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.
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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Three major movie studio films opened nationwide Friday, including Jackass: The Movie, Ghost Ship and The Truth About Charlie--and it was the dumbest one that cleaned up at the box office.
Jackass: The Movie, the big-screen adaptation of the MTV series featuring a bunch of guys doing really stupid stunts, took in a rather tasteful $22.7 million, while The Ring chimed in second with a close $18.8 million. Ghost Ship finished third with a frighteningly real $11.7 million.
Sweet Home Alabama came in fourth with $6.4 million, while My Big Fat Greek Wedding placed close behind, taking in $6.3 million in its 28th week. Red Dragon lost steam in its fourth week, coming in sixth with $4.7 million.
Universal's The Truth About Charlie took in a tepid $2.3 million and averaged a low-slung $3,105 per theater at 752 runs.
THE TOP TEN
Paramount Picture's Jackass: The Movie opened with a strong ESTIMATED $22.7 million at 2,509 theaters ($9,047 per theater).
Directed by Jeff Tremaine, it stars Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Steve-O, Dave England, Ryan Dunn, and Jason 'Wee Man' Acuna.
Jackass' average per theater was also the highest for any film playing in wide release this week. The film is rated R for dangerous and sometimes extremely crude stunts, language and nudity, perfect for its target audience of youngish males up to about 30 in age.
In Jackass, Knoxville and his crew take the concept of the MTV reality series Jackass to the extreme.
"I've basically given money to a bunch of idiots saddled with enough dimwitted ignorance to try one bad idea after another," MTV Films President Van Toffer told Reuters Friday. It looks like the gamble paid off.
The film is the third best October opener of all time (if estimates hold) behind Universal's Red Dragon, which took in $36.5 million when it debuted three weeks ago, and Meet the Parents, which grossed $28.6 million when it opened on Oct. 6, 2000.
Jackass' take also bucks Paramount's series of under-performing openings, including Abandon, The Four Feathers and K-19: The Widowmaker.
DreamWorks' PG-13 rated horror thriller The Ring came in second, although its ESTIMATED $18.8 million (+25%) take at 2634 theaters (+653 theaters; $7,137 per theater) is better than its opening weekend gross of $15.0 million. Its cume is approximately $39.7 million.
Directed by Gore Verbinski, it stars Naomi Watts, Martin Henderson and Brian Cox.
Warner Bros.' R-rated horror thriller Ghost Ship sailed third with an ESTIMATED $11.7 million at 2787 theaters ($4,203 per theater).
In Ghost Ship, a salvage crew comes across the remains of a vessel thought to be lost for more than 40 years floating adrift in a remote region of the Bering Sea.
Directed by Steve Beck, it stars Gabriel Byrne, Julianna Margulies, Ron Eldard and Desmond Harrington.
Buena Vista/Touchstone's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Sweet Home Alabama dropped to fourth place in its fourth week, with an ESTIMATED $6.4 million (-33%) at 3,182 theaters (-100 theaters; $2,011 per theater). Its cume is approximately $107.2 million, heading for $125 million in domestic theaters and is the 16th film released in '02 to cross the $100 million mark.
Directed by Andy Tennant, it stars Reese Witherspoon.
IFC Films' release of Gold Circle Films and HBO's PG-rated romantic comedy blockbuster My Big Fat Greek Wedding went down a notch to fifth place in its 2th week, with an ESTIMATED $6.3 million (-12%) at 1967 theaters (-47 theaters; $3,211 per theater). Its cume is approximately $177.8 million, heading for $185 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Joel Zwick, it stars Nia Vardalos and John Corbett.
Universal's R rated thriller Red Dragon, presented in association with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, fell three rungs to sixth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.7 million (-46%) at 2886 theaters (-421 theaters; $21,635 per theater). Its cume is approximately $84.9 million, heading for $100 million.
Directed by Brett Ratner, it stars Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Harvey Keitel, Emily Watson, Mary-Louise Parker and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Revolution Studios and Columbia's R rated romantic comedy drama Punch-Drunk Love expanded in its third week to a solid ESTIMATED $3.6 million at 481 theaters (+403 theaters; $7,277 per theater). Its cume is approximately $6.0 million.
Written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, it stars Adam Sandler and Emily Watson.
The G rated animated feature Jonah: A VeggieTales Movie from Artisan's FHE Pictures and Big Idea Productions, came in eighth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $2.9million (-26%) at 1,625 theaters (+44 theaters; $1,785 per theater). Its cume is approximately $19.7 million.
Directed by Phil Vischer and Mike Nawrocki, it was produced by Ameake Owens.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 rated action drama The Transporter slipped to ninth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $2.8 million (-44%) at 1880 theaters (-730 theaters; $1,513 per theater). Its cume is approximately $21.5 million.
Directed by Cory Yuen, it stars Jason Statham and Shu Qi.
Rounding out the Top Ten was Fox Searchlight Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Brown Sugar, which dropped five slots with an ESTIMATED $2.7 million (-47%) at 1,149 theaters (-229 theaters; $2,415 per theater). Its cume is approximately $22.3 million.
Directed by Rick Famuyiwa, it stars Taye Diggs and Sanaa Lathan.
This weekend also saw the arrival of six new releases, including The Truth About Charlie, Paid in Full and Frida.
Universal's PG-13 crime caper The Truth About Charlie opened with an all too modest ESTIMATED $2.3 million at 752 theaters ($3,105 per theater).
The film is a remake of 1963's Charade, which starred Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn.
Directed by Jonathan Demme, it stars Mark Wahlberg, Thandie Newton and Tim Robbins.
Miramax Fims' R-rated urban crime drama Paid in Full opened with an ESTIMATED $1.4 million at 268 theaters ($5,224 per theater).
The film, set in Harlem, New York, in 1986, is about a young man who is lured into the seductive world of drug dealing.
Dirceted by Charles Stone, it stars Mekhi Phifer, Wood Harris, Kevin Carroll, Esai Morales and Chi McBride.
Miramax Films' R-rated biopic Frida opened to a solid $0.2 million at 5 theaters (a whopping $40,000 per theater average).
The film is based on the life of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo--from her complex and enduring relationship with her mentor and husband, Diego Rivera, to her life as a political, artistic, and sexual revolutionary.
Directed by Julie Taymor, the film stars Salma Hayek, Alfred Molina, Geoffrey Rush, Ashley Judd and Antonio Banderas.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $87.9 million, up about 19.53 percent from last weekend when they totaled $73. million, making this the seventh "up" weekend in a row.
The top 12 were also up 11.21 percent from last year when they totaled $72.47 million.
Last year, Universal's opening week of K-Pax was first with $17.2 million at 2,541 theaters ($6,775 per theater); and Warner Bros.' opening week of Thirteen Ghosts was second with $15.1 million at 2,781 theaters ($5,453 per theater). The top two films one year ago grossed $32.3 million. This year, the top two films grossed an ESTIMATED $41.5 million.