Volume 22, Number 02 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | May 22 - 28, 2009
Koch on Film
BY Ed Koch
“Angels & Demons” (-)
Much of this film is incomprehensible and a lot of what is understandable is ridiculous. Notwithstanding the hoopla and incessant appearances of Tom Hanks and director, Ron Howard, on a number of television talk shows, the theater was one-third vacant when I saw the movie on opening night. The tom-toms have already signaled people to stay away. What a waste of talent and money.
The Pope has died, perhaps not of natural causes, and four cardinals have been kidnapped. The Illuminati, an underground society of true believers, is out to punish the Vatican for having tried Galileo and preventing science from looking into the possibility of creating the source of life itself. The organization is now out to physically destroy the Vatican and half of Rome with a vial of anti-matter stolen from a particle accelerator in an underground lab near Geneva.
Harvard professor Robert Langdon (Tom Hanks), a scholar on the Vatican, is flown to Rome to find and rescue the cardinals. He is accompanied by Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), a brilliant scientist who helped produce the anti-matter. The two of them rush around Rome and Vatican City searching for the abducted cardinals who are to be executed, one per hour, at different locations and by different means — all grotesque. Meanwhile, the College of Cardinals is holding a Conclave behind locked doors to select a new pope. Among the preferati – favorite candidates – are the four kidnapped cardinals.
The Swiss Guard, led by Richter (Stellan Skarsgard), may or may not be good guys. A wise old cardinal on whom we can depend to say and do the right thing is Cardinal Strauss (Armin Mueller-Stahl). A witty, pink-cheeked, boyish priest with a delightful Irish accent is the Camerlengo (Ewan McGregor). The Camerlengo is the priest who carries out the deceased pope’s duties until a successor is selected.
The balance of the story pertains to locating the kidnapped cardinals and saving the Vatican. One gagged-and-bound cardinal thrown into a fountain to drown appeared to have the lungs of a sperm whale. It was like watching 15 minutes of waterboarding. All in all, this movie fits the title of Shakespeare’s play, “Much Ado About Nothing.”
“Next Day Air” (-)
The cast of this film, directed by music video executive Benny Boom, is made up of blacks and Hispanics. With the exception of one individual, all the characters are stereotyped in the worst possible manner and the language they use is vile. If the movie had been directed by a white person, I believe activists and community groups would demand that it be withdrawn.
The story line is simple. Ten bricks of cocaine are mailed by a drug lord, Bodega Diablo (Emilio Rivera), from Los Angeles to Philadelphia and delivered to the wrong apartment by pot-smoking Leo (Donald Faison) who works for the Next Day Air Company. The thugs who receive the package — Guch (Wood Harris), Brody (Mike Epps), and Shavoo (Omari Hardwick) — have just robbed a bank. They try to sell the cocaine, the drug dealers seek to recover it, and mayhem similar to that of a Sam Peckinpah Western takes place.
Only one individual in the entire cast is a sympathetic character, and that is the mother of Leo, the stoned delivery man. Everyone else turned me off. After witnessing the brutality and negativity of the lives portrayed, the movie left me totally cold and without a kind word.
Roger Ebert gave this picture three stars, calling it “a bloody screwball comedy, a film of high spirits. It tells a complicated story with acute timing and clarity, and gives us drug-dealing lowlifes who are almost poetic in their clockwork dialogue. By that I mean they not only use the words, they know the music.” Ridiculous.
I saw the show on a Sunday afternoon at a Village theater, and there were only seven people in the audience. The underground has spoken again and properly so.