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The Da Vinci Code

Da Vinci Unworthy of Negative Hype
Last Tuesday, when The Da Vinci Code premiered at the Cannes Film festival, it was met with a chilly reception from the reviewing elite. It has been called "plodding," "stale," and "uninspired," thus, dashing the hopes of many movie goers who were hoping to see one of their favorite novels brought to life by one of their favorite directors, and starring one of their favorite actors. Since I'm not a slave to snobby film reviewers, I went to go see it for myself despite the negative hype. And as the credits rolled at the end of the movie, I felt increasingly unsettled; not because of the quality of the movie, but because one question lingered in my head: What's not to like? Am I crazy for actually being entertained by what I just saw? How could the critics pan what I, and those around me, seemed to enjoy? Okay, so that's more than one question....

First, I have to qualify myself. I read the book and I LOVED it; couldn't put it down. I loved the history, the speculation, the riddles and puzzles, and the masterful blend of fact and fiction. Additionally, I'm not religious, although I was definitely familiar with Christian historical icons such as Jesus, John the Baptist, and Mary Magdelene before I read the book. I also happen to be a big fan of Tom Hanks, Ron Howard, and Ian McKellan.

Having said that, I went in prepared to like this movie, even though I had somewhat lowered my expectations based on the barrage of bad reviews. All of this proved to be a winning formula for me, apparently.

If you're like me and you loved the book and you like the artistic team that pursued making it into a movie, then you'll most likely come out satisfied. You won't mind what many critics have called "overly-long exposition" and historical flashbacks, because that's pretty much what the book consisted of. And in the book, it was absolutely engrossing! So, I personally didn't mind all of the explanation of history, symbols, etc.

Critics have also found fault with Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou's portrayals of Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu (respectively), saying that they delivered flat performances. But once again, whoever read the book will remember that both of these characters weren't that dynamic on the written page, either. Of course, Sir Ian McKellan, with the juiciest role of Holy Grail scholar Sir Leigh Teabing, chews up the scenery every time he's shown on screen. Sir Leigh Teabing was also one of the richest characters in the book.

I think that the people who won't like this movie are people who didn't read the book, and are going into the theater expecting a regular movie, which it's not. It's an adaptation of a very wordy, detailed, twisting, speculative novel that blends fact and fiction in a devastatingly effective way, and it's easy to get lost while watching the movie if you don't already know where the story is going. Sure, Ron Howard uses digitized, grainy flashbacks of ancient pagan rituals and societies to move the narrative along and to keep the audience on point, but I can see how it could be overwhelming to those who only know the bare bones of the plot. However, those who found it fascinating in the book will find pleasure in seeing the visual accompaniment to what they've already read.

In short, you go see this movie (or read the book) for how it challenges popularly-held beliefs; not for its rich, engaging character development. It's a quest for the "truth", and in terms of the IDEAS expressed, they did a dag-blasted good job of translating those ideas onto the screen. Those who often complain that movies don't stay true to the books that they're based on will find comfort in the fact that Akiva Goldsman and Ron Howard have stayed incredibly close to the original text when translating it onto the screen. However, this will be to the dismay of those movie-goers who haven't read the book, and are therefore expecting a traditional action thriller with traditional action thriller dialogue.

If you go to, you'll see the huge disparity between what the critics have said, and what the users have said regarding this film. While the cumulative critics rating is a dismal 22%, the combined user rating is a 74%, which is way above average for the site. That should speak volumes to whoever is skeptical about seeing the movie because of the bad reviews.

The bottom line is that it's definitely a movie worth watching if only to see how the creative team behind it went about turning the best-selling novel into celluloid. It's also a treat to see something in popular culture challenge popular religious ideals so skillfully, even if only in the form of fiction.

My advice: go see for yourself.


Damon Lindelof @ LA Convention Center?
First, about last night's show: a complete waste of time save for the two scenes surrounding Henry Gale and the VERY end of Hurley's story. Was anybody fooled with the whole "Dave" thing? Anyone who's seen The Sixth Sense knew from the first scene he was in that he wasn't real. *Gasp* Shocker. However, I was surprised to see Libby sitting in the mental ward; didn't see that coming. And with the whole Henry Gale thing, I wonder if he was telling Locke the truth about the timer... Despite this being a lackluster episode except for about a total of 5-10 minutes, it's still one of the best show on TV.

Speaking of which, I heard that co-creator Damon Lindelof is speaking at the LA Convention Center this Tuesday (the 11th). Has anybody heard about this? I'm going to look around to see if I can find more info.... If any of you have info on this, could you tell me? OUT.

The New World

"Obsession" by Terrence Malick
I, like many others, have read the astounding reviews laid upon Terrence Malick's new film "The New World." US Weekly calls it"Oscar-worthy"; even more trusted critics such as Richard Roeper have called it "One of the best movies of the year . . . a work of great passion and visual poetry" while Richard Corliss of Time Magazine has declared "Anyone who has keen eyes will surely go soaring and crashing with the lovers lost in Malick's exotic, erotic new world." We are independent-thinking movie-goers, yet when we do our research and see reviews such as these, we are right to assume that the film is at least worthy of a theater viewing. Surely, with reviews like this, we can safely assume that it, at the very least, won't be a waste of our time.

However, while the numerous glowing reviews of Terrence Malick's latest foray onto the big screen mainly tell us why we must go see this film, they also indirectly tell us something far more important and useful: that critics are sometimes so misaligned with the tastes of the general public that they unwittingly guide them to a film that breaks their pocketbooks as well as their patience.

Let me explain.

I was one of the people that read the reviews of those I trusted, and decided to go to see the film based on their tastes and expertise. After all, the film starred Colin Farrell (whose career hasn't taken a right turn since Minority Report) and was directed by Terence Malick (who had directed the similarly overrated The Thin Red Line); I needed a little extra assurance that I wasn't walking into another Malick-induced coma. I got the assurance, and went to Grauman's Chinese on Saturday night to give both artists a fair shot at my good graces. . . .

At its bare bones, The New World recounts the English arrival in Virginia circa 1607 and how Captain John Smith (played by Colin Farrell) is capured by the "naturals," only to be saved from death by the young, beautiful Pocahontas (played by Q'orianka Kilcher). They fall in love, through a series of events she is taken in by the English, and she is eventually taken back to England.

Even though the film pushes the three-hour mark, this is all you need to know; many will go into this film already knowing the general story, which is definitely to their advantage, for you won't be able to decipher much more than this basic outline over the course of the film anyways.

Terrence Malick's The New World is a long, hapharzardly edited, disjointed, syrupy, narratively-vacant, nature-laden snoozefest that fails to broaden the mind or rouse the emotions on any level. Our director simply can't seem to get enough of filming our principals frollicking through the forest through their barely audible whispery interior monologues, which seems to take up about a third of the film. Smith and Pocahontas look at each other lovingly by a river as her breathy voice-over begins—cut to a tree swaying in the wind—cut to the river—cut to a bird—cut to her neck. These voice-overs and woodsy love montages occur so often that the film frequently plays like an obscenely long Calvin Klein Obsession commercial. This might have been negligible had there been some redeeming qualities to the other parts of the film.

For example, when we get a reprieve from the empty love story and get back to camp, we can barely understand the English adventurers through their thick English accents. Were they in danger? Were they starving? Why was that guy just shot? Had I understood what exactly they were saying, it might have added some much-needed depth and direction to the storyline, but since it doesn't we're left to guess for ourselves (which we shouldn't have to do, by the way). Somehow, I think that even people watching this movie in England were asking each other, "What the bloody hell did that guy just say?" The film also has a habit of jumping from event to event without telling how or why we got there. Once again, the fact that I could barely hear what people were saying I'm sure played an integral part in this, but it eventually seemed as if Malick had no idea what story he was telling. How can we find our way through a film if it doesn't look like even the director could? This is all very unfortuante for the actors, because Malick has managed to amass a very talented cast. Newcomer Q'Orianka Kilcher, in her feature debut, emodies the innocence, playfulness, and beauty of Pocahontas, and is thoroughly watchable. Christian Bale is a fully capable young actor, and yet even his character must resort to those insufferable, stale voiceovers. Colin Farrell has the expressions and non-verbal acting elements down, yet for reasons still unknown to this movie-goer, he decides to keep his Irish accent for his portrayal of an undoubtedly English John Smith, which was just downright annoying. The soul of the film is Kilcher, whose performance most escapes the mutlitude of flaws that pervade this film. If there is a "saving grace" for this film, it is her.

Bottom line: There is an audience for this film. I would say that if you were able to follow and enjoy The Thin Red Line, then go ahead and give it a shot. Some people love Terrence Malick, and those people should in turn love this movie. However, if you're one of those strange people who needs to understand what's going on and some pretty nature shots just isn't going to cut it, for the love of God, stay away from this movie. This film is just not in the same league as Match Point, Brokeback Mountain, or Good Night, and Good Luck.

If you don't trust me, trust the three couples that trickled out of the theater over the course of the first 1.5 hours.

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