Bob and Justin's Mad Movie Blog

My name is Bob. My friend Justin and I are aspiring filmmakers and we have pretty similar tastes in movies. This will include our take on what's going on in film and television today as well as updating you on the status of our own work.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Is It Just An Illusion, or Can You Trust the Man?

I know, I know...I'm so clever. So after the non-stop insanity that was "Crank," I decided to slow things down a little.

The Illusionist- Writer-director Neil Burger's adaptation of Steven Millhauser's short-story "Eisenheim the Illusionist" is an elegant film with a story worthy of the title character. Eisenheim (Edward Norton) is a magician in late-19th century Vienna. The details of his young life (told in flashback by Paul Giamatti's Chief Inspector Uhl) are questionable, but befitting of a man whose objective is to entertain while keeping secrets. Burger manages the same feat. He maintains a sense that he is telling us a story through his use of style (there is a haziness to the look of the film) and his deliberate pacing. It doesn't move too fast or too slow and his steady hand guides it along just right. The performances (some mediocre accents aside) are also very good. Norton maintains the right air of mystery while making Eisenheim personable and charismatic. It's believable that Uhl comes to like Eisenheim as much as he does, even while keeping a close and suspicious eye on him. Uhl's employer, Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell, "A Knight's Tale," who gives the film's best performance), is enraged at Eisenheim's closeness to Sophie (the surprisingly good Jessica Biel). Eisenheim will not be deterred however, and gets even closer to her.
In addition to its enjoyable and engrossing mystery, "The Illusionist" also boasts a stunning set design that never calls attention to itself. Burger balances style and substance beautifully here. Not bad for only his second movie. 8.5/10

Trust the Man- Tom and Rebecca (David Duchovny and Julianne Moore) are a long-married couple who've lost their spark. He's the thoroughly bored househusband to her successful Broadway actress. The only real fun he seems to have in his life is with his best friend and her brother (Billy Crudup, "Almost Famous") , the wise-cracking Tobey. Tobey's been in a relationship of seven years with Elaine (Maggie Gyllenhaal). She wants marriage and kids. He wants to watch bowling and maintain his perfect street parking spot. Meanwhile, Tom begins pursuing an affair with the divorced mother of one of his son's classmates.
While the story and themes are nothing new, writer-director Bart Freundlich (Moore's husband) manages to do what most romantic-comedies forget to do, namely make it funny. It's very well cast too. There are a few false notes, but for the most part the performances are very good. Particularly good is Crudup, a bona-fide movie star if he really wants to be.
The outcome is rarely in doubt, but Freundlich and the cast make it enjoyable getting there. The end of the film is a bit disorienting because of it takes on an entirely different tone from the rest of the picture. Still, it's funny enough that it doesn't make "Trust the Man" come crashing down. All in all, a good time. Also of note are Garry Shandling and Bob Balaban in small roles. 7/10

Here's a look at what else is still out there right now:
Crank- 8/10
Beerfest- 4/10
Conversations with Other Women- 8/10
Idlewild- 6/10
Accepted- 5.5/10
Snakes on a Plane- 4/10
World Trade Center- 8/10 (revised score)
The Descent- 7/10
Talladega Nights- 8/10
Little Miss Sunshine- 9/10

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