REVIEW: THE DA VINCI CODE

CAST

Tom Hanks (Sully)
Audrey Tautou (Priceless)
Ian McKellen (X-Men)
Alfred Molina (Spider-Man 2)
Jürgen Prochnow (Dune)
Jean Reno (Mission Impossible)
Paul Bettany (Avengers: Age of Ultron)
Seth Gabel (Arrow)

Tom Hanks and Jean Reno in The Da Vinci Code (2006)Jacques Saunière, the Louvre’s curator, is pursued through the Grand Gallery by an albino Catholic monk named Silas, who demands the location of the Priory’s “keystone” to find and destroy the Holy Grail. Saunière gives him a false lead and is murdered. When the police arrive, they find his body posed like Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. The police captain, Bezu Fache, sends his lieutenant, Jérôme Collet, to summon American symbologist Robert Langdon, in the midst of signing autographs after one of his public talks, to examine Saunière’s body.Tom Hanks, Ian McKellen, and Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code (2006)At the museum, Langdon is shown the body, and a secret message, readable only by blacklight, that contains an out-of-order Fibonacci sequence. Sophie Neveu, a police cryptographer and Saunière’s granddaughter, reveals to Langdon that Fache planted a tracker on him after finding the words “P.S. Find Robert Langdon” at the end of Saunière’s secret message, leading Fache to believe Langdon murdered Saunière. The two get rid of the tracker, distracting the police, and sneak around the Louvre, finding more clues in Leonardo da Vinci’s works, eventually leading to Langdon to deduce that Saunière was the grand master of the Priory of Sion.Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code (2006)Silas is revealed to be working for an anonymous person named the Teacher, along with members of Opus Dei, led by Bishop Aringarosa. Evading the police, Langdon and Sophie travel to the Depository Bank of Zurich, where they access a safe deposit box of Saunière’s, using the Fibonacci sequence. Inside the box is a cryptex, a cylindrical container that can only be safely opened by turning dials to spell a code word, and which contains a message on papyrus. The police arrive outside and Langdon and Sophie are aided by the bank manager, Andre Vernet, only for him to attempt to take the cryptex and murder them. Langdon disarms Vernet and flees with Sophie and the cryptex.Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code (2006)The two visit Langdon’s friend, Sir Leigh Teabing, a Holy Grail expert who walks using crutches, who claims the Grail is not a cup but instead Mary Magdalene, Jesus Christ’s wife. Teabing argues that she was pregnant during His crucifixion, and the Priory was formed to protect their descendants. The Opus Dei have been trying to destroy the Grail to preserve the credibility of the Vatican. Later, Silas breaks into Teabing’s house, but Teabing, using one of his crutches, disables him. The group escapes to London via Teabing’s private plane, along with his butler, Remy Jean. They travel to the Temple Church, but the clue to unlocking the cryptex is a red herring. Silas is freed by Remy while claiming to be the Teacher and taking Teabing hostage, dumping him in the car trunk, and taking Silas to hide out in an Opus Dei safe house. Teabing later poisons Remy and sends the police after Silas. Silas is shot by police after accidentally wounding Aringarosa, who is promptly arrested by Fache, who resents being used to hunt Langdon.Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code (2006)Langdon and Sophie are confronted by Teabing, who is revealed to be the Teacher, and who wants to bring down the Church for centuries of persecution and deceit. The trio goes to Westminster Abbey to the tomb of Isaac Newton, a former grand master of the Priory. Teabing demands that the pair open the cryptex. Langdon tries and then tosses the cryptex into the air. Teabing dives for it, catches it, but acid dribbles and the papyrus thought destroyed. The police arrive to arrest Teabing, who realizes Langdon must have solved the cryptex’s code and removed the papyrus. The code is revealed to be “APPLE”, after the apocryphal myth of the apple which led Newton to discover his law of universal gravitation. The clue inside the cryptex, which tells of the Grail hiding “‘neath the rose”, leads Langdon and Sophie to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.Inside the chapel, they discover Magdalene’s tomb has been removed.Tom Hanks in The Da Vinci Code (2006)Langdon, after searching through documents, realizes that Sophie’s family died in a car crash, that Saunière was not her grandfather but her protector, and that she is the last descendant of Jesus Christ. The two are greeted by several members of the Priory, including Sophie’s grandmother, who promises to protect her. Langdon and Sophie part ways, the former returning to Paris. While shaving, he cuts himself and has an epiphany when his blood curves down the sink, reminding him of the Rose Line. Realizing the true meaning of the cryptex clue, he follows the line to the Louvre, concluding the Holy Grail, the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene, is hidden below the Pyramide Inversée. Langdon kneels above it.Audrey Tautou in The Da Vinci Code (2006)In the end, in spite of all the controversies, perhaps Robert Langdon’s line is poignant – if given a chance, would you rather destroy faith, or renew it? The book and the movie have provided an opportunity for the faith to renew itself, to debunk the myths and theories (which were developed loosely to make the story flow of course), and to generally point the curious to the direction and light the faith wants to show.  This Ron Howard movie makes a good summer popcorn flick, with the usual thrills and spills you’d come to expect with its superb production values.

 

REVIEW: COUPLES RETREAT

CAST
Vince Vaughn (Old School)
Jason Bateman (Identity Thief)
Kristen Bell (Veronica Mars)
Faizon Love (Torque)
Jon Favreau (Iron Man)
Malin Akerman (Watchmen)
Kristin Davis (Bad Teacher TV)
Kali Hawk (New Girl)
Peter Serafinowicz (Spy)
Jean Reno (Leon)
Temuera Morrison (Spartacus: Gods of The Arena)
Jonna Walsh (Faster)
Vernon Vaughn (Swingers)
John Michael Higgins (Yes Man)
Ken Jeong (The hangover)
Karen David (Legacies)
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Dave (Vince Vaughn), a dealer for Guitar Hero, and Ronnie (Malin Åkerman), a stay-at-home mom, are a typical couple raising two young children in the suburbs of Chicago. They experience various stresses including redecorating their house and raising their kids. Joey (Jon Favreau) and Lucy (Kristin Davis) are high school sweethearts with a smart but naive teenage daughter named Lacey. Their relationship is on the rocks and they are even considering a divorce once Lacey goes off to college. Jason (Jason Bateman) and Cynthia (Kristen Bell) are a neurotic couple who’ve experienced multiple failed attempts to conceive, and Shane (Faizon Love), who has recently separated from his wife, has a much younger twenty-year-old girlfriend, Trudy (Kali Hawk).
At Dave’s son’s birthday party, Jason and Cynthia, using PowerPoint, announce their troubled marriage and they are considering divorce because they cannot have a baby. As a last-ditch effort, they have found a couples therapy resort named Eden. A deal called the Pelican Package is half the normal cost if they can get three other couples to join them. In their presentation, they show beautiful pictures of sunlit beaches and beautiful locations. They also assure the others that the couples therapy is purely optional. Dave and Ronnie discuss their inability to go because of childcare responsibilities and decline the trip. In the middle of the night, their home security alarm is activated when Jason shows up unexpectedly to further sell the idea of the retreat. The commotion wakes the kids, who have overheard their parents’ conversations of not being able to go because of them. Fearing that their parents are contemplating divorce, the kids have already arranged for Dave’s father, Grandpa Jim-Jim (played by Vince Vaughn’s real-life father, Vernon Vaughn) to babysit so their parents can go to Eden.
The retreat proves to be divided into Eden West and Eden East. West is for couples and uses the tagline “Stay Together”. East is for singles and uses the tagline “Come Together”. East and West attendees are not allowed to intermingle. Upon arrival at Eden West, the four couples are shown their villas. At dinner, Sctanley [sic] (pronounced “Stanley”), the resort host (Peter Serafinowicz), informs them that couples therapy, which starts at 6 a.m., is actually mandatory. If any couple fails to attend, it will be taken as an indication that they want to leave, and a refund for Eden will be given, although not for their airfare. The group debates what to do. After an indulgent dinner with many delicacies, they decide to put up with “a couple of hours” of therapy in order to enjoy the other amenities of the resort.
In the morning, each couple meets with an assigned therapist. All four couples learn that they have problems, even Ronnie and Dave, who thought they were fine. They endure resort owner Marcel’s (Jean Reno) unusual methods, including swimming with and feeding lemon sharks and yoga sessions with amorous instructor Salvadore (Carlos Ponce). On the fourth night, Trudy escapes to Eden East. The other seven, encouraged by Joey who is unsatisfied with his marriage, leave to find her. Following an argument between Cynthia and Jason, the men and women split up. As they try to find their way to the resort, the men end up arguing and pointing out each others’ marriage mistakes.
The women run into Salvadore who takes them to Eden East. The men come across the staff lounge where they find Sctanley playing Guitar Hero. He threatens to report them to Marcel, but Dave challenges him to the game (without telling Sctanley that he is involved in the game’s production). Sctanley, after having lost the wager, directs them to Eden East, even though he knows he was tricked by Dave. When they arrive, Dave realizes what a good thing he has with Ronnie. He goes with her to be alone at a waterfall. Joey finds Lucy with Salvadore and knocks him out, reuniting with his wife. Cynthia and Jason share drinks and end up becoming intimate. Shane runs into his ex-wife, who admits she still loves him. Shane tells Trudy to remain in Eden East and enjoy being single, then leaves with his ex-wife. All four couples return to Eden West. Marcel, seeing that the couples have worked out their problems, frees them from the therapy and allows them to go jet skiing, and with that, really enjoy the rest of their vacation.
Hilarious film, great cast and beautiful surroundings for it to be filmed in. A Feel good film

REVIEW: GODZILLA (1998)

CAST

Matthew Broderick (Election)
Jean Reno (Leon)
Maria Pitillo (True Romance)
Hank Azaria (The Simpsons)
Kevin Dunn (Transformers)
Michael Lerner (Elf)
Harry Shearer (This Is Spinal Tap)
Doug Savant (Desperate Housewives)
Nancy Cartwright (The Simpsons)
Glenn Morshower (Supergirl TV)
Derek Webster (Stargate)
Ali Afshar (Power Rangers Turbo)
James Black (Kick-Ass 2)
Clyde Kusatsu (Midway)
Frank Welker (Transformers)
George Cheung (Rush Hour)
Ken Lerner (Robocop 2)
Lance Reddick (John Wick)

MV5BYzVjY2QyZjktMWQ5NS00OTZlLTk1NGQtY2Y0YmJiMWUxNjY5XkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_Roland Emmerich specializes in movies that are practically critic proof. He populates his films with amazing spectacle, blockbusters packed with explosions, disasters, and well known landmarks destroyed in various ridiculous ways — exactly what people want to see when they desire entertainment that won’t spoil the taste of their movie theater popcorn with intellectually challenging issues or drama. Emmerich therefore makes sure to keep things simple with his films, which means a sacrifice of character development and depth, logic, and general believability. Emmerich’s 1998 remake of Godzilla is no exception to the rule. While there’s a definite sense of grandeur and epic destruction, it is like a paper-mache pinata. When you hit it hard enough with a bat, there is certainly some disposable candy to be found. But what’s truly there is now a broken, empty hull that never really had any substance.MV5BNDI4M2RkZjgtZDhkZS00YzczLWFhYWUtNDhiMjY0MjAwMjEwXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNzc5NjM0NA@@._V1_

The plot manages to be simple and yet garbled. The US military recruits a humble Nuclear Regulatory Commission scientist, Niko Tatopoulos (Matthew Broderick), to investigate some strange discoveries, namely a shipwreck with giant claw marks in the hull and equally giant footprints in the French Pacific. Before Niko figures out what’s really going on, a giant pregnant lizard starts attacking New York City. It lays eggs in Madison Square Garden and smashes up the skyline. There’s also some business with the French Secret Service, and Niko’s college sweetheart, but these subplots are thin and underdeveloped. The focus of the movie is really about a giant lizard destroying NYC.  What Emmerich gets right is the spectacle. While nothing on the scale of global destruction of his earlier Independance Day, he again shows that he knows how to deliver shock and awe in an entertaining way. The sequence where Godzilla chases a taxi through the streets of New York, and the taxi (defying all reason) desperately manages to evade the giant lizard is just one of many that simply work on a visual and visceral level. The action keeps a swift pace punctuated with destruction, distracting your brain with explosions and the like so you don’t have time to think about any flaws in logic that might come up. You can’t really knock the effects and the action sequences, even if the CGI of Godzilla seems a little clunky and obvious by modern standards. The reason Emmerich manages to keep getting audiences to come see his films is that he delivers pure eye candy, the kind that appeals to a mass audience.This would work just fine and dandy if Emmerich kept the pace plowing forward without pausing. Sadly, he takes the time to try and explain things. The instant the pace slows down and we return to the characters, we can’t help but notice that they’re cardboard cutouts, shambling around New York City having conversations that don’t sound anything like how real people talk. Every time we get into a slow sequence, there’s practically has a neon sign in the background flashing the word ‘Exposition’ just in case anyone was missing that fact. We are taken out of the action into these sequences that are utterly useless and draw attention to the weaknesses of Emmerich’s style. Lets face it, do any of us really care about the particulars of why Godzilla is smashing up New York? No. We just want him to carry on doing it, while we enjoy our buttery popcorn and big gulp sodas. Now, Emmerich does have a reason for this exposition. It’s a sad attempt to make us feel for this Godzilla creature. In many ways, he’s trying to set up this empathy, in that ‘the animal was just scared and doing what came natural, it didn’t want to hurt anyone’ sort of way. You see, Godzilla is rampaging New York just because he came to lay some eggs and make a nest. So it’s just Godzilla’s hermaphroditic mother bear rage, and who can’t empathize with that, right?

…Okay, yeah, it’s totally ridiculous and feels like the plot point was plucked straight from Jurassic Park. The entire effort to make Godzilla empathetic while at the same time more beastly and unintelligent than the old Toho version simply doesn’t work. Godzilla in this movie is a completely different creature than the familiar dinosaur of the Toho incarnation. Patrick Tatopoulos’ design is much more lizard-like, and is nominally more realistic looking (if giant monstrous lizards can be realistic at all). The difficulty here is that the beast is almost too based in reality. It’s just a giant grey lizard, with little true character or feeling of intelligence. When we get flooded by a ton of raptor-like baby-zillas, it’s again feels like an attempt to cash in on the success of Jurassic Park. This Godzilla, often mockingly labelled ‘Notzilla’, is so bland and characterless that we miss the joy of watching a Godzilla movie.  Emmerich’s movie gives us a generic monster with the name Godzilla slapped on, and it really isn’t worthy of the name.The human characters fare no better than the title character. You can easily sum up all of them in a single sentence. Niko Tatopoulos is the goodnatured scientist who’s still hung-up on his college sweetheart. Victor Palotti (Hank Azaria) is a snarky Brooklyn-born camera man. They get little backstory, and in most cases none. You simply take them at their face value, stereotypes that are tired yet familiar. If you form any sort of attachment to these characters, its for reasons external to the movie. Maybe you really love Ferris Bueller, and that will help you be attached to Niko. Personally, I’m a fan of Jean Reno, so I really only cared about his character solely on that basis. This is utterly ridiculous for a film, that we form no sort of real attachment. We have no reason to actually care if Godzilla actually murders them all. In fact, given how obnoxious some of the characters are, you might actually hope Godzilla wins. The most ridiculous of the characters is actually the mayor of New York. This is not merely a cardboard-depth character. It is a wafer-thin caricature of famous film critic Roger Ebert. Emmerich’s earlier films had been rightly blasted by the man, so Emmerich takes revenge in a childish and immature way. He places Ebert into the film as an inept, sleazy, sugar-guzzling political opportunist. Mayor Ebert is constantly making decisions for his own sake, not the good of the city. He’s probably the least sympathetic character in the whole film, and it just feels like a stupid joke gone too far. It detracts from the film immensely.

I also have to make note of something that is of no fault of the filmmakers. Godzilla was released in 1998, three years before the 9/11 tragedy. Every time you see NYC skyline, you can’t help but stare at the World Trade Center. The film even has a terribly creepy line from Harry Shearer’s reporter character, talking about how the initial devastation from Godzilla is “worst since the World Trade Center bombing.” Obviously, this is in reference to the 1993 bombing, but now it serves as a terrible reminder of the more recent tragedy. When the helicopters blow up the Chrysler building, it hits the viewer in a terrible and unsettling way, and a dreadful unease takes you out of the movie.
1-godzilla-1998-1438781993Emmerich brings nothing new to the giant monster table other than a large budget, creating something that is pure edifice and no real substance. His Godzilla is full of sound and fury, signifying nothing — which is really not too much of a problem for the undiscerning movie goer. Going back to the earlier analogy, there’s nothing wrong with a pinata full of candy. You just have to ignore the sad, broken hull that remains afterward. So either you can shut off your brain and enjoy this bastard child of Emmerich’s making, or you don’t bother and watch something like Cloverfield instead.