REVIEW: Noah

NOAH

Noah
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Written by: Darren Aronofsky and Ari Handel
Starring: Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson and Ray Winstone

Noah is a baffling movie on many levels, but rarely is it very interesting.  Director Darren Aronofsky’s artistic sensibility either got lost in the material or the studio put too many restrictions for him to really run wild with it.  The end result is an often absurdly straightforward installment of White People Reenact the Bible (with giant rock monster angels).

To the movie’s credit, Aronofsky makes no effort to subdue the torment a man like Noah (Russell Crowe) both faces and inflicts when tasked with keeping animals and his family alive while everyone else on Earth drowns.  Crowe gives it his all as well, though he and the rest of the cast (except Anthony Hopkins) play the material with a self-seriousness that is often suffocating.  When the movie was allowed to breathe visually, like in a couple of time-lapse tracking shots that follow animals as they fly and slither, it was briefly exhilarating.

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Our Favorite Movies of 2013

The Wolf of Wall Street movie

1. The Wolf of Wall Street- The funniest film of the year was made by one of the world’s greatest directors, Martin Scorsese, who is now into his 70s and nearing the very end of his career. You wouldn’t know it watching The Wolf of Wall Street, an impossibly energetic riff on the true-life exploits of Wall Street crook Jordan Belfort. The film depicts behavior most would find irrefutably lewd, misogynist, or downright amoral; most of which is played for uproarious laughs. The men in Wolf act out of humanity’s basest impulses; snorting drugs and screwing prostitutes in the office just because they have no one there to tell them “no.” Scorsese, much like the protagonist, never slows down to moralize anything on the screen, keeping the focus on the excessively sexual and drug-fueled life of Belfort and all of his brokers. It is in these outrageous slapstick moments and revolting conversations that the director becomes a sly satirist, allowing us to laugh at and observe this lifestyle from the self-aggrandizing narrator’s point of view. The uniformly great supporting cast, paired with DiCaprio’s career-best performance, carry out exhilarating, even visceral, comedy scenes that keep the film bouncing through its three-hour run-time.  Scorsese’s damning portrait of greed has a well-secured place in the canon of America’s great black comedies.

spring breakers

2. Spring Breakers- The perverse pleasures of cinema were mined and radicalized in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, an apocalyptic beach party and an unforgettable deconstruction of modern America’s excesses and wastelands. Aesthetically, it mirrors the sex-and-drug infused paradise of an MTV spring break, filmed under bright pink skylines and seedy red nightclubs. Malevolence has always been a way of coping with marginality for Korine’s characters, but for Brit, Candy, Faith and Cotty, it is a way to reach the ultimate high; attaining a transcendent euphoria, not through debauched revelries but through dominance and power. Big Arch and the indelible Alien are the walking, boasting incarnations of this ever-lasting Dream, and the girls’ eventual foray into criminal warfare is all an inevitable part of their quest for insatiable pleasure. As a major release in 2013, Spring Breakers is purposefully indefinable, and so nonplussed reactions from Gen-Y are unsurprising (strangely, our drug-obsessed culture doesn’t seem too interested in art inspired by drugs?). But not working directly as an obvious critique of anything is exactly why the film will endure; by evading a definite “purpose,” it is a piece of art that can be observed from a multitude of angles. If anything, the year’s masterpiece will serve as an important corrective: it’s not style over substance, style is the substance.

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REVIEW: This Is the End

header-this-is-the-end-great-new-international-trailer

This Is the End
Directed by: Seth Rogen & Evan Goldberg
Written by: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg (screenplay), Jason Stone (short film)
Starring: James Franco, Jonah Hill, Seth Rogen and Jay Baruchel

This Is the End rotates between being one of the funniest mainstream comedies in recent memory and one of the sloppiest.  If the budget had been hacked in half and forced directors Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to go without all the CGI demons, it would have been ten times as good.

As it stands, though, it’s hard to argue with a movie where some of the funniest Hollywood actors play themselves during the apocalypse.  Every actor is at the top of their self-mocking form, and when the movie doesn’t detour into much weaker action territory, it’s hilarious.

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REVIEW: The Perks of Being a Wallflower

The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Directed by: Stephen Chbosky
Written by: Stephen Chbosky (screenplay & novel)
Starring: Logan Lerman, Emma Watson, Ezra Miller and Paul Rudd

The high schoolers in The Perks of Being a Wallflower are much, much cooler than you.  They are trapped and also largely defined by their pasts just as much as their pop cultural tastes, and so is the movie.  It is an earnest, emotional journey to the beginning of identity, and while it is engaging and at times beautiful, it occasionally bogs itself down with pretension.

It helps that it was adapted and directed by the same man who wrote the original, seminal ’90s novel, Stephen Chbosky.  The dimmed, warm look of many of the evening social scenes lend his movie version an ominous glow.  Many high school movies, especially comedies, are drained of almost any visual element, but not Wallflowers.  Some of the school scenes feel a little tight and generic by comparison, but that may be intentional.

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REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Steve Kloves (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Ralph Fiennes

The cheers and tears of millions of fans around the world will signify the end of the era of Potter.  Though the books ended in 2007 (when the fifth film came out), this eighth film installment truly marks the end of J.K. Rowling’s wizard phenomenon.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 abandons much of the atmospheric dread of the past two films in favor of full-on confrontation.  The initial scenes carry that “Calm before the storm” not only narratively but aesthetically as well.  We watch as Snape (Alan Rickman) precedes over fascistic-looking marches at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with a troubled calm settling on his face.

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REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1
Directed by: David Yates
Written by: Steve Kloves (screenplay), J.K. Rowling (novel)
Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Ralph Fiennes

And so it begins to end.  Almost ten years after Harry Potter, his friends, his enemies, and his journey began lighting up the silver screen with J.K. Rowling’s magical prose, billions have been made, and countless fans have been enraptured.  The Potter franchise will always be known first as a literary milestone, as it well should be.  To their credit though, these movies aren’t half-bloody bad.

Guiding this now well-known journey to the finish line is the steady artistic hand of director David Yates, who has been with the series since the fifth film.  Giving Hogwarts the dark tonal shift necessary to keep up with the ever-darkening plot was a task he more than lived up to.  In the fifth and sixth films, the setting is another character in the movie.

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