Attention: Spoiler Alert!
PROMETHEUS, the prequel to the ALIEN films is now in theaters. Directed by Ridley Scott, who directed ALIEN, the first in the series, PROMETHEUS is one of two eagerly awaited science fiction movies of the the 2012 summer. The other movie is THE AVENGERS. Although there are other science fiction movies debuting this summer, PROMETHEUS and THE AVENGERS are the ones that fans have been waiting for. I saw THE AVENGERS and I didn’t care for it. What little I did like included performances by Robert Downey, Jr. and Mark Ruffalo. Because I wasn’t a fan of the comics and not familiar with the characters, I didn’t think it right to review it. On the other hand, I have seen every one of the ALIEN series and really liked the first two.
PROMETHEUS was a disappointment.
The opening is beautiful.
A bald, blue, giant man, stands on the edge of a precipice, and far below is a scary Niagra-like waterfall. He drinks from what looks like a coconut shell with little bean-like things in it. Not a good idea. He isn’t jolly and this isn’t a valley–ho, ho, ho. The blue skin starts mottling a nasty black spider pattern. He keels over and plunges into the water where we see images of organs and vessels pulsating. The images take us into his cells where we see his DNA breaking apart and blending, we assume with all that water.
Skip ahead with me to a new time and place,
where a pair of archeologists discover an ancient cave drawing of a giant being (with a bald head so start doing the math). It’s one of many drawings featuring giant men discovered in the artifacts of ancient cultures all over the world. Thousands of miles separate these drawings done by artists with no possible way to communicate. The discovery scene with the digging and brushing off the find, as well as the excitement of the scientist love-birds reminded me of the opening scene from JURASSIC PARK.
Now, we’re on a spaceship, off to an unknown galaxy.
The crew is in hyper-sleep, tended by an android played by Michael Fassbender, a good actor whom I find both creepy and sexy. The android reminded me of a baby-sitter where the kids are asleep and the absent grownups have a great sound system and supply of dvds. He walks around taking notes, peering into a female crew member’s dream (not nice) as he listens to music and watches old movies including LAWRENCE of ARABIA. His glowing yellow visor contrasts beautifully with the gleaming surface of the ship. Why did they put him in flipflops? That was odd. The beauty and serenity of this sequence reminded me of the opening of 2001, A SPACE ODYSSEY. The android’s name is David. Remind you of anything–like maybe HAL’s friend, “Dave”?
Next we have the briefing of the crew.
They all sit around, joking and drinking coffee while Charlize Theron (one of the best things in the movie and is she ever on a roll this year) gives a presentation that includes graphics showing the similarities of drawings and how they point to a different creation process in terms of how we got here . There’s also an explanation of the mission by a holographic message. It’s the powerful Weyland, the ninety-something owner of the company. Weyland is played by Guy Pearce in the worst old-age make-up I’ve seen since the last eighth grade production of Arsenic and Old Lace. Really guys? That totally took me out of the movie. There are a lot of seventy plus name actors who could have convincingly played twenty years older. Pearce is at the most fortyish. This was bad casting as well as bad make-up. The whole scene with the wise-cracking crew reminded me of the Marine grunts crew-briefing in ALIENS. Where’s Bill Paxton? They could have used him. The hip black captain (Idris Elba) tried, but just couldn’t supply enough of the required “cool” factor with so many science nerds making lame jokes.
So the mission is for us to find “where we humans came from.”
Darwin was a quack and the bald men planted us on earth. Those drawings were an invitation, weren’t they? The planet landing sequence was cool. We see these big domes. And . . . they’re hollow! One by one, like an Agatha Christie play, scientists start dying–with a little help from Android David, and the stowaway–you guessed it! Guy Pierce who happens to be Charlize’s father–a plot line thrown in like an extra onion to the stew. Didn’t help. When it comes to an invitation, BYOB takes on a whole new meaning and all the aliens, alienettes and mini-aliens slithering in that dome consider the spaceship a giant kegger. At the end of it we find out that the big blue bald guys were cooking up weapons of mass destruction at a safe distance from their world.
Yes, they were in our little corner of the universe and yes, they are our daddies.
However, they weren’t satisfied with how we turned out and were planning to come back to re-do us using some of their other little works of art–the ones with two sets of razor-teeth. Unfortunately for them, someone didn’t mind the stove and there was an accident. All the aliens died a long time ago. Or did they? David the Android manages to not only spike the drink of one of the scientists with alien juice, but also intends to harvest a little alien bun-in the oven, planted in the unfortunate scientist girlfriend. She outsmarts him and does her own c-section before the little nipper gets too frisky. Okay then, David’s last trick is to wheel his old boss out to see the one remaining bald alien who has been in some kind of super sleep for a zillion years. David figures out how to wake him up. Ah, good plan! Does the alien give away any trade secrets–say to eternal life? The old man eagerly awaits. The big blue guy grins, kills Weyland and rips David’s head off. David isn’t particularly upset.
By now, what’s left off the crew has figured out that they need to destroy the big alien ship.
It was on its way to earth and after the long layover, the remaining alien will be off to off us. With a heroic “it’s been a privilege captain” every one blows up. Everyone, that is except the bald alien, who is finally killed by the “little bun in the oven” that’s all grow’d up. David (in two pieces now) tells the remaining scientist he has figured out how to pilot one of the small remaining alien ships. Does she want him to take her home? Nooooo. Of course not. She wants an explanation, so off they go to find ET’s home. She explains that because she’s human, she needs to know. Really? Just call me Data.
No Spoiler Alert!
As I write this review, SNOW WHITE and the HUNTSMAN, a 2012 release, is a currently in theaters. Directed by Rupert Sanders (first film) and co-written by Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock (director of THE BLIND SIDE), it stars Charlize Theron as Ravenna (the evil queen), Kristen Stewart (Snow White) and Chris Hemsworth as the studly huntsman.
If you enjoy films with great visual effects, you ‘ll enjoy this film.The story, however, is muddled.
In my opinion, the movie’s too long. I became restless about three-quarters into it. The story meandered. It may be that the writers were working from other versions of the fairytale and we’re all used to the Disney version. Regardless, it seems that they failed to settle on one version. Unfortunately, the result is muddled and questions like why Ravenna doesn’t kill Snow White when she kills the King and who this Huntsman really is are not answered. We’re left with too many loose ends.
Where is Prince Charming? He’s been demoted. His name is “William” (Sam Claflin) and he’s the son of a duke. Ravenna’s overly devoted brother “Finn” Sam Spreull (Hamlet called and wants his hair back) keeps a handy supply of local maidens in the dungeon for those occasions when Ravenna needs a dose of youth to freshen up. Ravenna tricked the King, Snow White’s father, into marrying her. Ravenna has issues with men–and everybody else–and makes it her business to spread misery like a bad rash over the entire kingdom. Too bad she has no other outlets. Ravenna could do a mean blog and likely, the Facebook friend from hell.
Charlize Theron makes a believable evil queen–very intimidating. I wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of her. This actress is good in just about every role she does.
For some reason Ravenna keeps Snow White alive as a permanent dungeon resident. That is until The Mirror announces Snow White is “the fairest in the land.” Ravenna is not happy (she never is). Especially when she learns Snow White can kill her. There is good news though. Snow White’s heart is a permanent beauty treatment. If Ravenna eats it, there need be no more messy maidens.
Kristen Stewart is okay as Snow White. She simply isn’t compelling. There’s a heaviness to her acting. No perceivable sense of humor.
When Finn comes to collect Snow White’s heart, Snow White escapes. Then Ravenna sends out the Huntsman and one thing leads to another, including Ravenna impersonating William and handing Snow White the poison apple. She bites, falls dead and guess whose kiss wakes her up. Not wimpy William–it’s Hunky Huntsman.
So now Snow White is really annoyed–that apple was the last straw. The result– Snow White leads an army and storms the castle to end Ravenna. The huntsman and William, and six of the seven dwarfs (one dwarf dies) join in the battle. Several well-known non-dwarf actors hi ho it to the castle including Bos Hoskins and Ian McShane. The dwarf scenes have lots of bathroom humor and though funny, they’re not in sync with the tone of the narrative. Not surprisingly, this cast was a major issue for working actors who are in fact dwarfs. Of course they win and Snow White kills the queen. Kristen’s soulful Twilight stare helps Ravenna into the light.
This reworking of the Snow White fairy tale sounds a feminist note. It ends with her coronation. Who is going to be Mr. Snow White? Will it be the devoted William, the tormented rough-around-the edges Huntsman, or maybe a dwarf? Wait for the sequel. One thing for sure– no white charger, no “Some day my prince will come” for this girl. She has a kingdom to rule.
Netflix, Netflix, Netflix … whaat WERE you thinking? I trusted you Netflix. You said two and a half stars! Nooooooooooo!
EPISODE 50, a 2011 release, has 2.5 stars from the Netflix fairy. This 2011 “offering,” written and directed by Joe and Tess Smalley begins benignly enough with yet another “found footage” paranormal premise. This time it’s for a paranormal reality (think Ghost Hunters) show–only these guys are out to show us the smoke, mirrors and faulty wiring that panic folks into thinking their places are haunted. These dudes (and one dewy-eyed dudette) are out to shine a light on superstition and vivid imaginations. Their purpose is to put this poppycock silliness to rest so that “real science” will get more attention. When a dying rich guy who fears going to hell offers them the chance to investigate the West Virginia Lunatic Asylum, the site of several unexplained and gruesome deaths, they see “Season Finale” or “Episode 50!!” So they load up the van and head for West Virginey–visions of Emmys dancing in their heads.
Trouble (along with a ghost in the window) arises when they encounter a rival group called “ASK” (don’t ask) a trio of God-fearing folks from UCLA. ASK is convinced that the Devil is real. So of course the two groups start circling each other like the Sharks and the Jets until the dewy eyed dudette calls a halt while her counter-part in the ASK group, a rather mousy medium looks panicked at the thought of picking up whatever signals the asylum is beaming. They agree to work together–or rather the TV show crew will work and the church people will take notes. The rest of the film devolves from the formatted “Ghost Hunters” to a plot mess more complicated than three seasons of “Dark Shadows.” Towards the middle of the film we’re treated to music supporting the “found footage” and ghosts start staggering, crawling on the ceiling, and locking people in rooms that just happen to contain the files that help the investigators to figure out that it’s just one bad guy-ghost (a serial-murderer, what a surprise!) who is holding all the spirits there and not allowing them to “go into the light children.” There’s a gate to hell and it’s not even at the hospital; it’s in an old prison. And so off they go to the old pokey. Right. My favorite line was “I never pay attention to crap like ‘The Exorcist.’” Oh reeeally? You mean that ole’ black magic movie? This masterpiece ends with a show-down–mano vs cloven hoof as the “Devil’ (the Devil looks like a bare-chested guy with a mean set of horns) guarding an old gate with flames, etc. The big bad Devil is vanquished by the skeptic TV guy wielding a crucifix (after the church guy dies heroically). Priceless. Netflix—how about half a star?
THE LAST WEREWOLF, written by British author, Glen Duncan, was published in 2011. THE LAST WEREWOLF is the eighth novel for Duncan and a sequel, TALLULAH RISING is due this year, 2012. As might be expected, Marlowe, the protagonist of THE LAST WEREWOLF, is a werewolf–”the last werewolf ” he informs the reader in a first person narration. The opening sentence announces that second to the last werewolf (“The Berliner”) just bit the dust courtesy of Grainer, a “Hunter.” Grainer, a man with small hard eyes who has Native American ancestors works with WOCOP, an organization that keeps track of supernatural shenanigans, including vampires (down to fifty “families’) and werewolves–down now, to only Marlowe. Marlowe killed and ate Grainer’s father, so it’s not just business; it’s personal. Marlowe is funny, literate and when it comes to the low down on the lupines and the vamps, very informative. Even though, by his own admission Marlowe has killed, eviscerated, intentionally delighting in the terror he causes before he chows down on his victims (over two thousand and counting) Marlowe is shaken by the news that Grainer beheaded “The Berliner” rather than just shooting him with a silver bullet. Why so squeamish?
I wished I liked Marlowe and cared whether or not he lives to feed under another full moon. I don’t.
Besides creating Marlowe’s vivid dark humor, Mr. Duncan’s use of language is dazzling. “The hand I lifted to wipe my face was the impatient ghost of the other hand, the hybrid thing, heavy, elegant, claw-tipped.” He employs numerous allusions, including quotes throughout- such as Blake’s “Did He who made the lamb make thee?” There’s a semester’s worth of literature in these nods: Lady Chatterley’s Lover (“We’re like Connie and Mellor’s at the end, apart, chaste,…”) The ill-fated Harley, Marlowe’s “familiar” tells him “You’ll actually be flying private charter as Matt Arnold.” Duncan’s style is “Literary” with a capital “L.” Marlowe is over two hundred years old–middle-aged by werewolf standards. Werewolves can live to be four hundred or so. Along with literature, we get nods to what’s current in 2012–Obama’s “Audacity of hope,” “American Idol,” and so on. Duncan also gets the jump on his critics by having Marlowe say, “I can think back to a time when something like this would have annoyed or at least amused me, that the democracy Westerners truly got excited about was the one that made every blogging berk a critic and every frothing fascist a political pundit.”
I particularly liked Duncan’s knack for boiling down complex concepts into a sentence or two. In describing his state of mind after meeting Tallulah, a “she” werewolf, Marlowe says “I’ve stopped abstracting. This is love. You stop bothering about the universal, the general, get sucked instead into the local and particular. When will I see her again? What shall we do today?” His prose is lush–so lush that at times I found it intrusive–then plain annoying. “The little combat flurry had left me with a post-adrenaline heaviness, worsened now by the predictability of the picture revealed by joining the dots.” Sometimes you say wow and other times–enough already.
Okay–so here’s where I get all “Church Lady” (1980′s Saturday Night Live allusion for those of you who don’t know) on you. Marlowe takes pains to provide us with his sexual preferences–detailing the ins and outs of his encounters with prostitutes–especially the “ins.” He describes various orifaces–”the moist crinkle of Madeline’s anus,’ “I had oral, vaginal and anal sex with her (in that order; I repeat, I’m not a misogynist.)” After meeting Tallulah, his she-wolf-dream-girl–”I wanted to go back to her clean and put my nose in her cunt and my tongue in her sweet young asshole.” All righty. I think we get it! I’m not a prude. My second book has a considerable amount of erotica. But, in my opinion Marlowe’s obsession is a tad overkill, pardon the pun. TMI people! You get the feeling that Duncan’s put a lot of himself into the old wolf-man. Whatever. I suppose that you can make the case that dogs greet each other by sniffing rear ends so it stands to reason that Marlowe might find them a particular focal point.
I have two structural issues with this book and one on theme.
Duncan introduces the idea of “Quinn’s book.” Quinn’s book might have information on the origin of werewolves. Written by a 1930′s archeologist named Quinn, Marlow has been seeking it for years. After using it as a carrot to lure Marlowe into cooperating with vampires who now have it under lock and key, Duncan just drops the device, having Marlowe decide that to know how werewolves originated is pointless. No fair–Duncan. Marlowe may not care, but we, the readers do.
Marlowe, as a character, doesn’t change. Although he finds in Tallulah a reason to live, she’s really an extension of him. It’s self-love and the same narcissism that allowed Marlowe to choose to live by inflicting gory horrifying death on thousands enables him to be “in love” with someone who can share his hedonistic existence.
By creating an antagonist like Grainer, Duncan fails to have Marlowe come to terms with his prolonged existence. The monotony and the cost to his humanity can be avoided because Marlowe’s wits and resources are engaged by being the object of “The Hunt.”
This book was very interesting and at times, engrossing. Still, I couldn’t shake the feeling that Duncan was slumming–showing the genre world how it’s done. In the process, he engaged my brain, but never my gut. I just never cared, and in fiction, that’s what keeps you turning the pages.