Review: Angels & Demons (dir. Ron Howard, 2009)

It may have been boring and heretical, but the film version of The Da Vinci Code was also one of the biggest international hits of all time when it came out three years ago — bigger than The Passion of The Christ, bigger than the Narnia movies, bigger even than at least one of the Star Wars movies. So it was pretty much inevitable that Tom Hanks and director Ron Howard would reunite for an adaptation of the other Dan Brown novel that features Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon. [Read more...]

Review: The Island (dir. Michael Bay, 2005)

The Island is a movie about clones, and so it comes as no surprise that the movie is, itself, something of a clone. But it is also something of a chimera; that is, it seems like the sort of movie you would get if you took pieces of two very different movies and squished them together, and the result is a monstrosity.

On the one hand, we have a dystopian science-fiction movie about people who live in an artificial environment under a totalitarian regime, oblivious to the fact that they are actually clones who have been manufactured as spare parts, or “insurance policies,” for the rich and famous of the world. The all-white production design and the theme of escape, as two clones try to break out of their world, brings George Lucas’s THX 1138 to mind; but the emphasis on genetic engineering and sterile perfection recalls Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca, and the way the creators of this society use comfort and fear to discourage curiosity about the outside world — all of the inhabitants believe they are survivors of a global catastrophe — recalls Peter Weir’s The Truman Show (also written by Niccol).

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Review: Black Hawk Down (dir. Ridley Scott, 2001)

The folks who brought you Pearl Harbor are now bringing you Black Hawk Down, and despite the fact that both war movies feature Josh Hartnett and Tom Sizemore in key military roles, the films are very different.

Where Pearl Harbor was full of saccharine romance, nostalgic production design and eye-popping special effects, Black Hawk Down is a decidedly grim and realistic account of a botched military operation that resulted in the deaths of 18 Americans and more than 1,000 Somalis eight years ago. Where Pearl Harbor was widely dismissed for its commercialism, Black Hawk Down tries very hard to earn respect. This is the film producer Jerry Bruckheimer hopes will be remembered at Oscar time.

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