The Da Vinci Code - very good suspense movie. As some of you have already mentioned, it is very faithful to the book. There is an absolutely first-rate cast including, Tom Hanks, Jean Reno, Paul Bettany and Alfred Molino. But most outstanding would be Ian McKellan as Sir Teabing and Audrey Tautou as Sophie Neveu. I've never seen McKellan do a bad role and this is no exception. His performance exudes the erudition and humor of the character in the book to a tee. And add my voice to the chorus of supporters for Tautou. I loved her in Amelie and she's great in this. I actually read a review by some moron who complained that her French accent was too heavy and detracted from the movie. Hello!! She IS French. I understood her just fine. And I have a thing for women with foreign accents. Stupid comments like that from the reviewer give weight to the caricature of the "ugly American". They'd have you believe that if everything is not homogenized and Americanized, it isn't worth watching. And they would be wrong.
The settings in the movie are fantastic. Like in the book, they are practically a character by themselves.
I liked how the codes that Langdon sees in the paintings and elsewhere are illuminated like similar codes were shown in director Ron Howard's film A Beautiful Mind. This could have been something that would have been hard to illustrate visually, but they do a good job with it.
If I could find a weakness with the movie, it would be that it tries too hard NOT to offend the church. There are various instances (including one near the end of the movie) where Langdon goes into a monologue out of the blue stressing how the Priory and the Holy Grail, the marriage of Jesus, etc. are all just speculation. He comes off as much more of a skeptic than he does in the book. In real life, that would be fine. Those things are just speculative. But in the book, he did not have as many doubts as the movie would lead you to think. I think the movie could have been made much more controversial than it was. As it is, in a fictional setting, it can still make people think. If at the least, it makes people question tradition and dogma, good for it.
I really fail to see what all the controversy is about. The Da Vinci Code comes off as a well-paced whodunit that happens to be set in a religious setting. But no one would mistake it for a documentary or scholarly work. To those that are actively and vociferously protesting this movie ... especially if you haven't seen it ... get a life. Grade: B+
For some inciteful reviews and discussions of the movie, see:
Laura at Sarchasm
- Movie Review: The DaVinci Code
Cyberkitten at Seeking a Little Truth
- Da Vinci code nun 'not genuine'
- India Catholics target Da Vinci
- Catholics form Da Vinci film team
- Church acts against Da Vinci film
- Why the Success of The Da Vinci Code is a Good Thing
American Dreamz - The tagline from the movie gives a pretty good heads-up on it's plot: "Imagine a country where the President never reads the newspaper, where the government goes to war for all the wrong reasons, and more people vote for a pop idol than their next President." The story follows a fictional program called American Dreamz (an obvious parody of American Idol) and it's intersection with American life and the President. In the first half-hour of the film, I was disappointed because it seemed like it was hitting the easy targets and painting with just a little wide of a brush. President Staton is played with the same affable southern stupidity that has marked a lot of movies (too many) over the last couple of years (Perry King in Day After Tomorrow and Sam Rockwell in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to name a few). Mandy Moore plays the Kelly Clarkson-type starlet. Hugh Grant plays the Simon Cowell-like host of the show. I was initially disappointed because it seemed like it was taking a shortcut and was not going to be a deeper satire. While it didn't completely redeem itself, the over-the-top nature of the characterizations were apparently done for a reason. They force you to analyze the nature of stereotypes. And the arc which some of the characters take end up being suprising, especially that of the President. Towards the end, he stops listening to his handlers, starts reading, and becomes human. To our real-life president, we can only hope this happens. Grade: B-
Thank You for Smoking - a great satire. From IMDb, "Satirical comedy follows the machinations of Big Tobacco's chief spokesman, Nick Naylor, who spins on behalf of cigarettes while trying to remain a role model for his twelve-year-old son". A much better satire than American Dreamz in that it's targets are not as obvious. It seems to be attacking the tobacco industry and the promotion of smoking in society, but in reality it's attacking both sides of the debate. Not just the way bad things are spun but also how political correctness goes overboard sometimes.
Some of the funniest scenes are with Eckhart's character and the representives from the gun lobby and the alcohol lobby. They meet frequently at a bar and discuss how many people each of their vices kill. Appropriately, they call themselves the MOD Squad (Merchants Of Death).
It has a very nice cast, especially Aaron Eckhart as the lead and William H. Macy as the Senator. I strongly recommend this movie. It's probably the best satire I've seen in a few years. Grade: A-
Mission: Impossible III - good, clean fun. I enjoyed it in the same vicarious way one would enjoy a James Bond film. I like the implausible espionage stuff and exotic locales. Having a first-class actor play a villain (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) adds to the fun. It includes other top-notch talent like Laurence Fishburne and Billy Crudup. Being directed by J.J. Abrams and written by Robert Orci and starring Greg Grunberg, the movie definitely has an Alias feel to it ... to it's credit. Even though I've liked some John Woo-directed films (Face/Off and some of his Hong Kong films), by the time he did MI-2, the slow-motion jumping sideways and shooting at the same time scenes were getting damn tired. So this MI is a step up from MI-2.
The main quest of the movie, the search for a weapon, "Rabbit Foot", reminded me a lot of the Maltese Falcon in that it doesn't matter to the story that the object may not have value or that you don't really know what it is. It's all about the quest. Grade: B-