Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Movie Reviews

One of the consequences of having kids is that opportunities to go see movies are far more infrequent. Consequently, I have been renting more movies and have been pleasantly surprised by my most recent choices.

The Illusionist
This movie blew me away, mostly because I didn't see it coming. I never heard much about it while it was in the theater, largely because I was looking forward to the other turn-of-the-century magician movie The Prestige. The Illusionist looked like a cheaper knock-off, in the hollywood tradition of releasing two movies with similar plots at the same time by different studios (Tombstone and Wyatt Earp, Antz and A Bug's Life, Deep Impact and Armageddon).

I haven't seen The Prestige yet, but The Illusionist is one of the most unique movies I have seen in a long time. Based on a short story "Eisenheim the Illusionist," by Steven Millhauser, this movie is thoroughly enjoyable and well acted. Edward Norton and Paul Giamotti are especially good. The plot wasn't terribly original, but the story is unlike any that I've seen before.

This was yet another feel good sports underdog story by Disney in the tradition of Remember the Titans, The Rookie, Miracle, and Glory Road. That's OK becasue these were all good movies and based on true stories. Like the others, this is a well made movie with fine performances from everyone involved. Its also the first professional football movie endorsed by the NFL, so they can use real NFL teams and player names. And it does add and sense of authenticity to the movie. However, the movie isn't remarkable in any way and I cannot help but feel like these movies are becoming a bit formulaic. Even so, its well done and I enjoyed it.

Miami Vice
Although some look back on television show and laugh, I thought Miami Vice was a cool show. I saw the first episode of the show the other night on TV and was surprised how well it still holds up. Its obviously very 80s, but not campy or so dated that its distracting. Michael Mann created the show and moved on to make a lot of good movies such as Last of the Mohicans, Heat, and Collateral. So if figures that the new Miami Vice is in good hands.

The new Miami Vice is an excellent movie. Its also very adult, with plenty of violence and a fair share of sex, but its all in context and not for its own sake. This movie is so slick, both visually and dramatically that I was hooked immediately. Even better, the movie has a great pay off at at end in the form of a great shoot out. Just like the original show, this movie epitomizes "cool."


everyday.wonder said...

Despite the fact that I don't see movies in the theater anymore, I see a ton on DVD as well. Long live Netflix!

Nevermind that I don't actually ever get movies; but I have managed to get halfway through season four of Babylon 5. Yeah, baby!

ted said...

I haven't seen either The Prestige or Invincible, but I did see Miami Vice. Apparently though, I got a different version than you did. The version I saw was neither slick nor cool.

I must have gotten a hold of Miami Vice, The Director's Cut of Total Lameness. In the version I saw the story was a little muddled and somehow involved Columbian drug lords (the kingpin looked a lot like Dave Norman to me) and white supremacists with a big long boring part in it called "The Middle". The Middle must have lasted almost two days and had some sort of love story for both Crocket and Tubbs, but I can't remember enough of it to tell you anymore than that.

What did stick out is that Miami must have not only the most highly trained officers in the universe, but also a budget that indicates they mint their own cash. There was one scene where Jamie Foxx used some of his skills from Stealth to fly a private leer jet. It may be because I'm from Salem that I don't know of anyone who is qualified to be jet pilot but chooses to be a police officer. Maybe the dental plan is better for public employees. And at one point Crocket and Tubbs and their unit of crack commando police officers managed to obtain not only a speed boat which must have a price tag in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also an ocean freighter to transport drugs. It's been some time since I looked into prices of ocean going vessels, but maybe they're experiencing a depressed market right now, I don't know.

I really dug both Heat and Collateral, but this one just bored and annoyed me. My recomendation to anyone wanting to see this movie is to get yourself the Full Screen version so you don't have to watch the whole thing. They've been playing old episodes of Miami Vice on TVLand, I think, and it's a better use of three hours to watch three episodes of that. Actually, I think watching six episodes of Mama's Family might almost be a better use of three hours.

Jake Shore said...

This coming from the guy who disliked Mission Impossible 2, despite the library of more credible objections, because the motorcycles on which Tom Cruise and his antagonist dueled upon had, if one looked close enough, different tire tractions from scene to scene.
I think most people realize they're watching Miami Vice, which just like the series, was larger than life. They don't care that Jamie Foxx could fly a plane, or whether or not the cops could afford jet boats. If I judged every movie by that criteria, I should hate Star Wars because I could hear the explosions in the vacuum of space, or Indiana Jones because the silliness of an archeologist being an expert in wielding a whip.

You're right the drug lord looking like Dave Norman. That was weird.