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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Ron Howard
Cast:
Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Ayelet Zurer, Stellan Skarsgård, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Armin Mueller-Stahl
Writing Credits:
David Koepp, Akiva Goldsman, Dan Brown (novel)

Tagline:
The holiest event of our time. Perfect for their return.

Synopsis:
In Ron Howard's thrilling follow-up to The Da Vinci Code, expert symbologist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) follows ancient clues on a heart-racing hunt through Rome to find the four Cardinals kidnapped by the deadly secret society, the Illuminati. With the Cardinals' lives on the line, and the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) desperate for help, Langdon embarks on a nonstop, action-packed race through sealed crypts, dangerous catacombs, and the most secretive vault on Earth!

Box Office:
Budget
$150 million.
Opening Weekend
$46.204 million on 3527 screens.
Domestic Gross
$133.375 million.

MPAA:
Rated PG-13

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Widescreen 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime:
Original Theatrical Version: 138 min.
Unrated Edition: 146 min.
Price: $39.95
Release Date: 11/24/2009

Bonus:
• Both Theatrical and Extended Versions of the Film
• “Rome Was Not Built In a Day” Featurette
• “Writing Angels & Demons” Featurette
• “Characters in Search of the True Story” Featurette
• “CERN: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge” Featurette
• “Handling Props” Featurette
• “Angels & Demons: The Full Story” Featurette
• “This Is an Ambigram” Featurette
• “The Path of Illumination” Interactive Feature
• Digital Copy
• Previews


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Angels & Demons [Blu-Ray] (2009)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 16, 2009)

Was 2006’s Da Vinci Code a hit? Yes – with a gross of $217 million in the US, I’d find it tough to argue otherwise. Was it a smash hit, however? In my opinion, no. Given the hype behind the film and its connection to the insanely successful book, I think $200 million was the minimum the flick could make and not be viewed as a dud. Code crept past that threshold, so I see it as an acceptable success but not one that really found a great audience.

Perhaps due to the lackluster reception that Code received, 2009’s Angels & Demons hit the scene without nearly the same level of hype. Demons boasted virtually the same creative crew, but it didn’t produce the same box office results. Indeed, with a $133 million take in the US, it pulled in only 61 percent of its predecessor’s earnings. In an era during which sequels regularly outgross prior efforts, that was a big drop.

But not a surprising one. Really, given the general public dissatisfaction with Code, it made sense that a major percentage of the Code audience failed to return for the next tale in the series. However, those who came back for more were likely to enjoy it, as Demons provided the much more satisfying film.

After the death of the Pope, Catholic leaders search for a new pontiff. Someone kidnaps four cardinals who are considered to be strong candidates for the gig. The parties responsible leave indications that they represent the Illuminati, an ancient society devoted to scientific truth that the church once drove underground and tried to eliminate. To help decode various clues and rescue the cardinals, the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor) – the Catholic representative who acts as surrogate Pope during the selection process – recruits Dr. Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), an expert on matters related to the Illuminati.

In the meantime, researchers in Switzerland make an unprecedented amount of antimatter, a substance that could reveal secrets of the creation of the universe – or that could destroy a wide swath of land if unleashed. How do the two sides connect? Those behind the kidnappings also steal the Swiss antimatter and plan to let it destroy the Vatican. Along with various authorities, Langdon teams with scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) to help work through various symbols, rescue the cardinals, and halt the obliteration of Vatican City.

As I noted three years ago, I regarded Code as a significant disappointment. In fact, I viewed the flick as such a bore that I read the novel in an attempt to figure out why it merited so much fuss. How could a book that excited such a massive audience produce such a dull movie?

I never bothered with Demons the book, and I’m not quite sure why I decided to give the movie a look during its theatrical run. While it failed to bowl me over, I was fairly glad I did check it out, as Demons provided a significantly stronger experience.

Why does Demons work so much better than Code? Mostly because it actually displays a pulse. Code was a depressingly logy affair. Every time it confronted a chance to excite the senses, it tended to drag. All possible climaxes became anti-climactic, so the end result was a movie that felt more like a tedious scavenger hunt than a coherent, compelling tale.

On the other hand, Demons provides much more excitement. A lot of that stems from the basic nature of the plot. Most of the film’s events transpire over a period of a few hours, and the tale involves a literal ticking clock. The kidnappers intend to kill the cardinals every hour on the hour from 8 PM to 11 PM, and then they’ll let the antimatter go kaboom at midnight. This factor adds a lot of pressure absent from the more leisurely Code, and it lends a great deal of tension to the movie.

While I’m not sure that director Ron Howard does anything to add to the movie’s zippiness, at least he doesn’t actively impede the flick ala Code. I don’t think he makes matters truly seem urgent, but he comes close. The story moves along at a good clip; even during the more scholarly first act, we still find more than a few intriguing elements, and once the clock strikes 8, the movie really gets going.

Don’t mistake my rating of Demons over Code as a simple preference for action over thought. Yes, Code was more introspective and contemplative, while Demons veers much closer to a pure action flick. However, the fault in Code wasn’t due to its lack of violence and flash; it came from the flat nature in which Howard told it.

If Howard approached Demons in the same woefully understated manner, it also would’ve been a snoozefest. Happily, he learns from his mistakes, so he knows enough to give Demons a reasonable amount of energy. No one will mistake it for tremendously dynamic adventure, but at least it keeps us interested.

That sense of energy trickles down to others involved. Hanks looked half-asleep in Code, but he shows more life here. He tamps down his movie star charisma well enough to still allow us to believe him as a bookish scholar, but at least he allows the character’s personality and passion emerge.

Zurer also feels like a more satisfying kinda-sorta love interest than Audrey Tautou in Code. Again, some of this stems from the nature of the story, as Zurer’s Vetra simply gets a more active role in the proceedings, Tautou’s Sophie Neveu was largely just a lovely plot device. Vetra still takes a backseat to Langdon, but at least she doesn’t feel like she’s there just as eye candy.

I don’t want to go overboard in my praise for Angels & Demons, as I don’t really see it as a great film. However, it does much more right than wrong, and it certainly outdoes its dull predecessor by a wide margin. Demons provides a reasonably satisfying like thriller that helps restore much of the goodwill obliterated by Da Vinci Code.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio A-/ Bonus B-

Angels & Demons appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, the film looked excellent.

At virtually all times, sharpness excelled. Only a smidgen of mild softness ever impacted on wide shots, as the majority of the movie demonstrated rock-solid clarity and definition. Jagged edges and shimmering failed to occur, and I witnessed no signs of edge enhancement. Print flaws weren’t a factor; the movie always remained clean and fresh.

Demons went with a mildly stylized palette that favored earthy hues. Anticipate lots of deep browns and rich reds here. The colors were consistently full and dynamic. Blacks appeared deep and dark, while shadows displayed good clarity and smoothness. Overall, I really liked this consistently positive presentation.

With its action orientation, the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Demon also worked well. The movie boasted a wide and involving soundfield. This showed up during scenes both loud and quiet. During the former, music offered nice stereo presence, and various environmental elements displayed quality localization and involvement.

The bigger sequences added more pizzazz to the package. These used all five channels in a satisfying manner, as the action scenes created a lot of useful material. While not as dazzling as something more aggressive like Transformers, the mix used the speakers in a way that gave real life to the proceedings.

In addition, audio quality was strong. Music appeared vivid and full, with crisp highs and rich lows. Speech was concise and natural; no issues affected the lines. Effects appeared to be accurate and lively. Those elements lacked distortion and they boasted nice low-end during their louder moments. Overall, i felt pleased with the mix.

Most of the set’s extras appear on Disc Two. The prime attraction on Disc One stems from two separate versions of the film. It includes both the theatrical cut and an extended version of Demons. The former runs two hours, 18 minutes and 37 seconds, while the latter goes for two hours, 26 minutes and 15 seconds.

How do the two differ? I’ll be damned if I know. While I saw Demons theatrically, I don’t remember its details well enough to spotlight what differences show up in those added eight minutes. I can say that I feel both editions fare about the same; the extended version works just as well for me.

Over on Disc Two, we find a collection of featurettes. Rome Was Not Built In a Day goes for 17 minutes, 30 seconds and provides remarks from director Ron Howard, executive producer/2nd unit director Todd Hallowell, costume designer Daniel Orlandi, production designer Allan Cameron, visual effects supervisor Angus Bickerton, editors Mike Hill and Dan Hanley, composer Hans Zimmer, Double Negative 3D supervisor Graham Jack and actors Ewan McGregor and Tom Hanks. “Rome” gives us a general overview of the flick, as it looks at sets and locations, visual effects, costumes and visual design, editing, sound design and music.

As implied by the title, the show mostly concentrates on elements related to the recreation of Rome for the flick. With less than 18 minutes at its disposal, “Rome” bites off a little more than it can chew, as it rushes through the various production areas in a rather rapid manner. That said, it manages to convey quite a lot of good information, and it keeps us interested.

Adaptation issues come to the fore in Writing Angels & Demons. This 10-minute and nine-second piece features Howard, Hanks, producer Brian Grazer, author/executive producer Dan Brown, and writers David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman. “Writing” discusses the differences between Code and Demons as well as aspects of the script and adaptation. I like the parts of “Writing” that get into the book’s origins/development and a few changes, but there’s not much real substance to the featurette. We learn a little about the film’s production but not enough to make it particularly memorable.

Next comes Characters in Search of the True Story. In the 17-minute and 10-second program, we hear from Howard, Hanks, Brown, Grazer, McGregor, and actors Ayelet Zurer, Pierfrancesco Favino, Stellan Skarsgard, and Armin Mueller-Stahl. “Search” digs into cast, characters and performances. At times it feels like a promotional featurette, as it often just tells us basic story/character notes. We get a couple of intriguing thoughts about differences between the novel and the movie, but otherwise this is a fairly ordinary piece.

We get info about facts behind the fiction with CERN: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge. During the 14-minute and 52-second program, we find notes from Howard, Hanks, CERN Director of Research Dr. Sergio Bertolucci, Head of Communications Dr. James Gillies, Operations Group Leader Dr. Mike Lamont, and research physicist Dr. Rolf Landua. This show gives us details about CERN, the leading lab that researches particle physics, and some of the scientific principles featured in the movie. At times, “Frontiers” gives us useful facts about the flick’s science. However, too often it feels like a promo reel for CERN.

Handling Props lasts 11 minutes, 35 seconds and features Howard and property master Trish Gallaher Glenn. Mostly via notes from Glenn, we learn about various physical items that appear throughout the film. This gives us a nice glimpse of the details we otherwise might not notice.

More behind the scenes details emerge in the nine-minute, 46-second Angels & Demons: The Full Story. It provides remarks from Hanks, Howard, Brown, Orlandi, McGregor, and stunt coordinator Brad Martin. “Story” zips through shooting in Rome, sets, costumes, stunts and cinematography. Much of this info already appears elsewhere, so don’t expect much fresh info in this promo piece. The details about costumes are the most interesting, and some good footage from the shoot appears, at least.

For the final featurette, we locate This Is an Ambigram. It goes for four minutes, 46 seconds as it offers statements from Howard, Brown, and Wordplay author John Langdon. We learn about ambigrams and their use in the movie. This is a quick but enjoyable piece.

Exclusive to the Blu-ray Disc, an interactive feature called The Path of Illumination takes us through various locations featured in the movie. It sends you to those spots where we can learn various historical, cultural and filmmaking facts. Some of this info comes from short video clips – narrated by Howard – while most of them provide text. The historical/cultural material dominates; you’ll learn much more about those areas than about the creation of the flick.

And that’s fine with me. We already get a lot of movie notes elsewhere, so it’s good to find more about the history in this feature. It’s not the deepest feature of its sort, but it still boasts a good array of information and proves to be stimulating.

A few ads open Disc One. We get clips for Blu-ray Disc, Julie and Julia, and The Da Vinci Code. These also appear in the Previews area along with promos for Year One, Casino Royale, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Whatever Works, and It Might Get Loud. No trailer for Demons shows up anywhere.

As usual, we get a Digital Copy of the film here. As usual, this allows you to put the movie on your computer or portable viewing thingy. As usual, I don’t care.

Perhaps I enjoyed Angels & Demons due to the exceedingly low expectations I felt after the dull Da Vinci Code, but I don’t think so. I’ve now seen it twice, and I think it offers a fairly lively, taut little adventure. The Blu-ray gives us very good picture and audio along with a decent set of supplements. Even if you didn’t care for Code, Demons deserves a look.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.5 Stars Number of Votes: 24
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main