Skip to main content

You pulled a hat out of a rabbit. That was very colourful.

Now You See Me 2
(2016)

(SPOILERS) I don’t really know why I bothered catching up with Now You See Me 2, since I found the original an active crock. Masochism, I guess. Both occupy such a counterintuitive basis for a movie: “clever” magic tricks expressed by way of bad CGI, so revealing an inverse ratio of cleverness.


Compounding which is an utterly unsympathetic lead character, essayed by a surprisingly unassured Mark Ruffalo, whose Dylan Rhodes, in the last movie, took revenge on those he perceived to have been culpable in his father’s death (aside from his father doing bloody silly things for a living that were, likely as not, going to lead to his death irrespective of anyone else getting involved).


One can only assume the execs at Lionsgate/Summit were aware of the backlash against his cruel treatment of poor old Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), because here the character is entirely retconned as being the long-time colleague of pa Lionel Shrike. Even more, he’s so loveable, he doesn’t even nurse resentment towards, or a desire wreak revenge upon, Dylan for getting him banged up. Quite extraordinary. We’re also subjected to a flashback to the terminally traumatic formative event itself as an opener, designed to reassure us, despite all evidence to the contrary, that Dylan really does have some motivation for being so damn angry all this time. It doesn’t work.


And I haven’t even mentioned his smug Four Horseman yet, one of whom has gone AWOL (Isla Fisher) and been replaced by Lizzy Caplan (Lula), who tries her best be the most irritating cast member but has stiff competition. Dave Franco (Jack Wilder) achieves the scarcely conceivable feat of being more punchable than his older brother, but that’s about the only unbelievable display here worth mentioning.


Jesse Eisenberg (J Daniel Atlas) plays the same passive-aggressive nerd rage character he always does, while Woody Harrelson essays two roles (Merritt and Chase McKinney), neither sufficiently engaging to justify double the Woody. The obvious thing to do there, particularly since they’re feuding twins, would be to engineer a startling third act identity swap, but alas Ed Solomon, who gets the sole screenplay credit this time and, it should be remembered, was one half of the team that gave us Bill and Ted, appears to have nothing up his sleeve (apologies for the magic metaphors). Together, their pranks, repartee and distraction tactics are desperately irritating rather than witty or clever.


However, this actually does come in marginally above the first picture for withholding the risible magic shows until the end. Most of the proceedings find the team requisitioned, Terry Benedict in Ocean’s 12-style, to engage in a spot of thievery that would be a lot more interesting than it is if it were an entirely different movie with an entirely different plot. Sir Michael Caine is back and still a villain (maybe he’ll be retconned for the third outing), and you wonder just how many pay cheques the mid-octogenarian needs to pick up any more. Still, if he gets a kick out of this kind of thing, more power to him. The singular interesting aspect of his presence is that said mere presence shows up how wooden poor Daniel Radcliffe is as his son. Enthusiastic, but wooden.


In a movie revolving around the mastery of stage magic, the magicians really need to dazzle; you want their trickery to provoke genuine puzzlement and genuine awe when the reveal comes. You don’t want CGI playing cards flying around a room, no matter how competent director John M Chu’s choreography is, and you don’t want Eisenberg making it CGI rain and stop in mid-CGI-air. There’s an attempt at a Mission: Impossible-style (the TV version) fake out for the final villain-snagging ruse, but it’s so obvious in build-up, it falls entirely flat. As for Brian Tyler’s score, it’s as obnoxiously pleased with itself as the fake magicians its supporting.


One has to assume the picture’s shameless appeal to Chinese audiences, by featuring a significant portion of the picture in Macau, boosted Now You See Me 2’s box office (almost a third of its total tally came from the country), guaranteeing that, while it plunged elsewhere, there will be a Now You See Me 3. I’ll definitely remind myself not to bother with that one.


Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

  1. Sorry you couldn't enjoy a fictional movie for what it was, which is entertainment. Can't say I envy you. At all. That's gotta suck having such a shitty view of things.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

You are, by your own admission, a vagabond.

Doctor Who Season 10 - Worst to Best
Season 10 has the cachet of an anniversary year, one in which two of its stories actively trade on the past and another utilises significant elements. As such, it’s the first indication of the series’ capacity for slavishly indulging the two-edged sword that is nostalgia, rather than simply bringing back ratings winners (the Daleks). It also finds the show at its cosiest, a vibe that had set in during the previous season, which often seemed to be taking things a little too comfortably. Season 10 is rather more cohesive, even as it signals the end of an era (with Jo’s departure). As a collection of stories, you perhaps wouldn’t call it a classic year, but as a whole, an example of the Pertwee UNIT era operating at its most confident, it more than qualifies.

I just hope my death makes more cents than my life.

Joker (2019)
(SPOILERS) So the murder sprees didn’t happen, and a thousand puff pieces desperate to fan the flames of such events and then told-ya-so have fallen flat on their faces. The biggest takeaway from Joker is not that the movie is an event, when once that seemed plausible but not a given, but that any mainstream press perspective on the picture appears unable to divorce its quality from its alleged or actual politics. Joker may be zeitgeisty, but isn’t another Taxi Driver in terms of cultural import, in the sense that Taxi Driver didn’t have a Taxi Driver in mind when Paul Schrader wrote it. It is, if you like, faux-incendiary, and can only ever play out on that level. It might be more accurately described as a grubbier, grimier (but still polished and glossy) The Talented Ripley, the tale of developing psychopathy, only tailored for a cinemagoing audience with few options left outside of comic book fare.

Poor Easy Breezy.

Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood (2019)
(SPOILERS) My initial reaction to Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood was mild disbelief that Tarantino managed to hoodwink studios into coming begging to make it, so wilfully perverse is it in disregarding any standard expectations of narrative or plotting. Then I remembered that studios, or studios that aren’t Disney, are desperate for product, and more especially, product that might guarantee them a hit. Quentin’s latest appears to be that, but whether it’s a sufficient one to justify the expense of his absurd vanity project remains to be seen.

In a few moments, you will have an experience that will seem completely real. It will be the result of your subconscious fears transformed into your conscious awareness.

Brainstorm (1983)
(SPOILERS) Might Brainstorm have been the next big thing – a ground-breaking, game-changing cinematic spectacle that had as far reaching consequences as Star Wars (special effects) or Avatar (3D) – if only Douglas Trumbull had been allowed to persevere with his patented “Showscan” process (70mm film photographed and projected at 60 frames per second)? I suspect not; one only has to look at the not-so-far-removed experiment of Ang Lee with Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and how that went down like a bag of cold sick, to doubt that any innovation will necessarily catch on (although Trumbull at least had a narrative hinge on which to turn his “more real than real” imagery, whereas Lee’s pretty much boiled down to “because it was there”). Brainstorm’s story is, though, like its title, possibly too cerebral, too much concerned with the consciousness and touting too little of the cloyingly affirmative that Bruce Rubin inevitably brings to his screenplays. That doesn’t mea…

I mean, I am just a dumb bunny, but, we are good at multiplying.

Zootropolis (2016)
(SPOILERS) The key to Zootropolis’ (or Zootopia as our American cousins refer to it; the European title change being nothing to do with U2, but down to a Danish zoo, it seems, which still doesn’t explain the German title, though) creative success isn’t so much the conceit of its much-vaunted allegory regarding prejudice and equality, or – conversely – the fun to be had riffing on animal stereotypes (simultaneously clever and obvious), or even the appealing central duo voiced by Ginnifier Goodwin (as first rabbit cop Judy Hopps) and Jason Bateman (fox hustler Nick Wilde). It’s coming armed with that rarity for an animation; a well-sustained plot that doesn’t devolve into overblown set pieces or rest on the easy laurels of musical numbers and montages.

So credit’s due to co-directors Byron Howard (Bolt, Tangled) and Rich Moore (of The Simpsons, Futurama, and latterly, the great until it kind of rests on its laurels Wreck-It-Ralph) and Jared Bush (presumably one of the th…

You can’t keep the whole world in the dark about what’s going on. Once they know that a five-mile hunk of rock is going to hit the world at 30,000 miles per hour, the people will want to know what the hell we intend to do about it.

Meteor (1979)
(SPOILERS) In which we find Sean Connery – or his agent, whom he got rid of subsequent to this and Cuba – showing how completely out of touch he was by the late 1970s. Hence hitching his cart to the moribund disaster movie genre just as movie entertainment was being rewritten and stolen from under him. He wasn’t alone, of course – pal Michael Caine would appear in both The Swarm and Beyond the Poseidon Adventure during this period – but Meteor’s lack of commercial appeal was only accentuated by how functional and charmless its star is in it. Some have cited Meteor as the worst movie of his career (Christopher Bray in his book on the actor), but its sin is not one of being outright terrible, rather of being terminally dull.

Never compare me to the mayor in Jaws! Never!

Ghostbusters (2016)
(SPOILERS) Paul Feig is a better director than Ivan Reitman, or at very least he’s savvy enough to gather technicians around him who make his films look good, but that hasn’t helped make his Ghostbusters remake (or reboot) a better movie than the original, and that’s even with the original not even being that great a movie in the first place.

Along which lines, I’d lay no claims to the 1984 movie being some kind of auteurist gem, but it does make some capital from the polarising forces of Aykroyd’s ultra-geekiness on the subject of spooks and Murray’s “I’m just here for the asides” irreverence. In contrast, Feig’s picture is all about treating the subject as he does any other genre, be it cop, or spy, or romcom. There’s no great affection, merely a reliably professional approach, one minded to ensure that a generous quota of gags (on-topic not required) can be pumped out via abundant improv sessions.

So there’s nothing terribly wrong with Ghostbusters, but aside from …

You keep a horse in the basement?

The ‘Burbs (1989)
(SPOILERS) The ‘Burbs is Joe Dante’s masterpiece. Or at least, his masterpiece that isn’t his bite-the-hand-that-feeds-you masterpiece Gremlins 2: The New Batch, or his high profile masterpiece Gremlins. Unlike those two, the latter of which bolted out of the gate and took audiences by surprise with it’s black wit subverting the expected Spielberg melange, and the first which was roundly shunned by viewers and critics for being absolutely nothing like the first and waving that fact gleefully under their noses, The ‘Burbs took a while to gain its foothold in the Dante pantheon. 

It came out at a time when there had been a good few movies (not least Dante’s) taking a poke at small town Americana, and it was a Tom Hanks movie when Hanks was still a broad strokes comedy guy (Big had just made him big, Turner and Hooch was a few months away; you know you’ve really made it when you co-star with a pooch). It’s true to say that some, as with say The Big Lebowski, “got it” on fi…

Well, if we destroy Kansas the world may not hear about it for years.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
(1982)
(SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek, but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.