That's our Xenomorph origin? Really?
Alien: Covenant (2017): The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
Yes! Finally! An Alien move with Xenomorphs actually in it! We've been waiting 20 years for the Alien franchise to finally bring back, you know, the alien, and that wait is over. (Shush.....not including the AVP franchise) I was a giddy little schoolboy while that Xenomorph was on screen. It was AWESOME. The problem with this film, however, is when you really start to think about it. Ridley Scott has been given complete creative control over his Alien franchise, and raised a lot of questions in his first installment, Prometheus. I still don't really know what was going on in that film. While this film does actually answer more questions than it poses, some of those answers are going to leave fans of the franchise (such as myself) wishing for more. The lore-building here SUCKS. But hey. There are freaking Xenomorphs this time around. And the film looks absolutely gorgeous. And the acting is awesome. Basically, your mileage will vary with this film. If you're coming in just wanting a monster movie, you will enjoy the crap out of this while you're not sitting around waiting patiently for everything to be explained to you. But if you're coming for the fact that this is a freaking Alien movie, and you want to know more about the origins of the Xenomorphs.....well you're gonna be disappointed.
So! Let's start out with the good. Let's talk cinematography. Dariusz Wolski is one of the best cinematographers in the business, and he does an absolutely marvelous job here. This film is absolutely gorgeous. I'd recommend seeing this film in the theater for the cinematography alone, as it's easily the best of 2017 so far. The set design is great as well. I don't know where they went to film this but Ridley Scott and company did a great job making this look like a foreign world and maintaining the overall grandeur of its predecessor Prometheus, which was definitely the strongest part of that film as well. The sound crew had a lot to do with this as well. This film overall has a strong showing from the technical departments, to the point that it may get a nomination or two from the Academy despite its early release. The acting here was outstanding as well. Katherine Waterston, man. Where has she come from? She is the hero this franchise needed, a worthy successor to Sigourney Weaver. While we may never get a resolution to Ripley's character because Ridley Scott doesn't feel like returning to that part of the lore, they definitely stumbled on a new actress to build the franchise around in Daniels. She has a great story arc and is just overall a total badass. You know who else is great in this film? Danny McBride. Ya. I'm just as surprised as you are. But he shows off his dramatic side in this film and was great! And, of course, there's Michael Fassbender. His duel portrayal as David/Walter is chilling. Though his characters do get to an absolutely TERRIBLE resolution. I guess that leads into the bad!
So, let's first hit that point. So for the first and second act Michael Fassbender's characters are awesome. They get some one on one interactions that are great. But then their characters get the worst resolution ever. Anyone who has ever watched a movie will see this coming from a mile away, and yet for some reason Ridley Scott builds it up and when he pulls back the curtain he seems to think that we're all gonna be like, "Whoa! Didn't see that coming!" Well, I did. As did everyone else in the theater. Then there's the contributions to the lore. I know only people that care about this franchise will be upset about this, but I'm one of those people, okay? The contributions to the lore here are so freaking lackluster man. I was so disappointed! I won't spoil, but it appears that I'm in the majority here thinking that these contributions and resolutions and the answer to "Where did the Xenomorph come from?" are weak, and bring down the overall franchise. Ridley Scott clearly wants nothing to do with the lore of Alien: Resurrection, but if you're going to give the legendary Xenomorph a backstory it's gotta be strong. Unfortunately this is anything but strong.
However outside those two things, there really isn't much to fault with this film. Which is why your mileage will vary. If those two faults don't bother you, you're gonna have a good time and I highly recommend this film. You can certainly watch it without watching Prometheus, and given what this film does to the Prometheus story line, I would actually recommend it. (Ya, this film basically made the entirety of Prometheus irrelevant. That happened) And there are freaking Xenomorphs, man! They get to wreak havoc like the perfect organisms that they are! If only they were given the backstory they deserved.
The Critique: Despite great execution from the technical and acting departments, Alien: Covenant delivers a hilariously lackluster backstory for the legendary Xenomorph, which will ultimately leave fans of the franchise disappointed.
The Recommendation: If you like monster movies but haven't watched an Alien film since James Cameron's Aliens, this might be the film to jump back in on.
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
A wildly mixed bag
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017): Robbed of his birthright, Arthur comes up the hard way in the back alleys of the city. But once he pulls the sword from the stone, he is forced to acknowledge his true legacy - whether he likes it or not.
Can we please start giving Guy Ritchie some credit? There aren't that many directors using the full range of cinematic aspects available to them, but Guy Ritchie is undoubtedly one of them. However, unlike someone like Edgar Wright or Wes Anderson, Guy Ritchie's films just don't seem to be held in as high regard. I don't really know why-yes, the stories may be weaker, but I'll take an overall well-executed film and a weak script versus a strong script and poor execution. The first Sherlock Holmes was outstanding, and can be credited with rebooting the Sherlock franchise, and his 2015 film The Man from U.N.C.L.E...... as I'm sure you know by now, was one of my top action flicks of the year. While Ritchie's signature can be seen throughout this film, there's just too much..... crap here to make it truly enjoyable. And the people have already spoken-King Arthur is shaping up to be the first true box office bomb of 2017. Poor Warner Brothers studios just can't catch a break.
So, let's talk about the positives first. Guy Ritchie throws a lot of ideas against the wall, particularly in the editing department. Some of them stuck, most notably with the montages. There are some really cool sequences here as Arthur and his crew lay out plans for taking back England from Vortigern. This is another strong part of the film-Jude Law plays a damn good villain. While there are some limitations with his character in the writing department, which we'll get to in a bit, Jude Law was simply eating up the screen in his role, and I loved it. Finally, some of the stylized action sequences worked, and looked pretty darn cool. However, most of them did not.
Let's start there with the negatives, shall we? While some of the action sequences were pretty spectacular, the vast majority of them were pretty laughably bad. I guess when Ritchie and co. combined their stylized action sequences with the magic within this world, we found ourselves left with some pretty incomprehensible CGI-filled sequences. The worst was undoubtedly the final boss battle. This sequence was TERRIBLE. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 looks better than this! Then there's the writing. Ohhhhhh boy. This film was passed between a TON of screenwriters, and it really shows. This film is an absolute mess from a script standpoint. Even the actors were confused, most notably the great Charlie Hunnam in the lead role of Arthur. His character randomly seems to switch personalities at several points and it was very odd. One second he's charming, then the next he's a complete jerk for no reason, then suddenly he's charming again! Jude Law's character, Vortigern, also suffers here-his character's motivations are simple, yes, but there were several occasions where it seemed like he was trying to be a nice guy and it was really confusing. I don't know if this was intentional or not, or the result of just how infectiously charming and charismatic Jude Law can be, but it just comes back to the overall tone of the movie. Or lack thereof.
This film is the result of corporate-directed film-making, and what happens when you revise your film a dozen times trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Despite some good moments from Guy Ritchie, it is simply just too toxic to be anywhere near Warner Brothers right now. There's no doubt this film suffered at the hands of corporate execs trying to find an answer to the massive success Disney is enjoying between Marvel and Star Wars, and it looks like the distributor is going to lose a TON of money because of their misadventure. And overall, while I did find some great moments here and there watching this, there was just too much crap surrounding those moments to make the overall experience enjoyable. There are several more high-profile Warner Brothers releases coming this year-Wonder Woman, Dunkirk, It, Blade Runner 2049, Geostorm, and Justice League-and there's a lot of pressure for these guys to deliver some hits. If all of these films are disappointments, the clock may honestly find itself approaching midnight for one of Hollywood's original studios. Don't falter on us now, Warner Brothers. You have too much history behind you.
The Critique: Despite a few exhilarating action sequences, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, falls flat on its face thanks to a very weak script, shaky acting, and overdone CGI.
The Recommendation: There really isn't much to like here, so I'd say go see The Man from U.N.C.L.E. instead, because.....seriously. Nowhere near enough people have seen that film.
The Verdict: 4/10 Below Average
It's basically more of the same
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017): Set to the backdrop of Awesome Mixtape #2, 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' continues the team's adventures as they unravel the mystery of Peter Quill's true parentage.
Wow, IMDB went right there with the reference to the mixtape. Right in the description. Anyway! Let's not beat around the bush on this one: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 is more of the same. It is nearly a carbon copy of the original film. Now, is that a bad thing? No. To me that is not a bad thing. I have seen so many sequels try and reinvent the wheel on its second go and fall flat on its face in the process that I have no issue with a film taking an "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," kind of mentality. THAT SAID. To all of you who groan about franchises like The Fast and the Furious being "more of the same" then turn around and love a film like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? You need to look yourself in the mirror and say, "When in Rome." Sorry, I lost my train of thought there....I have no idea what you should do. But the double standard is real! Is my point. Anyway, moving on. Let's talk about Guardians 2 and what it gets right!
Let's talk about the dialogue. Like the first Guardians film, Vol. 2 is all about the "moments" versus the overall plot. The overall plot here is fine, but it's these moments that we all look back on and smile upon. Besides for the obvious one-Baby Groot-I think Rocket once again steals the show. Bradley Cooper just plays this character so freaking well. Pratt and Saldana are great together, and there's some good interludes between Dave Bautista and newcomer Pom Klementieff as well. And once again Elizabeth Debicki is a GREAT villain. I seriously love this woman...she can pull off a CRAZY villain character. If you have no idea who she is check out The Man from U.N.C.L.E. As if I don't talk about that film enough. Also, the effects are great! Mostly. There were a few times where the CGI was overwhelming, like, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 kind of overwhelming, but for the most part they were great. Especially on Ego's planet! That place is freaking beautiful and that's thanks 100% to the effects. Also the soundtrack is good. It's more of the same from the first film, but at least it was more than surface-level deep. There was just more marketing around it (heck it made it into the freaking IMDB description) so it didn't feel as authentic necessarily.
So! Let's talk about the negatives of this film. You may have noticed I didn't touch on Kurt Russell to this point. Well, that's because I didn't think he was all that good. Look, things start well enough with him, but as the film progresses and he's asked to be more than just charming and charismatic, he really falters. And what happens to him in the final act? Please. Terrible casting choice. Almost as bad as asking us to believe a 61 year-old Ian McDiarmid could take on four Jedi, including Samuel L. Jackson, in Revenge of the Sith, no problem. Then there's the pacing. Holy CRAP is the pacing in this film TERRIBLE. Like, seriously! Nobody else has any problems with the pacing? This film DRAGS its way to the third act with some absolutely meaningless setup. I found myself just straight-up impatient and wanting this film to just get on with it! It comes in at 136 minutes, but it could've EASILY shaved off 30 minutes off its run-time. The pacing is really a product of another big problem with this film-the overall story is really not all that compelling. Like the original, this film is all about the moments (which are great) and in the process of this the overarching story suffers. Oh! Andy FOR THE LOVE OF GOD can we PLEASE get other Marvel characters to acknowledge this crap? I mean, I know they're going to in Infinity War, but there were what? Five post-credit scenes here and not one of them was like Iron Man or someone, ANYONE, from the Avengers investigating the damage the Guardians did! C'mon! Five post credit scenes and literally none of them added anything to the film. I don't even remember them at this point, and I just saw the film a few days ago!
Ok I'm sorry. You probably think I hated the film. I really didn't! It's fine and it's fun, and there's nothing wrong with that. I just hate how a film like this gets a free pass for its missteps. We groan about unnecessary sequels and reboots, but we flock to every Marvel film in existence and think they're the best things ever, even when they do the exact things we always groan about. But all of this does not take away from the fact that this is a FUN movie. It is the definition of a mindless popcorn flick, and that's exactly what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be. But it doesn't change the fact that it is more of the same.
The Critique: While the dialogue is witty and the cast is charismatic, Guardians 2 is simply more of the same. Combined with a lackluster story, mediocre pacing, and a less-than-stellar casting choice with Kurt Russell, this sequel fails to live up to the charming originality of its predecessor.
The Recommendation: We all know you're going to see it, so why bother?
Rewatchability: Moderately High
The Verdict: 6/10 Above Average
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