Midnight Special(2016)-Film Review

I’m steadily going through a few films from the last few years which I have missed but have cropped up on Netflix. This was one of those films. It was from director Jeff Nichols, who has now made a number of very acclaimed and respected films and it was his second to feature the actor Michael Shannon.

It had been a while since I had thought about watching it and I only vaguely remembered that it was in some way possibly a science fiction movie. This was right but not very much like most sci-fi movies you might see.

It starts quickly with two men going on the run with a young boy-who seems oblivious-driving at night while at the same time the FBI bust into a large rural church gathering and round up the people there. In the car with the two men, the calm young boy wears swimming goggles at night and reads a comicbook by torchlight until they have to turn off the headlights and the driver puts on night-vision goggles so that they can drive unseen. Yes, very strange indeed.

Soon after this the film slows down while the two men, one played by Michael Shannon is the boy’s father, continue their journey to get the boy to a specific destination in a few short days before the FBI can reach them. Is the boy really his son? What do the FBI want? What were the church doing with the boy?

The film quickly threw up these and other questions. It seemed like it may have actually simply been a tense kidnap or abuse drama story but then a very sci-fi thing happens suddenly with the boy and we see that something really strange and fantastic is going on and there is a whole lot more to the story.

Soon enough the film feels like a mysterious episode of The X-Files or an X-Men film but it continues to maintain a tense emotional hold on the viewer. They meet up with the boy’s mother and soon Father, Mother and close friend all struggle with what they should be doing and what is the right thing for the boy.

In some ways I thought it may have been a bit more standard chase/thriller film with the cops/FBI on their tale and very predictable but thankfully that mostly was not the case. Most of the visual effects are really good, certainly the end of the film. It may not be the most original sci-fi movie all the way to the end but it become quite a philosophical story which raises a number of questions about faith, guilt, alien contact, families and more.

A good science fiction film with some challenging emotional and philosophical depth.

James E. Parsons has two SF books out now-Orbital Kin & Minerva Century both available from Waterstones, Amazon, Barnes&Noble and other bookshops and online in paperback and ebook now.



ALIEN:Covenant Film Review & Thoughts 2017

*There may be some spoilers ahead…

In the cinema nobody could hear me scream. I didn’t scream at all, but then I didn’t laugh or moan either.

Yes this weekend I finally got down to one of my local cinemas and caught a showing of ALIEN:Covenant. This has been very hyped up and one of the film of 2017 I have very much been looking forward to personally. It almost did not happen after the sharp and often very negative and critical reactions to Prometheus a few years ago. Director Ridley Scott had plans and thoughts of quickly following up that film with a new series of films which would lead to the first ALIEN film chronologically. The fans did not warm to much of what Prometheus had offered us, and it had not made as much money as may have been expected at the box office.

So for the last four or more years I feel like I have been one of the few people on planet Earth willing to give Prometheus the time of day and observe some redeeming things in among the numerous plot gaffs and more.

Was Prometheus just too confusing? Did it make any sense at all? Was it far too pretentious as it considered space Gods while most ALIENS fans may have simply wanted to see classic bloodthirsty Xenomorphs?

ALIEN:Covenant picks up the Prometheus storyline a decade later. A new crew are travelling to a potential new home planet across the galaxy on a seven year hyper-sleep trip. They are woken early after some unexpected damaged affects the spaceship. When working to repair the damage on the outside of the ship they pick up a unusual signal which seems to be human. Decoding the message eventually reveals to them coordinates for a planet which seems at first to have almost perfect balance of ecology, land, sea and gases for human life. After arguing they decide to follow the signal as it may lead them to a perfect new planet years soon than they were due.

When they reach the planet they land and go out on foot to explore the landscape around them. They see familiar plants, fields, trees around them. Only a short while later, one of the crew having stopped for a smoke becomes ill. His is taken back to the grounded ship but among the rest of the exploring group, another stumbles and falls, coughing and the group is slowed down. Before reaching the ground ship he spasms and a savage embryonic creature bursts from within him. The thing runs out trying to attack the group and they shoot at it. On the grounded ship the other crew member also has a creature burst forth from him and it runs off inside the ship. Out on the land, as the crew try to shoot at the fast moving thing, a figure comes out and shoots it down instantly. The figure is David-the android from Prometheus.

This is where it connects up with the previous film. Covenant is very much where the story becomes about David. He was saved by Prometheus crew member Elisabeth Shaw as they stopped the Engineers and took control of their spaceship with setting course for the Engineer home-world which is where the Covenant crew have landed now.

At the start of ALIEN:Covenant there is a brief prelude scene with Mr Wayland and David. Wayland asks David how he feels as a new android. Even at the start David seems to have been unbalanced.

Is ALIEN:Covenant the non-nonsense bloody gorefest with many wild Xenomorphs that many fans had hoped they would get with Prometheus?

We do get this but much of the philosophical musings about God, mankind’s origins and creation from Prometheus continue on in this sequel. This is no bad thing, I personally did enjoy much of that previously but at least in this sequel it is balanced out against more action sequences and actual recognizable Xenomorph creatures on screen. Did audiences really only just want to see a simple copy or retread of James Cameron’s ALIENS all over again?

ALIEN:Covenant on the whole feels like a mix of the first ALIEN movie with some degree of ALIENS. We get some fast paced shooting and chase scenes this time around, there are a number of very large spaceship machinery and equipment, guns and pulse rifles familiar to die-hard fans of the series. Also unlike Prometheus, after only around half an hour we see the first nasty little alien creature racing around and biting at the crew members.

Now lets just think for a moment-what did we not like about Prometheus? How many dumb mistakes were made by the Prometheus crew? Did that film really have to leave so many questions unanswered?

It may have been a flawed film, but in my opinion it did have some great things going for it. Some suggest that we can now see ALIEN:Covenant as the real prequel to ALIEN and this may be true but it does not mean that we should all together forget Prometheus. In some ways Covenant now makes us understand and appreciate Prometheus much more.

It is obvious that Ridley Scott has heard some of the criticism for Prometheus-not that he should only makes films to please fans at all-and he has made a film here which does give many nods what the loyal ALIEN fans remember well and have loved over the years. The Covenant crew are a more interesting and real group of characters this time around. There are several moments and ways in which Covenant reminds us of ALIEN and it feels good and right it this is to all lead right up to connecting with that film.

Like I have said, this film focuses on the android David-he is very much now a new distinct monster of modern science fiction. Tragic and calculating, Scott has decided that David is at the very centre of the creation of the Xenomorph species. Michael Fassbender can be applauded for his dual performances in Covenant is both David and new android Walter.

The other strong performance comes from Katherine Waterson as Daniels-very much a precursor to Sigourney Weaver’s iconic Ripley of the ALIEN franchise. Waterson really takes the character all the way, and goes through many great scenes of emotion and frantic action trough to the very end.

Again like Prometheus there are a few dumb moments early on, characters peering into places they really shouldn’t and things which obviously just exist to move the narrative along. We can go with this, let it go and sit tight for the right. It is a good one. Some of the CGI creatures may not look entirely convincing every time they appear on screen. This does not ruin the film on the whole. As it ends, we have seen a very pleasing addition to the ALIEN series of films. I may have expected to see the Engineers again, more of their planet and their ways but I think that just will make me appreciate Prometheus more.

Ridley Scott seems to have wanted to make something special here, and it has moments where it looks much like 2001:A Space Odyssey and with androids David and Walter it shares some themes with his own Blade Runner movie.

Was this the sequel to Prometheus first intended? Will there be more films leading from this linking it all to the original ALIEN movie? If so, how many do we need?

If you are an ALIEN fan, do go and see this film now. You will not be let down, but again go with an open mind and enjoy.


James E. Parsons is author of Orbital Kin and Minerva Century both available now from all good bookshops-amazon, WHSmith, Waterstones, Barnes & Nobles- in paperback, ebook, hardback. His first horror novel Northern Souls is published late 2017.

Origin of another species? – Life movie 2017

Out now in cinemas we have the sci-fi movie LIFE. The time it really caught my attention was when I think I saw the trailer at a cinema a few weeks ago when I went to see X-Men spin-off LOGAN.

Suddenly this new sci-fi trailer hit the screens which I had not heard of until that moment (or at least it had not caught my attention in magazines or on the internet). It features a number of well known Hollywood actors including Ryan Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal. It looked pretty good, some very good effects of some kind of space exploration mission and some mysterious new lifeform sample taken begins to dangerously evolve or mutate and grow as they return to Earth.

Of course in this brief but exciting trailer the film did resemble the SF classic ALIEN -many similarities with the spaceship crew, the visual sets and direction and the ominous mysterious alien entity threatening them. This is not at all the first or last film to look like this or display the influence of the Ridley Scott/H R Giger sci-fi/horror franchise.

How many different kinds of hostile aliens can we ever expect to see in movies? It is possibly a sub-genre of science fiction, probably mostly in film. Sometimes it works (very well) and often it is repetitive and derivative. With this new film the alien threat seems quite formless which may represent a number of things.

In the past we have had the Species film series (almost like ALIEN, having a monster designed by the late H R Giger) which though good for the first movie, became mostly predictable and boring with the sequels. It was also to a fair extent playing for cheap titillation and soft nudity thrills with the always very glamorous naked female version of the alien monster. We previously saw this in the 1980’s in the Tobe Hooper sci-fi shlocker Lifeforce (and the alien sexy female was also some kind of space vampire…)

We can probably go as far back as Invasion of the body snatchers and John Carpenter’s The Thing to see the other close influences on LIFE. Either the alien threat captures humans and infects or impregnates them, or like the Species films take on their human form. So while this is no really new vision the return of this kind of hostile alien contact to cinema screens may represent our very current social fears of terrorism and attack from the unknown. We feel the constant threat (thanks to right-wing news media) and their form may take any number of shapes and appearances.


James E. Parsons is author of Orbital Kin and Minerva Century now available in paperback, hardback and ebook from Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble, and other good bookshops internationally. His first horror novel is due published later in 2017.




Another week, or even another day and another change of title for film directing living legend Ridley Scott. Now that we know his continuation of the Prometheus story is go, and set to begin shooting early next year he has change the title from Prometheus 2 to ALIEN:Paradise Lost, and now it has change again to ALIEN: Covenant.

The other big news in recent days is that the Blomkamp sequel could very likely see a return of the Newt female character from ALIENS as a grown woman. Who would play the role, and what would the character be doing years later?

So ever since Prometheus was release in cinemas a few years ago now, there have been so many divisive opinions and views about the success of it, the reason for it, and the meaning of it. So who did create the aliens Xenomorphs we know? Why were they created and how did they get loose?

With Prometheus, we were simply given a whole load more questions, which confused some of us, and enraged a great deal more of us. Back then Scott did suggest that it would be the first in a trilogy which would connect up with the original ALIEN film.

Many fans were left feeling very short-changed and cheated, with Prometheus offering us possibly a weaker imitation of the events from the original movie, and some contradictory or confused space philosophy and Theology which not many fans seemed interested in.

Many fans have been on a new high in recent months knowing that contemporary sci-fi movie director Neil Blomkamp will now be directing a brand new ALIEN sequel, which does seem to be involving many elements which fans would be much more delighted to see on screen. He seems to be a real fan, and also keen to put something out there which would holds more of the fan-popular marks of the SF series and the actual Xenomorphs.

Now with yet another official name change for the Ridley Scott project, what does this suggest to us about the plot? He has stated that yes, this will now be the first in a trilogy connecting into the first ALIEN film. So does Prometheus not actually really count in the series at all? (I know many of you may be very pleased with that).

Despite the second name change (or is it third or more?) ALIEN:Covenant is still a continuation of Prometheus in terms of plot and characters involved. I personally and happy to know this, and am still very interested to see more of the surviving characters and how their journey continues on through space after the events of Prometheus. Even with the numerous plot-holes and contradictions, the ideas and themes do still have the potential to offer what could be a very stunning science fiction epic movie series on the scale of Avatar(but with hopefully better scipts than that particular film as well.)

With the hope that the new Blomkamp ALIENS sequel will not be delayed by too much time, there is room in cinema for both of these strands of the ALIEN universe to be explored and connected over the next few years and please fans of all the previously related movies.

James E. Parsons is author of Orbital Kin sci-fi book, out paperback/ebook from all good bookshops/retailers. New SF book Minerva Century out 2016.


The ways of space travel…

Now you may have noticed that the new Ridley Scott sci-fi movie The Martian is out in cinemas from last week, it has recieved mostly postive reviews it seems. It is a film adapted from an already quickly respected and well recieved novel from only a few years previous.

I may go and see this flick, as I am both a sci-fi film and Ridley Scott fan equally. This does though now have me thinking about the number of SF movies focused on exploring Mars, the Red Planet. Are there too many of these kinds of movies? Why always Mars?

I understand that this mysterious planet is possibly one of the most close to our own in a number of ways, but should we not consider and explore some the other known planets around us which are regularly ignored and forgotten?

Another question which comes to mind now-are science fiction films becoming far too serious again? This may be due to very interesting continuing research and investigations from NASA and other international space missions and tests, but in some ways I yearn possibly for just a little more fiction and imagination.

I understand also that films such as The Martian, Interstellar and Gravity from the last few years were partly made thanks in some ways due to the ground-breaking filming techniques and camera and CG overlap, allowing effects on screen never previously available to such stunning levels.

Such we still expect aliens and first contact in SF movies on the big screen? Are we just far past that time now?


Some months ago we had sudden news confirmed about a new ALIENS sequel after District 9 and Chappie film director Neill Blomkamp posted up some artwork suggesting scenes involving Ripley and other classic characters and stated about his interest in working on an ALIEN project. Soon after to the general joy of sci-fi movie fans globally, it was confirmed that he would be doing such a film as his next actual project. On top of this great news, the main series icon Sigourney Weaver linked herself to the film and was pleased to hear about such a project.

Around the same time or soon after, original director of ALIEN, Ridley Scott made it clear that he was actually very happy to know that Blomkamp would be working on a new part of the ALIENS franchise and gave his blessing. Previously Scott had told us that he may have some thoughts on continuing with another film sequel to his almost controversial Prometheus film, which was not a prequel to ALIEN but ‘in the same world’ as the ALIENS films. This confused and frustrated huge numbers of fans.

While I personally did find some great things in Prometheus to really like, although of course it did confuse and tease all ALIEN fans; it was not embraced or loved by the great majority of cinema viewers. People wanted the actual xenomorph alien creatures back on screen, the dark and chilling atmospheric fear or the space military action of the first sequel. We were offered yes, a vast time and space travelling voyage but parts of it seemed rushed, confused, contracdictory and eventually anticlimactic.

To defend Ridley Scott slightly, he did around the time of release, even then suggest that it possibly be the first of one or even two films which would eventually link up to the original film. Well Prometheus recieved a terrible general response, and a few years have passed with most people still very unforgiving, but now much more interested in what Neill Blomkamp may offer up.

So this week, Ridley Scott suddenly spoke out and did finally confirm that his next actual project will be a sequel to Prometheus and it will begin shooting in Febuary 2016. This of course found a frosty and mixed response soon after across social media. With this news he also added that this would not be just one sequel but very probably the first of at least two and possibly three which will then link right up to the first ALIEN  film.

This was a shock quiet honestly, as while he had suggest this notion when Prometheus was released around three years ago, since then so many have been very clear about their dislike of the film and great disappointment with it.

With this news, while I myself was actually fairly interested and in some sense pleased (I know, strange right?) in a very ominous sense it seemed to echo the intentions of James Cameron and his planned out Avatar series. Avatar, like Prometheus recieved mixed reviews on released (while of course, huge box office takings) but Cameron then later spoke out about shooting two more sequels back to back, and perhaps even more, but this may seem to take him well into the next decade I may think. Do we actually really to see anywhere near that much more of the Avatar world?

Similarly, Ridley Scott seems to some level, oblivious to the general public response to Prometheus and is simply set on expanding and exploring the world and characters already set up so far.

Besides this, he had now also confirmed the sequel title to now be- ALIEN: Paradise Lost. Some are suggesting that he has bowed to studio pressure to connect the series much more closely to the original films. This may be good news, or it may seem he condense some of his own personal vision. When the film begins to shoot early next year we will start to hear just what kind of future the world of the legendary space aliens has ahead.

The Martian Film Trailer-A Hero Alone

Today I watched the new trailer for the anticipated new science fiction film from veteran great director Ridley Scott (while he should also be spending time working on new Blade Runner/Aliens/Prometheus films) which is adapted from the recent successful novel of same name.

I am not too sure about what I may have been expecting or hoping to see, and I have not read the book yet. This is a film which may hold a number or subtle surprises hopefully but I do get the impression that it is arriving after the huge success of films Gravity and more recently Interstellar, and so it needs to be different but seems similar enough to them.

This is a Ridley Scott film, and he is of course arguably most well known for his genre defining Alien and Blade Runner science fiction films, and so in some ways I would really love this film to be much more of a pulp ‘sci-fi’ movie. This in mind, that could go too close to Prometheus for many, which gathered many extreme mixed responses when it arrived.

This new film is also inspired or adapted from a previously written novel, though it could drift away from it in some ways, be that a good or bad thing. While we wait to see just what kind of controversial results we get with the Blade Runner and Prometheus sequels, Scott will offer us this interesting film, with a tale of one man who must survive Mars alone.


Right then, yes that most certainly is a very bold statement or just question. Who has seen it already? Hey, anyone not seen it?

So with so many reviews coming along now, from practically everyone, every magazine, blog etc. I right now am just going put out some thoughts on how I saw the film, my view, some of my opinion.

So then, I saw it in 3D, which I usually do keep well away from most of the time, but after keeping AVENGERS safely a 2D experience, and knowing how visually stunning RIDLEY SCOTT movies are, I just decided to try it. Thankfully, my experience was not absolutely ruined, and thought the 2D did not massively enhance the viewing, at times-definately the first ten minutes- it did make it amazing, or just more so.

So we have a film that was probably more highly anticipated than any or film for such a long time, yes much more so than THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, however great that might be when it comes. This was RIDLEY SCOTT’S first sci-fi flick in decades. That is an absolute neccessary thing worth heading to the cinema for. On top of that, he was returning to the ALIEN franchise, which many people have wished that he had done long, long ago.

There were so many hopes, so many rumours about this vastly important science fiction movie for many months leading up to the release.

Did it and could it please us?

I personally, have to say that yes, I am very pleased with the movie that I saw. But remember, so many people were hoping that this would be such a huge thing, a total revelation and specifically a huge link and connection to the ALIEN movies. Would it reveal many things alluded to in the very first movie? Did it?

PROMETHEUS is a huge film. In many ways, obviously. It is epic. A very amazing, impressive film, probably the best SF movie in a very long time for sure.

The question is, with all the trailers, teasers and rumours suggesting many possibilities, many directions it might have gone in, did it explain ALIEN? More specifically-the origin of the ALIENS?

Well, did it have to do that? Really?

It did certainly give some kind of answers, and information, but like many good tales, or sequels, (and prequels) it then provided a number of more questions once again. Guess, that makes us think about some sequels to this kind of prequel then.

There is now much space ahead, a long way, narratively leading up to the time of the original ALIEN movie, leaving space for more to come, more answers, or more questions. Either way, if RIDLEY SCOTT is involved in more to come, it will continue to be worth waiting for.