MVD Entertainment Group has added 20th Century Fox’s period drama The Illusionist to its MVD Marquee collection. The company is scheduled to re-issue the movie, which stars Paul Giamatti (Sideways, Cinderella Man, 12 Years A Slave), Edward Norton (The Incredible Hulk, American History X, Birdman) and Jessica Biel (I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry, 7th Heaven, I’ll Be Home For Christmas) in its lead roles, on June 25. The movie itself is one of the most underappreciated movies of the 1990s, and the upcoming re-issue serves to remind audiences of exactly that. That is due in part to the movie’s story, which will be addressed shortly. Its bonus content, which will be addressed a little later, adds even more interest to the re-issue’s presentation. The collective work of the movie’s cast and crew also adds to the story and will be addressed later. When it is coupled with the movie’s story, all of the elements together show why this latest presentation of The Illusionist is more cinematic magic.
MVD Entertainment Group’s forthcoming re-issue of 20th Century Fox’s period drama The Illusionist is a positive offering for most audiences. That is due in part to the movie’s story. The story — based on a short story crafted by author Steven Millhauser — is a fully-engaging and entertaining presentation that is full of magic, murder, mystery and romance. Those elements are all expertly balanced throughout the course of the story, too. It is set in 19th Century Vienna, Austria (but was actually filmed in The Czech Republic – this will be discussed later) and features Norton and Giamatti as Eisenheim and Inspector Uhl respectively. Eisenheim, who was friends with the Duchess Sophie van Techen (Biel) when the pair was much younger, wants to reconnect with the Duchess. The problem for Eisenheim is that Uhl, who is working for Crown Prince Leopold (Refus Sewell – A Knight’s Tale, Dark City, Tristan + Isolde), stands in his way. Eisenheim and Uhl eventually develop a certain almost friendship as the story progresses while tensions between Eisenheim and Leopold increase right up to the story’s climactic conclusion. The story’s run time is listed at 109 minutes (1 hour, 49 minutes), but because of the pacing, feels longer than that noted time. What’s truly interesting is that usually when pacing makes a move feel longer than it is, that is a bad thing. In the case of this story though, it is the exact opposite. Somehow, writer/director Neil Burger, who adapted Millhauser’s short story to the screen, managed to make the story work even despite that feel. That is a tribute to his work. Even with the pacing seeming slow at times, the story is still able to keep viewers engaged and entertained with ease. The movie’s twist ending gives viewers a finale that is completely fulfilling. That fulfillment finale, and the ability of the movie’s story to keep viewers engaged and entertained creates a strong foundation for The Illusionist and gives viewers more than enough reason to watch this movie. As much as the movie’s story does for its presentation, its bonus content adds even more to the movie’s presentation.
The bonus content featured in MVD Entertainment Group’s forthcoming re-issue of The Illusionist is carried directly over from the movie’s most recent release, its 2007 release. That includes not just the brief making of featurette and equally brief conversation with Biel, but also the feature-length audio commentary from writer/director Neil Burger. The commentary is listed, in this re-issue, as an audio option instead of a bonus extra, unlike the 2007 home release, as an added note, but it is still the most important of the movie’s extras. Burger presents a lot of information in his commentary, such as the revelation that most of the movie was recorded on site in Prague, Czech Republic and that his adaptation of the original short story The Illusionist is quite different from its literary source material. Considering the number of differences that he addresses, it makes one want to find said story and see just how different the two stories are. That is just some of the content revealed through Burger’s commentary. He also reveals that Norton and Biel were not the first choices for their respective roles. Those discussions are themselves certain to generate plenty of discussion, and in turn are more proof of why Burger’s commentary should have been featured in The Illusionist’s latest re-issue. They are certainly just the tip of the proverbial iceberg that is his commentary. As the movie progresses, he shares far more that audiences can discover for themselves. Keeping that in mind, Burger’s bonus commentary builds on the foundation formed by the movie’s story and strengthens it that much more. It is still not the last of the movie’s positives. The collective work of the movie’s cast and crew couples with the story and commentary to give audiences even more to appreciate.
The work of all four of the movie’s lead cast members is worthy of applause in its own way throughout the movie. Burger notes in the movie’s audio commentary (along with so much more already noted) that he made Eisenheim more of a sympathetic character by using Inspector Uhl more than he was in the movie’s source material. The thing is that Norton’s abilities as an actor did not even call for more inclusion of Uhl. Given, Norton and Giamatii were just enjoyable on-screen together as they were on their own, but Norton’s own abilities were more than enough to make his work engaging and entertaining in its own right. His emoting during his time on stage in front of Eisenheim’s audiences is just one example of that talent. His tears were just as believable as he reaches out for Sophie’s hand in the final act when he is on stage. The pain that he displays translates so well, even if it is all part of his act to trick everyone. Much the same can be said of Giamatti that is said of Norton. When Giamatti is set alongside Sewell, he [Giamatti] shines even more while Sewell, as more of a supporting character, makes it just as easy for audiences to dislike Leopold. Burger discusses this, too, in the commentary. Viewers will agree with his comments here, too. What’s more, viewers will also appreciate the discussions by Burger on the amount of research that was done to make The Illusionist look just like 19th Century Vienna in terms of costumes and even buildings. That research clearly paid off, as the resultant work of the movie’s costume and set designers created an environment that was just as believable as the work of the movie’s cast, getting back on track. It is even noted by Burger, that Eddie Marsan (who played Eisenheim’s manager) was in his 30s when the movie was crafted, yet he looked like he was in his 50s. That is another tribute to the work of the movie’s crew. If one did not know what Burger revealed in the commentary, one would in fact think Marsan was in his 50s. Getting back on the matter of the cast and crew’s work, it couples with Burger’s work on the movie’s script and his commentary, to make the movie appealing for everyone.
MVD Entertainment Group’s upcoming Blu-ray re-issue of 20th Century Fox’s The Illusionist is a work that will entertain any true movie buff. That is due, as noted, in part to the movie’s story. The story expertly balances elements of magic, murder, mystery and romance to make a whole that will keep viewers engaged from beginning to end. That is due in part to the movie’s story, adapted by writer/director Neil Burger to the screen and to the commentary provided throughout the movie as a bonus commentary. The work of the movie’s cast and crew adds to its enjoyment, too. Each item is important in its own way to the whole of The Illusionist. All things considered, they show why The Illusionist is its own magical cinematic diamond in the rough. More information on this and other titles from MVD Entertainment Group is available online now at:
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