So, I finally saw “Noah”…..

…..and I’m still not sure what I saw, exactly. A deeply weird attempt to turn a Bible story into a fantasy/action epic? A brilliant director’s fascinating struggle with issues of faith and justice? A psychodrama about a family under unthinkable duress?

Yes. Probably. Sort of.

It’s just too interesting not to write about. Lots of spoilers ahead.

140328150043-noah-movie-crowe-story-top

“Glenn Beck fans! RUUUUNNN!!”

Darren Aronofsky is one of my favorite directors, and his filmography has a constant theme of obsessive characters who destroy themselves. Russell Crowe’s Noah is part of the same lineage as the mad math genius in Pi, the drug addicts in Requiem for a Dream and the doomed ballerina in Black Swan. They’re all reaching for something greater than themselves, only to discover that their goals are elusive, if they exist at all.

In Noah, the Creator does seem to exist, and is determined to destroy most of humanity.  Noah strives for righteousness, and he becomes as hard and unforgiving as the God who would wipe out His own creation. This character study, humanizing a figure who gets very little airtime in the Bible, is easily the best thing about Aronofsky’s approach. Crowe nails the portrayal of a man tortured by what he has been tasked with – or thinks he has.

The rest of the film is not as successful. The visuals are great, and the depraved world of villain Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) is impressively rendered, as is his attempt to overtake the ark when the deluge begins. It’s so cool-looking, you could almost forget about all the crazy.

Noah-Watcher V2 -luca nemolato

“For the last time, stop calling me Treebeard!”

I’m not just talking about the Ents rock monsters Watchers, either. Their story is pulled from that short passage in Genesis about the Nephilim, along with extra-biblical writings like The Book of Enoch, which talks about fallen angels being covered with “rough and jagged rocks” and bound in “the valleys of the earth.” Aronofsky and his co-writer, Ari Handel, get very creative with this concept, even having the Watchers help build the ark. It’s not quite as silly as it sounds, but it’s close.

We also get to meet Methuselah, Noah’s extremely aged grandfather, played by Anthony Hopkins. He lives in a cave, craves berries for some reason, and has magic powers (or hallucinogenics,or both). It’s a bizarre cameo which adds little to the film, except another Oscar winner (Jennifer Connelly’s in it, too).

The real fun(?) comes when Noah determines that all of humanity is supposed to die – including him and his family. They’re just around to keep the animals alive. Noah’s daughter-in-law is pregnant, and God isn’t sending him useful visions of what to do, so he is on the verge of committing infanticide. Only an innate feeling of love for his offspring keeps him from going through with it.

Mind you, he makes this decision without any help from the deity whose (albeit vague) directives led to all this in the first place. Does Noah’s act of mercy fulfill God’s will, or go against it? There were plenty of children killed in the flood. What makes these kids so special?

That is, of course, one of the big questions raised by both the movie and the Bible story. Is it really possible that every single person on Earth is evil, except this one guy and his family? We don’t see much of Noah’s world in either case, and what Aronofsky shows is a sparsely inhabited wasteland that couldn’t begin to sustain even its tiny population.

If the flood only ravages one area, then that explains the absurd notion that the entire planet could be repopulated by 8 people, most of whom are genetically related. Either there were others spared from the flood somewhere, or there’s going to be some serious inbreeding. That can’t be what the Creator (or the director) had in mind.

In virtually every way, Noah is an interesting failure, an attempt to make narrative and moral sense out of a story that doesn’t lend itself to the task. If he had made a straight-up fantasy or sci-fi version, Aronofsky might have pulled this off. By tying the film to a religious text whose tales are ostensibly set in the real world, he backs himself into a corner only divine intervention could get him out of.

"Harry Potter made more sense than this"

“Harry Potter made more sense than this”

"So did Thor"

“So did Thor”

“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” – Review

Me = One Happy Geek!

http://www.kansascity.com/2013/12/12/4686696/desolation-of-smaug-bigger-thrills.html

“The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” – Review

reg_634.TheHobbit.jc.092312Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens & Guillermo del Toro; based on the book by J.R.R. Tolkien
Cast: Martin Freeman & Ian Holm as Bilbo Baggins, Ian McKellen as Gandalf, Richard Armitage as Thorin Oakenshield, Ken Stott as Balin, Graham McTavish as Dwalin, William Kircher as Bifur, James Nesbitt as Bofur, Stephen Hunter as Bombur, Dean O’Gorman as Fili, Aidan Turner as Kili, John Callen as Oin, Peter Hambleton as Gloin, Jed Brophy as Nori, Mark Hadlow as Dori, Adam Brown as Ori, Andy Serkis as Gollum, Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Hugo Weaving as Elrond, Christopher Lee as Saruman, Sylvester McCoy as Radagast, Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins
Rated PG-13
Running time: 2 hours 49 minutes
IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0903624/
Plot: Sixty years before The Lord of the Rings, happily respectable hobbit Bilbo Baggins finds himself on a dangerous quest with 13 dwarves and the legendary wizard, Gandalf.

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There are two versions of me reviewing Peter Jackson’s latest trip to Middle-earth.  One is the proud geek who became an obsessive J.R.R. Tolkien fan after seeing Jackson’s movie of The Fellowship of the Ring.  The other is the professional film critic of 15+ years whose job is to analyze every cinematic effort I see (whether I really want to or not).

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Poultry Patrol – “The Odd Life of Timothy Green” (2012)

What It Is
A strange Disney-produced fable about an infertile couple (Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton) who find a little kid (CJ Adams) in their garden.  He’s basically everything they ever dreamed of, although he has leaves growing out of his legs and seems to possess magical powers.  So, you know, not exactly what they imagined.

 

 

Oh, and it was co-produced by Ahmet Zappa, who also came up with the story idea.  I’m not even sure what to say about that.


Pictured: Not one of Frank’s album covers.

Why I Saw It
I was going to be on the radio that week, and needed another movie to review.  Later, I thought, “Why should I limit myself to just talking about how bad and weird this movie is?  I can write about it, too!”

What I Learned

  • Somewhere in America, a factory worker and a museum guide can afford a big house with acreage.
  • Adoption agency caseworkers are the most patient people on earth.
  • Never, ever make old people laugh.


“There were two peanuts walking down the street….”

  • If you are obsessed with having a child, and one somehow appears in your home overnight, no one will bat an eyelid.  You can even enroll him in school with no questions asked.
  • Nobody in this country understands soccer.


“Just run really fast. Everyone will cheer because you’re cute.”

  • Ugly, unwieldy pencils are the new pet rocks.


“Why are you selling those things? They’re hideous!”

 

 

“Dorothy and the Witches of Oz” – Review

Director & Writer: Leigh Scott; inspired by the book series by L. Frank Baum
Cast: Paulie Rojas as Dorothy Gale, Billy Boyd as Nick, Eliza Swenson as Billie, Christopher Lloyd as The Wizard, Lance Henriksen as Uncle Henry, Sean Astin as Frack, Ethan Embry as Frick
Rating: PG
Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes
IMDB Page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1592287/

Plot: Children’s author Dorothy Gale discovers that her books are based on her own repressed childhood experiences, which are starting to impact her daily life in New York City.

Note: There will be a Q&A with producer Nick Everhart (a UMKC graduate), actress-composer-producer Eliza Swenson, & actors Paulie Rojas (Dorothy) and Noel Thurman (Glinda) at the AMC Studio 30 in Olathe at 8pm on February 24th, and another at AMC Town Center in Leawood at 4:45pm on February 25th.

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Imagine making up a modern-day Wizard of Oz story and shooting it in the backyard with your friends.  Now imagine someone gave you a special-effects budget and the services of several experienced character actors.  You’d probably end up with something like Dorothy and the Witches of Oz, which combines the “gee, let’s put on a show!” ethos of low-budget filmmaking with the ambition of something much bigger.

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“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ – 2011 Review

Kansas City Star, The (MO) – Friday, July 15, 2011
by Loey Lockerby

If you thought Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 was too slow, prepare to have your need for speed satisfied.

From a ride on a dragon’s back to the epic final battle at Hogwarts, Part 2 rarely pauses as it roars to the series’ finish.

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Troll Hunter – 2011 Review

Kansas City Star, The (MO) – Friday, July 22, 2011
by Loey Lockerby

Troll Hunter is a bizarre mashup of Grimm’s fairy tales, Godzilla movies, The X-Files and The Blair Witch Project. If that sounds like fun, it is. Up to a point.

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Beastly – 2011 Review

Kansas City Star, The (MO) – Friday, March 4, 2011

It’s always tempting to grade movies on a curve this time of year.

Awards season is over, the summer blockbusters haven’t rolled out yet and the best we can hope for is bland watchability at the multiplex.

Beastly is tolerable enough for a March release. Yes, that is damning with faint praise.

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