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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Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
Top Story: Crosby Arrested on Gun and Drug Charges
Rock musician David Crosby was arrested early Saturday on marijuana and felony gun possession charges at a New York hotel, Reuters reports. According to the police report, a hotel manager at the Doubletree Guest Suites hotel called police after a maid searching for identification in a green canvas bag Crosby left after checking out of his room discovered a small quantity of marijuana, a .45-caliber gun, ammunition and knives. The 62-year-old musician, who rose to fame with the Byrds and later Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in the late 1960s and 1970s, was charged with the third-degree felony of criminal possession of a weapon and unlawful drug possession, Manhattan District Attorney spokeswoman Barbara Thompson told Reuters. Crosby, who spent a year in prison after a drug charge conviction in 1985, could serve up to seven years in jail if convicted of the gun charge. He was freed after appearing in court and posting bail of $3,500.
Return of the King DVD Bows in May
The Lord of the Rings enthusiasts can look forward to the DVD and VHS release of The Return of the King May 25, three months earlier in the year than its predecessors, The Associated Press reports. In recent years, New Line had held off until August to release The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers to generate anticipation for the trilogy's next theatrical release. Now, with the trilogy concluded--and riding high on the 11 Oscars the film won at the Academy Awards--New Line has decided to roll out the third and final installment earlier. AP reports the initial DVD release of The Return of the King will include a bevy of behind-the-scenes material--and, as with the other two installments, an extended version of King will be released sometime around the holidays. The three extended versions will push the saga's running time to more than 11 hours.
Schwarzenegger Heads Up Fitness Weekend
Arnold Schwarzenegger's got a busy schedule, what with running the nation's largest state and all, but still managed to take time out for his first love--bodybuilding. Reuters reports the Governator visited Columbus, Ohio, last weekend to officiate the Arnold Schwarzenegger Fitness Weekend and its centerpiece, the Arnold Classic bodybuilding contest. The three-day event--which dates back to 1989 and includes 600 exhibitors, 11,000 athletes and some 80,000 attendees--coincided with Schwarzenegger's appointment as executive editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines, two American Media-owned bodybuilding mags that have featured the former Mr. Universe on their covers some 50 times, Reuters reports.
Lost in Translation Feted at Comedy Fest
The Oscar-winning Lost in Translation was one of the big winners at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, Colo. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Sofia Coppola's film about two lost souls in Tokyo won the audience award, along with best performance (Bill Murray), first-time director and screenplay prizes at the festival's second annual Comedy Film Honors. Al Madrigal took the jury award for best standup performer, while Dave Gorman won for the second time in the best one-person show category.
Role Call, Part I: McConaughey Swings Hammer, Universal in 11th Hour
Matthew McConaughey is in negotiations to star in Hammer Down for DreamWorks, a story about a disgraced NASCAR driver who becomes a wheel man in a heist in hopes to get his life back on track, Variety reports… Universal Pictures has acquired the project The 11th Hour, by first-time director and Shattered Glass scribe Billy Ray. According to Variety, the biopic tells the story of Robert Hanssen, the traitorous FBI agent who sold government secrets to the Soviet Union and centers on Hanssen's assistant Eric O'Neil. No cast as been set as yet.
Role Call, Part II: Malick Postpones Che
The trades also report eccentric director Terrence Malick (The Thin Red Line) has abruptly shelved his biopic project Che, about Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara, and will instead direct The New World, a drama about Pocahontas and the cultural collision of European explorers and Native American tribes starring Colin Farrell. Che was due to start filming in July 2004 in Bolivia with Benicio Del Toro set as the title character and Franka Potente, Javier Bardem, Benjamin Bratt and Ryan Gosling as his lieutenants. Malick, who co-wrote the Che script with Del Toro and Ben Vanderveen, has told the film's producers, Laura Bickford and Steven Soderbergh (Traffic), and financiers that he still intends to direct the film in July 2005, Variety reports. Despite the delay, Del Toro plans to stick with it. He and Bickford came up with the project in 1997, and they and Soderbergh own it. According to Variety, Del Toro is already fielding acting offers to fill his sudden summer vacancy, and Che will apparently wait until Malick returns.