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.
At some point in the early years of the 21st century a bunch of Hollywood executives must have gotten together and decided that animated films should be made for all audiences. The goal was perhaps to make movies that are simultaneously accessible to the older and younger sets with colorful imagery that one expects from children’s films and two levels of humor: one that’s quite literal and harmless and another that’s somewhat subversive. The criteria has resulted in cross-generational hits like Wall-E and Madagascar and though it’s nice to be able to take my nephew to the movies and be as entertained by cartoon characters as he is I can’t help but wonder what happened to unabashedly innocent animated classics like A Goofy Movie and The Land Before Time?
Disney’s Winnie The Pooh is the answer to the Shrek’s and Hoodwinked!’s of the world: a short sweet simple and lighthearted tale of friendship that doesn’t need pop-culture references or snarky dialogue to put a smile on your face. Directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall found some fresh ways to deliver adorable animation while keeping the carefree spirit of A.A. Milne’s source material in tact. Their story isn’t the most original; the first part of the film finds Pooh Piglet Tigger and Owl searching for Eeyore’s tail (a common plot point in the books and past Pooh films) and hits all the predictable notes but the second half mixes things up a bit as the crew searches for a missing Christopher Robin whom they believe has been kidnapped by a forest creature known as the “Backson” (it’s really just the result of the illiterate Owl or is it?).
The beauty of hand-drawn animation all but forgotten until recently is what makes Winnie the Pooh so incredibly magnetic. There’s an inexplicable crispness to the colors and characters that CG just can’t duplicate. It’s a more personal practice for the filmmakers and should provide a refreshing experience for audiences who have become jaded with the pristine presentation of computerized imagery. The film is bookended by brief live-action shots from inside Robin’s room an interesting dynamic that plays up the simplicity of youth ties it to these beloved characters and brings you right back to memories of your own childhood.
With a just-over-an-hour run time Winnie the Pooh is short enough to hold the attention of children but won’t bore the parents who will love the film mainly for nostalgic musings. Still it’s the young’uns who will most enjoy this breezy bright and enchanting film that proves old-school characters can appeal to new moviegoers.
The romantic action comedy Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is like nothing — and if you’re a person between the age of approximately 18 to 35 everything — you’ve seen before. British director Edgar Wright’s (Shaun of the Dead Hot Fuzz) adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley graphic novel is so densely laden with pop-culture references it often times feels less like a movie than a mixtape. Those who share the tastes of the film’s 31-year-old writer and 35-year-old director will find the experience to be exhilarating; those who don’t however will likely be at a loss to comprehend what all the fuss is about.
The list of ‘80s and ‘90s video game nods in Pilgrim alone is daunting: Tekken Super Mario Bros. Tetris Zelda and even retro titles like Galaga and Ms. Pac-Man are represented just to name a few. To fit all of it in Wright must practically invent a brand-new kind of filmmaking. Using techniques and iconography culled from the holy fanboy triumvirate of comic books video games and anime/manga and armed with a clearly generous effects budget he splatters the screen with a dazzling array of CGI visual aids as the action unfolds: informational pop-ups supply key details on each character as they are introduced; words like “Boom!” and “Pow!” burst forth when blows are landed during fight sequences; a “Level Up!” graphic indicating increased levels of key character attributes appears after the film’s hero triumphs in battle. Even the old Universal Studios logo has been revamped by Wright rendered in the rudimentary graphics and sound of the old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. Call it easter-egg filmmaking.
At the center of this digital maelstrom is Scott Pilgrim a 22-year-old Canadian hipster waif played by 22-year-old Canadian hipster waif Michael Cera. Unemployed and in no great rush to find work he splits his time evenly between jamming with his middling band Sex Bob-Omb (a Super Mario Bros. reference) combing thrift shops for new additions to his near-limitless collection of ironic t-shirts and pining for Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) a beguiling New York City emigre whose signature attribute is her constantly-changing hair color.
After a few abortive encounters Scott finally gets Ramona to reciprocate his affections. Thus begins the quest — or "campaign " as gamers call it — portion of the film as Scott soon discovers that in order to secure Ramona’s hand he must defeat each of her seven evil exes (six boys and one girl) in spontaneous death matches of decreasing novelty. (A few of them could easily have been excised without harming the narrative but that might invite the ire of comic book fans who typically demand nothing less than absolute adherence to the source text.) With a variety of found power-ups and an entirely implausible collection of fancy kung-fu moves he faces off against among others a pompous vegan straight-edge (Brandon Routh) a self-absorbed action star (Chris Evans) a spiteful lesbian (Mae Whitman) and a smarmy record producer (Jason Schwartzman).
I expect Scott Pilgrim vs. the World will polarize audiences and not just because of Wright’s distinctively dizzying directorial style. (Which I thoroughly enjoyed even though it occasionally overdoses on manufactured quirk and is a bit too proud of its cleverness.) The film glosses over Scott and Ramona’s wooing process in its rush to commence with its succession of comic-book battles which grow somewhat tedious toward the end. It’s simply assumed that Ramona would fall for our protagonist as it’s likewise assumed that we already have. But not everyone will embrace Scott’s castrati hipster affect which too often comes across as grating rather than charming. (The movie’s funniest moments come courtesy of Scott’s sassy gay roommate played by Kieran Culkin who is never without a clever barb for his lovelorn pal.) And beneath Cera’s self-effacing sheen exists an unmistakable whiff of pretentiousness that isn’t entirely justified — at least not yet. Far less debatable is the appeal of Winstead whose spunky Ramona appears every bit worth the hassle of fending off seven or more ex-lovers.
God knows what she sees in him.
Source: Deadline, The Wrap, THR
Among the 22 projects Comedy Central has in the pipeline are shows dealing with sex, drugs, rock 'n' roll and religion. Media outlets are reporting on the new 2010-2011 development slate that includes a live sex-chat talk show, an update of The Odd Couple and an animated series about Jesus Christ. The latter, JC, is a half-hour about Christ wanting to escape his father's shadow and to live life in NYC as a regular guy.
The project is executive produced by Reveille, Henrik Basin, Brian Boyle, Jonathan Sjoberg and Andreas Ohman. Among the other notable projects are: Highdeas, based on the Web site highdeas.com, in which a comedian explores questions that can only be posed by stoners. This Show Will Get You High, a sketch comedy featuring the next wave of performers from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Written by UCB co-founder Matt Besser and Eric Zicklin.
Based on a Funny or Die short, Rich Dicks stars Nick Kroll and Jon Daly as obnoxiously wealthy party-mongers in LA. Directed by Jon Krisel and executive produced by Krisel, Kroll and Daly. Live Sex Show sees hosts Bert Kreischer and Layla Kayleigh taking a comedic look at all things sex. It's executive produced by Jesse Ignatovic and written by Mat Harawitz.
Patrice Oneal's Guide to White People sees comedian Oneal's take on race relations. It's executive produced by Michael Hirschorn and Gideon Evans.
Steel Panther, a loosely scripted docu-reality show, follows the band Steel Panther, which parodies '80s hair metal acts. Created by Brian Posehn and Jeff Tremaine. Stand-up comics Kevin Hart and Bill Burr have a half-hour untitled scripted series that's billed as a modern-day take on The Odd Couple. Executive produced by Bruce McCulloch and 3Arts. A**Holes is a half-hour comedy about the two biggest assholes in the entire world - two twenty-something roommates who spend their days scamming on girls, bilking Alzheimer's patients out of money and generally being the opposite of model citizens. It's written by Steve Koren and Nick Malis.
Meanwhile, Russell Simmons Presents: Stand-Up at the El Rey is executive produced by Simmons and Stan Lathan. The stand-up show with a hip hop vibe, is hosted by JB Smoove.
The Wrap has a comprehensive look at the entire slate.
Just be thankful Mr. Brooks doesn’t have anything to do with water or delivering the mail in a post-apocalyptic world. Or baseball for that matter. Costner plays the title character Mr. Brooks who is not just any bad guy but a sociopathic serial killer with a cunning wicked alter ego named Marshall (William Hurt) who eggs him on. Of course on the surface Brooks seems like a normal successful business owner with a lovely wife (Marg Helgenberger) and college-aged daughter (Danielle Panabaker) and so far he has managed to keep his two incompatible worlds from intersecting. Until now. When an amateur photographer (Dane Cook) witnesses Mr. Brooks in action the killer finds himself entangled in the dark agenda of the opportunistic bystander--who calls himself Mr. Smith--as well as hunted by a tenacious detective (Demi Moore). Thing is Mr. Brooks sort of wants to get caught just to end it. Isn’t that what all good little serial killers want? Finally a starring vehicle Costner can sink his teeth into. He is always better when he’s edgy (i.e. Bull Durham Upside of Anger) so playing full-blown evil works for him. Of course his Mr. Brooks isn’t completely without a moral compass. The ultra-Catholic Brooks views his predilection for murder or “hunger” as he calls it as an addiction and thus treats it accordingly by going to AA meetings. While the actor effectively shows this inner turmoil Costner truly shines in his scenes with Hurt. A protagonist interacting with an alter ego manifested for the audience but who is really only in his head is a very tricky plot device. These actors make it work though conveying an easy rapport especially when they are messing with Cook’s character. As for the stand-up comedian he continues to branch out by playing the dimwitted Mr. Smith to moderate effect. It’s actually a perfect fit for Cook and doesn’t require him to put out much effort. Moore also does a fine job as the determined Det. Tracy Atwood even though her character skews towards the clichéd as a rogue cop who likes to do things her own way rules be damned! Co-writer/director Bruce Evans makes Mr. Brooks his second directorial effort after 1992’s Kuffs. You mean the Kuffs with Christian Slater? Yikes. OK so maybe he’s more known as a writer who along with his writing partner Raynold Gideon penned ‘80s classics such as Starman and Stand By Me. Their last writing effort however was the 1997 Tim Allen comedy Jungle 2 Jungle. I’m not really selling this guy am I? What I’m trying to say is that aside from the dodgy previous directing credit and lengthy hiatus Evans still handles Mr. Brooks like a pro. The script is mostly concise and cleverly twisty--only faltering when it veers off into Atwood’s private life--while Evans keeps the action up close and personal almost intimate in the way Brooks operates. And without giving too much away the best part is the Bad Seed angle. If they make more movies about Mr. Brooks (apparently it's being set up as a trilogy) we’ll definitely be there.