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Angels & Demons Coming Soon

Angels & Demons is a worthy predecessor
Angels & Demons
Dan Brown
Published by Simon & Schuster

Review by W. R. Greer

Like the majority of readers, I read Angels & Demons by Dan Brown after reading The Da Vinci Code. I would venture that most people reading this review are asking the question, “How does Angels & Demons compare to The Da Vinci Code?” The short answer is that they’re very similar. If you enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, you should enjoy Angels & Demons.

Angels & Demons introduces the character of Robert Langdon, professor of religious iconology and art history at Harvard University. As the novel begins, he’s awakened in the middle of the night by a phone call from Maximilian Kohler, the director of CERN, the world’s largest scientific research facility in Geneva, Switzerland. One of their top physicists had been murdered, with his chest branded with the word “Illuminati.” Since Langdon is an expert on the ancient secret society known as the Illuminati, he’s asked to help solve the murder. A high tech X-33 plane transports Langdon from Massachusetts to Switzerland in a little more than an hour.

The murder victim is Leonardo Vetra. Not only is he one of the world’s leading physicists, he’s a Catholic priest. He’s a priest who has adopted a daughter, Vittoria, who is also a scientist at CERN. This was the largest suspension of disbelief for me, a man who is a priest, a father, and a top physicist, but accepting it sets the rest of the story in motion. Vetra and his daughter were using the world’s largest particle accelerator to create antimatter, and then suspend the antimatter properly in canisters so that it doesn’t interact with matter. If a canister is removed from the electrical system which keeps the matter and antimatter separated, then backup batteries will serve the same purpose for 24 hours. When those 24 hours expire, the two will collide in an instantaneous explosion of unprecedented power.

Lenoardo Vetra created the antimatter to simulate the Big Bang. In his mind, this would show proof that God exists, being able to create new matter and antimatter in the same way God created the universe. Vetra’s murder, though, allows one of the canisters to be stolen. The question of who stole the canister and what they planned to do with it is soon answered. The canister is quickly found on a security camera in Vatican City, with its LEDs counting down the time until the batteries run out. The security camera, however, is nowhere to be found, leaving the canister’s whereabouts a mystery too. Langdon and Vittoria Petra are quickly sent off to Rome and Vatican City, to help find the canister and return it to CERN before it explodes at midnight.

Not only does the canister threaten to destroy Vatican City, but with the recent death of the Pope, the cardinals of the Catholic Church are all within the city for the conclave to choose the new pope. They are all about to be locked within the Sistine Chapel where, according to church law, they must remain until a new pope is chosen. They are awaiting the preferiti, the four cardinals from four different European countries who are the preferred candidates to become the new pope. While Langdon and Vittoria are trying to convince the captain of the Swiss Guard and the camerlengo, the Pope’s chamberlain who leads the church until the new pope is named, that the antimatter bomb is real, a phone call is received from a man who claims to be from the Illuminati. He has the four cardinals, which he will murder one by one, and then allow the bomb to destroy Vatican City, which houses not only the church hierarchy, but also its possessions and wealth. He has no demands; his only wish is the destruction of the Catholic Church in retribution for the church’s treatment of scientists and the Illuminati over the centuries.

Langdon and Vittoria Vetra are in a race against time. They dig through archives and ancient mysteries to find clues, which also requires an extensive background in art history and religious symbology. This makes Robert Langdon the expert tour guide through all this arcane knowledge with his congenial and scholarly fashion, doing his best to educate without seeming superior with his own intelligence. Much like The Da Vinci Code, Langdon understands enough about each mystery to go in search of the missing pieces necessary to solve each puzzle, which leads him to the next one. Vittoria is beautiful, tough, intelligent, and determined to avenge her father’s murder and keep the canister from exploding. The two of them are constantly one step behind the Illuminati, and once it’s clear that the Swiss Guard and Vatican City have been penetrated by the ancient society, they don’t know whom to trust. This leads them through churches, fountains, crypts, forgotten passages, secret passages, and catacombs. Death stalks them at every turn, in one form or another.

So it’s time for the comparisons of Angels & Demons and The Da Vinci Code. In some ways, Angels & Demons has a more suspenseful storyline with the antimatter bomb and the race to prevent the destruction of Vatican City. Both share a hired assassin, a tough and beautiful woman as Langdon’s sidekick who’s mourning the murder of a loved one, and mysteries that require extensive knowledge of art history, religious symbology, and secret societies. Robert Langdon is a protagonist that you can’t dislike in any way, with just enough vulnerability to go along with his intelligence and right amount of charm. Angels & Demons is a looser story. It takes longer to get going, each new puzzle takes longer to solve, and too much character background is given for too many characters. While Dan Brown’s writing style will never be called literary, he’s obviously matured as a writer between the two books. The chapters in The Da Vinci Code are shorter, tighter, and the suspense is never allowed to wane.

While some judicious editing might have made it a tighter and more focused novel, Angels & Demons is still a highly enjoyable read. For those who love plot-driven novels, and for those who love thrillers and mysteries full of strange bits of information that tie everything together, grab a copy of Angels & Demons and find a comfortable chair. It’s time well spent.


Movie Review

JJ Abrams Star Trek Movie Review


By: Sheila Roberts

J.J. Abrams brilliantly reenergizes the long running Star Trek franchise and engages us at warp speed with a superb story written by Roberto Orci & Alex Kurtzman that’s brought to life by a terrific cast with undeniable on screen chemistry. Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are outstanding as the young Captain James T. Kirk and his loyal but contentious First Officer Spock, two of the most instantly recognizable fictional characters created in the 20th century, while the legendary Leonard Nimoy, who originated the iconic role of Spock, turns in a stunning cameo that upsets the space-time continuum.

Intelligent, witty, exhilarating, and visionary, this Trek boldly goes where no sci fi film has gone before. From the sleeky designed, bright, expansive bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise to the dark, shadowy Romulan enemy ship, the Narada, to the dry, rocky planet Vulcan, to the frigid reaches of the remote, bone-chilling, alien ice planet known as Delta Vega with it’s terrifying otherworldly creatures, to a deep space mining platform suspended in air which serves as the setting for the Enterprise’s first big mission as the crew makes a daring ‘space jump’ into a fiercely hostile situation, to Chief Engineer Scotty’s wild ride through the cooling pipe of the inner Enterprise, Abrams and his creative team deliver thrilling action sequences, spectacular set pieces, extraordinary art direction, incredible sound design and visual effects, and a vibrant score by Michael Giacchino — all set against the backdrop of intriguing intergalactic politics.

“Star Trek” is truly a masterpiece in innovative cinematic storytelling inspired by the spirit of Gene Roddenberry’s vision of an enlightened future. J.J. Abrams is uniquely suited to directing this with his talent for working on a large canvas with lots of big action coupled with an innate gift for capturing intimate, compelling moments between people. He delivers a great action/adventure film, a powerful story of conflict and vengeance with the future of whole galaxies at stake, and, at the same time, offers the audience an engaging story of very special people encountering one another for the first time.

Abrams and his creative team capture something that’s always been very specific to “Star Trek”: men and women rising to the challenge of who they are as people by confronting what appear to be insoluble problems. Part of the irresistible fun of the original series was watching these incredibly intelligent and intriguing personalities work together and become the best of who they are. Abrams takes that spirit and puts a fresh spin on it to advance the legacy of Star Trek in this movie, and he never loses sight of the importance of strong character development that’s an integral part of a deftly written script full of backstory as well as the present and future.

His brilliant cast, some relatively unknown, hits every note perfectly and honors the actors who came before them and played these beloved characters in earlier versions of the franchise. In addition to Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto, Abrams’ fantastic cast also includes Bruce Greenwood as Captain Christopher Pike, Karl Urban as the ship’s Medical Officer Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Simon Pegg as Chief Engineer Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, Zoe Saldana as Communications Officer Uhura, John Cho as Helmsman Sulu, and Anton Yelchin as the U.S.S. Enterprise’s youngest officer, 17-year-old whiz kid Pavel Andreievich Chekov. All will face a harrowing first test that will set in motion the loyalty, camaraderie, daring and good humor that will bind them forever. A tattooed, menacing Eric Bana plays the villainous Captain Nero, who helms the sleek, dark, skeletal Romulan warbird, the Narada, and challenges the U.S.S. Enterprise in deep space when it interferes with his mission to annihilate Vulcan and Earth.

In this ultimate origins story, Abrams takes a new look at the Star Trek universe and delivers a total re-boot of the brilliant world and characters that Gene Roddenberry created. J.J. takes “Star Trek” in an exciting, unexpected direction, heading way back, as it were, into the never-seen 23rd century launch of the U.S.S. Enterprise. This is a truly grand adventure about two very different men whose destiny is not only to become true friends, but iconic partners, guardians and explorers. The greatest adventure of all time begins with the incredible story of a young crew’s maiden voyage onboard the most advanced starship ever created. In the midst of an incredible journey full of optimism, intrigue, comedy and cosmic peril, the new recruits must find a way to stop an evil being whose mission of vengeance threatens all of mankind.

The fate of the galaxy rests in the hands of bitter rivals born worlds apart – two wholly opposite men who come together like two lost halves and embark on a perilous mission in a way neither one could have alone. One, James T. Kirk (Pine), is a delinquent, thrill-seeking Iowa farm boy and a natural-born leader in search of a cause. The other, Spock (Quinto), grows up on the planet Vulcan, an outcast due to his half-human background, which makes him susceptible to the volatile emotions that Vulcans have long lived without, and yet an ingenious, determined student, who will become the first of his kind accepted into the Starfleet Academy.

Kirk and Spock could not be more different. Yet, in their quest to figure out who they really are and what they have to give to the world, they soon become competitive cadets-in-training. With their drastically opposite styles, one driven by fiery passion, the other by rigorous logic, they also become defiant, contentious adversaries, each equally unimpressed with the other, each going all out to be among the special few chosen to join the crew of the most advanced starship ever created, the U.S.S. Enterprise. As fiery instinct clashes with calm reason, their unlikely but powerful partnership is the only thing capable of leading their crew through unimaginable danger to boldly go where no one has gone before.

In its more than 40-year history, one that has impacted multiple generations, “Star Trek” has carved out an iconic place in modern pop culture as the only ongoing story that encapsulates the awe, wonder and bold audacity of the human desire to reach for the stars. With the indelible opening words of the original 1960s television series, “Space, the Final Frontier,” a succession of journeys were launched across the cosmos that did and, to this day, still celebrate the thrill of adventure, the pioneering spirit of exploration and the drive to create an evermore amazing future full of possibilities. The daring and provocative voyages of the Starship Enterprise, and the many ships that would soon follow in her flight path, have appealed to the stargazer in all of us, and our hopes and dreams that technological and cultural advances will bring out the best of our humanity.

For director/producer J.J. Abrams, going back to the beginning after more than six television series and ten feature films was the only way to forge into the future. His vision was to literally start fresh, beginning with James T. Kirk and his one-day First Officer, the Vulcan Spock’s advancement in the Starfleet Academy and their extraordinary first journey together. Abrams came to the project with great respect for series creator Gene Roddenberry and all that “Star Trek” had achieved as the creator of an archetypal modern myth and cult phenomenon. However, he also wanted to take the story where it had never been before: making a state-of-the-art action epic about two heroic leaders as brash young men in the making. The beauty of Kirk and Spock has always been their relationship, but here we have a chance to explore not just the humor and fun of that tension, but also how they first became brothers in arms, to see how they are thrust into an adventure that not only tests them, but bonds them for life.

J.J. Abrams attacks the story with a high-intensity, suspenseful action style and an authentic allegiance to its legacy. This is fresh, imaginative, intergalactic storytelling that is also very grounded in the idea of young men and women with a lot of heart and camaraderie. With his trademark mastery of action and love of scope, J.J. Abrams has brought the Star Trek franchise triumphantly back to life and you don’t have to be familiar with the franchise to enjoy it. This movie will appeal to diehard fans as well as a whole new generation. It’s fun, exciting and immensely entertaining and one of the finest films I’ve ever seen in the sci-fi genre. And the best news is there is already talk of a J.J. Abrams’ “Star Trek” sequel in the works.

“Star Trek” opens in theaters on May 8th.



First Photo from Iron Man 2


From USA Today comes the very first photo from Iron Man 2. I really enjoyed Iron Man and felt the writing and casting were genius. It is however a real shame that Terrence Howard will not be returning. He added a great dynamic that will be missed.

The photo below shows Tony Stark working in his lab with various renditions of his metal suit around him. Pretty cool first shot and reminds me of the first shots from the first film. I wonder where I get a monitor like he has? ;->