Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

In this much anticipated prequel, director Ridley Scott returns to the well one more time for a look inside the Aliens Universe. Replete with all the trappings of the best sci-fi films, ”Prometheus” attempts to show us how the Aliens began their interactions with Man.

Tough, spunky scientist Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace, “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” 2009 ) leads an expedition that uncovers ancient paintings on a cave wall. Early Man is depicted looking upward at a strange configuration of planets. The scientists come to realize that human life may have originated on an alien world.

An exploration crew is assembled to travel to the far away world to investigate. Onboard the spaceship Prometheus, the crew is greeted by a holographic version of the aging scientist who’s funding the expedition. (We’d wished it was the John Hammond character from “Jurassic Park,” but instead it’s Guy Pearce badly made-up as a curmudgeon with a cane.)

Keeping the crew in line is martinet Meredith Vickers (Charleze Theron), a representative of the corporation financing the expedition. Dour and statuesque, she seems to relish her position of power. There’s the stereotypical cigar chomping ship’s captain, Janek (Idris Elba), who cares little about the mission and is just anxious to get home and collect his pay.

And in any Alien film, you have to have an android onboard. To this end Michael Fassbender turns in a durable performance as the duplicitous android David. However, we couldn’t help drawing comparisons to Lance Henriksen’s superior (and pluckier) Bishop in ”Aliens” (1986).

Dark, somber and with outstanding special effects, ”Prometheus” creates the feeling of a great mystery waiting to unfold. There’s dark, subterranean alien tunnels, doors with mysterious hieroglyphics, lots of puzzles waiting to be answered….all of these ingredients should create a great sci-film. However, it’s not long before clichés and mediocrity foul the mix.

Unruly crew members don’t follow orders, wandering away aimlessly. The scientists throw caution to the wind, taking their helmets off when the air seems “good”, and cavalierly poking and prodding at anything that drips alien goo.

Then there’s a flamethrower “incident” that’s both startling and spectacular. (Flamethrowers, we have to assume, are standard issue on missions like this, despite the fact that they’ll be used on planets where the lack of oxygen would impair combustion.) We’d guess that many other weapons could serve up quicker and more accurate results.

As the action and tension increase, all logic is thrown aside. Elizabeth, under extreme duress, injured and bleeding, must perform several elaborate computer programming functions in the medical bay (a tricky procedure even on one’s best day) yet she does all this with the skill and aplomb of a veteran medical technician.

Like the 1940′s matinee serials where kids knew their hero was making the wrong choice, “Prometheus” makes you want to yell out loud at the screen, “Watch out! … Don’t do that!”

Director Ridley Scott (“Bladerunner” and “Alien”) has tried to give us a palatable Aliens prequel but it all falls short because of a threadbare script and poor character development. The finale sets us up for a sequel, but one has to ask “what’s the point?”

“Which would be worse, to live as a monster or to die as a good man?” – Teddy Daniels

“Shutter Island” is a much anticipated film from veteran director Martin Scorsese, starring Leonard DeCaprio and Ben Kingsley.

The film opens with ominous music and a view of a ferry heading towards a foreboding island. Much like the approach to Kong’s Island, it’s a remote, fog laden place, surrounded by craggy rocks and lashing seas.

Shutter Island posterIt’s 1954 and Deputy Marshall Teddy Daniels (Leonardo DeCaprio) and his assistant Chuck Aule (Mark Ruffalo) have been sent to investigate a woman’s escape from the island’s prison for the mentally insane. Arriving at the island they’re met by a prison guard who tells them “we take only the most dangerous and damaged patients”. The prison buildings loom menacingly above the dock while the rainy, windswept terrain adds to the already growing feeling of angst.

Dr. Cawley (Ben Kingsley), the prison’s medical director, is a mysterious and evasive character, who seems to relish running the asylum. As the plot unfolds, we find that Daniels is a complicated character who has many flashbacks. In one such flashback we see him as one of the first US soldiers to liberate the Dachau Nazi concentration camp. Other flashbacks are equally unsettling, and convey multiple messages.

“Shutter Island” is an atmospheric, windswept, brooding film, that coveys a feeling of angst from beginning to end. Director Scorsese, a master of film history, often alludes to past classic movie scenes. His shots atop the craggy cliffs overlooking the light house remind us of Hitchcock’s “Suspicion”, while DeCaprio negotiating the dark prison tunnels with only a match to light the way is reminiscent of “The Old Dark House”. Even the lightning storm sequence, with it’s brief canted angles gives nod to “The Bride of Frankenstein”, and there’s the disturbing, yet somehow beautiful, flashback sequences with ashes floating through the air like snow. These are all wonderful images and they give credit to the skill and artistic direction of Scorsese.

Leonard DeCaprio creates an intense, brooding and multi-layered character. Ben Kingsley is perfect as the medical director who seems to know more than he’s telling.

“Shutter Island” is a high-tension mystery thriller of the first order, that reveals a deadly secret as the film unfolds. Highly Recommended.

Cast & Crew

Director … Martin Scorsese

Leonardo DiCaprio … Teddy Daniels

Mark Ruffalo … Chuck Aule

Ben Kingsley … Dr. Cawley

Max von Sydow … Dr. Naehring

Running time 138m. Rated “R”

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