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.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
An autopsy has shown Bee Gees brother Maurice Gibb died because his bowel and small intestine were so severely twisted it caused a restriction of blood flow, The Associated Press reports. Gibb, 53, died Sunday three days after suffering cardiac arrest prior to undergoing emergency surgery for an intestinal blockage. The Miami-Dade County medical examiner told AP Gibb suffered from a condition known as ischemic enteropathy, which can be severe enough to cause cardiac arrest because of the restricted flow of blood. Dr. Jeffrey Raskin, interim chief of gastroenterology at the University of Miami, also told AP, "People (with his condition) can live to middle age with no symptoms. They can have minor problems off and on. Or, they can present on the first time with a catastrophic event, as it seems in this case." Gibb's brothers, Barry and Robin, have questioned the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami about the decision to operate after their brother's cardiac arrest.
Singer Bobby Brown was sentenced to eight days in jail Friday after pleading guilty to a 1996 drunken driving charge in Georgia, AP reports. He is also to perform 240 hours of community service, pay $2,000 in fines and $800 in court costs, as well as getting couseling. Brown will be on probation for two years.
Variety reports the Directors Guild of America will award Martin Scorsese its lifetime achievement award at the 55th annual DGA Awards March 1. In its 67-year history, the union's highest achievement has been given out to only 29 directors. Steven Spielberg was the DGA's last recipient, winning the honors in 2000.
DreamWorks has joined Paramount Pictures to co-finance the Ben Affleck sci-fi thriller Paycheck, Variety reports, making it the third deal the two studios have set up together lately. The other two include Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Killing Pablo. Paycheck is based on a short story by Philip K. Dick about a guy whose memory is erased by his employer but who tries to collect his paycheck anyway.
Samuel L. Jackson will join Juliette Binoche in the indie drama Country of My Skull for director John Boorman. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the story is based on the book Country of My Skull: Guilt, Sorrow and the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa and chronicles the account of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated human rights abuses during apartheid.
The Simpsons are sticking around for another two seasons, Variety reports. The animated show has been renewed by Fox through May 2005, which will make 16 seasons and 360 episodes total. This will surpass the classic The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, television's longest running show in history.
Cybill Shepherd will don the apron and play Martha Stewart in an upcoming NBC telefilm, tentatively titled Martha Inc.: The Story of Martha Stewart. Seems fitting, no? The project is based on Christopher Byron's biography Martha Inc.: The Incredible Story of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which was released in bookstores last spring, just as Stewart became embroiled in the insider trading scandal with the biotechnology firm ImClone.
Rocker Jackson Browne is calling for the removal of some scenes from the TBS telepic America's Prince: The John F. Kennedy Jr. Story, which suggest the singer assaulted a former girlfriend, actress Daryl Hannah, who also dated John Jr. Reuters reports Browne's attorney, Lawrence Iser, demanded in a letter to TBS that it "cease and desist" airing the program again "until false and defamatory scenes accusing Mr. Browne of assaulting actress Daryl Hannah are removed." The film aired Sunday on TBS.
The William Morris Agency will be opening a branch in Miami, Fla., to accommodate their Spanish-speaking clients, including Luis Miguel and Enrique Iglesias. The office will open in April.
Further shaking up the record industry, Jay Boberg, president of Vivendi Universal's MCA Records, resigned his post Thursday, Reuters reports. This follows the resignation of Sony Music Entertainment head Tommy Mottola last week. Boberg will be replaced in the interim by Craig Lambert, MCA's senior vice president of promotion.