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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Actress Sami Gayle struggles with dinner scenes in TV cop drama Blue Bloods - because she's a strict vegetarian. Family get togethers are commonplace on the show and the Vampire Academy star admits she has had to come up with clever ways to hide the fact she doesn't eat meat.
She tells WENN, "We love to eat on Blue Bloods! Our dinner scenes are iconic moments of every episode and we commit to eating on the show. But after seven hours of filming those scenes it gets to be a lot.
"I can't eat red meat, so whenever there is steak or anything I refrain and have to eat a lot of potatoes or green beans. It can get a bit gassy."
But whatever she doesn't eat on set, co-star Donnie Wahlberg gobbles up. She adds, "He is the big eater of all of us and he'll eat anything."
Blue Bloods star Sami Gayle had a close call with New Jersey police last year (13) after accidentally leaving a packet of fake drugs in her coat pocket after a day of filming the crime drama. The teen actress reveals she had worn her own jacket to shoot scenes for the hit TV series, in which she plays Nicky Reagan-Boyle, the niece of Donnie Wahlberg's detective character, Danny Reagan, but she forgot to take out the prop powder when she finished work - and it fell out at the most inopportune time.
She explains, "I was shooting an episode a few months before Thanksgiving... we were driving through New Jersey to visit my grandmother and we were in a car accident, somebody rear-ended us, and when the police came, they saw me and they were like, 'Oh, we love your show, can we get a picture?'. I got out of the car and took pictures and the policemen had a squad car and I was like, 'You know, it's so funny, I'm in a police show but I've never been in a squad car and taken pictures, so can I do that?' And they said, 'Absolutely.'
"I had been wearing my coat on set that day, we had been filming with the fake heroin packets, so I went to pull my phone out of my coat and out falls the fake bogeyman packets! But I had the name of the script on my phone and we sort of made nice on the situation by showing them that, but it was definitely very frightening!"
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Vampire 101: Class is in Session
If you can't catch Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Sami Gayle and Dominic Sherwood from Vampire Academy at their Comic Con panel in New York on October 11 at 11AM ET, fear not: MTV will be featuring interviews and set visits online. Unless you've been locked in a coffin, you already know the movie version of Richelle Mead's Vampire Academy is slated to open on Valentine's Day, 2014. The tale follows vampire/human hybrid Rose Hathaway and her classmates through the intricacies of Romanian vamp escoterica. It's like Buffy, but way more sophisticated. It is, after all, a boarding school.
For Vampires with Taste
If you're on the West Coast, why not duck out for a romantic evening at The Vampire Lounge and Tasting Room? There are some whites —for you wimps — but the reds are worth sharpening your teeth for. You will definitely make an impression on your date.
Three's the Charm
But if you're stuck any place in between, Encore has scheduled a mini vamp triple-header on Saturday Oct. 12: Van Helsing airs at 5:45 PM ET, Blade at 8 PM ET, and the crown jewel in that franchise, Blade: Trinity, airs at at 10 PM ET. Van Helsing is fine to watch while you're making dinner, but the coolest is definitely the last one. It's funny, imaginative and sick, and has something compelling the other two don't: Ryan Reynolds hotness.