No One Can Hear You Scream

On May 19, horror fan’s rejoiced when “Alien: Covenant” was unleashed upon the big screen. The newest installment in director Ridley Scott’s out of this world horror franchise stars Michael Fassbender, Billy Crudup, Katherine Waterston, and Danny McBride. Not since Scott’s original 1979 film “Alien” has a sci-fi thriller been so bloody.

Like most interstellar horror flicks these days, “Alien: Covenant” centers around a crew of scientists and over 2000 cryogenically frozen passengers aboard a spaceship bound for a new habitable planet. Plans change when the crew follows a distress call to an uncharted planet that, at first glance, proves to be the paradise they’d been searching for. When they encounter the planet’s hostile and hungry alien lifeforms, the team is suddenly thrust into a fight for survival against the creatures, as well as a much more sinister force.

Though it far surpasses its 2012 predecessor “Prometheus,” “Alien: Covenant” still pales in comparison to the films in Scott’s original trilogy. The film focuses more on sending a message than it does telling a story. There isn’t much in the way of character development, seeing as almost all of the characters meet a bloody demise in rapid succession. Not even the alien itself gets enough screen time; the classic xenomorph, the most recognizable of the malevolent creatures, doesn’t even make an appearance until very late in the film.

However, when the creatures do appear, they are just as terrifying as they’ve ever been. The most horrifying part of “Alien: Covenant” is the entrance that each alien makes: gestating inside and then bursting free from a human host. True to the original film, the alien births and human deaths are downright gory, stomach churning, and nightmare inducing, but are a big part of what makes the film worth seeing. This is not a movie for those with weak stomachs.

The other shining feature of the film is Fassbender’s dual performance as the android Walter and another surprise character. Fassbender’s portrayal of the helpful robot is so convincing that it is easy to forget that he’s actually a human being. It’s also stunning to see how well he acts against himself and how capable he is at playing two vastly different characters.

The fact that the team’s ship is named the Covenant (hence the title) is ironic and yet another clever little addition to the film. “Alien: Covenant” takes on a Frankenstein-like vibe when it is revealed that a certain character with a God complex has created these aliens and has unleashed them upon the unwitting crew. Just as a covenant was made between God and man and Frankenstein and his monster, an unholy alliance and unspoken agreement was forged between this individual and the aliens. This prominent theme is what makes the movie more of a science fiction piece and less of a thriller.

“Alien: Covenant” is ultimately a horrific message about the dangers of playing God and a flat-out gore fest. It takes the best parts of “Prometheus” and “Alien” and combines them into something not necessarily new, but most certainly enjoyable. It’s a must see for any horror fan or for those who enjoy the works of Ridley Scott. The film gets a 3/5.

Pasco County Rocks!

For the past several months, Dade City and Zephyrhills residents have been noticing a strange new phenomenon taking place in their respective towns. Colorful, hand-painted rocks have been popping up all over Pasco county.

Since late last year, East Pasco citizens, young and old, have been decorating and hiding rocks and posting their locations on Facebook with more and more residents begin taking part in the activity nearly every day. Renee Crum, a Zephyrhills resident, founded the East Pasco chapter of rock hiders in November of 2016, but the activity did not originate in the state of Florida.

“A friend of mine in Fulton Missouri lost her four-year-old son and started painting rocks in his memory with a local group up there,” explained Crum. “She shared them on Facebook and I thought it was so cute and a nice way for the community to kind of rally around her and give her support during a very difficult time in her life.”

About a month after hearing the story, Crum discovered that residents in Lakeland were also getting in on the painting activity when she saw a page on Facebook, which got her thinking.

“I checked to see whether or not we had any local groups in East Pasco, and there was not a single one. So, I started one in Zephyrhills,” said Crum. “Well, pretty soon people in other towns started asking of they could join us and we just kept expanding.”

Participants usually get in on the activity by coming across the page on Facebook or by being invited by friends or family.

“My sisters and nieces started doing it, and I thought it was a little odd to just paint rocks,” said Derek Clements, a Dade City resident. “But then I found out about the hiding and finding part, so I thought I would give it a try.”

Rocks pop up in the most surprising places throughout East Pasco, including parks, city landmarks, and even outside local establishments. According to Clements, parks and wooded areas are the best place to hide and hunt for rocks.

“Trees usually have nooks that make it easy,” he said.

Many residents see the activity as a way to showcase their artistic talents; some create very vivid and detailed masterpieces. Clements takes great pride in each rock he paints. One of his favorite creations has been a stone painted to resemble the Heart of Te Fiti, an object featured in the Disney film “Moana.” He even painted it with special glow in the dark paint to give it that magical luminescent effect.

To keep their participants interested and the creations coming, the East Pasco group introduced the idea of a weekly challenge. Each week, a new theme is introduced, such as music or appreciation. The themes help to give each artist fresh ideas for more rocks while at the same time aiming to deliver an impactful message. At often times, group members begin to covet a fellow artist’s stone that they’ve seen on Facebook, but become disheartened when they are unable to find its hiding place. To remedy this, Crum and other members created the “rock swap.”

“The rock swap is where artists can trade their rocks with other artists,” Crum elaborated. “You can either make specific rocks for the purpose of trading, or you may choose to trade ones that you have previously found and kept.”

Crum and her fellow artists hope that their creations will bring the community a little bit closer together. To her, the activity has so many positive meanings.

“It means that someone is choosing to be part of something bigger than just their own home,” she said. “It encourages people to think about someone else first…it means that those who are sad and lonely are no longer, because they have joy painting and hiding these rocks and watching and listening to the smiles and laughter of those who find them.”

For Clements, the most satisfying part of the activity is making someone else happy with his art.

“I love seeing people’s reactions to the rocks they have found or seeing people enjoy a rock that you made” he said.

For those students who have gone home for the summer, this is a fun activity that they can share with their own communities and an opportunity to expand this activity across the nation. Crum has even taken to hiding rocks on the Saint Leo University campus with this goal in mind.

“I have hidden probably close to 50 rocks on campus with the hopes of getting the student body involved,” she said.

For those interested in getting in on the fun, they can visit the EPR/East Pasco Rocks on Facebook for more information on how to make a unique difference in their community.

 

 

 

We Are Family

Disney’s most recent films have gained notoriety for sending powerful messages and teaching important life lessons. Now, those important messages are making the leap into Disney’s Marvel universe.

The highly anticipated “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2” hit theaters on May 5. Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, and the rest of the cast reprise their roles as members of the beloved rag tag team of intergalactic heroes.

An action-packed adventure turns into a family reunion when Star-Lord (Pratt) comes face to face with his long-lost father, Ego the Living Planet (played by Kurt Russell). While Star-Lord tries to bond with the father he never knew, the rest of the Guardians discover that Ego is hiding a dark secret, one that could very well cost Star-Lord his life.

The film is packed with action, humor, stunning visual effects, and, of course, an awesome soundtrack. More anticipated than the film itself is its soundtrack; audiences will find themselves singing along to such hits as Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky,” “Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass, and The Sweet’s “Fox on the Run.”

The theme of family and parenthood is pleasantly prominent throughout the film and the character development is strong. While Star-Lord bonds with his absentee father, Gamora (Saldana) finds herself attempting to mend old wounds with her sister, Nebula (played by Karen Gillan), while Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) takes on the challenge of raising the film’s little scene stealer, Baby Groot (Vin Diesel). “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” teaches viewers that family isn’t defined by blood, but by love and friendship.

Speaking of love, movie goers will fall head over heels for Baby Groot. From the moment the little sapling dances his way on screen, audiences will be captivated by his silly childlike antics. While he still has all of the strength and abilities that he possesses at full size, Groot is an infant at heart and the care he receives from the rest of the Guardians, his surrogate family, helps to reinforce the theme of parenthood.

Those who are planning to see the film should be aware that, as with all Marvel movies, there are extended scenes following the end credits. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” offers a whopping five bonus scenes that run before, during, and after the film’s final credits.

“Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a delightful journey of self-discovery, and its theme of familial bonds makes it the perfect film to see just in time for Mother’s Day.  The film gets a 5/5.