Now You See Me (2013)

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Directed By: Louis Leterrier

Written By: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt 

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Melanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman

Now you don’t…

Four of the nation’s greatest magicians (Eisenberg, Harrelson, Franco, Fisher) are brought together by an unknown person, and instructed to do 3 grand shows. They get financial backing from a multi-millionaire insurance company owner (Caine), and before the film is 20 minutes in, they are doing their first sold-out  show in Las Vegas. In this first show, they, “rob,” a bank using their magician skills. Don’t worry: This movie does not actually believe in magic, well not really at least. The film then goes on a roller coaster ride through the story of the 4 magicians, the FBI crew (Ruffalo, Laurent) that tries to stop them, and one magic debunker (the one and only Morgan Freeman).

Louis Leterrier direction brings a fresh, new feeling to this story that shares those qualities. His visual crafting is part of what draws viewers in for the 115 minute ride. Right from the beginning, Leterrier knows what direction he wants to take the film. Having a vision as a director is imperative to critical success of a film. Of course director’s need far more than vision, but that is one aspect that Louis Leterrier thrives in capturing. His flaws lie in the action sequences, but fortunately, we don’t see too much of those.

The trio of writers, find success in the basic plot line, but as the plot begins to develop, viewers will see their flaws. The attempt to be too witty and tricky is found far too often, especially in the mystery/thriller genre. While Now You See Me is no exemption, it’s strengths out weigh its weaknesses in writing department. The film struggles with knowing when to stop, and ends up making far too many twists for its own plot. The script, however; can be very witty, and at times the motor behind the film.

Highly talented actor, Jesse Eisenberg, in Now You See Me

Highly talented actor, Jesse Eisenberg, in Now You See Me

The cast, not surprisingly, is the strongest aspect of the film. The film is flowing with some of my personal favorite actors including Eisenberg, Harrelson, Freeman, and Caine. The entire cast fulfills their roles perfectly. Without this entire cast, driven by Jesse Eisenberg, the film would inevitably drown in its own flaws. The cast turns a mediocre film into a good film, and that is how it always should be. In this modern day, there is no excuse for poor acting. Casting directors have enough people to choose from. Oh, and more quality roles for Jesse Eisenberg, anyone? When Jesse is on, he might be my favorite young actor in the business.

Overall, Now You See Me will thoroughly entertain its viewers, and will leave them feeling as if it was $12 well spent. That is given that these viewers recognize that it is May, and entertainment is simply all you can ask for. The film’s pros ultimately outweigh its cons, and eh, who doesn’t love a little bit of magic?

IMDb: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 47%

Metacritic: 50/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 73/100

Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

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Directed By: Justin Lin 

Written By: Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson

Starring: Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Dwayne Johnson, Luke Evans, and other various supporting actors

Well that was realistic…

They’re back and they’re the good guys. That’s right. Leave it to Hobbs (Johnson), a special forces cop, to get Toretto (Johnson) and his crew back to work. They are working to capture Shaw (Evans), a military-trained criminal, that is out to steal a chip that is capable of shutting down an entire country for 24 hours. This chip would be capable of essentially destroying that respective country. The stakes are high, the muscles are big, and the cars go fast.. What could go wrong, right?

To answer the previous question, a lot more than viewers would think. I’m struggling to tell the difference between action movies anymore. Just about everyone has begun to feel the same. Fast & Furious 6 is no exemption. The storyline is washed out and utterly disappointing. The attempt to differentiate itself by switching the setting (again) backfires on them (again). While I like watching big guys kick each others asses as much as everyone else, I can simply not get over the redundancy of the series.

The first Fast & Furious is a good-watch and one of the better action movies of 2001. The second, third, and fourth installments were very disappointing (especially three). I take my hat off to them for their perseverance for sticking with a series that had three consecutive disappointing efforts. Fast Five brought back viewers interest in the series. The Rio setting was appealing and people were  again drawn in by the badass thieves.

Unfortunately, the only aspect of the fast & furious series that was even somewhat original was removed in Fast & Furious 6. They are now the good guys. It’s human nature to want to be a badass, so when the protagonist(s) are bad guys, the movie instantly becomes more exhilarating. Take that aspect away, and it might as well be  Mission Impossible 5: Fast Cars.

The action scenes make no effort to be the slightest bit realistic. In fact, it is just the opposite: It is almost as if the writers made an effort to be unrealistic. I mean, didn’t we already see the ending of this movie in Toy Story? And Argo? In what would be taken by many as the most climatic scene, my theater began to laugh uncontrollably. The writing of the story is embarrassing and the directing could not save it. Just Lin’s direction is perfectly good. He does the best he could with what he had, but he didn’t have much.

The acting is typical action crap. Don’t Worry! Dwayne Johnson is just as awful at acting as he is at hiding his steroid use (nothing new). Paul Walker continues to do his best with a series that seems especially exhausted. Jordana Brewster is still a babe, but we don’t see her much in her relatively minor role. The acting is simply nothing to speak of.

Overall, Fast & Furious 6 can not successfully follow in Fast Five’s foot steps. Bad decisions with the characters mixed with general poor writing made the film just another mediocre summer action flick.

IMDb: 76/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 70/100

Metacritic: 61/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 63/100

Series Roundup: With every new addition, I like to rank every film in the series from Best to Worst:

1. Fast Five (2011)

2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)

3. Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

4. 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)

5. Fast & Furious (2009)

6. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)

In Theaters this Week (May 10-16)

Expectation: 75/100

Expectation: 75/100

Wide Release: No amount of bad reviews can change how I feel about Gatsby. It’s one of the greatest American stories, and I can only hope that it will translate well to the big screen. If the reviews are correct, this will be the 2nd unsuccessful adaptation of this wonderful novel. The main complaint that I find in reviews of The Great Gatsby is that it tries too hard to be modern, and ‘Gatsby’ is simply not a story that needs to be modernized. This is one of the best casts we’ve seen this year, which gives any film fan hope. I’m not letting the poor reviews get me down, and I’m hoping for the best with The Great Gatsby. RT: 48%

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Expectation: 15/100

Wide Release: I’ve grown to accept that movies like this are made. Real film fans ignore them, and casual movie goers fall for the same scheme over and over again. It’s not entertaining. It’s not funny. It’s simply not good. Peeples will be the same as movies of the similar kind (i.e. Tyler Perry movies, The Big Wedding, Couple’s Retreat). Reviews for Peeples just further confirm what we already knew. Stay far, far away. RT: 38%

aftershock

Expectation: 40/100

The only good thing to have Eli Roth’s name attached to it is Inglourious Basterds. I expect that streak to continue with Aftershock. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) that I saw a movie set in Chile, so they get some originality points for that. The setting also indicates that the filmmakers did not target the USA audience, but instead have tried to make it an international hit. Risky move, but it might prove to be very clever. The movie that I could not stop thinking about when I watched the trailer was The Darkest Hour (4/10). That movie was underwhelming and Aftershock looks far too similar for it to be any different. Aftershock will receive a limited release on May 1oth.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

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Directed By: Shane Black

Written By: Drew Pearce and Shane Black

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Guy Pearce, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Don Cheadle

He’s back.. and with a heart (pun intended).

The third installment in the Iron Man series does not provide much variation from the other two. Tony Stark (Downey Jr.) is all over the place in this one. At one point he is the same, cocky, arrogant, lovable guy that we’ve seen in the previous films (especially the first), but in the very next scene he is breaking into full on anxiety attacks. Stark and Pepper Potts (Paltrow) are now in a committed relationship, which takes away from any random Tony Stark one-night-stands (unless there’s a flashback..). Who’s the villan? Well, there’s a new terrorist in town that fans of the comic book will know that goes by The Mandarin (Ben Kingsley), and viewers will be shocked when they get to meet him. There’s also an unappreciated villainous mastermind in Aldrich Killian (Guy Pearce) that comes in to shake things up. Iron Man 3 has one of the better superhero plots, but its lack of execution is where the problem lies.

Would you really trust a relatively unknown director with your $200 million? Marvel did, and it did not pay off. There are moments in Iron Man 3 that had great written potential (i.e. plane rescue scene), but the execution was flawed. The only fault that can attribute to this is the director. My only advice to Marvel can be to get some more experienced people working on their projects. Or is it possible that no acclaimed director wants to take up a film with so much hype surrounding it? Is that why The Dark Knight trilogy was so successful? This is the only reason this reviewer can provide for Marvel’s decision.

With that being said, the writing was far from perfect. Can someone please explain to me why for two movies in a row, the Iron Man movies have not featured very much Iron Man? Until viewers meet The Mandarin, he is a fascinating character, but his comical entrance is ultimately disappointing. Writers Drew Pearce and Shane Black rely too heavily on cheesy one-liners. At the end (or during) every “exciting” scene there is an unnecessary one-liner given by Tony Stark or sometimes Pepper Potts.

Stark and Potts (Downey Jr. and Paltrow) at the Paris premiere of Iron Man 3.

Stark and Potts (Downey Jr. and Paltrow) at the Paris premiere of Iron Man 3.

Stark is not the same cocky piece of shit that we’re used to, and I miss that. I have no problem with character advancement, but we’d be lying if we said we didn’t miss the old Stark. The Stark from this scene is what I crave, and while you get glimpses of him, I wonder if he will ever return. Robert Downey Jr. delivers another steller performance as always, but he fits the repetitive feel of the movie. He does not add anything new to Stark, and simply delivers his lines in the way he always had. The performances in this action flick are all up to par, but one new man must be noted. Guy Pearce adds so much to Iron Man 3. Perhaps I like him because he is the only taste of variation found in Iron Man 3. Whatever the reason, his performance in Iron Man 3 is the highlight of the film, and it is good to see Guy Pearce back in a leading role.

I might just be overly harsh on Iron Man 3. It was light years better than the second film, so maybe I’m just sick of it. Not just Tony Stark. Maybe I’m sick of Marvel. The Avengers (great film) might have just been the end for me. Whether it is Iron Man, Thor, or Captain America infront of the camera, every scene begins to feel the same. Is it overkill? At the end of the day, every movie will entertain viewers and everyone will keep seeing them. And if we all keep seeing them… they’ll just keep throwing them out there. Whether or not that is a bad thing depends on the viewer.

Overall, I’m not dying to see Stark or his suit(s) anytime soon. Iron Man 3 does not hurt the marvel series in any way, but it does not add anything new to it either.

IMDb: 7.8/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 77/100

Metacritic: 62/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 71/100 (Expectation: 75/100)

Series Roundup: With every new addition, I like to rank every film in the series from Best to Worst:

1. Iron Man

2. Iron Man 3

3. Iron Man 2

In Theaters this Week (April 26 – May 2)

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Expectation: 50/100

Pain & Gain. Hmmm… one of my least favorite directors directing a movie starring a mediocre action star and one of my favorite actors. Michael Bay is a joke of director. He relies too heavily on special effects and not heavily enough on a script or even a developed storyline. Dwayne Johnson is an actor that will keep getting strong and stronger, but his acting will stay equally as disappointing. Now Mark Wahlberg is a different story. I had always had respect for this man, but after seeing The Fighter, my appreciation for his work went through the roof. When I met him in person last year, I realized that I was meeting one of my favorite actors. Now I might be able to get over my hatred for Michael Bay if he actually decides to direct a quality script. While I am interested in the story behind Pain & Gain, I just can’t see any quality material behind this one.

Expectation: 10/100

Expectation: 10/100

The Big Wedding. I could have told you what a disaster this one was going to be before it received an 8% on Rotten Tomatoes. I don’t know what it is with these ensemble comedies, but they really seem to be a disaster as of late. Just take a few examples from the last couple years: New Year’s Eve, Movie 43, Valentine’s Day. These are all movies that have caused viewers to feel like they have just wasted an hour and a half of their life. Expect The Big Wedding to be soon forgotten, and I don’t think that will be a bad thing. Oh, and I thought De Niro was done with this shit after Silver Linings Playbook.. I guess I was wrong.

mud

Expectation: 90/100

Mud. There were three movies that I was really excited for the first 1/3 of the year. Two of them were Side Effects (met expectations) and The Place Beyond the Pines (a disappointment), and the last one was Mud. Mud has been towards the top of my watch list since I heard about it when I was reading up on Cannes last year. After getting a glimpse of the trailer, my “great movie” light went off. Matthew McConaughey has recently become one of my favorite actors. While I’m not a huge Reese Witherspoon fan, I’ve heard she only has five minutes worth the screen time. I’m expecting a lot out of Mud, so anything short of fantastic will be a disappointment. Mud is getting a limited release on April 26 in 353 theaters nation wide.

In Theaters this Week (April 19-25)

 

Expectation 60/100

Expectation 60/100

Oblivion has been a back and forth battle in my head as to what I expect out of the film. When I first read the premise, I was expecting something around the same quality level as Cruises 2011 action flick Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol. Then, I heard that one of my favorite actors, Morgan Freeman, was on board for the project, which vastly increased my expectations. After seeing the trailer, I was  more confused about where the film was going than when I had just read the prologue. The story for Oblivion seems to be all over the place, and one can only hope that the film does not share this characteristic. Expect it to be visually stunning in IMAX, but I’m not convinced that it will be worth the $17 IMAX admission price. It’s making itself out to be the start of summer blockbusters, but we all know that honor goes to Iron Man 3. I don’t expect much out of Oblivion, and I can only hope that it proves me wrong.

It has been a quarter of a century since the release of Rain Man, and still no one wants to compete with Tom Cruise at the box office. Oblivion is the only major release this week.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

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Directed and Written By: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Melanie Laurent, Diane Kruger

Nominated for 8 Academy Awards (Best Picture, Original Screenplay, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Film Editing, Directing, Cinematography, and Supporting Actor)

Won 1 Academy Award (Supporting Actor)

In Nazi occupied France, a group of American Jewish soldiers are sent to France to do “one thing and one thing only.. kill Nazi’s.” Is there honestly a better idea for a film than that? Who wouldn’t want to see a revenge thriller that’s about Jews getting revenge on the Nazi’s? Add the Tarantino flare, and Inglourious Basterds is one of the most gut-wrenching and intriguing films of all time.

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino

Writer/Director Quentin Tarantino

I clicked play on my remote, not knowing that I was about to start the fastest 2 hours and 33 minutes of my life. There is no writer/director like Quentin Tarantino, and I’m beginning to wonder if there ever will be. He has such a driving vision behind each and every one of his films. To appreciate Tarantino’s films, the viewer has to get him. For example, in the beginning scene, the colors in the house are dark and deep to symbolize that something tragic is about to occur. A realist would say that the sun was shining bright outside; therefore, the house should be radiant with sunlight. Well, it’s a good thing that Mr. Tarantino is not a realist because his way of setting the mood is just one of the things that make his films spectacular. Quentin’s audacity to create a film like this mixed with the intelligence to make his vision come to life is what makes the film so fantastic.

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Oscar winner Christoph Waltz in Inglourious Basterds.

The acting in Inglourious Basterds is nothing short of amazing. Brad Pitt’s character is not one that will earn any awards, but Pitt does  what the role calls for. Although the women, Melanie Laurent and Diane Kruger, never actually meet each other, their energy somehow manages to feed off of one another. From scene to scene you are inspired by these women’s performances. The only dull performance is Eli Roth. Sure, he looks tough, but it seems that is the only thing he was put in the movie to do. His lack of dialogue makes “the bear Jew” (Roth’s character) awkward and out of place. Limited dialogue has worked in some films (ex: The Driver in Drive), but “the bear jew” is not one of those characters. I made sure that I saved the best performance for last, now everyone please bow down to Mr. Christoph Waltz. While he is yet to prove that he can be a successful actor outside of Tarantino projects (Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained), he sure is good when he’s with Quentin. His performance  in Inglourious Basterds is capturing, and nothing short of amazing. His performance in this film as well as his performance in Django Unchained are both worthy of the Oscars that they received.

Overall, Quentin Tarantino managed to exceed expectations (even for him) with this timeless, instant classic. The viewer will find  scenes that play over and over again in their head. Inglourious Basterds is a film that all Tarantino fans must see or anyone that just wants to see Nazi’s get their asses kicked. I’m tempted to say that Tarantino has done it again, but I don’t think anyone has ever done or ever will do anything like Inglourious Basterds. A film this audacious will never win best picture, but Inglourious Basterds is more deserving than any other film released in 2009.

IMDb: 8.3/100 (#108 on the top 250)

Rotten Tomatoes: 88/100

Metacritic: 69/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 92/100