Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
Top Story: Minnelli Visits Rehab Again
Liza Minnelli has checked herself in an eight-week "self-help" program, Reuters reports. "She is in the Caron center where she is obliged to go for eight weeks every year for a self-help program," publicist Warren Cowan told Reuters on Thursday. Cowan said Minnelli went into the center in rural Pennsylvania two weeks ago and was unsure when she would leave. The actress-singer has been battling addictions to alcohol and painkillers for a number of years and nearly died of a bout of viral encephalitis in 2000. Minnelli then married for a fourth time to producer David Gest in March last year, proclaiming her recovery from her addictions. The couple was in the process of throwing a lavish first anniversary party at New York's Times Square but called it off last week, due to the imminent war with Iraq.
Black Film Festival Put on Hold
Another entertainment casualty due to the war in Iraq was the postponement of the Hollywood Black Film Festival, scheduled to start March 25, which honors black filmmakers. "This is a critical moment for our country and our soldiers, and at this time the nation's focus should appropriately be on the escalating conflict in the Middle East," festival founder and director Tanya Kersey-Henley told The Associated Press.
Paramount Postpones Ropes
Due to the uncertainty of television airtime as the continuing war coverage interrupts programming, Paramount Pictures has decided to hold off releasing their feature film Against the Ropes, starring Meg Ryan, which was to open April 25, Reuters reports. "The issue is the advertising gets preempted, and you end up losing your message," the studio spokeswoman Nancy Kirkpatrick told Reuters. The film is based on the true story of a female boxing manager.
Taylor Gives Up the Spotlight
Elizabeth Taylor has announced after her appearance at the 75th Annual Academy Awards she will retire from acting--for good, Reuters reports. The 71-year-old actress said in an interview with TV show Access Hollywood "[The Oscars] will be my swan song on the stage. I've retired from acting; it doesn't really interest me that much anymore. It seems kind of superficial because now my life is AIDS, not acting."
Despite the fact bombs were falling on Baghdad Wednesday night, two major social events went on as planned in Los Angeles: the AIDS benefit at Ozzy Osbourne's mansion and a fashion/diamonds event at Keanu Reeves mother's house, Variety reports. One of the few guests who was invited to both events was Barbara Davis, who told Variety when asked to compare the two houses, "The Osbournes have pictures of their dead pets on the wall." Interesting.
Anthony Michael Hall Sued
The Canadian insurers of the television series The Dead Zone have sued star Anthony Michael Hall to recoup more than $612,000 for failure to disclose he suffers from manic depression, AP reports. The suit claims production of the series, shot in Vancouver, was halted from May to August 2001 when Hall was treated for "bipolar affective disorder depression with psychotic features" for which the production company submitted a claim and received money. AP reports Hall's lawyers will respond to the suit.
OK, Divorce Me, but I'm Keeping the Dog!
One of the only things Cris Judd got from his divorce to diva Jennifer Lopez is a chocolate Labrador retriever named Buster, a gift from Lopez, AP reports. The couple was married for nine months before they split last June. "I still love her," Judd told Us Weekly magazine for its March 31 issue. "And I will always have a special place in my heart for her. I will always be there for her if she ever needs me for anything." So will, we assume, the dog.
Matrix Short Plays With Dreamcatcher
If you see Dreamcatcher this weekend, you are in for an added treat. The Final Flight of the Osiris, a $5 million computer-animated Matrix-related short film, will be shown before the screening of the Warner Bros. horror film. This is the first of nine short stories created by Matrix writer-director brothers Andy and Larry Wachowski It takes place after The Matrix left off and sets up the story to the next installment The Matrix: Reloaded, opening May 15.
Two Covers for Next Harry Potter Book
The fifth installment for the next Harry Potter chapter Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix will get dual book covers--one for adults and one for children. According to AP, Bloomsbury Publishers unveiled the designs Thursday. The adult edition of book features a somber black-and-white picture of a phoenix, while the children's version of the boy wizard book is illustrated with a more vibrant red and orange bird rising from flames.
The Third Annual Hollywood Black Film Festival kicks off Jan. 31 with 45 films showcasing works in several competitive categories.
The four-day event will take place in Culver City, Calif., and feature 27 short films, nine student films, five documentaries and four feature-length films. The festival also includes seminars and workshops for up-and-coming filmmakers, actors and producers.
The Hollywood Black Film Festival was founded by Tanya Kersey-Henley to enhance the careers of black filmmakers through a competitive program.
“This is a black film festival in the heart of Hollywood, where emerging and veteran black filmmakers can bring their works to the attention of the mainstream Hollywood community in a truly engaging and professional film marketplace environment,” Kersey-Henley said.