Commentary

March 22, 2013

Fly Over: ‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’, ‘Les Misérables’

In theaters:

wonderstone

‘The Incredible Burt Wonderstone’

It’s magical! … Sorry

In most movies, magicians are usually used to show how geeky a character is, which is weird because magic can be a pretty cool thing. I mean, I had a magic kit as a kid and I’m not a geek (stop laughing).
This year’s “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” aims to prove just that, with a funny, if a little jumbled, story of redemption.
As a pair of misfits, Burt Wonderstone (Steve Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Steve Buscemi) have gone from simple tricks in the school lunch room to front-lining at Bally’s in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, Burt has let fame get to his head and now sees his magic tricks as a way to get laid and pay for the largest bed in Vegas. But when a new, “hip” magician named Steve Grey (Jim Carrey) starts to take his spotlight, and Anton and their assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) leave him, Burt has to start again from square one to regain his fame.
Through coincidence, he meets up with the man who inspired him to learn magic in the beginning, Rance Holloway. It was Rance’s magic kit he received from his mom for his birthday that ignited Burt’s love for magic. And it is Rance who helps Burt get back his passion for magic.
This is a basic “star becomes a jerk, then redeems himself” story, but it’s a fun one. Burt starts to realize his shortcomings in a nicely paced way, and the moral is surprisingly good; it’s a nice jab at the likes of Chris Angel, for those who have a particular distaste for those “extreme” performers.
My main issue is that there is a huge jump from the two magicians as kids to being full-grown adults in Vegas. This cuts out a great deal of character development, so Burt’s poor attitude isn’t really given that much to compare to.
I didn’t think for a moment I wouldn’t be entertained by the actors here. Steve Carell is, as usual, very funny, and is hilarious as a jerk and likable as a nice guy. Steve Buscemi is great as well, but he doesn’t get as much screen time as I think he’s worth. Playing the straight-man (straight-woman?), Olivia Wilde makes a good counter to Carell’s eccentric Wonderstone, and their running gag is probably one of the best parts of the movie.
And I’m glad to see more of Jim Carrey lately. Some may be turned away by his over-the-top style, but I find it very entertaining even today. All-in-all, there’s really nothing to complain about with the acting.
It shouldn’t be a surprise there is an issue with the editing in general considering my issue with the sudden jump from childhood to adulthood. Sometimes the film changed focus from Burt to Steve for just one, unconnected scene. While these scenes are indeed funny, it’s a little distracting when they happen in a jumbled manner.
The comedy itself is well-written, ranging from deadpan humor to Jim Carrey “sleeping” on a bed of coals. It didn’t always go in the direction I would’ve guided it (then again, I can have a very dark sense of humor), but it’s all, for the most part, very lighthearted.
“The Incredible Burt Wonderstone” is a fun comedy I enjoyed watching very much, and it serves to remind us why we loved magic tricks as kids.
This film is rated PG-13.

and in stores:
Les-miserables-movie-poster1

‘Les Misérables’

A musical phenomenon

Who would have thought that a novel written by Victor Hugo turned into a musical would be such a phenomenon? I remember watching the 1998 film adaptation starring Liam Neeson and Geoffrey Rush, and let me tell you, it does not come close to what I saw on screen a few months ago. The novel has been translated to screen at least six times before, and director Tom Hooper has truly outdone himself with this latest translation.
The movie starts out with Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman), a convict on a chain gang, who has been in prison for 19 years. Valjean is approached by Javert (Russell Crowe), a prison guard, and is told that he is released on parole. For this opening scene, Jackman has said he was on a very strict diet and went without water for 36 hours before filming.
After his release, Valjean takes shelter with the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson from the original London production cast), and in the middle of the night steals the Bishop’s silver but gets caught by the police. The Bishop lies to the policemen and claims he gave Valjean the silver. He then proceeds to give him two silver candlesticks. Touched by the Bishop’s mercy and grace, Valjean vows to start an honest life under a new identity and rips up his parole paperwork. After finding out that Valjean has broken his parole, Javert swears to bring Valjean to justice.
Eight years later, Valjean is the mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer and a wealthy factory owner. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of his employees, has just been fired from her job because co-workers found out that she had an illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen). Cosette lives with an innkeeper Thénardier (Sacha Baron Cohen) and his wife, Madame Thénardier (Helena Bonham Carter). Desperate for money, Fantine sells her locket, hair and some of her teeth before becoming a prostitute.
Fantine gets arrested by Javert after an altercation with a customer, but Valjean steps in and takes her to a hospital. Before Fantine dies, Valjean promises to find Cosette and care for her.
Nine years later France is in an upheaval because General Larmarque, the only French leader who had sympathy toward the poor, is dying. Students Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit) discuss a strategy to overthrow the government. Later Marius catches a glimpse of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried); they make eye contact, and it’s love at first sight.
Éponine (Samantha Barks), daughter of the innkeeper Thénardier, takes Marius (who she is secretly in love with) to see Cosette at her house. There the two profess their love for one another. Later, Valjean believes that Javert has discovered him and flees with Cosette. From here, the rest of the movie goes through love, death, rescue, more death and inner conflict.
In this film, you get to see Hathaway’s gut-wrenching and Oscar winning performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” that was filmed in one take … yes, one take. As you watch the movie, you will see that most of the solo performances were shot close-up, and all the singing in this film was recorded live as the film was being shot.
This film is rated PG-13.




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