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Posts Tagged ‘Michael Caine’

now you see me movie posterOn Monday evening I attended a preview screening of a mystery movie at the Birmingham branch of a large cinema chain. This wasn’t an opening this weekend cynical attempt to distort the box-office, but a genuine preview of a movie that doesn’t open until for another two and half weeks. I have done this in the past when I have been invited to a preview screening and have seen some great films that I knew little or nothing about including Intacto (2001), The Pianist (2002) and The History Boys (2006). I have also seen some terrible movies that I wish I hadn’t seen including Party Monster (2003) and Dreamgirls (2006). This was different, it wasn’t an invitation only event, it was a well publicised packed house. While waiting for the for the movie to start I got talking to the person next to me, it turned out he actually worked for the cinema and even he didn’t know what the movie would be. He found out about five minutes before the res of us but was sworn to secrecy. When the movie was revelled I did wonder if the man wearing the “Games Games Games” T shirt and the man in the Facebook T’shirt already knew or if it was a coincidence. I took my usual place in the centre of the first row of stadium seating and noticed the front rows were filling quicker than the back rows as you would expect for a big movie. A true sign of a movie geek/loving audience! The other noticeable thing about audience was how well the followed “the code of conduct” there was no talking during the movie and little, noise/smell of food distracting from the enjoyment of the movie. I did wonder when booking by tickets how many people would turn up to see an unknown movie at 8:15 on a Monday evening, especially given the fact the weather outside had begun to resemble the summer that we are allegedly nearing the middle of. The aforementioned near full house, in one of the cinemas largest screens answered my question. So the experience was a good one but was the movie?

In a word yes. Don’t get me wrong, Now You See Me  isn’t a masterpiece that will live long in the memory, but it was a fun crowd-pleasing movie that was perfect for the occasion:

Four stage magicians/illusionists calling themselves The Four Horsemen appear to rob a bank in Paris without leaving the stage during a live performance is Las Vegas. An FBI agent and an Interpol detective team up to track them down with the help of a man who has made his name and fortune revealing and debunking magic tricks.Now You See Me The Four Horsemen

It comes as no surprise that director Louis Leterrier made his name with action movies (The Transporter 1&2, Unleashed, The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans). The movie only has a couple of ig set piece action scenes, but they are particularly well handled. The movie also plays out at a breakneck pace with its near tow hour running time flying buy. This has two effects, it keeps the audience interested but it also stops them thinking too much about the holes and implausibilities in the plot.now you see me Mark Ruffalo Mélanie Laurent

The cast is great with Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson having a lot of fun with the characters as does Mark Ruffalo. Mélanie Laurent is wasted but does what she can with in part that promises much but actually doesn’t do much. It’s a similar story with Isla Fisher and Dave (brother of James) Franco who only really have one good scene each away fro the stage shows. The supporting cast includes Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine who are perfect for there small but significant roles. The greatest issue with the movie is the fantastic cast; it helps highlight who thin and underwritten the characters are. The charisma and likeability of the actors prevents it form being a disaster. In lesser hands the audience would not buy into the movie of feel anything for the characters, however better characters could have resulted in a more memorable movie like The Sting (1973) or Oceans Eleven (2001 not 1960).Now You See Me Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine

As mentioned the plot is thin and implausible, but again it gets away with partly because of the cast, partly the pace but mainly because it packs so much into two hour. There are plenty of twists, turns and reveals, some you will see coming, others you probably won’t. This in itself is a clever metaphor for illusions and stage magic. The characters keep reminding us of distractions and illusions, so the overriding plot of the movie is a whodunit, that keeps reminding us that it is a whodunit.

How much you like the movie may depend of how much you saw coming, too much and it would be dull, too little and you just weren’t watching it, but ultimately it’s the performances particularly from Eisenberg and Harrelson that will win you over. I don’t give star rating any longer, if I did it would probably be a solid 3 out of 5. It isn’t the best movie I have seen this week, but it is one enjoyed and I will have no problem in recommending it to friends when it opens next month. And that can be the only reason for the preview screening. There were no questionnaires to be used for publicity purposes. The only reason I can see for the cinema previewing the movie is for word of mouth and to give something back to their most loyal customers, keeping them happy loyal.

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The Contenders are: 

Argo – A spy story based on real events following the storming of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. Ben Affleck has done it again, as both star and director he has given us a film completely different to but as good as if not even better than his first two films. Tense and funny in equal measure and at the right times, a future classic.Ben Affleck in Argo

Rust and Bone – Jacques Audiard follows up A Prophet with a bruising and brutal melodrama. Marion Cotillard is as great as ever as is her co star Matthias Schoenaerts. Sometimes oppressive and hard to watch, at others uplifting but always emotional. A film that needs to find a worldwide audience.Rust and Bone

The Sapphires – Pitched as Good, Morning Vietnam meets The Commitments, its probably a fair comparison. Loosely based on real events. A heavy drinking Irish cruise ship entertainer (Chris O’Dowd) finds himself in the middle of nowhere in Australian until he hooks up with an Aboriginal girl group. They soon find them selves entertaining American troops in Vietnam. A likeable cast and some great music make for an entertaining film.The Sapphires

Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – More of the same from the glittery vampires. Fans of the series will love it, detractors won’t see it. It isn’t the best of the series but its far from the worse.Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 2

The Master – Paul Thomas Anderson’s character study of people involved in a religion, cult or possibly religious cult that may or may not be based on L. Ron Hubbard and the Church of Scientology. The film looks nothing short of amazing and the performances from Philip Seymour Hoffman, Joaquin Phoenix and Amy Adams are all sensational. The film does lack a plot, this will bother some people not others. I like it but don’t love it.The Master

End of Watch – Written and directed by David Ayer,. Made up of little snippets of the daily life of a pair a of cops (perfectly cast Jake Gylleenhaal and Michael Pena) working one of the roughest beats in South Central LA. Director of The French Connection William Friedkin describes said of twitter “End of Watch is a great film…may be the best cop film ever”.End of Watch

Gambit – Colin Firth, Cameron Diaz and Alan Rickman star in a remake of the Michael Caine, Shirley MacLaine and Herbert Lom comedy crime caper. Lightweight and not clever enough to be a classic crime caper or funny enough to be a great farce but it is still entertaining and fun.Gambit

Silver Linings Playbook – Shortly after being released from a mental institution for beating up his wife’s lover Pat (Bradley Cooper) meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a damaged and disturbed young woman whose husband has recently been killed. After a string of crapy comedies Robert De Niro is on really good form but the star of the film is Jennifer Lawrence who electrifies the screen every time she is on it.Silver Linings Playbook

The best film I saw in November was probably Skyfall, that I went back to see a second time but a close second was a more believable spy film:Argo poster

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The Dark Knight Rises may turn out to be both the biggest and the best film of the year. Every movie fan with a virtual soapbox to stand on will review it in one way or another, I may do so myself some time in the future, but for now I will not. Instead I have decided to do something different. I am looking at the key players in the movie and picking out my favourite of their movies or performances excluding The Dark Knight Trilogy.

Christopher Nolan: The modern interpretation of the term masterpiece refers a pierce of art (in any medium) that is receives high critical praise and is often considered the pinnacle of the artists career. But the original, true meaning is very different. During the old European guild system, an apprentice wishing to graduate from a guild and become a master craftsman or member of their guild would have to produce a Masterpiece. If successful, the piece would be retained by the master or the guild. Using this theory, Following (1998) is Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece. An ultra low budget mystery, crime, thriller with no star names. This led to him making Memento (2000), a simple revenge, thriller that is elevated to a superior mystery by the ingenious idea of telling the story backwards. Using the same criteria, it could be argued that Following was a practice run and Memento is the true masterpiece. Taken on its own merits Insomnia (2002) is a great movie, it just isn’t as good as the Norwegian original. It is a worthy and justified remake that is sympathetic to the story of the original but has its own individual touches. You know how movies come in two’s, this year there are two Snow White movies, a few years ago there were to giant asteroid movies, 2006 was the year of the Victorian stage magicians. Neil Burger’s The Illusionist was good, Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige was much better. Legend has it that after The Dark Knight took a billion dollars Warner Bros let Nolan make any movie he liked. What he came up with was Inception (2010) a little art house movie disguised as a big budget studio blockbuster. Inception may well be his best (non Batman) film, but for introducing me and most of the rest of the world to his work I am declaring Memento to be both his masterpiece and finest hour for Christopher Nolan.

Wally Pfister: Cinematographer/Director of Photography Wally Pfister started out as a cameraman for a Washington news service before being given his first break by Robert Altman. He then enrolled in American Film Institute where a film he worked on was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film. Like so many great filmmakers, he received his first break as a Cinematographer from Roger Corman. Most of his notable works have been on Christopher Nolan films, he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography for Batman Begins, The Prestige, The Dark Knight finally winning for the movie that truly is his finest hour, Inception.

Christian Bale: Where do you start with Christian Bale? A child star in Empire of the Sun who found real fame in his late twenties. Noted for his extreme physical transformations for the movies The Machinist and Rescue Dawn, in I’m Not There, it is a tossup between him and Cate Blanchett as to who is the best “Dylan”. In 3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, The Fighter, Public Enemies and Terminator Salvation he gives more subtle and low key performances than his co stars, it is therefore a surprise that his finest hour is probably his most showy and over the top performance, Patrick Bateman in American Psycho.

Anne Hathaway: Many people know Anne Hathaway from her film début The Princess Diaries and can’t see beyond that. I first saw her in Havoc or Brokeback Mountain (saw them both around the same time) where despite all the praise going to Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal I thought the best performances came her and Michelle Williams. I was impressed enough to go and see The Devil Wears Prada and enjoyed it, but her finest hour is Rachel Getting Married. A family drama about a young woman who is released from rehab to attend her sisters wedding. A truly an amazing performance, her character is ultimately a miserable, selfish, narcissistic bitch but she also comes across as vulnerable, funny and sometimes even likable. 

Tom Hardy: I have seen many movies featuring Hardy and remember a great buzz about him around the time of Star Trek: Nemesis, but to be honest I really didn’t take notice until Bronson. Since then he has been brilliant in everything I have seen him in. as for his finest hour, it could easily be Warrior where his performance is monumental or Inception where he offers some great comic relief within an ensemble, but it has to be Bronson. 

Gary Oldman: How do you pick the finest hour from the thirty year career of an actor as talented as Oldman? Far more varied than you would think Oldman is at his best when he is wild and out of control, look back at Sid Vicious in Sid and Nancy, Stansfield in Leon and Beethoven in Immortal Beloved. That is why it may come as a surprise that his best performance may well be his most low key and economical performance, George Smiley in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. 

Michael Caine: Gary Olman’s career may be long but Michael Caine has been around for ever, certainly since before I was born. Many of his most notable performances came in the mid/late 60’s and early 70’s and include: Alfie, Sleuth, Zulu, Get Carter and The Ipcress File. He reinvented himself in more comic roles in the 80’s such as: Educating Rita, Without a Clue and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Outside Christopher Nolan movies, the pick of his 21st century movies are The Quiet American, Children of Men and Harry Brown, but for his finest hour, you need to go back to the 60’s for his iconic performance as Charlie Croker in The Italian Job.

Morgan Freeman: Freeman found fame relatively late in life. In his early fifties and after thirty years in the business, in a two year period he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy, Glory, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and The Bonfire of the Vanities. He makes a lot of movies, therefore there is a certain amount of crap in there too, but the highlights are very high, the include: Unforgiven, Se7en and Million Dollar Baby. His finest hour is probably The Shawshank Redemption. 

Marion Cotillard: A captivating actress who has been brilliant in every film I have ever seen her in. For many people she if best known for her Oscar winning portrayal of Edith Piaf in La vie en rose. Others will know her from her English language movies: Public Enemies, A Good Year, Big Fish and Nine. She was also memorable in Midnight in Paris and Inception. Although deep down I know her finest hour was as Edith Piaf in La vie en rose, I still go back to where I first saw her, Lilly, the long suffering but high maintenance girlfriend in Taxi (and its first two sequels).

Joseph Gordon-Levitt: The former child actor found fame as a teenager in the TV show 3rd Rock from the Sun. his most notable movie appearances from this time is probably 10 Things I Hate About You. He went on to appear in: Havoc (along side future Dark Knight Rises co-star Anne Hathaway) and earned acclaim in Mysterious Skin Stop-Loss and The Lookout. In recent years he has impressed in 500 Days of Summer, 50/50 and Inception, but his finest hour is still the high school noir Brick. 

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