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.
A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
Funny thing about this week’s summer movie kickoff, The Avengers: While all of the superheroes have been around for a long time in comic-book and/or animation form, they’re all relative newbies to the live-action world. (That is, with the exception of the Hulk and, to a lesser degree, Captain America.) Not the case with the unofficial “first wave” of superheroes, the ones many of us have been watching — and have been entertained by — for decades on the small and big screens. Here’s a look at those superheroes, the actors who have portrayed them on TV and in films, and how they’ve changed (or haven’t) over the years.
In: Batman (TV series, 1966-‘68) and Batman (movie, 1966)
Best/Worst Batman? Neither
Notes: West is generally thought of as the first actor to play the Caped Crusader, but Lewis Wilson and Robert Lowery each played the character in the 1940s “serial” movies. West, however, was the first to give Batman a place in the public consciousness, cinematically speaking, and he will forever be linked with the superhero. His performances were solid, but West was a victim of the campy feel of the movie/series in which he starred… and the spandex Batsuit… and the Batusi.
In: Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992)
Best/Worst Batman? Neither
Notes: Keaton’s interpretation of Batman, which followed two-plus decades of nonactivity on the big screen for the Caped Crusader, forever changed the representation of the character. The monotone, emotionless voice? The physical rigidity? That’s Keaton’s work (which isn’t to say his director, Tim Burton, didn’t have a hand in crafting the modern-ish Batman). And what great work it turned out to be. In fact, we'd understand if you rank him as the best Batman of all time; he’s our No. 2, and just barely. (And on the subject of rankings, Kevin Conroy, who voiced the Dark Knight in the 1990s animated TV series, doesn’t quite meet our live-action criteria for this list, but vocally, emotionally, and dichotomously — as Bruce Wayne and Batman — nails the character unlike any before or since.)
In: Batman Forever (1995)
Best/Worst Batman? Neither
Notes: Kilmer was mostly just… innocuous as Batman in his really, really brief (as in one-movie brief, thanks to the ol’ “creative differences”) tenure playing the character. Although strong in spots, Kilmer’s turn as Batman was stiff and ultimately forgettable, a Caped Crusader that didn’t make audiences feel much of anything. That’s a no-no for a character as complex as Batman.
In: Batman & Robin (1997)
Best/Worst Batman? Worst
Notes: The Cloon Man can do virtually no wrong — except when it comes to the role of Batman, which was a borderline (unintentional) joke at the time and is now, in hindsight, an absolute joke. Clooney’s delivery and affect were tonally askew pretty much throughout the movie, and then there were the things he had no control over, like the prominently displayed codpiece — er, Bat-crotch (pictured, above!) — not to mention director Joel Schumacher’s subtly erotic take on Batman and Robin’s relationship. But Clooney’s hindsight assessment of the movie’s failure, and his failure in it, has always been refreshing: “It’s easy to look back at Batman and go, ‘Whoa! That was really s**t, and I was really bad in it.’”
In: Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008), and The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Best/Worst Batman? Best
Notes: Is it too soon to crown Bale the best Batman ever? Does proper perspective and evaluation of his performances require time and distance? Uh, no. Bale has captured the true essence of the Dark Knight (emphasis on “Dark”) like no actor before him, injecting his trademark intensity into an iconic character that, let’s not forget, was previously rendered a joke by Clooney and Schumacher. With obvious help from director Christopher Nolan, Bale completely resuscitated a dead franchise and restored fanboy sanity — by playing Batman the way he was meant to be played.
NEXT: Reeves or Reeve?
In: Superman and the Mole Men (movie, 1951) and Adventures of Superman (TV series, 1952-’58)
Best/Worst Superman? Neither
Notes: Reeves, as the first screen version of Superman, was a bit, well, steely as the Man of Steel, one of the few superheroes whose faces we see (and thus whose expressions are a big part of the performance). But it was more a sign of the times than bad acting. In fact, Reeves, who obviously didn’t have the good fortune of working with any sort of modern special effects, was often forced to rely on his raw physicality, to typically strong results. He was even cooler as Clark Kent!
In: Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Superman III (1983) and Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
Best/Worst Superman? Best
Notes: Make no mistake: We’re not calling the late, great Reeve an unequivocal success throughout his overlong run as the Man of Steel, but he’s certainly the franchise’s best. When one thinks of Superman in human, non-comic form, Reeve comes to mind first, and for good reason: Not only did he make us associate him with the character by, again, starring in at least two too many such films, but his performance throughout struck the perfect balance between sweet charm and raw masculinity.
In: Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
Best/Worst Superman? Neither
Notes: Don’t judge Cain based on his post-Lois & Clark career — or lack thereof. He actually made for a solid Clark Kent/Superman in this small-screen take on the relationship between the title characters. Cain rendered Superman/Kent a likable, interesting, more contemporary superhero/guy, and a lot of viewers didn’t much mind his looks week after week, either.
In: Superman Returns (2006)
Best/Worst Superman? Worst
Notes: The movie’s box office failures and those of its star have probably been overstated a bit, but… yeah. It did disappoint in both aspects, especially the latter. While Superman Returns itself was relatively well-received by critics, Routh, who was basically unknown at the time of his casting, undeniably lacked charisma as the title superhero, and his performance was flat. Which isn’t to say it was disastrous, but for a franchise that had been inactive on the big screen for almost two decades, a wiser casting choice might’ve been a splashier name and/or a more impactful actor.
In: Man of Steel (2013)
Notes: A Brit? As the most all-American superhero?! Hey, worked for Batman — quite well. Aside from that, with nothing more than an exciting "first look" photo to go on, we don’t know what to expect from Cavill in the summer 2013 Steel, other than a major step up from the man he’s replacing. (That, and Christopher Nolan's producing.) With all due respect to Routh, there’s nowhere to go but up.
NEXT: The Irreplaceable Ms. Carter
Cathy Lee Crosby
In: Wonder Woman (TV movie, 1974)
Best/Worst Wonder Woman? Worst
Notes: Little-known, or frequently glossed-over, fact (by those who weren’t around in the mid-‘70s): Lynda Carter IS Wonder Woman, but she isn’t the original Wonder Woman. In fact, Carter might have Crosby to thank for her iconic role: The Wonder Woman TV movie garnered solid ratings when it premiered in 1974, but not great reviews from critics or viewers. Thus, producers felt compelled to launch a serial version soon thereafter but also to take the character in a different direction, one that better paralleled the comic version on which she was based… i.e., played by a brunette.
In: Wonder Woman (TV series, 1975-’79)
Best/Worst Wonder Woman? Best
Notes: Again, Carter IS Wonder Woman. It's perhaps why TV and movie studios have had such a difficult time trying to find her replacement or replication for a big- or small-screen update… to no avail. (There has never been a movie version, and, well, see below for more on the extremely short-lived TV reboot.) And while Carter’s beauty was always what caught the viewer's eye first, her strong yet humane performance is what has really helped the character resonate and endure the way Wonder Woman has. It’s also what made her a role model to so many women at the time.
In: Wonder Woman (TV pilot, 2011)
Best/Worst Wonder Woman? Unknown
Notes: NBC was once so excited about its shiny David E. Kelley-backed Wonder Woman reboot with rising star Palicki in the title role. That was circa February 2011. By May, on the heels of the not-so-well-received first image of Palicki in costume, it was announced that nothing beyond the pilot episode would be necessary, and so the updated-Wonder Woman search continues.
NEXT: The Not-So-Jolly Green Giant
In: The Incredible Hulk (TV series, 1978-’82), The Incredible Hulk (movie, 2008; voice) and The Avengers (movie, 2012; voice)
Best/Worst Hulk? Best
Notes: Whether he likes it or not, Ferrigno is and always will be the Hulk, which at this point in his life/career is presumably somewhat annoying (see: I Love You, Man’s hilarious but probably accurate send-up). The ex-bodybuilder certainly would be a natural fit to play any superhero of monstrous proportions — green or otherwise — because of his physical stature, but it’s as much his innately hulky voice and mannerisms that make him such a great fit as the green giant. And it’s a role that has endured, to say the least, as Ferrigno provided the voice of the character in the 2008 Incredible Hulk and he does the same in this summer’s The Avengers (Mark Ruffalo will physically portray the Hulk in the film, but not vocally — which is more than can be said for Edward Norton and Eric Bana, both of whom only played the Bruce Banner character in the 21st-century Hulk updates; see below for more on them).
In: Hulk (2003)
Best/Worst Hulk? N/A
Notes: Bana turned in a solid performance as Bruce Banner and is in no way, shape or form responsible for the cringe-worthy Hulk we saw on screen — the cartoonish version that might as well have been Shrek's juiced-up (on CGI) cousin.
In: The Incredible Hulk (2008)
Best/Worst Hulk? N/A
Notes: The newer Hulk was a vast improvement over the previous model, seen in the aforementioned 2003 film — but it still had nothing to do with Norton, who, like Bana before him, only portrayed Banner. In fact, as much as the toned-down CGI deserves credit, it was franchise MVP Ferrigno, providing the vocals and more, who once again helped restore credibility to the character.
NEXT: Is the Best Yet to Come... This Summer?
In: The Amazing Spider-Man (TV series, 1977-’79)
Notes: Can Spider-Man be considered groovy? If so, that’d be probably be the most accurate description for Hammond’s tenure as the character. Just see: The porn music and overall vibe present in the way-too-‘70s Spidey TV movies/shows in which Hammond starred. His acting was endearingly cheesy — and you thought the upside-down smooch between Mary Jane and Spider-Man was tacky! — and he looked about two decades too old (and was, in reality, about one decade too old) to play Peter Parker. But no one can ever take away the fact that Hammond was the first-ever live-action Spidey.
In: Spider-Man (2002), Spider-Man 2 (2004) and Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Notes: Part of what makes Maguire slightly off-putting in a lot of other roles is what also happens to make him credible as Peter Parker: a certain delicate awkwardness. The fact that, for three films, he was able to seamlessly and believably transform into the powerful, crime-fighting title web-slinger speaks to his oft-overlooked ability as an actor. (Even the studio, Sony, was reportedly not convinced that Maguire could pull off such a dichotomy… and then he auditioned.)
In: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)
Notes: Another British takeover! And another seemingly good casting choice: Garfield showed off a pitch-perfect American accent (and more importantly, a firm grasp on teenagedom) in 2010’s The Social Network, and that was all producers needed to cast him as the lead in Columbia Pictures’ franchise reboot. Garfield’s personal passion for, and understanding of, the character since childhood is icing on the cake. Couple all that with incoming writer/director Marc Webb’s hints of a deeper, less special-effects-reliant Spider-Man installment, and the Garfield casting ought to pay dividends immediately (especially if the studio got the pre-fame discount!).
A Non-Geek's Guide to the Avengers
Batman Spends What? The Price of Being a Superhero
What If The Dark Knight Was Made In the '60s? — VIDEO
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
Claire is an attractive CIA operative and Ray is an M16 agent who simultaneously leave their Governmental spy activities in the dust to try and profit from a battle between two rival multi-national corporations both trying to launch a new product that will transform the world and make billions. Their goal is to secure the top-secret formula and get a patent before they are outsmarted. While their respective egomaniacal CEOs engage in an unending battle of wills and one-upmanship Claire and Ray start out conning and playing one another in a clever game of industrial espionage that is even more complicated due to their own long-term romantic relationship.
WHO’S IN IT?
Reuniting Closer co-stars Julia Roberts (as Claire) and Clive Owen (as Ray) turns out to be an inspired idea. They turn out to be the perfect pair oozing movie-star charm and electricity in this elaborate con-game that might have been the kind of thing Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant might have made in the '60s (in fact they did in Charade). Roberts with that infamous hairstyle back the way we like it and Owen looking great in sunglasses prove they have what it takes to navigate us through this ultra-complex plot in which no one is sure who they can trust at any given moment. They play it all in high style and the wit just flows as the story skirts back and forth during the period of five years. The supporting cast is well-chosen with juicy roles for Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti (out of their John Adams duds) as the two CEOs going for each other’s throats. Giamatti who sometimes has a tendency to overdo it is especially slimy here and great fun to watch.
Big-star studio movies today rarely take risks and often talk down to the audience but in Duplicity writer/director Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton) has crafted a complicated con-comedy that requires complete attention at all times just to keep up with the dense plot’s twists and turns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a New York Times crossword puzzle and Gilroy and his top-drawer production team deliver a glossy beautiful-looking film that’s easy on the eyes hitting locations from Dubai to Rome to New York City.
Like any good puzzle it sometimes can be frustrating putting it all together and Gilroy’s habit of taking us back in time and then inching forward gets a little confusing even with the on-screen chyron pointing out where we are at any given moment. Stick with it though and you will be well-rewarded.
A scene near the end where the formula must be found scanned and faxed in a matter of minutes is sweat-inducing edge-of-your-seat moviemaking and it provides the ultimate opportunity for Roberts and Owen to take the “con” to the next level. Another where Roberts uses a thong to try and trick Owen into admitting an affair he never had is also priceless and gets right to the heart of the game-playing.
GO OUT AND GET POPCORN WHEN ...
Never. Stock up during the coming attractions. If you miss a moment of this entertaining romp you might never figure it all out.
Superman may get new director
Rumors began circulating last week that Charlie's Angels director McG, tapped to helm the newest Superman installment, may be replaced by Pearl Harbor director Michael Bay. Although McG has been on board to direct the Warner Bros. project since last summer, according to the Hollywood Reporter, there have been problems between the studio and the director over the location of the shoot, which has started the rumor mill that Bay is in line to replace McG. A Superman logo appeared on http://www.michaelbay.com, which bills itself as action director Michael Bay's "official" Web site, last week as well. Spokespeople for Bay and his William Morris Agency reps say, however, that a fan operates the site and Bay had no involvement in posting the logo, and that Bay has not been approached about the film. A Warner Bros. spokesperson said the studio was still very much in business with McG and rumors about Bay's involvement were "absolutely not true."
Dennis Quaid gets hitched
Fireworks went off over the 4th for actor Dennis Quaid and girlfriend Kimberly Buffington, who were married Sunday in Montana, the Associated Press reports. According to the actor's spokeswoman Cara Tripicchio, Jack Henry Quaid, Quaid's 12-year-old son with former wife Meg Ryan, stood as the best man. The actor was also previously married to actress P.J. Soles. It's Buffington's first marriage.
And guess who else got married?
Actress Tori Spelling, best known for her stint on Beverly Hills 90210, married actor/writer Charlie Shanian Saturday in Los Angeles, AP reports. The couple met in 2002 during the Los Angeles stage production of the romantic comedy, Maybe, Baby It's You, co-written by Shanian, 35. Appropriately, the two actors appeared in 11 vignettes about couples in search of love. It's the first marriage for both.
Rocker Crosby slapped with gun charge
Rocker David Crosby was fined $5,000 Friday after pleading guilty to attempted criminal possession of a weapon following his Mar. 6 arrest in New York when a gun, knife and marijuana were found in his luggage, Reuters reports. Crosby was taken into custody after a maid found a loaded .45-caliber handgun, a knife and a small amount of marijuana left in his room after he checked out of the hotel. In exchange for his plea in which one count of unlawful possession of marijuana was dismissed, Crosby, 62, was given a conditional discharge as long as he pays the fine and does not get arrested again, Reuters reports.
Fallen football star gets star tribute
During the upcoming 12th annual ESPY Awards, Tom Cruise is set to introduce a special tribute to Pat Tillman, the former member of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals who gave up the sport to join the army and was subsequently killed in Afghanistan, Reuters reports. The ESPY Awards, which honor top achievements in sports, will air on ESPN July 18.
Set point for John McEnroe
Cable TV is taking a chance on former bad boy of tennis John McEnroe, whose new talk show, McEnroe, debuts Wednesday on CNBC. AP reports the show's eclectic mix of topical guests, music, art, sports and a lot of comedy is reminiscent of Jon Stewart's The Daily Show. "I'm not at the point in my life where I want to be really serious," McEnroe, 45, told AP. "At this point, I want to have more fun."
Hasselhoff to make Chicago appearance
Actor David Hasselhoff is set to appear in the London production of the hit musical Chicago July 16, AP reports. The 51-year-old will play scheming lawyer Billy Flynn in the show, which has run in the West End for seven years. "This is not about making money--this is about following my heart, challenging myself and having fun," Hasselhoff told AP. The former Baywatch star last made headlines June 5, when he was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in Los Angeles after getting treatment for alcoholism at the Betty Ford Center in 2002.