Darke Reviews | Noah (2014)

I was raised Roman Catholic, within the United States, so it goes without saying I am familiar with the story of Noah. Much like a friend of mine in Ennis, I am also a student of religion. While not as studious as I was once in my early years I am passingly familiar with more of the archaic texts and myths surrounding that particular religion. Even my middle name is based on one of these stories. So I went into Noah with a little more appreciation for what they *could* do with it. I suppose with that, I should not have been surprised with what they did do.

The movie was written by it’s director Darren Aronofsky (Pi, Black Swan, The Wrestler) and Ari Handel (The Fountain and producer on DA’s other films). This writer / director combo leads to what I am going to start calling “Cinematic Nolan Syndrome” or CNS in some. Sadly it manifests here. It presents itself as a plodding story full of self indulgence and a man behind the scenes jumping up and down, waving his arms. While jumping around like a hyperkinetic bonobo, the man is also yelling look at me!, I am an artiste! Am I not avant-garde? am I not edgy! I have an eye that no others do. I can do things with film no others do!

CNS seems to be present here. The script is painfully self righteous in its condemnation of industry and the nature of man. The religious overtones are quickly lost to the depredations of the writing and a need to show even on some level that faith itself is bad. The movie only cursorily gives the option of hope and mercy as if trying to make you wish for it and go “ok only because you asked we’ve added it…”. It felt actually a bit condescending when the beats finally reared their much needed head.

Yet, I don’t actually hate the film. There have been far worse this year and more to come I am sure. So what saved it?

First, lets talk technicals. As much as I mocked him earlier for his artistry, Aronofsky *is* actually talented. He does have an eye for visuals, utilizing both subtle color choices and nuanced background imagery and iconography. I found it entrancing that, within the conciet of this film, one could see heaven even in the day. The use of sharp, vibrant orange hues with raw black silhouettes, shows a director who understands that shape is an art all to itself. It relies on the actors to use their own bodies as a brush to tell you something without expression you can see. It works surprisingly well with a talented hand in this model. It even adds a bit of condemnation to other directors who feel the need to show too much, that audiences will not “get it”. Trust me, we aren’t all that dumb.

The CGI work, however, leaves a little to be desired. It is not Pompeii or Hercules horrible, but it’s pretty close. There is an entire sequence of characters that while fascinating were on some level wrong. There’s just something clearly off in the renders that keeps much of the graphics from doing what they need and they temporarily eject you from the film when they do appear.

The actors. Yet another mixed bag. The movie has an amazing cast of talent both young and old. Statesmen of acting, such as Russell Crowe, Anthony Hopkins, Ray winstone, and even Jennifer Connelly stands an equal amongst these men. The next generation shows itself in Douglas Booth, Logan Lerman, and Emma Watson. Let me start off with the simple fact Crowe is not a reason to see this film. Even Winstone and Hopkins, while present and elevating an otherwise mediocre script are spending considerable effort to do so. Crowe himself is …himself. He’s a walking train wreck of blandness even when he is trying to emote.

The real stars here are Connelly and Watson. The *only* time I gave a damn was when they were speaking. When they were acting. They delivered and consistently upstaged everyone with a passionate rawness we need more of. Their tears, when they appeared, were not cute or quaint. They were not hollywood tears. They were the tears of people. They were messy, they were all over the place and they were filled with emotion. Their faces were those of yourself, your wife, your daughter when they cried in pain, in joy and in terror. Their rage was something to behold, even as impotent as it was. Please hollywood, let these two women get more work. There is such potential here for real actors that are still capable of depth and not going through the motions

On another technical front, the movie suffers from horrific pacing issues. It feels it’s length and just when you think it should be done, it continues. Seriously guys? Do you think you are Return of the King. One movie a decade with 20 minute endings is enough.


Noah is a mixed bag. It should be better. It could be better. There’s mythology used that most are unfamiliar with, but never explored. There’s acting, but so much effort is spent working with something mediocre the greats are too tired to give more. It’s graphically pretty and elegant yet clumsy and off putting.

The film is a movie at war with its own nature. It’s a beautiful dichotomy in what it is trying to tell you about human nature and it’s own execution.

Where does that finally land it?

Meh. It’s simply ok and I really cannot bring myself to say see it at all. If you must then catch it as a matinee. It’s a two and a half hour slog made only redeemable by Watson and Connelly.
Later this week , one of my most anticipated films of the year. Captain America: Winter Soldier.

Darke Reviews | Bram Stokers Dracula (1992)

Of all the literary creations out there, Romeo & Juliet, Holmes, Hamlet, Frankenstein, none come close to appearing on screen more than Dracula. The character as we know him was created by an Irishman named Bram Stoker in 1897. So few characters evoke such imagery in both European and American cultures as the name “Dracula”. Think for a moment of what comes to mind, what thoughts you have when you say that name. High Capes & Collars? Fangs? Bats? A gentleman? A Monster? Sex? Seduction? Blood? So many more thoughts and concepts come with that name. It is safe to say while Stoker did not invent the vampire, their legends date back to ancient Sumeria (trust me on this), he created the modern version. He took them from monster to seducer. He made them an incubus (or succubus depending on the writing) that we want despite the danger, rather than the unattractive corpse. Nearly every author in the vampire genre has been somehow affected by this seminal work.

As the inspiration and basis of so much that came in the century since I found it interesting when the trailers appeared and people began to freak out. Sure Keanu couldn’t hide his accent no matter how hard he tried and people joked “Whoa! Its, like Dracula dude!”. Almost no one had heard of this Gary Oldman guy. Hannibal Lechter is Van Helsing? That chick from Beetlejuice is in it; ok thats almost expected. The guy who made Apocalypse Now AND the Godfather is doing Dracula? What? All of that got people, but the fact there’s a shot in the trailer with him in the sun had people lose their minds. Sad to say folks, sunlight didn’t kill Stokers Dracula, only annoyed him and so many people didn’t know and didn’t want to believe it after 90 years of Dracula that is killed by the sun.

Lets talk about that decision, which probably lays at the feet of writer James Hart. This is the same man who gave us Hook, Muppets Treasure Island, Contact and this years Epic. Yeah that’s what I said too, this guy is all over the place. He does however show a keen understanding of what was so attractive about the original work and made a point to use so much of the style that he could. Granted there’s a lot added to it as well, partially him and partially the director, but all of it is successful.

That comes from the experience of having such an acclaimed director at the helm. Acclaimed and insane. I’ve read the stories of things he did making Apocalypse now. Yeesh. He is however a visionary and used that vision to give us things we have never quite seen in film before. Intelligently using color (mostly reds), sound, lighting, shadow and atmosphere to its fullest. He goads his cast of well know names to places they had never quite gone and probably for many will never achieve again – even 20 years later. It’s a near perfect atmospheric film that tells the story in word, deed and look. A $40 million dollar budget being doubled at the box office and 3 academy awards show other people noticed too.

Behind the scenes is important, but then there’s the cast. This film had one of the most amazing casts of its day where nearly every actor was known for something and those that weren’t have become infamous since. The weakest performance is of course Keanu as Harker. He is trying his best at the time, but really never quite delivers. This could be due to four movies released in the previous year (Point Break, Bogus Journey among them) and just being tired. Ryder on the other hand had built a career so far on being in dark or gothic films, such as Heathers, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands. She seemed to take to the role of the prudish, repressed Wilhemina Murray fantastically. Her accent work is fairly good and she carries the natural transitions of the character through the film. My biggest gripe is that she comes across more waifish than Stokers actual Mina who was more active in her part in the story. One cannot talk about the actors without mentioning the great Sir Anthony Hopkins. Probably one of the wildest portrayals of the character he also plays the most menacing. Much of the dichotomy comes from Hopkins performance where he devours scenery as the Count devours blood. The movie even hints at a specific background for VanHelsing that is not touched on much in other releases where there are clear ties between Dracula, the Brides and vanHelsing. A lot of that comes through in the performance as well; which only goes to show what happens with a master at the helm of the character.

In 1992 the name Gary Oldman was barely known to American audiences. Few people had seen Sid & Nancy or recognized him as Lee Harvey Oswald in JFK (1991). So when faced with the amazingly manic range of emotions, expressions and body language delivered people didn’t know what to think. Since then he has proven to be one of the greatest actors of our time. We see hints of his genius in how he can change at the drop of a hat and put every ounce of emotion into the performance that you feel for him through the film.

Many people also forget that Cary Elwes (Princess Bride, Saw) makes an appearance as Lord Arthur Holmwood. Billy Campbell (The Rocketeer) plays American Quincy P Morris, who lives and dies as he did in the novel. It’s worth mentioning that the beautiful Monica Bellucci (Matrix 2, 3, BRotherhood of the Wolf) is one of the brides in only her 4th credited screen appearance.

The technicals are worth mentioning. I rant about post production computer imagery over practical effects all of the time. This film has almost none. Nearly every shot was done using elegant, if not old fashioned, camera tricks. Coppola actually fired the original FX crew when they said what he wanted couldn’t be done. Apparently he was right and they were wrong and the film was better for it.


This is, excluding the Twilight series, the 4th highest grossing Vampire film ever. 3 of which involve the character Dracula. If you haven’t seen it – you must. While some of it may come across corny at times, it is one of the vampire greats and should be enjoyed for all it offers, good and bad.
Tomorrows review – I am going to let my readers request below.

Darke Reviews | Red 2 (2013)

Judging by the fact that the original movie RED released in 2010 only made 21 million in it’s opening weekend with a total of 90 million earned domestic most of you never saw it. That is a shame. RED is actually an original film that brings together a number of actors that many people love and tells a story we haven’t quite seen before. It has a chemistry all it’s own and embraces the quirkiness that it contains like a lover. I do highly recommend the original film for everyone and generally speaking it’s family friendly.

Now that brings us to two years later and RED 2. New director, same cast and then some and the same writers (only 2!). The movie made me laugh hard more than a few times, the acting overall was solid, the action was as intense and over the top as the original. So what’s the problem?

Lightning in a bottle.

With the first RED the writers, who also delivered us Battleship; the only movie to possibly come to close to bringing Catwoman down as the worst film ever, may have had their one moment of pure genius or luck. It had near perfect pacing, beautiful dialogue and actual character moments that let you have a moment to breathe between action beats. That’s actually where RED 2 falls flat, which isn’t quite a fail but more of that hard stumble after too many shots of vodka and you start to wonder where you are and why the stars are overhead.

The chemistry seems to have also dwindled between films between the three principles played by Bruce Willis, Malkovich and Mary Louise-Parker. I consider it a flaw that Malkovichs Marvin has a better understanding, relationship and on screen chemistry with MLP’s Sarah than her on screen beau Frank (Willis). The returning characters played by Brian Cox and Helen Mirren all but rescue the movie along with the addition of Byung Hung Lee. Sir Anthony Hopkins turns in one of his more colorful performances of late as the largely insane Bailey (that’s not a spoiler it’s in the trailer). Catherine Zeta Jones on the other hand largley has no point and the movie would have performed better without her.

The lack of chemistry and overall whirlwind plot timing issues surprise me since this is the same Director (Dean Parisot) who gave us the epically funny Galaxy Quest in ’99. Again perhaps lightning in a bottle?

Of course there is one problem that maybe deserves a rant all it’s own. Bruce Willis. He needs to retire. Not his character Frank Moses, I mean Willis himself. Of his last 13 films only one of which has him showing a semblance of something like charm. He’s flat as a pancake hit by optimus prime. It’s the same bald, dry, beady eyed, raspy voice performance that he has given in everything he’s done after Over the Hedge back in 2006. Every single performance I have seen from him since then is completely interchangeable and downright dull. It actually brings down the performances of those around him. I ask this as a personal plea to Bruce Willis and his agent – Retire. Retire while people can still remember John McClane the hero of Nakatomi, while they can still remember Jimmy the Tulip Tudeski, Korben Dallas and Harry Stamper. Retire before you go into production of Die Hardest (I AM NOT JOKING PEOPLE, It’s coming!). Please take the Sean Connery route and look at your recent films and retire while you are still loved by many.

So forgive my little rant and I shall now give you the TL;DR you’ve been waiting for.

Despite everything above, I still enjoyed the film and do recommend it if you have seen the first. It’s matinee only.

If you haven’t seen the first, go. hunt. Find it and watch it. You can probably skip this one unless you get curious and then of course I want you to come back here and tell me your opinion on it.

Overall folks, it was 2 hours that was far better spent this weekend than it was on RIPD, but that of course is like saying having your hand slammed in a door is better than your head slammed in a door (something I wish happened after RIPD).

It is entertaining even though it has some serious flaws. Helen Mirren, Malkovich, Cox, Lee make the film. So Grasshopper, decide now do you see it or not.

My choice – I’d still see it, but only matinee.