Film

Explaining the 'Prometheus' Love/Hate

Ridley Scott abandoned Alien after the first film, allowing James Cameron, David Fincher, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet to run wild with it. As a result, his return was bound to be polarizing.

There was never going to be consensus. The property was too prickly (and old) to guarantee an aesthetic group hug. But with most of the reviews in and an aggregate standing of 74% at Rotten Tomatoes (and a supposedly more 'accurate' 64% at Metacritic), it is clear that some element of the legitimate press were equally upset with Ridley Scott's return to Alien territory. Even worse, the social media and comment boards have been lighting up with fascinating flame wars, all centering on whether or not the aging auteur did his foundational franchise any good. In many of the discussions, there's limited middle ground. Indeed, the vast majority of opinions on Prometheus run the gamut from absolutely love to...well, absolutely hate.

Again, it's not hard to see why. When you say "prequel" - even one disowned by the creator as having anything other than a "DNA" connection to the source - you parse expectations. Those heavily invested in the film series and the stories they've told demand answers, anticipate connections, and create a kind of fan fiction fantasy in their head about what and how this introductory movie will function. They are so ensconced in the idea of an Alien prologue that anything other than the vision reflected in their mind's eye will do. Mythos can only manage so much, almost guaranteeing disappointment. It's a byproduct of the age we live in and the media marketplace where ideas tend to flourish before flying wildly out of control.

On the other hand, those who can judge without the benefit of repurposed hindsight discover a whole new world waiting to be explored - more than likely in film after box office mandated film. For them, Scott did the right thing. Instead of focusing on the famous xenomorph and its by now iconic attributes (acid for blood, dual mouths filled with razor sharp teeth), he switched his sites to the equally emblematic "space jockey" - i.e., the dead and fossilized skeletal being that the Nostromo crew come across when they are first investigating the crashed spaceship on LV426. What we learn in Prometheus, and where it promises to take the narrative, offer up unique perspectives about life on our own planet. In essence, it's a cautionary tale about playing God, or more philosophically, what happens when you meet your maker - literally.

Granted, it's not an easy subject. Fans are still fuming over Stanley Kubrock's treatment of evolution, alien intervention, and first contact in 2001: A Space Odyssey (blame the last 15 minutes on the misunderstanding) and all movies that focus on the bigger questions about life in the universe and the opposing notion of intelligent design usually dissolve into a kind of "it's not nice to mess with Mother Nature" forewarning. Prometheus promises more...much more. As the title craft leaves the doomed planet, we anticipate the next stop in this interstellar investigation. We wonder where Elizabeth Shaw and the remaining survivors will end up - and what they will face once they get there. Sure, Scott throws a bone to the obsessive with his final shot, but if you look carefully, we are only at the beginning of the Alien folklore, not the eventual link.

The result - passion on both sides of the stance. This legitimate love/hate has a couple of reasons, at least one dealing directly with the advances in technology that have hobbled legitimate criticism for the last two decades. As with any soap box, the Internet has fueled fascinations that border on fetish. Name anything - old fast food outlets, a particular album (or song) from a forgotten artist, or an unknown cinematic subcategory - and there is something proclaiming its genius.

Seriously. Pick anything you think deserves dismissal, not celebration, and try out your Google skills. There is bound to be a website where someone, simulating intelligent discourse, is rallying around. Now there is no stopping such conversations, even when they come from a place of pure obsession, not actual ideals. But the web has worked its way into our lives in such a way that even a minor moment in pop culture gets way too much play.

Add to that the ADD enhancing aspect known as home video. Most of the arguments pro and con are coming from people who never knew a moment when movies weren't instantly available for repeat viewing and scene-by-scene speculation. We live in an age of instant gratification, of DVR-ing past the boring bits and getting right the good stuff. Under this mentality, Scott would have had to turn the original aliens into something akin to Avatar - showing their planet, their cultural traditions, their weirding ways...whatever. Then he would have had to find a way to link everything back to the first film and then divulge some mandatory information that only their VHS fueled obsession would understand...and even then, he'd get reamed for something he surely forgot.

This is true of almost all heavily anticipated films. Christopher Nolan has his work cut out for him should The Dark Knight Rises failed to find that rarified universal praise. He has already set the bar so high that the only way he can win is to both completely defy and meet every single expectation...and yet there will be someone, sitting on the sidelines, ready to take umbrage with the depiction of the villain, the introduction and use of Catwoman, and any other comic book nitpick they can find. With Nolan, the odds are in his favor. He has been part of this material since the beginning. Scott abandoned Alien after the first film, allowing James Cameron, David Fincher, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet to run wild with it. As a result, his return was bound to be polarizing.

Of course, no one is being pilloried for their particular opinion. Reactions are just that - justifications based on judgment and complementary factors. Scott was never going to please everyone, and his ability to reach two-thirds of the audience (at least, via their surrogates, aka the critics) is pretty impressive. But there is also a level of discourse going on that threatens to take a decent experience and smear it as less than satisfying, and in these days of texting and Facebook updates, it's an opinion that threatens to overwhelm the truth. For some, Prometheus is a masterpiece. For others, it's an affront. There is little meaningful middle ground. Unfortunately, this seems to be the norm in today's instant IM world, not the exception.

From drunken masters to rumbles in the Bronx, Jackie Chan's career is chock full of goofs and kicks. These ten films capture what makes Chan so magnetic.

Jackie Chan got his first film role way back in 1976, when a rival producer hired him for his obvious action prowess. Now, nearly 40 years later, he is more than a household name. He's a brand, a signature star with an equally recognizable onscreen persona. For many, he was their introduction into the world of Hong Kong cinema. For others, he's the goofy guy speaking broken English to Chris Tucker in the Rush Hour films.

From his grasp of physical comedy to his fearlessness in the face of certain death (until recently, Chan performed all of his own stunts) he's a one of a kind talent whose taken his abilities in directions both reasonable (charity work, political reform) and ridiculous (have your heard about his singing career?).

Now, Chan is back, bringing the latest installment in the long running Police Story franchise to Western shores (subtitled Lockdown, it's been around since 2013), and with it, a reminder of his multifaceted abilities. He's not just an actor. He's also a stunt coordinator and choreographer, a writer, a director, and most importantly, a ceaseless supporter of his country's cinema. With nearly four decades under his (black) belt, it's time to consider Chan's creative cannon. Below you will find our choices for the ten best pictures Jackie Chan's career, everything from the crazy to the classic. While he stuck to formula most of the time, no one made redundancy seem like original spectacle better than he.

Let's start with an oldie but goodie:

10. Operation Condor (Armour of God 2)

Two years after the final pre-Crystal Skull installment of the Indiana Jones films arrived in theaters, Chan was jumping on the adventurer/explorer bandwagon with this wonderful piece of movie mimicry. At the time, it was one of the most expensive Hong Kong movies ever made ($115 million, which translates to about $15 million American). Taking the character of Asian Hawk and turning him into more of a comedic figure would be the way in which Chan expanded his global reach, realizing that humor could help bring people to his otherwise over the top and carefully choreographed fight films -- and it's obviously worked.

9. Wheels on Meals

They are like the Three Stooges of Hong Kong action comedies, a combination so successful that it's amazing they never caught on around the world. Chan, along with director/writer/fight coordinator/actor Sammo Hung and Yuen Biao, all met at the Peking Opera, where they studied martial arts and acrobatics. They then began making movies, including this hilarious romp involving a food truck, a mysterious woman, and lots of physical shtick. While some prefer their other collaborations (Project A, Lucky Stars), this is their most unabashedly silly and fun. Hung remains one of the most underrated directors in all of the genre.

8. Mr. Nice Guy
Sammo Hung is behind the lens again, this time dealing with Chan's genial chef and a missing mob tape. Basically, an investigative journalist films something she shouldn't, the footage gets mixed up with some of our heroes, and a collection of clever cat and mouse chases ensue. Perhaps one of the best sequences in all of Chan's career occurs in a mall, when a bunch of bad guys come calling to interrupt a cooking demonstration. Most fans have never seen the original film. When New Line picked it up for distribution, it made several editorial and creative cuts. A Japanese release contains the only unaltered version of the effort.

7. Who Am I?

Amnesia. An easy comedic concept, right? Well, leave it to our lead and collaborator Benny Chan (no relation) to take this idea and go crazy with it. The title refers to Chan's post-trauma illness, as well as the name given to him by natives who come across his confused persona. Soon, everyone is referring to our hero by the oddball moniker while major league action set pieces fly by. While Chan is clearly capable of dealing with the demands of physical comedy and slapstick, this is one of the rare occasions when the laughs come from character, not just chaos.

6. Rumble in the Bronx

For many, this was the movie that broke Chan into the US mainstream. Sure, before then, he was a favorite of film fans with access to a video store stocking his foreign titles, but this is the effort that got the attention of Joe and Jane Six Pack. Naturally, as they did with almost all his films, New Line reconfigured it for a domestic audience, and found itself with a huge hit on its hands. Chan purists prefer the original cut, including the cast voices sans dubbing. It was thanks to Rumble that Chan would go on to have a lengthy run in Tinseltown, including those annoying Rush Hour films.

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