Alien: Covenant

A new review from The Movie Snob.

Alien: Covenant  (C-).  Looking back, I see that I liked Prometheus quite bit and had high hopes for the next Alien prequel.  Alas, those hopes are far from fulfilled in the latest flick about the almost-indestructible critters with a taste for human flesh.  The Covenant is a large spaceship carrying a huge load of people in cryogenic sleep for a 7+ year voyage to a planet they hope will be hospitable enough for them to colonize.  An accident damages the ship and leads to the waking of its small human crew.  They receive a communications signal that lures them off course to a much closer, and previously unknown, habitable planet.  Who could possibly be way out here?  The survivors of the Prometheus expedition, perhaps?  Once they arrive, it’s only a matter of time (a very short time) before the humans start getting turned into alien chow, and we don’t know or like them enough to really care that much.  I was annoyed that some of the biological “facts” I thought we knew about the aliens from the earlier films seem to be disregarded in this one.  The humans do all sorts of stupid things to earn their gruesome ends, and despite all the mayhem only one scene struck me as really, memorably horrifying.  Billy Crudup (Big Fish) plays the ineffectual captain of the Covenant, but the real stars are Katherine Waterston (Sleeping with Other People) as the Sigourney Weaveresque heroine and Michael Fassbender (12 Years a Slave) playing both android David from Prometheus and android Walter from the Covenant.  I’d say this movie is for diehard Alien fans only.

P.S. The movie has lots of ponderous philosophical window-dressing too; for more on that you can read Steven Greydanus’s review here.


X-Men: Apocalypse

The Movie Snob checks up on the mutants.

X-Men: Apocalypse  (C-).  Well, here we go again.  It’s the 1980s.  Telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Becoming Jane) still thinks humans and mutants can learn to get along.  Magneto (Michael Fassbender, Frank) learns the hard way–yet again–that they can’t.  And now some super-old, super-powerful mutant pops up in Egypt with dreams of world domination, which is bad for all the humans and also any mutants who oppose him.  It’s loud and long and just a little tiresome.  There’s a fun interlude when the super-duper-ultra-fast mutant Quicksilver (Evan Peters, X-Men: Days of Future Past) does his thing, but I think we saw the exact same thing a couple of movies back.  I was annoyed when this one mutant took an absurd amount of punishment and seemed completely unfazed (and unscarred).  And the filmmakers make the villain just too over-the-top superpowerful, to the point it’s just not believable that a handful of X-Men could last 5 minutes in the ring with him.  So, not a great movie, on the whole.


The Movie Snob goes alt-rock.

Frank  (B-).  A work colleague saw this movie, hated it, and basically dared me to see it.  Truly, I didn’t think it was half-bad.  Domhnall Gleeson (Calvary) stars as John, a forlorn British office drone who spends his days writing half-songs in his head and dreaming of rock-and-roll stardom.  Through sheer chance, he becomes the keyboardist for an extremely alternative rock band whose lead singer—Frank (Michael Fassbender, X-Men: Days of Future Past)—wears a large plastic head over his own head and never takes it off.  The band’s music is unlistenable (it reminded me of a blend of The Doors at their most pretentious and early Pink Floyd at its spaciest), but John doggedly tries to build up a following on the internet while simultaneously nudging the band—mostly in vain—to produce a slightly more accessible sound.  It’s not clear who’s crazier—the older members of the band, or John for thinking he can domesticate them.  I thought Maggie Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart) was sadly underused as the band’s angriest member.  Not bad for a matinee, if you’re up for an odd story about an odd rock band.

X-Men: Days of Future Past

New from The Movie Snob.

X-Men: Days of Future Past (B-). Here is yet another movie full of comic-book mayhem, the seventh movie in the X-Men franchise. I thought it was a mixed bag. On the plus side, the movie’s central character is Wolverine, and I just can’t help liking good old Hugh Jackman (The Wolverine) in that role. There are some decently cool action sequences. Some other quality actors turn up and give good performances (Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle; Michael Fassbender, 12 Years a Slave).  On the minus side, there’s a fair amount of tedious exposition. The CGI magic eventually starts to feel less than magical. Cute little Ellen Page (Juno) is wasted in a tiny part. And the whole movie is about time-traveling to save the world, a gimmick that is getting a little tired.

Here’s a fun game you can play. Before I saw the movie, I read the beginning of one critic’s review in which he asserted that the whole movie is mediocre except for one stand-out, clever, delightful scene. I deliberately read no further in the review, and when I saw the movie I tried to guess which scene he was referring to. Turned out, I guessed right. See if you can too! I think this link will get you to his review.

12 Years a Slave

A new review from The Movie Snob.

12 Years a Slave  (A).  Let me add my voice to the chorus of praise for this very painful movie.  Surely you know the story even if you haven’t seen the film: in the 1840’s, a free black man named Solomon Northup was lured to Washington DC from his home in New York state, kidnapped, and sold into slavery.  Miraculously, he regained his freedom twelve years later and became a vocal abolitionist.  I thought this movie was very well done, illustrating both the horrors of slavery and how it degraded the white slaveowners as well as the slaves.  Director Steve McQueen (Shame) doesn’t shy away from graphic violence, but the movie is not the bloodbath that The Passion of the Christ was.  Great performances all around, starting with Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon.  He has been doing solid work for years; I recommend the 2002 film Dirty Pretty Things if you haven’t seen it.  Michael Fassbender (Prometheus) does a fine job as the evil slaveowner Epps.  But the show is stolen by newcomer Lupita Nyong’o as Solomon’s fellow slave Patsey.  I assume they’ll campaign for her to win the Oscar for best supporting actress since it is not quite a leading role, and I expect she will win it hands down–and rightfully so.

X-Men: First Class

The Movie Snob declines to be assimilated

X-Men: First Class  (B).  The Borg Queen panned this movie a few weeks ago (see her review here), but I have to disagree.  As everyone knows, this is a prequel about the origins of the mutants and Charles Xavier’s school for same.  First, we get a quick look at the childhoods of two of the first mutants, the telepath Charles Xavier (James McAvoy, Becoming Jane) and the metal-manipulating Erik Lensherr a/k/a Magneto (Michael Fassbender, Centurion).  Flash forward to the early 1960s, when the CIA becomes aware that sinister forces seem to be driving both the United States and the Soviet Union towards a nuclear confrontation.  The ubiquitous Rose Byrne (Bridesmaids) plays the savvy CIA agent who discovers that those sinister forces are evil mutants, and she seeks the aid of Xavier (at first not knowing he is a mutant himself).  I was surprised to see that Mystique (played here by Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone) is roughly the same age as Xavier, since she looks much younger than he in the later movies.  Anyhoo, I thought the movie was generally a good ride.  The X-Men movies in general seem to try harder to get at the humanity beneath the awesome superpowers.  The movie has its shortcomings–it’s too long, some of the characters seem to switch sides with little or no motivation, and the Borg Queen is right that there is a gratuitous scene of a bunch of half-naked women.  Also, I was annoyed when I sat through all the closing credits to see the usual final scene, only to discover that there wasn’t one.  But on the whole the movie was definitely worth watching.

Jane Eyre

Movie Man Mike gives us his take on a new release

Jane Eyre (B). This 2011 film left me unfulfilled. Don’t get me wrong, I love Judi Dench, and she’s the reason I went to see this film in the first place. Her performance was spot-on, but certainly not the centerpiece of the film. I enjoyed the rich dialogue and the head-strong, principled character of Jane Eyre, played by Mia Wasikowska (Alice in Wonderland). I also enjoyed the performance of Michael Fassbender (Inglourious Basterds) as Edward Rochester. All-in-all I couldn’t help but to wonder if they’d cut some essential parts of Charlotte Bronte’s story from the film because I never really felt the characters’ motives as determined from their history, nor did I feel that the ending resolved the conflicts within them in a meaningful way. I was also perplexed by Eyre’s abrupt departure from the presence of St. John Rivers upon his insistence that Ms. Eyre should marry him and go to India with him. That scene didn’t ring true to her character, and we don’t really know enough about Mr. Rivers at that point to understand his motives other than him seeing Ms. Eyre as a good catch. I found this film captivating, but it left me unfulfilled.