Prometheus

20th Century Fox (2012) 124 min. R

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenplay: Jon Spaihts & Damon Lindelof

Cinematography: Dariusz Wolski; Editing: Pietro Scalia

Production Design: Arthur Max; Set Decoration: Sonja Klaus

Costumes: Janty Yates

Score: Marc Streitenfeld

Stars: Noomi Rapace (Elizabeth Shaw), Michael Fassbender (David), Charlize Theron (Meredith Vickers), Logan Marshall-Green (Charlie Holloway), Guy Pearce (Peter Weyland), Idris Elba (Janek), Patrick Wilson (Shaw’s father), Sean Harris (Fifield), Ian Whyte (Last Engineer)

Director Ridley Scott has given sci-fi cinema some of the classics of the genre, and while his latest, Prometheus, is impressively expansive and uncharacteristically philosophic, thanks to some slipshod editing, meandering continuity and inexplicable character motivation it just misses the mark of greatness. Still, there’s much in the movie to commend. The premise of Prometheus, in which a manned space mission sets out in search of the alien species who engineered the human race millennia ago, was inspired by theories advanced in Erich von Däniken’s 1968 book Chariots of the Gods?, which hypothesized that human progress could be traced to ancient aliens who interceded at some early point in our evolution. Continue reading

Brave

Pixar (2012) 93 min. PG

Director: Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman

Screenplay: Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman, Irene Mecchi & Steve Purcell; Story: Brenda Chapman

Editing: Nicholas C. Smith Score: Patrick Doyle

Stars: Kelly Macdonald (Princess Merida), Emma Thompson (Queen Elinor), Billy Connolly (King Fergus), Julie Walters (The Witch), Kevin McKidd (Lord MacGuffin & Young MacGuffin), Craig Ferguson (Lord Macintosh), Robbie Coltrane (Lord Dingwall), Steven Cree (Young Macintosh), Callum O’Neill (Wee Dingwall); non-speaking characters include Mor’du (the bear), Angus (Merida’s horse), Harris, Hubert & Hamish (Merida’s triplet brothers)

Animation is among the most visually exhilarating of movie forms because it’s the only sort of cinema, apart from silents, that is conceived primarily from a visual standpoint. The dizzying optic dynamism never lets up for a minute, so cartoons can easily start to seem overbearingly energetic. They have to in order to sustain the interest of kids’ increasingly shorter attention spans, now preconditioned to this kind of constant stimulation. Continue reading

Brokeback Mountain

Focus Features (2005) 134 min. R

Director: Ang Lee

Screenplay: Larry McMurtry & Diana Ossana; based on Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

Cinematography: Rodrigo Prieto; Editing: Geraldine Peroni & Dylan Tichenor

Production Design: Judy Becker; Set Decoration: Patricia Cuccia & Catherine Davis

Costumes: Marit Allen; Score: Gustavo Santaolalla

Stars: Heath Ledger (Ennis Del Mar), Jake Gyllenhaal (Jack Twist), Anne Hathaway (Lureen Newsome), Michelle Williams (Alma), Randy Quaid (Joe Aguirrre), Linda Cardellini (Cassie), Kate Mara (Alma Jr., age 19), Roberta Maxwell (Jack’s Mother), Graham Beckel (L.D. Newsome)

With its topicality, self-congratulatory ballsiness and down home setting, Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee’s plaintive ode to repressed passions and frustrated longings, has officially placed the filmmaker in Hollywood’s pantheon of great directors (he picked up an Oscar for it), and that’s apt. For this movie presents a complete crystallization of the dominant theme woven throughout his entire body of work, that of romance thwarted and love aborted by people’s unwillingness or inability to express their true feelings. The story concerns the decades long secret affair between Ennis Del Mar (Heath Ledger) and Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), two cowboys who are unable to reconcile their love for one another. Brokeback Mountain is just as pained and tinged with angst as everything that’s gone before it.

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The New World

New Line Cinema (2005) 135 min. PG-13

Director: Terrence Malick

Screenplay: Terrence Malick

Cinematography: Emmanuel Lubezki; Editing: Richard Chew,  Hank Corwin, Saar Klein, Mark Yoshikawa

Production Design: Jack Fisk; Set Decoration: Jim Erickson

Costumes: Jacqueline West; Score: James Horner

Stars: Colin Farrell (John Smith), Q’orianka Kilcher (Pocahontas), Christian Bale (John Rolfe), Christopher Plummer (Captain Newport), August Schellenberg (Chief Powhatan), Wes Studi (Opechancanough), David Thewlis (Wingfield), Jonathan Pryce (King George)

The New World is a cornucopia spilling over with such visual richness that it reminds me of that celebrated line Howard Carter uttered upon uncovering King Tut’s tomb. The first to enter and gaze on magnificent sights buried for nearly 3,300 years, when asked by his anxious benefactor if he saw anything, his awestruck response was “Yes, wonderful things.” Watching this Terrence Malick movie is like that – a bedazzling aesthetic experience that just leaves one enraptured. Painstakingly pieced together, it’s a finished masterpiece of found footage that retains its director’s intuitive appreciation for the unexpected, the accidental, the chance discovery. The New World is permeated by Malick’s own sense of wonder. Continue reading