Cinema City Film Quiz #120

[27 April 2014]

Winning Team:
Toast Busters On Elm Street

Genre – Cookery horror/thriller involving toasted bread products

Runners Up:
1984 Two: Electric Boogaloo
Genre – Much maligned disco themed sequel to the George Orwell classic
A Nightmare On St Andrews Street
Genre – Horror
Foot Bruce
Genre – After the tragic loss of Bruce Forsyth in May 2014, his foot is cryogenically frozen. 500 years later, after being accidentally defrosted, it escapes and competes in Strictly Come Dancing 2514
1894: Big Brother’s Baby Years
Genre – Unnecessary prequel to 1984 showing Big Brother as an enthusiastic, carefree six year old. Directed by George Lucas
Genre – Thor takes on Mozart
A Fistful Of Euros
Genre – Western: A wandering politician plays two rival parties against each other, whilst claiming second home allowance and threatening Lenny Henry

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. What is the name of the Broadway star being awarded at the start of in All About Eve?
2. What is the anglicised version of the Japanese character and film series Gojira?
3. Titus, Coriolanus and The Tempest are adaptations of plays by which playwright?
4. What was the title of the most recent Terminator movie?
5. The ant colony in A Bug’s Life is ruled over by what type of insect?
6. Who was the central villain in Spider-Man 2?
7. Which 1992 Western starred Clint Eastwood, Gene Hackman, Morgan Freeman and Richard Harris?
8. Achilles, Helen, Paris and Hector are the main characters in which 2004 film?
9. Who directed Tropic Thunder?
10. Tinto Brass’ Caligula was released in which year?
1979 (although 1980 in the US)

ROUND II: Filming [1984 Special]
1. Who played the lead role in Footloose? Kevin Bacon? Bruce Willis? John Travolta?
2. Gremlins takes place during which season? Summer? Winter? Autumn?
3. What is the name of John Kreese’s dojo in The Karate Kid? Viper Kira? Python Ko? Cobra Kai?
4. How are Patrick Swayze and Charlie Sheen’s characters (Jed and Matt Eckert) related in Red Dawn? Brothers? Cousins? Father/Son?
5. Which of the following did not appear in The Bounty? Liam Neeson? Robert Carlisle? Daniel Day-Lewis?
6. Who composed the score for Ghostbusters? Randy Edelman? Brad Fiedel? Elmer Bernstein?
7. Mola Ram and the Thuggees in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom steal three of how many Sankara stones? 5? 6? 7?
8. The entirety of Once Upon A Time In America takes place over how many years? 29? 37? 48?
FORTY EIGHT (although if it’s all just an opium dream, it could be 12)
9. What was Muad’Dib’s name before he went into the desert, in Dune? Duncan? Feyd? Paul?
10. As Tom Hulce can’t actually play the piano, none of the harpsichords and pianos seen in Amadeus have strings. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Name an actor whose surname begins with V.
2. Ian McKellen, Robert Downey Jnr and Maggie Smith all appeared in which film?
3. The following quote is from which film, “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”?
4. Which actor played the role of James Bond in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service?
5. In which room of her flat does Amelie find the old metal box of childhood memorabilia, in Amelie?
6. What is Tyler’s final Project Mayhem plan in Fight Club?
7. Who destroys the batcave in Batman Forever?
8. What animal does Rocky keep as a pet in Rocky?
9. How many films have the Coen Brothers directed?
SIXTEEN (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller’s Crossing, Barton Fink, The Hudsucker Proxy, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, O Brother Where Art Thou, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Intolerable Cruelty, The Ladykillers, No Country For Old Men, Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, True Grit, Inside Llewyn Davis)
10. What are the first names of the three lead members of Spinal Tap? (one point per correct answer)

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. What was the name of the orang-utan in Every Which Way But Loose and Any Which Way You Can? Clive? Clint? Clyde?
2. Who voices Blu the Macaw in Rio? Neil Patrick Harris? Jesse Eisenberg? Owen Wilson?
3. What was the title of the supernatural thriller directed by Brian De Palma two years after Carrie? The Fury? Blow Out? Sisters?
4. Star Wars was the highest grossing film of 1977, what was the second highest? Close Encounters Of The Third Kind? Saturday Night Fever? Smokey And The Bandit?
5. Which of the following was not directed by Woody Allen? Bullets Over Broadway? Night Falls On Manhattan? Deconstructing Harry?
6. Who directed Starman with Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen? John Carpenter? Ron Howard? Robert Zemeckis?
7. Straw Dogs is set in the fictional village of Wakely, in which county? Somerset? Devon? Cornwall?
8. Which of the following was not directed by Renny Harlin? Cliffhanger? Last Action Hero? The Long Kiss Goodnight?
9. What was the poster tagline for the 1978 thriller, The Boys From Brazil? If they survive, will we? When do boys become men? If war is hell, then what comes after?
10. The acidic blood in Alien was made by combining glow-stick fluid and KY Jelly. True or False?

Screenshots: Batman Returns / Antz / Man On Fire
Poster: The Deer Hunter
Actor: Christopher Walken


Killing A Priest On A Sunday. That’ll Be A Good One

John Michael McDonagh

Brendan Gleeson
Kelly Reilly

For those that don’t know, Calvary (or Golgotha) is the place outside Jerusalem where Jesus was crucified; which, considering the poster and the story, is quite apt. Set in a small parish in Sligo (West Ireland), Father James Lavelle [Gleeson] sits in his confessional and listens to one of his congregation detail the years of abuse he suffered as a child. Furthermore, the abuser is now deceased, so he cannot reap revenge. The unknown parishioner then states that killing an evil priest is nothing special, what would be truly impressive is to kill a good priest; a man beloved by many who has done nothing wrong. The confessor then explains he will give Father Lavelle a week ‘to get his house in order’ before he will kill him down by the sea. Father Lavelle takes this news surprisingly well (no doubt as a matter of shock and disbelief) and sets about visiting people in his parish throughout the week before meeting his would-be assassin by the shore.

One of the many (MANY) things I love about this movie is that it’s not a detective film, it’s established very early on that Father Lavelle knows exactly who made the confession and simply goes about his business, examining the cruelty and maliciousness of his fellow man. What’s more, it’s evident that John Michael McDonagh has set out to tell the other side of the story. Films and TV have been milking stories about or involving abusive or corrupt priests but this is the story of a genuinely good man who simply happens to be a priest. As such, this film is littered with symbolism and Christian parallels, tonally dealing with injustice, the futility of vengeance, sacrifice and forgiveness. While this works beautifully for 90% of the running time, there is a strangely heightened sense of unrealism, reflecting that of a parable; specifically when it comes to the disjointedly savage interactions between the broadly eccentric characters. For such a small town, it’s filled with very outspoken remorseless individuals: the promiscuous wife, the antagonistic pub landlord, the weak fellow priest, the cynical surgeon, the garda with a penchant for male prostitutes, the suicidal ageing novelist, the list spools on with only the priest as a truly altruistic man. For some this will be welcomed for its slightly surreal tones, for others it will make the film feel dishonest and far-fetched.

In addition to the characters, the locations play an equally important role. My family are from Sligo and it’s almost unheard of to see it represented in film – outside of a few random shots of Benbulbin. Both the interiors and exteriors (bar those that I think were shot in County Dublin) give a humbling sweeping sense of scale and isolation. The sea is always tempestuous, the mountains roll off the fields, the houses are few and far between and the cloud hang heavy on the horizon. All of this gives the wonderful sense of dread and ominous foreboding that the narrative requires. Calvary also continues a contemporary running tradition of utilising bands rather than conventional composers to generate the musical score, in this case the talents of Calexico have been employed. A keen choice, in my opinion, for their occasional use of lilting strings and desert rock vibe. On top of that, there are the performances, which are extremely good. As stated, the characters are somewhat elevated for absurdity but each one is a distinct personality who weaves in and out of Father Lavelle’s life, taunting him in their own respective way. One of the reasons these performances feel so disarmingly true (to my mind) is the utilisation of comedic actors. Throughout cinematic history it is self-evident that some of the finest dramatic performances are delivered by individuals synonymous with comedy, largely due to the inherent psychological damage within someone who finds comfort/solace in being funny.

This film clearly isn’t for everyone, with its bleak, sometimes nihilistic approach and cynical representation of community life. But it’s my belief that Calvary is so much more than that, a genuinely mature powerful analysis that, while amusing and disturbing at times, proves itself a significant release of equal noteworthiness and importance to that of In Bruges (penned and shot by John’s brother Martin). To my mind, this is quite easily the greatest film produced by the Irish Film Board and one of the best shot in Ireland.

Release Date:
11th April 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
Like a play, there are so many standout interactions and moments but one of the ones that really struck a resonance with me came around two thirds into the film. Father Lavelle is strolling through the countryside when he notices a young girl walking in the road. He makes casual conversation with her, asking if she’s on her holidays, where she’s from – the usual conversational interaction you get from a child – only to have the girl’s father come hurtling down the road in his car and forcefully shoving his daughter into the backseat. The father, furious and suspicious of the priest’s motivations and specifically what may have been said, issues a warning and drives off. The abruptness and severity of the interaction leaves the priest overcome with emotion, emitting fear, confusion, shock but most of all he’s just hurt by the implication. It’s a really good representation of an innocent individual who belongs to a demonised group (whether ethnically, vocationally or otherwise).

Notable Characters:
Without a doubt, the two biggest surprises are Chris O’Dowd and Dylan Moran. Two men famed for their hilarious performances in Graham Linehan sitcoms. Deeply fascinating and curious personalities performed completely against type with the most astounding results. To say anything about these character’s lives, actions or motivations would probably ruin a lot of the story, so I’ll neatly sidestep that but anyone who’s seen the film will agree their respective contributions were brilliant.

Highlighted Quote:
“Why in the fuck would you tell me a story like that?”

In A Few Words:
“Put simply, this movie is a treasure”

Total Score:



No More Secrets

Marc Webb

Andrew Garfield
Emma Stone
Jamie Foxx
Dane DeHaan

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 opens with an extended flashback, detailing the other side of the hide-and-seek opening of The Amazing Spider-Man. Offered a glimpse into the fate of Peter’s parents, we are quickly whisked back to the present and shown a typical day in the life of New York’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man (aka Peter Parker, once again played by Andrew Garfield). Much like any comic book sequel, the story progresses with Peter struggling to balance the lives of his crime fighting alias and his now graduated civilian existence, we’re introduced to a few new villains and all hell breaks loose when the three are combined. No need to expand any further than that really; not without ruining so many plot points.

This isn’t a broody Batman/Superman release, nor is it a triumphant challenging Marvel Studios release, it’s a fun action drama with a very colourful central character. It exists in this weird ether in between dark gritty overcompensation and light to the point of weightless action disposability. Personally, this is where I believe the character of Spider-Man truly thrives. Anyone who has read a single comic that features Spider-Man knows full-well that he’s a noble, highly intelligent, wise-cracking persona with a penchant for cheesy jokes and buffoonery. It’d be nice if he had Wolverine or the Avengers as straight men to bounce off but annoyingly that’s not how the cinematic world of film rights works. He’s a deeply emotional individual who doesn’t make perfect decisions or growl unnecessary threats, he’s a wiry hyperactive cartoonish kid who beats up bad guys, saves cats from trees and walks kids home from school to make sure they’re not bullied; all the while at war with internal conflict about doing what is right and good. To me, that is Spider-Man! And Garfield remains the perfect embodiment of these traits. Then there’s the returning Emma Stone as love interest Gwen Stacy. All too often we’re handed the tired ‘girl in the fridge’, helpless damsel character and expected to just grin and bear it whereas here, Gwen and Peter operate as a wonderful team. Granted, Gwen’s in peril fairly often but so was her father and she simply sees it as doing the right thing to protect the one she loves. This time round, the big three additions to the cast are Jamie Foxx, Dale DeHaan and Paul Giamatti (although he really is a footnote to set up something much larger). Tapping into that all too familiar Edward Nygma, Mark Zuckerberg ‘nobody sees me but now I have power I will make them see’ character, Foxx’s transformation is a fairly decent one. Frustratingly, once he becomes Electro he suffers a little similarly to the Lizard in the previous movie, in that his motives feel a bit lost. DeHaan as Harry Osborne, on the other hand, is spectacularly good. Bringing an equally interesting chemistry to that seen between Garfield and Stone, DeHaan channels a young DiCaprio to bring to life a very embittered, malicious and short-tempered young man full of character and life; making his birth as the Green Goblin incredibly interesting. But acting has always been strong in these reboots, so let’s address something that people will genuinely take issue with.

This film is long. I’m quietly confident it’s the longest Spider-Man film ever made. Running near two and a half hours, I didn’t actually feel it. Sure, it’ll be hard going on kids and they’ll be chomping at the bit to race to the khazi as the film starts to wrap up but personally, I could have easily sat through another hour once Rhino finally showed up. Who knows, maybe it was the pacing, maybe I’m drawing a comparison to The Return Of The King or The Wolf Of Wall Street. Either way, I was happy to watch more. Next up we have the CGI. As with the last instalment, the digital effects don’t always hold up as well as we would like. While the trailers paint a dire picture, the IMAX image is clearly polished and extremely impressive. Having said that, there are still far too many uncanny-valley moments that really let down the visuals. But this is always the problem with CGI, we rely on it far too heavily. It ages badly, it dates almost instantly, it’s dismissed as reminiscent of video games and all to create something that could have been shot in reality. Most of the time it wasn’t even the movement or Spider-Man that was the issue but once again the faces of the villains. But this brings us nicely to one of the movie’s crowning achievements: you know what’s better than getting rid of James Horner? Getting rid of James Horner and replacing him with six musicians to create a truly unique, dynamic and ground-breaking score. Does that mean it’s good? Well, no, not always. That brass-based hero theme felt like it would be more at home in a Superman film but rather than sullying every scene it’s laid over (as was the case in The Amazing Spider-Man), it elevates, enhances and even embodies the very scene we’re watching. Point in case, when Electro and Spider-Man are fighting amidst giant Tesla-coil-like pillars, the music and editing work beautifully to produce a vibrant organic cohesion that benefits both audio and visual – WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT A SCORE IS SUPPOSED TO DO, HORNER!!!

These days it’s not enough to simply comment on how an action film is shot, edited and acted, we now have to allot a specific paragraph or two to curious new developments. Suddenly the word -count needs to take into consideration things like expanded universe and how a film is marketed at you; things that really shouldn’t make a blind bit of difference as far as cinema is concerned. These days (good) sequels can’t just be another monster-of-the-week, it needs to be both a continuation and a standalone story while resolving/answering some of the questions from the previous release and posing all new ones. Essentially, film is now emulating television. This is proving very divisive amongst critics and audiences who simply aren’t familiar with this format. There are those who believe a film should be a film and that’s that and there are those that feel this opens up a world of promise and potential. It’s not even a new concept, possibly the greatest films of all time, The Godfather: Part I, was adapted from a book and the elements that couldn’t be fit in were worked into its sequel. By doing this people mistake Part II as a superior release when in fact they are both parts of one large story. In essence, this is what we have today. Sure, there are still action sequels that have no meaning or relation whatsoever (Transformers, Fast & Furious, Expendables, I’m looking at you guys) but audiences have voted with their money that they approve of TV style arcs and will happily binge on sequel marathons if the story interconnects well enough. But if we’re going to talk about expanded universes, we need to discuss marketing (reluctantly). I love the art of the trailer, I really do but I hate the field of marketing. Fuck marketing. Pandering nonsense. People often complain that trailers give away the whole film and while I don’t always agree, I find it very underwhelming when I see the huge set-pieces on a phone or an iPad and then some of the IMAX majesty is robbed from it later. Then there are films like Man Of Steel which had a perfect marketing campaign but the finished product couldn’t live up to it. From all the trailers for this film, we were led to believe we were going into a very different release. First and foremost, so many of the shots and scenes used differ or are completely absent and all of the characterisation and sprawling sea of bad guys doesn’t reflect their actual screen-time. It’s this reason that I was fairly blasé and indifferent to this movie but having watched it, I not only rate it very highly as a critic but I really, really enjoyed – far more than I a.) should and b.) can justifiably reflect in a supposedly unbiased review.

The biggest hurdle these movies have (and apparently always will have) is redundancy. No matter how good, how big or how successful they are, there will still be countless idiots saying, “Why is there another one? Haven’t they done Spider-Man already?” I said it before, I’ll say it again: these films are adaptations. No one bats an eyelid when Pride & Prejudice gets adapted for both film and television every five years but because it’s a comic, everyone feels the need to sigh and roll their eyes. And on top of that, this new series keeps trying to step away from the Raimi trilogy while blatantly forced to revisit certain tropes, plotlines and settings. Personally, I’m very much on board and genuinely prefer this new take. But that’s largely in part because I can separate the two. To me, anyone whining about the differences and obsolescence of Spider-Man films is just as bad as someone who sits through The Dark Knight moaning that we’ve only just seen Batman & Robin!

Release Date:
18th April 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
**enormous spoiler, avoid at all costs until you’ve seen the film**
In the run up to this film, the casting for the third instalment and a few sneaky shots in the trailers, everyone starting asking questions about how loyal to the source material this movie would be. Specifically, is Gwen Stacy going to die? There are two things I love about this; first, they appear to have shot multiple endings and twists to compensate for any leaked footage or fan speculation, secondly, the scene was obvious but in a terrific way. I’m not the biggest Spider-Man fan (frankly the wall-crawler annoys the hell out of me sometimes, as a Daredevil fan) but I’m more than familiar with the key moments in Spidey’s canon and the whole thing was presented with both a brutal and beautiful inevitability. The Goblin’s manic face, the long stares, the reaching web fluid, the grisly contact with the ground, it was all so cinematic. Might not be for everyone but it was the undoubted emotional and visual highlight of the film for me.

Notable Characters:
Difficult. The chemistry between real-life couple Stone and Garfield is so innocent and cute and believable but .. if I’m honest, that’s cause they’re not acting, they’re a real couple. So I’m going to award DeHaan as the film’s standout actor. He’s already proven himself an incredibly talented and diverse individual with mountains of potential and a depth to everything he’s thrown himself at. The fact that he brings that exact same integrity to what is, in effect, a very silly role, is highly commendable.

Highlighted Quote:
“They have lots of crime in England. They’ve got.. Jack The Ripper. What? They never caught Jack The Ripper”

In A Few Words:
“A solid sequel that simply tries to do too much”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #119

[13 April 2014]

Winning Team:
Orlando, The Witch And Michael Clayton Need To Talk About Kevin

Genre – A transgender legal fantasy about paedophobia

Runners Up:
We Need To Talk About Coming Up With A Team Name
Genre – What rhymes with Tilda?
Gurn After Reading
Genre – Coming of age horror. After reading a haunted book, its readers are subjected to a lifetime of gurning
<We Need To Talk About Woody
Genre – Toy Story sequel
Can You Hear The Drums Orlando
Genre – Virginia Wolf celebrates 40 years since ABBA won Eurovision
Til-Da End
Genre – Science fiction: Earth’s final chapter

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Harrison Ford played Han Solo in Star Wars: A New Hope. Who played the same character in the sequels?
2. What colour is the genie in Disney’s Aladdin?
3. What make of car is used during the robbery in The Italian Job?
MINIS (and Ford Thomas)
4. Johnny Depp starred alongside which actress in 2004’s Finding Neverland?
5. I Just Can’t Wait To Be King, Be Prepared and Can You Feel The Love Tonight are all songs from which film?
6. The T-Birds and The Pink Ladies are social groups in which film?
7. How many businessmen go on a canoe trip in Deliverance?
FOUR (Lewis, Ed, Bobby, Drew)
8. Which actor has played Charles Bronson, Bane and a clone of Captain Jean Luc Picard?
9. Yul Brynner and Charlton Heston starred alongside each other in which Bible epic?
10. Who directed Rebecca, The Man Who Knew Too Much and North By Northwest?

ROUND II: Filming [Tilda Swinton Special]
1. What is the name of Eva’s son in We Need To Talk About Kevin? Kevin? Calvin? Kieran?
2. Which angel does Tilda Swinton play in Constantine? Raphael? Gabriel? Michael?
3. The Beach was released in which year? 1998? 1999? 2000?
4. Which of the following Wes Anderson films did not feature Tilda Swinton? The Royal Tenenbaums? Moonrise Kingdom? The Grand Budapest Hotel?
5. Who directed Broken Flowers? Andrew Stanton? Jim Jarmusch? Spike Jonze?
6. The 2010 film I Am Love is presented in which language? French? Spanish? Italian?
ITALIAN (Lo Sono L’amore)
7. What is the name of the white witch in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe? Jadis? Aravis? Hwin?
8. What is Michael looking at when his car explodes at the start of Michael Clayton? Children? Horses? The sea?
9. Who composed the score for The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button? Carter Burwell? Mark Isham? Alexandre Desplat?
10. All the lead characters in Burn After Reading were written specifically for the actors that ended up playing them. Except for Tilda Swinton. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. What is Jean Val-Jean’s serial number in Les Miserables?
2. Which actor appeared in The Picture Of Dorian Gray, The Machurian Candidate and Bedknobs And Broomsticks?
3. How many films have Ventura and Schwarzenegger both appeared in?
4. Who directed Beverley Hills Cop II, Crimson Tide and Spy Game?
5. Finish this iconic film quote, “A census taker once tried to test me..”
6. How many students set out to the cabin in The Evil Dead?
7. In Ghost, after Oda Mae has emptied the bank account of four million dollars, she is instructed to give the cheque to whom?
8. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “They’ve saved the best trip for last.. but this time they may have gone too far”?
9. What is the name of Sarah’s favourite book that she is reciting passages from at the start of Labyrinth?
10. In Kill Bill: Volume 1 forty one characters are killed on-screen. How many characters are killed on-screen in Kill Bill: Vol 2?
THREE (Budd, Bill, Pai Mei)

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. The 1985 film Clue was shipped to cinemas with one of three different endings. How were these endings publicly named? 1 2 3? A B C? Murder Death Kill?
2. What was the name of the transatlantic ship that picked up Rose’s lifeboat at the end of Titanic? RMS Mauretania? RMS Carpathia? SS Californian?
3. In Zombieland, Columbus’ first zombie kill is a female student from his building. She doesn’t have a name and is always referred to by her room number. What’s the number? 208? 301? 406?
4. Which of the following films does not feature the character Virgil Tibbs? In The Heat Of The Night? The Whisperers? The Organisation?
5. What was the first film scored by Academy Award winner Steven Price? Real Steel? Attack The Block? Resident Evil: Retribution?
6. What is Jacob’s surname in Jacob’s Ladder? Angel? Mort? Singer?
7. The word fuck is said 135 times throughout In The Loop. How many of these are said specifically by Malcolm Tucker? 32? 86? 128?
8. Frank Oz’s Little Shop Of Horrors was released in which year? 1984? 1986? 1988?
9. Doglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin and D.W. Griffith founded which film studio in 1919? RKO Pictures? Columbia Pictures? United Artists?
10. The Terminator is littered with sound errors, such as an assault rifle sound being used for a shotgun, high heels for trainers and several gunshots that have no sound effects. True or False?

Screenshots: A Fish Called Wanda / Chaplin / A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Poster: The Hunchback Of Notre Dame
Actor: Kevin Kline


The End Of Everything. The Beginning Of Everything.

Darren Aronofsky

Russell Crowe
Jennifer Connelly
Ray Winstone

The creator made man and after his disobedience, mankind was cast out of paradise and sent to live a life of toil and misery on Earth to atone. The first generation born gave rise to two distinct family lines: the first being of Seth, an honourable people and the second being of Cain, the first murderer. The descendants of Cain were marked and cursed with a bottomless lust and overinflated sense of ego and expansion, taking everything they believed there’s. Generations later, the young Noah (the last living descendant of Seth’s line) witnesses his father’s murder at the hand of Tubal-Cain, King of men. Years later, Noah [Crowe] raises his own family and is chosen by the creator to build a vessel to house the innocents of Earth (specifically the animals). Word of Noah’s stronghold spreads across the land and the ageing Tubal-Cain [Winstone] amasses an army and descends upon Noah’s family. Sure enough, the flood comes and an all-out battle ensues to protect those deemed worthy by the creator, interpreted by Noah. As the seas subside, Noah is left with doubt, questions and an unyielding sense of guilt at his potential weaknesses and failings.

Since the inception of cinema, religious texts have been drawn upon as word-for-word adaptations, inspiration and allegory. Throughout the first half of the twentieth century Western audiences were presented with very literal representations of bible stories, which quickly gave way to tales with metaphorical similarities and themes. Fourteen years into the twenty first century and religious films are a subject of immediate debate and scrutiny. Setting aside the arguable success of The Passion Of The Christ, contemporary audiences prefer a broader spiritual approach, specifically things like Life Of Pi, either that or action schlock (Legion). Noah differs from these by taking the biblical story of Noah’s ark and treating it like a Shakespearean adaptation; all the key elements are there but they are presented in a fashion that we wouldn’t immediately associate with a bible story. With any other adaptation this is called artistic licence but in the eyes of more passionate and outspoken religious individuals, this is considered blasphemy. Personally, I think it’s one of the best biblical adaptations ever filmed.

As a child bombarded with biblical passages every Sunday, one of my major hang-ups was the broken and unrealistic storytelling. Two thirds of it made no sense and every time a character spoke I rolled my eyes. The older I got, the more I confirmed my belief that the bible is a collection of parables and fables, not a historical document but that frustration with the plot-holes and unrelatable figures stayed with me. As a filmmaker the biggest mistake you can make is presenting a biblical character without humanity, as just a steadfast unwavering, undoubting voice. The key to this film’s success (if that’s the right word) is the melodrama and psychological analysis of extreme loyalty and survivor’s guilt which makes these central characters immediately identifiable. In this way, the cast are divided straight down the middle between memorable characters and everyone else; whether through scripting or acting prowess, the standout individuals are Crowe, Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Winstone (and arguably Frank Langella). All of whom provide not only a captivating and at times harrowing portrayal of a familiar tale but also a simple empathetic portrayal of a family unit forced between a rock and a hard place by their patriarchal leader.

A great deal of production measures have been taken to keep the film in a loose, alternate world, unascertainable time period, so as to avoid outcry from zealots, believers and stalwarts on all sides of the debate. So much so that if you were to change Noah’s name to Conan, it could easily be marketed as a fantasy film and no one would bat an eyelid. From the design of the stone golem angels (with their beautiful retro stop-motion movements) and the fictional CGI animal hybrids, everything to the landscape and costumes, everything has been constructed to give an otherworldly feel. Having said that, the film’s biggest downfall is the quality of said CGI animals. Almost everything looks grand and services the plot with precision and ease but the animals were just utter shit. Scaly deer? Fine, I don’t have a problem with that, you’re trying to present possible ancestors to modern-day creatures, I understand. Up close these animals work well but the second you pan out and reveal more than ten or twenty of them, the detail is lost and we’re left with a haze of brown CGI smothering the screen. Yet this terrible aspect can almost be entirely overlooked thanks to Clint Mansell’s thundering, crushing score. Everything about it is perfectly suited for IMAX and indeed any cinematic experience. Booming, crashing, epic tones, frenzied, terrifying chaos and disorder, climactic rolls and stings, the entire instrumental movement not only compliments the on-screen developments but heightens the emotional stakes for all involved. And yes, makes the crappy CGI tolerable.

Then there’s the direction. This is evidently a personal project for Aronofsky and one he has been keeping on the back burner for several years. Every other Noah adaptation, whether catering to a young audience or attempting something serious, plays the event of the flood itself almost light-heartedly, illustrating people being washed away and never seen or heard again – given a quick and seemingly quiet death. Aronofsky’s direction is much more unforgiving than that. He has a story to tell and has no intention of glorifying or sparing any character or action from analytical scrutiny; you’re either on-board or left behind (no pun intended there). In one particular scene the world has been flooded and Noah’s family sit in the darkness, listening to the deafening agonising screams of the dying population. Everyone on the boat pleads to spare those outside, well within reach of the boat, only for Noah to explain that there is no saving them. Then we cut to the horrors outside. There is only sea and sky, with the cuboid boat listing on the waves, as the last remnants of humanity cling to what must have been a high mountain top, as the tide crashes against the rock, sweeping several people to their slow deaths. It’s a really brutal image and a surprisingly moving moment. And it’s that kind of representation of a simple one sentence bible passage that really hits home and gives this movie a curiously powerful sense of resonance and might. In truth, if you simply surrender yourself to the movie (as a movie) and cast all religious preconceptions from your mind, Noah becomes a genuinely interesting and well-presented piece of cinema, utilising the brutal framework of the Old Testament. It could be that this is a new trend of filmmaking. A fair few veteran directors seem to be turning to the old bible-epic, sword and sandal pieces from their childhood – Ridley Scott’s next film, Exodus: Gods And Kings details Christian Bale as Moses – but as stated earlier, I treat this as any other adaptation of any other story: the filmmakers take liberties with elements to present a clearer narrative. Some elements work, others fail. It may be disappointing for the general public but to other filmmakers, film historians and critics, it’s a fascinatingly bold portrayal of fanaticism, stubbornness and the evil in all men.

Release Date:
4th April 2014

The Scene To Look Out For:
Two distinctly interesting scenes standout for me. The first is Noah detailing the story of creation, which verbally matches that of the bible but visually presents evolution. No doubt this is a hybrid that will piss off a lot of creationists but makes sense to me: hybrid storytelling that presents both interpretations as fact. The second scene takes place after Noah’s son Ham explains that he will not have a wife in the new world. As such, Noah dons a robe and goes out to the encampment of mankind and witnesses all manner of savage cannibalistic horrors, with people trading their daughters for meat. In amongst this misanthropic representation of the evil of man, Noah catches sight of one particular unfortunate and sees his own face. An image that starts a chain reaction process in Noah’s mind, leading him to the conclusion that he and his family are equally human and therefore equally flawed, therefore his line must end after the task of saving the animals is complete. A traumatising scene but one that really cements the drive of the story’s lead.

Notable Characters:
I’m a fan of Russell Crowe, I think he adds a great deal of gravitas to almost any production he appears in and even at his weakest, he’s still better than most. The Noah presented by Aronofsky is perfect for Crowe. Driven and resolute, brooding and merciless, very few individuals can pull of all that weight with a simple grizzled expression and desperately determined stare. He could have broken down more or shouted more but this uncharacteristic representation of the familiar hardworking, well-mannered, old man is a really interesting character study brought to life extremely well.

Highlighted Quote:
“Her name was Na’el and she was innocent”

In A Few Words:
“An impressive, if thoroughly bombastic, spectacle that is sure to test and divide its audience”

Total Score: