When you’ve got Darren Aronofsky bringing a Biblical tale to screen, expectations are through the roof. “Noah” may not meet those expectations, but the film does nestle in just a few notches below. It isn’t a mind-blowing epic, but it’s certainly a riveting and worthy retelling of this story.
The film kicks off with a partial recap of creation, specifically what went down with Adam and Eve, and what became of their children, Cain, Abel and Seth. From there we cut to one of Seth’s descendant’s, Noah (Dakota Goyo), who’s just a boy at the time, but watches his father murdered right before his eyes. Years later, Noah (Russell Crowe) has a wife, Naameh (Jennifer Connelly), and three boys of his own, Shem, Ham and Japheth. After having a vision of man’s demise, Noah sets out to save the innocent – the animals – with the help of his family and The Watchers while Tubal-cain (Ray Winstone) and his followers threaten to claim their work, the ark.
As someone with limited knowledge of scripture, Aronofsky had a significant amount of breathing room with this and he didn’t let an inch of it go to waste. Whereas early memories of Noah’s ark involve a lecture or pages in a book, Aronofsky’s take is cinematic through and through. The performances are bold and engaging, most visuals are downright stunning, and they’re both featured within the context of an enthralling narrative. However, even though Aronofsky does deliver a worthy big screen Bible story, by going big in certain respects, he is forced to tiptoe around a number of potential pitfalls.
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As is said in the film, ballet isn’t for everyone and neither is Black Swan, which really should be considered an honor more than anything. The film is overwhelming in every sense of the word and could just be too much for some to handle. But, if you have what it takes to absorb this wild mixture of personalities, visuals and nightmares, the result is profound. This is easily one of the most emotionally impactful films of the year and is something that will certainly haunt you long after the credits roll in the best possible way.
Natalie Portman is Nina Sayers, a professional ballet dancer desperate to be in the spotlight. When the lead dancer in her company, Beth (Winona Ryder), is forced to retire, Nina finally gets the opportunity to audition for the lead role in their production of Swan Lake in which the White and Black Swans are played by the same performer. When the director, Thomas (Vincent Cassel), tells Nina she’s a natural for the role of the elegant and pristine White Swan, but lacks the natural sensuality required to play the Black Swan, Nina’s only chance to get the part is to give into Thomas’ sexual advances.
Once Nina is named the Swan Queen, the pressure to perform consumes her. Not only is her ex-ballerina mother (Barbara Hershey) keeping an incessantly watchful eye on her, but Nina herself must keep an eye on her competition, specifically the new free-spirited performer Lily (Mila Kunis). Lily embodies everything Thomas imagines the Black Swan to be, something Nina cannot achieve no matter how much she rehearses. As opening night draws near, Nina’s obsession with perfection becomes increasingly suffocating, disturbing and dangerous.
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