Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Tale of Two Films

Over the long weekend, I watched two films. Crank and The Illusionist.
I was rather excited about Crank. It was such an amazing premise, combining the ideas of the film noir classic D.O.A. with the 90's action flick Speed. I had hoped for some great action sequences with what would ultimately amount to a vengeance story.
What I got was a rather poorly written exploitation film that was ultimately pornography for violence and sex.
There's a new documentary that just opened up called, I believe, This Film Not Yet Rated. About how the MPAA rates movies (or rather, how nobody is willing or can tell them how the MPAA actually rates it's movies, why it is harsher to independent films yet soft-tailing to Hollywood...etc.) If that's the case...then, for the most part I think I better look a little closer at the films I want to see. Had I rated this, it would have been an easy candidate for NC-17.
And ultimately, though it had some clever moments and asome interesting action sequences: I wish I would've never seen it.

The Illusionist however was a different story. Though I can't fully recommend it, I found it to be captivating, the performances quite good, the cinematography excellent... In fact, pretty much everything in this film is great...except some of the direction...oh, and the story.
The first half of the movie is wonderful, combining romance with magic...which...well, aren't they the same thing?
And they do it rather well at a nice even pace. It's when the movie begins it's second half that the director and possibly screenwriter begin to lose their way. The drama gives way to thrills that do little to quicken the pulse. The romance disappears like a cheap parlour trick. And we realize that we don't know what we are supposed to be feeling... In fact, it's fairly clear that the director isn't sure either... the latter half is quite uneven. Where the entire movie should build, instead, it flounders.
And yet, even with all of this, the glowing performances and the enchanting world are enough of an illusion to captivate me for the latter hour.


Blogger Bryan Summers said...

I felt the same way about Crank that you did, although I think I enjoyed it a tad bit more.

I really, really like Jason Stathom.

I couldn't stand the quick cut editing at the beginning.

10:48 PM  
Blogger Jordan said...

i'm pretty excited about the illusionist. thanks for the review scott.

1:09 AM  
Blogger Jordan said...

so Bryan and i went and saw The Illusionist on Wednesday night and I must say I was a disappointed. And bored. It just didn't work for me - didn't pull me into the story. I actually fell asleep several times.

In my opinion the filmmakers made a huge error in making the illusions that Ed Norton's character was conjuring too spectacular. Like the orange tree thing. They were obviously CG and so immediately took me out of it. It would have been cool if the illusions looked like an amazing thing that could be somehow manufactured. Making us think, "I wonder how Eisenheim does that." Instead I was thinking, "I wonder if it was weird for Ed Norton to be standing there next to nothing and pretending like an orange tree was growing out of a bucket."

Then the ending really made me kind of mad. I won't give anything away but the way they blow through the little explanation of what happened is a little cheap. Neil Berger could learn from Christopher Nolan in how to pull an ending off like this with more integrity.

But Scott's right - the acting was really good. Giamatti, Norton, the prince character, and Jessica Biel were all great. I just think the director seemed a little in over his head.

I was also probably expecting too much.

And I'm still very excited about "The Prestige" - maybe already expecting too much from that one.

3:31 PM  
Blogger Drew said...

I think this film was based on a short story and the screenwriter just lengthened the short into a feature without introducing any new ideas. It gets spread a little thin but it worked for me the first time around (minus the back love story) much like a magic trick would. There was some clumsy direction and it seemed like the editor tried to compensate for a clear-thought story telling particularly with the ending. I love magic and thus enjoyed it a little more than others but wouldn't see it again for fear that I might learn too much of the trick.

2:19 PM  

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