Every artist reaches, and then passes, their creative peak. It happens to everyone involved in creative endeavors should they survive long enough. Bands grow stale, the words of authors lose their ferocity, and auteurs show their viewers passable films where once there were epics. Declaring an artist as being past their prime is a bit like writing an obituary while a person is still alive, but those are the feelings that are evoked by watching a film like Alien: Covenant. It’s gorgeous to look at, and is still obviously the construction of a master filmmaker, but the deft touch and tight focus that made Alien a classic is all gone. Continue reading “October Horrorshow: Alien: Covenant, or, An Endless String of Stupid Decisions: The Movie”
Man vs. nature, and by extension, man vs. his own nature. It’s not an uncommon theme in film. Usually it involves the breakdown of a group in an isolated environment, becoming feral, members desperately trying to maintain their humanity. Director and screenwriter Joe Carnahan’s The Grey dispenses with much of the metaphor and instead keeps things simple. Mere survival is the theme here, pitting a group of humans against a pack of wolves.
Set in the Alaskan wilderness, The Grey tells the story of a group of oil industry roughnecks who survive a plane crash on a mountain far away from civilization. Not long after the seven survivors organize themselves enough to get a life-saving fire burning, they discover they are being stalked by wolves. The wolves don’t seem to be interested in hunting the men for food. Rather, they seem intent on just killing them for being in the wrong place.
Led by the grim Ottway (Liam Neeson), a sniper employed by the oil company to protect the roughnecks from wolf attacks back at the camp the men originated from, the film follows the men as they try to escape from the wolves’ territory, their numbers whittled down throughout the course of the film. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: The Grey”
Black Hawk Down is perhaps the simplest movie I’ve ever viewed, and also the most complicated. The United States intervention in Somalia is a footnote in America’s foreign policy history, but it is quite weighted, to the point that a student of recent American politics ignores it at their own peril. The initial American operation in Somalia, Operation Provide Relief, part of UNOSOM I (United Nations Operation in Somalia I), began in August 1992 as a response to the massive amount of killing and humanitarian suffering throughout the country. It was followed by UNITAF (Unified Task Force), also known as Operation Restore Hope, which lasted from December 1992 to May 1993. During that time, the United States suffered 43 killed and 143 wounded, but was able to increase the security of much of the country. After the mission ended, however, the peace did not last, as the warlords reasserted their control and chaos took hold once again. This led to UNOSOM II, Operation Gothic Serpent, and ultimately to the Battle of Mogadishu. Continue reading “The Empty Balcony: Black Hawk Down”
Always beware when a series of films has been labeled a franchise. Often it can mean that any effort to bring quality to the screen has been abandoned to embrace the industry’s insulting perceptions of mass taste. Such has been the fate of the Alien series of movies. The last entry that remained within the original continuity, Alien: Resurrection, was so awful it effectively killed the series. Since then, it has truly embraced the franchise label, making reality longstanding plans to team up with the Predator franchise, following a trail the comic book wings of the two brands began blazing in the 1980’s. Continue reading “October Horrorshow, Retroactive: Alien”