Tom Cruise is the biggest star on the planet, yet his greatest strength is a willingness to take a back seat to a director's vision. In Oblivion, the actor dials back his usual heroism to play pensive wanderer Jack, a technician preparing to return to the rest of civilization that recently vacated a post-apocalyptic version of Earth. After aliens destroyed our planet's moon, humans nuked the crap out of them before heading to Saturn. Jack helps harvest remaining sea water of Earth, used as fuel on the new planet, and with only days left, he dreams of the past — memories he, theoretically, should not have.
That's some serious plot. Cruise wisely goes along for the ride, leaving most of the work to director Joe Kosinski (Tron Legacy), who's just as caught up with the fluid motions of his futuristic vehicles and decimated metropolis landscapes as he is with Jack's emotional roller coaster ride. Kosinski, working off a screenplay he wrote with Karl Gajdusek (Last Resort) and Michael Arndt (Star Wars VII), picks and chooses an array of sci-fi concepts to stuff into the movie, making Oblivion a wholly original story where every moment feels familiar. Luckily, Kosinski is a master patch worker. He sweeps slowly over every landscape like he's shooting a nature film, with a fetishism over the operation of every piece of technology so we understand how it works, takes us through the daily operations of Jack and his Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) step by step so we're drowning in the monotony of their jobs. It's a slow build and Kosinski, unlike so many genre movies we see today, demands we see the work he's put into building the world of Oblivion. And it's satisfying.
Cruise makes for the perfect surrogate on Jack's observational journey. Like War of the Worlds, he can sell the blue collar worker going through the motions of flying his Mac-inspired spaceship to fix broken drone bots and he can sell the action that amps up as he uncovers the truth about his existence. Jack is never confident, and the emergence of a mysterious human visitor, Julia (Olga Kurylenko), or the leader of a subterranean resistance group (enhanced by the gravitas of Morgan Freeman), make him draw back further into his head. Kosinski twists and turns and forces Cruise back into his own head and it subverts our expectations of a public figure we still imagine jumping up and down on Oprah's couch.
There's an epic quality to Oblivion that Kosinski embraces too casually. It misses out on greatness by never finding an emotional hook and letting the score by electronica artist M83 do the talking. While Victoria and Jack's relationship is meant to be cold ("We are still an effective team," Victoria tells her literal higher ups each morning), there's little personality in the world around them — especially in the overcompensating soundtrack. It's a Tron Legacy rehash, blaring horns and pounding drums burying Cruise's hushed work. By the end, when Jack rises up to hero status, it feels more like an excuse to match the soundscape than the next step of his evolution.
Oblivion is the definition of style over substance, but Kosinski delivers on the eye candy. He and Cruise give the story and characters just enough weight that they're worth following through the multi-million dollar screensaver world — a spectacle that must be seen on IMAX. Dense with backstory, Oblivion is the type of movie that won't survive scrutiny, and that's half the fun. It'll mesmerize in the moment and spur debate, fury, and plenty of questions on the walk to the car.
What do you think? Tell Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and read more of his reviews on Rotten Tomatoes!
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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.
I guess Hollywood's fictional scientists learned nothing from A Clockwork Orange. Stanley Kubrick, essentially, sought to teach cinema's most brilliant minds that you cannot alter an individual's natural behavior. Yet that's exactly what director F. Gary Gray is planning to do with his new film, a high-concept futuristic heist thriller called The Last Days of American Crime. In it, America responds to a second major terrorist attack by developing technology that eliminates the impulse to commit crimes of any kind. The story centers on a man leading a heist team to pull off a final job five days before the signal rubs out the criminal instinct.
Let's make this clear. It's not Mr. Gray who is responsible for bringing this story to the screen. You can thank Radical Publishing's Barry Levine for that. The film is a project that he has been shepherding with Sam Worthington, who has a deal with Radical that also includes another adaptation-in-progress called Damaged. The Aussie will star as the team's point man and will also produce with Levine and his partner Michael Schwarz. Rick Remender wrote the script, though Deadline says that Karl Gajdusek, who penned Joel Schumacher's Trespass and will also rewrite William Monahan's Oblivion script for Joseph Kosinski, will work on the screenplay now that a director is on board.
I like Gray as a filmmaker. Sure, he's had a few misses like Be Cool and A Man Apart, but he's also the guy who made Friday, Set It Off, The Negotiator and The Italian Job. The latter release sounds most closely related to what The Last Days Of American Crime has in store for us, and it is a slick heist pic that holds up against the glitzier Oceans films among other genre contenders. My biggest concern is with the story. As previously stated, I just don't see how the hook of having the characters' criminal instincts eradicated will entice audiences to by a ticket. Will it make moviegoers "miss" their criminal behavior? Will everyone go out after the credits and embrace their inner crook? I guess it'll make the team work against a clock, which will increase the tension ten-fold. But if they don't succeed in their mission, I don't see what the big consequences will be.
Leonardo DiCaprio is set to track an Al Qaeda leader in a hard-hitting new Ridley Scott drama.
The actor will play a journalist-turned-CIA agent who is given the task of locating a terrorist in Jordan reportedly planning an attack on America in Body of Lies.
The film, which will dredge up memories of 9/11 when Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden organized a terrorist attack on New York and Washington, is to shoot in Morocco later this year.
The project will re-team DiCaprio with The Departed screenwriter William Monahan, who will adapt the story from David Ignatius' book.
COPYRIGHT 2007 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
Martin Scorsese's gangster movie The Departed and road comedy Little Miss Sunshine walked away with the top prizes at the Writers Guild of America Awards in Los Angeles last night.
William Monahan won the Best Adapted Screenplay award for The Departed, while Michael Arndt collected Best Original Screenplay for Little Miss Sunshine.
Best Documentary Screenplay went to Amy Berg for Deliver Us from Evil.
Elsewhere, The Sopranos writers Mitchell Burgess, David Chase, Diane Frolov, Robin Green, Andrew Schneider, Matthew Weiner and Terence Winter won the Best Dramatic Television Series award.
The Office writers Steve Carell, Jennifer Celotta, Greg Daniels, Lee Eisenberg, Brent Forrester, Ricky Gervais, Mindy Kaling, Paul Lieberstein, Stephen Merchant, B.J. Novak, Michael Schur and Gene Stupnitsky won the Best Comedy Television Series award.
Ugly Betty writers Veveronica Becker, Oliver Goldstick, Silvio Horta, Sarah Kucserka, Sheila Lawrence, Cameron Litvack, Myra Jo Martino, Jim Parriott, Marco Pennette, Dailyn Rodriguez and Don Todd won Best New Television Series.
COPYRIGHT 2007 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All Global Rights Reserved.
It might have been early in the morning, but that didn't stop everyone from Dido to Moby to Evanescence's Amy Lee from showing up at the announcement of the 46th annual Grammy Award nominations this morning at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.
OutKast, Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and the Neptunes' Pharrell Williams are tied for the lead with six nominations apiece. Missy Elliott, 50 Cent, Eminem, the Neptunes' Chad Hugo, Justin Timberlake, Ricky Skaggs, Evanescence, Luther Vandross and the late Warren Zevon are close behind with five noms each.
The four big categories--album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist--reflect the dominance of rap, hip-hop and R&B artists in mainstream music as well as the renewed popularity of rock music.
Up for album of the year are Missy Elliott's Under Construction, Timberlake's Justified, Evanescence's Fallen, the White Stripes' Elephant and OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
Hip-hop duo's OutKast's single "Hey Ya!" will go head-to-head for record of the year against Black Eyed Peas' "Where is the Love?," Beyoncé and Jay-Z's "Crazy in Love," Eminem's "Lose Yourself" and Coldplay's "Clocks."
For song of the year, which goes to the songwriter as opposed to the recording artist, nominees are Linda Perry for Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," Eminem and Luis Resto for Eminem's "Lose Yourself," Richard Marx and Luther Vandross for Vandross' "Dance With My Father," Avril Lavigne and the Matrix for Lavigne's "I'm With You" and the late Warren Zevon and Jorge Calderon for Zevon's "Keep Me in Your Heart."
Sean Paul, 50 Cent, Evanescence, Fountains of Wayne and Heather Headley will compete for the best new artist award.
The Grammy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles and will be telecast on CBS from 8-11:30 p.m. (EST/PST).
Here is a partial list of nominations (a full list of nominees is posted on Grammy.com):
Album of the Year
Under Construction, Missy Elliott
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, Outkast
Justified, Justin Timberlake
Elephant, The White Stripes
Record of the Year
"Crazy In Love," Beyoncé Featuring Jay-Z
"Where Is The Love?," Black Eyed Peas featuring Justin Timberlake
"Lose Yourself," Eminem
"Hey Ya," Outkast
Best New Artist
Fountains Of Wayne
Song of the Year
Linda Perry for "Beautiful" (performed by Christina Aguilera)
Richard Marx and Luther Vandross for "Dance With My Father"
Avril Lavigne and The Matrix (Lauren Christy, Graham Edwards and Scott Spock) for "I'm With You"
Jorge Calderón and Warren Zevon for "Keep Me In Your Heart"
Jeff Bass, Marshall Mathers (aka Eminem) and Luis Resto for "Lose Yourself"
Best Rap Song (NEW!)
Calvin Broadus (aka Snoop Dogg), Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams for "Beautiful" (performed by Snoop Dogg Featuring Williams and Uncle Charlie Wilson)
Shawn Carter (aka Jay-Z), Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams for "Excuse Me Miss" (performed by Jay-Z Featuring Williams)
Mike Elizondo, Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) and A. Young for "In Da Club" (performed by 50 Cent)
Jeff Bass, Marshall Mathers and Luis Resto for "Lose Yourself" (performed by Eminem)
Missy Elliott and Tim Mosley for "Work It" (performed by Elliott)
Best Rap Album
Missy Elliott, Under Construction
50 Cent, Get Rich Or Die Tryin'
Jay-Z, The Blueprint2 - The Gift & The Curse
Outkast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
Best R&B Album
Erykah Badu, Worldwide Underground
Blu Cantrell, Bittersweet
Aretha Franklin, So Damn Happy
Isley Brothers Featuring Ronald Isley aka Mr. Biggs, Body Kiss
Luther Vandross, Dance With My Father
Best Contemporary R&B Album
Ashanti, Chapter II
Beyoncé, Dangerously In Love
Mary J. Blige, Love and Life
Anthony Hamilton, Comin' From Where I'm From
R. Kelly, Chocolate Factory
Best Rock Album
Foo Fighters, One By One
matchbox twenty, More Than You Think You Are
Nickelback, The Long Road
Best Rock Song
Evanescence, "Bring Me To Life" (David Hodges, Amy Lee and Ben Moody)
Train, "Calling All Angels" (Charlie Colin, Pat Monahan, Jimmy Stafford and Scott Underwood)
Bruce Springsteen and Warren Zevon, "Disorder In The House" (Jorge Calderón and Warren Zevon)
The White Stripes, "Seven Nation Army" (Jack White)
Nickelback, "Someday" (Chad Kroeger, Mike Kroeger, Ryan Peake and Ryan Vikedal)
Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocal
The White Stripes
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
Christina Aguilera, "Beautiful"
Kelly Clarkson, "Miss Independent"
Dido, "White Flag"
Avril Lavigne, "I'm With You"
Sarah McLachlan, "Fallen"
Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals
Lil' Kim and Christina Aguilera, "Can't Hold Us Down"
Tony Bennett and k.d. lang for "La Vie En Rose"
Pink and William Orbit for "Feel Good Time"
Bob Dylan and Mavis Staples for "Gonna Change My Way Of Thinking"
Sting and Mary J. Blige for "Whenever I Say Your Name"
Best Pop Vocal Album
Christina Aguilera, Stripped
George Harrison, Brainwashed
Annie Lennox, Bare
Michael McDonald, Motown
Justin Timberlake, Justified
Best Pop Male Vocal Performance
George Harrison, "Any Road"
Michael McDonald, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"
Sting, "Send Your Love"
Justin Timberlake, "Cry Me A River"
Warren Zevon, "Keep Me In Your Heart"
Best Pop Instrumental Performance
Ry Cooder and Manuel Galbán for "Patricia"
Dave Koz, "Honey-Dipped"
Randy Newman, "Seabiscuit"
The Brian Setzer Orchestra, "The Nutcracker Suite"
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Bette Midler Sings, Bette Midler
Rosemary Clooney Songbook, Rosemary Clooney
The A Wonderful World, Tony Bennett and k.d. lang
As Time Goes By…The Great American Songbook: Volume II, Rod Stewart
The Movie Album, Barbra Streisand
Best Spoken Word Album For Children
Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, Eric Idle
Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix, Jim Dale
Prokofiev: Peter And The Wolf/Beintus: Wolf Tracks, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and Sophia Loren
Tell Me A Scary Story, Carl Reiner
Winnie-The-Pooh, Jim Broadbent
Best Spoken Word Album
Fear Itself, Don Cheadle
Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair And Balanced Look At The Right, Al Franken
Living History, Hillary Rodham Clinton
Nikki Giovanni Poetry Collection, Nikki Giovanni
When You Ride Alone You Ride With Bin Laden, Bill Maher
Best Female Country Vocal Performance
Patty Loveless, On Your Way Home
Martina McBride, This One's For The Girls
Dolly Parton, I'm Gone
Shania Twain, Forever And For Always
Best Country Collaboration With Vocals
Willie Nelson and Norah Jones, Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want To Get Over You)
Willie Nelson and Toby Keith, Beer For My Horses
June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash, Temptation
Alan Jackson and Jimmy Buffet, It's Five O'Clock Somewhere
James Taylor and Alison Krauss, How's The World Treating You
Best Country Album
Faith Hill, Cry
Lyle Lovett, My Baby Don't Tolerate
Willie Nelson and Ray Price, Run That One By Me One More Time
Willie Nelson, Live And Kickin'
Shania Twain, Up!
Compilation, Livin', Lovin', Losin' - Songs of the Louvin Brothers