Posts Tagged ‘The Da Vinci Code’


screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-10-18-16-amRichard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon in “Inferno,” two of the best movies of the years, “Moonlight” and “The Handmaiden” and Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, “American Pastoral.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!


screen-shot-2016-10-28-at-10-36-44-amRichard sits in on the CTV NewsChannel morning show to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, Tom Hanks as symbologist Robert Langdon in “Inferno,” two of the best movies of the years, “Moonlight” and “The Handmaiden” and Ewan McGregor’s directorial debut, “American Pastoral.”

Watch the whole thing HERE!

Metro In Focus: The fraught relationship between faith and film

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-10-18-04-amBy Richard Crouse – Metro In Focus

This weekend professor of religious iconology and symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) returns to theatres in Inferno, the third movie in the Da Vinci Code franchise.

In 2006 the fictional Harvard prof made his big screen debut, uncovering the complicated personal life of Jesus Christ in The Da Vinci Code. Three years later he used his knowledge of symbology to unravel the mystery of a secret brotherhood called the Illuminati and thwart a terrorist act against the Vatican.

In between those two movies I received dozens of outraged emails, long tracts regarding Dan Brown’s books, the up-coming movie, The Illuminati and the veracity of the stories.

In response to the anxious folks who contacted me, concerned the film, which had not been released yet, would be a dangerous piece of anti-Catholic propaganda, I wrote a forward to my Angels and Demons review, pointing letter writers toward the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano. They described Angels and Demons as “harmless entertainment which hardly affects the genius and mystery of Christianity.” Their review noted it is filled with historical inaccuracies but went on to suggest that one could make a game of pointing out all of the film’s historical mistakes.

In other words, don’t take it seriously and you’ll have a good time. Despite the Vatican newspaper’s warm embrace, the film still ignited a firestorm of criticism from people upset about the story’s alleged anti-Catholic sentiments, “malicious myths” and churches being associated with scenes of murder.

Inferno sidesteps religious controversy with a tale of a deadly virus that threatens all of humanity, but cinema and religion have often made for uncomfortable pairings.

In 1999 the Catholic League denounced Dogma’s tale of two fallen angels (Ben Affleck and Matt Damon) trying to get back into heaven as “blasphemy.” More recently uproar erupted over Darren Aronofsky’s unorthodox take on the story of Noah. Jerry Johnson, president of the National Religious Broadcasters, loudly objected to the film’s “insertion of the extremist environmental agenda.”

Perhaps the most controversial religious film ever was The Devils, based on Aldous Huxley’s nonfiction book The Devils of Loudun. Years before Ken Russell made the movie, a filmmaker approached Huxley wanting to turn the story of a radical 17th century French Catholic priest accused of witchcraft and burned at the stake, into a film. Huxley said, ‘Don’t do it. Don’t make a movie out of this.’ He thought there was no way the story could be presented in an entertaining way without short-circuiting people’s minds. Turns out maybe he was right.

Forty-five years after its release Russell’s film is little seen but much talked about. Banned, censored and still unavailable in its complete form on Blu-Ray, the movie’s graphic church orgy offended many—and was cut to pieces and removed by censors—but it’s more than shock and titillation. It’s a film that makes a serious statement about the struggle between church and state but does so in an entertaining and provocative way.

Lots of movies contain violence or sex or religion, but Russell mixed all three together in one toxic cocktail. If released today The Devils may not inspire riots in the streets, as it did in 1971, but if presented in its complete form the following indignation would make the Angels and Demons protests seem tame.

INFERNO: 2 STARS. “clueless? No, it’s overstuffed with clues, just not thrills.”

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-10-17-04-amA better title for “Inferno,” the latest big screen exploits of symbology professor Robert Langdon, might have been “The Da Vinci Code: This Time it’s Personal.” Not only must Langdon, once again in the form of Tom Hanks, confront an old love but he also must dig deep into his shattered memory to piece together the clues of his greatest mystery ever.

Or something like that.

The convoluted story begins with bioengineer and billionaire Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster) spewing his extreme theories on the planet’s problems. “Every ill on earth can be traced back to overpopulation,” he says. In the space of just twenty four hours Zobrist drops out of the picture, and Langdon is found disoriented and put under the care of Dr. Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones). “What am I doing in Florence?” he asks. Suffering from retrograde amnesia and terrifying visions of a hellish nature, people with heads twisted back to front, seas of fire, pools of blood and serpents, he struggles to remember the events of the last forty-eight hours.

With the help of Brooks he goes on the run from a determined assassin (Ana Ularu) and the World Health Organization until he can gather the clues that will lead him to the Inferno Virus, a plague planted by Zobrist to cull the world’s population by half. “Humanity is the disease,” he cackles, “Inferno is the cure.”

Add in close calls, narrow escapes and clues hidden in Italian antiquities and you have “Inferno,” the thriller with no clue how to be thrilling. Instead it’s two hours of exposition, a lesson in Botticelli and Dante. Whatever thrills there were to be mined from David Koepp’s script are blunted by director Ron Howard’s habit of showing and telling clues and info over and over, not trusting the viewer to be able to follow along. With convoluted clues and lots of Italian names and places to keep track of “Inferno” repeats information ad nauseam.

This is the third time Hanks has played Langdon but in the fullness of time I don’t think we’ll look back on the symbologist as the actor’s most memorable character. He carries the movies, which have made hundreds of millions of dollars, but he’s less a character then he is an exposition machine, an explainer of obscure history, a purveyor of aha moments. Hanks is a charmer, but he’s done in trying to wade through the movie’s scripting mire.

Sharing the screen is Jones, soon to be seen in “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.” As Dr. Brooks she is Langdon’s intellectual match and one of the dual engines that keeps the story plodding along, but spends most of the film nodding in agreement to Langdon’s sudden, remarkable realisations.

As the villain Foster’s few appearances—he’s peppered throughout usually appearing in video clips, is further proof that Hollywood doesn’t know what to do with this talented actor.

More fun is Irrfan Khan as the calm, cool and collected head of a mysterious group that manages risks for high profile clients. He’s deadly, duplicitous and James Bond villain suave.

The obvious joke here is that “Inferno” is clueless. But it’s not, it’s overstuffed with clues, just not thrills.

The Vatican rebuilt Landmarks replicated on L.A. soundstage for Angels &?Demons RICHARD CROUSE FOR METRO CANADA May 12, 2009

angels-and-demonsWhile sitting atop the Castel Saint Angelo in Rome waiting to interview Angels & Demons star Ewan McGregor, I had a panoramic view of the city and the beautiful chaos that makes life in the Eternal City tick.

The traffic is crazy and there are people everywhere. It’s an intense place, even more so, I imagined, if you were shooting a big budget Hollywood picture that takes place in some of the city’s busiest spots.

“The funny thing is I didn’t shoot any of it in Rome,” McGregor said when asked. “I shot in this place called Caserta. There’s a palace in Caserta that I thought it sounded really romantic, so I arranged for my wife to come over and spend a weekend with me, but it’s a dump, a horrible place. I’m sorry but it’s just a suburb of Naples that’s exploded around this old palace. It’s really nasty. Not a good place.

“Apart from that I did most of my stuff in L.A. because my character is mainly inside the Vatican and of course, the Vatican didn’t want us to shoot inside their buildings so they built the Sistine Chapel on the Sony soundstages in L.A. They also built the exterior of St. Peter’s Square, this huge, huge set, in the parking lot of Hollywood Park Racetrack in south L.A. That was cool. I saw it from an airplane. I was landing at LAX and I looked down and thought, ‘God, that’s a big set… look at that.’ Then I realized it was ours.”

Despite never having stepped foot in an actual church during the shoot, McGregor convincingly pulls off the roll of Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, a priest who acts as the pope’s right hand man in the film adaptation of Dan Brown’s novel.

“We had a priest from New Jersey who came over and was our religious advisor for any of the technical things,” McGregor said, “the ceremonies and the ritual stuff. But he also gave us a kind of idea of what would be going on behind the scenes during those ceremonies and humanized it for us.

“It looks so precise from the congregation’s point of view but in actual fact behind the table there is a guy with matches trying to light the incense. He put that into it for me which was great.”

The training paid off, he says, at least superficially.

“I didn’t get to understand the meaning of all the ceremonies; why everything is in a certain order, but I did learn enough to look like I knew what I was doing, hopefully.”

Demons ‘a different beast’ Director Howard dishes on follow-up to record-breaking Da Vinci Code RICHARD CROUSE FOR METRO CANADA May 08, 2009

angels_demons12Ron Howard, the flame-haired actor turned director of The Da Vinci Code, wasn’t surprised by the success of his adaptation of the best selling Dan Brown suspense novel.

“The idea at the centre of The Da Vinci Code was so provocative and such a hot button issue it really lived at the centre of popular culture for almost two years,” he said this week in Rome before the premiere of Angels & Demons, the follow-up to the record-breaking Da Vinci Code.

“Angels & Demons is a popular novel,” the director says, although he acknowledges that it isn’t as notorious as the other book. “What I’m finding, however, is if you like The Da Vinci Code you’re going to really like Angels & Demons. I feel like it could be a thrilling and exciting experience for audiences in of itself; separating itself from The Da Vinci Code movie or the novel.”

The new film, starring Tom Hanks in a reprise of his Da Vinci role as symbologist Robert Langdon, sees the Harvard professor work to solve a murder, unravel the mystery of an ancient secret brotherhood called the Illuminati and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican.

The mix of intrigue and religious may sound familiar to Da Vinci Code fans but Howard maintains Angels & Demons is a different beast. “If I felt like it was a cookie cutter situation and I was being asked to repeat myself then it wouldn’t interest me,” he said, “but I just didn’t want to miss this next Robert Langdon adventure.

“I like the uniqueness of these Dan Brown stories. Sure they use the murder mystery genre, but in a way that is so fresh that these films stand on their own as something brand new.”

Something that certainly is new in Angels & Demons is the setting. Shot on location in Rome, the movie is a love letter to the Eternal City.

“For scheduling reasons we had to shoot in June,” Howard says.

“Everyone in Italy kept saying that we couldn’t have chosen a worse month but I’m very glad in a way it was so hectic and intense because it energized everything.”

• Angels & Demons opens across Canada next Friday.

Courting controversy IN FOCUS by Richard Crouse 15 May 2009

angels_demons12Catholic League boss William Donohue doesn’t want you to see the sequel to The Da Vinci Code. In a booklet titled Angels & Demons: More Demonic than Angelic, he accuses director Ron Howard of “smearing the Catholic Church.” He’s not alone. Hindu scholars have condemned the movie for “playing with the sentiments of the faithful for mercantile greed” and Vatican officials were purportedly considering a ban of the film.

Howard, usually the most non-contentious of Hollywood directors, seems to be treading on Oliver Stone territory here. He shot back at Donohue in the Huffington Post. “Let me be clear,” he wrote, “neither I nor Angels & Demons are anti-Catholic,” but deep down I think he knows a little uproar can be good for business.

History shows us that movies have courted controversy since the very beginning.

The 1896 film The Kiss rode reviews like, “The spectacle of the prolonged pasturing on each other’s lips was beastly enough in life size on the stage but magnified to gargantuan proportions … it is absolutely disgusting,” to the top of the box office.

Half a century later, another Howard, this time Howard Hughes, directed a movie thought to be so salacious that its “assault on decency” saw several theatre owners arrested for unspooling it.

Completed in 1941, The Outlaw was such a hot potato it didn’t see general release until 1946.

Officially the film is about Doc Holliday and Billy the Kid’s feud over a woman called Rio, but informally it’s about something else entirely — star Jane Russell’s chest. Hughes was so smitten with Russell’s deep cleavage he showcased it in the film and even had a special cantilevered bra designed to enhance the appearance of her 38D bust.

The emphasis on her breasts was too much for the Hollywood Production Code Administration, who demanded changes to the film.

Hughes balked, becoming the first American filmmaker to defy the Production Code and use the resulting hullabaloo to lure audiences into theatres.

The thing that binds all of these movies is controversy. Without it we may never have heard of The Kiss, The Outlaw or even Angels & Demons. In fact, Ron Howard should be dropping Donohue a thank-you note for all the free publicity his campaign against the film has generated.

After all, it was essayist William Hazlitt who said, “When a thing ceases to be a subject of controversy, it ceases to be a subject of interest.”