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Debi Reviews Angels and Demons: The Movie

May 25, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

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Angels & Demons- The Movie starring Tom Hanks

Part 8- Angels & Demons: The Movie

Most know I’m a fan of Dan Brown ‘s best-selling books, which I mentioned at the beginning of my virtual Angels & Demons blog tour . Can’t wait to read his new release, The Lost Symbol, coming out September 15, 2009.

However, neither movie based on his novels, The DaVinci Code nor Angels & Demons, have captured the intrigue and suspense of the written word. Hmm, maybe that reinforces the need to read instead of being fed video?

I’m captivated with the way Brown drops in behind-the-scenes nuggets, factual details (for the most part) about artisans, art and religious history. Brown tells it like a great tour guide, providing insight with anecdotes that make a place come alive.

But, Director Ron Howard was unable to bring the profusion of historical data onto the big screen, at least not to the degree that Brown incorporates it into his storyline. And, who can blame Howard; he only has two and half hours?

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Movie Scene- The College of Cardinals walk to the Sistine Chapel

Suspense seems to be the quintessential element the movies aren’t replicating. Film should have the advantage by presenting the viewer a visual illusion, the actual scene. The camera can zoom in or fade out the focus. The novel writer has to rely on the reader’s imagination to create the picture.

Sound also helps build suspense, the muffled thump of heartbeats or gradual crescendo of spine-tingling music. Howard’s film, Apollo 13, had me on edge, even though I knew of the astronauts safe return. Angels & Demons fares better than the DaVinci Code, but still fails to capture the fervor generated by the book.

I’m also a devotee of talented actor Tom Hanks ; loved him in Big and was crazy about his performance in Castaway and Terminal. But, I think moviegoers can’t quite connect with his role as Professor Langdon. Viewers don’t identify with him because they don’t feel his emotions.

Non-reader moviegoers won’t understand Langdon’s depth of knowledge or the meaning of the symbolic clues. Trying to squeeze that information into a scene doesn’t work. Langdon comes off like an uptight British gent instead of an empathetic soul, thrown into a life and death situation. There’s no time to build his character, there’s too much story to tell.

Nonetheless, I still enjoyed watching Angels & Demons. Howard blessed us with a new ending; Brown’s version was a devil, a disappointment at the end of a good book. The movie offers an alluring tour of Rome. And, I thought the creation of the Vatican scenes were superb, considering filming was not permitted inside the holy confines.

Perhaps Hollywood should move on to Steve Berry books. I, for one, would love to see The Amber Room made into a movie. On second thought, I want to visit Russia’s Amber Room in person. But right now I’m looking forward to a trip to Paris, and can’t wait to follow the DaVinci Code Rose Line .

Photos Courtery of Sony Pictures

Mimi’s Angels and Demons Tour continues: Vatican Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb

May 23, 2009 by · Comments Off on Mimi’s Angels and Demons Tour continues: Vatican Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb 

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Early Christian Ceiling mosaic of Jesus in Necropolis masoleum

Day 7- Necropolis and St. Peter’s Tomb

We left Langdon and Vittoria racing along the pasetto (corridor) from Castle Sant’Angelo to St Peter’s Basilica. Our story now picks up speed, makes confusing turns and exposes a few devilish surprises, as it nears the climax.

I won’t try to summarize or give away the plot; you simply must read the book or go to the movie. But, let’s just say, both versions lead to our next site. We venture deep below the Vatican– to the Necropolis .

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Doorway into ancient masoleum under the Vatican

Most visitors to Rome, and many residents, have no knowledge of the hidden city lying two stories below the main altar. Ancient mausoleums were not uncovered until 1939 when Pope Pius XII ordered a secret archeological dig. He hoped to find St. Peter’s grave . The result of their discoveries was not publicly announced until decades later.

I learned of the Vatican Scavi (necropolis) tour while researching my 2008 trip to Italy, and applied for tickets. Only 150-200 people per day are permitted into the tombs. Tickets costs just ten euro, but must be requested months ahead.

The morning I arrived at St Peters, I stopped a priest to ask for directions to the meeting point. I showed him my confirmation letter and he looked at me, smiled; then said, “You are blessed.”

And I was. To stand in the most sacred space in Rome is incredibly powerful.

I wrote a descriptive article about the Scavi tour, recently published by Bootsnall.com. I hope you will use this link to read the details of the search for St. Peter’s tomb .

Angels & Demons Secret Vatican Tour

Inside Catacombs (not the Scavi tombs)

Inside Catacombs (not the Scavi tombs)

This photo was NOT taken in the Vatican Scavi, it is a photo of catacombs.


Mimi’s Virtual Angels and Demons Blog Tour continues: Castle Sant’Angelo

May 20, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

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Castle Sant'Angelo on the banks of the Tiber

Day 6–Castle Sant’Angelo

Our virtual tour continues to follow the path of the Illuminati. We find Professor Langdon charging down narrow passageways in Castle Sant’Angelo, searching for Vittoria. The timeless structure and bridge leading to its doors have rested on the banks of the Tiber River since 139 AD.

The ancient cement exterior, a round shape surrounded by high walls, stands stark and imposing, hardly a castle in the traditional sense. Compared to an Italian villa or luxuriant St. Peter’s Basilica, Castle Sant’Angelo looks primitive and unfinished.

Originally constructed as Emperor Hadrian ‘s tomb, the mausoleum’s intended function changed almost as often as the popes. Over two millennia the site served as a fortress, prison, papal refuge and palace, military barracks, museum and …in Angels & Demons–the Church of Illumination and secret lair of the evil Hassassin.

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Statue of Archangel Michael atop Castle Sant'Angelo

When the plague struck Rome in 590 AD, Pope Gregory the Great is said to have seen an apparition of an angel, Michael, sheathing his sword above the castle. He believed this meant the end of the disease for his city. In remembrance, a statue of Archangel St. Michael was erected high up on the terrace and the name Hadrian’s Tomb was changed to “Castle of the Holy Angel- Castle Sant’Angelo.”

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The passetto or passageway connecting to the Vatican

In 1277 Pope Nicholas II ordered the building of massive circular walls and the famous 2,000 foot-long corridor connecting to the Vatican. The first floor includes a winding ramp about 400 feet long. Between the 10th and 14th centuries this defensive stronghold remained the only fortress in Rome. Powerful families fought to control it.

Many rooms within the fortress were turned into small cells for political prisoners, some more like torture chambers. The courtyards were used for executions by decapitation and the heads of the condemned then hung along the bridge.

The popes demanded ownership of the castle as one of the conditions for their return from Avignon. They left France for Rome and regained the strategic property, which they hold to this day.

During the Renaissance, Popes Nicolas V and Alexander VI modernized the defensive position with four iron bastions. A moat was added and the corridor or “passetto” was fortified. These timely improvements provided a refuge during the Sack of Rome in 1527.

Papal apartment in Castle Sant'Angelo

Papal apartment in Castle Sant'Angelo

Plush Papal apartments were built during the mid 1500’s, seen from afar as the brick rectangular addition on top. The lavish rooms were frescoed and furnished with priceless collections. A treasury room in the centre was created to store the Vatican’s wealth. Space was provided for enormous reserves of food, in the event of an attack. There were wineskins set in the walls, huge water tanks, granaries and even a mill.

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Castle Sant'Angelo at first light

A fifth bastion was added in 1560, but is now a garden. During the 17th century Bernini’s workshop was commissioned to sculpt angels for the bridge, thus the crossing became known as the Bridge of Angels.

In 1752 a bronze statue of Archangel Michael, added to the summit, replaced a former one. His sword points downward toward the main entrance, which Dan Brown uses to mean the hidden Church of Illumination.

The castle’s exterior then remained unchanged until restraining walls were added along the Tiber and external arches were evened with the three central ones.

In 1870 when Rome became the capital of the new state of Italy, alterations were made for military barracks. Today the icon stands open to the public as the National Museum of Castle Sant’Angelo. Restoration and preservation of the historic structure is ongoing.

If you’re in Rome and want to fully appreciate the famous site, first stroll along the opposite side of the river. The best photo op is sunset, but I found sunrise very dramatic. And, best of all, the view of the bridge without tourists creates a mystical scene.

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Detail of the angel statue on the Bridge of Angels in Rome

Cross the Bridge of Angels admiring the detail and uniqueness of each statue. Then, enter the castle to tour and climb up five levels. You’ll find courtyards, cannonballs, corridors and cells. The panoramic view from the highest terrace is worth the price of admission.

And don’t forget to look up to see beloved Archangel Michael guarding the Eternal City, as well as leading the way to the next chapter in Angels & Demons…

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Lander Family overlooks Rome from the open courtyard atop Castle Sant'Angelo

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