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The entire story of Noah and the monumental events that washed away the antedeluvian world are told in only three short chapters of the Old Testament. There have been several attempts to depict this story in a motion picture, beginning with John Huston's The Bible . . . In the Beginning, from 1966, which is more of the Sunday School version of this story, with live animals, flocking to the Ark in droves in a relaxed manner, because the Lord had placed knowledge of the flood within them, and all involved seemed to have a surplus of time to prepare the enormous vessel for the rains to come. The concept of the Ark in Huston's film was elaborate and highly detailed, with stables, pens, perches, nests, and stores of food for all species. The animals were shown to be alert and fully aware through the entire forty days of the downpour.

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All of this is in high contrast to Noah, the 2014 version of this same story. No Sunday School tale this time, and which, at first glance might seem to be something akin to Transformers Meets Lord of the Rings, due to certain plot devices and visuals. But the Bible does tell of giants in that epoch, and also of angels that fell to Earth, so keep that in mind. This movie is filmed in primordial Iceland, in unsaturated dark color, with its impending sense of doom, in a world filled with violence and complete disregard for the Creator. The line of Cain has descended into thousands of peoples in cities, whose industrial skills are mainly in weapons manufacture, marauding in packs, pillaging what they will and killing anything that stands in their way.

Only Noah, a direct descendant of Adam's third son, Seth, is found worthy in the eyes of the Creator, whom he acknowledges and obeys. And between them, it is understood that the Creator now looks upon the world with complete disdain and has repented of even creating Man, and informs Noah that the world will be flooded and washed clean of all of the works of humanity, and of all humans, a factor which weighs upon the conflicted Noah throughout the remainder of this story. Did the Creator intend that ALL humans be destroyed and only the animals be saved . . . or what ? It is an interesting and perplexing dichotomy, which plays out to the end of this movie.

Only the animals are found to be innocent and exempt from this decree, and the Creator wants their kind to be saved from what is to come, and instructs Noah to build a great ark, large enough for all species of animals to be contained and saved from the impending flood. And the concept of this ark is most likely closer to the actual vessel than any we've seen in story books, or previous films, more like a huge wooden building, square on the side, made from logs, caulked with pitch. . . a totally plausible, stable and seaworthy craft, with the volume and watertight integrity necessary to endure its purpose.

We see huge flocks of birds circling the completed ark, and at the appointed moment, with foreknowledge, they all fly into its gaping entrance to take their place in their perches. We see vast herds of land animals also arriving in great haste, and boarding the Ark, as well as all creeping things. And that is the end of it for this movie anyway, for Noah's wife anesthetizes all the creatures into deep hibernation with herbal smoke, thus virtually eliminating them as a factor in the remainder of this film.

Though the construction of the actual ark took 120 years according to Genesis, time is compressed here, so that we can see just how evil the world was then, and how dangerous it was for someone to have prepared his family to survive the literal end of the world, when all the thousands of peoples in the area had scoffed at Noah and squandered their time and efforts, until they realize that their only hope is the Ark, and they lay seige to it.

Russell Crowe portrays Noah, and is adequate to the task -- not bad for a man well over six hundred years old . . . a family man, singled out by the Creator to either save a remnant of mankind, or destroy it.

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Anthony Hopkins is Methusela, a fitting casting choice, as Hopkins has played Ptolemy, Nixon, Richard the Lionheart, Hannibal Lecter, John Adams and Colonel Ludlow-- a range of personalities sufficient to represent all that was good and evil in the antedeluvian world as well. . . a man who carries remnants of Eden within him, with enough wisdom and power to solve a major problems for construction of the Ark . . . and for Noah's sons.

The story then turns to the last few desperate hours as the rains begin to fall, and the fountains of deep are loosed, and flood encircles those inside and outside the Ark. And as I watched these scenes, I was reminded again and again of Matthew 24: "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be at the coming of the Son of Man." And no matter what you may think of what Hollywood has done with this story, THAT is the value of this motion picture.

--Thomas Ormsby


There have been several groundbreaking movies that have shown us the dynamic of, and hazards associated with, working in space – from Destination Moon (1950), to 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) . Now comes Gravity, which deals not with the future, but the actual hardware and technologies humanity uses today, to live and work in space. This is a story of the possibilities of what could occur if the Space Shuttle or the International Space Station were to be hit with orbital debris such as an exploded satellite.

To that end, we are treated to some truly breathtaking scenes above Earth -- two people’s desperate attempts to regain control of their positions and orientations, after they have been badly pummeled and tumbled by sheared-off fragments of their impacted shuttle and the even more severely destroyed ISS. And breathtaking is the operative word, especially if you opt for the 3D version, which, instead of emphasizing the emptiness of space, vastly enhances the fullness of total vacuum, seen to the infinite . . . so convincingly depicted that I found myself taking in deep breaths to ensure I still had enough air.

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are the two spacewalkers, she working on the Hubble Telescope, while he cruises around via his jetpack, when the debris strikes. And like Sigourney’s Weaver’s rigorous ordeal to outwit an alien, Bullock also calls upon all her strength and training to find a safe haven, with air. And like Weaver, Bullock is seen at her best, a basic unpainted woman, with strong powerful beauty.

Clooney is the steadying influence . . . literally . . . even when the air supply is running out.

The value of the motion picture is its characters, plus the compelling backdrop of Earth below, and the technical purity that was engineered into every millisecond of this film. I would urge that you spring for the 3D version, for sure, and the iMax version if it is available to you. There are no dragons breathing fire on you, or flying martial arts weapons in this production . . . but the simple flyby of a weightless teardrop makes for an intense and poignant moment. Theater projected digital 3D has greatly improved, even since Avatar. You will definitely get your money’s worth, from this orbital adventure that doesn’t let go until the very end.

--Thomas Ormsby

Robert Redford has always struck me as a great guy, but not a great actor. He's always been Robert Redford, always just himself, who at age 77, makes this movie all the more remarkable. It is a tale of endurance and struggle, filmed with enough realism to have cost him severe hearing loss for life, the result of an inner ear infection from all the water to which he was exposed.

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This motion picture is similar to 127 Hours, another story of survival, which gave us a long close look at James Franco trying to free his arm from being wedged between a rock and a hard place. With this same lack of vanity and rigorous perserverance, Redford shows us his craggy, weatherbeaten face and rather nimble body as he swims, climbs, grips, pulls, and hangs on during the battering that his little boat was subjected to, both in calm and raging seas. And unlike Castaway, there is no small island to wash up upon for refuge. There is nothing but the sea, and its relentless attempt to take you under, and when his boat sinks under him, he pushes off in a covered raft, trying valiantly to catch the attention of enormous container ships passing by, with only his feeble handheld flares. And when his raft catches fire and he falls through into the dark night sea, we know the true meaning of all is lost.

This movie was not in wide release, and is now available on Amazon Instant Video, and if you don't mind laying out a few bucks, it is perfect for big screen HD home televisions, and well worth it. For those to whom it matters, there is nothing offensive in this movie whatsoever. In fact, other than a brief distress call, there is no dialogue at all.


This movie need only be seen and not spoken about . . . and therein lay its true worth--the story of two scar-crossed lovers, both afflicted with varying degrees of cancer, both unique, isolated from the normal flow of life, both so much in need of each other that when they meet, a story of such sweet love and friendship springs forth that most movie-goers will find that we, too, have been very much in need of these two people, perhaps without even knowing it.

To become immersed in the lives of these two young people and simply let their story wash over us is a cool healing wave of love and delight.

Because of this film, great stresses were relieved as I watched, which is a marvelous thing . . . and now, as a result, I feel the need to visit Amsterdam once again.

Starring Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort and Willem Defoe, stars in whom I find no fault.

-- Thomas Ormsby

Not all of Woody Allen's movies are great. In recent efforts, he hit a high mark with Midnight in Paris in 2011, but faltered somewhat with the lesser To Rome With Love, and now, he has stumbled badly with Magic in the Moonlight, which can easily be regarded as Woody Allen meets The Great Gatsby.

There is much in this movie to back up that assertion, in that both stories feature a generous whipped-up froth of elaborate sets, terrific locations and gorgeous period costumes that ultimately are exposed as an airy camoflauge to flesh out sadly hollow characters acting out a disappointing screenplay, all filmed in that same orange tint used in the cereal commericials of a decade ago. It should've all worked, but Allen's story simply has so little substance that the visuals are insufficient to validate the characters, or this movie. The picture above sums up rather well the enthusiasm that the cast and director had for this project.

--Thomas Ormsby