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Out in Theaters: NOAH

“Noah”
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Starring Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Anthony Hopkins, Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ray Winstone
Adventure, Drama
138 Mins
PG-13

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Glenn Beck has spoken. “Noah is just ridiculous,” Beck preached, going so far as to call the message contained within Darren Aronofsky‘s biblical blockbuster “danger disinformation.” Wise words from a man defending a story involving “the Creator” committing genocide against humankind, save for a 600-year old hero and his family (Genesis 7:6). For the creationist talk show host, ridiculousness exists only outside the confines of the Bible. But Beck is onto something.

No matter which side of the religious fence you fall on, you gotta admit that the story of Noah is more than a touch on the absurdist side. Even those interpreting the text at face value have to scrunch their face at Noah’s epic longevity. I mean the oldest man recorded on Earth weighed in at a whopping 123-years old and he can barely move, much less build an arc the size of the Empire State Building. At over five times that age, Noah puts your buff gramps to shame.

In what is one of the most well known Bible verses, Noah actually sets sail in his iconic arc on his 600th birthday. In Aronofsky’s film, Noah is played by 49-year old Russell Crowe, who during the duration of the film rifles through four different hair styles (a ploy to maximize action figures, I hope). Though 21st century scientists claim that a vegetarian diet will help you live longer and healthier lives, I’m seriously doubting that Noah’s hardcore vegan sensibilities led him to such preposterous supercentenarian status. Then again, his contemporaries do tear live animals apart by the chuck and seemingly consume them raw. Let’s just say, it’s a rough society.

Seeing that people are such dicks in Noah’s day, “the Creator” (who is never actually referred to in Aronofsky’s film as “God”) decides to put an end to the experiment that was humans. While his plans to cleanse the Earth with a devastating flood are explicitly stated in the Bible (“I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them. I am surely going to destroy both them and the earth.” Genesis 6:13), this Noah’s communion with God involves more foreshadowing nightmares and less bright light and disembodied voices. Noah even has to visit grandpappy Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) and trip out on some mushroom tea to realize “the Creator’s” design. Again, Crowe’s got it much harder than the Noah of the bible, for whom God lays out a list of materials and all the dimensions needed to build an arc capable of surviving his super hardcore flood. Apparently, God is quite the carpenter. Like father, like son.

But while Noah’s passage in the bible lasts only a handful of paragraphs, Aronofsky’s film stretches past the two-hour mark, allowing him ample opportunity to probe themes of good, evil and redemption. Though Genesis’s brief layout of Noah’s saga makes no mention of what actually went down in the year-long period where Noah and his family vegged out on the arc or how a guy six centuries old and his small, nuclear family could construct a boat big enough to house not only every single animal on earth but two of them, this is where Aronofsky gets imaginative.

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With so little information to draw from, he’s got a license to frill. And though his interpretation may be hard to swallow for Bibleites and non-believers alike, remember, Aronofsky’s is a thematic fable. Rock monsters may invoke cries of nonsense in the real world but have their place within the framework of Aronofsky’s tale of redemption. Without the word of God whispering how to turn a magical forest into a big ass boat, it’s no wonder that Noah’s final product looks more like a wood shipping container than the arc of lore. Even the titular hero himself is a far cry from the bent-back and bearded saint from story books and Veggie Tales VHS’s. Instead, he’s a victim of his era, traumatized and dangerously devout.

From the grassroots inception of the film, Aronofsky talked at length about how he saw Noah as the world’s first environmentalist and environmentalist he is. Thanks to the lack of communication between Noah and “the Creator,” we see a man driven mad by his interpretation of His superior will. One could make the argument that Noah’s an eco-terrorist. Just about willing to commit infanticide for the good of the animals, the guy would make a great PETA president. He’s a man caught between divine will and his own humanity and the crossroads takes its toll. In this trademark reveal of fleeting sanity, Aronofsky puts his stamp on an ageless story.

Even though Russell is shown up at times by co-star Jennifer Connelly, and the film (like Noah) could use a good shave here and there, Aronfoksy and his crew of technical wizards are never off the mark from a visual standpoint. The tested and proved time lapse shot is often effective for imbuing a sense of passage but what they’ve done here is next level: painterly and epic, an epitaph to natural beauty. Even the CGI is used in fitful splashes, more the result of necessity than Aronofsky succumbing to overkill.

Noah lacks the signature claustrophobia of Aronofsky’s finest work but the eerie character turns we’ve come to expect from him are most certainly in play. His auteur touch and rich investigative storytelling gives life to a tale that could have been as dead as the bloated corpses we see polluted the sea. As Aronofsky tries to make sense of an emotional parable, often achieving such in stunning visual terms, Noah is a messy, disaster epic that works as a character study and red-blooded fantasy both.

B+

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First Official Trailer for NOAH Sails In

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Noah suffered a bit of a leak yesterday with a handicam version of its trailer ravaging the web (thank God its nothing as serious as a leak in an ark). In a response to that leak, Regency has released the long awaited trailer for a saga centuries in the making. Based on the Biblical story but without an overwhelmingly religious bent, Noah stars Russell Crowe as the bible hero who receive word from God that the time of man has come to an end and he and his family alone must build a massive arc to survive the coming flood. Noah’s family is made up of Oscar-winners Jennifer Connelly as Noah’s wife Naameh and Anthony Hopkins as Methuselah, young stars Emma Watson and Logan Lerman as Noah’s children and Ray Winstone as a wrathful villain set to stop Noah.

To execute his epic vision of an epic story, Darren Aronofsky worked on a budget of epic proportions with production reportedly costing a bit shy of $130 million (before marketing.) Known only for little independent projects, Aronosky has never worked with a budget over $35 million, which he got for his failed passion project The Fountain, Noah is a whole new ballgame for the auteur.

His last film, Black Swan, was not only a critical darling but it made nearly $107 million dollars domestically on a $13 million dollar budget. Aided by a massive overseas push, the film grossed just shy of $330 million total, making Black Swan a triumphant success. For that staggering financial win that saw a nearly 3000% return, Noah was his reward.

And us audience members are in store for our own reward with this totally sweet trailer for Noah. I haven’t watched the whole thing because I don’t want to spoil too much but just peeking around it, it looks nothing less than amazing.

Noah is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Kevin Durand, Douglas Booth and Dakota Goyo. It storms into theaters March 28, 2014.

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First Poster and a Leaked Teaser for Aronofsky's NOAH

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Probably the most controversial film on the upcoming release slate is Darren Aronofsky‘s Noah. Famous for his bleak views into crumbling psyches, this isn’t gonna be the kiddy version of Noah and his animals zipadeedoda-ing on the merry sea. Since the beginning of the project, Aronofsky has said that his film will focus on survivor’s guilt and the birth of environmentalism. How much of an appearance God and Christianity will make is surely a toss up but don’t expect church groups to be rowing out in full force to see this (like they did with Mel Gibson‘s Jesus-as-torture-porn Passion of the Christ.)

Today we get two first looks at Noah with a first official poster and a bit of a leaked trailer (that will most likely be yanked by the time you read this). From this little peak, we can get a bit of a read on the tone of the film which does look to cross sandal-and-sword epics with the quiet psychological trauma of an Aronofsky film. The poster on the other hand conjures up the feeling of big 3D spectacle flicks like Clash of the Titans or the new 300: Rise of an Empire poster but I hardly expect the similarities to go much further than that.

I’m having trouble embedding the link here (these leaked ones are often ass-backwards) so instead I’m going to re-direct you over to ComingSoon.com. So just follow this link over there to check it.

Noah is directed by Darren Aronofsky and stars Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Anthony Hopkins, Ray Winstone, Kevin Durand, Douglas Booth and Dakota Goyo. It storms into theaters March 28, 2014.

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Out in Theaters: THOR: THE DARK WORLD

“Thor: The Dark World”
Directed by Alan Taylor
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tom Hiddleston, Natalie Portland, Stellan Skarsgård, Anthony Hopkins, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie AlexanderZachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Tadanobu Asano, Idris Elba, Kat Dennings, Chris O’Dowd
Action, Adventure, Fantasy
112 Mins
PG-13

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Between Chris Hemsworth‘s washboard abs and the razzle-dazzle signature FX of Marvel‘s brand, Thor: The Dark World uses blinding awesomeness to cast shade on its portended plotting. First and foremost a Marvel movie, this second (or third if you’re counting The Avengers) outing for the God of Thunder rounds all of the superhero studio’s likely bases, but a gilded touch from Game of Thrones director Alan Taylor helps bring an epic scope to the proceedings. Far exceeding the first film in terms of visual panache and high stakes action beats, the crowning gem of the Thor camp continues to be Tom Hiddleston‘s Loki. Deviant, seething, and locked away for treason, Loki may not be as much of a focal point as he was as the big baddie in The Avengers but he persists in being the most complex and unpredictable character in Marvel’s stable.

This time around, Thor lacks the megalomaniacal egoism of the first installment. His (massively sized) head is distracted by the clout of his lost love, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman), waiting for him back on Earth two years after Thor’s first departure. But a new evil stirs in the Dark Elves, a race that predates all living beings – warriors born of darkness (whatever that means) and intent on bringing all nine realms back under their control, demanding Thor and his hammer’s attention.

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Lead by Malekith (a wasted Christopher Eccleston), the Dark Elves are a race defeated thousands of years ago by Thor’s grandpappy in a cold open that somewhat successfully tries to harness the cold open of Lord of the Rings. Thought to be extinct (in a royally dickish move, Malekith sacrifices his entire race to make his secret escape), Malekith and his inner circle of bad boy elves come out of hibernation, scowling like pissed off grizzly bears, on the dawn of an intergalactic alignment, seeking the means to their universal dominance – a living relic known only as the Aether. But on that fateful battleground thousands of years ago, the war-worn Asgardians (in a move of really poor planning) hid the Aether away on some secret dark world, unguarded and, for all intents and purposes, forgotten.

Back on Earth, a now nudist Erik Selvig (Stellan Skarsgård) is the only one who has any clue about the impending intergalactic alignment to come and what it may mean for an Earth recently savaged by malevolent aliens, but he gets tossed in the Loony bin for streaking around Stonehenge. Because what better way to convince people that you’ve got a great theory than to strip off your skivvies and let your bits fly free? In his absence, Foster and the permanently obnoxious Darcy (Kat Dennings) begin to discover rifts in the space continuum, illustrated by floating trucks and invisible wormholes. By an act of supreme chance, Foster ends up transported to where the Asgardians have hidden the Aether away and becomes infected with its power/poison. Cue her face-slapping reunion with Thor and the impetus for the events to come. 

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As much as the cookie-cutter nature of these films has become an almost necessary byproduct of the Marvel brand, Thor: The Dark World proves that cleverness is a viable trump card for cliché. Using illusions and false expectation to pull the wool over the audience’s eye, The Dark World employs many of Loki’s tricks to heighten our sense of not knowing what’s going to happen. However old the malignant villain with schemes of world (here universe) domination may be getting, it’s the journey to their inevitable defeat that matters most and Taylor seems to know this fact well.

But it’s not a Marvel movie without visual flourish swinging from the rafters and Taylor and Marvel’s battalion of special effects up the ante from previous endeavors. With more world hopping than any of the former Marvel flicks (standalones and The Avengers included) Thor: The Dark World really opens up the universe to new prospects. The transition from realm to realm provides for welcome scenery changes as well as a nifty cornerstone for the big set pieces – later used to great effect in the perfunctory third act showdown – while also establishing the grounds for Marvel’s biggest risk pick yet, The Guardians of the Galaxy (who get the standard tease treatment in the mid-credits sequence).

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As the Marvel Cinematic Universe opens its doors to a whole new set of possibilities, they have also perfected their balancing act of big action sequences with casually cunning humor – a proven recipe for franchise gold, now tastier than ever. Here, bigger is better as The Dark World benefits greatly from the ever-increasing magnitude of its dazzling set pieces. The once sparkling Asgard of Thor has been cleaned up in its dressing down, offering more grit than polish this time round. Even the flashy rainbow bridge is wowing now, a far cry from the chintzy silliness of the first. A mid-film airborne assault on Asgard showcases Taylor’s knack for staging battle and begins a course of acceleration that doesn’t let up until the final credits roll (only to be interrupted not once, but twice by post credit scenes).

Many amongst the critical community have cried foul play of late, knocking Marvel for a lack of originality and constant adherence to formula, but they seem to forget that the reason Marvel continues with this low-risk, high-reward rubric is because they are so consistently satisfying. Thor: The Dark World may be exactly what you expect and offer little artistry but Hollywood was founded on escapism and it’s this escapism that Taylor has harnessed so well here. Sure going to the theater to experience heartbreak, tragedy, or profound self-exploration may be more “important” – perhaps even essential to our own personal growth – but we experience enough heartbreak in our own lives, not to mention the daily news cycle, to constantly crave more. Sometimes it’s enough to sit back and watch a superhero smash bad guys and save the day because there’s nowhere else in life where we can sit back and know full well good will prevail.

B

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