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.
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?
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.
When Transformers: The Last Knight drops on June 23, it will mark the fifth installment in the franchise from Paramount, a legacy that stretches back a decade. From the day Transformers hit theaters on that July day in 2007, the franchise has delivered an explosive visual experience as oversized as the robots that it stars.
And those visuals really rip on Imax, a platform that seems custom cut to hold the building-crushing, metal-banging, guns-blazing world of Autobots and Decepticons. This little featurette distills the relationship between IMAX and Transformers, narrating how each helped the other surge:
There is almost nothing in the steampunk urban wilds of Ghost in the Shell that does not invite further exploration, so completely is the film’s cyber-enhanced near future stretched over the geometry of a recognizable city and society. Major (Scarlett Johansson), a cyber-enhanced, terrorist-thumping soldier roams a world where everything is at once fantastical and completely plausible, a realm where even the workaday infrastructure of normal living seems exotic and alien.
For example, her apartment:
And what is lurking in her brain:
On every detail, the film, which opens today, executes flawlessly, seeding these elements in a holograph-laced live-action dimension as dazzling as the anime that inspired it.
“Visually, it resembles nothing else in theaters,” writes AV Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky. “…It is in its designs … that this new Ghost In The Shell finds tantalizing expressions of theme: the faces and limbs of hacked androids breaking up into insect-like forms as they attack; the lonely, recessed spaces of futuristic sleeping quarters; the grotesquerie of cybernetic enhancements; red light districts where human prostitutes dress like sex-bots to attract clientele. Johansson’s Kubrickian performance and the technical precision of the camera make its artifice seem almost haunting.”
Scarlett Johansson plays the Major and Pilou Asbaek plays Batou in Ghost in the Shell from Paramount Pictures and DreamWorks Pictures. The spectacular future city rises in the background.
This is a common sentiment – the Telegraph’s Tim Robey writes: “As Blade Runner did before it, this slinky, cyberpunk action flick makes its style the entire statement, pondering a future of human-robot synergy simply by visualising it in as much eye-popping detail as possible.”
Baywatch is sprinting back up the beach this spring to a Paramount feature film, led by Dwayne Johnson (Mitch Buchannon) and Zac Efron (Matt Brody), the all-business vet and the brash newcomer, whose brewing rivalry is subdued by a joint mission to save the bay from criminal scheming.
There are leaping jetskis, gun fights, and gun fights on leaping jetskis. There are daring rescues and dives from moving motorcycles into the water. There are drugs and dumped bodies and a ruthless ringleader at the head of it all. And there are the humor-laced moments of quirk and vanity that make Baywatch everything fans would expect it to be: Buchannon critiquing a sand-carved effigy of his physique, a drowning woman pummeling would-be rescuer Brody, a lifeguard tryout involving two refrigerators mounted to a carrying pole.
Johnson and Efron bring good company along on the ride: Priyanka Chopra, Alexandra Daddario, Jon Bass, Kelly Rohrbach and Ilfenesh Hadera. Baywatch, directed by Seth Gordon, hits theaters on May 26.
Ahead of the film’s wide release next week, Paramount aired the first five minutes of its highly anticipated Ghost in the Shell film adaptation in a Facebook Live stream earlier today. [Slide to 1:30 to begin watching the preview.]
This is our first extended look at Scarlett Johansson as cyber-enhanced asskicker Major, an impossibly fluid super soldier who leaps off skyscrapers and bursts through glass in a terrorist-levelling, guns blazing, ninjitsu-flipping onslaught heavy on violent efficiency and devoid of mercy.
It isn’t clear from this opening scene exactly who dispatched the machine gun-equipped gang that Major pulverizes, although the shadowy Hanka Robotics is mentioned by an expiring kabuki robot. What is clear is the stunning future setting, a towering urban techtopia of building-sized holograms and ubiquitous robots, where wired humans download the entire French language into their brains in a few beats of song and an entire building’s security network can be scanned in moments from a virtual headset.
But that world is a backdrop to the story of Major, a one-time human whose body was so damaged in an accident that it was replaced with her exoskeleton – or so she was told. “Who is the Major is a good question,” says Johansson in the clip below, “and this film is really about the journey of self-discovery for the character.”
The Rupert Sanders-directed film, which costars Pilou Asbaek, Takeshi Kitano, Juliette Binoche and Michael Pitt, will open in theaters nationwide on March 31.