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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To most of us, Saturday mornings mean sleeping in and cartoons; but not to presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. The ex-governor used his weekend to work, announcing his vice president pick: Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan. A quick Facebook search on the name turns up hundreds of hits. So what do we really know about this guy? Here are 10 things you probably didn't know about the guy with the common name.
1. He has a sense of humor. Alert the media! While campaigning with Romney earlier this year, Ryan helped play an April Fool's Day joke on the presidential hopeful. Romney showed up to an event where he was supposed to be speaking to a crowded room, only to find the ballroom completely empty.
2. Politics can be very dog eat dog, but that's okay; Ryan is used to it. Romney's running mate used to drive the Wienermobile. Yep, the very same orange and yellow hot dog on wheels that sells Oscar Meyer meat products from a side window.
3. He is 42-years-old — the same age as Romney's oldest son, Tagg. Think it's okay for him to call him Dad?
4. He enjoys long walks on the beach, his favorite color is clear, and one of his hobbies is bow hunting. (Okay, we're kidding about the long walks on the beach and the color clear.) But the outdoorsman — and avid fly fisherman — does enjoy channeling his inner Katniss from time-to-time. His hunting weapon of choice? A bow and arrow.
5. He cites Ayn Rand's best-selling books as some of his favorite reads. We're sure it has nothing to do with the fact that the first four letters of the author's name are the same letters found in his last name.
6. A fan of the military style workouts, P90X, Ryan admits he tries to be very careful about what he eats. His father, grandfather, and great-grandfather all died of heart attacks at the ages 55, 57, and 59 respectively.
7. In high school the Prom King wasn't voted "Most Likely to Succeed," but he was voted something equally important for surviving on the campaign trail: "Biggest Brown-Noser."
8. He is married to tax attorney Janna Little to whom he has three kids: Elizabeth Anne, Charles Wilson, and Samuel Lowery. The family of five live in Janesville, WI.
9. He tweets. You can find him under @RepPaulRyan.
10. He has an eclectic taste in music. On his iPod you'll see everything from Beethoven to Led Zeppelin.
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