“Alien: Covenant” – a Muted Echo of a Once-Great Franchise

The Alien franchise has been limping along since the early ‘90s, and a covenant with God herself can’t save it from the paucity of original thought on display in Ridley Scott’s latest shade of a film.  Alien: Covenant builds a great starting point, but squanders everything near the end of the first act, and it simply isn’t cohesive or confident enough to recover.  Faint echoes suggest that the terrifying magic of the xenomorph may still be alive, but they never stand out above the background noise.

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“Slow West” – A Sparse Shakespearean Western Film

John Maclean’s sparse Western film strikes a gorgeous balance between the untamed beauty and the cold indifference of the American frontier.  The characters are drawn broadly and have archetypal motivations, the sense of humor is dry and dark, and the ultimate tone of the story is tragic.  Slow West takes care to unveil its secrets with a practiced pacing, and always knows when to kick up the excitement or introduce some weirdness to keep the spectator’s attention.  Though the film clocks in at under 90 minutes, it boasts the full package of powerful performances, spectacular cinematography, and a patient slow-burn story that will leave any film fan enthralled.

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“Alien: Covenant” Seems to Seek Cheap Alchemy

The  marketing team over at Alien headquarters is hard at work polishing up a turd.  A teaser trailer, a Red Band trailer, a “Last Supper” prologue,  and the latest layer of varnish, a CGI-fuelled full-length trailer that apes off both Prometheus and Alien and Aliens in a vain attempt to discover the perfect way to mix together old things so that the result feels new.  Unfortunately for director Ridley Scott, it has been almost three decades since a film in the Alien franchise thought to try something interesting and different, and he’s simply not built up any benefit of the doubt with Prometheus (or Robin Hood, or Exodus: Gods and Kings).  This latest trailer does not portend well.

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Justin Kurzel Adapts “Macbeth” by Adding Grim Details to The Bard’s Classic Tragedy

Shakespeare’s story of the Scottish king Macbeth is over 400 years old, and the story it is based upon dates back a further six centuries.  Thus, it is important for storytellers to bring something new to the familiar tale of corruption, power, and guilt.  Fortunately, Justin Kurzel’s version starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard as the titular characters is up to the task of providing a fresh take.  Three major departures from the bard’s text are crucial for informing this discussion:  the presence of the Baby Macbeth, the characterization of the Witches and the mystical forces in general, and a re-interpretation of the famous conclusion.  With these tweaks in mind, we will see how Kurzel offers a much darker and more cynical view of Macbeth than most film-makers.

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“X-Men: Apocalypse” Dooms Itself by Mismanaging Villain

For the third time this summer, it is time to watch a superhero flick where some characters fight other characters for poorly-developed reasons.  In this specific case, it’s the X-Men universe and the film is X-Men:  Apocalypse, named after the all-power and ancient villain of the film.  The eponymous character is central to not only the plot and theme of the film, but ultimately its problems as well.  On a fundamental level, this film fails because it could not appropriately handle the character of Apocalypse, and you can almost feel it buckling under the weight of this Frankenstein’s Monster.  There are lesser problems as well, including some poorly-used characters and a mismanaged tonal consistency, but you can trace nearly every negative back to the big-bad.  Thus, despite introducing intriguing new versions of beloved characters, this is a poor end to the new X-Men trilogy.

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Boyle’s “Steve Jobs” the Epitome of Style

Unlike most Hollywood films, the most remarkable aspect of Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs is undoubtedly its style. Narrative, characters, and even the themes of the film all play second fiddle to the distinct styles of Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. And still, Steve Jobs avoids the “form over substance” trap through splendid performances and a powerful story of family amid the backdrop of Jobs’ unique innovative spirit. The result is a film which we appreciate both for what it has to say, and the means in which it speaks.

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