A Covenant with Alien

DATELINE: Another Prequel

Tea for two Tea for Two?

Ridley Scott is back is one of his better entries in the Alien series. Now in prequel mode, he is midway through the Midway. Alien Covenant is nothing new under the alien sun.

If you haven’t caught on to the old Agatha Christie chestnut, Ten Little Indians, you may be surprised that this latest Ridley film has an ever-diminishing cast.

Two of our favorite performers—Guy Pearce and James Franco—made their exits early, about ten minutes into the film.

That left an uninspiring cast to face-off against two, count’em, two versions of Michael Fassbender as the automaton android/synthetic biolife force—or whatever the hell he is. Regardless, he doubled our fun in this movie.

David is the older model from Prometheus—and the updated robot is Walter, serving on ship Covenant, ten years later. It’s actually only been five years since the first movie prequel, but Fassbender still looks good as the ubiquitous pal of budding aliens, hatching the plot.

All your favorite moments are here again: emerging aliens from the chest, neck, and mouths, of the benighted crew.

If you have a sense of having been there and seen that, Scott still can give you an entertaining countdown to the next prequel. We presume Michael Fassbender will be ageless and sociopathic yet again. We always enjoy an actor making love to himself. How delicious.





Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes

DATELINE:  No Deerstalker Here

Everett Holmes 

with Ian Hart as Watson.

We wondered back in 2004 why Rupert Everett’s fascinating take on Sherlock Holmes did not lead to a series. It was around the time that Jeremy Brett had passed on—and a new Holmes was certainly ripe for the picking.

Granada TV and PBS passed on Everett’s interpretation, much to our regret.

Instead, we had the dreadful Robert Downey movie version—and the marvelous updated Cumberbatch TV Sherlock.

Yet, for our money, the classic look and demeanor of Everett was delicious enough. In the Case of the Silk Stocking, not part of the canon, we had a story that was part of the problem. It dealt with sexual problems in the multiple murderer—and Holmes was brought up to date by Watson’s fiancée who now is an American psychologist.

The other problems with the story-line featured cruel mistreatment of women, largely teenage girls brutally killed in a fetish demeanor. Holmes does not help much with his misogynist attitudes that may be accurate, however off-putting. Indeed, when he intrudes on the bedroom one a teenage girl, it seems almost creepy.

On Rupert Everett these foibles work to the flaws of Sherlock.

Ian Hart’s Watson is a tad too smug, and Helen McCrory as his American spouse-to-be is too much a concession to political correctness.

We were delighted to see Michael Fassbender in an early, important role. But, the film belongs to Everett who makes Sherlock’s tired, drug-addled character quite intriguing. There is a sharp undercurrent of sexual malaise in this Holmes, played by the openly gay Everett.

What a shame he played the role only here. It’s a worthy effort in the history of Sherlock performances.

Slow West Goes with Young Man




Kodi Smit-McPhee Featured image


With original Westerns nearly a lost art, we always look to see what a fresh eye sees. In Slow West, we have a Fellini-style picaresque adventure. It almost seems like Satyricon goes on horseback.

Michael Fassbender is extremely well-suited as a mysterious bounty hunter who befriends an ethereal young man on a quest. It seems the stranger in a strange land is everyone you meet.

Kodi Smit-McPhee makes an indelible presence. He seems to be the epitome of a nouveau Anthony Perkins—fey and pasty, not exactly Western hero material. That he rides around hatless and stays in the proper pale rider mode may be an interesting commentary.

Death seems to follow the gunslinger, but the root cause may be the more unexpected young gentleman whose idea of a goal is to find that sunset.

Director and writer John Maclean makes an auspicious film, though we suspect Westerns are not the ultimate goal for any of the principals. That they manage to fit into an old genre like old cowhands may be testimony to the actors’ range as much as being home on the range in New Zealand where the picture was filmed.

It’s always a delight to find a movie that comes out of nowhere with panache, and it is a double delight to find a young star that makes us curious as to where he can go and what he can do.

Smit-McPhee demands you keep an eye out for his break-out film role, though it may not be as a superhero as much as the hero’s nemesis. Not yet twenty, the actor transcends anyone else in his generation. He may end up competing with Nicholas Hoult for roles of a stripe.

Hoult has already gone the blockbuster route with cartoon characters in superhero stories. Let’s hope Kodi holds out for better.