Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As grand as the themes of good and evil, needs and deservings, power and responsibility and such forth are, superhero movies are generally pretty straightforward in premise: hero stops villain from wreaking havoc. As off-putting as this kind of simplicity might sound, it's usually the right way to go. If you pack enough substance into your characters and adhere your plot to these linear margins, you can actually wind up saying a healthy amount (and having a lot of fun). The Amazing Spider-Man 2 gets half of this formula down pat. Although Andrew Garfield's Peter Parker is still a moreover undistinguished identity, his emotional magnitude (re: his relationship with Gwen Stacy) is enough to keep him valid through the storm of lunacy that is his second feature. And it's not even that lunacy that holds him back. The problem isn't how wild his conquests are, how silly some of the action sequences feel, or how absolutely bonkers his villains turn out to be. It's all the other stuff (and yes, if you can believe it, there's a ton more going on in this movie than what I've already mentioned — that's the issue). All the plot twists, tertiary mysteries, ominous flashbacks, abject reveals, and weightlessly sinister pawns in this brooding game that, save for its fun with the baddies, takes itself way too seriously. All that stuff that The Amazing Spider-Man 2 thinks is necessary to make Peter Parker matter? It actually does just the opposite.
Peter is at his best when he's playing Tracy and Hepburn with the girlfriend he's perpetually disappointing (the eternally charming Emma Stone), or trying to win back the favor of the only remaining parental figure from whom he's rapidly slipping away (Sally Field, reminding us why she's a household name), or angling to connect with the mentally unstable engineer who just wants people to notice him (Jamie Foxx working his comic shtick with a frightening zest). We have the most fun with Peter when he's playing the simplest games, and we connect best with him on similar ground. But Peter and company, at the behest of The Amazing Spider-Man franchise's Sandman-sized aspirations, spend so much time exploring new avenues: the secrets surrounding the death and work of Richard Parker, the behind-the-curtains operations of OsCorp, the nefarious goings on in the waterside penitentiary Ravencroft.
Columbia Pictures via Everett Collection
As a result of the grand stab at world building, there is just so much stuff that Peter has to wade through in this movie, dragging the likes of Gwen and his boyhood friend Harry Osborn (Dane DeHaan, mastering angst, menace, and upper-class privilege all at once) into the dark crevasses of narrative waste. With so many diversions into the emotionally vacant, deliberately joyless explorations of Parker family origin stories, secret brief cases, and underground subways — The Amazing Spider-Man 2 rivals Captain America: The Winter Soldier in complexity, but forgets the necessary ingredient of fun — we barely have enough energy left when the good stuff hits.
And in truth, the good stuff isn't really good enough to sustain us through all the duller periods. Garfield and Stone do have laudable chemistry. Foxx is a hoot as Peter's maniacal new foe, especially when paired with the grimacing DeHaan. And the action, while often straying from any aesthetic authenticity, is nothing shy of neat-o. It's all passable, occasionally worthy of a hearty smile, but rarely anything you'll be definitively pleased you took the time to see.
But beyond coming up short in the micro, the film's regal downfall is its scope. With so much to do, both in accomplishing its own necessary plot points and setting up for those to come in future films, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 doesn't seem to take time to make sure it's having fun with its own premise. And if it isn't having fun, we won't be either.
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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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Ever wondered what it’s like inside the mind of The Tomorrow People? Wonder no more. Executive Producer Phil Klemmer sat down with us to talk about the show, and seriously, this was one of our best interviews to date. His honesty was shocking, and quite hilarious. Sex, evolution, and excitement over the demise of humanity, all wrapped up as a nice little present for you. Enjoy!
Please tell us about your involvement in the show – explain exactly what you do and why this show spoke to you.
Me? I am the creator and the showrunner. This means that I wrote the pilot script along with Greg Berlanti and Julie Plec, and that I'm essentially the head writer on the show in series and an executive producer -- a fancy title that can mean a lot of things, most of which are pretty boring.
Greg and Julie were both fans of the original series when they were kids. Greg introduced me to it when I was at the tender age of 38. It certainly took me back to the '70s and reminded me of all the TV my parents forbade me from watching.
I've always been interested in evolution, and I mostly hate human beings, so the notion of a new species coming along and replacing us was quite intriguing. Once we settled on this new species being vastly better looking than us, I was sold.
Can you name a few things that you think have contributed to the success of the show?
Mostly pure luck. When you cast a bunch of actors you are aware of their individual talent, but have no idea about their chemistry and synergy as a group. We couldn't have been more fortunate. Our cast is tighter behind the scenes than they are on the show. All are consummate professionals and all come prepared -- they push each other -- and as a result we've been able to take their characters very far in a relatively short time. Working on TV is very, very hard. If the people you're working with are no good to be around there's really no point in doing it. I was equally as fortunate to have inherited a talented and lively writers' room. If we're not having fun coming up with stories I think it would show on the screen in about half a millisecond.
Do you have any favorite characters on the show? If so, why?
I find Jedikiah is the easiest for me to write. He's a deeply messed up guy. Hmm ... Not sure if there's a connection there or not.
Cara is interesting for me because I've always struggled to write female characters. My first show, Veronica Mars, was created by Rob Thomas, who is somewhat the master at this. Greg Berlanti and Julie Plec ... yeah, they are big time masters at strong, interesting female characters. After a decade of being around some talents I guess a portion has rubbed off on me.
We sat down with Mark Pellegrino who had some insightful comments on his character. Good and bad aren’t always black and white, and this show captures that human element really well. What are your thoughts on Jedikiah and his views?
As I've said before, I don't know if there's ever been a series in which the villain's overarching goal was to, wait for it, save humanity... bum, bum, BUM! Yeah, Jedikiah is trying to save us humans and yet he does all kinds of despicable stuff to do so. There are further shades of grey you will see in his character in the back half of the season. Not sure if we will get to the full fifty shades of grey, but we will try.
Did you ever feel that there would be a challenge remaking the TV show? Are you of the thought – “Stick to the original” or “use it as inspiration”? Would you elaborate a little?
When the original creator Roger Price told me how much he enjoyed the pilot I knew that everything was going to be okay. I'm a little nervous to hear what the UK had to say. I'm sure that the series is a sort of sacred cow over there. In the states (that's what super cosmopolitan world travelers such as myself call America) the show is a bit of an unknown, so except for the sci-fi purists, most of our audience was coming to TTP for the first time.
Also, this show was from the '70s. Why do you think a topic from 40 years ago still resonates today?
The world is constantly evolving. Generations are constantly pushing back against the generations before them. The struggle to define the world as a generation is something that all young people should be a part of, and if they're not they should stop complaining. Our show is a fun sci-fi series, but I feel like a lot of our themes are substantial. It's a way of saying something without being dreary about it, which is always nice as a writer.
Any fun stories you can share about filming?
Umm… I'm not sure if this is fun but Aaron broke his nose, Luke had hugely disfiguring dental surgery and our director got a nasty infection from a piece of wood he tripped on -- all in the same week. Mercury was in retrograde, however, and we survived it. Took a few years off my life.
Can you give us a sneak peak on where the show is headed?
Stephen is going to learn the truth about his father's disappearance. The mysterious Founder is going to make a run at Jedikiah. There will be sex and shirtlessness. And I know that I have to say this but in this case it's honest to God true… The show just keeps getting better and better.
The CW broke new ground in random rebooting with The Tomorrow People. The original was a British neo-futuristic series from the 1970s. It follows the next stage of human evolution as they toy with telepathy and time travel. In 1992, the series was given an update with British teenagers, including Naomie Harris (Skyfall), teleporting around town trying to stop would-be criminals.
The latest version of the series is an interesting blend of Alias and Charmed. Stephen Jameson (Robbie Amell) develops super powers and finds out he’s one of The Tomorrow People. (Just like that?) He gets drafted into a secret government agency by his uncle, Dr. Jedikiah Price (Mark Pellegrino) and must play both sides to protect his species from extinction.
The show has a great blend of action, suspense and super powers. Hear that, Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D? However, it features a cast of sexy robots. Amell’s blue eyes and abs do not compensate for his cold robotic acting. Peyton List plays the group's resident telepath, Cara Coburn. In “Girl, Interrupted” we find out that Cara was deaf before her powers manifested. Despite the big developments of her character, List spent the whole episode giving sultry looks to the camera. Luke Mitchell and Madeline Mantock are also breathtakingly attractive but completely flat. I can’t help but wonder if the show could be recreated using an Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue and some really elaborate special effects. The one test of any actor is being able to say the title of the series and not sound like a total dork.
Robotic casting aside, the show’s saving grace is that it’s well written and really subverts your expectations. You think you know what will happen but the show keeps surprising you. Also, the show has the right level of special effects. The super powers are seamlessly choreographed into fighting and action sequences and open up possibilities for plot twists and surprises.
There are some great characters on the show. Aaron Yoo brings some humor and badass fighting moments in the character of Russell Kwon. The group’s supercomputer TIM (Dan Stevens) also has some witty repartee and pop culture references for an artifically intelligent piece of equipment. Entertainment Weekly reports that Veronica Mars star Jason Dohring is set to join the cast. Here's hoping he brings some Logan Echols snark to the cast.
Hopefully, the series can reprogram their robotic supermodel cast members' acting hard drives because this show is well written, action packed and a great addition to The CW’s line-up. In the meantime, enjoy this Brit-tastically awesome clip from the original series.
Mark Pellegrino (Lost, Supernatural) is back at it again. Landing his role as Dr. Jedikiah Price on The CW’s Tomorrow People, Pellegrino tells Hollywood.com exclusively about his new character as well as a recap on the other bad boys he’s previously played.
Can you tell us a little about your character in The Tomorrow People?
What makes the role unique for me is the mind of Jedikiah: The fanatic's mind. The mind so devoted to one purpose and so assured of the righteousness of that purpose that he will stop at nothing and sacrifice almost anything to attain it.
Do you see this character as good or bad?
I never view my characters as bad (unless the character views himself that way) because I feel that objectifies him and makes him an intellectual construct and not a living person. In this case, I think what Roger Price says in the pilot may be apropos for Jedikiah (and I paraphrase) 'don't believe everything you see'. Jed makes a hard first impression, but there is definitely more there than meets the eye. Stay tuned.
You have played quite a few ‘bad’ men. Revolution, Supernatural, Dexter, Being Human. Is there something that draws you to these roles?
Well I'm not a writer, but it seems to me that the 'bad guy' drives the story. Without him or her, the hero would never be challenged and would probably never realize his or her potential as a hero. So, in terms of story, I like being the engine.
We can’t avoid asking about Lost. How did it feel to be a part of that cast?
It felt great to be a part of television history and to work with such a talented group of people.
I never watched the show before I was cast. Ha. And after I was cast I was afraid to. I think because I didn't want to come into it with any preconceived notions. I thought that over thinking it would make it less pliable. Odd right? For a guy who loves to rehearse and do tons of homework, I begged off of that for Lost and opted to be as open to the moment as possible. In any event it kind of worked. Jacob had a deep innocence to him, and I think the openness lent itself to that.
What’s next for you?
I did a little film that premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and by all accounts is doing very well. It's called We Gotta Get Out of This Place. And then there's The Tomorrow People. I hope that sticks around for a very long time.