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Review: Alien: Covenant (2017) — A Chest-Bursting Return to Form for the Xenomorphs

Luke Miksa finds out if Alien: Covenant has what it takes to return a long mediocre franchise to past glory.

Alien-Covenant

Following 2012’s disappointing Prometheus, director Ridley Scott returns to the well once again, continuing the origin story of the Alien franchise with Alien: Covenant; a series which began all the way back in 1979 with horror classic Alien, launching Scott’s career in the progress.

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Not a spoiler: Most of these people die.

The year is 2104 — fifteen years since the events of Prometheus — and the colony ship Covenant is carrying two-thousand colonists and human embryos to the remote planet Origae-6. After a devastating neutrino storm hits the ship, the crew is woken from their stasis by the synthetic Walter (Michael Fassbender), who was overseeing the trip on its extended journey. The crew, including new captain Oram (Billy Crudup), scientist Daniels (Katherine Waterston), pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), and security Lope (Demian Bichir), intercept a human transmission from a nearby planet, and decide to investigate the source. Once on the surface, the crew must begin a desperate escape when they find out that there are more dangers on the planet than first expected, but not before dealing with the source of the transmission: the wreck of an Engineer ship, which was piloted by Elizabeth Shaw and synthetic David from the Prometheus mission.

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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) — The Most Fun You Can Possibly Have Watching A Movie, All Thanks To Marvel’s Unlikely Cosmic Heroes

The popular cosmic team from Marvel Studios is back, but can they replicate the surprise success from 2014? Luke Miksa finds out.

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In 2014, we were introduced to Guardians of the Galaxy; a ragtag combination of obscure characters seemingly plucked from the most obscure Marvel comics title. That was then. Now, the Guardians of the Galaxy are a big deal. With characters like Rocket and Groot leading the way, beyond all expectations the Guardians became cultural icons and some of the most recognisable and popular characters in the Marvel Universe.

With the surprise factor no longer an option, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 now has the burden of high expectations. But is this a sequel that squanders the possibilities presented in the first instalment? Thankfully the answer is no: Guardians 2 is just as hilarious, just as exciting, and just as heartfelt the second time around.

Guardians of the Galaxy 2

The gang is back!

After the adventures of the first film, Peter Quill aka Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Rocket Raccoon (voiced by Bradley Cooper), and the newly pint-sized Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) are now known throughout the cosmos as the Guardians of the Galaxy. In exchange for their services, the dysfunctional team acquires Nebula (Karen Gillan), sister and rival of Gamora. With Nebula secured on board their spacecraft, the team now has to not only deal with the pursuing Yondu Udonta (Michael Rooker) and his team of exiled Ravagers, but the sudden appearance of Quill’s estranged father Ego (Kurt Russell) threatens the dynamic of our new favourite team.

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The Best Films of 2016

Luke Miksa welcomes 2017 with a look-back at the best cinematic treats of 2016.

I’m back!

Another year full of movies is now behind us. I saw some bad ones, and a whole bunch of mediocre ones. But they will be rightfully ignored, as I focus on the best, the funniest, the most action-packed, and dramatically satisfying films of the year. Let’s focus on the good stuff!

A lot can be said while analysing this list. Three of the top ten spots are owned by Disney (with more just on the outskirts), but I guess that just goes along with Disney’s dominant year at the box office. Another note is that three of my picks (including the top two) would easily pass the Bechdel Test, which is great for the growing diversity in Hollywood.

A lot more made the short-list, but the following class of movies made for a culling not taken lightly (Zootopia was a Disney movie with a Breaking Bad reference, for crying out loud!). Also, let’s collectively pour one out for Rogue One sadly missing the cut — the final 15 minutes were absolute ecstasy for a Star Wars fanatic.

Missed the Cut:

Zootopia, Keanu, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Green Room, Eight Days a Week, Edge of Seventeen, Lights Out

 

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10. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping

There weren’t a whole lot of great comedies this year. Only the Key & Peele comedy Keanu came close (very close), but this spot ultimately belongs to the This is Spinal Tap style mockumentary from The Lonely Island, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping.

Popstar stars Andy Samberg as Connor4Real, a pop superstar in the vein of Justin Beiber, and follows the dramatic shifts in his professional and personal career. If you’re familiar with musical documentaries, you’ll definitely appreciate the subversive humour, but the stand-out is the catchy and hilarious soundtrack, which was to be expected with The Lonely Island calling the shots behind the scenes.

This was not a popular film — a box office disaster, all things considered — but I have the feeling that Popstar is a movie with real legs, destined to become a cult favourite.

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Review: Ghostbusters (2016) — Too Obsessed With the Past to Make a Decent Movie

At the risk of being labelled a ‘GhostBro’, Luke Miksa has feelings about the controversial Ghostbusters reboot.

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A reboot of the beloved sci-fi comedy blockbuster of 1984, director Paul Feig (Bridesmaids, Spy) presents a Ghostbusters for a new generation. When strange apparitions being appearing in New York, Erin Gilbert (Kristen Wiig) joins her old colleague Abby Yates (Melissa McCarthy) and her quirky new partner Jillian Holtzmann (Kate McKinnon), along with historical New York City expert Patty Tolan (Leslie Jones). Dubbed the Ghostbusters by the media, together the four women — plus their new space cadet assistant Kevin (Chris Hemsworth) — set about to foil a plot which will bring about the apocalypse, right on their doorstep.

"Ain't no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts"

“Ain’t no bitches gonna hunt no ghosts”

Surprisingly, Ghostbusters has become one of the most controversial films in recent years, and it’s mainly due to loyal fans of the original two films. A second sequel to Ghostbusters with the original cast has been in development hell for over twenty years, but with the death of Harold Ramis, the decision was made to completely reboot the series; a bitter pill to swallow for some die-hards. Things got worse when word came out that the busting of ghosts will now be done exclusively by a team of (gulp) women! This resulted in a veritable shit-show of online misogyny, including the first trailer being one of the most down-voted trailers in YouTube history (Look, it wasn’t a good trailer, but a quick look at the comment section will tell you the whole story).

But now the film has been released, which means it’s finally time to judge it on its merits, and not just prejudice and tears. And what’s the verdict? Unfortunately it’s not good.

Recent history has shown that the best way to reboot a franchise is to tie it in to the existing films, in whats known as a legacyquel; a cross between a distant sequel and a soft reboot (examples: Jurassic World, The Force Awakens, and Creed). This method seems to work, as it remains in the same universe that people are fond of, often with the older characters passing the torch to the new upstarts. But Ghostbusters bucks the recent — successful — trend, and we find ourselves with a hard reboot; a completely new universe where the events of the previous films don’t exist.

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Review: X-Men: Apocalypse (2016) — It’s the End of the World as we Know It, and I Feel… Fine?

Bryan Singer is back to direct his fourth X-Men film; X-Men: Apocalypse. Luke Miksa checks to see whether it stacks up.

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The year is 1983, ten years after the events of X-Men: Days of Future Past. Upon awakening after thousands of dormant years, the first mutant, the immortal En Sabah Nur, Apocalypse (Oscar Isaac), embarks on a plan to destroy humanity and remake it under his will. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and the X-Men must band together to face the cataclysmic force that is Apocalypse and his disciples of doom, the Four Horsemen: Storm, Psylocke, Angel, and Magneto — mutants lured by the charismatic allure of Apocalypse.

X-Men: Apocalypse is the sixth X-Men movie — ninth if you count spin-off films from Wolverine and Deadpool — and the fourth run at the helm from director Bryan Singer. Having practically pioneered the modern run of superhero films with 2000’s X-Men, Singer certainly has experience in films of this nature, but this really is his weakest effort with this franchise to date. Not to say that this film is bad, it honestly isn’t, but it just feels like a stale retread as opposed to advancing the X-Men films to the next level.

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NKOTB

As with most X-Men films, Apocalypse features many characters, probably too many by normal standards, but these films have always been about the large ensemble. Most major characters are actually well formed despite the sheer number of them. Their motivations are juggled reasonably well: senior characters like ‘Beast’ Hank McCoy (Nicholas Hoult), ‘Professor X’ Charles Xavier, and ‘Mystique’ Raven Darkholme (Jennifer Lawrence) get to continue on the paths set from prior films, with the ongoing tragedy of ‘Magneto’ Erik Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) a highlight thanks again to some solid output from Fassbender. But it’s also the fresh faces, the younger cast of ‘Cyclops’ Scott Summers (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), ‘NightCrawler’ Kurt Wagner (Kodi Smit-McPhee), and ‘Storm’ Ororo Munroe (Alexandra Shipp) showing promise for the direction of these younger versions of characters we know and love.

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Top 10 James Bond Theme Songs

With the memory of Spectre still fresh, Luke Miksa breaks down his definitive list of Bond tunes.

Spectre, the 24th James Bond film, has been out for a few weeks now to mixed reviews. I personally liked it, despite its flaws, but one thing that disappointed me was the new theme song from Sam Smith, “The Writing’s On The Wall”. This is a track which lacks excitement and is, frankly, just a little bit boring.

Don’t give me that look, Sam Smith, with your George Michael earrings and perfect voice.

Look, it’s definitely not the worst Bond theme ever produced — that honour goes to Madonna‘s “Die Another Day” (yuck!) — and it’s got some nice Bond-esque orchestration, but it is mid-tier in the canon of Bond themes. It’s especially apparent since Spectre is where modern-era Bond finally embraces some of the sillier tropes of the franchise, the song’s lovelorn lyrics simply do not resonate (much like the love story of Spectre itself).

There is a rich history of Bond music ever since that weird calypso version of “Three Blind Mice” from 1962’s Dr. No, so I have scoured the 50-plus year history to present you the Top 10 James Bond Theme Songs:

Note: The classic James Bond Theme is out of the running, because it is ubiquitous with every film. Dr. No, you’re cut.

10. “You Know My Name” Chris Cornell – Casino Royale (2006)

This song fits the era so well. Daniel Craig‘s debut as James Bond in Casino Royale was designed to update the character for modern audiences in a post-Jason Bourne world. As was the style at the time, the Bond franchise was to get its very own “gritty reboot”, highlighting a raw an inexperienced 007 for the very first time.

“You Know My Name” captures that tone perfectly, with classical Bond pomp and circumstance dropped for an appropriately grungy number from Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell. This was James Bond, but as you’ve never seen him before. You know my name, indeed.


9. “Nobody Does It Better” Carly Simon – The Spy Who Loved Me (1977)

A guilty pleasure. At this stage, Roger Moore was halfway through his stint as 007, and the movies themselves had skewed into the quip-laden, ‘wink wink’ nature that was synonymous with his run. “Nobody Does It Better” is one of the more commercially successful Bond songs, and is among singer Carly Simon‘s most popular songs (that aren’t about Warren Beatty).

If we’re talking about bedding babes and thwarting criminal geniuses, it’s true that nobody does it better than James Bond. But The Spy Who Loved Me wound up being Moore’s highest grossing and critically acclaimed film, so really, when it came to making successful movies, nobody did it better. Top marks for confidence.

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