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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For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
As befits his newfound boffo box office status, Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire purchased a 5,000-square-foot $3.7 million mansion in Beverly Hills, Calif., Reuters reports. Maguire, who made a paltry $4 million for his role, will certainly be able to make the payments: He's signed on to do two Spider-Man sequels for a whopping $23 million. Spider-Man shattered box office records with a $115 million opening weekend and a $200 million total haul in its first 10 days.
"Janie's Got a Gun," but where's her fire extinguisher? Aerosmith bassist Tom Hamilton's Cape Cod, Mass., home was destroyed by fire Saturday, The Associated Press reports. No one was in the house when the fire occurred.
Latin hottie Salma Hayek is set to produce and star in Murphy's Law, a romantic comedy based on ideas by her brother Sami and on Murphy's Law, which states that anything that can go wrong will. Sounds more like an Al Gore biography than a movie.
Edward Burns and Catherine McCormack may gain a scene-stealing veteran colleague to the cast of Peter Hyams' A Sound of Thunder: Ben Kingsley, The Hollywood Reporter claims. Kingsley was recently nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in Sexy Beast.
In the Biz
Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones narrowly averted a rating disaster in Great Britain, where cutting a scene showing a head butt allowed the movie to carry a PG rating (meaning that while all age groups are allowed to attend, some scenes may not be appropriate for children). If it hadn't been cut, no one under 12 would have been allowed to see the movie. As it is, this is the strictest rating any Star Wars film has ever received in Great Britain--the four others received the United Kingdom's non-restrictive U (universal) rating.
Sharon Maguire, director of surprise hit Bridget Jones's Diary, is said to be in initial negotiations with Columbia Pictures to helm the romantic comedy Last First Kiss, Variety reports. It's rumored that Will Smith and Jennifer Lopez may star.
Watch out for Lara Croft! Angelina Jolie may have a new director to mastermind the heroine's adventures in the Tomb Raider sequel. According to Variety, Paramount is intent on making Jan De Bont (Speed) the guy calling the shots behind the lens.
And just when you thought all the bad reality shows were on Fox.... ABC has finally scheduled an airdate for The Mole II, a TV casualty of the Sept. 11 tragedy. The first two episodes, which previously aired Sept. 28, will be re-shown on Tuesday, May 28, to be followed on consecutive Tuesday nights by the next never-seen-before nine episodes. Why? We don't know.
The Queen's Golden Jubilee pop concert scheduled for next month has received a Latin infusion. Ricky Martin has been added to the all-star lineup that includes Elton John, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, Tom Jones and Ozzy Osbourne.
Posh Spice (Victoria) and her soccer captain hubby, David Beckham, threw a celebrity party to benefit Britain's National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children on Sunday. Among the attendees were Elton John, Joan Collins, billionaire Richard Branson, designer Vivienne Westwood and tennis star Greg Rusedski.
Andy Bird, a broke aspiring director who dated pop icon Madonna for 18 months beginning in 1997, is now speaking to the press. Bird told Scotland's Sunday Mail that he supported the Material Girl's decision to abort their baby. Bird also said the couple split because he couldn't handle the attention that Madonna's fame brought. Apparently, he's a much stronger man now--or he's broke again.
Carol Burnett's daughter, Carrie Hamilton, passed away at the age of 38 on Sunday. The actress (TV's Fame) died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles due to complications from cancer.
The Estefans--singer Gloria and husband Emilio--have been granted a temporary restraining order against Juan Carlos Diaz, who claims Emilio has sexually harassed and threatened him. Judge Deborah White-Labora did not comply with Diaz's request for a reciprocal TRO against Emilio, but did say she'd ask the elevators in the courthouse to stop playing Gloria's music.
The Toronto-based company Chum, which runs the music channel MuchMusic, has filed a complaint with the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), stating that rival MTV Canada is playing too many music videos, Variety reports. It's alleged that MTV Canada is violating their license agreement, predicated on the station's playing a maximum of 10 percent music videos. Memo fro Hollywood.com to MuchMusic: When MTV Canada airs videos featuring Britney Spears, they really don't count as "music" videos.
The 63-year-old agreement that restricts the activities of talent agents is nearing the end of its 15-month termination phase, and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), which monitors the pact, is in frantic negotiations with agents. Primarily the pact prevents agents from acting as producers. The problem is, no one can figure out what it is producers actually do.
Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has regained hearing in one ear after receiving a cochlear implant. Limbaugh became profoundly deaf due to an autoimmune disorder. Either that, or due to listening to his own pusillanimous diatribe lo these many years.
Mike Tyson is being sued for divorce again, PageSix.com reports. Monica Tyson filed the requisite papers with Maryland officials Thursday. The second-year medical resident cited Iron Mike's penchant for the ladies as one reason for the split. Another being that when Mike nibbles on her ear he tells she tastes "just like Evander Holyfield."
The New York Post has calculated 21 TV stars' per-viewer salaries--and the results may surprise you. All My Children's Susan Lucci proved to be the biggest bargain at 23 cents per viewer, though Lucci earns $1 million per season for her work at ABC. And Katie Couric, despite her recent $65 million contract extension, logs in at only $2.82 per viewer. Hollywood.com has computed that Larry King (an incredibly high $5.78 per viewer) is still a bigger bargain than Drew Carey ($300,000 per viewer), as only four people actually watch The Drew Carey Show.
A ruby-encrusted, sterling silver and gold saddle owned by the late Roy Rogers was sold at auction for $412,000 Saturday. Hundreds of Czech rubies decorate the saddle, which was made using 1,400 ounces of silver and 136 ounces of gold. The anonymous winner was heard muttering, "No one told me the horse was sold separately."