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.
New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the third and final installment in director Peter Jackson's fantasy epic, continued its reign at the box office with a cork-popping take of $51.2 million* over the holiday weekend. What's more, The Return of the King posted the best Christmas day gross ever, taking in $14.5 million on Dec. 25 alone. The film also crossed the $200 million mark after only 11 days, beating The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which took 12 days. That's definitely good news for New Line, whose Rings trilogy was a $300 million-plus make-or-break investment for the studio. Combined with the spirited take of four new wide releases, The Return of the King's strong legs also helped make this weekend the biggest Christmas weekend in box office history.The comedy Cheaper by the Dozen triumphed over rival newcomers hitting theaters this weekend, opening in second place with a generous three-day take of $28.2 million. The family comedy was followed by Cold Mountain, which debuted in the No. 3 position with nippy $14.5 million. Aided by its eight Golden Globe nominations and inclusion on many critics' Top 10 lists, the American Civil War drama is on a likely track for key Oscar nominations. Something's Gotta Give, now in its third week of release, placed fourth with $14.2 million, while the new Ben Affleck sci-fi thriller Paycheck, rounded out the Top Five with a foreseeable opening take of $13.9 million. The family pic Peter Pan, the last of this week's wide releases, kicked off in seventh place with a not-so-magical take of $11.4 million.Although this week's four new releases produced a combined first-day box office tally of almost $22 million, Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracking service Exhibitor Relations, told The Associated Press Sunday the industry's total yearend box office revenues would likely fall short of last year's $9.3 billion record, marking the first year-to-year decline since 1991."The end of the year is looking pretty good," Dergarabedian said. "But not enough to jump ahead of last year's revenues ... because 2002 was so amazing."Last year, Hollywood benefited from an abundance of blockbusters, such as Spider-Man, Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the sleeper hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $168.6 million, up 26.39 percent from last weekend's $133.4 million take and up 8.18 percent from last year's $155.8 million.THE TOP TENNew Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King kept its No. 1 stronghold in its second week of release with an ESTIMATED $51.2 million (-29%) at 3,703 theaters (unchanged; $13,833 per theater). Its cume is approximately $223.6 million. Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.Twentieth Century Fox's PG rated comedy Cheaper by the Dozen debuted in second place with $28.2 million in 3,298 theaters, with an $8,558 per theater average. In the film, a contemporary remake of the 1950 Walter Lang comedy based on the novel by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth, mayhem ensues as a couple moves their large family of 12 children from a small town to an affluent Chicago suburb.Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling. Miramax Films' R rated Civil War drama Cold Mountain opened in third place with $14.5 million in 2,167 theaters with a $6,691 per theater average. In the film, a Confederate soldier makes the arduous journey from the front lines of the Civil War to his home in Cold Mountain, N.C., where his ladylove has been fighting battles of her own.Directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger. Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give dropped one spot to fourth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $11.4 million (+24%) at 2,709 theaters (+32 theaters; $5,242 per theater). Its cume is approximately $56.3 million. Directed by Nancy Meyers, it stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand.Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller Paycheck kicked off in the No. 5 position with $13.9 million in 2,762 theaters with a $5,033 per theater average. In the film, a "reverse-engineer" who has had three years of his memory erased by a multimillion-dollar corporation, tries to piece together his past using a collection of random objects.Directed by John Woo, it stars Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman.*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated drama Mona Lisa Smile fell from its runner-up position last week to sixth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $11.5 million (unchanged) in 2,677 theaters (unchanged; $4,296 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.4 million.Directed by Mike Newell, it stars Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles.Universal Pictures' PG rated family pic Peter Pan opened in seventh place with $11.4 million at 2,813 theaters with a $4,053 per theater average. In the film, based on the classic J.M. Barrie novel, the Darling family children receive a visit from Peter Pan, who takes them to Neverland where an ongoing war with the evil pirate Captain Hook is taking place.Directed by P.J. Hogan, it stars Jeremy Sumpter, Jason Isaacs and Ludivine Sagnier. Warner Bros.' R rated period actioner The Last Samurai, fell four spots to eighth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $8.3 million (+8%) in 2,557 theaters (-381; $3,273 per theater). Its cume is approximately $74.3 million.Directed by Edward Zwick, it stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Spall.Miramax Films' R rated dark comedy Bad Santa dropped two rungs to ninth place in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $4.5 million (-11%) at 1,710 theaters (-515 theaters; $2,644 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.9 million. Directed by Terry Zwigoff, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Tony Cox and John Ritter.New Line Cinema's PG rated holiday comedy Elf fell five places in its eighth week to round out the Top 10 with an ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-22%) at 2,015 theaters (-436 theaters; $2,122 per theater). Its cume is approximately $164.8 million. Directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Mary Steenburgen.OTHERSSony Picture Classics' PG-13 rated dance drama The Company debuted in 11 theaters with $96,939, with a $8,813 per theater average.The film centers on a Chicago ballet company--the difficult daily work, the intense pressures of performance and the richly textured behaviors of the dancers, whose professional and personal lives grow impossibly close.Directed by Robert Altman, it stars Neve Campbell, James Franco and Malcolm McDowell.New Market's R rated biopic Monster opened in four theaters with $84,156 with an impressive $21,039 per theater average. The dark tale is based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, one of America's first female serial killers.Directed by Patty Jenkins, it stars Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci.WEEKEND COMPARISON Last year, New Line's PG-13 rated The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers came in at No. 1 in its second week with $48.8 million in 3,622 theaters (unchanged; $13,494 per theater); DreamWorks' biopic Catch Me If You Can opened in second place with $30 million 3,156 theaters ($9,523 per theater); Warner Brothers' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice followed in third place in its second week of release with $15.5 million in 2,755 theaters (unchanged; $5,633 per theater).
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.
Indie queen Christina Ricci will be working with eclectic director Woody Allen on his next untitled project. As usual, the plot is being kept firmly under wraps, but The Hollywood Reporter notes the film will center around three young adults. Jason Biggs (American Pie) is also on board. Filming is set to start in the spring.
Ricci is hot on the independent film market right now, having starred in this year's Sundance Film Festival darling Pumpkin and Miramax Films' upcoming Prozac Nation. She'll also be seen in HBO's The Laramie Project, which airs Saturday, March 9.
In a trendy Manhattan art gallery, Susan Sarandon, Bill Pullman, Art Garfunkel and many other celebrities attended a gala preview Monday of artwork by students, faculty and alumni of the Savannah College of Art and Design. The event was hosted by James Wyeth, son of artist Andrew Wyeth and grandson of N.C.Wyeth.
Country singer Faith Hill is going to the Academy Awards. She'll be performing the song "There You'll Be" from the movie Pearl Harbor, written by Diane Warren. The song has been nominated for an Oscar in the Best Original Song category, along with other nominated songs from Monsters, Inc., The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Kate & Leopold and Vanilla Sky.
Sean Combs, whose previous aliases revolved around being called "Daddy," finally faced up to the real thing when he reached a custody and financial settlement Tuesday with former model Kimberly Porter, mother of his three-year-old son, Christian. Combs had been a no-show in court nine times over the last year and was threatened with an arrest if he failed to appear Tuesday. He'll be providing child support, health insurance and other necessities for the child.
Pop singer/actress Brandy Norwood, 23, told MTV's Carson Daly on Total Request Live Tuesday the baby she is carrying is a girl. Brandy secretly wed record producer Robert Smith, 22, last summer. The baby is due in July.
Legendary comedian Lucille Ball's childhood home was put on the market via the Internet. The two-story house in Chautauqua County in upstate New York, where Ball lived from the time she was 8 years old to the middle of her high school years, is listed on the Web site eBay for an asking price of $98,500 by real estate broker Bruce Turner. The 112-year-old house had been sitting on the regular market for nearly a year before Turner put it on eBay. So far, the house has yet to be sold.
Dana Delaney of China Beach fame is returning to television. She'll star in a new hospital drama, Presidio Med, for CBS, playing a pediatric doctor. And in other TV casting news, Saturday Night Live alum Cheri Oteri has signed up for the ABC comedy pilot With You in Spirit, about a recent college grad (Reid Scott) who ends up in Spirit, N.M., working as a reporter. Primetime television just keeps getting better and better, doesn't it?
Veteran journalist Cokie Roberts has decided to slow things down. In November, she'll be leaving ABC's This Week and co-anchor Sam Donaldson, when her contract expires. She wants to spend more time with her family. Roberts is still in conversations with ABC on what role she will play in the future with the network and will continue reporting for National Public Radio. To further fan the fire, The Hollywood Reporter reported there is speculation that George Stephanopoulos and Claire Shipman will replace Donaldson and Roberts, but ABC network officials have strongly denied the report.
ABC is just on the hot wire lately....As CBS and ABC continue to iron out their bids for talk-show host David Letterman, Ted Koppel defended his 22-year-old ABC news show Nightline, which ABC executives are rumored to be considering bumping in favor of Letterman's higher-rated show. Reuters reported Koppel wrote a op-ed piece and spoke out against the network executives. He wrote, "When Nightline is gone...and should the occasion arrive that our work might again seem relevant to the anonymous executive, it will not then be possible to reconstitute what is so easily destroyed." Letterman, however, has made it clear he will not consider moving to ABC unless the network can assure him that he is not responsible for knocking Koppel off the air.
Punk rocker Adam Ant was released on bail relating to his January arrest after an altercation in a London pub. He was arrested on charges of criminal damage, assault and possession of a firearm or imitation firearm with intention to cause fear of violence. The plea hearing is set for May 1 to decide whether the case will be heard.