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Capsule reviews of `Prometheus,' other new films

The Associated Press, Wednesday, June 6, 2012, 12:36pm (PDT)

"The Color Wheel" — What's intriguing here are the contradictions. Director, co-writer and co-star Alex Ross Perry's film is shot in grainy, 16mm black and white, which results in images that are at once harsh and dreamlike. His characters, an obnoxious brother and sister (Perry and co-writer Carlen Altman), make no apologies for their behavior and almost seem to thrive on offending everyone they meet, yet they're oddly intriguing. Their banter, a rapid-fire brand of sniping and mutual humiliation, has the free flow of improvisation but actually was tightly scripted. And just when it seems that these characters have finally let their guard down and allowed their truest selves to shine through, they do something that most people in the audience will find deplorable and even sickening. "The Color Wheel" won't be for everyone, that's for sure, but its daring is undeniable. Altman's character, JR, is a flaky, aspiring newscaster who enlists her brother, Perry's Colin, to help her move her stuff out of the apartment of her former boyfriend, who also happens to be her former professor. And so they embark on a road trip from suburban Pennsylvania to Boston in her beat-up Honda Accord, but as in most movies with this kind of structure, the destination isn't as important as the discussions and encounters that take place during the journey itself. That's about the only conventional element here. Unrated but contains language and adult situations. 83 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Lola Versus" — Greta Gerwig is fighting for love, struggling for happiness, striving for harmony. What she's really up against, though, are the contrivances piled on by the filmmakers of this aggravating indie romance. The film deals with relationships in standard-issue Sundance style, ostensibly smarter and more genuine than what flows from the Hollywood rom-com pipeline yet just as shallow at heart. Writer-director Daryl Wein and co-writer and co-star Zoe Lister-Jones, a real-life couple themselves, manage some clever episodes in their year in the life of a New York woman newly dumped. While Gerwig is an earnest, often adorable mess as Lola, the people around her are just urban types: the supportive, sharp-tongued friend (Lister-Jones); the hunky fiance (Joel Kinnaman) who needs distance; the sensitive male best pal (Hamish Linklater) who's clearly in love with Lola. Wein and Lister-Jones weave this bunch into a romantic mush of self-absorption, a round robin in which everyone sleeps around with one another then whines over the complications that arise. Debra Winger and Bill Pullman have a few engaging moments as Lola's hippie-dippy parents. But Lola's friends are all so measured, so affected. The quips and rejoinders Lister-Jones and Wein write for them are too whip-smart for their own good, the filmmakers laboring for hip and loose but delivering something feigned and calculated. R for language, sexuality and drug use. 86 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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"Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" — Ben Stiller's Alex the lion provides a review so we don't have to. Halfway into the third animated tale about New York City zoo animals on their overseas adventures, Alex tells some new circus friends that their act was not too entertaining for families "because you were just going through the motions out there." So, too, for this latest sequel, which goes through a lot of motions — explosions of action and image so riotously paced that they become narcotic and numbing. With Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath, creators of the first two "Madagascar" flicks, joined by a third director in Conrad Vernon ("Shrek 2"), the filmmakers just cannot stop stuffing things, to the point of distraction, into "Europe's Most Wanted." The result: A cute story about zoo animals running off to join the circus becomes overwhelmed by a blur of color and animated acrobatics. The pictures certainly are pretty, but the filmmakers apparently are unwilling to risk the slightest lapse of audience attention, so they put the movie on fast-forward and let centripetal force hurtle viewers along from start to finish. Joining Stiller are returning voice stars Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer, Sacha Baron Cohen and Cedric the Entertainer, plus newcomers Frances McDormand, Bryan Cranston, Jessica Chastain and Martin Short. PG for some mild action and rude humor. 92 minutes. Two stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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"Peace, Love & Misunderstanding" — In theory, the idea of Jane Fonda, Catherine Keener and Elizabeth Olsen playing three generations of women in the same family should be delightful, or at least well-acted. In reality, veteran director Bruce Beresford's dramedy squanders the abilities of these usually fearless, formidable actresses with material that's entirely predictable and a high sap factor that belongs on cable television. Before we arrive at such mawkishness, though, we must slog through some seriously sitcommy humor: generational clashes, fish-out-of-water antics and tired hippie-culture cliches. Fonda brings her typically radiant screen presence to what could have been a wild, fun role: She plays Grace, a free-spirited grandma living in a ramshackle Woodstock, N.Y., farmhouse where she grows her own pot and gets frisky with the neighbors. Her uptight Manhattan lawyer daughter, Diane (Keener), naturally is the polar opposite. Somewhere in the middle in terms of temperament and interests is Diane's college-student daughter, Zoe (Olsen). When Diane's husband (a barely there Kyle MacLachlan) abruptly announces he's divorcing her at the film's start, she packs up Zoe and her teenage son, Jake (Nat Wolff), for a road trip upstate to visit granny, from whom she's been estranged for the past 20 years. Hijinks, highly convenient love interests and heavy symbolism are waiting for them there. R for drug content and some sexual references. 96 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Prometheus" — Nothing could possibly satisfy the fervent expectation that has built for this sorta-prequel to the genre-defining "Alien," Ridley Scott's return to science fiction for the first time in 30 years, but "Prometheus" comes close. Strikingly beautiful, expertly paced, vividly detailed and scary as hell, it holds you in its grip for its entirety and doesn't let go. You'll squeal, you'll squirm — at one point, I was curled up in a little ball in my seat in a packed screening room — and you'll probably continue feeling a lingering sense of anxiety afterward. That's how effective it is in its intensely suspenseful mood. But the further you get away from it, the more you may begin to notice some problems with the plot, both nagging holes and a narrative fuzziness. Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Logan Marshall-Green lead a crew of space explorers to a remote moon in the year 2093 hoping to find answers to the origin of mankind on Earth. (Don't they know they should have been looking in central Texas? That's where Terrence Malick searched in "The Tree of Life.") But when they arrive at this gorgeously severe land, they (naturally) stumble upon secrets and perils they never could have imagined. Scott and writers Damon Lindelof (executive producer of "Lost") and Jon Spaihts vaguely touch on the notions of belief vs. science and creation vs. Darwinism, but these philosophical debates never feel fleshed out fully. Still, the performances are excellent, especially from Michael Fassbender as a robot with the looks and impeccable manners of an adult but the innocence and dangerous curiosity of a child. R for sci-fi violence, including some intense images, and brief language. 123 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Safety Not Guaranteed" — In his feature directing debut, Colin Trevorrow manages the tricky feat of moving subtly and seamlessly among several different genres within a relatively short period of time. With a low-budget intimacy, his film begins life as an oddball road-trip comedy, then turns unexpectedly romantic before becoming a genuinely paranoid, sci-fi thriller. It also provides a welcome showcase for Aubrey Plaza in a rare leading role as Darius, a sullen intern at a Seattle magazine who becomes the reluctant participant in a pseudo-journalistic investigation. The clever premise from screenwriter Derek Connolly finds Darius and two of her co-workers — cynical reporter Jeff (Jake Johnson) and fellow intern Arnau (Karan Soni) — traveling to find the person who placed an intriguing classified ad. "Wanted: Someone to go back in time with me. This is not a joke," it reads in part. "Must bring your own weapons. Safety not guaranteed." They track down Kenneth (Mark Duplass), a loner grocery store clerk, in a small, coastal Washington town, then attempt to infiltrate his life to get to the bottom of this bizarre story. What's lovely is that while Kenneth is a misfit and more than a little out-there, the movie never makes fun of him. Well, the mullet and the jean jacket are played for kitschy laughs, but Duplass brings an earnestness and a sweetness that make the character surprisingly complex and compelling. R for language including some sexual references. 85 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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