Now You See Me Review

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It’s time to watch a film about magic! This is a bit of a team film as several magicians who are the best at what they do are grouped together to perform tricks that have never even been attempted before. Obviously the stakes are high, but these guys are ready. Unfortunately, there are dozens of plot holes and plot twists that don’t make sense. The writers took all of the easy routes during the film when it comes to explanations and it ultimately makes you feel like there was not a lot of effort put into this title.

As for the plot, it revolves around this team. The magicians find a magical orb at a mysterious apartment that they were all sent too via playing cards. These cards were expertly handed to them as they were in places that nobody should have been able to get to all that easily. The challenge isn’t told to the viewers until the very end, but it involves stealing a lot of things and crushing the lives of several people. What’s in it for the magicians? The thrills and the chance to join a mysterious magic group of legend.

That’s their side of the story. On the other side, we have Dylan, an FBI agent whose mission is to capture these guys. They may not have been a threat at first, but they rob all of the money from a large bank’s vault and then they steal millions from their boss. Their last trick is set to take place in New York so Dylan must use every tool at his disposal to win. To his dismay, he has a partner for this case from Interpol and he fears that she (Alma) will slow him down. His ego is certainly fairly strong.

At the very least, this isn’t the kind of film that I found dull in the least. The pacing is very quick and most of the dialogue is fairly snappy and entertaining. There is a lot of banter to be found here. Given the nature of the film, there are also a few chase scenes like the ones on the ground and a car chase as well. We even get a big hand to hand fight scene between Dylan and one of the magicians where the guy is pulling off things that shouldn’t even be possible thanks to his magical skills. It’s the kind of action that you want to see in a summer blockbuster. Unfortunately, this gets held down by many other elements.

For starters, Danny is one of the magicians and he’s pretty unlikable. His first scene is him having a one night stand with someone before shooing her away because he has to get to a meeting. Not a great introduction. His overconfidence is good as he messes with the cops a lot, but it’s just irritating to see the cops simply have to back off. They know that this guy is a burglar and he’s also taunting them so that’s reason enough to keep him locked up for questioning for a while.

Another one of the magicians is Henley and her thing is that she’s good at escaping impossible situations like being chained up in an underwater tank and then appearing in the audience. Naturally, she can’t resist quickly stripping before jumping into the tank. There’s a really unnecessary romance plot between her and Danny that goes nowhere and probably never will since her character is not going to be in the sequel.

Merritt is next on the list and what if I said that he was the worst member? He is good at hypnosis to the point where the film has to sacrifice even more realism. Just by talking to you for an instant, he can get you to do whatever you want. He uses his tricks of mind reading as well to humiliate everyone all the time. Despite this, he doesn’t realize that he’s the desperate one as he even asks Henley if she wants to have a one night stand. Whenever he’s on screen, you can get ready to face palm. Why is this black mailing individual one of the four horsemen? (The name of the magic group)

Finally, there’s Jack. He’s the youngest member and he’s great at slight of hand. He can pick any lock and he can magically use the handcuffs that are on him to cuff someone else in the blink of an eye. It’s all really a big stretch of disbelief if you ask me. He’s the best member of the group, but it’s practically automatic. He has no huge faults that hurt the character and he takes all of the big risks while the other members try to get somewhere safe while they still can. They’re not exactly dependable as you can see.

Luckily, Dylan’s a likable protagonist. He always looks and sounds tired, but it gives the impression that he has been doing this for a while and that he has experience on his side. He knows how to talk tough to all of the villains even if he ultimately ends up getting humiliated a lot of the time. He’s the main reason why the film is a blast. His only failing is that he tends to blame everything on Alma and yells at her for basically no reason whenever he’s stressed. Alma should have just left to work on her own after a while because I know I wouldn’t bother with someone like that. Especially when he has to keep on asking her for help since he doesn’t believe in magic.

The main fault with this film aside from the unlikable magicians is the large amount of plot holes. Honestly, you could write a whole 1000+ word review on just that aspect. In the end, we are led to believe that the magic is basically real to an extent. There’s no other way to justify how the magicians pull off so many feats. They hypnotize someone to rob a bank, they can fight off professional FBI agents with their tricks, They can leap from speeding cars and have time to exchange a dummy in their place that looks incredibly realistic to the point where nobody can tell that it’s a fake even at close contact, They can make completely real looking illusions, They phone in the dates for their robberies and where they are taking place, but the police don’t want to close the building or cancel the show, etc. They are able to take down the FBI and Interpol and the citizens of New York are actually cheering them on. Are you kidding me? It’s one thing for Americans to cheer someone illegally walking on a tight rope. It’s another to cheer about someone robbing people (Robbing a bank is essentially robbing a lot of citizens as well) and making lives miserable. I just don’t see that happening in real life to be honest.

There’s also a big plot twist about who the real leader of the 4 Horsemen is and it makes no sense in context to the rest of the film. There’s no way that the film can justify this in a way that will satisfy me. Sorry guys, I’m just not buying it. It turns the film upside down, but not in a good way. The only good part about this was that the tough talking Thaddeus was finally taken down a notch. He made for a good rival to the FBI in following the magicians and I liked his overconfidence, but he had to go at some point. His back and forth with the other old guy was one of the best scenes in the film though. Both of them are supremely confident and have a lot of resources, but only one could come out on top…or maybe none of them. The way that it all happens was pretty interesting and the scene where Thaddeus loses is funny. See, if you ignore the lack of realism, the final twist is hilarious. If you think back to all of the other scenes in the film while already knowing the twist…..well you just have to feel bad for the FBI. This looks pretty shameful on them.

Overall, Now You See Me is a film that should and could have been great. Becoming a good film is a three step process after all. 1. A film should be enjoyable. Check! 2. A film should have likable characters. X. 3. A film should minimize negatives:Extreme Violence, Sensuality, Language, Terrible Dialogue, Bad Pacing, etc. X. So, this film simply couldn’t follow those 3 rules. As it is, I wouldn’t really recommend it. It can make for a decent way to spend your evening, but there are simply better ways to do that. The sequel should be intriguing since the magicians are on the run. I’m looking forward to that and it looks like the big team up’s going to happen. The interesting thing is, I don’t think you would even realize the end twist just judging from the trailer of the second film so that was actually handled pretty well. On a final note, remember that you should never tell a group of teenagers all of the right passwords to your super complicated Swiss bank account which holds millions of dollars even if they claim that they only want to know it for a game they’re playing…that scene was just sad. Dylan’s boss in the FBI had the best line in the film, which basically encapsulates your opinion of the FBI’s handling of the case. “The level of incompetence displayed on the case, that’s a magic trick in and of itself. Abracadabra, I’m takin’ over…”
I reeeeeally loved that line, even if the character proceeded to get embarrassed in the very next minute. When watching the film, that’ll be your reaction as you can probably think of better ways to handle the situation.

Overall 5/10

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Avengers: Age of Ultron Review

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The first Avengers film was one of the greatest movies of all time. I knew that it would be extremely difficult for this film to match up to it. Still, I had high hopes when I walked into the theater and I was ready for anything that the film could throw at me. Would it be able to live up to the hype or would it ultimately crumble and make me go re watch Man of Steel? Also, what happened to Thanos? In the first film, it ended with him getting ready to attack Earth or at least think about it..yet he isn’t in the trailers so what happened. Behind the scenes drama? These questions at the ready…I saw the film!

The Avengers may have split up after they saved the world from the invasion, but they are back together to reclaim Loki’s scepter. After embarking on many missions to find it, they finally find it at a Hydra base. It seems like peace has finally returned and the Avengers can disband once more, but that is when Ultron strikes. Ultron wishes to destroy the human race and the Avengers must now deal with their toughest threat yet!

There is certainly a lot to say about this film so let’s launch right into it! The tone is identical to that of the first film, which is a great thing. There is a nice balance of humor and action in this film, which makes for a very enjoyable watch. Replay value is not a problem either as I could easily watch this film again tomorrow. There is so much action that you will likely notice extra details each time you watch the film.

Following up on that, the writing for the film is excellent. Avengers: Age of Ultron has numerous jokes throughout the film and with bad or even average writing, it would have gotten old very quickly. As it stands, the jokes come at good times in the film and you’ll be sure to laugh a few/lot of times throughout the film. It can be a little iffy to see the heroes joking during life threatening situations, but I suppose that it takes their mind off of what is happening. I would be upset if the heroes were joking around after someone had been killed or if a friend was in mortal peril, but they typically control themselves in those situations. The film even puts some twists on old jokes from the first title by switching things around a little.

As for the soundtrack, it is essentially the same as the first film. I only noticed one new theme, which played during a somber scene. It was a good theme and the soundtrack holds up just as well as in the 1st film. Admittedly, I would have liked some more new tunes, but for those of us who haven’t seen the first film since 2012, it was likely very nostalgic. I’ve seen the original film around a half dozen times at this point so I am very familiar with the music at this point.

Since there is a lot of action, the visuals need to look very good. I can safely say that they are convincing and I have no real issue with them. This film has more energy blasts than usual, which is great since those really make this feel like more of a comic book film. A certain triple attack towards the end looks really sweet as a result. The only time that the CGI may look a little iffy is the Cap vs Ultron scene during the daytime, but it may just be because he looks so lifelike that it ends up being a little out of place. If anything, you can think of that as a positive since it was so realistic.

Time to look at the main characters. Captain America was my favorite Avenger here so let’s look at him first. He is the noble hero that we would expect him to be and I thought that his portrayal was fairly spot on. From his point of view, I can see why he would disagree with Tony Stark on the A.I. issue. While the captain may have overreacted a little after Ultron struck, it was understandable that he would be upset since his history with secrets hasn’t been a good one. A running joke in the film arises from a scene where Captain America reprimands Tony for using a swear word. That was cool because while it was played for laughs, it was nice to see. Superman and Captain America are two characters who I have always imagined to not use such language. The way that the joke ends could have been better though. Either way, fans of the first Avenger will be pleased with how he looks here. Captain America shows off his fighting skills throughout the film and he makes for a very good leader.

Tony Stark is naturally as charismatic as ever and he is my second favorite Avenger. His heart was in the right place for project Ultron, but messing with A.I. programs never seems to end well for our heroes. I was wondering how Iron Man’s role would be since he blew up his armors in Iron Man 3, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. He just continued to build since then and it makes sense since Tony would never give up on robotics forever. It’s his life after all. He gets a lot of great scenes and Iron Man has shown that he still has what it takes to be the leader if Steve Rogers ever decided to give up the position. With Captain America: Civil War coming up, that could happen sooner than expected.

Thor rounds out the main three and he is still the power hitter here. It is nice to see his strength displayed as he takes on dozens of opponents throughout the film. His combo attacks with Captain America prove to be very effective and having someone who’s Hulk level in strength with the ability to fly is extremely handy. His reaction times are also given their due credit as he manages to counter-throw an opponent who had rushed him. Thor has also grown more competitive as he is consistently trying to outdo Tony Stark and the others. Some friendly competition is always fun and it shows that Thor is really getting close to the team.

As for Bruce Banner, I was thrilled with his role in the first film. I thought that it was perfect and that Bruce Banner’s portrayal was the definitive version of the character. I don’t think that he looked quite as good here and he would actually be my least favorite member of the team. What happened to him being able to control the Hulk? It seems like a rather big plot hole here as the Hulk needs to be calmed down by the Black Widow every time and then he is left as an emotional wreck for a little while. It seems to really contradict the first film. He doesn’t get to act rebellious or get nice banter like in the first film, which hurt his portrayal here because that is why I liked him a lot. I really think that Whedon messed up here, but Banner still had his moments. He just wasn’t the hero that I remembered from the first film.

Black Widow has upgraded her tech for this film so that she is ready for the Ultron onslaught. She looks good in the film as she helps out a lot in many key scenes. Widow gets shaken up at one point, but due to the visions it was understandable. How she copes with it is really my issue. The plot between Bruce and Widow really came out of the blue and I don’t think that it was necessary here at all. Widow just acted out of character when he was around, but the ending of the film seems to have rectified that. She is more likable than Bruce here, but I think she could have been better.

Hawkeye ends up being the best Avenger after the big three and his role here was fun. Hawkeye fans will likely be worried at the beginning since he is taken out of action rather easily, but things go up from there. We get to see how professional he is and why he is the lead archer. Hawkeye means business here and he deals a lot of damage to Ultron’s army, but he still knows how to make a nice wisecrack. He certainly gets a lot of character development here and that is sure to help Hawkeye’s character throughout his future appearances as well.

Age of Ultron had a nice amount of guest stars, which was cool. Some of them you may be aware of and others not so much. I won’t mention any names, but each of the big three get a supporting character who gets a decent role in this film. Nick Fury and Maria Hill are also here of course and they contribute. It makes you wonder how this film will affect the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. show. It’ll be fun to see how that handles this event. The ending is fun and leaves a lot of potential for future installments. Also, you’ll want to stick around for the end credits scene. It’s rather short, but still really good and gets you set up for Avengers 3.
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Still, I’m getting ahead of myself. Now, let’s look at some of the other characters to appear in the film. First up, we’ve got Quicksilver. After his solid role in X-Men Days of Future Past, it was going to be tough for this version to match up. Luckily, I can say that the character was still fun and his speed was handled well for the most part. He’s rather unlikable for the first half of the film, but he does have some solid moments. It’s easy to root for him as the film goes on and even the accent grew on me. His speed is something that the Avengers didn’t really have an answer for and film writers have to be very careful with it since plot hax can ensue. Some did occur of course, but not too much.

Scarlet Witch has interesting hex powers involving probability, which can be tough to show so the film decided to take a solid approach to this issue. They mainly focused on her telekinesis and telepathy. By using these abilities effectively, she can emit energy and create barriers. I much prefer this to her hex abilities so I’m fine with the change. She’s a better character than I expected and I look forward to seeing her become one of the heavy hitters on the team. I would already say that she could take on Captain America and possibly Iron Man. Her abilities should definitely not be underestimated. I don’t care for her in the comics, but the film version was good so I can safely say that this is one of those rare times where the comics were surpassed. I also did like how the film borrowed from the horror playbook during the scene where Scarlet Witch takes on Captain America. We get a Paranormal Activity stutter step as Scarlet Witch demonically backs up and closes the door. It’s hard to describe, but if you have watched a lot of horror films, you will know what I am talking about here.

Ultron is the main villain here so there should naturally be a lot to say about him. His portrayal will likely be controversial and some will like it while others won’t. As an Ultron adaption, I think you will be disappointed. He is nothing like the cold, calculating machine that we are used too. So, if you are to like him, you will just need to think of him as an original villain. With the…intriguing design, that should make things easier. The film decides to give him Tony Stark’s personality so he is a fun villain, he just isn’t Ultron. As this “new” villain, I liked the portrayal. He has some witty banter to be sure and who doesn’t like a good “eradicate the humans” plan right? His strategy was sound and once again it shows how easy planet busting can be. Just wait until Thanos arrives on Earth someday, the stakes will really get high! Ultron was a little weaker than I expected and I’ll get into this a little more in a second, but he was strong enough to still be a fun villain. Loki was probably still more fun, but Ultron was more of a threat, which is a fair trade off.

All right, we’ve looked at the characters and a lot of the positives to the film. So, let’s look at some questionable moments. One scene that I disagree with is Thor’s hammer being lifted. The actual scene is a fairly important one so I won’t mention who does it. You’ll know what I’m talking about once you see the movie, but I completely disagree with the film. There’s no way that this character should be able to pick up the hammer unless Captain America can. After all, being worthy is something that I can certainly agree with. I don’t agree with technicalities that can sidestep the enchantment…simply isn’t possible if you ask me.

Age of Ultron has a lot of action and it is one of the reasons why it is so much fun. The film starts off with a bang in the epic intro scene and the film rarely lets up as more and more action scenes appear. While this is an overwhelming positive as you will never get bored, most of the action scenes are simply action scenes. Like the first film, the Avengers are dealing with armies and no real 1 on 1 fights occur. When some appear, they are fairly short since the villains can’t handle the heroes. There is a point where Ultron is actually defeating Thor handily, but Ultron had been getting served by Iron Man earlier so I still wouldn’t say that he was immensely powerful. I’m assuming that Thor was simply caught off guard. Ultron didn’t get his iconic power up here so he was only a little more durable than the average machine. I’m assuming that Avengers 3 will finally have the big fights that I’ve been looking forward too so that will be fun. I can see some people listing this as a negative since the climax is very similar to the first film’s, but who doesn’t like a nice invasion battle? It gives the heroes a lot to do.

The 1 on 1 fight that we did get was the Iron Man vs Hulk battle. It was a fun fight and while I still prefer Iron Man’s standard gear for combat, the Hulkbuster looks powerful. I’d say that Hulk is still portrayed as the strongest Avenger by a longshot, but with this new armor, Iron Man can now fight alongside Thor for the second spot. The other Avengers are going to need to keep on improving or they will be left in the dust before long.

I won’t say his name for the fans who don’t know about this character, but a certain other android appears besides Ultron. His abilities are certainly potent and I’m glad that the film kept most of them in. The only one that they didn’t show will likely be shown in a future film. I’m not a huge fan of the character here as his personality isn’t really my style, but he’ll be a good ally to have on the team. His abilities will definitely make him a powerful ally and maybe he’ll grow on me. There’s certainly a lot of time for that since he just joined.

I just finished seeing this film about an hour or two ago so I’m trying to make sure that I get down all of the major points that I wanted to discuss before wrapping up the review. With a film like this, you can’t really get all of your thoughts down on a review so I at least want the big ones to be there. It was a lot of fun and I highly recommend watching a big movie like this one on opening day or the night before opening day at least once for the sheer experience. It is a lot of fun to watch such an exciting film with other fans who are hyped for it as well.

A minor thing, but Quicksilver is probably a little too fast in this film. At the speed that he is going, I don’t think that Hawkeye’s attack should have surprised him or that Captain America could have even hit him. Even when Quicksilver tried to grab the hammer, he should have been able to have escaped since it would have pulled him very slowly even considering the speed of the throw. That being said, he is a speedster so I would always find some plot hax there. The film handled it better than most and the plot hax in general wasn’t that bad. Your usual action hero moments at times where humans dodge lots of point blank energy attacks, but no scenes that stuck out in particular, which was great.

The film seems to be rather unchanged from the trailers, which is good. Unfortunately, one of the changes was the scene where Iron Man is trying to pick up Thor’s hammer. I preferred his old line about ruling firmly, yet in a fair way. I also seem to recall Bruce Banner being in a straight jacket or at least something that resembled that kind of gear more than what was in the film, but I’m less sure about that so it really could have just been a trick of the eyes. A lot of things are set up here for future films so you’ll definitely want to continue watching the solo films to get a feel for what will happen next.

All right, I think that’s a good amount of reviewing for now. I made sure to keep this review spoiler free so if you have a question relating to a topic that has spoilers, feel free to drop a comment since I made sure to avoid those topics in the review. Although, I hinted at some because I wanted to mention my take on them so I merely left out the names when necessary. I highly doubt that any film will be able to come anywhere close to this one from this year’s roster, but it will be nice to see them give their best shot. It is too bad that Whedon won’t be around for the next Avengers film, but I trust that it will be excellent as well.
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Overall, Avengers:Age of Ultron was a great follow up to the first film. The first Avengers will always be my favorite Marvel film, but this one is the second best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It possesses just about all of the same qualities as the first title while having even more action. The only real negative would probably be the plot between Bruce Banner and Black Widow. The hammer scene along with many of the other things that I noted aren’t really negatives so much as things that I noticed. I still find it a little ironic that the Ultron minions had a more accurate design compared to the comic Ultron than the main body, but it helps that point I made earlier about looking at Ultron as a different villain. It was tough deciding between an 8 and a 9 to be honest, but this is the kind of film that really doesn’t come by all that often. I believe that it earned the 9. Granted, I typically score films a little more generously when I just finished watching one in theaters so you may want to take that into account. (I got the full IMAX 3D experience, which was incredible!) Still, I think that I’ll be able to stand by this rating and I will certainly be watching this film more times before Avengers 3. I probably won’t see it quite as much as the first one, but still more than most. If you haven’t seen this film yet, I highly recommend checking it out as the earliest opportunity!

Overall 9/10