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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Lions Gate via Everett Collection
When we last left our heroes, they had conquered all opponents in the 74th Annual Hunger Games, returned home to their newly refurbished living quarters in District 12, and fallen haplessly to the cannibalism of PTSD. And now we're back! Hitching our wagons once again to laconic Katniss Everdeen and her sweet-natured, just-for-the-camera boyfriend Peeta Mellark as they gear up for a second go at the Capitol's killing fields.
But hold your horses — there's a good hour and a half before we step back into the arena. However, the time spent with Katniss and Peeta before the announcement that they'll be competing again for the ceremonial Quarter Quell does not drag. In fact, it's got some of the film franchise's most interesting commentary about celebrity, reality television, and the media so far, well outweighing the merit of The Hunger Games' satire on the subject matter by having Katniss struggle with her responsibilities as Panem's idol. Does she abide by the command of status quo, delighting in the public's applause for her and keeping them complacently saturated with her smiles and curtsies? Or does Katniss hold three fingers high in opposition to the machine into which she has been thrown? It's a quarrel that the real Jennifer Lawrence would handle with a castigation of the media and a joke about sandwiches, or something... but her stakes are, admittedly, much lower. Harvey Weinstein isn't threatening to kill her secret boyfriend.
Through this chapter, Katniss also grapples with a more personal warfare: her devotion to Gale (despite her inability to commit to the idea of love) and her family, her complicated, moralistic affection for Peeta, her remorse over losing Rue, and her agonizing desire to flee the eye of the public and the Capitol. Oftentimes, Katniss' depression and guilty conscience transcends the bounds of sappy. Her soap opera scenes with a soot-covered Gale really push the limits, saved if only by the undeniable grace and charisma of star Lawrence at every step along the way of this film. So it's sappy, but never too sappy.
In fact, Catching Fire is a masterpiece of pushing limits as far as they'll extend before the point of diminishing returns. Director Francis Lawrence maintains an ambiance that lends to emotional investment but never imposes too much realism as to drip into territories of grit. All of Catching Fire lives in a dreamlike state, a stark contrast to Hunger Games' guttural, grimacing quality that robbed it of the life force Suzanne Collins pumped into her first novel.
Once we get to the thunderdome, our engines are effectively revved for the "fun part." Katniss, Peeta, and their array of allies and enemies traverse a nightmare course that seems perfectly suited for a videogame spin-off. At this point, we've spent just enough time with the secondary characters to grow a bit fond of them — deliberately obnoxious Finnick, jarringly provocative Johanna, offbeat geeks Beedee and Wiress — but not quite enough to dissolve the mystery surrounding any of them or their true intentions (which become more and more enigmatic as the film progresses). We only need adhere to Katniss and Peeta once tossed in the pit of doom that is the 75th Hunger Games arena, but finding real characters in the other tributes makes for a far more fun round of extreme manhunt.
But Catching Fire doesn't vie for anything particularly grand. It entertains and engages, having fun with and anchoring weight to its characters and circumstances, but stays within the expected confines of what a Hunger Games movie can be. It's a good one, but without shooting for succinctly interesting or surprising work with Katniss and her relationships or taking a stab at anything but the obvious in terms of sending up the militant tyrannical autocracy, it never even closes in on the possibility of being a great one.
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Gunman James Holmes, 24, walked into a packed Aurora cinema shortly after the beginning of the venue's first screening of blockbuster The Dark Knight Rises and opened fire, killing 12 film fans and injuring 59 others.
Celebrities across the world have taken to blogs and websites to comment on the killing spree and now Captain America Evans, Motley Crue's Sixx and Kings of Leon star Followill have offered their thoughts.
Followill writes, "My thoughts & prayers go out to those affected... Such a senseless & cowardly act," while Sixx adds, "Breaks my heart hearing the news about the shooting's (sic) in Aurora, Colorado. My prayers and thoughts go out to the families and victims."
And actor Evans is still trying to understand why someone would want to kill innocent people watching a movie: "what the hell is happening?? my heart is completely shattered. all of my thoughts and prayers are with the people of aurora."
Meanwhile, The Roots star Questlove takes aim at the parents of the baby caught up in the tragedy, tweeting, "Why was a 3 month old at a midnight premiere?"
Tributes to the victims have also been tweeted from Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi, rockers Chris Daughtry and Hayley Williams, Janelle Monae, Russell Simmons and dance music star Moby, who asks, "what is wrong with us? too tragic and heartbreaking."
Days ago, the worldwide search for an actress to play Lisbeth Salander, the punky protagonist at the center of Columbia Pictures adaptation of Steig Larsson's The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (and two more films to follow) ended. Rooney Mara, a relatively unknown 24-year-old landed the coveted role and will undoubtedly be shot to fame quicker than a reality TV star. But what of Noomi Rapace, the relatively unknown 30-year-old Swedish actress who masterfully led the original adaptations of The Millennium Trilogy (The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest round out the series)?
Industry insiders are already dubbing Rapace as the next big thing in Hollywood, a town that loves to find talent abroad and bring them to mainstream American films. I liken her soon-to-be meteoric rise to the cases of Sam Worthington and Marion Cotillard. The Aussie could barely grab a decent gig in the States before James Cameron cast him as the lead in Avatar and now he's got enough work to keep him busy for the next few years. Cotillard, the French actress who became an over-night sensation with La Vie En Rose, went on to star in blockbuster films like Public Enemies and Inception. If these earlier examples prove anything, it's that a single role can can change the course of one's career and given Deadline's recent report, it looks like Rapace may be next in line to become an honored Hollywood Import.
Sources close to the actress claim that she has been pursued by nearly every studio in town to make her big Tinsel Town debut. Warner Brothers has approached her about working on Sherlock Holmes 2 and Paramount Pictures and director Brad Bird are actively pursuing her for Mission: Impossible IV. With offers like those coming in, I can't wait to see what kind of leading roles she's going to be offered in the near future.
But the love Rapace is feeling doesn't end with studio executives, she's got taste makers eating out of her hand as well. Director/producer Brett Ratner jumped at the chance just to meet her, while McG wants her to play the villain in his new action-comedy This Means War at 20th Century Fox. She also met with Brad Fischer for the Phoenix Pictures project The Last Voyage Of The Demeter, Jon Amiel on his latest (believed to be titled Masterwork), James McTeigue on The Raven and Tommy Wirkola on Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters.
Most significant though is the talk of Noomi getting an Oscar nomination for her work on The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The foreign film was a huge success overseas and has thrilled select American audiences who came out to see what all the fuss was about. Deadline's Nikki Finke has confirmed that Rapace does qualify for an Academy Award, as Music Box Films released director Niels Arden Oplev's Dragon Tattoo in a Los Angeles County theater for an awards run this past March, thus making Rapace's performance eligible. The company has also hired an Oscar publicist to promote Noomi for a Best Actress nomination.
Whether or not Noomi Rapace takes the stage at The Kodak Theater this February is anyone's guess, but what is a sure thing is that she has left her mark on both global cinema as the most authentic embodiment of Larsson's beloved character and on Hollywood's most powerful players as a talented and strong actress. I hope that she gets the chance to show American audiences what everyone is show business already sees: a hard worker capable of complete transformation and wonderful performances.
Those of us across the pond may not have heard of The Sweeney, but it’s responsible for most of those TV cop cliches we know and love. The British series, which first aired in 1975, follows two members of the London police who smoke, drink, and don’t play by anybody’s rules but their own. But in England, the series must have some appeal, as Daniel Craig, Ewan McGregor, Tom Hardy and Orlando Bloom are each vying the lead role.
Fox Searchlight has been working on a film adaptation of the series for some time, with Michael Fassbender and Ray Winstone cast as leads, but the project was dropped due to lack of star power. Which may have been one hell of a mistake, judging by all the roles Fassbender’s been offered lately. Winstone is staying on as sidekick George Carter, but the lead role of Mancunian detective Jack Regan is up for grabs. The range of actors being considered is surprisingly diverse, and the tone of the role and of the film is going to vary drastically depending on who they pick. Daniel Craig or Tom Hardy are the more obvious choices to play a tough detective, but Craig currently has a lot on his plate. I think the most interesting choice for the role would be McGregor, whose proven himself to be highly versatile, and could really use a hit. The only person I can’t see in the role is Orlando Bloom, but I have issues seeing him in any role that doesn’t involve period garb and a wig. I can’t say which actor would be closest to John Thaw’s original Regan, never having seen the show, but it does appear that they’re starting from scratch with Winstone’s Carter, who was 26 in the original show.
Nick Love, of The Firm, has signed on to direct the film, with a script from Ian Kennedy Martin, who created the original TV series and wrote the script for MST3K favorite Mitchell. That’s one hell of a mixed resume, but hopefully The Sweeney will put its own spin on the gritty crime drama genre it helped to define.
James Bond Daniel Craig is in talks to replace Sherlock Holmes star Robert Downey, Jr. in new movie Cowboys & Aliens.
Downey Jr. reportedly quit the project, directed by Iron Man filmmaker Jon Favreau, to concentrate on a Sherlock Holmes sequel, and now Craig is the frontrunner to land the lead.
He has been offered the role of Zeke Johnson in the movie, which is based on a 2006 graphic novel, according to Variety.
Busy Favreau has also adapted the story for the big screen and he'll also appear in the film.
(c) 2009 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.
Tom Cruise wants to talk to that "glib" Matt Lauer again.
Three-plus years after Cruise and Lauer got into a heated, cringe-worthy (but not quite jumping-on-Oprah's-couch cringe-worthy) debate about psychiatry on the Today show, they will face off once again! NBC announced on Wednesday that the actor will sit down with Lauer on Monday, Dec. 15, to discuss his new movie Valkyrie, his wife Katie Holmes and their undoubtedly normal home life. Until then, pop some popcorn and refresh your memory on just what went down last time Cruise visited Studio 1A for a one-on-one...
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Katie Holmes was met by 100 anti-Scientology demonstrators ahead of her preview Broadway performance of All My Sons.
The actress, who is married to Scientologist Tom Cruise, arrived at New York's Gerald Schoenfeld Theatre on Thursday night, September 18, to chants of "Scientology kills!"
Cruise arrived at the theatre to watch his wife's debut but was unfazed by the demonstrators as he sat with fellow actor Dustin Hoffman.
(c) 2008 WORLD ENTERTAINMENT NEWS NETWORK LTD. All global rights reserved. No unauthorized copying or re-distributing permitted.