City of Angels [1998]

Some critics complained that City of Angels could never compare to Wim Wenders's exquisite German film Wings of Desire, which served as the later film's primary inspiration. The better argument to make is that any such comparisons are beside the point, because Wings of Desire was a much more deeply poetic, artfully contemplative film, whereas City of Angels is an enchanting product of mainstream Hollywood. Meg Ryan stars as Dr. Maggie Rice, a heart surgeon who is grieving over a lost patient when an angel named Seth (Nicolas Cage) appears to comfort her. She can see him despite the "rule" that angels are invisible, and Seth's love for Maggie forces him to choose between angelic immortality and a normal human existence on earth with her. Featuring heavenly roles for TV veterans Andre Braugher and Dennis Franz, the film liberally borrows imagery from Wings of Desire, but it also creates its own charming identity. Cage and Ryan give fine performances as lovers convinced they are soul mates, and although the plot relies on a last-minute twist that doesn't quite work, this earnest love story struck a chord with audiences and proved to be one of the surprise hits of 1998. The Special Edition widescreen DVD includes audio commentary by Nicolas Cage, producer Charles Roven, and director Brad Silberling in addition to deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes documentary, a featurette about the film's special effects, and the theatrical trailer. --Jeff Shannon

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