EARTH TO ECHO REVIEW

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From the opening shot with our gang of loveable rogues mucking about with a handheld camera, I was dreading what lied in store. However, it’s not all bad. A decent, if virtually unknown, cast help bring some likeable characters to life in a sci-fi rollercoaster ride of a movie. The only problem with the shaky camera work, you feel like you’ve been on one when you come out of the cinema.

To be honest, the found footage or recorded true events movies have died a death for me after the Paranormal Activity franchise managed to resurrect it and exorcise it within a few films. The camera work, at times, is too shaky. I know that it sounds like I’m being picky but as much as I respect realism and the fact kids are supposed to be handling their mobile phone cameras, camcorders (etc), it can get incredibly irritating that you want to yell at them to keep the camera still.

It was a fresh take to have an unknown cast but also a bit of a gamble. However, they play the parts well and make a memorable impression, particularly Reese Hartwig as the eccentric Munch.

What’s it about? After receiving a bizarre series of encrypted messages, a group of kids embark on an adventure with an alien who needs their help.

Now that premise may remind you of a similar 1982 sci-fi classic featuring a little alien that needed to phone home and inevitably comparisons are made from the get go. And that’s a bit of the problem, despite updating the special effects and providing a fresh angle with the handheld concept; you can’t help but feel that Earth to Echo is re-treading old ground from classics that done it much better and still surpass any film that tries to copy it. At it’s core, it’s ET meets the Goonies. A group of kids are spending their last night together before their homes are pulled down for a freeway. And what a last night as it’s a race against time to help a robotic Wall-E-esque alien get home.

The special effects are brilliant. The detail on Echo is fantastic. Even if his little adorable orb-esque (Yeah, I say esque a lot) eyes remind you of it’s Pixar counterpart. The quest in which the gang must find pieces to repair Echo like The Iron Giant is suspenseful, funny and entertaining. The handheld is used to its strengths, especially when they have to break into someone’s home. There is also a fantastic sequence in which an oncoming lorry looks like it’s set to collide into our heroes, only for it to be dissected piece by piece with the driver still hovering around in his seat.

Apart from the camera work (although the Go Pro sequence on the bikes was a nice touch), the pace zips along and keeps it all watchable as it reaches it’s exhilarating frenetic finale. The cast are good, the effects are great. It just falls short of becoming a classic but in terms of keeping the little uns entertained, it’s worth a shot. But if I haven’t sold it for you then I recommend How To Train Your Dragon 2.

3/5 for me.

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NOAH REVIEW

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Woah . . . what the hell did I just watch? This shit just got BIBLICAL. Stupid one liners aside, a rather strange viewing experience. One that I’m not sure whether I enjoyed. Arguably Hollywood taking on the Bible is always going to get mixed results. However, that is not always the case. Examples such as Ben Hur, The Ten Commandments, The Prince of Egypt (what? Don’t judge me) are exceptions to the rule. Now credits where it’s due. The film excels with its special effects and the cast do their best with the material at hand. Now understandably that material is the Bible. Now I’ll be looking at this primarily as a film text. I’m not an atheist nor am I a believer as such. To be honest, I thought both the idea of a world created by a “Creator” and an entire universe created by a “big bang” because a thing called science said it was so, equally ridiculous. But hey everyone’s entitled to their opinion.

I digress. However, the film is full of questionable plot holes that intentionally and unintentionally pokes holes at the Old Testament itself. Now be warned there will be SPOILERS! Not the Bible bits, certain film sequences. I will try and be as cryptic as possible and as objective. Now obviously the premise we all know, in a world ravaged of sin, Noah is given a divine mission: to build an Ark to save creation from the coming flood. The opening sets up the background of the origin story of . . . us, really. Most of it, I knew. Other parts I had forgotten. Russell Crowe is a powerhouse actor and he provides a stellar performance. My main quip is his representation. Now Darren Aronofsky’s previous works have always been . . . out there. Pi, Requiem for a Dream, The (mind numbing) Fountain, and the more mainstream but surprisingly entertaining Black Swan. Aronofsky has pretty much made Noah as mainstream as possible. However, he transforms a man torn between fulfilling his duty to his Creator and the livelihood of his own family, into a demented maniac hell bent on achieving all means regardless.

Even more bizarrely, while the world is ravaged with sin, yadda yadda, a group of fallen angels are left to roam the rocky desolate landscapes. Now this part I was not aware of. The fallen angels are brilliantly designed, even if they look like Sloth from the Goonies had mated with one of the rock things from the Never Ending Story. And I couldn’t believe the talented voice cast behind them; Nick Nolte, Mark “Breaking Bad Tio Salamanca” Margolis and Kevin Durand (Real Steel and LOST). The crazy fight sequences between them and the monstrous human race desperate to board the Ark was entertaining if completely ridiculous. Aronofsky managed to convey more emotion and sympathy out of them than a number of the cast. Sir Anthony Hopkins manages to make a memorable impression in the limited screen time of the minor role of Methusaleh. It did have me pondering if Noah was allowed to save his family, why not his grandfather? Punishment for not being able to get the human race to conform and follow the righteous path? However, he was bonkers and wondered off a lot. To be honest, the supporting cast were strangely passive until the hour mark. The film was very much on the shoulders of Crowe. It was only when the humans in the area finally caught wind (come on, we’re better than that) of the Ark that things pick up, making for a tense, racy, riotous sequence. The visual CGI with the animals and the infamous flood are fantastic.

Douglas Booth (Romeo and Juliet) was highly unmemorable and passive as Shem. Logan Lerman (Perks of a Wallflower) and fellow co-star the beautiful Hermione, I mean, Emma Watson played their parts well and when given the time to shine, delivered solid performances. Jennifer Connolly (Labyrinth, always) reunites with Crowe (A Beautiful Mind) and manages to make a nothingy character stand out, especially in one tense if undeniably bizarre sequence that understandably might be where the controversy is coming from. The pair work well but fail to reignite that Beautiful Mind spark. Ray Winstone, I thought, was wonderfully gritty and gruesome as self proclaimed King Tubal-cain. Now it’s all down to how much of a Winstone fan you are. But I was pleasantly surprised and he stole the scene every time. For once, his grizzly growling was used to his strength. If you want to show the humans as nasty pieces of work, Winstone san. Once the Ark ascends, it all gets a little slow and drawn out. A slow burning if entertaining hour does not a good film make. And after two hours this film does test your resolve, if not for a tense finale.

NOW SPOILER TIME! AVOID IF YOU ARE CONSIDERING WATCHING THIS MOVIE! FOR THOSE WHO AREN’T FUSSED OR HAVE SEEN IT. CONTINUE READING THIS PARAGRAPH. Noah does everything to the letter for the Lord. He saves the animals and his family have the unexpected blessing that their son’s (well I would have assumed) wife is pregnant. Fantastic. Oh no, no. no. The human race must be no more. Which means the baby can be no more. If it is a boy, no probs. Can’t reproduce. If a girl, watch out. A compassionate hero becomes a demented mad man with one click of a finger. Unexpected? Yup. Watchable. Strangely so. Necessary? Ah, there’s the rub. Cue the time on the Ark as we wait nine months for the child to be born. Ray Winstone’s sneaky stowaway king plotting revenge for nine months? How did no one know he was on there? Also they made a herb that could knock out animals, how come it didn’t knock them out? A herb that would make them sleep for nine months? Without food or water? I mean, it’s a film but surely they could have had another trippy dream sequence in which the Lord told Noah to use said herb. I don’t know.

Visually ambitious, brilliantly acted, if drawn out, OTT, and questionably full of holes. However, this ark should manages to stay afloat, just. 3/5

Currently ranks #65 out of 161