The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou – A Movie Review

What can I say other than I loved this movie?  It’s quirky, it’s understated, it’s inadvertently hilarious, and it’s the opposite of most every other movie I’ve seen lately.  And that’s why I loved it.

This film is brought to you by Wes Anderson, the guy who gave us The Royal Tenenbaums (which was also an excellent film for the same reasons).  It stars a can’t-miss Bill Murray, a nearly-can’t-miss Owen Wilson, a gaining-respect-in-my-book Cate Blanchett, a can’t-miss-if-you-get-him Jeff Goldblum, a nice-change-of-pace William Dafoe, and a much- better-actress-than-I’ve-previously-given-her-credit-for Anjelica Huston.

This movie, for all its eccentricity, truly did touch an emotional cord with me.  At the heart of it we’ve got Steve Zissou, a man trying to bond with someone that may or not be his son, a man who can’t hold his marriage together, a man whose best friend was eaten by a jaguar shark that may or may not exist, a man whose once stellar documentary film career is waning, a man who has somehow become a pale shadow of his former self.  Pretty heavy stuff, isn’t it? 

Somehow these qualities don’t glare at you because of the overall underplayed hilarity of the film.  The sea life is animated in such a way that you’re never supposed to think for an instant that they’re real, the insides of the ship they sail on is purposefully supposed to look like a multi-layered set on a theatre stage, and, best of all, we’ve got a member of Zissou’s crew singing David Bowie songs throughout the film in Portuguese. 

Unlikely moments of somberness are met with over-the-top moments of action, all infused with mundane moments of life on an adventure paying homage to Jacques Cousteau.  I never would have thought these qualities had the makings of a superb comedy, and that’s why The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is a rousing success.

The Prestige by Christopher Priest – A Book Review

I picked this book up because I heard that Christopher Nolan, director Batman Begins, was going to direct a film adaptation.  On top of that, Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, and David Bowie have all agreed to star in said film.  I figured if talent of such high caliber saw something redeeming in this novel, I would as well.  Thus, I picked it up at my local bookstore.

I was not too familiar with author Christopher Priest.  I knew he was primarily a fantasy writer who occasionally dabbled in the world of comic books.  I honestly wasn’t expecting much from The Prestige, but when I picked it up and saw that it had won a World Fantasy Award, well, it immediately seemed that Christopher Nolan and the previously mentioned actors knew exactly what they were doing.

The first three quarters of The Prestige are entertaining, but I would not necessarily say captivating.  In fact, at times, I was quite unsure what the allure of this novel was.  However, the last quarter of The Prestige was absolutely riveting and I could not put it down until I had finished.

The book is written from several different perspectives, mostly in a journal format.  It spans several generations dealing with a feud that began in the late nineteenth century between two rival stage magicians.  We’re not talking wizardry here-we’re talking good old craftsmen who were at the top of their profession of trickery and illusions through hard work and cunning. 

However, early on in their lives they developed a dislike for one another and it continued between the families, even to this day. 

What’s so interesting is getting both men’s perspective on why the feud began and why it continued for so long.  Of course, both think they’re in the right, and neither seemed especially nefarious when reading their own thoughts.

The title deals with a facet of one of the magician’s tricks called “In a Flash.”  He developed this trick after he saw his rival transport himself from one cabinet to another several feet apart within seconds.  His rival called this “The New Transported Man.”  Hoping to one up his competitor, he discovered means to transport himself even further with the aid of electricity. 

Oh, this plot is so full of so many aspects, far too many to convey in such a short review.  Let me just say that while this book seems utterly trivial for its first seventy-five percent, it all proves important in the last twenty-five.  It will leave you breathless and stunned, I promise.