Everything wrong with Alien: Covenant (spoiler filled)

Have you ever been let down – big time – by, say, a friend who turned out to be a huge disappointment instead of the amazing person you depicted him/her to be?

Well, said friend is Alien: Covenant (2017) for me. I love Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986), I find Prometheus (2012) mentally challenging in the best way possible, I like Alien 3 (1992) and I even enjoy Alien vs Predator (2004) as a guilty pleasure.

Naturally, then, my expectations for Alien: Covenant were very high. I so decided to venture beyond the surface of the film to explain why Ridley Scott’s latest movie is a huge disappointment for me.

In order to do that, I will have to include spoilers for both Prometheus and Alien: Covenant – if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t want its story ruined, check out my spoiler free review of Alien: Covenant. Also, I decided to focus on the negative elements of this motion pictures, meaning: the movie is not entirely rubbish, but here I’ll talk about everything wrong with it.

For a big fan of the franchise as I am, Alien: Covenant was really painful to (re)watch. Therefore, I have to thank my girlfriend who sat through it with me and endured my sarcastic and frustrated comments during the runtime.

The film opens with David’s (Michael Fassbender) backstory that we get to know through a dialogue between the synthetic and Mr Weyland (Guy Pearce). Although interesting, the scene raises more questions rather than starting to answer those left hanging in Prometheus. On top of that, it seems to set a Prometheus-ish tone that, on the contrary, will be betrayed as soon as the title appears on screen.

Soon enough, Alien: Covenant turns into an Alien movie, rather than a continuation of Prometheus. I’ll explain later why this is a bad thing.

Everything wrong 1.jpgWe are now on the Covenant, a spaceship directed to an uninhabited planet they hope to colonise. Out of 15 crew members, including Walter (another humanoid played by Fassbender as well), there are three married couples. This is the first sign of lazy writing.

No risky mission in the universe will allow couples to travel together… unless their inclusion has the sole purpose of convey emotions that, otherwise, would be lacking due to little acting skills of most of the cast members and non-existent chemistry on screen.

Basically, the first act of the movie is a big build-up in which nothing unseen happens and the characters appear one-dimensional: Walter-Fassbender and the dialogue between Daniels and the captain are the only enjoyable moments.

As you know if you saw the film or read my previous Alien: Covenant review, most of the crew lands on a habitable planet from which they received a suspicious signal by an unknown source.

Once they arrive on the planet, we are struck by incredible landscapes backed up by spotless cinematography and gorgeous visual effects.

Unfortunately, the atmosphere of awe is ruined in 0.2 seconds by a crew member who approaches a field saying: “Believe me, this is wheat, I know wheat”. No shit Sherlock! This brief sequence sums up both the disposability of the characters and the lazy storytelling featured in Covenant.

Finally, something relevant happens: two of the crew members are infected by an airborne unknown virus – which, who saw Prometheus, would recognise as the lethal weapon transported by the Engineers on their spacecraft.

However, the ‘infection sequences’ are highly predictable and reminiscent of those B-movies in which a teenager goes to take a leak and gets butchered by the killer. In fact, all the ‘thrilling moments’ are foreseeable in Covenant and, therefore, not as effective as they could have been.

Then, two monstrous creatures burst from the back and chest of our unlucky infected characters and furiously attack the rest of the crew and kill some of them in the goriest way possible. As I said in my previous review, these sequences would have been awesome if only horrendous Dutch angles, poor lighting, nauseating camera-work wouldn’t be there.

Oh, and it also would have been nice to have characters who don’t act like complete assholes!

Everything wrong 2Furthermore, the Neomorphs (these creatures born from the airborne virus that impregnates humans) feature very poor CGI: in both Alien and Aliens, the Xenomorphs are entirely practical and, therefore, frightening and timeless. On the contrary, the monsters in Covenant look already fake and, soon enough, will look dated.

The attack sequences, very fast-paced, are followed by a caped saviour who rescue the remaining crew members and take them to a ‘safe place’ (i.e. the now uninhabited city of the Engineers). The mysterious rescuer reveals himself as David, who landed on the planet with Doc Elizabeth Shaw 10 years before.

Now, the pace gets, once again, slow, showing how pacing and matching of tones represent one of the biggest issues of the film.

Everything wrong 4David carries the plot along and, while providing a very interesting backstory to his character, gives the audience some involuntarily laughable scenes (“look at me, I’ll do the fingering”) and spoon feeds the viewers, filling the gaps between Prometheus and Covenant.

David-Fassbender explains to Walter-Fassbender that the Engineers’ civilisation was, accidentally, destroyed by David himself who, unwillingly, dropped tons on lethal weapons on them and crashed the spaceship in the process, killing doctor Shaw in the crash.

Everything wrong 3.jpgIt’s very obvious, as it will be discovered a few scenes later, that David wanted to kill the Engineers in one of his delusions of grandeur. He, also, killed Elizabeth Shaw by infecting her with the virus in order to give birth to a new species. It’s clear, at this point, that David’s motivations revolve around his desire to be creator instead of mere creature.

However, the mass massacre of the Engineers seems clearly motivated by Ridley Scott’s decision not to continue the Prometheus universe expansion. In this way, we will probably never get answers to the questions cleverly raised in the 2012 film.

Anyhow, the story progresses with the Neomorph getting killed by the captain of the crew who, then, is guided by David to a Facehuggers nest where, obviously, he gets impregnated and gives birth to the first Xenomorph.

Wait a second, weren’t there two Neomorph? What happened to the second one? The film doesn’t bother to give us any answer, again. This is a humongous plot hole which I don’t know how can be overlooked by critics and viewers.

Also, at the end of Prometheus, a Xenomorph bursts out of the chest of the last remaining Engineer. However, in this case the creature is the product of a mixture of Engineer’s and big octopus-like monster’s DNA. How the hell two different DNA combinations (octopus + Engineer and human + Facehugger) can give birth to the same creature?

This goes beyond the suspension of disbelief. Mind you, I’m not criticising the genetic/scientific aspect of it. Instead, I’m pointing at the lack of coherence within the Alien universe.

everything wrong 5Back to the story: the first Xenomorph bursts out of the captain’s chest and David is before him, putting his hands up. What’s the reaction of the laughable CGI creature? It imitates David and puts its hands up as well! That’s too much to take. I can’t believe Ridley Scott turned the most iconic monster in cinema history (his monster) into a freaking pet!

Everything wrong 6.jpgObviously, the Xenomorph has an exponential growth, gets to the adult stage quickly and starts to hunt down the rest of the crew. Only Tennessee (McBride) and Daniels (clear replacement for Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley) survive, after the two Xenomorphs (oh yeah, there is another one because another Facehugger previously impregnated another disposable character) kill the rest of the crew.

Meanwhile, there is a face-off between David-Fassbender and Walter-Fassbender, which ends with the evil David in disguise replacing the loyal Walter on the spaceship.

Before I conclude, I want to pinpoint two major issues that bothered me ever since I watched Covenant for the first time.

Firstly, David wants to create the perfect living creature and, finally, become a creator. However, in the original Alien movies, the Xenomorphs weren’t created by anyone in particular. Their society resembled a hive, with a queen giving birth to eggs filled with Facehuggers who stayed dormant until they got in contact with other living beings. Covenant ignores all of that and originates a parallel, less impactful Alien universe.

Everything wrong 7Secondly, why would David not be fully satisfied with the Neomorphs and want to improve upon them? In the original three movies (I refuse to consider Resurrection part of the franchise), the Xenomorphs are perfect killing machines. In Covenant, instead, the Neomorphs look faster, scarier and, above all, their system of reproduction is airborne, meaning they’re easier to create and spread.

All in all, Alien: Covenant is not an awful movie per se. However, is the worst film possible for the Alien franchise: it confuses the storyline, tones down the terror deriving from the Xenomorphs, tries unsuccessfully to recreate the same atmosphere of better Alien films and ignores the existence of Prometheus. Simply put, Covenant is a bloody mess.

If you are wondering my personal ranking for the Alien franchise, there you go:

 

Alien
Aliens
Prometheus
Alien 3
Alien vs Predator (yes, I’m serious)
Alien: Covenant 

Alien: Resurrection
Alien vs Predator: Requiem

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Jordan Peele’s debut is a breathlessly clever, original and entertaining mixed bag. Get Out – movie review

 

Get Out is written and directed by the renown comedian Jordan Peele at his directorial debut.

 

The movie tells the story of the black photographer, Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya), who goes for a weekend trip with his wasp (no, not the bug) girlfriend Rose (Allison Williams) to meet her parents, who have no idea Chris is black.

 

However, the interracial relationship is not a big deal for them, nor for any of the other family member who chat with Chris in the most “liberal-racist” way, if this definition makes any sense. Everybody is complimenting him and claiming to be big fan of Obama, Tiger Woods and a bunch of other famous black people.

 

get-out-keith-stanfieldNevertheless, this awkward behaviour develops alongside with an unsettling feeling which makes Chris feel increasingly uneasy throughout the movie, partly because of the excessive attention he gets, partly in regards to the weird attitude of the servants – black workers who seemingly come from another era.

 

I am deeply pleased to say this movie is an absolute blast, a mixed bag – in the most positive way possible – of true suspense, thrills and comedy. Yes, because Get Out is the definition of entertainment in modern cinema, being able to combine different genres subtly and successfully.

 

Speaking of comedy, Rod Williams (Lil Rel Howery) – Chris’ best friend and TSA Officer – steals the entire show every time he’s on screen. As a comic relief, his performance is hands down one of the best I’ve seen the whole year.

 

get-out-trailer-2In addition, Daniel Kaluuya as Chris Washington is fantastic, being able to carry the story on his own shoulders. Fun fact: Mr. Kaluuya is a Londoner whose accent in the film was perfectly American. You nailed it my friend.

 

untitledHonestly, one of the greatest strengths of Get Out revolves around the cast: nearly everyone was perfectly picked and gave a compelling performance. Dean (Bradley Whitford) and Missy (Catherine Keener) as Rose’s parents simply knocked it out of the park by combining a tender appearance with a dreadful vibe. Rose herself (Allison Williams) was perfect for her role, as well as “the blind man” – whom I can’t talk about because I don’t want to spoil anything.

 

Perhaps, the only character I haven’t bought into was Rose’s brother Jeremy (Caleb Landry Jones), whose acting is unnecessarily over-the-top and annoying beyond the limits.

 

Other than his performance, I only have a couple of tiny issues with Get Out, the first one being the soundtrack, which is very eerie and unsettling but also generic and formulaic.

 

Moreover, there are a couple of jump-scares (well-crafted ones, in all fairness) which serve no purpose other than startle the audience, without moving the story forward.

 

Nonetheless, I believe Peele has included them in his film to appeal to the mass audience that is used to conventional scares and shivers. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not necessarily a negative, since thanks to this stopgap Get Out will probably be appreciated by everybody.

 

Peele has also proven himself as an interesting visual director, being able to use long, wide takes to expand the scenes. For instance, to my knowledge the opening scene has been realised with only one take, no cuts or editing. Gotta appreciate that!

 

What I also found positively surprising is the subtleness utilised to introduce to sub-layer of racism. This is not the kind of film where the bad guys are disgusting racist douchebags, nor the John Carpenter’s They Live type of deal. On the contrary, the racism Peele is referring to is the one that hides deep inside the consciousness of liberal people, those who are willing to say anything to prove themselves as everything but racist.

 

Also, the ending is fulfilling and flawless, mostly thanks to the cleverness and strength of our main character Chris, who’s miles away from your average horror movies’ hero.

 

In conclusion, Get Out is a great, fast-paced thriller surrounded by horror elements and a very well-executed social commentary, enriched by comic elements lighting up the darkness of the story. Highly recommended, guys! Give it a chance. Cheers!

 

Skull deer get outEXTRA: the trailer for this movie is something I really wanted to talk about. I usually don’t consider trailers; I try to avoid them as much as possible instead. However, I have a kind of love/hate relationship with the one of Get Out. On one hand, indeed, nearly every scene in the trailer happens within the first 20 minutes of the movie or so, which is a great market strategy. On the other hand, though, there is a brief appearance of a deer skeleton in the trailer that has no room in the movie and I hate this kind of choices, because it’s basically cheating on the audience’s expectations.

 

Complexity and unicity to come up with an original mystery. A Cure for Wellness – review

A Cure for Wellness (2017) is directed by Gore Verbinski and stars talented actors such as Dane DeHaan and Jason Isaacs.

A young, successful and unscrupulous business man (Lockhart, played by DeHaan) is forced by his board of directors to move to a sanatorium in Switzerland where he has to convince an older colleague (Roland Pembroke) to come back to New York and face some serious consequences of financial frauds committed by the company.

As soon as the protagonist gets up to the hill, at the castle-like recovery centre, it seems to him that something is off, out of place and, perhaps, it will not be easy to leave the sanatorium nor to ‘rescue’ Mr. Pembroke.

Most certainly the concept of unsettling asylums filled with uneven doctors (such as the director Mr. Volmer, portrayed by Isaacs) is not new, however, in A Cure for Wellness, it’s handled in such a unique and dreadful way that is impossible not to consider this film as a stand-alone product.

hqdefaultDefinitely, the movie is reminiscing of The Shining and Shutter Island for many aspects – the build-up is similar to the Kubrick’s masterpiece, whilst DeHaan and DiCaprio’s character in Scorsese’s film follow alike paths. Nonetheless, the plot development as well as the way Lockhart progressively discovers the secrets of the structure make for an original movie which, honestly, has no benchmark in the history of cinema.

cure-for-wellness-3Moreover, the visuals are simply outstanding. Verbinksi has always been a great visual director – for instance, the look and feel of The Ring, which I’m not a big fan of, are hands down the best part of that movie – and here he gets over himself, exceeding the brightest expectations. Every shot looks beautiful, the editing and camera work are immaculate and, sincerely, they are very close to those in The Shining, or at least closer than the other ‘horror’ movies made throughout the years.

A sharp eye may have noticed the ‘bunny ears’ around the word horror and that’s because A Cure for Wellness is not a straight-up horror movie by any means. Honestly, this film is so original that it would be unfair to restrain it within a single genre boundary. Most definitely, though, it’s a complex pile of puzzles which the viewer tries to solve through the eyes of the main character.

a-cure-for-wellness-official-trailer-2-twThe characters, indeed, are both interestingly developed throughout the movie and amazingly portrayed by DeHaan as the protagonist and Isaacs as the villain. DeHaan, in particular, gave the best performance of his already brilliant career ever since Chronicle – which is the most underrated super-hero movie and the best one, except for the Nolan’s Batman trilogy, obviously. Mia Goth (Nymphomaniac Vol: II) is also in this movie, where she plays the creepy but innocent Hannah who, beyond being a ‘special case’ in the sanatorium, might also be the key to solve the mystery…

As per issues with this movie, I have only a couple. The biggest one concerns the exposition. Sure enough, the key-element of the ‘cure’ is depicted as something to be paying attention to since the very first sequences at the sanatorium, whilst it would have been better, in my opinion, to keep it more hidden and subtle.

In addition, this movie is long. Two hours and 26 minutes’ runtime, where the audience has to pay careful attention to every single detail given. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly prefer to watch complicated films than those where the viewer gets fed up and treated like a 15 years old idiot. Nevertheless, I am quite sure that A Cure for Wellness will make a lot of people really angry due to its slow pace which requires an unusual effort.

Furthermore, but here I’m probably nit-picking, a couple of scenes realised with the CGI would have been highly more effective if done with practical effects. Also, if it does make any sense, I would have preferred the ending to be less abrupt and hasty, to maintain the same tone throughout the entire film.

All in all, A Cure for Wellness exceeded my expectations by far (although it was on my most anticipated movies list) and it’s absolutely the best Verbinski’s movie so far. It’s probably not a masterpiece, nor something that will revolutionise the contemporary cinema, but I’m sure it will develop a cult and a clique of die-hard fans. And I’m already among them. Don’t miss it out, guys. Strongly recommended. Cheers!

Pranks and revenge. Don’t hang up – review

Don’t hang up (2016/2017) is directed by Alexis Wajsbrot, at his debut, and features a group of teenage pranksters who mock people in vicious and controversial ways to obtain views on a YouTube-like website.

As their fame increases, so does the obsession developed towards them by a guy who decides to take his revenge in a very sadistic and violent way.

Although the concept can be considered quite silly, I found it to be interesting enough and also refreshing, even though similar stories have been depicted in previous movies such as Smile, #Horror and, most notably, Unfriended. In fact, I decided to check and review this flick – that came out in a limited release only few weeks ago – due to its intriguing premises.

Unfortunately, from the opening titles, the execution looks poorly realised, the main characters annoying and the score sounds off compared to the tone they were going for.

Indeed, the opening titles introduce the audience to eight pranksters running the channel, but throughout the runtime we get to know only four of them, two of which are the main characters.

untitled-1134In addition, the co-presence of two protagonists is an awkward choice, which can be made only if the characters are compelling and well-written, which they are not in Don’t hang up. Furthermore, the acting is so exaggerated and fake, the characters so annoying and hateful that results impossible to side by them.

3gwwg8gAt the same time, though, it’s hard to cheer for the villain, who is represented as a faceless voice that can’t be taken seriously by the audience, since he appears all-powerful and always one step ahead of the situation.

However, the movie is not pure rubbish. Wajsbrot, whose previous experiences were related to visual effects, tangibly puts a lot of effort in the camera work and cinematography, which look really well-crafted and carefully edited.

Sadly, the subtle atmosphere and the unsettling feeling provided by the visuals don’t match with the over-the-top, hysterical performances of the actors, especially Brady (Garrett Clayton), who is simply intolerable to the point that the audience wish he dies. Well, at least I did.

Moreover, the final sequence, beyond being extremely cliché, is very speedily and tiresomely executed and, I would say, disrespectful towards the audience, which is treated like a bunch of slow-minded people.

All in all, Don’t hang up is a low-budget disappointing flick, only saved by some random seeds of talent provided by the directorial efforts. Check it out only if you’re with friends or really bored. Cheers!