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.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
After making a sparkling debut in 2004 with his first feature film the slacker comedy Napoleon Dynamite offbeat writer-director Jared Hess seemed poised for a fruitful career as an earnest more accessible alternative to hipster auteur Wes Anderson. But he stumbled a bit with his sophomore effort the uneven Mexican wrestling flick Nacho Libre despite Jack Black’s desperate mugging for laughs. And he falls apart completely with his latest comedy the crude maddeningly insipid Gentlemen Broncos.
It’s a shame too because Gentlemen Broncos held so much potential. Its trailers promised a lively battle of wits between a pompous sci-fi author played by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement and the teenage protege (Michael Angarano) from whom he plagiarized his latest bestselling novel. It could have been Hess’s Rushmore. But what the trailers don’t tell you is that Clement plays merely a supporting role in Gentlemen Broncos and that his character Dr. Ronald Chevalier virtually disappears after the film’s splendid setup. Clement is by far the best part of the film and when he isn’t on the screen the story devolves into an increasingly irksome blend of manufactured quirk and lame sight gags. Hess’s sense of humor has regressed to sub-adolescent levels with Gentlemen Broncos. Defecating snakes breast-puncturing blowdarts and jars of human testicles are just a few of the lowbrow delights that await the brave soul who attempts to make it through a viewing. When Clement returns at the end of the film and mounts a quixotic attempt to rescue it from the mire his heroic effort is sadly for naught: The disastrous fate of Gentleman Broncos was sealed long before.
Top Story: Simpson Says Money Helped
O.J. Simpson claims without the money to pay his "dream team" of lawyers, he would probably have been found guilty of murder. Nine years after his trial, the former football player vowed to Playboy magazine in a recent interview that he was innocent of the charges of killing his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman but admits being able to afford such worthy representation helped him in his case. "I didn't commit the crime. That is why I got off," he told Playboy. "I feel in my heart that I got off because I was innocent. But I don't know if I could have proven my innocence if I didn't have the money. And that's a shame. Yes, it is a shame that in this country it costs so much to get good representation."
Reloaded Scores Big Worldwide
The Matrix Reloaded has reached $730 million at the worldwide box office. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the second installment in the Matrix series, with a combination gross of $450 million overseas and $280 domestically, is now ranked 12th on the all-time worldwide box office chart. The trade paper also reports Reloaded is the first film in history to gross more than $100 million in a single weekend internationally and is the biggest grossing R-rated movie on both the domestic and international charts. The film's 1999 predecessor, The Matrix, did $456 million worldwide. The final installment, The Matrix Revolutions, opens domestically on Nov. 5.
Nemo Bests Lion King
Let's hear it for the little fish that could. Disney's The Lion King, the long-held record holder for top grossing animated film in the U.S. at $328.5 million, has finally been bested by Disney/Pixar's Finding Nemo, which has taken in $328.7 million domestically, Reuters reports. "Nemo is the biggest film of the summer, the biggest film of the year, and now it is the biggest animated feature of all time," Exhibitor Relations president Paul Dergarabedian told Reuters. Lion King still holds the worldwide record at $780 million.
Blake Makes Public Appearance
Actor Robert Blake, currently out on bail awaiting his trial for the shooting death of his wife Bonny Lee Bakley May 2001, made a rare public appearance Sunday, attending services at a South Los Angeles church, City News reports. He was met by reporters, to whom he said, "Thank you God…I'm with people that I love. You have no idea how important fresh air and sunshine is.'' When a reporter asked Blake what he thought about Kobe Bryant, who was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault, Blake smiled and said, "how about,'' and then began singing, "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound,'' City News reports.
Bobby Brown Arrested for Violation
While dining with his wife, Grammy winner Whitney Houston, singer Bobby Brown was picked up by authorities for an alleged probation violation, The Associated Press reports. Brown was arrested Friday night at a restaurant in an Atlanta suburb after an unidentified caller tipped authorities, a police department spokesman told AP. The spokesman did not, however, know how the singer violated his probation. Last November, Brown was arrested in Atlanta on charges of possessing less than an ounce of marijuana, speeding and having no driver's license or proof of insurance. He also did a 26-day stint in a Florida jail in 2000 for a previous probation violation, AP reports.
Jolie Makes Plea for Chechen Refugees
In her continuing efforts as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, actress Angelina Jolie made a plea to the Russian government Sunday not to force thousands of displaced Chechens back to their war-torn homeland, Reuters reports. Jolie was speaking out for those 80,000 who fled Chechnya amidst fighting but who are now under pressure by Moscow to return to vote in a local leadership election, planned to bring peace to the nation. "You give them an option and you ask them if they want to return home. I am asking you today to make sure they have that option," the Tomb Raider actress said at a news conference.
Duff's Got the Stuff
For the first time in four months, those American Idol idols were bumped off the Hot 100 Singles Sales by TV 'tweener Hilary Duff, Billboard reports. Duff's single "So Yesterday" topped the sales charts, beating down the eight-week run of Idol finalists' "God Bless the USA" followed by the nine-week run of Clay Aiken's "This is the Night"/"Bridge Over Troubled Water." Duff's single, however, is only No. 55 on Billboard's Hot 100.
Role Call: Soccer Fever Takes Hold, Dave Matthews Shops Winn-Dixie
Director David Anspaugh and writer-producer Angelo Pizzo, the duo behind the inspirational sport movies Hoosiers and Rudy, are making another one--The Game of Their Lives, based on the 1950 U.S. World Cup team, AP reports. The tournament in Brazil was the last World Cup appearance for the Americans until 1990, and still is considered by many to be the greatest in the history of U.S. soccer, when the U.S. beat England 1-0...Singer Dave Matthews will make his acting debut in Because of Winn-Dixie for 20th Century Fox. According the Hollywood Reporter this coming-of-age tale revolves around a 10-year-old girl who moves to the small Florida town of Naomi with her preacher father (Jeff Daniels). Lonely, the girl grows close to a big, ugly dog she names Winn-Dixie after the supermarket where she finds him. Through the dog, she befriends a colorful cast of characters that becomes her extended family, including a drifter (Matthews) and a librarian (Eva Marie Saint).
Filmmaker Roger Vadim, best known for discovering Brigitte Bardot and keeping company with the likes of Jane Fonda and Catherine Deneuve, died today of cancer. He was 72.
The Paris-born Vadim was married to the then-teenage Bardot when he made his directorial debut in 1956 with "And God Created Woman." The film launched Bardot's career as a sex symbol and stirred much talk for its outrageous (at the time) unveiling of her skin. In the short run, "And God ..." was banned in several countries. In the long run, it helped launch France's New Wave film movement of the 1950s.
In 1965, Vadim wed a 27-year-old, pre-controversial Jane Fonda (his third wife). Two years later, the couple teamed to reveal Fonda's own assets on screen with the Vadim-directed sci-fi cult hit "Barbarella". The couple had one daughter, Vanessa, before splitting in 1973.
Vadim also fathered a son, Christian, with Deneuve and had one daughter each with wives No. 2 and No. 4, Annette Stroyberg and Catherine Schneider respectively.
In all, Vadim wed five times. In 1987, he authored the ladies'-man memoir, "Bardot, Deneuve, Fonda: My Life with the Three Most Beautiful Women in the World."
Survivors include his four children and actress-wife No. 5, Marie-Christine Barrault.
BEST IN SHOW: Annette Bening, the "American Beauty" real-estate wife who goes to great lengths to sell a house, has been named ShoWest's Female Star of the Year by the National Association of Theater Owners. Bening, 41, will receive her award at ShoWest's convention March 6-9 in Las Vegas.
COURTED: Mark Ronald Bailey is scheduled to face trial April 7 on charges that he stalked "Suddenly Susan" star Brooke Shields while in the possession of a handgun, a Los Angeles court ruled Thursday. Bailey, 41, has two prior convictions relating to Shields -- one for stealing a pickup truck and trespassing at her New Jersey home in 1985, and one for threatening her in 1993.
... In New York, a prosecutor on Thursday said rap mogul Sean "Puffy" Combs offered his driver $50,000 and a diamond ring he received from girlfriend Jennifer Lopez if the driver would say he owned a gun police found as the couple fled a nightclub shooting. ...
... A California appeals court reinstated a $4.3 million jury verdict against Connie Stevens, saying she missed her opportunity to make the defense that her agreement with former manager Norman Styne was void under the Talent Agencies Act. Styne originally sued Stevens claiming she didn't honor a verbal contract giving him 10 percent profits from her cosmetic line. A jury found in favor of Styne, but the verdict was thrown out two months later.
QUICK TAKES: Ensuring that the Academy Awards this year will have a small dose of excitement, double Oscar-winner Roberto Benigni will present at the ceremonies. The actor-director won Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor kudos for "Life is Beautiful." On Oscar night 1999, Benigni, whose two exuberant acceptance speeches "used up all [his] English," announced that he wanted to be like Jupiter, "kidnap everybody and lie down in the firmament making love to everybody." No word on what Benigni's plans are this year ...
... Salma Hayek has been named a presenter for the techie Oscars, to be presented March 4. She'll hand out a statue to Dr. Roderick T. Ryan, recipient of the Gordon E. Sawyer Award, honoring "an individual ... whose technological contributions have brought credit to the industry." ...
...Steven Spielberg, on the mend from kidney surgery, will be on hand to receive his Vanguard Award at the NAACP Image Awards on Saturday. He'll also help present the AFI Lifetime Achievement Award to Harrison Ford on Thursday, along with George Lucas, Carrie Fisher, Anne Archer, Daryl Hannah, Julia Ormond and Anne Heche ...
... Songstress Patti LaBelle, 55, and her husband-manager, L. Armstead Edwards, are separating after 30 years of marriage. They call it "an amicable decision."
THIS WEEK'S RUMOR ROUNDUP: While Neve Campbell recently denied she's headed to the altar with rumored-boyfriend John Cusack, Heather Graham and Edward Burns may be a different story, reports Fashion Wire Daily. Graham herself recently told Elle magazine: "I fell in love with this guy and it's unlike any love I've ever known. Knock on wood, I don't see an end in sight." They live together in Hollywood and gargle mouthwash every morning so they'll "taste fresh" when they kiss. Anyhow, sources say Graham "fits right in" with Burns' Long Island family, and she's even considering motherhood. "It's like a definite maybe." Uh, Heather, isn't that an oxymoron? ...
... MTV gross-out host Tom Green apparently got wind of the rumors about him and Monica Lewinsky, and in order to save his own dating life, posted a message on his official Web site. For the record, Green notes that he was introduced to Lewinsky through one of his show's writers (whom she dated), and Green later met up with Lewinsky and her date (not the writer) to attend a Kids in the Hall after-party. He thinks the Edmonton Sun reported their pairing because they were standing together. "Andy Dick was with us too ... I am also not dating him," he writes.
Why doesn't Green just ignore the rumor? "Because I just met this girl a few weeks ago, and I really like her... and I don't want her to get mad at me and think that I'm dating Monica ... this girl is ... really cool, and cute and stuff." Awww, how sweet.