Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alien: Covenant as a Weyland-Yutani Investment Prospectus

The corporate logo as it appears in the era of
Alien: Covenant, showing the influence of
Ancient Egyptian mythology.
Every Alien movie is another chapter in the long history of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation, a powerful British-Japanese conglomerate specializing in advanced technology, mostly space exploration, extraterrestrial colonization and robotics. In terms of sheer size and scope of operations, W-YC is a formidable, well-funded corporate entity.

The corporate logo as it as it appears later in the Alien
fictional universe, around the time of Aliens.
But with the evidence of all the Alien movies— the four main sequence films, the AVP prequels and the two newer prequels— one would come to the inevitable conclusion that Weyland-Yutani is not that successful at basic core competency. Colonization Division has a number of outstanding failures (Aliens, Covenant). The loss of large, expensive spacecraft (The Nostromo, Auriga and Prometheus) is constant and horrendous. And Robotics Division’s track record of creating helpful, useful, trustworthy cyborgs is not stellar. For every helpful synthetic (Call from Resurrection and Bishop from Aliens) there is a deceitful, untrustworthy model (Ash from Alien and, as it turns out, David from Covenant).

So I need advise all that Weyland-Yutani may not be a good long-term investment.

On to Alien: Covenant, the second Ridley Scott prequel. this latest prequel franchise installment-- occurring after the events of Prometheus but before Alien-- involves the crew of the colony ship Covenant being awoken by an interstellar storm and, during repairs, they catch a faint signal from a nearby planet. Bound by Weyland-Yutani’s rules about such things, they change course and investigate the signal. Yes, this exact same thing happened in Alien, but this world is much prettier, with big redwood trees and shimmering lakes. However, again like the first film that big horse-shoe Alien vessel is there, and the well-armed but non-space-suited crew of the Covenant are in for an unpleasant surprise…

Danny McBride's character is called "Tennessee."
Gee, I wonder why.
As far as the story goes, Covenant hits nearly identical notes as the first Alien film: the crew is picked off one by one by various manifestations of the Alien life-form, sometimes in pairs. The cast is great: Katherine Waterston (Shasta from Inherent Vice) is the Ripley analogue, Billy Crudup is the feckless, fundamentalist captain, and Danny McBride probably turns in the best, least self-aware performance of his career so far. Michael Fassbender is sublime in a dual role as David, the cyborg from Prometheus, and Walter, a slightly updated model.

The thing Ridley Scott is interested in— aside from fascination over David and Walter— is explaining the origin of the Alien life-form. It is indeed compelling, the effort that goes into outlining and detailing this drawn-out exegesis. it's like watching a steel rail being heated and bent into a circle: a lot of effort, serves no real purpose, but it is still interesting to watch the process.

Covenant puts out a strong Aliens vibe in places.
The Alien life-form does not need a backstory. It is, like Ash called it in the 1979 original, a perfect organism. It is pure aggression, unknowable and mysterious and always deadly. We do not need know how it came to be: it represents the danger of the unknown, the fact that if we reach out into the dark universe and look hard and long enough we will eventually discover something that will kill us.

Nonetheless get a more-or less whole Alien creation story out of Alien: Covenant, which is much more than the plot gives us in terms of interest. Like the movie Alien, we start with a good dozen or so humans who manage to blunder or become enticed to planet where they meet their untimely ends in various violent ways. After a while the film devolves into a pastiche of haunted house/ teen slasher film tropes. The Alien is Mike Meyers, the crew are dumb teenagers who are killed off randomly, and we even have a nice Crystal Lake that they get murdered on. Actually, it’s the saving grace of Alien: Covenant and the original Alien that the grisly body count does not respect gender: men and women are killed off randomly. The ending is depressingly predictable, with a dull twist that will fool nobody: unlike Prometheus, which was weird enough to be mysterious, Covenant is too conventional to be all that surprising.

Like I said, it might be time to liquidate those Weyland-Yutani stocks. Yoyodyne Propulsion Systems, however, is still a blue-chip stock— or it would be if they ever went public.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Greetings from Vegas and now the news!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Monday, May 8, 2017

Weekend Box Office

I guess we're ALL Groot, more or less.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Weekend Box Office

How to be a Latin Lover? Practice man, practice.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Forgot the titles. You'll survive.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Weekend Box Office

The fate of the furious is become a bunch little James Bonds. Go figure!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Smurfs- will we ever be rid of them?

Monday, April 3, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Baby is boss, Ghost not all the way out of the shell.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Power Rangers range with power! Oh and it's Elizabeth Banks.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Beauty, the beast and me.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Weekend Box Office

No no, not Donkey Kong. Not YET anyway.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan Logan

Sunday, March 5, 2017

What You Love About Columbo

It's Sunday, which means MeTV (and COZITV) will run an episode of Columbo. There is no mystery show more reliable, more fascinating, more ODD than Columbo. And perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the show is how surprising it manages to be even though it is formulaic as hell.

Columbo in the seventies, played by Peter Falk
You know the Columbo formula. In the first 20 minutes a person, usually rich and high in status, callously commits a premeditated murder. You see how they plan the crime and you see them commit the crime. Lt. Columbo, an LAPD homicide detective who looks like he's held together with chewing gum and duct tape, examines the scene and some anomaly convinces him that a murder has been committed. Usually at this point Columbo also knows how the crime was committed and who's responsible, but spends the rest of the show making the perpetrator's life a living hell, all the while acting as though he's too dumb to solve any case, let alone this one.

Now here's is the first thing that is surprising about Columbo. You've just read the plot of almost every episode. This is how it always goes down. By rights you should not be surprised by anything that happens. And yet it's always a little different, because of the way that Peter Falk plays him. In fact, I understand that there was a lot of on camera improvisation on the show, because it kept the guest stars on their toes. And after all Falk had plenty of experience in that from his John Cassevetes movies.

And in fact the more you see Columbo the more of an enigma he becomes. Did you notice that they never say his first name on the show? Can you state with complete certainty that there even IS a Mrs. Colombo? (Yes I know they made a spinoff series about her, but you never saw Mr. Columbo in that. I think she was just a woman named Columbo. OR she was Columbo's beard. Maybe they were each other's beards.) And Columbo is always polite, but he obviously has a driven and ruthless nature.  Dude's some kinda sociopath.


In later years, the part was taken by the guy who played the Grandpa in The Princess Bride
I have this theory that the reason mysteries are such a durable genre, is we are truth-seeking creatures. The more we know about the way the world really works, the better we can survive. The search for truth is in our DNA. In a normal mystery, when the murderer is revealed that's the catharsis. It's the truth, at last!

The writers of Columbo deny themselves that catharsis. How can the ending of a Columbo episode be satisfying?

The catharsis comes not from learning the truth, it comes from watching a guest star who has lied for ninety minutes (or more) ADMIT the truth. Every episode ends when the antagonist admits to Columbo, at last, that they did it. Sometimes they are grateful that they don't have to lie any more. Sure there's usually also a level of class class warfare from the common-slob detective bringing down the rich and powerful, but what really sells it is the confession. I guess if you are always looking for the truth, making someone admit they have been lying to you is plenty satisfying.

Anyway, I don't think there was a more satisfying but formulaic murder mystery show until House came along.

Monday, February 27, 2017

A Few Thoughts About the 2017 Oscars

In the old days, I would have written this, and it would have taken half the time. Progress.

Weekend Box Office

A fun peek into low-level, constant anxiety and more!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Nothing interesting to add this time. Hope the camera looks nice. It's new.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Always be yourself. Unless you can be Batman. And if you can't be Batman, be Lego Batman.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Weekend Box Office

If you liked it, then you shoulda put Rings on it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Weekend Box Office

It's starts in a laundromat and before you know it, it's back where it belongs.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Weekend Box Office

Underworld opened, but I still can't find Hidden Fences. Thanks to, though I doubt they care any more.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Weekend Box Office

No news is good news, and thus it's all good news. Thanks to