Category Archives: Film

Alien: Covenant- A Return to Form?

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The Alien franchise is one that has certainly seen its fair share of commercial success over the years since its initial inception. Whether it be through film, video games, or merchandise, it has been marketed to an ever-broader audience over the years. While this has its own array of ups and downs, Ridley Scott seems to be of the mind that a return to form mixed with this new-age horror business is of grave necessity and in the best interest of the saga itself. I can’t say I disagree.

Alien: Isolation was something of a rare gem for me just a few years ago when it released- managing to bring the tense action of the original film, mixed with some story background in the lore, to the forefront of a series previously only known for video games of the typical sub-par quality. Alien vs Predator and Colonial Marines are the other two most recent games of any renown in the series and neither is a good indicator of the quality work people should come to expect of it. Similar to Isolation being a breath of fresh air for the video game counterpart, I think Covenant can and should be the film iteration that bridges the gap between Aliens and Prometheus- being able to do what the first films did well as well as on the grandiose playing field of lore Prometheus introduced, albeit in a confused manner.

As the name would suggest, Alien: Covenant seeks to tie the prequel trilogy to the main body of films in more ways than just a shared history and shared name. There are bound to be countless characteristics from both the new and old films and history, plus there are still plenty new threats to be introduced on-screen that have yet to be seen. I love how Ridley Scott isn’t afraid to up the stakes by adding more revelations and more variation to the alien species itself, but that he also plans to still directly tie things together and come full-circle at some point as well. What once began as a small-scale story should and ultimately seems to be headed towards resolving itself that way as well, whatever galaxy-wide implications and revelations and earth shattering lore dumps may come between those two points.

The first film is renowned for its tense, atmospheric horror and its bursts of action, among other cinematic qualities. The second is known for broadening the scope of the infestation and introducing us to an even broader cast of characters and setting. The third film attempted to venture down some semblance of a path between the two original titles while the fourth went full-blown science fiction and started a downward spiral of plot and sensibility in many respects. As far as the four main sequence Alien films go, they taper off towards the end if only for general concerns over plot and making sense of it all.

We’ve also been gifted with a few Alien vs Predator films which managed to tie-in the popular and cult classic Predator character and universe to that of the Alien setting. While that has largely been a marketing success, it has never been nearly as successful in terms of producing quality projects on par with what each series has managed to do separately. On the whole, even the confusing and ambitious yet inevitably fallible Alien-prequel Prometheus has done a better job of that. Prometheus managed to take some higher caliber actors and throw them into the existing universe (at least for us movie-goers) while forcing them to combat a threat altogether new to their characters. It has been criticized largely for its plot but on the whole it does what it intended to do all along- establishes a baseline from which the prequels and main series can stem.

I was way more excited than I honestly had any right to be when I saw the first few trailers for Covenant just last week. I’m not sure if it was the trailer itself or perhaps my own reaction to a series that I’ve been close with since my early days, but I really enjoyed it and have thought about writing this blog for several days now. I do not think it will be the cramped corridors of Dead Space 1 (er, Aliens 1) but that’s not to say it isn’t seeking to return to the successful format of the first film in many ways. Just look at the trailer yourself- the evidence is there, even if it’s presented on a larger than life level at times. By now I think we have to in some ways embrace the fact that it is the twenty-first century and grandiose posturing is a large part of cinematic film-making and camera angle, lighting, and amazing effects are here and now. So just because Prometheus or Covenant do or did a ton of special effects should not take away from the overall story or end project quality.

I’m curious to learn more about the paradise and hell that these new and familiar faces alike have stepped into. I’m also eager to push past Prometheus and head towards Alien, both in terms of setting and story and influence. I’m more than okay with injecting new ideas and new life into what is otherwise an old tried and true formula, but I also want to see it be more successful and more simplistic and meaningful. You can have your lore and your grand plans but sometimes less is more and not the other way around. All in all, these are just my musings on the tail-end of a crazy weekend and I hope that everyone else has already formulated their own (and already seen Logan).

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The Wolverine Movie You’ve Deserved

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Logan is shaping up to be one of the best superhero films to date and that’s largely because it laughs in the face of the superhero flick ‘norms’ and seeks to be a dramatic and heartfelt film in its own right. As things go, the X-Men movies have never been too bad although they have definitely adhered more to comic books stereotypes than the typically darker Marvel Cinematic Universe installments have done. The MCU television shows have opened the door to more humanistic, darker, realistic superhero tales and I feel like the standalone Wolverine movies have begun to slowly realize the same thing- ultimately culminating with the Old Man Logan storyline coming to the silver screen.

X-Men Origins was far from well thought out. It had interesting moments and some interesting characters, and yet for the duration of it many people couldn’t help but point out what a theatrical mess it was. The Wolverine remedied a lot of these problems but still wasn’t as superb as it could’ve been, despite an intriguing story and some excellent acting. Thankfully, lighting can strike thrice and the third time may just be the charm if the reviews are as spot on as I think they are. Logan is one of only a few Marvel-based movies to receive a R-rating right now and I think that’s probably the best thing for it, especially in terms of creative direction and freedom (see: Deadpool).

While the mainstream first X-Men trilogy and the subsequent three films in the ‘First Class’ universe were okay in their own right, they never managed to focus on the human aspect or the down to earth moments as much- ironic considering the mutant element. The Wolverine titles have changed that in many ways, even if it’s largely due to the fact they encapsulate the titular character and manage to focus on one or two other side stories as well within the bounds of their plots. With Logan however, one of my favorite comic book plotlines looks like it’s coming to life and I absolutely love it- even if it probably means we’re to see the end of Wolverine as we know him and Professor Charles Xavier (again).

The X-23 story arc alone is pretty dark and gritty, which really tells you something if you know anything about Wolverine and his tragic past, present, and probable future. Reading the critic reviews and responses has really got me gungho for the movie, and considering I don’t typically pander much to critic reviews when it comes to television or films, I find it curious that a superhero film finally seems to have cracked the code and hit on themes that even hipster-esque critics can enjoy. We’ve had plenty of good superhero films in the past decade and yet many did not receive as much critical acclaim as they should’ve due to the fact that they largely ran the gauntlet from cliche to senseless action and adventure. When you bring things down to earth and run them at a smaller level (like Deadpool, in many ways) they seem to resonate better amongst us mere mortals.

If you’ve been living under a rock or trying to avoid any spoilers whatsoever, Logan is essentially a Wolverine western of sorts and definitely the grittiest take we’ve seen of the character. He lives in a world where the bad guys essentially realized they could do more harm if they banded together, and so they largely eradicated mutants both good and evil. Wolverine is of course largely indestructible and has somehow survived alongside his longtime friend and mentor Charles Xavier, whom he now protects and looks after. It seems as if Professor X’s mind is decaying exponentially due to years of stress and crazy powerful mutant telepathic abilities. Enter Weapon X-23 into the picture. Now Logan will have to do his best to protect both his friend and this little girl (who, fair enough, can also defend herself). As you can imagine, the plot is sure to go boundless places from there but this is just the basic gist of it.

The trailers alone have been impressive and I don’t think we’ve even seen the best moments of the film yet, despite there being some heavy feels and tense action in them. I really want to see the bond between Weapons X and X-23 (aka Logan and Laura) deepen as the film progresses, and I think we’re going to get that a la Joel and Ellie from The Last of Us. These two characters are bound to have their own flaws, and yet it should be heartening to see them find solace in each other considering their similarities and surely their differences as well. I expect we will see Sir Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman riff off of each other as their respective characters and bring further dimension to their bond, and yet I’m most interested to see Dafne Keen as Laura as well.

I expect we could see any number of rewritten scenarios for the Old Man Logan storyline, and I’m truly excited to see how they play up some of the most tragic and memorable moments as well as adding their own additional angle to things. I suspect that the story itself is no less comic booky or semi-cliche than the others in the majority of the MCU and X-Men films have been, and yet I feel it is the bonds that will be established and severed in this movie that will prove most stimulating and entertaining and tragic to watch. Imagine for instance if Logan himself is forced to put Professor X down because there’s simply no way to get him to safety and protect Laura at the same time. Logan will undoubtedly be dark and multi-dimensional and therefore such tragic things are not far from the realm of possibility at all.

Guardians of the Galaxy was in many ways as close to a superhero western as we were ever going to get up until Logan was announced, yet I’m fully intrigued by the desolate setting- both in terms of mankind’s evolution or devolution, and in terms of the forced character growth it can bring. What I’ve seen so far assures me that Logan is going to be dark and fulfilling as well as beautiful and memorable- from the cinematography to the characters themselves and the revelations in between the lines. Not only am I happy to see the Wolverine movie that we’ve been patiently waiting for all this time fully realized, but I’m also thrilled to see several world-class actors doing their best to do their characters the justice they deserve and deliver some of their most moving performances to date.

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Films I’ve Seen Recently

The following is just a brief list of films I’ve watched/re-watched lately either in theaters or through other means. Not all are from this year of course.

No Country for Old Men 8/10

Escape from L.A 6/10

War Dogs 7/10

Star Trek Beyond 8/10

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‘Lights Out’ Review

[Also Found on GIO.]

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Dir. David F. Sandberg | Wr. Eric Heisserer and David F. Sandberg

PG-13 | 1H21M | Horror | 2016

Lights Out is far from the most heinous of horror masterpieces and also far from the least horrid of them all. Instead, it falls somewhere into that middle mushy category that is often forgotten over time, however much of a hit it was to begin with. By no means is the film terrible but by equal measure by no means is it groundbreaking or astounding. Even with almost an hour and a half of screen time, viewers may be bored in many instances as the pacing is often off-kilter at best.

As much as I would like to state otherwise, I’ve always had some small stigma where PG-13 horror films are concerned. Seeing as most directors find themselves limited in what they can and cannot do for effect in such films, I’ve rarely been satisfied by them. I’m proud to say Lights Out does deliver in that category, as predictable as the scares are and as laudably dumb as it characters may be at times. Such is the almighty curse of being a character in a modern horror film I suppose.

It has an original-ish plot I suppose for starters, although at many points it devolves into wandering about in the dark and throwing multiple close encounters of the dead kind at viewers for the sake of doing so. The cinematography is fairly standard for the most part although there are some great scenes- two of which I found particularly appealing, one featured early in the film following protagonist Rebecca’s (Teresa Palmer) father and the other utilizing a blacklight to great effect.

At times the acting isn’t the best, although perhaps that’s more of a testament to the characters themselves than the acting abilities of actors and actresses, or the writing of the script. The main attraction should rightfully be the thrill of the really good scares that are here and there, as well as the buildup in explanation of the mysterious Diana. While the “revelations” may be cliched at times and the moments of “normal life” in between the periods of crazy aren’t much fun to watch, the package as a whole is just short and sweet yet long enough to be entertaining and mostly worthwhile.

All in all, Lights Out is an enjoyable film to watch and a solid directorial debut from Sandberg. A six out of ten might seem average or even harsh, but I’d say it’s roughly a sixty-seven out of one hundred from me. Not bad at all.

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