Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Movie Review: World War Z (PG13 – 116 minutes)

Officially, the term ‘zombie’ refers to a re-animated corpse resurrected by mystical means, such as witchcraft, or more commonly, voodoo. They seemed to originate in West Africa as well as Creole/Carribbean traditions.   Zombies have a long and storied cinema history beginning with 1932’s White Zombie, starring Bela Lugosi.  It is regarded as the first legitimate zombie film, and uses the voodoo theme for its zombies.  In 1968, George A. Romero brought zombies back to the forefront with the release of his Night of the Living Dead (it was also significant in that it had a black hero in actor Duane Jones's Ben – which was uncommon at the time).  Essentially a group of people take refuge in a farm house and attempt to fend off an attack by reanimated corpses who are out to eat brains.

Drifting away from the mystical origins, a more virus-based origin has been popularized lately due to 28 Days Later, the Resident Evil movies/games - and most recently The Walking Dead (the graphic novels of which were published prior to 28 Days Later release, so while the openings to both were similar - you can argue about which came first).

This explanation, while still giving zombies a supernatural flair, makes them far more believable.  It has also led to the idea of a ‘zombie apocalypse’, in which the outbreak spreads so quickly that society and government breaks down, leaving survivors to struggle to stay alive in small groups. 

World War Z started as a book that was released in 2006.  It was several accounts of the zombie war by various survivors across the globe.  It was optioned to turn into a movie by Brad Pitt’s Plan B company in 2006, but then went through many script issues between then and when filming  began in 2011.  Because the book is a collection of first account tales, turning into a movie proved difficult.  It was originally supposed to be released on 12/21/12, but got pushed back to June of 2013.  This also changed the tone of the movie, as they originally wanted a mainly small character driven drama, and it is now more of summer action movie. 

Gerry Lane is an ex-UN investigator who has retired from his job to spend more time with his family.  He and his wife are driving with their children in Philadephia when scene you’ve seen in every trailer happens.  There is mass panic and a lot of running as zombies begin to take over the city.  The audience shares Gerry’s point of view as he notices what is happening, and counts a 10 second time lapse on the transition of those bitten.  As they escape, one of the daughters is having an asthma attack, so they stop at a drugstore that is being big-time looted to pick up some medication.  While in there, they split up (what? Have they never seen any horror movie?) to gather supplies.  A very creepy dude with a gun is hanging out in the pharmacy – who is apparently the pharmacist.  He gives them the medicine and slowly backs up into the shadows.  Meanwhile, the other daughter is screaming while crashing through the store in a shopping cart – because the wife is being attacked.  Gerry shoots the attacker, only to have a cop come towards him, but then ignore him, as he is there to grab supplies.  Sorry for the unnecessary details about this scene – but it was disturbing and weird; well done, just weird.  The RV they stole has been stolen so they head to some nearby apartment buildings.  They take refuge in an apartment with a couple and their young son.  They spend the night there, as Gerry gets in touch with his former boss, the Deputy Secretary of the UN, who is sending a helicopter to pick them up.  Gerry tries to get the family to come with them, but they refuse.  They head up to the roof as the zombies swarm up the staircase. 
They are airlifted to a fleet of ships, where Gerry’s boss asks for his help.  Gerry declines, saying he needs to stay with his family; however, he’s told that there’s no room on the ship for extra bodies, and his family will be put back into the city unless he helps.  He meets with Dr. Fassbach, who is convinced the outbreak it viral.  He takes a satellite phone and gives another to his wife, promising to call her every day.  They head to South Korea, where a memo with the word ‘zombie’ originated.  Upon arrival, Dr. Fassbach promptly accidentally shoots himself (well, he proved useless – thank goodness he explained some things on the flight over) and Gerry meets with soldiers who explain what they witnessed. He then encounters a half-crazed (or all crazed) CIA prisoner who is rambling that North Korea is safe, because they all removed their teeth (no teeth = no biting = no spread of the virus).  He also says that there is a doctor in Jerusalem who knew it was coming – and that Jerusalem built a wall around the city – and they are safe.  Gerry gets back in his plane and heads to Jerusalem.  He finds Dr. Jurgen Warmbrunn who built a wall; because he received word that in India they were fighting the ‘undead’. 
The wall keeps the dead out, but as more survivors are coming in, they are getting louder and louder, attracting the zombies to a specific point at the wall, at which point they build that impressive zombie pile you’ve seen in all the trailers (at least it makes more sense in the movie, because they’re drawn by the sound).  They spill over the top, wiping out the city.  Gerry escapes with the help of Segen, an Israeli soldier who gets bitten on the hand, but he cuts off her hand to stop the spread of the infection.  As they run for the airport, he notices zombie swarms avoiding select individuals. 
They board the plane; he re-dresses her wound, and instructs the pilot to head to a W.H.O. facility in Wales, because he’s forming an idea on how to deal with this.  Things are going well until a stray zombie is revealed to be hiding in the airplane dumbwaiter, and it immediately begins infecting people from the back of the plane forward in a truly exciting and terrifying scene.  He and Segen throw a grenade after strapping in; blowing a hole in the airplane that sucks the zombies out into the air.  They crash, they survive, except that he gets a large metal bit shoved through his abdomen.  They walk to the W.H.O. building (apparently they knew exactly where they crashed and how to get to the building).  They arrive, he collapses, and he wakes up three days later.  Meanwhile, on the ship, Thierry (Gerry’s boss) realizes they’ve lost the plane, and they don’t hear from Gerry – so the wife and kids are sent to a camp in Nova Scotia.  Gerry wakes up, and explains that his thought is to infect people with a disease, because the zombies are basically a virus that is looking for a healthy host, so they completely ignore sick or ailing people.  The W.H.O. staff agree it’s a good plan, except that all their virus samples are down in the other wing, which is filled with zombies (of course).  Gerry, Segen, and one of the W.H.O. doctors head down into the wing to get the samples.  Segen and the doctor draw all the zombies away, while Gerry gets to the virus room, but can’t get out because there’s a zombie at the door – clicking its teeth in a comical manner (really?).  He infects himself with something (SARS, or H1N1, we’re not sure), but then is able to walk past all the zombies.  We then get a final montage of soldiers now able to walk amongst the zombies and kill them while Gerry takes a boat to his family – with his voice over that “this isn’t the end”. 
Director Marc Forster has previously done Machine Gun Preacher, Quantum of Solace, Stranger than Fiction, Finding Neverland, and Monster’s Ball.  He does a good job with this movie, and I really enjoyed when we got to see things through Gerry’s point of view as he observes things about the zombies, how they behave, and how they turn.  I thought that was unique and interesting.  I really enjoyed the global aspect of the movie, and following Gerry as he followed the clues around the globe.  So – my favorite parts were the things I am unable to see on the Walking Dead weekly.  As fascinating as the swarms of zombies were, I sometimes felt the CGI wasn’t that believable. For a movie this large, the cast was relatively small.

·         Brad Pitt as Gerry Lane – Pretty Boy Pitt does a good job in this, making Gerry’s devotion to his family his first and foremost concern, but also making his detective work sharp and interesting to follow.  Whether or not you believe Pitt to be an amazing actor, he’s always capable, and I found him better in this than he has been in a long while.


·         Mireille Enos plays Gerry’s wife, and does a fine job, but again, spends the majority of the movie just waiting around to hear from Gerry, looking sad and worried, and calling him at really inopportune times – like when he’s trying to quietly sneak past some zombies. 

·         Daniella Kertesz plays Segen and was one of the best parts of the movie. She doesn’t have a ton to do, but plays every bit the soldier, facing the threat head on.

·         James Badge Dale who stole a few scenes earlier this year in Iron Man 3 as Savin plays Captain Speke, the soldier holding down the fort in South Korea after sending the initial zombie memo.  He does a good job, but again – almost nothing to do.

·         Ludi Boeken plays Israeli doctor Jurgen Warmbrunn who decided to build the wall after the word about the undead came out of India.  His job is all exposition, but I found it all very interesting, so I liked him by default.

·         Fana Mokoena plays Thierry Umutoni and previously worked with Marc Forster on Machine Gun Preacher.  He is sympathetic to Gerry’s plight, but also helps keep him focused.  Very believable as the head of the UN, but does give up on Gerry pretty quickly once they lose word on the plane.

·         David Morse is almost always great when he shows up (check him out in Proof of Life or The Long Kiss Goodnight again) – and he’s got maybe a 5 minute scene in this movie, but he’s toothless and creepy.  But he is the one who points Gerry to Israel, so he is important.

·         Pierfrancesco Favino plays the W.H.O Doctor who goes with Gerry and Segen down into the infested half of the building.  He does a good job playing a dude who accidentally makes a ton of noise when trying to sneak past zombies.

All in all, I liked the movie – I didn’t love it.  It was odd seeing a PG13 zombie movie.  There is far more blood and gore on the Walking Dead than in this movie.  There are plenty of ‘boo’ scare moments as zombies pop out of unexpected (or expected) places.  It was fun to see in a theater full of people.  It was fascinating seeing the global scale, but parts of the movie were poorly explained.  It was also fun to see Brad Pitt back in an action movie.  You can of course, argue that the Walking Dead does everything this movie attempts to do, but better - and weekly.  Again, the parts of it I thought were best were the things you don't get to see on the Walking Dead - the global scale of the infection. 
7 out of 10 – not too bad.  Gained points for the scope, lost points for the questionable CGI here and there.  Gained points for the random Matthew Fox – and I mean random.  Lost points for David Morse’s toothlessness – ick.

Bonus Video 1: 28 Days Later - crazy intense and scary:
Bonus Video 2:  Resident Evil – super fun zombie entertainment.

Bonus Video 3:  Thriller – the best zombies ever?

Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews:

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Movie Review: Man Of Steel (PG13 - 143 minutes)

Superman was created by Jerry Siegel (writer) and Joe Shuster (artist) in 1933 in Cleveland.  He first appeared in Action Comics #1 in 1938.  He was the very personification of “truth, justice, and the American way” when he began, but then became embraced as a world-wide symbol of hope. 
He was born Kal-El to Jor and Lara El on the planet Krypton.  Jor-El was a great scientist, and knew their planet was doomed.  He sent his infant son in a ship to earth, to be raised among humans, where he could grow into a protector and hero, given great powers by Earth’s yellow son.  Crash-landing in Smallville, Kansas, he was adopted by Jonathan and Martha Kent, simple people who raised him as their son Clark, and instilled in him all the values he would need to make him a great man, and a better hero.  As Clark grew up, he moved to the big city – Metropolis, where he got a job working as a report for the newspaper, the Daily Planet. 
Richard Donner directed Superman and Superman II simultaneously.  Superman was released in 1978, and he had finished about 80% of the sequel, but was fired.  Richard Lester was hired to finish it (if you rent it, rent the Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut).  The movie starred Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder and Gene Hackman, and John Williams’s incredible score. 

The second one was even better, featuring the fantastic villain General Zod, played by Terrance Stamp.

There were two further sequels, Superman 3, and Superman 4: The Quest for Peace, both of which were not good.  There was one SuperGirl movie in 1984, which wasn’t terrible, but also wasn’t great and starred Helen Slater. 

In 2001, WB started a TV show that would focus on Clark Kent’s life on the way to becoming Superman, called Smallville. 
The show ran for 10 years, finishing its run on the CW in 2011, with Clark finally becoming Superman in the very last episode.  The showrunners had purposefully kept a “no tights, no flights” rule in place, instead choosing to focus on the Clark side of the story, and keeping him as human as possible for as long as possible.  Throughout the course of the 10 years, Clark struggled with finding out who he was, where he came from, who his real parents were, and the conflicting messages from his two fathers (help people quietly, keeping his powers secret – or, stepping into the light, and leading the people of earth by being a symbol).  Eventually he settled on a combination of the two.  Smallville remained its own version of Superman, while still paying homage to everything that had come before it.  Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder guested on the show, as well as Helen Slater, Terrence Stamp, and both Dean Cain and Terri Hatcher from the new adventures of Lois and Clark.  Annette O’Toole had played Lana Lang in the movies, and starred on the TV show as Martha Kent.  The show even made use of William’s score.

In 2006 Bryan Singer released Superman Returns – a direct sequel to Donner’s Superman II.  It was way too long, way too pretentious, and way too full of itself, with none of the sense of fun that the originals had.  But it was Singer’s love letter to the Donner films, and made sense in that aspect. 

The film was so poorly received, it seemed that everyone was done with Superman for a while.  Once Smallville ended its run in 2011, many fans of the show thought that cast should do the next movie (I was one of those fans).  However, while Christopher Nolan was working with David Goyer on the Dark Knight, they discussed a Superman movie.  They put together a script, envisioned it as a total and complete reboot – even doing away with the Williams score – and hired Zach Snyder as the director - and Man of Steel was born.
Snyder had previously done 300 (pretty amazing), Watchmen (terrible), The Legend of the Guardians: the Owls of Ga’hoole (better than I expected), and Suckerpunch (one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen); so his track record wasn’t overwhelming.  Combine that with the fact that the teaser trailer that first started showing up last summer showed new Supes Henry Cavill (british!?!  How dare they!!!?!); working on a fishing boat and sporting a serious beard.  Reaction was mixed to say the least. 

The movie begins with a more extensive look at Krypton than we’ve had in movies up to this point.  Jor-El is begging the council to listen to him; that Krypton is on the verge of self-destruction, when General Zod, the military leader, stages a coup.  Jor and Lara send their naturally born son (apparently there hasn’t been a natural birth on Krypton in centuries) to earth to survive the destruction of the planet.  Zod arrives too late to stop them, but not too late to kill Jor, but too late to not be arrested by the council.  They try him and his followers and banish them to the phantom zone – which is a little confusing in this movie, as it is not a clear glass pane, but apparently a ship that goes into a black hole?  That doesn’t matter because shortly thereafter, Krypton explodes – freeing Zod and his people, and conveniently leaving them on board a fully functioning ship.  That is the first half hour of the movie. 

Little Kal-El lands on earth and is adopted by the Kents.  Jonathan is way more ‘hide your powers!’ in this version than in any version, but they still manage to raise him.  He then takes off to ‘find himself’, working odd jobs here and there until he uses his powers, then moves on.  Meanwhile, intrepid reporter Lois Lane is on a story that involves an anomaly in ice.  Clark finds it too – and it turns out to be an ancient Kryptonian scout ship that has been frozen in ice for thousands of years.  By plugging in a key that was with him in his baby ship, Clark gets to talk to a holographic recording of Jor-El’s consciousness, and learn who and what he is, and what he should be doing.  Jor-El’s consciousness opens a door in this ship and there is the suit (we have to assume that the consciousness made the suit right then and there, because why else would it have been in this ship that had been frozen in ice for thousands of years, right?).  After this one conversation with the holograph that used to be his father, he embraces his destiny and puts on the suit and works on flying.  Meanwhile, Zod and his people arrive looking for Kal-El, and threaten violence, unless the people of earth give him up. 

Superman surrenders to them, Zod explains that he’s looking for a codex that carries inside of it the genetic blueprint of Krypton, so that he can terraform earth into a new Krypton.  Apparently the codex is in Kal’s blood (good move Jor-El), so Zod needs him.  Clark realizes he can’t let Zod destroy earth, and so he tries to stop him.  This involves about an hour of destruction, battle scenes, humans in jeopardy, terraforming, more battle scenes, Lois in danger, Perry White in danger, Superman struggling to adapt to the Kryptonian environment on Zod’s ship (what?) and one last battle scene between Superman and Zod. 

Snyder’s directing is Snyder’s directing.  It’s not nearly as clean or as stylized as it was in 300 – but it shouldn’t be.  His choices for this film fit this film well, and it looks good.  Like other movies touched by Christopher Nolan; it’s non-linear (not as bad as Memento, but more like Batman Begins), but that fits the story.  The colors seemed dull the whole way through, but maybe that was a stylistic choice?  Hans Zimmer’s new score is fine – but didn’t seem to add too much to the movie.  All the actors did a fine job:

·         Henry Cavill, who was probably best known for the Tudors and Immortals prior to this – but was also good in Cold Light Of Day, does a great job as the new Superman.  That is tough to say, because he is very much not an American, but he does pull it off.  He looks amazing, and while his version of Clark/Kal is one-note, that is what this movie requires.  The bumbling reporter disguise of Clark does not come into play until he starts working at the Daily Planet – and this movie ends at that point, so we never get to see Cavill’s skill at playing both versions of Clark; not yet, anyway.

·         Amy Adams plays Lois, but why is she redheaded?  In 75 years of the character, she’s always been a brunette.  Whatever, let’s look past that.  This version of Lois does the legwork to figure out Superman’s secret identity, and I actually liked that aspect.  It makes sense, because she is a good reporter, and she simply follows the story.  She was capable, but honestly, did not have that much to do.  The beginnings of romance between her and Superman felt awkward and forced, but maybe that was the point.

·         Russell Crowe – who has proudly stated he’s never seen any other version of a Superman movie – is fine as Jor-El.  The most interesting pieces of his role are the introduction of the suit as Kryptonian armor, and his insistence on saving his son.  He and Michael Shannon do get a great fight sequence.

·         Ayelet Zurer plays Lara, and again – she’s fine, but much less to do than anyone.  She basically stands around looking sad and regretful as she sends away her son and watches her planet implode.

·         Diane Lane and Kevin Costner play the Kents, and again – while they are both good, I think my issue with them is the way they were written for this movie.  Lane actually has more to do, and does a good job in establishing herself as Clark’s refuge from the world.  Costner keeps telling Clark to keep things under wraps, to the point of sacrificing himself to a tornado to protect Clark’s secret from about 10 people under a bridge.  I had a problem with that, but it fits his character in this movie.

·         Michael Shannon does a fanstastic job with Zod.  He’s menacing and evil – but driven by what he believes is the greater purpose of saving Krypton.  He is a legitimate threat for Superman, and I particularly loved the scene where he explained that he’s been training his entire life as a warrior, and after all – Clark’s been on a farm.  At no point does he tell anyone to kneel, which is a bit of a disappointment. 

·         Antje Traue plays Faora, and actually steals a couple of scenes.  She’s Zod’s number one, and has some amazing action sequences and battles.

·         Harry Lennix appears as General Swanwick, the head of the military on earth.  He goes from anti-Superman to working with Superman pretty quickly.  Christopher Meloni’s Colonel Hardy actually has the same arc, but has some amazing scenes with Faora.

·         Laurence Fishburne plays Perry White – and does not say “Great Ceaser’s Ghost!” once.  He has maybe three scenes, I can only imagine he’s there to expand his role in potential sequels. 

·         Richard Schiff plays Dr. Emil Hamilton, a character who has been associated with STAR Labs in DC comics since 1987.  He helps figure out what Zod is planning in this movie, and helps Superman figure out how to stop it.  He does have a couple of scenes with Alessandro Juliani playing Officer Sekowsky – but who played Dr. Emil Hamilton on Smallville.  I doubt that will confuse anyone but me and other rabid Smallville fans.  That being said – between Juliani, Tahmoh Penikett, Mackenzie Gray, and Amy Adams – that’s at least four people in this movie who were on Smallville at one point or another.  And those are just the ones I caught. 

All in all – you should see it, and you should see it on the big screen.  It’s worth it; but not necessarily in 3D, I don’t think that added anything.  It is way too long, and I did completely check out during the battle at the end.  Spoilers from this point (seriously, I’m about to tell you the end) – the reason I checked out, and got angry, was that there’s this 20 minute fight sequence between Zod and Superman, after Zod has started terraforming, which destroyed at least a dozen skyscrapers in Metropolis.  Their hand to hand fight destroys a dozen more – each of which is filled with hundreds and hundreds of people, but then, Zod is directly threatening 4 people with his heat vision, and Superman can’t take anymore?  What about all those buildings full of people the two of you just destroyed?  Superman snaps Zod’s neck, killing him to protect those four people – who could have just ran away from the heat vision.  Superman never kills anyone – EVER (okay, almost never).  It’s why Lex Luthor is a problem, because Superman constantly puts him back in jail.  It was off-putting and upsetting.  And it made no sense following the sequence of events prior to it.  However, a friend did point out to me that this is a complete re-boot, and a very young Superman, who maybe isn’t mature enough to make a ‘no-killing’ rule.  My brother went to a midnight showing and said there was a father there with his children.  Just before the end, the father took the kids out, and could be overheard saying to them, “let’s go – this isn’t the Superman I grew up with, and I don’t want you to see this.”  Interesting, and valid.  This is absolutely a reboot, and it is NOT the same Superman.  That may either be why you like it, or why you hate it.  There is no sense of fun to this movie whatsoever.  A lot of the fun in the previous movies came from the bumbling Clark and his partners at the Planet, which is where this movie ends, so maybe it will have more fun in the sequel?  It is somber and monochromatic.  It does have more action, which saves it from the morose outing that was Superman Returns.  It is good, and I liked it, but I sure didn’t love it.

5 out of 10:  Lost points for the color-less ness of it.  Gained points for Faora, possibly the best part.  Lost points for Clark being one note – but again, we’ll get to the Planet in the next movie, hopefully.  Gained points for Shannon, a good Zod.  Lost points for Zod not telling anyone to kneel – I know it’s a reboot, and you’re acting like none of the other movies happened, but really?  Not even once for the fans?  Gained points for Superman throwing his first serious punch after Zod threatens his mom.  Lost points for missing an opportunity at the end. There’s no post-credit sequence, and I know – Marvel does that, not DC…but really, I wanted one 30 second scene where we see Clark at his desk in the Planet, and people walking by dumping piles of papers on his desk as he sighs.  Someone then slides one piece of paper in front of him with the Wayne Enterprises Logo on the top.  “What’s this?” he says as he looks up to Christian Bale standing there.  “That’s a bill, Mr. Kent.  That satellite you crashed through cost a couple of million dollars.  I’ll be in touch.”  He walks away as Clark’s mouth falls open.  That’s what I wanted…you don’t even have to roll it into a Justice League movie (they are years away from that), and Bale never has to be Batman again…I just wanted that little bit – for the fans, to tie it together.  Oh well.

Bonus Video 1:  Amy Adams on Smallville:

Bonus Video 2:  Much like I think Batman the Animated Series is the best representation of Batman in existence, the Superman Animated series is pretty great too.  These and Justice League/Justice League Unlimited are all streaming on Netflix now - check them out.

Bonue Video 3: Cast Interviews:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Movie Review: Now You See Me (115 minutes - PG13)

Louis Leterrier is a French director who is responsible for Jason Statham’s action career, because he directed The Transporter.  Guy Ritchie is responsible for Statham’s acting career (in case you haven’t seen Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, rent that now) but Leterrier handed us one of the quickest, simplest, and most fun action movies of the last 15 years.  Remember that oil fight?

Leterrier followed that with Unleased, a fantastic small movie with Jet Li and Morgan Freeman, then Transporter 2, The Incredible Hulk (the good one – with Ed Norton), and the Clash of the Titans reboot (which was terrible).  He’s great with motion, movement, and action.  Knowing that he’s involved with Now You See Me should give you an idea of the pacing of this movie.  I’m not sure anyone stands still in it.

I’ve read that it’s difficult to do movies about magic – because you can’t really show any magic on screen.  People assume it’s all camera trickery.  Check the new Ricky Jay documentary (Deceptive Practice) if you want to see some real magic.   But again, this is where the marketing squad comes in, this movie, Now You See Me – was marketed as a movie about magicians pulling a heist, but is really more of a movie about a cop chasing magicians who have pulled a heist. 

The movie opens on each of four active magician-types, J. Daniel Atlas, Merritt McKinney, Jack Wilder and Henley Reeves performing in their own respective cities, being watched by a mysterious person in a hood – the hooded character gives each of them a tarot card, bringing them together and handing them the plans for an extensive stage show.  We cut to a year later, and they are performing the show in Vegas.  They proceed to rob a Paris bank during their stage show, crediting their backer, Arthur Tressler.  Dylan Rhodes is the FBI agent and Alma Dray is the French agent assigned to figure out how they did it and bring them to justice.  Meanwhile magician-buster Thaddeus Bradley is also chasing them to try to prove they are fakes.  “The Four Horsemen” as they come to call themselves, continue with a second major stage show in New Orleans, where they cement their reputation as criminals and their status as wanted fugitives.  They then work towards their final performance in New York City, while being pursued from almost all sides.

The movie is slick and sleek, almost constant movement and action.  But, opposed to what the trailers would have you believe, (“Hey remember Woody and Jesse from Zombieland?  Here they are in another movie!  Check it out!”) it’s not really about magicians robbing banks, it’s more about the agents chasing them, and trying to bring them down. 

·         Jesse Eisenberg plays J. Daniel Atlas, a street close-up magician who is performing in Chicago in the beginning of the movie.  Eisenberg is the same as Eisenberg is in every movie he’s in, which means within the first few minutes he’s on screen – I wanted to punch him.  I find him really obnoxious, but that may just be me.  He’s crazy pompous in this, but it really works for the character.  I'm not sure about his hair choice here either, but whatever.

·         Woody Harrelson is re-teamed with Eisenberg as McKinney, a mentalist working the southern circuit.  When the movie opens, he’s hypnotizing people, learning secrets, and basically blackmailing folks for money.  Woody plays well off Eisenberg, and is great in this movie.

·         Isla Fisher plays Henley Reeves, an L.A. based thrill-escape artist/magician.  She convincingly plays American in this, and again – is fine in this movie, apparently her character and Eisenberg’s character have a back history (she used to be his assistant – is he old enough to previously had an assistant?).  They have some fun back and forth, but I’m not sure I bought that.

·         Dave Franco (the better of the two Francos, in my opinion) plays Jack Wilder, a slight-of-hand con artist working in New York.  When he encounters Eisenberg’s character, he mentions that he’s a huge fan and has seen all his work.  Again – is Eisenberg old enough to have fans?  Franco also gets a fantastic action sequence with Ruffalo that is one of the best fight scenes I have seen lately.

·         Michael Caine plays Arthur Tressler, their benefactor.  They go to him to help fund their collaborative Vegas stage show.  He’s very entertaining as a man who uses his money to solve all his problems. 

·         Morgan Freeman plays Thaddeus Bradley, a former magician, who now releases videos of him debunking other magicians, explaining how they do what they do.  He’s also very arrogant and pompous (there’s no shortage of arrogance in this movie, everyone thinks very highly of themselves). 

·         French Actress Melanie Laurent plays Alma Dray – the French agent assigned to the case of the missing money who partners with Rhodes to help bring down this crew.

·         Common shows up as another agent helping track the thieves.  He’s wonderful (or very very handsome), but has very little to do.

·         Mark Ruffalo plays Dylan Rhodes, and this really is a Mark Ruffalo movie.  He carries the movie, and is the central character, which is not at all what the trailers lead you to believe.  He does a great job, but is very awkward and strained at the beginning, to the point where I kept saying to myself, “…But Ruffalo is a better actor than this.”  As the movie goes along, you spend the most time with his character, and are gradually pulled into his story as he interacts with all the other characters.  You begin to buy in to his paranoia, and wonder who he can trust.  He does a great job, and the quality of his performance builds during the length of the movie to the climax.

Despite the movie being marketed on the four actors playing the magicians, it is really a Ruffalo flick, and a chase movie more than a heist movie.  It snuck up on me, and was much better than I was expecting.  And as for the final reveal of who the hooded character is who orchestrated the entire plot – I was surprised, and did not see it coming.  There are some plot holes, here and there, but for the most part - it's very entertaining.
7 out of 10 – very slick, very fast, very fun, and some great performances.  Gained points for the piranha trick at the beginning, crazy, and wouldn’t that dump piranhas all over the floor?  Lost points for Eisenberg – is he really that annoying?  Or is he just really good at playing an annoying character?  Gained points for the twist, totally got me.  Lost points for everyone in this movie being really arrogant all the time.  Gained points for the initial magic tricks, pretty slick.
Bonus Video 1 – Unleashed, you should probably rent this.

Bonus Video 2 – The Heist, Ricky Jay is in this, because it’s a David Mamet movie (he’s in all of Mamet’s movies).  It’s very good, check it out.

Bonus Video 3 – Zombieland, yes – it is good, check it out.

Bonus Video 4 – Cast Interviews!