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
True Blood prides itself on one very important factor: The ability to leave us stunned. Sometimes that stunner is a big reveal like learning that the nice old boy from New Orleans is actually a murderous villain or that the nice lady who helped Tara get back on her feet is actually turning the whole town into sex-demons. Then there are the stunners that are a little more character-based, like Jason realizing that sleeping with every pair of breasts with legs isn’t going to fill the hole in his heart or Pam realizing that she actually does care about Tara, the “stupid b**ch.” Even when the series has been giving us hints for two episodes, seeing our favorite one-dimensional characters grow into full-fledged, feeling people never ceases to elicit at least a little awe. And if the character growth didn’t really amaze you, you’ll have to be satisfied with Tara’s Original Recipe suicide plan.
First, let’s deal with the continual mess that is Tara. After withstanding the silver spray at Sookie’s house, Tara has escaped, and she’s quickly figuring out how to drive her new vampire body. She heals quickly after the silver spray (plus!), but she can barely hear this young woman speak over the beating of her blood-filled heart (gosh-darn!). Tara attacks a stranded young woman until she sees her vicious reflection and immediately regrets her actions. She actually sees herself become the thing she hates and it’s killing her.
Sam later finds her in the bushes, crying tears of blood and begging him to help her. The good guy bartender winds up serving her cases of Tru Blood and demanding to know what happened to her while insisting she call Lafayette and Sookie — the last two people she wants anything to do with. She’s looking like a pretty hopeless case until Sam puts in the walk-in freezer for her daytime safety nap.
The next day, Lafayette and Sookie walk into Merlott’s looking for her and Sam shows them the way just after Sookie admits she was the one who turned Tara. And because Sam is the most reasonable, understanding person on the planet (he even came around on Tommy eventually), Sam says he understands that Sookie did it to give Tara another chance and that someday she’ll understand that. (How many great men is this little telepathic pixie going to reject and keep around? The lucky, fickle lady.) Even with Sam’s knowing grin, Lafayette notes that keeping Tara in the freezer is no better than “keeping a gator in the bathtub.” This won’t end well. They need to find her maker, a.k.a. Pam, the absentee mother.
NEXT: Barbecue!Unfortunately, Pam doesn’t answer the call in time and Tara practically rips Laf’s arm off before exposing her new form to the whole town and escaping off to fulfill her new master plan: Death. She breaks into a beauty salon, and instead of fixing the hairstyle she’s been rocking since Season 1, she tries to barbecue herself to death in the tanning bed. And I must say, of all the vampire deaths, she really chose the most inefficient one. She could have walked into a pointed broom stick: Boom, splat. But no. She picked something that would give someone the chance to stop her. Maybe she didn’t want to die after all.
Laying the foundation for the final scene of the episode, Sookie seeks Pam at Fangtasia, but the lady vamp is more concerned with finding Eric and she’s busy texting faster than a 13-year-old with a crush. Sookie asks her to find Tara, but Pam is too distraught, her worry combines with her seasons old jealousy of Eric and Sookie’s relationship (foreshadowing!) and she throws the fairy across the room. But Sookie’s gone rogue (heh, heh. Get it?) and she uses her light force to retaliate against Pam and further embarrass her in front of all her customers.
Her distress (and we’ll assume a little embarrassment) sends Pam into more bouts of reminiscence. She thinks back to her second meeting with Eric. He sought her at the brothel and saved one of her prostitutes from Bill and Lorena, who were on a ripper rampage. Bill is a baby vampire at the time, and it’s clear that Lorena has not done right by her progeny — she hasn’t taught him “the rules.” Eric stops them from killing yet another prostitute and we witness the beginning of Bill’s rivalry with Eric, and then, the beginning of Pam’s relationship with Eric. They “Settle her debt” for his alleyway protection the only way people that sexy can: with sex.
We skip the good part and jump to the aftermath in which Pam asks Eric to turn her into a vampire and he refuses to do it because of the immense responsibility of being a maker. “Would you toss a newborn baby in the gutter? Abandoning a new vampire’s no different,” he says. (Just look at Bill and Lorena — she’s practically dragging her newborn in the gutter.) Eric says becoming a maker is a deeper bond than any marriage. But before he can leave her so unsatisfied, she gives him an ultimatum by slitting her wrists. “Let me walk the world with you... or watch me die.” Obviously, he turned her. And thus, the psuedo-sexual relationship between maker and progeny makes sense, and we learn that Pam has been the reacher in the Pam-Eric relationship since Day One.
All this reflection on Eric’s actions towards her and their usually tight relationship saddens her since they’re still on such uncertain terms, but it also awakens a responsibility in Pam that she wasn’t willing to absorb in the immediate wake of the Wal-Mart sweatsuit incident. When Tara starts to rotisserie herself, Pam senses it and with every tiny inflection in her three-word response, we know she’s going to pick up the maker torch: “You stupid bitch.”
NEXT: "He's their Osama Bin Laden."At the Authority, the chancellors are descending into more nonstop arguing. Ah, the essence of politics. We learn more about Sanguinistas and their “poster boy” Russell Edgington. After ripping a man’s heart out on television, “He’s their Osama Bin Laden.” (Yes, we get it. There are political parallels.) And it’s this celebrity status that has Roman so concerned. Starving him for a year has exacerbated his hunger and his mission. Roman demands that Eric and Bill make good on their promise and bring him in or die trying because Russell threatens everything they stand for.
And he’s serious about the “die trying” part. He has Tina Marjorino, TV tech expert of choice, strap the two dashing vampires with instant kill devices to deter them from escaping the death star compound or straying from the anti-Russell plan.
To make matters worse, Steve Newland is the new Nan Flanagan. But his sudden disregard for human intelligence infuriates Roman. It’s too close to the views that Sanguinistas, who want to farm humans like cattle, hold. Roman believes the Authority is the only thing keeping the civil war between humans and vampires from erupting. Newland keeps his job under the pretense that he wait to gloss things over until after Russell does something, instead of up lying to prevent panic now.
Of course, they’re hoping to catch Russell before he does anything Newland would need to gloss over, but Bill and Eric’s kill harnesses aren’t enough. Roman’s favorite chancellor and bedtime buddy, Salome, seduced both vamps to see if they are being truthful. In case we were wondering, she is the Salome and she thinks the Bible’s rendition of her history is “little better than Us Weekly.” Clever. Now the writers can make her whoever they want. She seduces Bill by praising his two remaining prized possessions: His flailing political career and his ability to let his heart rule him. “We’ve become so jaded. We celebrate our own cynicism.” She finds his emotional core refreshing. She seduces him and asks him to prove he’s trustworthy by taking her life into his hands. Boom, vampire jackhammer sex in the basement. Apparently, this means he’s trustworthy.
Next, Salome takes her turn on Eric. She summons him to her chambers, but he’s not buying her seduction. Then, she finds the right chord: His heart has recently been broken by Sookie. But that still doesn’t quite work. So she takes off all of her clothes. Yep, that’ll do.
NEXT: Debbie's death can't stay hidden forever.And while Eric is having his fun, the southern chancellor is torturing Nora, and when she threatens to use the kill devices on Eric and Bill, Nora finally admits she’s a staunch believer in the Sanguinista moment. Roman is understandably crushed, but Christopher Meloni’s portrayal exposes his character’s deep-rooted issue with getting his way. It starts to be unclear whether or not he’s upset about the fundamentals of the Mainstreaming movement being threatened or if he’s just upset that his plans aren’t going the way he envisioned them. This point is strengthened when Salome asks Roman to change course because he immediately turns down her plea. He wants to continue his path, even if it’s not working. His way, or no way.
Meanwhile, Sookie is getting herself into trouble. Debbie’s death can’t stay hidden forever. Debbie’s parents find Alcide and ask him what happened to her, but Sookie’s okay for the moment because she lied to Alcide about Debbie’s whereabouts. Her tells her parents he abjured her, or gave up his wolf claim on her, because she was back on V and cheating on him. They said the sheriff found all her belongings and they know something terrible happened to her, which means all roads will soon point to Sookie.
Sheriff Andy questions Sookie about it, but she plays dumb and unfortunately Andy starts asking the right questions: Was Debbie jealous of Sookie’s relationship with Alcide? She skirts the question and says unless it’s illegal to dislike someone, she’s innocent. Lafayette can’t handle her bold approach because he’s paranoid and concerned that Andy’s onto something and that he’ll catch them in their giant lie. Luckily, Sookie hears his thoughts and he’s more concerned about the Facebook picture Holly’s horrible sons posted to truly put any pieces together. Meanwhile, Sookie throws that good fortune away. She tells Alcide the truth about Debbie and he’s furious. He had her back. He was protecting her and she was going to let him go searching for a ghost. He storms off without speaking another word. And as angry as he is, who wants to bet he lets it go and comes back for some good old fashioned fairy lovin’?
While Sookie is risking her life as she knows it, Jason is pulling his 180. He runs into his old teacher, who he used to sleep with. Mary Kay Letourneau alert! Due to Jason’s insistence, he and his former corruptor (who you may recognize as the former Mrs. Don Draper) knock boots and he immediately realizes that his encounters with this woman is what created the sex monster we all know as Jason Stackhouse.
Jessica comes galloping over to his house after encountering a man whose blood had her frolicking after him like a lost boy to Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island. (His blood smells like cotton candy? Isn't that how we've heard vamps describe Sookie's blood? Faries, ahoy!) She pushes Jason up against a wall and prepares for some serious sexy time, but he stops it. He’s finally realized sex can’t be all there is. He just wants to be friends with Jessica. But he can’t. She’s like a sexy bug-zapping lamp and he’s a mosquito. But she insists they can do it because they already are friends. It’s a sweet moment, but it seems our potential Jason-Jessica romance has cooled. For now (fingers crossed!).
Meanwhile, the rest of Bon Temps is keeping it complicated. After finding the naked Facebook picture, Andy takes it to Holly, who informs him their potential relationship is just too complicated. Still, they decide to try it anyway. Terry is still wrestling his demons, only this time, Arlene isn’t taking it. The only information he’ll give her is that he’s going with Patrick to an undisclosed location for an undisclosed purpose for an undisclosed amount of time. Arlene is prepping for another few years of the single life after an unacceptable response like that.
Finally, things get nice and weird when Hoyt walks into Fangtasia dressed like a goth gimp because he’s feeling self-destructive and Lafayette is possessed by the spirit of Jesus’ former voodoo powers. The inner demon apparently convinces him to do things like pour bleach into the gumbo because Arlene is being obnoxious. Suddenly, Lafayette is just a magical catchall. This definitely won’t end terribly.
Do you think Pam is about to turn the corner on her maker duties? Do you think a Pam and Eric coupling is possible in the future? Is Roman more concerned with victory than his actual mission? Let us know in the comments!
[Image Credit: HBO]
True Blood: Is Tara Even More Annoying As a Vampire?
True Blood Versus Vampire Diaries: 8 Reasons We're Seeing Double
True Blood Recap: Show Me the MeloniTrue Blood