Now You See Me (2013)

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller

Director: Louis Leterrier

Writers: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine

Rating: ★★★

Now You See Me is a film based on magic and illusions which mix into the criminal world, somehow all combining it creates a fun concept; however such a well-thought and fun concept is executed rather poorly to make for a film that falls a bit short of expectation. An all-star cast mostly give good performances and alongside some action and humour the film can be at times entertaining and an exciting experience.

The story centres on four magicians who each receive a mysterious calling card leading them to an obscure address with many secrets inside. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is a young, intelligent and popular magician, Merritt (Woody Harrelson) is a hypnotist who once had a good career but now finds pleasure by conning people out of money; the same can be said for Jack (Dave Franco) however he is much younger and a trickster, finally the fourth is an escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) together they will be known as the four horsemen. Four years after the calling card meeting they are together big-time stage illusionists and sell-out performers who climax their Las Vegas show by robbing a bank live on stage. With over $3 million flying around on stage and the impossible task looking achieved it puts the four magicians on the radar of FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and his Interpol companion Alma (Mélanie Laurent).  However, this mystery proves difficult to solve even with the insights of the professional illusion exposer, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). What follows is a bizarre investigation where nothing is what it seems with illusions, dark secrets and hidden agendas galore as all involved are reminded of a great truth in this puzzle: the closer you look, the less you see.

Now You See Me starts off very promising with entertaining introductions and a great what seemed lead in to the main plot of the film, however as twists occur it becomes very confusing. Although filled with action Act 2 is far from entertaining and until the end of Act 3 Now You See Me stays very frustrating. The concept made by  Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt is very exciting and fun, however its over complicated twists somewhat make it into three separate films combing into one with a variety of stories told and interlinked.  The task has been mastered before in likes of Pulp Fiction, but here it just doesn’t.

The cast is filled with some very big names, Jesse Eisenberg takes on the lead and he achieves again this clever witty character just like his role within The Social Network.  Woody Harrelson brings humour in many ways again like in previous roles such as ZombieLand and for me is the standout character and performer, however other performances were very mediocre and average, including those by Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.  The main element which proved to be the highlight for me was the special effects which showed the group’s illusions in full amazement and awe, and as an audience made us so intrigued within the first act of the film.

The flaws however all evolve around its story which is too confusing and executed very poorly by both writers and director alike and furthermore it seemed to drag for a while. My other criticism is how stories within the film are left unexplained and unfinished, such as the ending which should see the police eventually catch up with the four horsemen and furthermore the story involving Caine’s character was very swiftly forgotten by the writers and characters within the film.

Now You See Me is somewhat an easily watchable fun film especially for those more easy going cinemagoers, however at times it can prove to be a dragging and frustrating process. The story although a fun concept is what brings this film down and more so the average performances from some big name stars. Now You See Me in spells brings great entertainment and amazing illusions to screen, alongside some action making it just about worth-while.

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Panic Room (2002)

Genre: Drama, Thriller, Crime

Director: David Fincher

Writer: David Koepp

Starring: Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart, Forest Whitaker

Rating: ★★★★

Panic Room is a film that is both clever and at the same time thrilling, Fincher although not creating a classic but a film which is always remembered and known. A great storyline with innovative effects make for an entertaining and fulfilling watch, whilst stars such as Jodie Foster and a young Kristen Stewart add solid performances to cap of a good release.

The storyline focuses on a woman and her daughter on their first night within their new large Victorian three-floor apartment. Meg (Jodie Foster) is mum to Sarah (Kristen Stewart), divorced she looks after her diabetic and bold teenage daughter but her night is troubled when intruders invade. Three men searching for a missing and hidden fortune break into their new home but when Meg and Sarah are awoken by their surprised visitors they take refuge in the house’s panic room but what the intruders want is where the hosts are hiding. The intruders think of ways to fight their way in and scare the pair out, but locked away Meg and Sarah try their best to survive and get help fuelling for some exciting events.

Thrilling is an understatement, there are many jumpy and heart-racing moments throughout Panic Room achieved by some great screen-writing. There’s real horror to the idea of someone breaking in whilst you’re asleep and likewise being trapped within your own house with three intruders. There always seems to be huge plot twists and deciding moments too which keeps the story not only entertaining but fast-paced which is a huge highlight to Panic Room.

The acting ensemble is also a distinguishing feature to Fincher’s film; Jodie Foster and Kristen Stewart give solid performances which add to the film’s thrilling experience.  However equally as impressive was the roles and acting of the three intruders. Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakum, Jared Leto play Burnham, Raoul and Junior. Whitaker’s Burnham is a great character although a thief and burglar there is a real likable and sympathetic aspect to his character and persona. Whilst newly Oscar-famed Jared Leto plays the brilliant, clueless and funny character of Junior who is equally lovable and hateable. Panic Room’s performances really live up to the films overall quality and add again to the experience created.

David Fincher’s directing is great really creating the heavy, isolated and somewhat claustrophobic feel very successfully. The way the camera’s floated through everything and fly around the house is awe-inspiring something very new and innovative for almost 12 years ago. The very opening credits as the letters floated on the Manhattan backdrop was flawless and set the tone for the amazing camera work throughout. Although this is an underrated release from Fincher he should be praised for not only bravery to accept such a challenging task but his excellence in achieving such an exciting film which is only set within one house and mainly in one room.

The only faults that Panic Room holds are at times the annoyance that gets created by Foster’s Meg’s clumsiness. At many times simple things turn into drastic and dramatized moments, such as reaching for a fallen phone and knocking over loud furniture which at times can even be predictable. The only other picky thing I can fault is how I would have liked to seen a bit more justice or closure on the character of Burnham. However these aspects really don’t put down this film too much.

Panic Room deserves much more praise than it gets, alongside writer and director David Koepp and David Fincher for creating such a thrilling clever film. It can be so tense and thrilling it is amazing considering the simplicity of the events and setting. It isn’t as outstanding as other Fincher films but it is new and unique and shouldn’t be forgotten, easily watchable and enjoyable Panic Room is the definition of entertainment in many ways.

 

The Call (2013)

Genre: Crime, Thriller

Director: Brad Anderson

Writers: Richard D’Ovidio, Nicole D’Ovidio, Jon Bokenkamp

Starring: Halle Berry, Evie Thompson, Abigail Breslin

Rating: ★★★★

The Call is a surprisingly tense and thrilling watch which thrives off a fantastically written and unique storyline. Slightly overlooked when released in 2013 The Call certainly deserves a lot more recognition and credit than it has been given. Halle Berry giving a solid performance alongside Abigail Breslin adds to Brad Anderson’s good direction, making for a very entertaining experience.

The story surrounds Jordan Turner (Halle Berry) an experienced 911 operator but after making a bad error which leads to a shocking incident she is doubtful of her future and ability. However when an abduction call takes centre stage in the operating “hive” room Jordan has no choice but to step up to the occasion and take charge. On the other end of the phone is Casey Welson (Abigail Breslin) a young teenage girl who’s been thrown into the back of a man’s car, trapped inside the boot she soon realises her kidnapper is more dangerous than first thought and Jordan is her only link between death and survival. Jordan uses all her experience and quick thinking to protect Casey but being on the end of the phone there’s only so much she can do, but she will not stop until justice is served.

What amazed me so much about The Call was its somewhat unique insight into what happens between 911 operators and their callers along with what happens within the centre itself. It was eye-opening to say the least showing the emotional impact that operators have to go through every time they answer a call which is actually tragic. It was also a different perspective to follow a “crime thriller” story from, knowing that our only connection to Casey was through the phone made it even tenser to watch. How thrilling it was to watch was a massive highlight of the film, leaving you constantly intrigued.

The acting for me was another stand-out, Halle Berry a famous name but one that has not been too seen in recent years gives a great performance that really dramatized the events occurring. Her co-star however Abigail Breslin was even better, a young actress who has been making a name for herself appearing in August: Osage County most recently shows again signs of a promising career.  Anderson’s directing too was at times outstanding along with the cinematography by Tom Yatsko; one scene that blew me away was when we saw our antagonist beat a man to death with a shovel, with the actions being shown through a gap between a passing truck, it was a quick flash and was so effective. It was just a shame that the majority of scenes were not as amazing and eye-catching but average.

The things that stop The Call being a really standout film mostly happen in the final act as the film comes to its climax. It slips into the conventional horror ending where things become too unrealistic to perceive and plot devices are far too obvious. The way Halle Berry’s Jordan is portrayed too is a downfall, her character like most in films goes from being reactive to proactive however in this case it was unnecessary and the transition was not at all disguised. She becomes clumsy and takes risks when at the beginning she is calm, composed and successful. The ending however was a real surprise and although it can be seen as too on the nose or out of the blue I think it just about worked and the writers pulled it off.

The Call thrives of a very successful storyline which is surprisingly thrilling and tense, also being well captured and portrayed by the two lead characters. Although it isn’t an award winning film to shout about I still think it was a very good film which is easily watchable and enjoyable. In a year where many released disappointed, The Call deserved much more credit as it was for one of the most intriguing thrillers to watch being totally entertaining too.

You’re Next (2013)

Genre: Horror, Thriller, Comedy

Director: Adam Wingard

Writers: Simon Barrett

Starring: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen

Rating: ★★★½

You’re Next was a horror that stormed the UK in 2013 despite being a big success when released in the Toronto Film Festival of 2011. Despite the long awaited-release Barrett’s thrilling creation doesn’t disappoint too much. A somewhat refreshing and unique approach to the stereotypical home-invasion thriller, You’re Next is a twisty horror with a mountain of gore and action which consequently leads to an entertaining watch.

The story surrounds the Davison family on the night of a big-reunion and getaway to celebrate the wedding anniversary of their parents. Arguments and bitter family grudges between brothers soon set the tone for an uncomfortable night which then becomes a nightmare. When a group of animal-masked, crossbow and axe-wielding murderers invade on the get together things turn bloody and gory quickly as one by one the family and guest numbers slowly decrease. However an unlikely member of the party proves to be the best and most brutal killer of them all as she takes matter into her own hands alongside a kitchen knife.

It is hard to go into too much detail of the story without giving away any spoilers, but the events and torture lead for an exciting night. The story is entertaining as said, but in terms of predictability and surprises it is awful in a sense, from the beginning I guessed what was happening and the ending came as no surprise, but I can see some watchers blinded by this and falling for the twists and turns of the narrative. However as a horror the gore is great along with the mass murders and the way in which they are each killed. The animal masked-murderers were a unique and refreshing take being something I haven’t really seen before, effective as it was it would have been nice to keep a bit more mystery and prolong the suspense. As a home-invasion thriller it was respectful too, with the story involving a family get together much more impacting and entertaining than a lonely couple in the middle of nowhere.

For an almost unknown cast and crew You’re Next stands its ground very well especially amongst other horror releases in 2013. Sharni Vinson as Erin, the trained killer guest is entertaining and provides good action, however her character is a little too much on the nose and literal but it’s one you will just have to go along with. There are as many faults with this release as there are positives at times but I think it balances out to be enjoyable. There a rare few moments that thrill, however when we are only following the one character instead of the whole family it makes for a much more tense watch and experience. Adam Wingard at times shows promising signs of excellence as his clever direction creates a few jumps and anxious moments.

The make-up and effects department areas also deserve some kudos and respect as the gore and physical horror was a highlighting aspect as blood splatters, heads rolling and knifes flying made a much more entertaining watch. In a summary that’s what it comes down to for You’re Next, it is although not amazing and a work-of-art a very entertaining film. Despite obviously having flaws there weren’t any moments you wanted to give up and turn off as surprisingly you were hooked, as little as it might have been. Gore galore, and thrills a rarity You’re Next isn’t exactly a must-see but a worth-while enjoyable horror.