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.
Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
Tomorrow, American audiences will be reunited with one of their favorite movie duos of recent years: Harold Lee and Kumar Patel, returning to theaters for their third film installment, A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas. Although we'll be reunited with plenty of characters from the first two films, we'll also be meeting a few new ones, including Danny Trejo as Harold's very intimidating father-in-law, Mr. Perez. This got us thinking about a few other not-so-preferable in-laws from movies past: the manipulative, the violent, the absolutely no-holds-barred insane. We've compiled a list of a few of the most memorable in-laws we're all glad we don't have in our families.
Monster-in-Law: Charlotte Cantilini vs. Viola Fields
Fathers may look intimidating from a physical point of view, but it’s nothing compared to what the mothers can mentally bring to the table.
Charlotte has finally met the man of her dreams and is on her way to pure wedding bliss—until her fiancée’s mother tries to get in the way. Jane Fonda does an incredible job of portraying any wife’s worst nightmare: the controlling mother-in-law. Not wanting to be replaced as the number one woman in her son’s heart, Fonda’s character does everything in her power (from mind games to guilt trips) to stop the marriage from happening. It’s an in-law nightmare to the fullest extent, but then again no one ever said marriage was going to be easy, right? Future brides beware—there’s nothing more powerful than a mother’s pull over her son.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding: Ian Miller vs. The Entire Family
This movie focuses on a different kind of intimidation entirely in that it’s based off of sheer volume. While Toula is trying to come to terms with her heritage and cultural identity, her non-Greek fiancée, Ian, struggles to gain acceptance from her family…and I mean her entire family.
The title doesn’t lie, this family is huge, meaning there’s just so many of them it’s hard to keep them all straight. They’re loud, they’re opinionated, and they’re none too thrilled that Toula is going against tradition and marrying a man who isn’t Greek. Have you ever tried to convince a traditional family that one of their traditions isn’t that important? Not an easy feat, but if Ian ever wants to truly be considered a member of the family he needs to find a way to worm himself into their hearts and dinner tables (which are crowded enough to begin with). No pressure or anything. As the saying goes, you’re not marrying just one person – you’re marrying the entire family.
Armageddon: A.J. Frost vs. Harry Stamper
One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when Bruce Willis’ character walks around an oil rig, shooting at Ben Affleck’s character after finding out he’s been sleeping with his daughter. Talk about intimidation!
Bruce Willis himself already give
s off a “don’t mess with me” vibe, so adding a gun into the mix only further increases the fear factor. Now technically at this point these two characters aren’t related quite yet, but the father-in-law/son-in-law dynamic remains constant between these two characters throughout the entire duration of the film. It’s the usual dilemma many fathers eventually face: nobody is good enough to marry their little girl. And since both men are stubborn and natural born leaders, talking becomes a rather difficult task for the two of them (yelling doesn’t count). Granted, their relationship gets a little too extreme to be entirely believable (hopefully no guy has had their father-in-law use him for target practice), but the protective fatherly instincts are both understandable and relatable—just maybe not gun worthy.
Son-in-Law: Pauly Shore vs. the Entire Midwest
When Pauly Shore’s Crawl (that’s his name, not some kind of Bay Area rave dance) ventures to the rural Midwestern hometown of his college girlfriend, Rebecca Warner, he is not exactly the most welcome newcomer to the farmlands. Crawl is rude, idiotic, sex-starved, infantile, selfish and unwilling to adapt to the modest and dignified lifestyle of the townspeople. Mr. and Mrs. Warner alike are both threatened and disgusted by their houseguest, and can’t stomach the idea of him producing a grandchild with their only daughter.
And who can blame them. When their small town values get tossed asunder by this ineloquent tourist, it’s mystifying that they don’t run him out of town with an angry mob. But then again, he does teach them the latest slang. Where would the Warners be without “grubbage” in their vocabulary?
The Birdcage: The Goldman Family vs. Sen. Kevin Kealy
There’s bound to be one intolerant member in every family. But when Val Goldman, son of prominent gay nightclub owners Armand and Albert, becomes engaged to the daughter of an openly homophobic United States Senator…that’s pushing the limits. Devoted to making their son happy, Armand and Albert pretend to be something they are not in order to appease the bigoted senator at a family dinner and win his approval of Val for his daughter. However, it’s not long before the charade is blown, and the true, despicable feelings are let loose.
Before Kealy came along, Val and his fathers cherished their blissful, loving family unit. It was only when the menacing figure stepped into their lives that Val did profess any shame for the sort of parents he had. Now that's an intimidating in-law. It doesn’t take long for him to realize what truly matters, however. The senator may be an intimidating menace, but he’s no match for the Goldman family’s love.
The In-Laws: Sheldon Kornpett vs. Vincent Ricardo
Most troublesome in-law situations deal directly with at least one of the parties involved in the new marriage. The classic comedy film The In-Laws, however, illustrates the trouble that can occur between the extended families—specifically, the respective fathers of the bride and groom. Now, getting along with an in-law might be a troublesome feat in a normal circumstance. But when one is a supposed government operative who drags you along on his death-defying schemes? That’s none too easy to get past.
Sheldon Kornpett is a mild-mannered dentist whose life gets twisted out of shape when his daughter marries the son of Vincent Ricardo, a secret agent without much of a regard for his or Sheldon’s life. In the days surrounding the wedding, Ricardo ropes Sheldon into some high-risk globetrotting adventures—none of which Sheldon, a simple dentist, ever signed up for. Sure, it makes for interesting wedding toast material, but a maniacal action-hero (or antihero) like Vincent Ricardo is not exactly the sort of man you want coming over for family dinners every other weekend.
Meet the Parents: Greg Focker vs. Jack Byrnes
The mother of all father-in-laws is Jack Byrnes, the possessive, untrusting retired CIA agent who makes one simple weekend (and two very profitable sequels) hell for his daughter’s boyfriend/husband, Greg Focker. Most potential in-laws stick to passive-aggressive hostility, or roundabout manipulation to make the whole idea of courting their family members an unbearable experience. Jack Byrnes’ endeavors in this field are a tour de force. He employs verbal intimidation, threats, actual physical violence, and a vast array of high tech spy equipment—not excluding polygraph machines.
And what is perhaps the worst thing about Jack? He never seems to take a liking to Greg. Sure, each movie ends with him swallowing his pride and giving his poor victim a pat on the back…but things are right back to the way they began come Act I of the next movie. Let’s just hope, for Greg Focker’s sake, that he won’t be suffering through any fourquels or fivequels…otherwise, that marriage might be on thin ice.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Prince vs. The Evil Queen
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the most intimidating in-law of them all? Even Disney stories can’t catch a break with the in-laws. The pressure pretty much doubles when you’re dealing with royal families since so much is at stake and they don’t want their children partnering up with someone that could ruin their kingdom (I assume since I can’t really speak from experience). But this relationship was doomed to be fraught with intimidation.
It’s really hard to really establish a bond with your mother-in-law when she keeps trying to kill your wife. It just tends to put a damper on things, even in the animated world. The Evil Queen makes all other in-laws look like a walk in the park. Granted, she was a step-mother, but that still counts since she was basically the only family Snow White had left. It’s your basic hero-villain dynamic, so they never really stood much of a chance of making nice with one another and you can forget about any family dinners (especially anything with apples).
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.