Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

Movie Review: Now You See Me

Iron Man Three, Star Trek, Fast 6, for a while I thought that the summer blockbuster season wasn’t ever going to skip a beat. But then I checked out my options for this week and was reminded that, yeah, if I’m planning on seeing a new release every weekend, I guess I’m going to have an occasional lineup of slim pickings.


And so I almost resigned myself to buying a ticket for Will Smith’s After Earth. I really, really didn’t want to see After Earth. I’ve seen the same way-too-long preview several times, and nothing about it looks interesting. The ship crash-lands. It’s the future. It’s Earth. Will Smith’s in it. Man, remember when Will Smith used to make only good movies? I’m glad I wasn’t writing movie reviews when Men In Black 3 premiered.

But just before I made my post-apocalyptic purchase, Yoda’s voice came alive in my head, “No. There is another.” And sure enough, there was another new release this week, a movie called Now You See Me. Huh. I’d never even heard of this movie. I was about to do a quick Google search to find out the general plot, something that could give me a clue as to what I might be in for, but I decided, fuck it, let’s go in blind.

Now You See Me starts off fast. It’s about four magicians who team up to rob banks, giving the money to the public in a Robin Hood display of vigilante economics. And for the first hour or so, it’s a pretty cool movie. The FBI gets involved and it turns into an old-school New York City heist movie, crazy crime-genre background music and all, something reminiscent of the original The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3.

But shit keeps escalating. Chase scenes give way to fight scenes that give way to car crashes. Instead of even beginning to hint at like a general direction in which the movie might be headed, they just keep on piling on random clues, mysterious characters, a few dead-end leads and even a flimsy romance subplot. After a little while you’re like, what? How? Who is this guy again? Wait, why are they robbing the banks?

And after that first enjoyable hour, the movie spirals out of control. The whole time I was thinking to myself, man, these writers had better have come up with something genius to get to some sort of a resolution, to even begin to answer all of these questions. And yeah, I guess it’s theoretically possible. There are movies out there that weave insane plots together in acts of superhuman storytelling.

But I kept thinking about how it’s so weird that a major movie studio could release a big summer film and not have any marketing campaign at all. Why hadn’t I seen this movie coming? Why weren’t there any previews during any of the other movies I’ve been watching every single week for the past three months?

While I don’t want to be a cynic, while I wanted to hold out hope that maybe they’d be able to yet turn this into a great movie, a moment of realism set in as I deduced that the only reason nobody’s heard about this movie is because maybe it really wouldn’t get any better. Maybe the writers wrote themselves into a corner and couldn’t figure a way out. But you know how big Hollywood is, they already signed Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson. Shooting was to begin in three weeks. If one group of writers couldn’t figure it out, they’d just fire them, get a new group in. Whatever, just write something, just wrap it up boys, we’ve got to get this film debuted by the end of May.

The ending of this movie is just an insult to intelligent life anywhere in the cosmos. I’d equate the making of this movie to the running of a marathon, one in which after twenty-five miles of agony, with only one mile left in sight, everybody just stopped. They just said, eh, whatever, who cares. I’m tired. I don’t feel like running anymore.

And then not only did they stop running, they didn’t even bother walking the rest of the way. They couldn’t manage even a limp to the finish line. In fact, they cheated, they took a cab to the end. Their score was totally disqualified. And then once they got there, they started punching random people in the face, stealing all of the other runners’ medals, knocking over tables of Gatorade for no good reason.

It’s like, what the hell guys, you’re only going to make half of a decent movie? Why bother? Is Morgan Freeman this desperate for work? Is Mark Ruffalo still trying to convince the world he’s a real actor after that ghost movie he made with Reese Witherspoon?

I really am sorry, because I don’t want to be so negative, but Now You See Me is a joke. A stupid, not-funny, fifteen-dollar-a-ticket joke. If you’re on an airplane flying across the country, and the in-flight entertainment system has this movie available to stream, do yourself a favor, just take a nap instead, or just sit up straight and stare at the back of the seat in front of you for two hours or so. Yeah, it might be a little boring, but at least it won’t be as incredibly disappointing.

Movie Review: Oblivion

Didn’t Tom Cruise just make a movie called Jack Reacher? It came out a few months ago, right? I mean, this doesn’t have anything to do with Oblivion, not really, except that Tom Cruise’s character’s name here is Jack Harper, which is almost comically similar. In his old age, is Tom Cruise suffering from a classic case of Tony Danza Syndrome, having trouble embodying characters with different names?


Whatever. It’s the future. The moon is partially blown up. There’s a big giant triangle in the sky. Jack Harper tells us that the aliens came, that we won, but the planet got destroyed in the process. So everybody moved to one of Saturn’s moons. Harper is part of a two-person operation, the only ones left behind, the cleanup crew.

I hesitate to say too much more about the plot, because it’s actually a pretty cool story, one that almost necessitates the viewer not knowing anything about it beforehand. If I had to describe it like something else, I’d say it’s about one cup Vanilla Sky, sifted with several heaping teaspoons of The Matrix, with a pinch of Star Wars fight scenes mixed in. After all of these dry ingredients are blended thoroughly, the whole mass is then combined with fifty percent … well, I’m not going to tell you which movie, because again, that would reveal way, way too much. But once you see what they’re doing in Oblivion, it’s obvious. (If you want to be spoiled, just read the New York Times review.) In fact, if Oblivion weren’t actually a decent film, I’d kind of want to call it a rip-off, not entirely, but yeah, fifty percent.

But Oblivion is a pretty good film, which kind of took me by surprise. I guess it’s Tom Cruise’s fault really. The man isn’t even a man anymore, he’s something post-human. He doesn’t age, he’s done like a million huge blockbusters, and he’s sitting in the cockpit of Scientology Inc. When I see Tom Cruise in a movie, I don’t see Jack Harper, or whatever role he’s trying to play, I just see Tom Cruise, jumping up and down on Oprah’s couch, scolding Brooke Shields for taking antidepressants.

And so before the plot really gets going, before we start to figure out exactly what’s going on, Oblivion doesn’t feel like a real movie at all. You know when you’re watching a TV show, and the characters are watching some over the top sci-fi movie on their TV? That’s what this feels like. It feels like you’re watching Ted, but instead of just showing five seconds or so of that Flash Gordon movie, you wind up having to watch the entire thing.

But, and again, I felt the same way watching Vanilla Sky, once you get past Tom Cruise, once you start to look at what’s going on, why the characters are doing what they’re doing, why Jack Harper wears an old Yankees cap every time he descends to the planet, why Morgan Freeman gets prime billing even though his Morpheus-lite character only plays a somewhat minor role, what you’re left with is a nice little film.

It’s everything that I love about sci-fi as a genre. You’re treated to visions of how tomorrow may or may not look. You’re presented with themes and concepts that at once incorporate while at the same time transcend the futuristic technology that paints the backdrop of the story. You’re constantly questioning everything, motives, relationships, the very essence of reality.

Which isn’t to say it’s a perfect movie. There’s a fair share of cheesy one-liners. Like a lot of non-franchised sci-fi, the costumes and settings have a hard time trying not to evoke Star Wars and Star Trek, and as a result, sometimes the future winds up looking a little too boring, a whole quart of plain nonfat yogurt, and not even the trendy Greek kind, just regular Dannon.

My advice: don’t read anything about the movie, you know, aside from this review which, if you’ve made it to this last paragraph, you’ve already read all of it. But that’s fine, because I didn’t tell you to abstain from reviews until right now. Self-serving? A little, yeah. But seriously, just go watch the movie. Don’t question anything until the end. It’s actually kind of cool.