Film Review: “Alien: Covenant” (2017)

“Alien: Covenant” falls flat in delivering the origin story that this franchise deserved

Review of Ridley Scott’s latest addition to his ever-developing “Alien” franchise

By Carter Bagley

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Ridley Scott returns yet again to helm another installment of the classic “Alien” franchise he created way back in 1979. Scott was at one point a revered filmmaker after making films like “Alien”, “Blade Runner”, “Thelma & Louise” and “Gladiator” but despite the occasional classic he isn’t very consistent. One thing he is great at though in all of his MV5BNzI5MzM3MzkxNF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTkyMjI4MTI@._V1_UX182_CR0,0,182,268_AL_.jpgfilms is world building and his talent for directing memorable shots. So, naturally, “Alien: Covenant” is very beautiful and eery to look at. However, it lacks the coherent story that all those films I mentioned above have. In all of his years at directing he still has an eye for huge scopes and making an arching story. He attempted to do this with the “Alien” franchise back in 2012 when he made the prequel “Prometheus” which many considered a flop despite being fairly enjoyable in my opinion. That film contains a better story and better characters than this film though which is a shame because this is the film that explains the origins of the classic Xenomorph aliens, it falls flat though in almost every department. To be fair the ties to Prometheus are well crafted and Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston and Danny McBride all give entertaining performances. The main characters aren’t the issue here, it’s the mythology this film relies on that weighs it down. It seems rushed and not as complex and fascinating as it should’ve been considering these creatures are the classic alien design that has been terrifying audiences for nearly 40 years. Fassbender gives his all in this film despite having been given some questionable dialog at points. Sometimes the films is suspenseful like in the first and third act but the film’s extended second act is what tears this otherwise simple, science fiction thriller apart. Ridley Scott tries to weave this deep, philosophical, thought-provoking narrative that on it’s own has some interesting parts in it but when paired with the rest of the film and the franchise as a whole it just seems jarring. The characters were mostly put there to just be killed off and even the main characters don’t have much to them and it’s thanks to the talent of Waterston, McBride, Fassbender and Billy Crudup that this film is even somewhat intense at points, it’s not in the writing. The beginning of the movie and the end were quite enjoyable and interesting but as a whole film it left me confused and unsatisfied. Some great cinematography, music and performances can’t stop this film from feeling bloated in it’s muddled, pretentious plot. If you enjoy sitting back and just watching science fiction films this might be decently enjoyable for you, but if you’re going in expecting the next “Aliens” then you better lower your expectations.

Rating: 5/10

Film Review: “Life” (2017)

“Life” is an entertaining science fiction thriller albeit not an original one

Review of Daniel Espinosa’s newest science fiction film that borrows a lot from “Alien”

By Carter Bagley

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I’ve been slacking a lot on reviewing things on this site and I contemplated whether or not to review this film since it came out a while ago. I ultimately decided that by the end of the year I’d rather have it in my review catalog than not so here I am writing this. Daniel Espinosa has managed to make a career in the past several years of making life-posterentertaining if not forgettable thrillers or action flicks and it seems he may have done it again but not entirely. There are many interesting things happening in “Life” to make it memorable enough to mention to a friend but sadly it fails to make you think about what you see which is something I think it was going for. The good parts of the movie are really good, the performances are great and the entire cast is actually phenomenal. Jake Gyllenhaal does the best with what his character is given and Rebecca Ferguson impresses again a female lead after her breakout in the “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation”. The two standouts for me however are Ariyon Bakare and Hiroyuki Sanada. Two names that I was not familiar with before going into the film but they had some of the best character development of any of the characters. Bakare plays Hugh Derry, a scientist who is the one that is tasked with taking care and keeping the specimen they find in a stable environment. Things quickly go awry when the specimen begins to grow and become intelligent. The crew quickly realize that they had no idea what they were getting themselves into when they brought this creature aboard the ship. “Life” takes some obvious ideas from “Alien” which is definitely not a bad thing but it does make it difficult for the film to stand on its own. To be fair the script is pretty clever in how the characters find ways to stop the alien from getting stronger. “Life” manages to be very entertaining and gripping but by the end of it you kind of saw it coming and it doesn’t stick with you. At times it’s very predictable and some of the dialogue and actions made by the characters seem a little unbelievable. Overall, if you are a science fiction fan than it will probably be a fun time but otherwise there’s no real rush to go out and check it out.

Rating: 7/10

The Top 25 Greatest Films Of 2016

2016 managed to be a rough year across the board but despite all that some great films were released. This is a countdown of the greatest films of the year.

Countdown of the Twenty-Five greatest films of 2016

By Carter Bagley

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Last night was the annual ceremony where Hollywood comes together and awards some of the greatest films of the past year. To celebrate the 89th Academy Awards I’ve put together my personal favorite films of the calendar year of 2016.

Movies That Almost Made It

“Indignation” – James Schamus, 2016

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“Zootopia” – Byron Howard & Rich Moore, 2016

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“War Dogs”- Todd Phillips, 2016

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“Sully” – Clint Eastwood, 2016

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“Sully” Review

Now Here It Is, The 25 Greatest Films Of 2016

25. “The Accountant” – Gavin O’Connor, 2016

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A film I didn’t expect to like as much as I did at all was “The Accountant”. It’s the perfect example of what an action movie should be and it gives me hope for the future of the genre. From start to finish it was emotional and exciting and I’m excited to see if this film could get a sequel.

“The Accountant” Review

24. “Star Trek Beyond” – Justin Lin, 2016

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The latest film in the “Star Trek” universe managed to be action-packed while having the same feel and tone as the classic TV series. Justin Lin did an outstanding job on his first film for the franchise and since I had a lot of fun with this one I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.

23. “Green Room” – Jeremy Saulnier, 2016

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An amazingly suspenseful and brutal horror film that has one of the most original and terrifying plots in recent years. With a great performance by the late Anton Yelchin and Patrick Stewart portraying the scary and intimidating bar owner, “Green Room” manages to be intense and memorable.

22. “Snowden” – Oliver Stone, 2016

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This film was bound to be controversial from the moment it came into fruition but I think people overlooked the film way more than it deserved. “Snowden” was a very well made film with an excellent performance by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

“Snowden” Review

21. “Oasis: Supersonic” – Mat Whitecross, 2016

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An all inclusive documentary on one of my all-time favorite bands so I may be biased here but it’s definitely a powerful and well made documentary.

“Oasis: Supersonic” Review

20. “Doctor Strange” – Scott Derrickson, 2016

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Marvel continues to entertain mass audiences with their crazy visuals and great storytelling. “Doctor Strange” is different than the rest though and manages to stand completely on it’s own as an original and fun film.

“Doctor Strange” Review

19. “Lion” – Garth Davis, 2016

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Another film I saw very recently and I’m glad I caught it in time because it’s a beautiful, tragic and redeeming tale of family that will make anyone tear up just a little.

18. “Moonlight” – Barry Jenkins, 2016

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This film has received a lot of love and praise and took home the statue last night (after an unfortunate mixup) and despite being good I don’t think it’s the greatest film of the year by any means, but that doesn’t take away at all from it’s good qualities.

“Moonlight” Review

17. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” – Gareth Edwards, 2016

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Another year. Another “Star Wars”. This one, however, isn’t another sequel and instead tells an unconventional story that isn’t perfect but manages to be completely thrilling and entertaining.

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” Review

16. “The Jungle Book” – Jon Favreau, 2016

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There’s no way in hell I expected to love this film as much as I did. This adaptation of the classic Disney film and novel may be the best one yet and it’s the perfect family movie for anyone to love.

15. “Hell Or High Water” – David Mackenzie, 2016

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An unexpected success story, “Hell Or High Water” is a thrilling and smart heist movie set in small town America and despite it’s small setting and simple premise what it has to say is by no means small.

14. “Don’t Think Twice” – Mike Birbiglia, 2016

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A relatable and simple film set in the world of improv comedy. It doesn’t have much to say but it says what it tries to in such a lovely and entertaining way that it will have a soft place in your heart after you watch it. The cast is fantastic and fun and “Don’t Think Twice” is simply just a fantastic film.

13. “Hacksaw Ridge” – Mel Gibson, 2016

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Mel Gibson’s comeback film that’s brutal yet inspiring and tells the true story of Desmond Doss, a man who’s courage and moral compass is so admirable that you can’t help but at least enjoy this film.

“Hacksaw Ridge” Review

12. “Hunt For The Wilderpeople” – Taika Waititi, 2016

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A film that I didn’t get a chance to see until recently but it was totally worth. It’s quirky and odd but completely deserves your attention.

11. “Everybody Wants Some!!” – Richard Linklater, 2o16

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Richard Linklater’s spiritual sequel to “Dazed and Confused” is just pure entertainment that’s funny, charming and filled with classic music that’ll take you back to a time that’s passed… even if you never lived it to begin with.

10. “Arrival” – Denis Villeneuve, 2016

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Denis Villeneuve is a masterful filmmaker who’s made great film after great film and “Arrival” is no exception. I just can’t wait until I get a chance to see his take on “Blade Runner”.

“Arrival” Review

9. “Midnight Special” – Jeff Nichols, 2016

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Directed by Jeff Nichols who is starting to become one of the greatest filmmakers of his generation after directing “Take Shelter” and “Mud” which are each brilliant in their own right but now he’s topped himself with a compelling modern sci-fi film that proves he’s poised for great things still.

8. “Swiss Army Man” – Daniel Kwan & Daniel Sheinert, 2016

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A movie that must be seen on it’s insane premise alone. It could’ve easily sold itself on shock value alone but instead it uses quirky comedy and the excellent performances by it’s two leads to craft an odd yet effortlessly charming story.

7. “Captain America: Civil War” – Joe & Anthony Russo, 2016

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Another film that’s gotten a lot of hate from the time of it’s release until now but after rewatching it, it still stands as a near perfect blockbuster and one of the greatest superhero films to date.

6. “Nocturnal Animals” – Tom Ford, 2016

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A movie that was a bit divisive in many ways but it’s incredibly clever and packed with powerful performances.

5. “Deadpool” – Tim Miller, 2016

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A near perfect action-comedy, Ryan Reynolds pushed this thing along for years and it turned out perfectly. If you haven’t seen this film yet, do yourself a favor and go see it as soon as possible.

4. “Manchester By The Sea” – Kenneth Lonergan, 2016

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One of the saddest but most powerful films I’ve seen in a long time. Casey Affleck really amazes here and completely deserves all the praise he’s receiving.

“Manchester By The Sea” review

3. “The Nice Guys” – Shane Black, 2o16

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Hilarious. Entertaining. Overlooked. This film needs more attention because it’s truly amazing and Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe make an incredible duo. Go watch “The Nice Guys” if you haven’t already.

2. “Sing Street” – John Carney, 2016

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Horribly marketed by the Weinstein Company upon release and overlooked this is a lovely little film that sadly will be forgotten about. Though to the people who saw it, it left it’s mark and to me it’s simply one of the most personal films I’ve seen in years.

“Sing Street” Review

1. “La La Land” – Damien Chazelle, 2016

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This is one of those films that will get tons of hate for a little while and for some reason it’s kind of cool to hate it. This seems to happen to a couple movies every year but while others are released to praise and later get swallowed by the hate this one will be one to overcome it. “La La Land” is a beautiful and entertaining tale that will one day go down as a Hollywood classic. There’s simply no other film that belongs at this spot.

“La La Land” Review

Film Review: “Passengers” (2016)

“Passengers” flashy visuals, great cast and acclaimed director cannot save it from mediocrity

Review of Morten Tyldum’s ambitious science fiction follow up to “The Imitation Game”

By Carter Bagley

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Morten Tyldum’s last film “The Imitation Game” really blew me away back in 2014 and was one of my favorite films of that year. This is large part was due to Tyldum’s directing passengers_ver2.jpg
expertise and even though he was a relative newcomer, it put him at high demand for studios who needed a talented director for hire. Then when it was announced that he was attached to direct a space sci-fi film called “Passengers” starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence of course I was excited. The pot of this film is extremely intriguing as it focuses on two passengers who wake up from cryo-sleep 90 years too early on a journey to another planet. With a great crew, an intriguing premise and two of the biggest young movie stars on the planet,  “Passengers” was destined for greatness. So what happened? Well the directing was great, that was not the problem. It really looked and was made with obvious effort and technique. Chris Pratt does his usually charming, everyday guy-next-door thing and Lawrence actually turns in a surprisingly good performance. There were many good qualities to be seen here and it was just filled with potential and I could see it in almost every scene. For a film that should’ve been intriguing and twisting and a throwback to 1970’s science fiction films, it instead reflected many problems with modern day Hollywood. It took a potentially genius science fiction concept and turned it into predictable, forgettable romantic slop. I was really looking forward to an interesting and unique film but instead was given the same film we’ve seen many times before. The script was obviously tampered with many times by the studio and it was clear their only intention was to produce an easily digestible adventure for audiences to eat up around Christmas time, and that is what really disappointed me. Morton Tyldum clearly tried to work with what he had but what was written for him was so inconsistent and annoying that it completely ruined the rest of the film. “Passengers” was a film that was should’ve been exciting and original but sadly it got too mixed up in the Hollywood machine that it ended up being completely watered down. Interesting visuals, a competent score, and two great lead actors couldn’t save this film from mediocrity.

Rating: 4.5/10

Film Review: “Arrival” (2016)

“Arrival” is an intelligent, impressive, and meaningful science fiction film that deserves to be seen

Review of Denis Villeneuve’s newest film about first contact

By Carter Bagley

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Denis Villeneuve is well on his way to becoming one of the greatest filmmakers of our time. In just a couple years he’s directed some incredible films of different genres like “Prisoners”, “Enemy”, and last years intense cartel thriller “Sicario”. Now his latest film “Arrival” might be his most masterful film yet. The film follows the main character of arrival-2016-poster-12.jpgLouise, played excellently by Amy Adams, who’s a well known language professor and translator. One day mysterious ovular vessels arrive at various places 0n Earth and soon everyone goes into a panic about the arrival of exter-terrestrial beings. The government asks her to help them communicate with the aliens and soon some pretty big concepts are revealed. Jeremy Renner plays a theoretical physicist who is there to ask the aliens questions about why they came and what they seek here. Forest Whitaker is present as an Army Colonel who’s there to watch over and supervise the decisions of Renner and Adams’ characters. The real star of this film however is Villeneuve himself who does an extraordinary job at directing it. The visuals are stunning and the way the story is set up and told goes perfectly with the conclusion of it all. It might be the best directed film I’ve seen all year and as of right now I’d say he’s up for that category at the 2016 Academy Awards. Eric Heisserer’s screenplay is nearly perfect in the way he paced it and when and how he reveals information to the audience. This film isn’t going to be for everyone and even though it fared amazingly well with critics I think it might have a more split effect on audiences because it deals with a lot of high concepts and doesn’t deliver all the information. A lot of information is left for the audience to figure out on our own and some people won’t like that. The story is told slowly but steadily and reveals bits of information until it all makes sense at the very end. It has a lot to say about time and how we perceive it and also about humanity and how divided we are as a species. I truly think this film could go down as one of the sci-fi classics of my generation because it’s completely original and unique and it’s refreshing to see a big movie made with these kinds of ideas these days. This is a film that definitely deserves to be seen in theaters because it’s an amazing and satisfying theater experience. Overall “Arrival” is an intelligent, impressive and amazingly performed modern science fiction film that has a lot to say about the world and us. It’s also one of the best films I’ve seen to tackle that topic in recent years. After seeing this film I’m incredibly excited to see Villeneuve’s sequel to “Blade Runner” coming out next year, but in the meantime you should really check out “Arrival”, because it’s something special.

Rating: 9.5/10