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Alien: Covenant (2017)
August 13, 2017, 12:35 am
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ridley Scott
3 Stars
Alien - Covenant.jpgThose who doubt the continued brilliance of Ridley Scott need look no further than the opening scene of Alien: Covenant, which masterfully manipulates space in such a way that the audience gathers information and becomes acclimated to the world at the same time as Walter, an artificially intelligent character played by Michael Fassbender. Similarly, the much parodied flute scene in which dual Fassbenders discuss “fingering” is a show-stopping bit of suspense, rife with intended erotic tension and the ever-present threat of violence. Unfortunately, much of what happens in between is a mess, and that is largely due to its failings as a narrative. As the Alien series has become more philosophically interested in its religious implications, it has abandoned its roots in the genre—the further that Scott has delved into the theme of creation, the more the films have moved away from the sheer terror of man’s lack of agency in the universe. To put it simply, the xenomorphs just aren’t as scary when their origins are so explicitly discussed. Although Fassbender’s David makes some argument for a different sort of villain for the Alien series, the fact that both he and Walter remain static characters throughout the film is to its detriment. David’s life-creating drive plays as a retread of the most basic expectations regarding artificial intelligence (that that one day they’ll consider human beings obsolete) rather than an innovative idea for the series.

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The Martian (2015)
October 15, 2015, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ridley Scott
3.5 Stars
The MartianRidley Scott’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s The Martian has the wonderful good fortune of serving as the editor that Weir’s book definitely needed. Reworking Weir’s survival story for the big screen, screenwriter Drew Goddard eliminates the sophomoric humor, the excessive scientific jargon, and removes a handful of set pieces to tighten the focus on those that remain. Similarly, cinema has the great benefit of not being limited by inelegant prose, and from a production design standpoint The Martian excels in both capturing the vast empty space of the red planet and the sheen of NASA’s technical brilliance aboard the spacecrafts. Matt Damon is well-cast as the wise-cracking Mark Watney, whose inability to resist a one-liner becomes increasingly alienating. While part of the success of the film is that it doesn’t dwell in the same miseries as other survival tales, it actually suffers by not quite capturing the existential fear and dread of being stranded. The fact that Watney is being watched lends some narrative credence to the way that he “performs” the role of an unfailing hero, but the film doesn’t follow that plot thread through enough. Despite the faults, The Martian nonetheless works as a suspense machine, well-edited and performed beautifully by the embarrassment of riches that is the cast.



Prometheus (2012)
July 16, 2012, 9:54 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ridley Scott

Three-quarters of the way through Prometheus, writers Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof begin to answer some of the questions that viewers might be having about the plot. “Might” being the operative word – rather than delving into satisfying explanations regarding the intentions of mankind’s supposed creators, a series of “twists” involving, among other things, Guy Pearce in fifty pounds of old man make-up, begin to trickle down with a resounding thud. The dramatic delay one character executes before using “…father” as an identifier is perhaps the biggest unintentional laugh that the summer has had to offer. Easy as it is to tease the faults of the screenplay (clever articles elsewhere on the web have made comprehensive lists of every plot inconsistency and unanswered question), Prometheus is nonetheless the most handsomely made blockbuster in some time, with Dariusz Wolski’s camera searching with wonder the expansive hive-like set from production designer Arthur Max. For all of the talk that precluded the film about how it interacts with the world of Scott’s science fiction classic, it is a slight disappointment that, for all intents and purposes, it is a direct remake – when Noomi Rapace runs through a spaceship is skimpy clothing and comes face-to-face with the monster that she thought was dead, the sense of déjà vu is inevitable. Yet, for having what is largely a disaster of a script, Prometheus is just compelling enough, thanks in large part to a game cast, led by the aforementioned Rapace and, more significantly, an android played by the ever-reliable Michael Fassbender, who molds himself after the protagonist of a certain David Lean epic.



American Gangster (2007)
May 27, 2011, 9:10 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Ridley Scott

The character of Frank Lucas, played by Denzel Washington, is suggested to be a blue-collar family man. Shortly after first hitting it big in the world of drug trafficking, his response is to purchase a mansion to house his extended family, perhaps in an effort to exert his dominance as a patriarch. Though not without it’s faults, this particular interpretation of the gangster myth seems inspiringly conceived – whereas the classic gangsters, as well as later incarnations such as Tony Montana of Scarface, pride themselves on personal, individualistic power, Lucas is a gangster who seems to pervert the idea of what it is to be a man and, more specifically, a father. His juxtaposition with Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe as an absent father whose obsession with work has led him to temporarily abandon his family, creates an interesting dichotomy that questions their comparative morality.