A shellshocked Natalie Portman sits in a glass-walled room, draped in a hospital gown. Surrounding her is a retinue of observers and interrogators tucked into hazmat suits.
“Can you describe its form?” one asks her.
“No,” she answers, as the scene cuts away to savage nightmare jungle world where plants and flesh have intertwined.
“Was it carbon based?”
“I don’t know.”
“Did it communicate with you?”
“It reacted to me.”
“You really have no idea what it was?”
She doesn’t. This is our first look at Paramount Pictures Annihilation, the Alex Garland-directed sci-fi nailbiter based upon author Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy. It will transport us into a gripping, incomprehensible and frightening realm when it hits theaters on Feb. 23.
Annihilation also stars Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson, Tuva Novotny and Oscar Isaac.
It starts as an idyll, a doting Jennifer Lawrence and her poet husband Javier Bardem wiling time away in their grand and isolated country mansion. The nightmare comes soon enough, when a pair of mysterious guests (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), arrive unannounced and in quick succession to brutally disrupt this tranquility.
What follows in the Darren Aronofsky-directed mother! is by turns and at once Biblical, horrifying, confounding and captivating; a tale of creation and destruction; a film as unforgettable as it is unique.
Here’s what critics are saying about Paramount latest film, which opens wide in theaters today:
“…it’s easily the most experimental feature released by a major studio in ages, a gleefully deranged companion piece to Aronofsky’s Old Testament epic Noah and an evil twin of sorts to The Fountain, with its grandiose meditations on love, death and eternal recurrence.” – Justin Chang, L.A. Times
“Shot with a surrealist’s eye for madness and destruction by the great cinematographer Matthew Libatique, Mother! always seems on the verge of exploding. Your head will feel the same way. And I mean that as a compliment. … In a world of Hollywood sellouts, Mother! emerges as the work of a visionary doing things his way. You won’t know what hit you.” Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
“Even by the manic standards of Darren Aronofsky—director of such exercises in escalating insanity as Pi, Requiem for a Dream and Black Swan—the emphatically titled mother! constitutes one hell of a freakout.” – Mike D’Angelo, Las Vegas Weekly
“[mother!] is an audacious, bold and fascinating fever dream of a film. It’s allegory for, well, everything (the environment, marriage, art, spirituality, you name it!), that will challenge, distress and edify anyone who chooses to submit themselves to this creation for two hours.” – Lindsey Bahr, Associated Press
“Now that studios tease out details from tentpole projects well before they open in theaters, the cryptic nature of mother! has been refreshing. It’s an art-house firestorm that will shock, and perhaps infuriate, audiences when it opens Friday in wide release. What a beautiful thing to behold.” – Matthew Jacobs, Huffington Post
The human population keeps growing. The world remains the same size, even while living standards – and the volume of resources needed to support them – continue to increase. What to do?
Shrink everyone. The food that would sustain one person can now feed many times more. These new micro-people can use smaller houses, cars, and clothes, requiring fewer raw materials to make them. With smaller items costing far less, even modest savings will allow them to live like millionaires.
This is the premise of Downsizing, a dazzlingly original movie from Paramount. When scientists in a vaguely near-distant future unveil an astonishing body-shrinking technology, Paul Safranek (Matt Damon) and wife Audrey (Kristen Wiig) decide to join the land of the littles, where they can romp into an early and easy retirement.
Downsizing, directed by Alexander Payne, is slated for a Dec. 22, 2017 release.
When Paramount Television (Viacom’s independent production studio) launched in 2013, the studio opted to produce an ambitious first project for Fox: Grease: Live. The live televised special was a remake of the classic 1978 film Grease, and incorporated songs from the original movie, as well as a live studio audience to simulate the effects of a Broadway performance.
The show was nominated for 10 Emmy Awards, and won five—more than any other televised musical in history. It was also the no. 1 most social live musical event ever. It was the most-watched program when it aired on Jan. 31, 2016, with over 12 million viewers tuning in to watch the impressive performance, which critics called “skillfully directed” and “true to the original.”
The most vital part of this production, according to reviews, was the production itself.
Grease Live wins at the 2016 Creative Arts Emmy Awards. (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)
“Buoyed by tremendous camera work, fleet-footed choreography…and a sound mix that was fuller (or less tinny) than any comparable production that’s come before it, Grease built on the live (but not in front of a live audience) musicals championed by rival NBC over the last three years,” wrote Michael Slezak for TVLine.com.
How did a new production studio achieve such tremendous results from their first endeavor?
President of Paramount TV Amy Powell explains her strategy. “As content creators, we look for new and exciting opportunities that will appeal to audiences and find the right platform for our series,” said Powell. “We partner with top-notch talent and distributors that share in our vision and give creators the freedom to bring the content to life.”
By tapping Paramount’s rich content library and opening itself to collaborations with rival entertainment platforms, Paramount TV is a shining example of media industry synergy. The studio believes that partnerships are key—creating top-tier entertainment is a result of having the best ideas, and if those ideas come from external individuals or companies, it’s imperative to find a way to bring them together. Paramount TV is making this happen.
The studio’s original goal was to create one drama and two on-air comedies in three years. It easily surpassed that, creating a constellation of content that includes the Emmy Award-winning television musical special Grease: Live, Nickelodeon’s Emmy-nominated musical comedy School of Rock, EPIX’s critically acclaimed espionage drama series Berlin Station, USA Network’s hit series Shooter, Netflix’s teen drama 13 Reasons Why and the upcoming Amazon action drama Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan.
It’s a gracious country home resuscitated by a meticulous Jennifer Lawrence, living out a bucolic life with Javier Bardem. But then strange visitors (Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer), arrive. In their suitcases they carry an eerie sketched likeness of the husband. Strange meetings and rituals commence. The house begins to bleed like a dying animal. Their stately oasis has become a caged and corporeal nightmare.
That’s a little of what we can gather from the Darren Aronofsky-directed Mother!’s trippy, frantic first trailer, released earlier this week. Look for the movie in theaters on September 15.
While the 29-second clip doesn’t reveal any plot points, it succeeds in creating a tense, layered, austere and absorbing world, a backdrop for the star-heavy cast of Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem, Ed Harris and Michelle Pfeiffer to deliver something special. With Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) directing, that seems likely.
All Paramount has revealed for certain, aside from the cast, is a bullet-point description: “A couple’s relationship is tested when uninvited guests arrive at their home, disrupting their tranquil existence.” For more, we’ll have to wait until the studio releases the full trailer next week.
An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power rattles out of a world where typhoons and wildfires wail and rage, where warm climate-fueled Zika virus menaces an ever-widening swath of the globe, where streets melt in India, where the coastal United States is swamped on normal days (sunny day flooding in Miami) and extraordinary ones (Hurricane Sandy in New York City).
Directed by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, Al Gore’s sequel to his Oscar-winning 2006 An Inconvenient Truth hits just two months after President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 195-nation Paris climate agreement. While the timing of the film’s release is coincidental, An Inconvenient Sequel acts as an emphatic counterpoint to the climate-denying, march-with-fingers-in-our-ears-saying-la-la-la-as-the-planet-catastrophically-warms crowd. Here are five reasons to go see it as soon as possible:
1) The documentary frames climate change in an easy-to-understand way
One of the great strengths of An Inconvenient Truth was its distillation of a complex global phenomenon into black-and-white data points. While the sequel has dispensed with the Power- Point-as-documentary narrative device of its predecessor, Gore nonetheless synthesizes the intricate into the straightforward, this time with a blend of graphics and anecdotes
“The man is wonky, no question. But that’s what has made his climate-change crusade persuasive for so many,” writes Bob Mondello on NPR.org. “He gets the figures, turns them into easily digested factoids, says things that initially sound outrageous, and handles the pushback. … The single most exhilarating moment may come from a bar graph — seriously, you’ll want to cheer — but there’s no shortage of human stories on screen: The woman whose shoe gets stuck in pavement that’s melted from the heat.”
That is not to say that the film is without nuance. When Gore evacuates from his Paris venue as ISIS-affiliated terrorists slaughtered 130 people around the city in November 2015, it inspires a cause-and-affect musing that lays out the complexity of the global climate jigsaw puzzle: a drought in Syria led indirectly to social upheaval and civil war, which pried open the social order enough to let ISIS thrive and propagate throughout the world.
VP Al Gore with former Mayor of Tacloban City Alfred Romualdez and Typhoon Haiyan survivor Demi Raya, in the Raya family home; Tacloban City, Philippines, March 12, 2016
2) Climate change is not a partisan issue
Dale Ross is a proud Republican-voting Texan, mayor of Georgetown, “the reddest city in the reddest county in Texas.” And yet, he has oriented his city to become the first in the state that will be 100 percent renewable. Asked why, he said that it simply made economic sense to do so.
“It’s a heartening moment at a time of horrendous political division, but it’s also central to the movie’s approach, which is to insist on facts over ideology and show why it’s a good idea to present the practical as well as the moral argument,” writes Newsweek’sCharles Taylor.
By stripping out partisan moralizing and reframing the argument in economic terms, Gore is both conceding Republicans’ economy-first argument and providing them an excuse to reconsider alternative energy sources without having to admit that such actions could forestall a climate shift. Who cares, after all, when your utility bills are lower?
It’s a 1959 of oversized fin-tailed Chevys and tract homes stamped out to the horizon, a postwar ideal churned straight out of the American Dream-o-meter. It’s a land where strip malls are new and glamourous, where kids still rollick in bicycle-riding packs about the neighborhood, where green lawns and American flags wallpaper the suburban wonderland.
And then the home invasions start. And bad guys kill Mom. And aunt Margaret (Julianne Moore), has some kind of pill problem. And Dad (Matt Damon), may or may not be tied up with the mob. At any rate, he eats with a revolver on the table and repurposes that Chevy’s tire iron as a war weapon.
This is Suburbicon, Paramount’s madcap, George Clooney-directed, Coen Brothers-written tale of violence and deceit. In theaters October 27.
On June 1, the day that President Trump announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the 195-nation Paris climate agreement, Paramount confirmed that Al Gore would edit his forthcoming Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, to include the executive turnabout.
The last-minute changes to the Jon Shenk- and Bonni Cohen-directed film should only inject more poignancy and relevance into a film that earned standing ovations and critical praise when it opened this year’s Sundance Film Festival, on the eve of Trump’s inauguration.
In both a nod to Gore’s courage and an emphatic statement of its own commitment to environmental causes, the studio has launched a Pledge to #BEINCONVENIENT, a social activation where concerned citizens can articulate their solidarity with the movement to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Those who take the pledge can record a video explaining their passions for the environment:
A companion site offers resources to help pledgees choose renewable energy and communicate their priorities to others.
The Pledge follows Paramount’s longstanding commitment to environmental action, a philosophy that permeates the organization, from employee events organized by the studio’s Green Team to helping fund the Green Production Guide for making sustainable Hollywood films.
There’s so much to love about Baywatch. The surf, the sand, the slo-mo. After Paramount’s adaptation of the hugely popular show came to the big screen in May, we posed “5 Questions” to actress Priyanka Chopra. Hear her talk about what it was like working on the film, how Baywatch has become such a global phenomenon, and what’s behind the drama between her character, Victoria Leeds, and super lifeguard Mitch Buchannon, played by Dwayne Johnson.