Welcome to the movies at PS News.
Each week, PS News’s film critic Victor Rebikoff will highlight the latest offerings from the silver screen and share his expert commentary for our information and guidance.
At the movies now includes reviews of Paramount Pictures DVDs that are yet to be released.
Angels and Demons
Director Ron Howard, Sony Pictures, Rated M, 138 minutes
The team behind the global phenomenon, The Da Vinci Code returns for the highly anticipated Angels and Demons, based upon the bestselling novel of the same name by author Dan Brown.
With Academy Award-winning director Ron Howard at the helm again, Tom Hanks reprises his role as Brown's religious expert and symbologist, Robert Langdon.
Angels & Demons is a suspenseful and thrilling movie that Howard agreed to make after controversy erupted over The Da Vinci Code – striking a raw nerve with the Catholic Church and numerous Christian groups.
Howard’s new movie will not ruffle as many feathers.
This is clear in the opening scenes when the Vatican calls Langdon to Rome to assist in finding four cardinals who have been kidnapped by the Illuminati, a 400-year old underground secret society.
At the same time, a powerful scientific device has been stolen from a beautiful and determined Italian scientist, Vittoria Vetra (played by Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer).
Award-winning writers Akiva Goldsman and David Koepp have developed an intriguing and suspenseful script.
The script uses the passing of a beloved Vatican Pontiff and preparations for the Conclave of the College of Cardinals to choose his successor as a fantastic backdrop.
The Camerlengo, played by Ewan McGregor, assumes day-to-day control of the Vatican until the Conclave selects a new Pope.
Interestingly, it is one of the four kidnapped Cardinals (known as the ‘preferratti’) who is considered as a successor provided the Illuminati can be stopped before they kill him and destroy the Vatican using the stolen scientific device.
When Langdon learns the clock is ticking on an unstoppable Illuminati time bomb, he and Vetra, together with the Italian Police and Swiss Guard, are relentless in their efforts to find the kidnapped Cardinals.
Both Langdon and Vetra embark on a nonstop, action-packed hunt through sealed crypts, deserted cathedrals, and dangerous catacombs, following a centuries-old trail of ancient symbols that could mark the Vatican's only hope for survival.
Despite some legitimate misgivings about the subject matter in his earlier production of The Da Vinci Code, this time round Howard has made a thoroughly entertaining movie that makes for compelling viewing.
Howard uses the magnificence of Rome for some wonderful cinematic shots and has made a film that is also set to a completely appropriate musical score.
Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer and Ewan McGregor give convincing performances.
Angels and Demons is an exciting, thrilling, fast-paced movie filled with satisfying explosions, beautiful recreations of St. Peter's Square and Basilica (including many of the churches) and a pulsating bomb count-down.
Adding to its enjoyment is the movie’s conclusion – one of the most amazing surprise endings almost beyond imagination.
One can also assume Howard has endeared himself to the Vatican with his latest movie, not only showing Langdon as a redeemer of the Vatican, but also serving as a great promotion of Rome and Vatican City, given the many beautiful on-location scenes.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4 Rubber Stamps
(DVD release date: 2 July, 2009)
Director Mabrouk El Mechri, Rated M, 97 mins
Mabrouk El Mechri’s latest movie, JCVD (Jean-Claude Van Damme), revolves around the famous French speaking action superstar who plays himself in an alternate reality.
In this reality he is an out-of-luck actor who is out of money, out of work, and facing a custody battle where the judge is inclined to give custody of his daughter to his ex-wife.
In view of his predicament, Van Damme decides to return to his childhood home of Schaarbeek in Brussels where he is still considered a national icon.
When he goes into a post office to collect a wire transfer he finds himself in the middle of a hostage situation, and due to an unfortunate misunderstanding, is accused by the police of perpetrating the crime.
As the events are played from different perspectives, Van Damme finds himself acting as a hero to protect the hostages, as a negotiator and as the presumed perpetrator.
In this scenario, Van Damme is forced to play a different kind of hero by accepting responsibility for a crime he did not commit and for the mistakes he has made through his life.
JCVD is not your typical Van Damme action movie but it certainly demonstrates he is more than an action oriented actor.
He is, in fact, quite the opposite - a sensitive person who realises he is getting too old to undertake action sequences and instead needs to face reality.
To some extent, Van Damme’s performance is similar to that of Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler for which he won a number of awards earlier this year.
Viewing this DVD certainly paints a different picture of Van Damme’s acting prowess.
It shows he is playing the role of his life and as such this DVD is a must in any collection, not just for the Van Damme fans.
Keep an out for JCVD when it is released on 2 July.
VIC'S VERDICT: 4 Rubber Stamps