Wonder Woman

Coming Attractions:

What Happened to Monday/Seven Sisters
Logan Lucky
Murder on the Orient Express

New Releases:

Wonder Woman
Captain Underpants

Top Five: Strong Female Characters

Undisputed Classic: A Very Long Engagement

1987 – Untouchables, Benji the Hunted, Harry & the Hendersons

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Breaking Josh

Coming Attractions:

Good Time Trailer from A24
RIP Roger Moore
RIP Lisa Spoonhauer
Bob and Sean Break Josh

New Releases:

Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Men Tell No Tales

Top Five: Movie Pirates

Undisputed Classic: Mutiny on the Bounty, You Me and Everyone We Know

1987 – Summer Heat

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Film Review- ‘Alien: Covenant” (***1/2)

Something wicked this way comes. Humans.

Alien: Covenant  ***1/2 (out of 5)

Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, Danny McBride, Billy Crudup, Demian Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, Jussie Smollett, Guy Pearce

Written by: Jack Paglen, Michael Green, John Logan, and Dante Harper

Directed by: Ridley Scott



At the risk of embarrassing myself, I must come clean.  I’ve spent the better part of my last 25 years of movie free time discussing, enjoying, occasionally hating, and pondering in wonderment the Alien franchise.  Sad as that may sound, I’m drawn to the franchise like a moth to a flame, in spite of multiple flaws and continuity errors.  For example, worrying about silly things like traveling light years in a mere decade, or how a xenomorph’s life cycle can take mere minutes to grow full size will only leave you grasping for answers if you see Alien: Covenant.  Or, if you love this nonsense like I do, they become excuses.  I do love the ‘Alien’ franchise, but sometimes in unhealthy ways.  Unhealthy in that I love the potential sometimes more than the results, the mythology more than the meat (so to speak).

If I’m honest with myself, I know this is not a very good film.  It changes tone multiple times, is far too horror-familiar considering how bold its’ predecessor tried to be, and barely attempts to answer said predecessor’s questions.  Alien: Covenant teaches a master course in potential, at once reaching the apex of cinematography and gore, but then demanding its’ audience to forgive periodic lapses in pace, plot, and logic.  Do I love this film?  Yeah, I kind of do, but in an unhealthy way.  Just like how at the soul of Alien: Covenant lies a story of unhealthy relationships, mirroring my own with the franchise.  Gods and mortals.  Corporations and employees.  Women and men.  Creators and offspring.  And, like a great many unhealthy relationships, I allow the many misgivings, providing the film every chance to be better than it is.  It isn’t- just adjust your expectations (see, I’m doing it again).

Our film begins with a flashback involving David (Fassbender), one of the two survivors of 2012’s Prometheus.  The scene sure looks neat, even if it doesn’t necessarily tell us anything new.  Flash forward to a large spaceship hurtling through the void.  This, as the screen tells us, is the colonization ship Covenant.  A being that looks strikingly similar to David (but is not David) strolls through the ship as its’ crew and 2,000 colonists snooze.  They are on their way to a distant planet, a place where they will make a new life for themselves as the first large-scale colonization mission in human history (if you haven’t seen Alien: Covenant’s two ‘prologue’ films, the awe of this historic mission will be lost on you).  A rather convenient plot device in the form of a RSA (Random Space Anomaly) jerks the Covenant from its’ destination, waking the crew and damaging the ship.  I say ‘convenient’, for their accident locale just happens to be in the vicinity of a human-like transmission.  Seems impossible, right?  Not for these four screenwriters!

You’ll never guess what they find when they decide to travel to the transmission’s source instead of their original destination.  Danger!  Everything from black spores and an abandoned ship to pale, spiny beasties that crave flesh straight out of the “womb”.  As Walter (Fassbender again as the Covenant’s resident synthetic person) explains, the lost Prometheus mission appears to have matriculated to this new planet. A typical course of events follows, as a shrouded being named David arrives to help the crew out.  Is he trapping them?  Is he psychotic?  What are his motives?  I’ll bet you they’re sinister.  The film alters course right around the time that the Covenant’s crew seeks sanctuary in David’s abode.  We get wonderful moments of exposition between David and Walter, two strangers in the night navigating their place in the cosmos as creations of a flawed species.  Then, in a move to apparently placate the unintelligent, we get overly familiar, required scenes of hide and seek, followed by been there, done that attacks, right up to the film’s coda involving the titular xenomorph.

Mind you, I have no issue with the appearance of the xenomorph in a film that was originally intended to be called “Paradise”, “Paradise Lost”, or just “Covenant”.  As a fan of aliens and monsters and gore alone, I’d assuredly give this two enthusiastic thumbs up.  I also have no issue with the requisite carnage that one would expect with said appearance.  Wonderfully unnerving musical cues even prepare us for the “stalking to come”.  In fact, turning the xenomorph into a standard-fare slasher movie villain makes sense- in a lesser film.  There is just no need to simply satisfy horror movie fanboys- most don’t care for silly things like nuance and depth, and only look to have people mangled in new and interesting ways.  I simply want Alien: Covenant to be something else, something more.  Prometheus sold me on the idea that Scott saw this franchise as something with more story potential than just gooey things lurking in dark corners.  So as a fan of science fiction first, I’m admit to being extremely disappointed.

After all, the term ‘covenant’ holds within its’ beautiful-sounding phonetic the idea of some kind of binding promise or even religious purpose.  Scott and his screenwriters frustratingly tease at larger ideas however, never capitalizing on the gloriously blasphemous intentions of Prometheus.  We left Dr. Shaw and David at the end of the last film looking to the future, and hoping to find the ‘home of the engineers’, or, ostensibly, “Heaven”.  I’d love to tell you that this sequel has this deeper meaning I sought, or that the questions from the previous film were tackled with further gusto, but I’d be lying.  Covenant is content to exist primarily as a “BOO!” movie, with alien saliva and entrails galore.  Again, that’s fine if you’re a fanboy or executive, but I want more.  Frankly, at this point in the series, we deserve more.

Scott and company do not completely disappoint, of course.  The man whom I’ve come to call my favorite filmmaker has his requisite touches that tend to excite me.  The film certainly looks incredible, and the production design has really no equal.  I cannot recall another film, especially a science fiction film, having a more intricate and intimately macabre design coming in shy of a $100 million budget.  And, as silly as the rehashed action in this film is, the cast’s performances are certainly consistent and appropriately tuned to the material.  The pacing is rather brisk, almost to the point where I wondered why Ridley decided to leave his ‘prologue’ films out of the mix.  An extra ten minutes to flesh out this story may have been a wiser choice, giving us time to develop the same hope and supposed faith that the Covenant crew had.  Kudos belong to Jed Kurzel for this score as well.  His synthesized take on Jerry Goldsmith’s classic Alien theme paired with some kind of organic, creepy, foot-stomping beats is one of the more unique and identifiable scores in recent memory.

Again, I’m left wondering how much potential the sixth film in the Alien ‘canon’ had, and how it could have been truly unique and wonderful.  Covenant is a prime example of the potential of science fiction films, paired with the complete lack of a backbone most studios have in producing and distributing them.  Despite having a well-known director at the helm, a pair of critical darlings in the lead, and a reasonably well-received (if not divisive) prequel film in Prometheus prior to this, 20th Century Fox was so skittish about this sequel that they demanded Scott put “Alien” in the title.  And Scott, a producer himself, and normally so adept at toeing the line between material and commercial needs, relegated himself to the land of the spineless with this choice.

Prometheus was a “mistake”, per Scott in a recent interview.  Come again? And he didn’t realize how much fans wanted to see the “alien” again?  Why in the world would Scott and his writers deviate from their three to four film plan for groveling fanboys?  No one but Ridley Scott can cut off Ridley Scott’s balls at this point in his long career.  Either make the Alien film you want to make, or simply stop making them.  After all, you’re the godfather of this entire genre, deserved or not.  I find it hard to stomach that an octogenarian filmmaker that never seemed to give a shit what people thought before magically abandoned ship in a genre he helped create.  It leads to the only summary I can arrive at- Covenant is an occasionally brilliant, wonderfully designed, tense, perfectly frustrating film that I wish was made differently.  My hope is that a third prequel film can round out this whole story, somehow making sense of this middle entry, thus justifying my need to continue this unhealthy relationship with a bunch of slimy xenomorphs.  I guess just can’t quit you, Ridley.

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Why Would You Cut Ridley Scott’s Balls Off?

Coming Attractions:

Star Wars Last Jedi Trailer
Justice League reshoots
Universal Monster Universe Casting

New Releases:

Alien: Covenant
Everything, Everything
Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Top Five: Romantic Comedies

Undisputed Classic: Serendipity

1987 – Ernest Goes to Camp, Beverly Hills Cop 2, Some Chipmunk movie

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You Had Me at the Gates of Hell

Coming Attractions:

Powers Boothe Dies on Josh’s birthday
Michael Parks passed away
A24 trailer for Woodshock and Beguiled (not A24)
Blade Runner 2049 Official Trailer

New Releases:

King Arthur
The Wall

Top Five Showdown: Warren Beatty vs Dustin Hoffman

Undisputed Classic: Rachel Getting Married, Waitress

1987 – Ishtar, The Gate, The Good Wife

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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 – Crying in my Dorm Room Alone

Coming Attractions:

The Dark Tower trailer
The Big Sick Trailer

New Releases:

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2
The Dinner

Top Five Showdown: Sylvester Stallone vs Kurt Russell

Undisputed Classic: The Pledge, Peeping Tom, Tango and Cash

1987 – River’s Edge, Gardens of Stone, Hot Pursuit, Prick Up Your Ears,

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Funny Tom Hanks vs Dramatic Tom Hanks

Coming Attractions:

The Kingsman Trailer
Rampage starring the Rock?
King Arthur might suck
Check out Director Walter HIll on Marc Maron’s podcast and Ethan Embry on Kevin Pollack’s

New Releases:

The Circle
How to Be a Latin Lover

Top Five Showdown: Funny Tom Hanks vs Dramatic Tom Hanks

Undisputed Classic: Philadelphia

1987 – Creepshow 2, Malone, The Allnighter, My Life as a Dog, American Ninja 2

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Christian Bale & Oscar Isaac

New Releases:

The Promise
Lost City of Z
Phoenix Forgotten
Free Fire

Top Five Showdown: Christian Bale’s top five vs Oscar Isaac’s top five

Undisputed Classic: The Treasure of the Sierra Madre

1987 – Extreme Prejudice, My Demon Lover


The Little Hours Red Band Trailer
It Comes at Night
Despicable Me 3

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The Last Jedi Teaser

New Releases:

Fate of the Furious

Top Five: The Rock & Vin Diesel Movies

Undisputed Classic: The French Connection

OnDemand Challenge

Jesus Bro
Beware the Slenderman

1987 – Walk Like a Man, Project X


The Last Jedi
Thor: Ragnarok
Hitman Bodyguard
Wizard of Lies

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Review: Jesus Bro

An avowed atheist with his own popular atheist YouTube show is converted to Christianity after a near death experience in the new independent comedy “Jesus Bro.” The Rickhead (David Gobble) has achieved a modest fame on YouTube for his rants comparing Jesus to Santa Claus but when his girlfriend Elizabeth (Allison Pregler) dumps him for failing to ask her to marry him, he drinks a spiked beer and ends up in heaven where he meets Santa Christ and is converted. Yes, that’s the real plot and it’s as glorious as it reads.

From there “Jesus Bro” explores the logical fallacies of the Pure Flix movies while delivering consistently absurd laughs at the expense of the overly pious, persecution fantasies of the Kirk Cameron, David A.R White variety. Inspired by the narrative based satirical style of Mel Brooks, rather than the modern, point and laugh style of the parody genre, “Jesus Bro” not only delivers laughs, it has a satisfying narrative populated by funny characters.

starring David Gobble

David Gobble as The Rickhead is not the most comfortable leading man, he’s a tad stiff at times. That said, Gobble is immensely likable as he transforms from a paper villain of Christianity to a brainwashed convert before arriving at a place approaching a middle ground. It’s a terrific narrative, designed by director Ryan Mitchelle and The Cinema Snob creator Brad Jones.

Everyone working on “Jesus Bro” are old friends who’ve worked together for several years online via Brad Jones’ website TheCinemaSnob.com and ThatGuyWiththeGlasses.com which became ChannelAwesome.com. The camaraderie among the cast is infectious and even outside of the savage parody, at heart, this is the product of a really great group of friends eager to make each other and by extension the audience laugh and works wonderfully.

The satirical targets of “Jesus Bro” are huge and hard to miss but Mitchelle and Jones are smart in sizing down the targets. Take the oafish Pure Flix movie “Old Fashioned” which gets a right savaging in “Jesus Bro.” Jones plays The Rickhead’s brother Willy in “Jesus Bro” and his existence in the film is simply to parody “Old Fashioned,” pointing out the creepy contradictions at that films heart. It’s a glorious parody and only lasts about 5 minutes of screentime.

“Heaven is for Real,” another pompous Pure Flix style flick gets a similar, quite clever send up in the form of an author named  Burton Burpo (Brian Lewis) who has written a bestseller about his near death experience called “Heaven is Totes Real Yo.” Once again, the parody is onscreen just a few minutes but those few minutes are quite funny and fit nicely into the narrative.

I could go on about the little touches, the quick bits of satire aimed at The Duggars, internet culture and “God’s Not Dead,” but I will leave you to discover those for yourself. “Jesus Bro” has a sharp satirical eye and combined with the friendly atmosphere of the film, the terrific cast, including Fard Muhammad as The Rickhead’s best friend Carlos, Doug Walker in dueling roles as an Atheist and a Christian, and Malcolm Ray as the Devil, and that big, fat target that is the modern faith based drama, you have just the right combination for a terrific comedy.

“Jesus Bro” is available now on DVD at TheCinemaSnob.com and on demand via Vimeo.com.

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