Tag Archives: Katherine Waterston

ALIEN: COVENANT

“…a film that tries far too hard to be everything for everyone, and consequently, on balance, falls short in all departments.”

Wayward Wolf.

Oh how I long for simplicity.

There are a handful of set pieces within Alien: Covenant that hint at what a decent film it could have been, but so buried are they within an over-cooked, rambling backstory, that any impact they may lend the film is fleeting, to say the least.

It was Ridley Scott who took charge of the much-hyped, but ultimately quite frankly poor, Prometheus, and in Alien: Covenant, he once again looks to rediscover a bit of that old Alien magic in the latest chapter of this most patchy of franchises.

Sadly, long gone it seems are the days when we cowered in horror and bit our nails down to the bone in fearful awe of the most excellent Alien, not to mention it’s excellent James Cameron-directed sequel, Aliens. Whilst Alien: Covenant does have its moments, it’s a very pale imitation of what’s preceded it.

Another 2017 release, Life, made no pretence to be anything other than something of a homage to some of the great science fiction films of the last half century, yet despite its relatively unoriginal concept(s), it delivered a tight, neatly packaged and thoroughly entertaining finished product with both considerable impact and laser-sharp precision.

Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, in contrast, struggles somewhat for identity. There’s clearly an ‘epic’ vision at play behind the scenes here. The director tries manfully to engage his audience on far more of an expansive scale and cerebral level than simply throwing rampaging aliens in numbers at unsuspecting space travellers (although there’s plenty of that to be getting on with), but the general impression is that this is a film that tries far too hard to be everything for everyone, and consequently, on balance, falls short in all departments.

Part thriller, part thought-provoking science fiction piece, part action-packed white knuckle ride, part philosophical lament, you name it, this is a film that struggles gamely yet ultimately fails to weave these and other disparate threads together into something resembling a coherent whole.

Alien: Covenant is not helped by both momentum-sapping, drawn-out scenes of unnecessary ponderous self-reflection, and by fairly weak characterisation.

Although Michael Fassbender (playing both David & Walter) and Katherine Waterston (Daniels) turn in strong performances, and as whole-heartedly as all other parts are played, there’s something of a disconnect here between viewer and character, and I doubt that there will have been too many tears shed by the viewing public as the cast are predictably whittled down in number via various grisly means, leaving the remaining few to battle it all out in overly exaggerated bloated fight sequences.

Where Alien: Covenant does however score highly, is in the ‘memorable, hard-hitting set pieces’ department. Indeed, never let it be said that Ridley Scott doesn’t know how to shock, or to sear disturbing imagery into our collective grey matter.

There are certain franchises that tend to garner a generous tidal wave of goodwill regardless of the true quality of their output, attracting something of a blinkered, head-in-the-sand devotion by the masses. The Alien franchise is one such example. But the truth is that there have been just two truly excellent Alien films in the series, and the rest, no matter how much you dress them up, or who’s been pulling the strings, have largely been regurgitated re-hashes of the original, admittedly excellent concept.

There’s no doubt that there were good and very grand intentions behind Alien: Covenant – this is a film not without its positives, rest assured – but it’s probably all  best summed up by the rather sign-posted ‘twist’ at the film’s conclusion. Well executed, but rather predictable and ultimately all a bit unnecessary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FILM REVIEW: Fantastic beasts and where to find them

The modern fantasy film adventure has come a long way in many respects, and arguably regressed in others.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (FBAWTFT from hereon in), is a dazzling, effects-laden story of good, evil, magic and so on. Much the sort of caper we’ve come to expect from the ever popular wordsmith of wizardry, J.K.Rowling.
Not a Harry Potter aficionado myself, I’m ill equipped to discuss any possible links between – or relevance of – this particular outing and the whole Harry Potter phenomenon, but it’s been loosely marketed as some kind of prequel to the much loved magic and wizardry franchise.
Certainly there’s no shortage of sorcery and spells on display, and barely a moment goes by without something fantastical being flung at the screen with directorial gay abandon, much in the same fashion as we witnessed with another 2016 big budget extravaganza, Alice Through The Looking Glass.
Buried within this frenzied effects-fest is a fairly straightforward though slightly messy, not to mention unconvincing tale of good against evil, and intertwined within that is the ‘human’ element, in this instance represented through an unlikely blossoming romance between a ‘Non-maj’ factory worker, and a mind-reading member of the magic community.
Or something.
This is essentially a children’s film aimed squarely at the Harry Potter fan base, although admittedly that also seems to be comprised to some extent of a fair smattering of Peter Pan-esque adults, in no hurry to grow up.
And fair enough.
That said, David Yates’ big budget 1920s fantasy tale, when stripped of all of its expensive glitter and illusions, amounts to very little other than a rather unnecessarily convoluted plot line, although it should also be said that Eddie Redmayne adopting the role of Newt, a bashful, mumbling wizard from Britain, along with co-stars Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler and Colin Farell, all make the most of what fairly limited opportunities they have here to shine.
There’s a sense that this film may have benefited more from a director that could have stripped back the clutter a little and developed a clearer and more concise narrative.
Still, what’s done is done, and as it stands, FBAWTFT, does tick a number of boxes and should keep enough folk happy, providing as it does – if little else – a fantasy world and a sumptuous visual feast for the eyes. That in itself though is never going to guarantee longevity.
FBAWTFT may well kick-start a new franchise – you certainly wouldn’t bet against it. There is after all a tidal wave of goodwill that whisks the good ship J.K.Rowling along it’s merry, magical way, and good luck to the not inconsiderable team that clearly have put in enormous amounts of effort to ensure that this particular outing is as visually impressive as it undoubtedly is.
I remain unconvinced however that FBAWTFT would ever have had enough about it to  accomplish any such feat were it an unconnected, stand alone effort.

 

 

FILM REVIEW: Steve Jobs

A short archive snippet aside, predicting with surprising accuracy it should be said, the future of the home computer, Steve Jobs parachutes us straight in at the business end of things.
Mid-conversation, back stage at the launch of the ‘revolutionary’ new Apple Macintosh computer, Jobs (played well by Michael Fassbender), is discussing and arguing the toss with whomever may be in the room at the time; very much setting the template for director Danny Boyle’s biopic of the late, influential Apple maestro.
It’s dialogue-heavy. Very heavy in fact.
This of course is not a bad thing per se. Major film releases could certainly benefit from a greater focus on dialogue, it’s true, but when does it all become too much?
Essentially, Steve Jobs is a sequence of conversations between the single-minded entrepreneur and those both integral and peripheral to his life. All too frequently these discussions degenerate into bitter arguments when Jobs’ ideas, vision or personal life are brought into question.
From Danny Boyle’s take on things, it would appear that Jobs was a man that relished a debate, the way one does when absolutely convinced of the correctness of one’s actions and motives. Jobs seemed to have no intention of swaying from his point of view. Some will argue that that’s very much why he was so successful.
On the receiving end of Jobs’ stubborn, fait accompli-esque mind set are, amongst others, his loyal head of marketing, Joanna Hoffman (played well by Kate Winslet, although how it took me until the end of the film to realise it was her, remains a mystery), the long time, long suffering brilliant programming mind behind Apple’s until then most successful product, the Apple II computer, Steve Wozniak (Seth Rogen), and Chrisann Brennan (Katherine Waterston), the mother of Jobs’ child whose financial struggles and subsequent histrionics are of constant irritation to the Apple chief who seems almost non-plussed by her plight.
Or perhaps he was just too focussed to notice?
Either way, it is clear that Jobs needed like-minded people around him. His powers of diplomacy with those that didn’t ‘get him’ were somewhat lacking.
It’s hard to make up one’s mind on this one. It’s certainly worthy of a further viewing, if only to fully ingest the true direction of the conversations.
The problem seems to be that a film which is unafraid to be dialogue focussed repeats the trick time and again. One discussion / argument follows another and then another and then another, diluting the impact of both their intensity and content. Significant swathes of the film seemed to somehow pass me by as I tried on a few occasions unsuccessfully to accurately recall what had just happened, and I’m not one to switch off, impatient for the ‘action scenes.’
Perhaps it was a lack of concentration on my part? One thing is for sure though, Steve Jobs is hard work. It offers no light respite (normally a good thing), but I feel that it suffers as a result.
Plaudits to Danny Boyle for a brave approach in putting together what appears at least to have been a labour of love; I’d guess that Jobs was someone that Boyle had great affection or at least admiration for? That much seems to be evident.
Certainly the Steve Jobs story, whilst subtle and a bit of a slow burner, is an incredibly clever one, full of cunning, little or no compromise and a sense of tactically mastery and one worthy of the big screen, no doubt.
It’s just a shame that to anyone other than absolute aficionados of Jobs’ work, it’s a film that will go down as heavy-going and ultimately a little unsatisfying.