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.
S.02.E.11: As much as I like to insist that Modern Family is at its best when it involves all three families coming together to deal with a common situation, I have to admit that I am wrong sometimes. Case in point: 'Slow Down Your Neighbors' had no such connecting theme running throughout the episode, yet it was hilarious. Such critical conundrums I face!
Let’s start with Cam and Mitchell. The cold opening was the teaser used for the episode where they are first horrified to discover someone using their hot tub. But when they discover said hot-tubber is the rather good looking James Marsden they agree that they might have been overreacting. My favorite part of this whole gag was their initial reaction as it really underlined each of their characters. Mitchell wanted to call the police while Cam went to grab his bat. Cam’s natural athletics (he’s also a huge football fan) provides a wonderful bit of depth for his character. It would be so easy to paint him as a broad stereotype, but the writers have given him something better.
But things weren’t exactly what they seemed with Mr. Hot New Neighbor. It turns out he was sleeping in Lily’s castle, which in turn led to some great physical comedy. The shot of Phil and Barry in the castle sitting down to discuss the situation was simply hilarious and when it took a turn for the worse, seeing them try to talk to Mitchell through the tiny windows as the whole castle shook from their struggle was a perfect ending.
This story really worked on so many levels because (like most great Modern Family storylines) it was a twist on a traditional sitcom story. Usually, the Dad/Mom would discover the hot new neighbor of the opposite sex while one spouse was left fuming in the background. But with having Cam and Mitchell both attracted to Barry it created more opportunity for humor. And while Mitchell became disillusioned with Barry in the middle of the episode, it served as a big character developing moment as we learn that he instantly writes off potential new friends if he gets peeved at minor character flaws (like with the girl who said “but yet”). Oh snap! Look at Modern Family taking traditional sitcom narratives and turning them on its head!
The next two storylines were incredible all thanks to Luke. Nolan Gould simply owned most of the show this week thanks to his startling distrust of the police and his new found teaching abilities. Having recently discovered Gould was on Twitter, I think this kid might just be a genius. He’s not the idiot that Luke is (though that should be obvious considering how smart someone needs to be to play stupid, much like being drunk doesn’t help acting like you’re drunk) and is frighteningly aware of his role on the show. I’ve always said we needed more Luke on Family, but now we need more Luke in the show so we don’t piss this kid off. He’ll be around for a while.
Anyway, the Phil and Claire story had the unusual predicament where both of them had very strong stories seemingly independent of each other that, of course, came together in a train wreck. A very funny train wreck mind you. Claire has noticed a speeder careening through the neighborhood and has made it her mission to stop the driver. Phil is one big sale away from taking over salesman of the quarter and needs to move this hard-talking woman’s house. Turns out said woman is the speeder (kind of obvious in hindsight, but whatever) and thus Phil has to balance out placating his wife and making the sale. Phil actually showed a remarkable amount of shrewdness in this story despite what the fluke in the house suggests. His innate desire to satisfy Claire, but also trump his rival, created great little moments that, for my money, showed that Ty Burrell deserved the Emmy over Eric Stonestreet.
Luke was relegated to the sideline for the story but killed every line. Apparently, he has a strong distrust of the police that showed up out of nowhere and was hilarious (a sample: "Police, ha. Order a pizza and call the cops. We'll see who gets here first."). Then, when Claire was looking for faster objects he offered up the following: a bullet, a laser, a falcon, and a laser falcon. Good ole Luke. Never change buddy.
The Gloria and Jay story dealt with Gloria’s inability to ride a bike. Jay was shocked at this revelation and, thankfully, this situation came from Gloria’s personal family and not some Colombian stereotype. Her mother was always afraid that someone would “grab” Gloria off a bike thus scaring her forever from two wheeled modes of transportation. Jay (if it weren’t for Luke) would’ve had the line of the night when he addressed Gloria’s concerns with the bike standing upright said “there’s no reason you should stay upright but it just works.” Brilliant Jay.
When Jay’s methods don’t work, Gloria seeks the guidance of someone a little less harsh. She goes to Phil first (of course) but he was preoccupied with making the sale. Luke was free due to a playdate cancellation (“I never taught anyone anything, but my playdate was canceled so I was wide open”) and takes the responsibility. In what I consider to be one of the wisest teaching methods ever, he gets Gloria up on her bike by taking her mind off of the fears of riding. Luke might just be an idiot savant with his practices, especially when it works with teaching Haley her history lesson.
It might not have been the traditional “recipe” for a great Modern Family episode, but it was still hilarious thanks to Luke. Its a shame we didn’t have any Alex, but with Luke tearing it up I wasn’t too disappointed.