Now You See Me (2013)

now-you-see-me-quad-story

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

Jackie Brown (1997)

jackie_brown_01

Written and Directed by: Quentin Tarantino

Starring: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda, Michael Keaton, and Robert De Niro

Nominated for 1 Academy Award (Supporting Actor)

The unquestionably strange follow-up to one of the greatest films of all time, Pulp Fiction, is Jackie Brown. A heist thriller that features 6 people all competing for a $500,000 sum. The rightful owner of the cash is Ordell (Samuel L. Jackson), an illegal arms dealer that has his money kept in a deposit box in Mexico. Brining money back from Mexico is difficult for a criminal, which is where a flight attendant at a Mexican airline, Jackie Brown (Pam Grier), comes in. After she is stopped by a noble police officer (Michael Keaton), she agrees to help the police catch Ordell in return for keeping her job as a flight attendant. After her release from prison, she meets a bail bondsman on the verge of retirement (Robert Forster), who immediately falls into the arms of Jackie’s plan. A secretly intelligent beach bunny that lives with Ordell in Harmossa Beach (Bridget Fonda) makes her attempts at the cash. The most ambiguous character in the film, is Louis, a fresh-out-the-joint bank robber, who agrees to help Ordell get his cash back.

Maybe it was the reviews that called the film “slow paced” and “a disappointment”, or maybe I was afraid of this film changing my view on Quentin Tarantino as one of my favorite directors of all time. Whatever the reason was, Jackie Brown was one of the two Tarantino movies that I had not seen (the other being Death Proof). My expectations were still relatively high, but I was not expecting it to be up to the standards that I have grown to expect when I see a Quentin Tarantino film.

While Jackie Brown does have its issues, its slow-paced nature is not one of them. If its slow-paced nature showed viewers anything, it was that Quentin Tarantino has the potential to craft a sophisticated film. Instead of Tarantino pounding every scene with more action, he crafts every scene, which leads to a thrilling conclusion. There are signs of sophistication in all of Quentin’s films that took place before and after the release of Jackie Brown, but his ability to craft the story of Jackie Brown makes his film making intelligence shine.

The biggest flaw that I found with Jackie Brown was its lack of ambition. Tarantino runs on ambition.. Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill Vol. 1/2, Inglourious Basterds, and Django Unchained are some of the most ambitious films of the modern era. I don’t know what happend with Jackie Brown, but the film struggles to mean anything. It’s hard to get into a film when it doesn’t have the audacity to believe the story that was written for it. It’s difficult to put a finger on who to blame for this flaw. Naturally, viewers would like to blame the writer/director for a less ambitious film; however, this is not always the case. A lack of ambition falls upon the shoulders of every person involved.

jackie-brown-1997-01-g

Pam Grier as Jackie Brown

The performances in Jackie Brown are decent at best. Pam Grier is passionate and convincing in the lead role as Jackie Brown. Despite being one of the greatest actors of all time, Robert De Niro’s character is oddly acted, which makes the viewer question the purpose of his character until the very end. Yeah he’s an asshole and by far one of the most unlikable actors in the business, but Samuel L. Jackson’s acting abilities are nothing short of fantastic. With that being said, Ordell (Jackson’s character) is poorly written making it difficult to see Jackson’s strong performance. Mark Dargus (Michael Keaton’s character) is awfully written, and poorly acted. The scenes that feature Officer Dargus are by far the weakest in the film. “Bridget Fonda, your entire job is to get high and look hot,” said Quentin Tarantino, “Oh, and do you have a problem going doggy style in the kitchen with Robert De Niro?”

“As long as this will give me a career for the next 15 years,” replied Bridget. We all know that never happened. Melanie (Fonda’s character) lacks interest and development. Her character is meant to be unpredictable, but she only ends up being uninteresting. As a reviewer, I chose to save the best for last.. hats off to Robert Forster. He does wonders for this film that struggles in the acting performance. Unlike the awful scenes with Keaton, the scenes with Forrester are the highlights of the film.

Overall, Jackie Brown is one of the worst efforts that Quentin Tarantino has ever brought forth, but it’s still pretty damn good. It’s a fun crime thriller, but I think viewers expect more from Quentin Tarantino than just, “fun”.

IMDb: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 86/100

Metacritic: 64/100

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 79/100

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

inglourious_basterds_poster1

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.

Screencaps-from-Inglourious-Basterds-christoph-waltz-11030636-354-390

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

Side Effects (2013)

SideEffects-exclusive-lg

Direction, Cinematography, and Editing by: Steven Soderbergh

Written By: Scott Z. Burns 

Starring: Jude Law, Rooney Mara, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Channing Tatum

Side Effects

Deemed as a psychological thriller, Side Effects takes you on more twists and turns than any roller coaster at your local theme park.

soderbergh

Steven Soderbergh

Allow me to start with the bad news, we are going to have to bid farewell to Steven Soderbergh in cinema. He has announced that this will be the last film of his career. I think he’ll be back, but it won’t be anytime soon (give it 8 years). So what’s the good news? He went out with a bang. Side Effects has Soderbergh running through its veins. It has the amazing camera work that I have learned to expect with all of Soderbergh’s movies. The shots that he does never seize to amaze me, and his work behind the camera will always be remembered as one of the best. One thing that is credit to both the directing and the writing is that the film respects the viewers’ intelligence, which is something that is very lacking in modern cinema.

The highlight of this twisty thriller is the writing. Scott Z. Burns takes us on a magnificent ride through the imperfections of humanity. It shows how we, as humans, are subjects to depravity, sex, corruption, and most of all greed. Told from a third person point of view, there is no favorite character. Every character is developed perfectly, which only adds to the viewers’ interest.

Jude Law is playing the same role that he has played in movies such as Sherlock Homes and Contagion. In the past I have criticized him for being the same character in every film, but in Side Effects it works. Channing Tatum continues to surprise me, and now seems like he can do just about anything. Rooney Mara has been good in every movie that she has been in: from her small role in The Social Network, to her leading role in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, and now her role in Side Effects. Lastly, Catherine Zeta-Jones shines in her role as Dr. Siebert. She brings an underlying intelligence to the film, that without her performance would have been missing

Viewers are a full two months into the year, and Side Effects is the best picture. It’s a masterfully crafted thriller that takes you through a story full of twists and turns.

IMDb: 7.5/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 84

Metacritic: 75

Best Picture Movie Reviews: 79