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It’s a 3-way! The IOC takes on – PROMETHEUS

Well it finally came, and it finally went- one of the more anticipated of the summer tent-poles, the much anticipated return of director Ridley Scott to the Alien franchise (and the sci-fi/horror genre which put him on the map)- 2012’s Prometheus. Isle Of Cinema scribes Amber Wilson & Rockie Juarez attended the midnight showing at Alamo Drafthouse, seeing it in 3-D, while Boaz Dror watched it a week later, in that other, “lesser” D. Here the three of them take on the originator’s return to the cosmos populated by those iconic H.R. Giger baddies.

AMBER - I’m going to start by mentioning Terry Gilliam – a director with insurmountable creativity who doesn’t always follow through in his execution, and whose films can be something of a mess. To my mind Ridley Scott is the polar opposite – a director whose execution is flawless, but whose work I sometimes find lacking in creativity. And though it’s no Robin Hood or Body of Lies, Prometheus suffers from this lack of creative spark – falling somewhere between those two films in the director’s canon – the execution amazing, the cinematography & the 3D stunning. And despite having a story with themes that are not altogether original (faith vs science, technology vs man, etc.), it doesn’t detract from the experience of watching this film. I was simultaneously disturbed and riveted by this movie- most of the creatures resemble genitalia (a common element in sci-fi movies nowadays) and I almost squirmed down to the floor to hide under my seat several times (this is DEFINITELY a body movie). I must say the performances are fantastic: Michael Fassbender is reliably phenomenal as the android David, Idris Elba is… just so cool, and Noomi Rapace is my new favorite bad-ass survivor chick. I don’t want to spoil anything about the plot – I know it’s flawed, and the reason for many negative reviews – but GO SEE IT ANYWAYS. IN 3-D. WITH A DROOL CUP FOR WHEN FASSBENDER MAKES YOU GIDDY. Simply stated, Prometheus is engrossing as all get out, its world is worth exploring (both metaphorically and literally), and it has actors you (should) like. So take your girlfriends and watch ‘em squirm!

ROCKIE – Ridley Scott returning to sci-fi is a huge deal. Unfortunately for the world he’s been decades away from the genre, lost in a land of swords and sandals, horses and crossbows, and bodies of lies. Fans have damn near yearned themselves silly for a glimpse of the dark, multi-layered futures that put him on the map. So naturally poor Prometheus has a truly tall mountain to climb; that of our pent-up expectations. The one two punch that is Alien and Blade Runner have left people woozy, more to the point, inspired for decades. How do you top that? Simply put: you don’t. Scott and this polished slab of sci-fi horror aren’t really out to do that – this film is designed to keep the xenomorph saga mysterious by stacking on two questions on every one it answers. And though it’ll frustrate most, this trait is actually what I found the most stimulating about Prometheus. While this film is loaded with all the best bits of an ‘Alien’ ride (incredible spaceships, horrible situation, tough female lead, suspect android, slimy squiddy creepy crawlers, etc.), it still manages to keep tons of its lore secret. For that alone I applaud it. Prometheus is my favorite kind of story: the one where you dig too deep and unearth the worst results. Like the Cloverfield monster or the Balrog before it, it’s about the horrors you unearth that threaten not only your own survival but also that of millions of others. It’s in no way a flawless picture, or the culmination of all things science-fiction that we hoped for, but it is a badass piece of rated-R creature-feature, meant to make you writhe in your seats in a summer of superheroes. The 3-D works, smooth and subtle throughout, and adds to the intensity of every scene. But either way – in 2d or 3d – it gets my recommendation!

BOAZ - Like The Phantom Menace, Prometheus suffers from the fact that it was a surefire $100 million-grosser, no matter how good it was or wasn’t going to be. There’s simply no way we (sci-fi nerds) weren’t lining up like lemmings to see this movie. But the sad thing is that with a little more effort it could’ve been great – because even with all its many faults it remains beautiful and spectacular – a testament to Ridley Scott’s direction. So why isn’t it great – or even good for that matter? Simple. There are just too many ideas in this movie, none of them ever forming a recognizable, unified whole. Face-huggers have been supplanted by new fandangled “mouth tunnelers” for no real good reason and new mythologies have been caked over the old mythology, not to elaborate or improve but simply to compete for attention. The movie opens sublimely enough, with a beautiful “Alien Martyrdom” scene you’d expect to see in a 70’s Heavy Metal magazine, but then takes a nosedive with unnecessary subplots, unsympathetic characters bordering on the unlikeable, and a WTF? scene in which our suddenly 3-month pregnant lead performs a Caesarian on herself, only to then run around for the rest of the movie (after tearing through all the muscles in her abdomen). This is preceded by some surprisingly lazy exposition in which her scientist boyfriend insults her by conveniently forgetting she’s infertile (his line something akin to “these aliens are so not-infertile”), and this awkward two-step is an early guffaw the film never really overcomes. And don’t get me started on the black goo – the Midi-Chlorians of the Alien franchise – a pointless reach for some Kubrickian 2001- like importance that falls flat. Did I enjoy it? Begrudgingly – I enjoy all of Ridley Scott’s films for their sheer beauty and visual virtuosity. But will it ever be mentioned in the same breath as movies 1 & 2? [me taking a new breath]. Absolutely not. And that’s all we poor lemmings have been clamoring for. : (

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June 20, 2012   No Comments

Great Scenes – DEAD & BURIED

With Ridley Scott‘s Prometheus scheduled to land June 8, 2012, we thought we’d throw some logs onto the hype bonfire with some Alien-related film coverage leading up to the return of what shall hitherto be known as “THE FRANCHISE” (all apologies to ex-Houston Rocket point guard Steve Francis). So what does 1981’s Dead & Buried, directed by Gary Sherman, a Twilight Zone-y piece of unassuming pulp have to do with the upcoming sci-fi (fingers crossed) opus? Only that it was scripted by the team that brought you the first Alien (1979) – Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett! Check out the opening scene in this crazy creepy movie – in which a photographer finds a half-clad Lisa Blount innocently loitering on a picturesque beach. But be forewarned: there’s nudity. And a twist that’ll make you feel even ickier than the soft-porn lead-up!

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April 25, 2012   1 Comment

Great Scenes – RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD

Of all the zombie movies not written by George Romero, The Return of the Living Dead (1985) is one of the best, perhaps because – unlike many other “zombies-for-zombies’-sake” type movies, this one’s actually about something: stupid people, making stupid decisions, culminating in one of the finest endings ever, and certainly one of the more sardonic takes on the end of the world ever put to film. For that you can thank sci-fi superscribe Dan O’Bannon (writer of Alien, Lifeforce, Total Recall and Dark Star) in his directorial debut. But of course you’re not going to watch the movie just for the fantastic writing and biting social commentary – which brings us to the eye-candy. Enter “Mudman,” one of the greatest zombies to ever grace the screen. Enjoy! [admin. note: the scene has been modified – removing scream queen Linnea Quigley‘s full frontal nudity]

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October 27, 2011   3 Comments

Imaginative Sci-Fi – DARK STAR

DARK STAR is a classic sci-fi comedy with a fun low-budget sensibility.

In 1974 John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon made the cult classic Dark Star – essentially Waiting for Godot in space – predating Star Wars by 3 years and introducing many of the plot elements that O’Bannon would later employ to serious effect when writing Ridley Scott‘s Alien. Ostensibly the story of a spaceship crew on a 20 year mission to blow up ‘unstable’ planets for a mining company while a creepy computer named ‘Mother’ watches them, Dark Star is essentially a slice of metaphysical Absurdism, and a portrait of boredom in space. The crew members (one of whom, Pinback, is portrayed by O’Bannon himself) fill their time with pointless distractions – such as building musical instruments, playing practical jokes, dealing with ridiculous malfunction after ridiculous malfunction, and of course, slowly losing their minds. This was John Carpenter’s student film, later padded with more footage by legendary producer Jack H. Harris, with whom Carpenter did not get along (an on-screen monitor famously reads “Fuck You Harris” as retaliation for the producer’s demands). As far as DIY inventiveness goes, Dark Star can’t be beaten – never has more been done with less: beach balls with goofy reptilian feet double as aliens, minute-long takes of static matte paintings dominate entire scenes, and many subplots involve men either staring into space or sitting frozen in suspended animation. And though casual fans will probably tire of the film’s pace, Dark Star is required viewing for serious fans of science fiction, as well as anyone interested in making low-budget films. Like a fever-dream mash-up of 2001, Solaris, and a host of other films, this movie’s influence can be felt in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy novels, the classic BBC comedy series Red Dwarf, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and almost everything else that followed it. Anyone curious to see the seeds that would later grow into the Alien series – and into John Carpenter’s amazing body of work – should definitely seek it out.

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May 23, 2011   2 Comments

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