“Inferno” movie review

infernoFamed symbologist Robert Langdon is back in a fiery installment in the franchise that bears his name. Sony Pictures and Imagine Entertainment’s Inferno is a non-stop rollercoaster of an adventure film that combines art, history, literature, bio-medical science, and weapons of mass destruction in a heart-pounding thriller that makes academia and public health look sexy. As expected, Tom Hanks delivers an outstanding performance as the Indiana Jones of symbols and puzzles and the visual storytelling is excellent. From the moment the film opens with incoherent subjective flashes through the eyes of Langdon suffering from amnesia, shaky camera movements, and glimpses of disturbing apocalyptic imagery to the final showdown beneath Instanbul’s Hagia Sophia, Inferno will command your attention for the two-hour runtime. Unlike the two previous installments in the Langdon franchise, there is a conspicuous lack of commentary on organized religion by deciphering puzzles and revealing coverups and more of a focus on art history and rhetoric. This focus provides a far more believable plot than found in The Da Vinci Code and lesser so in Angels and Demons. With bio-medical warfare being at the center of this film, the movie paints a realistic portrait of how a Dante-spouting sociopath might try to fix the world’s problems by wiping out half the population with a destructive plague.

Waking up in a state of incoherency and amnesia in an Italian hospital in Florence, Robert Langdon (Hanks) is thrust into running–or hobbling, rather–for his life. Under the guidance and protection of a beautiful ER doctor (Felicity Jones), Langdon barely escapes with his life. Dazed and confused, Langdon must concentrate on piecing together a puzzle–no surprise there–but this time, the puzzle begins with how he got to Italy and why he is carrying a bio-medical tube. From puzzle to mystery, Langdon and Dr. Brooks (Jones) are forced into an adventure that blind-sided them. After discovering a connection between a dead sociopathic billionaire madman and the Italian poet Dante (The Divine Comedy), Langdon and Brooks race across Europe to stop a devastating plague from killing off more than half of the world’s population. Between stopping the plague and constantly under siege by the WHO (World Health Organization) and a private security firm, Langdon is truly racing against the clock to piece together his own life while making the connections in the puzzle left by the deceased sociopath to save the world.

Although in previous installments in the Langdon franchise have the symbologist traversing across Europe and even the world, this film’s plot is mostly concentrated in Florence. Home to some of the most notable works of art in the world, Inferno might work as an unconventional travel guide for the tourism industry in Italy. Far less cerebral than The Da Vinci Code and to a lesser extent Angels and DemonsInferno is far more visceral, exciting, and thrilling. The lack of religious/historic irony will definitely stick out to those who either read the books and/or watch the movies (I am the latte); however, that does not hinder the film’s delivery of an action-adventure taking place within the worlds of the arts and medical science. With the previous installment Angels and Demons being released in 2009, the high-impact feeling of Inferno is incredibly important because there has been such a long gap between the films. Still, the plot of Inferno does not have the finesse that both previous films have. Although this installment is incredibly enjoyable and entertaining, it lacks the opportunity to question, think, and analyze the mystery at hand.

Another contrast between this present installment and the previous two is the character-heavy plot. Occasionally, the film felt overrun with characters. Albeit, most of the characters are interesting and also possess brilliant minds, at times the plot is overcrowded. Perhaps that was intentional since the billionaire madman claims that the population should be reduced because of overcrowding the earth; however, it’s more likely that writer David Koepp and director Ron Howard were attempting to get as much of the novel on screen as possible. Not having read the novel, I am unable to comment on the translation from page to screen beyond inference. Despite the character-heavy plot, the film is not without the trademark art, history, literature, and enigmas that are synonymous with the Langdon series of books/films. Beginning with a reimagined map of Hell based on the one described by Dante in The Divine Comedy and illustrated by Botticelli, the film’s plot does come back to the puzzles but most of the time is spent being chased by nearly everyone.

The best part about this film is just how exciting it is. If you are even remotely interested in it, you won’t be disappointed. As this is a franchise, and franchises tend to have intentional or unintentional patterns of behavior within the cast of characters or similarly functioning plot devices, there are definitely elements in this installment that are found in the previous two. There is one plot twist that bares a striking resemblance to one in The Da Vinci Code. The non-stop action will likely kindle an interest in pursuing a career as an academic or official with the WHO. Perhaps, the study of symbols, numbers, and taxonomy, will be of greater interest to current students. There are just enough loose ends and unanswered questions that keep the film from being too predictable.

Looking for an exciting cinematic adventure for the weekend? That is, when you are not either at or recovering from a Halloween party. Check out Inferno! Not Halloween-themed at all, but it is a fun adventure full of excitement and you’ll learn a thing or two about art, history, and literature.

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“On Cinema and Theme Parks” (part 10)

My Book

The overall theme of movie-based theme parks has gone from exposure and education to simulation and immersion—much more experiential. Instead of seeing how Harry Potter movies are made, guests at the Studio-Parks want to feel like they are Harry and his friends. And, this is not something that could be achieved by the former models of original Universal Studios Parks or Disney’s Hollywood Studios. So, the parks have to change in order to remain relevant and viable tourist destinations. Concurrently, movie and television studios are going through their own evolutionary process. In many ways, a careful examination of modern cinema compared to its predecessors reveals that storytelling has been removed from its pedestal to play second fiddle to salesmanship.

As explored earlier, spectacle and visceral thrills are the principal drive for the modern (1990s-present) cinema-based theme park attractions, and, for some, they confirm the worst tendencies identified within the Hollywood blockbuster: the epitome of apparently vacuous rollercoaster experiences. According to King (2000), “the label ‘thrill ride’ is a term often used approvingly in Hollywood publicity and by some film reviewers in the press, presumably because a trill ride is precisely what many viewers want from modern cinema” (2000, P27). The late 1980s and the 1990s saw the arrival of theme park attractions that claim to allow the park guest to ride the movies; movies became theme park attractions. But now, theme park attractions are inspiring films. Beyond being the inspiration for films, the idea of being able to market a horror, action, or epic film or film franchise or the ability to create themed attractions from the narrative is at the forefront of studio executives’ minds, as cross-promotion is an important financial strategy (King, 2000).

CinecittaParkMapCreating attractions from cinema is not unique to the United States. The former Italian cinema powerhouse, from the early to mid twentieth century, Cinecittá Studios, known as the “Hollywood on the Tiber” is following suit with its American counterparts and converting the production lot(s) into a movie-based theme park. Located outside Rome, Cinecittá Studios, Italian for “Cinema City,” opened its gates this year (2014) to the public to experience the magic of movies on this side of the screen (Associated Press, 2014). According to Emmanuel Gout, president of Cinecitta, “Here, the idea is that people will also enter not only sets, but the confusion of a place where we are shooting movie. Everything will be illusion…the visitor will become a protagonist of the day, becoming a star, becoming involved in some fake movie” (Associated Press, 2014).

CinecittaStreetsThe model of this theme park appears to be more reminiscent of how the classic American movie-based theme parks were setup; however, there is one big difference. At the new Cinecitta Studios (theme park), park guests will actually don costumes and take hold of props to act in scenes from movies. So, in many ways, this park differs from its American counterparts because it is not defaulting to digital simulations and special visual effects; instead, it’s using practical technologies to create the illusion that the guest is actually on the set in the movie as a character in a given scene. Still, three-time Academy Award® winning production designer Dante Ferretti knows that audiences and guests want more than an immersive experience into movies, but want thrills as well. So, there are rollercoasters and water slides, amidst Roman and Egyptian ruins, to accommodate those guests seeking more conventional amusement park attractions (Associated Press, 2014).

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“Leonardo da Vinci: the Genius in Milan” documentary review

DaVinciGrab your passport and prepare to be whisked away to Leonardo’s Milan. Arts & Architecture in Cinema (AAIC) and Fathom events present a remarkable look into the  genius of Milan. Experience the works and legacy of Leonardo da Vinci like never before–that is, unless you have had the privilege of traveling to Leonardo’s Milan, Florence, Rome, and France. Go beyond the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper and witness a rare 4K glimpse into the life and times of the world’s most famous Renaissance man. Combining interviews with Da Vinci scholars along with actors portraying Leonardo’s subjects, pupils, and contemporaries, this film will open your eyes to the Leonardo that you never knew. Although there clearly lacks a story in the traditional or cinematic narrative sense, there IS definitely a story here. Like with art itself, the story is left up to interpretation by the viewer. Perhaps your story interpretation will be one of inspiration or maybe a new clairvoyance into yours or someone else’s life. Either way, there is something for any art or architecture lover.

The first element of the documentary film that I noticed was simply the fact that the entire film is in Italian; albeit apropos, it definitely served as a minor distraction from my ability to concentrate on the stunning visuals in the documentary. Never having traveled abroad before, I was very excited to feel this close to such renown works as The Mona LisaThe Last Supper, and more. The beautiful imagery outshines the highest resolution coffee table art books. That is largely in part due to the giant screen and 4K cameras that were used in this production. Now, I am not accustomed to watching foreign films, so it is entirely possible that what I found to be a distraction is not as distracting for those who watch foreign films. However, it would have been greatly beneficial for the distribution company to have dubbed the the film in English. Granted, it would have lost a degree of authenticity in the true Milan experience, but I would have probably learned a little more than I did. That being said, I still found the documentary film to be full of fascinating information and insight into Leonardo.

One of the predominant themes in the film was the reoccurring message (sometimes direct and other times indirect) that Leonardo did not consider himself a painter; paining is what he did to “pay the bills,” so to speak. Not unlike aspiring visual and performing artists of today, it appears that Leonardo had a day job in order to support his love of dreaming, designing, science, research, and architecture. Yes, even Leonardo was at times sloppy, lazy, and lacked interest in painting. Some of his most famous sketches and paintings are unfinished because he decided to move on. He loved science and engineering more than anything else; and although his flying machine and other inventions have been found to be impossible or impractical, it doesn’t take away from his genius. While we may have referred to Leonardo (as well as many of his contemporaries in the arts and sciences) as a man of the future, the scholars in the film point out that he was a man of the now. However, due to his nearly unparalleled level of curiosity, he indirectly inspired countless artists and scientists to pursue what they love and find interesting.

A man of the present, future, and a man of mystery. Leonardo loved mysteries, enigmas, and puzzles. And no, I am not referring to his code. Just like he was intrigued and mesmerized by natural mysteries or breaking barriers of gravity or even the celestial realm, he left mysteries behind. True, it is due to his reputation as a man of mystery that author Dan Brown developed his Angels and Demons and Da Vinci Code. But it goes way beyond the creative fictitious codes Brown attributed to the Renaissance man. Leonardo wanted to make sure that no one could copy his work. In fact, he kept a very small staff of pupils around him in order to have control over his visions of paintings, frescos, architecture, and engineering. According to the scholars and his contemporaries in the documentary, Leonardo found the inspiration for his enigmas and mirror writing from nature itself. The inclusion of actors portraying historic individuals from Leonardo’s day was an brilliant element in the film. Speaking from a historic point of view but including information from today, the characters were able to help bridge the gap between the world of Leonardo and ours. It added a fantastic dimension to the documentary that greatly enhanced the experiential factor.

Ordinarily, this is where I point out what may prompt you to see the film, but this documentary was a one-night event. That being the case, it is likely that you may have to wait for it to be released on Netflix, RedBox, or on BluRay. But, if you enjoy history, art, and architecture, I encourage you to remain on the lookout for this title to appear in your queue.