Now You See Me 2
The "Horsemen" have come out of hiding from the first " Now You See Me" to star in this sequel. They should have stayed in hiding.
With all of the bad stuff happening in the world today, why do we have to have movie sequels to add to the agony? I mean, the summer is awash in sequels. It's called "Sequel-itis." Now I don't mind sequels that are based on books and have a natural progression and reason for a sequel: Harry Potter, "Lord of the Rings," "Hunger Games"... It makes sense that those movies would have sequels, because they are part of a popular series of critically-acclaimed books, but in many cases, we are getting sequels for movies that not only didn't come from well-reviewed books, they came from movies that weren't very good in the first place. "Conjuring 2," "Independence Day: Resurgence," "Ride Along 2 (see review below)," "My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2" and now this. It seems like they can put out a sequel for anything. What's next? "Citizen Kane 2: Rosebud's Story" or "Casablanca 2: The Do-over?"
If you saw the first "Now You See Me" (and actually, this sequel will make more sense if you did see the first one), you will remember that "The Four Horsemen" are masters of illusion and work for a mysterious organization called "The Eye." The four are amateur magicians: J. Daniel "Danny" Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher who has made the smart move not to return for the sequel), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), who were brought together in the first film and hired by insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) to perform an elaborate Las Vegas act. However, they turn the tables on Tressler, because Tressler is a bad guy who denied Hurricane Katrina victims their insurance.
You see, the "Four Horsemen" are modern day Robin Hoods who steal from the rich and shower the money on the audience. So now the FBI is involved, which brings in Mark Ruffalo as Agent Rhodes, as well as Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a James Randi type who debunks magic tricks and shows how they are done. However, the "Horsemen" manage to not only turn the tables on the villainous Tressler, but frame Thaddeus. We also learn that Dylan, whose father was a magician who died doing an escape trick inside a faulty safe, is the mastermind of the "Horsemen" and has been working with them all along to avenge his father's death!
Whew! With me so far? And that was just the first one!
So now we have the sequel, which is just as confusing.
It begins with a young Dylan watching his Dad die in that escape trick that went awry. But that's about all you get as a catch-up from the first film.
Back to the present, the three remaining "Horsemen" have been in hiding. Miraculously, Dylan is still working for the FBI, pretending to be looking for the "Horsemen." Since Isla Fischer made the smart decision to not return for the sequel, her absence is explained away and they are joined by Lizzy Caplan as Lula. Her expertise is pickpocketing and, I have to say, Caplan's dizzy character is quite captivating.
They all meet up with Dylan who tells them their next mission is to expose Owen Case (Ben Lamb), a rich entrepreneur who has invented a cell phone that secretly steals the user's data so he can use it for his own purposes. In fact, the technology allows someone to access every computer IN THE WORLD! The mission is to hijack Case's launch party and expose Case's intentions, but right in the middle of their presentation, a mysterious voice takes over and exposes not only the "Horsemen," but Dylan's undercover identity in the FBI as well. As they make their escape, they are captured by some bad guys, one of whom is Merritt's twin brother, Chase, which just gives Woody Harrelson more screen time, and they are all taken to Macau where they meet Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), Case's former business partner. Mabry faked his own death after Case stole his company and has been working behind the scenes in Macau to get his cell phone technology back. He wants the "Horsemen" to steal "the stick" that contains the technology or he will kill them.
This scenario now gives them all the opportunity for yet another elaborate heist, as we saw in the first film, along with all kinds of mistaken identities, plot twists and illusions. And speaking of the illusions. Even though, after each one they show how the tricks were done, which could be very cool, the illusions themselves are so improbable and so reliant on CGI that even when explained, you can't believe them. Suspending disbelief is one thing, but after awhile some of these stunts are just ridiculously unbelievable.
Still with me? There is more, much more, but I am going to stop with that. Just explaining the first third of the movie has ME confused and my head is still spinning. Just because a movie is about illusion and magic, does that mean it doesn't need to make sense? At the end, one of the characters says, "We still have 6 million questions." You said it!
Eisenberg is his usual twitchy self, Woody hams it up as the twin brother, Franco flashes that big smile of his, and Ruffalo is as laconic as ever. Ruffalo, coming off a Best Supporting Actor nod for "Spotlight," should know better. But it's Caplan who shines. She is the best thing about this movie.
Directed by Jon M. Chu with a screenplay by Ed Solomon, I hate to say this, but the ending leaves this franchise open for yet another film. Please don't.
I reviewed the first "Now You See Me" back in 2013. I didn't like that one and I didn't like this one. I can't for the life of me figure out why we needed a sequel.
Rosy the Reviewer says...Now you see me, now you don't. I vote for "Don't."
***Some Movies You Might Have Missed***
(And Some You Will Be Glad You Did)!
Now on DVD
45 Years (2015)
A couple, married for 45 years, are planning a celebration for their anniversary until some news from the past impacts their marriage.
Charlotte Rampling plays Kate Mercer, a happily married woman. Tom Courtenay plays her husband, Geoff. They are planning a big celebration of their 45th wedding anniversary, but then Geoff receives a letter. A body has been found encased in ice in a glacier in Switzerland. It's his first love, Katya, who had fallen to her death years ago when they were hiking in the Swiss Alps. The letter arrives just as Kate and Geoff are planning a party to celebrate 45 years of marriage.
The letter lists Geoff as Katya's next of kin. Geoff confesses to Kate that Katya and he had pretended to be married to make it easier to get a room together. The story slowly unfolds as Kate asks Geoff questions about his first relationship and secrets and regrets come to light. If Katya hadn't died, would you have married her? Yes.
So now Kate is confused, feels like second best. The letter has brought up topics they had never talked about in 45 years. Remembering the girlfriend he had when he was 25 brings back feelings in Geoff about his youth and that perhaps life has passed him by.
"The worst part of getting decrepit...is losing purposefulness."
"As we get older, we stop making choices...but the choices we make when we are young can be bloody important."
Geoff can't stop thinking of Katya and Kate can't stop thinking about her either. When Kate goes up into the attic to try to find out what memories he is harboring, she discovers all kinds of pictures of Katya and mementoes and she also discovers that Katya was pregnant when she died.
Even after 40 years of marriage there can be jealousy and insecurity about lost youth and what went on before you. The fact that Katya was found encased in ice, perfectly preserved, forever 25, is a threat to the aging Kate.
Watching this film, we learn that you can be married for 45 years and there still can be things you don't know about your spouse. What do you do after 45 years of marriage when your husband's past rears its ugly head? And what do you do with your own secrets?
I think about my own parents who were married for over 50 years. I can't help but wonder what secrets and regrets they harbored. But even if they had them, does that negate 50 years of marriage? We are couples, but we are also separate people with our own separate youths, our own separate thoughts and our own separate secrets and regrets. It's a miracle, in light of that, that we get together and stay together at all.
Of course there has to be a sex scene. It's a British film! I saw my first bare bottom in a British film in 1966. And let's just say that the fact that Jeff has some erectile disfunction is at least realistic. Things do get harder as we age, or should I say...well, you know.
Rampling puts in a subtle, but stellar performance as a woman who suddenly has doubts about her 45 year marriage. I have to say that Rampling has the best "resting bitch face" in the business. Don't get me wrong. She was and is a beautiful woman, but when she is not smiling, well, she looks like a bitch. And speaking of which, she was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar for this performance, but when she made that bitchy, insensitive remark in response to the brou-haha over the lack of diversity at this year's Oscars, I hate to say that it took away from what was a brilliant performance here.
Tom Courtenay is always good and doesn't disappoint. This film is what would be called in Britain, a two-hander. It's mostly just the two of them grappling with this new information about each other after 45 years together and each actor puts in a superb performance.
Directed by Andrew Haigh with a screenplay by him adapted from a short story by David Constantine, the film plays out in the beautiful Norfolk countryside with a background score full of popular songs from the sixties, which adds to the atmosphere of the past when Courtenay and Rampling, too, were young hot stars with their whole lives ahead of them.
Rosy the Reviewer says...a thoughtful film with stunning performances.
Ride Along 2 (2016)
Cops Ben Barber (Kevin Hart) and James Payton (Ice Cube) head to Miami to take down a drug dealer. Hilarity ensues. Well, there was supposed to be hilarity.
Ben, who you may remember from the first film, was a security guard who really wanted to be a cop. Well, now he is one, and he is just out of police training school. He is also about to get married to James' sister, but Ben's wife-to-be and the pushy wedding planner (Sherri Shepherd) want Ben out of their hair, so when James, who is the experienced police detective, is sent to Miami to track down a drug lord, he takes Ben with him to prove to him once and for all that he doesn't have what it takes to be a detective.
Now right there, I have to stop. These are ATLANTA cops. Since when do Atlanta cops go down to Miami to solve a crime that took place in Miami? Am I missing something here?
Benjamin Bratt plays Antonio Pope, a Miami shipping company owner and kingpin drug dealer who has been bribing port commissioners to get his drugs into the country. He has also been supplying drugs to Atlanta so I guess that's how our guys are getting involved. Improbable, but OK. Pope thought he had the last Port Commissioner in his pocket, but when he discovers that wasn't the case, he has the Port Commissioner killed. This is all overheard by AJ (Ken Jeong), Bratt's hapless computer hacker.
When Ben and James get to Miami they hook up (no, not that kind of hook up) with police officer, Maya played by Olivia Munn, not to be confused with Olivia Wilde. (Olivia Munn is the one going with the football star, Aaron Rogers. And Olivia Wilde is going with Jason Sukeikis. I always get them confused). Anyway, Ben and James find out about AJ and go to his house, but he runs off because he knows that what he knows about Bratt can get him killed. But eventually they all work together.
James is the experienced undercover cop and Ben is just out of training. It becomes clear early on that Ben is going to be our resident screw-up and, just like in the first film, that's what happens. Every plan gets gummed up by Ben. Ice-Cube basically plays a grumpy straight man to Hart's Ben, who talks non-stop and is bent on messing everything up.
I sometimes think there are certain movies that don't play out well on the smaller screen in our homes even if the smaller screen is 80 inches. I saw this movie on a 50" and for an action film it didn't feel very "action -y." It had the usual car chases, things blowing up, foot races, etc. but they just weren't very exciting. And maybe that was because they couldn't make up for the fact that this was supposed to be a comedy and it wasn't funny.
Ben is marrying James' sister so there are lots of jokes about James not liking Ben and their being brothers-in-law and we know Kevin is short, so there has to be tons of short jokes too. Ken Jeong is funny but not funny enough to make up for this film not being funny.
Directed by Tim Story with a script by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, this is a plot that has been done many times before, but the plot doesn't really matter, because it's just a vehicle for Hart to do his thing - set ups for him to scream, to be attacked by an alligator, to talk incessantly. I am a big Hart fan but this film just doesn't do him justice.
Rosy the Reviewer says...I didn't laugh.
***My 1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die Project***
246 to go!
Have YOU seen this classic film?
A Man Escaped (1956)
French Resistance fighter Fontaine awaits death in a Nazi prison. His only hope is to escape.
Based on the true account of an imprisoned French Resistance leader, Andre Devigny, who managed to escape from prison on the very day he was to be executed, this film is "considered one of the greatest prison-break movies ever made (Tony Pipolo)."
It's Lyon, 1943. Freedom fighter Fontaine (Francois Leterrier) is alone in a Nazi prison cell but attempts to communicate with his neighbors by tapping on the wall. He climbs up on a ledge and can see out into the courtyard and is able to communicate with those walking back and forth. Some days he is able to pass notes to other prisoners.
So what does one do when one has been given a death sentence, is alone in a bare cell, with the days stretching out ahead and nothing to do except listen to the distant sound of rifles executing your fellow inmates? Why, you do whatever you can to escape. Fontaine fashions a chisel out of a metal spoon he has managed to steal and starts to chip away at the wooden door frame until he finally creates a hole big enough to slip through but which he can also put back together. He wanders the prison at night undetected, making his escape plans. He creates rope out of his bed springs and bedding and all of this is leading up to his big escape along with Jost (Charles Le Clainche), a young inmate he befriends, who looks just like a young Matt Damon.
It's all very slow, very methodical and very existential.
Why it's a Must See: "Like all of Robert Bresson's films, this one illustrates the director's long-developed theories of the 'cinematograph' - nonprofessionals giving strict de-dramatized performances, enormous emphasis on offscreen sound and the information it carries; music held off until a final, glorious moment. And like the other great prison films of French cinema...[this film] offers a remarkably potent allegory of human suffering and the drive to liberation. At the same time, it delivers a taut form of suspense to rival the best of Alfred Hitchcock."
---"1001 Movies I Must See Before I Die"
Director Bresson is considered one of the most influential filmmakers in French cinema. French Director Jean-Luc Godard once wrote, "Robert Bresson is French cinema, as Dostoyevsky is the Russian novel and Mozart is to German music." He was noted for his minimalist style: using non-actors, little music and spare production values.
The film highlights our needs as humans to connect with others and to be free. But watching Fontaine chisel his way out of his cell was tantamount to watching paint dry. The prison break itself, which is highly dramatic and tense, only takes up the last twenty minutes of this film and, for me, it was a long slog to get there.
Rosy the Reviewer says...though I can appreciate the artistry of this film, just not my kind of film.
(In French with English subtitles, b & w)
***Book of the Week***
Every Little Step: My Story by Bobby Brown and Nick Chiles (2016)
Singer Bobby Brown shares his story and the aftermath of the deaths of his ex-wife, Whitney Houston and their daughter, Bobbi Kristina.
Bobby Brown started his career when he was only 14 as a member of the New Edition. He quickly made a successful solo career and by the time he was 20, he was a full-fledged hip-hop star who easily crossed over into the R & B and Pop charts. Who, in the 80's, doesn't remember dancing to "My Prerogative?"
But for the younger generation, Brown's singing career is probably overshadowed by his marriage to Whitney Houston and her subsequent untimely death. Likewise, when their daughter Bobbi Kristina also died young in the same manner as Whitney, it was all tabloid fodder and Brown's influence was blamed for much of it.
Here he attempts to set the record straight.
Brown starts out with what was a happy childhood, though a hardscrabble one, in a rough neighborhood in Boston. He had a gift for dance which led him to form a boy group - New Edition - when he was only 14. By the time he was 17, he was a big star. But when he met and married Whitney Houston in his early twenties, his fame became infamous, especially after their short-lived reality show "Being Bobby Brown," where the two came off as crazy drug-addicts, which was especially shocking for Whitney's fans. Whitney had always had a "girl next door" look and reputation so, naturally, Bobby's bad influence must have led her down the wrong path. He has been accused of introducing her to drugs, of domestic violence and other crimes, and cheating, all tabloid fodder to which Brown replies is all wrong and for much of this, he blames Whitney's relatives, the Houston family.
According to Brown, Whitney was doing drugs before they met and was hardly Miss Goodie Two Shoes. Yes, he has been to prison but it was a misunderstanding about a probation violation for a DUI. Yes, he hit Whitney, but only once and for that he is truly remorseful. Yes, he cheated but so did she. In the end, Brown, now in his 50's, wants you to know that he loved both Whitney (they were married for 15 years) and Bobbi Kristina, and he is a committed family man who has been clean for several years.
There is no doubt that Brown has suffered greatly from both Whitney's death and Bobbi Kristina's, and he has paid the price of a life maybe not so well lived. This is a cautionary tale of what can happen when someone very young has too much fame and too much money too soon, but Bobby still believes he was born to entertain and that he was unfavorably portrayed in the press.
"People need to understand that I love this industry with all my being. Entertainment is...what I was born to do...Yes, I might fall short sometimes, and I've gotten mixed up in drugs and alcohol and all of that, but that comes with show business. It comes with the territory. I want people to understand that when I hit that stage, if I'm a beast, then that's my truth. That's what Bobby Brown is. Were you entertained? If you were, that's what matters...In this day and age, the media dissects every inch of your life, everything that has nothing to do with entertaining. And critics and journalists write all these ridiculous things about me but have no idea of the craziness I went through before I even got into the industry, all the people I've lost...Drugs were a crutch to deal with early pain, and I know now that the pain has to be dealt with in other ways in order for me to be the best I can possibly be. And I'm working on that, on a daily basis."
Rosy the Reviewer says...a believable and sad cautionary tale and a bit of a mea culpa.
That's it for this week!
Thanks for reading!
See you Tuesday for
Why Long-Distance Relationships Don't Work"
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