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.
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
In the late '50s a group of elementary students put futuristic drawings in a time capsule that is then buried on school grounds. One overly obsessed kid Lucinda goes her own way by writing hundreds of mysterious seemingly non-sensical numbers on her entry. Fifty years later it’s dug up and comes into the possession of Caleb the young son of John Koestler a recent widower and astro-physics professor who becomes obsessed with the papers Caleb has brought home from class. He soon discovers the random digits are actually not-so-thinly disguised dates (including 91101 of course) for “future” disasters and there are clearly three of those dates yet to come. Although nobody believes his ramblings about this code for impending doom a nearby plane crash proves he is on to something so ominous the fate of the world could be in jeopardy. With all hell about to break loose the prof takes matters into his own hands.
WHO’S IN IT?
Just a couple of years ago Nicolas Cage starred in Next as a magician who could see into the future and had to prevent a nuclear attack. Now he’s at it again as an MIT professor who also has clues to future catastrophes and also is out to prevent the inevitable. And of course in the National Treasure films he latched on to maps that had contained similarly dark deeply held secrets. Nic clearly likes “knowing” stuff before the rest of us and he’s quite believable even if some of the circumstances in his latest sci-fi adventure are really out there -- literally. Cage somehow makes you buy into this stuff which is key to the ultimate success of the flick. As the key kids Chandler Canterbury as Caleb and Lara Robinson as Lucinda (and later Abby Lucinda’s granddaughter) are properly eerie and haunted-looking. Rose Byrne is also along for the ride as Lucinda’s grown daughter who is able to provide goosebump-inducing information that the numbers alone can’t. There’s also some dead-on creepy emoting from D.G. Maloney as a quietly foreboding stranger who seems to be following Caleb.
Unlike some recent movies of this type with nothing on the agenda but pure mayhem “Knowing” delves into the bigger issues of why we are all here providing something other than just big explosions to talk about on the way home from the multiplex. Director Alex Proyas (I Robot Dark City The Crow) certainly knows how to pull off complex action set-pieces but he and his screenwriters also seem to be genuinely interested in exploring the meaning behind the madness.
Some of the more pedantic dialogue Cage is given can be groan-inducing but since he plays John as a total believer we can forgive it. Also the film falls victim to a final act that veers into typical disaster movie territory and isn’t as compelling as the first two thirds which try to keep the premise at least marginally credible. At two hours it probably could have been tightened anyway.
The rain-soaked plane crash sequence with its gritty hand-held photography is riveting to watch and one of the most frightening depictions of a jetliner disaster put on film yet.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
If you are really squeamish it might be worth "knowing" that you should take breaks in the big disaster sequences as the CGI effects can get pretty violent and graphic particularly for a PG-13 movie.
Top Story: Sony Eyes Sandler for High-Concept Script
Sony Pictures has paid a whopping $1.75 million for Click, a spec script by Bruce Almighty scribes Steve Koren and Mark O'Keefe, as a possible starring vehicle for Adam Sandler. According to Variety, the film is about an overworked advertising executive who neglects his family in favor of his career and whose life changes when he comes across a universal remote that allows him to rewind, pause and fast-forward his life. Veteran producer Neal Moritz, the man behind such actioners as 2 Fast 2 Furious and xXx, will produce through his Sony-based Original Film with Revolution Studios co-producing and co-financing the project. Click would reunite Koren with Sandler, who worked together on Saturday Night Live. Moritz, who hopes to begin production in 2004, told Variety, "I would love for Adam to do this."
Charleton Heston Gets Medal of Freedom
Academy Award winner Charlton Heston, best known for his roles in The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and Planet of the Apes, was awarded the Medal of Freedom Wednesday by President Bush, Reuters reports. The 79-year-old actor and voice of the pro-gun National Rifle Association made public last year that he had symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, a degenerative brain ailment. Master chef Julia Child and the late Dave Thomas, Wendy's hamburger mogul and philanthropist, also received Medals of Freedom--the nation's highest civilian award.
Ice Cube Gets Apology
The Chicago Police Department has apologized for issuing a community alert last Sunday describing a man suspected in a series of sexual assaults as a dead ringer for hip-hop artist and actor Ice Cube. According to The Associated Press, a local Chicago TV station broadcast one of Ice Cube's videos when it reported the story Monday night. Police spokesman David Bayless said Tuesday, "We acknowledged the information should not have been on the alert. We took immediate corrective action. We apologize to Ice Cube for what was an honest mistake and came with no ill intent." The community alert was reissued without the Ice Cube reference.
McCartney Joins PETA's Efforts Against KFC
Paul McCartney wrote an open letter advertisement to KFC's Louisville-based parent company, Yum! Brands Inc., calling for an improvement in the treatment of 750 million chickens raised annually for KFC restaurants. The ad, the latest action by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to force KFC to implement new standards for the treatment of chickens after security cameras revealed workers torturing the animals, appears in a full-page advertisement in Thursday's edition of the Louisville The Courier-Journal. Jonathan Blum, senior vice president for public affairs for Yum! Brands, responsed: "While PETA would prefer a world of vegetarians, most people disagree, so we think PETA should follow one of Sir Paul's songs and just 'Let It Be.'"
FX's Nip/Tuck a Cut Above the Rest
FX's premiere of the plastic surgery drama Nip/Tuck got a nice slice of the Nielsen pie Tuesday, beating MTV's The Real World and Bravo's Queer Eye for the Straight Guy in the 10 p.m. time slot night to become the highest-rated new cable series premiere of the year with an impressive 3.7 million viewers. According to Reuters, Nip cut FX's recent losing streak on the original-series front after the half-hour comedy Lucky and late-night series The Orlando Jones Show both flopped. The premiere, however, failed to top the series debut of FX's cop show The Shield and the second-season premiere of USA Network's Monk.
Diana's Love Letters Read in TV Doc
Love letters sent by the late Princess Diana to her former lover James Hewitt will be read out in a British television documentary Thursday night, Reuters reports. In Confessions of a Cad, Hewitt's lawyer and friend Michael Coleman reads extracts from the love letters Diana sent Hewitt during their affair, which began in the late 1980s. "Boy oh boy, does the earth shake when I get a letter from my desert friend, screams of delight, tears, you name it. Demented female on the loose, that's for sure," she wrote in one letter while Hewitt was serving in the 1991 Gulf War. Diana is believed to have sent Hewitt more than 60 letters between 1989 and 1991.
Serena Williams Swings Into Acting
Tennis pro Serena Williams is set to play a reformed gang member on parole in an Oct. 1 episode of Showtime's Street Time, the AP reports. The show, starring Rob Morrow, begins its second season Aug. 6. "As a fan of 'Street Time,' I told myself that if given the opportunity, I'd love to be on the show," Williams said Wednesday. "I am taking this role very seriously, because I want to excel and because I have respect for the series."
Role Call: Downey and Ryder Join Woody Allen Pic, Madonna Rocks with Peet
Robert Downey Jr. and Winona Ryder are in talks to join the cast of Woody Allen's next pic for Fox Searchlight. Like all Allen films, the title, script and plot are being kept under wraps ... Ethan Hawke will direct a big-screen adaptation of his best-selling novel The Hottest State for IFC Films. The story follows two young adults as they discover intense love and grapple to define their passion for one another. No cast is attached yet ... Maverick Films has optioned the romantic comedy script She Rocks from filmmaker Amie Steir as a starring vehicle for Amanda Peet with Madonna serving as the film's executive producer. The project is described as Working Girl set in the music industry and revolves around a female music journalist who writes a career-making story about a rock star.
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.