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Angels & Demons

Posted on November 24, 2009 at 8:00 am

Harvard professor of Symbology Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) returns for another round of save the world heroics peppered with chases, kidnapping, murders, clues, codes, and ancient manuscripts, a beautiful and very erudite woman, murky motives, and a lot of historical, religious, and artistic arcana, all to the music of angelic choirs and crashing horns.While the book occurs before the blockbuster sequel, this movie begins after the events of The Da Vinci Code. Langdon is not the Catholic church’s favorite guy, given his heretical findings about the role of the real-life Mary Magdalene and the efforts of the church to suppress it. The Vatican has repeatedly denied his request for access to some of their historic documents. But when a crisis hits just as the cardinals have convened to select the new pope and the four leading candidates are kidnapped, with the clues pointing to a secret and possibly terrorist sect of Catholic rebels, the Vatican calls on Langdon to solve the mystery.To make things more complicated — and believe me, this gets very complicated — something else has been stolen. It is “antimatter” created by a supercollider that is intended to find “the God particle,” the piece of matter that will answer some important questions about how the universe began. And if they don’t get to it by 8 pm, there will be a very, very big boom.It isn’t just atoms that are colliding here. Author Dan Brown specializes in dark conspiracies of power in the name of faith. He posits this story as a conflict between religion and science going back hundreds of years. Once again, he takes intensely detailed research into church culture, history, and canons, even the intricacy of Vatican succession and chains of command plus Galileo, Raphael, sculpture, and architecture, and then he builds a fictional story around it, giving a standard chase and explosion saga some added weight, freight, and interest. Once again, however, the heavy exposition translates unevenly to the screen as the actors have to chew through paragraphs of detailed information as they are careening through the streets of Rome.Hanks (without the scholar’s mullet this time, thank goodness) is game throughout, always seeming skeptical without being cynical, though for a guy who says he is “anti-vandalism” he leaves a lot of destruction in his wake. Ewan McGregor seems a little lost as the assistant to the late pope whose position gives him a fragile claim to authority. And the lovely Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer is wasted in a role that calls on her to provide instant expertise in everything from astrophysics to Latin and pharmacology. Like its predecessor, this book and film have been controversial, challenging the church for the way it responds to challenges. For much of the story, Langdon is chasing after the Illuminati, for the purposes of this story a pro-science group “radicalized” by mistreatment hundreds of years ago and allegedly seeking the destruction of the church hierarchy by infiltration or violence. The bark of author Brown and director Ron Howard is provocative but the bite is thoroughly de-fanged and by its fictional overlay and its conclusion. Most of those who have what Langdon describes as the gift of faith will be satisfied. (more…)

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Action/Adventure Based on a book Series/Sequel

The Scarlet and the Black

Posted on December 13, 2002 at 5:17 am

Plot: Gregory Peck plays Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty in this true story of WWII Rome. The Vatican had diplomatic neutrality, so that no one within its borders could be arrested. O’Flaherty used the Vatican as a base of operations to save thousands of Allied POWs, in a long, elaborate, and deadly game of cat and mouse with German Colonel Herbert Kappler (Christopher Plummer).

As Italy is falling to the Allies, Kappler knows the war is over. He seeks out O’Flaherty, his bitterest enemy, to ask a favor: to draw on the same resources he used to help the POWs escape to get Kappler’s family to Switzerland. Kappler does not find out until he is being interrogated by the Allies that his family is safe, and he protects O’Flaherty from charges of collaboration by refusing to give any information about his operation, even though it would have shortened his sentence.

Discussion: This movie presents us with an assortment of characters who each try to do what they believe is best to protect the values they care about. O’Flaherty and his colleagues decide that all they can do is rescue and protect; they cannot undertake or even aid anti-German activities like espionage or sabotage. A fellow priest who does become involved in these activities is captured and executed. Kappler genuinely loves his family, and loves Rome. His sense of honor is clear in the sacrifice he makes to protect O’Flaherty. He is brutal only in capitulation to the orders of his superiors. The Pope preserves what politicians call “deniability” by not permitting himself to know much about what O’Flaherty is doing. Though he warns that he will not be able to protect him when the Germans come, the Pope refuses to turn him over to them. The British emissary says that he cannot help, even though the men are his own soldiers, explaining that “My strictest duty is to do nothing which might compromise the neutrality of the Vatican State or His Holiness the Pope.” His aide, however, is one of the most important participants in O’Flaherty’s efforts. This is an outstanding story of true personal moral courage and redemption, with a conclusion that is deeply moving.

Questions for Kids:

· Were O’Flaherty and Kappler alike in any ways? How?

· Why wouldn’t O’Flaherty do more to fight the Germans?

· Why did O’Flaherty help Kappler’s family?

· Were you surprised by the ending?

Connections: Plummer appeared as a man who fled from the Nazis in “The Sound of Music,” another true story, and Peck appeared as a Nazi in the fantasy “The Boys From Brazil.” O’Flaherty’s decision to help the prisoners but not to enter into the fight is similar to that made by Jess in “Friendly Persuasion.”

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Based on a true story Drama Epic/Historical War
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