Personal Shopper — Review
The Nice Guys — Review
The Girl on the Train — Review
The Fits — Review
Paper Towns — Review
Li’l Quinquin (P’tit Quinquin) — Review
Paper Towns — Trailer Reaction/Review
The Prestige — Review
by Ken B.
I wish I could tell you all about the ins and outs of the plot of The Prestige, but I won’t for two reasons: 1) I want you to experience this for yourself, and 2) There is so much here to explain that we would be here all day.
Instead I will simply point out that The Prestige is brilliant, engaging, and multilayered to a wondrous extent. While the story to tell is sometimes condensed to the 130 minute runtime to the point of being a bit muddled, and the ending verges on the ridiculous, enough excellent work is on display here to make this a highly recommendable and likable thriller.
Set at the turn of the century, we are introduced to Robert Angier (HUGH JACKMAN) and Alfred Borden (CHRISTIAN BALE), two stooges for Milton the Magician (RICKY JAY). They are employed to sit in at every show, and be the “volunteers” picked for a particular illusion, which involves tying up one of Milton’s assistants and throwing her in a tank of water. Once onstage, they tie the ropes in such a way that they are easily escapable. One night, something goes wrong, and she drowns in the tank of water, unable to free herself from the ropes. It is known that Borden was talking about tying the ropes in a different way.
After this incident, Angier despises Borden. They leave Milton and become rival magicians in their own right. Angier repeatedly works with stage manager John Cutter (MICHAEL CAINE). What follows is a story full of supreme magician one-upsmanship, each observing (and Borden occasionally sabotaging) their opponent’s shows.
It’s all very fascinating, as the screenplay, based on a novel by Christopher Priest, twists and turns, keeping a fair deal of intrigue throughout the picture. Yes, twists and turns. Make no mistake, the last half hour of The Prestige is loaded with plot twists, as the movie that begins in a nonlinear style slowly comes together and you understand the significance of the images shown at the start. Acting-wise, we’ve come to expect no less than the best from names like Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and Michael Caine. They certainly deliver here, with full fleshed and deep deliveries. Also good is Scarlet Johansson as Angier’s partner (domestic & professional), a character who becomes more complex than first thought.
Visually, this movie is magnificent. Wally Pfister is a truly gifted cinematographer, and each shot is filled and framed deliberately and solidly. The production and costume design is appealing and atmospheric. The effects are spectacular, particularly displays of the big bright creations of Nikola Tesla (DAVID BOWIE, in a good dramatic showing), his namesake coils in all of their bright, zapping, AC glory, employed for use by Angier during a climactic illusion.
I did, however, have one fairly-sized problem with The Prestige, and that is how what could have been one of the greatest third acts of recent memory has its brilliance riddled with rushed, muddy points and an ending with a few too many cop out qualities. I wish I could be more specific, but then the spoilers would flow freely, and the few readers that haven’t already fallen asleep from boredom would write irate comments. Suffice it to say a neater and more precise manner would have helped my view immensely.
Still, there is far too much greatness otherwise to let that gripe lessen the overall point of this review: The Prestige is a major studio film of high intelligence, with classic direction from Christopher Nolan, a mostly well crafted script, and finely tuned performances from all major players.
Buy from Amazon: Book / DVD / Blu-ray
Clue – Review
by Ken B.
For about 80 minutes, Clue moves about in such a wonderful way that you suspect nothing can really go wrong. And then it does something at its end so unforgivable and terrible that A) It’s noticeable however you plan to view the film and B) Is really disappointing based on how well things were going before.
But first you’ll need some explanation. When it was first released into theaters in 1985, Clue had three endings filmed, reflecting the open ended qualities of the board game it’s based off. A theater would get an ending at random, and printed in the papers along with the screening times would be a letter, A, B, or C, representing which ending was being shown.
OK, what’s wrong with that? Well, if you’re seeing one ending, you’re still not seeing the entire movie. The Netflix copy I watched had all three endings tacked on, and the thing I noticed was that there was no tension when the resolution resets itself every few minutes, and this happens three times. Really, by having more than one ending upon the film’s theatrical release, you’re ruining your movie either way. And that’s a shame. The movie up to then was really good. And the endings themselves are very funny, showing the eccentric butler (TIM CURRY) running the group around the giant Hill House explaining in rapid fire how the murderer committed the crimes.
Set in 1954 New England (the period setting really only comes into play a handful of times), several people, all with relations to the government, are invited to dinner at the mansion. They don’t know who runs the house, or who invited them there, or who the other people are. They’re all given aliases upon entrance, which of course they are the names of the characters in the game. The cast is great, with people like Curry, Eileen Brennan and Christopher Lloyd. And alongside that, there are many good qualities for this film. The script, acting, and everything down to the lightning striking whenever something ominous happens has a kind of a corny charm to it, and I can understand its large cult following.
What I can’t understand, however, is who really thought it was a good idea to have three endings. When your movie is going that well beforehand, an error like this is really upsetting. Regardless, Clue is a movie you pretty much should to see once. One of the main attractions to this movie is watching the mystery unfold before you, and that’s really lost upon repeat viewings. If you’re given the option of only watching one ending, none of them really have advantages over the others, so just pick one at random.
“What?! That wasn’t the end of the movie?”