Movie Review: Alien: Covenant

After a slow start, things suddenly pick up before reaching a suspenseful, but familiar, climax. With the exception of one brief harrowing sequence, the fist portion of this film moves quite slow. While this would be the ideal time for character building, it’s used more for sci-fi imagery. Spacewalks, equipment checks, and tech talk are the focus. Only one character has any significant backstory established. When things finally go south, and they do fairly quickly, it’s hard to care too much as bodies start piling up and nobody is established much beyond being a soldier or one of the other characters spouses. Things slow down again briefly to introduce the film’s villain, whose motivations aren’t quite a clear as they should be. The final action sequences are fine, but by this point it’s fairly obvious who will survive and who will not. Even the final twist can be seen a mile away. Aside from filling in a bit more on the origin of the Aliens, and nothing new on the Engineers, we have the same basic “Aliens” plot we’ve seen before.

**1/2 out of *****

TV Review: Agents of SHIELD (Season 4)

*Contains spoilers*

This show has improved every season, and the latest is some of the best TV this year. Great acting, top-notch special effects, and three distinct story “pods” all contribute to creating a fantastic, and thankfully not final, season.

The opening pod, subtitled “Ghost Rider” features the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider. While not the best known iteration of Ghost Rider, there are enough similarities to the more popular versions to create something familiar yet unique. The flaming skull effects are perfect, easily surpassing the mediocre special effects that have plagued the series in the past. While there were some story beats that detracted from the cool visuals, the pods finale wrapped up strongly and had an intriguing cliffhanger. 

The second pod, LMD, started off a little slow and seemed somewhat unfocused. However, the final few episodes were phenomenal, with multiple plot twists and a suspenseful “who can you trust” vibe. There were definitely some weak episodes in this arc, and quite a few things that never paid off later on.

“Agents of Hydra,” the final pod, was practically perfection. Thanks to the alternate reality of the Framework, we had an opportunity to see twisted versions of some of our favorite characters. Nothing was harder to watch than seeing lovable Fitz transformed into one of the series most hated villains. We also had the chance to see some fan favorites return, in particular, Grant Ward. They really put the heroes backs against the wall here, and it was that much sweeter to watch them overcome the odds. Although there were some loose ends and there were some wasted opportunities, the finale tied up all the threads from all three pods into a satisfying ending. 

What stood out more this season than any other was the acting. While almost everyone contributed to this, the strongest moments came from Elizabeth Henstridge’s Jemma Simmons and Mallory Janson’s AIDA. Henstridge had her character put through the wringer and she really sold her emotional journey. Janson brought depth to an emotionless android, and then brought nuance the all the various incarnations of AIDA.

Great acting, seamless special effects, and the three “pod” season all elevated what was once a mediocre TV show to possibly the best superhero show on right now.

Season’s best episode: “Self-Control” (Episode 15)

Season’s worst episode: “Hot Potato Soup” (Episode 12)

****1/2 out of *****