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Alien: Covenant Review

Very Good

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events of 2012's Prometheus. And while this film carries on with the bigger themes about creation and identity, at its heart it actually has much more in common with the film in which he kicked off the franchise, 1979's Alien. Yes, this is a horror movie. It's slickly made and packed with engaging characters, and it gets gruesomely scary too.

The setting is somewhere in space in 2104, as the colonising ship Covenant carries a few thousand sleeping earthlings to a new world, tended to by the android Walter (Michael Fassbender). Then a space flare awakens the 15-person crew, and they hear a rogue radio transmission from a nearby planet that's eerily perfect for colonisation. Captain Oran (Billy Crudup) thinks it's worth checking out, potentially shaving seven years off their journey. First officer Daniels (Katherine Waterston) isn't so sure. But off they go, exploring the spectacular mountainous terrain, where they find a crashed ship and a city populated only by the Prometheus' android David (also Fassbender) and some creepy, acid-salivating creatures that he has something to do with.

The plot plays out like a slasher movie, as the crew members are picked off one by one, starting with the ones we don't know and building up to the starrier cast members. Each main actor gets to invest some back-story into his or her role, establishing relationships and personality quirks that hold the interest. Waterston is clearly the protagonist from the start, grieving over the death of her husband (James Franco in video clips) and showing natural leadership skills. Crudup is the impulsive captain who mellows into someone much more intriguing as the story progresses. And McBride has the other standout role as a tenacious pilot. But of course it's Fassbender who walks off with the film, excelling in scenes in which Walter and David engage in a kind of twisted bromance with nasty sibling-rivalry undertones.

Continue reading: Alien: Covenant Review

Prometheus Review


Excellent
There are clear echoes of Scott's last outer space thriller (1979's Alien) in this big, bold film, but this is something very different. It's certainly not a clear prequel. And even if the plot is full of holes, it's utterly mesmerising.

When archaeologists Shaw and Holloway (Rapace and Marshall-Green) figure out that ancient civilisations share a map to a specific star system, the Weyland CEO (Pearce) funds a two-year mission to get answers about the origin of humanity. Led by Weyland crony Vickers (Theron) and Captain Janek (Elba), Shaw and Holloway are accompanied by a helpful android (Fassbender) and a team of not-so-enthusiastic scientists. But what they find on this distant moon isn't what they expected, and the remnants of this civilisation aren't as dead as they seem.

Continue reading: Prometheus Review

Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem Review


Weak
Coming on the heels of 2003's disastrously pedestrian Alien vs. Predator (or AVP), Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem (or AVP:R) is a perfect example of how studio stupidity and fanboy obsession can ruin cinema. Why Fox chose to destroy one of its best franchises will be debated for decades to come, but there is no doubt that the Alien saga (and to some extent the perpetually fledging Predator series) is effectively over. What was once a playground for inventive directors with clever scripts has quickly devolved into a wasteland of lowbrow rubbish. Sure, blame Fox, blame the producers (Walter Hill, have you no shame?), but don't forget to put a pudgy, popcorn-flaked finger at the comic and computer jockeys who have been slavering for another cosmic smackdown between the two titular baddies. They screamed, the studio heard, and now, well, now we have this.

AVP:R starts off on what should be an engaging note. We're aboard a predator spaceship zooming away from Earth when the body of a deceased predator (killed in AVP) bursts open to reveal an alien baby. Only, and here's where things start to slide downhill, this chestburster has predator-styled dreds. Or maybe those are Hasidic payos. This little booger tears the crew apart and the ship crashes into the mountains of Colorado (though the forest is decidedly deciduous). Within minutes the woods are teeming with alien spawn and the human population of Gunnison, Colorado is minutes from annihilation. Good thing the predators have sent their equivalent of John Wayne to clean up the mess. Is he powerful enough to stop not only the wave of xenomorphs overrunning the town but also the "predalien" hybrid (seriously, I wish I made that up) leading the invasion? It only takes 86 minutes to find out.

Continue reading: Aliens Vs. Predator: Requiem Review

Ritual Review


OK
Fun fact here: Ritual was meant to be the third film in the Tales from the Crypt movie series, but after Bordello of Blood bombed, the trilogy was scrapped and the film was sold to Miramax. I'm not sure it ever got released theatrically, but five years later, it's back on DVD... with the Tales from the Crypt tag reinstated.

And thus the trilogy comes to a sweaty, silly end, with this remake of, believe it or not, 1943's I Walked with a Zombie. Here we have Jennifer Grey, still sporting the same hairdo from Ferris Bueller after all these years, as a disgraced medical doctor who, out of desperation, takes a job in Jamaica as a personal physician to a wealthy tycoon (Craig Sheffer) and his mysteriously sickly brother (Daniel Lapaine). What follows is -- you guessed it -- a ridiculous swirl into the world of voodoo done up the way only Hollywood can.

Continue reading: Ritual Review

Alien 3 Review


Good
Since Alien and its sequel Aliens received universal praise, Fox just had to make a trilogy (which later became a quadrilogy). Trilogies (and especially quadrilogies) can pose some risk since a premise can lose its edge and outlast its welcome. Ironically, Alien 3 doesn't suffer from the trilogy syndrome as much as it suffers simply from bad writing.

Alien 3 continues with the series tradition, beginning exactly where Aliens concluded. When we left Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen), Cpt. Hicks (Michael Biehn), and Ripley's surrogate daughter Newt (Danielle Edmond), they managed to destroy the creature, board a spacecraft, set course for Earth, and fall into deep sleep. Unfortunately, another alien has found its way onboard with them.

Continue reading: Alien 3 Review

Myra Breckinridge Review


Bad
The appropriate response to Myra Breckinridge is wide-eyed bafflement; anybody with anything resembling taste will recognize it as an awful movie within ten minutes. Released in 1970 and under practically Soviet-style repression until now, it is clumsily edited, horribly acted, and practically plotless. It is lascivious without being provocative, and it did damage to the public images of both Mae West and John Huston. No movie has worked harder to try one ironic gag after another and fail every single time; it is idiocy disguised as camp. Yet there's something transcendently misbegotten about Myra Breckinridge that makes it worth studying; the differences between the excellent book and a horrible movie has a few interesting things to say about Hollywood as it stumbled from the '60s into the '70s.

The film is based on Gore Vidal's bestselling 1968 novel, which gave us Myra as a magnificently over-the-top symbol of changing sexual mores, greed, revenge, Hollywood, and how they all intersect. In the hands of director Michael Sarne, the story became a messy sex farce; Vidal stepped away from the project, and for good reason. In the book, Myra romanticizes the great movies of the 1930s, arguing, in fact, that it was the best decade ever for movies. This inspires Sarne to raid the 20th Century Fox vault and cram in seemingly dozens of clips from Laurel & Hardy and Shirley Temple films, sometimes ironically, but mostly sitting there like a bad joke told at a dinner party. (It may be that Myra's sole usefulness is that it inspired a similar idea in the HBO TV series Dream On, actually done well.)

Continue reading: Myra Breckinridge Review

The Parallax View Review


Very Good
Stylish yet devilishly confusing, this film has Warren Beatty as an investigative reporter trying to hunt down a conspiracy that begins with the death of a congressman and continues with the deaths of his reporter friends that are snooping into the affair. Beatty uncovers a company behind it all called the Parallax Corporation (think Scientology meets The Manchurian Candidate), which may be a kind of temp agency for assassins. Naturally, he applies for membership, getting in far deeper than he ever realized. Dreamily designed and archly retro, I had to watch bits and pieces three or four times just to put it all together.

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Undisputed Review


Good
The last of his breed of filmmakers, Walter Hill is a prolific, old-school screenwriter/director who's worked in everything: sci-fi, westerns, musicals, noir thrillers, comedies, and action. Over the last couple decades, Hill has produced a plethora of notable gems such as Streets of Fire, 48 Hours, The Warriors, and Southern Comfort. His latest flick - Undisputed - falls smack dab in the middle of cinematic quality: A straightforward tale of two lone, boxing warriors going head to head (and toe to toe) inside a microcosm of violence, power, and greed fueled by the almighty dollar.

Ten years ago, rising boxing superstar Monroe Hutchen (Wesley Snipes) was sent up for life imprisonment due to a fit of passionate and murderous rage. He's serving time in Sweetwater Prison in the Mojave Desert and continues to box in the Inter-Prison Boxing Program with a flawless record and the title of undisputed champion. To prove that he could have amounted to something outside the prison walls, Hutchen unexpectedly gets his chance to fight the undisputed World Heavyweight Champion, George "Iceman" Chambers (Ving Rhames), an arrogant megalomaniac who has recently been sent up for six to eight years for a charge of rape. Hmm, who does that sounds like?

Continue reading: Undisputed Review

Alien Review


Excellent
The good news: Sigourney Weaver's famous underwear shot, which probably launched millions of now middle-aged men straight into puberty and beyond, has survived Ridley Scott's keen eye in his digitally remastered 2003 director's cut of Alien.

As for the bad news, well, there really isn't any. Alien, first released in 1979 and in theaters right now, has stood the test of time remarkably well. The beautiful and ballsy Weaver is a heroine for all seasons, the movie is suspenseful in all the right spots and it plays beautifully on the big screen with big sound.

Continue reading: Alien Review

Dragstrip Girl Review


Bad
You could make a worse movie than Dragstrip Girl, but you'd really have to try awful hard. The story: Bad Hispanic boy (Raymond Cruz) falls for good rich white girl (Natasha Gregson Wagner), with tragic consequences that play out over a backdrop of 1950s amateur drag racing. Will their love be able to overcome the enormous obstacles -- namely, that he's a car thief and she's a cheerleader -- or will society crush their budding romance?

Who cares!? This movie is so bad that the ending (which, by the way, is just about the worst part of the film) slips out of mind as soon as the disc pops out of your DVD player. Made for TV way back in 1994 and only now getting its DVD and home video release because Wagner and Cruz have become minor stars, you won't see any hint of the performing ability you might find from them today, simply because the story is so poorly written it couldn't have been saved by Cary Grant. Just about the only joy to be found in the film is from a grizzled Traci Lords, playing the hooker next door whom our scruffy hero likes to spy on through the enormous hole in the wall.

Continue reading: Dragstrip Girl Review

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David Giler Movies

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

Master filmmaker Ridley Scott is back to continue the story 10 years after the events...

Prometheus Movie Review

Prometheus Movie Review

There are clear echoes of Scott's last outer space thriller (1979's Alien) in this big,...

Alien 3 Movie Review

Alien 3 Movie Review

Since Alien and its sequel Aliens received universal praise, Fox just had to make a...

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Undisputed Movie Review

Undisputed Movie Review

The last of his breed of filmmakers, Walter Hill is a prolific, old-school screenwriter/director who's...

Alien Movie Review

Alien Movie Review

The good news: Sigourney Weaver's famous underwear shot, which probably launched millions of now middle-aged...

Alien: Resurrection Movie Review

Alien: Resurrection Movie Review

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