‘The Illusionist’ Maintains Its Cinematic Magic In Its New Latest Re-Issue

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/MVD Entertainment Group/MVD Visual

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:

 

 

 

Website: http://mvdvisual.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MVDEntertainmentGroup

Twitter: http://twitter.com/mvdentgroup

 

 

 

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MVD Entertainment Group To Re-Issue ‘The Illusionist’ This Month

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/MVD Entertainment Group/MVD Visual

MVD Entertainment Group has added 20th Century Fox’s 2006 period drama The Illusionist to its MVD Marquee series.

The company is scheduled to re-issue the movie, which stars Paul Giamatti (SidewaysCinderella Man12 Years A Slave), Edward Norton (The Incredible HulkAmerican History XBirdman) and Jessica Biel (7th HeavenI Now Pronounce You Chuck & LarryI’ll Be Home For Christmas) in its lead roles.

The movie’s story, which is set in 19th Century Vienna, features Norton and Giamatti as Eisenheim and Inspector Uhl respectively.  Eisenheim wants to win the affections of the Duchess Sophie van Teschen (Biel), but Uhl stands in Eisenheim’s way, working for the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell — A Knight’s TaleDark CityTristan + Isolde) as he, too, looks to win Sophie’s hand and heart, but for his own selfish purposes rather than for love.  The story follows Eisenheim as he uses his magic skills to win over Sophie and ultimately results in a twist ending that viewers never would have seen coming.

MVD Entertainment’s forthcoming re-issue of The Illusionist will feature the same bonus features included in the movie’s original release, a feature-length commentary from writer/director Neil Burger, a making of featurette and interview with Biel, in which she discusses the movie.

More information on this and other titles from MVD Entertainment Group is available online now at:

 

Website: http://mvdvisual.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MVDEntertainmentGroup

Twitter: http://twitter.com/mvdentgroup

 

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like “it.  Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Starz, Anchor Bay Reveal Release Date, Info For Spartacus: The Complete Series

Courtesy: Starz

Courtesy: Starz

Officials with Starz and Anchor Bay Entertainment announced this week that the companies will release Spartacus: The Complete Series this fall.

Courtesy:  Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Spartacus: The Complete

Series will be released on DVD and Blu-ray +Digital HD with Ultraviolet on Tuesday, September 16th. The Blu-ray+Digital HD with

Ultraviolet edition of the box set will come in two formats. The first format will include three new audio commentaries for the series’ first season. The other will include a Spartacus collector’s figurine. All three of the box sets include a handful of bonus material. That bonus material is listed below.

New Bonus Features:           

  • SPARTACUS Fan Favorites With Liam McIntyre                     
  • Scoring A Hit: Composer Joseph LoDuca             
  • An Eye Full: Roger Murray                       
  • SPARTACUS: Paul Grinder                     
  • The Last Word: John Hannah       
Spartacus Special Edition BD Box Set

Courtesy: Starz/Anchor Bay Entertainment

Series creator and executive producer Steven S. DeKnight commented on the series in a recent interview promoting the upcoming box set. He explained just how important the series remains to all that worked on it even today and added a note for audiences. “The gods finally bless us with the complete collection,” he said. “Spartacus was a true labor of love for everyone who worked on it and I’m incredibly proud to present all 39 episodes in stunning High-def for the fans to enjoy at their leisure, but make sure you watch them in the order they first aired to revel in the experience as originally intended.”

Spartacus originally starred Andy Whitfield in the series’ leading role. Whitfield would then be replaced in Seasons Two and Three by Liam Mcintyre. Also featured throughout the series are: John Hannah (The Mummy, Four Weddings and a Funeral), Peter Mensah (300, The Incredible Hulk), Manu Bennett (30 Days of Night), Nick E. Tarabay (Crash), Dustin Clare (Underbelly), Dan Feuerrigel (Home and Away), Simon Werrells (The Wolfman) Todd Lasance (Cloudstreet), Cynthia Addai-Robinson (Flashforward), and Lucy Lawless (Xena: Warrior Princess, Battlestar Galactica, Parks and Recreation).

The standard definition box set of Spartacus: The Complete Series retail for SRP of $119.98. Blu-ray+Digital HD with Ultraviolet set will retail for $149.99. The Blu-ray+Digital HD with Ultraviolet and bonus Spartacus collector’s figurine will retail for SRP of $199.99. More information on the upcoming release is available online at http://www.facebook.com/spartacus.starz, http://www.starz.com/spartacus, and http://twitter.com/spartacus_starz. To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment news and reviews in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Forget The Franchises, Go See Moonrise Kingdom

Courtesy: American Empirical Pictures/Indian Paintbrush/Focus Features

Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most peculiar yet deepest and most heartfelt movies of 2012.  It is a niche film, meaning it isn’t for everyone.  But it is still a story worth seeing.  Moonrise Kingdom is for all essential purposes, a coming of age story.  The short and simple is that Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are surrounded by dysfunction, and through simple correspondence, they run off together.  In the process, they learn about themselves and each other.

The coming of age story has been done and then some throughout Hollywood’s history.  But this story has completely set itself apart from all the other movies in that sub-genre.  Somehow, it managed to combine themes of love and overcoming adversity in a way that doesn’t bog down the story.  Both Suzy and Sam want love.  One has parents who don’t give her the love that she needs. The other is an orphan, so all he needs is love.  Top it all off by presenting each in a setting that’s rife with dysfunction, and it makes both Suzy and Sam very sympathetic characters.  That being the case, it makes the pair’s idealistic puppy love forgiveable.  For that matter, it actually makes the pair’s “relationship” more believeable and heartwarming, albeit a little bit seemingly dysfunctional in itself.

The story behind Moonrise Kingdom is deep and heartfelt in the long run.  It’s only one part of what makes this one of the year’s most underrated movies.  The cinematography really added to the film’s enjoyment.  There was something about the shooting style in this movie that made it stand out among the masses.  One example of that shooting style comes as Sam and Suzy are attempting to cross a stream.  The shot for this scene is somewhat grainy and imperfect.  Yet that imperfection makes it a wonderful shot.  It helps the surrounding scenery really stand out.  It’s just one of so many that any student of the film art will appreciate throughout the story.

Acting and cinematography are big parts of what make a movie great.  But another part of what makes a movie great is a soundtrack.  Far too often, movies just toss in a bunch of songs here and there that are in reality little more than background noise.  But in the case of Moonrise Kingdom, the story’s soundtrack is a whole part of the movie in itself.  In listening to the soundtrack alone, one doesn’t really catch the impact that the music has on the movie.  But in watching the movie with the soundtrack, it adds so much emotion from one scene to the next.  That even includes the addition of some classic Hank Williams, Sr. songs.  Composer Benjamin Britten’s “Heroic Weather-Conditions Of the Universe” suite is beautiful in itself.  And added to the story, it makes the scenes in which it is used that much more powerful. 

So much work went into making Moonrise Kingdom.  And it shows from every angle.  The story of what brought Sam and Suzy together makes their relationship at least somewhat understandable.  That story itself has so many layers.  Somehow, they manage to interweave without getting to be too much for the story.  The movie’s scenery, cinematography and soundtrack add layers all their own to what is already an interesting story.  Do they combine to make Moonrise Kingdom one of 2012’s best?  That’s debatable.  However, one thing can be said of Moonrise Kingdom.  And that is that at a time when movie studios are churning out nothing but prequels, sequels, and reboots, this movie has turned out to be one of the year’s most original and heartwarming (and slightly twisted) works.  Whether or not it’s among the year’s best is in the eye of the beholder.  But it is a breath of fresh air in a sea of franchises from studios that are too scared to take a chance on something original.

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Moonrise Kingdom soundtrack shines on its own

Courtesy: ABKCO

Classical and country are two wholly separate styles of music.  So the thought of combining the two polar opposites on one compilation is enough to make any listener do a double take.  It goes without saying that by all logic, it’s a major risk.  While the combination of the pair on the soundtrack to the new indie flick, “Moonrise Kingdom” was a risk, the end result was a sucess.

Being an indie-flick, not every person across the country will get to see the movie.  But everyone can check out the soundtrack.  It combines some of the best of Hank Williams, Sr. with equally impressive classical works from the likes of Camille Satin-Seans and Franz Schubert.  And composer Alexandre Desplat has his own works throughout the compilation, too.  His seven part ‘The Heroic Weather-Conditions of The Universe’ opus tells its very own story.  Though it’s likely tied in to the plot of a big storm coming while the parents of the young lovers search for them.  Listeners don’t even have to have seen the movie to appreciate the entire work, even in its separated form.

‘The Heroic Weather-Conditions of The Universe’ opens with the soft, mysterious movement, ‘A Veiled Mist.’  The name alone hints at images of the unknown. From there, the musical story builds more and more until it finally culminates in the ending gentility of the final movement, ‘After The Rain.’  This movement conjures images of the violent storm from the movie finally making its way through and then everything finally being calm once it has passed.  It’s a wonderful manner in which to tell a story. The final movement brings Desplat’s story full circle.  And just as the soundtrack opened with a young person introducing audiences to the different parts of the orchestra, so does it close.  It all combines to give audiences a total sense of fulfillment after taking the musical journey.

Not everybody who listens to this soundtrack might be a fan of classical music.  That’s fine.  It also offers some great classic country from the legend himself, Hank Williams, Sr.  The soundtrack includes his hits, ‘Kaw-Liga’, ‘Long Gone Lonesome Blues’, and ‘Ramblin Man.’  And for those who have perhaps never been exposed to Williams’ work, this trio of songs is a great first introduction to one of country music’s greatest voices.

Moonsrise Kingdom is out in theaters nationwide.  It may not be in every theater in every city across the country.  But its soundtrack is available now.  Whether one is a fan of classical or classic country, both sides have something enjoyable to which they can listen.  It may even serve to introduce a whole new generation of listeners to two great musical styles without even having to take them to see the associated movie.  Keeping that in mind, the Moonrise Kingdom soundtrack is worth at least a single listen.

To keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news, go to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it or its companion page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Reel-Reviews/381028148587141.  Fans can always keep up with the latest entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.