Now You See Me 2 (2016)

Released: June 10, 2016. Directed by: John M. Chu. Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson. Runtime: 2hr, 9 min.

After a year in hiding from the FBI, the bank-robbing-magical-vigilante Four Horsemen return to the spotlight in Now You See Me 2, to publicly expose a technology company called Octa for unethical operations.

After their enemies are a step ahead of them for once, forcibly whisked away to China to perform another impossible heist for tech genius Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe).

One of the sequel’s ways to freshen its premise is one of its finer magic tricks – turning Isla Fisher’s Henley into Lizzy Caplan’s Lula. Fisher wasn’t able to reprise her role due to her pregnancy.

While likable, Henley was a weaker link among the Horsemen in terms of entertainment. Jesse Eisenberg’s J. Daniel Atlas and Woody Harrelson’s Merritt McKinney got the funnier lines and Henley’s most memorable moment was the escape from the piranha water tank.

Caplan’s Lula doesn’t have a truly memorable moment like the piranha tank, but she’s funny and her excitement to join the group is relatable. She has amusing distractions and tricks and sight gags – but Henley was the way more amazing magician.

Now You See Me 2 (3)

Woody Harrelson as Merrit McKinney in Now You See Me 2. (Source)

Jesse Eisenberg returns as the arrogant Daniel Atlas, still sarcastically witty and amusing but arrogant as ever. At least it helped me forget his performance in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice somewhat.

Harrelson is doubly funny as the mentalist McKinney, he’s having a lot of fun and it’s contagious watching because he’s so hilarious. An aspect of his diverse performance is a surprise I don’t want to spoil. Dave Franco returns as Jack Wilder – the trickster whose specialty is playing card tricks and sleight of hand.

In NYSM, audiences were shown too often how the film did its trick by magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). He can’t debunk so much now from a jail cell. In NYSM2, tricks are only explained when it’s detrimental to the story. It’s more mysterious and more like a magic show when we don’t know how they do what seems impossible.

The sequel balances comedy and strong well-edited and well-directed. Jon M. Chu takes the director’s chair from Louis Letterier – maintaining the similar visual style but a stronger focus for the story. They’re still vigilantes in some capacity, but they’re more-so trying to survive against their enemies.

It helps that they’ve gained a new horseman in Mark Ruffalo’s FBI agent Dylan Rhodes, who recruited the horsemen but was also chasing them in the last film.

Now You See Me 2 (2)

Jesse Eisenberg controls the weather as J. Daniel Atlas in Now You See Me 2. (Source)

Learning more about his backstory is intriguing as I liked learning more about the mystery of Lionel Shrike. I thought it was uninspired when Agent Cowan (David Warshofsky) automatically assumes he’s playing both sides even though there’s not much evidence to support the claim. I mean, he is playing both sides but is it just blind intuition?

The FBI are still after the Horsemen, this time led by Agent Cowan and Deputy Director Natalie Austin (Sanaa Lathan, Alien vs. Predator), who is one-note.

There’s not as many big twists this time, but the writing feels more concise and not as confusing. There’s still a wow factor with many of the tricks and the magic is maintained.

It’s a delight to see Daniel Radcliffe return to the wizarding world, this time in a different dynamic as the villainous Muggle, Walter Mabry. He employs the Horsemen to steal a powerful device from a heavily guarded lab for him. He’s a welcome addition to the ensemble.

The heist scene where the Horsemen attempt to steal it is compelling and well-edited, and one of the film’s coolest sequences. The practical effects are also really great. The heist caper still has enough magic up its sleeve to entertain for this sequel.

Score: 75/100

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Re-review of Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldReleased: January 18, 2008. Director: Matt Reeves. Stars: Lizzy Caplan, Jessica Lucas, T.J. Miller. Runtime: 85 min.

Dave over at Dave Examines Movies asked me some time ago to re-watch “Cloverfield.” He asked me to watch the movie in a different light; as he thought my score of 66 was a bit too low. I watched this on July 10th, I believe, when I was getting excited for “Pacific Rim.” I wanted to get a bit more excited for it, so I thought it was the best time to re-watch this, one of the only monster movies I own. I watched it with an open mind,

The film revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people.

It’s impressive to think that J.J. Abrams kept this project for what it truly was secret for so long (many thought it was another Godzilla movie), especially in a society where even J.K. Rowling’s pseudonym isn’t safe. It’s also an impressive directorial debut from Matt Reeves (“Let Me In” is a really good flick, too) and features some good writing from Drew Goddard. It’s rarely boring, and the movie doesn’t last too long — so that’s pretty good if the viewer isn’t liking it so much. I’m usually not a big fan of found footage movies, as I think a found footage flick gem comes around only so often (“Chronicle” is my favourite of the bunch), but the insane camerawork of this film captures the true chaos of this situation. They’re like real people, and this is a seriously terrifying situation, even if there aren’t many big scares. The tiny cast carries the film well.

This is a fun monster movie with a cool, you know, monster; even if I’m not sure I’ll re-visit it again after watching it twice. The ending is a bit too abrupt for my tastes, as well. Maybe I’ll have to check out some of those Godzilla movies soon, before that remake comes out next year. Admittedly, this does seem like a movie that gets better with each viewing, and it helps that I was in the mood for a monster flick.

Score75/100

Here’s my original review of “Cloverfield.”

Cloverfield (2008)

CloverfieldCloverfield

Release Date: January 18, 2008

Director: Matt Reeves

Stars: Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas, Lizzy Caplan

Runtime: 85 min

Tagline: Some thing has found us

Older review, written November 26, 2012. 

You all know how these found footage feautures work, right? Something attacks, everyone (probably) dies. Yup. That’s it, that’s all. That’s all she wrote.

Cloverfield revolves around a monster attack in New York as told from the point of view of a small group of people.

The cinematography is about as shaky as that of The Blair Witch Project. The story may not be that realistic, but it is still a pretty scary idea. Imagine this: You’re just partying, having a good time, and then there’s a crash outside. You go out to investigate, and there’s a big monster out there, and you think to yourself, “Holy crap! I thought I was in New York, not Tokyo!”

What if you get separated by your family and friends? You might not see them anymore because of this. That’s a scary thought.

Anyways, it’s action-packed and sort of thrilling, but at times it gets boring. I don’t dig these traditional stories that most found footage films offer. The formula is tired, and footage should just get sweeped under the rug for a little while. This one is just okay, but it brings a belief to so many other new filmmakers: “Hey, I could get a few million bucks and make my own movie… I’ll do that… It’ll be good…” No, young filmmakers, the joke’s on you! Once in a blue moon, a found footage horror flick is actually good. They’re usually bad, and you’ll probably produce that crappy one. So don’t. Please. At least for another ten years.

66/100

Did you know? The film begins on April 27 and ends on May 23 at the exact same time: 6.42 AM.