Category: Book & Film Reviews

Star Wars: The Last Jedi Review (No Spoilers)

There are NO SPOILERS in this review:

 

There are two distinct groups of Star Wars fans; those who enjoy the fun, galactic tale of Luke Skywalker’s adventures to become a Jedi knight, and his battles against the evil empire; and those who devour every morsel of mythos as though it were a tangible and essential part of their lives.  Thus, writing a review on this film (series) is a daunting task, certain to offend one group or another.

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Justice League Movie Review

After a successful Man of Steel, followed by a tepid Batman vs Superman—a generally dark and negative turn on the comic book alliance between the two giants—and then, most recently Suicide Squad and the successful Wonder Woman movie, Justice League was intended to cement the future of the DC superhero movies.

Upcoming stand-alone films include Aquaman, Flash, Suicide Squad 2, and The Batman (rumored to be sans Affleck), as well as Man of Steel 2 and Wonder Woman 2 (as soon as they can find a director not accused of sexual harassment).

With all the hype and mix of super-powers, the promise of a resurrected Kal-El, and a massive villain, how could this movie possibly be anything but a huge success. Right?

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War For The Planet Of The Apes Movie Review

Every since Charlton Heston uttered the ever-resounding line: “Get your paws off me you damned, dirty ape,” audiences have had a fascination with our less advanced simian relatives ascending to take, from us, that which we have quite badly abused.

In this, the third of the reboot sequel, Caesar (Andy Serkis), long-suffering from his initial goal of “Ape no kill Ape,” endured after a coup attempt by his once loyal second, Koba, leaving Caesar wounded, and an uprising among the remnants of humanity.

Humans had not fared so well. Wiped out by a virus that was created as an offshoot of the genetic experiments that gave rise to simian intelligence, most of the planet has been eradicated.

In this film, the war begins in earnest as crazed military man, known as “The Colonel”, played brilliantly by Woody Harrelson, sets out to capture, kill, torture, enslave any apes he can find. Caesar wants nothing more than to find an oasis far in the desert, discovered by his son. The plans, however, go awry as The Colonel captures Caesar’s tribe, including his wife and sons.

If you have not seen the film, it is the best of the series, bringing well crafted effects (there appears to be far less CGI) into realistic apes, and blending the original film with this modern-day version. It is a story of humanity, in its underlying themes, beginning with Caesar’s misguided hope of apes not killing apes, a blood lust that mankind surely understands so well. The ’cause’ of The Colonel, is no different from the cause of any nation under an iron-fisted rule (I will omit parallels to the USA for the sake of reader peace of mind,) as are the outcomes.

To say that the apes have only a long shot for survival against the military might that, in the end, truly cements the fate of all species involved, would be an understatement. Nonetheless, this is not just a film about man versus monkey.

Matt Reeves directed this visually stunning feast. And since the title, of both the original film, and the current iteration, includes the words “Planet of the Apes,” one does not have to stretch to find what will be the ultimate conclusion. In both versions, humanity becomes their own failure.

The ending, poignant, yet satisfying, does leave room for one more film, although it would appear for the sake of tidying up the loose ends to fully bring about this new order, or perhaps to explore it more along the lines of Charlton Heston’s character in the original 1968 film.

4 Stars

Director: Matt Reeves
Writers: Mark Bomback, Matt Reeves
Stars: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn

Did you see it? Did you like it? Leave your comments.

As a side note, the film series originated from a French author, Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel “La Planète des Singes” or “Monkey Planet.” You can buy that or the English versions HERE.

If you’d prefer the videos of the movies, go HERE.

 

 

 

Alien: Covenant Movie Review

In all Alien movies, a hapless crew—civilians/scientists/miners, backed by a corrupt corporation—encounter one planet or another and voila, become the breeding vessels for our favorite xenomorph varieties.

Enter Covenant, offering typical Alien fare with a minimal splash of Prometheus, certainly not enough answers to satisfy those of us who enjoyed the former film. Prior to Covenant’s release, an Online short promo explained the immediate aftermath from Prometheus, filling in some blanks that were not explained in Covenant, yet necessary to understand the jump between films.

I won’t reveal any spoilers but to say that if you just want an Alien film, this one does not disappoint. In Covenant, bound for a planet on the far end of the galaxy deemed hospitable and ready for them to colonize, the crew of the vessel of the same name (Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup) is awakened early only to be diverted to another world, one broadcasting a song delivered by the long-missing Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) from the last film. They interpret this as an emergency call. This crew includes an updated David synthetic named Walter (Michael Fassbender in both roles), identical sans the complicated emotionalism, different hairstyle and speech patterns.

Needless to say that this world is quickly revealed to be a very dark place, the remains of an Engineer home-world, and a sinister tale of what happened to Dr. Shaw and David. And, of course,  hostile aliens, neomorphs, force the crew into a struggle for their lives.

If you’ve watched any Alien films before, you know how this one ends, albeit with a sinister twist. When Ridley Scott released the last movie in the Alien franchise: Prometheus, it seemed as though I was in the minority who found the film to be meaningful and thought-provoking with its allusions to religion, our creators, the Engineers, who had come to seed life on Earth, only later to attempt to choose to destroy it.

They had set up a biological agent on a barren world, keeping the pathogen from their own home world, and, readied to launch to our planet and finish us off, instead fell victim to their own creation. Without recounting the whole tale, the Internet was abuzz with the religious symbology of their change of heart resulting from the crucifixion of their emissary back a few thousand years. Google “Prometheus meanings” for more information.

With many familiar elements from the original Alien movie, as well as the vastly improved technological element of filmmaking, there are no dull moments.  If you came to find answers left over from Prometheus, there are few to be found and, in the discovery, some disappointments how the story evolved.

The original Alien, way back a few decades, before the end of the last century, was shocking, gritty and raw, exposing audiences to the scariest of all things, emerging from the chest of its host, amidst a torrent of blood and guts and screams. Audiences tend to lose the shock value quickly, and following Aliens, Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, aside from the Alien v Predator offshoot, we’ve become numb to the chest bursting, metallic acid-drool of the creatures. Like many horror films, these scares simply replace people and location settings, film to film, until audiences just stop caring.

In the Alien franchise, despite a universe of accessibility and an abundance of technology, the storylines always fall back to greed, whether by profit, in the attempted exploitation and weaponization of the creatures, as in the earlier films, or the foolish attempt of Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), to gain immortality from the Engineers. I believe Covenant failed to live up to the scope offered by Prometheus and settled instead, into a more comfortable and familiar zone. But that seems to be what audiences want, in which case there will be no disappointments. That and the remaining four films Ridley Scott promised before his tale returns to the original Alien.

3 Stars

Directed by Ridley Scott
Writers: Dan O’Bannon, Ronald Shusett
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup

You can buy the videos HERE.

You can buy the novelizations and affiliated books HERE.

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