Posts Tagged ‘tom hanks’

Movie Review – Angels & Demons

May 27, 2009

angels%20and%20demonsTom Hanks reprises his role as Professor Robert Langdon here, a sort of grown up Encycolpedia Brown who is doing for symbology today what Indiana Jones did for archaeology during the 80’s (ie; making a generation of film go-ers believe that the profession is much cooler than it actually is).

Professor Langdon caused all kinds of trouble for the Catholic Church in the last film, but they need his help this time around when an ancient enemy called the Illuminati shows up with a plan to kill the leading Cardinals during a papal election. A good thing they called him too, because in addition to his knowledge of symbols and what have you, he has managed to learn many crucial facts about Catholic art, history and architecture that happen to elude the poor suckers who have dedicated their lives to the stuff.

That’s all by way of story mechanics though – there is a lot of exposition that is necessary to the plot and this is how they do it. If this movie was going to be appreciated by anybody outside a small portion of the academic community, somebody was going to have to explain the history and significance of certain artifacts and documents as they appear on screen. Langdon does the job, with a little help from scientist Vittoria Vetra (capably played by Ayelet Zurer, although her character seemed a bit superfluous at times).

Ewan McGregor is convincing as the quiet, seemingly progressive and determined Carmelengo Patrick McKenna, and the cast gets a boost from Armin Mueller-Stahl who represents the aloof, conservative sub-section of the Catholic elite in his portrayal of Cardinal Strauss.

There is a hint of the Science v Religion debate here, but after the furor over the first film Ron Howard steers well clear of the all the tricky areas. The closest we come to a controversial topic would be some crowd fisticuffs in the middle of St Peters Square between dissenting groups of the pro and anti stem-cell research argument. They could have done more with this. At the very least they could have gone for some symbolism of their own and hired Richard Dawkins to play one of the villains. Instead, they took the safe road, and softly ventured the contention that religion and science should be able to happily co-exist.

No wonder the Catholic Church didn’t bother to muster its troops for a boycott campaign this time around. Truth be told, they come out looking pretty good in this one, and the Vatican City will probably enjoy a boost in tourism thanks to the prominent display of their amazing repository of art, and the jaw droppingly impressive architecture of many of their Churches (even though most of it was shot in a studio in LA).

The pacing can be a little uneven at times – one minute Hanks is running for his life with explosions erupting around him, the next he is flicking through an aged document with a pair of tweezers, discussing Michelangelo’s personal history. But the story moves inexorably forward, and there aren’t too many flat moments. The basic premise is a little preposterous, but that’s a common complaint in this kind of film. That aside, it’s entertaining, full of plot twists, and should feature enough mumbo-jumbo about secret societies and institutional cover-ups to keep Dan Brown’s legion of adoring fans happy.

Rating – 7/10

Random Quote – When you write about us, and you will, do so gently.

Random Actor You Will Recognize From Somewhere Else – Stellan Skarsgard, who I last saw as the Vinny Chase hating Werner in Entourage, does a good job as the chief of the Swiss Guard, Commander Richter.

Previous Movie Review – The Boat That Rocked


Top Three Tom Hanks Performances

May 14, 2009

With Angels & Demons due to hit the big screens, I thought it might be a good time to put together a podium for Tom Hanks. Honorable mentions include Philadelphia, Forrest Gump and a personal favourite of mine – Apollo 13. When movies of that quality don’t make the cut, you know you’re doing something right.

3. Big

Given different casting, this film could easily have turned into badly made slapstick, but Hanks is believable and like-able as the teenager who wakes up in a man’s body, and the movie is funny and charming because of it. It’s a formula that has been tried several time since, without ever achieving the same success. The early part of Hanks’ career is defined by his comedy movies, and this role showcases his comedic talents best.

2. Cast Away

It’s not easy injecting gravitas into a film in which your co-star is a volleyball, but Hanks achieves it here, and by the mid-point of the movie you are more emotionally invested in Wilson than you would have thought possible for an inflatable sphere. We see Hanks’ regular joe side at the start of this, but he switches up to depict the tormented isolation his character goes through on the island. This is no Lost, and there are no polar bears or smoking hot Evangeline Lilly’s to keep him occupied. Just Wilson, some DIY dentistry and some damn fine acting.

A fine companion, but lousy swimmer.

Wilson - fine companion, lousy swimmer.

1. Saving Private Ryan

Hanks plays the jaded, hard as nails army veteran in this one, and turns in a performance that would have made John Wayne proud. There is depth to his war-weary Captain Miller; he is dry, funny, raw, occassionally out of control, completely heroic in a thoroughly realistic manner and utterly flawed. In one scene, the men in his unit are stunned to learn that in another life Tom Hanks’ character was a schoolteacher. You can achieve the same effect by watching a re-run of Splash.

Previous Podium – Top Three Movie Going Jack-Asses