See Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” on the Web

Since Saturday, you don't have to be in Milan to see Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper." Just log online to see a 16 billion pixel image of it that's 1,600 times stronger than images normally photographed with a 10 million pixel digital camera.Visitors can go to to view details of the 15th-century masterpiece without having to fly to Milan, including traces of drawings Leonardo put down before painting. "You can see how Leonardo made the cups transparent, something you can't ordinarily see," said curator Alberto Artioli. "You can also note the state of degradation the painting is in." Join the Conversation: Continue Reading


Brian Grazer's films and TV shows have been nominated for 39 Oscars and 27 ­Emmys, but the quirky producer has yet to receive his due for some ­painstakingly crafted pranks. While Grazer may stand to win more general accolades this week when his "The Da Vinci Code" opens at Cannes and in New York City, true ­connoisseurs of dark intrigue prefer passed-around stories of his party tricks. Grazer's signature gag is to ­arrive at your house, sneak off to the bookcase or piano where you keep your cherished family portraits and then place a framed picture of himself. One Hollywood hostess recalls that, days after her party, "I looked up the shelf where I keep ­pictures of my grandmother and said, 'What the hell is Brian Grazer doing there? '" Many people cherish their ­unasked-for memento of the spiky-haired imp, who (with Imagine ­Entertainment partner Ron ­Howard) has also made such films as "Apollo 13, " "A Beautiful Mind," "Cinderella Man," "Ransom" and "The Paper. " Less well known is a variation which allegedly involves a vial of Grazer's urine. "Apparently, he saw these test tubes in his doctor's office, grabbed a few, filled them and hid them in friends' homes," a source tells us. "Some people thought it was a ­little much. One top executive called ­Brian and said, 'This has to stop! '" Imagine Entertainment President Michael Rosenberg argues, "Brian­ says [the urine story] is absolutely untrue. " Grazer does confirm the unusual greeting he gave designer Tom Ford at a party CAA agent Bryan Lourde threw a few months ago. "Brian put his hand down Tom's pants," says another guest. "Tom said, 'Careful. I'm not wearing ­underwear. And I'm going to come right back at you. '" Meanwhile, Hollywood is ­waiting to see what happens with ­Grazer, 54, and his novelist wife, Gigi, 43. He recently surprised friends by ­filing for separation from the ­mother of his Continue Reading

INSIDE OPUS DEI. ‘Da Vinci’ crucifies us, church sect cries

THE PRISTINE red brick tower on E. 34th St. that serves as Opus Dei's U. S. headquarters has been an inconspicuous presence for most of the five years since it was built. A plaque near the door reads Murray Hill Place, giving no hint of what was goes on inside. Followers of "The Way" gather in its chapels and conference rooms of polished wood. Even to most Catholics, Opus Dei is cloaked in mystery; its members' fervent devotion and practice of self-punishment spawn intrigue and controversy. Now there's a small bronze sign with the group's name, and next to it a box of pamphlets "for 'Da Vinci Code' fans - here is the real Opus Dei," to appease the curious who've flocked there. This obscure Catholic society, whose Latin name means Work of God, has been thrust into the spotlight by the blockbuster book and upcoming movie, and so it is opening its doors and waging a public campaign to debunk the secretive, sinister reputation it gained from the novel. To battle Sony Pictures and the movie opening May 19 starring Tom Hanks, Opus Dei ramped up its Web site, produced a high-quality film showing everyday members across the country - farmers, firefighters, businesspeople, students - and is urging them to give interviews. But critics insist Opus Dei uses cult-like mind control to advance a hidden agenda. Brian Finnerty, U. S. spokesman for Opus Dei, bristles when the group is described as a sect, or secretive. " 'The Da Vinci Code' is completely inaccurate and unfair in how it portrays Christianity and the Catholic Church; Opus Dei is a side issue. It's a bizarre portrayal. We emphasize searching for God by ordinary people; they talk about a murderous Albino monk searching for the Holy Grail. "There is no Silas here," Finnerty tells visitors, referring to the character who kills on the orders of a bishop. Yet in its campaign against "The Da Vinci Code," Opus Dei has found its own Silas. Silas Agbim, a Nigerian stockbroker who lives in Brooklyn, has Continue Reading

HOLY WOW !. ‘ Da Vinci ‘ powers to $77M opening

That which did not kill "The Da Vinci Code" apparently made it stronger. The movie version of the controversial Dan Brown novel about Jesus being a married father survived theological protests and weak reviews to rack up a powerful $77 million in opening-weekend ticket sales. In Italy, where the Vatican had called on Catholics to boycott the film because of the suggestion Jesus had a child with Mary Magdalene, "Da Vinci" notched the highest grossing weekend ever, with $11. 5 million. The Ron Howard-Tom Hanks flick had the 13th-highest opening weekend in U. S. history - and earned $147 million more overseas, an all-time record. Neither the protests of Catholic groups nor the warning by critics that the film is tedious deterred the fans or the curious. "This movie became an event," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of the trade group Exhibitor Relations. "All the protests and the negative reviews only seem to have helped raise awareness. It made people want to see it for themselves. " Most critics warned them not to, with many calling Howard's direction flat and even Hanks' lead performance uninspiring. "But you have to remember this already had a built-in audience of 40 or 50 million people who had read the book," said Dergarabedian. The Vatican and other Christian groups called it blasphemous that the characters played by Hanks and Audrey Tautou spend the film on a dangerous search for this alleged alternative origin to Christianity. A Catholic lay organization, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, asked worshipers to stage prayer vigils outside theaters. They did - in New York and elsewhere. Outside the AMC Empire 25 on W. 42nd St., about two dozen protesters prayed and waved signs declaring the movie an anti-Catholic "hate crime. " "It's blasphemous, it's sacrilegious, it's slanderous and offensive to us as Christians and Catholics," said Michael Mangan, 47, of Queens, the president of Continue Reading

THE ‘DA VINCI’ DIVIDE. Religious groups take on new film

CHRISTIANS WHO mostly turned the other cheek as "The Da Vinci Code" climbed the best-seller list are launching a counteroffensive now that Dan Brown's novel is set to hit the big screen. As the movie's May 19 opening draws nearer, Roman Catholic and other Christian leaders are unveiling new Web sites, taking out full-page ads to "debunk" the work's claims and speaking out in the media and from the pulpit. Even during Holy Week, the upcoming film was on the minds of prominent clerics worldwide. The archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Rev. Rowan Williams, denounced the book's controversial premise that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had children, calling it "the stuff of imagination. " "It's almost that we'd prefer to believe something like this instead of the prosaic reality," Williams, head of the worldwide Anglican Church, said a week ago on Easter Sunday. In a Good Friday sermon at the Vatican, the Rev. Raniero Cantalamessa, Pope Benedict's personal priest, was more blunt. "Christ is still being sold for 30 pieces of silver . . . this time to publishers and filmmakers," he said. The reclusive author, Dan Brown, denies his writing is anti-Christian. "This book is not anti-anything. It's a novel," he writes on his Web site. "I wrote this story in an effort to explore certain aspects of Christian history that interest me. The vast majority of devout Christians understand this fact and consider 'The Da Vinci Code' an entertaining story that promotes spiritual discussion and debate. " Pat Ryan Garcia, a spokeswoman for the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the organization has sought to provide "proper Catholic answers" to questions the book raised for the faithful. But she said the conference decided to "ramp up its efforts" when the first movie trailer for "The Da Vinci Code" declared: "Seek the truth. " "He wants to play both sides of it," Garcia said of Brown. Though the author stresses the book is fiction, she noted he also Continue Reading


IT MIGHT ALREADY be a blockbuster of biblical proportions, but a leading Catholic claims "The Da Vinci Code" is too bad to even watch. Catholic League President Bill Donohue turned movie critic after viewing the controversial film, starring Tom Hanks. "This was one of the most inane films I have ever seen," Donohue said. "There are too many symbols and too many arcane codes, but the real reason the movie fails is because it lacks suspense, is hopelessly melodramatic and is way too long. "The few times the audience laughed was due to a quip made by one of the characters: these moments were much appreciated - it broke the boredom." "Had the movie been a success, the effect would have been troubling. But because it fails to persuade, this is one movie practicing Christians have nothing to worry about." The movie, which opened to packed theatres on Friday, has prompted protests because it questions the divinity of Jesus. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

IT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME. Ron Howard’s ‘Da Vinci’ is paint-by-numbers

'THE DA VINCI CODE.' With Tom Hanks, Audrey Tautou, Ian McKellen and Paul Bettany. PG-13: Disturbing images, violence, some nudity, thematic material, brief drug references and sexual content. (2:27) At area theaters. 2.5 Stars. The religious sect that recently advised parishioners to "fast unto death" to protest "The Da Vinci Code" can start eating again. This "Code" isn't all it's cracked up to be. That won't stop the stampede to the box office. It's the must-see movie of the summer, if only because of the religious protests akin to the uproar over the Danish political cartoons. We're living in dangerous times when a merely okay summer movie can make everyone forget the golden rule: It's only a movie, folks. Director Ron Howard's adequate adaptation of the book everyone's talking about isn't nearly as thrilling as Dan Brown's best seller about murder and revisionist Christianity. Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou give cautious, uninspired performances as puzzle solvers and Holy Grail seekers on the run from an albino killer monk and what's billed as the biggest coverup in history. It opens on a spectacularly creepy note. A curator at the Louvre uses his dying moments to leave elaborate clues scrawled in his own blood. It's up to Robert Langdon (Hanks), a Harvard symbologist, and French police cryptologist Sophie Neveu (Tautou) to crack the code. Then there are more codes. There are so many, in fact, it's like that "I Love Lucy" episode in which the chocolates rumbled down the conveyor belt too fast to box them all. This is more of a mental thriller than an action movie. That worked in the book's favor, but film is a visual medium. Floating-anagram techniques borrowed from the spelling-bee documentary "Spellbound" aren't heart-pumping enough in a movie where characters furrow their brows or launch into mind-numbing flights of exposition. The movie is so nervous about offending anyone that it's hardly any fun. Hanks delivers a few solemn speeches meant Continue Reading

THE TELL-TALE ART. Book or movie, ‘The Da Vinci Code’ is the picture of sensation

There are classic dangers to face and unknown elements at every turn - but in the right hands, a blockbuster book can still become a must-see movie that stands on its own. The latest - and perhaps biggest - case of this kind of cross-media ­rapture is "The Da Vinci Code," opening Friday. Yet is anyone worried that ­director Ron Howard's film of Dan Brown's fiction phenomenon will be an unholy flop? Of course not. "Da Vinci" fans have been praying for the ­movie to arrive, and even minor contro­versies - involving worries from the Catholic Church about "fiction­ versus facts" and its ooh-we're-spooky secret ­society Opus Dei - may only increase interest in a story that more than 45 million readers have already lapped up. Add Tom Hanks as the star and its box-office ­outcome isn't a mystery. And while success in the ­bookstore doesn't always equal massive box ­office, there's a history of ­properties that ­accomplished both (including the granddaddy of them all, "Gone With the Wind"). A year after being a ­hardcover hit in 1969, Mario ­Puzo's "The ­God­father" sold 8 million paperback copies - and ­director Francis Coppola's Oscar-winning­ 1972 adaptation became an instant ­classic. Not long after, Peter Benchley's "Jaws," the page-turner of 1974, became Steven Spielberg's "Jaws," the monster hit of 1975. Recent publishing power­houses made into popular ­movies include John Grisham's "The Firm" (its 1993 film made $160 million in the U. S.), "Bridget Jones's Diary" (the 2001 film earned $280 million worldwide) and, of course, "Harry Potter" and the super-magical print run. The young wizard's four films thus far have conjured up over $1 billion in U. S. ­ticket sales alone. And, as "Da Vinci's" Harvard symbol­ogist hero Robert Langdon might ­deduce, there's a pattern to this. Just as most adventure tales have the same DNA (the quest, the Continue Reading

SAVORY ‘SUPPER.’ New Da Vinci novel is an entrée to a mysterious world

THE SECRET SUPPER By Javier Sierra Atria, $25.95 He was a painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, astrologist, theatrical set designer, anatomist, zoologist, costume maker, engineer, inventor, geographer and musician - a one-man Renaissance whose idiosyncrasies included writing backward, thus forcing readers to use mirrors to decipher his notes. Oh, and lately, he has become the star of a dozen esoteric thrillers. He is, of course, Leonardo da Vinci, born in 1452, died in 1519 and resurrected most profitably in "The Da Vinci Code," that Dan Brown novel. Javier Sierra's take on Da Vinci is much sharper, more focused and more rewarding. This is partly because Sierra is a better writer and largely because his story makes more sense. Sure, it's farfetched - and how! - but at the end it's possible to say that maybe, just maybe, Sierra is onto something. The subject is "The Last Supper," the mural Da Vinci began painting in 1495 in the refectory of the monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. The plot concerns a secret message he may or may not have planted in it, and the story is told in an atmosphere of intrigue, codes, prophecies, superstition and fanaticism. The story is related by Father Agostino Leyre, an expert in cryptography and theology and agent with the Vatican's office for the enforcement of doctrinal purity. Leyre is deployed to Milan because of troubling reports sent to Rome by a mysterious informer who identifies himself as "The Soothsayer." Among charges by the mystery informant is that the Cathars, a heretical sect that figures in other current esoteric thrillers, have influenced Da Vinci's masterpiece. The Cathar movement, which argued that Christians did not need any of the worldly trappings and rituals of the Roman church, was supposedly annihilated in the early 13th century on orders of Pope Innocent III. But some members reportedly escaped to Milan, where their beliefs supposedly influenced Da Vinci. Leyre stumbles Continue Reading


"THE DA VINCI CODE," this year's most hotly anticipated flick, failed to catch fire with critics at the Cannes Film Festival last night. Most offered only lukewarm praise or shrugs of indifference. Others laughed or jeered at parts of the nearly 2 1/2-hour thriller and dumped on star Tom Hanks' performance as well as what they called a potboiler script. The movie, based on Dan Brown's monster best-selling novel about a coverup of secrets surrounding Christianity's roots, will have its world premiere at Cannes today. It opens here Friday. Variety, the movie industry's bible, called the film " a stodgy, grim thing" in a review posted on its Web site last night. Peter Brunette, critic for The Boston Globe, described Hanks as "a zombie" but praised co-star Ian McKellen. "It was really disappointing. The dialogue was cheesy. The acting wasn't too bad, but the film is not as good as the book," chimed in Lina Hamchaoui, from British radio IRN. "Nothing really works. It's not suspenseful. It's not romantic. It's certainly not fun," according to Stephen Schaefer of the Boston Herald. The Cannes audience of critics - arguably the toughest in the world - clearly grew restless as the movie dragged on to a long sequence of anticlimactic revelations. "I kept thinking of the Energizer Bunny, because it kept going and going and going, and not in a good way," said James Rocchi, a film critic for CBS 5 television in San Francisco. One especially melodramatic line uttered by Hanks drew prolonged laughter and some catcalls, and the audience continued to titter for much of the film's remainder. Some people walked out during the movie's closing minutes, and while credits rolled, there were a few whistles and hisses - but none of the scattered applause even bad movies sometimes receive at Cannes. Still, Fox News movie reviewer Roger Friedman said the movie was mostly "enticing" and predicted McKellen nailed himself an Oscar nomination for his performance. The Continue Reading