The Incredible Burt Wonderstone
There is plenty of comic talent on show in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, with Steve Carell and Steve Buscemi taking the central roles of two magicians who try to freshen up their show after a street performer’s daring stunts make their own act seem stale. The story of two incompetents trying to prove themselves and getting into all kinds of humorous trouble is well-worn, and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone does little to freshen it up. A cameo by Alan Arkin as an old magician who is the inspiration for the Burt Wonderstone of the title is one of the best things about the picture. A serviceable comedy with a few laugh-out-loud moments, but far too often you are left trying to work out where you last saw a particular gag.
A Un Certain Regard entry at Cannes last year, Mystery gets off to a good start with a dark, intense opening sequence and the introduction of intriguing and well-handled relationship-drama elements. Director Luo Ye (婁燁) hit the international scene with the success of his offbeat romance Suzhou River (蘇州河) in 2000, and has been an innovative presence in Chinese cinema ever since, but his attempts to combine thriller elements with domestic drama are less successful in Mystery, with a couple of unnecessary subplots that do nothing more than complicate the story to no real dramatic effect.
I Give It a Year
Written and directed by Dan Mazer, who produced and has writing credits in films of Sacha Baron Cohen, including Ali G, Borat and Bruno. The style of humor reflects this background, and Mazer manages to get considerable mileage from a story about a couple experiencing a rocky first year of marriage. The couple, Josh (Rafe Spall) and Nat (Rose Byrne), are incompatible to begin with, and then there are bickering relatives, a tactless best man, a marriage guidance counselor, an ex-girlfriend and a charming businessmen, who all help to make things worse (and more amusing). The basic blueprint for the story is old and despite some good laughs, the whole things moves forward in a predictable way, and the fact that Josh and Nat are neither believable real people, or totally off the wall, makes the whole concoction rather bland.
Celeste and Jesse Forever
Balancing a little heartache with breezy humor and sharp dialogue is never easy, but Celeste and Jesse Forever, co-written and starring Rashida Jones, is a class act and provides one of the best new movies opening this week. The film, which also stars Andy Samberg, has plenty of heart, but for some tastes, the dialogue is a little too self-consciously clever. That does not alter the fact that this is a movie with real heart, and it is willing to replace the usual rom-com cliches with some painful truths about the uncertainty and complexity of modern relationships.
Danny Boyle never provides the expected, and with films from Trainspotting to Slumdog Millionaire he has altered, or at least broadened, the cinematic landscape. With Trance, he tries to put his stamp on the mind-bending thriller, though instead of amnesia (as in Memento) or dreams (as in Inception), Boyle has found his inspiration in hypnotism. Starring Rosario Dawson as the shapely hypnotist Elizabeth, who has been hired by a criminal gang to explore the brain of Simon (James McAvoy), an art auctioneer who may be the only person who knows the whereabouts of a artwork lost during a heist gone wrong. With Simon wandering through his own imagination, it is hard to keep track of what’s conscious and real, and what is unconscious and merely imagined. For most, the mind tease pays off.