Rewind Review: The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Introduction

As those who know me, and if such a person exists, cyberstalk me, know I created this blog after writing on another site, which shall remain nameless, for a while. The point is, I have material sitting around waiting to be re-used on occasion I will re-post them here. Some of those articles or reviews may have been extemporaneous at the time but are slightly random now, hence the new title and little intro, regardless enjoy!

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus 

The Imaginarium of Dr. Panassus is a vexing and perplexing film. It is most definitely imaginative. It’s most definitely Terry Gilliam; however, a lot of the positives that can be said about it end there as unfortunate as that is.

It is rare when simulacrum, in the form of real life events, can have a true impact on a film. The untimely death of Heath Ledger did affect this film, however, as shocking as it sounds to say it, perhaps not in a negative way. No disrespect intended, as Heath Ledger did a fine job in this film. As a matter of fact he had this critic quite convinced that he was one type of character then he ended up being another entirely. Think of it this way, however, had Ledger’s character not been played by other actors, Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell there would’ve been very little which was noteworthy about the film.

Yes, it’s incredibly inventive but it’s the kind of tale that takes so long to unwind itself that by the time you have it all sorted, one you may not have it sorted correctly and two you start to wonder why is this story being told in the first place. Gilliam is a tremendous visual artist and the irreverence and surrealism so gleefully on display in this film is admirable and on occasion quite funny but at times things just didn’t click, in fact more often than not.

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One of the bigger problems is Andrew Garfield as Anton. Yes, his character is supposed to be somewhat annoying yet he is supposed to be right and the guy we pull for but he just ends up being annoying and in what was a very good cast he ends up sticking out like a very, very sore thumb.

The film centers around a bet between Dr. Parnassus, a god-like character if not God Himself, and the Devil, played by Tom Waits. Yet towards the end the terms of that bet become very muddled. Mr. Nick, as the Devil is called in this venture, invariably changes the terms of the bet to make it more sporting as he tends to do but then it becomes near impossible to figure out what “having gotten a soul” really is and even barring all that after all is seemingly lost Mr. Nick lets Parnassus off the hook.

Obviously, things can be read into the bartering of souls and gambling with the devil and what the Imaginarium ultimately signifies in the bigger picture of things, however, when a film fails to entertain on the surface digging becomes a tiresome venture. The best thing about the aforementioned tale is that it seems destined to repeat itself when we see the characters at the very end but the film seemed to be building towards some sort of finality so that’s not nearly the coup it should be.

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There was a fabulous concept in a flashback where Parnassus was with the monks about a story constantly needing to be told and that was never followed through neither were some of the more intriguing paths this film could have taken.

Sadly, instead of giving us a lot of food for thought or sharp, biting satire the emotion associated with this film is more aptly stated as flummoxed for just as the Imaginarium itself the image may be pretty but there’s not nearly enough substance behind it.

5/10

Review: Sherlock Holmes

As it turns out Robert Downey, Jr. was in fact the best choice available, barring British talents, to play Sherlock Holmes. What is unfortunate is that the material that he was equipped to play it with was not quite up to snuff. While the script did allow Holmes many quips and chances to engage in fisticuffs it didn’t provide a typical Holmes tale or even a very good one.

Jude Law conversely is a rather good Watson but unfortunately too much of his time is spent quibbling with Holmes about Holmes’s meddling in his personal affairs, being resistant and then comes the detective work. Watson is an illustration of the problem with this film is that if you sample ten minutes it seems like two would be banter; one would be tailing, five would be fighting and the next two would be retiring to quarters and not much was discussed along the way and deductions are all rattled off by Holmes at the end. We as an audience are given no chance to ponder for ourselves and then be in awe of Holmes and then deduce what we couldn’t.

Much of the film seemed to be superfluous. An example would be Holmes’ boxing match. In the prologue scene we already saw how he intellectualizes hand-to-hand combat so there’s no purpose to it in the story except to show that he practices which means we could most definitely do without it in the cut.

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Then you get Irene Adler, played by Rachel McAdams, who for all her sordid involvement in the entanglements of the plot could not have been a more one-dimensional character. She comes out of nowhere, we learn next to nothing of her visually and it all comes out in the dialogue with Holmes in the middle and end.

This film also falls into the trapping of too much action being a bad thing. After a while it just becomes monotonous to the extent that even though there are things in the fight worth noticing we never pause to reflect upon them. Not only that but the climactic fight on the not-quite-complete Tower Bridge could have been lifted from any action film and didn’t suit Sherlock Holmes.

It was good that the prologue wasn’t really just an open-and-shut case; of course, we don’t realize that for a time. The plot that Holmes embroils himself, which involves a secret society whose aim is so ludicrous that it raised the stakes to the point of disinterest and we really can’t feel any genuine panic as an audience because the aims of the criminals are so ludicrous and there is little to no reason to believe they can achieve said aims.

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Oddly, it wasn’t the fighting in Sherlock Holmes that was most bothersome but the plotline and furthermore the execution thereof. For the sequel, which we know now will happen, perhaps the action can take a back seat and allow the detective work more than a few furtive minutes to make its impact.

4/10

Mini-Review: Side Effects

Introduction

This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Side Effects

This film plays the part of a thriller well and even includes some intriguing professional ethics conundrums. It’s well acted and well-shot. Where it implodes for me, at least in the largest and most disastrous way, is in the motivation of one of the characters. The plot that’s weaved is a bit hard to swallow to begin with, assuming you stick it out past that point, the film delves into the why such an orchestration occurs and comes up with an idea so sophomoric that it reads like something rejected as a mid-’90s Joe Eszterhas/Sharon Stone project.

5/10

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

I decided that I would not write during what portion of the red carpet I did watch as attention must be paid. Overall, while in the end there was nothing that will likely go down as a historic Oscar look. It was one of the better looking overall displays I can remember.

I don’t know when this half-hour pre-show started (it wasn’t that long ago). I never really cared for it and it’s a little superfluous and just makes the show end later. Why does it still happen?

Begnini’s celebration is my least favorite acceptance moment. For the record.

You gotta love Steven Spielberg. Wiping the producer’s forehead and giving him water is classic.

Like the opening montage of best picture nominees. Why not the end shot from Inception?

Great opening with Anne Hathaway and James Franco. Great joke in the opening about James ‘appealing to a younger demographic.’ Glad to see the families get introduced.

Tom Hanks presents as Gone with the Windand Titanic get mentioned. Art Direction and Cinematography mentioned early in the show is a nice change. This was not a category I was looking for an upset in Alice in Wonderland takes Art Direction. Shocked.

First, applause of the night upon hearing Wally Pfister’s name called for Cinematography. Very well deserved award. Loved his speech in regards to Nolan.

Another pleasant surprise and the first standing ovation of the night as Kirk Douglas is introduced.

Douglas’s shtick may go down as one of the moments of this year. Also, I have to see Animal Kingdom. It has been decided.

I stand corrected Leo’s speech.

“I’m Banksy”
-Justin Timberlake

Awesomely amazing line.

I said it previously I would be rather happy if The Lost Thing got animated short. Congratulations.

Toy Story 3 wins Best Animated Feature. I knew that already.

Didn’t really like that Screenplay got the short shrift in terms of presentation. No excerpts or anything. Surprised but gladdened by the win for The King’s Speech. I also think that winners should realize there are 23 other winners who all deserve their time to do their thanks and shouldn’t risk taking some time from others.

I want to see In a Better World but am a little surprised it won. It’s the 3rd Danish winner and surprisingly the first since 1959.

Am I the only conspiracy theorist who thinks clips are based on one’s chances of winning? That was not the best scene for Mark Ruffalo at all.

Best part of Bale’s speech was his saying he’d dropped the F-bomb enough already. Oscar-winner or not he’s had plenty of other wonderful and worthy performances not the least of which is the one that launched his career many years ago, Empire of the Sun. All roads lad to Spielberg.

I’ll bet the theme from E.T. has been played at the Oscars every year since 1982. It always makes the closing medley.

OK, so does Trent Reznor and Atticus Finch winning mean that the trend away from composers towards current/former recording artists is going to stick?

First, winner I was extremely geeked about in a while. Sound mixing goes to Inception. And there goes another sweep in the sound categories. I wish I had stats for it but I bet it happens a lot. I have also enjoyed how everyone is thanking Chris Nolan first, almost as if they are trying to subtly point out his being snubbed for Best Director.

I really wish that more time would be spent on the technical awards maybe a special after the earlier presentation. Some really awesome technology gets kind of glossed over.

I need to look into the other Make-Up nominee that I hadn’t heard of, The Way Back. Looks sweet.

Leave it to President Obama to have the best choice as best Oscar-winning song. I’m a little tired of these categories that flex their nominations between three and five. Pick a size. Really, only four songs were nominated? Why? The process is intricate but music is where you can add to your appeal if you’re looking to boost ratings. I was floored when “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” won that scored high enough to be nominated and win but yet this year songs by Eddie Vedder, Alanis Morissette and Justin Bieber didn’t?

Kudos to Luke Matheny not only on the win but on plugging all the nominees who are iTunes. They were great.

The best, most entertaining part of the night was the musical montage.

Inside Job wins and now I never want to talk about Banksy again.

Billy Crystal comes on for a bit. Always glad to see him back.

Inception wins visual effects and stops Alice’s unthinkable streak.

Jude Law and Robert Downey, Jr. should do something together that’s not as “Holmesy” that was pretty funny stuff.

Listening to the other nominees actually got me rooting for Randy Newman for the first time in years. Some sleepy stuff in there.

Complete and utter failure this year in the “In Memoriam” montage. Firstly, with the lives singing people who were shown didn’t get their due applause like they did in previous years and first the SAG Award show excluded Corey Haim and now the Oscars did too. I assure you he is missed by many film fans and is exclusion is a joke.

Tom Hooper wins for The King’s Speech. Dare they split it?

Best story told by a winner tonight has to be Hooper’s tale about how his mom found out about the play and said “Tom, I just found your next film.”

They were at it again. Kevin Brownlow is a man who has more than earned his Life Achievement award. For all intents and purposes he pioneered preservation and restoration of films and brought many silent films back from the dead. Here is a link to Kevin Spacey’s speech about him at the Governor’s Ball.

I also found it a little humorous that they said Jean-Luc Godard was sorry he couldn’t be there.

This congratulatory intro to lead acting categories is also making it take a lot longer than it has to.

It looks like there’ll be no surprises in the acting categories.

Congratulations to Colin Firth for his win. It’s his first but it shouldn’t be. If you haven’t seen A Single Man you most definitely should. It’s good to know that some people do get their due.

Listing the previous winners and nominees in the Best Picture category is a great way to lead off the Best Picture montage.

The King’s Speech wins Best Picture and now I can rest comfortably.

The finale was a fanastic and needed addition to the show. It was either ending on a jubilant note or a down one based on where my rooting interest were. if they keep this up it’ll be a fantastic close every year. Great job, P.S. 22.