Saturday, March 29, 2014


Writer/Director Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is an equal opportunity movie.  There is an equal opportunity for the same person to both really love parts of it and really hate parts of it.

We are, initially, treated to rock creatures that look like they’ve stepped out of the original Flash Gordon serial as if it were directed by Ed Wood.  Is this the sci-fi version of the biblical story?

No, these are fallen angels, cursed to help humankind, albeit the paternalistic “mankind” is used throughout.  But, perhaps, that is appropriate here as mankind has to be ended for screwing up and, indeed, the only male characters worth saving are Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins) and Noah’s son Shem (Douglas Booth).
It’s really Noah’s wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), Shem’s wife Ila (Emily Watson) and Ham’s (Logan Lerman) should-have-been wife Na’el (Madison Davenport), who are the true heroines and make the film’s wished-for nobility emerge. 

Noah (Russell Crowe) starts out heroically, but then goes psycho, wanting to kill his family.  Those long voyages will do that to you, I guess.

If I sound glib, it’s because, much of the time, this film does not seem to take itself seriously.

What I did like was the ark, designed by Mark Friedberg, the cinematography of the great Matthew Libatique and Aronofsky’s and Co-Writer Ari Handel’s ideas as to how Noah might have gotten the wood to build the ark, how the animals, birds, etc. were maintained over the 150 days of rain and 40 days of waiting before they left the ark and why they would have been under siege once others discovered what they were building.

For the effort alone, I give Noah a 3+ out of 5, but Connelly and Watson both deserve a 4+ out of 5.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Muppets Most Wanted

Muppets Most Wanted, directed by James Bobin, is the surprise hit of the year, so far.  And, given what is reported as its reasonable budget of $50 million, it could very well become the most profitable movie of, perhaps, the entire year.  Why?  Because it is absolutely brilliant!

The script by Bobin and Nicolas Stoller is hilarious and the songs composed by Christophe Beck are wonderfully charming and funny, as well.

And, you don’t have to a Muppets fan to enjoy this fabulous film.  For years, I, myself, haven’t seen anything Muppet other than a few brief appearances by Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy on some variety shows.  (Whatever happened to The Cookie Monster and wasn’t there a Grouch?)  

No matter.  The enormous coterie of current Muppet characters is conned by their new manager Dominic Badguy…”It’s pronounced Bugeye. I’m French”…(Ricky Gervais) into performing their show in various European cities so he and Kermit-lookalike, the notorious Constantine, can rob various museums.  Why? In order to find the implements that will allow the duo to rob the Crown Jewels of England. 

Meanwhile, the real Kermit has been imprisoned in the Russian Gulag from which Constantine escaped and has become subject to the ruthless, yet incredibly funny, Nadya (Tina Fey).

You don’t need to know anymore other than that it doesn’t matter if you’re young or old…as long as you’re a breathing human being, you’ll have a wonderfully entertaining time seeing this film.

I give Muppets Most Wanted a well-earned 5 out of 5.  Treat yourself to a good time and go.


Director Neil Burger’s Divergent, based on Veronica Roth’s young-adult novel, is a darker version of The Hunger Games; darker in tone and cinematographic look.  That, however, doesn't mean it’s not a good film.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible not to compare the two movies.  They both have young, female heroines of about the same age, who are living in fascist societies that are trying to keep their subjects regimented.  The difference between the two is that The Hunger Games has more color and humor and that gaudiness gives balance to the horrors the citizens have to endure…at least in the eyes of the viewer.  In Divergent, all is bleak.
After a global conflict, the peoples in the war-wracked Chicago area are divided into five factions…Abnegation (the humble governors), Erudite (the brainiacs), Candor (the realists), Amity (the happy farmers) and Dauntless (the rowdy protectors).  Following adolescence, teens take a test to determine into which group they will be placed for life.  However, it is also possible for them to choose a group, but, if they flunk out, they become factionless and must live out their lives in the gutters, outlawed from their families.  Faction trumps blood.  

Tris (Shailene Woodley) is from the leading Abnegation family, but chooses to be part of the Dauntless faction after her test shows she could fit into at least 3 groups.  In this society, that’s not a good thing.  It means you are Divergent or too independent.  Essentially, this is a society of specialists where the liberal arts are anathema.  While her test administrator (Maggie Q) destroys the results, Tris must try to survive the formidable Dauntless training without being discovered.
The script by Evan Daugherty and Vanessa Taylor is overlong, but, thanks to Woodley and co-star Theo James, we stick with it.  After all, this is the setup for Part 2 and, then, 3.

For the fan-base, I give Divergent a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Le Weekend

Director Roger Michell’s Le Weekend is a happy/sad, comic/tragic, but totally real coming-of-age story about a couple from Birmingham, England ostensibly celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in Paris.

Nick (Jim Broadbent) is a professor at a minor university from which, we learn, he has just been forced into early retirement.  He admits that he does not do enjoyment well. Meg (Lindsay Duncan) is a teacher, who is itching for a life change, which may include divorce.  She wants and needs enjoyment.

Writer Hanif Kureishi’s script does not pull any punches in this bi-polar love/hate relationship.  And, it’s terrific, in both senses of the word.

This film is for adults only, not for anything salacious, but because it might frighten fragile millennials and children from wanting to grow older.

Broadbent and Duncan are absolutely wonderful as is Jeff Goldblum, who comes into the story as Nick’s more financially successful, old friend.

I give Le Weekend a 4 out of 5 and the beautiful Lindsay Duncan a high 5.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Veronica Mars

Fans of the former TV series Veronica Mars should be delighted with Creator/Writer/Director Rob Thomas’s translation of the show to a feature film.

The entire cast is back for the 10th anniversary of Veronica’s high school class and the about-to-be lawyer and nearly-fiancĂ©e (Kristen Bell)  is drawn back to help her former boyfriend Logan (Jason Dohring), who has been charged with the murder of their classmate Carrie Bishop (Andrea Estella).

The plot, which I won’t give away, is engaging and Bell is in top form. 

For the fan-base, Veronica Mars gets a 4 out of 5 and, hopefully, a sequel.