DATELINE: Another Prequel
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.
DATELINE: Turning the Beat Around
When we saw The Martian winning awards as a comedy, when it is a Ridley Scott science fiction extravaganza, we became dubious about viewing it.
We expected a variation on Robinson Crusoe on Mars, one of our favorites. With updates, the characters likely would feature ET as Man Friday and some talking computer as HAL. Heaven forfend, we worried that this movie would turn into Gilligan’s Island Meets Lassie.
To our pleasant surprise, none of these happened. Instead, we were treated to an astronaut left for dead on Mars—and breaking the movie wall by talking directly to his video recorder—and us, the audience. Matt Damon was thus able to apply dry wit to the dry desolate red planet.
The result was indeed humorous sotto voce, imbedded into the space adventure. We were particularly amused to find the few surviving remnants he had salvaged were disco music (used better than anything since the 1970s and even TV shows like Happy Days).
The change from Crusoe’s predicament is that everyone knows where Damon’s character is—but it may be impossible to reach him before food and water run out.
About as clever as Rube Goldberg in botanist’s smock, Damon makes the red planet his home.
A stellar cast of odd-ball scientists back on Earth rounds out the cast of rescuers. The ubiquitous Jeff Daniels is around as head of NASA and one of the Glover boys is a nerd scientist. Everyone accounts for an upbeat and entertaining film.
If the plot seems a tad ridiculous, the stranded astronaut reminds us of how preposterous the rescue plan is. In his growing age, Matt Damon is putting together a string of interesting films to show off his well-preserved tush—and impressive credentials in moviedom.
DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP
SEAN YOUNG AT HER BEST
Like Walt Whitman who revised Leaves of Grass until he reached the last page on his deathbed, Ridley Scott has been tinkering with his classic Blade Runner.
After various “Director’s Cuts,” Scott has gone the butcher shop by coming up with chopped liver and Salisbury steaks. He has swept up the bits from the cutting room floor and installed them in the butcher’s window.
We finally got around to seeing the 2007 Blade Runner: The Final Cut.
If we settle upon this one as the cut above the rest, we’d be rejecting all those versions that made 1982’s Blade Runner one of the most mind-boggling and influential movies of its time.
Two movies changed the sci-fi landscape forever: Mad Max and Blade Runner. They made the future ugly and dirty, crowded and unpleasant. Throw in Alien (also by Scott) and you have a futuristic mess.
No, Ridley has not cleaned up the set. He now revels in the messiness. Gone is the wonderful narrative voice of Harrison Ford, explaining to us what was going on. It’s not necessary because we’ve all seen the film before.
Adding a few moments amplifies the characters without a narrative megaphone. The film is striking—especially from Sean Young’s Joan Crawford look to the smoky offices in the skyscrapers, and we still love Ford’s fey impersonation that loses nothing on Bogart’s fey impersonator scene in The Big Sleep.
This 1940s detective film set in the 21st century lacks only Dooley Wilson, leaving Ridley Scott to play it again and again.
We wanted to see again if Deckard is really another ‘replicant’ sent to retire other replicants. We have wondered about this for 30 years.
The Final Cut is brilliant. It’s hard to do more than polish a diamond, even if you want to cut it into smaller segments to add more jewel facets.
In the meantime we wait for Ridley’s deathbed version.