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
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
Endless Love has awakened something in me. Not a long dormant passion for an introverted high school classmate, or a sudden desire to break into the zoo after dark. A question about movies — more accurately, about movie criticism. The same question you would ask yourself if you fell drowsy in the middle of Citizen Kane, or welled up during the emotional climax of Just Friends. The question I ask myself now, as I recount the 103 straight minutes of asphyxiating laughter that I endured during a screening of Shana Feste’s would-be romantic drama: What makes a good movie?
We assign deference to some films, disgust to others — a lucky few of us make a living this way. But what, precisely, are we reviewing? A film’s mission or its execution? The product onscreen or the experience of watching it? All factors come into play when considering whether or not a movie “works.” But on rare occasions you’ll get a film that offers no common ground in its meeting of these standards. You’ll get Endless Love, which strives for dramatic sincerity, winds up with underwritten idiocy, and provokes in its viewers an unrestrained, absurdist revelry — the kind of joy you’d otherwise be forced to seek in a third viewing of The Lego Movie. Laughter at the ill-conceived antics and befuddling dialectical patterns of our central teen couple — a Mars native Gabrielle Wilde and her gaping mouthed beau Alex Pettyfer. Elated bemusement at the younger generation’s propensity for chaotic disrobing and didactically organized dance parties. Unprecedented ecstasy at the Mafia movie intimidation tactics of an overprotective dad (Bruce Greenwood) and the brain-dead disregard of a supportive one (Robert Patrick). As a comedy, Endless Love is unstoppable.
I can only hypothesize that it was not Feste’s intention to roll us in the aisles. I have no cold proof that her resolution in paving every nook in her Georgia-set remake with another farcical stone — Wilde’s instantaneous evolution from wordless ingénue to sexually aggressive spirit walker, Patrick’s loving caution-to-the-wind attitude regarding any situation that has to do with a girl, Rhys Wakefield’s “black sheep” character forming an odd amalgamation of Pauly Shore and Charlie St. Cloud — was not one of Wolf of Wall Street-like satire, or reappropriation in the vein of Spring Breakers. Here are two movies that earned scorn from viewers who read them literally, and in turn vehement defense from those who peered through the exaltation of cocaine and firearms into the filmmakers’ ironic intentions.
Universal Pictures via Everett Collection
To the latter community, one to which I subscribe, I ask: if we’re readily willing to dive deeper for Martin Scorsese and Harmony Korine, shouldn’t we grant Feste this benefit? If we’d defend the authenticity of the splendor we recognized in their movies, why am I inclined to write off the very same when present in this year’s Valentine’s Day cannonball? Why do I eagerly laud the merit in Leonardo DiCaprio directing Quaalude-charged tribal chants and relinquishing subhuman treatment upon anyone short a Y-chromosome, while instinctively shafting the invaluable merriment in Pettyfer’s goofily deliberate declaration that he likes to read into the category of happy accident?
But an even more precise question (one I was challenged to entertain by a friend and film critic far wiser than I am), and this time to the former community: does it matter? Did it matter to all those offended by gunplay and intrusive nudity that Korine set out to demonize youth culture and its omnipresent hedonism? Did considering his intentions make the endgame any less a visceral nightmare? If not, does it matter if Feste poured her soul into the machination of a timeless love story, only to produce a riotous cinematic episode that treads genre parody as expertly as anything from the golden age of the Zucker brothers? Does it matter that she didn’t intend for Wilde and Pettyfer’s sex scene to come off as super-hoke, for every mention of cancer to feel like soap opera send-up, or for Robert Patrick’s vindication of his son’s passion for menagerie trespassing to elicit the biggest laugh of a movie yet in 2014?
So long as I consider the power of cinema, I’ll never be sure if it matters. I’ll never be sure of the answers to any of these questions. But no matter where I find myself standing on this issue down the line, I had far too much fun at Endless Love — and entertained far too many questions on the nature of cinema and the way we react to it — to call it a movie that people shouldn’t see.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter| Follow @Hollywood_com
This week, Jon Favreau seeks to once and for all declare a winner in the age-old feud between Cowboys and Aliens. The film stars current James Bond Daniel Craig and living movie geek legend Harrison Ford as a pair of tough hombres suddenly besieged by banditos from way, waaaaaay across the border. While it would be easy to get swept up in this tandem of man stardom, the fact is that Cowboys and Aliens has rounded up quite a sensational cast. Here are a few other faces you should look for, if you can possibly tear yourself away from Daniel Craig’s steely blue eyes.
Clancy Brown is one of my very favorite character actors. He’s one of those guys whose face and voice instantly ring familiar even if you can’t immediately place him; in fact the mark of a great character actor. Brown first caught our attention as the sinister Kurgan seeking to take the head of Connor MacLeod in 1986’s Highlander. Then, in 1994, he brought to life Steven King’s brutish Captain Hadley in The Shawshank Redemption. Brown then continued with his quest to show us what real men are made of as he enlisted in the Space Marines and killed a whole mess of bugs in Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers. After a slew of amazing voice work on some incredible animated series, Brown appeared on Lost and most recently was the voice of Parallax in Green Lantern.
Paul Dano is an actor of unparalleled talent, but big-budget genre films represent an entirely new planet for him. In 2004, he appeared in the underrated sex comedy The Girl Next Door as the quiet, unassuming Klitz. But audiences and critics alike first took real notice of Dano in the 2006 indie comedy Little Miss Sunshine as the confused, mute teenage brother of a half-pint beauty queen wannabe. But the performance that completely floored this writer was his dark, manipulative Eli Sunday in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood. I am looking forward to seeing him bring that same intensity to a more crowd-pleasing film so that a wider audience becomes aware of his greatness.
While most likely the most potentially recognizable of this list, Olivia Wilde is still far from a household name. Interestingly, one of Wilde’s first films was also 2004’s The Girl Next Door, but it wasn’t until she turned up as Dr. Remy ‘Thirteen’ Hadley on the television drama House that she started to garner some attention. But unlike Dano, Wilde is no stranger to genre films or even sci-fi for that matter. Just last year she turned all of our heads sporting that tight, lighted suit in Tron: Legacy. I think it’s safe to say that a lacy bodice and a pair of long boots will do little to curb our adoration.
Two years ago, the Hollywood community lost a remarkable actor: David Carradine. But as it turns out, David was far from the only talented actor in the Carradine family. Keith Carradine has been turning in fantastic performances since the early 70s. He engaged in a life-long struggle for honor against Harvey Keitel in The Duelists; a powerful early film from Ridley Scott. Carradine has also proven time and time again that he is no slouch when it comes to westerns. In 1980, he appeared, along with brothers David and Robert, in Walter Hill’s phenomenal The Long Riders. He also played Buffalo Bill Cody in Walter Hill’s Wild Bill and would later play Wild Bill himself during a five-episode stint on Deadwood. Most recently, fans of the series Dexter would recognize him as Special Agent Frank Lundy.
I must admit I had no idea who Walton Goggins was until my lovely wife sat me down and made me watch one of her favorite shows: The Shield. Goggins played Detective Shane Vendrell, one of the looser cannons on Det. Vick Mackey’s already unhinged strike team. Since then, each and every time I have seen Goggins pop up on TV or the big screen, I have taken dutiful notice. Recently Goggins appeared in Predators as one of the despicable rabble rounded up as target practice for cinema’s iconic race of alien hunters. Goggins is also earning rave reviews for his new series Justified in which he stars opposite Timothy Olyphant.
Lancaster was joined by Girls Aloud singer Nicola Roberts and Spandau Ballet frontman Tony Hadley to work as traders in London's financial district for the 6th Annual BGC Charity Day, swapping places with staff to man phones on the trading floor.
The firm's bosses annually commemorate the loss of hundreds of colleagues at their affiliate company Cantor Fitzgerald who were killed after Muslim extremists flew two planes into the World Trade Center in 2001.
Lancaster says, "The buzz on the trading floor was amazing... It's fantastic to think everyone at BGC Partners has given up their time for free and to be generous enough (sic) to give the day's revenues to charity."
Across the Atlantic, Duff turned up to help the cause by manning phones at BGC's New York office.