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Noah and his ark like you’ve never seen before, plus two Vancouver and a lot of French films

Russell Crowe is the moody zealot and ark builder Noah.

 

Noah is by far the biggest movie this week. Its budget of $130 million says that all by itself. But are Biblical epics back? This one throws in more action that you’d expect to help out.

Notice also, there are two Vancouver films on this list.

Noah: 3 ½ stars

Bad Words: 2 ½

Kayan: 3 ½

3 Days in Havana: 2 ½ 

Divers Ciné:  various

 

NOAH:  This is like no version of the Noah’s Ark story I’ve encountered before. Did you know there was a horde of wild warriors fighting to also get on to the ark? Or that their leader did get on and that led to a knife fight with Noah? How about the Watchers, giant rock monsters that Ray Harryhausen might have imagined years ago? They help build and then defend the ark. You get all that in this action-disaster film that often feels and looks like a Lord of the Rings clone.

Ok, you’re right. We should read all this metaphorically. The world has become an evil place of big industry, corruption and the despoiling of the natural world. Only one man realizes The Creator is going to destroy it all and try again.  Noah, who received his insight about the coming flood in a hallucinatory dream, is positioned against the wild-men descendents of Cain who are in control by force. He’s played with perfect brooding intensity by Russell Crowe, who evolves with utter believability from a humble visionary into a zealot, a tyrant and then a self-doubting activist. 

 

Darren Aronofsky dreamt up that scenario years ago and after his huge success with Black Swan got the go ahead to put it on screen. He’s stayed true to the spirit of the story, which is told in Christian, Jewish and Muslim traditions; he’s just added to it. A lot. On his way to visit his grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins, playing old), Noah walks through a clear-cut. His son Ham (Logan Lerman) allies with his enemies for a while.  Ila, the adopted member of the family (Emma Watson), gets pregnant. Noah is enraged and starts feeling doubts about God’s plan with the flood (a change that’s not well-explained) and sinks into a drunken funk when it’s over. Even the Watchers fit. They’re exaggerations of the fallen angels known in the Bible as Nephilim. The result is a handsome film that mixes together familiar movie drama, excellent special effects and angst-heavy nuggets of philosophy and religion.  (Scotiabank, 5th Avenue and many suburban theatres) 3 ½ out of 5

BAD WORDS: A funny movie it is, but with a deeply annoying side. Jason Bateman plays a creep who enters a spelling-bee against pre-teen children and spends a great deal of time teaching a nine-year-old boy how to swear. With the most potent words around too. “Say what you feel,” he tells him, as if he was simply a coach to freedom. He also proves to him, during a night on the town, that women have nipples. This is a fresh-faced south Asian kid (played ingratiatingly by Rohan Chand) who has a more typical problem:  an over-bearing father who is pushing him along. The film slights that real issue with its pre-occupation with low humor. It’s a wonder the kid stays sunny through it all.

 

Bateman’s character has plenty of other targets for his mean-spirited barbs: including Allison Janney and Philip Baker Hall as contest organizers (who can’t stop him competing because of a technicality), various angry parents and the kids themselves. He pulls mean pranks on some of them, including a crowd-pleaser on a girl just reaching puberty. In other words, there’s lots of opportunity elsewhere for the script to be provocative. The film is intelligent and fun enough and the direction, by Bateman himself, his first, is competent. More restraint would have helped though.  Kathryn Hahn, also in the big movie Tomorrowland filming in town, plays an internet reporter.  (International Village and a few suburban theatres) 2 ½ out of 5

More in New Movies

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Melissa’s forgeries, Rami’s dead-on Freddie Mercury and a cult classic re-imagined

Also: a bit of opera (real with Maria Callas and fictional in Bel Canto) and an ode to BC’s chief geographical feature in This Mountain Life
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