The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

January 7, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole
Directed by: Terry Gilliam (“The Brothers Grimm”)
Written by: Terry Gilliam (“The Brothers Grimm”) and Charles McKeown (“Brazil”)
 
He’s always been an acquired cinematic taste, but more recently filmmaker Terry Gilliam has been a harder pill to swallow than ever before.
 
Since returning to the movie set in 2005 for his incoherent fantasy “The Brothers Grimm” after a seven-year hiatus, Gilliam also struck out with the artistic yet immensely disappointing “Tideland” that same year.
 
His losing streak stays intact with his newest venture into the bizarre with “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus,” the final film of Heath Ledger’s career. The late Oscar-winning actor passed away in January 2008 while in the middle of shooting “Parnassus.” To complete the film, Gilliam, after tweaking the script a bit, recruited the services of Johnny Depp, Jude Law and Colin Farrell to play Ledger’s character as the restructured story called for it.
                                             
In the film, Ledger portrays an amnesiac man named Tony who joins a struggling traveling sideshow through the streets of London. Bleak cityscapes, however, are not what Gilliam is bringing you to see. One step into the Imaginarium – Gilliam’s personal Looking Glass – and he’s transported you into the fanciful mind of Parnassus, an immortal who has dealt the soul of his daughter (Lily Cole) to the devil himself. Think of it as a psychedelic version of “Being John Malkovich” once you’ve made the trip.

The narrative, however, slowly fades once you are inside and realize it was more interesting to be curious about it than actually experience it. Basically, Gilliam has given us a frantic story about good versus evil that isn’t the swan song Ledger deserved. While “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” might have moments of visual awe, piecing the rest together into some kind of meaningful fairytale proves to be an impossible feat.

The Dark Knight

July 19, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Directed by: Christopher Nolan (“Batman Begins”)
Written by: Christopher Nolan (“Memento”), Jonathan Nolan (“The Prestige”)

Is it possible for a film so saturated in hype to be blinding even to the most objective of viewers? With “The Dark Knight” sure to break a few box office records this weekend, it’s no surprise that a visionary director like Christopher Nolan can create such an immensely dim and entertaining crime drama masked as a superhero movie. It’s easily the best comic-book movie of the summer, but to call it more than that is the overstatement of the year.

The accolades, of course, start with the late Heath Ledger’s fiendish and amazing performance at Batman’s nemesis the Joker. Ledger is right on cue as the soulless clown who robs banks alongside his gang of criminals. It’s a completely different portrayal than that of Jack Nicholson from the 1989 version. It’s not better or worse, but it is distinctive and memorable.

Christian Bale returns to form as the most ruthless Batman of any that came before him. Torn between his responsibility as a vigilante crime fighter in Gotham City and settling down with Rachel Dawes (Maggie Gyllenhaal), who is now more interested the newly elected district attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart, who is later burned to become Two-Face) than billionaire businessman Bruce Wayne.

As in “Batman Begins,” Nolan has recreated the denseness of a city on the brink of chaos in “The Dark Knight” and it permeates through the entire film. It’s a real-world story with comic-book tendencies and Nolan is the one that is able to mold the two genres together to produce a sort of hybrid crime thriller.

There are moments in “The Dark Knight” where the screenplay has some opportunities to really sideswipe the audience, but chooses some easy way outs of a few intense situations. Where the film could have ended up becoming macabre and transformed the Joker into an incarnate of evil, it bows out and leaves him on a level of likability.

Overall, “The Dark Knight” wowed, but didn’t have a lasting effect despite it’s full-package delivery. That’s usually what happens with summer blockbusters, even when there as impressive as this.