting into, and brace yourselves for bloody silliness.

Paul – Review

27 Sep

In all my years of being a movie fanatic, I’ve never heard anyone say something bad about Simon Pegg’s and Nick Frost’s films like Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Whenever these two are in something, it’s pretty much a guaranteed success. Even though Paul a popular movie when it came out, I don’t really hear too much talk about this one. So, I’m here to break the ice and talk about what I think, because that’s just what I do.

Graeme Willy (Simon Pegg) and Clive Gollings (Nick Frost) are two British science fiction enthusiasts who’ve come to America for the San Diego Comic-Con. After Comic-Con, their plan is to travel to all of the UFO hotspots in the west. They certainly get more than they bargained for when the happen upon a crude, yet innocent extraterrestrial Paul (voiced by Seth Rogen). All Paul wants to do is get home, but that’s now what the government has in mind, especially Agent Zoil (Jason Bateman) who is hot on their tail. Now on the run from the government and an overly-religious hick (thanks to the trio inadvertently becoming kidnappers), the chances of Paul getting home are becoming slimmer and slimmer.

The first thing I was worried about was that the character of Paul was going to get annoying quickly. I automatically assumed he was going to be crude the entire way through the movie, but he was actually a great character. So was everyone else. Pegg and Frost’s characters are relatable and very likable and the villains are cold and are still able to remain funny. There are a few “villains” that are really no threat at all, and they provide some of the biggest laughs of the movie.

And when I say laughs, I mean I was hysterical. These two never fail to make me laugh, and their writing is as quick as it’s always been, albeit a little more crude. To compare it to the last movie I reviewed, Your HighnessPaul seems like a children’s movie. There are some jokes that are juvenile, but it never goes overboard, and there’s a self-referential tone that stays throughout the entire movie. Speaking of self-referential, there are loads of jokes in this movie that are homages to science fiction classics of the past from Back to the Future to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and an excellent Star Wars reference that was very clever.

Something that really surprised me though was the clearly present anti-Christian agenda that really seemed to come out of nowhere. Personally, this didn’t really bother me. I thought it was pretty funny, but at the same time really got the point of views across. At times, I will concede, it did go a little overboard and sort of shoved the opinion down your throat. Subtlety is sometimes a lot better. I do know that a lot of people were offended by this, but you have to remember, it’s just a movie. People have differing ideas on different topics and they are allowed to express them.

 

For me, Paul was a very entertaining movie that kept me laughing from beginning to end, and I’d even go so far as to say that I liked it better than Hot Fuzz. I’m sure a lot of people disagree, but go right ahead. The characters were very likable and the humor was consistently strong and loaded with in jokes and references that were always fun to pick out and appreciate. If you’re looking for a good R-rated comedy, look no further than Paul.

Battle: Los Angeles – Review

12 Jul

It seems like audiences will never get tired of alien invasion movies, and I’m ok with that because I personally love the genre. When done right, invasion movies are exciting and may even have a message that mirrors societal problems. Then there are some that are loud and brainless, kind of like Battle: Los Angeles.

SSgt. Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) is finished with being a Marine. He has to get through day after day of reliving his past mistakes that got people killed. Unfortunately, for him and everyone else, he is pulled back into active duty after aliens arrive on earth and begins exterminating any human that the come across in order to colonize our planet. Nantz and his new squad are part of the bigger machine that is charged with repelling their attack by any means necessary.

Does anything else happen in this movie? No. Not really. There is a nice beginning that introduces all of the different marines that we will be with the entire movie, and lets us in on their different personalities. They are a pretty diverse bunch of people, which does help me care about them, but I knew that there were a lot of them because a lot of people have to die, so i immediately understood their purpose.

Even with all of the characters, besides Nantz, I still found it hard to keep everyone together. When they are in battle, they pretty much just lost their characters and became random people, because I had absolutely no idea who was doing what, or even what was going on sometimes. Battle: LA is filmed in a kind of faux-documentary style, so expect a lot of shaky cam and motion sickness, lots of motion sickness. I don’t know what it is with film makers today, especially in Hollywood, who think that this style of film making works to the advantage of an action film. Even Christopher Nolan was guilty of this in Batman Begins. If there is an action scene, I’d like to see and understand it.

I’m pretty sure that this movie was partially made as a recruiting video for the United States Marines. I got tired of hearing how much ass the Marines kick and how they never retreat. It would have been fine a couple of times, but every other line? No, thank you. Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down are actual war movies, and even they don’t talk about themselves as much as the characters in Battle: LA.

Then again, all of the writing in this movie is pretty terrible. Battle: LA is packed to the brim with every war movie cliché you can possibly think of. The characters are all stock war characters, there’s the obligatory and serious “tell my wife I love her” scenes, and a protagonist with a mysterious past. Some originality would have been nice, but who needs to be original when there are so many explosions and cool looking stuff (Michael Bay?).

I can’t say that the movie didn’t entertain me for a little bit. I saw it when it first came out in theaters and had a pretty good time, but watching it again at home, I liked it a lot less. When the aliens first came and the action first picked up, I was liking it. Then it kept going and going and going. When the end finally came, I was more than ready to turn it off. It was only two hours long. That’s average for a movie, but it felt way too long. Two hours of nonstop yelling and shooting may sound cool, but not really.

Battle: LA had potential to be cool, but is wasted with some of the most unoriginal, and vomit inducing (shaky cam) content that has come out in the past couple years. Look at District 9 and Independence Day. Those are fantastic alien invasion films, and I wished a couple of times that I was watching them instead of Battle: LA. It may look cool, be loud, and have lots of action, but I was still pretty bored. This isn’t a good movie, so save yourself some time.