Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews: Inferno and Gimme Danger

Tom Hanks returns to Dan Brown land, and Iggy and the Stooges rage again.

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Inferno
Columbia Pictures

Ron Howard's Inferno can be recommended for the opportunity it offers to avoid reading the Dan Brown novel on which it's based. Brown's bestseller, another exercise in his trademark verbal incontinence and wooden characterizations, would seem to defy cinematic adaptation and, as we see here, actually does. Director Howard, in his third go-round with Brown's tepid hero, the "Harvard symbologist" Robert Langdon, has attempted to rein in the author's wandering plot and gushers of babble; but trimming and compressing them has only added to the story's incoherence.

Langdon (Tom Hanks again) is back in Italy, this time waking up in a Florence hospital with a head wound and no idea where he is—the last thing he remembers is being at home in Cambridge a few days earlier. Attending physician and requisite brainy babe Sienna Brooks (Felicity Jones) sympathizes, but before she can be much help an assassin called Vayentha (Ana Ularu) storms in and starts shooting up the ER. Langdon and Sienna flee, an activity which will consume most of their time for the rest of the movie.

Holed up in Sienna's apartment, Langdon discovers something odd in his pocket—a "bio-tube" that projects an image of Botticelli's "Map of Hell," originally an illustration for Dante's "Divine Comedy." Aha! "The circles of Hell have been rearranged," Langdon observes. He and Sienna now make their way to the Palazzo Vecchio, where Dante's death mask is on display, along with a tangentially related painting by Vasari.

Hot on their trail all of a sudden are agents of a mysterious international security outfit called the Consortium, led by the droll Harry Sims (Irrfan Khan, having a lot of fun), and heavily armed representatives of the World Health Organization (who knew that WHO had a SWAT team?), led by Langdon's old flame Elizabeth Sinskey (Sidse Babett Knudsen). For good measure, there's also a surveillance drone flitting about. Much fleeing through the Boboli Gardens ensues, and then there's further fleeing to Venice to find a "chthonic monster" (only metaphorical, unfortunately). Once arrived in the Serene Republic, we're told more than we'll ever need to know about the "Horses of Constantinople," a tip-off to our next destination, a "sunken palace" in Istanbul.

We've already been informed that the cause of all this hubbub is an American billionaire and TED celebrity named Bertrand Zobrist (Ben Foster), whose belief in an impending over-population catastrophe has compelled him to create a super-virus called Inferno, which will wipe out 95 per cent of humanity in order to allow the remaining five per cent (including Zobrist, no doubt) to survive and prosper. It won't be so bad, Zobrist says: after all, "The Black Plague gave us the Renaissance." Zobrist's neo-Malthusian theory has been widely debunked ever since the late-'60s heyday of Paul Ehrlich, who propounded it in his nitwit bestseller The Population Bomb. But it still finds favor, apparently, among marginally competent thriller-writers.

Despite an effective plot switch and at least one memorable image (a symphony orchestra set up in a vast cavern of red water), the movie is both too fast and too slow. Its indiscriminate frenzy is draining, but then so is its overload of digression: there's much talk of Transhumanism, and eye-glazing references to a map of Armenia and a "treacherous doge of Venice." Hanks, one of the most personable of Hollywood stars, is given little outlet for his skills in playing the befuddled Langdon. And Jones, so appealing in films like The Theory of Everything and Like Crazy, is hobbled by an enforced lack of chemistry between her character and the man with whom she's keeping so much company.

The Langdon films are big moneymakers (especially The Da Vinci Code, although Angels & Demons less so). But at this point, it'd be nice if Hanks and Howard could find the wherewithal to bail out of the franchise—what else can be done with it? Unfortunately, the Dan Brown series continues to beckon—there's one book left to go.

Iggy Pop
Amazon Studios

Gimme Danger

Clearly a labor of punk-rock love, Jim Jarmusch's Gimme Danger tells the story of Iggy Pop and the Stooges in all of its calamity and eventual triumph. Longtime fans of the band won't find a lot that's new in this documentary. We hear Iggy dodging bottles on a Detroit stage. We see him walking out into a concert crowd on a sea of upraised hands, slathering peanut butter on his chest. We're regaled once again with the story about how the blitzed-out Stooges once attempted to drive a 12-foot-tall truck under a bridge with a 10-foot clearance. It's still good stuff, and it bears repeating.

What juices the story anew is the first-hand testimony Jarmusch has gathered from former Stooges—the late Ron and Scott Ashton, and the great guitarist James Williamson—and from rock-biz tastemaker Danny Fields, the man who got the band signed to Elektra Records, where they made two great, pretty much unsellable albums before flaming out. We get the heroin days, the Bowie connection, the catastrophic recording of Raw Power (whose idea was it to let Iggy do the mix?), and the long-delayed induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Iggy gives everybody the finger). And through it all we have the unstoppable Pop himself offering sardonic commentary. ("We were sinking fast into semi-obliviousness.")

Best of all, naturally, is the music—wall-to-wall hits! Tracks like "TV Eye," "I Wanna Be Your Dog," and "Loose" have never sounded better. (Jarmusch, a musician himself, has done a stellar job with the soundtrack.) The Stooges may have receded into history, but their shake appeal endures.

NEXT: 'We Have Two Parties Right Now That Have Abandoned All Pretenses at Realism About Our $20 Trillion National Debt and About Our Entitlements'

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  1. Obi-Wan secretly killed French Jesus. Or something.

    1. Needs clowns and Nazi’s .

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  2. The Da Vinci Code book was a real page turner, in spite of cardboard everywhere, way too much dialog, and such a paranoid conspiracy theory plot. I was impressed enough that I watched the movie too, and read the next one; may even have watched the second movie too. But no more, neither book nor movie will entice me again. He seemed only to add more dialog of more conspiracy theory, so wacky that it wasn’t fun, and this one seems even worse.

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    1. You know something, Kathleen, I’ve had it about up to here with your LIES

      1. She’s trying out for a gig in the Clinton administration.

  4. You know all those people who teach good writing?

    Maybe they could better spend their time teaching bad writing, given the success of Dan Brown.

    1. And the Twilight lady, and…etc.

      1. “The Tale of Scrotie McBoogerballs”?

        1. That sounds like *good* writing.

        2. The movie is going to be a blast!

          1. Spoiler: In the book, the virus did not kill anyone. It renders half the world’s women sterile. No one living dies, but the reproduction rate slows. It’s fairly clear the author thinks this would be a good idea. Even though it’s a crazy genius maniac bad-guy plot, all the smart people rush to defend its utility, saying s#it “Of course it’s morally wrong, but?”

            Wonder how Ron Howard will tackle this in the film. My guess: delete.

    2. “You know all those people who teach good writing?”

      Maybe someone should teach them they’re not the arbiter of what’s good. Especially if as many people enjoy Brown’s writing as it seems.

      1. Even when I like bad writing I know it’s bad.

        Charles Dickens wrote good, Dan Brown doesn’t.

        But it don’t seem to matter.

        Which was my point.

        1. And my point was “good ” has multiple meanings, one of which is “enjoyable to someone reading it for enjoyment”

          1. OK, under that meaning Brown and the Twilight lady are good writers.

            And I was suggesting that maybe those English teachers and “writing coaches” out there should teach their students how to write good in your sense of writing good, not in the sense of objectively good.

            Dickens is in decline today, but in his time he was good *and* popular. The popularity is wearing off, but the good writing remains.

            1. “OK, under that meaning Brown and the Twilight lady are good writers”

              I don’t make up the meanings. I just abide by them.

              1. Charles Dickens: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way ? in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

                Stephenie “Twilight” Meyer: “It was beautiful, of course; I couldn’t deny that. Everything was green: the trees, their trunks covered with moss, their branches hanging with a canopy of it, the ground covered with ferns. Even the air filtered down greenly through the leaves. It was too green ? an alien planet.”

                1. I give Meyer one credit – she knows how to end sentences. Dickens just kept going and going and going.

                  1. Vonnegut had the annoying habit of just lopping a sentence off at the end and saying, “So it goes.”

                  2. “Stephenie Meyer: Her vampires are sparkly, which I think we can all agree is wrong.”

                    1. “Stephenie Meyer: Her vampires are sparkly, which I think we can all agree is wrong.””

                      They are sparkly and run around in the day light. They aren’t vampires, they are fairies, who are in deep denial.

                  3. Never heard of James Joyce then?

                    1. also a fairy and also in deep denial

                2. in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

                  I noticed this, and realized that if you’re holding this up as ” good” writing, we have nothing more to discuss.

                  Regardless, I can’t change defintions of words.

                  1. “”These books can’t possibly compete with centuries of established history, especially when that history is endorsed by the ultimate bestseller of all time.”

                    “Faukman’s eyes went wide. “Don’t tell me Harry Potter is actually about the Holy Grail.”

                    “”I was referring to the Bible.”

                    “Faukman cringed. “I knew that.””

                    The Da Vinci Code, quoted in Goodreads.com

                    1. And?

                      If people tell you it’s good because tgey enjoyed it, how are they wrong?

                    2. They’re not. Not under that definition.

                    3. “They’re not”

                      My work is done.

            2. OK, under that meaning Brown and the Twilight lady are good writers.

              I think this “good writer” category ought to be subdivided, as there are really two different things being discussed here: story-telling and writing. A story-teller can develop an interesting plot and tell it in such a way as entertains people and holds their attention. A writer can manipulate words to convey deeper senses of emotion and meaning. Brown and Meyer are not good writers, but they are good story-tellers. This is why their stories can be easily transported across mediums, from book to film, without much loss of fidelity, since the quality comes from the story, not the writing. Likewise, great written works often translate poorly to film, since much of their quality comes from the writing itself, not the story.

        2. Charles Dickens wrote good well.

          1. I wasn’t going to say anything about that.

          2. Charles Dickens wrote good well poorly.

            FTFY.

            The guy was paid by the word, and it shows.

            1. Thank you.

              I was giving him that Dickens was a good writer. I often found him to be a slog.

              1. Christmas Carol was the best story he ever wrote.

                1. I liked the part where they ate Tiny Tim…

            2. Similar was true for Dostoevsky, I believe it was by the page. So once he became established he let himself get wordier because he knew it would get published even if it lacked pacing and punch.

              Like Robert Jordan, but with more direct incentive.

        3. There’s a distinction between good writing and good storytelling. Edgar Rice Burroughs was a terrific storyteller, and an absolutely awful writer (don’e believe me? Go read Tarzan. Any of them.).

          1. I think the same of Stephen King. Lots of great ideas, the execution is by a creepily mature high school senior who never grew beyond that stage. At least earlier on he could be edited, but once the mid-80’s came along, he could write whatever he wanted and it had to published as was, perhaps with exception for obvious logical errors in the narrative.

  5. I’m glad someone else chimed in on Brown’s terrible writing. The first turn on the wheel of popularity saw a coworker enthusiastically drop off his copy of “Digital Fortress” for me to read. Holy crap, what a steaming pile. It was easily the worst book I’ve ever read. From the implausible plots to the paper-thin characters it was just unreadable. And the finale… wow…. as if it were written by a second grader in an afternoon writing project. Just silly and as goofy as it gets.

    So then I caved again when the Tom Hanks movie came out. I mean, Hanks, right? He’s always good….

    Wow. So, so terrible. Hanks was even bad.

    It is rare to be so far out of the mainstream that you can’t understand why people are enjoying something. I mean, I may not listen to Bieber or Cyrus, but I can get where they might have their fans. But this stuff? It is like Kanye West…. there is just no explaining it.

    1. So,his writing is the haggis of literature?

      1. Without the spices and other tasty ingredients, yes.

    2. It is rare to be so far out of the mainstream that you can’t understand why people are enjoying something

      Probably not that rare around here.

      1. I was just thinking the same. I recognize all the entertainers listed but I have no idea who they are save for Hanks. Never heard a lick of their music. Not once. And have no desire to. I turn on the radio, classic rock. Nope. I have been listening to that for 50 years and I am tired of it. I turn to a station featuring a more modern genre and ten seconds later I am asking out loud “What the fuck is that?”. I switch it off.

        1. I went on a YoutTube walk (sort of like a wiki walk, but instead of wiki links its following recommended videos in the sidebar) of music videos for songs I hadn’t heard in a while but wanted to. Nothing I ended up following was released in the last decade as far as I can tell. It spanned from late 70s to early 2000s.

          1. This cracks me up.

            Somewhere around here is my LP collection. Complete Zepplin, Badco, Some Creedence, Stones, Nazareth, etc. It’s probably worth a fortune these days.

          2. It’s observable that your tastes will get ossified with age. One theory is the decline in mental Plasticity.

            However depending on what you like from that period there’s probably plenty that would still scratch that itch. The question is whether it’d be worth exploring and finding for you to bother.

            1. I got your plasticity right here jocko

    3. I actually get the appeal of Kanye’s music. The person is obviously someone with personality issues, but I can separate artist from art.

  6. I love Tom Hanks. He’s going to keep getting richer thanks to this dumb Dan Brown shit, and that’s OK.

    1. He’s a Malthusian proggie. Keep that in mind before you send him flowers and a box of chocolates.

      1. But he kinda sorta defended Trumpkins on a SNL sketch last week! Take it back!!!!

        1. Honestly the last Hanks thing I saw was the oh-so-current Castaway; the scenes with Wilson the Volleyball are epic level hilarious and and the same time NobelOscar-worthy. I mostly enjoy watching people shovel their money into funnels in exchange for cringey dreck like Dan Brown film adaptions. Dan Brown is cool like that too.

      2. “Dear Mr Hanks – Random candies in this box have been poisoned. If you truely believe there are too many people in this world, take the box to one of your hollywood socials and give each person a piece. It will proportionally reduce the world’s population. Be sure to allot one to yourself as well, just to be fair. If you expect other people to go away instead, eat the whole box.”

        1. “Death is lahk a box of chacalahts ….”

  7. A Madea Halloween is still playing. Seems a better pick to me.

    1. No wait, MacGyver is on tonight.

      1. The real one or the remake?

        1. I believe the term is ‘ regurgitation’.

          1. no re-upchuck is the correct term

      2. Wake me when there is a MacGruber sequel.

        1. And here I thought I was one of the only people in America who watched that movie. I remember that I laughed a lot. But I also smoked a lot of weed beforehand.

          1. here I thought I was one of the only people in America who watched that movie

            Weak!

            It is one of my favorites precisely because it is so stupid and over-the-top.

    2. The real one or the remake?

  8. OT: Today’s maxim: those with the tendency to flag their emails as “High Importance” are usually most worth deprioritising.

    Just one grade above those people you know that forward you bulk mailing list blasts.

    1. What about “High Importance: Your bank draft from the Bank of Nigeria is ready”?

      1. “Get lucky in the s@ck with our p!lls”

        1. Ew, I didn’t know s [at] ck was an actual address.

          1. it isn’t. The same algorithm that eats less than signs sees and at sign and thinks it’s an e-mail address.

            1. you can tell because ‘ck’ isn’t a complete domain It’s the cook islands top level domain – it’d be like having an @com address.

      2. Well hold on now, that’s different

  9. Every movie I’ve seen with Tom Hanks in it, I never forget that Tom Hanks is in it.

  10. and heavily armed representatives of the World Health Organization (who knew that WHO had a SWAT team?

    What the frick kind of libertarian are you, Loder? Of course the WHO has a SWAT team.

    We’ve already been informed that the cause of all this hubbub is an American billionaire and TED celebrity named Bertrand Zobrist

    The Cubs references are everywhere – Go Indians!

  11. Zobrist’s neo-Malthusian theory has been widely debunked ever since the late-’60s heyday of Paul Ehrlich, who propounded it in his nitwit bestseller The Population Bomb. But it still finds favor, apparently, among marginally competent thriller-writers.

    It worked pretty well in the classic “Kingsman:The Secret Service”, so why not?

    1. I imagine Malthusianism has been around a long time before Malthus and probably debunked as well. It seems rooted in the nature of many people.

      1. I doubt it, as the world was pretty empty for most of human history. I think Malthusianism is a reaction to city-dwelling. Malthus was writing around the time the world population hit 1 billion for the first time, and due to the industrial revolution, which was occurring around the same time, urbanization was also rapidly increasing in Britain. While famine, disease, and the other specters Malthusians worry about would have been common worries throughout time, the specific worry of overpopulation seems like it would be hard to develop in societies that were mostly rural.

        1. people in Rome bitched long before

  12. Not one goddamn comment about The Stooges?

    “The Stooges may have receded into history, but their shake appeal endures.”

    I’ve seen Iggy Pop three times in the last three years (once as The Stooges). The old man really, really kicks ass.

  13. I read about chapter of one of Brown’s books. It reminded me forcibly of the Doc Savage novels I devoured in the 1970’s. Same overheated prose, same comic book characterization.

    Now Pulp isn’t necessarily a bad thing. THE MALTESE FALCON is pulp. H.P. Lovecraft is pulp. But the ‘Superhero’ pulps were pretty bad; formulaic, written far too fast, and hardly edited.

    1. Brown isn’t bad because he writes pulp novels. Brown is bad because he writes shit.

      I’ve spent some time cracking what me might call the “De Laurentiis Code”. Films today can be broken down into a mall number of discrete groups (for which there may be some overlap):

      1. sequels (I’ve forgotten the exact number but over the last few years sequels account for over 85% of Hollywood output)
      2. films for adults based on books written for “tweens”
      3. films for adolescents and adults based on comic books written 70-80 years ago for 6 year olds

      The vast majority of Hollywood film plots revolve either around revenge, the prevention of some cataclysmic event or dealing with the fallout of some cataclysmic event. If its prevention the odds are good there will be a giant CGI blue laser that points into the sky. If its dealing with fallout the odds are good there will be zombies or something else that might as well be zombies.

      Dan Brown’s output is particularly vexing, even among the vast pile of excrement I’ve just described, because at least the comic book / zombie movies don’t pretend to be literate. The Da Vinci Code is a man with downs syndrome who rummaged a pair of bifocals out a trash can reading out of a thesaurus – cringe inducing, embarrassing for all those involve but particularly the spectators who listen to the stilted, aimless rambling and hear the Merchant of Venice.

  14. honestly, i hope ‘inferno’ is huge b/c felicity jones deserves all the opportunities and success she can get. beyond that, they simply should’ve known better.

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  16. Fun fact about Malthus – his model predicted that the world population would be 256 billion by 1996 (absent cataclysmic starvation events). Everything Malthus ever wrote is garbage, which is why I consider Malthus to be the “Dan Brown of economics”.

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