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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
I joked earlier in the season that Season 3 of Downton Abbey should have been called One and a Half Weddings and a Funeral but maybe it should have been called One and a Half Weddings and Two Funerals because now Matthew is dead. Yes, he suffered from a severe case of David Caruso-itis, which manifests itself as an insane ambition that leads a character to self-immoalte so he can attempt an inevitably unsuccessful movie career. It's such a sad and tragic illness.
But elsewhere there was a child born, a trip to Scotland, a lot of rather fruitless hunting (because Thomas wasn't invited, ZING!), and a day at the fair. All in all, a nice wrap up to this season. So, Brits, when can we expect the next installment?
Scotland: When I first realized that we'd all be going up north to Duneagle Castle in the season finale, I felt a little ripped off. This show isn't called Duneagel Castle, it's called Downton Abbey and I don't really care to learn about a whole different house, its lords, and its servants. But after our double-sized episode (which aired as the Christmas special in England, even though it was set in the summer) I was totally charmed. Not only did we have the glorious castles and all the spectacular shots of the scenery, but we also got to see a man named Shrimpy who wears kilts and our beloved Cousin Rose who was so much trouble at Downton and in London in the last episode. Then there was the theme music that was different but sounded wonderful, so that's an improvment. OK, maybe the highlands aren't so bad after all (Maybe there's a Duneagle spin-off in the future. Maybe we can call it Not's Landing.) The one thing I hated was when Mr. Bates said that the Grantham's hadn't been in a few years because of the war and Sybil's death, but they were going this year and Bates said it's the highlight of the Lord's summer. How does he know? He's never even been! He's only been at the house since just before the war. What a liar.
Edna, the Slutty House Maid: I'm sorry, but I love sluts and the only thing I love more than sluts are uppity sluts and that is why I have a huge passion for Edna, a slut of the first order with the worst accent this side of a Bostonian with a stutter. Edna comes onto the scene and out of the blue sets her sights on the one bachelor she thinks she can score with, Mr. Branson. I can't say I blame her because, as a fellow slut, I also have a weakness for the way he stretches out an undershirt. But how did she think this would end? Did she think that he would really marry her and get her out of the servants quarters for good? Didn't she realize she would be out on her duff faster than she could wash out her new man's mourning clothes? It was a good try though, Edna. Maybe should have made out with him a bit more before getting kicked out.
The Name Game: The most amusing part of the servants from Downton eating with the servants from Duneagle was the huge conversation they had about what to call each other. It's the custom, in a visiting house, to be called by the last name of the lord or lady that the servant is there serving (I guess it just makes things a lot easier than having to learn a bunch of stupid names). However it quickly devolves into a critique of how things are unconventional at Downton, like Anna isn't called Bates because there is already a Bates and she's been a house maid so they just call her Anna like always. It is a clever way to point out that, yes, Downton isn't really historically accurate, though it's a whole lot more fun.
Isobel and Violet's Feud: No matter how many miles separate them they still find a way to insult each other. When Violet is up north with her homely, mean, and screw-faced niece Susan, Isobel is back home dissing her to Branson. "I'm sure she doesn't like the working classes to read," Isobel scoffs about Violet's lack of progressive views. Still, I must say between getting Sybil to Downton for Mary's wedding, supporting Edith's new job, getting Ethel a post where everyone doesn't know she's a whore, getting Branson a job on the estate, and showing Rose some leniency because she's so young, our Dowager is too hip to be square.
RELATED: 'Downton Abbey' Recap: Matthew and Mary Are Expecting Good News
Everyone Knows Mary Is a Monster: Let's forget that Cora tells us that Lady Susan never liked Mary and that Edith knows that she is going to be mean about her new relationship with her editor Michael (and, honestly, Mary is unrelentingly cruel to poor Edith who had just been left at the altar a little more than a year ago). Even still both Mary and Matthew know that no one likes Mary. She knows that she's petty, cruel, and jealous with Edith and most people think that she's cold and heartless. Well, she is! What does Matthew see in her anyway? God, she's such a monster.
Hats: From Edith's orange headband to Violet's magical millinery to the deerstalkers (also known as "Sherlock Holmes hats") the men all wear hunting to this thing that Rose is wearing on her head, everyone was donning such wonderful chapeaux. No one does a headpiece like the British.
NEXT: Thomas and Jimmy Make Nice...
Thomas and Jimmy Make Nice: Wasn't it sweet that Thomas and Jimmy have become friends? Well, I don't really believe this plot line. It was just a year ago that Thomas tried to kiss rape Jimmy in his sleep and, even as Thomas is trying to make friends, he confesses that he was following Jimmy around the fair grounds like a gross stalker (maybe trying to catch a bit of drunk nookie with his intended?). But, yeah, I guess we'll just have to accept that they're peas in a pod now. And, boy, isn't it nice that all Thomas had to do to get Jimmy to trust him and be his friend is get the shit beat out of him? And all for a man who was going to ruin his life because he doesn't like the gays? Isn't that so nice? Man, this sounds more like something I hate.
Carson and Little Sybil: Wasn't it so cute when Carson came in and was holding little baby Sybil, bouncing her up and down, and cradling her the same way Courtney Love cradles a bottle of Maker's Mark at a party? Yes, it was cute. But it brings up another problem that I sort of love: Sybill really has no nanny. Well, she does. There is some woman named "Nanny," (which would be hilarious if there was a governess with the name "Nanny" but I think they just call her "Nanny" like Kathleen Turner calls her cat "Kitty Kitty" in The War of the Roses) who is the baby's actual nanny. Nanny is never around. We hear about her, but we never see her.
We know Ivy and Edna ,the slutty new house maid who was around for just one episode, but they still haven't seen who has been cast as one of the more important servants in the house? What, are they hoping to land someone famous and British like Baby Spice or Judi Dench or something and they don't want to show her face until a famous actress signs on the dotted line? Or maybe she'll be like Norm's wife Vera on Cheers – some crazy woman we always hear about but never see.
Shirtless Branson: Finally! And it was everything we hoped for.
O'Brien Meets Her Match: Sure Wilkinson may have a face like a deflated basketball, but I love that someone finally tried to out-bitch O'Brien. O'Brien and Thomas – whether they are getting along or at each others throats – are great foils, but seeing her just go after someone and totally try to destroy her was giving us everything we really want from this horn-headed demon from below the stairs.
Still, the storyline was underused and a little bit unresolved. We have no clue why Susan was so mean to her maid (unless it was just because she was sort of awful to everyone) and we have no idea how or why O'Brien would try to ruin her. What would she get out of the deal but satisfaction? And what happened to Wilkinson after O'Brien was whispering to her mistress? Our O'Brien is awful, but usually she only uses her manipulations to get something that she wants, not to be cruel out of spite.
RELATED: 'Downton Abbey' Recap: Everyone Is in Mourning
Rose Is Coming!: Oh, goodness me, we're going to get young Rose at Downton full time next season. Oh what delightful story lines she'll bring but doesn't this show need a few more men in its numbers? With Matthew biting the dust the only male upstairs that we're left with is Lord Grantham. Maybe Rose needs a brother? Or a cousin? Something!
Lord Grantham Finally Comes Around: Yes, it only took an entire season of him being wrong and ridiculed by just about every member of his family, but one trip to Scotland and he's realized that Matthew is right about taking Downton in a new direction and everyone was right for supporting him. Well, better late than never, I guess. But who is going to be the villain for next year? Maybe it can be Mr. Carson? He seems to be the only real conservative left.
Violet's Quip of the Week: "It's bad enough parenting a child when you like each other."
A Year Later: The only thing I hate more than seeing "A Year Later" just after the opening credits of something is seeing "Guest Starring Jessica Biel." No one wants to see Mrs. Timberlake in anything and no one wants to see Downton continue to jump around like Amanda Bynes after one too many Sugar-Free Red Bull and vodkas.
I know, I know, they had to go ahead a year so that Mary could have her baby and Matthew could die after holding it in his arms one time, but really, were there no moments in that year that were worth noting? It's like nothing at all happens at Downton for months or years at a time and then in the course of three days there is a baby born, a man dies, a young cousin comes to live with them, everyone goes to a fair, Thomas gets beat up, Jimmy forgives him, Mrs. Pattmore is in and out of love, there's a new housemaid who tries to sleep with Branson and gets fired, and something ridiculous having to do with Daisy. All of that happens in a week, but nothing, nothing at all happened in the year before? Please.
NEXT: The Episode's Big Death...
We All Knew He Was Going to Die: Thanks to the insane amount of time we had to wait before PBS aired this episode and the proliferation of social media and people watching the show in England Tweeting about it, we all knew Matthew was going to die at the end. We all knew it. Even if you somehow avoided all the direct spoilers, you still knew that someone huge was going to bite it and that it would be Matthew and that colored how you watched the entire episode. That's sad.
As it unspooled in merry old England, the end must have come as an "Oh no they didn't!" moment that you just don't believe, like when Ned Stark got his head cut off (spoiler alert!) in Season 1 of Game of Thrones. But we didn't get that. No, we were just waiting for the inevitable and, while it was good, it just didn't have the same impact. It's like going to see Psycho now knowing about the iconic shower scene where the heroine dies. If you had seen that when the movie was released, it would have been revolutionary to see a movie where what appeared to be the heroine died after 30 minutes, but now the impact is dulled. Sad, but true.
Bagpipes: The cliche is true. We all hate them.
Pairing Up: I do not like this inclination to find the show's next power couple by trying to put every single person in the cast with every other single person. Isobel and Dr. Clarkson deserve each other (they are both awful and insufferable) but I'm glad their union didn't work. The same for Mrs. Pattmore, who shouldn't have to settle for a fat, old, ugly grocer who wants to flirt with all the ladies. Thank God she didn't want him anyway. There is a slow burn where Carson and Mrs. Hughes are being pushed together and I don't like it one bit. Can't they be equals and friends who respect and support each other without falling into bed together? Please!
The Boring Bateses: Speaking of power couples, how awful are the Bateses? We wanted them to get together so bad and then when they finally did it has fizzled out faster than Sam and Diane (yes, that is two Cheers references in one recap). We had that whole awful tedium of Bates being in jail and now they're going on picnics and Anna is dancing and the whole thing is just so damn boring. Maybe it's time to ship these two off to America to earn their fortune and we can get some new characters who actually, you know, do something.
Our Poor Lady Edith: She can never be happy, our Edith, can she? Now she's in love with Michael, her editor, even though he is stuck married to a crazy lady. I love that Edith is going to have a "modern entanglement" with him and that she finally has someone to love who loves her back (though I did love Matthew's line, "We're not in a novel by Walter Scott!") but can't it ever be easy? Can't she just have someone who is actually available? Her father is never going to like this, but if it was too easy there wouldn't be much drama in this show, would there. Maybe the one upside of Matthew dying is that no one will know that her man is married to another, since he seems to be the only one that Michael told. But does Mary know the secret? And what will she do with it. Oh, she's totally going to ruin everything!
RELATED: 'Downton Abbey' Recap: Shocking Death Shocks Everyone with Deadly Shocks and Death
Daisy: How come the only person to win a prize at the fair is stupid Daisy! Why is she even around anymore other than to whine and be bad at her job? And wasn't she supposed to escape to a farm so we'd never have to look at her ever again? God, Daisy, go away!
Moseley: God, the only person I hate more than Daisy is stupid Mosely. Why not pair these two up and have them sail the Lucetania on their honeymoon or something?
There's Never Any Fun: There is one odd fact about Downton and that is no one can have a child without one of the parents dying (not only Sybill and Matthew, but the father of Ethel's son died too). But there is another odd fact: no one can have any fun without tragedy striking. The entire staff (minus Mr. Carson) gets the day off to go to the fair and Thomas gets the crap beat out of him and everyone has to go home early. The whole Grantham clan goes up north for a vacation and Mary goes home early to have her baby prematurely and then Matthew dies in a car crash. Can't these people even have a moment's peace?
Mrs. Hughes Making Us Cry: Why is Mrs. Hughes the sweetest and most noble character on the whole damn show? How does she turn a speech where she informs Branson that she has to fire Edna the slutty house maid, into a speech where she not only makes Branson cry but makes everyone watching at home well up too? Why does she have to let him know how great he is and how Sybill will miss him and how he's an inspiration for her daughter? Why does she make us all blubber and look like the bad example of runny mascara in a Maybelline ad? Why? Why?!
A Son: Really? Mary has a son? How predictable. Now of course I was saying that the show needs more men (wait until they do "16 years later" so we can see him all grown up) but wouldn't it have been more interesting if Mary had a daughter. Then who would be the heir to Downton? Maybe Edith would have to have a son to save the whole thing? This whole series started on the drama of who would inherit the house and that is not only a question for the family but, if you enlarge it, a question about who in England will inherit the burden of these houses. That is still a question worth asking and it might be more interesting if there were a few more daughters in the mix.
Mary Never Looks Bad: Why can't Mary, who is an absolute monster on the inside, ever look bad? She gives birth to this baby, prematurely, and the next you see her she is sitting in the hospital in a spotless white robe with her hair fixed so neatly, her complexion milky smooth, and her halo just in place. Meanwhile, Sybill gave birth and she looked like that little girl from The Ring after she woke up from a bad hangover. Edith gets jilted at the altar and renders her gowns asunder and messes up her air so she looks like a bald Britney Spears beating a paparazzi truck with her umbrella. But Mary, no, god forbid that she not look picture perfect for even one second. I'm sick of it! I'm sick of it all. If she's not all red-faced and blubbering in her mourning clothes at the beginning of next season, I'm quitting this series for good.
[Photo Credits: PBS (5)]
Kate Upton Bares All in Nothing But Body Paint: Video (Celebuzz)
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.