If you’re familiar with the Alien franchise, nothing in this new installment is going to surprise you. It’s about as predictable as the 2017 NBA Playoffs. New space crew, same formula for suspense. Don’t get me wrong, I like these films. Obviously I REALLY like the original (see above), but I don’t really see the point if fans can see each plot shift coming from a mile away.
One thing that does differentiate Covenant and 2012’s Prometheus a part from the versions of last century is Ridley Scott introducing the origins and mythology of the xenomorph to the viewers (these are prequels after all). But honestly….. who gives a shit where these intrusive mouth breathers came from?
That’s not the point of a monster movie. Did people wonder why Jaws popped up all of a sudden? Did the audience care about how the Tremors evolved? No, you just want to see which one of these SOB’s is gonna defeat the beast and what cool line they’ll say before doing so.
This is actually the second film to come out this Spring inspired by 1979’s Alien and the inferior one at that. I thought Jake Gyllenhaal’s “Life” was a lot more fun, which is surprising given Covenant’s eclectically fun cast. Starring Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston (Sam’s daughter), Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, and the least insufferable son from Empire. Grade: B-
Guardians of the Galaxy Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
Captain America: Civil War Guardians of the Galaxy
Captain America: The Winter Soldier Captain America: Civil War
Iron Man 3 Captain America: The Winter Soldier
Ant-Man Iron Man 3
Disney’s Marvel movies have undoubtedly low ceilings and high floors. Nine years and fifteen installments in, it’s safe to say you know what you’re getting into when taking in an Avengers movie. You spend $12 or whatever on a movie ticket and you’re guaranteed better than average entertainment for two hours and change. However immediately after you leave the theater, whatever you just saw evaporates out of your mind into thin air. If you happen to revisit it a year later, the movie seems more childish than you remember and you’re almost embarrassed for liking it so much the first time. These films are as cookie cutter and formulaic as your Tinder responses, but still, Disney’s MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe) is the most consistent franchise in the business and draws Rotten Tomatoes scores that are triple what some of the prominent cash cows of other studios attain (i.e. WB’s Batman/Superman).
Of course there are a couple outliers. 2016’s Dr. Strange is one of the dumbest movies I’ve ever seen and that’s all I have to say about that. On the opposite end of the bell curve, we have 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy and now Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. What sets the two Guardians movies a part from the rest of the Avengers is that these are comedies first and foremast, with the adventure elements only secondary in importance. You shouldn’t see Guardians for cool action sequences. Sure, some may be into it, but there’s way too much CGI in these films for my taste. Instead, you go see Guardians for the strange, off-kilter humor. It’s hard to explain what’s so funny about a baby tree, a psychotic raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and a warrior who doesn’t understand sarcasm or political correctness, but it really says something that Chris Pratt is only the fourth most charismatic character of the bunch. No joke, the funniest thing I’ve seen so far this year is a 5-minute sequence involving baby Groot and a stealth mission. Oh, and like the first one, the 1970’s heavy soundtrack kicks ass. Grade: A-
The romance film Southside With You recreates the first date of Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson in Chicago many, many terms ago. It reminded me of Richard Linklater’s first date movie Before Sunrise, only significantly less insufferable (sidenote: few things annoy me more than a philosophical Ethan Hawke, though I’ll admit he’s great at being peer pressured into smoking PCP).
The cynic in me questions how accurate the depiction of this Obama courtship is (FAKE NEWS alert!), but regardless at least portions of it are rather charming. The date covers a trip to the museum, a walk through the park, a community meeting, and is capped off by a viewing of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing. Ignoring the clothes, music, and the historical subjects themselves, you can tell that this movie takes place in 1989 and not present day because… who the hell plans a first date that will last longer than 90 minutes? I guess things were different back when every first date wasn’t also technically a blind date.
Southside is one of two films that came out last year chronicling a young Barack. I enjoyed Barry a little more, which covers his time as an undergrad in NYC, but this is fine too if you’re feeling nostalgic for our former leader. Our we gonna get young Donald movies eventually? Please tell me someone is already working on When Donald Met Melania. Streaming on Netflix. Grade: C
I had a hard time grading The Lost City of Z, James Gray’s directorial dedication to the legendary British explorer Percy Fawcett of the early 20th century. On one hand, this is an extremely well made movie in every technical aspect and performance. It has all the organic, pristine ingredients that you would want in a healthy feast. The 140-minute epic splits time between Fawcett’s explorations deep into the heart of Amazonia and his experiences back in the UK, assimilating to family life in between adventures. The scenes filmed in the jungle, fueled by Fawcett’s obsession with finding a rumored ancient city, are particularly striking and will definitely remind you of Apocalypse Now (sidenote: In preparation for filming in the Colombian jungle, Gray reached out to Francis Ford Coppola to see if he had any tips. Ford’s response was simply “Don’t go.”). As Fawcett, Charlie Hunnam proves he has more range than the exasperated biker he showed in seven years on Sons of Anarchy and an even bigger revelation is that former vampthrob Robert Pattison might be one of the weirder (in a good way) character actors working today.
On the other hand, I had more fun researching how they shot Lost City of Z than I did actually watching it. It’s at least 30 minutes too long and I tended to check my watch during each of the scenes in which Fawcett and an elderly British man are in a room arguing intensely…but with manners. The time spent across the pond overall is just a little too Masterpiece Theater for my Michael Bay tastes. Sometimes a movie like John Wick 2, a Big Mac with ingredients you know are bad for you, is a lot more satisfying than a gourmet burger like Lost City of Z. Grade: C