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.
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.
The 79-year-old actor, famous for playing Star Trek Vulcan Spock on the original sci-fi TV series, missed an appearance at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday (21Oct10) to undergo the procedure.
However, his rep tells TMZ.com the actor is "recovering beautifully".
Further details regarding the illness were not available as WENN went to press.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
After six different TV series and 10 feature films director J.J. Abrams (MI:3 Lost Alias) takes the Star Trek franchise back to the beginning to tell how James T. Kirk a brash hot-rod-loving kid from Iowa and Spock a thoughtful and logical half-human/half-Vulcan meet and compete at the Starfleet Academy and are chosen by Captain Pike to join the maiden voyage of the Starship Enterprise. Unlike other Treks Abrams’ film develops credible backstories for the two characters as they join several other newcomers including fresh-faced cadets Leonard “Bones” McCoy Montgomery “Scotty” Scott Uhura Hikaru Sulu and Pavel Chekov. The story focuses on the clash between Kirk and Spock as the young crew faces a major first test in battling Nero an unrelentingly evil Romulan who has designs on destroying Earth Vulcan and the rest of the Federated planets.
WHO’S IN IT?
Smartly stitching together an attractive and talented young cast to take this series back to the future (and hoped-for sequels) Abrams wisely is not looking for actors doing impressions of a young William Shatner or Leonard Nimoy. In Chris Pine as Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Heroes) as Spock he found two talented stars who uncannily suggest and interpret these iconic characters at the beginning of their life voyage together. With the trademark haircut and ears Quinto nails the essence of what we might imagine Spock was like as a youth. Pine is rugged and cocky but not over-the-top as Kirk. As the reigning Captain Pike Bruce Greenwood is solid and commanding. The rest of the crew is perfectly cast with Karl Urban’s Bones Zoe Saldana’s “take-no-prisoners” Uhura and John Cho’s Sulu fitting their roles like a glove. Anton Yelchin’s super-thick Russian accent as Chekov is grating at times but it’s a minor quibble. The best performance of all comes later in the picture when British star Simon Pegg turns up as Scotty and steals every scene he’s in with choice one-liners and a sassy attitude. A tattoo-faced Eric Bana is perfect as the main villain Nero who operates out of the eerily dark and stunning vessel dubbed the Narada. His cunning and reserve help make him far more complex than your father’s Trek villains. And look for a substantial and inspiring visit from Leonard Nimoy (the original Spock) who has been ingeniously woven into the proceedings.
Let’s face it: Star Trek was getting tired with diminishing box-office returns and falling TV ratings. By going back to the beginning and introducing a whole new youthful vibe past Treks never had Abrams has given a new lease on life to a legendary 40-year-old adventure that now can go on to live long(er) and (fortunately for Paramount) prosper all over again. The updated casting is joined by state-of-the-art visual effects and action set pieces that outdo any previous incarnations and the whip-smart screenplay by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman does creator Gene Roddenberry’s original vision proud while introducing it to a new generation. Key to successfully accomplishing this mission was to create a new take that would bring in new devotees but not turn off the faithful Trekkies who've kept this thing going for so long. Done.
Other than Yelchin’s accent only the overriding feeling that any potential sequels can never match the joy of seeing the genesis of Star Trek portrayed like it is here. But bring ‘em on anyway.
There are many thrilling moments including Kirk’s terrifying encounter with a deadly beast on the bone-chilling ice planet Delta Vega and the battle between the Narada and Enterprise. But the early Starfleet Academy scenes involving Kirk and Spock whose sharp exchanges showcase their youthful rivalry really set the stage for a fascinating and complicated relationship forming the heart and soul of not only this prequel but the entire basis of the Star Trek concept.
NETFLIX OR MULTIPLEX:
Are you crazy? See it on a big screen — IMAX if you can. This is what the motion-picture experience is all about.
William Shatner is furious with Star Trek movie bosses for failing to offer him a cameo role in the new film, according to reports.
The actor, who played Captain Kirk on the iconic TV show, is said to be "very upset and has been lobbying for a role" in Star Trek XI after learning his costar Leonard Nimoy has been cast in a minor role, writes the New York Daily News.
Larry Thompson, Shatner's manager, refuted the allegations, saying, "I don't know that to be the case, so I can't comment."
The movie, which will be directed by Lost producer and director J.J. Abrams, is slated to begin shooting later this year.
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Lawyers for Jeffrey Jones are quietly negotiating terms for a plea bargain in the child pornography case against the actor, prosecutors told Reuters Tuesday.
Jones, 55, was charged last November with a felony count of employing a minor for purposes of taking sexually explicit photos and a misdemeanor charge of possessing child pornography. He allegedly hired a 14-year-old boy to pose for sexually explicit photographs between September 2000 and May 2002.
To avoid a trial, the Jones' case went to an "early disposition court" to see if a deal could be worked out. Deputy District Attorney Deborah Knaan told Reuters the case could be settled at a May 12 hearing.
"We are definitely hoping to have a disposition," Knaan said. "We are waiting for some reports from the defense. Once we get that information we are going to read it and sit down with the defense and talk turkey."
Jones' attorney Leonard Levine called the plea bargaining "amicable" and told Reuters, "Whatever occurred here is an aberration in his life and it will never happen again," adding that Jones would go to trial if satisfactory terms were not reached.
"The final decision (about a plea agreement) hasn't been made yet, that is what we are exploring," he said.
If convicted, Jones, best known for his suspicious school principal in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and films including Beetlejuice and Amadeus, faces up to three years in prison and the prospect of registering as a sex offender for life, Reuters reports.
A year ago, five unknown guys from Orlando, Fla., went to the Sundance Film Festival with a cheap movie, a neato gimmick and a good publicist.
Today they return to Park City, Utah, as Hollywood players -- the creators of what might become the biggest horror film franchise ever -- and as bona fide filmmakers afforded multimillion-dollar budgets.
Their film cost $10,000 to $100,000, depending on what you read. They sold it for $1 million. It made $140 million in theaters. Maybe you've heard of it: "The Blair Witch Project."
Hands down, the "Haxan Five," as they like to call themselves (Get it? It rhymes with "Jackson Five") are the biggest rags-to-riches story ever to come out of Sundance. Sure, other nickel-and-dime neophytes such as Kevin Smith and Edward Burns have received more critical praise. But none of those guys launched a commercial juggernaut like "Blair Witch," which left most of last year's major studio films in the dust. If not for the festival, the phenomenon may have forever remained a figment of their fertile imaginations.
"Everything hinged on us getting into Sundance," Daniel Myrick, who co-wrote and directed the movie with partner Eduardo Sanchez, told the Dallas Morning News last year. "It's such a validation for our sort of filmmaking. It's like winning the lottery.
"We have these bongos in our office that we beat whenever something good happens. The day we were picked, we partied and beat on those drums all night. Now, we're living the dream, man."
How's tricks nowadays with Myrick, Sanchez and their producers, Gregg Hale, Mike Monello and Robin Cowie? Not bad at all.
This spring, they are set to begin filming their first post-"Witch" feature, a comedy called "Heat of Love" for Artisan. Earlier this month, they signed a big deal with Artisan in which Sanchez and Myrick will executive produce "Blair Witch 2," to be directed by veteran documentarian Joe Berlinger, and they will write and direct a third installment, a "Blair Witch" prequel, set for release in fall 2001. Both the sequel and prequel will be budgeted in the $7 million to $10 million range.
Add to that all their talk show appearances, magazine interviews, the merchandising (including a hugely hyped pre-Halloween home video release, a video game version of the movie, books, etc.), and a TV show in development at Fox, it's been quite a year. Their schedules are so full, they couldn't (or wouldn't) be interviewed for this article (their publicist apologized).
"I think in terms of money, 'Blair Witch' is the most successful movie to come out of Sundance. There's not anything that comes close," says John Anderson, chief film critic for Newsday in New York and author of the book "Sundancing: Hanging Out and Listening in at America's Most Important Film Festival" (Spike Publishing).
But now that Sanchez, Myrick, et. al. are players, the player-haters will inevitably come out of the woodwork. It's already started: After receiving a big buzz-bounce out of Sundance last year, "Blair Witch" was greeted with mostly favorable reviews as critics praised it as an anti-film, a horror original. But as the film became a phenomenon, detractors appeared, saying, "it's not scary," "it's cheap-looking" or "stop shaking the camera already, you're giving me a migraine."
"The reaction was kind of funny," Anderson says. "Almost as soon as it started making money, people turned on it. There's always this perverse critical reaction when something becomes too popular, but you have to admit it had one of the great marketing plans, both by the filmmakers and by Artisan."
That marketing plan began back in 1997, when Sanchez and Myrick succeeded in getting snippets from "Blair Witch," then a work-in-progress, onto indie film guru John Pierson's cable TV show "Split Screen." From the beginning, the project was presented as if it were a true-to-life documentary, and the filmmakers neither confirmed nor denied its authenticity. To maintain a veil of mystery, they made sure the film's three actors, who portray the film crew lost in a haunted Maryland woods, didn't speak to the media until after the film was released theatrically in July.
The actors, Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard and Michael Williams, who lent their real names to their characters, have also fared well in the wake of the film's box-office bonanza. All three were complete unknowns beforehand -- they didn't even have SAG cards -- but they spent last summer making promo appearances on Jay Leno, the MTV Movie Awards and other gigs. Now they all live in Los Angeles and have agents.
Leonard has enjoyed the most immediate big-time success, recently landing a part in "Navy Divers," a mainstream Hollywood flick with Robert De Niro and Cuba Gooding Jr. He also worked on a low-budget film, "City of Bars," which was shot last year in San Francisco. Not bad for a guy whose resume previously boasted of a few films most have never heard of and stage work at the Seattle Fringe Festival.
Donahue, whose credits included stage work in New York, is now auditioning for films and spends time camping in the California mountains, an interest she developed while working on "Blair Witch." And Williams is also passing out headshots in Hollywood, having moved to the area last year after getting married. He also has diffused a longstanding rumor that he once played minor league baseball in the Yankees farm system.
What's next? Many filmmakers who hit pay dirt the first time out suffer a sophomore jinx, and the industry will surely be watching to see if the Haxan guys sink or swim with their new comedy. Will it be funny? Will it be in focus? Will there be lots of rocks and twigs?
The Haxan guys are being familiarly coy about "Heat of Love," which they have described as "'It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World' meets Ruth Buzzi and Erik Estrada."
"Whatever they do next, they're going to have to try extra hard to get over the hump," Anderson adds. "A lot of people feel like they were snookered by 'Blair Witch' because they [Sanchez and Myrick] were so cagey about the origins of the footage.
"Mainstream narrative filmmaking is a whole new ball game for them. There's no reason to think that they'll be better at it than anybody else. They caught lightning in a bottle the first time out."