Prometheus Blu-Ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Prometheus Blu-Ray 

Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Logan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall and Charlize Theron

Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof

Directed by Ridley Scott

Audiences were not prepared for what Ridley Scott unleashed upon them this summer when Prometheus was projected on screens across the country this summer. Coming nowhere near the tone of his previous Alien film, Prometheus is very heavy on the SCI part of the equation and very light on everything else. Scott goes completely cerebral for a film clearly inspired more by 2001: A Space Odyssey. The question remains, doe s the film play better the second time around?

Prometheus begins with a sprawling montage of beautiful vistas and landscapes of a planet that may be Earth, but could also be one of many that the humanoid looking ‘Engineers’ have visited. The extremely pale white alien appears near a waterfall and we watch as he ingests a liquid that causes his demise. On the Isle of Sky in the Northern Highlands of Scotland, sometime in the future, we are introduced to doctors Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green) who have made a discovery dating back generations in the caves of the isle. We board the vessel “Prometheus” where we are introduced to the only being awake (the rest of the crew is in cryostasis), the android David (Fassbender). David has spent his time alone awaiting the end of the journey and developing what may be an unnatural fascination with Shaw. Upon their arrival we meet the crew of the Prometheus: Vickers (Theron), the corporate representative, Janek (Elba), the ship’s Captain, Fifield (Harris), a geologist, and Millburn (Spall), another scientist, along with others.  The crew are then told by Shaw and Holloway that their benefactor Peter Weyland (Pearce, nearly unrecognizable) has sent them to this remote planet to meet the being they feel all humans were spawned from. Upon investigating a strange ruin on the planet’s surface the crew discovers the remains of some of these beings, while David discovers something else entirely.

Prometheus still looks beautiful on Blu-Ray. Rapace shines as the film’s central character, the sequence with an unexpected ‘visitor’ is particularly riveting and brilliant. Fassbender’s David is the perfect mix of naivety with a sinister core that makes his character the most dangerous aboard the ship. The second time around we really can see his machinations more clearly.  Theron’s performance works even less the second time around, she’s the least effective of the main characters. Elba’s basically the cigar chomping police chief from every late 80′s early 90′s cop film you can think off, but it works. And you clearly tell he’s having a blast doing it. Pearce is barley in the film and under so much makeup as to make him unrecognizable, yet he still does a good job. The rest of the supporting cast is strong in their roles, leading to one of the strongest cast performances of the year. The intricacies of the script start to shine with a second viewing, and the story plays out more satisfyingly. Having dumped the baggage of the previous Alien films due to more informed expectations we are allowed to enjoy this story in this world more. The visual effects work is unsurprisingly stunning, Ridley has been in this work before and knows exactly what he wants. The brilliant look of the ‘Engineers’ and the ever evolving Alien xenomorph are stunning.

Prometheus’ Blu-Ray comes with a truckload of special features. We get two feature length commentaries, one by Ridley Scott and another with writers Lindelof and Spaihts. A series of character developing mini movie/webisodes under the ‘Peter Weyland Files’ and a half hour worth of deleted and extended scenes including alternate opening and closing sequences. The deleted scenes are excellent and help flesh out the story even more. There is also an entire IPad/IPhone app with second screen to scour even many more hours’ worth of special features like original design art and much more.

Ultimately Prometheus works even better with multiple viewings. The sheer volume of special features combined with the gorgeous looking film itself with great performances should make the purchase decision easy for you. Prometheus on Blu-Ray is a must buy.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Prometheus Review (Kirk Haviland)

Prometheus (2012)

Starring Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Loan Marshall-Green, Sean Harris, Rafe Spall and Charlize Theron

Written by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof

Directed by Ridley Scott

Much has been made over Ridley Scott’s return to Science Fiction, and more specifically to the universe he launched with 1979’s seminal sci-fi/horror masterpiece, Alien. Just as much hype has been made by Scott himself, downplaying the whole connection to the Alien franchise, and as it turns out, rightfully so. Prometheus is very heavy on the SCI part of the equation and very light on everything else as Scott goes completely cerebral for a film clearly inspired more by 2001: A Space Odyssey than his own Alien.

Prometheus begins with a sprawling montage of beautiful vistas and landscapes that we soon discover are not earth, but a foreign planet similar to our own. A very humanoid looking, extremely pale white alien appears near a waterfall and we watch as he ingests a liquid that causes his demise. We then flash back to Earth. On the Isle of Sky in the Northern Highlands of Scotland we are introduced to doctors Elizabeth Shaw (Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Marshall-Green) who have made a discovery dating back generations in the caves of the isle. The film then jumps forward many years to the space vessel “Prometheus” and we are introduced to the only being awake (the rest of the crew is in cryostasis), the android David (Fassbender). David has spent his time alone awaiting the end of the journey, over two years, killing time with many pursuits and developing what may be an unnatural fascination with Shaw. Upon their arrival we meet the crew of the Prometheus: Vickers (Theron), the corporate representative, Janek (Elba), the ship’s Captain, Fifield (Harris), a geologist, and Millburn (Spall), another scientist, along with others.  The crew are then told by Shaw and Holloway that their benefactor Peter Weyland (Pearce, nearly unrecognizable) has sent them to this remote planet to meet the being they feel all humans were spawned from. Upon investigating a strange ruin on the planet’s surface the crew discovers the remains of some of these beings, and David discovers something else. As the group is forced back to the ship under unforeseen complications, they manage to leave Fifield and Millburn behind and they must stay the night, exploring the ruins in what may not be the best of ideas. And what exactly is David’s agenda aboard the ship?

Prometheus looks beautiful. It ranks with Hugo and Avatar as the prime examples of what a talented filmmaker can do to master a medium that other directors are merely toying around with. Rapace shines as the film’s central character, the sequence with an unexpected visitor is particularly riveting and brilliant. Fassbender’s David is the perfect mix of naivety with a sinister core that makes his character the most dangerous aboard the ship. Theron’s performance is adequate, though she’s given little to do here. That said, the scenes she does have don’t always work the best. Elba’s basically the cigar chomping police chief from every late 80’s early 90’s cop film you can think off, but it works. And you clearly tell he’s having a blast doing it. Pearce is barley in the film and under so much makeup as to make him unrecognizable, yet he still does a good job. The rest of the supporting cast is strong in their roles, leading to one of the strongest cast performances of the year.

The real question to be answered here is ‘will this fulfill the expectations of the many Alien franchise fans that will cram the multiplexes this weekend?’ And that’s a tough question. I believe Prometheus is the type of film that will play better with a second viewing. With all the baggage that everyone will inevitably bring into the film, the more cerebral approach will undoubtedly be disappointing for most. But those that can see beyond that and delve into the characters and the story that is presented will most certainly get much more out of the film. It’s the lack of previous baggage going into a second screening that I feel will make it a more successful and enveloping experience.

Ultimately, Prometheus is a stunning looking film with many ideas about the evolution of both species and the Alien species. Its visuals and performances alone alone make this a recommend, and I certainly hope I’m right about my hunch when I see it for the second time.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

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Lockout Review (Kirk Haviland)

Lockout (2012)

Alliance Films

Starring Guy Pearce, Maggie Grace, Vincent Regan, Joesph Gilgun, Lennie James and Peter Stormare

Written by Stephen St. Leger, James Mather and Luc Besson

Directed by Stephen St. Leger and James Mather.

Busy time for releases this weekend with Friday bringing the revival of the Three Stooges back to big screens, The Cabin in the Woods (my pick for best film of the year so far) and the Guy Pearce Sci-Fi/Snake Plisskin wannabe vehicle, Lockout. St Leger and Mather, two new filmmakers under the tutelage of Luc Besson, have clearly watched a lot of Neveldine and Taylor productions and have set out to deliver a similar non-stop action romp to those of the Crank films. What follows is a completely irrational, implausible and downright nonsensical 90 minutes that defy the rules of common sense and logic gleefully. It’s all wrapped up with a very fun and funny Guy Pearce performance that’s 100% bravado and ego, and a formidable psychopath villain with an itchy trigger finger.  When it works it works very well, when it misses, it misses terribly.

We start off in the middle of Snow (Pearce) being interrogated, and physically abused, over a job gone bad by the effectively slimy and hate-able Secret Service agent Langral (Stormare). Langral claims to have seen Snow kill another former CIA agent, like himself, during a meet in which Snow was brought onboard as backup by one of his best friends. Snow escapes with a brief case, during a particularly awful looking motorcycle chase, which he passes off to his partner Mace (Tim Plester) who hides the case prior to being arrested by the police himself. Snow is convicted and sentenced to spend his time on MS1, a high security prison in space where prisoners are kept in cryostasis for the duration of their sentence. On MS1, the president’s daughter Emilie (Grace) visits and a jailbreak is triggered from recently revived Hydell (Gilgun), a nasty little psychopath who figures out how to open all the pods and then the chaos begins. So of course Snow is recruited and given orders to rescue the President’s daughter, before it’s too late, in exchange for his freedom. Snow’s friend Shaw (James) also informs Snow that Mace is on MS1 as well. As the convicts start running the asylum a true leader among them emerges, equally capable of Hydell’s flair for violence yet much more mentally stable; Alex (Regan) manages to organize the cons and soon realizes how special one of his hostages is, but not before Snow gets her first. What follows is a cat and mouse race throughout the space station and beyond, with an ending so ludicrous I dare not describe it here.

Pearce’s performance here makes you wonder why he’s not chomping on a cigar a la Hannibal Smith, blowing holes in space with a Colt .45 a la Dirty Harry or wearing that infamous eye patch of the aforementioned Snake Plissken. He’s unrelentingly ego driven with no apologies. Grace is nothing much more that background here as the privileged daughter of the president who has decided to take up her cause of the week, this week being prison reform. Stormare does well as the stubborn and entitled Secret Service agent who believes he knows the best action for everything going on around him, while James is the laid back agent whose known Snow for years and never doubts him for a second. Of the baddies it’s Gilgun who steals the show and chews scenery left and right as the psychopathic Hydell, obsessed with Grace’s Emilie. Regan plays well off Gilgun as the brains behind the Convicts actions.

Lockout is crazy, stupid fun, emphasis on the stupid. This is the type of flick you throw on at 2 am at the house party where everyone is drunk and you want to watch something crazy. This is the type of film that becomes a guilty pleasure. I assure you this, if you go into this film expecting any semblance of an intellectual script or engaging plot you will hate this film. But if you just want to be entertained by the sheer lunacy of it all, with some fun action set pieces, improbable as they may be, then Lockout may be a fun 90 minutes in the dark.

Til Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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Don’t be Afraid of the Dark

Last night I was very excited to catch an advance screening of Don’t be Afraid of the Dark. The tickets were free, thanks to an online contest courtesy of the kind people at Alliance Films and the ghastly ghouls at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival. On a side note, I’ve read some interesting tweets about eight films (a total of 19 films will be at the festival)  that Toronto After Dark has announced at the currently running Fan Expo. If these reports are accurate, then we have some great films to look forward to! More on this when the films are officially announced.

Don’t be Afraid of the Dark is the latest offering from producer Guillermo del Toro. I’ve been a huge del Toro fan for a while now. He is the director of the fantastic Pan’s Labyrinth, the Hellboy films, the unsettling The Devil’s Backbone and he produced one of my favorite haunted house movies, The Orphanage. Basically, anything horror related with del Toro’s name on it should be good time.

Minor general plot SPOILERS ahead.

The film begins with young Sally (Bailee Madison) moving into a creepy historical fixer-upper with her architect father, Alex (Guy Pearce), and his interior designer girlfriend, Kim (Katie Holmes). The couple is currently working on restoring the home in order to revive Alex’s career. Shortly after discovering a sealed basement door, Sally begins to hear mysterious voices beckoning to her. She mistakes these voices as those of friends and sets to work trying to find their source. Unfortunately for Sally, she manages to unleash an archaic horror in the old house. Will she be able to convince Alex and Kim about the true nature of the unsettling events that begin to transpire in the home?

Going into Don’t be Afraid of the Dark I was expecting an atmospheric haunted house movie with a twist. The twist being the use of creatures instead of traditional ghosts. I will not go into details regarding the creatures, but I will say that the film delivers a type of monster not often seen seen in horror movies. Also, I was expecting the horror aspects to be rather tame, low on blood and high on jump-out-of-your-seat scare tactics. This was not the case. Although there are a number of ‘startle’ scares, there are also two to three scenes that are not for the squeamish. In particular, the opening and closing action sequences of the film are the two most thrilling parts. However, Don’t be Afraid of the Dark never commits to one type of audience. I feel that this decision hindered rather than helped the film.

The film suffers from a number of issues which prevent it from being as enjoyable as it could have been. The issues also made me feel like there was a Jekyll and Hyde battle going on behind the camera or during the script writing phase. For starters, the slow, creepy atmospheric build up and light horror fare places Don’t be Afraid of the Dark in a category with Joe Dante films like Gremlins or The Burbs (two of my favourite light horror films), not a bad category to be in. However, the more gruesome moments in the film shock the viewer out of this comfortable atmosphere, but they are far too few for the film to be considered a bloody or terrifying film. Also, the audience at times seemed to be confused as to whether they should laugh or not. Intentional and unintentional jokes in the film are very difficult to differentiate between. If the film committed to being a horror-comedy or straight horror, it would be stronger for it. Finally, the story had a major flaw in that it was not convincing why the characters would continue to stay in or return to this house. In one scene Sally is picked up in a car by her father and taken back to her home. The entire audience emitted a loud groan. Intelligent plot devices are a necessity if the main character returns to the scene of the horror time and time again.

I don’t think I will be watching Don’t be Afraid of the Dark anytime soon, but in the end I think that the film will find a group of movie-goers that will enjoy it. It is certainly for the casual horror fan as there is nothing truly terrifying about the film, however these casual horror fans should not be of the squeamish variety due to the few scenes that contain some uncomfortable moments.

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