Sunday, 21 May 2017

Alien: Covenant (Movie Review)



In 2012, Ridley Scott made his return to science fiction with the Alien prequel, Prometheus, a film that somehow managed to leave viewers with more questions than answers. Alien: Covenant is the inevitable sequel that attempts to answer some of those questions, a task it manages surprisingly well, even though it leaves us with its own set of questions to mull over until the next installment.

In Alien: Covenant, the crew of the titular spaceship is woken up from cryogenic sleep by their resident android, Walter (Michael Fassbender), after their ship sustains some damage during their deep-space mission. They were en route to Origae-6, a habitable planet to which they were transporting the 2,000 colonists aboard their vessel, 16 of which were killed during the accident, along with their captain (James Franco).

This leaves the first mate (Billy Crudup) in charge of their mission, a man of faith who is forced to make a hard decision when their ship intercepts a transmission from a nearby planet. Ignoring the protests of their terraforming expert and dead captain's wife (Katherine Waterson), he leads his crew to the strange planet where it seemed they'd have an even better environment for their colonization mission. But what they find there instead is a world harboring some very disturbing secrets and lifeforms.

If any of that sounds familiar, it's because Alien: Covenant adheres strictly to the formula set by the first film in the series, Alien. This is both a good and a bad thing as Ridley Scott attempts to bring the events of Prometheus closer to the 1979 classic. We get to learn the ultimate fates of the two survivors from the previous film, while we also gain some insight into the origin of the titular aliens in the series, the xenomorphs.

Half the fun is watching the xenomorphs pick off the hapless crew members in increasingly creative and gory ways. And unlike the recent movie release, Life, which was accused of being derivative while exploring a similar premise to the films in the Alien series, Alien: Covenant is consistently thrilling and beautiful to behold, even though we've admittedly seen some variation of all it has to offer before.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (Movie Review)



The Guardians of the Galaxy are back! The ragtag heroes were first introduced in their 2014 self-titled Marvel Cinematic Universe movie, proving that you didn't need established characters to make a great comic book movie. Having succeeded in making them household names, the filmmakers take the guardians on a second galaxy-spanning adventure before their highly-anticipated team up with The Avengers.

Much like the first movie, the film opens with a flash back that reveals more about Star-Lord's origin on Earth, followed by a musical montage. This time around, it is Baby Groot doing the dancing, busting some moves to Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Sky Orchestra, as Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax and Rocket do battle with a giant monster trying to steal some very powerful batteries owned by the Sovereign race. As a reward for their services, the Guardians are given custody of Gamora's sister, Nebula, who she intends to transport to a prison on their home planet.

Before the guardians can leave with their prisoner though, the Sovereign race launch an all-out assault on their ship, having discovered that Rocket had stolen some of their batteries for himself. The guardians are rescued by a man on a strange vessel, but their ship is already too damaged by then that they crash land on a nearby planet. The man comes to their aid, and is revealed to be Star-Lord's estranged father, Ego, a celestial being who is part god, part planet.

He takes Star-Lord, Gamora and Drax to his home world, while Rocket and Baby Groot stay behind to fix their ship and watch over their prisoner. The latter pair is soon captured by the bounty hunter Yondu, who'd been hired by the Sovereign race to hunt down the guardians. On Ego's home world, Star-Lord bonds with his father, but Gamora suspects that everything on the idyllic planet is not as wonderful as it seems.

The first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was praised for its originality and its often slapstick turn of events. And while a good part of that originality has been lost during the wait for the inevitable sequel, the new movie still boasts just as much fun and laughs as the first one, not to mention its own set of killer tunes and stunning visuals.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Logan (Movie Review)


It's hard to imagine that Hugh Jackman has played the character of Wolverine for 17 years. But that is how long it has been since he first donned the signature adamantium claws in Bryan Singer's 2000 film, X-Men. So for his final outing as the character, we definitely needed a story that would bring the character's arc to a satisfying close. Logan is that suitable farewell, a solemn end to the Wolverine trilogy that is more character study than superhero movie.

The movie wastes no time in showing how it had earned its R rating, as we witness an older, washed out Logan violently take down a group of thugs. His story takes place in a dystopian near future where mutants are on the verge of extinction, and he is one of the last surviving members of the X-men. He works as a limo driver, a job that earns him barely enough money to buy the drugs he needs to keep an ailing Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) under control.

Aided by the albino mutant tracker, Caliban, the three of them have taken shelter in an abandoned factory somewhere across the Mexican border. Events are set into motion when Logan reluctantly accepts to transport a woman and her daughter to a safe haven called Eden. The pair are being hunted down by a team of cybernetically-enhanced humans called Reavers, who work for Transigen, a research facility from which the two had recently escaped. Thus Logan embarks on this final mission, one that will surely push his failing abilities to its limits.

My expectations were high going into Logan, and I am pleased to say that those expectations were met, if not exceeded. I loved the dramatic tone, as well as the near future setting. I also loved the intensely gruesome violence, which proves that an R rating really can improve a story of this kind. But most of all, I loved Hugh Jackman's portrayal of the title character, Logan, which was by far the movie's greatest accomplishment. The film plays like no other movie in the X-men franchise, eschewing genre conventions in favor of something more thought-provoking.

Friday, 17 February 2017

My Thoughts on the 59th Grammy Awards



My post-Grammy analysis post is going up later than customary, but what can I say? It's been one of those weeks. The 59th Grammy Awards were held Sunday evening, and I was able to watch a recording of the telecast in its entirety during the week, even though this was managed in bits and pieces between mountains of work. Hosting duties were handled by James Cordon of Carpool Karaoke fame, and as could be expected, he had no problem holding the whole thing together while also managing to deliver a few quality gags along the way.

There was an overall sense of deja vu this year as Adele onced again cleaned out in the major categories, winning all 5 awards for which she'd earned a nomination. Her wins included awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, and of course, Album of the Year. She'd beaten out fellow musical juggernaut, Beyoncé, for that last award, and even went as far as renouncing the award to Beyoncé during her tearful acceptance speech.

Elsewhere, Drake and Chance the Rapper won the rap categories with 2 awards apiece, with the latter also scoring an additional win for Best New Artist. Beyoncé managed two wins for Lemonade (Best Urban Contemporary Album) and Formation (Best Music Video), a crying shame considering she'd gone into the ceremony with the highest number of nomitations (9). David Bowie was honored with 4 posthumous awards for his album, Blackstar, while Cage the Elephant beat out Blink -182 and Panic! at the Disco for Best Rock Album (Tell Me I'm Pretty).

In terms of performances, The Weeknd and Daft Punk made musical magic with their performance of one of my 2016 favorites, I Feel It Coming. Other standout performances include Shape of You (by Ed Sheeran), Chained to the Rhythm (by Katy Perry and Skip Marley), the Bees Gees tribute (by Demi Lovato, Tori Kelly, Little Big Town and Andra Day), and the hip-hop mashup between A Tribe Called Quest, Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes and Consequence. Bruno Mars also brought his A-game during his performance of That's What I Like and the Prince tribute, so no surprises there.

One thing that surprised me this year though were the sheer number of hiccups and mistakes that were caught on camera. We had everything from Adele fumbling her lines and having to restart a song, to a faulty microphone during the Metallica performance, to Greg Kurstin being rudely cut off during an acceptance speech. I realize such things are inevitable during a live event, but come on, this is the Grammy's we're talking about here, not some B-grade musical sideshow.


Monday, 6 February 2017

The Wedding Party (Movie Review)



Well, this is a first. But whenever a movie gets touted for besting Rogue One at the local box office, then that movie had better damn well live up to that claim. Released locally on the same day as the recent Star Wars spinoff, The Wedding Party was the movie that had people flocking the various Lagos cineplexes all through the holiday season. So, of course, I was mildly curious and needed to see what all the fuss was about.

I'll start with a quick disclaimer: I am not the biggest fan of Nigerian movies. In fact, I tend to avoid them like the plague. This is due mainly to my inability to overlook their many artistic and technical shortcomings. That said, I'll try to keep this review as fair and free of bias as humanly possible.

The Wedding Party tells the story of an intercultural wedding between two high society families that don't exactly see eye to eye. It features an ensemble cast that include Adesua Etomi, Banky Wellington, Richard Mofe Damijo, Sola Sobowale and Iretiola Doyle. Set on the day of the titular party, the movie tries to capture the behind-the-scenes details of the typical Lagos wedding, in colorful and cartoonish fashion.

Unfortunately, the end result is plagued by the very same shortcomings that keep the vast library of Nollywood movies from being watchable. For a high-profile movie of this kind, the production values were surprisingly low. The editing was poorer than it had any right to be, with scenes cascading into one another with very little sense of purpose or direction. The sound mixing was even worse, with background music clashing with dialogue at every given opportunity.

As far as acting was concerned, the majority of the cast were content with mimicking the same caricatures we've seen in at least a dozen other movies. By and large, the biggest offender of the bunch was Richard Mofe Damijo, delivering his lines with the kind of hamfisted bravado that only a Nollywood veteran could muster. You can't blame him though, not when the script itself is laden with enough poorly-written dialogue and leaps of logic to make any recent Nicolas Cage movie look like high art.

The Wedding Party is a glorified home video masking as a proper theatrical release. The movie was so cheesy that by the time the end credits rolled, I felt like an overfed mouse. If you've managed to avoid seeing it at the cinemas this long, then I'd advise you continue doing so. There's simply nothing to see here, folks.

Friday, 30 December 2016

2016 in Review: Looking Back

This is the fifth and final post in my 2016 in Review series. I started the series on Monday, by highlighting my favorite TV shows for the year. Next was a rundown of my favorite songs on Tuesday. On Wednesday, I moved on to my favorite albums for the year. And yesterday, I shortlisted my favorite movies. Today, I'll be reflecting on the events that shaped the year into what it is.


The year started on a high note, with my short story, Ground Zero, being selected as one of the winning entries for the IWSG Anthology, Parallels. The book was published on the 3rd of May, and is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo and Goodreads, so if you fancy some good speculative fiction, you know what to do. I wasn't particularly active in the IWSG this past year though, with work, school and life in general getting in the way, so I would like to use this opportunity to throw a quick apology to Alex and the remaining members of the group.


The nations of the world came together in August for the Rio 2016 Summer Olympics. I am not a fan of sports, but I do love watching opening ceremonies and such, and the Rio 2016 opening was no exception. There was a very timely presentation on the effects of global warming during the ceremony, where they'd shown aerial shots of how coastal cities around the world would look in the future, should the current trend be left unchecked. It was quite eerie seeing Lagos largely submerged underwater like that; perhaps I should consider moving further inland.


The 2016 U.S. presidential elections were held on November 8, during which democratic candidate, Hilary Clinton, went toe to toe with republican candidate, Donald Trump. Although I didn't have a horse in this race as they say, I followed the proceedings with what I could only describe as mild amusement. And in what has been termed an unexpected outcome by some and a downright travesty by others, Donald Trump won by receiving the majority of the votes, securing his place as the 45th president of the United States.


2016 is a year that would be remembered for its string of celebrity deaths, as several icons of music, film and sports passed away. It started with David Bowie and Alan Rickman in January, then there was Anton Yelchin, Muhammad Ali and Prince, and more recently, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. These were all stars of their respective fields and crafts, and the world continues to mourn their deaths till this day, even as we celebrate the legacies they've left behind.

I also lost a star of my very own this past year, the one at the very center of my universe, my mum, Mrs. Clara Dupe Omozokpia, who died about a month ago. She was 66 years old. Sometimes I wonder if she is up there looking down on me, and what I would say if I had one last chance to speak with her: "Mum, I miss you more than words could possibly convey. But I must console myself with the belief that you are in a better place now. Say hi to Seye and dad for me, and tell them that I miss them just as much."


Overall, 2016 has turned out to be a year filled with sadness and grief, casting a veil of uncertainty on the future. But as much as we might feel like curling into a ball and crying sometimes, this is not the time to despair or lose hope. As my sister once told me, so long as you still have a beating heart in your chest, then you still have a life to live. So live life to the fullest, and never lose sight of the legacy you'd like to leave behind when you are gone.

Thursday, 29 December 2016

2016 in Review: Favorite Movies

10 Cloverfield Lane



A woman on the run from her past wakes up following a car accident to find herself imprisoned in an underground bunker. That is the basic premise behind the pyschological thriller, 10 Cloverfield Lane, a movie that also serves as a spiritual successor to the 2008 found-footage monster film, Cloverfield. The movie stars Mary Elizabeth Winstead as the woman, and John Goodman as her abductor.

Deadpool



Ryan Reynold stars as the fourth-wall-breaking, potty-mouthed antihero with regenerative powers, Deadpool, a role he'd previously played in the X-Men misfire, X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Thankfully, his second stab at the character proved to be both critically and commercially successful, becoming the first superhero movie to earn a Best Picture Golden Globe nomination, as well as the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.

Zootopia



Zootopia is an animated film that tells the story of a small-town rabbit trying to make it as a police officer in the big city. She forms an unlikely alliance with a cunning red fox as they try to unravel the mystery behind the animals going "savage" in their city. The movie started Walt Disney's current winning streak, and it would eventually go on to earn over $1 billion dollars in the global box office..

The Jungle Book



The Walt Disney classic was remade for a new generation of kids this year, resulting in what is currently one of the most technically impressive movies to date. The movie features a breakout performance by Neel Sethi, who is supported by an ensemble cast of animals that include the voices of Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray, Idris Elba, Lupita Nyong'o, Scarlett Johansson and Christopher Walken.

Captain America: Civil War



The latest Captain America movie is frequently referred to as a mini Avengers movie, as our costumed heroes assembled on the big screen to face off against one another. The movie is best remembered for giving fans their first taste of Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther and Tom Holland as Spider-man, but should be equally lauded for telling a story that featured so many Marvel heroes without feeling too bloated or overstuffed.

Finding Dory



Finding Dory is a sequel to the 2003 Pixar animated film, Finding Nemo. It tells the story of Dory, a blue tang with short-term memory loss, and her journey to find her long-lost parents. The movie currently holds the title of highest-grossing movie in North America for 2016, but might soon be forced to relinquish that honor to another Disney juggernaut further down my list of favorites.

The Shallows



Blake Lively gives a solid performance as a woman trapped by a shark in the survival horror film, The Shallows. The film was one of the sleeper hits this past summer, grossing several times its production budget during its theatrical run. Beautifully shot and about as tense as they come, the movie proved that even well-worn story lines can be quite effective when done right.

Don't Breathe



A home invasion story with a twist, Don't Breathe is a movie about three burglars who get more than what they bargained for when their latest mark, a blind man living in a deserted neighborhood, turns out to be more predator than prey. The film boasts some truly unique scares and enough unexpected twists to satisfy even the most jaded horror film fan.

Doctor Strange



Marvel expanded its cinematic universe into magical realms this past year with Doctor Strange, a movie about a skilled neurosurgeon who drops his scientific knowledge and embraces the mystic arts after a life-altering car accident. The movie works as a standalone story, but ultimately ties into the larger cinematic universe, hinting at greater things to come.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story



I think it is safe to say that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story has turned out to be quite successful. Not only is it the current box office champion, but it is already well on its way to becoming the year's highest-grossing film in North America. The fact that the movie boasts a great cast, great action, and high production values overall definitely helps. But hey, this is Star Wars we're talking about here. Did anyone honestly think it would be anything but awesome!?

And the winner is...

10 Cloverfield Lane




That's right, folks, my favorite movie for 2016 is 10 Cloverfield Lane. There is just something about this movie that sets it apart from others on this list. Perhaps it is its smaller scale, with the greater part of the movie taking place in an underground bunker. Or maybe it is that sense of mystery that permeates the whole film, with the audience left guessing even as more and more pieces of the puzzle are revealed. Overall, I think it is because it is superbly well-made, with events building up to what is easily the most wildly unexpected climax I'd seen all year.