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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
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.
Let's hear it for the old guy who in this movie comes off sexier than his buff young accomplice (Dermot Mulroney). OK the old guy happens to be the gracefully aging icon Paul Newman -- as a feisty heistmeister who dodges a long prison sentence and then teams up with his equally conniving rest-home nurse (Linda Fiorentino) on a bank job gone wrong. "Where the Money Is" is breezy suspenseful and as much a love story as anything else -- if you call mentoring a new life in crime a kind of love. The mission-improbable caper is no more or less entertaining than a "Rockford Files" rerun but the film's swerving joyride takes its real thrills from the great escape that Fiorentino's Bonnie Parker makes from a dead-end life in the married lane.
Newman still hasn't lost it and as Henry Manning he doesn't miss any nuances in the edgy balance between streetwise wariness and amiable rapport with his sultry new colleague. The steam-powered Fiorentino has forged her career by making danger look casual and this is her most alluring work since "The Last Seduction" added another zero to her salary. Her chemistry with Newman a flirty twist on the idea of honor among thieves is really what makes this movie worth seeing. Mulroney is serviceable as the dim but lovable hubby a supporting role that's more foil than fully etched character.
We can all thank director Marek Kanievska for deciding not to have the May-December duo end up in the sack and leaving them simply professional cohorts. The director's admirable sense of comic timing works all the better by not letting the laughs get in the way of his leads' exploration of their characters -- although there's no denying the limits of this frothy genre. Perhaps Kanievska's greatest feat here is allowing Newman to retain his dignity in close-up.