Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Neil Burger and Steven Milhauser
My rating: 2/5
"What a disappointment" was what I could be heard shouting all the way home after seeing this movie. The one thing worse than a bad movie is a movie that was well capable of being good but was obviously just too lazy to accomplish quality. The ever-lovely and talented Mr. Norton has a real knack for picking such films and The Illusionist is no exception. The story follows Eisenheim the Illusionist as he tricks and magicks his way to happiness with the love of his life, the Dutchess Sophie, betrothed to the dastardly Prince Leopold.
The simple plot allowed plenty of spce for magnificent conjuring and interesting set-pieces and while I kept repeating to myself that it's unfair to compare it to The Prestige, I found myself awfully disappointed in the fact that Eisenheims "illusions" were too far-fetched to ever believe they were possible. The difference between The Illusionist and The Prestige is that the former made no effort to make the audience believe in Eisenheims skill as a performer. He never claimed magical powers but they never explain how he gets butterflies to carry an audience-member's hankie back to her, or his use of holograms in the 18th century.
Another major problem was the stiff lack of chemistry between the two leads. Edward Norton probably knew his vast superiority to the awfully unconvincing Jessica Biel and they never got past the "polite" stage in their supposedly profound relationship.
On the plus side, the film looks absolutely stunning with oscar-nominated cinematography. Some of the stage performances were nicely designed. A strong performance from Paul Giamatti as the conflicted police inspector is also noteworthy. Unfortunately, Norton's performance never quite rises to the occasion. For a performer with Norton's famed intensity, it is disappointing (there's that word again) to see such a lazy attempt here.
As an extra disappointment, the film has a horribly executed "twist" ending. The only shock in that twist was that I realised I wasn't supposed to realise what was going on. Yet another film that depends on its twist ending but unfortunately treats its audience like idiots.
If you want my advice, forget The Illusionist and watch The Prestige twice instead. And if you're looking for a typically brilliant Edward Norton performance, don't waste your time with this, hold out for his magnificent turn in The Painted Veil instead.
Saturday, March 10, 2007
Directed by: Robert De Niro
Written by: Eric Roth
Starring: Matt Damon, Billy Crudup, Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, John Turturro
My rating: 3/5
After De Niro’s last uneven foray in directing, A
With such a huge ensemble cast which includes Joe Pesci, Alec Baldwin, William Hurt, Michael Gambon and an outstanding Billy Crudup, it is difficult not to be impressed with this film on some level. Overall, however, the film is over-long and drags in a few too many places. I recommend it for those patient souls who enjoy a smoky political thriller but who are willing to sacrifice three hours of their busy life in order to do so. A tough journey, but worth the investment.
- Charlene Lydon
Directed by: Stephen Frears
Written by: Peter Morgan
Starring: Helen Mirren, Michael Sheen, James Cromwell
My Rating 4/5
The Queen deals with the period of time just before and after the death of Princess Diana and the angry speculation surrounding the Royal Family’s staunch silence. The family’s disdain for the princess is not focussed on or frowned upon. Frears treats it as a matter of fact, rather than a controversy. When the messenger arrives relaying the news of Diana’s death, Prince Philip rolls his eyes and says “What has she done now?” This, along with the Queen’s solemn, pensive reaction embodies the overall detachment that the Royal Family felt from the Princess. The Queen didn’t feel that her death had anything to do with her family because she was no longer part of it.
As a film, The Queen unfortunately creates a rather “made by the BBC” visual tone. It has very little cinematic merit in that respect. However, absolutely every other aspect of it is pure cinema at its best. The delicate breaking-down of the title character is perfectly paced and perfectly well-rounded. The film isn’t trying to get you to embrace the monarchy again. It merely helps the audience to understand the intricacies of being raised as the future Queen of England.
- Charlene Lydon
Directed by: Marc Lawrence
Written by: Marc Lawrence
My rating: 1/5
To call this film run-of-the-mill would be an insult to the usual Drew Barrymore run-of-the-mill romantic comedies. The film struggles along, trying its best to be charming, but only succeeds in treating the audience like monkeys. Despite some funny, dialogue at times, it wastes the obvious talent of two of our generation’s most enchanting rom-com actors.