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 Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
Officials confirmed Monday that the badly decomposed body of a woman found in her home last week was the estranged mother of conservative talk show host Dr. Laura Schlessinger, Reuters reports. According to a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner, the body of 77-year-old Yolanda Schlessinger was identified using an X-ray body comparison. An autopsy revealed she had been murdered, but the cause of death has not been established and could take a few weeks. Dr. Laura, who outraged the homesexual community two years ago by referring to gays and lesbians as "biological errors," issued a statement last week saying she was horrified by her mother's death. "My mother shut all her family out of her life over the years although we made several futile attempts to stay connected. May God rest her soul." Schlessinger has said that she and her mother had been estranged for 14 years.
Matt Damon is denying reports that he is marrying his longtime girlfriend Odessa Whitmire, People.com reports. "The rumor that he's getting engaged has been fabricated over the past couple of weeks, but it's not true," his publicist Jennifer Allen said. "He is dating Ms. Whitmire, but he is not engaged." Whitmire is Ben Affleck's former personal assistant.
The New York Daily News reports that Catherine Zeta-Jones and hubby Michael Douglas are planning to move to Bermuda to raise their children. According to the paper, Douglas preferred New York while Zeta-Jones wanted Wales, where the couple already owns a house. They reportedly settled on Bermuda because Douglas' mother, Dianna Darrid, is Bermudan.
Celebrity P.I. Anthony Pellicano pleaded not guilty Monday to federal weapons charges stemming from a police investigation into the alleged harassment of Los Angeles Times reporter Anita Busch, Reuters reports. At the time, Busch was researching an alleged Mafia extortion plot against actor Steven Seagal. When searching his West Hollywood office last month for evidence Pellicano had hired an ex-convict suspected of threatening Busch, police found two live grenades big enough to blow up an airliner in a safe.
The big-budget thriller The Big Bounce suspended its Oahu, Hawaii, shoot after director George Armitage suffered an intestinal ailment, Variety reports. The illness, however, does not require surgery and Armitage, who traveled to Los Angeles for treatment, is expected to resume his directorial duties. The film, which stars Owen Wilson and Morgan Freeman, has been filming since October.
The Venice Film Festival, which will run Aug. 27-Sept. 6, may be looking for a new home. Franco Bernabe, president of the Venice Biennale, the organization that puts on the festival, is considering moving the festival from the Lido to central Venice because of the rising costs associated with the remote island. Hotels have been known to double their prices during the event.
The feature-length animated version of Ben-Hur, narrated by Charlton Heston, will bow on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Variety reports. Heston will also voice the title role in the picture, which will air across the Christian television network Tuesday night.
The Rolling Stones will play their first free concert since the 1969 Altamont fiasco when the Hells Angels turned a free "thank you" show into a bloodbath. Reuters reports the concert, scheduled for Feb. 6 at the Staples center in Los Angeles, is being held to promote awareness of global warming and is being organized with the environmental lobby group the Natural Resources Defense Council. Producer Steve Bing, a key Democrat fundraiser, will foot the bill.
Tim Russert, NBC's Meet the Press host, will pen a memoir about fathers and sons for Miramax Books, The Associated Press reports. "The book will share the lessons, anecdotes and advice given to Russert by his dad while growing up in Buffalo, N.Y.," a Miramax statement said Monday. The not-yet-titled memoir is scheduled to come out in time for Father's Day in 2004.