Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Millhauser, THE ILLUSIONIST is a beautifully crafted motion picture. All facets of the filmmaking art come together in a delicious tale of magic and morals. For those of you hungry for an intelligent and rewarding cinematic experience, THE ILLUSIONIST is a must see. It's like pulling rarebit out of a hat.

Edward Norton's trademark intensity works to his advantage in his portrayal of the enigmatic Eisenheim, a master illusionist who has risen to become the greatest magician in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Eisenheim's magic tricks not only evoke a sense of wonder, they also seem to embody the ambiguities and the uncertainties of a new century. Each sell-out performance brings more fame and fortune, but these rewards are of little consequence. What Eisenheim wants most of all is to win the love of luscious Dutchess Sophie von Teschen, portrayed by the absolutely stunning Jessica Biel in her best on-screen performance to date. As film critic Richard Propes wrote, "It's no illusion. Jessica Biel can really act!" I concur.

Standing in Eisenheim's way is the powerful, corrupt Crown Prince Leopold, played by Rufus Sewell, who has designs on the Dutchess as well. As Eisenheim soon discovers, Leopold is a more than worthy adversary. Where THE PRESTIGE was about obsession and revenge, THE ILLUSIONIST is about love.

The real star of this show, however, is the incomparable Paul Giamatti, who serves as our guide and narrator while playing the part of Chief Inspector Uhl. Interestingly, Paul Giamatti is the son of A. Bartlett Giamatti, the late President of Yale University and the nemesis of Pete Rose (thank you, sir) when he served as the Commissioner of Major League Baseball. His son has been quoted as once saying, "I don't consider myself a very interesting person. I have the mentality of a supporting actor." Well, if that's what it takes, so be it. Paul Giamatti has been called "America's greatest supporting actor." Once again, I concur. Wholeheartedly. Without reservation. No one else comes close. You get the idea...

What makes THE ILLUSIONIST unique is Director/Screenwriter Neil Burger's carefully orchestrated cat-and-mouse game between the illusionist and the police officer. Each of these men are extremely clever and likeable; we cannot help but root for both in equal measure. To ultimately satisfy the audience's affection for both of these conflicting characters is a significant accomplishment that few other movies have attempted, much less achieved.

Enhancing the solid screenplay that combines intrigue, mystery, murder and an underlying meditation on the seduction of power vs. the power of seduction (in this case, it is magic), THE ILLUSIONIST possesses top-notch production values throughout.

Cinematographer Dick Pope was nominated for an Academy Award, deservedly so. His faded watercolor patina captures the glorious elegance of 1900 Vienna. (I should add that the film was actually shot in Prague, a more than adequate substitute). Philip Glass' score is perfect; it is easy to see, yet again, why he is one of today's top composers.

The impeccable production design by Ondrej Nekvasil and the stunning costumes by Ngila Dickson are also worthy of special mention as is Technical Consultant Ricky Jay, one of the world's most accomplished sleight-of-hand performers as well as a respected historian in the field of magic and the "dark arts." Accordingly, many of the illusions in THE ILLUSIONIST are "real" (or as real as magic gets) in that they were done without the aid of studio special effects wizards or computers. In fact, the producers claim all the tricks shown on screen are period-accurate to the last detail. Amazing, and positive proof that tricks are not just for kids...

Sunday, February 25, 2007


If Woody were alive today --
(Everybody, sing along...)

This land is your land, no longer my land
From the Rio Grande, to Oklahoma
From the Davis Mountains, to the gulf stream waters
This land was made for Rick Perry

As I was walking a ribbon of tollways
I saw above me a ruthless gov'nor
I saw beside me an eviction notice
This land was stolen from you and me

Thursday, February 22, 2007


"We have firmly established the safety, dosage and the usefulness of Kevadon by both foreign and U.S. laboratory and clinical studies." Richardson-Merrell Pharmaceutical Company

Kevadon, of course, is better known as Thalidomide.

Enter Slick Rick Perry -- GOP VP wannabee...

Putting his personal pocketbook and political aspirations above all else (common sense and decency included), Slick Rick's executive order making Texas the first state to mandate that all girls entering the 6th grade must be vaccinated with Gardasil is a shocking abuse of power.

Gardasil is a vaccine designed to fight strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer. On average, 9,710 new cases of cervical cancer are reported each year in the entire United States. Deaths average a total of 3,700 per year -- that's for all ages and all 50 states. Unfortunately, I was unable to find the statistics for Texas, but it is safe to say that the numbers are by no means staggering.

This vaccine was certified by the FDA in June, 2006, after relatively few tests. Already there have been 82 "adverse events" associated with the use of Gardasil reported to the Center for Disease Control. Side effects include pain, itching, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness and muscle pain, among others. Doesn't sound all that good, does it? Well, apparently Slick Rick can be bought for a mere $6,000 -- that's the amount Merck, the maker of Gardasil, gave to Perry's re-election campaign. Plus, undoubtedly, promises of lots more under the table where the greenbacks get greased more often than the buggers.

At $360 per each three-shot regimen, Gardasil is a potentially huge money-maker, that much is clear. What is not clear are the long-term effects of this drug -- and it is very scary to hear Perry poo-poo such concerns with language almost identical to that of Richardson-Merrill some years ago.

The bottom line is that the biggest prick in Texas wants to prick your daughter. Not once, but three times. And you don't have any say in the matter whatsoever.

All of a sudden Oklahoma is beginning to look pretty good...

(Photograph of a future Miss Texas if Perry's pernicious politics prevail)

Sunday, February 18, 2007


The recent decision made by the Bank of America to allow illegeal aliens to open interest-bearing checking accounts and to obtain credit cards without presenting a passport, social security number or any credit history whatsoever is just the latest development in the eventual establishment of a new world order. When all the other pieces are in place you can kiss United States sovereignty goodbye.

The ultimate goal is to create a borderless economy with the United States, Canada and Mexico being equal partners and sharing the same currency -- to be known as the Amero. Banks and big business wins, the patriotic and the average American citizen loses.

Of course, the Pledge of Allegiance will have to be modified:

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of Amero and to the continent for which it stands, one economy, under the Trilateral Commission, indivisible, with open borders and uninforced immigration laws for all."

Ramblings from a "Useless Eater?" Kissinger would think so, but please don't call me crazy. The politically correct word is loco...

Thursday, February 15, 2007


It is funny how sometimes the most complex issue can be made crystal clear.

For example, last night Oscar Homolka came to me in a short dream and he nailed the essence of the two sides concerning the issue of Global Warming:

"Big Bucks or Little Buckaroos?"

Five short words. Take your pick. For me, I think it is wiser to err on the side of future generations.

(Then again, what do I know? I actually moved to a county where the locals continue to practice the fine art of cow tipping.)

Friday, February 09, 2007


TALLADEGA NIGHTS is a bigger mess than a wetback's morning constitutional.

For those of you who believe that Will Ferrell is the best thing since sliced bread (in this case Wonder Bread) you will surely be disappointed. Even Sacha Baron Cohen comes across as flat as Ann Coulter's chest. There's plenty of blame to go around.

For starters, the chicken fried cornpone script is so atrociously bad I am positive that "Coo Coo" Marlin is black flaggin' it in his grave. Co-writer Adam McKay's direction is so haphazard Boss Hogg should throw him in the hoosegow. And the editing, credited to Brent White, is so lethargic and poorly paced one had better watch this film wearing Lisa Nowak-endorsed diapers; you honestly think this NASCAR narcosis will NEVER end. The same is true for the incessant product placements.

Someone's mammy once said that if you can't say at least one good thing then you should keep your trap shut. With this in mind I will heap a bit of praise on the aptly named Leslie Bibb who is so infectiously hot that I actually needed one (a bib that is) to corral my slobber every time she was on the screen. Egads, Bubba, this is a girlie worth watching; everything else is literally the pits.