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The Da Vinci Code is by no means an instant classic of a novel, but it is an engaging thriller filled with twists, turns, and enough whodunits to really make you think and turn the page over and over again. After all, that’s what makes a really good book. But what makes a really good movie or better yet, a really good book to movie translation?

The Da Vinci Code as a movie is a passable affair that brings some of the book’s mystery to the big screen and manages to successfully interpret Dan Brown’s novel into something more visual and easier to grasp on to. The novel has a great advantage over the movie simply because there’s much more time and real estate devoted to the characters that a two and a half hour movie cannot afford unless your name is Peter Jackson and the book contains elves and talking trees.

With all the controversy surrounding the book’s basic plot line, Sony couldn’t have paid for any better advertising and weekend box office returns certainly show this, but even with the free marketing, an all star cast headed by Tom Hanks, and an Oscar winning director The Da Vinci Code still feels somewhat odd when viewing it. Repeat viewings may solve this uncanny feeling, but after the initial run through, you can’t help but wonder why the movie feels so empty in the end.

Most adaptations that I’ve previously seen, whether it be comic book or novel, have one thing in common, I read the book before seeing the film, and in those cases everything seemed to work out well as the visual style of your imagination was filled in by the director’s interpretation. The Da Vinci Code is different in the way the movie makes you feel when viewing it. I read the book a full year before seeing the movie, so the material was still pretty fresh in there, but you can’t help but feel as though reading the book may dumb down the movie because you know all the plot points and the sense of thrill you usually experience from movies in this genre is severely crippled.

The cast, for the most part, does a great job of bringing the characters to life and infusing them with faces, mannerisms, and personalities that may only be hinted at in the book. For examples, Inspector Fache (Jean Reno) comes off more likable and competent in the movie than in the book whereas Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks) seems to be an unmistakable genius in the movie but struggled a bit more with conclusions in the book. Silas (Paul Bettany) is as menacing as you would expect and the graphic scenes of him “atoning” for his sins are sure to make you flinch. Director Ron Howard’s vision of the book is uncompromised and the camera angles and cinematography matched up well with what I expected.

A lot has been said about the ‘preposterous’ nature of the movie’s central storyline, that Jesus married and a bloodline exists today, but the story’s validity in the real world shouldn’t weight down the movie, and it doesn’t, except for the few who can’t understand the meaning of the word “fiction.” Whether you believe in the book’s claims or not, The Da Vinci Code brings up an intriguing, fictionalized story for you to follow along with.

Fans of the book and thrillers will find something to like, just not everything, as the story does seem plodding towards the middle only because the movie has to end after 150 minutes whereas the book has no set number of pages. While sure to be a success around the world, Code is by no means award winning cinema and fits in perfectly well with the other summer movies which don’t immediately require us to challenge our brains, only bring money for popcorn, butter it up, and try to enjoy the ride.

I’ve been waiting a long time to write this review, and I’m happy to report that if you stopped reading this now and wanted to know what I thought in a word, the answer would ultimately be: 42. All joking aside, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, directed by first-timer Garth Jennings, managed to come to the big screen with the wit and flavor the late Douglas Adams dreamed of when he penned the first draft of the script before his death. There are original elements within, and they seem to meld in well with the remaining portions of the script, but what we really came to see was dolphins, whales, and a hapless hero by the name of Arthur Dent. 

Hitchhiker’s Guide doesn’t feature everything in Adams’ book, but a good portion of the important parts are included. For the uneducated, the book (and movie) focuses on Arthur Dent, a survivor of Earth, which was destroyed to make way for a hyperspace express route. Dent is saved by his friend Ford Prefect and eventually meets up with president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox and Trillian, a woman whom he had met previously. From there the book and movie stray off into different paths, but it all ends in relatively the same way and casual fans of the series will not be disappointed.

Those that will be disappointed are the die-hard Adams purists who see this movie as a bastardization of the book’s setting, characters, and humor. Although those who didn’t read articles leading up to the film’s premiere will be shocked to find out that most of the changes were made by Adams himself before his death, including the new character Humma Kavula (John Malkovich). And even those who are disappointed will still find something to laugh at, even if the humor, and the movie itself, seem disjointed in the grander scheme of things.

Most reviews of the film will be a comparison of what is there and what isn’t there when compared to the book, BBC radio series, or mini released in the early 1980’s. With each passing generation, Adams seemed to make many changes to his work, and while they never tampered with the story in general, they were better regarded than the gutting the Star Wars trilogy went through at the hands of “director” George Lucas. Viewers of Hitchhiker’s will be in three separate groups, casual fans who are delighted the film finally made it to the big screen, die-hard fans, and those that simply don’t get it.

Truth be told, the movie isn’t as cohesive and fluid as many sci-fi narratives making their way to the big- and small-screens these days. The deep storytelling of Battlestar Galactica or expansive universe of Star Trek, this is not, but what it is outshines nearly every comedy put out this year by a major studio and has a built in audience capable of making it a hit in more than one medium.

Generally the parts are well cast with Martin Freeman filling out the role of Arthur Dent spectacularly. Originally the casting of Mos Def as Ford was seen as a ballsy move, but the character’s wit and charm is portrayed accurately by the rapper-turned-actor. Outshining them all, however, is Sam Rockwell as Zaphod who steals every scene he’s in with is over-the-top dumbness and swagger and disregard for everything. From him stealing the Heart of Gold to having his brain recharged with lemons, Rockwell is the number one reason to see the film. Rounding out the main cast is Zooey Deschanelas the beautiful Trillian and Alan Rickman as the chronically depressed Marvin whose dead-pan delivery brings the paranoid android to life in ways we would have never thought possible 20 years ago.

Those that read the book when they were in high school a decade ago were hand in hand with a new audience just recently introduced to the work of Adams, who, sadly, couldn’t see this work come to fruition. The movie is essentially critic proof with each and every viewer making their own decisions based on the warm, fuzzy feeling the source material gives us. Like it or not, Hitchhiker’s has finally made its way to the big screen, so stick out a thumb, watch out for mice, discover the ultimate answer, and hitch a ride.

Will Smith seems to have the Owen Wilson syndrome when it comes to acting. No matter what part he plays, he’s always playing himself in the role. However, much like Owen Wilson, his character seems to work in most applications (except for Wild Wild West). However, it did work well in I, Robot, even though it was Will Smith playing Will Smith in another movie. Smith still managed to play a believable and somewhat humorous performance in one of the darker sci-fi movies in recent memory.

In I, Robot, Will Smith plays the role of detective Del Spooner, part of the Chicago police department in the not so distant 2035. Spooner has a serious problem with the growing robot population, and the introduction of the new series NS-5 robot has him completely techno-phobic. He is called to a crime scene by a holographic projection of the pioneer of robotics, Dr. Alfred Lanning. Dr. Lanning, who was a top scientist at US Robotics, seems to have committed suicide, and Detective Spooner finds an NS-5 robot as the prime suspect. However, he is alone in his quest as everyone else in the free world believes that robots are incapable of committing a crime as it violates the basic 3 law system that all robots are built to abide by. The robot suspect, Sonny, seems different, somehow, and not like the others. It is up to Spooner to get to the bottom of the situation without being labeled crazy.

The aspect of this movie that really shines is the effect department. The transition from real scenery to CG is nearly seamless, and the completely CG robots seem to interact with the actors with lifelike quality. The robots in this movie were purposely made with small abdomens and thinner limbs, to make them more realistic, but required that stand in actors not be used. Instead, they were able to green screen a pole with a tennis ball for a head, so the actors knew where to look and interact, and required less editing to fit. The parts where facial expressions of the robot Sonny were used, a true actor was employed, wearing a green leotard (voice and face acting done by Alan Tudyk). He was then edited out, except for the face, where motion capture was used to emulate the prosthetic face of Sonny. The technique seems more costly both in time and money, but provided quite a realistic and amazing robot onscreen.

The only thing that made me want to stay home from this movie was the pre-release buzz that this film was not originally based on the book of the same name, but was actually a completely different script called Hardwired. When Fox picked up the rights to Asimov’s stories, Hardwired was rewritten as I, Robot, and, apparently, only has a very loose affiliation to the actual book, but I can’t be the judge of that until I actually read the book.

A few substandard acting jobs and reused camera tricks were the movie’s only faults. A scene featuring a showdown between the people of Chicago and robots seemed to have the exact same camera pan set as a similar scene in Lord of the Rings, which took away from the uniqueness of the scene. At least it wasn’t a stolen technique, as WETA Digital, who did the effects for LoTR, had their hand in this movie as well. I’m somewhat surprised that Lucas and ILM had nothing to do with this movie.

Bridget Monynahan played a somewhat campy role as Susan Calvin, robotics expert and psychiatrist. Not quite a normal choice of majors in college, but who knows what those crazy kids will be learning in 2035. Her acting just didn’t click with me. She tried really hard to cry when she was supposed to be crying, and it showed. But she seemed to nail the bitchy attitude when that was necessary, maybe that’s what they were going for, bitchy-brainiac-who-tried-too-hard-to-cry. At least she had a PG-13 shower scene, but, so did Will Smith, if you are into that sort of thing.

All in all, the film wasn’t too bad. Definitely one of the top 5 films of the summer, but that’s not saying as much as I wish it was. As Tom put it, “I came to this movie expecting crap, but I got better than crap.” So we’ll leave it at, “better than crap.”

Minority Report features two of Hollywood’s biggest stars looking to grasp back on to the greatness they once held. Steven Spielberg is looking to make up for the horrible A.I. Artificial Intelligence (I don’t care what you all think, it sucked) and Tom Cruise is looking to make up for the god-awful Cameron Crowe soaked Vanilla Sky that stunk up the box office during the holiday season. Luckily for both of them, Minority Report (although having little to do with the actual title) is one of the greatest movies of the year, and while it may never break records like Spider-Man, it is sure to become a classic in it’s own right.

The story of MR is very well developed, and the plot is a fresh blast in the face from the cookie-cutter plot points (and holes) used in a lot of the movies this summer. Tom Cruise is Detective John Anderton, head of Washington D.C.’s Precrime division which can catch murderers and prevent their crime from even happening using the skills of three “people” called the Pre-Cogs. When Anderton is accused of a murder on a man he has never met, he goes on the run and tries to seek his Minority Report which could prove his innocence.

This movie is a  special effects laden broadcast of the greatest proportions. From the cops on jetpacks to the awesome cars of the future, everything about this movie screams style and cinematic eye-candy. Spielberg does a wonderful job bringing the year 2054 to life in a way that could be taken as fact. During the movie Greg Elliott leaned over to me and whispered, “I can totally see this in fifty years.” While I whole-heartily agree with our resident short-person, there are some far-fetched points we may never see in our lifetimes.

Cruise does an excellent job as John Anderton, his character lost his son six years ago, just before the institution of Precrime, and has dedicated his life to the enforcement of the laws to keep what happen to his son from ever happening to anyone again. He is a drug addict, addicted to his work, and is so engrossed that it costs him his wife and a happy life together after the death of their son. Many parallels have been drawn to Johnny Depp’s character in From Hell, but the solving of the crime isn’t necessarily Anderton’s undoing.

Spielberg’s direction shows that the man has the pills to do another sci-fi movie after the A.I. fiasco. Camera angles are very cinematic in nature and bring out the different aspects of the movie very well. From the wide angle shots of the ships dropping cops, to the slightly humorous shots of Anderton having some delicious food from the refrigerator, that is something they won’t show you in the trailers.

All in all, I really, really enjoyed Minority Report, it may not be the biggest blockbuster of the season, but opening up against stiff competition in the way of Disney’s Lilo & Stitch it holds it’s own very well. While the movie’s only shortfall is a very weak, weak ending, it does manage to keep you entertained for it’s two-and-a-half-hour runtime. Go see Minority Report, you won’t be sorry.