Tuesday, October 02, 2007

HVO: The Condemned; Illusionist, The Prestige, Nomad & Sweeney Todd

MORE DVD movies for your Home Viewing Options:

THE CONDEMNED (DVD 2007, action thriller)
Cast: Steve Austin, Vinnie Jones, Robert Mammone, Rick Hoffman
Director: Scott Viper
Time: 113 mins
Rating: * *

THE tagline is ‘10 People Will Fight. 9 Will Die. You Get to Watch!’ Consider this a grittier version of duel flick “D.O.A” where instead of nubile chicks battling men and each other, we have 10 Death Row convicts sourced from all over the world – including Malaysia – and taken to a remote island for their fight of their lives. Yes, the winner goes free and there are cameras all over to record the action for pay-per-view on the Internet.

This is the brainchild of evil genius Ian Breckel (Robert Mammone) and invariably you will root for Jack Conrad (Steve Austin), an ex-Special Services agent in his confrontation with McStarley (Vinnie Jones), a sadist who loves to maim and kill. Treat this as a porno Fight Club with a message about people who like to watch blood and gore. Yes, it is talking about you, if you go for this flick!

Cast: Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Jessica Biel, Rufus Sewell
Director: Neil Burger
Time: 110 mins
Rating: * * * 1/2

THERE were two movies about maverick magicians in 2006 – this one, and “The Prestige”. There is no doubt that “The Illusionist” is far superior and that it will satisfy both the art house and mainstream crowds.

Set in Vienna in 1900, it is basically a story about a pair of childhood lovers. Eisenheim the Illusionist (Norton) is so famous that some of his fans believe he is actually manipulating the supernatural. Among his doubters are Chief Inspector Uhl (Giamatti) and Crown Prince Leopold (Sewell), heir to the throne of the Austria-Hungarian empire. Leopold is so determined to expose Eisenheim's fakery that, at a performance, he sends his fiancée, Princess Sophie (Biel), to the stage as a volunteer. Eisenheim recognizes Sophie as a girl with whom he was madly in love years earlier. They rekindle their romance - much to the anger of Leopold who orders Inspector Uhl to shut down Eisenheim's show. Now, can Eisenheim’s magic save the day? Of course, you will be awed by the ‘illusion of his lifetime’.

THE PRESTIGE (DVD 2006, drama)
Cast: Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, and Piper Perabo
Director: Christopher Nolan
Time: 134 mins
Rating: * * *

ALSO set in the 1900s, “The Prestige” unfolds during three time periods. In the earliest, we meet Rupert Angier (Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) who, along with Rupert's wife, Julia (Perabo), are assistants to a magician. When a trick goes wrong and Julia dies, Rupert blames Alfred for it. The two become bitter rivals, not only attempting to out-do each other on stage but instigating acts of physical vengeance against each other. In the second time line, Rupert is in Colorado Springs consulting with Nikola Tesla about a machine the scientist built that became an integral part of Alfred's show. Finally, the film fast-forwards to the fateful night when Alfred is seen to be involved in Rupert's death. He is tried, convicted, and sentenced to death.

Unlike “The Illusionist” which has a linear plot, this one gets bogged down with vengeance and the mechanics of the trade, lacking heart. Johansson is wasted and Caine seems to be the only one enjoying himself as a designer of magic tricks.

NOMAD: THE WARRIOR (DVD 2005, war drama in Kazakh language)
Cast: Kuno Becker, Jay Hernandez, Jason Scott Lee and Mark Dacascos Director: Sergei Bodrov and Ivan Passer
Time: 112 mins
Rating: * *

REMINISCENT of “Taras Bulba” and “300”, this Kazakh-language ‘epic’, set in the 18th Century, is about a young man (Becker as Mansur) who is destined to unite Kazakhstan’s three warring tribes against the invading Mongols, or Jungars. Jason Scott Lee is unintentionally comical as the warrior-trainer Oraz who turns young boys into great fighters. Very little time is spent developing the characters or their relationships (especially the triangle love tangle), and in an effort to get to the emotional high points quickly, the movie forfeits its depth and power.

Made in 2004/05 and released in 2007, the film-makers could not have foreseen that the real enemy of Kazakhstan is ‘Borat’. Still, “Nomad” may clear up some of Borat’s nonsense about Kazakh culture.

SWEENEY TODD (DVD 2006, BBC period drama)
Cast: Ray Winstone, Essie Davis, Tom Hardy and David Warner
Director: Dave Moore
Time: 90 mins
Rating: * * ½

IN case you don’t know who Sweeney Todd is, he is the 18th Century demon barber of London’s Fleet Street who cuts the throats of his customers as well as their hair. There have been many movies and musicals made about good ole Sweeney – and the latest, by Tim Burton, is due in December this year (starring Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter).

This one, however, is a BBC adaptation of the classic tale and it should whet your appetite while you wait for Burton’s movie! Winstone's performance is emotionally powerful despite his understated take of the title character. Davis gives her Mrs Lovett a sympathetic charm and there seems to be a strong (and even surreal) sexual charge between the two. Watch out for Warner as Sir John Fielding, who is also Todd’s customer, and Tom Hardy as an up-and-coming police officer. Moore captures London in all its dark and dank glory and the musical score enhances the brooding nature of the movie. There are some nude but unerotic scenes in the offing.


At 9:04 am, Anonymous helpmeimdumb said...

I think the Prestige is so much better the Illusionist. Christopher Priest, the author is an excellent story teller. I think the characters are well played, esp Christian Bale's. There are strong deep character buildup. Scarlet's and Rebecca Hall's roles are great! Watch it again and this time, look out for the prestige!

My 2 cents worth anyways. :)


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