Posts Tagged ‘christopher plummer

25
Feb
10

Movie Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Visually fascinating and bleedin’ boring.

Starring Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Andrew Garfield. Directed by Terry Gilliam

I’m not a big fan of fantasy movies. There are a few I’ve liked such as “Legend” (Tom Cruise, Tim Curry, Mia Sara) the “Lord of the Rings” saga, and even “Stardust,” but Terry Gilliam is a different type of fantasy movie director. On one hand I can appreciate the fact that the guy can craft a scene and make it feel three-dimensional through the use of various lenses. On the other his ambition can exceed his grasp and the story he’s trying to tell suffers. Such is the case with “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

The film opens with a wagon that’s seen better days navigating the streets of London like a naval carrier. It stops outside a bar and the stage unfolds. A guy (Garfield) dressed up as the messenger god Mercury traverses the stage, calling for people to hear of the exploits of the 1,000-year-old Doctor Parnassus (Plummer). A drunken guy climbs onstage and is thrown into a mirror. Once inside he is treated to a few punches from Valentina (Cole) and his undoing is wherever his imagination takes him, which happens to be jellyfish aliens that release him to crash to earth where he stumbles into a bar that explodes soon after he enters it.

And who is Doc Parnassus? Parnassus was once a monk living a thousand years ago. He held a sacred order in one of those inaccessible mountain areas where it snows all the time. On a personal note I’ve always wondered how these places are made, why they have a fairly decent population, etc. (movies never explain this). The monastery’s monks share a magic that allows them to float on carpets and their one mantra is that by telling stories the world continues to perpetuate existence. Hence, if no one tells stories then the world ceases to exist. The Devil (Tom Waits, wouldn’t ya know?) visits the Doc and gets him to gamble. The Doc wins and the Devil gives him immortality as well as the “itch” and in return, Parnassus becomes the Devil’s pet project.

Fast forward to modern day where Parnassus falls in love with a woman at first sight. He makes another deal with the Devil to become young and youthful again but the Devil puts in a stipulation: his first child would become the property of El Diablo once they turned 16. Parnassus’s wife turns 60 and dies during childbirth. Parnassus now finds himself an aged, immortal single father who has to keep the secret of his pact with the Devil from his daughter. This little fact becomes the subtext the movie rides on.

Fate or fortune intervenes when the crew of Anton (Garfield), Valentina (Cole), and Percy (Troyer) find a man (Ledger) hanging from the bottom of a bridge. When he comes to he can’t remember who he is, why he was hanging from the bottom of the bridge, etc. He exerts his wile, professional demeanor, and smooth capacity for salesmanship and brings money and attention to the traveling troupe’s show. It also attracts the Russian mobsters that tried killing him by hanging. He throws himself through the mirror (the entrance/exit of Parnassus’ mind) to get away from them.

For a moment let me discuss the mirror. The mirror allows people to enter a world they imagine. If more than one person enters the one with the most vivid, or prevalent, imagination trumps any other imagination. Otherwise the world is whatever the main person’s makes it. Eventually the “ride” ends when the Devil comes to claim the souls of the pure, part of the pact Parnassus makes with him.

Back to Ledger’s character Tony Shepherd. Tony apparently took money from the Russian mob for a children’s charity and didn’t know they were laundering their money through it. Or that’s the story he tells. While in the “mind” of Parnassus, Tony’s face keeps changing and it symbolically reflects the changing of his lies. He goes from looking like Johnny Depp, to Jude Law, then finally Colin Farrell. All the while he tries holding onto his flute which he shoves down his throat in order to keep his windpipe from crushing while hanging.

Note: this probably makes more sense while you watch it as opposed to me translating it on the page here.

So how did I feel about this one? If you’ve worked a full 8-10 hour day you would seriously need some coffee to get through this one. There are some really cool visual moments but Gilliam’s leaning on CG environments doesn’t always work and some instances look as if the graphics weren’t completed. The story flounders majorly and Ledger’s death caused various shifts in the movie. Or maybe Gilliam isn’t great on directing the “quiet moments” of the movie as opposed to the fantastical sequences. Whichever it may be I was hoping for more “umph” from the movie or at least something that felt more magical. This felt like someone going through the motions interjecting sad footnotes along the way.

And hey, I may not be the audience on this one; this plays more for those fans of Gilliam’s work. I liked “Tim Bandits,” and “Brazil” is almost a guilty pleasure for me, but that’s it. If you’re a Gilliam fan, this may be your movie.

Most of the actors do well with the parts they have to play. Plummer is good, Waits as the Devil was interesting, and Ledger worked for the scenes he was in but again, the tonal shifts with the various actors playing his character throw the story off. Lily Cole was beautiful and did a great job. Then again, the story didn’t really feel complete to begin with. My friend John said that it’s a literal re-translation of the Parnassus tale and I’ll have to research that…

Can I honestly recommend this? I recommend coffee (or some form of caffeine) before seeing it but if you’re a true blue Gilliam fan, go for it. Otherwise you may want to rent it.

My grade: C

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21
Sep
09

Movie Review: 9

nine

 

Burlap sack guys vs. The Machine

Starring the voices of Elijah Wood, Christopher Plummer, John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, and Martin Landau. Story and direction by Shane Acker

In this post-apocalyptic animated movie, “9” (Wood) wakes alone in a house. Without the ability to speak or understand who/what he is, he ventures out into a world that looks like it’s been to hell and back. As his curiosity leads him around he’s discovered by “2,” (Landau) another of his kind. After “2” is taken by a robot dog he makes it to a church which is the sanctuary for others of his kind: “5,” (Reilly) a tinkerer who was best friends with “2;” “1,” (Plummer) the leader of the group; and “8,” (Fred Tatasciore) a big, brawny “protector.”

“9” hatches a plan with “5,” to rescue “2.” In the process they run into “7,” (Connelly) a revolutionary heroine and “3 and 4,” twins who catalog and replay information they collect. When “9,” unknowingly awakes the Machine the situation becomes dire and now the group of creations must fight for the lives.

That’s as much as I’ll say about the movie. It’s difficult to love this type of movie because, let’s face it, the post-apocalyptic world isn’t easy to love. The idea that Man creates Machines that turn against him and inevitably destroy him isn’t exactly cheery. It may happen. Our vision of the future has changed from “Things to Come,” to “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” and we’ve all become complacent and are just waiting for it to happen.

But let me get back to the movie. Overall, I liked it. It didn’t feel so much “kid”-oriented as it was an animated movie for adults. That’s not to say that children couldn’t watch the movie but post-apocalyptic allegory is a bit much for anyone under the age of 10. I remember when “The Black Cauldron” was looked down upon because the main character had self-esteem issues.

What the movie does have going for it is a solid story. Sure, there are things that are overlooked (e.g. how a character learns to speak) but that doesn’t get into the way of a story about a scientist’s redemption for creating a Machine that became mis-used by the military and turned against mankind. It unravels as a mystery and when you finally understand what happened to society you see why this rag-tag group has to survive.

The message that comes from the film is this: intellect is no replacement for the human soul. Each of the nine creations is a part of the scientist’s soul. His intellect is the heart, and brain, of The Machine. In the end it’s cold calculation versus the want to survive.

Should you go see this? While I was impressed with some of the technology and it is a well-made story (with a few fantastical elements) I have to say this one may be a rental. Animated movies are generally kid-fare (save “American Pop,” “Heavy Metal” or the like) but I’m not sure I would make a kid under 10 watch this because they may get bored or upset with the beginning visuals of rusted and decayed vehicles and buildings or dead people. Just my thoughts.

My grade: A-

17
Jun
09

Movie Review: Up

up

 

The Spirit of Adventure.

Starring the voices of Ed Asner, Christopher Plummer, Jordan Nagai, Delroy Lindo, and John Ratzenberger. Directed by Pete Doctor and Bob Peterson

Nice, charming, amusing and dare I say, delightful.

Carl Fredricksen (Asner) was just a kid when two important events occurred: his boyhood hero Charles Muntz (Plummer), world explorer extraordinaire, is ostracized and called a fraud when scientists question the bones of a rare bird he returned with. He subsequently returns to South America vowing to only return to Stateside after he has captured the elusive, rare bird. Also, Carl meets fellow Muntz-fan and future wife Ellie. In a silent montage we watch Carl and Ellie grow up, get married, buy a house, try to have kids, Carl become a balloon salesman, and the death of Ellie.

Carl is now 78-years-old and the home he rebuilt and grew old in is now the only small plot of land not owned by a corporation planning to build. Aside from loneliness his life is interrupted by the construction crew and Wilderness Scout Russell (Nagai), who pesters Fredricksen in order to earn his Elderly Assistance badge (we didn’t have that in Boy Scouts). When an altercation with Carl’s mailbox leads to a further altercation with a construction crew member, Carl is sent to court for damages and is sentenced to spend his days at Shady Oaks retirement community.

On the day he is to be picked up Carl releases thousands of balloons that are strung through the chimney. It’s up, up, and away as he heads to Paradise Falls in South America just like his boyhood hero, Charles Muntz. Nothing ever goes exactly as planned because while in mid-air, there’s a knock at the door. Russell had hid under his front porch and would like to come inside. Thus begins a friendship between two unlikely people who need each other more than they would admit; Carl needs someone to help him out on his adventure and Russell needs a father-figure in replace of his dad who left his mother for another named Phyllis (a nod to the “Mary Tyler Moore” show). Along the way the duo become a group adopting a talking dog named Dug and the rare bird that Muntz had went to retrieve (which Russell nicknames “Kevin”). Matters get worse when Carl and Russell meet Muntz himself who will do anything, including murder, in order to capture the bird.

This movie works on sheer simplicity; there are no hidden layers, the love story was laid out within the first 10 minutes, etc. It’s about two characters whose growth comes through adventure and it’s better than I thought it would be.

Thinking back there weren’t any certain scenes better than the others; the movie is pretty even. I watched this in Disney Digital 3-D and the color was amazing. There is one particular scene in which the floating house is being dragged in front of a red-purple sunset. That and the color on the bird (which looks like a gigantic, rainbow-colored Dodo), are fantastic. Aside from that you get attached to the characters; Russell’s life really affects you.

One final note for the “trivia” crowd: John Ratzenberger plays Construction Foreman Tom. And a final personal note: I enjoyed this more than “Wall*E.”

My grade: A