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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Movies that take place in the White House are usually focused on the President of the United States, but Lee Daniels' drama The Butler serves up a new perspective on the old location. Starring Forest Whitaker, Jane Fonda, and Oprah Winfrey (among a long list of Hollywood power players that make up the rest of the cast), the movie tells the story of Eugene Allen, the longtime White House employee who served under eight American presidents.
Allen was the White House's head butler from 1952 to 1986, and had a unique front-row seat as political and racial history was made. The Butler also stars Alex Pettyfer, John Cusack as Richard Nixon, Robin Williams as Dwight Eisenhower, James Marsden as John F. Kennedy, Melissa Leo, Alan Rickman as Ronald Reagan, Liev Schreiber as Lyndon B. Johnson, Terrance Howard, Minka Kelly as Jackie Kennedy, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Vanessa Redgrave.
Watch the just-released trailer below:
The Butler hits theaters October 18, 2013.
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More:Robin Williams to Play President Dwight Eisenhower in 'The Butler'Nancy Reagan Approves of Jane Fonda's Casting in 'The Butler'
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In the grand tradition of modernizing classic brands, MTV2 announced that they will revive the game show property Hollywood Squares with a 21st century spin. Hip Hop Squares will feature familiar names like DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, Mac Miller, Machine Gun Kelly, Ghostface Killah, Nick Cannon while throwing in the occasional associated panelist, including Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley and Jackass/Wildboyz star Bam Margera. Speaking to EW, MTV2's programming chief Paul Ricci the goal was to "refresh an iconic format and create a fun, dynamic series that's unpredictable, heavy on personality and much more 'party' than 'game show'."
That line-up carries serious weight, but there's a missing piece of the puzzle that helped the show's previous incarnations become milestones. Based on the released hip hop-centric panelists, there's a complete lack of diversity — specifically on the sexual-orientation front. That may not seem like a big deal, but for all of the game show brand's kitsch and silliness, Hollywood Squares pushed the envelope; in 1968, the original version anchored the show with Paul Lynde, who, while never revealing his personal sexual preferences, but retroactively became a gay figurehead. In the 1998 revival, comedian Bruce Vilanch was a permanent fixture, routinely cracking innuendo jokes that spoofed his sexuality. There's no written rule that Hollywood Squares needs a gay cast member to function or be properly executed, but it's boldly hosted them with little audience resistance and always for entertainment-driven reasons.
The hip hop industry is notoriously narrow and there history with the gay community has rough patches. Currently, there aren't openly gay rappers working with mainstream labels. But Hip Hop Squares panelist Fat Joe believes there are plenty working in the industry. In a 2011 interview, the rapper told VladTV that he believed there was a large gay community in the hip-hop world — but that they weren't coming out. “I think I’ve done songs with gay rappers. I’m pretty sure of that … I happen to think there’s a gay mafia in hip-hop. Not rappers — editorial presidents of magazines, the PDs at radio stations, the people who give you awards at award shows … They’re in power … So why wouldn’t a guy come out and say, ‘Yo, I’m gay’ and get that type of love? " Author Terrance Dean corroborates the idea in his 2008 book Hiding in Hip Hop: On the Down Low in the Entertainment Industry — from Music to Hollywood. Gay hip hop artists exist — and may even be stars — but the industry pressure doesn't allow them to be open.
Even if gay artists aren't prominent in the big labels, they are working, and thriving, in the US. MC Big Freedia is breaking out in New Orleans, helping expand the Sissy Bounce genre out of its regional confines (he appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! earlier this year), while Cazwell has gained notoriety through the True Color Tour and LOGO promotion — but you won't find his music videos running in regular rotation on Viacom's sister site MTV.
In a strange way, MTV2 has an opportunity with Hip Hop Squares. Bring in the audience that comes for Ghostface Killah, Nick Cannon and a handful of NFL stars then expose them to some wonderful gay talent. Based on the announced line-up, the show already sounds homogeneous. The rap world is dying for a breakout, an equality game changer that even the media seems unable to crack (The New York Times is profiling MC Big Freedia and yet few have heard of him). The new Hollywood Squares needs its Paul Lynde, its Bruce Vilanch, its diversity. And there are plenty of choices.
Thanks to @JenniMiller and @gmorse for additional research.
Find Matt Patches directly on Twitter @misterpatches and remember to follow @Hollywood_com![EW]
Bobby Garfield (David Morse) returns to his small hometown to attend the funeral of his childhood friend and remembers the fateful summer in 1960 when his whole world changed. The story flashes back to when 11-year-old Bobby (Anton Yelchin) and his best friends Carol (Mika Boorem) and Sully-John (Will Rothhaar) capture the pure joy of youthfulness. When a mysterious stranger named Ted Brautigan (Anthony Hopkins) moves upstairs and starts to pay attention to Bobby the boy suddenly realizes what's truly missing from his life--the love of a parent. Bobby's mother Liz (Hope Davis) is embittered by the death of Bobby's father and shows little compassion for her son's growing needs. Ted fills a void with the boy opening his eyes to the world around him and helps Bobby come to terms with his real feelings for Carol--and his mother. But Ted also has some deep dark secrets of his own and Bobby tries hard to stop danger from reaching the old man.
The performances make the film especially in the genuine camaraderie of the kids. Yelchin Boorem and Rothhaar never deliver a false move with an easiness that makes us believe we are simply watching three 11-year-old children grow up together. Yelchin in particular is able to get right to the heart of this young boy who misses his father and clings to the only adult who will listen. And his scenes with Boorem simply break your heart. (Davis) does an admirable job playing a part none too sympathetic. She manages to show a woman whose been beaten down but who does truly love her son in her own way. Morse too is one of those character actors you can plug in any movie and get a performance worth noting. In Hearts you want to see more of him. Of course the film shines brightest when Hopkins is on the screen. It may not be an Oscar-caliber performance but the actor is unparalleled in bringing a character to life--showing the subtleties of an old man looking for some peace in his life.
If you are expecting the Stephen King novel you may be disappointed. Screenwriter William Goldman and director Scott Hicks (Shine) deftly extracted the King formula of telling a story through a child's eye and explaining how the relationships formed as a child shaped the adult later. Hicks did an amazing job with his young actors especially Yelchin and Boorem. But where the novel continued into a supernatural theme explaining Brautigan's fear of being captured by "low men in yellow coats" (a reference to King's The Dark Tower series) the movie downplayed the mystical elements instead giving real explanations for Brautigan's man-on-the-run. That was the one problem with Hearts--we needed more danger. Introducing men from another dimension may not have been the way to go but had there been more tension the film would have resonated more especially when Bobby risked his own safety to save Ted.