Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Now You See Me Movie Review

First published at Mostly Movies on 11 June 2013.

It opens with an impressive magic trick – one that is played on you, the movie audience – as Jesse Eisenberg, playing street magician Daniel Atlas plies a card trick for both his fictional street audience and the camera. I will admit to having been duped by the card trick even though I knew it was really a trick of digital effects more than anything else. That, unfortunately, is the method behind most of the magic in Now You See Me, a movie about magicians pulling off one of the greatest tricks in history that fails to enthrall as magic and just barely holds up even as movie magic.

Monday, June 10, 2013

From My Collection: Thirteen Days Movie Review

The Kennedys are a mythologized family and political dynasty. The brothers John F. and Robert, because of their tragic and untimely deaths through assassination, are lionized more than almost any other political figure of the last century. Because they also had distinctive accents, speech patterns, and styles, it’s difficult to portray them on film without resorting to some form of ghastly imitation. Roger Donaldson’s 2000 film Thirteen Days, about the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, gets the casting so right for their roles that at times you almost forget you’re watching icons. You’re really seeing these characters, these men, trying to avert nuclear war and the destruction of life as we know it.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

From My Collection: Before Sunset Movie Review

The way Before Sunset improves upon its predecessor is simply marvelous. Before Sunrise is well-regarded for its excellent writing, interesting and intelligent conversations, and romanticism. The sequel has all of that plus more relaxed and self-assured performances from Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, and a more mature level of discussion and philosophy that is, at least for the moment, closer to my own ways of thinking now that I am roughly the same age as Jesse and Celine.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Japan Qualifies

I missed it the other day, but Japan became the first team apart from host nation Brazil to qualify for next year's World Cup. That leaves 113 nations vying for 30 spots.

Both Uzbekistan and South Korea (playing each other) can qualify with a win on the 11th.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Scream 4 Movie Review

You might have thought enough time had passed between Scream 3 (which presumably closed out a trilogy) and Scream 4 (which attempted to cash in on the resurgence of the horror genre) that writer Kevin Williamson could have found a newly fresh take on the genre. The first film in the series was undoubtedly remarkable for managing to skewer the genre, calling attention to itself and its absurd tropes, and at the same time be a skillfully crafted addition to the horror canon thanks to the direction of Wes Craven. Craven returned to helm the third sequel, which would suggest a belief somewhere that it was worth returning to the franchise more than a decade later.

The action returns to the original fictional town of Woodsboro, where the next generation of teenagers has grown up on post-ironic horror films as well as the fictional Stab series which is supposed to be based on the events of the Scream films. Scream 4 opens promisingly, although you don’t realize it for several minutes. A hackneyed dialogue between two teenage girls as they receive threatening phone calls and Facebook messages from a stalker is revealed to be the opening of Stab 6, being watched by two other young women (one of them played by Anna Paquin), which is then revealed as the opening of Stab 7 being watched by two teenagers who are, in fact, characters in Scream 4. Ignoring the metaphysical paradox when you work out the logic, it is an opening that outdoes itself.

Frances Ha Movie Review

Noah Baumbach came up as a filmmaker during the early 90s indie boom. His Kicking and Screaming is not only a personal little love letter to life after liberal arts college (Baumbach went to Vassar), but a wonderful addition to the stream of interesting indie hits of that era. Since then he’s been sporadic in his artistic success and has occasionally gone wider in scope and employed big names like Jeff Daniels and Ben Stiller in his films. But with Frances Ha he triumphantly returns to the creative fertile grounds of that 1990s indie style.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

25 Years Ago This Month: June 1988

Three of the films that opened in June '88 went on to make the top 5 box office for the year.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? was the big tent pole release of the month. Robert Zemeckis expertly fused live action scenes with animated characters in a way that wasn't gimicky. The story is well-crafted and provides the cartoons something to do other than be an annoying distraction.

Short Cut Movie Review from My Collection: Before Sunrise

Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.

I originally missed the big brouhaha over Before Sunrise in 1995. I was in high school and many of my friends went nuts for it. It barely interested me then, perhaps specifically because so many of my friends were so gaga. I’ve always tended to reject, sight unseen, anything that generates such feverish fandom. Then over the years it slowly cemented its place in the cultural pantheon of independent film. Then Richard Linklater made a sequel and I decided it was finally time to take a look at it.