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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

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017)

DIRECTOR: James Gunn

CAST: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice), Michael Rooker, Karen Gillan, Kurt Russell, Pom Klementieff, Elizabeth Debicki

REVIEW:

Back in 2014, Guardians of the Galaxy was considered a risky proposition for Marvel Studios, spending a lot of money making and promoting a movie featuring superheroes far lesser-known than the likes of Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and company who make up Marvel’s flagship The Avengers, but three years and $750 million later, the new film franchise is one of the flourishing studio’s most popular properties.  Now that the inevitable sequel has arrived, the wait will probably be worth it for most fans.  The simply titled Vol. 2 is an entertaining ride, even if it lacks a little of the freshness of its predecessor and at times feels a little weighed down by the burden on sequels to be “bigger”. Continue reading

Star Trek Beyond (2016)

beyondDIRECTOR: Justin Lin

CAST: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Sofia Boutella, Idris Elba

REVIEW:

Star Trek: Beyond, the third installment in the “new” Star Trek reboot series, with Justin Lin of the Fast & Furious series taking over from J.J. Abrams (who stepped back to merely producing while busy rebooting another sci-fi franchise with Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens), feels like a super-sized, feature-length episode of the original series (with a budget it could only have dreamed of, of course), but while there are more of Gene Rodenberry’s fingerprints on this one than its two immediate predecessors, the script by Doug Jung and Simon Pegg (the latter of whom, of course, also co-stars as Scotty) fails to go “beyond” as the title aspires toward.   Continue reading

Interstellar (2014)

interstellarDIRECTOR: Christopher Nolan

CAST: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Matt Damon, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, Topher Grace, John Lithgow, Mackenzie Foy, Ellen Burstyn, David Oyelowo, Bill Irwin (voice)

REVIEW:

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

Christopher Nolan has never shied away from a challenge or been content with generic, and Interstellar is his most ambitious project yet, surpassing his resurrection of the Batman film franchise and the mind-bending contortions of Inception to combine powerful human drama with a rigorous attempt at making a “hard” science fiction film that takes a serious examination of the rules and physics involved in a way Hollywood seldom attempts.  If Nolan’s reach sometimes exceeds his grasp, the passion and grandeur he has thrown into this project makes comparatively minor flaws forgivable.  Interstellar is not a perfect motion picture–far from it, in fact–but it is by turns hopeful and heartbreaking, simultaneously paying tribute to the spirit of exploration and the cold, silent, deadly realities of space. Continue reading

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

guardians-galaxy-movie-previewDIRECTOR: James Gunn

CAST: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Bradley Cooper (voice), Vin Diesel (voice), Lee Pace, Karen Gillan, Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, John C. Reilly, Glenn Close, Benicio del Toro, Josh Brolin

REVIEW:

And now for something completely different:  Despite being an adaptation of a comic series, Guardians of the Galaxy represents a risk and a departure for Marvel by basing a major summer would-be blockbuster (and hopefully a new film franchise) around a band of heroes who aren’t household names, and sending Marvel’s film adventures into space.  The resulting product is sufficiently quirky and far off the beaten path to leave it to be seen how well mainstream audiences will take to it, but Guardians of the Galaxy is engaging for the most part, and also represents something different from your run-of-the-mill comic book superhero movie.  There’s maybe a dash of Star Wars, and at least in the oddball tone, maybe a pinch of a more coherent The Fifth Element, but overall this isn’t that much like anything we’ve seen before. Continue reading

Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)

enterprise crashDIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams

CAST: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Simon Pegg, John Cho, Anton Yelchin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alice Eve, Peter Weller, Bruce Greenwood, Leonard Nimoy

REVIEW:

Warning: While I will try to avoid outright “spoilers”, this review will discuss elements of the film’s plot.

Like Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins, J.J. Abrams resurrected the floundering Star Trek film franchise with 2009’s simply-titled Star Trek, and now, after its critical and box office success, he has, by his own admission, sought to provide Star Trek’s answer to The Dark Knight, a sequel that is bigger, more epic, and goes to some darker, more surprising places. I’m not prepared to say he’s completely accomplished this task—Into Darkness pulls a punch where The Dark Knight had no such compunction—but what he has succeeded at is a second breakneck space high adventure that’s engaging and exciting, serves up plenty of action and tension, and is lighter on comedy and higher on drama. 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

Avatar (2009)

DIRECTOR: James Cameron

CAST:

Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, Joel David Moore, CCH Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso

REVIEW:

It’s possible to experience a little of the same thrill watching Avatar that audiences felt in 1977 watching the original Star Wars for the first time. It embodies the feeling of wonder and being transported to another world that an elite few films truly evoke. It is quite possibly the the most technically amazing motion picture yet to hit the screen. Continue reading

Star Trek (2009)

DIRECTOR: J.J. Abrams

CAST:

Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana, Eric Bana, Bruce Greenwood, Simon Pegg, Anton Yelchin, John Cho, Ben Cross, Winona Ryder, Chris Hemsworth, Faran Tahir, Leonard Nimoy

REVIEW:

Director J.J. Abrams (director of Cloverfield and creator of the Lost television series) and writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (writers of 2007’s Transformers) have attempted to do much the same for Star Trek what Christopher Nolan did for Batman; mix things up and inject freshness in a way that the new film is not tied down to those that came before. While the simply-titled Star Trek is not quite as triumphant a success as The Dark Knight , in my opinion, Abrams and cast and crew have mostly succeeded at what they set out to do. Trekkies with open minds may find much to appreciate here, but be forewarned: this ain’t your Daddy’s Star Trek. Continue reading

Alien Resurrection (1997)

DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

CAST:

Sigourney Weaver, Winona Ryder, Ron Perlman, Michael Wincott, Dominique Pinon, Gary Dourdan, Dan Hedaya, J.E. Freeman, Brad Dourif, Leland Orser, Kim Flowers

REVIEW:

Like many a film franchise, the Alien series started out strong, then didn’t know when to quit. Greed to make more money overrode the artistic integrity of stopping when the series was ahead and had fresh, original places to take the story. Alien Resurrection is at least not the dreary, depressing experience of the morbid Alien 3, but that’s damning with faint praise. Continue reading

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