DANTE’S FLAME BARELY BURNS

By | November 2, 2016 at 11:25 am | No comments | Columns, Screeners

By Robin E. Simmons

NOW PLAYING:

infernoINFERNO

Walking out of a local theater showing this film, I heard a patron say, “The only mystery in Inferno is how this piece of crap movie got made.”  Harsh words indeed, but I totally agree with this overheard assessment.

One thing I did notice was actor Tom Hanks’ evolving hair-do as he plays successive versions of Harvard Symbologist (a made-up title) Robert Langdon in the various iterations of this movie franchise based on the bestsellers by Dan Brown.  At least Hanks’ hair issues are not as extreme as displayed in Nic Cage’s recent big screen appearances.  But that is faint praise for this mess of a movie.

The posters, trailers and TV spots suggest this film is somehow about a clue to a world devastating plague embedded in the first part Dante Alighieri’s epic 14th-century poem The Divine Comedy.

For me the movie was a hodge-podge of incoherent plot points and meaningless medieval factoids.  I defy anyone to tell me the core story in a few sentences.  I did not read the book, so I can’t blame author Dan Brown.  Maybe screenwriter David Koepp followed the structure of Brown’s book, maybe not.  Director Ron Howard is a smart guy who loves movies.  He has shown himself adept at telling an engaging, taut, emotionally authentic and intelligent story with visual flair.  Not so here.  Years ago, I spent extended time with producer Brian Grazer developing a movie idea. I found him to be an exceedingly bright and curious guy. It astounds me that no one intervened and fixed this meaningless, contrived story that makes no sense whatsoever.  I did take to heart the terror of a global pandemic unleashed by a crazed biotech billionaire trying kill off half the human population in order to save humankind.  For some reason unknown to me – and probably the filmmakers – the villain uses Dante’s poem as containing clues to where he’s hidden the deadly contagion.  Why you ask?  I have no idea.  Clearly there was an attempt to replicate the structure of Brown’s Da Vinci Code.  The movie’s contrivances are laughable and impenetrable.  I never suspended disbelief.  And I didn’t believe the gobbledygook nonsense that explained (ha!) what was happening on screen.  I did like the opportunity to make an all too brief tour of Venice and the random shots in various familiar location in Istanbul were welcome but they were not nearly enough to make this immensely disappointing movie even minimally satisfying.  Maybe my mistake was not experiencing this movie in a D-Box seat.  But I don’t think even a motion activated seat would help make this a more fun movie.


NEW FOR THE HOME THEATER:

boy-on-a-dolphin-lorenBOY ON A DOLPHIN (1957)

Certainly among the most sought after of new home theater releases of beloved vintage films, this stunning 4K-restoration stars Italian goddess Sophia Loren in her American film debut. This romantic adventure yarn set in a post card perfect seaside village on the Greek island of Hydra, is about a beautiful sponge diver Phaedra (Loren) who finds a breath-taking gold statue of a boy riding a dolphin.

Her slimy and crooked boyfriend (Jorge Mistral) wants to sell it to an unscrupulous and wealthy art collector, but Phaedra wants to hand it over to American archaeologist Jim Calder (Alan Ladd) who promises to give it to the Greek government so it can be displayed in a prominent Greek museum. Beautifully shot in cinemascope by Milton R. Krasner from a screenplay by Ivan Moffat and Dwight Taylor (based on the novel by David Divine).  Jean Negulesco directs with an assured eye and solid feeling for time and place.  The fussy, inimitable Clifton Webb co-stars.  This gem goes in my digital library for many future viewings.  Big recommendation.  Kino Lorber.  Blu-ray.


tarzanTHE LEGEND OF TARZAN

The latest action adventure about Edgar Rice Burroughs’ King of the Jungle arrives on Ultra HD Blu-ray and 3D for the best experience (image and audio) possible in the latest home theater displays.

It has been years since the man known as Tarzan left the jungles of Africa behind for a gentrified life as John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, with his beloved wife, Jane (Robbie) at his side.  Now he has been invited back to the Congo to serve as a trade emissary of Parliament, unaware that he is a pawn in a deadly convergence of greed and revenge, masterminded by the Belgian, Leon Rom (Waltz).  But those behind the murderous plot have no idea what they are about to unleash.

Alexander Skarsgard is a perfect fit as Tarzan.  The ensemble cast also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Margot Robbie, Djimon Hounsou, Jim Boradbanet and Christoph Waltz.

David Yates directs from a literate screenplay by Adam Cozad and Craig Brewer.


quiet-man-sceneTHE QUIET MAN (1952)

Sean Thornton (John Wayne) is an American boxer who swears off fighting after he accidentally kills a man in the ring.  Returning to the Irish town of his youth, he purchases his birth home and soon finds himself happy and in love with the fiery Mary Kate (Maureen O’Hara) who insists Sean conduct his courtship in a traditional and thus proper Irish manner with matchmaker Barry Fitzgerald.  His riding along as “chaperone” is but one obstacle to their future happiness: the other is her brother (Victor McLaglen), who not only spitefully refuses to give his consent to their marriage but also won’t honor the custom of paying a dowry to the husband.  It doesn’t matter that Sean could care less about dowries.  In fact, he would’ve punched out the bullying McLaglen long ago if he hadn’t sworn off fighting. However, Mary Kate accuses him of being a coward and walks out on him.  Sean takes matters into his own hands – or fists, as the case may be.  The resulting fistfight erupts into one of the longest brawls ever filmed (at the time), followed by one a most memorable of all movie reconciliations. 

The Quiet Man won a total of two Academy Awards® including Best Director for John Ford and Best Cinematography.  The movie received a total five Oscar© nominations including Best Picture, Best Screenplay and a Best Supporting Actor for McLaglen.  Among the extras, is the printed Booklet: “Joseph McBride on THE QUIET MAN” adapted from his biography: SEARCHING FOR JOHN FORD.  Also included is the watchable featurette “The Making of THE QUIET MAN” written and hosted by Leonard Maltin Maltin talks to Michael Wayne, Toni Wayne LaCara and Andrew V. McLaglen.  If you only know this wonderfully entertaining romance from watching the poor quality previous home video releases, then you haven’t really seen it.  This beautifully restored edition of one of John Ford’s certified masterpiece is another title worthy of the digital home library.  Olive Signature edition.  Blu-ray.


the-chaseTHE CHASE (1966)

Debuting on hi-def in a new limited edition 4K restoration transfer, is the explosive saga about how a prison break exposes local secrets, lies and violence on a corrupt Texas town as conjured by legendary talents Arthur Penn (director), Sam Spiegel (producer) and Lillian Hellman (writer).  All-star in every department, the terrific performances are from a great cast co-starring Marlon Brando, Jane Fonda, Robert Redford, E.G. Marshall, Angie Dickinson, Janice Rule, Robert Duval and James Fox. 

The movie has a look and feel al it’s own.  It manages to weave a credible pattern of tangled loyalties and enmities which director Penn mixes into a volatile brew of controlled explosions.  The great John Barry score is available on an isolated track.  Twilight Time Movies.  Blu-ray.

Comments, questions?  RobinESimmons@aol.com

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