Reel Critics: Zooless animals and horrors in outer space

"Madagascar 3" continues the Dreamworks' franchise with a full dose of sensory overload. The lovable animal refugees from the New York Zoo are still looking for a way back home. Their wild journey takes many frenetic turns through Europe with dizzying animated effects.

They join a low-brow traveling circus to escape a police pursuit. The ongoing hunt is eye popping and crazy enough to keep kids entertained most of the way.

There's a fair amount of snappy inside jokes for the adults. It also has a few talky lulls that won't amuse either age group. Don't worry; short attention spans are all that's needed for this madcap show.

The roller coaster chase scenes are the real center of the action. Frantic music provides the appropriate soundtrack. There's some serious cartoon slapstick with many hard face plants on rocks and concrete. The wild circus finale abandons all reality for a psychedelic explosion of motion and color. It's not profound, but it delivers the expected PG summer formula.


They still can't hear you scream

"Prometheus"has been touted as a prequel to director Ridley Scott's 1979"Alien," a ground-breaking, rib-shattering sci-fi classic. There is a definite connection in mood and stunning visuals, and possibly some alien DNA too.

The spaceship Prometheus arrives to explore a remote planet pinpointed by ancient cave dwellings on Earth as the possible source of human life (Darwinism be damned).

It carries a motley crew of 17, including an icy corporate executive (Charlize Theron), a pair of scientists (Noomi Rapace and Logan Marshall-Green), and an elegant droid (Michael Fassbender).

Apprehensions are on high alert as the team goes into a strange, cavernous pyramid. Spectacular effects notwithstanding, nothing makes your skin crawl as much as someone's finger reaching for some mysterious goo....

Tensions build slowly to some gruesome, cover-your-eyes moments that have the audience squirming.

Fassbender is terrific as David, an unflappable mind of a HAL9000 computer in the body of a Ken doll.

As with "Alien," we get a strong female heroine, Dr. Shaw (Noomi Rapace, the Swedish actress from the original "Dragon Tattoo" film trilogy). Her tiny stature belies an awesome will (and stomach) of iron.

When all's said and done, you wonder what exactly just happened, but that's what I liked about "Prometheus." Do I need to see this again? Yes. Will this all be explained in the inevitable sequel? Probably not.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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