Alien: Covenant Review

Alien: Covenant movie posterSynopsis
The Covenant is on its way to the remote planet of Origae-6 to start a new human colony. Along the way, the ship is hit by a neutrino burst from a nearby star, forcing the crew to wake up early from stasis to make repairs. After repairs are made, the crew receives a distress signal from a nearby planet and travel to the planet’s surface in search of the signal’s origins.

Review
The Alien movie franchise is an interesting one. It spans nearly four decades, while consisting of only 6 films. The first two are two of science-fiction’s best films, which are then followed by three mediocre films. In Prometheus, Ridley Scott returned to the franchise to begin delving into the origins of his mysterious Xenomorphs, but ended that film with more questions than answers. Scott returns yet again to direct Alien: Covenant, which is inching closer to where we first met them at the beginning of Alien.

With the exception of Aliens, each film in the franchise after Alien has attempted to recreate the horror aspect of the original 1979 film. This film has so far been the closest to recreate the horror that made the first film so engrossing. Although this shouldn’t be much of a surprise given both are directed by Scott, the visionary behind the franchise. He understands that it is the fear of the unknown and mystery surrounding it that makes Alien great. Having several decades to become familiar with it, that atmosphere cannot be replicated, which is why the sequels have failed. However, that style can be honored. This movie still draws on the fear of the unknown for its tension but rather than the Xenomorph, it looks towards a fairly unexpected place.

What did surprise me, and what I really enjoyed, was that the horror didn’t always come from the alien but rather David. David is a truly twisted being and that is where a lot of the tension come from. He is an android who has no emotion and is only seeking perfection on life. And to him that requires sacrifice, sometimes at the cost of others if need be. His distorted view on life and the pursuit of perfection is sure to keep your attention. It’s a different kind of villain but one that works amazingly well.

Of course, a lot of David’s memorability is due to Michael Fassbender’s excellent portrayal of the character. It was an excellent idea to keep him in the franchise after Prometheus because he was the highlight of that film as well. He also plays another android, Walter, an updated model of David. At first I wasn’t sold on the accent he gave the character but after a while it grew on me, especially after a few scenes of the two androids together. Fassbender portrays the two characters in two very distinct ways that really highlights his acting ability.

Although it may be difficult to remember, there are other cast members besides Fassbender. Katherine Waterston as Daniels gets the most development and keeps the Alien franchise’s bad-ass heroine streak going. Danny McBride’s Tennessee also gets quite a bit of screen time but not as much development. Everyone else pretty much exists as Xenomorph fodder, just like in all the previous movies. However, with this kind of a movie, and what has become expected of the franchise, that’s alright. Not every character needs a deep rich background, especially if they aren’t going to last long anyway. Scott understands that we are there to see one thing: the titular Alien. And if we get a great character like David along the way, then that’s just icing on the cake.

I thought Alien: Covenant was GOOD πŸ™‚ The Alien franchise has had its ups and downs over the years but it seems to be finding a groove. The β€œalien” is slowly becoming less and less the alien Xenomorphs and more of an android alienated from humanity. If Michael Fassbender keeps up the great work as the android David, then that is completely fine with me.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Jack Paglen – Story
Michael Green – Story
John Logan – Screenplay
Dante Harper – Screenplay
Jed Kurzel – Music

Michael Fassbender – David / Walter
Katherine Waterston – Daniels
Billy Crudup – Oram
Danny McBride – Tennessee
Demian Bichir – Lope
Carmen Ejogo – Karine
Jussie Smollett – Ricks
Callie Hernandez – Upworth
Amy Seimetz – Faris
Nathaniel Dean – Hallett
Alexander England – Ankor
Benjamin Rigby – Ledward
Uli Latukefu – Cole
Tess Haubrich – Rosenthal
Lorelei King – Mother (voice)
Goran D. Kleut – Xenomorph / Neomorph
Andrew Crawford – Neomorph

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Assassin’s Creed Review

Assassin's Creed movie posterSynopsis
In 2016, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is on death row. When he wakes up after lethal injection, he finds himself at an Abstergo Foundation facility, a modern day front for the Templar Order. Sofia (Marion Cotillard), an Abstergo scientist, informs Cal his death was faked because they need his help to find a mysterious artifact known as the Apple of Eden. In order to locate the artifact, Cal must enter the animus, a device used to explore genetic memories, to relive the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar, during the Spanish Inquisition in 1492.

Review
I am a big fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. I have all of the games (although I have yet to play them all) and have read several of the comic books. At the Toronto Comic-con last year, I picked up an art piece depicting several of the series’ the main characters. Since it is one of my favorite game series, I was really excited to hear that a movie for the series would be made. Better yet, it wasn’t going to be a film adaptation of one game but instead tell a new story that takes place within the already established universe. I think my excitement got the better of me.

I’ll start with some good. In the game, navigating the environment by running through the streets and up and on top of buildings is a signature aspect of the game play. Things like parkouring up walls and running across rooftops was brought over exactly like you see in the games. Even things as simple as stances and body posture when assassins jump onto unsuspecting targets is spot on from the game. And the type of action sequences in general is what you would expect to see in the games. That is exciting to see when a video game film has the look and feel of the source material.

In the group of people I saw this with, I was the only one who had played the games. Actually, I was the only one who knew anything more beyond the fact the film was adapted from a video game. Talking with them after leaving the theater, they seemed to have a good grasp about the Assassin’s Creed universe. Assassin’s Creed did a good job of explaining the larger universe in which the film is set, from the conflict between Assassins and Templars, to the purpose of the animus, even the bleeding effect of prolonged animus use. I’d say the only thing not well explained is exactly what the Apple of Eden is and what it can actually do.

Now this leads into my first gripe with the film. Although it did a great job establishing the movie’s universe, it had to take the time to set it up. There was so much exposition in the first half of the movie, it didn’t feel like it went anywhere. Several action scenes were sprinkled throughout to add a bit of flare but it didn’t help too much. By the time the film got to the meat of the story, it had to play catch-up. As a result, the second half felt rushed. I never got the opportunity to get sucked into the story because it was all over the place.

A problem I often have with movies is sometimes they try to set up future sequels without properly closing its own story first. I understand laying threads to be picked up in the next film but that shouldn’t come at the cost of the current story. When this film ended, I found myself thinking, β€œOh, that’s the end?” Saying the story was left open-ended feels like the wrong term but it does feel incomplete. I think the rushed pacing during the second half that I mentioned before forced the script into a quick ending, resulting in an anticlimactic finish to the film.

I thought Assassin’s Creed was OK :-|. Hollywood hasn’t had a great track record with video game adaptations. This had the chance to break that trend since it wasn’t trying to adapt any one game but instead tell its own story within the game’s universe. Even with a star-studded cast, poor pacing and an unengaging story keeps this film reaching the heights I was hoping for from a film based on one of my favorite gaming franchises.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Justin Kurzel – Director
Michael Lesslie – Screenplay
Adam Cooper – Screenplay
Bill Collage – Screenplay
Jed Kurzel – Composer

Michael Fassbender – Callum Lynch / Aguilar
Marion Cotillard – Sofia Rikkin
Jeremy Irons – Alan Rikkin
Denis Menochet – McGowen
Ariane Labed – Maria
Brendan Gleeson – Joseph Lynch
Essie Davis – Mary Lynch
Charlotte Rampling – Ellen Kaye
Michael Kenneth Williams – Moussa
Matias Varela – Emir
Callum Turner – Nathan
Crystal Clarke – Samia
Michelle H. Lin – Lin
Brian Gleeson – Young Joseph Lynch

Lightning Review: Prometheus

This review was originally posted for MovieRobβ€˜s space-themed genre grandeur.

Prometheus movie posterSynopsis
Archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) discover clues to mankind’s origin and takes a ship and crew to an alien planet, thanks to the Weyland Corporation. At their destination, they find more than they expected, and may end up causing the destruction of the Earth.

Review
Prometheus exists in the same universe as the Alien movies and acts as a pseudo-prequel, supposedly hoping to answer the questions about the origins of the xenomorphs. However, in the end, it creates more questions than it answers. It follows a very similar format and pacing as Alien (not surprising since they both come from the mind of Ridley Scott). We meet the crew of Prometheus as they come out of stasis. Then they go to the planet’s surface, where they enter an alien structure. All of a sudden, the crew must fight for their lives against an alien creature. It’s almost exactly the same as the aforementioned Alien, but it lacks the atmosphere that made the 1979 film a classic.

That’s not to say it isn’t entertaining, it just offers a slightly different experience given their similarities. Micheal Fassbender is the highlight of the film. He plays David, an android very similar to Ash in Alien. He is creepy but sophisticated at the same time. Noomi Rapace is the Sigourney Weaver of this film, proving that women can kick just as much alien ass as the men can. The first two acts are mostly set-up and exploring the environment and catacombs. It’s fairly slow until the last third, then it really picks up once the alien is revealed. At times it seems to attempt the horror aspect of Alien, but it feels out of place compared to the rest of the film. Prometheus is an enjoyable film, but if it’s goal was to clear things up about where the xenomorphs came from, it fails. But hey, at least it looks pretty, right?

Rating
3.5/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Ridley Scott – Director
Jon Spaihts – Writer
Damon Lindelof – Writer
Marc Streitenfeld – Composer

Noomi Rapace – Elizabeth Shaw
Logan Marshall-Green – Charlie Holloway
Michael Fassbender – David
Charlize Theron – Meredith Vickers
Idris Elba – Janek
Sean Harris – Fifield
Rafe Spall – Millburn
Benedict Wong – Ravel
Emun Elliott – Chance
Kate Dickie – Ford
Guy Pearce – Peter Weyland
Ian Whyte – Last Engineer

X-Men: Days of Future Past Review

X-Men: Days of Future Past movie posterSynopsis
In the future, mutant-hunting Sentinels have either hunted or captured every mutant on Earth, along with the humans who try to help them. To try to prevent this bleak future, Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) use Kitty Pryde’s (Ellen Page) powers to send Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) conscience fifty years into the past. Once there, Wolverine must convince the younger Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to work together to stop the Sentinels from being produced by Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage).

Review
I went into X-Men: Days of Future Past with high hopes. Bryan Singer returned to the director’s chair for the first time since the amazing X2: X-Men United and one of the most beloved X-Men stories was finally getting adapted onto the silver screen. Without a doubt, Days of Future Past delivered everything that I expected and more.

First off, X-Men: Days of Future Past starts off with an explosive action scene. Many of the fan-favorite X-Men from the trilogy show up here, along with new mutants Bishop, Blink, Warpath and Sunspot. It does great to showcase how terrible things have become for the mutants and the rest of the world, as well as to display Kitty Pryde’s powers that will eventually be used to send Wolverine back to the 1970s. It’s an exhilarating opening that really got me excited for the rest of the film.

I will admit that I was a little skeptical about Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask, mainly because I haven’t seen him very much. But I was pleasantly surprised how well he did with the part. Dinklage pulls off the savvy business man, and the angry, mutant-hating doctor, and the crazy scientist with ease. The only thing I felt his performance needed was more screen time. It would have been great to see more of such a great performance.

Even though several new mutant characters were introduced, they aren’t seen very much. All the characters from the future don’t get fleshed out at all, mainly because a majority of the film’s focus is spent in the past. Quicksilver is the only new mutant introduced in the past who gets a decent amount of screen time and Evan Peters is fantastic as the character. In what is my favorite scene from the film shows Peters running around to knock out several security guards who pinned him and a few other characters in a small room. He shows off the character’s personality without him saying a word. I was hoping he would be a bigger part of the movie than he was. Peters’ performance stole the show and is probably the most underutilized of all the cast.

Time travel can be a particularly tricky plot device, especially when showing parallel events in the past and future like this movie. There comes a moment when you’re like, β€œWell if they went to the past and changed events, wouldn’t the future see those changes immediately?” This movie gives a somewhat decent explanation as to why the past and future events are able to happen concurrently. It’s a small point, but it kept me from becoming too hung up on the time travel element like I have with similar stories before.

One of my favorite aspects of X-Men: First Class was the character relationships, particularly between Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr. Unfortunately, I don’t think Days of Future Past pulled it off quite as successfully. There was a great moment between Charles and Erik during a plane flight, but other than that and maybe the final big action scene, they don’t have as many intimate moments together.

Bryan Singer returns to the X-Men universe with X-Men: Days of Future Past and does not disappoint. An exciting opening sets the stage on what to expect for the action in the rest of the film. Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask and Evan Peters as Quicksilver are two great additions to the cast but are underutilized, particularly Peters. Many of the other supporting characters didn’t have much screen time either, instead focusing on Charles Xavier, Erik Lehnsherr and Wolverine. Days of Future Past is the most action packed X-Men movie yet, firing on all cylinders from start to finish.

Rating
4/5

Also check out my reviews for X-Men: First Class and X-Men: Apocalypse.

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Bryan Singer – Director
Simon Kinberg – Screenplay / Story
Jane Goldman – Story
Mathew Vaughn – Story
John Ottman – Composer

Hugh Jackman – Logan / Wolverine
James McAvoy – Charles Xavier (Past)
Michael Fassbender – Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto (Past)
Patrick Stewart – Charles Xavier (Future)
Ian McKellen – Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto (Future)
Jennifer Lawrence – Raven / Mystique
Nicholas Hoult – Hank / Beast
Peter Dinklage – Dr. Bolivar Trask
Josh Helman – Major Bill Stryker
Halle Berry – Storm
Ellen Page – Kitty Pryde
Shawn Ashmore – Bobby / Iceman
Omar Sy – Bishop
Daniel Cudmore – Colossus
Bingbing Fan – Blink
Adan Canto – Sunspot
Booboo Stewart – Warpath
Evan Peters – Peter / Quicksilver
Lucas Till – Havok
Evan Jonigkeit – Toad
Mark Camacho – President Nixon

X-Men: First Class Review

X-Men: First Class movie posterSynopsis
In the midst of the Cold War, Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) is trying to incite World War III. The CIA recruits Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) to stop Shaw. Xavier and Lensherr put together a team of fellow mutants consisting of Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Angel (Zoe Kravitz), Banshee (Caleb Landry Jones), Darwin (Edi Gathegi), and Havok (Lucas Till). Together they must learn to control their mutant powers to defeat Shaw.

Review
After X2: X-Men United, the X-Men franchise didn’t quite hit the same quality with X3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. They lacked a good story and heart. X-Men: First Class finally breaks the downward trend and present a story that not only has a lot of heart, but has a great cast and is a lot of fun.

First Class starts off with the same scene as X-Men with a young Erik in the German concentration camp being separated from his parents and bending the metal gates. It was smart to start the same way so it’s obvious this story exists in the same universe as the X-Men trilogy. Some of the events that happen throughout the movie make it seem like it is a reboot but by sharing a scene with the original movies it says ‘Nope, same place, new story.’

I thought this movie was awesome as a period piece. The fact that the story wove around actual events (the Cuban Missile Crisis) was pretty cool. Some movies try a similar approach of using historical events as their backdrop but aren’t always as successful as First Class. The setting was also used to show off Shaw’s character. By manipulating both sides he was able to display how smart and strategic he can be. I felt this was an great representation of his character.

The cast of First Class is amazing. Kevin Bacon is always enjoyable to watch on screen, but he is especially fun here as the villainous Sebastian Shaw. He’s very suave and laid back, but when he gets serious, watch out. James McAvoy as Charles Xavier and Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique do well, too, but I would have to say my favorite performance would have to be Michael Fassbender as Magneto. Fassbender brings a charisma to the role that portrays the confidence, but at the same time the vulnerability, of the character. The students of Charles and Erik are fun to watch, too, especially when they are showing off their powers. And there is a great Wolverine cameo.

Despite being an ensemble movie, the plot never gets too convoluted. In the beginning, Shaw is set up as the big baddie and the rest of the movie is either him and his team of mutants trying to start manipulate the US and Russian governments or Charles and Erik and their team of mutants getting ready to stop Shaw. Other than a few of the supporting bad mutants, most of the characters get their fair share of screen time and character development, leading to a fun little training montage. Most of the time is spent focused on Charles’ and Erik’s relationship, but this is to be expected since their bond is such an integral part of the X-Men’s history. Even though you know how their friendship plays out, seeing how it begins makes the breakup even more painful.

After the disappointments that were X3: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class sets the X-Men franchise back on course. The casting was perfect, particularly the core cast of Kevin Bacon, James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, and Jennifer Lawrence. The chemistry between McAvoy and Fassbender really made the relationship between Charles Xavier and Magneto come alive. Even though the cast was fairly sizable, every character received their time in the spotlight. First Class has set up the franchise’s future and I can’t wait to see how Fox builds off the events of this film.

Rating
4.5/5

Also check out my reviews for X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Mathew Vaughn – Director/Screenplay
Bryan Singer – Story
Sheldon Turner – Story
Ashley Miller – Screenplay
Zach Stentz – Screenplay
Jane Goldman – Screenplay
Henry Jackman – Composer

James McAvoy – Charles Xavier
Michael Fassbender – Erik Lensherr
Kevin Bacon – Sebastian Shaw
Rose Byrne – Moira MacTaggert
Jennifer Lawrence – Raven / Mystique
Zoe Kravitz – Angel Salvadore
Nicholas Hoult – Hank / Beast
Caleb Landry Jones – Cassidy / Banshee
Edi Gathegi – Armando Munoz / Darwin
Lucas Till – Alex Summer / Havok
Oliver Platt – Man in Black Suit
January Jones – Emma Frost
Alex Gonzalez – Janos Quested / Riptide
Jason Flemyng – Azazel
Glen Morshower – Colonel Hendry
Matt Craven – CIA Director McCone

300 Review

300 movie posterSynopsis
When Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his Persian army threaten Greece, King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) wishes to take his Spartan army to face him. After consulting the Ephors at Delphi, they refuse to allow him to declare war. Displeased, Leonidas takes a three hundred of his best Spartan soldiers to stop the invaders at Thermopylae.

Review
I really enjoy movies like 300; simple plot, great action and awesome visuals. Based on Frank Miller’s graphic novel of the same name, 300 is a fictionalized retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae during the Persian Wars. Know right away that it is not a documentary nor very accurate (read not at all) to the actual battle. But man does it look amazing.

The visual style of the film is up there as one of my favorites. The coloring over the film gives it almost an airbrushed feel, a very similar style to its source material. Most of the movie was shot using blue and green screens, with most of the environment being computer generated. It creates a very surreal look and feel that is exceptional.

Few movies offer the brutality 300 does. The first forty-five minutes or so are spent setting up the Spartans and the battle ahead, but once it starts, it goes all out. But in contrast, the non-action scenes lack something to hold my attention. During these intermittent scenes, I was just itching to get back to the action.Β  Although I understand it couldn’t be ninety minutes of fighting, the other scenes aren’t as interesting.

Zack Snyder was the best directorial choice for this film. This was only his second film (his first being the Dawn of the Dead remake) as director, but his style fits perfectly. His hyper-realistic style really brings an element to the movie that makes it feel unique.

A strength and a weakness of this movies is the plot. It’s very simple: Leonidas and his men fight Xerxes at the Hot Gates. Along with some politics happening back in Sparta, that’s pretty much all there is to it. This makes way for some breathtaking cinematography and action sequences. However, the action and thin plot doesn’t allow for much characterization.Β  So if you are looking for some deep character moments, you won’t find them here.

Sometimes it is great to just watch a movie with a simple premise. 300 may not be the most thought provoking movie out there, but what it lacks characterization, or any real story for that matter, it offers spectacular visuals and pure, unfiltered action. Zack Snyder proves that he is a specialist when it comes to working with β€œhyper-realism.” Visually stunning and unapologetically brutal, 300 is one of my favorite ways to kill an afternoon (pun intended).

Rating
4/5

Trailer

Cast & Crew
Zack Snyder – Director/Screenplay
Kurt Johnstad – Screenplay
Michael Gordon – Screenplay
Tyler Bates – Composer

Gerard Butler – King Leonidas
Lena Headey – Queen Gorgo
Dominic West – Theron
David Wenham – Dilios
Vincent Regan – Captain
Michael Fassbender – Stelios
Tom Wisdom – Astinos
Andrew Pleavin – Daxos
Andrew Tiernan – Ephialtes
Rodrigo Santoro – Xerxes