Now You See Me (2013)

Who Doesn’t Love a Good Magic Trick?

Now You See Me (2013)As the day of my birth approaches, I decided that I should not be at work as I turned 30.  Well, not at one of my jobs at least.  I would spend my vacation from one job working on the one I actually enjoy: stuff-reviewing.  The first step would be to make my way to the theaters, with my friend Greg in tow.  There were a few movies that I wanted to see in theaters, but Greg had either already seen them or had no desire.  We agreed only on today’s movie.  This movie had piqued my interest when I saw trailers for it, but I had apprehensions about it.  It seemed like an interesting enough premise, but I worried at the movie’s ability to realize that interest.  We find out how well it did as I review Now You See Me, written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt, directed by Louis Leterrier, and starring Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Common, Michael J. Kelly, and Elias Koteas.

A few stray tarot cards bring together four magicians – Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) – with a plan to accomplish three amazing feats for a mysterious benefactor.  They become “The Four Horsemen,” sponsored by insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).  For their first trick, they rob a bank in Paris and give all the money to the audience.  This attracts the attention of FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent), who need to figure out how they did it and what they intend on doing next.  For that, they enlist the help of an ex-magician who makes a living debunking other magicians, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).

I enjoyed this movie.  It was not without its share of problems, but I still found the experience enjoyable.  I found the premise of the movie to be the most compelling part.  The idea of magicians using their abilities for “evil” instead of their usual motivation of “pussy” was very interesting to me, and I thought it was clever how they did it.  I especially liked when Jack Wilder fought the two FBI Agents using magic as a fighting style.  I wasn’t able to figure out their Las Vegas stunt until they revealed it to us.  Their New Orleans stunt was much more predictable and much less mystifying, especially with what they did with the word “Freeze” and how easy it would be to make someone’s money move from one account to another with a simple computer, but there were still some clever ideas in there.  I feel like the problem I had with the movie was that it practically dared the audience to figure it out and to be wary of misdirection, but overall wasn’t clever enough to make it happen.  When one of the characters tells Rhodes that someone might be a spy for the magicians, you can pretty much rest assured that it won’t be either the character that told him that or the character he was talking about.  That would be too easy.  But it doesn’t leave many options, so it wasn’t that hard to figure out.  And though you might not have known how they accomplished something, you can have an idea that something was accomplished, like the part in the story with a car crash.  I didn’t know how it was faked, but it’s a movie about magic.  Of course it was faked.  I would also say that the movie started off by getting me, because I totally picked the card that Jesse Eisenberg put on the side of the building, but there’s also a chance that this could’ve been manufactured with camera tricks.  I also felt like Woody Harrelson’s mentalism stuff was mainly included for exposition, because he delivered most of the character’s backstories using that stuff.

The cast of the movie was great, with no real complaints.  They got great people so I would expect nothing less.  Jesse Eisenberg plays nervous and self-conscious better than he plays a cocky douche, but he did very well.  Isla Fisher is hot, and I heard she almost drowned at one point in this movie, so props for the commitment as well.  Woody Harrelson was pretty entertaining all the way through, and he got to be the funny one in the group most of the time.  I’ve loved me some Mark Ruffalo ever since he was the Hulk, and I found myself worried for the magicians that they might get him too angry.  They might not enjoy that.  I was also very excited to see Mélanie Laurent since I haven’t seen her since I fell in love with her in Inglourious Basterds.  Long distance relationships are always so hard…  I also got to thinking that, with both Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in this movie, how could they not have been able to get Christian Bale (and maybe even Hugh Jackman) to come in for a pivotal scene at the end of the movie where they just yell, “THE PRESTIGE!” and dance around in circles?  It would’ve made the movie for me.  But sometimes, I just want to watch the flash paper burn…

I thought the premise of Now You See Me was great, but there just wasn’t enough magic in the storytelling.  Their clever ideas also activated the parts of the brain that cause us to try to figure out how magic is accomplished, but the story wasn’t quite polished enough to hide their secrets from me.  But their ideas were clever enough to keep me interested, and it was presented well enough and included many great performances.  I’d say this movie is definitely worth a watch.  I don’t know that I’d say it was important enough that it need be seen immediately in theaters, but it also wouldn’t hurt.  Renting it would do fine as well.  Now You See Me gets “The more you think you see, the easier it’ll be to fool you” out of “You have what we like to call in the business, ‘nothing up your sleeve.’”

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Let Me In (2010)

I’ve Been Twelve For A Very Long Time

Today’s movie is a movie I’ve been putting off for a while now. It’s a remake of a Swedish movie I really liked and I was worried that they messed it up. Yeah, that’s right. I’ve seen a foreign film or two. What of it?! I liked the original so much (even though it was in Swedish) that I wanted to see the American remake but the friend of mine that turned me on to the Swedish one told me the remake was shit. But I still wanted to see it and now I have. Let’s talk about Let Me In – the American remake of the Swedish film Let The Right One In – and it was written and directed by Matt Reeves, and stars Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloe Moretz, Richard Jenkins, Elias Koteas, Cara Buono, and Sasha Barrese.

In Los Alamos, New Mexico, Owen (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is a strange, lonely 12-year-old boy. One day he sees an older guy and a young girl move in to the apartment complex he lives in. While sitting outside, the young girl, Abby (Chloe Moretz) approaches him and tells him they can’t be friends, but they slowly become friends anyway. One day, we watch Abby’s father, Thomas (Richard Jenkins) go out and kill a guy in a ritualistic fashion, draining his blood into a jug, but he trips and spills most of it. Later, Owen and Abby are talking in the apartment’s park area and her stomach starts making noise like she just ate at Taco Bell. Shortly after, Abby is crying as a jogger approaches. She tells him that she fell down and hurt herself and asks if he’d carry her. When he tries to, she pounces on him and eats him. Turns out this young girl is a vampire, and technically not a girl. She/he/it – let’s just make that “shit” instead – eventually confesses it to Owen and it causes their relationship to get a bit rocky. Things begin to escalate as shit’s need to feed starts drawing police attention back to shit, and Owen must figure out where he stands in the situation.

Let’s talk about the original a bit. Let The Right One In was the rare movie that I can like even though I have to read subtitles. I hate reading subtitles and it will hurt my opinion of almost any movie that makes me do it. But Let The Right One In managed. And I would say that Let Me In manages not to screw it up too much, regardless to what my friend had told me. The main reason it didn’t screw it up – and what could also be one of the biggest negatives of the movie to some – is that this is almost the same movie with different actors and in English. The look is the same, the story is the same, the characters are mostly the same; it’s almost the same movie. They changed it to New Mexico, probably because no one in America could pronounce the name of the town the original happened in, and it otherwise changed nothing in the movie. All of the settings looked exactly like the original movie. The apartment building, the school, the lake, the forest; all looked the same. They changed the names of the characters, but the characters themselves are the same. So the best and the worst thing about this movie is the fact that it’s the exact same movie. I liked the original and probably wouldn’t want it to have changed drastically, but, on the other hand, why do it? I can watch the original, and I can probably find it in English. So if you’re not going to change it at all, why bother?

I like the story of this/these movies a lot. It’s a horror movie but also a little bit of a love story. Even though they’re only twelve (more or less) and one of them has no gender, the two of them are kind of in love and have to overcome this minor problem of Abby’s need to kill people for food. Vampires have been done to death by this point, but it made me happy to see a return to a more classic interpretation of vampires than, say, one that makes the vampire glitter like a sparklefart when outside. How do these movies handle it? They fuckin’ burst into flames! The way Satan intended! Abby isn’t able to handle regular food, she goes nuts at the sight of blood, is super strong and pale, and – a much less used part of the myth – must be invited into a house or she’ll start bleeding from the eyes. I also like the question that’s in the background of this movie: is what Abby does wrong? You immediately jump to the fact that she’s killing people as a bad thing, but she’s also just trying to survive. Owen thinks she’s evil at first but slowly gets on board with it. I think I could too. I could befriend a vampire and (though I wouldn’t help her do it) I would look the other way as long as she didn’t try to eat me.

The look of this movie is mostly well done. It, of course, is very similar to Let The Right One In, but it duplicates it nicely. Its really dark at night and almost bleached white during the day, but neither in a way that made it hard to watch. When I found out that it was supposed to take place in New Mexico it got me wondering just how often it snows down there. I’ve not spent very much time in New Mexico, but this entire movie is covered in snow. I believed it when it was in Sweden, but I would normally assume New Mexico is not a snowy place. I could be wrong. If nothing else, it’s probably a pretty sunny place during the summer and thus probably not the best place for a vampire to move. As much as it pains me to defend the Twilight series, at least they went with a notoriously cloudy place for the vampires to live in. The negative side to the look of the movie was the visual effects. They were not that great. The two occasions where Abby viciously attacks someone for food it’s a pretty poorly executed computer generated creature. Also, Abby’s evil vampire face was not that well done. I thought this was odd because I’m pretty sure this movie had more money going in than the original but they did them better. Some of the gore was well done though.

I don’t pay much mind to sound in movies, but I did notice it was typically not good here. It was really loud and grating to build atmosphere, but it was typically louder than the really quiet characters. You can’t make your background music so loud when characters only ever whisper to each other. The music that the characters played was all 80’s music (because it takes place in the 80’s) and so I liked that.

The performances were mostly solid. I didn’t like the main kid in either this movie or the original. They’re really peculiar and effeminate and I don’t like it. You kinda want to feel bad for the kid because he’s getting picked on, but he might not get picked on so much if he weren’t a skeevy perv that looks through a telescope at his neighbors getting it on. Also, he kinda looks like a chick. I like Chloe Moretz though. I think she’ll haveta work pretty hard to go against her role as Hit Girl to make me dislike her. Plus, she did a fine job here so it wasn’t even really chipping away at her lofty Hit Girl performance. One thing bothered me about her character though: if you can’t get cold, and you tell people you walk around in the snow in shorts with no shoes because you can’t get cold, why the hell do you wear a jacket? I might be nitpicking. I liked Richard Jenkins as Abby’s “father” too. Everyone else didn’t make much of an impact on me though.

Regardless of what Jordan told me, this movie was not bad. I might actually be willing to call it good. There were solid performances supporting a great story and a nice atmosphere, but lost me a bit with some bad visual effects and some annoying sound. But I think what Jordan had been saying was that the worst part of this movie was that there was no reason to make it. If you don’t mind reading subtitles, watch Let The Right One In instead. Even if you do mind reading subtitles, so do I, and I still liked the original. But, if they bother you SO much, I think you’ll be okay with this one. I’ll give this movie “I need blood to live” out of “You kill people.”

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