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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It used to be that "cancelled" meant "cancelled." When your favorite show went off the air — usually from low ratings — you'd spend three days crying in a fort made out of TV guides. But there's a new practice that is becoming ever more prevalent: cancelled network programs making the move to cable. CBS axed Unforgettable, the crime drama starring Poppy Montgomery as a New York City detective with a visual memory of every single thing that she has ever witnessed (except her sister's murder, of course). Now, Deadline reports that Unforgettable is speaking with cable stations TNT and Lifetime to get picked up for further seasons.
The talks are reported to be preliminary, but a move like this is hardly unheard of. In early May, it was announced that the ABC sitcom Cougar Town would be relocating to TBS for two additional seasons. In 2010, the crime drama Southland began airing on TNT after one season on NBC.
Considering the multitude of new venues people use to watch television programs (this Internet thing you're wasting your time reading this article on being a big one of them), ratings aren't as indicative of a show's popularity as they used to be. Thus, if a cable station can claim rights to a show that might not have performed so well in its original run, it still might pay off in the long haul; reruns and business deals with streaming sites come to mind.
However, while this does seem to work out best for both the shows, their viewers, and the cable stations in question, it might present a problem for the original programming on these channels. It stands to wonder whether Tyler Perry's TBS sitcoms, or TNT dramas like the upcoming Dallas stand to get boxed out by an influx of network leftovers.
[Image Credit: TNT]
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Glee's newest character, Irish exchange student Rory Flanagan, has build up a pretty respectable fan base in his short time on the series. So much so that Damian McGinty, the Glee Project winner who portrays Rory, has been given an extended stay on the show. We're not certain how many more episodes McGinty will have, but the show has a history of changing things around for new characters: Heather Morris started out on the show as a behind-the-scenes dance instructor, and look at her now. Glee airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Fox. -AOLTV
In Friday's Casting Roundup, we reported that Kate Walsh would be returning to Grey's Anatomy in a very special episode that examined hypothetical realities for the characters. Walsh's appearance as Dr. Addison Montgomery will play an integral part in Dr. Derek Shepherd's (Patrick Dempsey) "alternate reality," in which the two never split up. But an even more dramatic, more suprising character will return: Ellis, Dr. Meredith Grey's (Ellen Pompeo) now-deceased mother, played by Kate Burton. Burton will revive her role in a reality in which she (obviously) never died, and never developed Alzheimer's Disease. Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC. -EW
House seems to love bringing back old friends, for reasons that aren't too mysterious. And of course, there have also been a few reunions with old lovers. But this new returning guest castmember extends beyond either of these realms: House is preparing for the return of a green card wife: Karolina Wydra, who played Dominica, Dr. House's (Hugh Laurie) own green card spouse last season. Although Dominica has been absent from the spotlight for some time now, she and the doc are clearly not entirely out of one another's lives—as proven by her upcoming, early 2012 appearance. House airs Mondays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox. -TVLine
The SyFy network has a niche audience, but it seems they're reaching for new demographic with the new TV movie, Jersey Shore Shark Attack, which is, exactly what it sounds like. And its cast is...well, also not much different than what you'd expect. Vinny Guadagnino is the only Jersey Shore castmember to be involved in the movie, playing a reporter who covers a story of beachside rampaging sharks. Vinny is joined by more actory actors, Tony Sirico (The Sopranos). Paul Sorvino (GoodFellas), William Atherton (Die Hard), Jack Scalia (Dallas) and *N Sync's Joey Fatone. Take all that in while you consider just how amazing this whole project sounds, and mark your calendar for its airdate sometime in the summer of 2012. -EW
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
Passion, Fahrenheit have some Globes trouble
Even though they were two of the most talked-about films of the year, Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ and Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 have hit some snags regarding the eligibility for Golden Globes, Reuters reports. Fahrenheit will not be eligible in any Globes categories because it is a documentary, for which there is no separate category, and the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. does not allow docus to be considered in the top film award categories. Passion, in which much of the dialogue is spoken in Aramaic, also cannot compete for best drama because it is considered a foreign-language film, but can be considered for best foreign film. Nominations for the 62nd annual Golden Globe Awards will be announced Dec. 13, with the winners revealed in a Jan. 16 ceremony to be telecast live on NBC.
Farrell says no thanks to 007 role
You won't be calling Colin Farrell the next James Bond anytime soon. In an interview with Reuters on Sunday to discuss his soon to be released film Alexander, Farrell, 28, was asked about taking on the 007 role, endorsed by the former Bond, Pierce Brosnan, who last week said that Farrell should get the job because "he'll eat the head off them all." Farrell feigned outrage at the thought of becoming the sixth James Bond in the series, joking he was shocked by Brosnan's suggestion and if he got the job, he just might employ an Irish accent to confuse fans of the suave British agent. "The idea of me playing James Bond got into the press, but it is not true. I would not like to do it…they should find someone the audience has no history with," Farrell said. And the hunt is still on.
Pitt visits Ethiopia on AIDS mission
Actor Brad Pitt spent four days in Ethiopia to learn more about AIDS in Africa as part of a fund-raising campaign to combat the disease on the world's poorest continent, a spokesman told The Associated Press Tuesday. The trip was organized by DATA, a Washington-based lobby group co-founded by rock star Bono, which campaigns on Third World trade, debt and HIV/AIDS. Pitt began his first visit to the Horn of Africa country Friday and left late Monday night. "It was a listening and learning visit," DATA spokesman Jamie Drummond told AP.
Burt Reynolds accuses ex-girlfriend of extortion
Burt Reynolds sued his former girlfriend of 10 years, Pamela Seals, alleging she threatened to falsely accuse him of abuse unless he paid millions of dollars in extortion, AP reports. According to the lawsuit, filed Monday in West Palm Beach, Fla., Seals falsely accused Reynolds of yelling at her and stomping on her toes. Seals told the 68-year-old actor she would publicize her allegations if he didn't agree to a hefty settlement that included support for Seals and her mother, and half of Reynolds' Jupiter home. Reynolds' lawyer, Bob Montgomery, said the actor offered to settle the matter for $1 million but Seals refused. He added Seals is not entitled to anything under Florida law because the two were never married.
Ewan McGregor makes musical theater debut
Ewan McGregor, who stars as Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, will make his musical theater debut as Sky Masterson in a remake of Guys and Dolls in London's West End, AP reports. Frank Loesser's original Guys and Dolls opened on Broadway in 1950, but next year's revival, which is set to debut in June, will be the first new London production in 23 years. The role of Masterson was made famous by Marlon Brando, who played the desperate gambler in the 1955 Hollywood film starring Jean Simmons and Frank Sinatra. The show will be McGregor's first on-stage singing role. He previously performed in theater and displayed his singing and dancing talents in the musical Moulin Rouge.
Trump's Apprentice has classroom appeal
Donald Trump's hit reality series The Apprentice is proving to be more than just good TV. AP reports professors from business schools around the nation are including Apprentice tips in their MBA programs. Denise Schoenbachler, chair of Northern Illinois University's marketing department, told The New York Post Monday students in her Marketing Apprentice class competed for scholarship money by selling football tickets and raising money for troops in Iraq, a concept inspired by the show. Trump himself has said he's impressed with his show's classroom appeal at schools such as Babson College in Massachusetts, Southern Methodist University in Dallas and Ohio State University in Columbus.
SAG announces dates
Submissions for the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards close Thursday at 5 p.m., Variety reports.. To be considered, submissions must be made online at Sagawards.org or by calling the SAG Awards office. Actors, meanwhile, are nominated in five film and eight television categories. Nomination ballots will be mailed Dec. 10 and must be returned by Jan. 7. SAG members will receive their final ballots Jan. 11-the same day the nominations will be announced. The winners will be announced during the awards ceremony Feb. 5 at the Los Angeles Shrine Exposition Center. TNT will broadcast the event.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.