Monday, May 22, 2017

TV Show Review: Into the Badlands (Season 2)

AMC's wild dystopia, action-packed tv show returned for a second season that expanded the world and continued the break-neck pace. Sunny (Daniel Wu) has been trapped working as a prisoner in a mind when he befriends Bajie (Nick Frost) and demonstrated his fighting ability to survive. Meanwhile, the Widow (Emily Beecham) conspires to regain the throne as a respected Baron. Quinn (Marton Csokas) has retreated below ground and works to rebuild an army but has captured Sunny's wife Veil (Madeleine Mantock) and their baby.

Sunny escapes his confines and sets out on the road with Bajie to find Sunny's wife. Bajie has a mysterious past too that ties to M.K. (Aramis Knight) and his current predicament, training with monks in a strange mountain area. Sunny takes on all challengers as this season continue to impress with awesome fight scenes and swordplay as guns have been outlawed in the Badlands. Through is training M.K. Learns that he killed his family with the powers that he was unable to control. M.K. becomes convinced that he must escape from his training and find a city. 

The Widow teams up with Wald (Stephen Lang) to go to a meeting of the Barons. She confronts Baron Chau (Eleanor Matsuura) and it turns out that she had teamed up with Quinn who murders his son Ryder (Oliver Stark) to take back his title. The Widow and Quinn turn out to be a lethal combination but it hardly lasts between the two strong personalities. Sunny confronts the monks as he encounters M.K. again. It turns out the Bajie had the same power which explains his amazing fighting ability. 

Helping the Widow with her power grab is Tilda (Ally Ioannides), though she has become impatient with being held back. Sunny and Bajie run into M.K. and together they travel back to the Baron stronghold. Sunny is rendered unconscious and nearly dead. He travels to a dream world where his son is grown and he lives on a farm with Veil. However, Sunny cannot escape his deadly past as a clipper as the murdered individuals come back and haunt him. Bajie and M.K. sneak back into the monk's lair and uses magic to revive Sunny.

Sunny returns to save Veil but Quinn has other plans, marrying Veil but also employing the help of his first wife Lydia (Orla Brady). Lydia and Veil conspire against Quinn as Sunny teams up with the Widow. However, when Sunny discovers that Veil has married Quinn, he turns on the Widow. Tilda and M.K. have formed a friendship and when Tilda discovers the Widow has betrayed them, she fights the Widow but loses. In turns out that Bajie had trained the Widow long ago. In the final episode, Sunny and Bajie confront Quinn and his army in a gory battle. Sunny fights Quinn and wins but Veil has to sacrifice herself to kill Quinn. I don't always pay attention to all of the politics and don't think the acting isn't spectacular, but the action fight scenes are amazing and the show is enjoyable. 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Movie Review: Alien: Covenant

The latest installment in the Alien franchise ties Prometheus to the creation of the xenomorph. The crew of the Covenant spaceship has been sent into space to colonize a planet but when a solar flare burns their captain, the new captain Oram (Billy Crudup) decides to follow a rogue transmission to a closer habitable planet. Daniels (Katherine Waterson) has reservations about this unvetted planet but goes along with the crew when they head down to the surface as well as the android Walter (Michael Fassbender). Remaining above with the main ship is Tennessee (Danny McBride) and a couple. The crew explores the new planet finding the familiar alien ship but an airborne virus floats into two crewmembers who then shake and burst out xenomorphs. 

After a gory scene and the ship blowing up, the crew is under attack by the monsters when David (also Michael Fassbender) leads them away to a corpse-filled mausoleum. As the crew waits out a storm, they are slowly picked off by the creature. Lope (Demian Bichir) manages to establish contact, and Daniels instruct Tennessee to bring down a cargo loader that they can use to escape the hostile planet. David reveals to Oram that he has been experimenting with the genetics of the virus and shows off the eggs. A face-hugger bursts out and snags Oram impregnating him with a xenomorph.

Walter and David have a strained relationship as Walter is a more docile version. Walter does not go along with David's plan to experiment on the colonists and fights him. Lope and Daniels escape to the cargo ship with Walter behind them, claiming to have killed David. There is a decent action scene with the xenomorph crawling along the ship as Daniels fights it that was shown a lot in the advertisement. This scene ends with Daniels killing it in a shower of acid blood. The survivors return to the ship and orbit but it is clear that more will happen.

Another xenomorph is loose on the ship and kills Lope and the couple. Daniels and Tennessee fight the xenomorph with the help of Walter. They manage to knock the xenomorph off of the ship in a decent scene, but nothing too spectacular. The two survivors are settling back into cryosleep but just before Walter puts Daniels to sleep, she realizes that he's not Walter but David who has plans to continue creating the species. The first scene of the film showed David waking up and at the end we see David walking through rows of the thousand sleeping colonists after coughing up the embryo of two aliens.

This film felt like another step toward a grander Alien film in the future. It waivered from the initial horror to more of a sci-fi action film. David's conquest wiped out the Engineers but he seems set on building the xenomorph to perfection that will one day become the creature from the original films. There are still pieces to the puzzle that deep-thinking wouldn't explain and from the end of this one, it appears that we will have several more of these to come. I don't know if Ridley Scott has any plans as of now but it looks like this film has been enough of a success at the box office to justify another installment. 

Movie Review: Prometheus

The first prequel to the alien franchise brings us back to the origins of the xenomorph and explains the figure and ship spotted in the first and second film. We are introduced to the "Engineers" as one of them drinks a black liquid and disintegrates into a waterfall. Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) discovers ancient artifacts with her fellow researcher Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green). Funded by Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce), the researchers sent out on the Prometheus to explore the planet where the artifacts led. Manning the ship why the crew sleeps is David (Michael Fassbender), an android with his own feelings and opinions.

The Prometheus is captained by Janek (Idris Elba) but the mission is run by Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron) who clash at what to do but also have sexual tension. The group finds a structure on the planet and immediately explores it where they find one of the dead Engineers and strange egg-like vases. They bag the head of the Engineer and head back to the ship before a storm hits but two researchers Fifield (Sean Harris) and Millburn (Rafe Spall) are left behind and lost. Dr. Shaw needs to be rescued by David in the storm to save the head, which they then experiment on to make explode. Testing the DNA, they find it matches human DNA. David confers with a sleeping Weyland and puts the black substance in a drink for Charlie.

Fifield and Millburn are attacked by a strange snake alien that bleeds acid. Charlie wakes up sick with worms in his eyes. The group goes out to find their missing crew members but Holloway collapses. David goes off on his own and finds a living Engineer stowed away and room very similar to the one in the first Alien. They bring Holloway back but due to quarantine, Vickers torches him as he requests. Shaw is brought to the medical ward and informed by David that she is pregnant. The thing inside her is growing at a rapid rate. In one of the more gruesome scene, Shaw uses the medical hub to cut out the creature.

The crew finds Fifield sitting impossibly in front of the exit hatch. The zombie kills the crewmembers with superhuman strength until it is torched by Janek, run over, and shot repeatedly. Shaw doses herself with anesthetics and finds Weyland waking up to meet his maker. Janek has figured out the Engineers' plan and explains it to Shaw but she is still set on talking to them with Weyland. They talk to the Engineer but he just gets angry and kills any who come near, ripping David apart. Shaw escapes and tells Janek to fly the ship into the alien ship, which is heading to Earth to end humanity.

The ship crashes and smashes Vickers leaving Shaw alone, but David is still functional. Shaw is pursued by the angry Engineer into the lifeboat where the creature from her stomach has grown. She opens the door as the Engineer attacks her, and the creature, a giant face-hugger, grabs the Engineer. Shaw packs up David's head and body and finds another alien ship to explore the galaxy. The final shot gives us the birth of the xenomorph. The film feels a bit disjointed but has some great special effects and enough movie stars to dazzle onscreen. Ridley Scott returns to the franchise to add to the backstory of the first film finally explaining the mystery behind the species with the burst chest. I look forward to viewing this film again in the light of the new sequel out now.

Movie Review: Alien: Resurrection

The fourth installment in the Alien franchise resuscitates the series with a clever conceit from the writing of Joss Whedon. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has been cloned by remnants of her DNA in order for the military to harvest the xenomorphs. Weyland has long been defunct, bought out by Wal-Mart, but the military of the United Systems is still making the same mistakes by training to gather and harvest the alien creatures. A crew of smugglers led by Elgyn (Michael Wincott) brings a human cargo to the military spaceship in exchange for money and a brief stay. The aliens are tested by the researchers Gediman (Brad Dourif) and Dr. Wren (J.E. Freeman). General Perez (Dan Hedaya) leads the military operation.

The aliens learn quickly and kill one of their own to melt through their enclosures and escape. They proceed to kill the military but the smugglers remain alive. Call (Winona Ryder) was secretly working with the smugglers in order to kill Ripley and stop the aliens. Elgyn is killed by the aliens during the initial attack, and the remaining smugglers including Johner (Ron Perlman), Christie (Gary Dourdan), and the handicapped Vriess (Dominique Pinon) attempt to escape. Along with fellow smuggler, Elgyn's lover Hillard (Kim Flowers) and another surviving soldier Distephano (Raymond Cruz), the crew tries to make it past the 12 remaining xenomorphs.

Ripley discovers that she has seven other clones and that she is the eighth and first successful one. She still has characteristics of the xenomorphs like acid blood and super strength but the others are hideous so she torches them. The stumble upon an infected man Purvis (Leland Orser) and agree to take him along until the alien burst from his chest. In one of the cooler scenes of the Alien franchise, the crew has to swim through a flooded area and are attacked by swimming xenomorphs. They come out the other side but lose several members of the crew. It is revealed that Call is an android when Dr. Wren shoots her. 

Call is able to plug into the ship's control and clear the way for the crew to make it to their ship. All they have to do is run 100 yards but Ripley stops, sensing the queen. Aliens drag her down to the nest where the queen is birthing a human-xenomorph hybrid as Gediman watches in amazement. The hybrid bursts from the womb, kills the queen, and eats Gediman. Ripley runs but the hybrid pursues. The crew takes off but Purvis has to kill Dr. Wren with his chest-burster and the hybrid kills Distephano. Ripley uses her acid blood to melt a hole in the ship and the hybrid is sucked out to die. The crew crash lands on Earth, which has been destroyed.

Alien Resurrection is a strange addition with weird characters and updated special effects, but the whole things is a ton of fun to watch. The action looks great and never seems like anyone is taking this film too seriously. There is plenty of alien gore and death to satisfy horror fans and a wild sci-fi plot to follow along with. Sigourney Weaver plays a new type of Ripley who is more extreme as she is blended with the xenomorphs that she ruthlessly kills. Alien Resurrection doesn't get a lot of love but it sticks with the franchise. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Movie Review: Alien 3

The third film in the alien franchise finds Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) battling a single xenomorph on a prison planet as she discovers an awful secret. A prisoner Clemens (Charles Dance) is walking along the beach when he discovers Ripley's unconscious body. He brings her back as the other prisoners find the crashed ship and all other survivors, Hicks and Newt, deceased. Ripley's presence causes a disturbance on Fury 151 as she is the only woman. Ripley is focused on making sure none of the aliens survived. A face hugger sneaks off and impregnates a cow. 

Prisoners start to go missing as Clemens tries to convince the warden Andrews (Brian Glover) that something isn't right. Ripley tries to figure out what happened on the ship and reprograms Bishop (Lance Henriksen) but the prisoners attack her. Dillon (Charles S. Dutton) helps Ripley fight off the prisoners and leads them to a spiritual awakening. When a crazed prisoner Morse (Danny Webb) shows up covered in blood, the men suspect that there is something worse in this prison though some including Andrews and Aaron (Ralph Brown) are still skeptical of Ripley's story of the alien.

Ripley show symptoms of an illness and is consulted by Clemens but the alien shows up and kills him. The xenomorph won't attack Ripley and lets her escape. She warns the other prisoners but Andrews shoots her down right before he too is taken and eat by the xenomorph. There are no weapons in the prison so the prisoners have to devise a plan to lure the alien into the smelting facility and kill it. They manage to trap it but the Weyland corporation refuses to let them terminate it. Morse is crazed and lets out the xenomorph.

Ripley feels worse and goes to the neuro-scanner. She discovers a queen alien growing inside of her. She asks Dillon to kill her if the thing starts to come out. The prisoners debate trying to kill or waiting for the company. Ripley knows the company won't kill it so she enacts a plan that has the criminal running down corridors with the alien chasing them. This film is the most violent under the direction of David Fincher with many of the prisons meeting a brutal end. They manage to corner the alien and Dillon sacrifices himself to keep it put while they pour lead onto it. Ripley hits the sprinklers when it jumps out of the pit and it explodes

A new Bishop shows up to take in Ripley but she refuses and sacrifices herself. The final shots are accompanied by Ripley's final message at the end of the first film, the final transmission from the Nostromo. This third part caps of a trilogy of Ripley's survival and fights with the aliens. It looked to be the end of the series and though it has had mixed reviews, I enjoyed it tremendously. I have always felt that this film, while not matching the previous too, is a solid sci-fi horror addition to the franchise. 

Movie Review: Aliens

The slimy terrors in outer space return in this larger more action-packed sequel that rivals the original as a great sci-fi film. Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) is picked up 57 years later floating in space in her cryo-sleep. She is informed that a colony has been set up on the planet and it has recently gone silent. At the request of Weyland Corp. employee Burke (Paul Reiser), Ripley agrees to tag along on a mission with the colonial marines who hope to find out what happened to the colony. The marines are skeptical of what Ripley describes as a menacing force capable of taking out a whole crew, especially Private Hudson (Bill Paxton) and Private Vasquez (Jenette Goldstein). Ripley is also wary of the android Bishop (Lance Henriksen) after her encounter from the previous film.

The squad heads down to the planet and finds the colony abandoned. There are signs of the aliens and only one survivor Newt (Carrie Henn). Led by Sergeant Apone (Al Matthews), the marines trace the colonialists' trackers to the energy facility of the terraforming structure. They have to give up their weapons so as not to blow the place up, a handicapping that I always thought reduced the action for this part of the film. Lt. Gorman (William Hope) gives the order and Apone collects all the ammo and grenades. Vasquez and Private Drake (Mark Rolston) keep a clip on them. Of course, the team gets caught off guard and slaughtered leaving only a few left alive including Corporal Hicks (Michael Biehn).

The acid blood comes into play showering the marines who try to shoot the xenomorphs. Ripley has to take charge and drive into there to save the marines. The remaining survivors try to leave but the aliens take down their transport, killing the two pilots. They retreat into the facility and set up defenses of sentry guns hoping to last while they wait for help. Ripley is especially pissed a Burke for setting this whole thing up. The aliens invade but the guns hold them off but they find out that the terraform facility will explode in about four hours. After learning how to operate the rifle with Wilks, Ripley goes to rest with Newt but wakes up to find her gun missing and two face huggers released in their room. Unable to open the door, Ripley has to trigger the fire alarm and sprinklers to call the marines.

Narrowly escaping being impregnated by the face huggers, Ripley and marines prepare to punish Burke when the aliens attack again. This time they crawl through the ventilation shaft and come down on top of the marines. Hudson gets taken, Burke gets eaten, Vasquez and Gorman blow themselves up. Ripley and Newt escape but then Newt slips down into the water where she is taken by the aliens. Wilks pulls Ripley away but in the elevator, Wilks gets sprayed by acid blow shooting a xenomorph back. Bishop manages to call a transport but Ripley won't leave without Newt. She uses the tracker to find her tied up in the nest and encounters the queen, who lays eggs to make more xenomorphs.

Ripley saves Newt and they make it off the exploding terraform facility when Bishop flies back around. They make it back to the ship but the queen followed them and tagged along. Ripley has to use the loader to fight her in a great battle. This movie brings the action to the sci-fi series with a grander scale and the direction of James Cameron. Ripley takes charge and Sigourney Weaver is great. Young actress Carrie Henn does a great job carrying a major part of the film as young Newt. I like this film the most and even to this day the action and special effects don't look too dated. This film expanded the alien story and jumped genres. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Movie Review: Alien

One of the most iconic sci-fi horror movies of all time, Alien is still an incredibly impressive film nearly forty years later. The crew of the Nostromo is returning home after a mining mission when they receive a distress call and the artificial intelligence onboard known as Mother decides that they should stop and investigate. The crew wakes up from cryo-sleep and investigates the strange planet from which the call came. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) realizes the call is a warning but already three crew members had left the ship to investigate the alien ship on the planet. On the alien ship is a fossilized life form with a hole in its chest. 

Kane (John Hurt) peeks over a giant egg and a spider-like creature pops out and hugs his face. Dallas (Tom Skerritt) and Lambert (Veronica Cartwright) bring him back and try to take him back on their ship but Ripley stops them. The science officer Ash (Ian Holm) overrides Ripley and lets them back on the ship. They take Kane and his face-hugging alien to the medical bay but are unable to cut it off because it has acid for blood that melts through the ship. As Ash investigate the new creature, Parker (Yaphet Kotto) and Brett (Harry Dean Stanton) work to repair the ship.

They take off from the planet and return to the Nostromo. Kane wakes up feeling better but hungry. He wants to eat before they go back into cryo-sleep but as they share a meal, the alien bursts from his chest. The tiny creature scurries off, and the crew search for it, catching the cat instead. Brett goes after the cat but is taken by the alien. Dallas tries to burn it out of the ventilation shaft but he is taken as well. Ripley discovers that Mother has deemed the crew expendable and Ash tries to kill her. Parker hits Ash over the head and Ash malfunctions because he is actually an android. 

The remaining crew members try to blow up the ship but the alien kills Parker and Lambert. Ripley initiates the self-destruct on the ship but finds the path to the shuttle blocked by the alien. She tries to turn the self-destruct off but is too late. She grabs the cat Jones and makes it to the shuttle as the Nostromo explodes. She is settling down to cryo-sleep when she discovers the alien onboard and has to flush it out the airlock while wearing a spacesuit. Ripley is the last remaining survivor of the Nostromo with Jones and goes to sleep floating through space.

Alien is one of my favorite movies of all time and sparked a massive franchise that tells a harrowing tale of humanity, corporate greed, and the dangers of space exploration. Ripley is an amazing character and Sigourney Weaver carries the role for four movies. This movie directed by Ridley Scott started it all and will be remembered for decades to come for the horror sci-fi classic that it is. The alien creatures are terrifying, especially the egg-hatching face-huggers and the large alien creature is awesome in so many ways. I look forward to seeing these films continue for years to come but this one started it off the best way possible.