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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In the 1990s and early 2000s, Melissa Joan Hart was the object of many a pre-teen boy's crush and practically every young girl's aspiration. From Clarissa's killer wardrobe and keen insight to Sabrina's cutie boyfriend and magical powers, Hart had — and could explain — it all.
But now it's 2013 and Hart is ready to leave her goody two-shoes image behind. "A lot of people still remember me as Clarissa and Sabrina," Hart says. "I do have my new show, [ABC Family's] Melissa and Joey, which is a fun adult comedy, but that's still having trouble getting as many eyes as shows like Sabrina [the Teenage Witch] did or having the cult following that Clarissa [Explains It All] did. So people a lot of times still think I'm on this kid show or still playing a safe child."
Hart wants to transition her more mature persona from television to the big screen with the romantic comedy Darci's Walk of Shame (the title itself hints at some PG-13 subject matter), a film for which she is seeking funding on Kickstarter. "This character is one of these flawed women who can't quite get it right, is trying to find love and be the person she should be, and she ends up one morning waking up after her sister's wedding in Thailand and realizing she made a mistake," she says. "I love playing these flawed women, and I get to do that on Melissa and Joey, but to be able to do that on the big screen in a big, broad comedy would be so exciting."
Hart was presented with the script by Tibor Takács, the director of the first Sabrina movie. Despite Hart's interest, they haven't been able to get the film off the ground. "We brought it around and tried all the traditional ways to get this movie made but it wasn't working out for us, we were having no luck," Hart says. "A lot of people shy away from romantic comedies unless it's got a big box office name at the front of it, and when Veronica Mars had great success on Kickstarter we thought that might be a good way to let the fans speak for themselves and sort of decide who they wanted at the helm of the movie."
But leaving things up to the fans isn't without its own set of stressors. "It's a risk. I'm asking other people to take a leap of faith and get involved and if we don't reach our goal it all goes away. So there's a very real possibility we might be in Thailand later this year shooting the movie, but there's also a very real possibility we won't," Hart says.
In Veronica Mars' Kickstarter campaign, Kristen Bell played to her show's cult following and our culture's general obsession with all things nostalgic. While Hart is correct that she has legions of dedicated fans — ones who, as Hart says, "Grew up with [her], that feel like [she's] a part of their family or a good friend, and they really protect [her]" — Darci's Walk of Shame is a whole new project entirely, with none of the built-in sentimentality.
Would Hart consider casting fellow Sabrina or Clarissa alums in Darci to appease her fan base? "I hadn't thought about that, necessarily," she says. "But I always try to go back to my friends before I find new people, for sure. I already talked to a friend of mine about playing the male lead role in it, depending on when this happens and if it happens."
Hart continues, "I'd love to work with Soleil [Moon Frye] or Elisa Donovan or some of those people. The hard thing with that, though, is it's not a Sabrina movie. So it's still hard to put Sabrina people into it and not have people go, 'You keep doing the same thing over and over again.'"
So, why not just do a Sabrina movie? Or a Clarissa one, at that? With not only the success of Veronica Mars but also other nostalgia-driven projects like Disney's Girl Meets World pilot and the CW's launch of The Carrie Diaries this year, the demand for the resurrection of old material has never been higher. But Hart simply isn't interested.
"That's tough for me. I do want to move forward. I want to play new characters, I've played those characters for so long, and they were kids," she says. "I think in theory it sounds great to say, 'Let's see how they grew up,' for a one-off episode or something. But I don't think you want to see those shows come back as Sabrina, the Middle-Aged Witch. I just don't think it'll be as appealing as people say."
"I think even the theory of like a high school reunion — it sounds great and then you go and everyone is old and fat," Hart says. "And you're like, I didn't like these people when I was in high school, why am I hanging out with them now? So I think in theory it sounds great, but when you do it it's just sad."
That being said, Hart doesn't fault others who are eager to bring back her beloved characters, including Clarissa creator Mitchell Kriegman, who has a new Clarissa-centric novel, titled Things I Can't Explain, in the works. "We did a pilot for CBS which never went, so [the book is] probably Mitchell's idea of what he would have done in that pilot, that he has been tossing around in his brain for so long that he just wanted to get it down on paper, I'd imagine," Hart says.
But for all her efforts to move forward in her work, Hart knows the reality is that she must also look back. Her memoir, Melissa Explains It All, is set for an October 22, 2013 release.
There are 32 days to go in Melissa Joan Hart's campaign. Fans can pledge over at the Darci's Walk Of Shame Kickstarter page.
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The former Sabrina, The Teenage Witch star and her husband Mark Wilkerson will welcome the third addition to their family this autumn (12) and Hart was joined by friends, including fellow actresses Soleil Moon Frye, Yvette Nicole Brown, Kellie Martin, and her Melissa and Joey TV co-star Taylor Spreitler, at The Little Door restaurant in Los Angeles last week to mark the occasion.
Guests granted her kind-hearted request and brought unwrapped presents for donation to Operation Shower, which provides gifts for parents-to-be in the U.S. military.
Hart tells People.com, "After two precious babies and a successful career, I didn't want people to spend money on me and the baby. We wanted to help out families that needed a hand and decided to donate baby goods to military families."
And Hart admits she can't wait to meet her new baby - because this time she and her husband have decided to keep the tot's sex a secret.
She tells People.com, "We always wanted the mystery the other two times around but the first time we gave into pressure from everyone and curiosity, and the second time our ultrasound technician gave it away before we had a chance to stop them.
"I'm anticipating meeting this baby more than the other two before. I can recognise every little movement this time and I'm already in love."
Hart and Wilkerson, who wed in 2003, are also parents to sons Mason, six, and Braydon, four.
Top Story: Van Der Beek Weds Actress McComb
James Van Der Beek, star of the WB show Dawson's Creek--which recently ended its six-year run--married actress Heather McComb (All the Real Girls) Saturday in Malibu, Calif., The Associated Press reports. McComb wore a Vera Wang gown, and the groom wore Armani, Van Der Beek's publicist, Cindy Guagenti, told AP Monday. The reception was held under a white organza tent. Guests included Van Der Beek's Dawson's Creek castmates Michelle Williams, Meredith Monroe, Busy Philipps, Hal Ozsan and Mary-Margaret Humes, along with fellow actors Soleil Moon Frye, Teri Polo and Eric Balfour.
Eminem Buys a House
Not just any old house. The bad boy rapper bought a 29-room, 15,000 square-foot mansion previously owned by former Kmart Corp. chairman Chuck Conaway, AP reports. Eminem paid nearly $4.8 million for the house, which sits on six acres near Rochester Hills, Mich.
McCord Runs for SAG Prez
Screen Actors Guild treasurer Kent McCord, best known for co-starring in the hit TV show Adam-12, has decided to run against current SAG president Melissa Gilbert, Variety reports. McCord has been one of the more vocal critics of Gilbert's presidency, including the recent merger proposal between SAG-AFTRA, which fell 2 percent short of approval last week. SAG board member Esai Morales has agreed to serve as McCord's running mate for the newly created post of secretary-treasurer, Variety reports.
Lee and Viacom Settle Dispute Over Name
Director Spike Lee has settled his legal dispute with Viacom, Inc., over the media giant's plans to rename its cable network TNN "Spike TV." According to Reuters, terms of the settlement were not disclosed, but Manhattan Supreme Court Judge Walter Tolub lifted an order that he had issued last month barring Viacom from using the "Spike" name. A source familiar with the situation told Reuters the lawsuit was being withdrawn and that TNN was proceeding with the name change.
Bachelorette Cashes in on Wedding
Reality television star Trista Rehn, aka The Bachelorette, and her fiancé Ryan Sutter will receive $1 million for the TV rights to their fall wedding, AP reports. The couple also had to give the ABC reality show's producers final say on everything from the bridal gown to the flowers, according to The Smoking Gun Web site, which posted the contract between the show's producers and Rehn and Sutter on Monday. ABC will air the two-hour wedding in the fall.
Princess Di Reincarnated as Comic Book Superhero
No, we are not kidding. Marvel Comics has apparently developed a new comic book that features the late Princess Diana as part of a team of super-powered mutants, Reuters reports. The five-part series, called Di Another Day, is part of Marvel's X-Statixa monthly comic series that takes a satirical look at fame and pop culture. The first of the Di comic books hits stands Sept. 10.
MSNBC Host Fired for Derogatory Remarks
Conservative cable news station MSNBC fired Michael Savage Monday from his job as the host of The Savage Nation after the controversial radio personality called a caller a "sodomite" and wished AIDS on him, Reuters reports. On Saturday's show, Savage railed against one caller, saying "Oh, you're one of the sodomites! You should only get AIDS and die, you pig!" An MSNBC representative was not immediately available for comment, but a source familiar with the matter confirmed to Reuters that the show had been canceled. MSNBC hired Savage in February to host a TV version of his popular talk radio show; despite protests from gay rights groups at the time, the show debuted in March.
Role Call: Ryder Eyes Embers, Claire
Winona Ryder has signed up to star with Sean Connery in Milos Forman's Embers, and is also attached to Robert Altman's The Widow Claire. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Embers is about two men (Connery and Klaus Maria Brandauer), once best friends, who meet 41 years later to discuss what drove them apart--a young woman (Ryder) who ended up marrying Connery's character but may have been having an affair with the other man. Claire is set against the backdrop of World War II; Ryder plays a young widow with two children who is caught between the affections of two men--a sweet young soldier about to go to war and the town's most sought-after playboy. Jake Gyllenhaal and Matthew McConaughey have met with Altman about the male roles.