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Holy Crap! 

Howard & Hanks' Angels & Demons is a messy load of incense-stinky hoohah

Previews

You ever think that filmmakers exploit the sequel thing? Seriously, how many Rocky movies, Star Trek or High School Musical movies have been made? Criminy! Whether you are pro or anti-sequel, you must agree that one chain of films that could possibly be considered never-ending sequel-worthy is definitely Terminator. Maybe it's a sore spot for us Californios, what with the Gubernator in office and all, but hey, people love that cyborg stud-muffin stuff. On that note, the fourth in the "T" series, Terminator Salvation, opens this weekend. In this ongoing saga, an adult John Connor, played by Christian Bale himself, must lead the human struggle against Skynet and its army of Terminators. Oh shit! Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language. 115m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

A much more light-hearted film opening this weekend is Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (another sequel), starring Ben Stiller as Larry, a security guard who receives a distress call from a miniature cowboy named Jedediah, played by Owen Wilson. Why the distress? Turns out an Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah has teamed up with Ivan the Terrible, Napolean Bonaparte and Al Capone in order to take over the Smithsonian, then the world. Sounds like a history lesson that's sure to be fun. Definitely one for the kids. Rated PG for mild action and brief language. 105m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

Last up on the list of new films coming to the Redwood Curtain is Dance Flick, a full-on Wayans Brothers collaboration. The film was written by five of the Wayans bros, was directed by a Wayans bro and, yeah, it stars a Wayans bro too. Seems like those bros have a real solid working relationship. Right? So yeah, the film is about two oddly-paired dancers and it should be a kick in the pants considering the cast has a bunch of quality funny Hollywood folk. Rated PG-13 for crude and sexual content throughout and language. 83m. At the Broadway and Mill Creek.

Continuing their run of classic films, the Arcata Theatre Lounge brings Charade to its big screen this Sunday. The 1963 dark comedic thriller stars film faves Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn and features Walter Matthau and James Coburn. The film, which was made on location in Paris, follows a young American (Hepburn) as she tries to elude a trio of crooks that are after the fortune that her dead hubby stole from them. Her only friend is a suave, mysterious stranger (Grant). Get start times and more info at www.arcatatheater.com.

-- Emily Hobelmann

Review

ANGELS & DEMONS: Dan Brown gets a bad rap for his unique brand of beach-reading literature, but maybe he just should have been born 60 years earlier. If his work was going to be turned into cinema, it really should have been for 1930s serials.

Just think about it: Both The Da Vinci Code and its published prequel/filmed sequel Angels & Demons abandon all pretense of character development in favor of pure plot mechanics; every chapter is anchored to a cliffhanger more cliff-hanging and more preposterous than the last. If some screenwriter and/or director simply treated them as the narrative junk food they are, his stories might be tremendous fun. But it seems as though the inclusion of religious iconography and heterodoxical "history" has made Ron Howard and his collaborators -- and, frankly, all those getting so hot and bothered over their content -- take them far too seriously. If you thought Howard's adaptation of The Da Vinci Code managed to make ecclesiastical conspiracy boring, just wait for Angels & Demons.

Tom Hanks is back (sans his greasy Da Vinci mullet) as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, summoned by Vatican officials to help deal with a potential crisis. Though the book was written before Da Vinci, a few knowing references here make it clear that the events in the movie post-date Da Vinci, and therefore the Church understands that Langdon knows his stuff. In the wake of the death of the Pope, the four cardinals who are the primary candidates to replace him have been kidnapped. Evidence suggests the involvement of the Illuminati, the ancient society of scholars and artists whose pro-science views antagonized the Renaissance-era Catholic Church. And if Langdon can't follow the clues to the lair of the Illuminati, the Vatican itself could be destroyed by a cylinder of stolen anti-matter.

It's somewhat fitting that in Angels & Demons, the greatest threat comes from something representing the complete absence of substance. Langdon has the potential to be a really entertaining character, a true, non-Indiana Jones academic thrust into life-threatening situations, but nobody involved appears the slightest bit interested in exploring that character. Hanks is once again stripped of his likeability, furrowing his brow and scowling as though he's embarrassed to be a part of the thing even as he's filming it. And they've managed to find an even less interesting female counterpart in Vittoria Vetra (Ayelet Zurer), a physicist whose personality begins and ends with her ability to spout all the necessary tech-babble about the threat posed by the anti-matter. As was true in Da Vinci, Howard simply allows Langdon's puzzle-solving to carry us from one place to the next, like some life-or-death scavenger hunt.

That's when things get really excruciating. It's one thing to build a suspense thriller around a ticking clock to some potentially horrible event -- Angels & Demons piles up five or six such will-they-get-there-in-time perils, which might have been at least somewhat enjoyable if played lightly. Yet here, with the incessant ominous music and obligatory choral screeching because, you know, Catholicism is involved, the over-the-top scenarios are treated with a ritualistic somberness that makes a Latin Mass seem like prom night by comparison.

As for whether or not Angels & Demons stomps on the sensibilities of the faithful, it's certainly more generous than The Da Vinci Code. This one asks a few fairly interesting questions about the interplay between science and faith, with an apparent battle for the Church's future between an old-school cardinal (Armin Mueller-Stahl) and the deceased Pope's young counselor (Ewan McGregor). But treating its themes with too much gravity is part of the problem in the first place. Whatever its thoughts on religious authority, let's not forget that Angels & Demons is a movie about people racing around Rome trying to prevent an anti-matter explosion.

There's a fleeting moment near the end, and far too late, when Howard almost sees what this series could have been. As the cardinals make their crucial vote on who will be the next Pontiff, Howard tracks along the Pope-announcing Vatican chimney through the building towards the rooftop smoke, the score pounding as though we were watching the fuse of a bomb. Give me that kind of silliness, with all its attendant guilty pleasures, rather than watching the smudgy smoke rising from this dud. Rated PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material. 139m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

-- Scott Renshaw, Salt Lake City Weekly

Continuing

17 AGAIN. Middle-aged father wakes up one day as a 17-year-old, so he tries it on for size. Rated PG-13. 102m. At the Broadway.

EARTH. Story of three animal families and their journey across the planet we all call home. Rated G. 95m. At The Movies.

FAST AND FURIOUS. Fugitive ex-con Dom Toretto returns to L.A. and to his feud with agent Brian O'Connor, all while pushing the limits of what's possible behind the wheel. Rated PG-13. 108m. At The Movies.

GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST. Bachelor with no-strings attached policy gets a wake-up call from the ghost of his uncle, once a fellow ladies man himself. Rated PG-13. 100m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

HANNAH MONTANA THE MOVIE. Hannah Montana's popularity reigns, so Miley takes a trip home to rediscover her roots. Rated G. 102m. At The Movies.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS. Ragtag crew of monsters must combat an alien robot to save Planet Earth from imminent destruction. Rated PG. 94m. At The Movies.

OBSESSED. Big-ballin' asset manager's life is all good until the super stalker temp worker gets hired on. Rated PG-13. 109m. At The Movies.

SOLOIST. Journalist discovers former classical music prodigy living on the streets of Los Angeles; bonding ensues. Rated PG-13. 117m. At Mill Creek and The Movies.

STAR TREK. Get the action-packed backstory on Kirk and Spock's rivalry-ridden relationship. Rated PG-13. 127m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, the Minor and Fortuna.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE. Film leads up to events of X-Men with story of Wolverine's epically violent and romantic past. Rated PG-13. 107m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and Fortuna.

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Scott Renshaw

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