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Zoe Saldana (#110 of 6)

Watch: Sia Video “Free Me,” with Zoe Saldana and Narrated by Julianne Moore

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Watch: Sia Video “Free Me,” with Zoe Saldana and Narrated by Julianne Moore
Watch: Sia Video “Free Me,” with Zoe Saldana and Narrated by Julianne Moore

We finally have our answer to a not-so-eternal question: What would a public service announcement by Australian singer-songwriter Sia would look like? Narrated by Julianne Moore, the music video for “Free Me” begins with a woman (played by Zoe Saldana) being informed that HIV is wreaking havoc on her immune system. The woman’s world turns dark, literally, after which she’s foisted into a slipstream. She lands in the middle of an interpretive dance with a group of balletic guardian angels before the doctor’s examination room is then revealed, Michel Gondry-style, as a set; a Sia proxy soon appears to lend the woman her support, both hanging on to each other as they run about woman’s increasingly brightening psyche. Like most of Sia’s interpretive dance-themed videos, this is a show of resilience, ending poignantly on the woman, no longer in despair, holding her infant child in her hands.

15 Famous Beautiful Creatures

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15 Famous Beautiful Creatures
15 Famous Beautiful Creatures

This weekend, the young-adult freight train that kicked off with Twilight and kept a-rollin’ with The Hunger Games makes some room for Beautiful Creatures, a supernatural romance (natch) based on the book by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese, who has some fine scripts under his belt, but is also responsible for the Hilary Swank stankers Freedom Writers and P.S. I Love You, the new film is indeed packed with handsome specimens, like Emmy Rossum, Jeremy Irons, and newcomer Alice Englert. The whole thing got us thinking about beautiful creatures of movies past—characters not quite human, but quite easy on the eyes.

Poster Lab: The Words

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Poster Lab: <em>The Words</em>
Poster Lab: <em>The Words</em>

Bradley Cooper is an actor in a fairly common predicament. He’s blessed with movie-star looks, yet he still needs to play characters with non-movie-star occupations. For Cooper, this is especially problematic, since it’s tough to imagine him doing much of anything besides looking handsome, staying handsome, and watching televised sports. So right off the bat, there’s an element of unintended comedy to the poster for The Words, which etches Cooper’s face out of printing-press type because his character’s a writer.

Something is up in Hollywood. This is the second movie in two years to cast Cooper as a working author (the other was the gonzo, pro-drug “drama” Limitless). What is it about Cooper that makes him seem, to filmmakers, like a plausible wordsmith? The slightly-boho shaggy hair? The serious arch of his pointed nose? That he was the small dash of brains in The Hangover’s Wolfpack? The synopsis for The Words describes Cooper’s character as “a writer at the peak of his literary success.” At the risk of looking at things in stone-cold, stereotypical terms, that’s not unlike casting Tara Reid to play an archaeologist.

Im In Ur Planet Incitin Rebellion: Avatar

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Im In Ur Planet Incitin Rebellion: <em>Avatar</em>
Im In Ur Planet Incitin Rebellion: <em>Avatar</em>

“Yousa people gonna die?”

In his introduction to Science Fiction Art: The Fantasies of SF, Brian Aldiss writes:

“Science Fiction is a romance with the near-possible. Fantasy is a flirtation with the near-impossible. But science fiction is a part of fantasy; and who knows any longer what is possible or impossible? We are left with romance. Here it is, in a riot of colour and imagination.”

Avatar, writer-director-übernerd James Cameron’s latest 300 million USD sci-fi/fantasy epic, is not just a riot; it’s a full scale uprising of color and imagination. It’s like staring at an “Astounding Science Fiction” cover for eight hours while somebody drips LSD on your eyeballs. It’s almost impossibly, illegally, blasphemously gorgeous to look at. Which is a shame, really, because the story is utter bollocks, and its central themes are confused at best, trite at worst.

Cameron has always been a filmmaker with grandstanding ideas and magnificent zeal, and here he outdoes himself by creating a numinous and oneiric universe, complete with its own mythology, evolutionary biology, and language. The problem is that the two most essential facets of film, story and character, have taken a back seat here—in fact, they seem to be riding on a different car altogether. I was reminded of Richard Attenborough’s eccentric billionaire in Jurassic Park, in complete awe of his creation even as things fall apart all around him, taking simple solace in his defensive mantra: “We’ve spared no expense.”

Review: Avatar

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Review: <em>Avatar</em>
Review: <em>Avatar</em>

James Cameron’s Avatar is through and through his baby—it promises a lot and, though it has very little in the way of stamina, it initially delivers in a big way. In the first hour, Cameron lets loose a barrage of technical wizardry that makes the film’s world one of the most dazzling and consistently engrossing cinematic fantasy lands of recent memory. Avatar doesn’t try to break any new ground with its generic story of a group of corporate commandos who seek to steal an indigenous alien population’s natural resources. At its core, the film is a cookie-cutter story of a soldier who switches sides once he finds out, as a lanky nude smurf, how green the grass is. Cameron is all too happy to be so conventional. He has the technology and knows he only has to use it to build a better jungle world of noble alien savages. He’s not the genre messiah, but clearly it doesn’t hurt to hype him up as such.

Cameron knows the viewer will recognize Avatar’s story from elsewhere, whether as the love affair between John Smith and Pocahontas or almost all of Ferngully: The Last Rainforest (don’t judge me) and so tries to dazzle the viewer with “shock and awe,” as one scientist-cum-soldier puts it, laying bare both the film’s political context and aesthetic strategy. From there, once it’s successfully dazzled the viewer with enough technological firepower to keep Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay busy for several lifetimes, it’s mission should be, ahem, accomplished.