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 first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Top Story: Whitney Houston in Rehab Center
Whitney Houston, who told Diane Sawyer on ABC's Primetime in December 2002 that she had gotten away from her drug usage through prayer, is undergoing treatment in a drug rehabilitation clinic, The Associated Press reports. A spokesman said the singer "thanks everyone for their support and prayers" but declined to offer any further details. Houston, 40, lives in Atlanta with her husband, R&B singer Bobby Brown, and their 10-year-old daughter, Bobbi Kristina. Life in the Houston-Brown household, however, has always been far from humdrum. Last month, Brown was sentenced to 60 days' jail time for violating probation. One of the violations was for allegedly hitting Houston last December, leaving her with a bruised cheek and a cut lip. Houston has also had her shares of run-ins with the law. In January 2000, she lost a bag at Hawaii's Keahole Kona International Airport that contained less than half an ounce of marijuana and three partially smoked marijuana cigarettes. But the drug possession charges were dropped after a drug counselor said the singer did not need treatment for substance abuse.
Sheen, Richards Proud Parents
Charlie Sheen and wife Denise Richards became parents to their first child, daughter Sam Sheen, Tuesday in Los Angeles, Reuters reports. The baby weighed 7 pounds, 3 ounces at birth, and both mother and daughter "are doing great," Sheen's publicist said in a statement issued Monday. Sheen, 38, who currently stars on the hit CBS comedy Two and a Half Men, has a 19-year-old daughter, Cassandra, from a previous relationship. It is the first child for Richards, 33, who was last seen in the horror spoof Scary Movie 3.
Paris and Nicole Take Show on the Road
Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie have loaded up their pink pickup truck in Miami Beach, Fla., and are headed to Beverly Hills, Calif., in a road trip to be documented for The Simple Life 2--the follow-up to the hit Fox reality show The Simple Life. Here, the socialites-turned-TV stars are driving themselves on a 30-day cross-country trip with no money, credit cards, cell phones or boyfriends and will stay with several different families, the AP reports. Filming is expected to begin in the next few days with the eight episodes set to air in June.
Jada Pinkett Smith Tours With Britney Spears
Jada Pinkett Smith, who stars in the upcoming thriller Collateral opposite Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx, is moonlighting as a singer. MTV.com reports that Pinkett Smith will open for all eight of Britney Spears' Onyx Hotel Tour shows in the U.K. beginning on April 27 in London with her band Wicked Wisdom. Wicked Wisdom, which formed about a year ago, does not yet have an album out yet but the group frequently plays the Los Angeles club circuit. Collateral, which is set for release Aug. 6, was helmed by Michael Mann, who directed Pinkett Smith and husband Will Smith in the 2001 biopic Ali.
Sugar Ray Leonard Joins The Contender
Five-time world boxing champion Sugar Ray Leonard will be joining Sylvester Stallone in the upcoming NBC reality show The Contender. The series, developed by Survivor creator Mark Burnett, DreamWorks SKG co-founder Jeffrey Katzenberg and Stallone, features aspiring boxers vying for $1 million in prize money and a shot at becoming America's next boxing superstar. According to Reuters, Leonard, 47, will serve with Stallone as an on-air adviser and mentor to aspiring boxers competing on the show. The 16-part series is scheduled to debut sometime next season.
Prince Inducted Into Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
Prince, who will launch his 38-city Musicology tour March 29 in Los Angeles, was among eight musicians inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Monday in New York. Others honored at the 19th annual induction were the late George Harrison, Texas group ZZ Top, singer-songwriter Jackson Browne, English rock-jazz fusion band Traffic, rocker Bob Seger, R & B vocal group The Dells and Rolling Stone magazine co-founder Jann Wenner, The Purple One kicked off the festivities with a performance of "Let's Go Crazy," "Sign O' The Times," and "Kiss," that, according to Reuters, brought the formally dressed audience in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel to its feet.
Geffen Victorious in Guns N' Roses Album Dispute
U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer cleared the way yesterday for Geffen Records to release a greatest hits album next week from the rock band Guns N' Roses over the objection of its lead singer, Axl Rose. Rose had argued that he did not give consent for Geffen to release a new greatest hits compilation, which consists of 14 singles including "Welcome to the Jungle," "Sweet Child O' Mine" and a cover of the Rolling Stones' "Sympathy for the Devil" from the Interview With the Vampire soundtrack, and objected to the selection of songs, the timing of its release, the album's artwork and the remastering of the original tapes. A spokesman for Universal Music called the lawsuit meritless and said the album will be released as scheduled on March 23.
Role Call: Gurinder Chadha Takes Nine Wives
Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha will helm the romantic comedy Nine Wives for New Line. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the project is about a commitment-phobic guy who breaks up with his longtime girlfriend and wakes up every morning with a different wife. Chadha, who is just completing the Bollywood musical Bride and Prejudice, is also developing I Dream of Jeannie at Columbia and Tucker Ames at Fox 2000.