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Now You See Me (film)

Now You See Me is a 2013 heist flick, but with magicians instead of bank robbers. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco star as The Four Horsemen, street magicians who were brought together by a mysterious benefactor. They have a hugely successful show in Las Vegas, but they really hit the big time when they seemingly rob a bank in Paris during one of their shows. This gets the attention the FBI and Interpol, and then it becomes a cat and mouse game as The Four Horsemen attempt a few more magical robberies while the authorities try to figure how to stop them.

There’s lots of plot twists and shocking character revelations, but it’s a pretty by the numbers caper film. It’s kind of like Ocean’s Eleven meets The Prestige. There are multiple heists, people on both sides trying to outwit each other, and there’s an over the top action sequence that seems totally out of place. It’s an entertaining flick, but it’s pretty hollow. They use to many computer-generated special effects. They should have stuck to practical effects like how real stage magicians perform their tricks. At one point Isla Fisher floats around the stage in a CG bubble. That’s not a trick and that’s not impressive.

And there are way too many characters to keep track of or care about. Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent play the cops tracking down The Four Horsemen. Morgan Freeman plays a rival magician who exposes tricks and who helps the authorities. Michael Caine plays an Insurance magnate and the sponsor of The Four Horsemen with a shady past. Common has a supporting role as an FBI supervisor.

Now You See Me is just another Hollywood blockbuster that pretends to be smarter than it is. And it’s getting a sequel. It’s a franchise now. Bank robbing magician flicks are suddenly a genre. What is the world coming to?

Critically Rated at 11/17

Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young

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The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is the second film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. It’s also the first Batman movie that doesn’t have Batman in the title. There’s your random fact for the day. Christian Bale returns as the Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Aaron Eckhart and Heath Ledger join the cast as Harvey Dent and the Joker. This might be the best comic book movie to date.

Less than a year after the events of Batman Begins, The Batman has become a symbol to the citizens of Gotham, inspiring less-than-qualified Batman wannabes to don Batarmor and fight crime. The different gangs and mobsters are afraid of the Batman. A new villain called the Joker has showed up in Gotham City and he knows how to wreak some havoc. He stages an elaborate bank heist at a mob-controlled bank and the criminal underworld starts to take notice of this wacko with clown makeup.

Batman and Lieutenant James Gordon (Gary Oldman) are still having a fun time rounding up mobsters and cleaning up the streets. After one fight involving the Scarecrow (Cillian Murphy) and some vicious dogs, Batman upgrades his Batsuit. Bruce Wayne’s personal life isn’t going so well. The love of his life Rachel Dawson is currently in a relationship with Harvey Dent. And she used to look like Katie Holmes but now she looks like Maggie Gyllenhaal. Times are tough all around. Bruce begins to get over his disdain for Harvey Dent because he realizes that Harvey’s image can save Gotham.

The Joker begins taking over the various mobs one by one. He starts causing more and more chaos. He threatens to kill a civilian each day until Batman reveals his true identity. He targets a judge, the police commissioner and Harvey Dent. The judge and police commissioner both die, but Batman saves Harvey from the Joker. One out of three isn’t too bad but this is saving lives, not baseball.

The Joker does more bad things, like almost killing the mayor, shooting RPGs at Harvey Dent and cop cars, kidnapping Harvey and Rachel and making Batman choose which one to save, and making Harvey Dent go crazy and become Two-Face.

He also blows up a hospital too, because, hey, why not?

Two-Face blames Batman and the newly promoted Commissioner Gordon for ruining his life. He’s ok with the Joker because his coin said he was cool I guess. He’s out for revenge and wants Gordon to feel his pain.

The Joker rigs two ferries with bombs. One ferry is filled with civilians; the other is filled with inmates from Arkham. Each ferry has a detonator to make the other ferry explode and they have a choice to blow up the other ferry first, or both ferries will blow up at midnight. While the ferry occupants are busy philosophizing the morality of murdering others to save themselves, Batman is busy tracking down and then beating up the Joker. Two-Face is busy with trying to ruin Gordon’s life while all this is going on. It’s a very busy climax. There’s a lot going on.

It ends with Batman taking the blame for Harvey Dent/Two-Face’s crimes. Batman and Gordon decide that it’s more important to preserve Harvey Dent as a symbol of hope. The Joker was out to prove that even the best person can become corrupted and evil. The Joker was right, the Joker won. But Batman cheated and took the blame. That’s not a happy ending. They basically are saying fuck the truth and let the sheep live a lie.

The Joker is one of the most iconic and notorious villains of all time. Heath Ledger steals the movie. Too bad he had to go and die. That was kind of selfish if you ask me. There’s one line that bugs me though, “Do I really look like a guy with a plan?” Yes. Yes, you do. The Joker has a lot of elaborate schemes. He had to plan it out. You can’t just improvise a bank like in the opening sequence. He manipulated Harvey Dent and twisted his mind and essentially made him his puppet. So he can rant all he wants to about how doesn’t have a plan or that he’s not a schemer, but he’s definitely a planning schemer.

Christopher Nolan created a masterpiece. This is a movie about a tortured guy facing agonizing decisions. He just dresses up like a bat and punches bad guys under the cover of darkness. Christian Bale does a great job as Bruce Wayne, but I still hate his Batman voice. Aaron Eckhart is decent as Harvey Dent but he’s nothing spectacular. Heath Ledger’s performance makes The Dark Knight a classic. If you only see one Batman movie in your life, you should see the Adam West version, but if you see two, this should be one of them.

Critically Rated at 15/17

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The Dark Knight Rises

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy reaches its stunning conclusion in The Dark Knight Rises. Batman has been MIA for eight years and Gotham City needs a hero. A new villain named Bain wants to destroy Gotham and Batman can have none of that nonsense. The Dark Knight must rise to the occasion. Christian Bale returns as Batman/Bruce Wayne, and Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, and Gary Oldman reprise their characters. Joining the cast is Anne Hathaway as Catwoman/Selina Kyle, Tom Hardy as Bane, Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as John Blake.

The movie begins 8 years after the events of the second movie. Batman has been retired and Bruce Wayne is a recluse. A terrorist with a terrifying mask and a shady past is bent on terrorizing Gotham with acts of terror to terrify the citizens. Tom Hardy plays Bane and he is a badass. He is evil personified. He is super strong and super smart and super evil. And he’s got a grudge against Batman.

Bruce Wayne has neglected Wayne Enterprises and himself. Everything in his life is in shambles, he’s lost track of who he is. One day he stumbles across a cat burglar (Anne Hathaway) stealing his mother’s pearls and copies of his fingerprints for some reason. The cat burglar’s real name is Selina Kyle and she sells Bruce’s fingerprints to a shady businessman named Dagget.

Meanwhile a young cop named John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) recognizes the deceased body of a young orphan found in the sewers. He goes to visit the orphanage and finds out that there are rumors of employment in the sewers. It turns out Bane and his terrorist army have established a nice little base in the pipes beneath the city. Commissioner Gordon ends up down in Bane’s lair and escapes but nearly dies in the process. The only person who believes his story of a masked lunatic in the sewers is John Blake.

Blake and Gordon want Bruce Wayne to don the cape and come back. He’s reluctant at first, but a visit to Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and a showcase of all the new toys and technology start to make him change his mind. Alfred (Michael Caine) doesn’t want Bruce to be Batman again. He is afraid that Bruce wants to fail.

Bane launches an attack on the stock exchange and that’s enough incentive to bring Batman back out of the shadows. There’s an awesome chase scene involving bad guys on motorcycles with hostages, Batman on his Batpod, and hundreds of police vehicles trying to capture the Bat. Of course he escapes in spectacular fashion, he’s the goddamn Batman.

Dagget used Bruce’s fingerprints as part of a scheme that bankrupts Bruce and makes him lost control of Wayne Enterprises. Bruce is able to have Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard) take over the company. Dagget is pissed that his plot backfired and has a little hissy fit and bitches at Bane. Bane reveals that he doesn’t work for Dagget, and that Dagget is just a pawn in his game. And then he kills Dagget for good measure.

Batman confronts Bane in the sewers and they have a fight. Batman gets the shit beat out of him. Bane breaks his back and dumps him in a foreign prison. Bane starts to implement his terrorist plans on Gotham. I don’t want to get into specifics, but it’s an epic takeover and it looks pretty bleak for Gotham and Batman.

The Dark Knight must rise from his prison and return to Gotham, but he will need help. Luckily he’s not alone. Commissioner Gordon, John Blake, and Selina Kyle also rise to the occasion. Hopefully good will triumph over evil.

This is one of the best comic book movies to date. I don’t think it’s quite as good as The Dark Knight. In fact, I don’t think it’s even the best superhero movie this summer. The Amazing Spider-Man and The Avengers are both great candidates for that title. They are more fun. Christopher Nolan’s world is really dark and gloomy. There’s no joy, there’s no humor. They closest thing to a joke is when Batman is talking to Catwoman and she suddenly disappears and he quips “So that’s what that feels like.” Nolan spends so much time trying to make a realistic Batman that it’s disappointing when you see stupid Hollywood clichés, like when Gordon drops the signal jammer and it’s slightly out of reach or how Selina Kyle can ride the Batpod just as good as Batman without any practice. Maybe she’s a great driver, maybe Bruce just sucks.

The hardest part of the movie for me to watch was the attack on the stadium. Prior to the attack there’s a young boy singing the National Anthem. It was the first time that I’ve heard it since the Aurora Twelve massacre. The movie theater is supposed to be a sanctuary from the world, a place of escape, a place to be safe from reality. And from now on there will always be a little bit of hesitation in the back of your mind about going to the cinema. But I felt like I had to see this movie. It’s important to live your life and not be afraid. That’s one of the themes of the film.

Quick spoiler: at the end Batman takes the nuclear bomb away from Gotham and it explodes over the ocean. Disaster averted, Gotham wasn’t blown up. But now everyone will get radiation poisoning and die of cancer. That’s not a happy ending.

The reappearance of Batman is awesome. There’s no big flashy entrance, there’s no lame montage of putting on the suit… he just suddenly shows up in the suit in the middle of a pursuit and Joel Schumacher should take notes.

Bane is a terrifying villain. He is Batman’s equal but leans toward the evil side. Tom Hardy does a great job and I predict several years of typecasting for him. I’m looking forward to it.

The Dark Knight Rises is a great film and it’s worth seeing. You might feel awkward about it; you might feel guilty about it. The Aurora Twelve incident with always be associated with this movie and you don’t want to talk about it, but you have to acknowledge it. Seeing this movie is a way to honor their memories and to move forward. Movies are an escape, we can’t be afraid to enjoy them. Seeing this movie is a way to say that you won’t be afraid.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Glory

Glory is based on the true story of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the first formal US Army unit made up of black soldiers. And Hollywood is racist, so Matthew Broderick plays the main character. Edward Zwick (The Last Samurai) directs and Morgan Freeman, Denzel Washington, and Cary Elwes costar in one of the better movies set during the US Civil War.

Captain Robert Gould Shaw (Ferris Bueller) is the son of abolitionists and is currently fighting in the Civil War for the Union Army. He gets injured in a battle and goes home to Boston where he gets promoted to Colonel and assumes control over the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He recruits his friend Cabot Forbes (Cary Elwes) to be his second-in-command. He’s also white. The first black guy who joins them is Thomas (Andre Braugher), a childhood friend of Cabot and Shaw’s.

A bunch of men join the unit for a chance to fight, to prove themselves both honorable and equal. Denzel Washington plays Trip, an escaped slave with a chip on his shoulder for understandable reasons. Jihmi Kennedy plays Jupiter Sharts, a free black man who seems naïve and innocent compared to Trip. Morgan Freeman plays Rawlins, who plays the wise old mentor figure who can still kick some ass.

Shaw’s tasked with getting the 54th into fighting shape, something that’s not easy to do. The men train and bond and establish their characters and relationships. They have to fight for boots, rifles, and uniforms. The men work hard and improve, but it becomes clear that they aren’t likely to see any action on account of all the racism.

Shaw blackmails his commanding officers and gets his men to the front lines. They win a small skirmish in South Carolina. And Shaw volunteers the 54th to lead a suicide assault on Fort Wagner. Not to ruin anything, but they pretty much all die. It was a suicide assault after all.

Robert Shaw was a real guy. He really did command the 54th infantry. The movie has to include him. But Shaw is a shitty main character. He is kind of racist but not really. He’s kind of a coward but not really. He just kind of stands around and occasionally does something to advance the plot, but he seems to just be plodding along. All of the good scenes are about Trip, Rawlins, Thomas, and Jupiter. They are the heart of the movie. A movie about a black army unit should focus on the black army unit.

Morgan Freeman is always good, and this movie is no exception. But Denzel Washington steals the show. Trip is a great character. The scene where he gets whipped for desertion is hard to watch, but you can’t turn away. You feel his pain.

The battle scenes are explosive, violent, bloody, and realistic. Edward Zwick knows how to balance out riveting action sequences with quieter and more reflective scenes. This is a great movie, it’s a classic. You watch it and you want to learn more about the 54th. Those brave soldiers fought with courage and honor and deserve to be remembered. They should be the focus of the film, not their white leader.

Critically Rated at 14/17

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Bruce Almighty

Tom Shadyac (Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar Liar) directs this religious comedy about a guy who criticizes God and gets all His powers for a week to see if he can do a better job. Jim Carrey is Bruce Nolan, a TV reporter who thinks he is better than he is. He doesn’t get a promotion and he has a hissy fit and he ends up with godlike powers that he uses for selfish reasons before learning not to be selfish and losing his godlike powers. People in Hollywood do a lot of drugs.

Bruce Nolan is a reporter who hopes to be an anchorman, but nobody takes him seriously because he does human-interest stories and flails about like Jim Carrey. He lives with his girlfriend Grace (Jennifer Aniston) and has a pretty decent life but he doesn’t seem to realize it and he complains all the time. His co-worker Evan (Steve Carell) gets promoted to anchorman and Bruce has a little breakdown and challenges God.

God arranges a meeting between the two of them, and Bruce meets God face to face. God looks a lot like Morgan Freeman. God gives Bruce his powers for one week. The only rules are that he can’t tell anyone that he’s God and he can’t interfere with free will.

Bruce uses his powers to get revenge on people who wronged him, to get laid, to get promoted, to get famous… he pretty much abuses his powers in every way possible. He becomes aware that he can hear people praying and asking for help. He starts to help them out but then he decides it’s easier to just say yes to their prayers rather than paying attention to what they are wishing.

Bruce’s actions have consequences. And he’s God, so his actions have really big consequences. Bad things start to happen, both in Bruce’s personal life and with the rest of the world. Grace leaves Bruce and Bruce tries to get her back, but he can’t interfere with free will, so his attempts to get her back don’t work.

Bruce eventually realizes that being God is kind of hard and maybe he shouldn’t be so critical. And wouldn’t you know it, but he gets a second chance with Grace. So you can do everything wrong and fuck up the world and still get a second chance at happiness because you deserve it, damn it.

This movie is funny and it made a lot of money, but it’s not one of Jim Carrey’s better movies. Religious comedies are a weird genre of cinema, but Life of Brian is the best one. Bruce Almighty is too family friendly to be funny.

They made a shitty sequel with Steve Carell’s character called Evan Almighty. I’m surprised they haven’t made a shittier sequel with Morgan Freeman’s character called God Almighty.

This movie has some good scenes, but Bruce isn’t a likeable main character. Grace should have left him. He is an asshole. He becomes totally powerful and uses that power to instinctively help himself. He is a selfish motherfucker and Evan deserved the raise over Bruce from the start.

If an ordinary guy became God, no doubt crazy shit would happen. And some weird stuff does happen in this movie, but they could have done a lot more. There are infinite ideas to explore and it seems like they were holding themselves back to be more of a kid’s movie. Tom Shadyac used to make movies where Jim Carrey talked out of his butthole… they definitely lost some edge.

Critically Rated at 9/17

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The Shawshank Redemption

Some movies transcend the big screen and will change your life. The Shawshank Redemption is one of those movies. The first time you see it you want to run around shouting about it and share it with the world. Frank Darabont directs this adaptation of a short Stephen King novella, and Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman headline the amazing cast. Tim Robbins plays Andy Dufresne, a hotshot banker who gets locked up for killing his wife and her lover.

Andy’s not cut out for prison. He doesn’t belong there, he kind of strolls around like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He maintains his innocence, but so do all the other prisoners except for Red (Morgan Freeman), the only guilty man in Shawshank. Andy and Red form a friendship, and he makes a few more friends as well. Tim Robbins does a great job, but Morgan Freeman steals every scene that he’s in, plus he narrates the movie (which is always awesome cause his voice is like sexual chocolate).

Prison life kinda sucks. Especially when you’re constantly getting man-raped by the Sisters. And when the corrupt warden relies on your prodigious banking skills to launder money. And when a sadistic guard will beat the shit out of anyone for any reason. And when you’re getting thrown into solitary confinement for months at a time.

Despite a few minor setbacks like those, Andy is able to maintain his sanity when a lesser man would break. He finds flashes of freedom by celebrating the little things in life. He makes a deal with the guard and gets a few bottles of beer and Morgan Freeman goes, “We sat and drank with the sun on our shoulders and felt like free men. Hell, we could have been tarring the roof of one of our own houses. We were the lords of all creation. As for Andy, he spent that break hunkered in the shade, a strange little smile on his face, watching us drink his beer.” Another memorable part is when he broadcasts the opera music over the loudspeaker and all the prisoners drop what they are doing and listen in silence. Little victories like these make you all warm and fuzzy inside like an Irish coffee in the shower.

Some of the happier moments are really inspirational, and you kinda want to go to prison. Then you remember the man-rapes and realize you’re stupid.

The Shawshank Redemption

So here comes a little spoiler: Andy actually is innocent. He’s just a victim of circumstance. He also escapes at the end. Oh yeah, another spoiler. Not only does he escape, he escapes in spectacular fashion. It’s not super spectacular, there’s no ninjas or exploding hot air balloons, but it’s a memorable reveal that blows your mind the first time you see it.

Most chicks don’t like prison movies. But they like this movie. That’s because it’s not really a prison movie. It just takes place in a prison. It’s about a man who finds freedom, hope, and happiness within himself. So even though he’s trapped he’s free. Brooks (the decrepitly old inmate) got institutionalized, and when he finally got released he couldn’t handle the world. He had no friends, no family, no hope. He was trapped in his freedom, and took his own life. Red is going down the same path as Brooks, but Andy’s friendship saved him. You have two choices: get busy living or get busy dying.

The Shawshank Redemption is one of the best movies of all time. Go to IMDB and see for yourself. It’s practically a perfect picture. If you don’t like this movie you have no soul.

Critically Rated at 16/17

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