Alien: Covenant Is The Alien Movie For People Who Don’t Like Alien

I don’t think Ridley Scott really wants to make Alien movies anymore, but he knows if he slaps the Alien name on something people will give him the money to make whatever he wants.  With Alien: Covenant, Scott wanted to make a movie about a being’s hatred for its creator, and then he tacked some Alien stuff on to it.  It is kind of interesting, but the two conflicting ideas don’t really coalesce in to a coherent film.

Covenant takes place a few years after Prometheus, and the colony vessel Covenant gets a strange message on its way to its new home destination.  The crew decides to check it out, and guess what?  That was a terrible idea.  It turns out that this is where Elizabeth Shaw and David (Michael Fassbender) crash landed with a ship full of the Alien virus.  David meets the newer, more obedient, version of himself Walter, and things get very strange.  The crew makes more bad decisions, and a lot of them get killed by the xenomorph.

The xenomorph is kind of secondary to what is going on with Walter and David, and it should never be said in an Alien movie that “the” alien is taking a back seat to a robot that clearly has the hots for himself.  Like I said Scott brings some interesting ideas to the table, but they are never fully fleshed out, and this never truly feels like an Alien movie.  Just one where the Alien is around.

Covenant is beautifully shot, and the special effects are really well done, so Scott still has what it takes to make a major motion picture, but this movie is just kind of a mess.  Which is a shame because I wanted to like it.  I was one of the seemingly few people that enjoyed Prometheus.  Sure it was dumb, but it was dumb fun.  This movie forgets the fun, and instead wants to focus on its “themes”.

If you are looking for a good Alien movie, Alien: Covenant is not what you are looking for.  If you are looking for some high concept Sci-Fi, you might like this, though it is not realized enough.  I enjoyed parts of this film, so if you really like the genre, it is probably worth spending an afternoon checking out, but you won’t really miss much if you skip it.  Maybe they will finally get it right  with the next one.

Dead Movie Franchises Don’t Tell Tales!

When Disney said they were returning to the series’ roots for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales, what they really meant is that they were going to forget that On Stranger Tides ever happened (heaven knows we all did) and just copy the highlights of the first films.  Like all poor photocopies of an original, the cracks are showing and it has faded quite a bit.  Dead Men Tell No Tales was a waste of everyone’s time.

You already know what happens in Dead Men Tell No Tales.  Jack will bumble around while crazy set pieces explode and fall apart, all while searching for a magical MacGuffin that will save him from a pirate ship full of undead seamen.  The only change this time around is the kid he has teamed up with is the son of Will Turner.  Henry Turner (Brenton Thwaites) is hoping that Poseidon’s Trident can save his father from having to serve for all eternity on the Flying Dutchmen.  As luck would have it a very smart, very pretty girl Carina Smyth (Kaya Scodelario) is also looking for the Trident, so they will all have to reluctantly team up.

Another fun change for Dead Men Tell No Tales is that Jack has almost no agency of his own.  He is not a mastermind playing dumb, he just is dumb.  He is being dragged along by these youths, and is now just a bumbling violent drunken nitwit.  It is like Johnny Depp and Jack Sparrow have completed their merge in to one another.  The thing is, had they written an okay story this all still might have been fine, but that is not the case.  Stuff just happens in this movie, and it is all a big coincidence that all these things all just happen at the same time.  I understand that all adventure films require a little ‘destiny’ to make them work, but this ‘plot’ completely relies on it, without ever even acknowledging it.  All the while stealing things from other movies without even as much as a wink or a nod.  Gee I wonder what Carina will say when someone mentions that ‘no man’ can read the map to the Trident.

You should not waste your time watching this movie like I did.  Yes, I know it is on Netflix now, and you are looking for a movie to watch with your family, but trust me, there are a lot of better things to watch.  It makes me angry that no one even tried to do something fun or original with this film.  It could and should be an exciting franchise, but instead everyone involved is willing to let this franchise slide in to mediocrity while they count their money.  If Dead Men Tell No Tales then everyone who made this movie must be six feet under.

The War For The Planet Of The Apes Proves There Are No Bad Ideas!

At this point you have either seen the Planet of the Apes prequels, or you are not interested in seeing them, but here is the deal, they are way better than they have any right to be.  War for the Planet of the Apes continues this trend, finishing the trilogy off perfectly.  Though it makes no sense by itself, so if you haven’t watched Rise and Dawn yet, than you really need to because War is the best of the three.  Somehow beating the curse of the third movie.

Since it is hard to review the third movie in a series were they all build on one another, I am instead going to use it to prove a point: For the most part there are no bad ideas.  If someone a decade ago would have come up to me and told me that some of the most thoughtful and well constructed blockbusters of the next ten years would be prequels to the old Planet of the Apes movies, I would have laughed at you.  What a terrible idea, but instead Rupert Wyatt (Director of Rise) and Matt Reeves (Director of Dawn and War) have created something wonderful.  How? By working hard and elevating the material.  Finding ways to explore humanity through the eyes of apes just gaining their sentience, continuing to find new and interesting ways to explore a being’s fight for survival, and the universal importance of family.

That can be true for all movies.  Movies with terrible premises can teach us and entertain us in all sorts novel ways, while movies with the best setups can be utter bores, or slapdash in their execution.  Wyatt and Reeves went the extra mile for movies that most people wouldn’t have given a second thought to, and they were fantastic and should be lauded for that.  All this to say, that I am still not sure I would greenlight a Planet of the Apes prequel if I was sent back in time, but at least it is good to know there are people out there who can make an outrageous idea like that work.  Plus, I am sure having Andy Serkis around always helps too.

Shmee Enters The Wild Wild Country!

It is always amazing how quickly things are forgotten.  It turns out that when I was very young there was a cult that tried to take over Wasco County, Oregon, and that they poisoned over a hundred people in The Dalles with salmonella.  They wore bright colors and meditated a lot, and they tired to assassinate the Attorney General of Oregon.  It seems like it would have been such a massive happening that people would still be talking about it, but until I watched Wild Wild Country on Netflix, I had never heard a thing about it, or if I had it must not have been talked about with any importance.

Wild Wild Country is a docuseries that interviews all parties involved with setup of Rajneeshpuram, the commune created for the followers of Rajneesh. Those who made it happen, and those that tried to make it go away.  It is an amazing tale, and all I could do is watch in disbelief as I heard of some of the things that went on out in the middle of nowhere Oregon.

The documentarians do a good job of leaving their voices out of this series, and letting all the people have their say, so it ends up being surprisingly nonjudgmental.  You can see both sides up to a point, and that point is obviously committing several Federal crimes.  Then you realize some terrible stuff was happing out on their ranch.

Wild Wild Country was fascinating to watch.  It is so crazy, I can’t believe this was the first time I really heard about all this.  If you are like me, and have never heard about any of this, it is must watch, or if you do remember it, but want all the info it is still worth your time.  Obviously due to the subject matter it is rated TV MA for a reason, so it is not a history lesson for young kids, but if you are of age, it is a mind trip worth taking.

Shmee Meets An Atomic Blonde!

On paper Atomic Blonde is perfect: it has the color and flair of the punk 80’s and the action of John Wick.  Plus, it features one of the greatest action stars currently working, Charlize Theron.  Mix in a little cold war era spy intrigue, and things get even better.  You look at everything Atomic Blonde has going for it, and you think it is going to be amazing, but sadly it falls a little flat in places, so it ends up being merely pretty good.  Watching a good movie should never make you feel let down, but when it had so much potential, it is hard not to be disappointed.

The hook for Atomic Blonde is fabulous.  You let Charlize Theron loose in Berlin just as the wall is about to come down, and she has to fight her way through every intelligence agency in town while trying to find some list with a bunch of spies’ names on it.  Can she trust the people she is working with?  Absolutely not, but we know she will claw her way to the top of the spy pile.

I was buzzing when I saw the first trailer for Atomic Blonde, and I was even more excited when I found out it was being directed by one of the guys that brought us John Wick, David Leitch.  Here is the thing, while Leitch did a great job bringing the style and filming the stunts, the spy stuff was all pretty by the numbers.  Sure there are the usual spy twists, but nothing that thrilling.  You just have to wait through it to get to the next fight sequence.

However, the fight sequences and the style do almost make up for the lack of an interesting plot.  I mean Atomic Blonde is so cool to look at, and you can feel every punch that gets thrown and every set of keys that get stuck is some dude’s face.  Theron was meant to be in movies like this.  I want to see her punch and kick everything and everyone.  I would faint if she and Keanu Reeves ended up in a movie together.

So where does this leave us?  With a movie that oozes style (and more than a little blood), and has some wonderful stunt choreography, but with spy-craft that is less than intriguing.  Hey, if you are just going in for the action, you will probably like Atomic Blonde, but if you were expecting a little more because of all the potential, it is hard not to be disappointed, so just temper your expectations, and things will be fine.