Alienated

Catching up on some of the movies recorded on my PVR, I decided to watch the latest two movies from the Alien franchise: Alien Resurrection and Alien: Covenant.

AlienResurrection-covIn this 1997 sequel of the Alien franchise, Ripley is brought back to life by cloning in order to deliver an alien embryo for an army mad-scientist to study. Of course, everything goes wrong and close quarter’s chases ensue. However, director Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Delicatessen, Amélie) is no Ridley Scott and the movie doesn’t have the thrill of the original and is riddled with inconsistencies. I’ll list two. First, cloned someone along with the parasite that infects her, and she keeps her personality and memories? Even the pseudo-explanations given to justify that doesn’t make any sense! Second, the alien queen switches from oviparous reproduction to viviparous in the middle of the movie, as she gives birth to the end-level monster which ends up so weak and pitiful that you almost want to champion him instead of the good guys. However, I like that the genetically-mixed Ripley, believe it or not still played by Sigourney Weaver, is such an ambivalent character that you keep wondering whether she’s the bad guy of the movie. I also like the character of Call, played by Winona Ryder. Despite those few positive aspects, the movie is barely entertaining. For once, Rotten Tomatoes seems to agree with me (critics rating at 55% and audience rating at 39% !). stars-2-0

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Alien-Covenant-posterAlien: Covenant is the 2017 sequel to the Alien prequel, Prometheus, both directed by Ridley Scott. His experience and skills make for a story that is a more suspenseful thriller than the movie above, but after so many iteration, it unfortunately has nothing original left to offer. It’s the same old story. Katherine Waterston, who plays Daniels, the movie’s heroine, is a suitable replacement for Ripley. But in the end the movie received only an overall rating of 66% on Rotten Tomatoes.

A radio signal brings a colony-ship to an earth-like planet home of the ship encountered in Prometheus. There, the android David has released the pathogen that creates a new type of aliens that consumes all animal life on the planet. David awaits, in what looks like an old temple, for new life to visits him so he can pursue further his experiments in creation. I like the fight between the two androids, David and the newer (but emotionally neutered) model named Walter (both played by Michael Fassbender). An opened ending leaves space for yet another sequel. Alien: Covenant is well-made and entertaining, but what’s the point to repeat endlessly the same kind of story? Apparently, that’s what Ridley Scott thinks as well, and he is planning something rather different for the eventual sequel… stars-2-5

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Pline, vol. 5

Pline-v5-covDans le tome précédent : A Rome, la folie croissante de Néron semble laisser toute latitude à Poppée. De son côté, Pline, après le tremblement de terre qui a ravagé Pompéi, fait la connaissance d’un mystérieux voyageur revenu de lointaines contrées.

Plus que jamais assoiffé de connaissance, Pline comprend que les écrits de ses contemporains ou des auteurs du passé ne lui suffiront pas. L’heure du départ a sonné, cap vers l’Afrique !

Pline-v5p019Pline écoute les récits de Larcius (fils d’un négociant en vin de Pompéi qui a beaucoup voyagé) et cela lui donne l’appétit de faire ses propres voyages de découvertes. Pline, Euclès et Félix raccompagnent donc Larcius à Pompéi afin de voir comment la situation y a évolué. La reconstruction de la ville se fait de façon inégale, au gré des besoins de la politique et des moyens financiers des habitants. Ils retrouvent l’ingénieure Mirabela et font la rencontre de Aselina Eumachia, une riche et influente commerçante de la laine. Sur l’un de ses bateau, à Naples, ils prennent la mer sur la Mare Nostrum en direction de l’Afrique!

Après une tempête, ils rencontrent l’épave d’un navire attaqué par des pirates. Le seul survivant est un enfant très doué pour la navigation et son corbeau. Les vents ont fait dériver leur navire vers les Iles Éoliennes. Ils font escale à Strongyle pour attendre que se calment les vents et charger un cargaison d’obsidienne mais l’équipage les abandonne sur l’île! Le Stromboli choisit ce moment pour faire éruption et Pline désir observer le phénomène en détail et de près. Il constate que les volcans forment une ligne du sud vers le nord, de l’Etna au Vésuve en passant par Vulcano et Stromboli. Il remarque aussi que l’éruption du Stromboli est différente de celle de l’Etna qu’il a observé précédemment…

Avec ce cinquième volume, il me semble que l’action commence vraiment alors que Pline décide de se lancer dans l’aventure. Il est surtout amusant de constater que le destin de Pline est décidément marqué par les volcans: l’Etna, puis le Vésuve, et maintenant le Stromboli! Réussiront-ils tous à survivre à cette éruption et s’échapper de cette île volcanique? C’est ce que nous saurons dans le volume six, qui vient tout juste de paraître en Europe!

Ce manga historique demeure tout aussi fascinant. Le récit est bien mené et capte notre attention alors que Mari Yamazaki et  Tori Miki nous font découvrir de nombreux aspects de la société romaine: géographie, politique, architecture, commerce, etc., sans oublier quelques anecdotes d’histoire naturelle! Le travail des deux artistes nous offre un graphisme toujours aussi beau et détaillé, et qui gagne même en assurance. Un très bon manga historique qui s’avère une lecture à la fois agréable et instructive. Vivement recommandé!

Pline, vol. 5: Sous les vents d’Éole, par Mari Yamazaki et Tori Miki. Paris: Casterman (Coll. Sakka), Jan. 2018. 200 pg, 13.4 x 18 cm, 8,45 € / $15.95 Can (ePub/PDF: 5,99 €), ISBN: 978-2-2031-5359-2. Pour lectorat adolescent (14+). Voir couverture arrière. stars-3-5

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Pline © 2015-2016 Mari Yamazaki, Tori Miki. © 2017 Casterman pour la traduction française.

Voir mes commentaires sur les volumes précédents:

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Black Panther

BlackPanterThat movie had been hyped so much that when I finally got to see it I was almost disappointed. It is what is now the average super-heroes movie with a thin storyline and lots of special effects. Superficial but with just enough storytelling to be interesting and a plethora of action to be entertaining. The originality of this film is that it offers a cultural super-hero — which bring a breeze of fresh air into the genre. Maybe we’ll see some offshoot of this concept, creating a new trend (the Maori super-hero or the Navajo super-hero or the Mexican Quetzalcoatl-man?) — as long as they don’t push it too far… 

The movie was very successful (97% on RottenTomatoes and returned six times its cost with a box office of $1.3b!). The acting was excellent and I liked very much what they did with the African accent of the characters (I wonder what was their inspiration for it?). It reminded me of the south african-style accent for the Belters in the TV series The Expenses. So, excellent idea to revive this super-hero (he appeared first in 1966 in the comic Fantastic Four #52), average action movie and, all in all, a good entertainment. Let’s see now what more they will do with this character. stars-3-0

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Victoria & Abdul

Victoria&Abdul-covBased on a book by Shrabani Basu, this movie is the fictionalized account of the extraordinary friendship between Queen Victoria and an Indian-muslim servant named Abdul Karim (a.k.a. the Munshi) that broke her boredom and loneliness, reviving a little her days for the last fifteen years of her reign (1887-1901). Of course, such movie is always largely made of fiction — how could we really know what happened between them? — but the fact remains that they spent lots of time together and Victoria gained an interest into the farthest corner of her empire. Amusingly, it makes of this movie some sort of a sequel to Mrs Brown (1997) where Dame Judi Dench first portrayed Victoria. However, the major aspects of the story must be somewhat truthful as it is based on the memoirs of Ponsonby, Victoria’s private secretary, published in 1951 and on Abdul’s own diary and some of his correspondance that were discovered in 2010. This little historical insight into Victoria’s reign, the excellent acting and the light tone — almost comedic — of the movie makes it being quite enjoyable and entertaining. stars-3-0

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American Made

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This movie is presented as a biopic but it’s really just “inspired” by the life of Barry Seal. It’s nevertheless enjoyable to see Tom Cruise play in a comedy — although this story should really be a tragedy since it’s about how Reagan’s government was trying to prevent communism to prevail in Central America by arming the Nicaraguan Contras against the Sandinistas using drug smugglers. It doesn’t end well for Seal but the light tone of the movie makes the heavy subject entertaining enough to be enjoyable — while we should have been puking in disgust instead… stars-2-5

 

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More on “The Terror”

TheTerror-posterI just finished watching The Terror — which I already commented earlier this month. It’s interesting but a little disappointing. The fantastical aspect of the Inuk mythology seemed at first the most promising element but was left largely unexploited. The slaying of the beast was the symbol of the white men killing the native spirits, or their innocence, the beginning of their conquest. I guess the larger theme is homo homini lupus or, in extreme circumstances, men are their worst enemy. It’s a story of survival, even if it failed for all but one — who nevertheless disappeared into the wilderness as he went native, probably to atone his failure. Apparently, they are planning a second season set during WW2 in a Japanese-American internment camp. An interesting speculative-historic drama. stars-3-0

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The Terror

the-terrorI’m watching The Terror (three episodes in so far): It’s cool, although the storytelling moves like a slow agony and the suspense is unbearable! Joke aside, it is a very interesting 10-part TV series from AMC, based on Dan Simmons’ novel of the same title. I was first hesitating to watch as it is presented as an horror drama, but it should be considered more fantastic (as it seems to follow Todorov’s definition of the genre). The series was well received (92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes) and for good reasons: It has a great cast (Jared Harris, Tobias Menzies, Ciarán Hinds, Nive Nielsen!) and offers an interesting story about Franklin’s lost expedition which was looking for the Northwest Passage in 1845–1848. The story is, of course, largely fictionalized, but nevertheless based on all the known facts about the fate of the expedition. Many subsequent expeditions searched for survivors or for the two Franklin’s ships without much success: the only clues cames from Inuk eyewitness accounts (1854-55), as well as a few artefacts and skeletons (1859-69). Only very recently, modern expeditions found the remains of the HMS Erebus (2014) and of the HMS Terror (2016). stars-3-0

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