Movie review: Alien: Covenant

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to a review of Alien: Covenant – an apology for Prometheus or its continuation?

IMDb summary: The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination and must attempt a harrowing escape.

Writing

Alien: Covenant was written by John Logan (The Last Samurai, The Aviator, Hugo, Spectre, Genius) and Dante Harper (a production manager), based on a story by Jack Paglen (Transendence) and Michael Green (Logan and Green Lantern – what a combo). Similarly to how the previous filmography of these screenwriters is a mixed bag, Covenant is also a movie of mixed quality. It just mostly rehashes the plot of the original Alien and throws in some Prometheus themes. I, personally, liked the ideas of the film Prometheus but didn’t feel like they were executed particularly well. Same happens in Covenant – the potential is there but the attempt at the backstory of the xenomorphs just convolutes the plot too much (how many unpredictable experiments have to happen for their final version to appear?). The idea to have a crew/cast of 10+ people also means that none of them receive any development. We do find out some traits of a few characters, but I am not even sure what roles did the majority of the crew members had on a ship. They all could have been scientists or sheep herders. The couples idea is also just plain stupid. Why would you have a bunch of couples on a dangerous space mission? Wouldnt’ they judgement in a difficult situation be impacted by the fact that their significant other is also on board?

Having bashed the plot, I would now like to praise a few good moments of the film. The discussion about creation was an interesting and promising concept. The faith and rationality divide was also a good idea to introduce. The decision to include another character played by Fassbender was the best judgment that the filmmakers made. While I am not sure when did David turn so purely evil, I liked seeing the David v Walter interactions, even if they were quite creepy.

Directing

Ridley Scott has made some amazing (Blade Runner, original Alien, and Gladiator) and less than amazing (Prometheus, Exodus) films throughout his career. His last picture – 2015’s The Martian – was one of my favorite movies of that year. Alien: Covenant falls somewhere in the middle on a quality scale. Visually, the film was gorgeous: the landscapes, the scope, and the scale were just breathtaking. (Prometheus was also visually stunning – I actually visited the filming location of the opening sequence – Isle of Skye). However, I felt that the action scenes could have been better – more suspenseful and intense. There also could have been more of them to replace some of the creepy dialogue sequences. And yet, at least Covenant was way grittier, gruesome, and more stylistically in line with the original two films than the squeaky clean Prometheus.

Acting

The cast of the film was quite big but not a lot of the actors delivered memorable performances (which was partially the blame on the script). Michael Fassbender (X-Men, Assasin’s Creed, Steve Jobs), not surprisingly, was the standout in his double role, while Fantastic Beast’s Katherine Waterston was also quite good. Billy Crudup (Spotlight, Jackie) and Danny McBride (Sausage Party) were the only two other actors from the cast who I remember as doing something of significance in the film. James Franco was probably featured more in the extra promo materials than in the actual film, while Noomi Rapace had a picture cameo only.

In short, Alien: Covenant was mostly disappointing. It had some good elements, but, ultimately, everything was ruined by the awful script full of laughable but not funny moments. If you want to watch a straight-up sci-fi horror, check out Life instead (even though it is just a knock-off of the original Alien), or if you want a more PG space movie, Passengers should do.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Alien: Covenant trailer

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5 ideas about a movie: Sausage Party

Movie reviews

Hello!

Before I start reviewing films that belong to the fall movie season, allow me to catch up on the only summer flick that I couldn’t see when it was still summer – Sausage Party. My university put on a free screening of it during Freshers’ Week, so, now I can review it!

IMDb summary:  A sausage strives to discover the truth about his existence.

  1. Before going to see Sausage Party, I really didn’t know what to expect. I have never been a fan of really raunchy comedies and I have also had mixed feelings about Seth Rogen’s previous projects. I did enjoy both Neighbors films but wasn’t a fan of The Interview at all. His voice work in Kung Fu Panda has been great, though, so I was sure that he can nail the voice of a sausage. The jokes were my main concern and I’m so happy that Sausage Party completely wiped my worries away. Yes, the jokes were extremely raunchy and offensive but they somehow actually worked in an animated form.
  2. A whole bunch of people worked on the film’s story and script, including Kyle Hunter, Ariel Shaffir, Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg and Jonah Hill. The whole premise for the movie was both absurd and genius, smart and stupid. In short, Sausage Party was basically a Toy Story with food for adults. A lot of the jokes were based on stereotypes and were used for social commentary Zootopia style, only in way raunchier way. Lastly,  something that I’d never thought I’d said – I actually enjoyed the fact that Sausage Party was unapologetically offensive – it had a tonne of jokes based on race, sex, sexuality, ethnicity and religion and could literally offend everyone and anyone. In a time, when the slightest critique or a darker humour is taken as an attack, Sausage Party went all the way and did not even think about saying sorry and I applaud it for that.
  3. Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan directed the film and did a good job. For the most part, the pace of the film was quite good – quick and snappy, although, the movie did slow down in the middle to develop its characters a bit. The 3D animation looked good – a great mix of realism and cartoon. The 2d flashback was also not bad. Lastly, the usage of music in Sausage Party was hilarious: the opening number was a perfect sequence to start the film and the meat loaf’s song was funny too.
  4. Sausage Party had 2 end-scenes that I liked to touch upon. The first one was that long hmm…orgy sequence. It started as funny but turned into gross really fast and then it just kept on going. I don’t know if it was necessary – Sausage Party had already proved that it was a raunchy and offensive comedy so I don’t know if they should have gone all the way into the gross territory too. The second end-scene was that meta-sequence were a few actors got name-dropped and a possible sequel was set up – I found that second ending to be way more funny that that first sequence.
  5. The food was voiced by a plethora of great comedians. Seth Rogen, Kristen Wiig (Ghostbusters), Jonah Hill (War Dogs, 21 Jump Street), Bill Hader, Michael Cera, Nick Kroll, David Krumholtz, Edward Norton and Salma Hayek were all amazing at bringing various items of produce to life. Paul Rudd (Ant-Man) and James Franco had funny cameos as two of the few human characters.

In short, Sausage Party is the raunchiest comedy I’ve seen in a while but it does work because of its unique format for this particular genre – animation. The jokes are hilarious, the voice work – amazing and the 3D animation of food – quite tasty-looking as well.

Rate: 4.5/5

Trailer: Sausage Party review

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Movie review: Nerve

Movie reviews

Hello!

Nerve – an original thriller in a sea of reboots, remakes and sequels – has finally hit theaters, so let’s talk about it!

IMDb summary: A high school senior finds herself immersed in an online game of truth or dare, where her every move starts to become manipulated by an anonymous community of “watchers.”

Writing

Nerve’s screenplay was written by Jessica Sharzer, who has mostly worked on TV until now. The script was based on Jeanne Ryan’s book with the same name, so it is not a totally original story, but at least it hasn’t been done on the big screen before. I absolutely loved the narrative of Nerve. I thought that it was probably the most contemporary thriller I’ve ever seen. Its topics were extremely relatable to all teenagers and young adults out there.

The cool update on the Truth or Dare game reminded me of YouTube Challenge videos and I think that the majority of the audiences of this film do watch YouTube and will understand where I’m coming from. On top of being extremely entertaining, the film also had some nice messages and things to say. It explored a modern friendship, full of jealousy and social stigmas. It showed the scary side of the Internet – the total loss of privacy – and cautioned its viewers to be careful. It also showed that computer skills and even hacking are useful traits to know in the modern world. Finally, the most important idea that Nerve spread was that one can be brave in the crowd or when he/she is protected by their username, however, the anonymous actions online have dire consequences in the real world to actual people and even oneself. This message should hang above everyone’s computer.

On a personal note, I loved the film Nerve because I could relate to it. I’m a kind of person who rarely takes risks or leaves her comfort zone, so I understood the character of Vee. In addition, being somebody who is usually in the shadow of her friends, I understood how the feeling of validation or acceptance can be intoxicating and addicting.

Directing

Nerve was directed  by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, who did the documentary Catfish and 3rd and 4th of the Paranormal Activity films. I really enjoyed the things they did with the project. The pace was always fast, so the story was unfolding non-stop. A small pause was taken before the big finale, but it didn’t seem like the movie slowed down – that break really built tension. When the actual finale of the film was happening, it did seem a bit over-the-top, but when everything was done and over, it somehow all worked. The actual visuals of the program, the various POV shots of the characters as well the POV of the game (webcam, front camera) were really cool and appropriate for the film. The end credits in the style of social media posts also rounded up the feature nicely. Nerve also had an amazing soundtrack, I was Shazam-ing all of the songs. It general, it reminded me a lot of a different film with a good soundtrack, which I saw at the end of last summer – We Are Your Friends.

Both WAYR and Nerve were obviously aimed at younger audiences because they explored the topics that actually interest teenagers – EDM and Social Media. The two films also had similar soundtracks, as I’ve mentioned. I also predict that both pictures will be similarly successful – they will either bomb at the box office or do okay, but then will dominate the streaming.

Nerve and WAYR also share similarities behind the scenes – they both were made by related people. Nerve was directed by H. Joost and A. Schulman, who did the Catfish documentary. This documental feature later had a spin-off TV show on MTV, created by Nev Schulman (brother of A. Schulman) and his business partner Max Joseph. Joseph had a feature film debut last year, directing none other but We Are Your Friends. So that’s some interesting behind the scenes trivia for you.

Acting

The film had a cast of up-and-coming actors who never really stuck with audiences.

Emma Roberts, who has been around forever, played the lead Vee and did a great job. Her chemistry with Dave Franco – another actor, trying to create a career for himself without the help of his family – as Ian was amazing as well. I first encountered Roberts in the early 2000s, in a Nancy Drew film. Lately, I’ve also seen her in Palo Alto and We’re the Millers. Later this year, she will also be in Billionaire Boys Club with a bunch of other young actors. Franco popped up on my radar in 2013’s Now You See Me and 2014’s Neighbors. He also starred in both films’ sequels. Dave Franco will now go back to working in the family and will star in his brother’s films Zeroville and The Masterpiece. Afterward, he has a comedy The Little Hours coming up.

The supporting roles of a film were kinda cliche but served their purpose. Juliette Lewis played the over-protective mother. Emily Meade starred as the outgoing friend of Vee’s – Sydney, while Miles Heizer was Tommy, Vee’s friend who secretly had a crush on her. The rapper Colson “Machine Gun Kelly” Baker starred as Ty, a fellow player of Nerve and was quite an interesting character. A bit cartoonish, but entertaining nonetheless.

The film also had a cameo, which I, as a fan of Youtube, really appreciated. The filmmaker and daily vlogger Casey Neistat made a small appearance in the movie and his presence actually made sense.

All in all, Nerve was an entertaining picture, that had a surprisingly serious cautionary message. It had a great cast, interesting visuals, and a perfect pop soundtrack. I wouldn’t be surprised if the app like Nerve will be created in a near future. For now, we at least have Pokemon Go.

Rate: 4,25/5

Trailer: Nerve trailer

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Movie review: Mockingjay Part 2

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

A year ago today, I and one of my friends went to the premiere of the Mockingjay Part 1 as we have done with all the previous THG films. 12 months later, I have graduated high school and have moved to a different country and I am seeing this film alone,thus, breaking the 3-year-old tradition. And although to an outsider this seems like a laughable occasion to be sad about, I can’t help but feel like another part of my life, the careless teenage years, has ended. I had the same happy/sad/proud/self-reflection moment back in 2011 when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 came out – only then I said goodbye to my childhood. Anyway, enough of my sappy complaining about life, let’s review the closing chapter of another YA series – The Hungers Games Mockingjay Part 2.

IMDb summary: As the war of Panem escalates to the destruction of other districts by the Capitol, Katniss Everdeen, the reluctant leader of the rebellion, must bring together an army against President Snow while all she holds dear hangs in the balance.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Book and Movie

I have read all the Hunger Games books more than 4 years ago, so I definitely do not remember all the details of the story. However, I do feel that the Part 2 was extremely faithful to the book, because I knew all the twist in the story and I could also easily predict the moments of death of a few of my favorite characters – if the filmmakers would have wanted to change that aspect of the story, I wouldn’t have had a problem with that.

The problem I had with the film and its predecessor is the fact that I do not think they needed to stretch out Mockingjay into 2 parts. I have  2 reasons for this:

1.By stretching out the story and then dividing it into 2 films, they made two very uneven movies: one was practically action-less and had a serious, more grown-up tone while the second one had more action (still, not as much as the mainstream audiences expected) and a more youthful, rebellious tone.  If they would have joined the two halves, maybe they could have evened out the tone.

2. THG series has a lot of characters and all of them should have definitely received more screen time. However, half of the characters that were developed in Part 1 were dropped in Part 2 and vice versa – some characters were completely forgotten in Part 1 and reappeared out of nowhere in Part 2. If they would have joined the two parts, the development of the supporting characters would have made more sense and the individual screen time of the characters would have been more even.

Writing/Directing

Francis Lawrence directed the last entry into the franchise. He also did the Part 1 (obviously) and Catching Fire. I think he did a great job – I especially liked the long around/circle panning shots of Katniss hugging Prim and Katniss arriving at the front lines and the crowd greeting her with the hand sign.  I also really loved the shots of Katniss and Cressida running or working together as well as the pairing of Finnick and Peeta.

The screenwriters for the film were Peter Craig (who wrote Affleck’s The Town)Danny Strong (who wrote The Butler) and the author of the book Suzanne Collins herself. I loved the dialogue of the film: it was heartbreaking and extremely sincere.  I also really enjoyed the conversation between Peeta and Gale and the moment that Haymitch and Effie shared (I ship it, do you?).

I heard some people say that the ending of the film was extremely stretched out – similarly to the Lord of the Rings Return of the King. I can see where they are coming from and why they might have a problem with it. However, I did like the ending ,because it was lifted straight from the book. The last words of Katniss, about making a list of all the good things and ”there are worst games to play” came from the book, from the very last pages of it.

Lastly, since I don’t remember the book that well, I wonder whether the Plutarch’s letter was in the book or did they screenwriters made it up so as to deal Philip Seymour Hoffman’s untimely death.

Visuals/Action

Part 2 had more action than Part 1 but not as much as people expected it to have. I did not have a problem with that but it might damage the film’s reputation in the eyes of the mainstream viewers. I really liked the action scene with tar and, of course, the final arrow to the chest.

Music/Soundtrack

We all still remember the hauntingly beautiful song by Lawrence/KatnissThe Hanging Tree (it even reached the top list of various radio stations) from the Part 1. However, Part 2 had amazing music as well by James Newton Howard. I liked the instrumental score which accompanied the action and the ending/credit song –Deep in the Meadow (Lullaby) sung by Lawrence – it triggered this hopeful and optimistic feeling – like everything will be right in the world one day. The fans will remember that this was the song of Rue’s death in the 1st film. Only back then, it caused a very different feeling, followed by tears.

Reality

The Hunger Games has always been praised for reflecting the contemporary events of real life and Mockingjay Part 2 is no exception. It was definitely a version of exaggerated reality and portrayed what happens when personal (selfish) goals get in a way of the public ones. In addition, it showed that fighting violence with violence is not a good idea. The saying ‘Revolution eats its own children’, which I believe originated during the French Revolution, comes to mind.

Acting/Character by character/Themes

Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss: It is not a secret to anyone that Lawrence is an amazing actress. I knew nothing about her before her first outing as Katniss in 2012, but now I watch all of her films. Once again she did an amazing with her monologs and speeches as well as all the arrow shooting scenes (made me miss my bow, which I had to leave in my home country). Also, am I the only one who thinks that as the franchise’s themes got more depressing and darker, her hair also became blacker? Or maybe they just used a different wig.

Although the THG franchise is over, Lawrence’s career is only getting started. Next year, she will star in her next big franchise – X-Men Apocalypse and quite highly anticipated science fiction drama Passengers with Chris Pratt.

Josh Hutcherson as Peeta: I have never been a huge fan of Peeta but I really liked him in this film. The conversation ‘real’ and ‘not real’ were amazing. Since THG is now over, Hutcherson is moving onto different projects. In 2016, he will be in James Franco’s film In Dubious Battle and in 2017, we will see him in another of Franco’s films – The Long Home.

Liam Hemsworth as Gale: I liked the moments he shared with the other characters and I just wish that we could have spent more time with him not only in this film but in the whole franchise. I also wonder what could have happened if Gale would have taken Peeta’s place in the First Hunger Games? Next year, Hemsworth will star in the Independence Day sequel – Independence Day: Resurgence.

Sam Claflin as Finnick: The scene in the tunnels was the one I was dreading since I knew what was going to happen to him and Finnick is my favorite male character out of the franchise. Claflin was a perfect choice for this character: charming and extremely likable even if he plays a cocky or full-of-himself type of character. I loved how they gave the line ‘Welcome to the 76th Hunger Games’ to Finnick as well! Claflin has a few upcoming movies: he is reprising his role of William in 2016’s The Huntsman and starring in a few smaller projects – Their Finest Hour and a Half and Me Before You opposite Emilia Clarke.

Natalie Dormer as CressidaI love Dormer on Game of Thrones and I really liked her in THG films. I loved the fact that she was a bad ass with both the camera and a gun. In 2016, Dormer will be in a few horror films- The Forest and Patient Zero.

Woody Harrelson as HaymitchElizabeth Banks as EffiePhilip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch were all really great additions to the cast. I don’t have anything specific to say about their characters since they had only a few scenes. However, I can mention that I am really excited for Harrelson’s next film Now You See Me: The Second Act since I loved the first movie. Banks’ career is also on a high note with Pitch Perfect and various producing as well as directing gigs.

Julianne Moore as President Coin and Donald Sutherland as President Snow. Two antagonists which are worth each other. Perfect casting choices. I have never been a huge fan of Moore’s but she won me over in Part 2. I also recently saw the film called The Hours – she was wonderful in it. Sutherland’s Snow’s last laugh was also perfect – straight from the book too.

Willow Shields as Primrose had only 3 scenes. If we would have spent more time with her, the emotional impact of her death would have been much stronger. Shields’s career is also just beginning – I think we will see more of her in a near future.

Jena Malone as Johanna had only a few scenes which she killed. The dialogue between Johanna and Katniss in the hospital was heartbreaking and funny/witty/sassy at the same time. We will see more of Malone next year in one the most highly anticipated films – Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Stanley Tucci as Caesar, Jeffrey Wright as BeeteeElden Henson as Pollux also had tiny roles or cameos. They did a nice job with what they had. Tucci will start in Beauty and the Beast in 2017, Wright will voice one of the characters in The Good Dinosaur later this year and Henson still has Netflix’s Daredevil’s Season 2.

Gwendoline Christie as Commander Lyme and Patina Miller as Commander Paylor also had really tiny roles, although both of them had nice/inspiring speeches. Christie will also be in Stars Wars The Force Awakens in a few weeks and Miller in the TV show – Madam Secretary.

In summary, Mockingjay Part 2 was a great film, although it could have been much better if joined with the first part. The acting was really nice, the dialogue – heartbreaking and the action – exciting. The fact that the film reflected the real world didn’t hurt either.

If I was asked to line-up all the films in the franchise, this would be my list:

  1. Catching Fire
  2. Mockingjay Part 1
  3. Mockingjay Part 2
  4. The Hunger Games

Goodbye, and for the last time- May The Odds Be Ever In Your Favor!

Rate: 4/5

Trailer: Mockingjay Part 2 Trailer

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