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Alien Covenant

Since 1979, the ‘Alien’ series have scared audiences. The tale of a crew’s fight against a seemingly unstoppable alien captured and spooked the imagination. It made stars out of Sigourney Weaver and director Ridley Scott. Returning to science fiction with the Alien prequel ‘Prometheus’, Scott unwrapped a new chapter in the saga. ‘Alien Covenant’ is the 6th film in the series with his abilities in telling an effective story still evident. His latest should raise a shackle or two with space still a place where no one can hear you scream.

The colony ship Covenant is looking for a habitable planet. Among the crew are android Walter (Michael Fassbender), Jacob (James Franco) and Daniels (Katherine Waterston). Attempting to form a cohesive team, their personal issues are put aside for the mission. When discovering a planet looking like nirvana, they think they have succeeded. They quickly discover they have walked into peril. As an army of evil creatures begin hunting them, the crew do everything to survive a potential alien onslaught.

‘Alien Covenant’ is an intense ride echoing the original ‘Alien’. Its plot is almost an exact copy going for a simpler narrative than ‘Prometheus’ muddled one. Whilst fans may deride the increased focus on action than drama, ‘Alien Covenant’ works due to Scott’s lean story-telling style. There’s an engrossing tale to discover even if it doesn’t have much personal depth. It’s as emotionally distant as many of Scott’s movies as his talent for atmosphere and action rarely fails to transfer to crafting engaging characters. He puts them through interesting situations with ‘Alien Covenant’ providing new wrinkles on classic deadly scenarios.

The biggest asset of ‘Alien Covenant’ is the CGI which is amazing. You genuinely feel you are on the otherworldly plains along with the Covenant crew. The attention to detail is staggering and the action set pieces are expertly realised. The performers bring stoic conviction to their roles despite none of them truly standing out. Most seem fodder for the expected deaths although how they die conjures morbid fascination. It’s tough being original in a 6th film in a franchise but to its credit ‘Alien Covenant’ brings new ideas to the table.

A reasonably scary alien space yarn ‘Alien Covenant’ does what it promises. It has a bit of everything to satisfy most tastes in spite of not having much happening underneath its action smothered veneer. Scott has promised at least three more entries in the series proving an alien’s menace is no match for the lure of further box office dollars.

Rating out of 10: 7

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2

When the first ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ movie arrived in 2014, it came as a breath of fresh air. Until then, superhero movies had generally been rather dour affairs with several taking themselves far too seriously. A brighter and more fun antidote to those over-blown blockbusters, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ garnered praise for its wit and dazzling action. Based on the Marvel Comics series, ‘Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2’ picks up where things left off in colourfully fine style.

After saving everyone in their rag-tag manner, the group making up the Guardians travel the cosmos. They comprise Star Lord (Chris Pratt), Gamora (Zoe Saidana), Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), Baby Groot (Vin Diesel) and Rocket (Bradley Cooper). In between battles, they seek to unravel their personal mysteries with Star Lord wanting to discover his true parentage, especially with his father Ego (Kurt Russell). Amidst their emotional upheavals they find time to save worlds even when bickering with each other.

Directed with flair by James Gunn’, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2’ is an enjoyable ride. More family friendly and sentimental than the last instalment, its’ chief purpose is to entertain. On that score it’s a complete success with Pratt and company settling into their roles. You feel like you are watching a genuine team who feel like a ‘family’ without the ghastly connotations the term means. Like any family, these characters squabble with the best of them but know how to unite when required.

‘Guardians 2’ provides a massive spectacle which is a feast for the eyes. The colour saturation is amazing, especially when viewed in 3D. Each scene bursts forth with a litany of rainbow-like vistas and sound. The CGI is great and the action scenes are splendid. None of this would count if the story or characters weren’t engrossing. Both allow you to fully invest in what’s happening and match the quality seen in all areas. Whilst the ending lays on the sentimentality a bit too much, ‘Guardians 2’ sets out to be a huge slice of entertainment and succeeds on all levels.

Comic book fans should enjoy this second instalment of the series. The story is simpler which allows the characters to fully develop. The more emotional script adds depth to the sparkling carry-on. It’s an impressive second go-around from Gunn who hopefully finds the energy to deliver a third outing of an always entertaining bunch of miscreants.

Rating out of 10: 8