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.
Let's face it the world of Hollywood pirating — with its peglegs eyepatches shoulder parrots and bounty of other swashbuckling tropes — is pretty silly. Even a high seas adventure like Pirates of the Caribbean has the ridiculous Jack Sparrow to help it hobble along. Pushing the comedy can only work in pirate movie's favor and Aardman Animation's Pirates! A Band of Misfits goes all out seizing the absurdity with a flare only British sensibilities could conjure. The film is a treasure trove of design and technical wizardry but for those less interested in the intricacies of stop motion animation Pirates!'s simple story packs plenty of low-key laughs that viewers all ages can pick up.
The Pirate Captain (Hugh Grant) is at wit's end. While he's enjoyed his time leading a ragtag group of wannabe pirates including Albino Pirate (Anton Yelchin) Pirate with Gout (Brendan Gleeson) Surprisingly Curvaceous Pirate (Ashley Jensen) and his number two Pirate with a Scarf (Martin Freeman) a lifestyle of eating ham and barely making ends meet is losing its luster. When Pirate Captain shows up to the annual Pirate of the Year submission day he's once again outdone by Black Bellamy (Jeremy Piven) who rides in on a whale full of gold. Driven by competition Pirate Captain reassembles his crew hits the open waters and begins a new wave of pillaging. It's all for naught until the pirates cross paths with Charles Darwin (David Tennant) who identifies Pirate Captain's "parrot" as an extinct dodo bird. Suddenly the pirates have a new (and lucrative) calling: science.
There's an unexpected intelligence to Pirates!. The movie based on a children's book of the same name centers on Pirate Captain's mid-life crisis delves into the world of 18th century science and pegs Queen Victoria (Imelda Staunton) as the mastermind bad guy behind the elimination of the pirate occupation. That gives the accompanying adults plenty to chew (and laugh) on but director Peter Lord doesn't stray away from an ol' fashioned slapstick routine. There's a marvelous stray bathtub sequence halfway through the film a wild ride through Charles Darwin's old tudor house that's a true spectacle. But even a simple gag involving baking soda and vinegar exploding sud bubbles is expertly crafted and executed by Lord.
The stop motion technique never feels limited in Pirates! even with a great deal of walking and talking scenes. Gideon Defoe's script is elevated by the vocal performances; Grant is perfectly cast as the faux-burly Pirate Captain while Martin Freeman's perfected "timid skeptic" routine from The Office and Sherlock is once again on full display. The Aardman team continues to have a knack for gesturing their puppets uniquely natural and human. Even with all the enormous pirate ships detailed cityscapes and dazzling action Pirates! is at its best when it focuses on the sillier calmer moments.
The tangibility of Pirates! A Band of Misfits comes through in its physical stop-motion animation techniques but also its genuine heart. There's a rare reality to the storytelling even at its most fantastical. While the film doesn't hit the same emotional chords as some of Pixar or Dreamworks' best you would need an X-marked map to find a Hollywood cartoon as sweet and heartfelt. So don't walk the plank on this one — board with kids in tow immediately.
Top Story: Possible Disney/Miramax Split on the Horizon
Could the bloom be off the rose that is the relationship between family-oriented Walt Disney Inc. and its edgy subsidiary Miramax Films? Variety reported Tuesday that negotiations between Mouse House CEO Michael Eisner and Miramax chairmen Bob and Harvey Weinstein have reached a stalemate. Under the current agreement, which expires in 2005, Miramax distributes its film through Disney's Buena Vista Motion Pictures Group. And while Miramax normally finances or acquires films and then distributes them without a tussle, the indie studio must still seek Disney's approval for large-budget films (those over $30 million). According to Variety, the impasse in the negotiations is over money. Eisner is seeking to scale back Miramax's $700 million-a-year budget while the Weinsteins would like to see it maintained. If talks between the two sides reach a Pixar-like deadlock, Miramax could tentatively buy back the company and its library or seek third-party distribution for future productions. But the loss of its indie arm would be a sever blow to Disney: Miramax is believed to have generated $2 million in profits for the Mouse House last year and currently supplies 40 percent of its live-action releases.
Sizemore Blames Dirty Test Results on Prescription Drug
Actor Tom Sizemore, who was convicted in 2003 of beating and threatening his ex-girlfriend, former Hollywood madam Heidi Fleiss, blamed his "dirty" test results on his continued use of the prescription drug Eldepryl. Prosecutors filed documents on Monday accusing Sizemore, who last year was sentenced to six months in jail and ordered to complete a residential drug rehab program for his addiction to crystal meth, of violating his parole by testing positive for methamphetamine use and for contacting Fleiss. But Sizemore's lawyer filed a declaration from a doctor blaming the test on his continued use of Eldepryl, which metabolizes as a substance similar to the illegal drug. Prosecutor Robert Cha, however, noted Eldepryl is only approved for treatment of Parkinson's disease, which Sizemore does not suffer from. A hearing is set for June 25 in Los Angeles.
NBC, Universal To Merge
NBC closed its deal to merge with Universal Wednesday, creating a new media conglomerate that will take its place alongside giants such as Time Warner Inc. and Viacom Inc., AP reports. The new company, to be known as NBC Universal, will be led mainly by NBC executives including Bob Wright, the NBC chairman who will become its chairman and CEO. Wright will also continue as vice chairman of General Electric Co., NBC's parent company. Wright said in a statement the combination presented a "tremendous growth opportunity for our viewers, advertisers, employees, and GE shareowners."
Kiefer Sutherland Single Again
24 star Kiefer Sutherland has filed for divorce from his wife of nearly eight years, citing irreconcilable differences, The Associated Press reports. Sutherland and his wife, Elizabeth Kelly Winn Sutherland, were married on June 29, 1996 but have been separated since August 1999. This was the 37-year-old actor's second marriage; He wed his Then Killing Time co-star Camelia Kath in 1988 but the couple filed for divorce two years later. Sutherland was also engaged to Julia Roberts, whom he met while filming Flatliners in 1990. The nuptials were scheduled for June 14, 1991 but never took place.
Raiders Didn't Hire Apprentice Nick
A spokesman for the Oakland Raiders told the AP Tuesday that reports the franchise had hired The Apprentice contestant Nick Warnock to sell luxury suites at the Oakland Coliseum were "premature." Artie Gigantino said the Raiders met with Warnock, 27, last week but no deal had been completed. "The way it was left, Nick was going to fulfill prior commitments and when he was done we'd revisit what the next step was," Gigantino said. Warnock is currently working for Jason Binn's Niche Media Holdings, publisher of several high-end magazines. He will sell advertisements and will be based in Los Angeles, the AP reports.
Primetime Nielsen Ratings From May 3-9
Thursday's series finale of the NBC sitcom Friends drew an average 52.5 million viewers, giving the network to its best weekly showing in two years. Friends ranks as the fourth most-watched series finale in TV history, behind CBS' M*A*S*H(106 million), and NBC's Cheers (80.4 million) and Seinfeld (76.3 million). According to Nielsen Media Research figures, the top 10 shows, their networks and viewerships for the week of May 3-9 were: Friends, NBC, 52.5 million; Friends Clipshow, NBC, 36.9 million; ER, NBC, 28.4 million; Survivor All-Stars Finale, CBS, 24.8 million; Survivor All-Stars Reunion, CBS, 23.9 million; American Idol (Tuesday), Fox, 22.8 million; American Idol (Wednesday) Fox, 21.2 million; CSI, CBS, 20.4 million viewers; NBC Movie of the Week: '10.5' (Monday) NBC, 19.9 million; Survivor: All-Stars, CBS, 19.2 million.
Tarantino Commends Some Movie Piracy
In the right context, director Quentin Tarantino isn't completely opposed to movie piracy. In an anti-piracy seminar Tuesday in Cannes, Tarantino told audiences he was grateful people sold bootleg copies of his Oscar-winning film Pulp Fiction in China, where the violent thriller had not been released. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the auteur also said he was happy that certain rare movies not available from legitimate sources can be found on bootleg. "I would be a liar if I was to say, across the board, no piracy," Tarantino said. The Motion Picture Association (MPA), the foreign lobbying arm of the major Hollywood studios, estimates pirated hard copies has resulted in losses of about $3.5 billion for its member companies.
R&B Artist Whitehead Found Dead
R&B singer John Whitehead, best known for his 1979 hit song "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now," was found shot to death in Philadelphia, Penn., Tuesday. AP reports Whitehead, 55, and another man were working on a vehicle when they were shot by two gunmen. Whitehead was shot in the neck and collapsed, while the other man, Ohmed Johnson, was shot in the buttocks and was reported in good condition early Wednesday. "Why did they do this to my dad?" Dawn Whitehead, 33, asked at the scene. "I just talked to him yesterday ... He was a fun person. Who would want to kill him?" Police had no immediate suspects or motive.
Soldier's Video Diary To Air on CBS
On Wednesday, CBS' 60 Minutes II will air a video diary of a young Amer