Scarlett Johansson

The Prestige

Year: 2006
Directed By: Christopher Nolan
Written By: Christopher Nolan and Jonathan Nolan, Christopher Priest (novel)

RYAN’S REVIEW

After Christopher Nolan knocked our socks off with the start of a brand new Batman franchise in 2005 he immediately followed it up with this little nugget. A film with a spectacular cast, a story that kept us guessing the whole time, and an ending that blew us away. This movie, more than any other at a time when I was just learning who Nolan was, convinced me that this guy was for real and somebody to keep an eye on. I had yet to see Memento at that time, and while I had seen Insomnia I gave it little thought and made no connection. In 2006 I was young and eagerly looking for a new favorite filmmaker two years removed from both Oliver Stone and Quentin Tarantino disappointing me in the worst of ways. There were the Coen Brothers of course, and I liked several others as well but this movie officially ushered in a new player to the ball field.

Christopher Nolan is not my favorite director today but he is part of a handful of directors I am always excited to hear have something new coming out. Nolan is a smart director who keeps his filmmaking crew together for most of his films. That continuity, as much as his mind and capabilities, goes a long way in making his movies a head above the rest. I have recently been disappointed by Nolan as I thought Interstellar was painfully awful. However I still have faith in him despite that long and uneventful film I anticipated so much. There are people out there who have the audacity to call Interstellar great but they are only lying to themselves. That movie was garbage, but Nolan’s prior track record speaks for itself. This movie was awarded to Nolan over others because Christopher Priest, the author of the book, specifically wanted him. Nolan took it and hit the ground running to produce another good film in the downtime between the groundbreaking and moneymaking giant of his Batman franchise. Aside from his Batman films, Nolan’s movies are typically the type that make you think and will keep you guessing. What better story to do that with than one about magic and illusion? As we come to the actual prestige of the movie what we find is not only shocking and surprising but a haunting reality for both magicians.

This movie also played a big part in my becoming a fan of Christian Bale. Bale had been around for some time but I had never given him any credit until after I saw Batman Begins for the first time. I still wondered then if he was just good in that particular movie but this film proved he could do more. Bale has since gone on to achieve even greater success over the years but I will always remember this role as the one that officially caught my eye and made me realize his potential. In this film I couldn’t get over how awesome it was simply to see Batman and Wolverine on screen together. This movie came out the same year as the ultimately disappointing X-men Last Stand, but it wasn’t Hugh Jackman’s fault that movie sucked. Jackman is always great as Wolverine and I thought he was great as the charismatic side of the two feuding magicians in this film.

The rivalry between Jackman and Bale in this movie progresses into darkness early on. Their hatred and competitiveness drive the intrigue of the movie as much as the mystery of their magic does. As each man raises the stakes the audience edges closer to the edge of their seats. Ultimately the climax of this feud is satisfyingly dark and perverse with neither of the two winning but only destroying one another. Magicians and showmen who become what they practice are such interesting men. The pressure on the showmen like Jackman to continue to impress and keep the audience interested can drive them to dire straits. Then there are the true wizards, like Bale’s character, who have an early understanding in how to fool the entire world with an act that is always on. Magicians have to keep you guessing and a movie about them has to do the same.

As good as Jackman and Bale were in this movie their performances are made even better by a stellar supporting cast. In the sunset years of his career Michael Caine only seems to shimmer brighter. An obvious favorite of Christopher Nolan, Caine has been able to stay in the spotlight with great parts in most of his films. I am a huge fan of Caine and love every opportunity to see him on screen. He has an aged dignity and air of respect to him that often reminds me of my own grandfather who is very endeared to me. They are the exact same age and while they don’t look or sound anything alike it’s about the way they carry themselves and the presence that they hold that make me connect the two.

Andy Serkis plays an important part in the film and for once we actually see him, as opposed to simply his movements and voice via motion capture suit. Serkis is one of the most talented actors out there that nobody ever actually sees. He has an extraordinary talent for acting in the advanced technologies of the modern movie era. Among his resume are roles like Gollum from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series, King Kong in the 2005 remake, Caesar in the new Planet of the Apes franchise, and he will be adding a new one at the end of this year with a role in J.J. Abrams new Star Wars film. I once saw a behind the scenes look at Serkis performing in the motion caption suit as Gollem on the set of the second Lord of the Rings film. It was like more than ten years ago when I saw it but to this day I still marvel over watching him perform that scene. An incredibly talented actor who has such unique skills. It’s nice to see him in the flesh now and again though. In this movie he brings an eerily creepy character to the film that adds to the intrigue of it all.

The part Serkis plays is the main assistant to a real life man of mystery, Nikola Tesla, played by a man who himself is oddly mysterious, David Bowie. As an undertone to the movie is the battle of minds that went on at the time between the electrical pioneers of Thomas Edison and Tesla. I know little about both of these men in truth but this movie does motivate me to look into the real history. Seems like there is a really interesting story there that I missed out on along the way.

I suppose it shouldn’t go unnoticed that Scarlett Johansson plays a significant role in the film. She is a very beautiful actress but I have never really felt there was anything that set her apart from say Piper Perabo who plays a smaller yet equally as important part in the movie. Johansson has found much more success than Perabo but I tend to think this is the work of agents more than it is talent. In the movie industry pretty faces are a dime a dozen and at the mercy of whatever popularity they can mustard in the years given to them. The window is short when time is the enemy of what keeps you in the spotlight. I find most people consider me crazy when I mention not being a big fan of Johansson. I don’t really know what it is but I just don’t see it. I tolerate her in the Marvel films as Black Widow but I can’t even get behind her in a role like that. There is nothing wrong with her performance in this movie, but I just don’t see her as anything more than a pretty face. However, that being said, this film can only be considered a success for her.

This is a really cool movie but I don’t love it with multiple viewings like I do most of my favorite movies. I don’t think that has anything to do with the film though and everything to do with its content. Magic and illusion is an art that is only really effective the first time. The more you see it the more you figure it all out and the excitement is gone. This movie is a terrific film to watch for the first time. The intrigue will draw you in and the climax will knock you back a few steps. This movie is important to me because it got my attention and encouraged me to see more from Christopher Nolan. It’s not his best but at par with what he is capable of and the par for Nolan is a step above the norm for the rest. This is an interesting movie with terrific performances and great all around effects. It is more than worth your time to see and I think it’s one anybody will enjoy.

NEXT MOVIE: The Princess Bride (1987)

 

 

 

The Island

Year: 2005
Directed By: Michael Bay
Written By: Caspian Tredwell-Owen, Alex Kurtzman, and Robert Orci

RYAN’S REVIEW

This movie is pretty much a conglomerate of all Science Fiction movies merged together. Themes upon themes upon themes repeated and taken from other classic films.  Yet despite what many critics think I happen to be a fan of Michael Bay.  His movies may not have a whole lot going on sometimes but they are action packed and this guy has a gift for special effects and action sequences.  It’s why Bad Boys was so cool; it’s why the first Transformers movie was so good.  Yeah the guy is overseeing many remakes of timeless classics and butchering them, but he can make a cool action movie.  This is a stupid movie and a rip off at that, but that doesn’t make it any less cool or exciting does it?

I really don’t want to go into the specifics of which movies this one reminds me of because frankly I’m just not in the mood to think that hard.  If you see it yourself and you are a seasoned viewer you will recognize the many recycled Science Fiction themes all throughout the film.  I don’t think any of that matters with this movie because I happen to like it despite all of that.  Like I said, it’s a cool film and sometimes that is all that matters.  I have always been a sucker for special effects and nobody does them quite like Michael Bay.  Michael Bay has this real douche bag aura about him. The type of guy that wants to pretend he is in his 20s forever.  The kind of adult male that goes to a tanning bed and gets his hair done by a professional.  He might have a hand in many movies that make me shake my head in despair but I also think he has a specific talent that works out for him when he gets behind camera. He makes fun and exciting movies plain and simple. So despite his flaws and the movies that make me shake my head (the Friday the 13th remake, or…well Transformers 2……maybe also 3) I still like him and appreciate some of the movies he makes.

I am not particularly a fan of either of the two stars in this film.  Ewan McGregor has always been a solid actor but I haven’t liked many of his movies. Scarlett Johansson was really starting to explode around the time this movie came out but I have never been a big fan of hers either. Despite my opinion of the two stars they aren’t bad in this movie and they work with a fantastic supporting cast. I think Steve Buscemi is awesome and always have.  I have been really happy to see his career only get better and better over the years. I think he is great in Boardwalk Empire and I think he has been awesome in every single movie I have ever seen him in.  I have literally never seen Steve Buscemi in a movie and thought jeez he played an awful part but he is just that damn good.  I also think Sean Bean is awesome, one because he played the part of Eddard Stark in HBO’s Game of Thrones, and two because of all the other parts he has played over the years. Michael Clarke Duncan also has a small part and may he rest in peace.  His unfortunate and premature death left the movie industry with a significant loss.  He was a good actor and made many memorable characters over the years, he will be missed.  Djimon Hounsou has a significant role and I really liked him a lot while his star was shining bright. In very small roles are two characters from shows that I love. Kim Coates from Sons of Anarchy and Yvette Nicole Brown from Community both play small bit parts and it’s cool to see them in a big time film. I seem to see Coates all the time but this is a rarity as far as Brown goes.

I don’t usually like a movie that is like another movie but I made an exception in this case after first seeing the film.  I realized how cliché it all was but liked it despite that and added it to the collection early on; buying it nearly right after it was released. Watching it now I think the decision was justified, and am glad I chose to get it.  It’s a cool movie that has great effects and an exciting, fast paced story line. Aside from being a sucker for great special effects I am also a big sucker for the elaborate chase scene.  This movie has some great ones and that is probably what swayed my opinion in the end when I first bought the film.

AMBER’S REVIEW

I feel like this is an interesting movie. Wouldn’t it be crazy if that were our insurance policy? A complete clone that is just waiting to help us with whatever ails us or happens to us. I think this film is a really interesting look at a possible future.

theisland

When I searched for this poster, I was honestly expecting the worst. I actually like this poster. The image in the typography is a nice touch and the typography is nice. Although, if I were really, really picky I hate that ESCAPE is on the bottom and it is supposed to be holding the weight of PLAN YOUR. That’s super picky and subjective. The Island typography is cool and futuristic, but it doesn’t really go with the main font very well. It seems I am a little back and forth here. Heh.

NEXT MOVIE: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

The Avengers

Amber and I just finished watching The Avengers and it was incredible.  I have been following the movie since they decided to do it a few years ago and it has more than exceeded all my expectations.  I had my doubts over the years because they were putting so many large personalities onto the screen at the same time but they made it look easy. This was easily one of the best films made after the Marvel characters and that is saying a lot with such great movies to compete with like X2 and the Spiderman franchise. I found myself disappointed with all the recent Marvel movies so this really was a pleasant surprise.  I did enjoy both Thor and Captain America but I had expected them to be better, and I all but hated Iron Man 2 and X-men First Class.  The Avengers simply couldn’t have been any better though.  It was action packed, all the stars were on point with their performances, and it was surprisingly funny.

I openly criticized the choice of Joss Whedon to direct this powerhouse when it was announced a couple years ago.  Clearly I grossly underestimated him and should have done my homework on him before jumping to conclusions.  He had an extended hand in the making of the film getting a writing credit to go along with his role as director.  He made a great movie and should be seeing a lot of doors opening up for him in his career now.  Robert Downey Jr. was fantastic and seemed to really shine in his role as Iron Man.  He is Tony Stark, and he is only getting better at playing the part.  I think Tom Hiddleston was awesome as Loki, really really great as the main antagonist of the film. He is so villainous yet such a joker all the same.  The whole movie he has that sinister smile on his face as if he is humored by a joke that only he knows and it is the entire world.  Samuel L. Jackson had to do little here but stand tall and look cool, but who better to do so?  This was the largest role Jackson has had as Nick Fury now and I think he is great at it.  Chris Evans, Chris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson all did well reprising their roles as Captain America, Thor, and Black Widow.  I thought Jeremy Renner was really good playing the part of Hawkeye.  I didn’t know what good a guy with a bow and arrow would be against an army of aliens but I was really surprised by how much I liked the character.  I wish Ed Norton had returned as the Hulk but Mark Ruffalo wasn’t bad.  I really liked Norton’s The Incredible Hulk but he ended up battling with the studio over a writing credit after the movie came out and they ultimately decided not to bring him back for this.  Not to mention that The Incredible Hulk wasn’t exactly considered a successful film, I thought it was really good though.  I think this movie made great use of the Hulk, and Ruffalo did a good enough job playing Bruce Banner that it didn’t matter that the character was recast.

All of these actors had fantastic chemistry in this movie, and I am very hopeful they will all be able to come together to do it again in the future. They had great dialogue that really reflected their comic book roots with a lot of witty banter and goodhearted humor. Ruffalo and Downey Jr. particularly had good chemistry together, but you really get the feeling that all of these actors liked one another.  I was so surprised by how funny the movie actually was; I found myself laughing out loud from beginning to the very end. If you wait through the entire credits you see the movie end on a really funny final scene. The whole movie had such a casual and natural feeling to it, that surprised me too although it shouldn’t have.  This has been something like six films in the making with buildup coming in nearly every Marvel film since Iron Man came out in 2008. All the characters were well established before this movie even started production so they didn’t have to waste any time introducing every character. That allowed them to do so much more with the script and I think that made this an exceptional comic book film.

Amber and I both loved this movie, if we had the freedom to do so we would have gotten right back in line and watched it again. However we had a lot to talk about on the way back to pick up the kids, there was so much to like about the movie.  I hope everybody out there goes to see the movie because it is worth your time and money. Given the opportunity Amber and I might even go back to the theater and see it a second time on the big screen. We did not watch the film in 3D format, opting for the safer 2D choice.  The last two films we saw in 3D looked awful, but I cannot say how good or bad they might have been in this movie. If you saw it in 3D leave a comment and let me know how it looked.  If it looked good I might check it out the second time around.

UPDATE #1

Santa Claus was awesome this year and brought us a copy of this movie to add into the collection. I enjoyed this movie just as much the second time if not more.  It is a fun and exciting movie that couldn’t have been made any better.  I look forward to the next installment as there will undoubtedly be one, and can’t wait to find out who might be joining the team.  Until then I look forward to the next Captain America, Thor, and Iron Man movies that will be hitting screens this upcoming summer.