Alt-Synopses: “Alien: Covenant”


Legendary director Ridley Scott returns to the universe he created in “Alien” with “Alien: Covenant,” the second chapter in a prequel trilogy that he promises will bridge the gap to the first film, a gap nobody perceived until he pointed at it.

“Alien: Covenant” will act as a semi-sequel to “Prometheus,” a semi-prequel to “Alien” and a semi-truck flattening your affection for this franchise.

In “Prometheus,” we learned that humans were created by a race of albino bodybuilders called the Engineers. At some point in the history of the universe, the Engineers apparently decided to kill all humans. The reason for this attempted genocide, according to allusions made by Scott in interviews, is that the Engineers were mad at humans for killing Jesus.

If true, this would be the worst plot twist since the ending of the “Planet of the Apes” remake, which featured a statue of Aperaham Lincoln.

Much of the plot of “Prometheus” concerned black goo devised by the Engineers for purposes that remained as murky throughout the film’s 124 minute running time as the goo itself.

The goo seemed as adept at creating underwhelming monsters as it was at generating arbitrary scenes.

At the end of “Prometheus,” Elizabeth Shaw and David the Android headed off to the planet of the Engineers, which they fully expected would be a technological, societal and environmental utopia.

In the new film, however, the Engineers’ planet is revealed to be the biggest disappointment since the Battlestar Galactica arrived at Earth in 1980 only to find it polluted by former “Brady Bunch” cast members and stock footage from the movie, “Earthquake.”

The “Covenant” of the title refers to a spaceship and surely is not meant to evoke the new covenant that Jesus established in the New Testament.

The Covenant is inhabited by six sets of couples, an arrangement designed to encourage colonization, pointless arguing, quick slaughter of the most annoying characters and aliens punishing people for having illicit intercourse.

The crew lands on the Engineers’ planet only to discover that is has largely become a barren, hellish wasteland, or – as it is referred to in the credits – Australia.

In “Alien: Covenant,” the black goo has become plant spores inside seedpods because why the hell not?

Alien DNA is scattered exactly the same way an innocent child scatters the seeds of an aged dandelion. In the new film, however, there are only aged dandelions of death.

Fox wisely abandoned the tag line: “Nature hasn’t been this evil since ‘The Happening.’”

In prior films, alien infants were known as chestbursters because of their method of egress from the human host. In “Alien: Covenant,” Scott will introduce backbursters, a nickname that should be self-explanatory.

Given the dwindling options, we are forced to consider the very real possibility that the next film will feature the debut of the assbursters.

“Alien: Covenant” opens tomorrow.

Viva La Revolution!


In 1981, bassist Andre Cymone left Prince’s band under contentious, ego-clashing circumstances.

Mark Brown said he knew of the subsequent vacancy, but he didn’t think he was in the running for the job or that he could put himself in the running.

“I didn’t think I would be considered,” he said in a phone interview. “He grew up with such a vast selection of awesome bass players in Minnesota. I was like, ‘Why would he pick me? I am the youngest of most of them. There’s no way.’”

Still, he kept seeing Prince in the audience at his shows. But he chalked that up to other factors.

Then one day, the phone rang at 11 p.m. at the community center where Brown rehearsed.

It was a guy claiming to be Prince.

“I was like, ‘This ain’t Prince. Get out of here,’” Brown said. “He didn’t say much after that. He just said, ‘I want you to audition for my band. I want you to learn all three albums. (Drummer) Bobby Z will pick you up tomorrow.’

“I worked at a 7-Eleven store at that time,” Brown recalled. “(Prince) said, ‘I’ll have him pick you up at 7-Eleven.’ I was like, ‘How did you know I work at 7-Eleven?’”

The unsuspecting Brown, aka BrownMark, was on the verge of joining the Revolution, one of the few backing bands in music history that became almost as famous as its frontman.

Prince would never lead its like again.

In the wake of Prince’s death, the Revolution reformed to pay tribute to its fallen leader.

It is now on tour, providing closure for fans and opening a new chapter for itself, perhaps.

The Revolution will perform Saturday at the Majestic Theatre in Detroit.

Brown recalls being nervous during the drive over to Prince’s house for the audition. His jitters were not eased when Bobby Z looked over at him and said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”

“I was like, ‘What is that? What kind of question is that?’” he said.

Brown was confident in his bass-playing abilities. He just wasn’t sure how he and Prince would get along.

“What was nerve-wracking was not knowing him,” he said. “I had heard all sorts of rumors about him. This was my first time meeting him, face to face. So my fears were more of, ‘How is he going to respond to me? How am I going to respond to him? Is he straight? Is he gay?’ I knew nothing.”

Apparently, Prince answered his own door in those days and Brown was not prepared for the sight of the man.

“Prince was literally about 5 foot 2,” he said. “I’m six feet and I am looking down on this guy. He had on leg warmers with shorts. His hair was coming all down and he had big earrings on. I just remember, I was like, ‘Holy crap.’”

Prince’s androgyny was a pretty radical concept in those days.

“Prince spewed sexuality,” Brown said. “When I saw him, I had never seen anything like that before.”

After the audition, Prince gave Bobby Z the night off, saying he would drive Brown home himself.

Brown wasn’t sure what to make of that either.

“I was like, ‘Oh, crap,’” he said. “I was thinking to myself, ‘It’s just me and this guy.’ I was like, ‘Wow, this is weird.’”

Whatever was happening in Brown’s overworked imagination, Prince merely used the drive to offer him the job.

“I was so happy, I almost (peed) my pants,” he said. “But I tried to keep my cool.”

Prince had a reputation as a tough bandleader and that toughness was on display from the first rehearsal, during which Prince repeatedly tugged Brown’s ear and kicked him in his hindquarters, saying, “Play the bass.”

Even when dispensing practical advice, Prince could be as enigmatic as a funky Confucius.

A funky Confucius wearing butt kicking boots.

But Brown said he eventually figured out that Prince wanted him to play more aggressively.

“That guy taught me so much about professionalism,” he said. “I owe him my entire career. If it wasn’t for him, I never would have been able to accomplish half of what I accomplished in my lifetime.”

Brown’s first concert, in front of a hostile Rolling Stones crowd, was as fiery as trials by fire get.

“I had only been in the group a month at that point,” he said. ‘Within the first few seconds of the opening number, a grapefruit landed on my bass keys. It knocked me clear out of tune. I sounded horrible.

“People were screaming,” Brown said. “Somebody got hit with a bag of chicken. Bottles we’re flying on stage. We were dodging stuff. Prince was so afraid of my reaction. He said, Mark, this isn’t the way it is. We were just trying this out.’”

Brown let Prince know that he wasn’t at all daunted.

Prince’s dream for the band that he would come to call the Revolution, Brown said, was something along the same lines as Fleetwood Mac: a band in which every member had something to contribute creatively.

The band sometimes jammed for ten hours at a stretch, he said.

“We were developing a sound,” Brown said. “That’s the work ethic he taught me. If you want to develop a unique sound, you play, play, play with each other. Don’t play songs. Just play. Release yourself. We developed this massive sound. He called it a freight train. That’s where the Revolution was born.”

The precision of the machine he’d built became evident during the writing of the song, “Purple Rain.”

“(Keyboardist Lisa Coleman) had some chords,” Brown said. “Prince had an idea. It slowly started to come together. I remember, I just sat there most of the day, listening to the changing, the progression. It was an all-day event. The song took on many different shapes and forms before we got it to where it was.”

“Purple Rain” – song, album and film – was the juggernaut that propelled Prince into the mainstream.

It was during this ascension that Brown began to fully appreciate the scope of Prince’s vision and the iron will that drove it.

“I call him a genius mastermind,” he said. “I believe in my heart, from ‘Dirty Mind’ forward, he knew what he wanted to do, where he wanted to go and how he was going to get there. He just had to figure out the pathway.”

It might be hard for some people today to appreciate the improbability of Prince’s massive success at that point in time, Brown said.

“For me, it was very explosive,” he said. “I was stunned. There had never been a band, a multiracial band, that had broken through some of the racial barriers of the time. I know about those racial barriers because I am a black man. And there were heavy racial barriers in the music business. Prince was determined to break through them, and he did. I was in awe.”

Prince’s decision in 1985 to add a half a dozen new members to the Revolution for the “Parade” tour doomed the band, Brown said.

“Two of the security guys were now at the front of the stage doing dance moves,” Brown said. “Everything started changing. I didn’t want to be a part of it. I was like, ‘Time for me to go.’”

He insists that the band never broke up, that no one was fired. Everybody just mutually decided to close that chapter.

Brown went on to found the group Mazarati. Prince gave Mazarati the song, “Kiss,” to record, and when he heard the band’s demo, he asked for it back.

Brown said he and Prince maintained contact over the years. Prince would call him out of the blue, using a silly pseudonym if Brown’s kids answered the phone.

“He used to call me 2, 3 o’ clock in the morning,” he said. “Sometimes he would call my house and my kids would run up to me and say, ‘Somebody named Alexander Nevermind is on the phone.’ I knew who that was.

“He always reached out to us,” Brown said. “He always stayed in touch with us. And that was endearing. I loved it. He truly was my brother.”

Brown said he heard of Prince’s passing by phone from a member of his security staff and cried for two days.

He was subsequently angry about the salaciousness of some of the media coverage.

“People immediately want to jump to a negative conclusion about a guy I knew,” he said. “They have no clue who he was internally. This guy was a very private man. And in that privacy, sometimes you make mistakes.”

Prince had been contending with excruciating chronic pain for many years, Brown said.

“I have female friends with hip issues,” he said. “Prince wore the high-heel boots. The difference between him and the women I know is that he didn’t just wear them. He danced in them.”

At the time of his death, Prince was planning to reform the Revolution and tour with the band, Brown said. He had secured promises from the former members that they would not perform as an entity without him.

The reunion happened. Just not on Prince’s terms, tragically.

Performing with the band mates he first met four decades ago is exactly like it was four decades ago, Brown said. Only better.

“We are the same,” he said. “Prince called us a freight train. That same energy is there and that’s what shocked me the most. He really put together a set of unique personalities. When we come together, that energy is so powerful that even we scratch our heads and say, ‘My word.’

“We’re even more seasoned now then we were then,” Brown said. “So it’s even more dynamic.”

There is a certain “New Orleans funeral” aspect to the shows – fans mourning by way of celebration.

Where it goes from here is up to them, Brown said.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how this involves and where we take it,” he said. “And a lot of that is going to depend on the fans, on what you guys want us to do. It’s going to be fan-driven.”

A version of this story can be found at