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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TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
An hour and change into Pompeii, there's a volcano. You'd think there might have been a volcano throughout — you'd think that the folks inhabiting the ill-fated Italian village would have been dealing with the infamous volcano for the full 110 minutes. After all, volcano movies have worked before. Volcano, for instance. And the other one. But for some reason, Pompeii feels the need to stuff its first three quarters with coliseum battles, Ancient Rome politics, unlikely friendships, and a love story. But we don’t care. We can't care. None of it warrants our care. Where the hell is the volcano, already?
To answer that: it's off to the side — rumbling. Smoking. Occasionally spiking the neighboring community with geological fissures or architectural misgivings. Pretty much executing every trick picked up in Ominous Foreshadowing 101, but never joining the story. Not until Paul W.S. Anderson shouts, "Last call," hitting us with a final 20-odd minutes of unmitigated disaster (in a good way). If you've managed to maintain a waking pulse throughout the lecture in sawdust that is Pompeii's story, then you might actually have a good time with the closing sequence. It has everything you’d expect — everything you had been expecting! — and delivers it with gusto. Torpedoes of smoke running hordes of idiot villagers out of their homes and toward whatever safety the notion of forward has to offer. Long undeveloped characters rising to the occasion to rescue hapless princesses who thought it might be a good idea to set their vacation homes at the foot of a lava-spewing mountain. The whole ordeal is actually a lot of laughs. But it amounts to a dessert just barely worth the tasteless dinner we had to force down to get there.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
To get through the bulk of Pompeii, we recommend focusing all your attentions away from the effectively bland slave/gladiator/hero Kit Harington — sorry, Jon Snow (he's actually called a bastard at one point) — and onto his partner in crime: a scowling Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — sorry, Mr. Eko (he and Snow actually trade valedictions by saying "I'll see you at another time, brother" at one point) — who warms up to his fellow prize fighter during their shared time in the klink, and delivers his moronic material with a sprinkle of flair. Keeping the working man down is Kiefer Sutherland — sorry, Jack Bauer — as an ostentatious Roman senator, doling out vainglory in Basil Fawlty-sized portions. When he's not spitting scowls at peasants, ol' JB is undermining the efforts of an earnest local governor Jared Harris — sorry, Lane Pryce (he actually calls someone a mad man at one point) — and his wife Carrie-Anne Moss — sorry, Katherine O'Connell from Vegas (joking! Trinity) — and finagling the douchiest marriage proposal ever toward their daughter Emily Browning — sorry, but I have no idea what she's from.
But questionable television references and some enjoyably daft performances by Eko and Jack can't really make up for the heft of mindless dullness that Pompeii passes off as its narrative... until the big showstopper.
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In truth, the last sequence is a gem. It's fun, inviting, and energizing, and might even call into question the possibility that Pompeii is all about how futile life, love, friendship, politics, and pride are when even the most egregiously complicated of plots can be taken out in the end by a sudden volcanic eruption. But you have to wade through that egregious complication to get there, and you shouldn't expect to have too much of a good time doing so.
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After Dark Films
It seems a bit odd to take on a movie review of Courtney Solomon's Getaway, as only in the loosest terms is Getaway actually a movie. We begin without questions — other than a vague and frustrating "What the hell is going on?" — and end without answers, watching Ethan Hawke drive his car into things (and people) for the hour and a half in between. We learn very little along the way, probed to engage in the mystery of the journey. But we don't, because there's no reason to.
There's not a single reason to wonder about any of the things that happen to Hawke's former racecar driver/reformed criminal — forced to carry out a series of felonious commands by a mysterious stranger who is holding his wife hostage — because there doesn't seem to be a single ounce of thought poured into him beyond what he see. We learn, via exposition delivered by him to gun-toting computer whiz Selena Gomez, that he "did some bad things" before meeting the love of his life and deciding to put that all behind him. Then, we stop learning. We stop thinking. We start crashing into police cars and Christmas trees and power plants.
Why is Selena Gomez along for the ride? Well, the beginnings of her involvement are defensible: Hawke is carrying out his slew of vehicular crimes in a stolen car. It's her car. And she's on a rampage to get it back. But unaware of what she's getting herself into, Gomez confronts an idling Hawke with a gun, is yanked into the automobile, and forced to sit shotgun while the rest of the driver's "assignments" are carried out. But her willingness to stick by Hawke after hearing his story is ludicrous. Their immediate bickering falls closer to catty sexual tension than it does to genuine derision and fear (you know, the sort of feelings you'd have for someone who held you up or forced you into accessorizing a buffet of life-threatening crimes).
After Dark Films
The "gradual" reversal of their relationship is treated like something we should root for. But with so little meat packed into either character, the interwoven scenes of Hawke and Gomez warming up to each other and becoming a team in the quest to save the former's wife serve more than anything else as a breather from all the grotesque, impatient, deliberately unappealing scenes of city wreckage.
And as far as consolidating the mystery, the film isn't interested in that either, as evidenced by its final moments. Instead of pressing focus on the answers to whatever questions we may have, the movie's ultimate reveal is so weak, unsubstantial, and entirely disconnected to the story entirely, that it seems almost offensive to whatever semblance of a film might exist here to go out on this note. Offensive to the idea of film and story in general, as a matter of fact. But Getaway isn't concerned with these notions. Not with story, character, logic, or humanity. It just wants to show us a bunch of car crashes and explosions. So you'd think it might have at least made those look a little better.
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With the cool autumnal breezes rolling in, so too are Hollywood's biggest, award-hopeful films. Regardless of whether or not it is actually fall quite yet, the little kiddies are back at school, pumpkin spice is being added to everything, and there are only a few days left until staring wistfully at your sweater and scarf collection becomes a summer memory, and wearing becomes the reality. So to prepare us all for the glorious days of movie-watching ahead of us, we've broken it all down for you. So start saving your pennies, coordinate schedules with your film buff buddies and take a bite out of the tasty cinematic offerings that are ripe for the picking. It's like an apple orchard, but glitzier!
Check out the line-up below and get more picks tailored to your tastes in our Fall Movie Guide!
Finding Nemo 3D: A re-release of the popular Pixar film, this time in 3D!
Resident Evil: Retribution: The fighting against the Umbrella Corporation and all those pesky undead continues!
10 Years: A high school reunion with Channing Tatum and Friends.
Arbitrage: Hedge-funder in trouble: a ponzi scheme gone awry. Bernie Madoff-y, huh? The horror, the horror!
Bangkok Revenge: An emotionless war machine returns to the place where his parents were killed to exact ... (you guessed it!) revenge.
Brawler: Brothers! Betrayal! Fight clubs! New Orleans! A battle to the death!
Step Up to the Plate: A cooking documentary about father/son culinary duo the Bras.
Liberal Arts: Lost 30something, a girl named Zibby, and love. But in college.
The Master: The hotly-anticipated Scientology-but-not film from P.T. Anderson.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower: Stephen Chbosky's classic young adult novel comes to life.
Stolen: A Nicholas Cage film about a daughter locked in a taxi's trunk.
The Trouble with the Truth: A failed marriage reconsidered, now with Lea Thompson!
Radio Unnameable: Documentary about legendary New York City disc jockey Bob Fass who pioneered free expression on the airwaves with his long running program of the same name.
Tears of Gaza: A war documentary that follows three children through war and the period after ceasefire.
Dredd: An action/sci-fi/thriller about fighting a drug war in a big futuristic city. In 3D!
End of Watch: A routine traffic stop gone really, really bad.
House at the End of the Street: Katniss Jennifer Lawrence becomes a scream queen.
17 Girls: A Belgian teen pregnancy pact film!
About Cherry: James Franco is the boyfriend of a porn star, and Dev Patel probably loves her?
Backwards: Life for an Olympic hasbeen-turned-coach is tough.
The Brooklyn Brothers Beat the Best: Brooklyn boys form a band.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel: A documentary about the life and work of the influential fashion editor of Harpers Bazaar, Diana Vreeland.
The Other Son: A French film about two young men--an Israeli and Palestinian--who discover they were accidentally switched at birth.
Head Games: A sports documentary to uncover the truth about the consequences of head injuries.
How to Survive a Plague: AIDS documentary about the activism that stopped the disease from being a death sentence.
My Uncle Rafael: A comedy about a reality show!
The War of the Buttons: A French film about kid gangs and a Jewish girl in danger of being discovered by the Nazis in occupied France, comes to the states.
Trouble with the Curve: Clint Eastwood and Justin Timberlake make a baseball movie! Now get off my damn lawn.
Unconditional: Two childhood friends reconnect after many years and sad stories to exact revenge on the woman's husband's murderer.
You May Not Kiss the Bride: A pet photographer (seriously) has to marry Katharine McPhee's Croatian bride character. Warning: zany!
Hotel Transylvania: Adam Sandler is Dracula in an animated kids' film.
Looper: Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play one guy who has to kill himself, from the future. Mob stuff! Time travel!
The Barrens: The Jersey Devil of the state's Pine Barrens is hunting Stephen Moyer, you guys!
Bringing Up Bobby: Bill Pullman is in a family comedy written by Famke Janssen.
Won't Back Down: A serious drama about poor moms trying to do right by their kid's education.
The Other Dream Team: A documentary about the 1992 Lithuanian basketball team who got help from the Grateful Dead (seriously) to win at the Barcelona Olympics.
Starbuck: A sperm donor gets sued by the 142 kids he helped conceive. Yikes!
Butter: A comedy about a butter-carving prodigy. Do you need to know anything else?
Frankenweenie: A kid who just wants his dead dog to be...ALIIIIIIVE!
Sinister: Creepy horror flick with Ethan Hawke about a true-crime novelist who discovers footage revealing why a family was murdered in his new home. Sleep tight!
Taken 2: Liam Neeson will find you, and he will hunt you down, and he will kill you. Again!
Wuthering Heights: Another film version of the Emily Bronte novel.
Decoding Deepak: A documentary about Deepak Chopra by his son.
The Oranges: Hugh Laurie has an affair with his best friend's daughter in New Jersey. Woopsies!
The Paperboy: Yes, this is the movie where Zac Efron gets peed on by Nicole Kidman. It's also about a reporter and a death row inmate.
Pitch Perfect: A capella girls get funky thanks to singing 90s R&B tunes. But funny!
V/H/S: All they wanted to do was steal a video tape, and now they're living a horror film! Everyone's worst nightmare, right?
Wake in Fright: An Australian drama thriller about a man named John Grant and a rough outback town called Bundanyabba, and what happens when the two meet.
Argo: Ben Affleck knows that the real way to free six Americans in Iran is by pretending to film a movie! Chris Messina's also in it, with Bryan Cranston, so it seems like a no-brainer here.
Here Comes the Boom: Kevin James is a high school biology teacher who wants to become mixed-martial arts fighter. You know, to save his school! Natch.
3, 2, 1... Frankie Go Boom: A comedy about drugs and humilation.
Atlas Shrugged: Part II: Atlas Shrugged...again!
Least Among Saints: A roughed-up soldier and a boy from a broken home strike up an unlikely friendship.
Middle of Nowhere: A movie about finding yourself while your husband's in jail.
Nobody Walks: Quick! Lena Dunham made something! It's about a young artist! Everybody dissect it!
Seven Psychopaths: Pretty much everybody good is in this movie about a struggling screenwriter whose friends kidnap a gangster's Shih Tzu.
Simon & The Oaks: A Swedish WWII coming-of-age film.
Smashed: A marriage built on booze struggles when the wife gets sober.
Stories We Tell: A Sarah Polley documentary about looking back at familial events.
Paranormal Activity 4: Some mean ghosts do some f**ked up scary s**t to a new family. This time it involves the neighbors!
Alex Cross: A detective vows to track down the killer of his family.
The First Time: A romcom about high school kids. And probably doing it.
Killing Them Softly: Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta in a mob film. Is there anything else you need to know?
That's What She Said: New York City lady misadventures that are NOT about Michael Scott, apparently.
Yogawoman: A documentary about...yoga! The title's so misleading, isn't it?
The Big Wedding: Oh look! Katherine Heigl's in another movie about a wedding. This time with Diane Keaton and Robert DeNiro.
Fun Size: A big Halloween party! A baby who must be watched! Johnny Knoxville. Somebody call the shenanigans police!
Chasing Mavericks: A surfer movie with Gerard Butler. Hang ten, etc.
Silent Hill: Revelation 3D: Gory alternate reality. In 3D!
Citadel: An agoraphobic dad and renegade priest team up to save his daughter from a gang of feral kids. So...not about a military school in South Carolina then.
Cloud Atlas: The three hour epic with every actor ever in the world telling intertwined stories across millennia.
The Loneliest Planet: A backpacking film with Gael Garcia Bernal in the wilds of Georgia (not the state).
Sleep Tight: A Spanish horror film about how safe you really are at home. Yep, sleep tight indeed.
The Sessions: The heartwarming story of a man on an iron lung who just wants to get laid ... with the help of his priest and a sex therapist.
On The Road: That Jack Kerouac novel-turned-movie with Kristen Stewart
Flight: Robert Zemeckis directs Denzel Washington, John Goodman and Don Cheadle in a film about a plane crash.
The Man with the Iron Firsts: Eli Roth and RZA make a really bloody movie about a blacksmith in China.
Wreck-It Ralph: A video arcade game baddie just wants to be good, you guys!
This Must Be the Place: Sean Penn does his best Robert Smith impression while trying to hunt down a Nazi.
High Ground: A documentary about the emotional journey of a team of Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans as they climb a mountain in the Himalayas.
Jack and Diane: A girl's awakened sexual desire for another girl makes her maybe become a werewolf. Seriously.
A Late Quartet: A famous string quartet gets too big for their britches to the point of potential self-destruction. Oh, and Christopher Walken's in it.
Lincoln: One of the many Abraham Lincoln movies being made, this time with Daniel Day-Lewis and no slaying of vampires.
Skyfall: The next installment of Daniel Craig's James Bond empire.
Nature Calls: A hijacked boy scout trip to remember? Sounds super-wacky!
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2: This needs no description. C'mon.
Anna Karenina: Because Keira Knightley cannot go three months without making an epic period piece. This time based on the Tolstoy novel.
Rust and Bone: A Belgian film with Marion Cotillard that involves a killer whale accident and a love story.
Rise of the Guardians: A children's animated film about Jack Frost and saving the kids of the world from an evil spirit named Pitch.
Red Dawn: A remake of the 1984 film about a group of teenagers saving their town from an invasion of North Korean soldiers.
Life of Pi: Based on the best-selling novel is the story of a boy named Pi and his shipwrecked companions. Mainly a hyena, zebra, orangutan, and a Bengal tiger.
Silver Linings Playbook: A feel-good holiday drama about two messed up people teaming up to make good.
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Director Alexander Payne's (Election Sideways) new film opens over sprawling landscape shots of Hawaii's scenic suburbia accompanied by George Clooney's character Matt King summing up his current predicament: "Paradise can go fuck itself." The reaction unfortunately is reasonable.
We pick up with King an ancestor of Hawaiian royalty in the middle of deliberations over a plot of land handed down through his family over generations. With every uncle aunt and cosign whispering opinions into his ear King is suddenly presented with an even greater problem: taking care of his two daughters. A boating accident leaves his wife in a coma forcing Matt to take a true parenting role with his young socially-troubled daughter Scottie (Amara Miller) and his rebellious teen Alexandra (Shailene Woodley) who was previously shipped off to boarding school. Matt awkwardly hunts for the emotional glue necessary for the mismatched bunch to become "a family " but matters are made even more complicated when Alex reveals that her mother was cheating on him before the accident. Murphy's Law is in full effect.
With The Descendants Payne continues to explore and discover the inherent humor in life's melancholic situations unfolding Matt's quest for understanding like a road movie across Hawaii's many islands. Simultaneously preparing for the end of his wife's death and searching for the identity of her lover Matt crosses paths with a number of perfectly cast side characters who act as mirrors to his best and worst qualities: his father-in-law Scott (Robert Foster) who belittles Matt for never taking care of his daughter; Hugh (Beau Bridges) an opportunistic cousin who pressures Matt to sell the land; Alexandra's dunce of a boyfriend Sid (Nick Krause) who always has the wrong thing to say; and Julie (Judy Greer) the wife of the adulterer in question. Colorful yet real Matt experiences a definitive moment with each of them yet the picture never feels sporadic or episodic.
Clooney and Woodley help gel these sequences together as they observe experience and butt heads as equals. Clooney's own magnetism stands in the way of making Matt a fully dimensional character but he shines when playing off his quick-witted daughter. His reactions are heartbreaking—but it's the moments when he has to put himself out there that never quite ring true. But the script by Nat Faxon Jim Rash and Payne gives Clooney plenty of opportunities to work his magic visualizing his struggle as opposed to vomiting it out like so many of today's talky dramas.
The Descendants is a tender cinematic experience an introspective and heartwarming film unafraid to convey its story with pleasing simplicity. Clooney stands out with a solid performance but like many of Payne's films it's the eclectic ensemble and muted backdrop that give the movie its real texture. The paradise of Descendants isn't all its cracked up to be but for movie-goers it's bliss.
They could be worth millions to die-hard Grateful Dead fans-but, for the time being, they're staying in the hands of the man who built them. According to The Associated Press, five guitars owned and played by the late Jerry Garcia are in the legal spotlight in San Rafael, Calif., as a Marin County Superior Court judge has ruled that the man who made the instruments, Doug Irwin, was the rightful owner. Grateful Dead Productions had argued that Irwin's statute of limitations as owner of the guitars had expired and collectors should have the opportunity to purchase them.