“Alien: Covenant” & “Wizard of Lies”
There are many reasons the original Alien (1979) was such a success, the least of which is the combination of science fiction with horror. When you look at films from that time period it’s the rare movie that looks like it could’ve been made this year. One example is Stanley Donen’s Saturn 3 (1980).
Alien was Ridley Scott’s sophomore film after the 1977 adventure flick The Duellists. Alien had such a unique look and in fact the only time you can tell it was made when it was is the shot of a computer screen. It’s that green letter font that, while a few years ahead of its time, distinguished the look of late-1980s-era computer screens. Now that shot seems positively archaic.
Alien: Covenant takes great strides to make machinery and computer projections look as they might be in the future when the story takes place in the year 2104. There are xenomorphs and neomorphs and face huggers galore for those who have followed all the previous movies in the Alien cannon.
Alien: Covenant, along with the previous Alien film also directed by Scott, Prometheus, acts as a prequel to the events that transpire in Alien. A strong ensemble cast includes Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Billy Crudup, Danny McBride, Demián Bichir, Carmen Ejogo, Amy Seimetz, as well as cameos from Noomi Rapace and Guy Pearce who figured prominently in Prometheus.
Themes of immortality, the role of artificial intelligence and colonization are rife throughout the screenplay, often merging together like a spiral strain of DNA. Most of the fifteen or so members of the crew of the Covenant, a spaceship loaded with thousands of sleeping humans meant to populate a distant planet, are in relationships and thus certain bonds are established that depend more on loyalty than procedure.
Walter (Fassbender) is a robotic humanoid that runs Covenant while the crew hibernates. A sun flare damages the spaceship’s solar sails and Walter wakes the crew. While making repairs the ship intercepts a transmission that is obviously human in nature and turns out to be from the survivors of Prometheus, thus bridging the two sequels.
At this point Alien: Covenant reveals surprises in each reel, and to reveal the spoilers would destroy your conception of the film. However there’s a great bit of conversation to be had for those who see the film and want to debate the surprise twist that ends the film.
Alien: Covenant opens wide Thursday night.
A majority of Wall Street executives went unchecked after the 2008 meltdown but one person took a big fall for his extravagant extortion – Bernie Madoff. Madoff took millions from rich investors and funneled the money into his own accounts while constantly switching funds from one account to another to avoid suspicion.
HBO Films presents The Wizard of Lies starring Robert De Niro as Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer as Ruth Madoff. Strong supporting performances from Kristen Connolly (Stephanie Madoff), Alessandro Nivola (Mark Madoff) and Hank Azaria provide compulsive viewing. Nivola in particular has an amazing arc that accurately depicts the depth of family tragedy that the crime entailed. Diana Henriques, a reporter who was the first person to interview Madoff in prison, plays herself.
Madoff was cooking the books unbeknownst to his sons who held positions at his firm. Azaria plays Madoff’s accomplice who was running the Ponzi scheme on a separate floor in the building. Basically they were supposedly investing the money and showing profits but in reality they were using new investors to keep the cash flowing.
In the end Madoff goes to jail for life, his sons experience their own tragedies and Ruth changes her phone number. Previously De Niro and Pfeiffer appeared together in the mob comedy The Family (2013). Barry Levinson directs with an eye to the utter ridiculousness of the situation.
The Wizard of Lies premieres on HBO on May 20.