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.
The King has finally been dethroned.
The Ben Stiller/Jennifer Aniston farce Along Came Polly debuted at No. 1 this weekend with $27.6 million*, officially ending The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King's four week reign at the top of the box office. Polly is the second biggest January debut since Star Wars: Special Edition, which opened in 1997 with $35.9 million.
After weeks of heavy dramas angling for awards considerations, sometimes all an audience wants is a laugh, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box office tracker Exhibitor Relations told The Associated Press.
"[Ben Stiller] does seem to play this role a lot, but he does it well," Dergarabedian said. "The audience obviously loves Ben Stiller in this type of movie."
Polly also becomes the biggest opening film of all time for the Martin Luther King weekend and, if the estimates hold through Monday, the figures could put this weekend as the fourth best MLK holiday weekend overall. The same weekend in 2001, led by the dance drama Save the Last Dance at $23.4 million, still holds the record as the best MLK weekend at $124.9 million for the top 12 films over four days.
The real race this weekend seemed to be between second, third and fourth places, with a scant $200,000 difference between the three. As of Sunday's estimates, second place belonged to Big Fish at $10.4 million, which nearly came in first last weekend when it first expanded wide. The high-octance Torque revved up in its opening weekend, coming in third with $10.27 million, while The Return of the King slid down to fourth place with $10.2 million. These spots could be adjusted in the final tally, which will be released Tuesday.
The family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen rounded out the Top Five with $8.7 million, while another newcomer, the animated Disney's Teacher's Pet, failed to make the Top 10 in its opening weekend, taking in a piddly $2.4 million.
THE TOP TEN
Universal Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Along Came Polly debuted at the top of the list with an ESTIMATED $27.6 million in 2,984 theaters. Its $9,249 per theater average was the highest of any film opening wide this weekend.
The story revolves around an insurance risk assessor on the rebound who falls for an avowed risk taker.
Directed by John Hamburg, it stars Ben Stiller, Jennifer Aniston, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Debra Messing.
Sony's PG-13 rated drama Big Fish held onto second place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $10.4 million (-25%) in 2,514 theaters (+108 theaters; $4,137 per theater). Its cume is approximately $37.9 million.
Directed by Tim Burton, it stars Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney, Billy Crudup, Jessica Lange, Helena Bonham Carter and Alison Lohman.
Warner Bros. PG-13 rated actioner Torque premiered in the third spot with an ESTIMATED $10.27 million in 2,463 theaters and averaging $4,170 per theater.
On the mean streets of Los Angeles, a biker gang member must outrace his enemies if he wants to clear his name and live to ride another day.
Directed by Joseph Kahn, it stars Ice Cube, Martin Henderson, Monet Mazur, Matt Schulze and Jaime Pressly.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King fell down a few spots to take fourth in its fifth week of release with an ESTIMATED $10.2 million (-28%) at 3,003 theaters (-529 theaters; $3,397 per theater). Its cume is approximately $326.7 million.
Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG rated family comedy Cheaper by the Dozen dropped two notches to fifth place in its third week of release with an ESTIMATED $8.7 million (-26%) in 3,025 theaters (-213 theaters; $2,893 per theater). Its cume is approximately $111.9 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling.
Miramax Films' R rated Civil War drama Cold Mountain slid two places to sixth place in its fourth week of release with an ESTIMATED $7 million (-11%) at 2,802 theaters (+500 theaters, $2,499 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $65 million.
Directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give followed the trend and dropped two spots to seventh in its sixth week of release with an ESTIMATED $6 million (-22%) at 2,502 theaters (-374 theaters; $2,398 per theater). Its cume is approximately $100.9 million.
Directed by Nancy Meyers, it stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand.
Miramax's R rated comedy My Baby's Daddy dropped to eighth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $3.6 million (-52%) in 1,446 theaters (-1 theater; $2,527 per theater). The bachelor buddy comedy's cume is $12.3 million.
Directed by Cheryl Dunye, it stars Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson and Michael Imperioli.
Warner Bros.' R rated period actioner The Last Samurai stayed in ninth place in its seventh week of release with an ESTIMATED $3.12 million (-31%) in 1,403 theaters (-498 theaters; $2,224 per theater). Its cume is approximately $101.9 million.
Directed by Edward Zwick, it stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Spall.
Buena Vista's PG-13 rated British comedy Calendar Girls moved up the list from last week's 12th place to No. 10 in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $3.1 million (-17%) in 967 theaters (+10 theaters; $3,206 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17.2 million.
Directed by Nigel Cole, it stars Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.
Buena Vista's PG rated animated Disney's Teacher's Pet failed to make the Top 10 in its opening weekend, taking in an ESTIMATED $2.4 million in 2,027 theaters with an average of $1,184 per theater.
The film is a quirky animated kid's movie about a dog who dreams of becoming a human boy, and his master, who just wants a dog.
Directed by Timothy Bjorklund, the vocal cast includes Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammer, Shaun Fleming, Debra Jo Rupp, Jerry Stiller and David Ogden Stiers.
This week, the Top 12 films grossed an estimated $95.5 million, up 5 percent from last week's $91 million, but down 3.99 percent from last year's $99.5 million.
Last year, Warner Bros. PG rated comedy Kangaroo Jack opened at No. 1 with $16.5 million in 2,818 theaters with a $7,770 per theater average; Sony's PG-13 rated National Security opened at No. 2 with $14.3 million in 2,729 theaters with a $6,161 per theater; and 20th Century Fox's Just Married fell to third place in its second week with $14.6 million in 2,769 theaters (+3 theaters; $4,974 per theater).
Based on the popular Emmy-winning Saturday morning cartoon show Teacher's Pet revolves around a dog Spot Helperman (voiced by Nathan Lane) who for as long as he can remember always wanted to be a human boy--so much so that he puts on pants tucks his ears underneath a beanie cap and disguises himself as Scott Leadready II a "kid" who goes to his friend's er master's fourth grade class. Spot's master Leonard (voiced by Shaun Fleming) on the other hand just wishes he had a real dog to play with to catch sticks and lick his face. Fat chance with this pooch. Desperate for any chance to be human Spot discovers there's an experimental scientist in Florida Dr. Ivan Krank (voiced by Kelsey Grammer) who although labeled a complete wacko claims he can change animals into humans. Spot sets out to find Krank and make his dreams come true hitching a ride with Leonard and his schoolteacher mother (voiced by Debra Jo Rupp) on their way to the Sunshine State for a national teacher's contest. Several tiresome musical numbers later Leonard tries unsuccessfully to convince Spot to stay a dog and they find the diabolical doctor in the Florida swamps. Zap! Spot/Scott finally gets his wish. Be careful what you wish for little doggie.
It's a good thing Teacher's Pet incorporates some veteran voiceover talents to lend at least a little credibility to the silliness. Lane as the determined canine and Grammer as the evil scientist are animation pros--Lane from his Lion King days and Grammer from his hysterical stints on The Simpsons. They do their darnedest to bring out the best in the borderline corny dialogue from Pet's husband-and-wife writing team Bill and Cheri Steinkellner with lines like Spot's query "What's with this family and singing? I'm feeling Von-Trapped." But Lane and Grammer are consummate showmen delivering the lines and handling the singing chores with aplomb especially Grammer (get this man a Broadway show pronto). Other Pet denizens include Jerry Stiller as the Helperman's perpetually annoyed parrot Pretty Boy and David Ogden Stiers as the agoraphobic but cuddly cat Mr. Jolly. And if you listen closely you'll also hear Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman) and Will & Grace's Megan Mullally voicing two of Krank's experiments--with alligators and mosquitos respectively--gone strangely awry.
Despite a weak story and uninspiring songs Teacher's Pet has a unique animated style and that's its one key selling point. Renowned illustrator Gary Baseman whose art is frequently featured in top magazines such as The New Yorker and Rolling Stone got the idea for Pet when he wondered what his dog did all day long when he wasn't there. He teamed up with the Steinkellners (TV's Cheers) and created the TV version of Teacher's Pet which debuted in 2000 and has won several awards including a Daytime Emmy for best animated TV series. In the movie version first-time director Timothy Bjorklund sticks with Baseman's eclectic and off-kilter style and churns out the artist's illustrations at a fur-flying rate. There's lots to see and several inside jokes to catch including poking fun at Disney classics such as Pinocchio (the Blue Fairy done Baseman style is hilarious) and 101 Dalmatians (ditto with the "Twilight Bark"). It's been a long time since hand-drawn art has given audiences something just as distinctive as its rival the somewhat more versatile computer-generated animation.