BAYWATCH

Life’s A Beach

Director
Seth Gordon

Starring
Dwayne Johnson
Zac Efron
Alexandra Daddario
Kelly Rohrbach
Jon Bass
Priyanka Chopra



Baywatch follows the titular team of lifeguards operating on the Florida beach of Emerald Bay, heroically protecting the public from the dangers of the sea. In charge of the seaside overseers is Lt Mitch Buchannon [Johnson]. I don’t recall why he’s a Lieutenant but he is and it’s apparently very important. Under his command are lifeguards Stephanie [Ilfenesh Hadera] and CJ [Rohrbach] (among others) but patrolling the beach is a dangerous job and as such, try-outs for new recruits are always welcome. But the life of a Baywatcher is harder than it looks as the selection process proves gruelling for new recruits, steely Summer Quinn [Daddario], average guy Ronnie [Bass] and Olympic gold medallist and testosterone nightmare Matt Brody [Efron]. Meanwhile, Mitch starts investigating the nearby Huntley Club run by the shady Victoria Leeds [Chopra] who may be linked to drugs turning up on the beach.

In an era of big budget parodies and franchise-building remakes, there is something to be said for the novel concept of the remake/parody hybrid; the kind of film that takes all the cheesiness of a source material and both revels in and ridicules it at the same time. It’s a rather bold choice that shouldn’t work but 21 Jump Street proved it is a legitimate way of celebrating all the best and silliest qualities of a familiar brand. But it’s not an easy sell and without an extremely charismatic cast and a very clever and funny script you end up with face-palm inducing dross like Dukes Of Hazzard, CHIPS and now Baywatch. Despite what David Hasselhoff has said over the years, Baywatch is not some trailblazing progressive piece, it’s attractive people in skimpy outfits running across the beach in slow-motion; a fact which most of its fans and critics can agree upon. But a film which openly acknowledges this fact should be able to highlight all the flaws, tropes and stupid situations in order to produce something memorable and entertaining. What we end up with, however, is a string of episodic, unconnected, obvious and flat-falling sexually charged jokes with a sporadically placed plot about drugs on the idyllic beach scene.

*Spoiler at the end of the paragraph*
Despite the atrocious script flitting between straight-faced exposition pushing a formulaic story and humourless setups, the leads are all more than capable actors who do their best to channel as much charm, competence and energy as possible but to no avail. Johnson delivers decently and Efron is wonderfully obnoxious but that is the height of what we’re given. The remainder is in the form of Ronnie, a horrifyingly shitty everyman character, and a score of women that are wasted. Getting back to Ronnie later, let’s take a look at the female troupe. Top of the four leads is Alexandra Daddario’s Quinn, who goes from eager lifeguard trainee with no time for Brody’s shit to peripheral love interest via a series of lazy boob jokes. Then we have Kelly Rohrbach as Pamela Anderson replacement, CJ, who does her absolute damnedest to rise above the two dimensions of her character but all the script gives her is tits and ass jokes. I would talk about Ilfenesh Hadera as senior lifeguard Stephanie but the script does so little with her, I have practically nothing to work with. Finally we have the menacing villain who is refreshingly female and makes valid statements about if she were a man she would be treated differently and praised for being ambitious (or something along those lines) but any potential there is lost once she gets blown up by a giant roman candle while dangling from a helicopter.

Despite the utter damning this film deserves, it should be noted that it excels on a small handful of platforms. The cinematography, while unadventurous is completely serviceable. The direction and editing are bright, clear and straightforward – as is common in many big budget comedies – and the visual effects are surprisingly competent. These can easily be overlooked when the central focus of a film of this nature is the laughs but with the sound and visual design functioning perfectly, it must be at least afforded the praise it deserves. I will also throw some praise to Christopher Lennertz’s score which riffs through the “investigation,” giving way for musical tracks that, while a little on the nose, are acceptably selected.

I wasn’t expecting anything substantial from this movie – I’m fully aware of what a fucking Baywatch film would consist of – but the fact it failed to even rise above tedium and the only observations in the script were sophomoric at best, means what we’re left with is a bland, forgettable release.


Release Date:
26th May 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
As the credits roll, Baywatch follows the Smokey And The Bandit trope of reeling off a load of bloopers. For the most part the corpsing and line flubbing is amusing but then we are shown a medley of costume adjustments. To crassly clarify, I mean pulling short dresses down, digging things out of cracks and shoving breasts back into place. I think it was supposed to be some sort of titillating consolation for the lack of nudity throughout (bar a fake penis) but it just came off as a bit tawdry – like a lot of the film in fact.

Notable Characters:
Ronnie. I see characters like Ronnie all the flipping time. Ronnie is the sideways wink to the male members of the audience, the nod to placate anyone who isn’t a chiselled Adonis to say “Even you could end up with a babe like CJ.” Ads, TV, film, there are so many times we’re presented with an average, slightly out of shape dude who wins the affection of a woman vastly more attractive than him. Now, I’m not going to say these men are bridge-trolls who are unworthy of love but the fact that there would never be a role reversal wherein a relatively plain lady is courted by some smouldering muscle-cake betrays this film’s eye-rolling obviousness. Maybe I’m overreacting: Ronnie’s fun and CJ likes his personality, right? Fuck that and fuck you, Ronnie HAS NO personality, he’s just a quivering 1980’s nerdy horndog with little in the way of redeeming qualities.

Highlighted Quote:
“You gonna be cool and go over and talk to her or are you gonna stay up here like Mr Creeper Creeperton with your binoculars?”

In A Few Words:
“Hardly a wasted opportunity, considering the source material, but a disappointment nevertheless”

Total Score:

1/5

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: SALAZAR’S REVENGE

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Directors
Joachim Rønning
Espen Sandberg

Starring
Johnny Depp
Javier Bardem
Brenton Thwaites
Kaya Scodelario
Geoffrey Rush



If any franchise is in dire need of retiring or a really fresh revitalisation, it’s the Pirates Of The Caribbean series. In truth, the only decent instalment was the first one and everything that followed has seen diminishing returns of substance and quality. It’s clear this latest entry tries to recapture the elements that worked so well in the original but what we end up with is an overcooked disappointment and a question which must be nagging every Disney producer: is this the best we can do with quarter of a billion dollars?

Set five years after the last instalment (and some twenty years after the first film), Henry Turner [Thwaites], son of Elizabeth Swann and William Turner, is working a lowly position for the navy. Defying the orders of his commanding officer, Henry uses his vast knowledge of folk-lore and myths of the sea to correctly predict that following a pirate ship into a cove called the Devil’s Triangle is extremely ill advised. Not wanting to lose face, the captain throws him in the brig and continues ahead. Entering the rocky cove, the ship is attacked by ghosts commanded by Spanish captain, Armando Salazar [Bardem]. He kills the entire crew but leaves Henry alive to tell the tale and hunt down Jack Sparrow for him. Simultaneously we learn that Sparrow has fallen on hard times, with his ship still encased within a bottle and we are introduced to Carina Smith [Scodelario], a female academic (something derided and branded as sorcery) who is trying to honour her deceased father’s memory and continue his scientific pursuits.

For a lot of people, the mainstay of this franchise is the acting; more specifically, the role of Jack Sparrow. People seem to project a curious amount of nostalgia and ownership on the character and revel in seeing the drunken pirate’s exploits without noting whether it’s any good or not. I will happily admit the role is absolutely brilliant; when Depp first appeared as the eccentric Captain, it was memorable and mesmerising. Since then it has become a parody of itself, trapped in the same stupid swagger without evolving or challenging Mr Depp to do anything other than the bare minimum. There is a clear effort made to flesh out his character some more while pushing him back into a peripheral view but what we end up with is little more than a slurring, screeching, dad-joke-spewing idiot. Harsh words but without a decent script and a high-energy performance, there isn’t much to be reaped from the role. Mirroring Curse Of The Black Pearl, we have two new young leads but they’re not exactly new, they’re simply the new generation, tying them heavily to the ageing original cast. While Elizabeth Swann and William Turner were painfully annoying at times, they were never unbearably flat or devoid of chemistry; these two are – despite proving themselves in previous projects. Without spoiling things, the whole obsession with fathers in On Stranger Tides didn’t work then and it sure as hell doesn’t work now. Interestingly, no matter how poor a Pirates film is, one can always count on a memorable and really impressive villain. Geoffrey Rush, Bill Nighy, Ian McShane, all three had powerful presence accompanied by impressive visual effects to create something impactful. While I respect Javier Bardem I don’t think he really cut it. Salazar’s initial entrance is pretty damn cool, flush with waning guitars riffs and mystery but there’s nothing new about him and one of the most criminal acts is that he isn’t really much of a villain; he’s a man who lost his family to piracy and is seeking revenge. That.. in fact.. is a hero’s origin. So when he meets his ultimate demise (I really don’t see that as a spoiler) I mostly felt bad for him. Having said that, I’ve just realised that in actuality, the most criminal act was gathering a boatful of Spanish sailors who talk to each other in English.

For all their good intentions, those behind the film have produced something that is surprisingly mediocre. For all Dead Man’s Chest and The World’s End’s flaws, they were at least adventurous and entertaining with a broad, ambitious scope. Everything one could expect of a Pirates film is present but it’s nothing we haven’t already seen before. So with the same cast and the same old story tropes it falls on the directors to produce something vibrant and different. Regrettably while there are a handful of interesting shots or transitions, the majority seems to be lazily shot centralised close-ups and awkwardly obvious outlines as people are clearly stood in green-screen studios. Oh, and the film makes the classic error of assuming two objects colliding (one made of wood, the other of rock) explode. Yeah, yeah, gunpowder on-board, I get that but that’s not what is shown in the visual effect. Seriously, why do all these ships explode? But I digress, the only true saving grace of this film (and the reason it’s not a 1/5) is the continually superb production design. The towns, the ships, the costumes, the hair, the make-up – these people are doing a damn fine job and it’s very difficult to point to a particular physically created set or character and say “that doesn’t work.” To carry so much weight on their shoulders, these departments are performing spectacularly.

So is this the end of the franchise? Probably not. While Depp-driven features aren’t nearly as bankable as they once were, they’re still serviceable and audience fanaticism will keep the series going for at least one last outing. But to reiterate what I said earlier, I don’t think the franchise is beyond saving, it just needs an overhaul and a stern conversation about what works and what doesn’t. Although I have a dreaded feeling that was how this film started.


Release Date:
26th May 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
I was going to talk about a fairly interesting scene but I’m afraid I need to address the humour instead. As stated before, the dad jokes are appalling but one played on my mind longer than it deserved to and when I finally understood it, a wince slowly crept across my face. With Carina to be hanged on charges of witchcraft, Henry rushes under the scaffold and holds her aloft, preventing her death.. or at least postponing it. The exchange between them is painfully lacking in charisma, charm, chemistry and culminates in a joke which rears its ugly head a few times. The joke in question is that, while holding Carina up, Henry has his hands on her nethers (it’s never exactly defined where) and says he’s holding her by her port (i.e. left side of a boat). She corrects him explaining it’s the stern (the back part of the boat). He seems confused and tries to correct her and a forced married-couple, love/hate bickering ensues. Now, I could be wrong but I think the whole left/back joke is that port can also mean a window in a boat.. or more aptly a hole. You.. you see where I’m going with this, right? It’s most likely an anus joke. A really poor anus joke. That stayed in every draft of the script and was brought out multiple times. Good clean family fun, right kids?

Notable Characters:
It has taken an exceptional amount of willpower not to talk about Paul McCartney’s godawful cameo (and I’ve evidently failed) but the truth is, there isn’t really any one standout performance. There’s a wealth of talent on display but none of it is utilised. Actors who have performed magnificently in the past are given so little to actually work with that it all feels very tired. Even the mighty Geoffrey Rush, who I still maintain is one of the greatest cinematic pirates ever, looks bored. And when you’ve got swashbuckling seafarers, supernatural elements and a budget the likes of which filmmakers can only dream of, there’s absolutely no excuse for subpar results.

Highlighted Quote:
“She breeds donkeys”

In A Few Words:
“Yet another disappointing journey rife with lacklustre and unimpressive feats”

Total Score:

2/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #190

[21 May 2017]


Winning Team:
I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of St Louis!
Genre – Four brides attempt to escape St Louis to reach their New York weddings

Runners Up:
Every Which Way But Lewis… With Sexy Results
Genre – Clint Eastwood and his orangutan Clyde go on a road trip in a racist talking car named Grandad Torino
Pun About Lewis
Genre – Insert pun here
Deep Inside Lewis Davis… With Even Sexier Results
Genre – A homage to the quiz team featuring Lewis. A struggling guitar player’s g-string goes in too deep and his friends’ pussy goes missing
Alice Cooper In Wonderland
Genre – High school rock musical with rabbits
All Work And No Play Makes Lewis A Dull Boy
Genre – All work and no play makes Lewis a dull boy


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the flight codename that Bodhi improvises in Rogue One?
ROGUE ONE
2. How many fairies raise Aurora in secret in Sleeping Beauty?
THREE
3. The main bobsleigh team in Cool Runnings represent which country?
JAMAICA
4. What is the full title of the Ali G movie?
ALI G INDAHOUSE
5. Who directed Full Metal Jacket?
STANLEY KUBRICK
6. The following is a quote from which film, “Now Werner, I’m gonna ask you one last goddamn time, if you still respectfully refuse, I’m calling the Bear Jew over. He’s gonna take that big old bat of his and he’s gonna beat your ass to death with it”?
INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS
7. Who played the lead roles of Seth and Richie in From Dusk Til Dawn? (one point per correct answer)
GEORGE CLOONEY / QUENTIN TARANTINO
8. In Forrest Gump, Forrest operates a successful fishing company specialising in what type of seafood?
SHRIMP
9. When You Wish Upon A Star is from which Disney animated film?
PINOCCHIO
10. Species was released in which year?
1995


ROUND II: Filming [Characters named Lewis Special]
1. Who played the title role in Teen Wolf? Charlie Sheen? Robert Downey Jnr? Michael J Fox?
MICHAEL J FOX
2. Robocop is set in which US city? Los Angeles? Detroit? Chicago?
DETROIT
3. Meet The Robinsons was an animation produced by which studio? Dreamworks? Sony Animation? Disney?
DISNEY
4. The Nanny Diaries, starring Scarlett Johansson, was released in which year? 2001? 2005? 2007?
2007
5. The following quote is from which film, “What you did was very spiteful but it was also very brave and very honest and I respect you for doing that. But the content of what you said has made me hate you.”? Manhattan? Get Him To The Greek? The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou?
GET HIM TO THE GREEK
6. Which of the following did not appear in The Lookout? Joseph Gordon-Levitt? Paul Dano? Jeff Daniels?
PAUL DANO
7. 2008’s Rambo was also released under which other title? John Rambo? Rambo Legacy? Rambo: New Blood?
JOHN RAMBO
8. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “What did happen on the Cahulawassee River?” The Mission? Without A Paddle? Deliverance?
DELIVERANCE
9. What is the name of the cult leader who designed Dana’s apartment building in Ghostbusters? Bre Miktay? Ivo Shandor? Vin Hisslop?
IVO SHANDOR
10. The actors playing the servants in Gosford Park did not wear any makeup (aside from lipstick) to set them apart from the main cast. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What is Sid’s dog’s name in Toy Story?
SCUD
2. Who directed Man On Fire?
TONY SCOTT
3. The following actors appeared in which film: Ray Winstone, Mads Mikkelsen, Til Schweiger, Stellan Skarsgard, Ray Stevenson, Joel Edgerton and Clive Owen?
KING ARTHUR
4. Bryan Ferry’s Is Your Love Strong Enough was written for which film? [bonus point for naming the film Trent Reznor covered it for]
LEGEND [THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO]
5. The following quote is from which film, “Who the fuck are you” “I’m the guy who does his job, you must be the other guy”?
THE DEPARTED
6. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “For three men, the Civil War wasn’t hell. It was practice.”?
THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY
7. A Fish Called Wanda was released in which year?
1988
8. Who starred in The Other Boleyn Girl, Vicky Cristina Barcelona and The Island?
SCARLETT JOHANSSON
9. What is the name of the main villain in Mad Max Fury Road, played by Hugh Keays-Byrne?
IMMORTAN JOE
10. Who played the lead actors in Christopher McQuarrie’s 2000 film, The Way Of The Gun? (one point per correct answer)
RYAN PHILLIPPE / BENICIO DEL TORO


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. How many people are in Dutch’s squad in Predator (including Dutch but excluding Dillon)? 5? 6? 9?
SIX (Dutch, Mac, Poncho, Blain, Billy, Hawkins)
2. Who directed American Psycho? Mary Harron? Antonia Bird? Jennifer Kent?
MARY HARRON
3. Upon his return from captivity, in Iron Man, Tony Stark says he wants an American cheeseburger. Where does he get this from? Burger King? Jack In A Box? McDonalds?
BURGER KING
4. Roxanne, starring Steve Martin and Daryl Hannah was released in which year? 1980? 1983? 1987?
1987
5. Who starred in Gandhi, The Bounty and The Crucible? Jeffrey Jones? Robert Duvall? Daniel Day Lewis?
DANIEL DAY LEWIS
6. The following quote is from which film, “Gretchen I’m sorry I laughed at you that time you got diarrhoea at Barnes & Noble. And I’m sorry for telling everyone about it. And I’m sorry for repeating it now.”? Easy A? Superbad? Mean Girls?
MEAN GIRLS
7. Mike Nichol’s Closer was nominated for how many Oscars (all for acting)? 2? 3? 4?
TWO
8. In 1989’s Heathers, starring alongside Winona Ryder and Christian Slater as the titular characters were Kim Walker, Lisanne Falk and which other actor? Tiffany Amber Thiessen? Shannen Doherty? Neve Campbell?
SHANNEN DOHERTY
9. What is The Breakfast Club’s runtime? 97mins? 110mins? 135mins?
97 MINUTES
10. Clueless is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s Emma but was originally heavily inspired by Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus. True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Good Morning Vietnam / The Fisher King / Jumanji / One Hour Photo
Poster: Death To Smoochy
Actor: Robin Williams


KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD

From Nothing Comes A King

Director
Guy Ritchie

Starring
Charlie Hunnam
Jude Law
Àstrid Bergès-Frisbey



Thirty six years ago a medieval fantasy film based on the legendary exploits of King Arthur was released in the form of Excalibur, it did reasonably at the box office and over time garnered cult success; as well as being a huge boon for the Irish film industry. With the success of fantasy pieces like Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones, you’d think audiences would be totally up for a modern retelling. Regrettably, what we end up with is a very stylistic but remarkably hollow feature reminiscent of equally forgettable CGI-fests Clash Of The Titans, 300: Rise Of An Empire and Hercules.

For the most part, King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword follows the Arthurian legend to a degree. Following an opening battle sequence establishing Uther Pendragon’s (played by Eric Bana) rule over England, being overthrown by his scheming brother Vortigern [Law] and the escape of the young prince Arthur ..played by one of the most unresponsive child actors I’ve ever seen. Sailing down the river from Camelot, Arthur arrives in London – sorry, Londinium – and is taken in by a group of prostitutes. Over the years he learns the hard ways of the streets and establishes a nice little underground living. Years later, the lake near Camelot reveals a sword embedded in a rock which no one can unsheathe. This arrival prompts Vortigern to instigate a search for all potential individuals who could in fact be the lost king. Back in Londinium, Arthur [Hunnam] is arrested in connection with an altercation with a group of Vikings and brought to the stone to try and remove the fabled sword. Arthur has an extreme reaction to the weapon and is brought before his uncle, the king, who frankly explains that in order to fully establish his rule, Arthur must die.

I rather enjoy Guy Ritchie’s releases but with the rather tedious The Man From UNCLE and now this, one would assume big budget blockbusters aren’t his forte. And yet, I really enjoy his Sherlock Holmes features. Trying to ascertain the lacking quality between those positive releases and these negative ones is surprisingly tricky. They both adapt established works with high energy and a cheeky sense of rapscalliousness but there are a handful of key factors that are either lacking or absent entirely. The most obvious being a strong script. King Arthur is a story that has been told again-and-again, itself an amalgamation of origin stories and legends the world over. Subsequently, we all know the ideas and core concepts inside out: orphaned child is discovered in a capsule, grows up to be a protector of men and then challenges an oppressive ruler to establish his rightful place. As such, the only way to draw the audience in is to make the peripheral and aesthetic details interesting and engaging enough to distract us from what is, essentially, the same old story. Amazingly, this film manages to make these elements so distracting that they become the central focus for criticism.

Ritchie’s films are unarguably stylistically driven and this has served him well over the years but this film is a bit of a muddled mishmash of concepts. From the fucking awful 90s font to the erratic, schizophrenic tone between cheeky cockney street thugs and high-stakes fantasy drama nothing really works the way it should. The production design and cinematography on Sherlock Holmes and its sequel were bold and pleasing but here everything feels cheap and hollow despite the literal wealth of detail and money that’s been poured into it. Both the direction and editing are sloppy and most of the film feels like it’s told in a rushed montage, racing to the end of the film to establish an outcome for, what I can only assume is, an intended multiple sequeled franchise.

Another key staple of a Ritchie release is the wealth of acting talent utilised. King Arthur isn’t any different but rather than employing a decent range of thespians, we get a scale going from Game Of Thrones veterans to David fucking Beckham. I don’t care about cameos either way, sometimes they can be surprising and reveal hidden acting talent – Eric Cantona I’m looking at you – but most of the time they just take you out of the film entirely and David fucking Beckham is a prime example. Don’t get me wrong, he does a surprisingly adequate job but it’s such an oddball choice. Ultimately, the cast performs as expected but whether down to delivery or editing, I couldn’t get behind Hunnam. I like the man as an actor but in this role he never really excels, which is frankly baffling as he’s cut his teeth on performances that draw upon every necessary component on display here. Although by the end of the film I wholly believe one of the prerequisites for this starring in this release is how you look delivering a slow motion roar.

And yet, it should be noted that King Arthur: Legend Of The Sword is far from awful. Daniel Pemberton’s pounding, medieval Celtic score is powerful and pleasing, the costume design is really nice and gives the world a beautiful rich look and the pacing ensures that, although things are skipped over quite a bit, nothing lags. The problem is this isn’t enough. This story could have easily been told on half its assigned budget, garnered a decent amount of respect and amped up the scale in a follow-up release. Instead we are given a massive initial outing and told that there will be more, whether we want it or not, which is entirely the problem with Warner Bros releases of late. Far from offensively dull or bad, King Arthur’s greatest crime is simply that it doesn’t do enough to warrant existing in the first place, let alone hanging around for a further five instalments.


Release Date:
19th May 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoilers throughout this section**
The CGI both works and flails horribly depending on the scene. So I’ve highlighted two for you. In order to harness the dark magic to rule England, Vortigern makes a deal with a nautical creature that is both grotesque and beautiful in its design. The acting is great, the location design is superb and the water effects, make-up design and CGI are brilliant. In a more disappointing example, the final showdown between Arthur and Vortigern in full-on muscly hulk mode is breathtakingly shit. I wouldn’t denigrate video games by drawing a comparison to them and bad visual effects but the whole sequence feels like watching a ropey quick-time-event ..whilst spinning around in a washing machine. The quality is questionable, the action is impossible to follow and all tension is completely absent, culminating in an extremely poor effort.

Notable Characters:
Of all the actors in this movie, Jude Law gives a performance that feels like he’s appearing in an entirely different release. Vortigern is suitably nuanced, dark and layered but devoid of any of the charm and levity that is injected throughout the movie. Obviously, this was to ensure he retains a menacing presence but in the end it just leaves him feeling somewhat external.

Highlighted Quote:
“That’s what you’re here for Bedevere, you silly posh bastard”

In A Few Words:
“An odd choice of release with a handful of standout moments but overall a bit of a non-event”

Total Score:

2/5

ALIEN COVENANT

Scream. Run. Hide.

Director
Ridley Scott

Starring
Michael Fassbender
Katherine Waterston
Billy Crudup
Danny McBride



Set ten years after the events in Prometheus and a mere eighteen before those in Alien, Alien Covenant introduces us to the crew aboard the colonisation ship, Covenant, as a random shockwave hits the ship and causes chaos and disarray. Several crew members are woken while the captain is killed in his cryosleep pod. While repairing the ship, a garbled transmission is intercepted which is not only of human origin but draws their attention to a closer, more habitable world. After a brief discussion, the decision is made by acting captain Oram [Crudup] to investigate this new potential home. Upon arrival on the planet, members of the crew are infected with a fungal spore that violently births alien creatures. With their landing ship destroyed and unable to reach Covenant in orbit, the stranded group are saved by a human figure.

One of the biggest problems people had with Prometheus was understanding how it fit into the Alien universe; the widely acknowledged truth is that if it were a standalone film it would have been received better. Having said that, it was also universally accepted that the film was utterly gorgeous; a deep, rich, cool adventure with astonishing CGI. Alien Covenant picks up this baton with the same visual style but I’m still confused about how it all ties in. Alien has the same mechanical functional corridors but there’s a wealth of lo-fi 1970s tech which is nowhere to be seen in these last two films. As such, with the vastly superior technology on display in these prequels, one would have to assume these movies are reboots, not prequels, which makes them even more pointless because we know exactly where they’re going but not why (constrained by something thoroughly detached) and the journey, frankly, isn’t cutting it. In a very odd way, the two immediate thoughts that dawned on me is that a) Prometheus is a more enjoyable feature and b) Jed Kurzel’s score recycles themes so wonderfully that it does a better job of linking Prometheus and Alien than the actual narrative.

For all the berating these pre-boots are getting, it is undeniable that the story has been approached with a seismic level of maturity. Rather than simply regurgitating endless tedious action horror sequences, the script tries to offer something with greater depth and for that effort, it deserves considerable praise and credit. However, the religious symbolism is far too heavy handed and what we are left with is a movie of pure subtext and allusion but no relatable surface narrative; which you ultimately need in order to make the characters relatable and create audience empathy/urgency. What we have here, unfortunately, is zero tension building to a few familiar franchise tickboxes with a wealth of predictable developments. While I can appreciate the notion of creating an action horror investigation narrative interspersed with philosophical musings, it has to hold some sort of emotional connection or audiences will slowly lose interest or become desensitised. Oddly, as much as it was an Alien rehash, the recently released Life felt more like a natural successor to Alien than this film and yet I still admire what these films are trying to do, albeit shoddily.

**Heavy spoilers midway through**
As with Prometheus, the characters are breathtakingly stupid and forgettable. I couldn’t tell you how many crew members wake up during the neutrino shockwave but ascertaining what function they perform aboard the ship is even more difficult. In amongst the disposable faces, we learn there are a series of married couples (who have formed their own covenant if you will… *eye roll*) and I would say Billy Crudup, Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride are the only ones who are remotely memorable; still just as dumb as the scientists in the previous instalment but I’ll get more on to that in my highlighted scene. Along for the ride is android Walter, played by Michael Fassbender, and much like his role as David in Prometheus, he plays the mechanical butler extremely well. Speaking of David, we need to get into extreme spoiler territory here, so if you’ve yet to see the film, skip ahead to the end. This film might as well be called David Covenant. From a writing point of view, it’s very hard to follow the monster. The alien is a beast, the perfect terrifying killing organism and one that cannot be humanised or focused on without destroying the illusion of its abilities. So the nature of the android creations is given a spotlight – admittedly as has been covered in other Alien films. The aforementioned figure that saves the group on the planet surface is none other than David. It transpires he took the ship from the last movie, flew it to their home world and effectively nuked them all. In doing so, he then started to experiment on the remaining life forms, harnessing and perfecting his alien creation; adding depth and closure to the obsession and admiration demonstrated by Ash and Bishop in Alien and Aliens respectively. This side of things is pretty fascinating, David’s interest in zoology and emulating his creator’s desire to improve upon the flaws inherent in his own design, becoming god himself, is great. And yet every answer we get leaves a bitter taste for the more it’s explained, the more mystery is stripped away and the more it’s spoiled. The Alien sequels all dealt with “what’s next?” or “what form will the aliens take this time?” Nobody was really asking, “where did these xenomorphs come from?” because no one cares. Can’t they just be a perfect creation of evolution, do they require a creator? Countless lines of dialogue in this film dictate they do; in the opening prologue, Weyland himself defiantly states that he refuses to believe life is merely random chance, that there has to be a maker with answers. The only problem with that is that eventually you still need an ultimate progenitor. Which brings us back to David and Walter’s relationship and the fact that there is no air of mystery, we know David is fucking digitally psychotic, he’s basically a mad scientist and the xenomorphs are his Frankenstein’s monster. Granted, David is an amusing character but the delivery is still balmy as hell and laughably silly. I rather love the observations and misattributions of poetry to Byron or Shelley but after you’ve sat through a longer-than-necessary scene about learning to play a recorder, you have to wonder if these concepts wouldn’t be more appropriate in a separate franchise.

I like Ridley, I do, but the man kinda needs to stop. After a series of flat films, The Martian was a real breath of fresh air and delivered something pleasing, life-affirming and triumphant. More than that, it reminded us that Scott is capable of producing fine cinema. And then we have his return to the Alien franchise, killing off Neill Blomkamp’s promising Alien 5 release, and feeding us a wealth of mediocre features because he happened to father the first one. To draw on this film’s obsession with family, gods and creators, Scott is like a grandfather who raised their child thirty years ago so feels more than qualified to deal with his new grandchild but keeps dropping the baby. Either way, I’m sure we’ll get another Alien prequel that will deal with forming the queen and finding a new alien ship to crash on LV-426 but I don’t know if I can care about it anymore.


Release Date:
12th May 2017

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoilers throughout**
After it’s been revealed that David has some sort of relationship with the neomorphs (or whatever the white aliens are called) Oram opens fire and kills the creature. Demanding an explanation, at gun point I might add, David takes Oram to his workshop, wherein he has been experimenting on all manner of variations. Parts of this scene, from the production design to the concept of a god-factory are brilliant but Oram lowering his weapon and just listening to expository monologuing is not. It’s fucking stupid. Then Oram is brought down to a subterranean crypt wherein David shows him a host of eggs. Having been told that the eggs contain a “successful” version of the creature, Oram keeps his rifle effectively holstered and merely watches as one hatches before him. I mean, the level of moronic behaviour on display is mind blowing. After that we’re then treated to one of the shortest gestation periods in the franchise (as all suspense is gone from that little development) and a rather comical birthing scene with the baby alien mimicking the pose of its creator in something akin to a pose I’d expect Baby Groot to adopt: bloody cute rawr. What’s equally puzzling is the presence of the eggs. Putting aside the lack of a queen for a minute, the airborne version seen earlier in the film seems like the perfect evolutionary version, why do we need the eggs? It feels like the only reason they are present is to bring us back by the collar to Alien.

Notable Characters:
**More spoilers throughout**
Fassbender continues to impress but I still have absolutely no idea what the hell David’s deal is. Sure, he’s adopted all the manic traits of his master but the effeminate, soft-spoken Englishness is just plain weird. More than that, the twist at the end was so very poor. When Walter is first introduced I was surprised by the American accent but immediately realised it will be how you differentiate between Walter and David, when he inevitably turns up. So with that in mind, Walter leaving the planet with the surviving crew was a horrible fake-out. Obviously it was David. The fact that he manages to fix his own voice-box and cut his own hand off to better infiltrate the group is one thing but adopting a cut on his face? That’s literally only there to fool the audience. Another aspect of David’s madness is not only can I not see his end goal, I’m not entirely sure how he gets from one situation to another. In a flashback we see the alien ship docking before releasing the viral weapon on the natives but the ship discovered by the Covenant crew crashed.. how and why did that happen? Too many questions, too many bits played off for audience reaction than actual logical progression.

Highlighted Quote:
“He was human, entirely unworthy of his creation. I pitied him in the end”

In A Few Words:
“For all its flaws, Alien Covenant gets a pass from me in the same way Prometheus did by trying to produce something weightier than a simple space horror sequel. Regrettably, while the execution is decent, the script continues to be disappointing”

Total Score:

3/5

Cinema City Film Quiz #189

[07 May 2017]


Winning Team:
Matilda Romancing Hercules Junior
Genre – A super-powered love story

Runners Up:
La Dolce DeVito… With Sexy Results
Genre – Danny DeVito leads a solo mission to a distant galaxy in search of the sweet life
Romancing Danny’s Jewels
Genre – Arnold Schwarzenegger sends Kathleen Turner a map of DeVito’s erogenous zones – they lead her to the desert where she romances his jewels
Would You Rather Fight One Wiener Dog Sized Penguin Or 100 Penguin Sized Wiener Dogs?
Genre – Good questions to ask at parties


ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “If you’ve got a taste for terror, take Carrie to the prom”?
CARRIE
2. Ben Stiller and Cameron Diaz first co-starred in which film?
THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY
3. The aliens in 1953’s War Of The Worlds are from which planet?
MARS
4. In Miss Congeniality, Gracie Hart works for which US governmental agency?
FBI
5. In film coding and categorisation what does B/W stand for?
BLACK & WHITE
6. Who directed Young Frankenstein?
MEL BROOKS
7. Which actor plays the lead role of Val in Tremors?
KEVIN BACON
8. Western Tombstone, starring Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer was released in which year?
1993
9. What is the full title of the South Park movie?
SOUTH PARK: BIGGER, LONGER & UNCUT
10. How many men make up the tank unit in Fury?
FIVE (Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman, Shia LeBeouf, Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal)


ROUND II: Filming [Danny DeVito Special]
1. DeVito played which Batman villain? Scarecrow? Joker? Penguin?
PENGUIN
2. DeVito starred in Twins alongside which actor? Sylvester Stallone? Arnold Schwarzenegger? Dolph Lundgren?
ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER
3. How many years passed between the release of Romancing The Stone and The Jewel Of The Nile? 1? 3? 7?
ONE (1984/1985)
4. What is the name of the basketball team in Space Jam? All-Stars? Tune Squad? Team Looney?
TUNE SQUAD
5. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest was produced by Saul Zaentz and which actor? Danny DeVito? Michael Douglas? Henry Fonda?
MICHAEL DOUGLAS
6. How many films has Danny DeVito directed? 6? 7? 8?
SIX (Throw Momma From The Train, The War Of The Roses, Hoffa, Matilda, Death To Smoochy, Duplex)
7. Ed Exley, Jack Vincennes and Bud White are characters in which film? Man On The Moon? LA Confidential? Big Fish?
LA CONFIDENTIAL
8. Jack Nicholson plays the role of Garrett Breedlove in Terms Of Endearment, what was his profession? Retired astronaut? Retired drug dealer? Retired playwright?
RETIRED ASTRONAUT
9. Who plays Tommy Athens, Chili Palmer’s friend who is executed by the Russian mob at the start of Be Cool? James Woods? Vince Vaughn? Dwayne Johnson?
JAMES WOODS
10. Danny DeVito’s voice is featured in the 1986 release My Little Pony: The Movie. True or False?
TRUE


ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which John Wayne film is the story of an American returning to Ireland to claim his family’s farm?
THE QUIET MAN
2. What is Boris’ two word catchphrase in Goldeneye?
I’M INVINCIBLE
3. In Harry Potter & The Philosopher’s Stone, Ron sacrifices his piece during a game of wizard’s chess. Which chess piece does he represent?
KNIGHT
4. What is the name of the colonial marine’s ship in Aliens?
USS SULACO
5. What colour was the Scarecrow’s hat in The Wizard Of Oz?
BLACK
6. Which film stars Cillian Murphy, Brendan Gleeson, Naomi Harris and Christopher Eccleston?
28 DAYS LATER
7. Does The Godfather Part II open on Michael or Vito Corleone?
MICHAEL CORLEONE (few shots before the execution of Vito Andolini’s family in Sicily)
8. Which actor appeared in Corpse Bride, Sweeney Todd, Alice In Wonderland and Terminator Salvation?
HELENA BONHAM CARTER
9. The following quote is from which film, “An extinct animal brought back to life has no rights. It exists because we made it. We patented it. We own it.”?
THE LOST WORLD: JURASSIC PARK
10. Which two actors play the lead roles of the 1983 John Landis film, Trading Places? (one point per correct answer)
DAN AYKROYD / EDDIE MURPHY


ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following did not star in the 1989 war film Fat Man And Little Boy? Paul Newman? John Cusack? Matthew Modine?
MATTHEW MODINE
2. Who directed A Dangerous Method? Darren Aronofsky? David Lynch? David Cronenberg?
DAVID CRONENBERG
3. What was the title of the only film to star both Bette Davis and Joan Crawford? Now, Voyager? What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? Grand Hotel?
WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE?
4. The figurehead of the Argo in Jason And The Argonauts is the head of which deity? Persephone? Hera? Ares?
HERA
5. What is the name of Richard O’Brien’s character in The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Riff Raff? Eddie? Malbert?
RIFF RAFF
6. What type of pet does Puyi have in The Last Emperor? Falcon? Monkey? Cricket?
CRICKET
7. Waltz With Bashir depicts the director’s experiences as a soldier in which conflict? 1982 Lebanon War? 1980 Iran-Iraq War? 1973 Yom-Kippur War?
1982 LEBANON WAR
8. What was Jet Li’s first English speaking role? Lethal Weapon 4? Kiss Of The Dragon? Romeo Must Die?
LETHAL WEAPON 4 (also his first time playing a villain)
9. In 1998’s The Man In The Iron Mask, which actor played the musketeer Porthos? Gerard Depardieu? John Malkovich? Jeremy Irons?
GERARD DEPARDIEU
10. Natalie Portman was originally cast as Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet but then fired because she looked too young alongside Leonardo DiCaprio. True or False?
TRUE


BOUNS IMAGE ROUND
Screenshots: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Curse Of The Black Pearl / The Terminal / Star Trek Into Darkness / Avatar
Poster: Crossroads
Actor: Zoe Saldana