Grunting at the Screen (231)

20 May




The information age isn’t finished with us.




The Net is evil; we know that because cheap horror movies tell us.

Confirmation comes from forthcoming action film, Guns Akimbo, starring Daniel Radcliffe. He plays a man lured into an on-line gladiatorial competition.

It has been written and directed by Jason Lei Howden.

It is currently in pre-production.




Rob “the Fast & the Furious” Cohen has been tapped as director for Everette Hartsoe’s comic, Razor: Nicole Mitchell has become the crime fighting vigilante known as Razor.

Here’s a thing, Cohen’s been hired to make the film and its sequel which has a name, Stryke.

I love it when studios do this kind of stuff. There is technical term in the film industry, it’s called: counting your chickens before they hatch.

And we’ve seen it before, on the eve of a release you get the marketing blurb “we are so excited about this one, we’ve already greenlit the sequel.”* You wouldn’t guess how often this is followed by a film crashing and burning.

So, let’s just let the audience decide whether there will be a sequel.

No word on screenwriter, cast or start date.




Now this is what I’ve been looking for: Extrasensory, a film starring Toby Kebbell, directed by Lesley Manning with a screenplay by Stephen Volk.

Twin brothers are recruited by Soviet intelligence to test telepathy.

Usually I’d be saying it had no start date, but actually shooting will commence in late October 2017.




We mentioned Kill Switch back in Grunt (230), well it has a limited release date now: it has a US release from June 16th.




We also have news on the surveillance thriller Captive State, Grunt (222), no wait, the alien surveillance thriller: we have a US release date; August 17, 2018.





Now this is interesting.

Netflix has signed a deal with Ridley Scott to adapt JG Ballard’s “Hello America” as a feature.

No world on writer, director or schedule yet.





Alien: Covenant.


One of the big surprises to me was that he surrendered the director’s chair of Blade Runner: 2049, but held onto Alien: Covenant.

He’d just done The Martian, why would he want to do another space movie? It seemed like he had unfinished business.


Honestly I thought he was aiming to finish the business of Prometheus while hiding his intention under the “Alien” label, but interviews suggest he is really going for it.

Which is a pity because another Alien sequel is not that interesting, we know all the moves. And Prometheus deserves to have a proper conclusion.



Alien: Covenant is upon us.

I haven’t blogged much comment about it. And if it wasn’t a film directed by Ridley Scott I wouldn’t be seeing it at all.

I have concerns, but likely not those that the rest of the audience has.

It of course follows on from Prometheus, a film that made moderate Box Office but attracted a lot of (I’d say unnecessary) vituperation.

There were various objections, but I believe it boiled down to the fact that Prometheus didn’t give us the familiar Alien formula established over six previous films. (For Alien movies, and Two Alien Vs. Predator.) This was a deliberate strategy spearheaded by the studio (not the director or writers.)

I suspect the audience for Alien: Covenant will be suspicious that there will be more of the same.

I pretty much know they will be wrong.

From the name itself (marking it as an Alien film not a Prometheus sequel) to the elements (all of the usual tropes are present: eggs, facehuggers, xenomorphs) this is solidly the Alien movie the audience expected… last time.

This deliberate, Ridley Scott took to heart the criticisms of Prometheus and determined to make a crowd-pleaser. However he also placing himself. The Engineers from Prometheus are back, and so are the ideas of creation and origins previously touched on.

Will this be enough? Crowds are notoriously difficult to please. The Matrix sequels gave as much action ass you could want in two films, but because they mixed philosophy in there to the audience howled (They still bought tickets even while howling.)

Well in Alien Covenant, whatever epic ideas Ridley Scott has about Alien Gods and the origin of man will be underpinned by well tested narrative of chestbursting aliens picking off humans one by one.

And that is the problem.

I own an Alien film, I own six. Why do I want something I’ve already seen? I guess it’s just me.


Anyway, I made this bed for myself and I’m prepared for the backache.

Meanwhile a review has emerged, and it is positive. Hme.

We’ll see.





So What Is Ridley Doing?

Back in Grunt (229) we expressed consternation* at the opacity of Ridley Scott’s future plans.

Uncharacteristically he has now revealed them unambiguously.

First he will make ‘All the Money in the World’ (Which is casting right now) then The Cartel.

And in a year he will be making the next Alien prequel, for a release in fourteen months’ time. I’m going to be literal about this and say September or October 2019.

(And oh yes, he may have another after that.)

Well finally that is clear.

(Let’s just say we don’t believe a word of this)







Alien Covenant.


Pretty much the only thing that really didn’t work was the prologue with David and Weyland talking about their quest to find the creators. A little stiff and not necessary in story terms.


There is a lot familiar here. This is a film of homages. The title sequence is classic Alien, with the letters slowly emerging sideways. There is a reappearance of Jerry Goldsmith’s familiar title theme. And it does not stop here.


The plot; the Covenant is a colony ship on its way to an earth-like planet when it intercepts a message that appears to be human.

They track it down to a paradise planet which might be a closer and more viable target than their colonisation world.


On investigation they find a snake in this Eden (and I am sure the metaphor is very deliberate). If you ever saw an Alien movie you can guess the nature of this hazard.


So we get the return of the Android David from Prometheus but Elizabeth Rapace appears only in drawings.

There is some wired homo-eroticism between androids David and Walters. Not so much “subtext” as just “text”. And some homages to Blade Runner in the dialogue and staging.


The classic forms of the alien organism reappear and there is the requisite amount of action and gore.


This is a Ridley Scott film so the execution is tight, visually it is more than satisfactory (and one of my thoughts was Uh, Oh, Adam Savage has a new spacesuit he needs to build) Oh shoot, he’s already discovered it!

And the pace is good.

In all aspects Scott has polished up the material. The look and performances are up to standard. It is an improvement on 1978’s Alien. And mostly just that.


I was slightly annoyed to see another scene of tobacco smoking in a future-set movie. Really? Is that likely?


On the whole it was very entertaining, very efficient.


But not essential. There is one plot point that advances knowledge of the Alien mythology. However the expected philosophy and depth is barely rushed through: One Shelly poem and a snippet of Wagner do not make a an intellectual feast


It felt like the values of Prometheus had been flipped upside down: Where it had been cerebral, this is visceral, there it has been indirect, this is specific, where it had been strange, this was familiar.


The Engineers re-appear in an unmotivated but enlightening flashback (hme… didn’t think it went that way).


On the whole, if all you want is entertainment, this will be more than adequate; it is as good as any of the Alien sequels. If you wanted it kicked up to the other level in the Direction Prometheus seemed to be heading. Not happening.


There are still a couple of questions left hanging from Prometheus, based on this they will remain unanswered.


You know, this is the first Alien film I feel no desire to own…


Your choice.







Alien: Covenant has had an international opening of $42m, ahead of its US opening.

Thing is, I don’t know if this is a good thing. I think I used to know, but with bigger budgets and even bigger expectations it could mean anything.






*Blind rage.

** Daybreakers, Robin Hood, Real Steel, Conan (reboot) all have unproduced sequels.


I’m Jack Eris and if you know me, you know Jack.






And if you want some real movie news you know what to do.


And if you want to walk the wild side of genre video, try Starburst’s review section


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