ANGELS & DEMONS
Studio: Columbia Pictures
Rated: PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård and Pierfrancesco Favino
Directed by: Ron Howard
What it’s about: Tom Hanks returns as Robert Langdon in the sequel to the 2006 hit The Da Vinci Code. In this film, Langdon is approached by the Vatican to help solve a mystery that can help save the Vatican from a terrorist attack during Conclave. Using the ancient knowledge of the Illuminati, Langdon tries to track down four missing Cardinals and prevent a catastrophic explosion in St. Peter’s Square, which could wipe out all of Vatican city and the thousands of Catholics on hand to hear word of the new Pope.
What I liked: I broke from tradition with this film in the sense that I made a point to read the book before I saw it. And while I didn’t read “The Da Vinci Code,” I know several people who read both books and liked Angels & Demons better. Coming at the film as an adaptation, I found that screenwriters David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman along with director Ron Howard did a fine job bringing it to screen. Sure, things were changed from the original story, but they were all understandable in terms of time compression and story simplification.
Unlike The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons is a bit more straightforward, presenting hero Robert Langdon with a mystery to solve instead of a roundabout series of seemingly unrelated events that he pieces together by the end. This made the film easier to follow and allowed it to move forward at an energetic pace, saving the 140-minute film from bogging down.
The cast is excellent with Tom Hanks settling into Langdon’s character better than in the first film (and with him losing the ridiculous Nicolas Cage-style mullet in the process). Other fine performances come from Ewan McGregor and Stellan Skarsgård, along with the fetching Ayelet Zurer as Langdon’s fellow intellectual detective.
Ultimately, Angels & Demons is exactly what fun, escapist summer blockbusters are made of, and I enjoyed the film quite a bit.
What I didn’t: Having read the book, I had all the background already for this film. However, I would imagine that if you approach this movie cold, it might lose you at some points. Consider ourselves lucky that we witnessed Conclave in the global press a few years back, so this won’t seem so foreign to the casual audience.
And while the film moves ahead at breakneck speed for much of the running time, it does have a couple moments of slow-down, which you could use to get a refill on your bucket of popcorn. Hint… get your refill and take your bathroom break when Ewan McGregor goes to speak with the Cardinals in the middle of the movie.
Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of the book and your average blockbuster crowd.
BIG MAN JAPAN
Studio: Magnet Releasing
Rated: PG-13 for sci-fi action and crude humor.
Starring: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Riki Takeuchi, Ua, Ryunosuke Kamiki and Haruka Unabara
Directed by: Hitoshi Matsumoto
What it’s about: Masaru Daisatou (Hitoshi Matsumoto) is a 40-year-old loser who can barely make it through the day without a drink. However, when his city is attacked by giant monsters, he turns into Big Man Japan, a colossal version of himself that can do battle with these enemies. The film tells his story with mockumentary-style interviews and a ton of big monster showdowns.
What I liked: This film is probably one of the weirdest and most original big monster movies you’ll see coming out of Japan. Heck, it’s probably one of the most original and bizarre movies you’ll see coming out of Japan, period. And that’s saying a lot for the country that gave us directors like Takashi Miike.
The best parts of the film are the big monster fights, which have that Power Rangers ersatz style and goofiness that fans of the genre have learned to love. I imagine this would be a fantastic movie if you were drunk or stoned.
What I didn’t: While the concept of Big Man Japan is fun and hilarious, the execution of the movie is inconsistent and often boring. The mockumentary interviews just feature the character rambling on and on. I guess this was meant to present him as your average boring guy, and it’s successful in that sense. However, these scenes are excruciating to sit through in order to get to the good stuff.
Who is gonna like this movie: Fans of Japanese giant monster movies who get the joke.