Motion Capture

I no longer see films in theatres as much as I used to, and although I like to blame this on adulting, I believe the real culprit is the limited social circle I have where I am currently living. When most of your friends are out of town, you don’t have as many opportunities to go to the theatre. Most of my time in front of a screen is now dominated either by work, television or catching up on older movies. As a result, I sometimes lose track of upcoming releases. Logan was a dominant blip on my radar, and then Wonder Woman, Justice League and Star Wars took over.

Amidst these films I forgot about War of the Planet of the Apes. Its predecessors both exceeded my expectations, and the film’s main actor also brings me back to the character that truly birthed my love of film.

I remember seeing Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers back in 2002, and later learning that Gollum was performed via motion capture. Instead of being solely computer generated, Andy Serkis provided the movements and voice for the character, which was then edited in post production to give us one of the greatest CGI creations in cinematic history. Special effects age fast, but at the time Gollum could easily be mistaken for a real person (albeit a hideous one). Even today, Gollum still looks better than the CGI creations from more recent films.

As I look back on The LOTR trilogy, I can safely say that Gollum is one of the characters that marked my shift from a regular movie-goer to a true cinephile: The type of person that could discuss all details of a film all day. From that moment, I didn’t just talk about how attractive the actors were, like most people. I was interested in what went on behind the scenes, budgets, directors a.k.a all the details most people viewed as boring or geeky.

Andy Serkis is undoubtedly a pioneer of motion capture, which has evolved since his days on the set of Lord of the Rings. Motion capture is becoming more common in films, tv shows and even video games. Productions ranging from The Last of Us to The Revenant have utilized it to create CGI animals or characters whose movements and features are more realistic than ones we could get otherwise. Older films have used humans as props for their CGI e.g. using an actor as a prop who would then be edited in post-production. However, this form of “motion capture” mainly helped the other actor by giving them a spot to look at during filming. One infamous example is The Fellowship of the Ring using a tennis ball as a reference for the Balrog’s location. If this scene was done with true motion capture, the Balrog’s movements would be performed by a human in some form of motion capture suit, like the one scene below for The Last of Us.

Some people used to argue that voice acting isn’t real acting since it is more limited. I never believed this and viewed voice acting as a comparable, if not greater feat, since it deprives actors of the tool of body language for conveying emotions. Many actors end up doing some voice work in post-production, where they have to redo lines in a studio in order to counter all of the background noise from the production reels. In the era of motion capture, many actors become voice actors during principle filming. We don’t see them on screen, but they are the ones providing the movements and/or voice for a character. In the case of Bradley Cooper, he only does the voice for Rocket Racoon in Guardians of the Galaxy, while the director’s brother does the motions. For other productions, such as Grand Theft Auto V the actors end up doing both. Video games increasingly use motion capture and I wouldn’t be surprised if motion capture is involved in every game’s production in fifty years, if virtual entertainment doesn’t dominate by then.

War of the Planet of the Apes will undoubtedly prove to be another marvel of motion capture, just like the series as a whole.If Matt Reeves ends the series on a strong note, it will be all the proof I need that the solo Batman solo film is in good hands.

Sense8 Cancelled

I gave my thoughts on season 1 of Netlix’s “Sense8” a while ago and was happy to see that some of the gripes I had about the first season were addressed: “Whispers” received more development and so did the Biological Preservation Organization (BPO), the organization that is hunting the sensates. In addition to that, we also got more development for the sensates and got to continue the stories we loved from the first season. Sense8 continued with its emotional gravity and action, while also offering more of the unmatched feel good moments that fans fell in love with in the first season.

Even better, the second season also managed to tackle its themes of discrimination and acceptance without being as preachy as the first season, or even the Christmas special were at times. The action scenes were better, not just bigger and the season left us with a cliffhanger that raised questions and excitement for season 3. I finished the series about two weeks ago, feeling like Sense8 had potential to become something truly iconic. Then a co-worker told me it was cancelled.

I have been meaning to share my thoughts on this development for a while and I figure later is better than never. The main reason cited by Netflix executives and even actor Brian J. Smith (Will) is the issue of return on investment (ROI). Unlike many shows and films, Sense8 shot all of its scenes on location. Production involved filming in eight different countries, which lent more authenticity to the show but also drives up the production costs. Along with The Get Down, Sense8 becomes one of the first notable Netflix original cancellations (at least in a while). The streaming service doesn’t release viewership data, so cancellation is sadly one of the few indicators audiences get of a show’s viewership. This is not to say that Sense8 necessarily resulted in a loss for Netflix. CEO Reed Hastings said the streaming service had too many hits competing with one another. Perhaps Sense8 didn’t make a profit with its last season. Or perhaps it made profit but not enough to justify its budget, in the eyes of Netflix executives. In such a situation, profitable and well-loved shows can end up getting pushed aside for ones that are even more profitable. We are living in a golden-age of television, with a diverse and critically lauded slate of tv shows that is arguably more enticing than what Hollywood offers. Even Hollywood A-listers understand the power of the “small screen”, from Kevin Spacey, to Dwayne Johnson to Matthew McConaughey. Competition is fierce on cable and especially on Netflix due to its smaller stable of original programming. A passionate fan base isn’t enough to bring it back with its cries or petitions, and it appears Sense8 is simply a casualty of entertainment economics.

A part of me holds on the hope that the show will return at some point, similar to how Young Justice is now slated for a third season, three years after its cancellation. When asked why Young Justice was returning, the president of Warner Bros. Animation said that “The affection that fans have had for Young Justice, and their rallying cry for more episodes, has always resonated with us”. I want to believe Netflix could have a similar change of heart but I don’t want to indulge false hope.

Sense8‘s cancellation is all the more upsetting because of season two’s improvement, and the epic season that it was building up to. Now, fans can only imagine what would come next. Maybe that will have to enough.

Darkness

These next few months are going to be busy as I take on more part-time work but I’m still committed to posting three times a day. If you haven’t already, check out my film and tv comics channel @moviegrapevine, or my writing channel @wmoviegrapevine.

This piece follows from my continued resolution to write more poetry pieces. It is my attempted distillation of all the negativity and worries that I’m trying to cut out of my life. This piece is also takes lines from my most recent post to @wmoviegrapevine.

The Darkness

I can sense happiness now,

Ebbing and flowing with the words and actions of those around you,

Being pulled along like a dog on a leash,

When your walkers vanish,

Or show their true colours,

I’ll be back to lead you down a different path,

I know you’ll let me in,

You always do when the outside world lets you down,

Let me whisper to you again,

Tell you how your hard work will never pay off,

How you’ll decay in a cubicle,

Never living your dreams,

Let me tell you how you’ll always be lonely,

Your friends are all leaving you,

Other cities call to them,

Or maybe you have more competition,

Girlfriends, wives, children,

The things you know you won’t have anytime soon,

Don’t you wonder why?

Can you really blame it all on them?

Their poor taste?

Or is it just that you lack something that appeals to them?

What is it exactly?

Don’t you want me to tell you?

The Wonders of Tinder

I know this piece differs quite a lot from my normal material but I’ve had these thoughts in my head for a while and had to get them out. I write this piece after deleting tinder for the 5th+ time.

The Internet as a whole is a microcosm of the human race. Our interests. Our prejudices. Most importantly, our vapidness and lack of originality. Nowhere is this more prevalent than the realm of online dating.

“Send me your cheesiest pick up line,”

“I just swiped right for your dog”,

“I’m fluent in sarcasm”,

“I’m sassy”,

“Looking for the (fictional character) to my (fictional character)”

Also, when did Whole Food and Uber ratings become something to mention in dating profiles? That isn’t a rhetorical question, I am genuinely curious. I am also genuinely interested to know if all of these generic, rehashed “jokes”and statements come from girls who think they’re being original when they write them, or if they saw it in another profile and figured they would use it too because they’re too lazy to think of something better.

Don’t even get me started on the girls who are just looking for more followers on instagram and snapchat. Some might lead with a brief bio, others might just forgo a bio completely and just post their handles. If they really play the game well they’ll tell you they’re not on tindder much, and that they’re more likely to respond on their social media. I didn’t think any guys would be naive or stupid enough to fall for this, but apparently a lot of them do. Plenty of bios even advise guys they shouldn’t message the girls on social media if they don’t match.

These questions are for the guys: Why do you think following someone on social media (like 100s or 1000s of other desperate guys) is going to help you get laid or get a girlfriend? How does that help you stand out? Do you not think that if a girl’s affection is dependent on you following her, then maybe she doesn’t really like you just for your awesome personality or shirtless bathroom pics? Has any guy that you know personally been able to get with a random girl by messaging her on social media? I need answers.

I previously touched on the disadvantages of online dating when it comes to interracial dating as well. I have been successful with girls that don’t normally like black guys when I met them in person. We were brought together via mutual friends in a setting that was somewhat isolated e.g. a house party. In that environment, they couldn’t just swipe left because I wasn’t their ideal type. They were actually forced to get to know me and try to look past my skin colour. With online dating I go back to being a single picture, and maybe 500 additional words if people like my picture enough. Obviously this is the same for everyone, but it is unfortunate that my skin colour is enough to turn people off in our supposedly “colour-blind” world. Of course, not all girls will say they only like white/Asian/Indian etc. guys. Some are bold enough to put that in their profile but some find more subtle ways. A lot of them just “like hockey players“.

In many cases I just have to pay attention to someone’s interests to get a sense of the skin tone they’re seeking. I once came across a profile where a girl said “swipe right if you don’t like rap/hip-hop/R&B”. Transalation: Swipe right if you don’t like any of the musical genres typically associated with black people. Yes, there are plenty of white musicians in these genres but this snowboarding, country loving girl probably doesn’t associate these genres with white people. Someone who loves hockey and country music is much less likely to be into black guys than the girl who likes basketball and hip-hop. That is not to say that these indicators are guarantees but many supposedly ingrained preferences, are the result of accumulated external stimuli. If you grow up watching a sport and listening to music that is heavily dominated by white figures (even more so than genres like pop or rock,) then it is highly likely you’ll grow up to view such figures as more attractive. Do you think a white child who grows up in an enviroment where he is surrounded by black people and sees nothing but black people on screen will grow up saying he doesn’t like black girls?

TL:DR: I hate online dating.

Geostorm Trailer- The Sombre Song Trend?

I saw the trailer for Geostorm in front of Wonder Woman last week and although the film seemed generic, with the apocalyptic scenario and the subpar CGI, the cover of “What A Wonderful World” stuck with me. The new rendition added a great deal of irony and the song itself was hauntingly beautiful. In true nerd fashion I went online to see if anyone else shared my opinion, and came across this article. This well written (no sarcasm) rants details the “trend” of trailers using sombre covers of famous and well-regarded songs, which apparently started with The Social Network using a cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’.

This first article mainly lists examples, mainly from movies that I haven’t seen, such as The Great Gatsby and  Fifty Shades of Grey (which I will only see if someone gives me The Clockwork Orange treatment).

I have to point out that this list still only includes a small minority of the trailers released over the past few years, trying to make it seem like every other film trailer follows the trend nowadays. There are enough examples for us to say a trend is at work, but why are we acting like these examples warrant a call for a moratorium?

I digress. This blog post comes as a reaction to a linked article. This article also breaks down the history of the trend and uses Suicide Squad as a case study, comparing the teaser that used a cover of Bee Gee’s “I Started a Joke” to the second trailer that used Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”. The reason I feel the need to discuss this: The thesis of the article is that the second trailer is better because it is more “fun”. I have previously discussed my disdain for the belief that fun always equals good, while serious or “dark” equals bad. However, I have mostly discussed this in relation to comic book films, with my article on Kingsman being an exception.

There has been a drastic shift in the reception of dark comic book films since The Dark Knight era. That is not to say that there isn’t a single dark comic book film that gets good reception these days e.g. Logan, but as a whole people value their “fun” now more than ever. People love the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) for its insistent levity and humour, and despise the DCEU (partly) due to its “dark” tone. Note that a lot of the positive reviews for Wonder Woman attribute its rating to its “hope” and “fun”.  I am not a miserable person, I don’t mind levity and “fun”. I just don’t mind darkness or anything that is serious either. It seems like people desire simple escapism now more than ever, where everything should be “fun”, regardless of the subject matter.

I must agree with the author on one of his points. In some cases, especially Avengers: Age of Ultron, the song choice adds gravitas that the film does not deserve. The Age of Ultron teaser built Ultron up as a frightening threat, who was ultimately neutered and played for laughs. However, I have to say that this issue of misdirection is not isolated specifically to sombre covers of well-known songs. Any dramatic score or serious song can have the same effect on a movie’s marketing. Many people hated the Matrix sequels and the music used for that marketing would likely be deemed just as “self-serious” to this author. It honestly seems like the covers of the well-known songs aren’t the author’s real issue. He just hates the serious or “grim” tone that it bestows on the trailers.

In this case the author calls the Geostorm trailer and its accompanying music, “self-serious”  and “grim”. As I’ve noted before, the focus on tone ends up overriding any other issues of artistic merit, since “fun” becomes synonymous with good and serious of “dark” becomes synonymous with bad. Let’s look at the author’s comments on Suicide Squad as an example. He argues that the second trailer, with Bohemian Rhapsody is more fun and markets the film better. Obviously the second trailer will market the film better. The second trailer isn’t a teaser, therefore it is meant to show us more of the characters backgrounds and their interactions. Yet as expected, this author thinks the trailer is better ONLY because it’s tone is improved.

Many people, who do not know comic book characters as well as they think they do, insist that these films should all remain colourful and fun, no matter the storyline or characters being portrayed. Although I disagree, I can understand how a simplistic notion of a certain character or fictional world can lead people to think that one size fits all in terms of tone. However, Geostorm is not an adapation, yet alone an adaptation of “lighter” source material. Why does it have an obligation to be “fun”? It is a film about a global catastrophe, a dark tone suits it. Of course, some apocalyptic films can also have a lighter tone e.g. Independence Day, but that doesn’t mean that they all have to follow Independence Day’s example.

Pictured above: A perfect opportunity to use some “fun” music

Why can’t any film be allowed to look serious for a few minutes at a time without people labelling it pretentious or depressing? Even if a film is depressing, it doesn’t mean it is bad. Unless the film is explicitly meant to be a comedy, a film’s rating should not suffer because it didn’t make you laugh or smile enough. Since when did we become so sensitive that we need films to cushion us from the ugly realities of life? Life isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. People argue that is why films should offer us fun, but I argue that is the best reason that they should offer us whatever the director or editor feels. Films often reflect reality, why have we forgotten that? There is nothing wrong with films having different tones. We can choose to watch different films based on our moods. There is variety. I would hate to scroll through Netflix or Kodi and come across a library of films that are all the same tone. Likewise, I would hate to go to the theater and have one preview after another with the same tone, whether it is dark or light.

Wonder Woman Review

Wonder Woman is an origin story of sorts for Diana Prince a.k.a Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot), the Amazon who leaves her home island of Themyscira to venture to aid the Allies in World War II. She is accompanied on her journey by Steve Trevor (Chris Pine), an American spy who crash landed in Themyscira after escaping from the Germans with information on their new super weapons.

I originally planned to see Wonder Woman on Tuesday, and after some delays I finally got around to it last night. The film made headlines for being the first DC Extended Universe (DCEU) film to get good reviews, currently sitting at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m not one to blindly follow reviews, but I know a lot of other people do. Relatively poor reviews for Man of Steel and horrendous ones for BatmanvSuperman led Warner Bros to force changes onto Suicide Squad that ultimately made that film worse e.g. cut out the abusive Joker and Harley Relationship, overload the film with songs to lighten the tone.

With that said, I realized that Wonder Woman was carrying the DCEU on its shoulders. This film needed to rekindle hope for the studio executives and the general audience. Did the film live up to the hype? I will say that it wasn’t amazing, but it was pretty good.

Firstly, any regular readers will know that I despise the obsession with “fun” that is rampant these days, especially when it comes to comic book films. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has a whole is committed to keeping the films light, with Kevin Feige saying the films will never be dark. There is no better example of this than Thor: Ragnarok (the Asgardian term for Doomsday) being rewritten just to lighten the tone. I have no problem with levity and fun, but it is always better when it actually fits the situation and the characters. It gets tiresome when every serious moment or line is undercut by a one-liner.

Wonder Woman definitely has more levity and “fun” than MOS and BvS, but is darker than Suicide Squad. Yet it is still better than Suicide Squad. Point being,  “fun” is not a guarantee of good, “dark” is not a guarantee of bad, and I hope studio executives don’t see Wonder Woman’s success as the sole result of its lighter tone.

The humour does work well in the film, mainly playing off Diana as a fish out of water in “Man’s World”. Gal Gadot truly shines when portraying Diana’s childlike curiosity and innocence as she learns more about Man’s World. Her performance is weaker when the script asks more of her. Fortunately, she is assisted by Chris Pine. After seeing Pine as Captain Kirk in the new Star Trek films I knew he would be great in this role and he didn’t disappoint. The character of Steve Trevor has often been used as comic relief and Pine nails that, while also deftly handling the more serious moments. Pine and Gadot are also assisted by their own rag-tag group, amongst which Sameer (Said Taghmaoui) is the stand out.

One issue that the DCEU, like the MCU has had, are its villains. The MCU has Loki as its standout, and the DCEU is still trying to find its own. On repeat viewings, The Joker is underwhelming (not just due to his screen time), Doomsday’s weak CGI and tacked on introduction didn’t help his case, and Lex Luthor…they should have cast someone else. General Zod is one of the DCEU’s better contenders, a competent villain but not a very memorable one.

Wonder Woman fights against the Nazis here, with the main focus on General Erich Ludendorff (Daniel Huston) and Isabel Maru a.k.a Doctor Poison (Elena Anaya). Although Ludendorff has more screen time, Doctor Poison was more memorable. Her mask probably helped to add to her screen presence, and I’d much rather see a slew of Doctor Poison costumes for Halloween this year than the Harley Quinn epidemic of last year. Not to take anything away from Huston either, his German accent is a bit hokey at times but overall he was enjoyable, with he and Doctor Poison forming a Joker/Harley dynamic.

Diana also has a more personal villain in the film. Many people may already know the villain I’m referring to, but I won’t delve into him too much to avoid giving too much away. Overall, the final villain’s reveal and the final fight scene could have been handled better.

A consistent issue with the DCEU has been its third act. Man of Steel still offers the best third act fight scene in my opinion, with Wonder Woman coming in second. Let’s not talk about Suicide Squad. Like BatmanvSuperman and MOS, WW’s last fight scene is somewhat hampered by some cartoonish effects. The effects in this sequence were more jarring since the visuals and action were pretty impressive up to this point. We don’t truly see Diana fight as Wonder Woman for at least fourty minutes into the film, but the fight is well worth it. I also didn’t feel like the film dragged up until this point or any other in the film.  Aside from some poor effects, my only issue with the fight scenes is that slow-motion is overused at times. Otherwise, the action is fast-paced and well-choreographed. Let’s not forget the score, with the Wonder Woman theme being reminiscent of the Donner Superman one in terms of the excitement it generates.

Wonder Woman offers action, levity and some great performances. Wonder Woman also doesn’t shoehorn in any links to other DC characters. The only reference to another member of the Justice League is an organic one that helps to tie the story together and give an ending that has all the “hope” so many people say the DCEU is lacking. I walked out of the theater more excited about Justice League and the other DCEU films, while also hoping that the stories don’t end up being hampered by the “fun” mentality. WW’s tone was a great mix of dark and light, not afraid to show the dark side of human nature while also countering with a level of optimism that befits the character. Superman helped to counter the darkness in Batman, and Wonder Woman helps to counter the darkness in both.

Wonder Woman- Saving The DCEU

Reviews have started pouring in and Wonder Woman looks like it is the DC Extended Universe’s (DCEU’s) first critical darling.

I have never been one to follow critics blindly, but this is still news that I am happy to hear. In my opinion, Man of Steel was a decent (7/10) film hampered by some weak acting and some pacing issues. Batman v Superman came across as a rushed buildup to the Justice League, with a terrible portrayal of Lex Luthor and a weak third act. Suicide Squad… let’s just move on.

Box office success is always imprtant to fans since a film is more likely to spawn a franchise if it is financially successful. If a film is not intended to be a franchise, financial success can still be good for fans since it is validation that other people watched something they enjoy. This is easy to understand but people often seem confused about why fans care abor critics. While the reviews may not impact my own enjoyment of a single film, they can have implications for a franchise. Batman v Superman nearly grossed one billion dollars but was still considered a box office disappointment rellative to expectations. Suicide Squad was a success financially but was critically panned. A string of films like this can cause studios to lose faith in directors or an entire film universe e.g. all the fanboys crying for the X-Men rights to back to Marvel after X:Men Apocalypse.

Wonder Woman is a chance to prove that a female led superhero film can be a critical and financial success, and that the DCEU ship can right itself. People who may have lost interest in the DCEU before, will be more likely to see Wonder Woman. If they like Wonder Woman, they’ll be more likely to see The Justice League, and so on. The DCEU can’t really be considered a failure prior to Wonder Woman, but it didn’t appear to be headed in the right direction.

One of my worries is that the good reviews are attributed SOLELY to the lighter tone. Wonder Woman‘s “fish out of water elements lend itselt to comedy; and Steve Trevor has always been depicted as comic relief as well. I have no problem with humour, but hate when it becomes part of a formula that ultimately waters down an entire world. The mentality that the DCEU films just need more “fun” is rampant online. Even The Rock expressed this mentality when discussing bringing Black Adam to the big screen. “Fun” does not fit Black Adam at all, so now we’ll likely get a bastardized version of the character. MOS and BvS are always criticized for their “depressing” tone but let’s not forget that the lighter Suicide Squad was an even worse film (according to RT).  “Fun” is not the only ingredient for good, and also does not have to be an ingredient for good. The Justice League trailers feature some humour that comes across as a cheesy response to all the MOS and BvS criticisms: “We added jokes. People will love it now.” Let’s hope the desire to add “fun” doesn’t overshadow other issues the previous DCEU films had.  There is a tendency now to tie unrelated elements of the writing back to “fun”. “Fun” becomes the root that all quality springs from in some people’s minds.

With that said, I am eager to see if Wonder Woman lives up to its hype.

Alien: Covenant Review

2012’s Prometheus attempted to tell the story of the origin of the xenomorph that Alien fans have come to know and love. The film was met with mixed reviews to say the least, but I am among the people that didn’t love it, but also didn’t hate it with the same passion that is all too common online.

The film’s performances were its best asset. The visual effects were amazing, and there were some memorable creepy scenes. Prometheus asked a lot of interesting questions, but since it was setting itself up for a sequel, many of those questions remained unanswered.

The sequel has now arrived, taking place 10 years after the events of Prometheus. Colony ship Covenant is bound for Origae-6, with 15 crew members, 2000 colonists  and 1000 embryos in tow. After receiving a signal from a nearby planet, which scans show to be hospitable to human life, the crew decides to investigate the planet as a potential site for colonization. Of course, mayhem ensues as some crew members become infected and give birth to xenomorphs, or early prototypes of the xenomorph.

One Prometheus criticism that was rife on the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) message boards (RIP), is that the scientists all made a lot of stupid decisions. I didn’t jump on that bandwagon as vehemently as some people did, but I could not deny that Covenant is definitely worthy of such criticism. In Prometheus, the scientists remove their helmets on an alien ship after realizing they can breathe the air. People thought that this was perhaps stupid since there could be other dangers. If you’ve seen the trailer for Covenant you already know one crew member gets infected when spores travel into his ear canal. Even before this scene comes along, I couldn’t help but wonder why there would be no precautions to wear helmets on a foreign planet at least until a variety of tests are conducted.

Maybe I could have excused the lack of helmets since the scientists already know the atmosphere is liveable. What I could not excuse was a scene where a scientist sniffs alien mushrooms and then touches them. He has gloves on, but doesn’t feel the need to back away when the mushrooms visibly release spores. He inhales them, and still doesn’t think to back away. In another scene, an alien bursts forth from a crew member, in full view of multiple armed crew members. While the alien takes some time to get its bearings, no one thinks to shoot it until it starts attacking. This kind of writing isn’t a “plot hole” as people love to say. It appears that “plot hole”, like “irony”, is a word that is often used incorrectly nowadays. Maybe there isn’t a specific term for what we see in Covenant, you could just call it sloppy writing that ruins enjoyment of the movie since a part of you feels like some of the characters bring it on themselves. At times, watching Covenant was like watching a slasher flick where the copulating co-eds decide to go investigate a strange noise. These moments are less prominent in the second half of the film, but they remain fresh in my mind.

I will also add that Covenant doesn’t answer all of the questions it asked in Prometheus, which was disappointing since it leaves some of the most interesting points of Prometheus moot for the moment. Perhaps another sequel will try to shed more light but suspense fizzles if it isn’t used just right. Additionally, Covenant also adds more backstory to the alien lore, which the more die-hard fans will either love or hate. I can cope with the new info, but it also adds more questions that remain unanswered.

On a more positive note, the performances give me something I am happy to remember.  Fassbender’s performance in Prometheus helped to cement him as one of my favourite actors, after his performance in X:Men First Class. Fassbender has since followed up Prometheus with 12 Years A Slave and Shame, further showcasing his versatility and talent. Here, Fassbender plays a marooned David, as well as Walter, a newer generation synthetic assigned to the Covenant. Walter is played with a southern accent, which slips at times and hampers the performance somewhat, although not nearly enough to ruin it. Fassbender is truly memorizing when playing David, and is undoubtedly the highlight of the film. Fassbender is also supported ably by Katherine Waterston, who plays second in command Daniels Branson. Billy Crudup plays his role well as the newly appointed Covenant captain, Christopher Oram, but his character’s story arc is also a victim of the aforementioned sloppy writing. Aside from Branson and Oram, many of the crewmembers have little to no development or real charisma on screen. Danny McBride is decent in a more serious role, but is still pretty forgettable.The other crew members have few lines and the actors don’t manage to do much with their lines either. While the main cast are strong, the supporting crew offer some stifled dialogue that makes you lose interest when the action cuts to them.

I have never been one to criticize CGI as a whole. However, I do criticize CGI if poorly rendered CGI is used in place of models, animatronics, motion capture etc. Alien (1979) had more convincing looking creatures. Even more recent films that used CGI aliens, such as Alien vs Predator (terrible film, I know) had more realistic looking creatures than the ones we see here. Other effects, such as some of the sequences involving the ship also look surprisingly cartoonish. Fortunately, the action sequences are actually entertaining, with Fassbender offering another highlight in this arena. Covenant may not be a real horror film for Alien fans, but the franchise has always had its fair share of violence and disturbing imagery. There are few jump scares throughout Covenant, and we do get some genuinely creepy ones that linger once the film is done. Yet again, I feel like these moments could have been improved if the characters were getting attacked by something that looked like it was made of flesh and blood.

Overall, Covenant was an entertaining film that surpassed its predecessor. Fassbender alone is worth the price of admission and although I wouldn’t say the film is a return to form for the Alien franchise, it is close to being there.

Continuing The Pursuit of Writing

I am currently working on Part II of my third book, Alive. So far, I am only a few thousand words in, making sure to write at least 500 words a day. By September the complete Alive story should be completed. What I don’t know, is if I’ll have an agent by September.

I’ve sent out queries to ten agents, some of which have already rejected it (evidenced by the lack of response after their stated response deadline). If I manage to get interest from any of these agents I will finally be able to take my first actionable step towards a career as a writer, editing and polishing Alive into a finished product. Which would likely be followed by Alive: Part II, and then Elseworld. There is no guarantee that the books will sell well, but we’ll cross that bridge if/when we get to it.

Even if I do get an agent, it could be 18 months to 5 years before my book is published. In the meantime, I need to take other steps towards crafting a career as a writer. My current tech support role has helped to develop many skills, but I wouldn’t say writing is one of them. I have been thinking of where I want to be in ten years, a self-employed author and blogger, and I know that I need to take more action towards making that happen. Even if I can’t support myself completely with creative writing, I want to find a career that lets me embrace my interest completely and complements it. Journalism is one of the biggest contenders but it is a very tough field to get into, especially for the topics I wish to write about, entertainment and race. Aside from a career as a journalist I am also pursuing other jobs with magazines and newspapers, trying to streamline my job hunt and find work that I find stimulating and rewarding.

As Mark Manson points out, all work will require sacrifice, and all work will be unenjoyable sometimes. The question is what type of unenjoyable experiences are you willing to put up with for your career?

“If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start.”

I have had my work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times. I am still writing and still trying to get published. I am willing to receive constructive criticism, and fine tune and edit over and over again. The peers who have read Elseworld complimented me for the imagery, which is something that was lacking in previous drafts according to an agent. I applied the negative feedback I received and was able to create something better, ultimately enjoying the experience and remaining grateful for it.

I believe that the struggles of trying to be an author are something I can tolerate. I’m sure I will be tested more as time passes. If I do get an agent, their criticism will undoubtedly be more severe than anything else I’ve received. If I can satisfy the agents, then I will have to deal with the editors at the publishing house. I may be forced to debate about certain changes to the book; ones that they view as more marketable. Those are debates that I look forward to having.