Alien: Covenant Review

This is one I have been waiting on for a while.  I remember seeing Aliens at home when I was young, seeing Alien 3 in the theater (the Special Edition with 50 minutes of additional/alternate scenes is SPECTACULAR!!!), and thinking that Prometheus was pretty close to perfect since it does exactly what it set out to do: 

Backing into the first Alien film almost perfectly…

That’s not to say Prometheus isn’t without flaws… some of the characters make some really REALLY bad decisions in the film.  It’s never a good idea to try to charm an alien snake that wants to break your arm and crawl down your throats and shoot out your head later on in the film…  Seriously, if you see something unknown, DON’T MESS WITH IT!!!

Also, why did David need to infect Halloway, somehow knowing that he would have sex with Shaw and get her pregnant with the mega-face-hugger?  And what was the purpose of the mega-face-hugger?  Okay, I concede that something had to happen to get the Space Jockey (retroactively called “Engineers” in Prometheus) pregnant with the first Alien, but there are a lot of coincidences with that “plan”…

Anyway: Spoiler Alert — Horseshoe shaped ship crashes, Engineer gives birth to first alien…  

Prequel perfectly sets up Alien…

Right?

Not so fast…

Ridley Scott felt there was more story to tell there.

First off, Ridley Scott is one of my favorite directors.  If you’ve read my posts on Blade Runner, you know I could gush about how much I love his visual style in his films.  Alien: Covenant is no different.  It is an absolutely beautiful film to watch — despite how disturbing the content of the film is.

Is it perfect?  No.  In fact, dare I say: hard core fans might be a little disappointed with it since it disregards certain elements of the Alien life-cycle that were established in the films that followed the first Alien film.  That’s what happens when Ridley Scott recovers creative control of the franchise: he gets to tell the story the way he wants to, and that is not a bad thing.

The story begins with a colony ship suffering a catastrophe.  During repairs, the crew discovers a signal of a woman humming a John Denver song which originated in a nearby solar system.

While investigating, they discover a world that seems ideal, and that is where things go horribly wrong for them as two of the crew members get sick and quickly deteriorate… 

That leads to one of the most terrifying scenes in the film, as new type of alien (called a Neomorph) tears its way out of one of the colonist’s back in a suspenseful scene that lasts about five minutes… Ridley Scott really knows how to build the tension in scenes like this.  Even though it is long and drawn out, it never gets boring…

Enter: David — the sole survivor of the previous film, Prometheus.  Michael Fassbender does double-duty in this film, reprising the role of David, and playing a new synthetic named Walter.  

It takes a certain kind of actor to pull off a performance like this, and not confuse the audience… and Fassbender is definitely up to the task.  He switches between characters with an ease that makes it easy to tell which character he is playing, and the scenes where both characters appear on screen together a treat to watch.

Some of the scenes where Michael Fassbender is acting against himself as both David and Walter are SO GOOD that they are uncomfortable to watch.  There is a scene where David kisses Walter, which has become rather controversial, with some reviews stating that it is catering to the LGBT crowd.  But for me, the scene made perfect sense, and was appropriate.  It completely defines the character of David for the audience.  It makes it abundantly clear that he has a god complex, and is totally in love with himself.  What better way to show that than to be able to kiss yourself, so I just felt like the scene fit the character.  

And let’s face it: that is not the most disturbing thing David does in Alien: Covenant.

While Prometheus tried to ask grand questions of “Where do we come from?” and “Who made us, and why?”, Alien: Covenant asks a much more simple question:

“Who is the real monster? The creature? Or the “monster” who created it?

As I said earlier, this film disregards the established life-cycle of the alien in one key aspect: the eggs containing the face-huggers were created via horrific genetic experiments rather than being laid by a queen.

The parallels between David’s experiments, and the experiments of Nazi “doctors” at the death camps in WWII were quite strong toward the end of the second act of the film.  In the film, David kills an entire race by unleashing a biological weapon that wipes out all organic life on the planet.  He then begins to perform genetic experiments on the corpses using this biological weapon.  He creates several types of horrifying creatures, including the Neomorph seen earlier in the film, before finally creating several eggs which contain the face-hugger that fans of the franchise are familiar with.

Needless to say, the face-huggers impregnate a few colonists, and we spend the rest of the film watching a battle against the traditional Alien that we have seen in the previous films.

I wish the third act of the film spent more time focusing on the Alien, but the film does end on a perfect note: with a reveal about Michael Fassbender’s character Walter, which will have you begging for a sequel!  I won’t give it away: it was a bit predictable, but that won’t make the reveal any less enjoyable when it actually happens.

All said, I like the film.  I don’t think it was necessary in the franchise, but it is definitely a worthy entry that asks an intriguing question.

Sincerely,

Bryan

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Not “Last Week Tonight”???

Okay, I admit… I skipped last week.  I had topic I was going to write about that is frustrating the living HELL out of me… but I could not find a way to be politically correct about it.  

…not that it matters much since political correctness is SO alien to the person I was going to post an open letter to…

…if you have read my first few paragraphs of another recent post, you can probably figure who I am pissed at, and why… needless to say, this is not reality TV… and I am sick of certain people treating issues that directly effect people’s livelihoods like it is one…  I’ll leave it to John Oliver to cover my frustrations there.

Politics aside, I’m going to leave it at that.
So… What else to write about…?

Well… I saw Dunkirk in 70mm a few days ago, and agree with the critics that IMAX 70mm is the proper way to see the film.  I was not that familiar with those events going into the film, but I really enjoyed it.  It was almost as intense as my favorite war film Black Hawk Down.  I also really liked the nonlinear way the story was told, and how everything linked together in the end.  I thought that was a unique way to tell the story.

That’s all I have for tonight.  Not much going on right now.  Sorry…  🙂 I’ll be more prepared next week.  I promise.

Best wishes,

Bryan

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At a Loss 4 Words…

Where do I begin?  This has been such a big news week…  I had a topic that I was planning on discussing, and I will get to that shortly (look out Floyd Mayweather and Connor McGreggor), but first… I want to give my prayers and best wishes to Senator John McCain after his cancer diagnosis last night.

One of my uncles died from this same tumor a few years ago, and I saw first hand how it effected him and the rest of the family over about 15 months.  As a former Republican (I converted to an Independent three years into the Obama administration), I want to send my prayers to Senator McCain and his family as they come to terms with this.

One thing I always respected about Senator McCain was his NDCQ (not dead, can’t quit) attitude.  Here is a man who served on an aircraft carrier, was a POW for five years, and is probably one of the last senators that I believe really has the best interests of the people at heart, rather than just blindly following party lines.

As former President Obama said, fight hard John.  “Cancer doesn’t know what it is up against”!

Now onto other much less important things, I was talking to friend a few days ago, and the topic of Mayweather v. Connor McGreggor came up…  They told me that this was the biggest sporting event of the year.  My reaction to that?  

Ugh…  😦

I can’t believe people are getting so excited about this… Let’s face it: this fight is a farce!  

It is essentially an overpriced and overpackaged exhibition match since Mayweather holds no titles since he retired, and a UFC fighter in the right frame of mind would never surrender 2/3rds of his fight plan (kicks & ground game) and rely only on fists (and larger than normal gloves that take away some of the sting of your punches…)

This has no business being on PPV, and I wouldn’t even watch it if it aired for free on Fox…

This day in history, July 20, 1969 AD: “one small step for a man” was a “giant leap” forward for mankind as we left the boundaries of Earth and set foot on the Moon for the first time.  

Neil Armstrong always knew that this was not just an accomplishment for him and Buzz Aldrin, but that they made it to the Moon on the backs of thousands of engineers at NASA and all the astronauts who came before them, laying the groundwork for Apollo through the Gemini program that preceded it…

And then there was some other news about some guy who was arrested for armed robbery getting paroled.  Sounds like he got away with murder there…

What a day…

Best wishes,

Bryan

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Bummed About Baseball…

Well…  this is unusual…  my Yankees are having a decent year, and Judge KILLED IT in the All-Star game and HR Derby!

So why am I bummed out?  I also follow the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League.  The league had their All-Star game last night.  I wasn’t planning on going initially, but then I heard that John Sterling, the radio voice of my NY Yankees would be announcing the game at TD Bank Ballpark!!!  When in my life will something that cool ever happen again???!!!?!?!?

Life had other plans for me however…

I’ve been dealing with Bronchitis for the last two weeks and thought it was treated, but yesterday it came back with a vengeance.  I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised.  This happened to me last year around this time, and it took me a month to recover.

Needless to say, I missed the game…

I saw pictures of it on Facebook this morning, and it looks like I missed a great night.  Sparky Lyle and Willie Randolph were both there, and took pictures with John Sterling on the field.  They apparently had every mascot in the league…

I missed a once in a lifetime game, and you wouldn’t usually think that about Minor League baseball.

Oh well… unused ticket night is toward the end of the season in September so at least I’ll still get my money worth out of the ticket price.

Best wishes,

Bryan

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The Red Planet

I posted this on my Facebook feed earlier:

I’m sorry, but Mike Pence saying “we will put American boots on the face of Mars…” is really ill-informed wishful thinking!

I’m not just saying that because I am anti-Trump.

I’m not just saying that because Mike Pence’s views on “religious history” of the age of the Universe are at odds with the scientific fact that the Big Bang occurred 13.8 billion years ago.

I’ll admit: I complain A LOT about the aura of “anti-science” surrounding the Trump administration…

…but this is something that I have been saying since before Trump even considered running, so this is not an anti-Trump rant. I want to clear the air on this right off the bat…

This is a long, LONG… rant about how sending astronauts to Mars is basically a slow, horrifying death sentence.

I believe that landing on the Moon was the greatest achievement in the history of mankind. Back in the days of the Apollo Program and the shuttle era after that, America was the leader in manned space flight.

Since President Obama cancelled funding for the shuttle replacement (Constellation Program if my memory serves), America has taken a back seat — literally… hitch-hiking at very high cost on Russian rockets.

Now… consider for a moment that the Saturn V rocket is currently the most powerful rocket ever made and that only had enough thrust to launch three astronauts and two weeks worth of provisions (food and water) to the Moon and back.

To send astronauts to Mars is a much larger endeavor. Given orbital alignments, at their closest points, our best estimates are that it would take between 4-6 months to reach Mars from Earth.

You would need to design a rocket that could launch (say for example…):

-Three people,

-Enough fuel to make the trip and return journey — with reserves for course corrections,

-Enough food and water for a year-long round-trip plus reserves,

-Rowing machines and the room to allow the astronauts to exercise in order to prevent muscle deterioration due to long-term exposure to zero gravity,

-Enough entertainment to keep their minds occupied during a year-long round-trip since “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy…”,

-Backup components in case systems on the vessel fail…

-And other supplies I probably haven’t even considered, but you get the point…

Even if you “Science the shit out of this” to (appropriately) quote The Martian, and grow food and make water inside vessel, what are you going to do? Ask three people to eat potatoes for a year? The novel was very clear on the math for space requirements (no pun intended) to farm enough food to survive, and IT IS A LOT!

Either way: any rocket powerful enough to get three people to Mars and back would be too big to be feasible.

If we did send people to Mars, to keep the weight down, it would probably be a one way trip, and it is morally wrong to order astronauts to die in the name of “progress”.  

A slow death due to starvation and dehydration (not to mention probable radiation poisoning, more on that in a bit) is one of the most drawn out ways to depart this life that I can imagine. It’s really scary to me that we could conceivably ask people to accept this fate.

I get that the only limits that exist are the ones that we accept for ourselves. But at our current level of technology, this is too big of an ask.  

At least President Kennedy set a timetable when he committed that we would set foot on the Moon and return safely to Earth.

In the case of Mars, it seems to me like we are blindly pushing forward with no real understanding of just how large of an endeavor this really is.

We are developing the SLS (Space Launch System) rocket with “the intention of manned missions reaching Mars” and capsules…
seriously, CAPSULES? We built the space shuttle, and we are taking a step back 40+ years to the days of Gemini and Apollo… Capsules? I’m sorry but HOW CAN YOU FIT ENOUGH SUPPLIES TO SURVIVE THE TRIP INTO SOMETHING THAT IS PLANNED TO BE ONLY SLIGHTLY LARGER THAN THE APOLLO COMMAND MODULE??? Seriously? The idea that we are planning on using a capsule to reach Mars seems really poorly planned out.

Let’s say that you store the provisions for the trip to Mars in a separate module attached to the capsule, you would require astronauts to make daily spacewalks to get supplies in an area where they have none of the protection from radiation that Earth’s magnetic field provides. That’s that horrible radiation poisoning I mentioned earlier…

What we really need to do BEFORE we commit to Mars is to build and properly test a new reliable Shuttle with large cargo capacity and fuel cells sufficient to make the trip. That’s a tough challenge in and of itself considering that the retired shuttles used up half of their fuel just during the initial ascent to reach the altitude of the Hubble Space Telescope approximately 380 miles above the Earth.

But let’s say we figured out a way to solve THAT problem. Then, you could launch the supplies to make a year-long round-trip into orbit. Pick them up in the new shuttle… and then head to Mars and back.

The success of Apollo 11 was achieved with baby steps from all the preceding Apollo and Gemini missions. Each one tested a vital component of getting to the Moon and back. The Gemini and Apollo missions are actually really interesting as far as how each mission detailed a different procedure leading to our first steps on the Moon, and I encourage you to check out the series “When We Left Earth: the NASA Missions” to understand those small steps in the process.
I just don’t hear a plan like that when we discuss the potential for going to Mars now. And THAT is why I say the statement that we will land “American Boots” on the Red Planet is ill-informed wishful thinking.

Sorry for the long rant…

Best wishes,

Bryan

http://www.cnn.com/2017/07/06/politics/mike-pence-mars-nasa/index.html

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Happy 4th of July!!! 

I’ll keep it short and sweet today.  Happy Birthday USA!!!

May everyone continue to enjoy our freedom, good food, friends, family, and fireworks today!!!

Gotta run…  CC just threw the first pitch!

Best Wishes,

Bryan

Note regarding the photo: I took this a few years ago at TD Bank Ballpark, and I bet there are no other pictures of fireworks like it (can you see it?)

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I’m Back Again.

I want to start off with an apology.  I’ve been away for away for a while since things got too hectic for me to keep up on organizing my thoughts here.  Recent events however have encouraged me to get back on, and keep a forum where I can write my ideas in long form (sometimes very very very long…).

If I still have any readers left, thanks for sticking around.  I know it’s been about theee years since my last post, and I don’t know if I will write regularly… still trying to figure that out.  

I can say I will try to approach everything as I always have… discussing Pop Culture, and culture in general with my usual common sense approach that in reality only really represents my own opinion, and a dash of humor.  🙂
I’m going to vent…

I’m going to rant…

I’m going to talk at length about my frustrations, and the things in life that give me joy…
Ah… it’s good to be back…

Sincerely,

Bryan

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