Noah (B+). If you are of a certain age, perhaps you too remember a movie from your childhood called In Search of Noah’s Ark, which rather sensationally depicted some guy’s story that he had stumbled across the remains of a giant wooden ship in the high snowy reaches of Mount Ararat. I guess he had trouble re-finding the exact spot, because I never heard about any subsequent expedition triumphantly sledding it down the mountain. Anyway, that movie made a big impression on me, and so I was looking forward to seeing this new movie from Darren Aronofsky, director of Black Swan, among others. I thought it was a very interesting take on the story, and pretty exciting considering that we know how it all comes out in the end. Russell Crowe (Les Miserables) makes a good Noah, a man consumed with disgust for mankind’s wickedness and with the desire to know and do the will of the Creator. Jennifer Connelly (Inkheart) plays his long-suffering wife, and Hermione Granger (Emma Watson, This Is the End) plays the grown-up version of a waif adopted by the Noah family in the pre-ark years. Oh, and good old Anthony Hopkins (Thor: The Dark World) turns up as Noah’s grandfather Methusaleh. The movie is rated PG-13 for violence, disturbing images, and brief suggestive content, so don’t take the little ones. And don’t expect complete fidelity to Genesis 6-9. That said, I was quite entertained and intrigued by the film. For a Catholic priest’s review of the film, click here.
Thor. (B-) I didn’t much care for the comic book character; it was really kind of boring. But the big screen, some CGI, and Chris Hemsworth combine to make his an engaging movie-going experience. This is the first of a summer filled with action heros and it’s worth the price of admission. The film has some big-name actors in it as well, with Anthony Hopkins playing Thor’s father, Odin. Rene Russo is Thor’s mother. Natalie Portman plays Thor’s earth-girl love interest. And Tom Hiddleston, who has previously mostly had a TV career, is a quite good as Thor’s brother, Loki.
You’ll want to stay through the credits because there’s a preview of Thor’s next film—The Avengers—which is currently being filmed. The Avengers is set for release in 2012 and will have an all-star cast and a whole line-up of superheros, some of whom will have their own stand-alone films out this summer. You won’t want to miss these action-hero films if you want to be on the same page when The Avengers hits the big screen. Also, The Avengers is being written and directed by Joss Whedon, who is known for his ingenious work with the likes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Serenity.
The City of Your Final Destination (B-). This is the latest from director James Ivory (Howards End), so if you’re expecting a talky drama, you’re right on the money. A young literature professor type named Omar is desperate to write an authorized biography of deceased author Jules Gund, but the trustees of his estate (his widow, his mistress, and his brother) send him a letter denying him permission. Omar’s pushy girlfriend Dierdre pushes him into going to meet them face-to-face (and unannounced) to try to change their minds. The hitch is that they all live on a ranch called Ocho Rios — in Uruguay! But Omar goes, and he uncovers some familial secrets as he gets to know the widow (Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me), the brother (Anthony Hopkins, The Wolfman), and the mistress (Charlotte Gainsbourg, 21 Grams). It’s not a bad story if you like this sort of thing, but Omar is such a wishy-washy dishrag of a dude I just wanted to slap him after a while.
The Wolfman (C). I’m not familiar with any of this film’s famous predecessors (not even Teen Wolf), so I approached it with a fresh eye. It boasts a strong cast (Benicio del Toro of Traffic, Emily Blunt of The Devil Wears Prada, Anthony Hopkins of everything under the sun, even good old Geraldine Chaplin of Doctor Zhivago and BloodRayne) and buckets of gore, but that doesn’t make up for the lackluster plot and the lack of decently earned scares. Sure, you jump a couple of times when someones jumps into the frame from off screen, accompanied by a horrifically loud noise, but where’s the art in that? Anyway, some nasty critter is loose in the 1891 British countryside, killing Gypsies and Englishmen indiscriminately, and Lawrence Talbot (del Toro) takes it on himself to figure out what’s going on after his brother is killed by the monster. Lawrence gets bitten but survives. Bad Things ensue. The movie is adequate for a matinee, but I wouldn’t pay full price.
Slipstream (D). With a cast including John Turturro, Christian Slater, Kevin McCarthy, Michael Clarke Duncan, Jeffrey Tambor, and Anthony Hopkins, you would expect something great. Don’t. Poor Anthony Hopkins. What was he thinking? He wrote and directed this film. Maybe on paper the story was better than it was on the screen, but I had trouble with this one. The film is supposedly about a writer who is called upon to rewrite a script after one of the actors dies during the shooting of the film. As the rewrite gets underway, the writer seems to lose touch with the reality of what’s in the script and what’s real. Had I not read this synopsis prior to seeing the film, I am not sure I would have gotten that out of the movie. From the very outset, the film is disjointed and jerky and comes across as if someone has already lost touch with reality. Therein lies the problem, because after the actor played by Christian Slater dies during filming, the screenplay writer played by Anthony Hopkins is called in for the rewrite. The disjointed, jerky, dreamlike sequences just continue while Hopkins plays a befuddled old man. The only redeeming aspects of the film are that there are some nice performances by Turturro, Slater and Duncan, but those performances hardly make up for the rest of the film. Don’t make the mistake of renting this one like I did.
Fracture (C+). Despite a warning from my sister that this legal thriller was pretty mediocre, I spent a chunk of my Sunday afternoon on it. It stars Anthony Hopkins (Noah) and this hotshot newcomer Ryan Gosling (The Big Short), and the Dallas Morning News reviewer gave it a B. Plus, it co-stars Rosamund Pike, who played the icily gorgeous femme fatale Miranda Frost in the James Bond flick Die Another Day. So it seemed to have potential. Anyhoo, Sir Anthony plays a brilliant aircraft engineer who discovers that his much-younger wife (EmbethDavidtz, Schindler’s List) is having an affair. He shoots her in the face, but she survives, and he insists on representing himself in the subsequent trial for attempted murder. Gosling is the D.A. who draws a case, a cocky lawyer who’s about to quit prosecuting in favor of a job with a big corporate law firm. But the alleged perpetrator has a few surprises for him in the courtroom. I was never bored, but I didn’t leave satisfied either. Go see the German flick The Lives of Others before it disappears from the Inwood Theater instead.
As the late Robert F. Kennedy never reached the iconic status of his older brother, John F. Kennedy, Bobby should not be compared to JFK. Emilio Estevez (The Way) wrote, executive produced, and directed the film. The film follows the last day in the life of Robert F. Kennedy. The action takes place at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the site of Kennedy’s assassination. The cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Demi Moore, Sharon Stone, William H. Macy, Martin Sheen, Helen Hunt, Joshua Jackson, Estevez, and six other recognizable actors also star in the film. Look for a standout performance from Joshua Jackson. The actual footage of Robert Kennedy and his speeches are phenomenal, but that and the great casting don’t cover up for the lack of a plot or any intellectual dialogue. If you need a history lesson of a tragic day in our country’s past, then you must go see the film. However, don’t expect to be entertained during the lesson.
Bleacher Bum movie scale: Homerun, Triple, Double, Single, Strikeout