Tag Archives: Common

Now You See Me (2013, Louis Leterrier), the extended edition

Now You See Me plays a little like Ocean’s Eleven without Steven Soderbergh and a great cast of supporting character actors instead of lead actors doing an ensemble. Except maybe Jesse Eisenberg. He acts like he’s running See Me, even though he’s not in it very much. And his character’s supposed to be acting like he owns it… it kind of works.

Director Leterrier is outstanding at the flash. There’s a flashy car chase, there’s flashy magic acts, there’s flashy this, there’s flashy that–but he’s also capable of doing a nice, quiet character arc for Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent. They’ve got wonderful chemistry. They play the federal agents (okay, she’s from Interpol but whatever) after Eisenberg and his fellow outlaw magicians (an amusing Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher in the film’s only bad performance and a very appealing Dave Franco). Along the way, they get a little flirty and it’s a nice subplot for the picture, which is very busy with it’s more scripted plotting.

Besides the magicians–and See Me jumps ahead a year from their introduction, so they’re no longer reliable protagonists–there’s the FBI, but also Morgan Freeman as a magician debunker and Michael Caine’s around too as the magician’s wealthy benefactor. Leterrier juggles everything quite well–the film doesn’t even drag until the car chase, almost seventy minutes in, gets a little long in the tooth.

It’s just empty and dumb. An actual smart script, and not a sneaky one, would have helped a lot.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Louis Leterrier; screenplay by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt, based on a story by Yakin and Ricourt; directors of photography, Mitchell Amundsen and Larry Fong; edited by Robert Leighton and Vincent Tabaillon; music by Brian Tyler; production designer, Peter Wenham; produced by Bobby Cohen, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci; released by Summit Entertainment.

Starring Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Mélanie Laurent (Alma Dray), Jesse Eisenberg (J. Daniel Atlas), Woody Harrelson (Merritt McKinney), Isla Fisher (Henley Reeves), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler), Michael Kelly (Agent Fuller), Common (Evans), David Warshofsky (Cowan) and José Garcia (Etienne Forcier).


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Terminator Salvation (2009, Joseph McGinty Nichol), the director’s cut

Ok, no joke, what idiot thought adding Christian Bale to Terminator 4 was a good idea? Was it McG? Without the dumb connection to the previous films–if it had just been the adventures of Anton Yelchin’s Young Kyle Reese–it might have been fine. Nichol’s direction isn’t anything spectacular (it’s solid enough, surprisingly), but he doesn’t fetishize the Terminator world. The callbacks to the originals are at least amusing, since they’re trying for subtly.

Sure, it’s a knockoff of Road Warrior with a little Return of the Jedi thrown in but whatever, it’s not complete garbage. It’s at least diverting, more than Terminator 3, in fact.

However, then there’s Bale. Oh, wait, no way. Bale’s got the goatee to look tough (and less like a date rapist?).

Sam Worthington’s wasted. If I hadn’t seen Rogue, I’d have no idea he was good. Though he can’t hold his accent.

The script’s awful, but Nichol’s shoots it so large scale (studio franchise pictures with establishing shots, I’d missed those), it’s like Terminator‘s less about its actual content than that content’s presentation. Brancato and Ferris probably don’t have the writing chops of a good “Days of Our Lives” writers’ room and have some of the most lamely predictable “surprises” I can remember. But I suppose the script’s better than their Terminator 3 script, even if the nonsensical items–the Terminator base, the networked machine base, having manual, physical overrides.

If you haven’t been able to tell yet, this post’s going to be double length, just because there’s so much to talk about. Not the content, of course, but the film as an example of the decline of popular filmmaking.

Helena Bonham Carter is really bad. Laughable. She just gets worse and worse, doing some kind of impression of The Emperor from the Star Wars series.

Common’s awful. Michael Ironside’s embarrassing himself here.

Watching Bryce Dallas Howard act opposite Moon Bloodgood is pretty funny too. I’ve never seen Bloodgood in anything before and haven’t seen Howard in years–I figured the former would be bad and the latter okay. I was wrong. Very wrong.

Still, whoever did the special effects went cheap on the big “old” Terminators, which are clearly guys in costumes. And the thing when Worthington’s walking around half-Terminator or whatever, it looks awful, cheaper than a Halloween mask, even if they are doing some idiotic CG composite thing with it.

Terminator Salvation comes after The Matrix, so there are plenty of lifts from it (though the giant Transformer-like robots are not)–the whole prophet thing with Bale feels directly copied and pasted from The Matrix 2.

Unexpectedly first-rate is the Danny Elfman score. As much of a Brad Fiedel fan as I am, Elfman’s pure action score is great. There’s nothing playful to it, which is somewhat non-Elfman (at least the Elfman I know), but it’s such a solid piece of composing, it doesn’t seem at all lacking.

Maybe most offensively, they dedicated this crap to Stan Winston.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol; screenplay by John Brancato and Michael Ferris, based on characters created by James Cameron and Gale Anne Hurd; director of photography, Shane Hurlbut; edited by Conrad Bluff IV; music by Danny Elfman; production designer, Martin Laing; produced by Derek Anderson, Moritz Borman, Victor Kubicek and Jeffrey Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Christian Bale (John Connor), Sam Worthington (Marcus Wright), Moon Bloodgood (Blair Williams), Helena Bonham Carter (Dr. Serena Kogan), Anton Yelchin (Kyle Reese), Jadagrace (Star), Bryce Dallas Howard (Kate Connor), Common (Barnes), Jane Alexander (Virginia), Michael Ironside (General Ashdown) and Ivan G’Vera (General Losenko).


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Street Kings (2008, David Ayer)

I wonder who came up with the title Street Kings, as it has nothing to do with the film’s actual content. I didn’t realize Fox Searchlight had a dimwit exec in charge of re-titling movies. Silly me. The original title, The Night Watchman, actually makes sense (especially since the movie appears to be shot with the title in mind, with Keanu Reeves watching the sunset a few times throughout, waiting to get to work).

Before I get to the good, I need to get through the bad. David Ayer, apparently pissed off he didn’t get to work on the script (or at least, a credited amount), sort of directs against the script. The first act of the script has very blunt, very hackneyed dialogue. Ayer could have directed around it but doesn’t. He plays it straight and it doesn’t work. I mean, Ayer has the greatest gift–Keanu Reeves playing a dumb guy who can get away saying these lines and still, he messes it up. Ayer’s not a good director, but I didn’t expect him to sabotage his own first act (he gets a lot better the rest of the movie). He’s got an irritating swooping camera move he does once every couple minutes. It’s bad. The other bad stuff–because there’s a lot of mediocre work here and it’s fine–seems to be when he’s aping Michael Mann. There are a couple techniques from Miami Vice and about a hundred from Heat here.

The rest of the bad is mostly Amaury Nolasco in one of the supporting roles. He’s atrocious.

Street Kings greatest success is two-fold in regards to James Ellroy. First, he managed to modernize his standard of the dumb cop who wises up. Here, it’s Keanu Reeves and he never wises up too much (he’s always a blunt instrument) and it works wonders. Second, he’s managed to get in an utterly depressing ending. Street Kings is, at its core, a depressing story about a dumb guy who wises up and learns ignorance might be bliss–kind of a story better titled The Night Watchman.

Most of the acting is excellent. Forest Whitaker doesn’t do anything fantastic, but he’s very sturdy and quite good. Hugh Laurie’s okay, but his character has a handful of quirks straight from “House.” Chris Evans is, no shock, excellent. Once he and Reeves partner up, the movie starts toward its higher plane. For the most part, Jay Mohr, John Corbett, Terry Crews and Naomie Harris are wasted. Harris is so underutilized, I didn’t even realize it was her until I read the credits.

I don’t think I’ve ever seen Reeves carry a movie this well before–there’s a great scene when the dirty cops are bragging how easy it was to get it all over on him–and, title and director aside, Street Kings works fairly well.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by David Ayer; written by James Ellroy, Kurt Wimmer and Jamie Moss, based on a story by Ellroy; director of photography, Gabriel Beristain; edited by Jeffrey Ford; music by Graeme Revell; production designer, Alec Hammond; produced by Lucas Foster, Alexandra Milchan and Erwin Stoff; released by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Starring Keanu Reeves (Detective Tom Ludlow), Forest Whitaker (Capt. Jack Wander), Hugh Laurie (Capt. James Biggs), Chris Evans (Detective Paul Diskant), Martha Higareda (Grace Garcia), Naomie Harris (Linda Washington), Jay Mohr (Sgt. Mike Clady), John Corbett (Detective Dante Demille), Amaury Nolasco (Detective Cosmo Santos), Terry Crews (Detective Terrence Washington), Cedric the Entertainer (Scribble), Common (Coates) and The Game (Grill).


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