Wednesday, September 9, 2015


Do you believe in magic? Are you a skeptic? When you see a great illusionist perform their feats of mysticism, do you accept it for what it is, or are you always looking for the trick up their sleeve? Watch closely, but not too closely. For the closer you look, the less you see.

 At its core, Now You See Me is a heist movie; a heist movie with magic. What could possibly go...
wrong, right? It all begins with four very talented street magicians, all with their own special talents. They each receive a mysterious message to come to this bombed out apartment building, where they meet each other for the first time. The next thing we see, they are on the big stage in Las Vegas performing as The Four Horsemen. Their big finale is something never before seen in the world of magic. They rob a bank. But did they really, or was it just typical slight of hand?

It's funny that this movie is about illusions, because, to me, it was kind of an illusion of a good movie. It was entertaining and fun, but just too silly to actually be good.

I liked the Four Horsemen themselves. Jesse Eisenberg is J. Daniel Atlas and plays pretty much the same character he played in The Social Network. Woody Harrelson stole the show as Merritt McKinney, the mentalist. Isla Fisher and Dave Franco are....adequate. The four of them together are captivating to watch, and make the first half of the movie really enjoyable, if a bit far fetched. 

 It's in the second half that the movie really falls apart. The FBI involvement was interesting at first because they had the issue of, if they really robbed a bank while they were onstage, it had to be magic. That was an interesting concept. Once it was decided that they really had robbed a bank, then it just became your average heist movie chase with the FBI looking really inept and the agent (Mark Ruffalo) looking like an incompetent fool. Somehow, this group goes from a quartet of cocky magicians to a collection of goofy Batman villains.

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Michael Cain was in the movie. He was great as always, just wasn't there enough for my taste. Speaking of great actors, Morgan Freeman played Thaddeus Bradley, who was probably my favorite character in the movie. He was a former magician who now makes a series of videos debunking magicians. The FBI enlists him to help figure out how the Horsemen pulled off these robberies, that may or may not have been robberies in the first place. Freeman was great and I actually liked the character. Along with Harrelson, he was one of the best things in the movie. I would have liked to see them do more with him, but.......

 The ending was really, REALLY stupid. It looks like it's headed toward a certain ending, which would have been bad and predictable, but the actual ending they used was even worse. It had a twist, but it made no sense and just felt really cheap.

Now You See Me is pretty entertaining throughout. The acting is very good. There are funny parts and suspenseful parts. In the end however, it's just too nonsensical to amount to much. The lemon of an ending left me feeling taken advantage of. I won't say this is a bad movie exactly, but it is certainly not a good movie either.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 

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Sunday, September 6, 2015


This film was similar to Walk the Line from 2005 and Notorious from 2009.  The movies were similar because the stories are similar.  They are all three about artists who, not only broke ground in music, but also changed things socially.  This is a story that I personally find fascinating.  If you liked these two previous movies, there is a good chance you will like this one as well. 


                This movie is about the NWA.  A very influential rap group from the 1980’s and 90’s.  The story focuses on the three founding members of the group; Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson Jr.), Dr. Dre (Corey Hawkins), and Eazy-E (Jason Mitchell).  The movie begins with the formation of the group and goes all the way through Eazy-E’s death in 1995. 

                The first thing that sticks out about this movie is the cast.  Simply put, it is perfect.  All three of the main actors do a terrific job in this film.  They all look strikingly like the character they are playing, especially Jackson Jr. who plays his father.  Even the supporting actors who are only in the movie for a short time were good.  This could be the most well cast movie I have seen this year. 

                Two of the main characters portrayed in this film were producers on it.  You might think this would help with the accuracy of the movie, but in this case I think it hurt.  The story is told in a very one-sided way which detracts from the emotional impact of the film in my opinion.  This movie fails to show both sides of the moral issues it presents which minimizes it’s effect to some degree.  I understand that Ice Cube and Dr. Dre didn’t want to make themselves look bad, but there were several real life events that were conveniently left out of the film. 

                I thoroughly enjoyed the music in the film.  The live performances sound very good and the movie provides a wide sampling of NWA’s catalogue.  The lyrics are very rough though, so if you are the type that is offended by this, you probably will not enjoy this movie very much. 

                The movie is generally well made by director F. Gary Gray (Friday, The Italian Job).  There are written introductions on screen for all the main characters early in the film which I found slightly annoying and unnecessary.  The movie is paced very well and manages to stay fairly interesting all the way through a run time that was probably a little too long.  The movie is sort of in two halves with the first half easily being the best.  The second half loses a lot of the passion and energy of the first half and becomes too much about business deals and petty bickering.  The movie drags just a little toward the end but it was never boring or hard to watch. 

                This is a movie I am glad I watched.  It has it’s problems but I enjoyed it quite a bit.  If you can get past a little glossing over of events and hang with it for a relatively long run time, the film certainly has a lot going for it.  The Movie Man gives it 3.5 out of 5 stars.      
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Tuesday, September 1, 2015


Ordinary people in extraordinary situations.  It is a simple premise, but one that has been used successfully many times in films over the years.  Alfred Hitchcock used this simple formula expertly throughout his career.  No Escape is very much that type of story. 

                This movie is about Jack Dwyer (Owen Wilson) who moves his family to an unnamed Asian country because of his work.  While they are getting settled in, a revolution breaks out.  Jack must figure out a way to evade the massive rebel force and get his family out of the country. 

                Writer/director John Erick Dowdle (Quarantine, Devil) did a good job with exposition in this movie.  In the opening scenes, we learn just enough about the situation to understand and care about it.  The trick is to explain the situation without getting wordy and boring with it and that is accomplished here.  In fact, the more we know about the situation, the easier it is to nitpick little problems with it.  In this story, the whys of the situation are not that important.  It is a simple story and Dowdle was smart to tell it as simply as possible.  As for the characters, Jack is established very well.  I wish a little more had been done to establish his wife (Lake Bell) as a character however. 

                The best thing I can say for this movie is that it does provide real suspense.  There are several very intense moments in the film.  There are even scenes where I was not exactly sure that everybody was going to get out unscathed.  The best and most intense scene in the movie is the one from the trailer in which they are trying to get from one building to another.  Trust me, the trailer does not show enough to spoil it.  The scene is done very well and it totally works in every way. 

                The acting in the movie is pretty good.  Owen Wilson does a good job in an unusual role.  Lake Bell is good as well and the two have believable chemistry together.  The kids are ok, not quite as annoying as they could have been.  The show stealing performance is provided by Pierce Brosnan.  He is not in the movie all that much but when he is there, he is the best thing going.  His character is quite mysterious, but if you are familiar with Roger Ebert’s theory of the economy of characters you will know what purpose he serves immediately. 

                Way too much shaky cam was used in this movie.  I understand that a lot of it is meant to be confusing and disorienting, but when it is making me dizzy, it is too much.  There was also quite a bit of overproduction in some of the action sequences, like music and slow motion, that took me out of it a little bit.  Most of the action in the movie is not filmed as well as I would have liked.  Enough said about that. 

                This film at times falls into the trap that a lot of movies of this type fall into.  There are too many conveniences.  There are a couple of scenes that are obviously contrived as a device to put the family in a more suspenseful situation.  Also the ending goes about one step too far.  There is a very uncomfortable scene at the end that is totally unnecessary. 

                I wouldn’t normally say this but one big positive this movie has is a very relevant political message.  Like with the earlier exposition, they talked just enough about it without revealing too much.  It’s not at all preachy but does get the point across and allows you to make a little more sense of what is going on. 

                This was a pretty decent film.  It provided more real and believable suspense than I have seen in a movie in a while.  With a few tweeks (less shaky cam antics for instance) it could have been a great movie.  Even so, I enjoyed it quite a bit.  It’s a high intensity film with very little downtime that mostly works.  The Movie Man gives it 3 out of 5 stars. 
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