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On the Couch

DVD REVIEW

Angels & Demons
Directed by: Ron Howard
Starring: Tom Hanks, Ayelet Zurer, Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgård

I nearly went to see this in the cinema. Circumstances conspired against me and, while I wasn’t exactly a quivering mass of salivating fanboy at the prospect of a Da Vinci Code sequel, I was a little disappointed not to see the flick.
In other, seemingly unrelated news, I was also disappointed that, as a young boy, my parents never acceded to my demands for a pet sabre-tooth tiger…
Now, as a grownup who has a) both seen and smelled tiger poo and was horrified by both the quantity and odour and b) doesn’t like getting Sigfried and Roy’d by prehistoric puddy-tats, I can say with conviction that it is sometimes better to live with a little disappointment in your life.
Which isn’t to say that Angel’s & Demons, Tom Hanks’ second outing as world famous symbologist Robert Langdon, is an entirely hourrendous experience. Not to exaggerate, but it’s at least a million times better than its boring predecessor and even manages to outstrip the book it’s based on in the tolerability stakes.
Esentially a chase movie set around Rome, Angels & Demons pits Dr Langdon against a long dead scientific cult with a major grudge against the Catholic Church that have kidnapped four papal hopefuls, or pope-fuls, and threatens to kill them and then blow up the Vatican.
Cue Mr Hanks and Ayelet Zurer as improbably named physicist Vittoria Vetra pegging it around the Eternal City looking for clues to where the next murder site is and trying to find an anti-matter bomb.
All very exciting, if horribly written stuff.  Like a dose of fast food, Angels & Demons can be consumed quickly, has no nutritional value and will leave you feeling slightly seedy afterwards.
But if you absolutely have to watch a movie, it’ll do in a pinch.


Fighting
Directed by: Kevin McDonald
Starring: Channing Tatum, Terrence Howard, Luis Guzmán

Guess what this film’s about?
The second film from writer/director Dito Montiel, whose debut flick was the excellent and underappreciated A Guide to Recognising Your Saints, is a kind of Rocky-lite story about a tough street kid in New York whose streetfighting prowess sees him fall in with a dodgy wheeler and dealer and fight his way to a big payoff in the world of illegal dust-ups.
However, if you’re banking on something like Never Back Down – think Step Up with ass-kickings – you’d be off the mark. To start with, the fights in Never Back Down are interesting, plentiful and well choreographed. Fighting doesn’t really have that much fighting in it.
With Montiel at the helm, the flick has allusions of characterisation beyond chiseled cheekbones and washboard abs. And, to an extent, it manages to shrug off many of the clichés that you would expect.
Filling the streetfighter uniform of white vest and scowl is A Guide to Recognising Your Saints and Step Up alum, Channing Tatum. His pavement scrapping brings him to the attention of ticket scalper Harvey, played by the always enjoyable Terrence Howard.
To it’s credit, much of the violence in Fighting is of the emotional and internal kind. Tatum wrestles with ghosts from his past and his feelings for a waitress he may or may not be wise to trust. Howard, meanwhile, plays against the usual mentor role seen in these sorts of flicks and comes across as more of a Fagin-type character; a potentially well-meaning facilitator.
By no means a flawless piece of cinema, Fighting distinguishes itself by force of acting, rather than story of action. While its valiant efforts to stave off cliché fail by the final third of the film, there’s only one training  montage. It’s decent fodder and speaks of better things to come from both cast and creator.

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