Showing 1 - 4 of 4 Reviews
Posted on 12/26/09 03:35 PM
The plot unfurls much like a magic trick - we see only what we should in order to believe that Eisenheim the Illusionist (Norton) has shown an inspector (Giamatti) everything he needs to apprehend a murderous crown prince. However, in the final moments, the trick is turned and the truth is shown for what it is.
Throughout this film, the performances of Norton, Giamatti, and yes even Jessica Biel propel the plot forward and make a film heavy on dialogue watchable and entertaining. Norton plays an incredible magician, displaying the odd tranquility and puzzling wisdom of a true master showman. Rufus Sewell also shines as the Crown Prince, a man both cunning and unhinged.
My main criticism is that it feels unfocused: is this a love affair, a political drama, a crime thriller, or something else? It is no sin to mix genre conventions, but in clocking in barely over 100 minutes the many elements feel rushed and at times underdeveloped.
I also have a qualm with the title. Titles set the tone, and suggest how a viewer must see a film. In approaching a film called "The Illusionist" I take on a few assumptions: the main character is some kind of conjurer; the underlying plot will involve misdirection; I need to watch more closely and remain actively involved. The downfall of this is that if the trick of the film -- the twist revealed at the end of the film -- is not expertly executed then the audience is left underwhelmed.
My point is that if you're going to brazenly call a film the Illusionist, you better be damn sure that you can trick the audience.
Beyond that, however, this is an engaging film and a smart watch. Production values are top notch and the performances are engaging. Give it a watch.
Posted on 12/19/09 02:15 PM
The true test of Avatar lay in Cameron's ability to create a non-cartoonish CG character who could effectively carry the film without having the odd, cold demeanor of the characters of Zemeckis's Polar Express or in Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
It was important to use 3-D as well, but this project could not have floated without the Na'vi looking soulful and fully realized. To that end, it is a success. Given massive amounts of money and time, Cameron has produced a race of creatures that convey emotion and are as human as any flesh-and-blood actor. The results are unprecedented.
Avatar has imagination to spare. Its lush landscapes trump anything created in Peter Jackson's Rings trilogy or the entire body of Del Toro's various cinematic worlds. The world of Pandora is fully realized and a joy to behold, and provides spectacle and beauty worthy of the finest HD documentaries. As mere eye candy, this film is worth the price of admission.
The non-technical elements -- plot and characterization -- have not exactly fallen by the wayside, but they are nowhere near as breathtaking and original as the visual feast. Like other Jim Cameron films, many of the plot devices and themes have been seen elsewhere. The popular suggestion of Dances With Wolves mixed with Smurfs and Ferngully is not without some merit.
However, Cameron's strength as a filmmaker has always been to expertly execute according to formula (consider the military feel of Aliens; the grand, sweeping romance of Titanic; or the Ah-nold action/comedy fest that was True Lies... all of which were done before, but rarely so well).
The characters are well developed, and the epic plot is allowed to unfurl in a timely pace. At the end of the film, you'll be grateful for every painstaking measure used to put together such a fully-realized product. Who knows if this is the future of film making, but it most certainly defines the absolute heights of the present.
Posted on 10/24/09 01:09 PM
This film is not for the squeamish: jaguar maulings, snake bites, decapitation, impaling, and pure savagery. If it doesn't make you cringe a bit, then there is probably something wrong with you. The violence may turn you off entirely, but looking away will cost you a chance enjoy a magnificently conceptualized drama.
The idea behind the graphic violence, I suppose, is to provide a visceral anchor that validates the frantic energy of the proceedings. Mel Gibson spares no length in depicting the savage wrath of the Aztec civilization in order to clearly establish the desperation of Jaguar Paw, the story's protagonist.
Beyond the savagery is an intense, compelling film that follows a simplistic chase-format. However, what makes Apocalypto shine are the vibrant characters. Brought alive by incredible costume design and dialogue that is startlingly resonant, each of the principle characters have an identity and dynamic all of their own. We are allowed to see the humanity -- albeit it swayed by a warrior culture -- of the antagonists and the film is far stronger because of it.
I am very pleased to see a filmmaker take the risk of filming a Hollywood movie with (almost) no white actors, no English, and an unflinching yet accurate look at one of Central Americas great indigenous peoples.
This film is exciting, addicting, and makes no attempt to romanticize violence and suffering. Gibson digs deep in trying to paint a picture American moviegoers will not see anywhere else. It comes off like a more enjoyable Apocalypse Now, albeit with a different locale and vastly different themes. The sense of exhaustion and the dark foreboding are exactly the same, however.
My only gripes are occasionally spotty camera work (no doubt attributable to a difficult shooting location) and the use of too much slow motion. These complaints, however, are not enough to sink this utter triumph.
Posted on 10/24/09 09:58 AM
This one has gotten hammered pretty hard, not only on the forums but by most of the people I know outside of RT who have seen.
It's Will Ferrel, in another sports comedy, with a half-baked script and an utterly underutilized premise. He is a soul-singer/franchise owning/power forward. When I first saw the trailer, my eyes lit up.
Ultimately, none of the jokes are as sharp and as in the classic Anchorman, however if you have a night on your hands and chance to see this one without spending any money I say go for it.
A few reasons you may want to watch this movie...
1. Will Ferrel fights a bear
2. The song "Love me Sexy"
3. Men wearing eyeliner
4. A few good riffs on obsessive sports fanatics
5. A strong punch to the jejunum
6. Will Ferrel throwing an infantile fit over and over again.
Depending on your tastes, these may well be reasons not to watch Semi-Pro. But if you have ever laughed and Ferrel in the past and are not expecting the world, this can be a pleasant film that is worth a lazy evening's viewing.