Thursday, June 7, 2012

Aliens-a-Popping in “Prometheus” By Skip Sheffield Great green gobs of greasy, grimy gopher guts… yuck! That childhood gross-out rhyme for me sums up “Prometheus,” Sir Ridley Scott’s own reboot of his “Alien” series that began in 1979. The story begins promisingly with a cast of new characters and a story set in the year 2089, starting in Scotland. Archeologists Dr. Elizabeth Shaw (Swedish actress Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) have discovered a star map in a cave from an ancient culture which may have clues as to the origins of the Human race. Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce, almost unrecognizable under old man makeup), founder of shadowy Weyland Industries, is so intrigued he agrees to fund the space ship Prometheus for a trip to the distant moon LV-223. Weymouth appoints his cold-blooded lieutenant Meredith Vickers (Charlize Theron at her most fearsome) as head of the mission, with gruff Janek (Idris Elba) as Captain. An android called David (Michael Fassbender with bleached hair and matching blank expression) is the navigator and computer brain of the operation. Along for the ride are botanist Milburn (Rafe Spall) medic Ford (Kate Dickie), navigators Chance and Ravel (Emun Elliott and Benedict Wong) and geologist Fifield (Sean Harris). Fifield is supposed to be the voice of caution and reason, but all caution will be thrown to the wind once the ship lands on the forbidden planet and someone breaks Vickers’ cardinal rule: avoid direct contact with anything that may be an alien. Though this is not exactly a prequel to the original “Alien,” there are many nods to that ground-breaking film. The character of Elizabeth Shaw is a lot like Sigourney Weaver’s heroic Ripley in the original. As much as I admired Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth Salander in the original Stieg Larsson trilogy about a fearless computer-hacking girl, she is not as commanding a presence as was Weaver. However, horrible things happen to poor Dr. Shaw, and there is one alarming scene involving an emergency operation that is every bit as stomach-churning as when the original Alien sprang from John Hurt’s chest. “Prometheus” poses very big questions about the origins of life and the existence of God, but about an hour into this film they are overwhelmed by the mayhem. I think Ridley got carried away with startling special effects that weren’t possible 30 years ago. I must say monsters have come a long way from the puppet-like creatures in the Japanese and low-budget American horror films of my childhood. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. This is a noisy film, and the screening we attended at Cinemark Palace the sound was so loud I spent most of the film with my fingers in my ears. If I sound like an old fart, maybe I am. Sorry. Two and a half stars “Elena” is a melancholy morality tale from contemporary Russia that poses no solution to a haunting question. Directed by Andrei Zvyagintsev with screenplay by Oleg Negin, “Elena” is dark, gloomy and portentous, with ever-present black crows cawing within and without. Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is probably around 60, married to the indifferent Vladimir, a wealthy post-socialist businessman. Elena seems more like a housekeeper than a wife. This may be because she once was Vladimir’s nurse ten years earlier. Since she has no real love at home, Elena dotes on her shiftless, lazy son Sergy (Aleksey Rozin), his slacker teenage son Sasha (Igor Ogurtson), and his infant offspring. Sergy lives in a seedy, crumbling Soviet development on the outskirts of Moscow. Elena shows her mother’s love by regularly doling out money she wheedles from Vladimir to her unappreciative son. When Vladimir suffers a heart attack and is incapacitated, Elena encourages him to make up with his estranged daughter Katerina (Yelena Lyadova), a drug-addled slut. In rich Russian irony, the reconciliation exceeds beyond Elena’s expectation, and Vladimir coldly announces he is cutting Elena out of his will and giving almost everything to Katerina. Meanwhile Sergy has been pressuring Elena to give money to the sullen Sasha go he can go to college rather than the military. Elena is caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place, and she makes a fateful decision that will alter everything. Chekov seems cheerful by comparison to this rancid, depressing vision of modern Russia, with foreboding music by Philip Glass. “Elena” has been hailed as a near masterpiece (“Un Certain Regard” at Cannes), but it sure isn’t much fun. Three stars On a much cheerier note, George Hamilton is back in town to star in the gay musical “La Cage aux Folles” June 12-24 at Broward Center for the Arts. Hamilton stars as Georges, owner of the St. Tropez nightclub of the title. Christopher Sieber is Albin, aka Zaza, star of the show and love of Georges. The lovely score is by University of Miami graduate Jerry Herman and book is by Harvey Fierstein. Tickets start at $25.25 and may be reserved by calling 954-462-0222 or by going to

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