Friday, December 18, 2009

Angels and Demons

Ron Howard, 2009 (8.1*)
The Dan Brown book for Angels actually preceded the more boring Da Vinci Code, and is what you'd call a "page turner", an engrossing mystery-thriller with literally a ticking time bomb, one in this case made from the first sizable bit of anti-matter generated by the super-colliding particle accelerator at the CERN labs in Switzerland. Using that science fiction as the impetus, the story has the same Robert Langdon symbologist character as Da Vinci, once again played by Tom Hanks (who just plays himself again), and also features the Illuminati battling the Vatican, the scientists who were supressed by the Catholics as "heretics", who were hunted down and killed like rabid dogs.

In this story, the best of the Renaissance art of Rome is highlighted (a great promo for tourism), as well as many famous churches, chapels, statues, and fountains, especially those designed by Bernini. Langdon is brought in to save some kidnapped cardinals, the "Preferenti", those most popular in the upcoming Papal election, as the story begins with the death of the pontiff.

Ewan MacGregor is the better actor here, as the Camerlengo representing the Pope's office until they elect a new one, and veteran Armand Muller-Stahl as the head of the enclave of cardinals. This film is non-stop action with nary a momentary breather, as a different cardinal will be executed each hour along a path of illuminati locations, each with difficult clues for the cognizenti detectives, such as Langdon to decipher, thus giving the heroes a chance as well. Much faster paced than Da Vinci, and with a few changes to made to the book, this should actually please readers of the novel as well as action-mystery fans.

Note: watch the documentary about the "Making Of.." on the dvd, as almost everything you see is special effects; the crew built one of the largest sets ever, two football fields long, in a parking lot in L.A., to recreate Vatican City, always off limits for filming. The scientists at CERN also liked this film, but let the public know that there isn't nearly this much anti-matter in existence, only enough to emulate a firecracker.


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These are the individual film reviews of what I'm considering the best 1000 dvds available, whether they are films, miniseries, or live concerts. Rather than rush out all 1000 at once, I'm doing them over time to allow inclusion of new releases - in fact, 2008 has the most of any year so far, 30 titles in all; that was a very good year for films, one of the best ever.

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