Film Review: Prometheus (2012)

Also known as: Alien 0 (working title)
Release Date: April 11th, 2012 (Paris premiere)
Directed by: Ridely Scott
Written by: Jon Spaihts, Damon Lindelof
Music by: Marc Streitenfeld
Cast: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron, Benedict Wong, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall, Kate Dickie, Emun Elliot, Patrick Wilson, Ian Whyte, Daniel James

Dune Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, 20th Century Fox, 124 Minutes

Review:

“Big things have small beginnings.” – David

I remember initially liking this when it came out but the more I thought about it, processed everything that happened and then applied it all to my knowledge of the long running Alien franchise, it all started to fall apart.

I think what happened was that I was effected by the film in the same way that J. J. Abrams movies effect me, initially. I’m overloaded by a rapid pace, random shit happening so fast I can’t process it, constant information dumps and then  a big, over the top, action-filled finale that serves to be a gargantuan exclamation point on a big smorgasbord of “what the fuck?”

Ultimately, this movie doesn’t make any fucking sense. And that really fucking sucks because it has some really good things working for it that lose their effect because the human brain isn’t made to process bullshit, especially at the pace that the Micro Machines commercial dude could spout off a run-on sentence like this one.

Prometheus was probably my most anticipated film of 2012. I was ecstatic for it and I was sold on the trailers. But upon seeing it, something didn’t feel right, it’s like my brain was pre-programmed to love it and I didn’t want to feel what I was really feeling underneath it all: disappointment and confusion.

It’s a disjointed clusterfuck of a movie, poorly written with contrivances, conveniences, random weirdness and some horrendously bad dialogue that made me feel bad for the superbly talented cast that had to stumble throughout this picture.

For instance, the scene where Charlize Theron reveals that Guy Pearce is her father was absolute fucking cringe. How does that happen in a scene with just Charlize Theron and Guy Pearce? They’re fucking legends at this point!

Every development in this movie was nonsensical and contradictory to the personalities that were established for its characters. All the weird alien twists and turns didn’t add up and just created more questions than this film tried to answer.

In fact, even though this movie does clue you in to the origin of the alien xenomorph species (and the human race), it creates more questions, builds more mystery and turns what should have been a really simple and cool plot into something so damn messy that a team of mental hospital janitors on cocaine couldn’t keep up with the diarrhea spilling out on the floor from the writers’ asses.

What’s with the black goo? What’s with the alien cobras? What’s with the squid that turned massive in an hour? What’s with the weird looking xenomorph? Why did the Engineers on the holographic replay run into the room with the dangerous shit? How did David know what to do with any of this shit? Why did we need the Weyland side plot? Hell, why didn’t they just cast an old guy instead of forcing Guy Pearce into an old man mask from Spencer’s? What’s with the ginger chickenshit turning into a space zombie with a ballooned out head? Why did the Engineer ignore Elizabeth but then go way out of his way to track her down to kill her later? Why did the women run in the path of the giant ship rolling towards them and not cut left or right? After the ship took off, crashed and then rolled like a renegade tire, why was David laying in the same spot where he got his head ripped off? How did his head not pinball around the ship? Why the fuck did I watch this a second time?

Prometheus is incompetent. It’s so incompetent that it hurts and frankly, I don’t think I was initially suppressing these feelings and observations, I think that I was just overwhelmed by how much bullshit was forced down my throat that I couldn’t make sense out of any of it. I was hit in the brain with a sledgehammer nearly every five minutes for two hours straight. Frankly, it took seven years for me to collect my thoughts and give this picture a second viewing.

I thought that maybe I was overreacting and that maybe I missed some glue that held it all together. Nope, it’s still shit. And it absolutely fucking sucks because this shouldn’t have been a clusterfuck of biblical proportions. It should’ve set some things up easily and then followed the framework established by the original film. Hell, it could’ve followed the second film or even combined the two. This isn’t rocket surgery!

Anyway, when I saw Alien: Covenant, I initially thought that it was worse than this but it’s not. That’s still a shitty film for the most part but this thing takes the cake.

Prometheus is insulting. It believes that it is some great mystery and highly intelligent film. It isn’t. In fact, it actually feels like my fifteen year-old cousin’s fan fiction work for his blog that has seven followers after two years. I try and give the kid advice but he just goes, “Fuck off, boomer!” Whatever, I’m Gen-X, bitch and your shipping of Hicks and Bishop is just weird.

Rant over.

Rating: 4/10
Pairs well with: it’s direct sequel Alien: Covenant and the other Alien films other than the first two, which are far superior to anything else the franchise has done since.

Film Review: L.A. Confidential (1997)

Release Date: May 14th, 1997 (Cannes)
Directed by: Curtis Hanson
Written by: Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson
Based on: L.A. Confidential by James Ellroy
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Cast: Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, James Cromwell, David Strathairn, Kim Basinger, Danny DeVito, Ron Rifkin, Graham Beckel, Matt McCoy, Simon Baker

Regency Enterprises, The Wolper Organization, Warner Bros., 138 Minutes

Review:

“Go back to Jersey, sonny. This is the City of the Angels, and you haven’t got any wings.” – Capt. Dudley Smith

I’ve seen parts of L.A. Confidential over the years and I knew enough about the story before even watching it but yes, this is my first viewing of the film in its entirety.

While that may seem odd for a fan of film-noir, I didn’t become a true lover of noir fiction until I got past my teen years. Sure, I always liked crime movies but the noir aesthetic didn’t truly penetrate my psyche until my late 20s and really didn’t make me do a deep dive into the cinematic style until my mid-30s.

Now L.A. Confidential is a modern neo-noir that takes its narrative and stylistic cues from classic film-noir but it has this pristine razzle dazzle about it and that’s not simply because of the star power. It’s visual allure is just breathtaking and while other films in the ’90s tried to encapsulate the noir look, albeit in color, there is just something fantastical about how this comes off on screen.

On one hand, the movie feels like a dark fairytale of a time long gone and a world that doesn’t exist in the same way. On the other hand, there is a gritty realness to it that makes the darker parts of humanity come across as genuine and frightening.

That being said, this is still great because of its star power on top of the film’s visual look. You really have a solid cast between Guy Pearce, Russell Crowe, Kevin Spacey, James Cromwell, Kim Basinger and Danny DeVito. Everyone does a perfect job with the script and the story.

However, I think the glue that holds everything together so well is director Curtis Hanson. While not having a prolific name like Scorsese, Coppola or De Palma, he takes the crime fiction material and makes it work, incredibly well. He got the most out of his cast while having a great eye for mise-en-scène. The film boasts stupendous cinematography and shot framing.

The score by Jerry Goldsmith is also pretty close to perfect.

My only real complaint about the film comes in regards to its pacing. While mostly energetic, there are a few points in the film that drag a bit more than they need to. I didn’t find it to wreck the movie or even be much of a distraction, though.

The ’90s produced a lot of neo-noir motion pictures but L.A. Confidential certainly deserves its place in the upper echelon.

Rating: 8.75/10
Pairs well with: other ’90s neo-noir films: Heat, The Two Jakes, The Usual Suspects, Mulholland Falls, Seven, Red Rock West, Devil In a Blue Dress, Dick Tracy, etc.

Film Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

Also known as: Iron Man Three (original title), Caged Heat (fake working title)
Release Date: April 12th, 2013 (Munich premiere)
Directed by: Shane Black
Written by: Drew Pearce, Shane Black
Based on: Iron Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Don Heck, Jack Kirby
Music by: Brian Tyler
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Don Cheadle, Gwyneth Paltrow, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall, Stephanie Szostak, James Badge Dale, Jon Favreau, Ben Kingsley, Paul Bettany (voice), Ty Simpkins, William Sadler, Miguel Ferrer, Dale Dickey, Corey Hawkins, Mark Ruffalo (cameo), Bill Maher (cameo), Joan Rivers (cameo)

Marvel Studios, Walt Disney, 130 Minutes

Review:

“A true story about fortune cookies. They look Chinese. They sound… Chinese. But they’re actually an American invention. Which is why they’re hollow, full of lies, and leave a bad taste in the mouth.” – The Mandarin

Iron Man 3 is the third and final Iron Man movie. Granted, one could make the argument that Captain America: Civil War is also Iron Man 4. And he does continue to appear in other films that are a part of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. But this is the last true solo Iron Man picture.

This is also the first film in the Iron Man pocket of the MCU to not be directed by Jon Favreau. Although, he does still appear on screen as his character Happy Hogan. He would also appear after this film too.

This chapter mostly deals with Tony Stark having to deal with his past demons and facing the consequences of certain decisions he made long before he was Iron Man. Also, it deals with anxiety and PTSD, brought on by Tony’s involvement in the big battle at the end of The Avengers. It takes these things pretty seriously and doesn’t pussyfoot around them. Tony Stark is very troubled and even though he’s matured and grown as a person, the past is still there to haunt him and stand in his way where he needs to move forward.

Sure, Tony’s personality and snarky sense of humor is still very present but you now start to see it as more of a defense mechanism against his own fears and insecurities. You also get to see him come out of his shell and embrace those he truly cares for: Pepper Potts, Happy Hogan and the young kid that becomes his sidekick in this film. Tony’s personal defense is let down and he stops trying to be the coolest guy in the room and shows the world that he’s a human being and not just some super powerful godlike figure.

This is the most personal Iron Man story and it succeeds because it doesn’t show Tony bullshitting his way through every situation. For one, he can’t bullshit his way out of this. Two, he’s exhausted and emotional like he never has been before. Three, the stakes have never been higher and he’s never been challenged to the core like he is here.

The film is pretty well written in regards to Tony Stark the character.

Some of the other writing is a bit shaky, especially in regards to the handling of the villain, The Mandarin. However, even though I was originally annoyed by how this part of the movie played out, it really doesn’t matter to the bigger scheme of the picture’s narrative.

A real threat existed, regardless. That threat had to be neutralized. But being a big fan of the comic and awaiting the eventual arrival of the Mandarin on the big screen, it was a real disappointment when the character’s true identity was revealed.

Granted, I still loved Ben Kingsley’s performance on both sides of the Mandarin’s coin. His comedic charm makes up for the shocking twist to some degree. And in retrospect, I enjoy it much more, five years removed from my first time seeing this movie.

I generally like Guy Pearce and was excited to see him in this but as the villain, he was pretty vanilla. He had a cool backstory and they tried to humanize him but it ultimately didn’t work out and he wasn’t as tragic of a figure as he could have been.

Another positive though, is that we get to see Tony Stark duke it out with bad guys without the advantages of having his full armor suit. I liked this approach, it showed Tony as truly heroic and not a guy hiding behind his gadgets. It showed his intelligence, his creativity and his ability to persevere when the deck is stacked against him.

Iron Man 3 is a better movie than what a lot of its detractors would have you think and when this came out, the naysayers took to the Internet in droves. I think it also plays better know within the context of the larger MCU.

Rating: 8/10
Pairs well with: Iron ManIron Man 2The AvengersCaptain America: Civil War.

Film Review: Alien: Covenant (2017)

Release Date: May 4th, 2017 (Leicester Square premiere)
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Written by: John Logan, Dante Harper, Jack Paglen, Michael Green
Music by: Jed Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Carmen Ejogo, Demián Bichir, Guy Pearce, James Franco

Scott Free Productions, 20th Century Fox, 123 Minutes

Review:

“One wrong note eventually ruins the entire symphony.” – Walter

Well, Alien: Covenant finally came out. We’re eight Alien movies deep into the franchise now, if you count the two Alien v. Predator movies (which you actually shouldn’t). Also, this one is a direct sequel to Prometheus and part of the prequel series of films leading up to the original Alien. This is also the third of these films directed by the man behind the franchise, Ridley Scott.

I generally disliked the first prequel, Prometheus, as it made the whole Alien mythos more confusing. Well, Alien: Covenant does more of the same in an attempt to connect some of the unconnected dots after Prometheus shook the snow globe to hell.

The problem with Alien: Covenant is that it shakes the snow globe even more. I’ve really just gotten to the point where I’m kind of dismissing a lot of the plot details in an effort to not let these films take anything away from the near masterpiece of the original Alien.

One thing is clear though, despite Ridley Scott saying he had a big plan for how all of these films lead to Alien, the people behind these movies are just making stuff up on the fly. There doesn’t seem to be a real plan, it’s sort of like, “Well, we’ve done this, so now how do we get from here to there?” I guess we won’t know for sure until the next film comes out but I can’t see how this is all going to magically come together and make a lick of sense. While I’m not a fan of having to over explain a movie, these films have painted themselves into a corner now and it’s almost necessary to have to spell everything out. Keeping things sort of ambiguous with a few minor reveals, here and there, just makes these films annoying.

Now the acting is top notch and the cast was pretty impressive. I was especially impressed with how good Danny McBride was in a serious role. I hope this opens some more doors for him. I also liked seeing Demián Bichir, as he is starting to get a lot more work and always brings some gravitas and style to a film. Katherine Waterson was a sort of proto-Ripley the same way that Noomi Rapace was in Prometheus but she doesn’t bring it like Rapace did. She’s okay but she’s not the good character that Dr. Elizabeth Shaw was or the great, great one that Ellen Ripley was.

The effects were a mixed bag. Everything was solid until the final third of the film. The battle on the crane ship was kind of hokey and the CGI was clunky in parts. It was almost comically bad and really ruined the tone of the film. Also, McBride is the pilot. He has one job and he really sucked at it. But at least we got a real alien xenomorph in the sequence.

One scene that worked really well though, was when our marooned heroes had to battle the albino xenomorphs in the grass field. It reminded me of that awesome velociraptor grassland scene from The Lost World where you see people running and raptor tails perking up above the tall grass as they stealthily pick people off.

Also, the scene where the android David is face-to-face with the tall albino xenomorph was really cool until Billy Crudup screwed it up. I wanted to see David communicate with the creature and to see where that was going to go, as he sees these homicidal beasts as his children.

Ultimately, Alien: Covenant isn’t the worst of the three Alien films directed by Scott, that goes to Prometheus. This is not a bad film but it doesn’t really seem to have much of a purpose. It advances David’s story beyond Prometheus but nothing about his character or his motivations is surprising. The big twist involving him at the end is not shocking and it was actually anticipated.

Alien: Covenant is really a dud. I’d much rather see them make the Neill Blomkamp proposed Alien movie that features Ellen Ripley and Cpl. Hicks.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: Prometheus