Noah (2014)

NoahReleased: March 28, 2014. Directed by: Darren Aronofsky. Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins. Runtime: 138 min.

A film cloaked in controversy from the get go, Noah turns out to be a good, unique film. It’s controversial because it’s a largely different take on the biblical story of Noah’s Ark from the Book of Genesis. It keeps the theme of cleansing the earth of its wickedness, but visionary filmmaker Darren Aronofsky furthers the moral battle to the titular Noah, which keeps the film going well past the flood. As a faithful adaptation, it’s not great – but as Aronofsky’s unique vision, it is. It just depends on how the viewer looks at it.

I choose to focus on the more positive aspects, so I look as it more as a fascinating vision of a great director. Major innovations to the story include protectors that are practically stone giants, which might just be the strangest thing about this film. In this world, there are two vastly different communities: one large and one quite small. Noah (Russell Crowe) leads his family who are taking care of duties on the ark, since he is chosen by the world’s leader to build the ark so the world can be rebuilt to cleanse the earth of its wickedness. This group represents good. The other group is a representation of the wickedness of men, led by Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone). The story raises the idea that all persons have the will to sin and give over to temptation.

These ideas make most of the characters have inner conflicts. These can sometimes be frustrating to the viewer. It gets an emotional reaction from the viewer, hatred or not, it works to effect. Amongst the most conflicted is of course Noah. It’s a crazy amount of responsibility, the task he’s been given by the Creator. It seems that this a different world, as if it’s made that we’re to assume this is God they’re talking about – but He’s only referred to as the Creator. That might just add on to the controversy, whether or not the film’s ignoring Him, or if Aronofsky only wants to call him Creator. It never feels like the film-makers have an anti-Christianity mindset. Anyway, Noah’s inner battles with himself are fascinating; as are the contrasts made between him and Tubal-cain. Russell Crowe carries the film well, assisted by the rest of the talented cast. One can begin to understand the character, despite some crazy decisions. Ray Winstone is also good as his character. My only complaint about both of them is that they have a bad habit of whispering dialogue.

It’s cool to see the extreme lengths Aronofsky go to in order to portray the wickedness of man. There’s a repetition of imagery of a Serpent, the Adam and Eve story, and the story of Cain and Abel throughout. This is another symbol of the temptation and sin of man. I also like the way Aronofsky portrays Noah’s visions. Some of his visions make this feel like a big-budget Take Shelter at times. There’s a cool sequence where Noah’s underwater and animals swim to the surface with him two by two. The visuals are magnificent, as is the Iceland scenery. Due to the scenery and variations of animals, the time setting of the film – biblical times or a futuristic setting, in the vein of After Earth – remains open to interpretation. Some visual effects are dizzying when they aren’t dazzling. It’s mostly when the passage of time is shown. The style used is fast-forwarded imagery. The way the story transitions to where the Ark , where two birds fly over several landscapes to get to the Ark, is like a short film in itself.

The film might as well be divided into three chapters: before the flood, when it strikes and during, and after. Seeing how this world works in the first chapter is fascinating. When it strikes, the visuals are phenomenal, and things on the Ark get a bit strange, but sometimes there’s nothing wrong with that. It flows all pretty well. It’s a character and cast-driven film. Jennifer Connelly is very good as Naameh. She captures the anxiety of the situation well. Anthony Hopkins is great as Noah’s great grandfather Methuselah, who craves berries, and gives Noah guidance. Logan Lerman is good as Ham, who is one of the film’s most frustrating character. Douglas Booth as Shem does his job. The youngest child, Japheth, portrayed by newcomer Leo McHugh Carroll, is given nothing to do here. He might have five lines of dialogue. A real impressive star in this film is Emma Watson. She’s believable in almost every way, and the character’s insecurities makes her relateable to audiences. I really can’t wait to see more from her.

It will be interesting to see what Aronofsky tackles next. From what I’ve seen of his, he directs character-driven films, which is an aspect that works well for this. The dark tone and epic scale suit this, as well. Noah might not be what you expect going into the film. Expect a different sort-of cinematic experience. Since the film is so different from the original story that’s extremely tame in comparison; a fair deal of it is unpredictable. Unpredictable means surprises, and this has them in spades.

Score75/100

March 28-30 Box Office Predictions: Swear words and Sabotage of biblical proportions

box office (1)Jason Bateman’s Bad Words is one of the new releases coming out this weekend, but it’s been in limited release since the 14th of March, and has grossed $837 thousand. It premiered at TIFF back in September, and it looks pretty awesome. Since one of the taglines is “suck my dictionary,” I’m really excited. I think it looks hilarious. I don’t think this will gross a lot this weekend; but I think $6.7 million is a good enough expectation.

Noah will be the winner this weekend. I think it’s more than guaranteed it’ll gross around $30 million this weekend, and $40 million is very likely, but I think it’ll be a huge surprise hit, much like last year’s World War Z. It’s of one of the three Biblical movies this weekend; it’s the second one after Son of God, and the next one will be Exodus. This stars Russell Crowe as the titular Noah; and it also stars Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Logan Lerman. It’s directed by Darren Aronofsky. I’m ecstatic to see this. The story of Noah fascinates me, and I’m excited to see a new film about it, and I love Aronofsky’s style. I’ve only seen his film Black Swan, but I’m excited to see more. Similar films open to $33.49 million. My prediction for this film is $56.5 million.

Sabotage is David Ayer’s newest film starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Malin Akerman and Sam Worthington. I think this film looks promising. Movies similar to this open at $13.86 million. I’m curious to see if Schwarzenegger’s star power and Ayer’s direction will allow this to gross near End of Watch‘s $13.15 million. Both of Schwarzenegger’s starring vehicles since his comeback haven’t grossed double digits in its opening weekend (excluding The Expendables 2). The Last Stand was a fun movie that made $6.3 million in its opening, and Escape Plan made $9.9 million (so close). Since Arnie obviously doesn’t have as much star power as he once did, but I’m going to say this grosses $9.5 million in its opening weekend.

Here’s how I see the Top 10:

1. Noah: $56.5 million
2. Divergent: $28 million
3. Muppets Most Wanted: $10.883 million
4. Sabotage: $9.5 million
5. The Grand Budapest Hotel: $9 million
6. Bad Words: $6.7 million
7. Mr. Peabody & Sherman: $6.3 million
8. God’s Not Dead: $6 million
9. 300: Rise of An Empire: $4.2 million
10. Need for Speed: $3.8 million

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning ThiefReleased: February 12, 2010. Director: Chris Columbus. Stars: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson. Runtime: 118 min.

Since the “Harry Potter” franchise was almost finished, this studio beat the new crowd of Young Adult adaptations. “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” headed that crowd.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is an average New York teenager battling with things like anxiety and ADHD. Soon enough, after Zeus’s (Sean Bean) lightning bolt is stolen, he finds out he is the son of Poseidon, god of the Sea. It is assumed that Percy has stolen the Bolt — and he must set out on a quest to prove his innocence and prevent a war between the gods. He won’t be going alone though, as by his side is Annabeth (Alexandria Daddario), daughter of Athena, and his guardian, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson).

“The Lightning Thief” was supposed to be the next Harry Potter, with the same director (Chris Columbus), but it ultimately failed. While it has some of the same visual effects of “HP,” it lacks the fresh magic. It’s not that the primary three “heroes” aren’t likeable, because they are, it’s just that the familiar plot doesn’t have a lot of surprises.

At least it has a great cast (from Sean Bean to Pierce Brosnan to Uma Thurman) to carry the film. But everyone is shoved in there in mostly minor roles, it very much feels like it’s trying to be like Harry Potter again, but with more American actors than British. The coming-of-age aspect of the film, where Percy has to adapt to this huge change, is interesting. And his motives are noble, but not exactly his ways to go about them. (He thinks he can rescue someone dear to him from Hades after one training session.) There are a few funny lines, mostly delivered by Brandon T. Jackson. The world is imaginative. I like this family-friendly take on Greek mythology. The movie is certainly watchable, but it’s forgettable and slightly too long.

Score63/100

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

Release Date: September 28, 2012. Director: Stephen Chbosky. Stars: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller. Runtime: 1hr, 43 min. Tagline: We are infinite.

Not any writer has quite analyzed teen angst as well as John Hughes, but Chbosky comes pretty close.

* Alternate opening hook: And some people said Project X was a good teen film, anyone can take a Super 8 camera and film garbage, but not everyone can create something quite as beautiful as this.

Meet Charlie (Logan Lerman), a young freshman outsider who has to deal with his own inner demons of the past, depression, and loneliness, and the death of his best friend. Charlie is extremely nervous for his first day of high school, and doesn’t want any old nice teacher to be the only friend he makes. He encounters two fellow outcasts, Sam (Emma Watson) and her hysterical step brother Patrick (Ezra Miller). They take him under their wings, show him lessons of love, pain, friendship, belonging, and overcome being a complete wallflower.

Stephen Chbosky directs, and adapts his own novel for the big screen. And he does it quite well. The cast really fits each character, and their performances are awesome for such a young cast.

There are some really cool visuals, like when one of the main characters is on drugs. The writing is brilliant through and through. One can sense that The Perks of Being a Wallflower is set in the 1990s (according to the film’s IMDb trivia page, it’s set during the 1991-92 school year) because of all the vinyl records, wardrobe, mix tapes and not CDs, the typewriter (some of you may not have even heard of this stuff..)and the  older music. This film is a perfect example of a film that offers a great atmosphere, and it’s  one that the viewer can really fall head over heels in love with.

For the majority of people – and high schoolers especially – it’s a film that is very easy to relate to – everyone feels out of place at some point in their lives, don’t they? A lot of the characters are easily relatable; and they are all substantially, and utterly effectively, developed. They all have great depth, and each have some sort of inner demons. When Charlie finally shakes off his inner cloak [feeling] of invisibility (I don’t think it’s a spoiler, it’s obvious he would – and I just had to do the Harry Potter pun), it’s enough to fill you with happiness. Just remember though, these loner kids have dreams too, just like you or me. There is a great sense of poignancy, and can easily cause the viewer to get choked up in several areas because of sensitive subjects. The poignancy is large, and the comedy is also hysterical. The funniest character is definitely Patrick. There’s a lot of romance mixed in, Logan Lerman’s character was kissing people left, right and centre. The mix of genres is beautiful, and the film can definitely make the viewer feel extremely emotional at one point, and fall-off-their-chair-laughing at the next minute. That is always an aspect of films that I truly admire.

The depiction of the high school world feels a little off, because I know I’ve never seen a high school quite so brutal. Granted, the majority of high school films depict it in that fashion, so I can’t hold it against this film for following that cliché.

The three primary actors were extremely impressive, Logan Lerman proved he’s an incredible actor; Emma Watson proved she’s destined for greatness (like you couldn’t already tell, she has great star power); and Ezra Miller proved that he’s a diverse actor that can take on a great list of roles, from the terrifying Kevin in We Need to Talk About Kevin, to a flamboyant character like Patrick.

Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller, Dylan McDermott, Kate Walsh, Johnny Simmons, Nina Dobrev, Mae Whitman, Erin Wilhelmi, Melanie Lynskey, Paul Rudd and Joan Cusack star in this film.

The profound, and unique, analysis of teenage angst is accurate, brilliantly touching, and heartbreakingly poignant. Thinking back, there isn’t a flaw visible in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The performances are great, the story is awesome, and the atmosphere it offers is perfect. It has a cool use of visuals and flashbacks when they are there. It also has a nice use of voice-over narration from Charlie in some scenes. This is a film that I didn’t want to end, and I can’t wait to watch it again (and I didn’t even mind being choked up half the freaking time!). That’s one heck of a definition for an enjoyable experience. It’s one of my favourite experiences and atmospheres of 2012 – it’s a must-see. It’s a fine classic of 2012 that can define a generation as well as John Hughes could.

It deserves to be seen; so get off the couch, grab a few friends – but if you don’t have any, it’s okay to be a wallflower* – and go see this movie!

*For those of you who do not know, a wallflower is just slang for a loner. I certainly didn’t know what it meant before I saw this, so hopefully this may be helpful information.

100/100