Monthly Archives: June 2016

“Now You See Me 2” Movie Review

I tried to be a magician once in elementary school. And like this movie’s production, it didn’t quite work out. This caper thriller, a sequel to the original from 2013, opened on June 10th, 2015, earned less than half of it’s$90 million budget back. Approximately a year after the events of the first film, a group of eccentric magicians called the Four Horsemen are in hiding, waiting for news from the secret society that brought them together, The Eye. During a tech company’s showcase of a new software device, the Horsemen hijack the stage to expose the corrupt businessman behind it, Owen Case. Then hay hits the fan when the FBI discover them and their handler, Mark Ruffalo’s Dylan Rhodes. When they try to escape they find themselves captured and compromising with Case’s rival Walter Mabry, played by Daniel Radcliffe. All the while, Rhodes, now on the run from the FBI, enlists the help of debunker Thaddeus Bradley to find the Horsemen. So the first Now You See Me, generally speaking, I enjoyed it for what it was and how cool it looked. The ending was terrible, as I felt it was a culmination of things irrelevant to what you had seen previously, but the rest of it was just fine. In the sequel, it still holds you in that state of mind, where many questions are unanswered and almost none of it feels plausible. I’m not saying a story about magicians is required to be believable; you do have to suspend disbelief. But there are many conflicts within the lore of this universe that are left unexplained with no rhyme or reason. So let’s start off with what I liked. The Four Horsemen are composed of great actors; Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, and Lizzy Caplan. The crew have great chemistry and work really well together. Their own contrasting personalities bounced off one another with aces. Lizzy Caplan replaces Isla Fisher from the first movie, reportedly due to the latter actress’s pregnancy. Instead of making her the same character, Caplan is a new member of the Four Horsemen. She was quirky and likable and gave me some laughs whenever she turned down the advances of Franco’s Jack and Wilder and Eisenberg’s Danny Atlas. The supporting cast consisted of some big-name actors, some more impressive than others. Mark Ruffalo has consistently proved himself a versatile actor, with roles ranging from superheroes to tear-jerkers. In this sequel, he was good, but not anything worth writing to the Academy about. Among other returning cast members, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine reprise their roles as an enigmatic magician-turned-debunker and a ruthless businessman, respectively. Though in all honesty, it felt like Michael Caine had returned simply because of the contract he signed from the first movie. Morgan Freeman is a bit more convincing, but his role is one of his more forgettable ones. Now You See Me 2 also felt the need to squeeze in Daniel Radcliffe, who has gone from noble wizard hero to self-obsessed billionaire. His presence makes me believe that he was essentially the only link that connected Michael Caine’s character from the first movie to the sequel. The magic stunts, however, were unquestionably astonishing visual eye candy. In one particular scene, a member of the Horsemen made it seem as if he could stop the rainfall using intense strobe lights and hand choreography. I would have to be under a hypnotic spell to say that I was not impressed at this feat. Sufficed to say, it often felt like such magical shows and demonstrations were gimmicks used to make the central narrative deeper and more intricate than it actually is. I shall try my best not spoil all of it, but from what I can gather, here’s what the lore tells us. There is a secretive society called The Eye, consisting of the finest magicians in the modern world. And almost everywhere the Horsemen travel, there will be a member of The Eye undercover, carefully playing out their parts. It’s almost as if the movie expects its audience to know that The Eye knew exactly what was going to happen at each moment, even in a scenario where they couldn’t have possibly predicted. I will commend the back and forth argument presented, regarding science versus magic. But sadly, it isn’t explored in much greater detail. In the end, Now You See Me 2 is a visually impressive but rushed sequel that is in dire need of thorough explanation. Because at this point, it’s just a clunky caper saga, and I’m not that interested in seeing a third installment anymore. But hey, if a compelling plot isn’t what you’re looking for and you just want an exciting, stylish thriller, you might have fun with this movie.

“Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising” Movie Review

I think I’m in love with Rose Burne right now. That’s not meant to sound creepy or wrong in any way. This raunchy comedy was released on May 20th, 2016, just managing to turn a profit of $57.5 million after two weeks. The film acts as a sequel to the comedy Neighbors, released in 2014, which I missed out on. Though honestly, of all the crucial elements of life that I could regret missing, seeing the original Neighbors is probably not one of them. Point is, now we have ourselves a sequel. And in the sequel, Seth Rogen’s Mac and Rose Byrne’s Kelly are attempting to sell their house for a nicer one to raise a bigger family in. Their home is put into escrow, meaning the buyers have 30 days to inspect their potential home for any problems, and can back out of the deal at any moment. And right when the escrow period begins, three college freshman Shelby, Beth, and Nora decide to buck traditional sorority trends and host raving feminist-themed parties in the house next door as the sorority Kappa Nu. Desperate to get rid of the girls, Mac and Kelly choose to enlist the help of Zac Efron’s former fraternity ring leader, Teddy, to come up with insane plans of getting Kappa Nu out of their neighborhood. I really mean it when I say that their strategies are crazy, almost to an absurd and outlandish level. Doesn’t mean that it wasn’t entertaining to watch. For example, in one scene Mac and his friend are throwing pounds upon pounds of bedbugs into the house, and then it’s covered in a tarp the next morning. I will say that at this point, Seth Rogen is just Seth Rogen. He kind of plays the same character in each of his movies. But he’s so natural in his craft and so lovable that you can’t help but root for him. Rose Burne was really funny as his wife, no matter how out of his league she may be. I enjoyed how the writers made a co-conspirator with Seth Rogen rather than simply placing her at the sidelines, as comedies like this tend to do. But can we stop for a moment to talk about Zac Efron for a second? Statistically speaking, I think it is a mathematical fact that at least 1 out of every 75 Disney Kids might not crash and burn in their lives. Efron has some true comedic prowess. In fact, if he has a good agent and is smart about his career choices, he could be the next Bradley Cooper. You kind of pity his character because all of his friends have gotten themselves different jobs and opportunities, but he hasn’t really moved on with his own life. Let’s also touch on Chloe Grace-Moretz because, by God, she is one of the best child actors in the business. She and all of her sorority girls have excellent chemistry, their banter providing some of the biggest laughs in the movie. It’s really interesting to see the ridiculous characters work with one another, in a rather feminist plot. It directly addresses certain misogynistic aspects of college life, such as how many frat parties have the word “Ho” in as part of the theme. These girls want to fight the power, frustrated by how they have basically let men govern the majority of their lives, and strive to create a sorority where anyone is welcome. Director Nicholas Stoller has given us the most relevant piece of progressivism in som,e time. It’s gratuitous, though. The very first scene shows Mac and Kelly’s daughter playing with a purple dildo. That, alone, earns the hard R-Rating. All in all, I don’t think Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising was strictly necessary. But I had a great time watching it, I liked the characters, I loved Zac Efron, and Rose Burne was a great surprise in the movie. It knew exactly what it was, and played it up.