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Posts Tagged ‘Woody Harrelson’

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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Around five years ago a book that I love was made into a $200million movie that I hate. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say I love Suzanne Collins’s Hunger Games Books but I do like them and hope they don’t go the way of The Golden Compass the mess that was made of Northern Lights, the first part of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy.

In a dystopian future version of the United States, the country of Panem is split into twelve districts whose only purpose is to serve the people of the decadent capitol. In response to an uprising many years before, each year, two young people from every district are chosen to for the Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death. When her sister is chosen, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) volunteers to take her place, and is sent to the capital along with her and fellow District 12 “tribute” Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). The skills Katnis has learnt as a hunter and poacher may be the thing that keeps her alive in the games.

A faithful and loving adaptation that successfully traverses the tightrope of what to cut and what to include. But it takes more than being faithful, it needs to be good, and The Hunger Games is very good. It is most likely helped by the fact that original author Suzanne Collins is amongst the script writers. The greatest challenge is how to adapt the first person narration of the novel to something more cinematic. This is achieved effortlessly with the addition of a pair of commentators (Stanley Tucci and Toby Jones) who provide exposition and explanation for those who haven’t read the books.

The casting is perfect; it is possibly because of the parallels with Ree Dolly, her character from Winter’s Bone but I can’t think of anyone other than Jennifer Lawrence who could have played Katniss. But it goes beyond that, Stanley Tucci, Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland and Paula Malcomson (who was great in Deadwood) are all perfect. I struggled to imagine Woody Harrelson as Haymitch, but as always with Harrelson he pulls it off. But as with the book it is all about Katniss, Lawrence’s performance is note perfect showing fear and emotion as a reluctant hero. The filmmakers aren’t afraid to make our heroine socially awkward and sometimes cold and distant. It is this that humanises the character making her more likeable.

A film about kids killing each other in was never going without violence and it is very much in evidence but a 12A (PG13 in America) certificate is needed for the target audience. This is achieved by not showing the audience quite as much as we think we are seeing, it is a tried and trusted and surprisingly effective trick. Coupled with a minimum use of blood it works and the movie gets a teenage friendly rating without feeling watered down. There are couple of pacing issues, there is a lot to fit in and it does rush through parts of the story then sags a little in the middle, but this is quickly forgotten when the games begin. When it comes, the action is well constructed and paced but not as plentiful as the trailer would have you believe. It is a surprisingly thoughtful movie spending little time talking about the immorality and unfairness of the class structure leaving the audience to draw its own conclusions.

A resounding success that is better than the first two Harry Potter movies and all the Twilight adaptations to date. A film that should satisfy fans of the books and newcomers alike.

With a budget of around $100million the movie needs to be a financial success for parts two and three to be made. With an opening weekend that could exceed £200million (worldwide) it’s a safe bet that we will be seing Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the next few years. My only fear, the first was by far the strongest of the books with the last been the weakest. To create a successful and memorable trilogy they are going to have to get creative with the script and possible invest a bit more money on the effects for parts two and three.

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New movies seen at the cinema this month:

Chronicle – Three highs school students develop telekinetic abilities, but what will they do with them? A surprisingly good low budget movie, the found footage element is unnecessary and holds the narrative back especially in the finale.

Carnage – Two New York couple meet in one of their apartments to discuss a fight between their eleven year old sons. The amicable facade soon fades and is replaced by outright hostility. There is some great acting particularly from Christoph Waltz but the movie fails to rise above its theatrical origins.

Young Adult – Following her divorce, a “young adult” fiction writer returns to her Minnesota hometown aiming to hook up with her high school boyfriend who is now happily married and has a newborn daughter. A fantastic script from Diablo Cody gives Charlize Theron a platform resulting in an outstanding performance.

Man on a Ledge – A police psychologist is sent to talk an escaped convict (who claims to be innocent of the crime he was convicted for) off the ledge of a Manhattan hotel. If you have seen the trailer you probably know the rest of the story. Unoriginal and predictable but generally good fun. The only real problem Jamie Bell and Genesis Rodriguez in supporting roles are far more interesting than Sam Worthington and Elizabeth Banks.

The Woman in Black – Daniel Radcliffe breaks from Harry Potter with an old fashioned haunted house movie that is notable for been the best movie from the resurrected Hammer. Atmospheric and haunting movie with a well balanced threat of melancholy running through it.

A Dangerous Method – The origins of psychoanalysis told through the relationship of pioneers in the field Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud. Intriguing and interesting with fantastic performances but lacking purpose, direction and depth.

Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance – The sequel to 2007’s Ghost Rider is a slight improvement on the terrible original but is still an incoherent mess. Nicolas Cage’s over the top performance is fun but the film falls flat as does the poor and pointless 3D.

Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – A socially awkward nine-year-old searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key that belonged to his father, who died in the World Trade Centre. Not as bad as some reviews you would have you believe but certainly not deserving its pest picture Oscar nomination.

Rampart – Set against the Rampart scandal in late 90’s LA and telling the story of an old school cop who doesn’t let the law get in the way of his way of doing things. A week narrative, a sloppy structure and lack of focus hinder what could have been a compelling watch. As it is, the main reason to see the movie is a fantastic performance from Woody Harrelson.

I am honestly torn this month as there are three movies I loved. Chronicle, I had no expectations for but really enjoyed. The Woman in Black, a supremely well made chiller that dispels the myth that they don’t make them like the used to. But just edging it to be the movie of the month: Young Adult, largely for the Oscar worthy performance from Charlize Theron.

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