Noah Review

            While watching Darren Aronofsky’s latest film Noahtwo things really stick out.  First is that this is the biggest film Aronofsky has made, which makes sense as this is the biggest budget he has been given to work with yet.  Second is that despite the bigger production values and the larger scale, this distinctly remains a Darren Aronofsky film.  With unique visuals and a main character on the edge of sanity this is unmistakably the work of Aronofsky.  Like most of Aronofsky’s work (outside of the masterful Black Swan) Noah is a film with a lot of ambition but fails to fully take advantage of it.

            Noah tells the biblical tale of Noah’s Ark.  While most of the movie stays true to the somewhat vague tale (including a drunken escapade that Noah goes on that has some uninformed Christians in fits), some close-minded people will have a lot to pick at.  Aronofsky tries to find a way to include something for everyone and that will make those who have such an exact vision of what this tale should be angry and disappointed.  It also doesn’t help that Noah (who is portrayed by Russell Crowe in the film) is an anti-hero that the film doesn’t even try to bother making sympathetic at points in the film.

            Yet these two factors might be the two biggest strengths of the film.  There really is something for everyone in this film whether it is the fantastical elements, strong female characters (Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson are the standouts of the film as Noah’s wife and Noah’s daughter-in-law respectively), and a good portrayal of God (who is only referred to as the Creator in this film but definitely has a large role).  Also, the conflicted nature of Noah leaves room for an interesting internal struggle that carries the second half of the film as it transitions from a fantastical epic to a much smaller scale and intimate film.

            All this being said Noah has some major pacing issues.  The transition from the epic nature of the first half of the film to the intimate nature of the second half is quite jarring.  Some sections of the first half go on for far too long without any sense of momentum while the second half doesn’t become worth it until you get to the conclusion of the film.  Due to this Noah is definitely a film you should see twice to fully appreciate it as the seemingly directionless nature of the second half should become much more clear on repeat viewing.  Still, I think Aronofsky tried to tackle a little more than he could handle and some of the messages of the film don’t completely hit the mark.

            Hollywood has really struggled in recent decades with biblical films, and while Noah won’t have the cultural impact that The Passion of the Christ has it certainly is the most memorable since the glory days of sword and sandal epics.


Captain America: The Winter Soldier Review

          The Marvel Cinematic Universe has to be the most surprising film franchise ever.  Not only was Kevin Feige (the producer behind this series) and company able to successfully tie all of the plot threads and characters together in what is arguably the biggest film ever, The Avengers, but the MCU series has somehow found a way to remain interesting even as the series moves onto its ninth film and further on.  That ninth film, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, picks up with what Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) and S.H.I.E.L.D. have been up to in a post-The Avengers world.  While Captain America: The Winter Soldier still relies on geeky references and a sense of humor like the rest of the films in the MCU have, The Winter Soldier still finds enough new ground to remain interesting including a new style of action sequences and a charming homage to espionage thrillers.

            It was quite worrying to see Kevin Feige pick Anthony and Joe Russo to direct Captain America: The Winter Soldier.  The Russo brothers did solid work on Community, but after seeing another TV director Alan Taylor whiff on Thor: The Dark World (which I would argue is the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s only miss so far) this just seemed like another cost cutting maneuver instead of a maneuver that was trying to maintain the creative integrity of this series.  Luckily, I was very wrong as the Russo brothers do a fantastic job of directing this film.  They find a way to make this a film that seems apiece with past films in the series while seeming like a genuine homage to espionage thrillers of years past.  Even more shocking is that the Russo brothers bring the best action set pieces in the entire series to the film.  The hand-to-hand combat is brutally awesome and while some of it verges into incomprehensibility with the quick editing it never completely does so.

            Also helping this film is that Captain America: The Winter Soldier may have the best cast of any MCU film.  Chris Evans (who was a little outmatched in the star-studded The Avengers) reasserts himself as the right man for this role.  Captain America is a very boring hero on paper and that is quite the tough role to play.  Evans just has the right amount of charisma to make a man with very little internal conflict interesting nonetheless.  Meanwhile, Sebastian Stan is stuck with another difficult task.  He must take a poorly developed character from the first film and make him a fully dimensional villain.  Stan, for the most part, does just that and I’m very interested to see where they take Bucky Barnes next.  Other standouts include Anthony Mackie (finally getting a much deserved good role in a good blockbuster), Frank Grillo (doing much more than any actor playing a henchman has the right to), Robert Redford (giving depth to a character that easily could have been window dressing) and Samuel L. Jackson (doing his best work as Nick Fury yet).

            Ultimately, Captain America: The Winter Soldier doesn’t reach the heights of the much more contained Iron Man, Iron Man Three or Captain America: The First Avenger as it does try to do a little too much but as a sequel to The Avengers this is quite a good film.


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