Tag: Prometheus

Back Catalog Review: Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet sets the stage for pretty much every sci-fi movie that followed it and manages to be its own thing in the process. It’s a heck of a historical document, matched by sci-fi greats like 2001 and Planet of the Apes which say as much about their own times as they do about the futuristic story they’re telling. This time its an invisible threat that originates from the depths of humanity with a heavy dose of psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo to season the broth. This is a fun, pretty, smart-enough, and pretty well-paced movie, and I’m glad I watched it on a big tv so that I could admire the sets and painted elements in all their glory.

forbidden planet

I want to wrap up by comparing this a little to Stalker, the last movie I watched for this project. They’re surprisingly similar for being almost nothing alike. Where Stalker hides its sci-fi musings in some horror trappings, Forbidden Planet takes the opposite path and hides some horror elements inside a sci-fi story. You can see this happening most clearly in the scenes with the invisible monster, but it’s also evident in the “electronic tones” that comprise the score and the shifting disposition of the mad scientist-esque character played by Walter Pidgeon. Although it’s never particularly scary, it is fun to see the seeds of movies like Prometheus and Sphere planted in such colorful soil.

B+

Best Movies of 2012: Part 3

Sorry I’ve taken so long here. Hectic week and I’ve seen two more movies from the year so this installment is going to start at 21 instead of 20 where I left off. Silly, I know, but I’ll go back and fix everything so it looks less dumb. Anyways, time to start with the really good stuff. Remember, asteriskes

21. Django Unchained. A-. *

Our mutual friend has a flair for the dramatic.

Django really only suffers in comparison to the masterpiece that is Inglourious Basterds. Where that movie had a lot of things going on underneath the surface this one feels more like a straight up slavery western, as straight up as those can be. There are some amazing scenes and performances (DiCaprio in particular) and Tarantino does his thing. I only hope that he continues to try to say things rather than make less interesting stuff.

20. Anna Karenina. A-. *

I am not ashamed of who I am or what I’ve done. Are you ashamed for me?

Joe Wright is maybe the best stylist director we have working today. His movies always look and feel amazing, and this is no different with certain key scenes taking place on a stage with the participants sometimes acting as the audience and the backstage stuff indicating the lower class areas of the story. It’s a fascinating device that highlights the performative nature of the ruling class in a society that has a rough relationship with the rich. Keira Knightley and Jude Law are fantastic, it’s just too bad the third part of the love triangle at the core of the film, Aaron Taylor-Johnson doesn’t do anything with the role. It makes it hard to believe Anna’s choices. I wish she stayed with Jude Law.

19. The Perks of Being a Wallflower. A-.

I know who you are, Sam. I know I’m quiet… and, and I should speak more. But if you knew the things that were in my head most of the time, you’d know what I really meant. How, how much we’re alike and, and how we’ve been through things… and you’re not small. You’re beautiful.

Adapted for the screen by the writer of the popular book, I was really surprised at how much I liked this. It’s a highschool movie which could spell disaster yet through a great script and wonderful acting from the three main kids the movie turns into something grand. It totally weirded me out, actually. Made me feel all these weird feelings about my time in high school (which was neither as good nor as bad as the events depicted here) and my current friend relationships. It’s all so effectively emotional and even artistically inspiring. Don’t look past this one.

18. Les Misérables. A-. *

I had a dream my life would be so different from this hell I’m living!

I guess there’s a reason why this story has been adapted and remade over and over again since 1862. It’s so damn emotional and it’s hard to not get caught up in the swell of things. Led by a strong Hugh Jackman turn and an amazing supporting performance by Anne Hathaway, the movie only hurts in a bad way when Russell Crowe is asked to sing. At all other times it hurts so good. I even liked all those horrible close ups.

17. Life of Pi. A-. *

I suppose in the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go, but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.

I’m a fan of the first 90% of the book on which this film is based and luckily Ang Lee improves that percentage to about 95%. I still really hate the ideas the film has about God and “reality”. I can get past all of that for the majority of the film, though, because it’s so well made. I got to see it in 3D and it was truly a wonder to behold. I love the magical realism and Irrfan Khan saves a lot of what could be horrible voice over stuff. He even made me tear up during a speech at the end that I fundamentally disagreed with. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

16. The Master. A-. *

Man is not an animal. We are not a part of the animal kingdom. We sit far above that crown, perched as spirits, not beasts. I have unlocked and discovered a secret to living in these bodies that we hold.

I’m probably going to be tried for treason or something for putting this movie so low on my list. Well, hopefully the people with that kind of authority just stop reading this list now before they see what I put above it, then I’ll really get excommunicated. The unfortunate part is that I really really like this movie. It’s probably the best crafted movie on this list, everything is impeccable and works perfectly towards the goal of the film. It’s just that I didn’t have as much invested in this movie as I did with some of the others on this list and certainly with PTA’s previous films. It feels the most distant to me. I can’t really explain it, which, I guess, is apropos considering the film at hand.

15. Seven Psychopaths. A-. *

You didn’t think I was what? Serious? You think I’m not serious just because I carry a rabbit?

For the first twenty minutes or so of this movie had me worried. What happened to all of the wonderful character stuff and clever dialogue from In BrugesMartin McDonagh‘s previous film? It all disappeared for some mildly interesting things about writing a script. Have no fear, though, all of that stuff returns soon and the movie never stops getting better. It’s a rare happening, an increasingly good movie. Bolstered by standout work from Sam Rockwell and Christopher Walken, the movie’s meta-ness threatens to get out of control but always stays on that brink without going over. It’s a movie about movies about stories and I kind of love that stuff.

14. Prometheus. A-. **

A king has his reign, and then he dies. It’s inevitable. That is natural order of things.

I probably have this higher than most other people. That’s fine. Everybody else just can’t handle the greatness. Does it have script problems? Certainly. Do they detract from the quality of the film? A little, that’s why this has a minus next to that A. Do I care? No. It’s such an interesting movie to me, filled with little idea pods and hints of larger things that all those issues fall to the wayside. A well acted, intense, sci-fi movie with greater things on it’s mind is something to be praised, not torn to shreds by plot-hole-spotters.

13. Holy Motors. A-.

I am so old I’m afraid I’ll never die.

This is by far the strangest movie on this list. It’s almost a sister movie to Cosmopolis, only good. Leos Carax drops us into this weird world where a man has a job which entails going to 11 different locations and acting out a scene or two from wildly different genres of film/life. It’s totally nuts. There’s a motion capture sex scene and an odd (to put it mildly) leprechaun-y troll character and a family drama and a bank robbery gone wrong, to name a few of the crazy things on display here. Denis Lavant is the actor and his physicality changes so much with each character he transforms into it seems like they are being played by different people. It’s a breathtaking achievement that isn’t scared to do whatever the hell it wants at any given moment.

12. Coriolanus. A-.

He that will give good words to thee will flatter beneath abhorring. What would you have, you curs that like nor peace nor war? The one affrights you, the other makes you proud. He that trusts to you where he should find you lions, finds you hares; where foxes, geese. Who deserves greatness, deserves your hate.

Shakespeare adaptations are always tricky and this lesser known play is harder still, with a bunch of politics of a country that doesn’t actually exist mucking up the process. Luckily, first time director Ralph Fiennes does a great job of focusing us on the relationship between the two men at the heart of this conflict and the people around them trying to turn them towards their own goals. It’s a classic story, really, and the cast pulls off the tough Shakespearean dialogue with aplomb.

11. Looper. A. *

Then I saw it, I saw a mom who would die for her son, a man who would kill for his wife, a boy, angry & alone, laid out in front of him the bad path. I saw it & the path was a circle, round & round. So I changed it.

Looper is the third film by writer/director Rian Johnson and continues his streak of amazing films. I’ve loved all of them, even though this is the least of the three. It’s a time travel movie that has very little time travel, and an action movie which slows to a crawl in its second half to develop characters. Weird, right? Well, it’s those elements along with Johnson’s fine eye that make it such a great film. Everything about this movie works.

10. Girl Walk//All Day. A.

If there’s a movie you haven’t heard of on this list it’s probably this one. That’s because it’s actually a 75-ish minute full-album video featuring the entirety of mashup whiz Girl Talk’s All Day record. And there’s no talking, only dancing. There is a modicum of a story, yet another love triangle between The Girl, The Gentleman, and The Creep, but all of that takes second billing to the wonderfully joyous dancing and fluid camerawork on display. It’s just too damn fun not to be in the top ten for the year. And the best part is you can watch the entire thing for free here. Please do.

9. The Deep Blue Sea. A.

Lust isn’t the whole of life, but Freddie is, you see, for me. The whole of life. And death. So, put a label on that, if you can.

I watched my first and second Terence Davies movies this year, the other being The Long Day Closes, which ended up really high on my top 100 list. This one won’t make that list but it is good enough to place in the top ten for the year. It is, shockingly, another love triangle and where Girl Walk plays with the trope a little bit, this film embraces all of the dramatic potential of that situation. Thanks to astounding acting by Rachel WeiszTom Hiddleston, and Simon Russell Beale, every emotion is amped up to 11 while Davies masterfully orchestrates the drama with his soft focus and long takes. Scenes of note include a long tracking shot in a flashback to Weisz and Beale hiding in an Underground station during WWII and the first encounter between Weisz and Hiddleston which emphasizes the physical nature of their transgression. It’s fantastic stuff.

8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. A. **

Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay… small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? That’s because I am afraid and it gives me courage.

Nobody in their right mind thought that stretching The Hobbit out to 3 movies was a good idea, and it still isn’t. This feels too long and bloated with things that don’t matter (Rivendell could have lasted 2 minutes, not 15) and yet I still loved it. It’s always nice to get back to Middle Earth on screen and Jackson still has a great eye for the more fantastical elements of the world. And there are more of those here than in the entirety of the Lord of the Rings films, from the rabbit sled to the fighting mountains and the goblins that live inside them. It’s a way more fun movie than any of the previous three, though not as well made as any of them. I’m super excited for the (even sillier titled) Desolation of Smaug later this year. BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH!

7. Cloud Atlas. A. *

Fear, belief, love. Phenomena that determined the course of our lives. These forces begin long before we are born and continue after we perish.

Cloud Atlas is one of those books that people call unfilmable thanks to the weird structure and confusing timelines and potential psychobabble. Tom TykwerAndy Wachowski, and Lana Wachowski co-direct and somehow manage to pull all of this into some kind of cohesive whole. While some hated the idea of having all the actors play different characters in different timelines, I welcomed the bold choice and I think it payed off spectacularly, especially with Hugo Weaving and Hugh Grant in the evil roles. It’s also quite a marvel mechanically as it moves from timeline to timeline across decades and centuries. The pace of the movie is fast and loose, which keeps every ball in the air and never lets us catch our breath. And it looks gorgeous.

6. The Avengers. A. **

I won’t touch Barton. Not until I make him kill you! Slowly, intimately, in every way he knows you fear! And then he’ll wake just long enough to see his good work, and when he screams, I’ll split his skull! This is MY bargain, you mewling quim!

It took four years and five movies to set up the events of this film in the Marvel film universe and with Joss Whedon‘s second directorial effort it all payed off. He took the broken characters that make up this superhero team and bounced them off each other in his typical quick and witty way. Bringing back nearly everybody left alive at the end of all of those individual films and throwing us the man who was always meant to play Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) was a risky choice that payed off big time. Whedon also shows off his visual skills with some wonderful shots of action and dialogue, including the giant tracking shot at the center of the battle for New York City. I’ve seen it three times already and will be happy to see it again and again and again.

5. Lincoln. A. *

I am the president of the United States of America, clothed in immense power! You will procure me those votes!

I was one of those guys that liked War Horse so I think I was a little more excited for Lincoln than those that were burnt out on Spielberg schmaltz. Thankfully, Lincoln is probably one of the ‘berg’s top 5 movies, due in large part to the supreme performance by Daniel Day Lewis and the script by Tony Kushner which gave DDL lots of room to play. This is the most surprisingly funny movie of the year and both of those guys deserve the credit for making Lincoln into a real person and not a mythological figure. It’s a movie marred only by it’s opening and closing scenes and a pretty bad turn by Sally Field who didn’t figure out how to play a crazy person very well.

4. The Cabin in the Woods. A. *

Yes, you had “Zombies.” But this is “Zombie Redneck Torture Family.” Entirely separate thing. It’s like the difference between an elephant and an elephant seal.

Horror movies are great. I love them, even the crappy ones. I get the feeling that the duo behind this film (Drew Goddard and Joss Whedon) share that sentiment with me. The movie pokes fun at all the silly tropes that horror films use in a playful way. It’s not mocking horror movies, it’s embracing them, eating them up, and spitting them back out with a heaping dose of meta-fiction thrown on top. It escalates wonderfully as well, going from what you expect to what you’ve always wanted to happen in a movie like this. The last 30 minutes are spectacular. DING!

3. We Need to Talk About Kevin. A. *

It’s like this: you wake and watch TV, get in your car and listen to the radio you go to your little jobs or little school, but you don’t hear about that on the 6 o’clock news, why? ‘Cause nothing is really happening, and you go home and watch some more TV and maybe it’s a fun night and you go out and watch a movie. I mean it’s got so bad that half the people on TV, inside the TV, they’re watching TV. What are these people watching, people like me?

This is technically a 2011 movie but I didn’t see it until February of last year, and that was in a theater so I’m putting it on this list. Deal with it. It’s a truly amazing film, full of artistry and intense emotional struggles as a mother (Tilda Swinton) tries to love her son but just can’t. Well, that’s half of the movie. The other half still follows her as she tries to deal with the consequences of an act that becomes clear as the movie goes on. I won’t go into too much detail here to save the experience for any of you that haven’t watched it yet. Let’s just say that this movie is even more relevant now than it was when it came out. Director Lynne Ramsay totally immerses us in this horrible situation with her use of color and sound. It’s a singular movie experience.

2. Skyfall. A. **

It always makes me feel a bit melancholy. Grand old war ship. being ignominiously haunted away to scrap… The inevitability of time, don’t you think? What do you see?

I liked this movie so much I saw it twice in a 24 hour period. James Bond has always been hit or miss. It’s part of the charm of the series, you never know what you’re going to get from film to film. This time we got the best movie yet. Daniel Craig’s Bond is older and rustier than ever. He faces a world where his necessity is in question. Do we even need a Bond anymore? By the end of the movie the answer is a resounding yes, especially if they all look and feel like this. Outstanding work from Judi DenchJavier BardemBen WhishawSam Mendes, and Roger Deakins meld into something wonderful. And it even has thematic depth!

1. Moonrise Kingdom. A+. *

There’s a cold water crabber moored off Broken Rock. The skipper owes me an IOU. We’ll see if he can take you on as a claw cracker. It won’t be an easy life, but it’s better than shock therapy.

There was a time when I didn’t like Wes Anderson. Fantastic Mr. Fox changed that and now I look forward to every new movie he makes. This was the first I got to see on the big screen and his meticulousness in framing and the art direction really pops when everything is larger than life. Featuring one of the few times when I’ve liked Ed Norton in a movie and a bunch of really solid supporting roles, the real stars are the two newcomers that play the kids at the center of the story (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward). It is, like most Wes Anderson films, full of melancholy and nostalgia and the driest wit and now that I have figured him out I really love it.

 

That’s the list. I hope you got something out of it. There is, of course, another, hidden list that is peeking out around the edges here. The list of movies I just didn’t get to. There are a ton of these and most of them not interesting. Here are the interesting ones:

This is Not a Film, Damsels in Distress, The Five-Year Engagement, The Pirates! Band of Misfits, Headhunters, Rust and Bone, Men in Black 3, Oslo August 31st, Your Sister’s Sister, Magic Mike, Ted, Take This Waltz, The Imposter, Shut Up and Play the Hits, Ruby Sparks, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Searching for Sugar Man, Hope Springs, The Bourne Legacy, Compliance, Lawless, Arbitrage, End of Watch, The Sessions, Flight, Chasing Ice, Rise of the Guardians, Hitchcock, The Guilt Trip, Jack Reacher, This Is 40, Not Fade Away, Tabu.

So if you can make a case for any of those please do in the comments below. Also let me know if you agree or disagree with any of my list items. Or even give your top 10 or whatever!

The movies of 2012 so far

Instead of presenting only a top 5 like I did with music last week, I’m going to list all the movies I’ve seen this year with a little bit of commentary for each of them. This list will start with the worst and end with the best as all lists should be.

23. The Devil Inside

One of the numerous exorcism movies of late, and the worst of them. It’s mostly boring, but when it gets interesting it also gets yell-y and annoying. D.

22. Safe House

Basically the only good thing to come out of this movie is Doug Benson’s tagline “No one is safe, no one is house.” It’s kinda dull for an action movie. And can we save Denzel Washington from being in these movies? Maybe Zemeckis and his upside-down plane movie will do it. D.

21. The Raid: Redemption

It’s all action. There are a few talking scenes that are poorly acted and uninteresting. The stunts and choreography are impressive but there’s only so much punching and kicking I can take. The new Judge Dredd movie seems to follow a similar plot, hopefully that will be better. D+.

20. Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance

Well, it’s crazier than the first one. We finally learn what it looks like when Nic Cage pees while he’s in his demon form. There’s some fun action but the story is dumb and only Idris Elba is doing anything interesting. C+.

19. Journey 2: The Mysterious Island

The first film was surprisingly competent, this one lacks the surprise element. It’s ok. Just watch the “pec pop of love” scene on youtube and move on with your life. C+.

18. Friends with Kids

Almost like a Bridesmaids reunion but with less funny. Adam Scott is good as always and Jon Hamm gets to do some good dramatic stuff. Mostly, though, it’s kinda blah. C+.

17. Lockout

Should have been called SPACE PRISON! or maybe ESCAPE FROM SPACE PRISON! because it is the same story as Escape from New York. Guy Pierce does a pretty solid Snake Plisskin, so that’s worth something. C+.

16. Wrath of the Titans

Kind of the opposite of the Journey series, this sequel was surprisingly competent. Sam Worthington is still boring as hell but you get a bit of Bill Nighy to liven up your day. The action is better this time around and the CGI is spectacular. B-.

15. The Woman in Black

The first big post-Harry Potter role for Daniel Radcliffe is this nice little horror film. I’m a pretty easy scare so horror films tend to work on me. This one gets some help from Ciarán Hinds, always a welcome sight. A nice little gothic horror film. B.

14. The Hunger Games

Read my full review here. A (too?) faithful adaptation of the bestselling book had a lot of hype and was entertaining enough to back it up. I was left hoping they’d venture beyond the book a little more than they did. The best scene (a certain death and its ramifications outside the game) is at least part invention. B.

13. Chronicle

A charming little found footage movie. We’ve started to move past using this style in only horror films with this superhero-esque story getting the treatment. They do some interesting things with it as the kids develop their telekinetic powers and start floating the cameras around. The ending was surprisingly effective as well. B+.

12. Jeff, Who Lives at Home

The super-realistic style doesn’t always match the story here, but some solid performances and writing save the day. Also, this movie is kind of obsessed with the underrated Shyamalan movie Signs, which is pretty awesome. B+.

11. John Carter

Good old-fashioned sci-fi epic. This story is the grandfather of science fiction as we know it and as such is sometimes a little familiar but the execution of those story elements are great, even if the script is a bit of a mess. I’d rather watch this than any of the Star Wars movies. B+.

10. Brave

It’s not an amazing movie like a lot of other Pixar films but it is really good. I loved the look of the film and the swooping camera really gets that fantastic feel. It feels rote and new at the same time, and I can’t really get at why that is. A-.

9. Haywire

Listen up, The Raid: Redemption, this is how you do an action movie. Gina Carano isn’t an actor by trade but her MMA background shines in the action scenes. This is a Steven Soderbergh film and as such it has style for miles. And I can’t resist a Michael Fassbender. A-.

8. 21 Jump Street

Maybe the surprise of the year. How did this movie based on a crappy tv show from the eighties turn into such a funny and subversive movie? Being from the same guys that did Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs helps, as does a surprisingly great performance from Channing Tatum. This movie is very funny. A-.

7. The Amazing Spider-Man

It’s too bad this movie came out after the (bad) Raimi versions because half of the discussion has revolved around whether or not its existence is “necessary.” Well, no movie is necessary, and this film is better than all the ones that came before it. Garfield and Stone do a great job and (500) Days of Summer director Marc Webb moves the story along with style and grace. A-.

6. Coriolanus

Read my full review here. Ralph Fiennes does double duty as actor and director and accomplishes both admirably. A modern adaptation of Shakespeare’s play, the action scenes are good enough but it really shines in the dialogue. Vanessa Redgrave is really good in a supporting role as the mother of the proud military leader. A-.

5. Prometheus

Read my full review here. This movie doesn’t get a whole lot of love on the internet and it has problems to be sure. It remains, however, a fantastic film. I’d rather a movie reached for something interesting and fail than stay comfortably within the bounds of what we’ve come to expect from films. There are plot holes and some irrational decisions, but I’d challenge you to find a sci-fi movie where a character doesn’t act irrationally at one point or another. It’s a big, smart, ambitious movie and I will applaud that any day of the week. A-.

4. The Cabin in the Woods

If only this movie was actually scary, it’d have a good shot at making my top 100 list. As is, it’s a fun, clever movie about genre conventions and the role of movie-makers and their audience. And there’s even more evidence that Chris Hemsworth can act.

3. The Avengers

Funny that this and The Cabin in the Woods would end up next to each other with the elements they share (Joss Whedon and Chris Hemsworth). This is the culmination of all the Marvel movies that came before it and it’s better than all of them. The chemistry between all of the characters is fantastic and it moves quite well for a 2 and a half hour film. The big setpiece at the end of the movie is spectacular carnage. A.

2. We Need to Talk About Kevin

A movie about a mother and her son. Is the son evil, or is the mother coloring her memories with the crayons of regret and hindsight? Tilda Swinton gives such a phenomenal performance as the film cuts back and forth between the child’s development and the repercussions of a heinous act. It’s a mood movie, skillfully directed by Lynne Ramsay. A.

1. Moonrise Kingdom

Read my review here. I just posted it yesterday, so there’s not much to say about it. I’ll take this time to point you towards a fun little video encouraging you to see the film. It stars Jason Schwartzman and gives a little more of his hilarious character from the film proper. A.

What movies have I missed? What movies am I wrong about? Let me know your favorite movies of the year in the comment section.

Movie Review: Prometheus

It’s been a long time since there was an epic space film released in theaters. Avatar three years ago is probably the closest but it had the problem of not being a good film. Everything else in space has been intimate and narrowly focused. We’ve been lacking something large and smart like 2001: A Space Odyssey far too long. Ridley Scott heard our cries and made a movie that’s epic in scope and thematic ambition with the execution to match. Can Prometheus end the arguments about prequels being completely unnecessary now? Scott builds the universe he started with Alien by nearly remaking it with a mostly different focus. Where Alien was about working class people just trying to survive with some psychosexual thematic thrust thrown in for good measure Prometheus asks questions about the creation of life and what it means to be human through the prism of a journey to find our origins. It’s about how science works and what ends one could and should go to for the sake of discovery. It’s about religion and death and scaring the pants off you. It is a great film.

Noomi Rapace and her boyfriend (Logan Marshall-Green) are scientists that think they’ve found an “invitation” from the beings that created life on Earth pointing to a solar system much like ours far away in another galaxy. They go to an Earth-like planet in that solar system looking for these beings to ask them some questions about how and why they made us. It’s the question that drives much of our scientific inquiry, maybe the biggest question of all time with implications that are unknowable. Along for the ride is Charlize Theron as the liaison for the company that is paying for the trip, a company that is familiar to fans of the series. There are some other scientists on board as well, a geologist and biologist and the like. And a robot. Alien movies have to have a robot in them, and much like Aliens, Prometheus doesn’t keep it a secret that Michael Fassbender‘s David (a telling name, of course) is not a real boy. He’s there to talk to the aliens, having learned every language on Earth in hopes of using that bank of knowledge to communicate with them. Idris Elba is the pilot of the ship and represents the guy who’s just there to do his job. His costume underlines this, where everybody else looks quite futuristic, he seems like he would fit in quite well with the crew of the Nostromo in his jeans and a vest designed more for utility than looks.

When they arrive on the planet they see a structure that is certainly not natural and go investigating. Here the parallels to Alien become more apparent. Long hallways that look more organic than built, rooms of containers holding something insidious inside, waiting for an unfortunate soul to wake them. Much like the second season of Game of Thrones, Prometheus takes the text of the original film and tweaks it to its own ends. No scene is an exact replica and that is enough to make it quite different and shocking when something happens. In fact, much of the difference between the two films comes from the motivations of the characters, which is the best way to change a story. The crew isn’t on a salvage mission, they’re there to explore. Rapace is searching the ultimate answers, not just trying to get back to Earth. Fassbender isn’t there to bring an alien back to Earth he’s there to… well, that’d be telling. The mysteries of Prometheus are fun and interesting to consider and, again, they derive from the characters, not some plot necessity. The script is written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, the latter of which was one of the two primary writers for Lost, a show which thrived because each of the characters was interesting and well drawn so that they could drive the plot instead of the plot driving them. The script asks a lot of questions and answers some of them while leaving others for the audience to ponder after the film. It’s a thinker as well as a thriller and that’s wonderful to see.

Ridley Scott has had a long career of interesting if not perfect films, especially recently with good but flawed films like Kingdom of Heaven and Black Hawk Down. Here he returns to his beginnings (hey, that seems familiar!) and makes a smart, gorgeous, thrilling sci-fi film like Alien and Blade Runner, both of which appear in my top 10 of all time. It isn’t as good a film as either of those two, but I’m comfortable calling it his third best film. He began his career as a production designer and it shows in all of his films. Every world he creates is wholly realized. He reteamed with Alien designer H. R. Giger to design the new elements in Prometheus which ensures that the two films look and feel similar even though Prometheus has a much cleaner look to it, at least at the outset. The best decision Scott made in the direction of this film was to separate it from Alien in terms of scope. I already touched on this in the first paragraph of this review, but Prometheus really feels a lot larger than Alien ever did. We saw some wide shots of the Nostromo and the structure the crew investigates but Alien is mostly a film of interiors and cramped ones at that. This serves the tension of that film perfectly, but for a movie like Prometheus which is about exploration and adventure the scope needed to be grand and Scott accomplishes that perfectly. The ship Prometheus is often filmed from a great distance, showing its relative smallness and focusing more on the landscape of the new planet. The structure the team investigates is so large that some of the expedition crew gets lost within it. And the final setpeice is gigantic. Everything is big, which only fits a movie about where we came from and what it means to live and die.

The film works spectacularly as an exploration epic, but it also attempts to be a human story and that’s the only place where it doesn’t completely work. The Prometheus isn’t a working vessel like the Nostromo, there are some scenes where people talk about their feelings. These scenes aren’t bad or out of place or anything, they just aren’t perfectly integrated into the greater story. There’s a subplot about the two scientists that are leading the journey and their relationship issues which does connect to the grander themes but it just isn’t given enough time to develop as it could. Of the four Ridley Scott films mentioned in the previous paragraph, only one is best in its theatrical cut (Alien) the rest are improved in director’s cuts, so I hope that there are some scenes which can be included on the Blu-ray release which will enhance the interpersonal connections just a bit. It’s not a huge failing of the film, but it keeps it from being a masterpiece, unfortunately. This is a film that makes you think, not feel. That’s fine, but I could have used a bit more feeling, though I wouldn’t want to sacrifice any of the thinking.

In fact, the character that is the most interesting in terms of both thinking and feeling is David, the android. Here Scott draws not only upon the other Alien films for inspiration but Blade Runner as well. What makes us human and David un-human? How close can you get to humanity without being human? What happens when you know exactly how and why you were made? These are the questions posed by David’s existence and they are interesting. Michael Fassbender plays David perfectly, he fits right into that uncanny valley that the other androids in the series inhabit. He moves too smoothly, he tries to imitate human speech but it’s too perfect, almost like movie dialogue. His motives can’t be read on his face and he often questions why the humans are acting so human. It’s a remarkable performance, something we’ve come to expect from Fassbender in the past three years. He’s a fantastic talent and constantly impresses.

Finally, a quick word on how to see this movie. First, do it as soon as you can. Right after you read this, if you can manage it. Ambition needs to be rewarded, even more so when it actually reaches the heights it aspires to. Second, this movie actually works quite well in 3D. It was never distracting and it even added to the experience. I saw it at midnight in IMAX 3D and if you can manage that I’d recommend it. It’s a big, loud movie and it really benefits from the biggest screen you can see it on. An epic needs to be large. It’s worth the extra money for an experience like this one. I think I have a new movie to point to whenever I talk about experiences that only movies can provide. Something so grand and thought provoking at the same time. Showing worlds that don’t exist and exploring them thematically and through exciting action. It’s wonderful.

5 Jawesome Things for the week of April 27, 2012

Another week with bonus Jawesome to make up for missing last week’s column.

1. Parks and Rec

Recently, 30 Rock has gotten some flack for just being a joke machine with little thought for character or plot. I can’t really argue against that, though I still really like the show. Parks and Rec does not have that problem. At all. The characters are what drives the show and the debate episode (written and directed by Amy Pohler) is glorious proof. It’s full of these people acting as we would expect and still being extremely funny. And then the show ends with an amazing speech by Leslie Knope which isn’t so much funny as it is just a great moment of TV. But that moment only works because we know her and her friends so well. The show couldn’t have pulled off such a real moment in its first or second season because the groundwork wasn’t laid at that time. This is proof positive that arbitrary limits on tv show running times are silly. Yes, the Brits generally like to end their shows before they get bad, The Office‘s 12 episodes and a bonus being the prime example, but just think of how much we’d miss from Parks and Rec if it had ended after two seasons.

2. Babies and weddings

Well, just the one baby. I am, of course, talking about Game of Thrones. Last week we got to one of the most shocking scenes in the second book on the tv show and it was executed much better than I expected it to be. It was a genuinely creepy scene and it gave me even more confidence in the show’s ability to get the book right. Which is good, because I’m also about 100 pages away from the end of A Storm of Swords, the third book in the series. There are so many weddings! Each one plays out differently and they are all quite fascinating. It’s an interesting thematic chorus: after each wedding the world is shifted in some small or large way and the next chapters are about the aftermath until the next wedding comes along and changes everything again. I won’t spoil who is getting married to who, but it’s all very interesting and often shocking.

3. Gotye – Making Mirrors

I guess I’m pretty late to this album, but I hadn’t even heard the super popular “Somebody that I Used to Know” until his appearance on Saturday Night Live (along with the very funny digital short parodying the songs strange but wonderful video). The rest of the album is pretty darn good, too. He goes through a lot of different genres, my favorite being his take on old-school soul, “I Feel Better”. He tries a lot of things on the album and the amazing thing is that most of them work.

4. Python

I don’t know why I watched this. I know I have a weakness for giant animal movies, but this one is one of the worst that I have seen. It is, at least, bad in a good way. I think all the proof you need is in the trailer, which shows the two brave choices that make this movie so Jawesome. The first is Wil Wheaton’s Pink Hair and the second is Casper Van Dien’s Miserable Mustache. Never before have two truly ugly folicular mistakes occupied the same screen along with a horribly rendered CGI snake and Jenny McCarthy (who has her own horrible hair). Also, there’s a silly fight scene and a protracted Psycho reference.

5. Catsitting

I catsat(?) for my grandmother earlier this week and man, that cat is Jawesome. Unlike my own cat whose attitude towards me ranges from indifferent to uninterested, Sweetie couldn’t get enough of my attention. She’s a smallish Maine Coon and very playful and purr-y. Here, have a video.

6. Vampire books

I recently finished the second book of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s vampire trilogy, The Fall. It treats vampirism as a virus and that’s a cool touch but the writing never elevates above being strictly entertaining into the artfulness that GDT is capable of. You can spot his influence, including lifting scenes and plot points from almost all of his films (the subway setting of Mimic, the old man who wants to become a vampire to fix his body from Cronos, the auction scene from Hellboy 2 and so on and so forth) but this series could have been so much better if he’d actually written it. It misses his storytelling touch. I then started The Passage by Justin Cronin. I couldn’t remember if this was supposed to be a vampire or a zombie book and it ends up being kind of a mix of the two. It, too, treats vampirism as a virus but it’s scope is much more epic than The Fall‘s. The vampire apoclaypse happens relatively early and the book turns into a survival horror story akin to The Walking Dead or The Stand. It feels a lot like the best of Stephen King’s work, sprawling and personal at the same time. I’m only about a third of the way through the book and I look forward to seeing where it’s going. It is the first in a trilogy as well, so we’ll see how such a long story works for the topic. Luckily the writing is very good and the characters are interesting, so it’s got a good start.

7. Looper and Prometheus trailers

Looper is the the third film by Rian Johnson and it is getting a big push which will hopefully vault him into the public’s interest. The trailer is fantastic at showing the plot (a man who kills people for the mob from the future by means of time travel gets shaken up when he is tasked with killing his future-self) and the style, which is quite different looking from his two previous films (Brick and The Brothers Bloom, both of which appear on my Top 100 List) which were quite different from each other. Prometheus’s newest video isn’t a trailer, necessarily, but it is an intriguing and very well made introduction to Michael Fassbender’s character. If you want to go into the film knowing nothing I’d suggest that you don’t watch it but it is a very interesting watch. I like this kind of advertising, since this won’t be anywhere in the film itself it isn’t spoiling the viewing experience like seeing that zero-gravity shot from Inception every other commercial did and it’s giving us more Fassbender which is always appreciated.

There you have it, two bonus Jawesome Things. What kind of Jawesome Things have you seen?