Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Movie Review: 40 Days and Nights

40 Days and Nights
The Asylum, USA, 2012.
A huge flood hits Sahara drowning some teens. Scientists build an ark to store DNA for rebuilding the ecosystem. John (Alex Carter) and his fiancee Tessa (Monica Keena) work in the project. When a train carrying DNA samples is delayed due to landslide, Tessa and Masters (Christianna Carmine) must go fetch them. Also the power cell of the ark is malfunctioning so John and Amato (Ty Barnett) must find a new one.
The ark
Monica Keena and Alex Carter
Tessa and John
Biblical level disaster strikes
Various people try to reach the ark, but only few can be saved (most of the who cares characters are expendables). Admiral Wallace (Scott Hoxby) is very strict about who can enter the ark. Not that the sideplot finally matters much. As the ark barely holds together, Engineer Maddie (Emily Sandifer), Amato and Masters have to work extra time.
Christianna Carmine
Scott Hoxby
Admiral Wallace
Emily Sandifer
"2012" rip-off with laughable effects. The script seems to have had some ambitious scifi attempt but the film looks hastily made and drowns any possibly interesting ideas. The director fails to make anything exciting and the story jumps from one scene to another without much thought. There are some inconsistencies with the character names and it looks like many scenes were filmed with only one take. It is one of the weakest Asylum efforts of 2012. If there is anything good to be said at least The Asylum has again cast some pretty ladies.
Hyams (Dominic Ledesma), Captain Bridges(Kevin Jackson)  and Oates (Victoria Barabas)

Rating: Very bad

Starring: Alex Carter, Monica Keena, Alex Arleo, Alex Ball, Victoria Barabas, Ty Barnett, David Bittick, Adam Burch, Hector Luis Bustamante, Christianna Carmine, Marcus Choi, Emily Davenport, Evan Dumouchel, Susannah Hart Jones, Scott Hoxby, Kevin Jackson, Jonah Keal, Hina Khan, Jon Kondelik, Dominic Ledesma, Mitch Lerner, Kaiwi Lyman, Rose McConnell (as Kimberly McConnell), Emilio Palame, Rich Paul, Andrew Pirozzi, Emily Sandifer, Aurelia Scheppers, Tom Seidman, Derek Shaun, Kristian Steel, David Venafro, Dylan Vox, Hilary Wagner, Delpaneaux Wills, Paul Addicott, Olga Antnova, Joan Baca, Brian C. Bell, Grace Mondics 
Director: Peter Geiger

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Movie Review: The Bible: In the Beginning...

The Bible: In the Beginning... 
Dino de Laurentiis Cinematografica, Seven Arts Pictures, Thalia AG, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, USA, Italy, 1966. 
Bible: In the Beginning...
When the Biblical epics got bigger and bigger in the end of 1950s, producer Dino de Laurentiis and John Huston decided to ambitiously film three movies based on the Old Testament. Only one was made and the filming took five years. Thus was the twilight of the golden era of great Biblical epics.

After the Creation God creates Adam (Michael Parks) & Eve (Ulla Bergryd). Eve eats an apple and you know what comes next. (Rhetorical question: what would have happened if she had eaten the snake instead?) Next is the story of Cain (Richard Harris) and Abel (Franco Nero). 
Michael Parks and Ulla Bergryd
Adam & Eve
Richard Harris  and Franco Nero
Cain kills Abel
Noah (John Huston) and his sons build the Ark. This is the most entertaining and even humoristic episode with slightly goofy Noah and cute animals. It has also dark imagery about the flood (Darren Aranofsky had almost directly similar scene in "Noah" where drowning people cling to peak of mountain while Noah and his family hear their wailing, after some digging for information it seems that both films took inspiration from woodcut "The Deluge" by Gustave Doré). 
"The Deluge" by Gustave Doré (from Wikipedia)
Noah's Ark
John Huston
Noah and the animals
Then we meet proud King Nimrod (Stephen Boyd) who is building the Tower of Babel. God teaches them humility by confusing their language. Later Abram (George C. Scott) travels to Promised Land. However the Canaanites already live there so they have to conquer the area. Abraham has a love scene with his wife Sarai (Ava Gardner) utilizing dialogue from "The Song of Songs." Abram and his nephew Lot (Gabriele Ferzetti) separate because the land is not big enough for them both. Lot chooses Jordan, area near evil towns of Sodom and Gomorrah. Renamed Abraham and Sarah want offspring but both are already old. 
Tower of Babel
Stephen Boyd
George C. Scott and Gabriele Ferzetti
Abram and Lot
Later God sends Three Angels (Peter O'Toole) to see if Sodom and Gomorrah should be nuked. Lot's wife looks directly at the mushroom cloud and turns into salt. This segment actually has some delightfully weird scenes. Finally God plays a practical joke on Abraham and his son Isaac (Alberto Lucantoni).
Peter O'Toole
Three Angels
Kinky folks of Sodom
Film is plodding at times to point of being an effective sedative (it took me three days to sit through this movie). The movie is three hours long but feels like three weeks. It follows the original stories very rigidly and except for Noah's Ark segment it lacks liveliness. However at the segment with Isaac and Abraham there seems to be some off biblical questioning of divine justice as also innocent children died in Sodom & Gomorrah. Despite the slowness the film has some good moments though. There is nice cinematography and goodd soundtrack. Good effort but not one of the best Biblical epics.

Rating: Average 

Starring: Michael Parks, Ulla Bergryd, Richard Harris, John Huston, Stephen Boyd, George C. Scott, Ava Gardner, Peter O'Toole, Zoe Sallis, Gabriele Ferzetti, Eleonora Rossi Drago, Franco Nero, Pupella Maggio, Robert Rietty, Peter Heinze, Roger Beaumont, Gianluigi Crescenzi, Maria Grazia Spina, Angelo Boscariol, Claudie Lange, Anna Orso, Adriana Ambesi, Eric Leutzinger, Michael Steinpichler, Gabriella Pallotta, Alberto Lucantoni, Rossana Di Rocco, Luciano Conversi, Giovanna Galletti, Paola Ambrosi, Flavio Bennati, Salvatore Billa, Giovanni Di Benedetto, Alberigo Donadeo, Aviva Israeli, Flavio Nennati, Marie-Christine Pratt, Ivan Rassimov, Amru Sani, Elisabetta Velinska 
Director: John Huston

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Movie Review: Noah (2014)

Paramount Pictures, Regency Enterprises, Protozoa Pictures, Disruption Entertainment, USA, 2014.
Noah title
Son of Adam and Eve, Cain kills his brother Abel and the fallen angels Watchers help his descendants to build industrial cities that destroy the nature. In only a few generations after Adam & Eve the humans have polluted the Earth. Descendants of Seth protect the remnants of Creation. Last Descendant of Seth, Noah witnesses the murder of his father. 

Many years later vegan Noah (Russell Crowe) has wife Naameh (Jennifer Connelly) and sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth. Noah forbids his sons from picking up flowers and eating meat. He also kills some hungry hunters. Noah gets a message from God who plans to destroy the world. Noah and his family travel through wasteland to meet grandfather Methuselah (Anthony Hopkins). On the way there they save a young girl Ila. Stone giants capture them. One of them Og (voiced by Frank Langella) helps them escape. He feels sorry because they taught humans to create but humans used the gift for evil purposes. 
Russell Crowe
Logan Lerman, Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Leo McHugh Carroll
Ham, Noah, Naameh and Japheth
Douglas Booth and Emma Watson
Shem and Ila
Methuselah gives Noah some funny tea that helps him see more details about the God's plan. Noah must build an ark and save the animals. Years later Noah and the Watchers are building ark. Ila (Emma Watson) and Shem (Douglas Booth) are a couple but the other boys Ham (Logan Lerman) and Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) are single. Evil King Tubal-Cain (Ray Winstone) wants to destroy Noah and take the ark. Noah feels that the Creator wants only animals to survive the flood and also Noah's family must die. 
Anthony Hopkins
Watcher Og
Ray Winstone
Although it is a biblical story the film could well be a post-apocalyptic scifi. It is not limited to the Bible story but takes also elements from apocryphal Book of Enoch. For a Darren Aranofsky film the first half is surprisingly main-stream with big fantasy battle-scenes. Still the plot is darker than in usual Hollywood Bible story. Stylistically there are some scenes that are loyal to his style (time-lapse animated map, river and cool evolutionary creation scene and Noah's montage visions). It takes liberties with the story omitting Ham's and Japheth's wives, adding the conflict of Tubal-Cain and Noah and various little things. Some inaccuracy and additions to the original stories and myths are always inevitable. Although the original story is short there are some cool stuff about flood in myths of different cultures that could have been utilized also.
The animals
Noah's Ark
However even the inclusion of stone Transformers are not as controversial as the inclusion of contemporary values unknown to the original ancient story. What is the most disturbing aspect is that it feels like vegan propaganda perfectly forgetting that Biblical Noah certainly was not a PETA-member: "Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar." Likewise it is neglected that Cain killed Abel because Cain became jealous when God liked Abel's animal sacrifice but rejected Cain's fruit offerings. Genesis 8:20. Aronofsky's artistic choice sure, but his black & white preaching negates the themes of the original flood story (after the flood God accepts that there is good and evil in humans, and gives humans permission to eat animals and makes a covenant with Noah and his descendants) and adds themes unknown to the original flood myths by pushing extreme environmentalist agenda. It also creates an oxymoron: if God is worried about environmental damage rather than other sins, how is destroying the whole world going to fix it?

Contrast of ecological Noah vs industrialist Tubal-cain takes a strange turn when the bad guy feels more humane than misanthropic ecofascist Noah. At one point Tubal-Cain's actions basically hinder Noah from murdering his own family. Some religious groups were shocked to see how much the Biblical Noah was changed. For a more balanced view of human vs nature conflict "Princess Mononoke" offered a better option, without neglecting either the environmental damage done by humans or the benefits of technology for example in health care.
Russell Crowe
Here's Johnny! I mean Noah!
Although professionally done and with good acting, it leaves a bitter aftertaste.

Rating: Good

Starring:  Russell Crowe, Jennifer Connelly, Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman, Douglas Booth, Nick Nolte, Mark Margolis, Kevin Durand, Leo McHugh Carroll, Marton Csokas, Finn Wittrock, Madison Davenport, Gavin Casalegno, Nolan Gross, Skylar Burke, Dakota Goyo, Ariane Rinehart, Adam Griffith, Sophie Nyweide, Don Harvey, Sami Gayle, Barry Sloane, Arnoddur Magnus Danks, Vera Fried, Thor Kjartansson, Gregg Bello, Mellie Maissa Rei Campos, Oliver Lee Saunders, Frank Langella 
Director: Darren Aronofsky

Friday, March 25, 2016

Movie Review: Exodus: Gods and Kings

Exodus: Gods and Kings
Twentieth Century Fox, Chernin Entertainment, Scott Free Productions, Babieka, Volcano Films, UK, USA, Spain, 2014.
Exodus: Gods and Kings title
It is 1300 B.C. and the Hebrews are slaves in Egypt. Moses (Christian Bale) is the best buddy and cousin of future pharaoh Ramses (Joel Edgerton). John Turturro is the old pharaoh Seti. The Egyptians face the army of Hittites. Moses saves life of Ramses. Ramses becomes jealous as Moses is better leader than him.
Christian Bale
Joel Edgerton
John Turturro
Ramses sends Moses to Pithom to suppress rebelling Hebrew slaves. Corrupt Viceroy Hegep (Ben Mendelsohn) wants to slaughter them, but Moses tries negotiating with the Elders. God says that the Hebrews must return to the land of Canaan. Nun (Ben Kingsley) tells that Moses will be the future leader of the Hebrews. Pharaoh Seti dies and Ramses gets the throne. Power-hungry Ramses and his mother Tuya (Sigourney Weaver) become paranoid about Moses and they send Moses to die in desert. 
Ben Kingsley
Sigourney Weaver
Moses meets shepherd Jethro (Kevork Malikyan) and marries his daughter Zipporah (María Valverde). Nine years later Moses tries to climb on a forbidden mountain and sees the burning bush and strange boy (Isaac Andrews). Moses gets a mission from God and must return to Egypt to free his people. In Egypt he meets Nun and his son Joshua (Aaron Paul) and begins to train a rebel army. Then God sends ten plagues to torment the Egyptians. God's actions horrify Moses. Finally Moses leads his people to the Promised Land culminating in the epic crossing of the Red Sea.
María Valverde
Aaron Paul
Crossing of the Red Sea
The film looks great. Massive neo-peplum action scenes look impressive. Also the plagues are explained from scientific point of view by Expert (Ewen Bremner) who does not ultimately give satisfying answers to Pharaoh and then the story returns to the mythic territory. However it feels if a lot of film material was left out as some characters just appear and disappear without a clue. Also there are some story build-ups that never come to conclusion, Chekhov's gun has a cork stuck in the barrel. Missed opportunities are Ramses making himself immune to snake poison, Joshua's immunity to pain and so on. Also Aaron (Andrew Target), brother of Moses has very little to do in the story. Many elements of the original biblical story are quickly passed (Ark of Covenant, Ten Commandments), so those who do not know the original story may scratch their heads. 

Overall the film has a good spectacle, with great-looking ancient Egypt but has massive plotholes and some annoying inaccuracies in the script. Versatile Christian Bale makes a transformation from boyish prince to rugged face people's leader.
Older Moses
Rating: Good

Starring: Christian Bale, Joel Edgerton, John Turturro, Aaron Paul, Ben Mendelsohn, María Valverde, Sigourney Weaver, Ben Kingsley, Isaac Andrews, Hiam Abbass, Indira Varma, Ewen Bremner, Golshifteh Farahani, Ghassan Massoud, Tara Fitzgerald, Dar Salim, Andrew Tarbet, Ken Bones, Philip Arditti, Hal Hewetson, Christopher Sciueref, Emun Elliott, Anton Alexander, Jonathan Rod, Maykol Hernandez, Kevork Malikyan, Aaron Neil, Nicholas Khan, Phil Perez, Jorge Suquet, Giannina Facio-Scott, Abhin Galeya, Anthony Rotsa, Ayoub El Hilali, Alejandro Naranjo, Miguel G. Borda, Anna Savva
Director: Ridley Scott

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Movie Review: Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour

Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour 
Universal Studios Home Entertainment, The Really Useful Group, UK, 2012. 
Jesus Christ Superstar - Live Arena Tour title
It is Easter time so let's check out some religious epics.

This is 40th anniversary production of the Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber rock musical.

Anarchists (Judeans) are fighting with riot police (Romans). Judas (Tim Minchin) sings how he admires Jesus (Ben Forster) but thinks that things have gotten out of control and he fears what happens when the people get disappointed in Jesus. Also Jesus begins to believe that he is god. The people are getting restless and want action. Judas scolds Jesus about associating with Mary Magdalane (Spice Girl Melanie C.).  
Ben Forster and Melanie C
Jesus and Mary Magdalane
Tim Minchin
Poster boy
High priest Caiaphas (Pete Gallagher) is troubled by growing influence of Jesus. Simon Zealotes (Giovanni Spano) wants Jesus to lead rebellion against Romans. Judas betrays Jesus and Jesus is crucified. Judas realizes that he has been used and hangs himself.
Pete Gallagher
Chris Moyles
King Herod (Chris Moyles)
The crucifixion
As the musical was originally a stage show, this production is returning to its roots but with modern touches. The stage show has modern look with contemporary clothing and video screens although it uses only simple stage set (staircase). Therefore the pre-Christians look like a bunch of Occupy Wall Street protesters and the Romans are like greedy capitalists. Also social media is omnipresent with Jesus getting followers and likes. King Herod (Chris Moyles) is like Jerry Springer. The performers are great and the show is well produced but somehow I liked the 1970s movie a bit more as it worked better as timeless story than the stage play with the modernized gimmicks that will probably become outdated very soon. The stylistic choices create  oxymorons as the songs contain lyrics such as "Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication." Not that the 1970s film didn't have campy moments, contemporary style and disco angels. The original 1973 film combined modern clothing and weapons with biblical locations in Israel. Somehow this new version does not have the same nostalgic aspect. Well it is a matter of taste, but I don't usually like operas or classic stories with too much modernization. 

What has always been great with this musical is that it gives voice to Judas and motives behind the betrayal. Also the story cleverly compares similarity of religion and celebrity cult with organized religion distorting whatever the good purposes were originally.

Rating: Good 

Starring: Tim Minchin, Melanie Chisholm (as Melanie C.), Chris Moyles, Ben Forster, Alexander Hanson, Pete Gallagher, Gerard Bentall, Michael Pickering, Giovanni Spano, Jeff Anderson, Michelle Antrobus, Jack Booth, Alice Capitani, Ian Carlyle, Leon Craig, Krysten Cummings, Christos Dante, Stephen John Davis, Keisher Downie, Efion Emyr, Lily Frazer, Ryan Gibb, Zoe Green, Bob Harris, Clare Ivory, Samantha Jackson, Jack Jefferson, Leon Maurice Jones, Sia Kiwa, Anthony Lawrence, Brian McCann, Alana Murrin, Tim Newman, Tom Parsons, Rhiannon Porter, Adam Pritchard, Tim Prottey-Jones, Gala Robles, Lucas Rush, Benedict Smith, Russell Smith, Phil Snowden, Adam Strong, Ali Temple, Jon Tsouras, Alex Tucker, Marie Walker, Russell Walker, Karlene Wray
Director: Laurence Connor

Recommendations by Engageya