Critics React to Paramount’s mother!: “A Beautiful Thing to Behold”

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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

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Paramount’s Downsizing Imagines a Future World Where We Shrink Ourselves to Save the Planet

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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.

 

 

Seeing Is Believing: Paramount Releases First Trailer for Mother!

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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.

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Paramount Releases Teaser Trailer for Darren Aronofsky’s mother! Starring Jennifer Lawrence

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Just a week after releasing the first trailer for the George Clooney-directed Suburbicon and following the weekend release of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, Paramount Pictures has dropped the teaser for mother!

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.

Mother! will hit theaters September 15.

Four Reasons to Go See Al Gore’s Hopeful, Compelling An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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’s Charles 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?

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Matt Damon Stars in, George Clooney Directs Paramount’s Suburbicon

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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.

Join Paramount and Al Gore in Pledging to #BEINCONVENIENT

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

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.

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Transformers Return, The Mist Creeps In, Logo Honors Trailblazers, Bellator Hits MSG, 17th BET Awards Air – All in a Spectacular Weekend for Viacom

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

This is an extraordinary week for Viacom, a showcase of our diverse properties and the incredible power of our brands, sprawled across theaters, televisions and event spaces all over the world.

On Wednesday, the fifth Transformers movie opened in theaters. Thursday brought Spike’s mini-series adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist. Friday we celebrate Pride month with Logo’s Trailblazer Honors. Saturday is perhaps the marquee night in Bellator history, as the Spike-owned property drops into New York City’s Madison Square Garden. And Sunday takes us to the West Coast, where BET will broadcast their marquee BET Awards.

As Viacom refocuses under the leadership of CEO Bob Bakish, this rapid-fire concentration of noteworthy properties distills the impressive breadth and depth of Viacom’s multi-brand portfolio.

Here’s a day-by-day look at what’s already dropped and what’s to come over the weekend:

Wednesday, June 21 – Transformers: The Last Knight – Paramount Pictures

It is the fifth installment in the live-action Transformers spectaculars directed by Michael Bay, an intriguing collision of ancient epochs with the robot alien present, and a special effects masterpiece.

“…[I]f you’re not staggered by the technique on display here – the stuff that sets Bay’s work miles above the Fast & Furiouses, X-Men: Apocalypses and Tom Cruise-chasing Mummies of this world – you’re not paying attention,” writes The Telegraph’s Robbie Collin.

Here’s a preview of what he’s talking about:

Since the first Transformers movie hit theaters in 2007, the franchise has raked in nearly $4 billion for Paramount and redefined important elements of the movie industry. “Ever since the first movie in the robo-franchise was released into theaters a decade ago, the film industry has changed its approach to producing, releasing and reporting on movies,” writes The Street’s Buster Coen, noting that the films legitimized toy-to-cinema adaptations, stamped June as a month for movie blockbusters, and set the template for international distribution of American films.

Transformers: The Last Knight is in theaters around the world now. A Bumblebee spin-off is scheduled for release next summer.

Thursday, June 22 – The Mist Spike

With a cast of complex characters unified by their small-town setting, the deft use of suspense and drama, and some imaginative writing, Spike has transformed Stephen King’s 1980 novella about a sinister, monster-filled cloud descending upon a small Maine town into a 10-part serial that debuted last night.

And it’s really good, according to a platoon of critics who got an advanced look at the pilot. “Spike’s new series based on The Mist … wasn’t written by King, but it does the author proud ,” writes CNET’s Gael Fashingbauer Cooper.

The series was written, rather, by a team led by Denmark native Christian Torpe, who is a lifelong King fan and consulted with the author at the project’s outset. King simply told him, “Don’t do anything ordinary.”

Torpe appears to have succeeded, leaving even those familiar with King’s original work in suspense. “It’s hard to judge where this newer, looser adaptation might progress from just the first hour, but Torpe has said that, like King, he intends to explore the nature of fanaticism, and how fear so often compels people to seek out unlikely prophets,” writes The Atlantic’s Sophie Gilbert. “If so, The Mist could be a satisfyingly complex chiller, scaring viewers not just with unexpected jumps and amped-up creepy crawlies, but with the more human monsters who are all trapped together inside, waiting out the weather.”

The Mist premieres at a time of incredible momentum for Spike, which will evolve into the premium TV Paramount Network in January of next year. While the network is still determining an exact programming lineup, they have already announced Yellowstone starring Kevin Costner, a six-part documentary on Trayvon Martin produced in conjunction with The Weinstein Company, American Woman starring Alicia Silverstone and Mena Suvari, a six-part Waco series documenting the 1993 stand-off at the Branch Dividian compound, and a television adaptation of the 1988 classic film Heathers.

Friday, June 23 – Logo Trailblazer Honors – Logo

The fourth installment of Logo’s marquee event follows last year’s emotional outpouring of defiant pride in the aftermath of the Orlando nightclub massacre.

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