Filled with striking images and terrific acting, Parnassus is that rare fantasy film where the strange and the unexpected mingle politely with delicate human emotion.
One of the many joys to be found at Austin’s Fantastic Fest is a series of “Secret Screenings” that occur throughout the program week, where films remain unannounced until moments before the lights go down. This past September we were treated to a diverse set of surprises that included The Men Who Stare at Goats, Robogeisha and A Serious Man. It was a real pleasure to discover Terry Gilliam’s The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnussus was one of them, but even more so that the film is a terrific return to form for the director. After dreary disappointments of clutter (The Brothers Grimm) and grim detachment (Tideland), the lovingly rendered Parnassus brings Gilliam back to a jovial dream-world that feels pleasantly familiar to some of his earlier films, and he excels at conveying such good-natured whimsy.
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Good-looking, briskly paced and filled with clever wordplay and physical action.
Until Sherlock Holmes, the phrase “period piece” would not have been attributable to Guy Ritchie. But one of the most surprising and pleasing aspects of the director’s new film is that he gets the look and feel of Victorian London down so well that if it weren’t for the slow-motion, bare-knuckle fight scenes and recurring, signature “here’s what really happened” sequences, you might not have thought it was a Guy Ritchie film at all. The set design, costumes, re-imagined architecture, background images and infrequent, almost flawless CGI effects depict the sprawling city quite well. Ritchie more than adequately pegs the sense of a different, tumultuous age, right down to the tools and jargon used by each character. The depth of these surroundings allows the viewer to more easily swallow Holmes’ shenanigans as the film’s mystery unfolds.
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Not a great film, but it does its best to provide an engaging, eye-popping, (almost) three hours of fun.
I recently bought an HD television, and within the first hour had seen so many crisp, vividly detailed images that I knew it would be hard to ever go back and watch things without that advanced technology. James Cameron’s much-ballyhooed, long-anticipated Avatar feels like it should have garnered that same response, a kind of technological ecstasy that would be difficult to disregard. But the killing joke of Cameron’s new film is that for all its lush beauty and enjoyable action, the vaunted advances of its 3-D format are completely unnecessary, and sometimes a hindrance.
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Smart, tight thriller from Nimrod Antal (the great Kontroll) squeezes an old formula for highly-coiled tension.
Director Nimrod Antal took a circuitous route to Hollywood. Of Hungarian descent, he was born in Los Angeles, but moved to Hungary in 1991 to learn and work, making music videos and TV commercials until he made Kontroll, his first feature-length film, which became a hit on the festival circuit in 2003. An atmospheric, propulsive work, Kontroll is set entirely in the Budapest subway system in the post-midnight hours, following a team of ticket inspectors who must deal with unruly nocturnal passengers and scofflaws, a budding serial killer, and an angelic young woman.
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