Prometheus, fuck yeah! Finally, after way too many spoiler-y trailers, Ridley Scott's new sci-fi epic reaches theaters. My review below, along with a few others this week worth seeing, if aliens and such don't float your boat. (But seriously, Prometheus! Worth seeing, even if aliens don't float your boat.)
Also worth checking out: the Pacific Film Archive's series highlighting local experimental talent Nathaniel Dorsky (Max Goldberg's write-up here) and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts' exciting "New Filipino Cinema" programming (Dennis Harvey reports here, with a bonus midnight-movie DVD recommendation here).
Elena The opening, almost still image of breaking dawn amid bare trees — the twigs in the foreground almost imperceptibly developing definition and the sky gradually growing ever lighter and pinker in the corners of the frame — beautifully exemplifies the crux of this well-wrought, refined noir, which spins slowly on the streams of dog-eat-dog survival that rush beneath even the most moneyed echelons of Moscow. Sixtyish former nurse Elena (Nadezhda Markina) is still little more than a live-in caretaker for Vladimir (Andrey Smirnov), her affluent husband of almost 10 years. She sleeps in a separate bed in their modernist-chic condo and dutifully funnels money to her beloved layabout son and his family. Vladimir has less of a relationship with his rebellious bad-seed daughter (Yelena Lyadova), who may be too smart and hedonistic for her own good. When a certain unlikely reunion threatens Elena’s survival — and what she perceives as the survival of her own spawn — a kind of deadly dawn breaks over the seemingly obedient hausfrau, and she’s driven to desperate ends. Bathing his scenes in chilled blue light and velvety dark shadows, filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev (2003's The Return) keeps a detached but close eye on the proceedings while displaying an uncanny talent for plucking the telling detail out of the wash of daily routine and coaxing magnetic performances from his performers. (1:49) (Kimberly Chun)
Peace, Love and Misunderstanding How is that even as a bona fide senior, Jane Fonda continues to embody this country’s ambivalence toward women? I suspect it’s a testament to her actorly prowess and sheer charisma that she’s played such a part in defining several eras’ archetypes — from sex kitten to counterculture-heavy Hanoi Jane to dressed-for-success feminist icon to aerobics queen to trophy wife. Here, among the talents in Bruce Beresford’s intergenerational chick-flick-gone-indie as a loud, proud, and larger-than-life hippie earth mama, she threatens to eclipse her paler, less colorful offspring, women like Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen, who ordinarily shine brighter than those that surround them. It’s ostensibly the tale of high-powered lawyer Diane (Keener): her husband (Kyle MacLachlan) has asked for a divorce, so in a not-quite-explicable tailspin, she packs her kids, Zoe (Olsen) and Jake (Nat Wolff), into the car and heads to Woodstock to see her artist mom Grace (Fonda) for the first time in two decades. Grace is beyond overjoyed — dying to introduce the grandchildren to her protests, outdoor concerts, and own personal growhouse — while urbanite Diane and her kids find attractive, natch, diversions in the country, in the form of Jude (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Cole (Chace Crawford), and Tara (Marissa O’Donnell). Yet there’s a lot of troubled water for the mother and daughter to cross, in order to truly come together. Despite some strong characterization and dialogue, Peace doesn’t quite fly — or make much sense at its close — due to the some patchy storytelling: the schematic rom-com arch fails to provide adequate scaffolding to support the required leaps of faith. But that’s not to deny the charm of the highly identifiable, generous-spirited Grace, a familiar Bay Area archetype if there ever was one, who Fonda charges with the joy and sadness of fallible parent who was making up the rules as she went along. (1:36) (Chun)
[No trailer on purpose. Spoilers, y'all.]
Prometheus Ridley Scott's return to outer space — after an extended stay in Russell Crowe-landia — is most welcome. Some may complain Prometheus too closely resembles Scott's Alien (1979), for which it serves as a prequel of sorts. Prometheus also resembles, among others, The Thing (1982), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Event Horizon (1997). But I love those movies (yes, even Event Horizon), and I am totally fine with the guy who made Alien borrowing from all of them and making the classiest, most gorgeous sci-fi B-movie in years. Sure, some of the science is wonky, and the themes of faith and creation can get a bit woo-woo, but Prometheus is deep-space discombobulation at its finest, with only a miscast Logan Marshall-Green (apparently, cocky dude-bros are still in effect at the turn of the next millennium) marring an otherwise killer cast: Noomi Rapace as a dreamy (yet awesomely tough) scientist; Idris Elba as Prometheus' wisecracking captain; Charlize Theron as the Weyland Corportation's icy overseer; and Michael Fassbender, giving his finest performance to date as the ship's Lawrence of Arabia-obsessed android. (2:03) (Cheryl Eddy)