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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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
The house has been brought down again.
The Queen Latifah/Steve Martin comedy Bringing Down the House stayed at number one for the second week in a row with a $22.4 million* haul.
The new kids on the block were not too far behind. The 'tween actioner Agent Cody Banks opened at No. 2 with $15 million and the knife-driven thriller The Hunted came in third place with $13.5 million, while the creepy rat movie Willard scurried into eighth place with $4 million.
Last week's war-torn opener Tears of the Sun slipped from its No. 2 spot to fourth place at $8.8 million, while the musical Chicago rounded out the top five with a hefty $7.7 million.
THE TOP TEN
Buena Vista's PG-13 Bringing Down the House laughed to the bank once again with an ESTIMATED $22.4 million (-28%) in 2,801 theaters ($7,997 per theater). Its cume is approximately $61.6 million, which means moviegoers apparently do want to see a ghetto fabulous gal from the 'hood turn an uptight white guy's life upside down.
Directed by Adam Shankman, it stars Steve Martin, Queen Latifah, Eugene Levy and Joan Plowright.
MGM's junior spy movie aimed directly at the highly profitable 10-13 age group, the PG-rated Agent Cody Banks, debuted in second place with an ESTIMATED $15 million at 3,369 theaters ($4,452 per theater).
The film centers on a typical teenager who loves to skateboard, hates math and feels like a complete idiot around girls. But Cody Banks differs from other teens in one big way: He's actually a junior CIA agent out to save the world--and of course, a girl.
Directed by Harald Zwart, it stars Frankie Muniz, Hilary Duff and Angie Harmon.
Taking a look at the flip side of what being a government agent is really like, Paramount Pictures' dark R-rated thriller The Hunted opened at No. 3 with an ESTIMATED $13.5 million at 2,516 theaters ($5,366 per theater).
The story follows a Special Forces assassin trained in the use of knives who goes off the deep end and must be stopped by the agent who taught him to be a killing machine.
Directed by William Friedkin, it stars Tommy Lee Jones, Benicio Del Toro and Connie Nielsen.
Sony Pictures' R-rated Tears of the Sun fell from last week's No. 2 spot to No. 4 with an ESTIMATED $8.8 million (-48%) at 2,973 theaters ($2,960 per theater). With a highly patriotic theme about an elite Navy SEAL team sent in to rescue a American doctor and the Nigerian village she's taking care of, its cume is approximately $30.8 million.
Directed by Antoine Fuqua, it stars Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci.
Riding high on some serious awards buzz after winning several Screen Actors Guild honors, Miramax Films' PG-13 Chicago slipped one notch to fifth place with an ESTIMATED $7.7 million but still managed to gain 13 percent more in box office totals than last week. The film played in 2,600 theaters ($2,966 per theater) and now in its 12th week has a cume of approximately $125.4 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
Sixth place belonged to the R-rated DreamWorks laffer Old School, which dropped three spots from last week with an ESTIMATED $6.8 million (-26%) in 2,452 theaters (-255 theaters; $2,773 per theater). The comedy about a trio of former college buds who start their own off-campus fraternity has accumulated approximately $60.9 million so far.
Directed by Todd Phillips, it stars Luke Wilson, Will Farrell and Vince Vaughn.
Romance still makes it up there on the top ten list as Paramount's PG-13 How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days dropped from fifth to seventh place with an ESTIMATED $4.8 million (-28%) in 2,430 theaters (-467 theaters; $1,988 per theater). Now in its sixth week, the film's cume is approximately $93.8 million.
Directed by Donald Petrie, it stars Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
New Line Cinema's ratty PG-13 Willard debuted at No. 8 with an ESTIMATED $4 million at 1,761 theaters ($2,286 per theater).
A loosely based remake of the 1971 cult classic, the story revolves around a timid introvert who can psychically command his whiskered, four-legged friends to do whatever he wants--including "tearing up" some of his enemies. Blech.
Directed by Glen Morgan, it stars Crispin Glover, R. Lee Ermey and Laura Elena Harring.
20th Century Fox's PG-13 comic-book actioner Daredevil shimmied its way down from seventh to ninth place with an ESTIMATED $3.040 million (-42%) at 2,054 theaters (-724 theaters; $1,480 per theater). In its fifth week, the film's cume is approximately $96 million.
Directed by Mark Steven Johnson, it stars Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner, Colin Farrell and Michael Clarke Duncan.
Barely coming in under Daredevil was Warner Bros. R-rated Cradle 2 the Grave, which dropped four spots to take 10th place with an ESTIMATED $3.003 million (-54%) at 2,150 theaters (-475 theaters; $1,397 per theater). The high-octane actioner's cume is approximately $31.7 million.
Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak, it stars DMX, Jet Li, Gabrielle Union, Anthony Anderson and Tom Arnold.
Fox Searchlight's PG-13 Bend It Like Beckham, which was a huge hit in Britain last year, opened in limited U.S. release with an ESTIMATED $151,717 in 6 theaters ($25,286 per theater).
The film follows the aspirations of a young Indian girl living in London whose only desire is to play soccer--even if it means going against her traditional family's wishes.
Directed Gurinder Chadha, it stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
This weekend's top 12 films grossed $93.3 million, down 1.33 percent from last weekend's take of $94.5 million, as well as down 22 percent from the $120 million of the same weekend last year.
Last year's top grossers were all newcomers: 20th Century Fox's Ice Age opened at No. 1 with a whopping $46.3 million (3,316 theaters; $13,966 per theater) while Sony's Resident Evil came in second with $17.7 million (2,528 theaters; $7,004 per theater) and Warner's Showtime in third with $15 million (2,917 theaters; $5,146 per theater).