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sci-fi thriller

Alien: Covenant (2017)

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

CAST: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup

REVIEW:

In 2012, Ridley Scott returned to the universe of his 1979 sci-fi horror classic Alien with the ambitious, sporadically compelling, but in some ways unwieldy and half-formed Prometheus, but those who went to the theater expecting more traditional xenomorph action were disappointed.  Originally, Scott intended to follow up Prometheus with a follow-up tentatively titled Paradise which would have gone even further afield from Alien, but in the wake of Prometheus‘ lukewarm reception, Fox decided to play it safe and explored other options for getting back to the aliens as we know them, including with Neill Blomkamp’s proposed sequel to James Cameron’s 1986 Aliens which would have reunited Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn and potentially wiped all other sequels out in favor of an alternate storyline (which, given the declining quality level of Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrectionmany fans would have been okay with).  However, when the grandfather of the franchise Ridley Scott himself expressed willingness to make an Alien movie that was less like Prometheus and more like the traditional films, Fox gave him the green light and Blomkamp’s project became indefinitely dead in the water.  The result bears all the hallmarks of a movie stuck in some netherworld between being a follow-up to Prometheus and a more conventional Alien movie, but serves up enough of what fans liked about the series in the first place to be an engaging diversion, even if it doesn’t approach the franchise at its height. Continue reading

Life (2017)

DIRECTOR: Daniel Espinosa

CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanda, Ariyon Bakare, Olga Dihovichnaya

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS “SPOILERS”

Among the various sci-fi thrillers over the decades that owe greater or lesser degrees of inspiration to Ridley Scott’s 1979 AlienLife is one of the worthier indirect descendants/homages.  Daniel Espinosa is not terribly subtle about borrowing a page (or several pages) from Alien, but screenwriters Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the same men behind 2016’s very different Deadpool) also come up with enough twists and turns on their own for it not to be unforgivably derivative.  But while fans of Alien may find Life worth a look, be warned: this is a dark, gruesome ride that is not for the faint of heart or for those who demand happy endings. Continue reading

Snowpiercer (2013)

snowpiercer1DIRECTOR: Joon-ho Bong

CAST: Chris Evans, Kang-Ho Song, Ah-Sung Ko, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, John Hurt, Tilda Swinton, Ewen Bremner, Ed Harris

REVIEW:

Snowpiercer, while it contains visceral action sequences that wouldn’t be out of place in a major summer action movie, was given only a limited arthouse release, with major studios leery of giving it high-profile promotion (in fact, it’s a South Korean-funded project).  One can see why upon viewing the complete product; this is not a conventional action movie, or a conventional anything, and it’s too grim and downbeat to be anything resembling “feel good” or crowd-pleasing.  For those not deterred by those disclaimers, Snowpiercer is still a bit of a mess, but it’s an engaging, often fascinating mess bursting with ideas and cool moments, and understanding its allegorical intentions will enhance one’s appreciation of what it’s going for. Continue reading

Elysium (2013)

elysiumDIRECTOR: Neill Blomkamp

CAST: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley, Alice Braga, Diego Luna, Wagner Moura, William Fichtner, Faran Tahir

REVIEW:

Elysium is a tense, engaging sci-fi action thriller with an intriguing premise that’s good for almost two hours of entertaining escapism, but it’s also a film that wets the appetite while leaving us wanting more. Continue reading

Prometheus (2012)

DIRECTOR: Ridley Scott

CAST:

Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba, Guy Pearce, Logan Marshall-Green, Rafe Spall, Sean Harris, Benedict Wong, Patrick Wilson

REVIEW:

WARNING: THIS REVIEW WILL MENTION SPECIFIC ASPECTS OF THE FILM’S PLOT

One’s appreciation of Prometheus might be heavily-influenced by what one goes in expecting.  Despite Ridley Scott’s attempts to downplay Prometheus‘ description as a prequel to his 1979 sci-fi horror classic Alien and have it viewed as a stand-alone story, many were disappointed by its loose connections and markedly different aims to its predecessor.  While it does contain elements of horror, Prometheus is less single-minded in its intentions than Alien and has far broader themes it’s trying to tackle.  Chief among Prometheus‘ flaws is that it bites off more than it can chew, but it’s still an intriguing sci-fi entry for those not expecting too much xenomorph action. Continue reading

The Matrix (1999)

DIRECTOR: Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski

CAST:

Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving, Joe Pantoliano, Gloria Foster

REVIEW:

Entries in the sci-fi genre have a tendency to fall into one of two pitfalls: either they are dry, intellectual ruminations, or use intriguing premises as mere perfunctory launching pads for generic whizz-bang action and special effects. Continue reading

Strange Days (1995)

DIRECTOR: Kathryn Bigelow

CAST:

Ralph Fiennes, Angela Bassett, Juliette Lewis, Tom Sizemore, Michael Wincott, Vincent D’Onofrio, William Fichtner, Brigitte Bako, Josef Sommer, Glenn Plummer

REVIEW:

A murder-mystery with the backdrop of a vivid and fascinating slightly futuristic sci-fi visionary thriller, Strange Days is entirely worthy of anything with James Cameron’s name attached Continue reading

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