Sunday, January 28, 2007
Movie Reviews: LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA, THE ILLUSIONIST & FRIENDS WITH MONEY
LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA
Clint Eastwood's follow-up to Flags of Our Fathers details another story from Iwo Jima, but this time, the tale is told from the Japanese side of the battle. The film follows real-life Japanese General Tadamichi Kuribayashi (Ken Watanabe) who battled American troops for 40 days on the island of Iwo Jima.
Cast Ken Watanabe, Shido Nakamura, Tsuyosi Ihara, Hiroshi Watanabe, Takeshi Yamaguchi, Tim Moore (more)
Director(s) Clint Eastwood
Status In theaters (wide)
Release Date Dec. 20, 2006 — limited; Jan. 12, 2007 — wide
MPAA Rating R - Rated R for graphic war violence.
Clint Eastwood's companion piece to Flag of our Fathers, Letter from Iwo Jima proves to be the more accomplished film of the two. Eastwood gives us and unsentimental view of war and it's affect on it participants. This film does a masterful job of showing these combatants as real people whose motivation are really very similar to their counterparts. This is a methodical, thoughtful exploration of heady themes like patriotism, courage and the futility of war. Ken Watanabe brings an excellent sense of gravitas to his role and gives an excellent portrait of a man doing his duty in the face of an impossible task. Kazunari Ninomiya delivers an excellent performance as Saigo, the unwilling soldier who was dragged into his country's war. Overall, this an excellent film and probably one of the best war films of all time.
When word of the famed Eisenheim's (Ed Norton) illusions reaches Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell), the ruler attends one of the magician's shows in order to debunk the performance. But when the prince's intended, Sophie von Teschen (Jessica Biel), assists the magician onstage, Eisenheim and Sophie recognize each other from their childhoods, and pretty soon they're totally hot for each other. As the clandestine romance continues, the prince's best cop (Paul Giamatti) is charged with exposing Eisenheim, even while the magician gains a devoted and vocal public following. Before long, Sophie turns up dead, and the logical suspect is Eisenheim himself.
Cast Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell, Eddie Marsan, Jake Wood (more)
Director(s) Neil Burger, Bob Yari
Writer(s) Brian Koppelman, David Levien
Status On DVD
Release Date Aug. 18, 2006 — limited; Sept. 1, 2006 — wide
DVD Release Date Jan. 9, 2007
Running Time 110 minutes
MPAA Rating PG-13 - for some sexuality and violence.
The Illusionist will be compared to the other similarly themed Christopher Nolan film, The Prestige. The Nolan film is a better overall film but The Illusionist does deliver an excellent, if more fanciful endeavor, experience. Watching Edward Norton and Paul Giamatti through this great cat and mouse game is a true joy to watch as both are in top form. The film's beautiful stylized sepia toned looked is wonderful to watch and makes the film more of a pleasurable experience. The Illusionist's ability to engage the audience is due in large part mostly to the aforementioned excellent performances from the stellar cast. Rufus Sewell seems to have cornered the market on villainous period monarchs and does well here, even if his character is a bit one note. Jessica Biel does fairly well in what amounts to a cameo. Where the film falters is in its plot and resolution. The ending comes off as a bit of a cheat and quiet a few questions are left unanswered. Regardless, this is a still a very good film with excellent performances.
FRIENDS WITH MONEY
Olivia (Aniston) quit her teaching job and now cleans houses for a living while continuing her seemingly endless quest to find a decent guy. Her three friends are more fortunate, at least on the surface. Jane (McDormand) is a successful designer, but she's growing apart from her husband, Aaron (McBurney). Christine (Keener) is a screenwriter, but her spouse, Patrick (Isaacs), is getting grouchier by the day. Franny (Cusack) and Matt (Stephenson) are independently wealthy, but all the extra money has left them bored and alienated.
Cast Jennifer Aniston, Frances McDormand, Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Simon McBurney, Jason Isaacs (more)
Director(s) Nicole Holofcener
Writer(s) Nicole Holofcener
Status On DVD
Release Date April 7, 2006; April 21, 2006
DVD Release Date Aug. 29, 2006
Running Time 88 minutes
MPAA Rating R - language, some sexual content and brief drug use
Friends with Money is a smart well written film. This is the kind of movie that is all about dialogue. The characters in this film really have some great interactions. Jennifer Aniston plays way against character as a depressed pot smoking misfit. She does fairly well and does an adequate job of displaying the characters despair, though at times her performance lacks some depth. The rest of the cast is made up of some of the best female performers in film today with Frances McDormand being the real stand out. This film's general sense of melancholy kind of has the rug pulled out from under it with an ending that seems to a little too manufactured. However, the movie as a whole is an enjoyable study of happiness of lack there of.