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Movie: Noah (2014)
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****
Notes: About what you'd expect from a devout atheist directing a religious film, Darren Aronofsky has stripped "Noah" of nearly all biblical opera, turning it into an epic fantasy end-of-the-world drama with only slightly more religiosity than The Chronicles Of Narnia. Russell Crowe as Noah is a grimly devoted family man scratching out a living in a post-apocalyptic environment, just as believable as our past as it could be our future, that would be right at home to Mad Max. The world is nasty, brutish, and soon to be short, with roving bandits; conquering wasteland armies; and anarchic, desolate towns full of raping and pillaging. As such, there's quite a bit of horror and violence. Cue the volcanic rock-covered lumbering giant angels, followed by obviously CG'd animals, and then the grand and very ghastly depiction of world-ending floods. Since it's all couched in theology, it doesn't make a lick of sense, which is where Aronofsky brilliantly makes it work by framing the whole thing as a bleak, magical fantasy. Suddenly, the story becomes palatable and even enjoyable, despite all the nihilism, unrealistic characters, and only following the original story in the most skeletal way. It's been given a bad rap and is actually unexpectedly worth checking out.

Movie: Locke (2013)
Rating: **1/2 out of *****
Notes: The main character, Locke, spends the entire film in the car, driving from his abandoned job to be with his mistress giving birth 90 minutes away, which is conveniently the duration of the movie. During this time, all dialogue, interaction, and conflict is presented in the form of phone calls between work, his mistress, and his home which all evolve in pretty much the ways one would expect for a man in this situation. It never achieves a boil as much as a slow burn, with Tom Brady as Locke portraying an even temper despite mounting personal disasters. It's the vehicular version of a chamber play, and the meltdown is entirely schadenfreude. There's not much else to it, so it depends on what you personally feel a rewarding story consists of. Personally, it was about as interesting as watching someone have an argument on the phone, which is a little bit voyeuristic, a little bit rubbernecking, and a little bit waiting for them to get off the phone and get back to business which, of course, is what the credits are for. An interesting experiment that earned critical praise.

Movie: Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Rating: *1/2 out of *****
Notes: Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton are husband and wife vampires living on opposite sides of the world, both brooding in reclusive isolation, supping stolen medical blood, and generally sleeping through life. They decide to get together, but a wildcard relative shows up and forces them to revise their living situation. These are tiny events that play out across over two hours worth of film, the remainder of which is spent in drugged, stuporous murmuring and banal conversational dialogue. Portions of the film serve as a travelogue for Detroit and Tangiers due to the length of time it takes for the characters to actually get anywhere. At one point in time, the film had action scenes, but when asked to add more, the director simply removed all of them, leaving us with a vampire movie that has about two moments of dark humor and a lot of scenes of staring into space. They chat about having met various famous people throughout the ages, but these are no substitute for something - anything - of consequence occurring. When it finally does in the last half hour, the respond with the same zombie-like shuffling to address it as in the prior 90 minutes. We were desperate for them to get on with it and they wouldn't. While Hiddleston and Swinton make great-looking vamps, this script and director won't let them be even moderately interesting ones.

Next: The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014), The Double, Saints And Soldiers

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