May 31, 2013, - 7:42 pm
Wknd Box Office: Now You See Me, After Earth, Stories We Tell, Frances Ha, In the House [Dans La Maison]
Since we’re fast becoming a mediocre nation (and maybe we are already there), I guess it’s not that surprising that Hollywood serves us up a mediocre selection of new movies at theaters, this weekend. I didn’t hate any of the new movies, this weekend, but I didn’t love ‘em either:
* “Now You See Me“: I was really looking forward to this movie, but it was a disappointment. I love everything about or involving magic, magicians, and the like. But this–while parading to be about that–was really a left-wing screed against corporations and big business. The magicians in this movie are more con artist and crook than anything else. Their “magic tricks” are really crimes against rich men and big businesses “because they deserve it,” giving the money to the poor “because they deserve it.” This leftist modern-day-Robin-Hood-on-steroids shtick is gettin’ old. And the ending was unsatisfying and silly. The rule of a good thriller is that there is at least some hint about who the culprit or the “who” in the “whodunit” is. Not so in this movie, and so when you find out who it is and why, you feel let down. Or, at least, that’s how I felt. That said, I’d be lying if I said the movie wasn’t entertaining, clever, and different from the non-stop slurry of sequels du jour. I enjoyed the movie to a point and it moves quickly. There is a lot of action and car chases, etc. to add to the illusions. But I didn’t like the message or the poorly constructed plot.
The story: four street magicians (at least two of them con artist crooks) perform illusions, card tricks, and hypnotism on the streets of New York City, when each receives a mysterious invitation to an old, seemingly-abandoned Manhattan apartment. A year later, the four magicians, “The Four Horsemen” (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher a/k/a Mrs. Sacha Baron Cohen, and Dave Franco) as they now call themselves, have joined forces in a Vegas magic show with a huge following. And they have a sponsor–a giant corporate money man–behind their efforts.
But, soon, the FBI is after them, in particular incompetent Special Agent Mark Ruffalo, as well as Interpol (with an agent played by French actress Melanie Laurent). The FBI and Interpol agents want to know how the magicians “robbed a bank” from halfway around the world and then see them robbing the “evil” insurance company (owned by Michael Caine) that didn’t cover insurance claims by Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans. That’s when it simply gets silly, devolving into a nonsensical action flick. Oh, and Morgan Freeman plays a figure like “The Amazing Randi.” He used to be a magician, but now makes millions doing an online YouTube television shows debunking magicians and their tricks. He’s also on the trail of the Four Horsemen.
As I said, it is initially very entertaining and sometimes funny. But it soon becomes a political message about revenge against the rich and big business. And then it devolves into a silly action flick.
ONE REAGAN AND TWO MARXES
Watch the trailer . . .
* “After Earth“: This probably should have been called, “After Will [Smith].” There’s nothing objectionable about this movie, but it’s just a recycled and not as exciting version of every post-apocalyptic, environmentalist action adventure movie a la “Avatar” (read my review) that you’ve already seen. Do you want to spend ten bucks (at my nearest movie theater, it’s now $10.25) and two hours to see what is clearly the effort by two neo-Scientologists Hollywood fixtures (Will and Jada Pinkett Smith) to make their son (Jaden Smith) a star? If you have kids and want to take the family, I can see going to this, as it’s neither offensive nor very scary. But for everyone else, you’ve seen this movie–far better versions of it–a million times before. This seems too familiar, and it’s equally too lackluster.
Also, I’m sooooo tired of every post-apocalyptic movie telling me how we earthlings have “abused and destroyed the earth,” because of factories and progress. Enough already, Hollywood. Yaaaawn. Come up with something new. Or at least show us, along with that claim, how much energy use and earth destruction is perpetrated by the Pinkett Smith family (who star in, wrote, and produced this movie) with their giant mansion.
The story: it is a thousand years after earth became uninhabitable because of bad environmental habits and overuse by us earthlings. So, all humans have been moved to the planet Nova, where Col. Will Smith is based and his son, Jaden, badly wants to become an Army Ranger to impress his dad. They are on a spaceship together to another planet, but the ship crashes on Earth, where–miracle of miracles!–the only crew members of the ship that survive are Will and Jaden Smith. But Daddy Smith’s legs are both severely broken, and he can’t move. So, it’s up to Jaden Smith to travel through the earth to find and set off the beacon from the tail of the ship, so they can be rescued. The rest of the movie is all about Jaden, who is the star of this movie and is surrounded by computer generated imaging of threatening wildlife and “climate change” for most of this. Rather dull.
Mildly entertaining and fine for families. But nothing new, nothing original, and nothing all that interesting.
HALF A REAGAN
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Stories We Tell“: This is another much-hyped movie I was looking forward to, but which let me down. It’s a documentary by director Sarah Polley, who’s made some interesting fiction movies (and some not so interesting). But, with this, she looks into whether or not she, herself, is the product of one of several reported extramarital affairs her late, married Canadian actress mother had with other men. Her mother died of cancer when she was very young, and Polley was raised by her father–her mother’s husband–but she had always been teased by her siblings that she didn’t look like them. And there was the rumor that she was the product of an affair.
I thought this would be very interesting. But, instead, it’s a self-absorbed, long, boring series of interviews that caused me not to care one bit about the true identity of the father in question. I didn’t care about these people–a study in leftist Canada “progressive” types–and the movie was a vanity project that simply wasn’t interesting at all. I struggled to watch this whole thing without quitting. And in the end, it was like eating too much bad, extra sugary candy. In the end, you wish you hadn’t, and now you’ll have to do something to work off the added calories, sleep off the unnecessary stomachache, and vigorously clean your sugar-covered teeth.
Plus I felt bad for the man she hurt most, after all, in doing this unnecessary bore–the man closest to her throughout her life. Some “stories we tell” are better left unexposed to the world at large.
A waste of time and money.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “Frances Ha“: I had mixed feelings about this movie. I hate hipsters, and I generally don’t like Greta Gerwig, the hipster actress who stars in this movie. And I don’t like the hipster lifestyle. For those who don’t know, hipsters are young leftists in hoodies and vintage clothing who are socially and politically very liberal and mostly live in urban areas (think young White people who choose to live in largely Black and inner city Detroit). You know the type: they are often the ones who eat organic and walk around in stupid hats and vintage bowling shirts. They think they are “progressive” (but are actually quite regressive). I consider Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg to be a hipster, but most aren’t rich and successful like him.
And while I hate hipsters and their lifestyle–which is the central focus of this black and white movie–I still found the movie to be somewhat charming, funny, and entertaining. On the other hand, in the end, I wondered why I just sat through 1.5 hours of pointless filler occupied by those whom I disdain.
In this movie, Gerwig is a hipster in her late 20s, living and struggling to survive in New York City. Her best friend and roommate announces she’s moving out to a different apartment with a different roommate. Thereafter, Gerwig struggles to find a place she can afford to live, so she wanders around, rooming with various friends and acquaintances. She also struggles to make a go of her life’s ambition to be a successful modern dancer. She’s repeatedly an understudy and clerical assistant at her modern dance company. So, financially and career-wise, she’s also at an impasse.
As I noted, the movie is somewhat entertaining, but it’s hard not to have contempt the whole time you’re watching. I wouldn’t waste ten bucks to see some hipster struggle to grow up and live life an adult. And that’s what this is.
Watch the trailer . . .
* “In the House [Dans La Maison]“: This began as an intriguing movie, but devolved into a mess. A high school teacher who is a failed author reads compositions by one of his students and notes the gifted, outstanding nature of the writing. He says he wants to help the student develop this writing talent. But the teacher is soon sucked into an obsessive interest in the voyeuristic writing, causing him to do improper things to help the student in his “reports” from the inside of this family that is not his. And the teacher is very clearly being manipulated into risking everything.
This movie was definitely entertaining but the movie ends in a sick set of events and state of affairs which I didn’t care for and made me feel, too, like I was sucked in and manipulated, too. Fortunately, all I lost was two hours.
In French with English subtitles.
Watch the trailer . . .
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