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Disappointing, poorly written, and mediocre sequels for 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' and 'Alien'

Alien: Covenant (20th Century Fox)

Watching the powerful, well written, and well-acted season-ending episodes of CHICAGO FIRE and CHICAGO PD earlier this week reinforces the strength of quality "Must See" television watching. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said by the string of so many disappointing, poorly written, and mediocre movies that have been released thus far in 2017. I hate to be one of the financial backers of KING ARTHUR: LEGEND OF THE SWORD. At a projected cost of $175 million and bringing in only $14.7 million in its opening last week in America brings new meaning to the definition of a domestic "flop."

I just don't get it. Film projects involve the talent and skill of hundreds of hard-working folks. No one sets out to make a bad movie. Unfortunately, the poor reviews continue to be written and sadly, ALIEN: COVENANT and DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL join the long list of disappointing, poorly written, and mediocre sequels.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: THE LONG HAUL (2017)

Score: C

Rated PG -- 90 minutes

While my fellow film critics from around the country "dice and slice" this new family film based on one of the best-selling book series of all time, I decided to go to the most important source for my latest film review. I interviewed the kids, probably around the ages of 10, 12, and 14. Their response blew my mind! And then I interviewed the parents who were accompanying them.

What did you think of the movie? – "It was great!"

What did you like about it? – "It closely followed the book!"

As a Mom, what did you think of the movie? – "You have to take a trip with your family to fully understand that the film was spot on. The scenes involving the fights in the car over the cell phones and the laptops was so accurate and true."

Awarding a "C" score may be generous for this fourth in a series of films based on Jeff Kinney's books, specifically, the ninth book in Kinney's "Wimpy Kid" series.

This film has an entirely new cast from the earlier movies. Child actors tend to grow up. The director, David Bowers, was also responsible for the previous two Wimpy Kids releases in 2011 and 2012. He wrote this screenplay with Mr. Kinney.

I have high praise for the animated line drawings which are based on Mr. Kinney's illustrations in his books. I have high criticism for the ongoing bathroom humor, and for the slow pacing that enables the 90-minute movie to seem long. In the end, the plot of this "no cell phones or other electronic devices" family road trip has grown ridiculous and stale.

So why the "C" rating? Unlike ALIEN: COVENANT, this film has a happy ending.

ALIEN: COVENANT (2017)

Score: C

Rated R -- 122 minutes

Georges Melies was a French illusionist and film director who led many technical and narrative developments in the earliest days of cinema. He was especially respected for his development and use of special effects. In May of 1902, he made the film, A TRIP TO THE MOON, which was loosely based on Jules Verne's "From the Earth to the Moon" and H.G. Wells' "The First Men in the Moon.” Film buffs can never forget the space vehicle in the form of a large artillery shell is used to launch six men on a voyage to the Moon. The vehicle is shot out of a large cannon into space and hits the Man in the Moon in the eye!

Pluto was first discovered in 1930. Pluto became the ninth planet of our solar system. In the late 1990s, the argument was made that Pluto was too small to be considered a planet. Believe it or not, scientists have found a true ninth planet in January of last year. "Planet Nine" – as it is currently being called – is about 10 times the mass of Earth and 5,000 times the mass of Pluto.

As a kid growing up, the question was always being asked if we thought that their might be life on another planet. Today, the question is much different.

How many solar systems are there in the universe? According to Cambridge University's Institute of Astronomy, there are something like 300 billion stars in the Milky Way. If 10-percent of them have planets, there are around 30 billion planets in our galaxy alone. And, there are over 100 billion galaxies in the observable Universe. Is there life on another planet? Let me count the ways, starting with the drooling, tentacled, face-sucking aliens, beginning with the original 1979 film, ALIEN. It’s the scariest movie that I have ever watched, taking terror and suspense to a level rarely achieved in the history of cinema.

Which leads me to ALIEN: COVENANT. We do get some answers about Ridley Scott's 2012 PROMETHEUS. But this screenplay drags on and on.

When you listen to "Mother" you cannot help but think of the calming voice of Hal from Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY. The original ALIEN was released in 1979. Each of these two films are a masterpiece.

COVENANT. That is the name of the spaceship carrying 2,000 human passengers, embryos, the crew of 15, and an android named Walter. The year is 2104. Their mission is to colonize a distant planet.

The origin of the word "covenant" has to do with an agreement that God made with Abraham. Thus, we have a science-fiction horror story that confronts the origins of life, of creation, destruction, and the meaning of humanity. Heavy themes to consider and deal with, especially when the carnage begins … and when the carnage never ends. As humans, sometimes we make terrible decisions.

In the end, the movie belongs to Michael Fassbender. His performance is remarkable and chilling – from how he stares, how he walks, and how he speaks.

Long after COVENANT has ended, you begin to analyze the questions and mysteries surrounding our lives. Why do we really exist? What is our purpose on earth? Why the gore and the terror and the suspense? Long after we are dead and gone, these same questions will probably be searching for answers.

What if – what if we have been asking the ultimate wrong question throughout the centuries? As the terrifying last scene in ALIEN: COVENANT comes to an end, and the screen goes to black, I wonder…

What if the question is God searching for man?

THREE IMPORTANT MOVIE REVIEWS COMING NEXT WEEK

Next week, one of my favorite actresses returns to the big screen in THE LOVERS. Debra Winger is forever etched in the history of American cinema with her lead acting roles in TERMS OF ENDEARMENT, AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN, and URBAN COWBOY. That face. That voice. Together with actress Tracy Letts, THE LOVERS (2017) is an achingly poignant portrait of a modern marriage.

Also being reviewed – and showing lots of skin – is BAYWATCH.

And showing lots of costumes and make-up – Disney's PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MEN TELL NO TALES. There’s much to look forward to. Until next week, see you at the movies!

Looking ahead to what's coming this summer? Bob Fisher has the blockbuster box office guide to this summer's movie season!

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