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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Tag Archives: Erich Redman

U-571 (2000)

Male-bonding has never been sweatier.

When a German U-571 submarine with a sophisticated encryption machine on=board is sunk during a World War II battle at sea, the Allies send an American Navy force led by Lieutenant Andrew Tyler (Matthew McConaughey) to retrieve it for study. But in order to board it, they have to concoct a plan that will not only get the soldiers aboard, but also ensure them safety when they are in the water. Issue is, that doesn’t quite happen as their cover as a rescue force is quickly blown, not just putting their mission at risk, but also their lives. So now with this wrench thrown into their plans, the soldiers must now take German hostages and prepare to destroy the German vessel before the Nazis can send naval backup. This is all so complicated considering that, you know, they’re basically in the middle of nowhere, without poor radio-signal and even worse of all, no way of getting out of this situation alive. In other words, it’s a suicide mission, but it’s for the country, so it’s not so bad, right?

“Shark?”

U-571 has, for good reasons, gotten a lot of flack for not exactly being the most faithful adaptation of what really happened, but then again, I don’t think the movie really tries to go for authenticity, either. It’s the kind of movie that takes a real life moment in WWII, purports itself as sheer and absolute propaganda, but at the same time, also uses this all for the sake of entertainment and fun to be had at the movies, even if, yeah, the story’s not all that true.

Then again, can we really trust Hollywood with this sort of stuff? Not really and that’s why U-571, issues with authenticity aside, is still an enjoyable movie. It’s the kind that you could take a war-vet to see and not only would they absolutely love, but go on and on about how they actually experienced something close to that, except, not really at all. Still, it’s the kind of movie that prides itself on being for the troops, while also trying to remind people that war is hell, explosive, a little crazy, and oh yeah, dangerous as hell, but that’s why it’s left for the heroes and not for us layman, right?

Well, sort of. Maybe. I’m not sure.

Either way, I’m getting away from the point of U-571 and the fact that, directed by Jonathan Mostow, there’s a old-school look and feel to this thing that’s not just slick and polished, but also reminiscent of some of the best submarine-thrillers, albeit this time, with a much-bigger budget. But what’s perhaps most interesting about U-571 is how it takes measures with that bigger-budget, and not only gives us a few great, sweeping shots of the sea, but even puts a little bit more effort into how the submarine itself looks, feels, and well, most especially sounds.

“Oh no, oh no, oh no.”

See, U-571 actually got nominated for a few Oscars back in the day, and even winning one. Sure, they were all technical awards and no way were at all for the silly acting, screenplay, or direction, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that they’re impressive, even by today’s standards. It takes a certain kind of skill and talent to make all of the constant crashes, bangs, and booms, seem like something new and exciting, even when they seem to be happening every five seconds or so; it’s like a Michael Bay film, but there’s actually a reason for all of the loud-sounds and explosions here. If anything, U-571 shows what can happen when you pay enough attention to the technical-details, while also not forgetting to make your movie somewhat good, too.

Basically, I’m just coming at Michael Bay.

That said, of course, U-571 has its issues; like I said before, everything aside from the action and technical-stuff is a little, how should I say it, weak. However, I don’t think it really pulls the movie away from being anymore fun than it already is – it starts off by setting itself off as a silly, stupid, pulpy action-thriller and because of that, the movie never really loses its sense of style, if there is any to be found. It could have been a soulless and totally boring piece of phony propaganda, but it’s fun and sometimes, that’s all you need.

Good story, acting and screenplay be damned!

Consensus: Stupid and loud, but also kind of fun, U-571 runs the risk of being a whole lot, for a very long period of time, but ends up being an entertaining submarine-thriller, that doesn’t really want us to ask questions, but enjoy ourselves with the loud sounds.

6 / 10

Bad-ass soldier-bros. Don’t mess. Especially with Bon Jovi.

Photos Courtesy of: barneyspender, Mutant ReviewersFernby Films

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Woman in Gold (2015)

The Nazis just can’t help themselves when they see a lovely portrait, apparently.

Gustav Klimt’s iconic painting, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, has stood the test of time and will forever be known as one of the art world’s finest paintings ever created. However, during the Nazis raid on Vienna before WWII, it was confiscated and hidden for many years, all until Austria decided to start showcasing it in is museums. An elderly Holocaust survivor living in Los Angeles by the name of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), notices this and is ashamed. Why? Well, because the subject of that painting was her aunt and she rightfully believes that the painting belongs to her, in the name of her family and late, great aunt. But for some reason, the Austrian government isn’t budging and doesn’t want to give it back, so this is when Maria calls into a son of one of her friends, E. Randol Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds), who doesn’t seem all that involved with the proceedings to really give all the juice that a high-level case like this would need. However, Maria is inspired enough to try and get him to change his mind so that he will see this is not only her battle, but all of Jewish people’s.

Without the eye-brows, one can only assume she's astonished by whatever is in front of her.

Without the eye-brows, one can only assume she’s astonished by whatever is in front of her.

With last year’s the Monuments Men, we got to see the art world portrayed as it almost had never been before: On the gritty and war-torn landscapes of WWII, where people were constantly killing each other left and right, yet, to ensure that a sense of culture would stay alive and well in the years to come, a group of inspired art enthusiasts set out to retrieve pieces of art work that they believed were to be burned away by the Nazis. It was an interesting premise, for sure, and while the movie may have not done it all justice, there was still this intriguing aspect surrounding WWII that isn’t just discussing the obvious; even though everybody is acting in heinous, sadistic ways, that does not mean we have to lose sight of what makes us who we are. And somehow, art is exactly what represents that.

However, this is all just me talking and not at all what this movie discusses. Instead, it has more to do with Maria Altmann, the person, rather than the whole idea that the Nazis stole and most likely destroyed more than half of these foreign countries pieces of art. And for what? Just to prove how mean and grotesque they are? Or was it just to ensure that they would be the tale-tellers of history for generations to come, understand and listen to?

Maybe, maybe not. But hey, look how witty that Maria Altmann was!

Or, at least, that’s what I imagined was going through this movie’s mind as it seems to be more concerned with the lovely, little witticisms Altmann, the character, has to offer. Which is to say that Helen Mirren, for what it’s worth, does a solid job in this role in that she shows us the never ending sadness behind this character that hardly ever seemed to left, even when she did get a chance to escape Vienna and save herself from impending doom. But even with that brave act on her part, still comes the realization that everybody she came to know, love and spend most of her time around in her younger years, are all gone; maybe if they weren’t killed during the Nazis reign, maybe they are now. Maria Altmann is a lonely woman who is literally trying to hold on to whatever source of family or love she has left in her life.

However, this is all me looking deeper and deeper into what is, essentially, a buddy-cop dramedy with Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren; which, trust me, isn’t as fun as I may make it sound. Sure, they fight the baddies (in this case, the Austrian government), they bicker, they solve problems, and along the way, get to know more about each other through revealing conversations about their past or their feelings. All that’s missing is any bit of emotion.

Actually, that’s a lie. Because the only time that there is any emotion at all to be found, is whenever we flashback to Altmann’s life in Vienne, both before, as well as during the time where the Nazis came around and started terrorizing everything and everyone they ran into. There’s a sequence that runs for at least ten to 15 minutes where the younger-Altmann (Tatiana Maslany) and her hubby (Jack Irons) are on the run from the Gestapo, which is thrilling and exciting, even if you don’t expect it to be. Because we know that Altmann ultimately survived escaping from Vienna before the Nazis got to her first, this shouldn’t work one bit, but somehow, it totally does and felt like a solid diversion from whatever the hell Riggs and Murtagh were doing or talking about.

Presumably, after they were just involved with a high-speed car-chase with some crooks.

Presumably, after they were just involved with a high-speed car-chase with some crooks.

And I guess there is something to be said by the fact that Reynolds, like Mirren, at least tries with this character, but he isn’t given much of anything else to do except whine a lot and then, seemingly out of nowhere, gain the courage to fight against the Austrian government once and for all. Even Katie Holmes’ performance as his character’s wife, feels like she’s there just to pump him up and give him inspirational pull-quotes that will ultimately do everything for him, but nothing for us. Which is all a problem, especially when you’re begging and pleading with us to be involved with Altmann’s tale of tribulations.

Although Simon Curtis does genuinely seem to care for this story and the outcome of it all, it never seems like he’s putting absolutely all of his heart into it. Instead, he’s just sort of going through the motions of how we’re supposed to feel somewhat compelled by this type of story, until we realize that Curtis himself is using it as material to talk about the fact that there are plenty more paintings out there, either hidden or in plain-view, that were taken away from their rightful owners during the time of war. Once again, this is probably the most interesting notion that the movie seems to highlight, yet, never actually seems to care about.

Instead, he just wants us all to laugh at the cheeky woman that was Maria Altmann, who is about as funny as my alcoholic uncle on New Year’s Eve.

Consensus: Going through all of the motions you expect it to go through, the Woman in Gold seems to suffer from the lack of any sort of emotion, even if both Mirren and Reynolds seem to be digging deep and far to find any of it.

4 / 10

Why have a painting? When you can have the real thing?

Why have a painting? When you can have the real thing?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz

United 93 (2006)

Staying right here on the ground and not moving.

On September 11, 2001, four planes were hijacked by terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests. Three of them reached their targets. This is the story of the fourth that didn’t and the people that made that possible.

It’s been just a bit over a decade since that fateful day where more civilians were killed than any other day in history, ever. It’s something that we Americans are still hurting from but is also something that has made us stronger as a country. I know that I don’t usually get all this patriotic and loving like I am right here, but I’ll be damned if this film didn’t make me feel a little bit sentimental towards the country I live in!

U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

Anyway, enough of that, because while I do realize that this movie is definitely centered towards those who can remember that day, where they were at, and exactly how they were affected, I have to make a note that it is still a move nonetheless. Meaning, it can be viewed by many, regardless of what country they lie in. I bring this fact up because it’s so strange to see a director like Paul Greengrass (somebody who resides from England) tackle such a controversial subject/event such as this. And don’t forget people, this movie came out nearly five years after the attacks and if anybody who lived during the year 2006 will tell you: We as a country still weren’t willing to get over it. Add that to the fact that Greengrass’ track-record up to that point was good, but mind you, this was when people already got a helping of what he could do with the Bourne Supremacy, where people already knew he loved to shake that camera all over the place.

Hey, look! It's that dude who sings on Broadway!

Hey, look! It’s that dude who sings on Broadway!

So yeah, you could say that it was a pretty daring move on everybody’s parts involved to not only make this movie when they did, but to make it in general, with the lad behind it all.

Somehow though, I couldn’t imagine anyone else directing this. There’s something about Greengrass’ down-to-Earth direction that really gives you the impression that not only is this happening in real time, but that it’s literally happening right in front of your own very eyes. It feels, looks, and sounds exactly like a documentary, and because of that, it just looks, feels, and sounds real. Which is basically saying that it’s a terrifying experience to watch, because even though you know what’s going to happen in the end, you can’t help but get swept up in it all and root for the passengers, yet, at the same time, still can’t lose that sense of dread that sooner or later, it’s all going to end and these passengers are going to perish.

As morbid as it may sound to write or read, it’s the truth and that’s why this movie hit me so hard. Because rather than trying to go for some sort of political-agenda and say who was in the right, the wrong, or indifferent when it came to this situation, on this very day, Greengrass just stands behind the camera and films how it probably would have happened. He’s not offering any “rah-rah” patriotism about how these passengers all acted on the plane when they found out what was really happening, but rather, showing us what can happen when a band of practically strangers get together, figure out what predicament they’re in, and how they can get out of it. Which yes, sounds totally different when you think in the grand scheme of things, what was going on outside of this one aircraft, but when you’re watching this movie, you’re not really thinking about everything else that’s going on in the Big Apple and how the rest of the world is reacting to it – you’re simply thinking about how these passengers are going to get off of this plane and survive, if that’s at all possible.

Which, yet again, is a strange feeling to have, especially when you consider that you know how it ends. If you don’t, then I suggest you read more.

And that’s why, despite him having some bad-press surrounding his name and his “crack-cam”, Greengrass truly was the perfect choice to direct a movie such as this. He not only knows how to ramp-up the tension so well, that you practically forget about the actual, real-life ending itself, but he also reminds us that even the smallest gesture of humanity and bravery can matter. Like I said before, he’s not necessarily commending everybody involved and their actions, but he’s just shining a camera-light on what may, or may not, have happened and how certain people reacted to this specific situation they were tragically thrown into.

That’s what brings me to my next point and how this daring this film truly was. See, it’s one thing to portray an event in the history of the world that happened to, and was felt by numerous people from all over the globe. However, it’s another thing to portray an event in history that has a few specific amount of people involved, and to portray them, their stories leading up to, and during this event, is definitely a ballsy move. Not just because you have to worry about who you offend, or who you don’t, but because this movie right here is their legacy; if you’re bad-mouthing them and people know about it, then you, my sir, may have something of a lawsuit on your hands, not to mention many, many years of angry fan-mail pouring in by the thousands.

Guess the fact they were sweating buckets didn't set anybody off.

Guess the fact they were sweating buckets didn’t set anybody off.

But once again, Greengrass proved me wrong and showed that he can take any drastic steps he wants, he always comes out on top. In the case of the characters here in this movie, nobody’s really all that famous or well-known to the point of where one could say, “Oh, that guy was in that episode of Seinfeld!” And even if you could, it probably wouldn’t get in the way of being able to accept this “character” for who they are and what they resemble. Greengrass clearly did the bit of casting in which he got a whole slew of unfamiliar faces and names, just so that it would be so much easier for us, the audience, to not get distracted by seeing a famous person, play a character; especially not a character who is supposed to be based on someone who actually existed.

Nobody here is really outstanding in terms of acting and to be honest, even after all of these years, nobody’s really all that recognizable either (with the exception of Cheyenne Jackson and a blank-a-few-times-and-you’ll-miss-her appearance from Olivia Thirlby), which is good. In fact, it totally works in the movie’s favor. It makes you see each and everyone of these “characters” as who they’re supposed to be: Real-life, actual people that, sadly, were thrown into such a tragic situation as this. It makes you wonder about what they had to go through and how, even when it all ended, their families were affected. But no matter what, the movie reminds us that it’s because of these people and their bravery, that some lives were changed. For both better and for worse. But most of all, they changed history and had us remember that regular, everyday human beings, just like you or I, can change history by just getting up and not taking something we don’t believe in. Even if the end game doesn’t look so pretty.

But hey, that’s just what being humans all about: Making decisions, regardless of if they end well or not. You just want to help and save others, if that’s at all possible.

Consensus: Though it had everything to lose by simply just being made in the first place, United 93 turns out to be not just an effective piece of film-making, but a compelling and emotional look inside the lives of those who were on this one specific airplane, on this one fateful day.

9 / 10 = Full Price!!

Never forget, people. No matter where you are in this world, just never forget.

Never forget, people. No matter where you are in this world, just never forget.

Photo’s Credit to: Goggle Images

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014)

In case you didn’t know, he’s an analyst.

CIA junior analyst Jack Ryan (Chris Pine) works on Wall Street in hopes that he may spot some dirty trading going on between big-time politicians and terrorist organizations, in hopes that he can stop a possible a terrorist attack if the situation calls for that. However, his latest bout of curiosity gets the best of him this time with one Viktor Cherevin (Kenneth Branagh), a smart, charming and rather sinister Russian who plans on taking down the whole economy for his, as well his own Mother Russia’s self-gain. But the problem isn’t that Ryan can’t stop this, it’s that he’s not too sure about it in the first place to stop it, that’s when his superior (Kevin Costner) decides to promote him to being a field-agent. That means Jack’s going to have to do a lot more than just talking, crunching-numbers and writing some valuable information down – he’s actually going to have to kick some booty! If the situation calls for it, that is. And more than likely, the situation does call for it, however, it gets worse once Ryan’s long-time girlfriend, nurse Cathy Muller (Keira Knightley), gets involved with the mission by pure accident and has to go through the same motions as her boy is going through, in hopes that she not only doesn’t get her or Jack killed, but thousands and thousands of Americans in New York.

"How ya doing, son? And to answer your question: Yes, being 58 does look this good."

“How ya doing, son? And to answer your question: Yes, being 58 does look this good.”

There’s been a lot of chatter going on about this new Jack Ryan movie and even from the very start, I knew that none of it was deserved. See, January movies have the reputation for being terribly shitty, worthless, forgettable and only released so that the major-studios can make a quick buck; and rightfully so, too, because more than often not, that has been the case. But that’s the weird dilemma that Jack Ryan finds itself in: Should it have moved its release-date to being placed in the dreaded month of January, in which everybody is practically playing “Oscar catch-up”? Or, should it have tried to stick it out on Christmas Day like it was originally intended to be?

Well, to be honest, I can’t answer that question because, as we all know, there’s higher-powers out there in Hollywood that manage this type of stuff and no way in hell are any of them going to listen to a 20-year-old blogger, who is currently typing this now as we speak, in a Heisenberg T-shirt and polka-dot boxers. So yeah, obviously I have no say or pull, but it still brings up a big question nonetheless: Do all January movies have to be so shitty?

The answer is a resounding “no”; and I think that Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is definitely going to turn-over a new leaf in hopes that we at least get a bit better-quality movies in the month in which time pretty much forgets about (especially for movie-goers).

Anyway, all of that business-talk aside, there is a movie to discuss here and like I hinted towards earlier, it’s not as bad as people are making it out to be, based solely on its release-date and rather vague trailers. And to be honest, yes, they weren’t all that promising to begin with but I knew that deep down in my heart, with the talent involved here, that I wasn’t going to be let-down. Because, let’s face it, each and every one of us were surprised by the fact that not only was Thor a pretty good movie, but it was a pretty good action movie. Better yet, make that pretty good action movie, directed by none other than Mr. Kenneth Branagh himself. Seemed very strange at the time, but in hindsight, it surprisingly worked in the way that a superhero movie, let alone a Marvel superhero movie needed to: It was fun, quick, punchy, humorous and had all of the drama only a dignified Shakespeare-thespian could fully understand.

Like we all know though, Branagh didn’t return for the sequel, which meant that he wanted to do this and I’m glad he did because for some reason, it feels a lot more “classier” with him around. It’s not like the movie harkens back to any of those old-school, 70’s/80’s/early-90’s thrillers, but it definitely reminds you of a good, old-fashioned thriller that doesn’t try to re-invent the wheel by any means necessary, but does try to give you enough jumps, thrills, spills, chuckles and fun for the whole time you spend with it. That’s why I think Branagh, despite a few hiccups here and there along the way, gets the job done quite efficiently, without ever focusing too much on the story, or the action. We get a nice-balance between the two and makes this feel like a thriller, with some substance for anybody that may be searching for some.

Also though, it should be noted that the guy knows how to rack-up tension pretty damn well, in certain ways I didn’t even know he had the capability of. For instance, there’s this pretty nifty sequence in which Jack Ryan goes from one building to another and has to hack into a computer-system; but while he is doing this, simultaneously, Chervin is getting worked over by Ryan’s girlfriend, with a clock just tick, tick, ticking away in the background. It’s a sequence in which we know how it’s all going to end, but we don’t know how the pieces are going to fall and align together, and to watch as Branagh keeps us guessing, while on-the-edge of our seats at the same time, truly is something fun to be apart of.

Branagh also does something smart in how he’s able to get a good cast together and make something, out of nothing. Mainly, the character of Jack Ryan, who, as we all know, has never been an easy character to pull-of. For one, he’s incredibly smart and has to make you believe that he can punch, and/or yell-out numbers like it’s what he was born to do, while also assuring you that he can kick some fine booty, if the situation ever calls for it. However, as hard as that balance may be to work with, Chris Pine does a very nice job in giving us both sides to this character, without ever losing the charm that’s made him such a lovable-presence in the first place. There’s some knowing-winks here and there, and you may even get a Captain Kirk-like wisecrack or two, but altogether, Chris Pine is Jack Ryan and if the franchise was to continue on with him in the lead role, I think they’d definitely be in some safe hands.

"Excoose me, meece, but vould you vike to come back to vy humble abode and drvink some VVVVVodka with vme?"

“Excoose me, meece, but vould you vike to come back to vy humble abode and drvink some vodka with vme?”

Everybody else is pretty fun, too, although I have to still give credit to Kenneth Branagh for keeping everything small and sweet for what it was. We only get a few big characters here and there, and the rest are all window-dressing – which is all fine, considering that the heavy-hitting, big characters are played pretty-well by the cast. I’ve never seen a director cast himself as the villain in his own movie, but for what it’s worth, Branagh’s pretty fun, charming and suave, in a “I’ll kill you with a blink of my eye” kind-of-way. He’s certainly hamming it up, but it’s all in good fun, which makes it a lot easier to enjoy. Same goes for Kevin Costner and Keira Knightley, who both play sides on Ryan’s end, while never making you so sure what they’re going to do next. Especially Costner who, by now, has pretty much cemented his role as the steel-faced, dead-pan guy you can call on to deliver what is basically exposition, but deliver it in such a compelling way, you’ll feel like you must need to listen. A lot of credit goes to Knightley, too, who is sadly given the role of the “annoying girlfriend who just wants love and attention from her boyfriend”, but handles it well, and in ways, gets her own chances to shine and show that she can stick-up for herself when the going gets going.

Still though: She’s no Anne Archer. Then again, no woman could ever be.

However, as much as I go on and on about this, I do have to state the fact that this is not a perfect movie by any means: there are a few times where the action gets a bit too indecipherable with all of the shaky-cam going on, and certain plot-points/twists are a bit confusing, especially to the common-ear. But in all, when it comes right down to making this a fun, action-thriller, that just so happens to be trying to catapult a new franchise onto the horizon, I have to say that I feel like we’re stepping with the right foot this time.

Now, granted, this movie could definitely bomb, and bomb BIG TIME at the box-office, almost to never be heard of again, but I for one hope that isn’t the case. If Branagh continues to direct, then I definitely don’t want this franchise to just stand and collapse with the blink of an eye; there is some nice, nifty details here and there that could definitely spin this story into some new foreign territory, in which we continue to see characters develop more, but also the action, along with the budget, get a lot wider and more expansive. Then again though, this could be all me just talking out of my arse by hoping for the best, while expecting the worst, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Consensus: Not the most memorable action-thriller involving spies you’ll ever see, but still fun, thrilling and exciting enough to make Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit a good time at the movies, as well as possibly the first of a soon-to-be franchise. Fingers crossed, people.

7.5 / 10 = Rental!!

I guess the Enterprise was in the shop?

I guess the Enterprise was in the shop?

Photo’s Credit to: IMDBColliderJobloComingSoon.net

The Illusionist (2006)

Sorry, ladies. Leave the magic tricks to the men.

When word of famed-magician Eisenheim’s (Edward Norton) astounding illusions reaches the powerful and pragmatic Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), the egotistical-ruler attends one of the magician’s shows in order to debunk Eisenheim during the performance. However, when the Prince’s intended, Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), assists the magician on-stage, a dormant love affair is rekindled. That’s where Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) steps-in to clear the air and find out just what the hell is going on here.

Back in the golden days of 2006, there was not one, but TWO movies made about 20th century magicians (the second-one being Christopher Nolan’s far-better The Prestige). Apparently, David Blaine or Criss Angel just weren’t cutting it for the movie-going audiences and they needed more magic, more illusions, and more bullshit! And even though Neil Burger is nowhere near the type of director Nolan is, and probably forever will be, at least the guy keeps us believing in that everything we see is real, no matter how much CG they may use. Oh, it’s actually fictionalized-tale? Could have fooled me. NOT!!

All kidding aside, the guy, Burger as I could probably assume he loves to be called, actually does a fine job with this material because he is able to not only keep us wondering just what the hell is going on here, but where this story is going to end-up lastly. It’s not easy to see the twists and turns coming and that’s where the fun of Burger’s direction seems to lie: the element of playing with his audience’s minds and expectations, much like the illusionist this story is all about. However, maybe I’am a bit biased in my own way and found more to reach for than mostly other-viewers.

On the next episode of Whisker Wars: The 20th Century Version....

On the next episode of Whisker Wars: The Royal Days….

I have to say, I love movies about con-men and in a way, magicians are sort of shoved into the same category as them. Therefore, fore me, watching as this magician would pull-off tricks and illusions to play with the minds of everybody who cared to go out and see him, really interested me and had me wonder just where exactly Burger was going to go with this story. Some places he takes you; you expect, whereas others; you don’t. All you do know is that Burger seems to have a fiery-passion for this material and it shines through in every, which way. Also, make sure to pay close-attention to all that’s going on here because it may just help you in the end. That’s the only piece of advice I’m giving away, and it’s all for free. Sadly.

Then again, the fact that Burger loves this material so much, you know, magicians playing tricks on each other, you sort of start to lose reality of what this story is actually about: a love between two people that can’t be together. It’s the age-old story of two kids that knew each other when they were young, fell in love, had their first, awkward kiss together (trust me, there’s plenty more where that came from you youngsters), and vowed to always be together, until they eventually are separated by two walks of life and class-situations. To be honest, there isn’t anything wrong with the story here, it just doesn’t get as much as love and dedication as the whole mystery does. It’s obvious that maybe Burger needed a little som-som to back-up all of his fun and games, but it doesn’t work or even have you give a lick about the forbidden-love between these two. You sort of just want them to bone, get it over with, and shut-up about the whole thing and move on with their lives. That would have been a lot more entertaining to watch then a bunch of people just moping and pissing around about how they can’t be with the one they love. I love Scarlett Johansson, but you don’t see me bitchin’ about that every, damn day, now do ya?!??! Didn’t think so. Get over it!

Half of the problem that I had with this plot-line, also had to do with the fact that Jessica Biel can’t act for shit, and when she tries too hard: this is what we end-up getting. Not a good thing to witness at all. Every movie I see this gal in, I always want her to blow me away, show me something more from her that I never, ever thought she had, and just make me believe in her once again as an actress (I don’t know when the first time was), but she just can’t pull that off here, no matter how meaty the material may be. Around all of these heavy-weights, she sort of sticks out like a sore-thumb and it’s very, very noticeable. I can’t even blame Burger either, because every obvious and predictable line this flick they throw at her, she hits it as if she was in a day-time soap, or better yet, still on another episode of 7th Heaven. Now, I think is the time to fully give-up on Biel as an actress and just face the fact that half of the roles that she’s offered, her hubby JT should just take mainly. May be a bit far-fetched for some people to believe in, but the guy can do no wrong. Let’s just face that fact and live our lives a little bit better now.

Even though Biel is bad, everybody else seems to be on their A-game. Hell, with a cast THIS GOOD, I actually wonder what the hell even drew Burger to cast Dullsville-Biel in the first-place. Was it the looks? Was it the possibility of the nude scene? Was it because he was secretly having a fling with her that JT didn’t know about? Or, was it just because she was a big name and that’s what this movie needed to get any sort of viewers whatsoever? I’m going with the former. But anywho, back the cast at-hand.

Edward Norton is, as usual, good as Eisenheim and gives the guy a very dark, mysterious-path that never gives us the easy answering of knowing whether or not the guy is good, or bad. His intentions are never clear, and you never really have the idea in your head that he’s doing all of these magic tricks for the entertainment of others or the money, but something more. He’s an interesting character that I wish we got to see more of, other than just realizing who that person is that makes his knees weak. He even gets pushed to the back-burner somewhere around the final-act, as the movie takes it’s own detour into mystery-thriller territory and sort of forgets all about what makes him a living, breathing character. It’s still a fun, last-act, but a very disappointing one if you take Norton and the character he was playing into consideration.

Biel's facial-expressions tell it: she what she is doing in a movie with such fine actors as these.

Biel’s face tells it all: she has no idea what she is doing in a movie with such fine actors as these.

Rufus Sewell, much to nobody’s surprise whatsoever, plays Crown Prince Leopold, the corrupt and bastard-like ruler of the land, who soon hopes  become king of the empire one day. Obviously, you know this guy is going to do evil and sadistic things throughout the large-portion of the flick, however, you sometimes get teentsie, tiny surprises of emotional-depth with this guy that seems real, honest, and more than just the traditional villain that we are used to seeing in these types of movies. But even though that depth and insight of that character comes out every once and awhile, it starts to be shoved back into him, just so the plot can move along and make him feel like he’s more and more of a dick, rather than a human-being. There’s a scene by the end with him where I really feel like I was starting to get the full picture of who the heck this guy really was, underneath all of the royalty and fancy-shizz, but sadly, it was a little too late for me and for him to really get the credit he deserved. Even if Sewell did a great-job with this character, I still feel like the script didn’t accompany him as well as it started-off as being. Poor guy, at least he still will forever and always be type-casted as that dick from now on.

The one who really steals the show in this whole movie, however, is in-fact Paul Giamatti as Chief Inspector Uhl. Uhl was a character that I thought was going to be the straight-up dickhead of the whole movie that was corrupt, mean, terrible, and ridiculous with all of the things that he did and used to his power as head of the police force. However, things for him, just like the plot itself, start to change and we see more of a moral-compass shell out of the guy, which was anymore than I ever expected. Giamatti plays this up so perfectly as we have no idea whether or not to trust this guy, believe he will do the right thing, or even, do anything reasonable to make his job and life seem like it has some sort of meaning. Watching Giamatti go through this internal conflict with himself was something of a work of magic (heehee), and it goes to show you that the guy can play anything he wants, and still have that pure-bread, lovable personality to him, no matter how dark or mean the character may be. Swell job, Paul. Swell.

Consensus: The Illusionist may not work when it comes to being about the love between our two main-characters, mainly because it doesn’t feel developed as well as the all of the fun and games of the magic-tricks, but with a superb-cast (minus Biel) and an inspired direction from Burger who seems to really enjoy this material, you have more enjoyment than you expect.

7 / 10 = Rental!!

"Fuckin' rabbit out of the hat?!?!? No!! So stupid and unoriginal for a mind-bender like myself!!"

“Fuckin’ rabbit out of the hat?!?!? No!! So stupid and unoriginal for a mind-bender like myself!!”