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.
By both critical and commercial measures live-action anime adaptations boast a record of futility second perhaps only to videogame adaptations. Some essential aspect of the source material is irretrievably lost during the process of translating Japanese cartoon to Hollywood tentpole something that even the most bloated visual effects budget can’t conceal. Think Dragonball Evolution and Speed Racer.
And yet Hollywood keeps trying lured by tantalizing visions of cash-cow franchises fed by loyal built-in — and most importantly international — audiences. The latest casualty of this misguided ambition is The Last Airbender based on the hit Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender. To be fair Avatar isn’t anime in the orthodox sense in that it was conceived and produced in the States but its style and soul are almost exclusively anime-inspired. As such its big-screen fate is similarly sealed.
Who could possibly break such a rueful trend? For some reason the minds at Paramount thought M. Night Shyamalan that notorious purveyor of ponderous and increasingly shlocky supernatural thrillers might succeed where so many other directors had failed. Even worse they saw fit to hire him to pen the screenplay as well ensuring that every vital aspect of the film would feel the crushing weight of his heavy hand. With such a hacky burden to bear it comes as no surprise that The Last Airbender never really takes flight.
The film's story is set in a world divided into four tribes each aligned to an element: Air Earth Water and Fire. Certain gifted tribe members known as a “benders ” can manipulate the properties of their assigned element to suit their ends. In order to do so they must first perform an elaborate and utterly ridiculous kung fu dance after which a torrent of fire water or whatever arises to obey their command.
For the better part of a century the oppressive and warlike Firebenders have besieged the other nations gradually thinning their respective ranks. The Air Nomads have faired the worst of the lot and are presumed to be extinct until Water peeps Katara (Nicola Peltz) and Sokka (Jackson Rathbone) discover a boy named Aang (Noah Ringer) trapped in a giant ball of ice. Not only is Unfrozen Kung Fu Warrior the last remaining Airbender (thus the title) he is also an Avatar the only being on the planet capable of wielding all four elements. And only he can bring an end to the Firebenders’ evil reign.
Blessed with an opportunity to reinvent himself in a new genre and with a new demographic Shyamalan can’t avoid falling back on old habits most notably his penchant for awkward and cumbersome dialogue. It’s difficult enough for adults to deliver his lines but it’s absolute hell for The Last Airbender’s youthful protagonists whose not yet fully-developed temporal lobes can’t hope to adequately process the inanities of Shyamalan-speak. One can almost see the smoke coming from little Noah’s ears as he labors to complete each portentous sentence. Poor kid. Where are the Child Labor people when you need them?
But bad dialogue is only one of a litany of problems that plagues The Last Airbender which suffers from mediocre CGI inexplicable casting decisions (caucasians actors none of whom are especially talented are tabbed for asian roles when sufficiently mediocre race-appropriate actors were surely available) and a plot comprehensible only to the most ardent fans of the Nickelodeon series. Much as Aang bends the air Shyamalan tries to bend the laws of quality cinema to his will but they refuse to yield to the force of his ego. I only wish the execs at Paramount had been as stalwart.
Top Story: Osbourne Admits To Being Sexually Abused
As if he hasn't had it hard enough, rocker and TV star Ozzy Osbourne told London's Daily Mirror he was sexually abused as a child, Reuters reports. The former Black Sabbath frontman said the abuse happened when he was a schoolboy in central England. "I was sexually abused as a kid," Osbourne, 54, said in the Daily Mirror interview. "Two boys used to wait for me to come home after school. They felt me and touched me. It became a regular thing on the way home from school--it seemed to go on forever." Osbourne admitted he was too scared to tell his parents and that he needed counseling later in life to come to terms with it. "When I was a kid, people did not talk about these things like they do know," he said. "I worked it out with a therapist."
Actress Adams Arrested
Joey Lauren Adams, best known for her roles in Chasing Amy and Big Daddy, was arrested early Friday in San Diego, Calif., on suspicion of drunk driving, The Associated Press reports. Police told AP she was picked up after an officer saw the 38-year-old actress pull into a gas station and stop after hitting the curb a few times. She was later released on her own recognizance, AP reports. No other details were immediately available.
The Vatican Interested in Passion
The Vatican has requested a private screening of Mel Gibson's controversial The Passion of Christ, which they want to screen during a conference on theology and cinema to be held next week in Rome, Variety reports. Gibson, who has aligned himself with an ultraconservative Catholic movement that does not recognize the pope as the authority over the Roman Catholic church, has reportedly not yet fully committed. "We will very probably hold a closed-door screening for [theological] experts," Andrea Piersanti, head of the Catholic entertainment entity Ente dello Spettacolo and president of Italy's government film body, Istituto Luce, told Variety. "This way, we will be able to form our own serene and detached opinion of the film." Passion has been accused in the press of anti-Semitism.
Bowie Headlines Two UK Festivals
Rock icon David Bowie has agreed to headline two of Britain's biggest music festivals next year--the Isle of Wight festival and T in the Park at Balado. Reuters reports Bowie's Web site said he was thrilled to play the Isle of Wight festival. The event, revived in 2002, was originally held from 1968 to 1970 when it hosted acts like The Who, Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. "I was so envious of other acts that got to do the other Isle of Wight Festivals--it is really coming back," Bowie said.
Beyonce, Bono Top African AIDS Benefit
Beyonce Knowles, Bono and Peter Gabriel were among the artists who took to the stage Saturday in Cape Town, South Africa, for an AIDS benefit concert hosted by that country's former president, Nelson Mandela. AP reports more than 30,000 people attended, including Oprah Winfrey and other celebrities, to generate funds and awareness to fight the AIDS epidemic currently ravaging the continent. Earlier, Beyonce and Bono, who has long championed better treatment of HIV victims in Africa, visited a maternity unit and a childrens' home caring for HIV sufferers in Cape Town's impoverished township of Khayelitsha, AP reports. "This is an obscenity," Bono said. "This is like watching the Jews being put on trains."
Gere Campaigns for AIDS Awareness in India
Meanwhile, doing his part to make the world aware of AIDS, actor Richard Gere traveled to India Monday to visit AIDS clinics and launch a campaign to get the country's movie and sports stars to join AIDS awareness programs, AP reports. About 4 million adults in India have HIV, according to government statistics. Children are not included in the count.
Screenwriter Hartmann Dies
Screenwriter Edmund L. Hartmann, best known for writing comedies for Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Jerry Lewis and the Three Stooges, died of natural causes at his home in Santa Fe, New Mexico. He was 92.
Role Call: Paxton Gets Ready for the Game
Actor-director Bill Paxton is in final negotiations to direct his second feature, The Greatest Game Ever Played, following his 2001 directorial debut Frailty. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Game revolves around the 1913 U.S. Open in which Francis Ouimet, a 20-year-old amateur from Massachusetts, shocked the genteel golf world by defeating British champion Harry Vardon, the most famous pro golfer of his time and the inventor of what is considered the modern grip and swing.