The magic of cinema and the magic of magic tend to cancel each other out. Once you convince someone they're seeing alternate realities, alien conquerers, and distant futures, pulling a rabbit out of a hat looks a little underwhelming. It is a cruel, sad truth that a single cut negates all the impact of the greatest act of sleight of hand.
So, a movie about magic needs to be about more than just magic. The silly but not entirely unpleasurable 'Now You See Me' is about showmanship. There are a lot of good actors in this movie, including Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Melanie Laurent, and Mark Ruffalo. They play illusionists, mentalists, hucksters, debunkers, billionaire industrialists, Interpol officers, and FBI agents, respectively(ish). All of them, no matter whether they're wool-pullers or wool-pullees, look like they're having a grand old time misdirecting us through a labyrinthine plot involving magicians, bank heists, and decades-old vendettas. For a while, the fun is infectious. I found myself chuckling at the outrageous character names -- Dylan Rhodes! Jack Wilder! Arthur Tressler! Thaddeus Bradley! J. Daniel Atlas! -- and grinning at the ludicrous twists. Like a mark at a good magic act, I knew I was being worked over and was enjoying every second.
If you asked me to sum up Craig Robinson's onscreen presence in a word, the one I'd choose is "likable." Even when he's playing a jerk or a heavy -- like the bouncer in "Knocked Up" or baseball star Reg Mackworthy on "Eastbound & Down" -- his inherent sweetness shines through. Nobody else could say the line "I would tear that ass up," and make it sound like a kind, sensitive compliment. That's Robinson's gift. Try as he might to be a jerk, he'll always be nice. He's the kind of guy you'd want your daughter to marry.
It's precisely that quality that 'Peeples' tries to play off of by casting him as Wade, a typically amiable Robinson character whose relationship with Grace (Kerry Washington) hits a snag when she refuses to introduce him to her family, out of fear of her stern father Virgil (David Alan Grier). But c'mon; he's Craig Robinson. How could anyone not like him?
From the earliest days of his appearances in Marvel Comics' 'Tales of Suspense,' Tony Stark has always been modeled after aviator/inventor/industrialist Howard Hughes. With 'Iron Man 3,' Stark assumes a new dimension of Hughes' persona: that of the paranoid shut-in who, in his later years, became notorious for roaming his private floor of the Desert Inn Hotel in Las Vegas, freaking out about invisible germs and collecting jars of his own urine. 'Iron Man 3's' Tony Stark, played once again by the inimitable Robert Downey Jr.isn't quite that bad, but he's getting there.
After the events chronicled in 'The Avengers,' where Manhattan was nearly leveled by invading aliens and Tony himself was almost killed, he's become obsessed with upgrading his armor -- leaping all the way from the Mark VII to the Mark 42 in a matter of months. When anyone mentions New York or aliens, Tony gets panic attacks. There's a reason Daredevil, not Iron Man, is the Marvel hero known as "The Man Without Fear." Poor Tony is terrified.
I watch a lot of 'Project Runway.' My wife likes it -- and, yeah, I like it too. A show dedicated to fashion design that features creative and powerful women is a weird thing to think about while watching a Michael Bay movie but that's exactly what I did during 'Pain and Gain.' Bay could learn a thing or two from that show about editing. Not in the cinematic, cutting shots together sense; that he's got. This is a different kind of editing.
It's the kind that is often called out by the 'Runway' judges when they tell the contestants (I'm paraphrasing), "This is too busy. You need to edit. That blue fuzzy hat that looks like a tribble distracts from the gorgeous, ornately sequined dress. The dress is enough. You don't need the tribble hat. Edit."
A Michael Bay movie -- particularly 'Pain & Gain' -- is a sequined dress with a blue tribble hat.
After trying his hand at science-fiction, winning an Oscar, and testing himself with a one-actor film about a dude with his hand stuck under a rock, director Danny Boyle returns to familiar territory with 'Trance': the lives of scheming, feuding thieves. When Boyle makes movies about criminals, he rarely focuses on their crimes to look instead at their fallout -- these are what we might call "after-the-heist films." The heist, in a Boyle movie, is the easy part. It's living with yourself, and your accomplices that's hard.
My grandmother, Rhoda Singer, died earlier this year. She lived much of her life in Brooklyn and was a Brooklyn Dodgers fan. Her favorite player was Pee Wee Reese, the Dodgers' scrappy white shortstop who famously silenced a racist Cincinnati crowd by putting his arm around his black teammate Jackie Robinson during pre-game warmups.
I thought about my grandmother a lot while watching '42,' the new biopic of Jackie Robinson and his quest to break the color barrier in baseball. On an intellectual level, I can tell you a dozen things wrong with the movie, from its excessively preachy dialogue to its bloated length. But on an emotional level, I have to admit that this movie bypassed my brain and grabbed my heart, pulling each and every string contained therein firmly and repeatedly. It's a pretty good tribute to a great man. And when Pee-Wee and Jackie embraced on that field in Cincinnati I cried.
In his recent autobiography, Arnold Schwarzenegger describes his part in 'The Last Stand' as "a great, great role." He plays Ray Owens, a former LAPD cop who retired to his hometown in Arizona after his partner got crippled in a botched drug raid. Now the local sheriff, he and a few bumbling deputies are all that stands between the Mexican border and a ruthless drug kingpin. "The sheriff knows if he succeeds," Schwarzenegger writes, "it will mean everything to the town. His reputation is on the line. Is he really over the hill or can he do it?"
Somehow I made it through four years of high school, four years of college, and ten years since without ever reading Jack Kerouac's 'On the Road.' I'm not sure whether that makes me hopelessly unqualified to review the new movie adaptation of it -- because I can't tell you how faithful it is -- or better suited than most because I can judge the film as a film and not as a sacred cow of literature offered up for slaughter to the great, greedy god of cinema. And as a film, it feels like the CliffsNotes version of a great book; sketchy and incomplete. That's probably the film's destiny, too: to be watched by procrastinating teens the night before a big exam in lieu of reading the real thing.
Seconds into 'Deadfall,' the lives of two of the main characters are sent careening off course by a fluke accident. They are siblings Addison (Eric Bana) and Liza (Olivia Wilde), making a fast getaway from a casino robbery. They're driving down a snowy road when a deer darts in front of their car, smashing through the windshield and flipping the vehicle into the woods. If everything had gone according to plan, Addison and Liza would have escaped. Through sheer coincidence, they did not.
Bill Westenhofer. Lubo Hristov. David Lauer. Gullaume Rocheron. Depending on your beliefs, you may or may not believe that God created the heavens and earth in seven days -- but I can say with some certainty that those men, a quartet of visual effects supervisors and designers (along with many other talented people) created the wondrous sights of 'Life of Pi.' It took them a lot more than seven days, though.
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