Prometheus is full of grandeur and wonder, but thematically over reaches…

A female figure in silhouette stands before an enormous statue of a humanoid head. Text at the middle of the poster reveals the tagline "The Search For Our Beginning Could Lead To Our End". Text at the bottom of the poster reveals the title, production credits and rating.

Shame really, because it’s beautifully structured and could have been a solid sci-fi, horror film…maybe even a classic.  But, alas.  Despite brilliant visuals, seamless special effects and some strong acting, I was left wanting. I was entertained and captivated by the narrative, but by the third act it strays and so did my interest.  Too much dogma and too many unanswered (important) questions.  I still do not want to give too much away, so here is a brief breakdown.

A few things to know first.  1. I respect Sir Ridley Scott and most of his films.  2. I believe Alien is one of the best sci-fi films of all time.  3. I was very excited about Prometheus.  So excited, that I refused to watch any of the viral campaign because I did not want to spoil anything (I think that may have helped little) and stayed away from reviews!  So, I went in with a clear, eager mind.

Several notable aspects that must be mentioned.  1. The film is gorgeous. Cinematographer Dariusz Wolski does a wonderful job with the look and style.  2. Amazing sets, creatures and cool future tech equals a geek’s dream. 3. There is a top-notch cast across the board. Stand outs?  Noomi Rapace is fantastic and Michael Fassbender is (again) incredible.  4. Scott is a master of building tension (the slow burn) and he does create a specific “atmosphere” that is mesmerizing.

Several negative aspects that must be mentioned.  1. Too many things that make you go…hmmm? or whaaa?  2. Events pick up speed (and violence) in the third act and makes it feel rushed, especially since it’s a stark contrast with the first half.  3. The “Big” themes feel forced and too broad.  4.  Damon Lindelof thinks he’s still writing for a Lost episode.  5.  Lindelof and Scott must think answers are taboo and should be avoided–actually they just keep asking questions…

All in all, in some aspects I think Prometheus succeeds brilliantly.  How?  Well, Prometheus will probably be the most divisive film of 2012 and will stir debates and discussions for years to come (more so, if the rumored sequel does happen).  Isn’t that what you want a film to do?  You want to promote dialogue and engage the imagination, right?  Well…only you can answer that question.

 

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A Dangerous Method is an intelligent film–on many levels

Director David Cronenberg has made some intelligent decisions with A Dangerous Method.  First, hire some of the best actors we have today.    Second, have Christopher Hampton adapt the screenplay from his own stage play (Dangerous Liaisons is one of my all time favorites).  Third, address an interesting (historical) topic.   Fourth, have Howard Shore score it beautifully.  And lastly, keep it tight and fast paced.  What you end up with is a fascinating, personal look into some of the most brilliant minds of the 20th century and a great film.

I love Cronenberg’s style.  Always have.  I like even some of the obscure stuff–eXistenZ  anyone? and still think that The Fly is a horror classic.  In the later years he has become a master of the slow burn with a flash of shocking violence–Eastern Promises and A History of Violence are perfect examples of that.  With this film Cronenberg changes his MO–completely.  It is intimate and thought-provoking.  What a pleasure to see this side of him–and makes me wonder what else is possible.

The cast is perfect.  Michael Fassbender–again–is amazing.  He disappears into any character and as Carl Jung he is able to capture the keen mind and the conflict that Jung must have experienced.  Viggo Mortenson is a strong counter as Sigmund Freud–his presence is big and overpowering–I’m sure Freud was too.  The  scene stealer though is Keira Knightley.  She is fantastic as Sabina Spielrein–a woman ahead of her time in many ways.  Knightley is able to cover the full range of emotions needed to portray this complex character and she nails it!  I hope she gets some recognition during award season.

The story centers around the differences in the doctors’ philosophies (which are well-known) but anchors it with–what turns out to be–a love story.  There are many themes–father/son–teacher/student–doctor/patient–that should lead to interesting discussions.  Even if you are not a student of psychology you will find the narrative intriguing. 

So, if you need a break from the usual Hollywood offerings–check out a film that is a bit more…intelligent.  🙂

Shame is an intense character study–Michael Fassbender is amazing!

 

Shame is a realistic, unflinching depiction of a sex addict’s spiral out of control.  It is intense and almost hard to watch.  I would worry if someone found the sex scenes erotic or exciting because it is actually painful and disturbing to see this man unable to conquer his demons. 

Writer/Director Steve McQueen does a wonderful job of telling his story truthfully.  He has taken out all the romance associated with casual sex.  It is raw.  It is ugly.  It is everywhere.  It makes you think about society’s hypocrisy.  What is acceptable? Adultery? One night stands?  And what is deviant behavior? Porn? Masturbation?  There is a line and at times it is hard to differentiate.  There are some very interesting juxtapositions that are explored quite subtly.

I also loved the way McQueen incorporated the city of New York–it is an important character in this film.  The city helps facilitate the sexual addiction, with its constant accessibility and ends up contributing to the protagonist’s ever-growing shame. 

But this film belongs to Michael Fassbender (who continues to earn my fascination with him).  He is truly amazing.  It is a daring performance not to be missed.  What he is able to do with mere glances and physical expression is stunning.  WOW!  Add Carey Mulligan (who is quickly becoming one the finest actresses of her generation) and you have powerful duo.  She is almost unrecognizable–and not because of anything externally–but because she transforms into this character so thoroughly you can not see any other traces of what we have seen from her.  Bravo!

I do not want to delve into the narrative–I like that the trailer gives you a glimpse into the world and you get a feeling for the style of the film without revealing too much.  It did earn a NC-17 rating and is showing on limited screens–but if you want to go on emotional journey that will make you talk about sex and our notions about it–then find it and check it out! 

X-MEN: First Class Exceeds Expectations!

The first thing I said when X-Men: First Class was over was, “WOW!”   Matthew Vaughn does it again!  He creates a film that will join the ranks of one of the best comic book movies made.  It is a full experience–well written–strongly acted–beautifully directed–and with cool bad ass action!

As the photo choice above suggest, I love the character of Magneto!  Always have.  He is very complex and nuanced and Michael Fassbender does a fantastic job bringing that to the screen!   He captures Eric Lehnsherr’s anger and hunger for vengeance perfectly, but also allows you to see his vulnerability.   (His career is on the fast track now–but it started for me with his wonderful performance in Fish Tank.)  My favoritism aside, all the actors are perfect.  James McAvoy, Jennifer Lawrence and Kevin Bacon are a few standouts.

Setting the movie in the 1960s was a brilliant move.  I love the mixture of true history with the fantasy world! It works.  All of it works!

The section above was written right after watching X-Men– 🙂  Now, you will be lucky to find it still out–maybe a dollar theater? If you find it–check it out!