ALIEN: COVENANT - This follow-up to the cerebral PROMETHEUS (2012) which was a prequel to ALIEN (1979) goes back to its roots found in the original. Here, the emphasis is more on the horror element of space travelers under attack by the vicious title creatures as opposed to the philosophical issues related to the origin of life raised in the previous film. Gone, though, is the shock value of watching someone’s chest suddenly explode in a gory mess and you can bet your bottom dollar that when there’s a debate among the ill-fated humans that the decision reached will be the worst one possible. But even with these familiar conventions, screenwriters Dante Harper and John Logan still are able to devise scenes to creep us out while coming up with progressively bloodier deaths for the creatures’ victims. Director Ridley Scott (See CLOSING CREDITS.), who has helmed all three movies in the series, moves confidently in territory that’s very familiar to him and orchestrates the narrative to generate real suspense even if we pretty much know what evil lurks around the corner of an extraterrestrial cave or in the bowels of a mammoth space ship. Technically, the movie is a real marvel with excellent production and set design from Chris Seagers as well as cinematography from Dariusz Wolski. Pietro Scalia’s crisp film editing is highly effective at generating tension when combined with Jed Kurzel’s unnerving musical score. Performances are highlighted by Michael Fassbender’s (STEVE JOBS) dual role as androids with dissimilar motives plus Katherine Waterston’s (SLEEPING WITH OTHER PEOPLE) empowered female and the usually hilarious Danny McBride (TROPIC THUNDER) who plays it straight here. If you can tolerate the gross-out visual effects a la John Carpenter’s THE THING (1982), you’ll enjoy this movie which puts a more contemporary spin on a genre familiar to moviegoers and manages to do it very well. CRITIC’S GRADE: B+


CLOSING CREDITS: Here are some other excellent movies directed by 79-year old Ridley Scott – THE DUELLISTS (1977), ALIEN (1979), BLADE RUNNER (1982), BLACK RAIN (1989), THELMA AND LOUISE (1991)*, WHITE SQUALL (1996), GLADIATOR (2000)*, BLACK HAWK DOWN (2001)*, MATCHSTICK MEN (2003), KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (2005), AMERICAN GANGSTER (2007), ROBIN HOOD (2010), PROMETHEUS (2012), THE MARTIAN (2015)**


*Academy Award Nomination for Best Director


**Academy Award Nomination for Best Picture