Monthly Archives: March 2014

Editorial | Review: Noah

***** SPOILER ALERT *****

This review will be discussing plot points which may be considered spoilers. Consider yourselves warned.

The word Ararat has a special meaning for believers of Judeo-Christian teachings.  To them it symbolizes hope, rebirth, cleansing—even the spring of a new world.  Interestingly, the word never makes an appearance in the new Hollywood film Noah, but the symbolism of Mt. Ararat, the final resting place of Noah’s Ark, is steeped into every aspect of the movie.

The first thing to mention about this movie was the acting.  Russell Crowe (Noah), Jennifer Connolly (Naameh, his wife), and Emma Watson (Ila, an orphan girl) are an all star cast, and I would expect nothing but a stellar performance from them.  They did not disappoint.  The supporting roles were filled with really excellent actors as well, with Anthony Hopkins as the surprising choice for Noah’s very elderly grandfather Methuselah, and Ray Winstone as the evil local king/tribe leader Tubal-Cain.  There was a cameo appearance by one of my all time favorite, underappreciated actors Martin Csokas, as Noah’s father Lamech.  The only supporting character that did not have an outstanding performance was Japheth, played by Leo McHugh Carroll, but this makes sense considering the lack of information about him in the source material.

Noah's family

Noah’s family

The relationships in this movie were probably the very best, most honest portrayal of a family that I have seen from Hollywood since the great epics of the late 1950s and 1960s.  True affection and forgiveness is difficult to fake , but between the excellent script and the superb acting through the family focused scenes at the beginning and end, this movie pulled it off.  I loved seeing Naameh (Jennifer Connolly) cuddling a baby Japheth in some of the opening scenes.  It is so easy to forget that babies were just as sweet and fragile 6,000 years ago as they are today.

There was a lot more story—not just Noah’s story—crammed into this film than I was expecting.  The movie started with the story of Man, and his fall.  This was presented in stop action animation and subtitles in a font that disturbingly resembled comic sans.  Three symbols from this initial story are repeated as a motif throughout the movie that alerts the viewer that they are now watching a dream or a prophecy revealed through a trance.  The first symbol is a green snake slithering through the grass, the second is a fruit that pulses like a beating heart, and the third is the silhouette of Cain’s upraised arm and hand grasping a rock to club his brother to death.  I appreciated why the motif was used but the last image was really hard to see, and every time it was used my concentration broke while my brain tried to figure out what I was seeing.

I appreciated that the movie bothered to tell the creation story, and that it did not take sides on the issue.  The story was told by Noah as a voice over a somewhat annoying time lapse animation.  He told the original, Biblical version of creation with each part of creation taking a day to complete, but the animation that flowed with the story seemed to mimic a type of evolutionary influence.  The movie seemed to go out of its way to avoid confrontation in other ways as well, such as strictly using “the Creator” to refer to God.

It seems as though the script writers decided that destruction of the entire world by an enormous flood at the will of the supernatural being who created it all was not enough drama.  In order to add to this, they included additional stressors to the family bond.

While the Biblical account clearly states that Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives were all aboard the ark when the door was shut, the movie takes a liberal interpretation.  Noah decides that the Creator must be destroying the world to clean up the mess that man has made, and therefore must not want any more men in the new world.  That’s completely fine, though, because Noah and his wife are past child bearing, and the only other woman on the ark—an orphan girl that they took in who is now the love interest of their oldest son Shem—is barren.  Noah refuses to find wives for his other two sons, which is not taken well by the adolescent second son, Ham.  Because Ham is angry at his father’s choice, he does not tell Noah that Tubal-Cain, the erstwhile king of the area, has stowed a ride on the ark, and actively conspires to kill Noah, and repopulate the earth with his own children.

However, Noah’s plan for a humanless planet is thwarted by his wife, who goes to Noah’s grandfather, the aged Methuselah, and asks him to intercede with the Creator for her sons, so that they can have children and be happy.  Methuselah gives his blessing to Shem’s love interest, Ila, and she gets pregnant on the ship.  Noah is angry that his wife has gone behind his back and thwarted what he feels to be the Creator’s plan, and threatens to kill the child if it is a girl, so that there will be no chance at any more human children.  This, of course, leads to quite a bit of screaming and crying on the part of every person on the ark, and an emotional climax that has almost nothing to do with the fact that they have been stranded on a floating box for months with no certainty that they will ever get off.

Another addition to Noah’s story is the Watchers.  These are fallen angels who defied the Creator in support of Adam and his race, and were cast down to Earth.  I appreciated the physics of the story that the script writers were trying to tell:  creatures of light and energy crashing to earth melted the stone, which then cooled around them.  Unfortunately, this was a visually unappealing mess.  I was also left wondering why the stone that formed around them did not erode over the thousands of years that they had been on earth—especially since they were moving a lot.

The animals arrive two by two

The animals arrive two by two

Visually this movie was shot to be beautiful, not necessarily to be accurate.  This was obvious through the use of a lot of sound stage settings, with actions designed to showcase silhouetting of characters against a setting sun.  Most of the sets felt very unearthly (Methuselah’s mountain and the black volcanic ash expanses were mostly shot in Iceland).  The visual effects are beautiful, but they do break the viewer’s concentration from time to time.

The biggest problem that I had with this movie was the ambiguity regarding why Noah and his family were told to build the ark and be saved, and the other humans were to be destroyed.  The beginning of the film showed that the murder of Abel by his brother Cain was one of the big influences for humanity veering wildly off the Creator’s track.  However, Noah shows no compunction for killing humans because they’ve killed an animal.  I was confused, and still wonder if the director/writers were trying to equate vegetarianism with being a good person.  Since this is a movie about good versus evil, I would have preferred a sharper distinction between the good and the evil.

As a moviegoer, I really enjoyed the experience that this film provided, but probably won’t add it to my DVD collection.  As an admirer of the original account of Noah and the Great Flood, I hope that despite the additions to the story, people who have not read the original will be inspired to look it up and see what is really there.  I give this movie three and half Death Stars.3.5 Death Stars

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Filed under Editorial, Movie Reviews, Movies, Tracy Gronewold

Around the Web March 28, 2014

Hey, y’all!  This weekend Andrew is in Seattle at Emerald City Comic Con meeting all my heroes, but I had to stay home.  Bummer!  Fortunately, that means I can take the helm for Around the Web this week.

We start off with a freaky, first look at the new Green Goblin, who will be appearing in Spiderman 2.   Homeboy looks like he’s been dining on extremely fresh meat a la a certain former hobbit.  If you’ve listened to the Therefore I Geek podcast “Comic Book Influences,” you’ll know that Spider-Man has a special place in my heart.  I’m excited to see a Green Goblin that is much closer to how I used to picture him.

Don’t you think he looks a little Gollum-esque?


In the spirit of the myriad conventions that Therefore I Geek staff will be attending this year, this website has a list of all (or at least, almost all) of the conventions in the United States and where/when they are being held.  I am very glad to have found this, because keeping track of all the cities with all the conventions all year round is really tough to do.  My hat is off to these fellows.

I mean, everyone knows THIS one, but what about the others?

Shhhh, don’t tell Andrew, but I’m starting our “Game of Thrones” week a little early with a HUGE announcement:  George R. R. Martin has released another chapter from the long awaited next book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series, The Winds of Winter.  I have gone incredibly far out of my way to avoid spoilers and speculation that could be a spoiler, so I have not read this chapter, but I hear that it is phenomenal.

So has winter finally arrived then? But we’ve just had our first taste of spring!

Well, that does it for this special edition of Around the Web.  What are you all up to this weekend?  Let me know in the comments.  Maybe I’ll join you!


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Filed under Around the Web, Weekly

Shelf Porn: a love story

Ever notice how geeks love to decorate their shelves with geek stuff? We love to put up action figures or statues or other representations of our favorite stuff where everyone can see it.  Often times it’s arrayed like a grade school diorama—never located far from its source material (the Batman figure goes next to the Batman books, duh).

Shelf porn collecting, as it is often called, is one of the true milestones of geek culture.  You know you’ve reached the next level of geeking out when guests can find little shrines dedicated to your favorite fandoms scattered around your house.

While shelf porn is undeniably geeky, it can also be quite artistic. Fans can spend considerable amounts of time deciding exactly what will go in their displays.  Then they must find the items in question, hopefully at an affordable price.  Once in hand the item must be carefully set in place, sometimes in the box and other times out of the box and properly posed. If there are multiple parts to the display, then the process repeats itself until the setup is complete—just in time to move on to the next one.20131229_212649

From personal experience, I can tell you that creating the perfect shelf porn display can be quite costly. The comic book store I get my weekly books from clearly has several thousand dollars invested in their displays.  Richard’s collection of figures and busts is quite impressive and he has won awards for his displays.

Fortunately,  It isn’t necessary to go as far as he does in order to bring a touch of geek to your otherwise mundane furnishings.  The vinyl figures from Funko are very affordable at the $10-15 range.  Also keep an eye out for sales at your local comic book store.  If there is something that you’ve had your eye on for a while, but it’s out of your price range, check during the special sale times.  Of course, there is always a geek convention. I’ve found the best deals on Sunday when the show is wrapping up and people don’t want to take stuff back with them.

If you’re looking for ideas on how to set up your display, there are plenty of resources to use.  There are several websites and blogs that are solely dedicated to the art of shelf porn, often allowing users to share pictures of their creations for inspiration and critique. Your local comic book store is once again a great place to check out.  Most comic books stores recognize that appealing displays will attract more customers and sell more merchandise. You might not be able to replicate their display exactly, but it could spark an idea or two.  Finally there is the source material.  It’s always fun to recreate a favorite scene, or a scene you’ve always wanted to see. The possibilities are endless.

Seriously. Fifteen times.

Even I am not immune to the draw of shelf porn. I have a small, yet rapidly growing army of Funko Pop figures that will one day soon be making their home on my bookcase shelves.  Already several shelves on my DVD case have been given up so that my Star Wars Legos have a home.  This has also prevented me from having to rebuild the B-Wing for the 15th time (no exaggeration on that number either).

Shelf porn is a way for geeks to show off who they are and what they love.  No different than a football fan putting up memorabilia from their favorite team, it is a way for geeks to show solidarity with their favorite fandoms and identify with the characters.  As we always say at Therefore I Geek, it’s good to be a geek and it’s better to be a proud geek.


Filed under Andrew Hales, Geek Life

Winning Science March 26, 2014

Since its IPO, Facebook has been picking up smaller companies on a fairly regular basis in an attempt to improve the company’s profitability. The latest aquisition is Oculus, a company which makes VR headsets for gaming and 3D movies. Sure this is cool technology, but Facebook seems to be stretching a little too far outside its comfort zone with this one.  In this article, Mark Zuckerberg talk at length at where they see the technology going in five or ten years, but the reality is that the tech isn’t that advanced yet and since the Oculus Rift isn’t widely available, it is not clear whether people will even adopt the device in any great numbers.

Oculus Headset

Oculus Headset

When it comes to wearable technology, I think Google Glass is the way to go.

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Filed under Weekly, Winning Science