“Alien: Covenant” – The path to paradise begins in hell.

This may be more of a rant against what Hollywood seems to be becoming rather than a review, but I think it will still cover the important aspects of what I was expecting and what I wanted from “Alien: Covenant”. Basically, it was a letdown for me. I walked away from it telling myself, “No no, it was good…right? It had some cool parts…” but I just can’t seem to forgive a lot of the issues it was filled with. Seems to me that Ridley Scott is trying to remake the saga he created by making us forget how great the originals were. I don’t think he’s succeeding.IMG_20170323_0950491

When “Prometheus” came out in 2012 a lot of audiences were pissed at the plot holes, scientist stupidity, and altogether “…what??” that it instilled in viewers. I’ve seen it enough times at this point to actually enjoy it as a film in the Alien franchise. Yes, it has plot holes. Yes, it has characters doing incredibly stupid things. But the whole idea of that movie was to watch a bunch of scientists investigate something they had no clue about and gradually get torn to pieces due to their lack of intelligence. If that’s how you go into the film, it’s actually a great piece of Alien lore that could’ve set up Ridley’s sequels leading up to “Alien”. Sadly, I think he missed the mark with “Covenant”.

Before getting into the actual plot of the film, I want to point out something that the film business has started doing lately that has upset me deeply. Months before “Covenant” came out, marketing materials were being released in the form of vignettes that were supposed to give us an early look into the film. For instance James Franco was cast in the film as the captain and has a very, VERY brief cameo in some of these “films”, so I was expecting to see more of him in the actual movie. NOPE. You can count the seconds he’s on camera. So imagine how upsetting it is for fans of the franchise to see these early release stories only to not include them in the film itself, making for a somewhat confusing storyline we’re forced to piece together. Sadly I see this as becoming a Hollywood trend now just to generate more dollars for studios, along with “trailer teases” which is just the stupidest thing I’ve seen. Let’s get you excited about getting excited about the movie! No.

Anywho, the film. “Covenant” takes place 10 years after the events in “Prometheus” with yet another ship of people headed somewhere to setup a colony. In typical “Alien” fashion they receive some sort of distress beacon, are woken up from cryosleep early, and go to checkout what ends up being a really bad idea. Now something that “Covenant” seemed to get right that “Prometheus” didn’t, is that this time around these are just colonists looking to start a new life on some planet. Therefore when danger starts creeping up on them they really don’t have a clue what to do. “Prometheus” kind of failed at this because the point of that film was to discover an alien race, so they planned accordingly by bringing weapons and military personnel, but everyone just ran around like chickens with their heads cut off once things took a downward turn. But I digress. In “Covenant” the action

In “Covenant” the action actually starts pretty quickly with some rather gruesome deaths. Normally the “Alien” franchise has hinted at gore here and there but the main focus was sheer terror. That is not the case here as anytime someone dies, it’s pretty brutal and sometimes over the top. But even that’s not the biggest issue. My problem with the whole film came into play once David (Michael Fassbender) was re-introduced. Seen as the sole-survivor from “Prometheus”, he shows up in a cloak as some ominous figure who’s been living alone for these past 10 years. The audience actually laughed when he appeared in the movie, which is never a good sign. From there it just gets really convoluted. Whereas in “Alien”, “Aliens”, and even “Alien 3” the story builds along with the fear, “Covenant” doesn’t really know what to do. None of the characters are super memorable besides Tennessee (Danny McBride). I think people were expecting him to be some sort of comic relief but besides a few comedic lines here and there, he was great and dramatic and definitely the best part of the film for me. Anyway, as people started to get offed I found myself trying to figure out where the film was going. The death scenes were just too…creative? Probably not the right word but I feel like the studio heads said something along the lines of, “Let’s kill everyone in a different, unique way and really focus on the gore rather than the creeping fear the other films have.” This sucks. What made “Alien” great back in 1979 was that you barely saw the creature. It was all noises and shadows that made you scared to walk down a dark hallway. “Covenant” has no problem showing you the creature from the get-go and letting you bask in the CGI for the whole film, which is another drawback for me since I appreciate practical effects and costumes more.

xalien-covenant1.png.pagespeed.ic.wYPhwsFyFIThis was really just one long ad for grand pianos.

The film also didn’t have much suspense in the way of “I wonder what’s going to happen next” or “How in the hell are they going to survive this?” Almost everything was telegraphed and there were even moments where people laughed or sighed out loud once a scene unfolded. Overall it just felt like Ridley Scott was rushing a film to theaters just to get it out there. For the die-hard fans, Neill Blomkamp’s proposed “Alien 5” sounded so much cooler and it was going to bring back Ripley and Hicks, something longtime fans just couldn’t argue with. Personally I think that once his leaked concept art hit the web, Ridley rushed to get his vision made instead and therefore created a less-than-perfect follow up to “Prometheus”. Now I’ve read a lot of comments and reviews, some saying it answered “Prometheus’s” questions, others saying it made the prequel look like the greatest entry in the franchise, so it’s pretty clear there’s a divided audience. I mean even Rotten Tomatoes lists “Covenant” as Certified Fresh with a 73%. While not the upper echelon of reviews, that’s pretty good for RT standards. Sadly I have to disagree.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: If you’re a fan of the franchise then it’s definitely worth seeing. Go into it removing any ideas of a strong, coherent story and just view it as an entry into Alien canon knowing there are better entries out there. And hopefully you’ll love Danny McBride.

SCENE COLLECTED: Several people have brought this scene up on Reddit as being a favorite and I’d have to agree, mainly because I was somewhat disappointed with how the rest of it played out. But there’s a scene on the planet where Daniels (Katherine Waterston) is flipping through some drawings that are all H.R. Giger’s original concepts for the Xenomorph look. So that was a pretty cool nod to longtime fans of the series.

FLICKCHART RATING: 834/2409

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“Centurion” – History is written in blood

This movie makes Tarantino’s films look like Disney movies in comparison. The amount of CGI blood and gore, plus the use of “actual” fake blood is just…disgustingly awesome. If you’re in the mood for one of those “historically accurate but probably not” movies, “Centurion” is the way to go.

As far as history films go, maybe it’s not a sin to add a little bit of modern spice when it comes to dialogue. First thing I noticed with this film is the use of cuss words usually limited to today’s teens. It seemed a bit strange to have a bunch of Roman soldiers running around (with British accents) cussing up a storm but oh well, what can you do. The story follows Michael Fassbender as Quintas Dias, a Roman Centurion who has been attacked along with his garrison by a small army of Picts. For those who don’t know, Picts are basically the early, warrior-esque people who inhabited most of Northern Scotland during the early AD years. Anyway, Fassbender escapes from his captors and eventually links up with General Titus Flavius Virilus (Dominic West) who launches a counterattack on the Picts, under orders by Agricola, the Roman governor of Britannia. Not the cough drop. You know what, there are lot of crazy names in this movie so forgive me if I just start referring to people in simpler terms. Basically the general’s group of soldiers gets pretty wiped out and himself captured, so the remaining handful of Roman BAMF’s (including Fassbender and the new Liam Neeson, Liam Cunningham) decide to rush in and rescue their general. What follows is an hour and a half of extremely bloody…bloodshed and lots of running.

The running is due to the fact that the Pictish army is pretty pissed at the remaining soldiers for something I won’t mention as it’s somewhat of a plot point. Pursuing them is a woman warrior who has a very troubled past with the Romans, and as a result has no tongue and just grunts a lot. I didn’t pick up on it but according to IMDB her name is Etain, and she is played by Olga Kurylenko in somewhat of a new role for her. I thoroughly enjoyed her acting because she not only learned how to ride a horse (and well) for the role, but her sword/spear play is pretty awesome. It also helps that when people are nicked by a blade in the film they bleed as if it was their jugular. Fassbender and West are also great, Fassbender being the up-and-coming actor at the time and West is just a big guy with a bellowing voice. The first time I ever saw West was in Michael Hoffman’s adaptation of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which if you like Shakespeare you should definitely check out. I mentioned Liam Cunningham because it seems that every British movie I see nowadays contains Cunningham in one way or another, and he always plays the same guy.

Look at that chin…it just screams ‘British’.

Now, I mentioned it earlier and I feel it needs greater attention brought to it: the blood. This stuff was quite literally used in liters. The trivia says that over 200 liters of the stuff were pumped out throughout the course of the whole film. Apparently a guy specializing in prosthetics was hired for the battle scenes and he just went to town on everything. This movie does not feel like hiding moments when axes met skulls or swords were swung at legs. You get to see all of the gory decapitations, and it’s pretty cool.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Not a bad flick. I like Neil Marshall because he cuts to the chase and gets down to what he wants you to see. So check it out if you’re a fan of blood, Romans, and Michael Fassbender.

FLICKCHART RATING: 1367/1942

“Prometheus” – The search for our beginning could lead to our end.

This post is going to be extremely biased because I am a HUGE fan of the “Alien” franchise/Ridley Scott. In case you’re a huge fan too and think that I don’t know what I’m talking about, “Alien³” is my favorite out of the quadrilogy (now quintology? maybe?), and that’s saying a lot. Just like when I first heard about a new “Indiana Jones” 14 years ago, I’ve been following every bit of fan news, viral campaigning, and trailer watching one could possibly do. Only this time I didn’t wind up extremely depressed with the outcome.

Ridley Scott has always seemed like the kind of guy who could say, “Sure, I guess I’ll make that movie” and it would turn out to be gold. Even “Matchstick Men” was entertaining and it “starred” Nicolas Cage. So when the news came about that he wanted to return to his space-terror roots and preboot his own franchise, I think you can say I was a tad excited. “Alien” first came out in 1979 as what was supposed to be a B-movie starring a few somewhat known actors, and then shuffled under the rug of lesser known films. They say that “Jaws” did for the ocean what “Psycho” did for showers, and if space wasn’t already creepy enough “Alien” definitely made it worse. Without giving away the premise of the “Alien” franchise for those who have been missing out, I will try to give the best rundown of “Prometheus” that I can without spoiling the awesome.

During the year 2089 a group of archeologists have compiled a handful of cave drawings around the world dating from different centuries, all to contain roughly the same thing: a star map. These archeologists believe that the star maps were put here by “engineers”, or rather our creators (take that, religion). Within a few years the extremely generous and extremely old Peter Weyland has funded the mission to find this moon that all of the star maps are pointing to in order to ask the engineers why they created us, and maybe why male pattern balding is a thing. A crew of 17 heads out on the ship “Prometheus”, aptly named for its purpose. Among this crew are the two archeologist types who found the “invitation”, an android named David (wonderfully played by Michael Fassbender), some other scientists, Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) who is running the show, and then the captain and his captain squad. Almost immediately it is made present through both David and Meredith that there is an ulterior motive to this journey, which is a nice homage to the other “Alien” films. Upon landing on the moon LV-223 they disembark and head straight to a weird, dome-like cave system. This is where things get weird. Using technology that would have been great to have in the future world of “Alien” they are able to watch playback of the engineers clearly running from something that eventually killed them.


Awesome.

It’s at this point that normal people would just say, “Well that was cool, if we leave now we can make it to Friday’s for $2 sliders.” But instead the archeologists get excited about their find and David sneaks something back on board. Right around now I became worried that Ridley Scott was just reheating his plot for “Alien” with a different cast and different space suits, but thankfully he proved me very, very wrong. The movie changes gears and suddenly my palms just got sweaty. There are a few solid “Ridley” scenes as I’ve seen them referred to online, and one in particular that made me and the two guys on either side of me cringe as if we just bit into a batch of lemons. It honestly just gets better and better until the end, where we are given an amazing climax/lead-in to “Alien”. I mean, I even applauded.

For those who have seen the other movies in the universe, or at the very least “Alien”, “Prometheus” is filled with bits and pieces from the rest of the series. It’s a real treat to sit there and smile because you realize that the line that character just delivered ends up playing a huge role later on in a completely different film. Ridley really does a great job creating the world he only visited in “Alien”, while also offering this great question of where we actually came from. Also, you’ll learn two very important rules regarding space exploration.

1. Don’t touch anything. Ever. No matter how shiny or cute it is.

2. Don’t go to space.

DIRECTOR’S CUT: Absolutely excellent. A lot of people will be afraid of having nightmares (and you will) for a few weeks following, but it’s totally worth it. Rarely are sequels/prequels worthy of their predecessors, but “Prometheus” is everything I could have hoped for. Oh, and the score is mesmerizing.

FLICKCHART RATING: 40/1907