Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Alien: Covenant,” the return of one of the most fearsome alien species ever, the Xenomorph, the continuing adventures of Greg Heffley in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” Liev Schreiber as the real-life Rocky in “Chuck” and the edgy rom com “The Lovers.”
Richard sits in with CTV NewsChannel anchor Marcia MacMillan to have a look at the big weekend movies, the Xenomorphic Alien: Covenant,” the whimptastic adventures of Greg Heffley in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul,” Liev Schreiber as the real-life Rocky in “Chuck” and the edgy rom com “The Lovers.”
Alien: Covenant is the second instalment in the Alien prequel series and the sixth film in the franchise overall.
That’s a lot of facehugging and chestbursting.
Since the 1979 release of Alien, a film Roger Ebert called “an intergalactic haunted house thriller set inside a spaceship,” audiences have been fascinated with the sci fi / horror series.
The latest movie sees a new crew—including Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Billy Crudup and Danny McBride—on a mission to colonize planet Origae-6. Along the way they abandon their original course, choosing a closer, apparently inhabitable planet only to be met with terror and acid-spewing creatures.
Covenant is the third Alien movie directed by Ridley Scott. I once asked him what it was that kept him casting his eyes to the skies movie wise.
“The fantasy of space,” he said, “which is now also a reality, is a marvellous platform and a form of theatre. Honestly, almost anything goes.”
The freedom of the sci fi genre is a common theme among creators. Denis Villeneuve, whose sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, now titled Blade Runner 2049, comes out later this year, remembers how his mind was opened by his first exposure to the genre.
“At a very young age one of my aunts came home one night and she had brought two or three big cardboard boxes filled with magazines,” says Villeneuve. “Those magazines were all about sci fi. Those boxes changed my life because the amount of poetry and creativity among the guys that were drawing those comic strips. They were very strong storytellers. They were all like mad scientists playing with our brains.”
Alien: Covenant has only been in theatres for a few hours and Scott has already announced another sequel he plans on filming in the next fourteen months.
Until that one hits theatres what other sci fi films should we have a look at?
Vincenzo Natali, the director of episodes of television’s Westworld and Orphan Black and adventurous films like Cube and Splice has some suggestions. “I could mention 2001, Star Wars and The Matrix, but we’ve all been there. I think there are some very worthy science fiction films that aren’t so well known.”
First on his list is Stalker, from master director Andrei Tarkovsky.
“It’s about a zone in Russia that may have had some kind of alien visitation and is highly classified. There are very special people called stalkers who illegally enter the zone and can take you to a place where your wishes can come true. No other movie ever made is quite like it. It is one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen.”
Next up is The 10th Victim, a futuristic Marcello Mastroianni movie about a deadly televised game called The Big Hunt which becomes a replacement for all conflict on Earth, but at what cost? “An Italian film made in the ’60s but way ahead of its time,” he says. “It’s a satirical comedy, absolutely brilliantly made, filled with cool futuristic Italian design and it’s really funny. I cannot recommend it enough.”
Third is the animated La Planète Sauvage. “It takes place on a planet where humans are pets for a race of large aliens. It’s a kind of a Spartacus story against the aliens. Totally outrageous and very, very ’70s.”
Alien: Covenant is the second instalment in the “Alien” prequel series and the sixth film in the franchise overall. Its director Ridley Scott’s follow-up to his 2012 film “Prometheus,” and the origin story for one of the most fearsome alien species ever, the Xenomorph.
Led by the pious first mate Christopher Oram (Billy Crudup), the colony ship Covenant hurtles trough space to planet Origae-6, an Eden that offers a chance at a new life in the first large scale colonization mission.
Laden with crew—including android Walter (Michael Fassbender), terraforming expert Daniels (Katherine Waterston), biologist Karine (Carmen Ejogo) and crewman Tennessee (Danny McBride)—2000 settlers and 1000 embryos, the spaceship is damaged by an energy surge. During repairs they intercept a mysterious radio transmission from a nearby planet that suggests better living conditions may be just around the corner. Abandoning their original course, an exploratory crew is sent down. On the ground they discover breathable air, wheat, the only survivor of the ill-fated Prometheus mission, an android named David (Fassbender again) but Daniels is concerned. “Do you hear that?” she says. “There’s nothing. No birds, no animals. Nothing. What happened here?” Of course there is life on the planet, life in the form of nasty face-hugging, chest-bursting aliens.
All great sci-fi has to have a bedrock of strong ideas but this is an “Alien” movie, can’t we have a better balance between ideas and action? Scott kicks things off, appropriately enough (given the movie’s plot) with Richard Wagner’s “Entering of the Gods into Valhalla,” a stirring number that thematically sets up the story of Xenomorphs and a search for a new promised land. There is talk of creation—Where do we come from? We can’t be random molecules thrown together by chance—how humans may have already blown their one and only shot at existence (“Why give them a second chance?”), android love and whether it is better to serve in heaven or reign in hell.
Grand ideas one and all and each seems to take on more import as they are filtered through Scott’s dark and dreary atmospherics. It’s moody, with a growing sense of what is to come, but it takes almost an hour for the first alien to burst (in rather bloody spectacular fashion) onto the screen. In that time there are loads of cool images, Scott is genetically wired to make great looking movies—witness the beautiful and delicate way the alien spores are dispatched—but the film is at its best when the slimy Xenomorphs are involved which, unfortunately, isn’t enough of the time.
From the way the crew banters to the space intrigue to the chest bursting “Alien: Covenant” feels more like a throwback to the original films than to “Prometheus.” There’s more dark humour–“How do you know you’re infected?” “You’d know by now.”—and when Scott revs up the action there are some truly horrifying moments, but because much of the crew are the equivalent of “Star Trek” redshirts the alien kills don’t have much emotional impact.
“Alien: Covenant” is well made, although Scott over shoots the climatic cat-and-mouse-game, but feels perfunctory in the scheme of things. It tries to freshen up the formula—no spoilers here but the Xenomorphs aren’t the only villains—but despite the injection of a good dose of philosophy is still essentially a “run away from the monster!!!” movie we’ve seen before and better.
I own a lot of DVDs and Blu Rays. In fact, if you poke around the closets, drawers and hidden nooks of my house you’ll uncover old VHS videos and a handful of laser discs as well.
Trouble is, I rarely ever watch them. Given my line of work as a film critic I like having instant access to my favorite movies, but until the day comes when I can erect a giant screen in the den and have 50 people over to watch them with me, my preferred way to see a film will always be in the cinema, surrounded by strangers.
I love a big picture, big sound and hearing the reactions from an audience. There is no better sound than 500 people laughing at the same thing, or a few hundred gasping simultaneously in horror. Movies bring us together and, for my money, are best experienced in large groups.
So, when Cineplex asked me to help program the Great Digital Film Festival I was thrilled. Instead of rooting through dusty piles of DVDs to see some of my favorite films I now have the chance to see them the way they were meant to be seen, on the big screen.
To choose the films programmer Matt DeVuono and I asked ourselves one question, What movies would we like to see again on the big screen? Seems easy, but we’re both film geeks and the list quickly got unwieldy. We pared it down, looking for connections and anniversaries in amongst all the cool titles we had chosen. Eventually we had a list that included everything from all the X-Men movies, to retro cult hits like The Rocketeer and The Monster Squad, and a twofer from Guillermo Del Toro, Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy. We also programmed 25th anniversary screenings of Darkman and Dick Tracy, Kill Bill Volumes 1 and 2, and for sci fi fans, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Alien and Aliens.
Another of the great pleasures of helping to put this together was the chance to sit and speak, exclusively, to Guillermo Del Toro about the making of Pan’s Labyrinth. It is a beautiful film and he was very open and honest about the challenges of bringing his vision to the screen. That interview will run just before the movie on the Monday and Thursday of the festival.
The Great Digital Film Festival is the country’s only national film festival, but more than that, it’s a way to reconnect and remember why we loved these movies in the first place.
Cineplex’s Great Digital Film Festival is on right now at 26 theatres across Canada. Check out pristine prints of sic fi, horror and genre favourites like The Monster Squad, Blade Runner: The Final Cut, Darkman, Dick Tracy, Alien, Aliens, Hellboy, Pan’s Labyrinth, Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2 and much more! Find out details HERE!
As an added bonus at screenings of The Monster Squad, Darkman, Kill Bill Volumes 1 & 2, Dick Tracy, Richard will introduce the movies on the big screen! The Monday February 2 and Thursday February 5 screenings of Pan’s Labyrinth will feature Richard’s exclusive interview with director Guillermo Del Toro on the making of the film!
“Monster Squad holds up, and the thing I like about it is it’s emblematic of what teen movies were like in the ‘80s – a little bit rough around the edges, not politically correct, but a lot of fun. Kind of like The Goonies.”
Even the movies that seem new-ish are a time travel experience, Crouse says. “Pan’s Labyrinth and the Kill Bill movies, I was like, ‘These are really recent. And then I realized as you get older, 10 years ago seems like a week ago.
“With Pan’s Labyrinth, we shot an interview with Guillermo del Toro that will run before screenings of it – his vision, his insecurities and how he was sorry he was that he had wasted everybody’s time and money. I think that was the movie that made him feel like a filmmaker. When it was done, he realized he’d made something beautiful and artful.
“The beauty of this festival is you get to revisit these things in the proper way. I think people will really like Darkman. And the younger audience, a lot of them won’t have been born when Dick Tracy came out. And I think they’ll find it pretty cool…” READ THE WHOLE THING HERE!
Tech-savvy movie-goers can also interact in real time with film critic Richard Crouse by tweeting their questions and reactions using the hashtag #GDFF2015.
“Seeing stuff on the big screen is my preferred way of watching a movie,” said Crouse, who is also a co-programmer for the festival. “I don’t care how big your television is, how much Surround Sound you have. I like sitting with other people, hearing them laugh and cry in response to what they’re seeing on the screen.” READ THE WHOLE THING HERE!
Another is a pre-show in which Crouse goes behind the scenes to explore the history of selected films, including a recorded conversation with Guillermo Del Toro before the Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) screening.
“The word masterpiece is thrown around rather casually these days, but in the case of Pan’s Labyrinth, I think it applies,” Crouse says.
“It’s a dark adult fairy tale set against the backdrop of the Second World War, creating a contemporary fable that is emotionally complex and as satisfying as the age-old fairy tales that inspired it…” READ THE WHOLE THING HERE!