Move Review: Now You See Me (2013)

Now You See Me is a test of patience-- it's quite an annoying film, but the ending makes up for it.

The film about magicians scheming to rob a bank and get away from the cops is entertaining, but with very few characters that are actually likable, I think most people will see it as a so-so film. The "heroes" in the film (played by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco) are illusionists with a specialized skillset and most of the time, they are bickering and unwatchable on screen. If rom-coms need romantic chemistry, this film needed team chemistry.

But after almost two hours, there is a satisfying payoff and almost makes up for the majority of the film. Like a magician, David Lettier's prestige for the film made me want to slow clap.

Now You See Me is uneven in so many ways that it needed a sleight of hand ending to pull it off. And that is really annoying.

Rating: 2.5/5


Movie Review: Fast & Furious 6 (2013)

I have to admit, I chuckled when I first saw the trailer for Fast & Furious 6 few months ago. Haven't we had enough of Vin Diesel's macho posturing and cars speeding?

Apparently not, and the Fast & Furious franchise seems to be still going strong as this sixth installment of the speedy car movie injects some freshness into the series.

Dominic (Diesel) and the gang are drawn out of retirement when a former gang member, who was initially thought to have perished in a car explosion, turns up alive. Thanks to the age-old amnesia device, this member (Michelle Rodriguez) drives the plot and we see the two opposing groups battle each other until the proper alliances are forms (and revealed).

One improvement this film brings is the comical banter between Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Ludacris), which serves as nice breaks between the action sequences. Speaking of the action sequences, the car stunts don't disappoint-- a tank and a plane go up against the gang's cars to stunning results.

Fast & Furious 6 is a summer film meant to be taken semi-seriously for maximum enjoyment. Plus, this is a great way to stretch the longevity of the franchise and see more Vin Diesel wife-beater shots.

Rating: 3.5/5


Movie Review: The Hangover Part III (2013)

The Hangover Part III punctuates the run of one of the best R-18 comedy franchises of the last decade. I feel its a bittersweet goodbye as this sequel breaks the mold of what made The Hangover a classic and its follow-up, The Hangover Part II a solid movie.

At the center of the movie is Alan (Zach Galifianakis), the eccentric member of the Wolf Pack. We see less of Phil (Bradley Cooper) and Stu (Ed Helms), and I think it's a bummer because Galifianakis' batting average for hitting home run gags and jokes plummet in this movie. Thanks to Melissa McCarthy's Cassie, Zach becomes a bit more bearable.

Apart from deviating from the Hangover formula, I also feel the movie exists to tie the semi-loose ends of the first two movies and provide an acceptable closure and not to really excel in any way. It also says something about the movie when the funniest scene is the ending hangover scene.

The Hangover Part III is a good comedy, decent action film, and pretty OK finale to a franchise.

Rating: 3/5


Movie Review: Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)

The follow-up to the Star Trek film reboot, Star Trek Into Darkness doesn't quite measure up to its predecessor. But thanks to a stellar performance and tight storytelling, this film is still in rarefied air.

Ironically, it's the antagonist character and performance that anchors the film. Benedict Cumberbatch simply steals the show as the main baddie, John Harrison. Like Frankenstein's monster, he was initially commissioned by Starfleet Admiral Marcus (Robocop's Petter Weller) to be a secret weapon in a possible war, but instead went rogue. It is up to the crew of Capt. Kirk (Chris Pine) to catpure and neutralize Harrison.

Hats off to director J.J. Abrams for making this the film more than a simple "Chase the Bad Guy" exercise and adding a lot of dimension to the film. The main characters are given ample depth and the visuals are great. The whole Kirk-Spock (Zachary Quinto) dynamic takes on a new level and for me, it's not the strongest suit of the movie.

Bro-mance aside, the film is a true summer action-sci-fi must see. Star Trek Into Darkness should be in everyone's to-see list.

Rating: 4/5


Movie Review: The Great Gatsby (2013)

If there's a film this year that would be defined by style more than anything else, my vote goes to The Great Gatsby.

Director Baz Luhrmann brings his trademark theatrics to F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic 20th century novel about ambition, greed, and personal tragedy. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as the eponymous Jay Gatsby, with Carey Mulligan as Daisy Buchanan, Gatsby's seemingly unattainable dream.

The story is told from the perspective of Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire), Gatsby's neighbor and new friend. A lot of times, I thought this was a very good way to let the audience see Gatsby from the outside and gradually moving to a more intimate vantage point.

The film rarely diverges from Fitzgerald's work, except for the addition of 21st century gloss. Luhrmann seems to have figured that his best contribution to an already renowned piece of literature is to add a grandiose vision in 3D, which may not be the best. The end result is eye candy, but a hollow one.

This version of The Great Gatsby is a visual spectacle that often obscures the hero/anti-hero.

Rating: 3/5


Movie Review: Iron Man 3 (2013)

I haven't seen any indication that Iron Man 3 is the final installment in the franchise, and I'm glad that it's probably not-- for me it is the weakest of the Iron Man movies thus far.

Maybe it's Jon Favreau's missing touch (Favreau directed the first two films), but the movie represents a slide from its predecessors. Robert Downey, Jr. is still snappy as billionaire Tony Stark, but his schtick is probably wearing thin-- this is the fourth film with Downey as Stark and the freshness is waning. This is why I think Gwyneth Paltrow as Pepper Potts was given a bigger role in this movie.

Don't get me wrong, but this movie is massive and armor-packed and the plot is quite excellent. Ben Kingsley and Guy Pearce as the main baddies do a very respectable job in giving Iron Man a hard time.

I really would like to see a stronger finish for the Iron Man franchise because so far, with Iron Man 3, third time is not a charm.

Rating: 3.5/5


Movie Review: Trance (2013)

Oh, Danny Boyle... I guess your success with Slumdog Millionaire and 127 Hours has given you license to create a mind-bending movie like Trance.

I tell people that this movie qualifies as a complete mind-f*&k and I think that it's an accurate picture of the type of twisting narrative this movie has. The film starts off with Simon (James McAvoy) describing his job as an art auctioneer and outlining the protocol for a heist. But when an actual robbery happens in their gallery, Simon confronts Franck (the leader of the robbers played by Vincent Cassel) and suffers a major blow to the head.

This development starts a mind-tripping journey towards amnesia, hypnosis, and selective memory. Add in the mysterious hypnotist Elizabeth (Rosario Dawson), Simon's race to find a stolen painting turns out to be a spiral towards knowing more about himself.

Trance may be too complicated for its own good, but folks who can connect the dots will see it as a film full of smarts and style.

Rating: 4/5