Sunday, June 18, 2006

Movie Reviews...

The Da Vinci Code

Harvard professor of Religious Symbology, Robert Langdon (Tom
Hanks) is in Paris on business when he's summoned to The Louvre. A
dead body has been found, setting Langdon off on an adventure as he
attempts to unravel an ancient code and uncover the greatest
mystery of all time.

The movie adaptation of Dan Brown's hugely successful novel, was
directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13), who is the
single most important factor in the movies failure. Quite how he
managed to miss the mark so spectacularly is anyone's guess.
The novel, while not particularly well written, practically reads
like a screenplay, and in the right (perhaps more daring) hands,
could have been a great pop-thriller.

As it stands, the movie is flat and uninspired. This could be due
to the fact that everyone, and their mother has read the book, and
been bombarded by media coverage concerning the backlash from the
Catholic church, but that's no excuse. Examples of previous Oscar
winning, million selling book-to-movie adaptations such as The
Godfather and Silence of the Lambs, were such huge artistic and
commercial success stories, because the right cast and crew were
allowed to bring the stories to life.

Tom Hanks, as central character Robert Langdon, is utterly
forgettable. Admittedly, the character from the book is not exactly
Indiana Jones, but Hanks brings none of his trademark likeability
here. Ian Mc Kellen as Sir Leigh Teabing, however, shines when he
appears half way through, and carries the movie for the duration of
its running time. Paul Bettany, as crazed assassin-monk, Silas,
does an adequate job with what he's given, yet always seems like
he's in the wrong movie. Audrey Tautou, as Langdon's sidekick asks
a lot of stupid questions, and serves only to make sure the
audience hasn't missed anything.
Extra support comes in the form of the ever-watchable Jean Reno,
and Alfred Molina.

All in all, The Da Vinci Code is an all-too-literal adaptation,
remarkably boring in places, safely played, miscast and utterly
disappointing.

2 out of 5



X-Men: The Last Stand

When a cure is found to treat mutations, lines are drawn amongst
the X-Men, led by Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart), and
the Brotherhood, a band of powerful mutants organized under
Xavier's former ally, Magneto (Ian McKellen).

The third in the mega-successful comic book movie franchise was
rushed into production and completed in half the time it should
have taken. It shows. The two previous x-movies were directed by
Bryan Singer(The Usual Suspects). After being offered the chance to
make Superman Returns, Singer bailed out of x-men 3 and upset a lot
of people at Fox studios. Tom Rothman, Fox's head of production,
vowed to have the film completed and in cinemas before Singer could
release his Superman movie in July, no matter what.

Firstly, it could have been a lot worse. The movie has no right to
be any good, given its production history, Singers replacement,
Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon), has delivered a solid summer
blockbuster. Where Singer excelled at interweaving the characters
stories and developing the depth, subtext, and themes of
intolerance and rascism, Ratner is a one trick pony. He blows stuff
up really well.

The main cast returns, for their third and final, contracted
appearances. X-Men is an ensemble film, and most of the fan
favourites are given reasonable screen time, with even more new
mutants added to the mix. A pair of particularly jarring deaths
take place in the film, main characters too, and some will be
surprised to see them go. Many mutants lose their powers, through
'The Cure' too, which will no doubt annoy many, but does serve to
add a sense of danger and urgency to proceedings.

The visual effects have clearly been affected by the short
turnaround time, but while not on a par with X-Men 2, still deliver
the bang for your buck. On one hand, the lack of any emotional
depth on show compared to the superb second film, really detracts
from what could have been a fitting end to the trilogy, but on the
other, it really delivers on the action, in a way Singer could
never quite manage. It's incredibly short running time too, affects
the pacing terribly and the hardly-there soundtrack doesn't help
either. If you're expecting, smart action, you won't find it here,
but if you only want to be entertained by comic book superheroes
for a couple of hours, it's a no-brainer.

3 out of 5