The story of Noah as it is written in the King James Bible is about three pages. If you want to Google it, read it, then come back to this you can go ahead. I'll wait here as I continue to stream some of Clint Mansell's spooky and enthralling score to the new Darren Aronofsky film starring Russell Crowe.
Back? Yeah, so, not a whole heck of a lot there. But did you catch the tiny references to things you may not recall from Sunday School? The “giants in the Earth” and the “flaming sword”? These are the pools from which Aronofsky irrigates his 'Noah.' This is, to adopt a phrase, the “old, weird Bible,” and its visual language more resembles 'Lord of the Rings' than any typical sandal epic.
There comes a time when we must stop kidding ourselves. These 'Hobbit' films – with 'The Desolation of Smaug' representing the shank of the trilogy – are not real movies. These are exploitation films for Tolkien nuts, for enthusiasts of the original 'Lord of the Rings' movies and for audiences so hungry for high fantasy they'll gobble up whatever is served to them and ask for seconds.
As someone who has sympathy, but not empathy, for those who have such proclivities, I can get why someone might come away liking this picture. But that is more of an involuntary reaction to exposure to certain elements, not the summation of a film. Listen, there's a grey-bearded wizard who warns in low tones about a place that sounds like “Doggledoor.” And there's someone referred to as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror.” I love that geekorama stuff more than most. It's hilarious, and I'll probably refer to my cat as “Thorin son of Thrain son of Thror” for the next week. But this movie doesn't cohere – there's no forward momentum, no character development, no story happening. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a fibber.
Sometimes great artistry comes from coloring inside the lines.
Walt Disney Animation's newest film, 'Frozen,' does precious little to push the boundaries of narrative storytelling. Indeed, it is a quite predictable – might I even suggest formulaic - culmination of elements. While picking over the bones of a half-remembered Hans Christian Andersen story, 'The Snow Queen,' Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck's film expands certain themes, disposes of some characters and, of course, modernizes a bit for contemporary audiences. However, miraculously, this doesn't feel like a Xerox of a Xerox impersonating a classic Disney film. There's precious little winking; hardly any of the 'Shrek'-effect. 'Frozen' has enough of the goods to play it straight and succeed on its own terms. It is a major entry in family-friendly entertainment, one that ought to reverberate for years with tie-in toys and stage productions.
With piracy drama 'Captain Phillips,' Paul Greengrass ('Bloody Sunday,' 'United 93') has defended his ground as the go-to man for tragic, reality-based pressure-cooker films. The dude really knows how to get your palms sweaty, even when you kinda-sorta know how things are going to end up. Note to self: don't take your cargo ship through the Somali Basin if you don't have to.
Greengrass is also the director of the best two 'Bourne' movies ('Supremacy' and 'Ultimatum') and just as Matt Damon glided through those films as the steely, mixed-martial killing machine, Tom Hanks' center-seat performance here is a master class in keeping it cool.
I loved 'Rango,' the last time Johnny Depp and Gore Verbinski offered up a madcap spin on the Western. I basically enjoyed 'John Carter,' last year's Western-infused would-be space epic, which, not coincidentally, was the last time Walt Disney stock holders had to reach for a shaker of Tums.
However, 'The Lone Ranger,' this new spazzed-out Western from Depp, Verbinski and Disney, takes unusual and unlikely measures to ensure that audiences have a miserable time. There are momentary flashes of amusement, but it is jumbled, tone-deaf and uninteresting. If I wanted to be kind I'd call it dull and ephemeral, but there are long stretches that seem to strive to be annoying - almost anti-entertainment. The only thing 'The Lone Ranger' has going for it is a long life as to go-to description how not to make a blockbusters movie - this generation's 'Last Action Hero.'
Is it possible to hate something and yet, at the same time, recognize its greatness? This is a heavy philosophical question and one that I'd like to discuss with you. Anything to get these insufferably catchy tunes from 'Les Miserables' out of my head.
Pop culture enthusiasts can be forgiven if they approach Peter Jackson's J.R.R. Tolkien prequel trilogy thinking about 'Star Wars.' Will this next (but previous!) chapter in one of Fandom's key franchises broaden the cinematic universe we love so much, or will this be another case where they should have let enough alone?
Well, as is so frequently the case in life, I can't give you such a black and white answer. For starters, we may not be able to fully analyze 'The Hobbit' until all three chapters are in. Nevertheless here we are and 'An Unexpected Journey' does, indeed, have a lot going for it. It is also saddled with tangents, jabberjaw scenes that never end and far too many beats whose sole function is to remind you how much you love the original 'Lord of the Rings' films.
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