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.
Enigmatic and deliberate Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy makes no reservations while unraveling its heady spy story for better or worse. The film based on the bestselling novel by John Le Carre is purposefully perplexing effectively mirroring the central character George Smiley's (Gary Oldman) own mind-bending investigation of the British MI6's mole problem. But the slow burn pacing clinical shooting style and air of intrigue only go so far—Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy sports an incredible cast that can't dramatically translate the movie's impenetrable narrative. Almost from the get go the movie collapses under its own weight.
After a botched mission in Hungary that saw his colleague Jim (Mark Strong) gunned down in the streets Smiley and his boss Control (John Hurt) are released from the "Circus" (codename for England's Secret Intelligence Service). But soon after Smiley is brought back on board as an impartial observer tasked to uncover the possible infiltration of the organization. The former agent already dealing with the crippling of his own marriage attempts to sift through the history and current goings on of the Circus narrowing his hunt down to four colleagues: Percy aka "Tinker" (Toby Jones) Bill aka "Tailor" (Colin Firth) Roy aka "Soldier" (Ciaran Hinds) and Toy aka "Poor Man" (David Dencik). Working with Peter (Benedict Cumberbatch) a conflicted younger member of the service and Ricki (Tom Hardy) a rogue agent who has information of his own Smiley slowly uncovers the muddled truth—occasionally breaking in to his own work place and crossing his own friends to do so.
Describing Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy as dense doesn't seem complicated enough. The first hour of the monster mystery moves at a sloth's pace trickling out information like the tedious drips of a leaky faucet. The talent on display is undeniable but the characters Smiley included are so cold that a connection can never be made. TTSS sporadically jumps around from past to present timelines without any indication: a tactic that proves especially confusing when scenes play out in reoccurring locations. It's not until halfway through that the movie decides to kick into high gear Smiley's search for a culprit finally becoming clear enough to thrill. A film that takes its time is one thing but Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy does so without any edge or hook.
What the movie lacks in coherency it makes up for in style and thespian gravitas. Director Tomas Alfredson has assembled some of the finest British performers working today and they turn the script's inaccessible spy jargon into poetry. Firth stands out as the group's suave slimeball a departure from his usual nice guy roles. Hardy assures us he's the next big thing once again as the agency's resident moppet a lover who breaks down after a romantic fling uncovers horrifying truth. Oldman is given the most difficult task of the bunch turning the reserved contemplative Smiley into a real human. He half succeeds—his observational slant in the beginning feels like an extension of the movie's bigger problems but once gets going in the second half of the film he's quite a bit of fun.
Alfredson constructs Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy like a cinematic architect each frame dripping with perfectly kitschy '70s production design and camera angles that make the spine tingle. He creates paranoia through framing similar to the Coppola's terrifying The Conversation but unlike that film TTSS doesn't have the characters or story to match. The movie strives to withhold information and succeeds—too much so. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy wants us to solve a mystery with George Smiley but it never clues us in to exactly why we should want to.
Moore shoots back at GOP
Michael Moore got in his own two cents Wednesday, responding to Republicans' charge that the filmmaker be prosecuted for offering underwear and food to college students in exchange for their promise to vote, The Associated Press reports. "It's ironic that Republicans have no problem with allowing assault weapons out on our streets, yet they don't want to put clean underwear in the hands of our slacker youth," Moore said. "The Republicans seem more interested in locking me up for trying to encourage people to participate in our democracy than locking up bin Laden for his attacks on our democracy." AP reports the Michigan GOP on Tuesday asked four county prosecutors to file charges against Moore, citing an election law provision that prohibits a person from contracting with another for something of value in exchange for agreeing to vote. Moore is currently touring the country and imploring "slackers" who usually don't vote to head to the polls this year, saying they could make the difference in the presidential race, and offering gag prizes to incite them.
Rape charges against Anthony Anderson dismissed
On Wednesday, a judge in Memphis, Tenn., dismissed rape charges filed in July against Kangaroo Jack star Anthony Anderson and another man, Reuters reports. Judge Anthony Johnson threw out the case brought by a film extra on the set of Hustle & Flow at a preliminary hearing after calling the woman's testimony suspicious and bizarre. Charges against Witherspoon also were dropped. The woman had accused Anderson and Wayne Witherspoon, an assistant director on the Hustle, of raping her in a trailer on that film's set. "He is, of course, both relieved and delighted by the judge's decision to throw out what was so obviously a trumped-up case," Anderson's spokesman Allan Mayer said.
Actress MacDowell bids adieu to marriage
Actress Andie MacDowell and her husband, former high school classmate Rhett Hartzog, have divorced after nearly three years of marriage, People magazine reports. People quoted a source close to the couple as saying, "It's a painful and very private time." No other details about the split were available. MacDowell, 46, and Hartzog, 45, married in November 2001 with a 450-guest ceremony in Asheville, N.C. It was the actress' second marriage.
Seized Limbaugh records ruled valid
A Florida appeals court ruled on Wednesday that prosecutors acted legally when they seized Rush Limbaugh's medical records during a 2003 investigation into whether the conservative radio host misused prescription painkillers, Reuters reports. The outspoken conservative commentator had claimed his constitutional right to privacy had been violated because the search warrants were issued without giving him prior notice or a chance to challenge the seizure. Florida's 4th District Court of Appeals said the search warrant authorizing the seizure outweighed Limbaugh's right to keep his medical records private. Limbaugh, who has not been charged with a crime, admitted an addiction to prescription painkillers last year and took time off from his popular syndicated radio show for drug rehabilitation.
Judge extends restraining order against Mel Gibson stalker
During a brief hearing yesterday, Superior Court Judge Linda Lefkowitz extended a temporary restraining order to three years against a homeless man who showed up at Mel Gibson's Malibu, Calif., estate demanding they pray together. Zack Sinclair, 34, has pleaded not guilty to six misdemeanor counts that include trespassing and disorderly conduct, district attorney spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons told AP. He remained in jail Wednesday without bail pending an Oct. 12 hearing. The order bars him from coming within 100 yards of Gibson, his wife or their seven children, their home, Gibson's work, the children's school and the chapel.
PGA wants end to bogus producer credits
The Producers Guild of America is stepping up its bid to stop Hollywood studios from giving bogus credits to people as a bargaining chip. Speaking at a news press conference Wednesday, PGA President Kathleen Kennedy said the guild is asking studios to include language specifying the duties necessary to receive it into every would-be producer's contract. According to Kennedy, studios oftentimes give producer credits as a kind of low-cost compensation, which boosts an actor, agent or manager's show-business resume. If a credit is given unfairly, guild lawyers pledged to sue--not for money, but to force a studio to remove the credit.
Motley Crue guitarist gets hip replacement
Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars is recovering from hip replacement surgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, his publicist Katie McNeil said Wednesday. Mars, whose real name is Bob Allen Deal, suffers from a degenerative, rheumatic disease called ankylosing spondylitis, which causes ligaments and tendons to attach to the bone. The affected area becomes inflamed and some of the bone may erode. McNeil told the AP doctors expect Mars, 53, to walk again soon with the help of a physical therapist and is looking forward to a possible Motley Crue comeback tour. "He would do it if the tour happens," she said.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.