Alien Covenant Review

“I’m really excited, I love the Alien franchise as much as you love Mad Max Fury Road & Dredd.” Wittered my scriptgremlin from underneath his rock. And, as I looked at him, his little face full of hope and expectation, I wondered what exactly he was basing this delusion on.

Because lets face facts, the last good Alien film was released in 1986. That’s 31 years ago! Since then we’ve had to deal with Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Alien Vs Predator, Alien Vs Predator: Requiem  and Prometheus. I seriously hope he wasn’t talking about Aliens: Colonial Marines. But maybe he was talking about the creatures numerous appearances in graphical novels? I mean wow has the xenomorphs gotten around in its life. As well as taking on the Predator, The Alien has taken on Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, Tarzan, Buffy, Archie, Star Trek: The Next Generation AND of course, my own beloved Judge Dredd.

None of these are regarded as classics and almost non of them are regarded as cannon within their own universes.

But hey, every 111 million dollar film directed by man who gave us 2010’s Robin Hood deserves to be looked at as it’s own entity. It’s own, mediocre, unsure of what it want’s to be so it winds up being a hybrid of Alien and Aliens.

I mean it, you’ve got your people answering a distress call and winding up dealing with the Xenomorph on a planet which is hopefully the birthplace of wherever the always superb Michael Fassbenders accent calls home, and then finish up the film back on board their spaceship which i’m pretty sure the people from Space 1999 would like back at some point.

And as this is an Alien film, allow me to introduce out not-Ripley for the evening- the mono-named Daniel’s, portrayed by Fantastic Beasts star Katherine Waterston who for me seemed less like a woman finding her inner steel so that she could defeat one of the most deadly animals in the universe, than  a head girl trying to decide whether or not to tell the head teacher that someone keeps disliking her Instagram posts.

Your going to spot every twist from a mile away and resent every scene that doesn’t have Fassbender in. I mean everyone else is fine, but there’s no memorable lines or characters in the entire thing. Even my notes only refer to them as ‘redshirt’ ‘redshirt in hat’ and ‘cowardly redhsirt.’

It had some tense moments and some points where I was squirming in my seat and yes, the music was very impressive and unsettling and it did fly past fairly quickly and inoffensively but this could have been a much better film if there had been better and less dialogue, not telegraphed their plot twists in advance, had a lot more Fassbender and a lot less everybody else and realized that the xenomorph is supposed to be a practical effect that you don’t really see allowing your imagination to fill in the blanks and not a CGI creation. Especially not when the budget is running low.

It’s defiantly not the worst film I’m going to see this summer, but it’s certainly not the best.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to re-watch a 31 year old Vietnam metaphor.

My Score- If Nothing Else 

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Their Finest Review

The last time that I saw a film about the entertainment industry in London during the Second World War, I wound seeing more of national treasure Bob Hoskins than I could afford to tell my therapists about so it was with some trepidation that I apprached Their Finest featuring a (hopefully fully clothed) Bill Nighy and Gemma Arterton.

The set ups a simple one, during the war, typist Catrin Cole has been seconded to the film division of the ‘Ministry of Information’ and winds up helping to write a film about a more or less true story of the Dunkirk evacuation that will inspire and unite the nation, bring America into the war, survive endless levels of official interference, cantankerous old actors, actors that can’t act all the while attempting to keep Richard E. Grant from chewing the scenery into rubble before the Nazis get the chance. Whack it on the stage and you’d have an incredible farce as increasingly desperate scriptwriters try to keep the show on the road. After all, that is traditionally what the old ‘play-within’a-play’ conceit has been used for.

Except this isn’t a fast moving farce on the stage, instead it’s a film that’s so British that I half felt I should be watching it with a cup of Earl Grey enhanced with a twist of lemon (blaspheming early Grey with milk simply isn’t done in a civilized society). Unlike most films, it doesn’t shy away from showing social attitudes of the time and the fact that with most men away in the armed forces, women are for the first time in history earning money and beginning to assert themselves in the workplace.

But this film is slow, very, almost punishingly slow. it’s run-time of 117 minutes passed reasonably quickly for myself but my infinitely better half was bored to Farmville before the start of Act Two.

It is well  acted and scored and potters along well enough, although the heartwarming moments never quite convince, mostly owing to a complete lack of chemistry between Arterton and an incredibly handsome block of wood called Sam Claflin who people keep trying and failing to convince me is a real boy.  Bill Nighy does what he can but he’s given very little to work with.

And despite opening in the rest of the world weeks before the United Kingdom, I can see why it’s so far made back less than a third of it’s budget relatively meager £30 million pound budget. This is a story that needs to be fast moving, to pile on issue after issue after issue, large and small, serious and silly but I’ve seen faster plotting in episodes of Midsummer Murders! Even the war itself feels like little more than a distraction from the central plot of getting this film made, which by the end is supposed to be doing everything bar finding out who Keyser Soze really is.

I really wanted to like this film, it had actors I like, a story-line I normally like, in a setting that I find intriguing but it feels like the kind of film that my grandparents would have loved and that’s the issue. This is a film made for a time that’s already been and gone.

And that time was about twenty years ago. No matter how many twinkly Bill Nighys you throw at me.

My Score- If Nothing Else