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.
Jeremy: "Someday you'll look back on all this and laugh and say we were young and stupid." John: "We're not THAT young." And with these prophetic words divorce mediators John Beckwith (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy Grey (Vince Vaughn)--lifelong friends whose hobby it is to crash weddings get laid and never look back--embark on a journey of self-discovery. Well maybe not a journey exactly more like a weekend of debauchery. And maybe not self-discovery per se more a realization falling in love isn't such a bad thing. It all starts when the charismatic and charming duo crash the social event of the year the wedding of Treasury Secretary William Cleary's (Christopher Walken) daughter. They stick to the Crashers Code at first setting their sights on two bridesmaids Claire (Rachel McAdams) and Gloria (Isla Fisher) Cleary creating clever back stories and becoming the hit of the lavish party. But while Jeremy is going about business as usual with the curiously randy Gloria John is uncharacteristically falling hard and fast for the whip-smart and beautiful Claire. John eventually persuades a resistant Jeremy to bend the crashing rules and accept an invitation to an extended weekend party at the Cleary family compound. Uh oh. Once at the palatial waterfront estate the dysfunctional members of the Cleary family put the guys through the wringer. It would be enough to send any confirmed bachelor running--except John really likes Claire and wants to make it work. And Jeremy as he tells John just wants to "ice my balls and spit up blood."
There must be some kind of osmosis thing that happens when the Frat Packers mix it up. Of course I'm talking about the comedic talents of Vaughn Wilson his brother Luke Wilson Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell who just keep churning out one hilarious film--Old School Dodgeball Starsky & Hutch--after another in various tag-team combinations. The Wedding Crashers is no exception. Although it's actually Vaughn and Wilson's first real screen time together (if you don't count Starsky & Hutch) you'd swear they've been working together for years making them the best Frat Pack combo yet. Their diverse comedy styles--Vaughn's rapid-fire delivery Wilson's slow burn--complement each other perfectly. Like Vaughn's character explains in Swingers these guys are "in the rated-R movie…the guy[s] you're not sure whether or not you like yet. You're not sure where [they] are coming from." Vaughn and Wilson also share the wealth with their supporting cast. The lovely McAdams (Mean Girls The Notebook) continues to show her range as Claire and she very sweetly holds her own amidst the calamity. Walken is also particularly entertaining as the elder Cleary who's funny without ever trying to be. But the true scene stealer is Aussie actress Fisher (Scooby-Doo) as the youngest Cleary daughter an obsessive "Stage 5" clinger and nymphomaniac. "Don't ever leave me 'cause I'd find you!" she giggles to Jeremy with a wild look in her eyes. Yikes. Fisher goes full tilt playing the one woman who can truly give Jeremy a taste of his own medicine. Wild and wacky stuff.
Director David Dobkin likes to try his hand at different genres. He first worked with Vince Vaughn in the serious-minded serial killer flick Clay Pigeons and then worked with Owen Wilson in the action-packed but lighthearted sequel Shanghai Knights. Now Dobkin has got the both of them in a balls-out comedy--and handles the chores with aplomb even if all the director has to do is turn on the camera and point it at his stars. From the moment we see Jeremy and John crashing a variety of ethnic weddings (Jewish Hindu Chinese) to their escapades at the Cleary home Wedding Crashers will simply split your sides and make you spit out your Coke. You're probably going to see it a few more times just so you can pick up stuff you might have missed while laughing so hard. The only problem is how to end it. Granted we are dealing with in essence a romantic comedy so you know there's got to be some sort of happy resolution. We'll accept that. But the film seems to lose some steam and turns predictable once the guys leave the Clearys. The last 10 minutes--save for a memorable cameo from a fellow Frat Packer (and I won't tell you who)--drag on a bit. Still it doesn't completely take away from the good time you've been having.
September 07, 2004 12:11pm EST
In Paparazzi celebrity photographers are an affliction that torment tens if not dozens of residents of Brentwood the Hollywood Hills and Malibu. Bo Laramie (Cole Hauser) is one such denizen. As Hollywood's brightest new action star Laramie along with his wife Abby (Robin Tunney) is set to enjoy the sweet ride of success until paparazzo Rex Harper (Tom Sizemore) and his marauding band of slimy shutterbugs turn his life into a living hell. Or at least a fairly large inconvenience. With a blatant nod to Princess Di the pesky paparazzi cause a high-speed car wreck which sends Bo's son Zach (Blake Bryan) into a coma of convenient duration and results in the loss of Abby's spleen. Which is fitting as the movie has no discernible spleen of its own. And so our hero who has obviously not received the standard studio briefing on the joys of contract killers takes matters (and a baseball bat) into his own hands. The model for Paparazzi is the vigilante movie: Death Wish Billy Jack Walking Tall and the like. But whereas Bronson's Paul Kersey devolved from architect to cold-blooded killer only when faced with impossibly high stakes (the murder of his wife and rape of his daughter) Laramie by contrast turns into a serial killer and a sloppy one at that over a little retinal glare. And doing it all by himself? One imagines the Anthony Pellicanos of the world dispatching guys like Harper during a Pilates break.
It's problematic asking non-movie stars to play huge movie stars for obvious reasons. Bo Laramie is supposed to be the biggest thing since Ah-nuld held his day job but as Hauser plays him he comes off more like Michael Dudikoff. Even as he's beating paparazzi to death with his own hands there is no sense of a human being or even a movie star being pushed to his limits. Tunney who was terrific in Niagara Niagara has nothing to do and neither does Dennis Farina as the cop conflicted by the A-list avenger. Sizemore of course steals every scene he's in effortlessly and ruthlessly. In spite of his recent legal troubles (or perhaps because of them) he brings just the right dosage of dangerous persona and edgy charisma to his growing roster of manic miscreants. Ultimately though even his involvement is disappointing: When he's on screen he fools you into thinking a real movie is about to start.
First-time director Paul Abascal is but a pawn in Mel Gibson's dogmatic production slate. Screenwriter Forrest Smith had a small role with Gibson in We Were Soldiers and reportedly leveraged the moment to pitch Paparazzi to the actor/producer/Catholic poster boy. Gibson has had issues with his privacy before and has already proved himself shameless in using the movies to promote an agenda. So as with The Passion of the Christ a movie that wouldn't have gotten so much as a sniff at any other studio found itself with a green light. And Bo Laramie became family man/action hero Gibson's violent alter ego. Or maybe just ego. (Gibson also has a brief cameo and the one sheet for Laramie's "movie" Adrenaline Force 2 is a dead ringer for the poster art for Lethal Weapon 2). With Gibson's personal profits alone surpassing the $400 million mark with this week's Passion DVD sales and Paparazzi's budget listed at $20 million Gibson could make 20 sequels to Paparazzi. Or he could use the producer's pulpit to speak out against other vexations in his life. Somewhere at Icon world headquarters Leaf Blower: The Movie just went into pre-production.
After surviving a devastating car accident following her first college party freshman Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) falls into a coma and steps into a nightmare of otherworldly visitations. Haunted by a grim reaper of a far different kind her only hope is to cling to chance encounters with her lost love Sean (Casey Affleck) and the aid of a mysterious young priest named Father Jude (Luke Wilson). Cassie's malicious friends Matt (Wes Bentley) Annabel (Eliza Dushku) and the morose Raven (Angela Featherstone) seem intent on drawing her to the dark side but the spirit of her soul mate Sean guides her back to the world of the living.
Sagemiller (Get Over It) may be a fine actress but this film--her second full-length feature--isn't the one to prove it. Not that Sagemiller does a poor job but like most dull and stale horror movies the female lead isn't asked to do much other than look frightened and scream--a lot. Affleck (Good Will Hunting) Bentley (American Beauty) and Dushku (Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back) are among the more talented actors of their generation but are completely wasted especially Affleck in his one-dimensional role. Wilson as Father Jude is the only character with an interesting part but unfortunately the good Father's development is stunted and incomplete leaving Wilson little to work with.
Steve Carpenter's first turn as a director leaves much to be desired. Of course Carpenter wrote the formulaic script so why shouldn't he be the one to helm it? One major flaw (and there are plenty to choose from) is that nearly half the movie is shot tight on the characters giving the audience a very myopic view. Even if that was intentional it certainly did nothing to heighten the tension (what little of it there was) in the movie. The flick's tagline "The World of the Dead and the World of the Living... are About to Collide" conveys the message of an epic struggle between the forces of evil and the forces of good--a struggle that never materializes. And the film's final message that love conquers all is the boring hackneyed truism that breaks the cliché camel's back.