Tag Archives: fantasy

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009)


Starring: Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell, Jude Law
Director: Terry Gilliam
Screenwriter: Terry Gilliam, Charles McKeown
Rating : PG-13 for violent images, some sensuality, language and smoking.

Terry Gilliam is an artist. And like any artist, he stays true to his vision, no matter how extravagant or bizzare. And, as is the case with any artist’s work, we the audience, reserve the right to love it, or hate it, just as the artist reserves the right to not really care what we think. That’s how I’ve always pictured Terry Gilliam’s affair with cinema. Some might call it arrogance or self-sufficiency, but I wouldn’t go that far. His vision is sometimes so outrageous, that a second viewing would be out of the question for almost any viewer. I particularly felt this way when I saw his “Tideland” (2005), a movie that to this day I can’t be sure if I hated or loved, just that despite its originality, before the rising of Del Toro’s “Pan’s Labyrinth”, I don’t think I’ll be seeing it again. On the other hand, he can only submit his will to his vision, so what I, or anyone else, thought of that particular movie, whether loved or despise, is completely irrelevant.

So, I was more than a little suspicious as I started watching “The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus”. I was, of course, aware this was Heath Ledger’s very last (incomplete even) movie, and that Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law accepted to complete Ledger’s part, with the help of some very clever rewrites, so the first time Ledger appears on-screen, it felt extremely eerie. A feeling that could only serve a film like this.

Though bizzare in a very Gilliam kind of way, the story is actually surprisingly straight-forward. Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) is an immortal monk, who travels in a horse-driven sideshow caravan along with his daughter, Valentina (Lily Cole) and his two aides, sharing the beauty of imagination to the world. He carries a terrible burden though, that of having gambled with the Devil (Tom Waits) and lost. The price is the soul of his daughter, which he must surrender to the prince of darkness on her 16th birthday. His luck seems to change when they encounter Tony (Heath Ledger), a charismatic swindler, just in time for a new wager with the Devil, which Parnassus hopes will save his daughter.

The gimmick of the story is the Imaginarium, a world which Parnassus can conjure, a world of dreams and imagination (with lots of help from a modern director’s best friend, CGI) tailored around the fabric of the person who enters it. The visual effects are a lot of fun, particularly because there’s a smart concept behind them. As a way to work around the fact that Ledger never finished his scenes, the script was altered so that whenever Tony enters the imaginarium, he appears as a different person each time (Depp, Farrell, Law), him being a swindler, thus a man of a thousand faces, none of them real. I would dare say the script works even better this way, though it is unfortunate that Ledger did not complete his work.

As far as Gilliam’s overall vision is concerned, I was expecting something wildly excentric, but as I mentioned before, the story, underneath the usual visual extravaganza and Oscar-nominated art direction, is quite pleasant and easy to sit through. It has the feel of a modern fairy tale and is a lot of fun to let yourelf carried away by it. The acting is top-notch, with Ledger apparently still bearing echoes of the Joker (little gestures and some line delivery). Plummer is particularly impressive, and after such a long carreer, it’s nice to see he’s still got it (he also nabbed an Oscar nom this year for The Last Station).

“The Imaginarium…” is great imaginative fun, full of everything that makes a movie a great thrilling ride. If from seeing the trailers you feel the movie is just too bizzare or just for kids, fear not, for this is Terry Gilliam’s most fun and easy movie, yet still creepy in a way that I don’t think children might enjoy.



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Twilight (2008)


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Starring: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Billy Burke, Peter Facinelli, Cam Gigandet, Nikki Reed, Elizabeth Reaser, Jackson Rathbone, Sarah Clarke, Ashley Greene, Anna Kendrick, Justin Chon, Kellen Lutz, Edi Gathegi, Rachelle Lefevre, Christian Serratos
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Screenwriter: Mark Lord, Melissa Rosenberg

Based on Stephenie Meyer’s bestselling novel with the same name, the debut of one of the most successful teen targeted franchises since the Olsen twins made millions in the ’90s by selling anything that could by signed and painted pink, „Twilight” is a movie that triggers two opposite reactions: hate – by the „too cool for anything this pathetic” individuals and love – by the „love is all around us and it’s fluffy” crowds. Of course, I am referring to teenage reactions, because any person above 17 and with a three digit IQ has enough sense to be neither impressed nor appalled: worst movies have been made (some won Oscars) and better movies, thank God, will still be made.

Bella (Kristen Stewart) is an average girl with an emo twist who moves with her father when she realizes that she is sort of standing in the way of her mother’s new marriage. Nobody says that she is, but she feels it, hence the emo twist. Her new home town is a perpetual rainy place where the people are simple and their minds cannot comprehend the complexity of Miss Swan’s intricate thought process and she thus is lonely and misunderstood. And just when you think she may be contemplating suicide, THE ONE  – you know, that fabulous soul mate that every movie teaches you to wait (if it’s a romantic one) or to find (if it’s a more modern and „feminist” one) , appears. His name is Edward Cullen and he has the great genes of Robert Pattinson, but he also has a little twist of his own: he is a 100 plus years old vampire who goes through possibly the worst drama of all: he has to relive high school over and over again. There is a bit of action provided by three unexpected undead visitors and the beginning of a love triangle that will fuel four more novels, over a thousand web sites and millions of fan wet dreams.

The movie is really better than what I expected. I’ve read the book, and I thank Mark Lord and Melissa Rosenberg for taking only a small fraction of Bella’s interior monologue and sparing me of „When life offers you a dream so far beyond any of your expectations, it’s not reasonable to grieve when it comes to an end.” or „It was a sea of darkness over my black overwhelming emotions and the sun will never rise again without Edward” (I may be paraphrasing the last quote, but you get my point). The first book being much better than the next three (yes, I’ve read them all, don’t judge!), they also have enough angst filled material  to tell a really well built teen romance, complete with alienation, fear of rejection, loneliness and the one thing all teens have in common: the conviction that this world revolves around them and their uniqueness. Also, the first novel of the “Twilight” saga depicts few events that underline the clumsy doormat personality of the main character, and the movie hides them well enough so that these annoying traits become practically invisible. A decent cinematography, some computer generated special effects (frankly, I’ve seen better in TV shows) and an overbearing feeling of depression and internal turmoil add their contribution to a relatable story, despite its fantasy premise. Adding a little action towards the end may have been the only thing that made me not fall asleep after what seemed like 1000 years of exposition.

The two main actors are above average. At first I thought Kristen Stewart may be one of the worst actresses ever, but she managed to make me like Bella, and I hated her in the books. The lines were the same, but she added a sense of fragility and shyness, and she seemed so uncomfortable all the time, exactly like a hypersensitive 16 year old would be, even though I am not sure that was acting or she was just playing herself. She had little to go on but she pulled it off. Robert Pattinson had even less to go on, as his character was a brooding seemingly perfect creature that treated his girlfriend like a 5 year old (sometimes rightly so), and every once in a while left her for her own good, but he managed to bring his character out of the abusive controlling type and, from time to time, even showed a shred of his patented charisma that will make you see what the fuss is all about. The rest are barely visible, but that is a good thing, as no one stands out as the worst link out of an already dull cast.

Over all, a decent portrayal of teenage angst, two chemistry filled leads and a compelling story (when it does not take itself too seriously), “Twilight” is the first part of a movie franchise that has the potential to break box office records.