Tag Archives: Anthony Hopkins

The End of the World (As We Know It)

Semi-autobiographical spin on childhood at the dawn of the 1980s has sobering messages about life

Banks Repeta with Anthony Hopkins in ‘Armageddon Time.’

Armageddon Time
Starring Anne Hathaway, Anthony Hopkins, Banks Repeta & Jeremy Strong
Directed by James Gray
Rated R

See it in theaters Nov. 4

From the New Testament of the Bible, the term “Armageddon” entered the wider lexicon to mean an epic battle to end all battles, a final clash between forces of good and evil.

It’s a metaphor for the turmoil of life in James Gray’s largely autobiographical coming-of-age portrait, which centers on an 11-year-old Jewish boy named Paul (Banks Repeta) in the New York City borough of Queens, and the ups and downs of his friendship with a Black classmate (Jaylin Webb) in 1980.

The two lads get in some trouble (toking on a joint in the bathroom) and are separated when Paul’s parents (Jeremy Strong and Anne Hathaway) send him off to a posh private school. But Paul has little interest in becoming someone else’s definition of successful. His kindly grandfather (Anthony Hopkins) encourages his dreams of drawing and becoming a famous artist.

Johnny has dreams, too. He wants to be an astronaut, like his Apollo space heroes. And despite his friendship with Paul, he knows they are from two different worlds, that some dreams will only take you so far, and some flight paths are unchangeable. Like the model rocket Paul launches in the park with his grandfather, life goes where it goes. It goes up, it comes down. It can be beautiful, exciting, thrilling—or it can misfire, or blow up, or crash, becoming a disaster. It’s not equal, it’s certainly not fair, but that’s the way it is.

Armageddon Time is set against the backdrop of Ronald Reagan’s election as U.S. president, and the hawkish prospect he represented for increased militarism in a fight against “communism.” Paul’s mother fears he’ll push America into global conflict, a nuclear Armageddon.

As Paul navigates this brief but formative period, he learns some valuable lessons about racism, antisemitism and how life isn’t always a delicious dinnertime dumpling. His grandfather, a Ukrainian Jew who fled the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Europe, tells him to stand up to bullies, to keep pushing back against evil and darkness, and to be a mensch, a person of integrity and honor.

His mother loves him, but thinks he’s “slow,” in need of remedial education. His blue-collar father thrashes him with his belt for misbehaving and worries he’ll never amount to anything. Both parents openly disapprove of his Black friend.

Anne Hathaway and Jeremy Strong play the parents.

Director Gray (whose previous films include the Brad Pitt space saga Ad Astra and the crime thrillers We Own the Night and The Yards) creates an effective, evocative sense of a specific time and place, the rush of childhood, the complicated dynamics of family and a depiction of adolescence on the uncertain threshold of adulthood. He especially draws out memorable performances from his two young central characters, the conduits for his story’s moods of youthful adventure, yearning, frustration and ache. Johnny turns Paul on to the happenin’ hip-hop of Harlem’s Sugar Hill Gang and “Rapper’s Delight.” Paul goes to the movies with his family to watch Goldie Hawn (a Jewish girl) in Private Benjamin. The dawn of the computer age sparks Paul’s imagination, in more ways than one. They make each other laugh, they run through the park, they skip a school field day to hang out and ride the subway.

It reminded me a bit of Licorice Pizza, Paul Thomas Anderson’s gloriously golden retro ode to growing up and the rush of young love in California in the 1970s. But Armageddon Time is a bit darker than that, several shades more sobering, even a dollop depressing in its depiction of the creeping threats to Paul and Johnny’s friendship, in a world tainted by hatred and fear, and the reality that some dreams can never blast off into the bright, blue sky.

And as a nod to what’s coming, for Paul and America, the movie introduces the specter of Donald Trump, in characters representing his father, Fred Trump (John Diehl) and sister, Maryanne (Jessica Chastain).

Armageddon time may, it suggests, be any time. As Paul’s grandfather tells him, never give up, stand tall and keep fighting the “bastards.” There’ll always be bastards, the battle didn’t end in 1980, or after the Holocaust, and it sure doesn’t look like it’s over now.

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Let It Rain

New take on Old Testament tale isn’t your familiar Sunday School fare

NOAH

 

Noah

Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson & Anthony Hopkins

Directed by Darren Aronofsky

PG-13, 138 min.

Is director Darren Aronofsky’s sprawling saga of Noah and the Great Flood a profane violation of a sacred story? Or is it a mind-blowing cinematic exploration of a character wrestling with faith, doubt, dreams, guilt, miracles and the fate of mankind itself, set in one of the most epic tales of all time?

You’ll have to see it to decide for yourself, but there’s ammunition for both camps.

Russell Crowe plays Noah as the last good man—literally—in a bleak, barren world that’s gone downhill after the good ol’ Adam & Eve days of yore in the Garden of Eden. He gets a message from “the creator” that mankind isn’t worth keeping around, and it’s time to wipe—or wash—the slate clean and start over. (“God” isn’t mentioned by name, which has apparently rankled some by-the-Book viewers.)

NOAHSo Noah builds a big boat, with a plan to take along only his wife (Jennifer Connelly), their three hunky sons, an orphaned girl who’ll grow up to become his daughter-in-law (Emma Watson)—and the only creatures on the planet that haven’t defiled and depleted it, the animals.

“Men are going to be punished for what they’ve done to this world,” Noah says. “The creator has chosen us to save the innocent.”

You probably know the rest of the story. But you probably don’t know the parts about Noah and his lineage being plant-loving, peaceful vegetarians, while the rest of mankind are bloodthirsty, meat-craving barbarians. (Take that, Earth-killing carnivores.) Or that Noah was pretty handy snapping necks or dispatching his enemies with an axe, or a knife, or whatever weapon was handy. Or that he had a pretty sizeable assist in putting the ark together by a group of stone giants, one of them voiced by Nick Nolte.

NOAH

Emma Watson

There are also subplots about teenage rebellion and young love—this is a big-budget, big-studio movie, after all—and a cool, artsy film-within-the-film when Noah explains the seven days of creation. (Cue even more controversy.) The flood itself is something awesome—and awful—to behold. And there are explosions.

Anthony Hopkins plays Noah’s father, Methuselah, and Ray Winstone is Tubal-Cain, a minor character barely noted in the Old Testament who gets elevated to his own subplot as a conniving thug of a king who threatens to derail Noah’s entire mission.

The sets—especially the locations filmed in Iceland—look spectacular. Some of the special effects have an over-the-top, sci-fi, Lord of the Rings feel that may be a bit jarring to some viewers, but hey, consider the magnitude of what the story is about, after all—a cataclysmic mega-event bigger than anything hobbit Bilbo Baggins ever faced in Middle Earth.

NOAH

It’s long, a lot to digest, and it certainly deviates from what you might have covered in Sunday School. But boy, is it ever interesting—and well worth seeing, especially if you’re open to a bold, trippy new interpretation of an old, old story, about miracles of varying size and shape, in which you still today might find some new inspiration.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Geri-Action Heroes

Bruce Willis & over-50 co-stars return for second espionage romp  

Red2Red 2

DVD $29.95 / Blu-ray $39.95 (Summit Entertainment)

Bruce Willis returns in the role of retired black-ops CIA agent Frank Moses, who must once again re-assemble his somewhat old-school team (John Malkovich, Helen Mirren) to thwart a new international threat in this second installment of the “geri-action” (geriatric + action) formula that proved itself so successful the first time around. Anthony Hopkins, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Mary-Louise Parker round out the cast, and Blu-ray bonus features include gags, goofs and an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at the film’s characters, boom-boom weaponry, espionage gadgetry and extreme stunts.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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