On my birthday, here are the two big releases at UK cinemas today:
The Illusionist (PG)
After last Autumn’s The Prestige we have another film that deals with a magician at the turn of the century. Written and directed by Neil Burgher it tells the story of a magician named Eisenheim (Edward Norton) who falls for a duchess (Jessica Biel) in Vienna. A police inspector (Paul Giamatti) working for the ruling crown prince (Rufus Sewell) tries to find out more about the enigmatic magician and begins to discover that there is more to him than he first thought. The central performances are all good and the plot has some satisfying twists and turns but it is the visuals which really dazzle. Dick Pope’s cinematography not only give the film a lush and romantic period feel but also seems to referencing the early days of cinema, when films themselves seemed to be magic.
Ghost Rider (12A)
The latest Marvel comic book character to hit the screen is Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) a stunt motorcyclist who has inadvertently made a pact with the Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) when he is young. In exchange for his soul he becomes the Ghost Rider – a supernatural being with a flaming skull and motorcycle who is forced to battle demons trying to take over the earth. Although this isn’t in the same league as other Marvel adaptations such as the Spider-man and X-Men films, it still something of a guilty pleasure. The effects are fairly convincing and there is a surreal rock and roll aspect to it all even if the main villain (a miscast Wes Bentley) is unconvincing and Eva Mendes is wasted in typical girlfriend role.
FILM OF THE WEEK: The Illusionist