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.
After failing in a mission to protect an important government scientist Navy SEAL Shane Wolfe (Diesel) learns that the man's family is also in danger. In an effort to redeem himself Wolfe agrees to take care of the scientist's children while their mother (Faith Ford) travels overseas to try to retrieve her late husband's secret plans. But the perilous adrenaline-charged world of babysitting soon becomes the military man's greatest challenge especially with the out-of-control Plummer clan. They include sassy rebel teen Zoe (Brittany Snow) sullen 14-year-old Seth (Max Thieriot) precocious 8-year-old Ninja wannabe Lulu (Morgan York) plus destructive toddler Peter and baby poop machine Tyler. He's truly a fish er SEAL out of water but this tough guy soon realizes that by bringing them all closer together to protect them he's becoming part of a family. Yep pure Disney sap.
That's right I said it. Vin Diesel doesn't look completely ridiculous interacting within the whole heartwarming comedy milieu and there's a couple of reasons why. Firstly as The Pacifier's tough nut Navy SEAL Diesel is still doing all the he-man stuff we know and love him for. He still blows things up gets to race on a Jet Ski and fight off Ninja assassins. Secondly although he has a few moments during which he softens up Diesel's Shane never really drops the hard-ass sergeant routine as he tries to whip the kids into shape. One of the more telling scenes is after Shane expertly dispatches said Ninjas using the kid's stuff as weapons. It finally dawns on the Plummer children that they really are in danger and that maybe they should cut the guy some slack. As for the three older kids Snow (TV's American Dreams) Thieriot (Catch That Kid) and York (Cheaper By
the Dozen) do their best not to veer too much into the stereotypical zone especially York as little Lulu who could have a promising future as a Special Ops agent if she plays her cards right. Carol Kane also makes a memorable appearance as the Plummers' beleaguered Eastern European nanny giant warts on her face and all. As does
Everybody Loves Raymond's Brad Garrett as a bullish high school vice principal.
The Pacifier is sort of an Uncle Buck on steroids. The 1989 John Hughes' film had John Candy with his sloppy unorthodox ways come into white-bred suburbia and change not only the lives of his nieces and nephew but of course his own. It's a formula that works and Pacifier director Adam Shankman (Bringing Down the House) utilizes it to the fullest. The best moments of the film are when the Navy SEAL has to use his own experiences and skills and apply them to the domestic mess he finds himself in. Sure there are the usual gags about changing the baby's diaper for the first time catching Zoe's boyfriend trying to sneak into the house stuff like that. And yes the mush level hits some serious high points at times. But for the most part the getting-to-know-each-other set up is enjoyable. The film starts to lose you however when it gets into the subplot of trying to find the dead scientist's super secret plans which in the wrong hands could spell disaster for the world. Whatever. Just get back to the comedy.