Tuesday, May 30, 2017

DOUBLE REVIEW: 'Alien: Covenant' / 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2'

Are you ready for a double shot of totally needless, painfully formulaic sci-fi summer cashgrabs? WELL YOU BETTER BE.


By: Jimbo X
JimboXAmerican@gmail.com
@Jimbo___X

I'd like to say a couple of things about the "death" of Obamacare, if 'ya don't mind. 

From the get-go, we all kinda-sorta knew it wasn't going to work. I mean, they couldn't even get the fuckin' website up and running until three months after the first enrollment period, and things have only gotten worse from there. Even all them dimmicrats, I reckon, figgered the numbers just weren't going to work out in the end. From the get-go, the whole Obamacare program was marred by two totally incompatible goals: 

1. Make insurers accept everybody, even those really sick motherfuckers who will take out literally millions in health care services but only pay in about $19.25; and...

2. To help cover those costs of giving the formally uninsurable medical coverage, we'll just force all them young whippersnappers who are spry and healthy to BUY insurance they really don't need and prolly won't ever use under threat of imprisonment and all that extra money circulatin' around in the insurance pools will SURELY cover the costs of caring for all them old, poor and sick fuckos mentioned above. 

Now, in hindsight, it seems like somebody up there in D.C. woulda' gotten off Obama's nuts and asked the following question: "Pardon, me, senor Obama, but do we know for a fact that the amount of insurance money generated by all them young folks legislatively forced to buy health coverage plans will be enough to pay for all the health care those formally uninsurable sick fuckos are going to be takin' outta' the system?"

Now maybe I'm checking the wrong websites, but I've yet to see one C.B.O. spreadsheet saying the "make the young invincibles make up the difference" strategy was - or would ever - be enough to fully cover the costs of the sickest people in America getting what is tantamount to free medical care (and don't give me any of that bullshit about co-pays, neither; even if you do pay about $3,000 a year in health care costs, that don't mean shit when you're receiving $300,000 a year in health care services you, yourself, aren't personally responsible for paying back.) 

And with that in mind, I wonder if anybody in the Obama camp asked this prickly li'l follow up question: "hey, B.O., just a quick 'un - let's say all them young whippersnappers do sign up for health coverage, but instead of not usin' it, they actually bilk it for all its worth on doctors visits and medications and even surgeries none of them really need just because they're able to get 'em at super-duper-reduced costs now?" 

And with that little brain tickler on the docket, I wonder if anybody dared asked this little head scratcher during the formative phase of Obamacare: "does it really make that much sense to force employers, especially the smaller ones, to offer SOME kind of health coverage for employees, even to people who don't want it or don't need it? And if we're forcing employers to offer insurance, what are the odds they'll just pick the shittiest, low-cost coverage they can get that really won't do diddly for the few young whippersnappers who actually might legitimately need to use it?"

Well, apparently those obvious questions never got asked, and as a result, all the big name insurers wound up cutting their loses and just up and LEFT Obamacare before the bottom really fell out. Shit, even the states that opted to expand Medicaid ended up getting burned like mothefuckers, with 24 out of the 29 expanded states reporting doubled budget expenditure increases under the program.

There's a real simple lesson to be learned here, kids. If you're going to go all-in on a massive entitlement program that'll tally up trillions of dollars over the course of a decade, you best damn have a fool-proof plan to keep the necessary operating revenue a' flowin'. That's the fundamental - and ultimately, fatal - problem with the A.C.A. From the very beginning, Obama and pals thought they had a mathematically viable, two-pronged plan to make everything work. Unfortunately, their "let's make all the 18-34-years-olds shoulder the costs" scheme didn't exactly pan out the way they had hoped. 

Now here's the big philosophical mistake the dimmicrats made with Obamacare. They simply figgered making healthy young folks buy health care to avoid a $695 tax penalty would be enough to pay off the exorbitant medical bills of people who plan on being out of work and dependent on the government dole for the next 30 or 40 years of their lives. Nowhere in the implementation process did any of those assholes in Washington contemplate the numerous blind spots in their plans. They NEVER wondered if young people forced to buy health care insurance would wind up using it on non-emergency services simply because they now had the option. They NEVER wondered if young people forced to buy health care would simply take the $700 hit on the chin instead of paying an extra $2,400 a year for something totally and completely pointless. They NEVER wondered if old, fat, sick, formerly uninsured assholes would bilk Obamacare for all its worth without returning even a fraction of a percent of the money they took out of the coffers. They NEVER wondered if the idea to build the entire funding mechanism of the program around a subset of the population for whom unemployment and underemployment is rampant was really that dandy of an idea in the long haul. They NEVER wondered if the whole fucking thing was going to inordinately benefit older (and still working) baby boomers and reduce their overall share of the Obamacare pie even though THEY were the ones using up the lion's share of he funding while simultaneously increasing costs and decreasing quality of care for younger, lower-income employees and blue-collar and working-class families. They NEVER wondered if, instead of continuing to pay ballooning private health care insurance costs, people would a.) get rid of their plans altogether, b.) pick a lower-priced, crappier plan that put more of a burden on fellow taxpayers or c.) have to resort to other entitlement programs - like Medicaid, food stamps, etc. - to shoulder the sticker shock of premium increases. They NEVER wondered if the rapidly increasing insurance costs would force employers to lay off employees, in turn, eliminating revenue pools for companies, insurance providers and the federal government itself. And, of course, they NEVER wondered if investing billions (bordering on trillions) of dollars into the health care of terminally ill/disabled/unemployable beneficiaries without any kind of financial return on investment MIGHT not be the most sustainable financial strategy.

Or, to boil it down to a single sentence, this is why Obamacare crashed and burned: them folks up on Capitol Hill wanted to spend a whole hell of a lot of money on something that would never recoup the losses of getting off the ground to begin with

We've all read Bitter Pill and know all about the collusion between the O. Administration and the heavy hitters of health care insurance. What the tried-and-true blues still haven't grasped is that by putting the fundraising onus on the private market, the dimmicrats more or less set the whole Obamacare structure up to fail and fail miserably. When it comes to making moolah, all Barry O. and his brethren know how to do is tax the fuck out of everything and everyone. Not only did the legislation take away the dems' best financing source, it took away pretty much the only financing source they know anything about

If you're gonna' burn money, you best have one hell of a plan to earn money along the way. And - a shocker, I know - Obama and the rest of them lib-uh-rals just don't (and perhaps never will) understand how to pay for something without using somebody else's wallet. And - unfortunately for fans of the A.C.A. - it looks like the dems picked them a pocket with nothing but dryer lint and expired coupons inside it.

Alright, guys, we need some fresh ideas for the movie. How about, this time, we have the aliens jump out of their backs instead?

Speaking of totally pointless cash-grabs, not only is Alien: Covenant the worst movie in the entire Alien franchise - yep, it's even worse than those stanky-ass Alien vs. Predator movies - it's EASILY the worst movie Ridley Scott has ever directed. Don't let those dick-ridin' four star reviews over at the fat, bloated corpse of Roger Ebert's website fool you, this thing is just utter rubbish, ironically as bad (if not worse) than Alien Uno ripoffs like Xtro and Leviathan.

While Prometheus was a pretty disappointing movie, it at least felt like it had a little bit of life in it. Covenant is so by-the-numbers bland that by the time the xenomorph finally shows up - at the hour and thirty minute mark of a two-hour movie - you just couldn't give any less of a damn. Next to Power Rangers, it's the most inconceivably, unforgivably bad movie I've seen all year. Not only is it an insult to the once venerable Alien franchise, it's an insult to anybody unlucky enough to shell out actual money to see this drivel in a brick and mortar cineplex.

The movie starts off with Michael Fassbender sittting in a chair, wearing a skintight track suit critiquing baroque art. Then he starts playing classical piano and talks with his designer about the meaning of life and where humans came from. Then he pours some tea before we learn it's the year 2104 and there's this spaceship hurtling through space with like 2,000 people on it and a fire breaks out so the crew is freed from their sleep pods but the captain of the ship dies when he's thawed out and holy shit, one of the survivors is Kenny Powers.

This time around, we don't got no Sigourney Weaver or Noomi Rapace, but we do have this one no-name broad who has a haircut like a 12-year-old Austrian boy crying over her dead husband while watching him climb mountains on an iPad. Then the new captain says a bunch of techno-speak gobbledygook about "core code reviews" and "recharge cycles" and has a tough time winning over his suspiciously multicultural crew. 

Everybody drinks liquor out of Styrofoam cups and tinkers with equipment lifted from Metroid Prime as the dead body of the former captain gets shot out into the blackness of space. And good lord, is the CGI in this one remarkably bad - if you thought the computer generated effects in Resurrection were dog-shit, you will be amazed at just how little progress has been achieved 20 years later.

Anyhoo, they stumble upon a planet (apparently, it's the one from Prometheus) out of nowhere and decide to visit it, because why not? The captain and boy-haircut-girl complain and argue about what to do for a couple of minutes then Kenny Powers calls some woman "sugar tits" and they run around with GoPro cameras on their backpacks checking out the shrubbery (the slow-talking, semi-Native-American guy is amazed the place has wheat, of all things) and then one guy stomps on some black Prometheus goop behind some shrubs and smokes a joint and a bunch of alien gnats fly in his ear and borrow underneath his cochlea. So, 100 years from now, one of the world's most abundant and ubiquitous grains will be extinct, but marijuana will remain plentiful? 

The monotone-voiced Indian fellow finds a giant alien-headed temple in the woods and thinks it's "some kind of vehicle." Of course, they all venture into the dark, vagina-shaped cave and start poking ancient alien turds and more microbes start flying through their nasal passages. Then the weed smoker starts puking black tar all over the place so they have to take him back to the ship and he starts convulsing and then a giant boil starts pulsating on his back before a ravioli monster jumps out of his skin and a mulatto woman slips on his blood and tries to fight off the mini-albino xenomorph monkey with a knife like she was doing battle with the possessed Zulu doll from Trilogy of Terror. After they accidentally blow up their escape pod with pulse rifle fire, another dude starts puking blood and another of them mayonnaise turd monkeys jumps outta his back and starts running around screaming like E.T. trying to claw everybody's eyes out. And before I forget, one thing I should add: 

In this movie, the alien neomorphs know kung-fu

Think I'm yanking your chain? No siree, Bob, there's actually a part in the movie where one of them little buggers literally does a flying spin kick outta Double Dragon. That one got me so bad, I had to rewind the streaming video ... I mean, politely ask the projectionist to kindly unspool the film THAT I PAID MONEY TO WATCH so I could rewatch the scene and make sure it wasn't some sort of meth-tainted Diet Dr. Pepper-spawned hallucination.

So naturally, even though all the space colonists have laser guns, they can't hit the fucking thing and it winds up biting off two peoples' faces. Then Michael Fassbender shows up out of nowhere (albeit in a druid robe with a haircut like Christopher Lambert's in Mortal Kombat) and leads the survivors to a temple with thousands of Vesuvius-like ash-mummified corpses of those giant, nose-less Albino guys from Prometheus. Of course, the scene is so dark you really can't tell what you're looking at, so it's not that it matters or anything like that.

So we get some exposition on what happened after the ending of Prometheus (long story short, everybody got attacked by space lice and died horrible deaths, even Noomi Rapace) and the Fass-bot tells them they're probably infected and he pulls out a pair of scissors and cuts his bangs off because I guess that was as good a time as any for a new 'do.

After the Fass-bot looks at diagrams of butterflies and performs a flute solo for five minutes (no, for real, I counted the seconds), there's some meandering campfire dialogue about the captain and boy-haircut-woman about his insecurities about being a leader and then we get a flashback of all the bald albino giants getting attacked by a microbe swarm and the Fass-boy gives us another monologue about love and duty and a woman gets her head bitten off by a bigger albino space monkey monster, but all the gore shows up in quick-cut, edited-by-somebody-with-ADD form so you can't even enjoy watching bitches get their faces chewed off in this damn thing.

Then the alien morphs into squash-headed Gollum form and the space captain shoots it while the Fass-bot is trying to give it a lecture on Dianetics and then the robot shows off a vial of alien juice and all the facehuggers he took to the taxidermist and it's revealed he's the one who crossbred the xenomorph into existence (which completely contradicts the ending of Prometheus, but really, who expects "continuity" anymore?) So at the movie's 90-minute mark, the iconic alien egg finally shows up and, of course, the captain gets face huggered and a chestburster leaps out of his ribcage and Fassbender says some shit about creation mythology which I guess is supposed to be ironic because he admonished one of the crewmembers earlier for having faith in religion. Then majestic music plays while the the alien grows from fun-size Snickers bar to full gown space mutant like some sort of acid-spewing Shrinky Dink. Then the Fass-bot kills the space pilot (in a scene more or less copied from Ridley's own Blade Runner) and then the full-sized xenomorph shows up and it's all CGI and it literally looks like a wet trash bag. 

The escape ship (which, fortuitously enough, has a giant deck on it) arrives and the final girl climbs outside the ship and fights it. The crew throws the alien off (bitch, you thought) and lick their wounds and make breakfast and then their Alexa device lets them know there's some kind of unidentified creature on the ship so they grab their space lasers and find this one woman mangled like a piece of bloody beef jerky while the xenomorph kills a dude while he's trying to bone a woman in the showers. Eventually, they manage to push the alien out of an airlock, but LOL, the robot kills everybody in cryogenic sleep and makes Alexa play Wagner while he pukes out amber embryos for his intergalactic bug collection. And that, folks, is how this turd casserole finally ends. 

We've got 12 dead bodies. Two dead aliens. One dead android. About ten thousand dead albino Roman giants without noses. Two breasts. Acid to the face. Attempted robot rape. Face stapling. Security camera biting. One autopsy. Evil Dead ripoff Alien-vision cam. Gratuitous spacewalks. Gratuitous John Denver. Gratuitous references to the work of Percy Shelly. Gratuitous H.R. Giger sketches. Kung fu. Cyborg fu. Giant mechanical claw game fu. Airlock fu. And the thing that more or less makes the entire movie possible, some serious animal husbandry fu.

Starring Michael Fassbender in a dual role as both the space colony android Walter and David, the robot with a God delusion who says lines like "breath on the nostrils of Oz" like he honestly means it; Katherine Waterston as Danny, the extremely, extremely poor-woman's Ripley; Billy Crudup as space captain Chris Oram, who tells an android "I'm totally going to fuck up your perfect composure" with a straight face; Danny McBride as Tennessee, the redneck spaceship pilot whose protruding gut doesn't prevent him from running away from the face-raping grasshopper monster; and a whole bunch of character actors who wind up getting killed, either by nasty chest parasites or having their heads used as space creature toothpicks. 

Directed by Ridley Scott, who's trying so hard to get that Alien/Blade Runner crossover green lit that he forget to make an actual movie this time around, with a script by John Logan and Dante Harper, and really don't even have that for an excuse as to why the film turned out so shitty.

I give it one and a half stars out of four and that's me being generous. It's a predictable, overlong, over-pontificating, pseudo-intellectual, soulless cash-crab so bad it makes Alien 3 look like Aliens and makes Alien: Resurrection look like ... well, a less terrible version of Alien: Resurrection, I suppose.

Adam Warlock, Pac-Man and Uatu the Watcher all have cameos in the new Guardians of the Galaxy flick. Sadly, Master Order, the Chef from BurgerTime and The Beyonder remain M.I.A. in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Speaking of things nobody really needed, the second half of this week's big budget sci-fi double feature is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, a flick I'd consider mildly better than the original - but then again, seeing as how I didn't think numero uno was really all that great to begin with, that ain't exactly the loftiest of praise. 

So the movie begins in Missouri in the 1970s, with a young Kurt Russell driving through the countryside and taking his date to Dairy Queen (hooray for shameless product placement!) before showing her this glowing flower out in the woods. After that, we skip 34 years into the future to watch the Guardians bicker and banter about Drax's nipples while Baby Groot dances around during a team battle against this ginormous barracuda-faced squid monster. After that, some people wearing gold makeup get angry at them for stealing some batteries and then that green chick (who looks just like The Mask with boobies) gets into an argument with her blue robot sister (yeah, I'm not sure how that's supposed to work, either) and then there's a whole bunch of rapid-fire, PG-13 dick jokes for the next few minutes, then the gang crash lands on some weird alien world. Then a decidedly older-looking Kurt Russel shows up and there's a Howard the Duck cameo and SLY Stallone tells an alien with a giant frosted Christmas ornament for a head to buzz off at a space bar. At this point, we're introduced to this praying mantis chick who is apparently every bit as autistic as Drax, except she's an "empath," which is sorta' like being a telepath only instead of being able to read people's thoughts, she can read people's feelings. Yep, that's what we've gotten to, folks - superheros whose superpower is emotional bonding

Then Star-Lord goes on this long diatribe about how he used to tell everybody David Hasselhoff was his dad in middle school and Rocket Racoon, Groot and the blue dude who was Star-Lord's adopted daddy in the first movie (oddly enough, played by the dude from Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) get captured and Kurt Russell reveals his name is Ego and that he's Star-Lord's real papa and he's got the same celestial ability to manipulate molecules as his pop. 

Because the story isn't hard enough to follow, we then have a a whole bunch of Klingon-GWAR monsters show up, then Star-Lord and Ego argue about Star-Lord's mother and we have this long spaceship mutiny subplot that drags on for about 15 minutes. Then Star-Lord makes a whole bunch of references to Cheers and the green girl and her robo-sister get into an underground karate fight and they find a whole bunch of skeletons all over the place and then the emotional telepath mantis-woman explains that Ego has been running around impregnating alien life forms and eating his offspring for billions of years and then the movie devolves into FORTY MINUTES of been-there, done-that CGI apocalypse porn nonsense, complete with all of the pink and blue flashy things and creeping electro fog and everything crumbling and exploding while the camera spins 'round and 'round and the cast pirouetting in the air in slow-motion exchanging witty one-liners that we've seen in the last act of literally every big budget wannabe summer blockbuster since 2010. Then Star-Lord kills Ego by turning into Pac-Man (no, for real) and his daddy melts into the sand and the blue dude sacrifices himself to save everybody and then some random space man gives Star-Lord a Zune and "Surrender" by Cheap Trick plays and there's about four or five teasers for the sequel and that is that, kids.

We've got 63 dead bodies. Two dead beasts. Rat alien rodeo. Monster carving. Spider-eating. Darts to the face.  One guy kicked out of an air locker and frozen solid by the coldness of space. Gratuitous 1970s AOR soundtrack. Gratuitious Pac-Man references. One outer space funeral, with multiple references to David Hasselhoff. Landmine fu. Electroshock fu. Laser cannon fu. Laser arrow fu. Energy projection fu. Cavernous kung fu. Giant machine gun turret fu. Enemy bonding fu. And of course, the thing responsible for this movie existing in the first place, some serious sequel hook fu

Starring Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, the ringleader of the Guardians who drops lines like "did you make a penis?" and "you're just jealous because I'm half-god" like anyone over the age of 12 would find it witty; Zoe Seldano as the green chick who spends most of the movie rebuffing Chris Pratt's romantic advances and feuding and fussing with her android sibling; Dave Bautista as Drax the Destroyer, who is basically an autistic version of Kratos from God of War; Bradley Cooper as the voice of Rocket Raccoon, who has to suffer such humiliating put-downs as being called "a trash panda" and a "a triangle-faced monkey"; Kurt Russell as Ego the Living Planet, whose human form bares an uncanny resemblance to Dan Haggerty; Michael Rooker as the blue guy who gets blown up at the end; and Vin Diesel, who gets paid millions of dollars to literally say three words over and over again.

Written and directed by James Gunn, who takes no chances on the follow-through and is being promptly rewarded with millions upon millions of dollars to draw up Volume 3 as we speak. 

I give it two stars. Jimbo says check it out, or just watch any of the other Marvel movies because they're all pretty much the same thing at this point anyway.

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