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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For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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Last night, Taylor Lautner showed up to talk about two of the most passionate types of Twilight fans: Twi-Guys and the very dangerous Twi-Moms, recalling one very aggressive fan in particular. Lautner also discounted the rumors that he had been killed by a group of strippers.
Also on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Herman Cain paid a visit to discuss all of the big issues of his candidacy: the numerous sexual harassment charges against him, his methods of campaigning, personal history with drug use, and his "secret recipe" for pizza.
Adam Sandler appeared on Conan to talk about his new shirt (it's quite a passionate story), the regrettable power he has over his fans, still being unsure if Al Pacino is onboard with the movie Jack and Jill, and accidentally waking his daughter up with...bodily functions.
Finally, Anderson Cooper swung by Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to talk about developing "Anderson on Ice," hiding from paparazzi with Lady Gaga, and his surreal experience of going spray-tanning with Snooki.
Breakup hard for Stamos and Romijn
Actor John Stamos, whose five-year marriage to actress Rebecca Romijn-Stamos ended in April, told the syndicated TV entertainment show Access Hollywood in excerpts released Monday the breakup has been difficult for the both of them. "It's been really hard for us," Stamos said in an interview. "We talked yesterday and we were both crying on the phone. The publicity is terrible, and it just undermines the importance of our 10-year relationship." The couple met in 1994 at a Victoria's Secret fashion show and married in September 1998. "We're really good friends, and I adore her and she adores me," the 41-year-old Full House star said. "It's so weird because ... you are so crazy in love and all of a sudden weird things happen."
Combs, Hilton and Jay-Z host July 4th events in Bridgehampton
Rap mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, hotel heiress Paris Hilton and rapper Jay-Z will celebrate the Fourth of July holiday in Bridgehampton, NY, the AP reports. Sony PlayStation2 announced Monday each celebrity host an evening event at the PlayStation2 Estate on Long Island--a 12,500-square-foot mansion located on six acres in Bridgehampton. The weekend will begin with Hilton celebrating the launch of her new label, Heiress Records, Friday. Jay-Z, meanwhile, will debut the new S. Carter tennis shoe Saturday, followed on Sunday by Combs' annual White party, which will include a viewing of a copy of the Declaration of Independence.
Stalker writes letter of apology to Catherine Zeta-Jones
The woman arrested in Beverly Hills, Calif., last month and charged with stalking Catherine Zeta-Jones has sent the actress a letter of apology. The AP reports Dawnette Knight, who is in custody pending trial, describes herself in the letter as a confused young woman infatuated with the star's husband, actor Michael Douglas. Her lawyer, Richard Herman, told reporters Tuesday there was never any chance that Knight would harm Zeta-Jones, her two young children, or her husband. "The worst thing she has ever been accused of was killing her ex-boyfriend's goldfish and she says she's innocent of that," Herman said. Knight, who faces a preliminary hearing next month, could face anywhere from probation to 19 years jail if convicted.
Lohan new face of Dooney & Bourke
Lindsay Lohan's career is hot, hot, hot! After starring in a string of hit, including Freaky Friday, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen and Mean Girls, the actress has handpicked her next gig: the face of handbag designer Dooney & Bourke. The AP reports Lohan, who turns 18 this Friday, will lead Dooney & Bourke's national ad campaign for their upcoming new collections. The heart and charm handbag collections, made of waterproof canvas and trimmed in leather, will be available in August.
Being Julia opens Toronto film fest
The period drama Being Julia starring Annette Bening and Jeremy Irons, will open the 29th Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 9, The Associated Press reports. Directed by Istvan Szabo, the film is based on W. Somerset Maugham's novel Theatre, about a London stage star in the 1930s who grows bored with her success and stale marriage and finds new lust for life in a fling with a young American. The festival, which runs through Sept. 18, serves as a springboard for Hollywood's fall films and Academy Awards contenders.
Al Sharpton to host reality show I Hate My Job
Al Sharpton will host the new Spike TV reality show I Hate My Job, which guides people on career makeovers. On the show, Sharpton, an ordained Pentecostal minister, and California psychologist Stephanie Raye will give eight previously employed male contestants advice and weekly assignments. A panel will then decide which contestants advance to the next week. The move doesn't come as a surprise, considering Sharpton has been seeking out media jobs and has signed a deal with CNBC as a commentator his presidential campaign bid ended. I Hate My Job is set to premiere this fall.
Weekly prime-time TV ratings
Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie's The Simple Life 2, the high point of Fox's summer schedule, couldn't compete with reruns of old favorites and failed to make the Top 10. Here is a list of the week's ranking for the week of June 21-27, compiled by Nielsen Media Research: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS, 15.3 million viewers; Without a Trace, CBS, 12.6 million viewers; American Film Institute's 100 Years and 100 Songs, CBS, 12.3 million viewers; Law & Order, NBC, 11.9 million viewers; CSI: Miami, CBS, 11.8 million viewers; Two and a Half Men, CBS, 11.3 million viewers; Everybody Loves Raymond, CBS, 11.3 million viewers; 60 Minutes, CBS, 10.9 million viewers; Cold Case, CBS, 10.2 million viewers; and Law & Order, NBC, 10.1 million viewers.
If anything, it won't be a total and complete shutout for "Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas."
Or will it?
The Jim Carrey blockbuster is among the seven films being considered for this year's Visual Effects Oscar, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Wednesday.
Going up against the Grinch himself will be "Cast Away," "Dinosaur," "Gladiator," "Hollow Man," "The Perfect Storm" and "X-Men."
After the Visual Effects Award Nominating Committee have screened all the 15-minute clip reels from each of the seven films on Feb. 7, the group will nominate three of them for Oscar consideration, which will be announced with the rest of the nominees in the other 22 categories on Feb. 13 at 5:30 a.m. PT.
In other Oscar news:
The Academy today released the seven films in competition for the Sound Editing Oscar. They are "Cast Away," "Gladiator," "M:I-2," "The Perfect Storm," "Space Cowboys," "U-571" and "Unbreakable".
Ioann Allen, Mark Harrah and Robin Bransbury, the creators of the Trailer Audio Standards Associations' Trailer Loundness Standard, will be presented with an Award of Commendation by the Academy on March 3 at the Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation dinner.
Danette Herman will reprise her role as the executive in charge of talent for the 73rd Annual Academy Awards. She recently completed the 52nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards and the Kennedy Center Honors.
GOLDEN GLOBES PRESENTERS: The Hollywood Foreign Press Association announced Wednesday that recent Oscar winners Hilary Swank, Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington and Phil Collins and Jamie Lee Curtis, Peter Fonda, Patricia Heaton and Sarah Jessica Parker will join previously announced presenters Tom Cruise, Edie Falco and James Gandolfini at the 58th Annual Golden Globe Awards on Jan. 21 in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Two-time Oscar winner Kevin Spacey will present Al Pacino with this year's Cecil B. DeMille Award for his outstanding contribution to the entertainment field.
He's a movie star, Broadway actor and multiple Tony Award winner. Now you can add one more title to Matthew Broderick's resume -- television's "The Music Man." Daily Variety reports today that the "Inspector Gadget" guy will star in the TV version of the Tony-winning Broadway musical "The Music Man."
In the telepic, Broderick is slated to play Professor Harold Hill, a con man trying to unload band instruments in a small Iowa town but instead falls in love with the town librarian. According to Variety, Broderick's wife, "Sex and the City" star Sarah Jessica Parker, is being courted for the role of Marian the librarian.
Broderick won two Tony Awards for his roles in the revival of "How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" and the Neil Simon play "Brighton Beach Memoirs."
The three-hour "The Music Man" will air on ABC's "Wonderful World of Disney" some time next year.
ANNE AND 'ALLY': Anne Heche is switching sides again, but this time she's going from the silver screen to the boob tube. The Hollywood Reporter says that the actress has signed on to guest star in Fox's legal eagle dramedy "Ally McBeal." Heche, an Emmy winner during her days on the soap "Another World," will reportedly play a picky client in her three-episode deal. Her guest appearance will air during November sweeps.
'KISS ME,' DANNY: The Associated Press says that Danny Nucci ("Titanic," "Crimson Tide") has landed a starring role on a CBS comedy series. The show, called "Kiss Me, Guido," is about a guy (Nucci) who unknowingly ends up rooming with a gay man (Jason Bateman). The CBS series will debut in midseason, according to the report.
PEE-WEE'S BACK: Rejoice, Pee-Wee's back on TV! OK, not exactly, but it's close enough. Paul Reubens, the man who once brought to daytime kid TV the strange world of Pee-Wee Herman, will return to the tube as the host of ABC's long-delayed gameshow "You Don't Know Jack." In case you haven't heard, the show is based on a mega-popular CD-ROM game of the same name.
PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Set your VCR! AP tells us that PBS stations will turn over two and a half minutes of airtime for eight nights so that presidential candidates George W. Bush and Al Gore can deliver their campaign messages. The arrangement starts Wednesday after Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour".