Now You See Me

Posted on May 30, 2013 at 6:00 pm

B+
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for language, some action, and sexual content
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking
Violence/ Scariness: Action-style violence, characters in peril, references to sad death
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: May 31, 2013
Date Released to DVD: September 2, 2013
Amazon.com ASIN: B00DWZHTRW

now-you-see-me-castThe most purely entertaining movie of the year so far is “Now You See Me,” and like all great magic tricks, it makes us delighted to be fooled.   We are warned from the very beginning that the closer we look, the less we will see, but even on the alert for the magician’s tools of misdirection and mirrors, it keeps us happily guessing until the very last second.  We might suspect the why, but the who and the how are another story.  One of the magicians tells us that stage magic is deception designed to entertain, delight, and inspire, and that’s just what this movie does.

Four magicians with four very different styles, all very independent, rather arrogant, and very competitive but none at the top of their field are brought together in a most mysterious manner, and the next thing we know, they are headlining in a huge arena sponsored by a multi-millionaire named Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). The master of close-up magic and card tricks is J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg). Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is the specialist at hypnosis (and post-hypnotic suggestion). Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is an escape artist. And Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is a pickpocket and locksmith. The very fine line between trickery and outright con is crossed now and then as we meet our heroes, or possibly, anti-heroes.

In their big, bravura, very polished show, they announce they are going to rob a bank where someone in the audience has an account. The man they select at random(?) is French. Is that a setback? Au contraire! The next thing we see or think we see is the Frenchman magically transported to Paris, inside the bank’s safe — just as it is about to open for business because Paris is seven hours ahead. And then, the money appears, and the magicians generously distribute it to the audience.

A French agent from Interpol (Mélanie Laurant of “Beginners” as Alma Dray — names are not this movie’s strong point) and a cranky agent from the FBI (is there any other kind?) named Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) team up to investigate.  A professional debunker of magicians (a la The Amazing Randi) played by Morgan Freeman provides some guidance — or is that just more misdirection?

It would be wrong to say any more.  Just go see it to enjoy the tricks and the great performances and directions that are real movie magic.

Parents should know that this movie includes some strong language (a crude insult, f-word), characters in peril, drinking, and sexual references and a sexual situation.

Family discussion: What clues did you miss? Which kind of magic would you like to be able to do?

If you like this, try: “The Illusionist” and “Oceans 11”

Related Tags:

 

Crime Drama DVD/Blu-Ray Pick of the Week Mystery

New on Blu-Ray: Laura

Posted on March 2, 2013 at 8:00 am

The classic noir mystery/romance Laura is just out on Blu-Ray, and it is magnificent.  It has one of the all-time great movie twists, so I won’t give much away except to say that it stars the exquisitely beautiful Gene Tierney, along with Dana Andrews as a cop investigating a murder and Clifton Webb as the acerbic writer who was a friend of the victim.  It also has one of the most famous scores of all time.  Highly recommended!

Related Tags:

 

Classic Crime Drama Mystery Romance

Up for a Bit of English Mystery?

Posted on January 29, 2013 at 8:00 am

British TV specialist Acorn has the first complete collection of Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime: The Tommy & Tuppence Mysteries starring James Warwick and Francesca Annis as the lively detective duo; Agatha Christie’s Poirot & Marple Fan Favorites Collection featuring 11 of the detectives’ most popular mysteries with guest stars Jessica Chastain (Golden Globe-winner for Zero Dark Thirty) as well as Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey) in a Marple and Poirot mystery; and Wodehouse Playhouse Complete, featuring all three series of the uproarious BBC comedy starring Pauline Collins (“Shirley Valentine” and “Quartet”).

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Mystery Television

The Adventures of Tintin

Posted on December 21, 2011 at 8:00 am

Two box office champion directors and a cult favorite joined forces for a film that was a first for all of them, a 3D motion capture animated story.  It is clear that director Steven Spielberg, producer Peter Jackson (“The Lord of the Rings”) and co-screenwriter Edgar Wright (“Shaun of the Dead”) were thrilled at the total freedom of animation, bringing storyboards to life without any pesky problems posed by weather, local ordinances, camera placement, safety, or the laws of gravity.  And so they have created a film that is non-stop, brilliantly staged action, with every mode of transport and obstacle, half Indiana Jones, half M. Hulot, with a touch of Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd, turning the entire material world into a giant Rube Goldberg contraption.  Wonderfully cinematic shots and transitions show us how the masters have fun with pure, unleashed movie story-telling.

The comic book stories of the boy reporter Tintin created by an artist/writer known as Hergé  (Georges Remi) are wildly popular in Europe but not well known in the US.  Tintin is brave, capable, inquisitive boy of indeterminate age, probably somewhere around 14.  His excuse for getting involved in all kinds of adventures is that he is a reporter though neither the books nor the movie waste any time on the details of actually writing or filing stories, or, indeed, on any facts about Tintin’s origins or family.  He has a dog, Snowy, who is as intrepid as he is, and their journeys give them many chances to rescue one another in many exotic locations.

Spielberg and Jackson (whose WETA firm did the animation) did not try to copy the iconic linge claire style pioneered by Hergé, though there is a sly nod to it in the delightful opening credits and in a street artist’s sketch of Tintin at the beginning.  Instead it is an intensely detailed motion and performance capture with hyper-real textures and 3D effects that make the vertiginous chase scenes feel very visceral.  Tintin (voice of Jamie Bell) buys a model ship that turns out to be of great interest to a mysterious man named Ivanovich Sakharine (voice of Daniel Craig).  That leads Tintin to an adventure that involves cities, a desert, an opera singer, a potentate, pirates, dim policemen (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as Thompson and Thomson), as he is drawn into a multi-generational saga involving lost treasure.  Along the way he meets up with Captain Haddock (Andy Serkis), a drunken sailor who is part sidekick, part clue.

It has a lot of alcohol for a PG movie and some parents may be uncomfortable with the repeated references, some intended to be humorous, to drinking and drunkenness.  And some will find the non-stop action overwhelming and just too much to process, even in these frenzied movie-as-video-game days.  Even the exacting eye of Spielberg and the prodigious talent of WETA have not quite mastered the physics of movement with motion capture technology.  The textures are wonderfully vivid and tactile and the angles and velocity are superb and the seas and ships toss convincingly.  But the weight of the bodies when characters leap or fall or objects crash feels strange and somehow off and the faces never find the right spot between the realism of the textures and a more stylized or cartoony look.  This is one element where they should have been more true to the original.

 

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

3D Action/Adventure Animation Based on a book Comic book/Comic Strip/Graphic Novel Mystery
ir.gif

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

Posted on December 20, 2011 at 11:21 am

The late Swedish author Steig Larsson created a series of books originally titled “Men Who Hate Women” with a character who was an idealized version of himself — an investigative journalist of impeccable integrity and political correctness who effortlessly appeals to women.  But it was the other lead character in the books who inspired the final titles of the trilogy and who became an international sensation, the dragon-tattooed bisexual computer wizard Lisbeth Salanger, a ward of the state for her violent behavior and anti-social demeanor, with no respect for conventional rules but with a passionate commitment to justice.  “She’s different,” says her employer. “In what way?” “In every way.”

The three books inspired three excellent Swedish films with Noomi Rapace as Lisbeth, and now David Fincher (“Se7en,” “Zodiac,” “The Social Network”) has taken the helm of a big-budget American remake, with Daniel Craig as journalist Mikael Blomkvist and Rooney Mara (briefly glimpsed in “The Social Network” as the girl who breaks up with Mark Zuckerberg in the first scene) as Lisbeth.

Fincher’s version is very true to the book, sharing its strengths and its weaknesses.  Mara’s version is slightly softer than Rapace’s, she still delivers the character’s most intriguing qualities, the combination of blatant punk style with a resolutely inaccessible core, her combination of vulnerability and resilience, her determination, and, above all, her ability to triumph over the most horrifying violations.  As the original title suggests, the weakness of the story is Larsson’s clunky insistence on including every possible form of atrocity, and those who are familiar with the plot may find that there are not enough surprises left.  A superb soundtrack by Atticus Ross and Trent Reznor (who also did “The Social Network”) is interrupted by a jarring version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song.”

It begins with a scene that could have come from Raymond Chandler.  Mikael, discredited following a libel suit by a powerful businessman, is invited to meet with an even more powerful figure, Henrik Vanger (Christopher Plummer), the head of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families.  In his huge home in a island that serves as a family compound, Henrik explains that he is haunted by the disappearance of his young granddaughter Harriet  forty years before.  Each year, on his birthday, Vanger received a pressed flower, a symbol of his relationship with Harriet that he believes comes from her killer and is intended to taunt him.  The police and private detectives have tried to find out what happened to Harriet but the mystery is still unsolved.  No body has been found and there seems to have been no way for her to leave the island.  Mikael agrees to see if he can find out what happened.  “You will be investigating thieves, misers, and bullies,” Henrik tells him, “the most detestable collection of people you will ever meet — my family.”

What Mikael does not know is that he has already been investigated by Henrik, whose aide hired a firm to do a background check.  The research was done by Lisbeth Salanger, who hacked into Mikael’s email and has done a very thorough, if not strictly legal, analysis.  The only person Lisbeth trusts, her state-appointed guardian, has a stroke and his replacement is an abusive monster who insists on sexual favors before allowing her to have access to her money.  After some horrifying encounters, Lisbeth extracts some revenge.  Meanwhile, Mikael makes some progress but realizes he needs help.  The aide suggests Lisbeth, and so our two protagonists meet.

Steven Zallian (“Schindler’s List,” co-screenwriter of “Moneyball”) adapted the book well, discarding some distracting subplots.  The soundtrack and production designer Donald Graham Burt superbly convey the frozen remoteness of the setting.  Mikael is not easy to portray because he spends a lot of time watching and listening but Craig makes Mikael thoughtful and lets us see that he recognizes his failures.  Mara’s voice is a little too sweet for Lisbeth but her efficient, straightforward physicality and her watchful but implacable expression are just right for the character who is about to kick the hornet’s nest.

(more…)

Related Tags:

 

Action/Adventure Based on a book Crime Drama Mystery Remake Series/Sequel Thriller
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2021, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik