Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Here's a feat: taking what is likely the oldest, most well-known story in the world, and making a retelling feel inventive. Over the course of its two-and-a-half-hour runtime, Darren Aronofsky's Noah takes many forms — Tolkien-esque fantasy, trippy psychological thriller, merciless dissection of the dark points of abject faith — never feeling too rigidly confined to the parameters of the familiar tale that we've all experienced in the form of bedtime stories, religious education lessons, and vegetable-laden cartoons. As many forms as the parable has taken over the past few thousand years, Aronofsky manages to find a few new takes.
The director's thumbprint is branded boldly on Russell Crowe's Noah, a man who begins his journey as a simple pawn of God and evolves into a dimensional human as tortured as Natalie Portman's ballerina or Jared Leto's smack head. Noah's obsession and crisis: his faith. The peak of the righteous descendant of Seth (that's Adam and Eve's third son — the one who didn't die or bash his brother's head in with a rock), Noah is determined to carry out the heavenly mission imparted upon him via ambiguous, psychedelic visions. God wants him to do something — spoilers: build an ark — and he will do it. No matter what.
No matter what it means to his family, to his lineage, to his fellow man, to the world. He's going to do it. No matter what. The depths to which Aronofsky explores this simple concept — the nature of unmitigated devotion — makes what we all knew as a simplistic A-to-B children's story so gripping. While the throughline is not a far cry from the themes explored in his previous works, the application of his Requiem for a Dream, The Wrestler, and Black Swan ideas in this movie does not feel like a rehashing. Experiencing such modern, humane ideas in biblical epic is, in fact, a thrill-ride.
Paramount Pictures via Everett Collection
Although Aronofsky accesses some highly guttural stuff inside of his title character, he lets whimsy and imagination take hold of the world outside of him. Jumping headfirst into the fantastical, the director lines his magical realm with rock monsters — "Watcher" angels encased in Earth-anchored prisons as punishment for their betrayal of God — and a variety of fauna that range in innovation from your traditional white dove to some kind of horned, scaled dog bastardization.
But the most winning elements of Noah, and easily the most surprising, come when Aronofsky goes cosmic. He jumps beyond the literal to send us coursing through eons to watch the creation of God's universe, matter exploding from oblivion, a line of creatures evolving (in earnest) into one another as the planet progresses to the point at which we meet our tortured seafarer. Aronofsky's imagination, his aptitude as a cinematic magician, peak (not just in terms of the film, but in terms of his career) in these scenes.
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With all this propped against the stark humanity of his story — not just in terms of Crowe's existential spiral, but in character beats like grandfather Methuselah's relationship with the youngsters, in little Ham's playful teasing of his new rock monster pet — Aronofsky manages something we never could have anticipated from Noah. It's scientific, cathartic, humane. Impressively, this age-old tale, here, is new. And beyond that feat, it's a pretty winning spin.
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Much like the somber melodies that float throughout its 105-minute runtime, Inside Llewyn Davis will remain lodged in your head weeks after you and the film first meet. With Oscar Isaac's "Fare thee we-e-ell..." ringing daintily in your ears, you'll shuffle out from the grasp of the Coen Brothers' wonderland of gray, but you won't soon be able to relieve yourself of what is arguable the pair's best film yet. Llewyn's is a story so outstandingly simple — he's a man who's s**t out of luck, and not especially deserving of any. He wakes up, loses his friend's cat, plays some music, and wishes things were better. And yet his is the Coens' most invigorating and deftly human tale yet.
Llewyn Davis makes the bold, but practical, choice of never insisting that we love its hero. He's effectively a jackass, justifying all the waste he has incurred with the rudeness he showers on the majority of those in his acquaintance. But Llewyn Davis isn't the villain here, either. The villain is the industry, and all the uphill battles inherent to its machinations. The villain isn't Llewyn's substantially more successful contacts — an old pal Jim (Justin Timberlake) and new fellow couch-surfer Troy (Stark Sands), but the listening public that prefers their saccharine pop to his dreary drips of misery. The villain isn't Llewyn's resentful old flame Jean (Carey Mulligan), no matter how many volatile admonitions she might shoot his way, but the act of God surrounding their unwitting adherence to one another. And it's not even the cantankerous and foul Roland Turner (a delightfully hammy John Goodman), but the endless, frigid open road of which each man is a prisoner (if the film has one flaw, it's that this segment carries on just a bit too long, but that might very well be the point). The villain is the cold.
Call it all a raw deal. But the real dynamism isn't in the challenges that happen outside Llewyn Davis, but in the determined toxicity brewing inside as he meets each and every one.
But this isn't the Coen Brothers' Murphy's Law comedy A Serious Man — we don't watch a chaotic pileup of every imaginable trick that the devil can manage to pull. Llewyn is steady throughout, not burying Llewyn deeper but keeping him on the ground, with the fruit-bearing branches forever out of his reach. In its narrative, Llewyn Davis is as close to natural life as any of the filmmakers' works to date. Perfectly exhibited in a late scene involving a trip to Akron, Llewyn isn't a cinematic construct, but the sort of person we know, so painfully, that we are very likely to be... on our bad days.
Still, working in such a terrific harmony with the grounded feel of Llewyn himself, we have that Coen whimsy in their delivery of 1960s New York City — rather, a magic kingdom painted in the stellar form of a 1960s New York City. And not the New York City we're given by the likes of Martin Scorsese or Woody Allen. Closer, maybe, to Spike Lee or Sydney Lumet, but still a terrain unique to moviegoers. A New York that's always recovering from a hostile rain, and always promising another 'round the bend. One that flickers like a dying bulb, with its million odd beleaguered moths buzzing around it against the pull of logic. There is something so incredibly alive about the Coens' crying city; this hazy dream world's partnership with half-dead, anchored-to-earth portrait like Llewyn is the product of such sophisticated imagination at play.
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And to cap this review of one of the best features 2013 has given us, it's only appropriate to return to the element in which its identity is really cemented: the music. Without the tunes bobbing through the story, we'd still likely find something terrific in Llewyn Davis. But the music, as beautiful as it is, is the reason for the story. As we watch Isaac's hopeless sad sack drag himself through Manhattan's winter, past the helping hands of friends and into the grimaces of strangers, as we struggle with our own handfuls of nihilistic skepticism that any of this yarn is worth the agony (or that our attention to its meandering nature is worth the price of a ticket), we are given the rare treat of an answer. Of course it's all for something. Of course it's all about something. It's about that beautiful, beautiful music.
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At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
Very little is known about director Sam Mendes's untitled 23rd Bond, but the caliber of the cast lining up alongside the already-confirmed Daniel Craig as Bond and Judi Dench as M is almost enough to make us forget about the disappointment that was 2008's Quantum of Solace.
Last Monday we reported that No Country For Old Men star Javier Bardem could be accepting an adversarial role in the upcoming Bond, pending delivery of the final script. But according to UK tabloid The Daily Mail, Bardem wouldn't be Bond's only nemesis: perennial villain Ralph Fiennes (Voldemort in the Harry Potter series) is also in discussions with producers and director Sam Mendes to play one of 007's arch-antagonists.
Apparently Fiennes was unenthusiastic about taking part in the "usual run-of-the-mill action picture," but was intrigued by Mendes' description of the character's "darkly complex" role. The talented British thesp is being courted because, say insiders close to the production, "the part is one of extreme complexity and only an actor of great ability and dexterity can take it on."
"It's the first of a new generation of Bond films, and the ideas Mendes has push the film into darker territory where the characters are modern, mature and challenging."
Kevin Spacey was previously approached for the same role, but was already committed to playing Richard III, which Mendes is also directing at the Old Vic in London. Now Fiennes' name is at the top of the Bond producers' list.
Of course, neither Feinnes nor Bardem have confirmed their involvement, with both likely waiting to see the screenwriting team's (vets Neal Purvis and Robert Wade, with Gladiator‘s John Logan) final product before signing on. Still, the mere possibility of such a high-caliber cast is building advance buzz about the plot of Bond 23 and driving speculation as to what tricks Mendes has up his sleeve for 007's latest adventure.
Source: Daily Mail
The twins' 21-year-old sibling is making a name for herself in Hollywood, following her debut in Martha Marcy May Marlene, but she is refusing to sacrifice university for her burgeoning film career.
Olsen, who is studying psychology at New York University, will put her education on hold to shoot director Rodrigo Cortes' upcoming thriller with De Niro, Sigourney Weaver and Cillian Murphy, but she's adamant her classes will always come first.
She tells the Hollywood Reporter, "Robert plays a world renowned psychic and Sigourney is a psychology professor, and I play her student. Cillian Murphy is my love interest, though that's not a huge part of the story.
"I'm so lucky that school is always there for me when I take these little breaks. But my education is always a priority."
Well, well, well. It looks like there actually might be a modicum of talent in the Olsen gene after all. The twins' mostly unknown younger sister Elizabeth has become a breakout star at this years Sundance Film Festival with her starring role in Martha Marcy May Marlene, and though the drama hasn’t yet been picked up for distribution, the positive vibes the film has garnered are sure to draw a buyer.
But Olsen isn't letting success slow her down. She has been cast in Red Lights, the follow up from Buried director Rodrigo Cortes. As we have reported previously, Red Lights follows Robert De Niro as a psychic who is being interviewed and questioned by Sigourney Weaver, a psychology professor. Olsen will play Weaver’s student and love interest to Cillian Murphy. The film is a psychological thriller with elements of paranormal activity.
Good for Olsen. I’m not saying her older sisters' success is undeserved, because after all they worked throughout their entire childhood, but it is always nice to see actual talent rise to the top. Hopefully it’ll stick around.
Source: The Hollywood Reporter
Welcome to the Cillian Murphy guide to picking roles! Is Christopher Nolan directing? If yes: accept role! If not, ask "does the title have the word 'red' in it"? If so: accept role! Umm, is the title Disco Pigs? If so: accept role! Ok, so the guide only works for like six of his films, but it did make a great intro for this story!
Murphy has joined the film Red Lights from Buried director Rodrigo Cortes. The film also has Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver starring, which we previously reported. Weaver plays a psychologist who begins to investigate a psychic (De Niro) and then things start to get paranormal.
Anyway, round of applause, pat on the back, and a hearty good job to Murphy. It's not that easy to play creepy (trust me, I would know, wait, no, don’t trust me, wait, that was creepy which totally proves my first point and wow this got out of hand) and Murphy does it with relative ease. That was a very backwards way of saying he’s a very talented actor and is well deserving of all the new projects he's got in queue, including the psychological thriller Retreat and Andrew Niccol's previously titled I'm.Mortal (now retitled Now - that's a weird read itself).
De Niro will join Sigourney Weaver in the line-up for psychological thriller Red Lights, directed by Buried filmmaker Rodrigo Cortes.
Weaver will play a physiologist whose study of the paranormal leads them to investigate De Niro's character.
The film is set to begin shooting in February (11) with locations planned for the U.S., Canada and Cortes' native Spain, reports Daily Variety.
Rodrigo Cortes directed the Ryan Reynolds' contained thriller Buried, that took place entirely in a coffin in which Reynolds found himself buried alive. Interesting premise for a movie. Cortes’ next film will be Red Lights which currently has Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver attached to star. The film deals with a psychologist, Weaver, who studies paranormal activities that eventually leads her to a psychic, De Niro.
That’s it. That’s all you needed to know about this development. A bit of cute writing and clever word play would not have helped you enjoy that bit of news any more, would it? And yet, the writers at Variety thought it would be clever to throw in a few terrible puns like “De Niro, Weaver dig 'Buried' director” or “"Lights" turns on...” To make matters even worse, they use the word “skedded” when they meant to say “scheduled.” Come on, Variety writers. It’s bad enough that I can’t read your articles without you forcing me to pay for them. But if you want me to pay for terrible writing like that, no thanks. I know I’m not the world’s greatest writer out there but I don’t pretend to think people should pay for this stuff. But if you really get what you pay for and I have to pay for horrible puns like that? No thanks. I’ll take my free dick jokes any day of the week.
With that being said, I still wouldn’t mind being buried in Weaver’s box, if you know what I mean.
Chris Evans has finally been selected to don the star-spangled superhero suit for Captain America.
After weeks of reports flying back and forth as to potential candidates, Marvel made an offer that Evans accepted last week. The deal, reports Variety, calls for the actor to star in at least three Captain America movies.
The First Avenger: Captain America is set to open on July 22, 2011. Paramount will distribute.
Evans would also reprise the role in The Avengers, which will unite Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and the Incredible Hulk (Edward Norton) in one pic, notes Variety. That film is set for May 4, 2012.
Joe Johnston will direct Captain America from a script by Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely.
Kevin Feige will produce for Marvel, Stephen Broussard serving as co-producer. David Maisel, Stratton Leopold, Louis D'Esposito and Stan Lee will exec produce.
Deadline.com originally reported on the Evans offer from Marvel on Friday.