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.
As the British Invasion stormed American airwaves in the mid-'60s its conquest of its native land took the shape of a sea-based guerrilla offensive. Broadcasting from ships anchored just outside British territorial waters a handful of so-called “pirate radio” stations defied the BBC’s strict limits on popular music by blasting the isles with around-the-clock rock 'n' roll. Writer/director Richard Curtis (Four Weddings and a Funeral Love Actually) pays tribute to that vibrant era with Pirate Radio a sentimental lighthearted ode to the renegade DJs who helped British rock find its sea legs.
Curtis introduces us to Pirate Radio’s motley ensemble through the bright eyes of Carl (Tom Sturridge) a naive schoolboy whose godfather Quentin (Bill Nighy playing perhaps the hippest sexagenarian in history) owns and operates Radio Rock Britain’s premier pirate station. Surrounded by a crew of boisterous impossibly well-dressed musical misfits — all of whom are seemingly modeled after various '60s countercultural archetypes (the mod hipster the impish lothario the uncompromising purist the dazed hippie the Jim Morrison clone etc.) — Carl’s unusual voyage of discovery commences in earnest.
Pirate Radio may strike some as reminiscent of another nostalgic paean to the wonders of rock 'n' roll Almost Famous — not least because star Philip Seymour Hoffman essentially resuscitates his Lester Bangs performance in this film. But Pirate Radio is far less ambitious than Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film not seeking so much to define an era as to use it as the backdrop for a brisk buoyant comedy. And in that regard it succeeds far more often than it fails thanks largely to the efforts of a talented cast led by Hoffman Nighy Nick Frost and Rhys Darby. There are a few bittersweet moments scattered throughout Pirate Radio but at its core the film is a comic coming-of-age story — punctuated by a lively soundtrack loaded with classics from the Who the Kinks the Rolling Stones and other seminal bands.
It should be noted that a significantly longer version of the film titled The Boat That Rocked debuted in the UK over six months ago. Narrative gaps are evident throughout Pirate Radio but director Curtis’ decision to pare nearly 20 minutes off the film’s running time for its American release looks like a wise one as the shortened length still tests the limits of one’s patience. Rock 'n' roll can be many things but it must never ever be boring.