Noah: A Bizarre Retelling of a Classic Story

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When a well-known book or story is made into a movie, everyone knows there will be differences.  Do the differences matter?  Do they make the story richer?  Or do the differences detract from the original story?

Noah (2014 PG-13) is a well-known story made into a movie.  Let’s talk about the differences between the movie and the story, and if the differences make the story richer, or detract from the story.

The original story says that God did not like all the wicked things people were doing (remember, God created people), so God decides to send a flood to destroy everyone except for Noah and his family.  So, Noah is given specific instructions on how to build a big boat.  He is told to collect a male and female of every animal and place them in the ark.  When the rains start, eight people are on the ark (Noah and his wife, his three sons and their wives) and God closes the door.  Noah, his family, and all those creatures are saved to repopulate the world.

You can find this in the Bible and in Wikipedia.

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Many people over the centuries have wondered about what it was like on that ark!

Differences that make the story richer:

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1.  The brothers are given personalities.  Big brother Shem (Douglass Booth) has his wife (Emma Watson) and his role as eldest son.  Little brother Japheth (Leo McHugh Carroll) is the adorable mama’s boy.  But middle son Ham (Logan Lerman) struggles for his place in this isolated family.  Is he a boy, or a man, in his father’s eyes?  These family dynamics make the story more interesting.

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2.  The Watchers help build the ark.  It’s hard to build a huge boat with just your family.  The Watchers in the movie are fallen angels (I think) that become rock-men.  They decide that Noah is good, and will help him build the ark and protect him and his family.  I think it’s fine to add this supernatural element to the construction scenes.

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3.  The animals arrive on their own. The animals just show up, and sleep because of the incense Noah’s family burns.  That’s a good way to do it, actually!

Russell Crowe as Noah

4.  When the rains come, the people want on the boat. This makes perfect sense, and adds to the drama of the escape.  When the family is safe in the ark, and there are still people clinging to life in the rising waters outside, you can hear their cries for help, and it breaks your heart.

Differences that are bizarre:

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1.  Two sons are missing wives.  Little Japheth is too young for a wife.  Middle son Ham is looking at a life without a bride if he can’t find someone before the flood.  He takes matters into his own hands and finds  good girl Na’el (Madison Davenport) among the evil society.  As they run to the boat she is injured.  Mean dad Noah (Russell Crowe) makes Ham leave her behind.  Why did the filmmakers do this?  The story could have still been interesting and dramatic with all three sons having wives.  But don’t worry, the oldest son’s wife will give birth to twin girls.  Wives for the other sons.  Ewwww!

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2.  There is a stowaway on the ark.  The king of the people (Ray Winstone) actually hacks his way into the ark during the rising flood and with a bloody injured leg.  He lives in secret, eating the animals sleeping around him.  This leads to a big dramatic fight between him and Noah, with knives and spears and axes.  Really – a stowaway? An ax fight?

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3.  Noah goes crazy and decides the whole family must die.  This difference put me over the edge.  His logic is that he and his family are really no better than all the people that died.  His wife (Jennifer Connelly) is appalled and does whatever she can to protect her children, including helping her oldest son and his pregnant wife escape on a raft.  Homicidal maniac Noah?

Those three strange differences the movie takes from the story are just too much for me!  Too bad – it started out a fun movie!

 

 

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Divergent: Did You Read the Book First?

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I did not read Divergent (Veronica Roth) the book first.  Divergent (2014 PG-13) the movie is well done, with lovely actors, amazing sets, and lots of action and intrigue.  But I kept questioning the premise.

In the future, there was a terrible war and now the survivors have created a utopia in walled city (Chicago) by dividing the population up by their aptitudes and values.  So, if you are kindhearted and selfless, you live with the Abnegation faction and help people.  If you are brave, you are Dauntless, the wild and risk-taking protectors of the citizens.  If you are Erudite, you are smart and work as a scientist or teacher.  If you cannot tell a lie and value the truth, your are a Candor, and work as a lawyer.  Those who value peace above everything are the Amity, and live as smiling hippy-style tenders of the farms.

Now for my questions:

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1.  People marry inside their faction and raise their children with their values until the children are 16, when they chose which faction to live in the rest of their lives.  But what kind of home life must a child have in the always-preparing-for-battle Dauntless faction?

2.  How can Amity stay smiling all the time when they do the grunt work for the benefit of everyone?

3.  Who are the electricians and plumbers?

4.  Do you learn to read and write in your faction, or travel to the Erudite area for school?

5.  How can Candor survive without telling those little white lies that keep society polite (I mean, do we really care when we say, “How are you?”).

6.  If all the selfless Erudite people live together, how can the other selfish factions keep from stepping on each other to get ahead?

7.  Where are the medical facilities for all the injuries that certainly must occur in the Dauntless faction?

If I had read the book, perhaps I wouldn’t have been concerned with such structural questions.  So, I’ll just review the movie after you watch the trailer:

Shailene Woodley is the teen, Tris, who finds she doesn’t fit in any faction, which makes her a danger to the system.  She is a decent actress, although her speaking voice is the same no matter what the situation or emotion.  Did you catch that in the trailer?

Kate Winslet is the leader who believes the the faction system. But how far will she go to maintain it? Winslet doesn’t show much range of emotion, or give much of a glimpse of the evil inside.  Perhaps that was intentional.

Theo James is Tris’s trainer once she chooses the Dauntless faction.  Is he a good guy, or bad guy?  I bet you can guess!  But Theo James does act subtly enough to barely show his conflicting emotions, and plays the character well.

If you watch without thinking too much, this is a fun movie!

 

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Need for Speed: Either You Need It, or You Don’t

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I’ll start right off telling you that I need this movie.  At the end I’ll show you why.

Need For Speed (2014 PG-13) tells the story of street racing friends who work together to bring a criminal to justice.  Sort of.  It’s really about watching the cars and watching the relationship among good friends who have worked and played together for years.

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from left Ramon Rodriguez, Scott Mescudi, Aaron Paul, Harrison Gilbertson, Rami Malek

Aaron Paul stars as Tobey, the owner of an auto repair shop that he runs with these guys.  They are great at souping up 1960′s  muscle cars to street race.  The opening race is a non-computer generated race with these sweet cars.  Just listen to those engines!

To race across country, the friends need back the sweet Shelby Mustang they rebuilt, and with it comes a girl, Julia (Imogen Poots).  You can guess already that at first Tobey resents Julia, then comes to admire her.  I like that she is not perfect and that he is not perfect, and that they grow fond of each other without too much mush.

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Now to tell about why I need this movie….

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I have the calendar (without skimpy skanky girls, of course).

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I have the stamps.

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I had the car. Had. Cue sad music.

Fun movie!  Especially for me.

 

 

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Three Mickey Rooney Movies

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Mickey Rooney could sing and dance and play tough guys and comedy roles.  Here are three of my favorite movies with Mickey Rooney:

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Babes in Arms (1939 NR) is one of Mickey’s “Hey Kids, let’s put on a show!” movies, usually costarring Judy Garland.  In it the children of show business performers band together to raise enough money to keep their actor parents from being evicted and the kids sent to a state work school:

Watch Mickey and Judy, so talented and lovely, in this fun duet:

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In National Velvet (1944 NR) Mickey Rooney plays a young drifter who Elizabeth Taylor convinces to help her train her horse for a big race.  This movie made Elizabeth Taylor a star, while Mickey had a smaller and more serious role than he had previously.  The preview’s old style shouldn’t keep you from watching this fun movie:

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Night at the Museum (2006 PG) stars Ben Stiller as a new night museum guard who discovers the exhibits come to life at night.  Mickey Rooney plays one of the old guards in a comedic tough-guy role (“He looks like a weirdie”):

This is a fun movie in itself, and watching the three old museum guards (Rooney, Dick Van Dyke and Bill Cobbs) banter with each other and with Stiller makes it even richer:

Talented, and with a long and varied career!  Treat yourself to one of these Mickey Rooney movies today!

 

 

 

 

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Muppets Most Wanted: One Great Musical Number

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Muppets Most Wanted (2014 PG) is fun for kids.  Cameo appearances are thrown in for adults to enjoy, but often they were too quick to appreciate, and mostly they were cameos of old male actors.

The trailer has all the best jokes, and tells the plot well:  An evil frog escapes from prison and changes places with Kermit to use the traveling Muppet show as a cover for a big jewel heist.

In my favorite sequence, Russian prison guard Nadya (Tina Fey) forces Kermit to put on a show with the inmates.  He has them perform “I Hope I Get It” from the musical “A Chorus Line”.  Here is the version from the 2012 Oxygen network reality show “Glee Project Series 2″.

Watch for Kermit and the dancing inmates’ fun scene in this otherwise average movie.

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Russian Gulag inmates Ray Liotta, Jemaine Clement, and Danny Trejo sing and dance. From The Muppet Mindset blog.

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Hitchcock for a New Generation: Jack Reacher

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Alfred Hitchcock directed suspense-filled films, such as Rear Window (1954 ) and Psycho (1960).  He relied on unusual camera angles, a race against the clock, and a creative soundtrack to build suspense.

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Actor Cary Grant on the set of 1959′s North By Northwest with director Alfred Hitchcock

Christopher McQuarrie directed Jack Reacher (2012), a suspenseful film about the race to find the real killer before the real killer finds the good guys (Tom Cruise and Rosamund Pike).

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Director Christopher McQuarrie with star Tom Cruise on the set of Jack Reacher

Watch these two directors at work here.  Listen for the music, watch the camera angles, feel the urgency.

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Fun movies!

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Spelling Bees of Stage and Screen

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Spelling bees are not really interesting for anyone other than the families of the contestants.  They are rather dry and repetitive.

But a movie about an underdog who stands a chance to be the best in the nation, despite everything standing against her, does make for an exciting and inspirational movie!  Akeelah and the Bee (2006 PG) succeeds.

Akeelah (Keke Palmer), a middle schooler from a rough LA neighborhood is identified as a potential great speller by her principal (Curtis Armstrong).  Principal Welch encourages her to spend time with reclusive coach Dr. Larabee (Laurence Fishburne), even though her mother (Angela Bassett) is too busy to support her.  Her classmates mock her, and she struggles to even attend practices and spelling bees, yet she has a gift that she is willing to work to develop.

Here Akeelah makes it to the national finals in Washington DC:

Spelling bee contestants are allowed to ask three questions:  The definition, the language of origin, and to have it used in a sentence.  If they start spelling again, they must not change the letters already spoken.  After spelling, they state the word again.  If incorrect, a small bell is rung, and the speller is eliminated and must leave the stage.

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The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is a musical that takes all the traits of spelling bees – competitive parents, quirky spelling rituals, lonely students, and strict rules – and make it all pretty funny!  My daughter’s high school theater department staged the production.

Watch this clip that shows how funny they make the questions spellers are allowed to ask:  Funny Spelling Bee Questions

Fun movie!  Funny musical!

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