Russell Crowe

Russell Crowe in Noah

“Let me tell you a story.” Beloved filmmaker Darren Aronofsky’s much-hyped Noah didn’t exactly deliver the goods when it finally hit the big screen earlier this season, but the feature did boast some eye-popping scenes and settings that were very nearly worth the price of admission. They built a whole ark, for goodness’ sake! And there’s at least one other thing Aronofsky nailed when it came to creating his own cinematic world – the actual creation of the world, at least as told through his own camera lens (and lots and lots of special effects). Protozoa Pictures has now made the extraordinarily awesome “Creation” clip live (yes, it’s about the creation of the world, but no, you don’t need to be a Biblical devotee or a Christian to enjoy it), and the good people of /Film were smart enough to find it and share. Let’s sit back and soak in the glory of the very first story ever told (even though it happens to hit Noah in, well, its middle, after the flood has washed away nearly everything in existence).

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Russell Crowe in

Darren Aronofsky’s big budget Bible epic, Noah, finally hits theaters today, and although the film is packed with some major surprises (those of you familiar with the Curse of Ham are going to be quite put out), there’s one twist that most of its audience will never see coming – because it’s totally absent from the film’s marketing campaign.  A twist?, you might wonder, why would a marketing campaign include a twist? Oh, only because that twist is actually the existence of an actual pack of supporting characters (not just one, not two, not even three, but a whole pack) that are ripped from the film’s traditional source material (you know, the Bible) and play a major part in some of the film’s biggest bits of action (from building the ark to battling the baddies). So why can’t you find them in any official still, trailer, or teaser? Spoilers ahead.

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Russell Crowe in Noah movie

If you were raised by parents who even loosely identified as practitioners of a Western religion, then chances are you were brought up being told some version of the Noah story. You know the one—God becomes upset with the wickedness of man, decides to flood the Earth and wipe everything out so that he can start over, Noah is tasked with building a giant boat that can save a male and female from every species of animal, and then, wickedness wiped out, Noah’s family and all of the critters are encouraged to be fruitful and multiply. It’s a good story for kids. It sends the message that if you don’t behave morally, the world will punish you, it involves a bunch of furry creatures, and it’s easy to summarize. Which is why Darren Aronofsky is kind of taking a risk by turning it into a big budget, epic adventure film. Not only do most people think of the Noah story as existing within the realm of childhood fairy tale, but those who are devout are likely to bristle at the idea of having one of their sacred stories blown up and turned into Hollywood fare, and those who don’t respond well to religion aren’t likely to look forward to reliving their early days sitting through Sunday School lectures. There’s good news here for all of these potential whiners though, because Noah is far too dark and complex to be confused for a childhood fairy tale, it takes great pains to […]

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Winters_Tale_19

I went to the movies on Friday night. Surrounded by friends in just the right mood, and a bit buzzed, I sat down to a 7:45pm screening of Winter’s Tale. And you know what? I had a fantastic time. It’s terrible, of course. Akiva Goldsman‘s directorial debut isn’t so much a train wreck as it is the colliding of planets, à la Melancholia. This apparently genuine attempt at epic, magical romance is the most spectacular disaster I have seen in a long, long time. Nothing works. The plot doesn’t make any sense, the actors all seem to be performing in different movies, and it is blissfully unaware of its own silliness. If I had to smack a label on it, I’d call it the perfect midnight movie. But what does that actually mean?

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review winters tale

What to make of a time-spanning romance featuring Lucifer in a Jimi Hendrix t-shirt, a flying horse named Deus Ex Machina, and a woman killed by a too-warm penis? What indeed. Winter’s Tale opens in present day New York City and stays there for a full three minutes before jumping back to 1895 and a ship filled with hopeful immigrants. One couple is turned away, but desperate for their infant son’s future they lower him into the water and toss his fate to the waves. Quick cut to 21 years later, and Peter Lake (Colin Farrell) is a petty thief on the run. Yes. Colin Farrell plays a 21 year-old. He’s on the run from Pearly Soames (Russell Crowe), a demonic mob boss intent on killing Peter for some unknown slight, but before heading out of town Peter makes time for one last score at the home of newspaper editor Isaac Penn (William Hurt). What he doesn’t know is that Penn’s deathly ill but still gorgeous daughter, Beverly (Jessica Brown Findlay), is tickling the ivories inside, and one admittedly well-written meet-cute later the beginning of a great love has stirred in their loins and in the air between them. Poor pronoun reference there, but it’s not inaccurate.

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Noah Crowe 1

The trailer for Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah has arrived, bringing with it Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, Jennifer Connelly, and two of every creature on the Earth. But not all those other people panicking on land — screw them. It’s the story, of course, of the age-old biblical tale of Noah’s ark; in the Old Testament, God decides that he’s had enough with the world and its people’s sinning ways, so he calls upon Noah with a very specific task — build a massive ark big enough to fit himself, his family and two of every animal. All those outside the boat will be washed away with the sins of the world by a devastating, unfathomable flood. Needless to say, Aronofsky’s vision of the Great Flood is a crashing, gargantuan force that makes that wave that swallowed the Statue of Liberty in the Day After Tomorrow look like some prime surfing territory.

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amanda-seyfried

Are you able to spot any similarities between Amanda Seyfried’s smooth, porcelain doll features and the worn and weathered face of longtime Hollywood tough guy Russell Crowe? Director Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds) seems to be able to, because Variety is reporting that he’s just cast her as Crowe’s adult daughter in his next film, appropriately titled Fathers and Daughters. Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that they both have piercing blue eyes. Or maybe it’s just because they’re both famous actors. Fathers and Daughters comes from a Black List script that was penned by Brad Desch, and it tells two New York-set stories that take place 25 years apart. The first features Crowe as a famous novelist and widower who is struggling with mental illness and the task of trying to raise his five-year-old daughter on his own. The second story features Seyfried playing a 30-year-old lady trying to make her way in present day Manhattan, all while carrying around the crippling neuroses that come from being raised by a writer father who had mental issues. Or, for the sake of eliminating redundancy, let’s just call him a writer father. 

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Noah Crowe 1

Who knew sackcloth and ashes could look so great? Apparently Darren Aronosfky (or at least costume designer Michael Wilkinson). Recognizing that the bulk of the connection hear comes from Russell Crowe, these first images from the Black Swan director’s Biblical epic Noah feel a lot like we’re heading back into Ridley Scott Robin Hood territory. It’s also partially because these pictures (via The Film Stage) are close-ups on the actors without much discernible background beyond “a forest somewhere.” Obviously the films will be nothing like each other, and it’s interesting to see Noah and his family in something other than impossibly clean togas as is the artistic norm, but the likeness popped right out. Is it just me?

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Man of Steel

We first meet Kal-El exiting his mother’s alien vagina. It’s no different from an Earth woman’s vagina aside from, presumably, its reinforced structural walls, but the birth is of extreme importance on the dying planet of Krypton. The infant’s father, Jor-El (Russell Crowe), has accused Kryptonian politicians of dooming the planet and its people through short-sightedness and ignorance. General Zod (Michael Shannon) agrees with Jor-El, but instead of talking it out with those in power, he orchestrates a violent coup to seize control. It’s amid the ensuing chaos, both natural and man-made, that the baby boy is shipped off to Earth. More than two decades later Clark Kent (Henry Cavill) is a quiet loner, traveling the world anonymously in search of answers to who he really is and performing amazing feats of rescue along the way. His lack of identity never gets in the way of his desire to help people, but when an alien ship is discovered frozen beneath the ice, his curiosity triggers a chain reaction of events that provides him with answers while simultaneously leading to the brink of mankind’s destruction. Man of Steel is every inch a Zack Snyder/Christopher Nolan production, and there’s both good and bad in that statement. Snyder’s directorial hand ensures the film is a visual powerhouse filled with real spectacle while Nolan uses his producer powers to find the traditionally bright and colorful superhero’s darker, grittier and more angst-ridden tones, but they also bring with them a shared preference of imagery and […]

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Les Miserables and Joan of Arc

What is the very best way to use of the close-up? Is it best to save close-ups for the emotional arcs of a film, or to introduce a character? Can too many close-ups leave audiences feeling claustrophobic, and can too few prevent us from properly identifying with characters? Much has been made of Tom Hooper’s controversial use of the close-up for Les Miserables. The lack of critical consent over the film’s close-ups could be a major reason why Hooper has been on few shortlists for directing awards, even as the film garners attention fin other categories. Hooper’s use of the close-up perhaps reaches its apex early on, in an extended shot of Anne Hathaway as Fantine singing “I Dreamed a Dream,” a sequence that has been generally celebrated as the film’s strongest moment and ostensibly ensured Hathaway’s lock for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. But Hooper’s isn’t the first filmmaker known for implementing the close-up liberally and controversially. How does Hooper’s use of the close-up for a film musical compare to one of cinema history’s most famous close-up-structured films, Carl Theodor Dreyer’s silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc?

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Broken City Trailer

Broken City seemingly has all of the ingredients to be one of those action/dramas that is so cheesy it delivers – there’s Mark Wahlberg being tough, there’s Russell Crowe with a horrendous spray tan and a Donald Trump-lite combover, there’s Catherine Zeta-Jones with an equally horrendous spray tan, and there’s director Allen Hughes, who has some street cred as one half of The Hughes Brothers directing team. And corrupt politician dramas are usually fairly entertaining, right? Not so much here. Broken City, instead, is largely a misfire. The film’s plot meanders and leaves many open threads, likely the result of re-edits, and none of the characters are particularly likable. There’s just so much a balls out Russell Crowe performance can save a movie, and shockingly enough, Crowe doesn’t even have all that much screen time. The film opens with Wahlberg’s NYC Detective Billy Taggert shooting someone in the head in a NYC housing project, Bolton Village – he has a beard, so clearly, he is coded as being troubled. He is tried (now beardless), since his self-defense plea is questionable at best. There is evidence that surfaces that can put him away, but Republican-seeming Mayor Nicolas Hostetler (Crowe) decides to keep that evidence for his own eventual gain, allowing Taggart to go free, albeit without his job.

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A Look Back at the Cinematic Facial Hair of 2012

The movies released in 2012 have been notable for many reasons, impacting or reflecting news events both positively and negatively. It’s also seen new innovations, the most notable being the first release of a film in 48 frames per second. However, cinematic historians will also look back on 2012 as being a banner year for facial hair. The entire crew of Film School Rejects relishes glorious facial hair (and yes, that also includes the ladies on staff). We all wish we could have half the style that characters in the movies this year displayed on their lips, chins and cheeks. Now, as the year draws to a close, we reminisce on the many styles we’ve seen on movie screens in 2012, and maybe give some tips on how to grow your own face so glorious.

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Screen Shot 2012-12-17 at 4.53.07 PM

There is a lot of buzz about the live singing on the set Les Misérables. All of the actors sang as the cameras rolled rather than recording in a studio first, and that’s a great accomplishment since many of the actors have wonderful singing voices and don’t exactly need autotuning. This live singing in combination with the film’s grand scope – finally, a film of the legendary Boublil/Schönberg musical! – is supposed to make this a great film. But, very sadly, it does not. While the film is filled with a lot of great talent and certainly is watchable, it buckles under the often mind-blowingly heavy-handed direction by Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech) and never becomes the epic piece of cinema that it so clearly set out to be. The story is fairly common knowledge (and quite involved), but Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is finishing up his prison sentence for breaking into a house and stealing a loaf of bread. He thinks he is free, but because of being on a stringent parole at the hand of Inspector Javert (Russell Crowe) he cannot get employment after his sentence is over. Valjean vows to make another go of it and when we find him years later, he is living under an assumed identity as the mayor of a small town. Valjean pays his good fortune forward when he helps factory worker-come-prostitute Fantine (Anne Hathaway). After Fantine’s death, he bails her young daughter Cosette (Isabelle Allen) out of an abusive boarding house […]

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Les Miserables

Let it never be said that director Tom Hooper took the easy road with his follow-up feature to his Oscar-winning The King’s Speech. While Hooper’s decision to again tackle a period piece with a new film version of an already often-adapted piece of work might have seemed simple when it was first announced, Hooper’s inspired idea to make his Les Miserables as close to an actual stage production as possible is anything but safe or expected. With Hooper making the bold decision to use “live” singing from his cast (not going the more traditional route of lip-syncing and recording tracks in post-production), his version of Les Miserables places quite the premium on getting truly great musical performances out of its stars. Which is why it might be confusing to many a moviegoer that the cast of Hooper’s Les Mis is rounded out by big name movie stars that most people wouldn’t necessarily associate with the Great White Way. But Hooper knew exactly what he was doing when he cast such stars as Hugh Jackman, Russell Crowe, Anne Hathway, and Amanda Seyfried in his film, because while the cast of Les Miserables is rife with well-known acting talent, it’s also filled to the brim with exceptional (and, in most cases, exceptionally trained) songbirds. Not sold on the dulcet tones and vocal stylings of this new Les Mis cast? Let’s take a look at their singing backgrounds.

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Screen Shot 2012-11-02 at 6.00.52 PM

A movie like The Man With The Iron Fists, with the tagline of “They put the F.U. in Kung Fu,” can really go either way. While such a tagline promises some cool fight scenes and much bad-assery, do the goods stop there? Also, can RZA from The Wu-Tang Clan direct? Hell yes, RZA can direct! While the film does lag at around the three-quarter mark, not only are its fight scenes awesome and bloody, but they are creatively shot and have great cinematography. This, in combine with a gleefully clever and referential script co-written by RZA and Eli Roth, make for a fun film that fits nicely within the film’s “presentor,” Quentin Tarantino’s, postmodernist pantheon. After all, there’s even a cameo from Pam Grier.

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The Man With the Iron Fists is an ambitious first feature film. Not only because it cost more than the average directorial debut, but it’s from a nearly nonexistent genre with an unproven director at the helm in the form of rapper-turned-actor-turned-director RZA. Many would scoff at this project, but one man who didn’t is Eli Roth. It became a labor of love for both RZA and Roth, who came on as both a producer and co-writer of the film. From the sounds of it, RZA and Roth wanted to make the Star Wars of Kung-Fu movies. The long haul process of making the movie was about achieving that level of scope and world-building with a small amount of means, which is $15m, to be exact. Still, with that amount of money, The Man With the Iron Fists isn’t as big of a financial risk as it is a creative one. This wasn’t an easy project to get going, but as Roth told us, nothing worthwhile is ever easy. Here is what The Man with the Iron Fists producer and co-writer Eli Roth had to say about the scope of the film, the importance of filmmaker buddies, and how Five Easy Pieces inspired Cabin Fever:

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What is Casting Couch? It’s where Hollywood moms come every day to find out if their actor kids have gotten a job. Remember that movie about the day JFK got shot that Tom Hanks was putting together because these days he’s such a history loving, lame dad? It’s called Parkland, and it just put together an awesome cast. According to Collider, director Vincent Bugliosi has signed the terrific trio of Paul Giamatti, Jackie Weaver, and Billy Boy Thornton to headline the cast. There’s no word on what characters they’ll be playing, but my guess is Giamatti will be JFK, Thornton will be Jackie O, and Weaver will be Lee Harvey Oswald. Makes sense, no?

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RZA is excited for The Man with the Iron Fists. Whether it’s of high-quality or not, the Wu-Tang Clan leader got to make a martial arts movie — and, to sweeten the deal, as his first film to boot. That’s something to get giddy over, the chance of introducing an audience to a whole new world. Based on his name drop of Star Wars, that’s what RZA set out to do. Some may be surprised RZA is taking a crack behind the camera, but speaking with the writer/director while on his Man with the Iron Fists tour, we learned it’s been a dream ever since he was a kid. Now that the dream has come true, The Man with the Iron Fists already seems to have built up his directorial stock, considering all the projects he’s been signing on to make. Hopefully we’ll see more movies from him where he’ll, once again, tell his crew, “I want him looking like fucking Rod Stewart.” Here’s what RZA had to say about the sober mind directing requires, controlling a team of 400 people, and the importance of preparation:

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Broken City Trailer

There are two kinds of dangerous men in the world: those that have been treated like they’re important for so long that they start to feel like the rules don’t apply to them, and those that have been beat down for so long that they stop caring about the consequences. In Allen Hughes’ (of The Hughes Brothers fame) new film Broken City, Russell Crowe and Mark Wahlberg are called upon to play one of each. Crowe’s character is a well-manicured but corrupt big city mayor who does what it takes to get what he wants. Wahlberg’s is a scruffy, down-on-his-luck ex-cop turned private dick. The intrigue of the film comes when Crowe’s character hires Wahlberg’s to tail his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and get some evidence that she’s been cheating. Once he does, that’s when the murders, cover-ups, and dirty pool starts happening. Suddenly Wahlberg is sucked into a downward spiral of noir badness, and Broken City becomes a battle of brains vs. brawn between its two stars.

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Hugh Jackman in Les Miserables

A decent amount of talk has been dedicated to director Tom Hooper‘s decision to have the cast of Les Miserables sing live during takes instead of using the more traditional method of overdubbing. Rightfully so. Though it’s not the first movie to eschew dubbing, it’s the largest scale project to do so completely, and that creates a bit of danger in the form of raw voices. On the other hand, as cast members Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, Amanda Seyfried, Russell Crowe, Samantha Barks and Eddie Redmayne explain, there’s a freedom that comes with it which allows for them to truly emote through their songs. After a stunning teaser, this look into the method behind the madness proves once again that there’s a lot to hope for with this flick. It looks to be an epic given the proper epic treatment, and the on-set singing aspect, especially, gives it a fascinating edge that will most likely be something far beyond a simple gimmick. If nothing else, this featurette shows plainly the filmmakers’ investment in and dedication to the process. Check it out for yourself:

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