The Disaster Artist (2017)

★★

The tall man with vampire-like structure walks out of fake door and onto the rooftop set. “Oh hai mark” he says in a monotone voice, throwing the empty water bottle on the floor. After the camera cuts, the set erupts with applause. After dozens of takes, Tommy Wiseau (James Franco) had done it. He had finally managed to recite his lines correctly. The Disaster Artist however, is not just about the making of the now infamous film The Room (2003) but much more. It is also a film about the friendship of two actors, Greg Sestero (Dave Franco) and Tommy Wiseau and their desire to make it big. Showing how the two characters meet in San Francisco and what led them to make The Room.

The story is not the main attraction however, James Franco is. I would actually find it to be near impossible for The Disaster Artist to be good if James Franco was not Tommy Wiseau. The amount of care that Franco put into studying the real Tommy Wiseau is really shown in this movie. From the way he talks and the way his mannerisms are. I felt like it not only played off the character of Wiseau as comedic but also dramatic character trying to be understood by someone in the world.

As far as the directing and writing goes, it is nothing special. Sure there are some jokes that land, but I felt like there were many times where they would point out the obvious ridiculousness of Wiseau’s antics, such as the strange lines of dialogue in The Room which became redundant after a while. Overall, it was a passable job from James Franco’s directing.

Chances are, if you enjoyed The Room then you will like The Disaster Artist, the scenes from the original movie are recreated quite well (at the end they even show them side to side) and it was funny to see actors like Zac Efron and Josh Hutcherson play characters in the film. The ending was a little hokey as it makes the film end a little too comedically compared to what should have been a more serious tone. But the motif of friendship between Wiseau and Sestero throughout the movie is what gives the human connection to the film making it a relatable parable somewhat.

 

Alien: Covenant (2017)

★★★★★

The now nearly forty year-old Alien franchise has made its genre-defining Xenomorphs less threatening over time. The terror that Alien (1979) made people feel is no longer prevalent in the new installments of the franchise. Enter Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant, a sequel to 2012’s Prometheus as well as a prequel to Alien. Covenant manages to create a whole new type of monster and makes him threatening and dangerous just as the Xenomorph used to be. His name is David (Michael Fassbender).

Without giving much away, the evolution of former Prometheus crew member and synth to villain is subtle at first as he questions his masters. By Alien: Covenant, David has fully turned on his creators showing no remorse for human life. Fassbender sells this man-made creation through his sheer acting ability to do so. While also portraying David, Fassbender also plays Walter, the synth who assists the Covenant ship crew. Watching both of these characters interact with each other on screen together is a surreal experience that is proven believable through the great effects used to produce it. The two share an admiration for the arts such as poetry, painting, and sculpture. As well as have lengthy dialogue about favorites of theirs in each medium.

A stand-out performance is Danny McBride as the pilot of the Covenant, Tennessee. McBride is mostly known for playing the character Kenny Powers in the HBO comedy series Eastbound & Down and many probably thought that McBride would not be able to pull of a dramatic performance.

Alien: Covenant has stunning cinematography. The Covenant space ship glides through the air with its odd “space sail boat” mechanics and Scott knows when the right time is to dwell on certain set pieces. Dariusz Wolski was the director of photography for this film as well as Prometheus and does a good job of capturing the atmosphere of that film. When the Covenant crew lands on the unknown planet to investigate a radio signal playing “Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver (it is unknown if Free Fire stole the idea from this film or vice-versa) is where the cinematography really shines. The overcast of the unknown planet followed by the darker shades of green and blue give off a very gloomy feel to the film as well as somewhat resemble the colors of a Xenomorph. Some well choreographed battle-sequences also manage to create some good suspense.

There are only one issue that I had with this film. The terrible CGI of the Chestbursters. In 1979 the effects looked better and the state that it was shown in was unacceptable for 2017. Some may say that the scientists in this movie do not act logically. This is simply untrue, these characters are on a new planet examining new life. Even scientists sometimes let curiosity get the best of them. It does not even compare to the scientists in Daniel Espinosa’s Life (2017). Who fail to contain a life form on the International Space Station, which they are trained to operate.

Alien: Covenant manages to unexpectedly take the plot in a completely different direction than expected. Instead of having a film more reminiscent of Alien, where a Xenomorph goes around a space ship, killing crew members. Covenant creates a new identity for itself, not being predictable or by-the-numbers.