Sunday, June 30, 2013

Fast Cars & Mysterious Magicians

With magic acts (and sometimes with movies), it’s often what you don’t see as much as what you do see that makes the trick work. In the new film Now You See Me, figuring out the puzzle is part of the fun. As the film opens, we meet four magicians who all receive a mysterious summons; they all end up at the same address, where some strange events occur. We fast forward a year and the group, now called the Four Horsemen, are the most popular magicians in the country. For the climax of their latest show, they plan to rob a bank in Paris while remaining on stage at their show in Las Vegas. The robbery succeeds, and an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo, The Avengers) is put on the case. He's joined by Interpol agent Alma Vargas (Melánie Laurent, Inglorious Basterds) who might have an agenda of her own. As they try to trap the Horsemen, bigger and more elaborate heists (and more amazing tricks & stunts) occur, and it becomes apparent that there is more to these events than meets the eye. We also start to hear about a disgraced magician whose untimely death may figure into the ongoing plot.

But what is the Four Horsemen's endgame? And how does a famous debunker of magic named Thaddeus Bradley figure into the mystery? Now You See Me is a twisty thriller with magic, chases, mystery and misdirection. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrleson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco are a lot of fun as the Four Horsemen and there's a great supporting cast including Morgan Freeman as Bradley and Michael Caine as the group's financial backer. This fast-paced thriller is well directed by Louis Leterrier, who helmed 2008's The Incredible Hulk starring Ed Norton. The film's puzzle box structure and twists will keep you guessing. While it may not quite tie everything together in a neat bow at the end, this is an intelligent, fun film that should appeal to mystery and action fans.

And speaking of action: Fast & Furious 6, the latest in the Vin Diesel led franchise is a movie that delivers exactly what it promises; Car chases, explosions & large scale stunts. This series has been in high gear (pun intended) since the entire original cast reunited for the fourth installment. From that entry forward, the movies have shifted focus from illegal street racing to heists & capture the villain style stories, and that has worked in the series' favor. This time out, DSS agent Hobbs (The Rock) asks Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and his crew to help him catch a former British Special Forces soldier named Owen Shaw. He's gone rogue, and is selling high-level weapons systems to the highest bidder. Shaw's assembling the parts for a device that can completely disable power in an entire region, leaving it vulnerable to attack. But our crew is retired, has split up and is living off the proceeds of their mission in the last film. 

Hobbs piques Dominic's interest by showing him a picture of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) who supposedly died in the fourth film. Apparently, she's still very much alive and working for Shaw. Dom agrees to go after Shaw, so he can find out the truth about Letty. The rest of the crew agrees to the mission, and they all are promised pardons if they help Hobbs capture Shaw. As with all the "Furious" films, there's action to spare; this film definitely goes bigger than the last couple of installments. There are chases involving tanks & planes, and the stunts & effects are impressively mounted. But the other thing that keeps us coming back to these films is that we enjoy seeing these characters. As Dom says during the story, they're family; we care about what happens to them. This is high-octane action filmmaking, ably directed by Justin Lin, who's been with the series since the third installment. The door is left open for Part 7, which has already been announced. If you liked the previous films or are an action movie fan, you'll enjoy Fast & Furious 6.

Both films are currently playing in theaters; here are links to the trailers for Fast & Furious 6 & Now You See Me

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