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Angels & Demons(2009)
Tom Hanks reprises his role from the 2006 film 'The Da Vinci Code' as Harvard symbologist and religious expert Robert Langdon, who works alongside the beautiful Vittoria (Ayelet Zurer) to unravel the clues behind a priest's murder and prevent a terrorist act against the Vatican by resurgents of an ancient secret brotherhood known as the Illuminati, the most powerful underground organisation in history.
For more about Angels & Demons and the Angels & Demons Blu-ray release, see Angels & Demons Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on November 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Starring: Tom Hanks, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård, Ayelet Zurer, Pierfrancesco Favino, Nikolaj Lie Kaas
Director: Ron Howard
» See full cast & crew
Angels & Demons Blu-ray Review
The follow-up to 'The Da Vinci Code' receives fine Blu-ray treatment from Sony.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, November 12, 2009
Trust no one.
While The Da Vinci Code bordered on comedy, delivering a superficially complex but ultimately paint-by-numbers laugher of a plot with one ridiculous contrivance after another, Angels & Demons manages to offer a somewhat tighter, more organic, and simply far more enjoyable romp through the world of past and present intermingled in a dangerous game of violence and deceit. It still suffers from some of the same problems that hindered its predecessor, namely somewhat shallow and superfluous side characters, plot contrivances, "secrets" that aren't the least bit difficult to discern well before the characters in the film manage to do so, and a sluggish pace. Still, the problems don't destroy the film, but they do weigh it down enough to keep this from being a real nail-biting winner. The latest film adapted from controversial author Dan Brown's library, Angels & Demons is billed as a sequel to The Da Vinci Code (the two share no real common story threads), but the novel was actually published before The Da Vinci Code. Nevertheless, Director Ron Howard, returning to once again helm a Brown novel-turned-film, injects Angels & Demons with a bit more focus and plenty of technical know-how, the result a film that's not great by any means but certainly watchable and far better than the critically-panned The Da Vinci Code.
In Switzerland, the Large Hadron Collider -- a particle accelerator capable of creating "anti-matter" -- has just gone online, and Scientist Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer) finds a colleague murdered and the sensitive anti-matter stolen. Meanwhile, Symbolist Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump) is called to the Vatican after the untimely death of the Pope to help ward off a threat from an ancient and long-thought-defeated enemy of the Catholic Church, the Illuminati. With the help of Camerlengo Patrick McKenna (Ewan McGregor, Black Hawk Down), the man in charge of the Vatican until a new Pope is elected; and Commander Richter (Stellan Skarsgård, Ronin), head of the powerful Swiss Guard that protects His Holiness himself, Langdon is tasked with not only piecing together the puzzle of the Illuminati, but saving the lives of four kidnapped Cardinals and saving the Vatican itself from the anti-matter that has but hours until it explodes with enough force to obliterate the Vatican off the face of the Earth.
Despite Angels and Demons' somewhat complex (if not slightly cumbersome) journey into the deepest bowels, darkest secrets, and complex hierarchal structure of the Vatican, Director Ron Howard makes the film rather accessible and easy to follow, despite a long runtime, an abundance of historical and technical jargon, and a moderately slow pace. The story delivers an interesting premise, made all the more fascinating by the dichotomy between the latest in modern technology and most ancient of places, beliefs, tales, and rituals. There's more of an aura of mystery about the picture, far more so than The Da Vinci Code, and while it's not too terribly difficult to figure out -- or at least make a smart guess based on observation and the tendency towards twist endings -- the film manages to keep up something of a decent shroud over the finer details of the story, at least for a while. Still, Angels & Demons delivers too much of a good thing, and after a while the film simply becomes less and less kinetic, dangerous, and fascinating and more and more cumbersome and dull. Clues start to jumble together, the film loses its sense of urgency and danger, and tension is kept to a minimum, save for a particularly excellent scene featuring Langdon coming to the rescue of a victim caught in a deadly and breathless trap. In the end, Angels & Demons is interesting but not smart, a picture that relies on stunning locations, strong technical attributes, and the semblance of a good story to mask the fact that it's nothing more than a big-budget ballyhooed example of the same old, same old.
Fortunately, Angels & Demons sports excellent technical attributes that elevates the film a notch or two higher than it probably deserves. Tom Hanks delivers a scene-commanding and intelligent performance. He plays Dan Brown's hero well, particularly here, where his character seems more capable of going beyond the basic scholarly call of duty and getting his hands dirty in the process as he saves lives and uncovers a deadly conspiracy. Even when the situations and dialogue become somewhat nonsensical, Hanks maintains a confident aura that keeps the movie on a fairly even keel, and he does an excellent job of selling the material even when the material itself falls short. Ewan McGregor's character that plays pivotal to the film is fairly well developed but the Star Wars actor's effort leaves a bit to be desired, particularly in the delivery of his occasionally-mumbled dialogue. Angels & Demons' additional primary cast -- Ayelet Zurer and Stellan Skarsgård -- are fine if not slightly superfluous and underdeveloped, respectively. Aside from Hanks' performance that proves far and away better than that in The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons enjoys steady and confident direction from Ron Howard, and he makes sure to milk every breathtaking vista to fantastic effect. Even when all else fails, Angels & Demons is generally a gorgeous film to look at.
Angels & Demons Blu-ray, Video Quality
This Blu-ray release of Angels & Demons offers a fantastic 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. From the beginning, the strength of the image becomes evident at the late Pope's funeral. Colors here, and elsewhere, are beautifully rendered, with the red shades in particular dominating the screen. Angels & Demons isn't an abundantly colorful film, however. The daytime exterior shots do offer a nice selection of hues found in backgrounds, but this is an earth-tone and red-dominated film; walls, floors, and buildings all seem to be of a sandy or brown shade. Nevertheless, it all comes together beautifully, and the transfer displays its colors in an exceptional field of view that remains clear and deep. Detail is excellent throughout as well; whether the sleek and modern lines of the Large Hadron Collider or the deepest and most ancient chasms within the Vatican, Angels & Demons features exceptional depth, detail, and texture in most every scene. Viewers will note the rough and slightly uneven stone tiles outside the Vatican, the wonderful clarity and texture of the buildings in several breathtaking overhead shots, or the smoothness and intricate detail of marble columns in another scene. Fine detail in faces, too, rarely fails to impress; some of the older religious leaders in particular share plenty of fine detail in wrinkly faces. Angels & Demons features plenty of dark and murky locations, and while blacks generally remain good, they can unnaturally brighten on occasion. Fortunately, the transfer handles these shots expertly, with only a hint of banding in a few places and no discernible blocking. With a subtle layer of grain that puts the finishing touches on a strong film-like transfer, Angels & Demons makes for another winning transfer from Sony.
Angels & Demons Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Angels & Demons delivers a sinfully wonderful DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Every note of music is replayed with authority; from the deepest, devilishly-good bowels of the low end to the crystal-clear angelic highs, the music enjoys pristine and lifelike clarity throughout. In fact, Hans Zimmer's score seems incredibly organic; music seems not to stem from a detached orchestra but instead flows from the locations seen on-screen. It's a rare sensation to enjoy a score that so precisely fits in with the material, and Zimmer has pulled it off here, and the Blu-ray's capability of delivering each note with pinpoint accuracy, clarity, and volume does wonders for both the score and the film. Elsewhere, the particle movement inside the Collider delivers a remarkable whooshing sensation as it travels at high speed through the soundstage, and never does the track falter in delivering anything but the most pinpoint clarity through this entire mind-blowing sonic sequence. Supporting surround use is one of the track's strengths; whether more aggressive instances such as a helicopter buzzing across the soundstage or more subtle atmospherics -- dripping water, fluttering birds, or general crowd din outside the Vatican -- Angels & Demons never fails to deliver a satisfying and immersive listen. Save for a few mumbled lines that seem the fault of the actors and not the soundtrack, dialogue in Angels & Demons is accompanied by a hint of bass but nevertheless sounds clear and crisp. Angels & Demons' lossless soundtrack is, perhaps, the disc's -- and the film's -- strongest asset.
Angels & Demons Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Angels & Demons arrives on Blu-ray as a three-disc set, with the bulk of the extras on a second Blu-ray disc. Disc one features both the 139-minute theatrical cut and the 146-minute extended cuts of the film; Sony's CineChat application; BD-Live functionality; Sony's "MovieIQ" that offers live, up-to-date details about every scene, including cast and crew filmographies and biographies, soundtrack listings, and more; and 1080p trailers for Julie & Julia, The Da Vinci Code, Year One, Casino Royale, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Whatever Works, and It Might Get Loud. Disc two begins with The Path of Illumination (1080p), permitting users to go on the journey through Rome alongside Robert Langdon. Moving through the piece allows users to access a wealth of knowledge revolving around the world of Angels & Demons. Through the five primary locations -- Piazza Del Popolo, Santa Maria Della Vittoria, Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and St. Peter's Square -- users can access text and video clips that share the history of the locations, their place in the story, and more. Also available are text-based definitions of various historical, geographical, and technical jargon; behind-the-scenes video footage; in-depth symbology lessons; and much more.
Rome Was Not Built in a Day (1080p, 17:30) takes a look at how the production came together. It includes a glimpse into the production design, creating seamless visual effects and locations, and the challenge of crafting the script from Dan Brown's novel. The piece focuses heavily on the massive sets built for the film, the accompanying special effects, the explosion at the end of the film, and the impact of not being able to shoot at the Vatican after the controversy surrounding The Da Vinci Code. As the piece draws to an end, it also examines the film's sound design and Hans Zimmer's score. Writing 'Angels & Demons' (1080p, 10:09) looks at how the film is and is not a sequel to the filmed version of The Da Vinci Code, the work of David Koepp and Akiva Goldsman in translating the novel into a shooting script, and author Dan Brown's contributions to the film. Next, Characters in Search of the True Story (1080p, 17:10) looks at the importance of well-developed, smartly-written, and strongly-acted characters to novels, films, and Angels & Demons in particular. The piece looks at each primary character's strengths and what they bring to the story.
CERN: Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge (1080i, 14:52) looks at the role and purpose of the scientific organization and its place in the film. Handling Props (1080p, 11:35) takes an interesting look at the props of the film, including their design, interpretation from page to screen, and more. 'Angels & Demons:' The Full Story (1080p, 9:46) focuses on several aspects of the filmmaking process, beginning with a look at shooting in Rome, building the intricate sets in Los Angeles, costume design, creating the film's "cool" and "stylish" feel, and stunt work. Finally, This is an Ambigram (1080p, 4:46) features a brief history of ambigrams and their role in the film. Disc three of this set contains a digital copy of Angels & Demons that, unfortunately, was unavailable for redemption at time of writing. Disc three also includes a trial version of the "Hans Zimmer Music Studio Powered By Sequel 2" software.
Angels & Demons Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Superior to The Da Vinci Code in every regard, Angels & Demons still isn't great cinema, but it does make for passable entertainment that has on its side a decent if not predictable story, a good performance from a legendary actor, and strong technical elements that accentuate the film's gorgeous locations and sets. On the flip side, Angels & Demons is something of a meanderer, and the film becomes a bit too repetitive and dull once the novelty of the concept begins to wear thin, and it seems that it matters not how the film arrives at its ending but rather that it -- eventually -- does get there and only for a payoff that astute viewers will see coming a mile (or, in this case, a reel or two) away. Sony's Blu-ray release of Angels & Demons is, as expected, spectacular. Boasting a strong 1080p transfer, a fabulous lossless soundtrack, and a plethora of extra content spread over three discs, fans of the film or author Dan Brown's story should have absolutely no qualms about making this title a permanent member of the Blu-ray collection, but newcomers are advised to rent (alongside The Da Vinci Code) first.
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• Lightning Deal: Legion, Superbad, Angels & Demons Blu-ray $5 (Exp... - November 26, 2010
Amazon is kicking off Black Friday with a Blu-ray Lightning Deal. Starting 12.30 a.m. PST, and for a very limited time, you can get Legion, Superbad and Angels & Demons for only $5 each (80% off list price or more). This price is valid until 4 a.m. PST, or when ...
• Amazon Reveals Black Friday Blu-ray Deal Calendar - November 19, 2010
Amazon has leaked its own Black Friday Week deals in a calendar listing which titles are being discounted and when. The deals run a full eight days, from Monday, November 22 to Monday, November 29. Most of the promotions consist of Lightning Deals, which will run ...
• BD Sales, November 23-29: Angels & Demons Wins by a Nose (Update) - December 3, 2009
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment's 'Angels & Demons' was the top-selling title on Blu-ray in the week ended November 23, according to Nielsen VideoScan First Alert. Paramount's 'Star Trek' got to number two, although both titles were remarkably close in sales volume ...
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