REVIEW: ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

MZNJ_New_review

now playing

bars

ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

WARNING: There might be some details here that could be considered as spoilers to those who want to go in knowing as little as possible. Some plot elements had to be divulged somewhat in order to give an accurate opinion. -MZNJ

Prometheus was a pretentious mess that tried to expand on the Alien franchise by delving into our creation and thus that of the Xenomorphs. It didn’t make good on it’s initial ideas and had a crew of supposed genius scientists doing incredibly stupid things. Ridley Scott tries to repair a bit of the damage with Alien: Covenant, which brings us closer to the world he introduced us to in 1979. The flick takes place ten years later with the spaceship Covenant heading to populate a new world with a small crew and over two thousand colonists in hyper-sleep. A massive neutrino burst blasts the ship causing damage and forcing the ship synthetic, Walter (Michael Fassbender) to awaken the crew. While engaging in repairs, they receive a signal from what appears to be a human source on a nearby planet. Upon investigation, the crew finds out not only the fate of Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Repace) and the synthetic David (also Michael Fassbender), but discover an awaiting nightmare that they may not escape from.

New chapter in the Alien saga is definitely better than Prometheus, but that’s not saying much, nor is it by the amount needed to restore complete faith in this prequel series. This one is written by John Logan and Dante Harper, from a story by Jack Paglen and Michael Green and the first hour is actually quite dull till we reach the unknown planet and find the synthetic human David living in what appears to once have been a city of otherworldly beings. There the film picks up a bit as it takes on a sort of Frankenstein twist as David has been quite busy playing God on his new world. It then takes till the last act where we start to get some of the action we came for and some familiar faces make their appearance…and that’s also the other problem. At this point the Xenomorph’s are far too familiar to be really frightening and it is the messianic David that really chills one as there are definitely a few screws loose in his reattached, megalomaniacal head. In these scenes the film livens up and delivers some chills as our unsuspecting, stranded crew have no idea what little ole David has been doing to relieve the boredom…but they’re going to find out. There is some surprisingly abundant gore and the film is sumptuous looking, as are all of Scott’s films, but it all comes to a terribly predictable end that we can all see coming almost an hour away. There are a few scenes along the way with some impact…alien interrupted shower sex anyone?…but otherwise it’s the same ole, same ole right up to how the remaining crew decide to deal with the critter…really, after almost 40 years you’re still sticking with that???

The cast are good, though the characters here are very thinly written and it’s hard to connect on an emotional level with anybody but the chill-inducing David. Katherine Waterston is our heroine Daniels Branson and while she is fine in the last act when she goes all Ripley, she really doesn’t make much of an impact until then. One wonders where all the piss and vinegar comes from as she is played very low-key up till that point. Comic actor Danny McBride stands out a bit as pilot Tennessee. McBride is very restrained here and plays the role very seriously…as the film is basically humorless, anyway. He makes a solid hero even if, like Waterston, he doesn’t get to cowboy-up till the last act. Really standing out doing exceptional work is Michael Fassbender as both David and Walter. As Covenant synthetic Walter we get the boyish innocence and Spock-like logic we expect from these android characters. It is when he gets to chew the scenery as the messiah/Dr. Frankenstein mash-up that is David, he really chills with his performance and out-does the creepy critters in the goosebumps department. His relationship with the newer model Walter is quite interesting as he tries to convince the synthetic to see things his way. The scenes revealing what David has been up to the last ten years are among the best in the movie. Once we go back to the alien loose on the ship format, it gets very ‘been there, done that’. As for the rest of the cast that populate this prequel sequel, they are basically two dimensional alien fodder and we never really care about them or remember their names for that matter.

In conclusion, yes it was better than it’s predecessor, but not by much and it takes over an hour to really get going. The characters are bland, the aliens at this point are too familiar to be truly frightening and their antics are getting stale. What makes this movie worth watching is Michael Fassbender’s truly chilling portrayal of David and the messianic Dr. Frankenstein he’s become. His relationship with the xenomorph’s is a highlight, though it does unintentionally clue us in as to how this is all going to end…and it ends exactly how you think it’s going to. Not the pretentious mess that was Prometheus, but still a long way from the original classic or James Cameron’s awesome sequel.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 alien eggs.

 

 

 

 

Be Warned: this is the Red Band trailer…

bars

BARE BONES: PROMETHEUS (2012)

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1


PROMETHEUS (2012)

Prometheus is not only Ridley Scott’s long awaited return to sci-fi, but also to the same universe that his breakout classic Alien took place in. Prometheus is a prequel of sorts detailing events that may have set the story of Alien in motion and created it’s iconic creatures. So why at the climax are we so unsatisfied by what we just saw? As with all Scott’s films Prometheus is a gorgeously designed and filmed movie, but despite the interesting set-up about the possible origins of man and the existence of other superior beings, the visuals are just an empty candy coating as the film goes nowhere with these ideas. We get a story about Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Repace) who discovers numerous occurrences of a hieroglyphic throughout various earth times and cultures which she interprets as an invitation from an extraterrestrial race. Enter the Weyland Corporation (The villainous “Company” from the Alien films) who fund an expedition, but apparently with their own agenda. And the good ship Prometheus is off to investigate with it’s cliche’ corporate villain captain (Charlize Theron, who really doesn’t do much but be a company bitch) and the usual suspicious android, David (Michael Fassbender, who has the best role).

…And herein lies the problem. We start out expecting to find something fascinating, but Damon Lindelof and Jon Spaihts’ script gives us a cliche’ story of extraterrestrials whose intentions aren’t as noble as first believed and slimy corporate villains who want to use what they find for there own nefarious purposes. Sorry, been there, done that. Seen it all before. The beings’ true purpose in their genetic tampering is never revealed, nor does it make sense to leave evidence of their existence on earth when they are ultimately up to no good. Prometheus leaves the most interesting questions unanswered and instead moves the plot along by having characters do the stupidest things…seriously, genius scientists taking their helmets off in an alien environment without any clue that there might be an undetected threat?…Are you kidding me? I’ll admit there are a few tense scenes, although the film is rather laid back pace wise, and could have used a lot more suspense and energy if it wasn’t going to get overly interesting with it’s story. And most aggravating of all, is that the film is open-ended. It doesn’t even give us a satisfying conclusion. It leaves the most important questions unanswered and implies we have to wait for yet another film to find out how this story ends and how it links to the beginning of Alien, which it eventually will.
A major disappointment from Ridely Scott and company.

-MonsterZero NJ

Humerus-Bone1

bars

BARE BONES: THE MARTIAN

MZNJ_bareBones_Marquee

now playing

Humerus-Bone1

martian

THE MARTIAN (2015)

The Martian is a fun and suspenseful sci-fi adventure directed by Ridley Scott from Drew (The Cabin In The Woods) Goddard’s screenplay, based on Andy Weir’s book. It tells the story of astronaut Mark Watney who, while on a manned mission to Mars, is left behind after being lost in a storm and thought dead. Now Watney must find some way to let NASA know he’s alive and then survive till help comes…which would be long after his food supply runs out.

This is a very well crafted and really entertaining survival story of one man’s determination to overcome the impossible…living on a lifeless planet. There are some fun and clever ways Watney uses his knowledge as a botanist and astronaut to grow food, elongate the use of crucial equipment and communicate with Earth. Damon is great as the ever chipper Watney, who refuses to give up even when his food supply is damaged. Meanwhile on Earth it’s a race against time to try to figure out a rescue before Watney’s time runs out. If the film has any flaw is that as a crowd pleaser, we do feel manipulated when things go right…and wrong…at exactly a crucial time to elicit an emotional response or suspense…though it works more often than not. That and even at 141 minutes, it seems like certain things are rushed to keep the film at a reasonable length. The film does jump ahead a lot.

Overall, this is a very enjoyable flick with a totally engaging hero played by Matt Damon. It’s fast moving and cleverly written with just the right amount of sentiment. Damon is supported by great cast including Jessica Chastain, Sean Bean, Jeff Daniels, Kate Mara, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Ant-Man’s Michael Peña and The Winter Soldier’s Sebastian Stan. Recommended!

-MonsterZero NJ

three and one half stars rating

Humerus-Bone1

bars

TOMB OF NOSTALGIA: LEGEND: DIRECTOR’S CUT (1985)

marquee_TON

now playing

legend-movie-poster

bars

LEGEND: DIRECTOR’S CUT (1985)

In 1985 when Ridley Scott tested the 113 minute cut of his fantasy epic Legend, it didn’t test well with audiences and it was deemed that it took far too long to get to the action. The film American audiences finally saw was 89 minutes but, the film was a box office failure anyway. Now the film has been restored to Scott’s original 113 minute cut and has been beautifully presented on blu-ray for fans to finally see the film Scott intended. But, is it a better film then what I originally saw in a theater in 1985? I think so. I will agree it does take a lot longer to get to the questing and rescuing but, a lot of the fairy tale elements and atmosphere have been restored with this edition of these removed sequences and a lot more story and character interaction does enrich the film and make it less a music video and more a fantasy film. The restoring of Jerry Goldsmith’s score also changes the atmosphere and gives it more of an epic fantasy feeling. I like Tangerine Dream’s work on the theatrical cut, but, it does give it more of the before mentioned music video vibe. Remember MTV was still new and a big thing when this was released so, I wouldn’t doubt that was what they were going for. Legend tells the story of lone woodsman Jack (Tom Cruise) who is trying to woo a princess named Lili (Mia Sara). He decides to take her to see the last pair of unicorns whose magic keeps the sun rising and good and light in this fantasy world. But, the evil Lord Of Darkness (Tim Curry) plans to destroy the unicorns and bathe the world in darkness so he and his minions may rule. When the unicorns are distracted by the innocence of virginal Lili, one is poisoned and it’s horn stolen by Darkness’ goblins. Soon they capture the last remaining unicorn and Lili as well and Darkness plans to kill the magical animal and wed the girl. Now it is up to Jack and an assortment of Wood Elves, Brownies and Fairies to rescue Lili and save the unicorn from within Darkness’ lair. Whether it’s the director’s cut or theatrical cut, Legend is an amazingly beautiful and sumptuous visual fantasy feast under Ridely Scott’s lens. The visuals are stunning and without benefit of CGI and they, even by today’s high-tech standards, are breathtaking. There is plenty of action and a lot of strange creatures both good and bad and all rendered with some fantastic make-up FX from The Thing’s Rob Bottin. Tim Curry’s Darkness has become an iconic character and is truly remarkable to see. Again, no CGI. As for the acting, Cruise and Sara are fine but, it was early in both careers and the performances are not as strong as they would be today, now that both are veterans. Curry on the other hand, radiates both evil and malicious charm through the layers of latex and even though he looks completely inhuman on the outside, he gives the Dark Lord a vivid personality and makes him a threatening villain worthy of such an epic fantasy film. Overall, we have a lot more moments with all these characters together with the expanded cut. To me it adds a richness to the film that wasn’t there in the theatrical version, especially in Jack and Lili’s relationship, their feelings for each other are far more explored and we get a better idea of why Jack risks so much for her. I feel this Legend is far more a fairy tale in this version then fantasy themed action movie and like Jackson’s Lord Of The Rings films decades later, it’s worth sitting through more of these little moments to emotionally enrich the film as it only gives the action scenes more depth. I still think the theatrical cut has it’s merits as a fun, breezy 90 minutes of fantasy action but, if you want more depth and don’t mind spending a bit more time reveling in Ridley Scott’s beautiful fantasy world, then the director’s cut is for you.

3 and 1/2 Lords of Darkness!

legend rating

 
bars