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.
S1E15: As with all of the better Person of Interest episodes, this week’s splits its focus between the Reese of present day and that of the past—circa 2008, during his days working as a covert agent (well, his first string of days as a covert agent). Even back then, Reese was troubled. We come to understand a bit more via this week’s episode “Blue Code” that Reese was already damaged when employed by the CIA. He was darkened by all the things he had seen and done. He was completely overtaken by his love for his ex, the woman with whom we’re moderately familiar at this point. And apparently, Reese’s darkness might have brought him to some things of which we weren’t exactly privy…
"The more dangerous they are, the closer I want to be to them." - Reese In the present day, Reese goes undercover to keep watch on the Number of the Week: a man involved in a smuggling ring. The catch—this man himself turns out to be an undercover cop. And a pretty dedicated one at that. The man is named Daniel Tully, but goes by Cahill while undercover. He is working to take down Vargas, a menacing manager of the smuggling ring, and a figure who may himself have a dirty cop in his pocket. But more important to Tully than Vargas is the man onn top of the whole operation: a mysterious figure called L.O.S.—who is revealed in the end to be a CIA agent involved in the drug smuggling business as a part of the agency’s effort to, according to Reese, “fund the war on terror.”
Many problems arise when you’re an undercover cop whose primary objective turns out to be an active CIA agent. For one, when you finally arrest him, he gets out pretty quickly. Agent Snow sees to it that L.O.S., otherwise known as Mark, is out of jail within hours. But the consequences continue, as we shall see. L.O.S. decides at the end of the episode that Tully, safe at home with his wife and son for the time being, and Carter, who was also present upon the arrest, must be “taken out.”
"No one followed me. I just needed to feel normal." - Tully The show is really accumulating major bad guys. Elias (who is mentioned in passing this week, leading one to believe that he’ll be making a comeback), Root, and now L.O.S.. One might also include Will Ingram as an antagonist, though a different sort of one. The CIA man’s vendetta against Carter and Tully will inevitably fuel something deadly—perhaps not for Carter, who we can predict will escape the agency’s wrath, but almost definitely for Tully. Speaking of wrath-escaping, this week ups the ante on our sympathies for Fusco even more. We’re really starting to come around to this guy as a relatively noble, if not misunderstood, figure. While investigating the case, Fusco is apprehended by the abovementioned crooked cop, who takes him out into the woods to kill on the spot. Naturally, Reese swings in just in time to dispose of the man, but not before Fusco gets to deliver a chilling, steady speech about death. Fusco seems to want out of the dirty game, but Reese is keeping him in cahoots with the baddies, as he is more useful in this bullpen. But Reese is definitely coming around, as we are, to Fusco’s inner good.
"In the army, they taught us the fastest way to get shot was to fail to clean your weapon." - Reese "In the marines, they taught us the fastest way to clean your weapon was to shoot a couple of people with it." - Reese's partner The flashback sequence is brief, but interesting. We see a cagey Reese grab a drink back in ’08 with a stranger—scratch that. A man to whom Reese is a stranger. But a man who Reese knows quite well. See, this man has married Reese’s ex…and what Reese plans to do about that, we never find out, because his partner—the woman who named him Reese in the first place—ropes him in from the game, keeping him from further interaction with the man. We also see the pre-enmity relationship between Reese and Snow…which doesn’t seem to ever really have been free of hostility, despite Snow’s claim that they were once best friends. Although we’re meant to view the CIA as the bad guys, the show does make us wonder how much of Snow’s words are genuine—regarding specifically Reese’s madness and dangerousness. After all, he is pretty mad and dangerous. It’ll be interesting to see the show play out in a way that enlightens us to Snow being a far more sympathetic and heroic figure than he is painted to be. What did you think of this week’s episode? How will L.O.S.’s plan to take out Carter manifest? Whose back stories do you enjoy more—Reese’s or Finch’s? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter (@MichaelArbeiter).
What is an ensemble cast? How many actors constitute one? There aren’t any guidelines that determine what qualifies as a true ensemble, but if anyone can offer some insight it would be Woody Allen, who has been getting great groups of actors together for decades now. From Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters to Melinda and Melinda and You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger, he’s always had a keen eye for casting and the stars continue to line up to work with the iconic auteur.
With the home entertainment release of his latest, fore mentioned film at hand, I thought it’d be apt to honor some of the coolest ensemble casts ever assembled. Keep in mind: this isn’t a list of the best films featuring an ensemble cast. It’s about the best rosters of talent roped in for a single production.
This under-appreciated Tony Scott action spectacle was polarizing to audiences because of its ultra-violent approach, particularly toward women. But Patricia Arquette proved herself to be one tough chick, able to take a beating a give it back in equal measure. Together with her beau-to-be Christian Slater, she embarks on an odyssey to free herself from pimp Gary Oldman and, later, his criminal overlord Christopher Walken, all while L.A. detectives Tom Sizemore and Chris Penn are hot on the trail of drugs and blood. With bonus appearances by Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Michael Rapaport and more, True Romance is a twisted web of cameos and special roles filled by some of the coolest actors of the time.
The Thin Red Line
WWII films have a long history of stellar casts comprised of legions of screen legends. This 1998 genre entry continues that grand tradition with enough A-listers to make five separate movies. George Clooney, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte, Adrien Brody, Miranda Otto, John Cusack, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, John Travolta, Nick Stahl, Elias Koteas and Jim Caviezel all appear in the prestigious picture at one point or another – a logistic achievement in and of itself.
This sweet rom-com gets me every time. Not just because of the cheerful dialogue and warm and fuzzy relationships, but also because of the charming cast of characters played by Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Elizabeth, Andrew Lincoln, Denise Richards and the adorable Thomas Sangster. Together, there are around eight revolving, relatable romances in the film, but we wouldn’t have cared about any of them if not for the lovable cast.
In telling this sprawling tale about the intersecting lives of a handful of Angelenos, director Paul Haggis needed an international cast to represent the diverse population of the City of Angels. He got it with Don Cheadle, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Esposito, Shaun Toub, Daniel Dae Kim, Matt Dillon, Loretta Devine, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Keith David, Ryan Phillippe, Michael Pena, Tony Danza and Thandie Newton. Though Dillon was the only actor recognized by the Academy at awards time, the triumph of the film belongs to its eclectic cast.
The Magnificent Seven
Akira Kurasawa’s epic Seven Samurai was practically begging for a Hollywood adaptation when it was released in 1954. By 1960, director John Sturges had made it a reality with a pack of screen idols including the dashing Yul Brynner, the inimitable Eli Wallach, the ultra-cool Steve McQueen, the bad-ass Charles Bronson, the slick Robert Vaughn, the cool James Coburn and the “newbie” Horst Buchholz. The septuplet of stars had a great deal of chemistry that made their on-screen antics all the more enjoyable to watch, and fifty years later their work on this classic film has become the stuff of movie mythology.
The star power packed into these popular motion pictures is astonishing. With Hollywood heavyweights like George Clooney, Matt Damon and Brad Pitt leading an army of talent - young and old - including Don Cheadle, Scott Caan, Bernie Mac, Andy Garcia, Carl Reiner, Eddie Jemison, Elliot Gould, Casey Affleck and Julia Roberts, there's no shortage of charisma throughout the film. You may be wondering why I chose Oceans Twelve over the 2001 remake of the 1960 original; it's because this hit heist pic also features the likes of Catherine Zeta-Jones, Albert Finney, Robbie Coltrane, Jared Harris, Vincent Cassel and Bruce Willis in appearances big and small. Not too shabby for a sequel...
Forget the awful 2008 remake. I implore you to give the original a chance. It’s a virtual who’s who of top Hollywood talent of the era. The premise is simple by today’s standards, but in 1939 its empowering themes were ahead of its time. Some of best actresses to ever grace the silver screen, including Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Joan Fontaine, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, Lucile Watson and Marjorie Main delivered the message. All of the above are Oscar winners or nominees, making this cast of female performers one of the most celebrated of all time.
I’m not sure if Francis Ford Coppola knew what he was onto when he picked his rag-tag group of actors for this kick-ass 1983 film. After all, most of the actors were relatively unknown and untested at the time (save for C. Thomas Howell, who had just starred in Steven Spielberg's E.T.), but that quickly changed in the years following its release. Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Matt Dillon, Ralph Macchio, Rob Lowe, Diane Lane and Tom Cruise all appeared in the acclaimed teen drama, leaving behind one hell of a legacy.