Movie review: Now You See Me 2

Movie reviews

Hello!

Welcome to another movie review of this summer. This time, it’s another sequel – Now You See Me 2 also known as Now You See Me: The Second Act.

IMDb summary: The Four Horsemen resurface and are forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet.

2013’s NYSM was a surprising and vastly entertaining film, but if Hollywood would not be so focused on franchises, the movie would not have gotten a sequel. Before going to see the sequel, I actually rewatched the first film, because I’ve heard that NYSM 2 relied heavily on the plot of the first picture and, now having seen the movie, I can confirm that. If you want to really enjoy The Second Act you have to have The First One on your mind. Usually, Hollywood tends to make more of  standalone sequels that do not require homework or any preparation, so I don’t understand why they made an exception this time.

SPOILERS FOR BOTH FILMS

Writing

NYSM 2 was written by the same screenwriter as the first film – Ed Solomon. While I really enjoyed the story that he crafted in 2013, I had quite a few problems with its 2016 continuation.

Firstly, as I have already mentioned, the film’s big reveals relied too heavily on the plot developments of the first film:

  1. The movie made the big deal out of the fact that Dave Franco’s character was alive, but we, as the viewers, find that out at the end of the first film.
  2. The reveal that Morgan Freeman was behind all of the events of the sequel (at least, it looked like it) was meaningless if you did not know what role he played in the first film.
  3.  Ruffalo’s character motivation, as well as his father’s story, were given even more screen time but, once again, the crucial info was only told in the first film.
  4. Michael Caine’s character’s involvement in this film can also only be explained by the events of the first movie.
  5. The EYE was once again present in the film and didn’t do anything useful. The big reveals – who was the EYE’s members and that ending involving the EYE – were also kinda underwhelming.
  6. The 2nd film mentioned why Isla Fisher’s character left (in truth, the actress got pregnant and couldn’t participate in the filming), so I appreciate the fact they at least addressed this development in an appropriate to the story way.
  7. The first film had a quick pace and a straight forward plot, but this one had a really slow setup and a really convoluted yet predictable plot.
  8. The sequel kinda recapped the events of the first film and set up the revenge plot in that opening montage with the voiceover by Freeman, but I don’t really think that that was enough.

A few things that I did enjoy where the pairing-ups of the characters. I liked that Dave Franco’s character was the one with the love interest this time, instead of Jesse Eisenberg. Caplan and Franco had great chemistry, although I did not appreciate the fact that they emphasized a few times that Caplan was the only female horseman.In the first film,  Isla Fisher  was just one of the members of the group, not THE ONLY female member. The other pairs were the Prison Break with Mark Ruffalo’s character and Morgan Freeman’s character as well as the competition for the leadership between Ruffalo and Eisenberg. I also liked the mentor/student relationship between Woody Harrelson’s characters and Dave Franco’s character.

The overarching theme of the two films was the revenge of the sons, so I wonder who will be avenging who in the 3rd film, as they will probably make it.

Directing

The film was directed by Step Up’s Jon M. Chu, whose latest film- Jem and the Holograms was one of the biggest financial and critical flops recent years. He did an okay-ish job this time. I didn’t see the need to set half of the movie in Macau, except to please the Chinese audiences and get their money. Also, if you have to set-up a film Macau, why not use it? We only saw Macau in a few shots of the lights and billboards  and those shots were only used tot transition between the scenes.

Also, this film lacked magic. NYSM had 3 big and somewhat realistic magic shows, while NYSM 2 had a few small performances/moments and a few big-ish ones that were completely unbelievable. To begin with, this time, hypnosis seemed like an easy thing that really everybody could do. The passing of the card/chip trick was cool to look at but completely over-the-top. The water/rain trick was also nice and pleasing visually, but, once again, unbelievable and unrealistic. The final act was pretty cool though and did wrap up the story nicely, so I can at least give the director that. However, the finale did leave a lot of questions unanswered and even the horseman realized that. I wonder if they will address any of the questions in the sequel if they make one.

Acting

Firs of all, let me just say that this film had way too many characters, a few of whom were really unnecessary.

  • Jesse Eisenberg as Danny Atlas – was okay and I finally liked his hair in the film, after suffering through his bad hairstyles in BvS and American Ultra. He was believable as an egoistic illusionist and I did like him in the role. Now, I just hope that I can learn to like him as Lex in Justice League.
  • Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes was also fine. I enjoyed the fact that we finally got to see him doing a few tricks and I also liked the fact that he took up his right place as the 5th horseman in the end. I don’t think that I’ve ever watched a movie with Ruffalo that I did not enjoy, so any film of his is a good bet, but if you don’t know where to start, just check out his most recent work  with Marvel and in Spotlight.
  • Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney/Chase McKinney was good and annoying. I liked the character of Merritt but could not understand the need to include Chase as his twin brother, especially when he was this annoying. I sill haven’t finished watching Harrelson on True Detective, although, I’ve really liked him on THG films. He will also be in War for the Planet of the Apes
  • Dave Franco as Jack Wilder was also good. He is really charming and has a great screen presence. He has mostly done comedic work, in 21/22 Jump Street and Neighbors films. He will also be in Nerve later this year.
  • Daniel Radcliffe as Walter Mabry was good but slightly creepy. I’m happy to see Radcliffe getting some mainstream work in this film as well as in Victor Frankenstein, but none of his post-Harry Potter films were able to reach the level of HP success. I wonder if that is even possible
  • Lizzy Caplan as Lula May was a great addition to the cast. I liked her awkward humour and the line ‘He’s cute, let’s kill him’. I don’t know why Caplan does not get more roles in bigger films, as she is so good. My favorite film from Caplan’s filmography is Bachelorette, in which she starts alongside the former NYSM female lead – Isla Fisher.
  • Jay Chou as Li was only there to add ‘diversity’ and appeal to the Asian audiences.
  • Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler and Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley were both fine but I am getting angry with both of them. They used to be respectable actors and now they are just doing all the films, the majority of which are paycheck gigs. I would love to see them in more serious films and in more challenging roles.

All in all, Now You See Me 2 was an okay film. It was worse than the seqeul, had an uninspired and messy plot and really unrealistic ‘magic’. Defintely not a must watch, but if you do choose to see it, make sure to re-watch NYSM 1 or at least read its plot online.

Rate: 2.8/5

Trailer: Now You See Me 2 trailer

cgasukvusamo8pc

Advertisements

Movie review: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice 

Movie reviews

Hey Hey Hey!

The wait is finally over! We now have a movie that shows the two greatest superheroes fighting one another. Without further ado, let’s dig-in into Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

IMDb summary: Fearing the actions of Superman are left unchecked, Batman takes on the man of steel, while the world wrestles with what kind of a hero it really needs. With Batman and Superman fighting each other, a new threat, Doomsday, is created by Lex Luthor. It’s up to Superman and Batman to set aside their differences along with Wonder Woman to stop Lex Luthor and Doomsday from destroying Metropolis.

Before we start: I have done a preview post for this film, in which I discussed my hopes for the movie and gave you my thoughts on the casting choices, Snyder’s previous work and DCCU in general. I won’t be repeating those things in here, so I highly suggest that you check out that other post first!

Since I’m posting my review on Saturday and the movie has been out for a couple of days, I will be talking about SPOILERS!

Audience

Before BvS was released, a lot of news sites reported that the majority of the presale tickets were bought by men. Saturday, 9am screening that I went to (definitely the earliest screening I’ve ever been to) was also predominately male. I think there was only around 30 people watching the film with me, and only 4 of them were female (me included). The audience was also very adult-centric – there were only 3 or 4 kids in the cinema.

I don’t really know what to make out of this. I refuse to believe that women don’t like comic book movies. Moreover, I cannot believe that children are not interested in a film like this one.

Also, before the movie, they showed The Lego Batman teaser – it was very appropriate and extremely funny (definitely a lot funnier than the film that followed).

Story: Writing, Tone, and Plotlines

BvS’s script was written by Chris Terrio and David S. Goyer. Terrio is best known for writing the screenplay for 2012’s Argo, while Goyer has written all the Blade movies, all of Nolan’s Batman films and Man of Steel. With such an accomplished duo, it’s quite strange to see that Batman v Superman did not turn out that great, when it comes to story. Let’s go over all the different story and plot points (the good, the average and the bad) one by one:

  • To begin with, BvS was a more Batman-centric movie and that’s perfectly understandable – they needed to establish him as a character. The opening of the film nicely dealt with Bruce’s backstory – the death of his parents and his obsession/fear of bats.
  • – The film had a lot of dream sequences and it was extremely hard to understand, which scenes were set in reality and which ones – only in the minds of the characters (I still don’t know who was the person in Bruce’s dream that told Batman that Lois Lane is the key – I read that it was probably the Flash, travelling back in time. The other dream sequence (Nightmare one) was also an Easter Egg for Darkside (maybe)). Anyway, the decision to blend the reality and the dreams together might have been a creative choice, however, it made the narrative unclear and hard to understand/follow.
  • – The film was more than 2 hours long but all the characters lacked development – I wanted to spend more time with all of them and wasn’t satisfied with a few scenes that I’ve got.
  • – However, there were characters that we spent way too much time with and the pay-off, concerning these characters, was not that great. Those senate hearings and Lex Luthor’s and Senator Finch’s scenes seemed to last forever and didn’t really accomplish much.
  • – Basically, the movie had way too many plotlines and was jumping around way too much. In short, there was at least 5 great movies inside this 1 (average) film. The first two parts of the picture also lacked action and the whole set-up for the final act was generally a bit boring, although it had a few exciting moments.
  • The mother-son relationship was really important in this film and it was actually nice to see this particular family relationship explored on screen. Movies usually tend to focus on father-son or father-daughter relationships. I also enjoyed the clever idea to use both Clark Kent’s mother’s and Bruce Wayne’s mother’s name – Martha – as a linguistic plot-device that not only united them but helped to show their humanity.
  • -/+ While I enjoyed seeing Batman and Superman united in battle, I think that they became ‘friends’ too quickly. It would have been more believable to see them calling each other ‘partners’ or something like that.
  • – Speaking about the believability – BvS (like all others DCCU films) really want to be grounded in reality, that’s why they are so dark and gritty. However, I do believe that real life also has lighter moments. Reality doesn’t automatically mean darkness and depression. Sophisticated and serious superhero films can be at least slightly funny as well (I’m not saying they all have to be comedies like Deadpool). I wish that we would have gotten at least a few more lively/amusing-ish moments to balance out the darkness – the only scenes that had a lighter tone were the romantic ones and I had a lot of problems with them separately.
  • Also, while the first two acts of the film were somewhat realistic and very dark, the final act of the film left the reality behind. And you know what? THAT WAS THE BEST PART OF THE FILM. The more over-the-top and comic book-y it became, the better the film was. That last act improved my opinion on the whole film and definitely increased the rating.
  • +/- More on the final act: Doomsday’s birth and evolution were cool scenes to look at, but felt a bit rushed. Also, the portrayal of the government forces was very one-sided aka negative.
  • – The lighter aka romantic scenes involved Clark Kent and Lois Lane. While the scenes were cute to look at, they did feel out of place. Also, Lois Lane was such a damsel in distress – she was incapable of doing anything by herself and that annoyed me quite a lot.
  • +/- The ending of the film was quite a brave choice on the filmmakers part. However, since the audiences are quite familiar with the ideas of resurrection not only in comic book films but in movies in general, it was quite hard to feel really emotional about the death of Superman. As soon as he died on screen, my mind started racing on how he will be brought back to life. And even before we got that slight teaser (just before the film cut to black), we all knew that he is coming back. So, basically, it was really hard to think that Superman’s death will stick and that it will have any real consequences.
  • I enjoyed the fact that the characters’ alter-egos were as important as their superhero identities. This idea was nicely portrayed in the double funeral of Clark Kent.
  • + BvS also gave us more than a few very on-the-nose teasers for all the other Justice League members as well as the Justice League itself. We saw: the Flash, stopping the store from being robbed, Aquaman, attacking or threatening someone, and Cyborg, just in the process of creation.
  • Lastly, I might be nitpicking, but it seemed that this time they destroyed more stuff aka two cities – both Gotham and Metropolis. The damage that Man of Steel has done now seems minuscule.

Visuals: Directing, Action, and the Costumes

Zack Snyder did a very nice job directing the action scenes. I only wish that we would not have needed to wait for the said action scenes for more than 1.5h. The picture’s color scheme was also very Snydery – dark and shadowy (unnecessarily grim, like the story). The action scenes that we got in the 3rd act of the film were definitely enjoyable,so let’s discuss them a bit more:

  • The titular fight between Batman and Superman was really cool: the Batman’s protective costume was nice, while the usage of the Krypton – a clever solution. I also loved how Superman just slightly pushed Batman with one hand and Bruce went flying. The only thing that I didn’t like about that fight is the fact that Lois Lane just had to appear out of nowhere in the end.
  • The DC’s trio vs. Doomsday was also an exciting battle. This one was very comic-book-y, thus, very unbelievable, thus – the best part of the film. I loved Superman and Doomsday, flying in space, I loved Batman, trying to come up with a solution (because he knew that he can’t fist-fight the devil), and Wonder Woman, just charging into battle.

Costumes and Props

The characters’ costumes are of course very iconic and there is really no point in talking about them in detail, since, they have been revealed long before the movie was released. However, I do want to mention a few things about them:

  1. I loved Batman’s eyes in all of his costumes. I loved how bold his real eyes looked in his normal costume and how threatening were the light-up eyes in his armor.
  2. Superman’s cape game was strong. He looked amazing while flying or just floating in the air.
  3. Lastly, Wonder Woman’s light-up lasso was super cool – it looked amazing on screen.

Music

The film’s soundtrack was created by Hans Zimmer and Junkie XL. Junkie XL has previously worked on music for Man of Steel and a bunch of other films (Mad Max: Fury Road, Black Mass, Point Break and Deadpool). Zimmer needs no introduction – he is the king of movie soundtracks in Hollywood (Gladiator, Pearl Harbor, The Last Samurai, Nolan’s Batman films, Pirates of the Carribean franchise, Inception, Interstellar, 12 Years a Slave, Man of Steel and a plethora of other movies have been scored by him).

Acting

  • Ben Affleck as Bruce Wayne / Batman. Affleck was really good in both the action scenes and the dramatic ones. He probably is the most accomplished actor of this cast, so it is no surprise that his performance was the best one. 2003’s Daredevil should just be wiped out of his resume. We will see Affleck in a cameo role in Suicide Squad, but if you want to watch a non-comic book movie, starring Affleck, I highly suggest both Argo and Gone Girl.
  • Henry Cavill as Kal-El / Clark Kent / Superman. I did enjoy Cavill’s performance but his facial expressions were a bit one-note. He was amazing in the action sequences, though. Last year, we saw Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Currently, he is working on a war drama Sand Castle.
  • Amy Adams as Lois Lane. Adams was good in the role and it’s not really her fault that the character of Lois was written in the way it was. Basically, I felt that her character was out of place during the majority of the film. I would have liked to see more of her actual journalist side, maybe in scenes opposite Laurence Fishburne’s Perry White – the editor-in-chief of the Daily Planet. As an actress, Adams has had quite a long and rewarding career. I especially liked her newer films – American Hustle and Big Eyes.
  • Jeremy Irons as Alfred Pennyworth. My favorite lines of dialogue were spoken by Irons. I really liked his portrayal of Alfred as more of a partner, less like a servant. Also, I recently saw Irons in High-Rise and I also want to watch his other 2016 film – Race.
  • Gal Gadot as Diana Prince / Wonder Woman was my favorite character in the film. Gadot was amazing in the role. She shined in the action sequences and I only wish that she would have had more lines because, for the majority of the film, she just reacted to the events that were happening around her. I can’t wait for her own stand-alone film, coming out next year!
  • Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor (?) – I forgot to talk about Eisenberg being cast as Lex Luthor in the preview but that was because I deliberately wanted to forget this development. From what I saw in the trailer, Eisenberg  did not play the true Lex Luthor – at least not the one that I grew up watching in the cartoons. There was also this rumor floating online that Eisenberg was playing Luthor Jr. but that just seemed like a cheap explanation. Also, Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor Jr. haircut reminded me way too much of the look that his American Ultra character had and it’s safe to say – I did not enjoy that stupid stoner action comedy. Now, having watched the film, I still have mixed feelings about Eisenberg in this role. I enjoyed the fact that he played very modern, young and hip entrepreneur. However, at the same time, my mind was screaming: ‘This is not Lex Luthor, neither Jr. nor Sr.’. His voice was also a bit squeaky throughout the film, so that did not make him seem as a threatening and serious villain. Nevertheless, I liked both his look and the way he acted at the end of the film, in the cell (he has finally lost that stupid hairstyle). So, maybe BvS was just an origin story for the true Lex Luthor? We will probably find that out in the Justice League films.

Lastly, the movie didn’t have a post-credits or end-credits scene, so there is really no point in waiting through more than 5 minutes of credits.

In the end, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was a good film that could have been so much better. It unnecessarily wanted to be real and grim. The first two acts were messy and had too many plotlines, while the third act embraced the comic bookiness of the characters and made the ending of the movie – the best part of it. The acting was really good, Gal Gadot’s and Ben Affleck’s performances were the best. I went into this movie really wanting to like it and, to be truthful, was kinda let down. I am excited to see the standalone films of the characters, but I don’t think that they should rush with the Justice League movies, like they are doing right now. Maybe WB will prove me wrong next year.

Rate: 3/5

Trailer: Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice trailer

08d16d4567f303c46f16a66041eca2f620352f4b

Movie review: American Ultra

Movie reviews

Hello!

So, I’ve already told you that I’ve moved to Scotland. However, before boarding my late night flight to Edinburgh on Friday, I had some spare time in the morning to sneak to the cinema for one last time. So, I watched the only new release that had a morning showing time – American Ultra – and this is going to be my review. And also – the official opening of the fall movie season.

IMDb summary: A stoner – who is, in fact, a government agent – is marked as a liability and targeted for extermination. But he’s too well-trained and too high for them to handle.

Writing and Directing

This movie was written by Max Landis of Chronicle. Although I’ve heard a lot of good things about Chronicle, I haven’t actually seen it. Speaking about his American Ultra script and story – it is not that great. For one, the premise of the film made no sense. Why would you send terrible and crazy agents to eliminate another dangerous agent, who would not be dangerous if you just left him alone. Also, I am starting to feel bad for the CIA, because they are always portrayed as the worst organization in the world on the silver screen. Also, the film had way too many characters and way too many subplots, which lacked development and frankly, were not needed at all. Also, this film crossed the line of humanity way too many times. I, for one, couldn’t root for the main character, played by Jesse Eisenberg, just because of how mercilessly he killed others despite the fact that it might not have been his fault. Now I worry about Suicide Squad because there is a very fine line between antagonist and a villain and movie studios shouldn’t expect the viewers to be on a villain’s side.

Lastly, this might make be sound stupid, but I will still say it. This movie really lacked seriousness. I know that this is a stoner-comedy-action flick, but even those time of films can be much more sophisticated and more interesting. When you base a film on a stupid premise and execute it in an SNL skit form, you cannot really end up with a great final product.  The ending of the film was also really crappy and totally unrealistic.

Max Landis’s next film will be coming out later in the year. It’s a horror film and a new adaptation 1818 novel Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein – Victor Frankenstein. I am not a fan of horror films, but I might just give Landis one more chance to impress me, just because that film has amazing leading actors – Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy.

While I was disappointed with the story, the directing aspect of the film was quite good. The continuous fight scene in the supermarket at the end of the film was exciting and the animated end credits looked cool as well. Surprisingly, this film was directed by Project X’s Nima Nourizadeh. His skills have definitely improved since the 2012’s found-footage cult flick.

Acting

  1. Jesse Eisenberg as Agent Howell. I don’t even know what to say about his performance. First of all, his hair style was really distracting and I really don’t want to see similar wig on Lex Luthor in BvS but I guess I will just have to deal with it. Eisenberg pulled off his action scenes quite nicely, but I have seen him do better when it comes to dialogue. The Social Network is still my favorite movie of his, though I loved Now You See Me as well.
  2. Kristen Stewart as Phoebe Larson. Kristen played my favorite character in the whole film and I was not expecting to get any twists in her story, but the one we got was quite cool. I also loved that she eventually turned out to be a bad-ass in her own right, despite the fact that Eisenberg’s character wanted to save her. I was always a fan of Kristen’s (yes, I was a 12-year-old Twi-hard once) and loved her in Still Alice and Camp X-Ray. I really want to see Clouds of Sils Maria as well, because Stewart won the prestigious Cesar Award for that film.
  3. Connie Britton as Victoria Lasseter. Victoria was one of the supervisors of the program that turned Eisenberg’s character into an agent. She ultimately tried to save him. The mother-son relationship that they wanted to explore with her and his characters was not really working.
  4.  Walton Goggins as Laugher, John Leguizamo as Rose and Topher Grace as Adrian Yates. Although all of these immensely different actors played different roles, I want to talk about them as a group – a group of caricatures. Their characters were not original and they relied on stereotypical cliches and really stupid humor way too much. Frankly, it was just boring to watch them on screen.

All in all, American Ultra was an okay movie. The acting was good but some characters were way too boring, the story wasn’t that original, while the directorial execution was quite good as a sophomore project of the director. I might have seen way too many spy/agent movies this summer, so my bad opinions towards this film might be influenced by the movie fatigue of this specific genre.

Rate: 2.5/5

Trailer: American Ultra trailer

new-american-ultra-posters-arrive-for-comic-con-new-poster-for-american-ultra-497864