Commentary

May 2, 2014

Fly Over: ‘Now You See Me’, and ‘The Raid 2′

now_you_see_me

On DVD:

Now You See Me

Director Louis Leterrier’s 2013 release of “Now You See Me,” starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Michael Cane, Mélanie Laurent, Dave Franco and Morgan Freeman, is a fast-paced cat-and-mouse game when a group of solo magicians join together for a magical act known as the Four Horsemen. It’s a show full of illusion and fantasy, the likes of which the world has never seen.
J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) is a cocky, ego-centric street magician. Henley Reeves (Fisher) transforms from being Atlas’ assistant to performing her own sadistic magic show. Merritt McKinney (Harrelson) is a forgotten mentalist working as a hypnotist shaking people down after he reveals their secrets and Jack Wilder (Franco) is a fast sleight-of-hand artist who uses his skills as a pick pocket.
After each person receives a tarot card giving them a date, time and location to meet, they find themselves in New York City, in an empty apartment. A year later their show begins.
The Four Horsemen’s first act takes place in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. The final performance of the night prompts the attention of the FBI and Interpol when the group of illusionists robs a bank in Paris from the stage in Las Vegas. Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo), the lead FBI agent is paired with French agent, Alma Dray (Laurent), and the two begin the investigation into the Four Horsemen and the theft of $3.2 million that rained down on the audience in Las Vegas.
The FBI team soon learns they are facing one of the most challenging groups of thieves when the illusionists begin Act II of their three-act performance. Set in the beautiful southern swamp city of New Orleans, the audience is treated to mystery and intrigue and the truth behind the illusions. The truth is revealed to the audience that none of them were there by coincidence, but were chosen for a specific reason. What all of them have in common is … Sorry folks but a critic never reveals all.
“Now You See Me” is an edge-of-your seat mystery movie with car chases, magical fight scenes, misdirection and a renewed sense of wonderment that only magic can bring. The amazing computer generated imagery brings more inspiring magic and impossible illusions to life leaving the audience in a jaw dropping stunned silence.
Roger Ebert gave this movie a mere three stars out of five, but I give it four stars on the flyover scale. This is an easy DVD purchase, a must-have movie for your collection, but if you’re hesitant, it can be viewed online. For me, this movie brought back a sense of awe only magic and illusions can give, but it is also an amazing story that reminds us if we’re not careful, one can be caught up in the illusion of what is really occurring. Remember, the closer you look, the less you see.
At one point in the movie, Atlas, Reeves and McKinney tell the audience, “What is magic? Magic is deception, but deception designed to delight, to entertain, to inspire. It is about belief. Faith. Trust. Without those qualities, magic as an art form would no longer exist. But what happens if these qualities are not used for their higher purpose? And instead they’re used to cheat, lie. For personal gain, or for greed? Well then it’s no longer magic. It’s crime. So tonight, for our final act, you’re gonna help us set a few things right.”
This film is rated PG-13 for brief violence and profanity.

“I was surprised how good the story was. Sure it won’t win any Oscars but it takes a road at the end that nobody would see coming. It makes you want to go back and see it twice to understand it better.”
— Bruce Bruce, Rotten Tomatoes

 
The-Raid-2-poster

In theaters:

‘The Raid 2′

Imagine being raised in a community where the use of every day conveniences such as electricity, toilets, hair dryers, cars, televisions and more, is frowned upon. Or, living in a place where one can be shunned by their community just for traveling outside the area to see and experience how the rest of the world lives. Such societies do exist within the U.S., and they are known as the Amish.
I personally never heard of Amish people until running into the American reality television series on TLC titled “Breaking Amish.” The show follows the lives of four young Amish people and one Mennonite girl, who are all in their early 20s, and wanting to break free from the Amish lifestyle.
“Breaking Amish” begins by showing their lives in their tight-knit communities before leaving the Amish way of life. It’s strange because it looks like a society from a different time period. Women are dressed in plain long-sleeved dresses that go down to their feet, with their hair braided back or in a bun and then covered with a white cap or bonnet. Men are dressed in plain button-up shirts with trousers that are worn with suspenders, then perhaps a hat or coat. Vehicles are absent; horses are the main means of transportation with maybe a wagon attached.
Unlike modern society, the Amish people don’t believe in having fun, according to Abe Schmucker, who says it’s been several years since he’s had fun. The Amish are also very traditional when it comes to what roles women and men play in society. Rebecca Byler expresses how awesome it would be to have a man who can do the laundry and other chores women typically have to do. Then there is Jeremiah Raber who had been shunned by his bishop for leaving the community. Lastly, Kate Stoltzfus, a daughter of a bishop, and Sabrina High, the only Mennonite of the group, are introduced. Mennonites and the Amish are very similar but have a few differences, such as Mennonites drive cars, don’t practice “plain dress,” use modern conveniences and more.
After the cast members are introduced and before leaving for New York City, they say goodbye to their families, who all disagree with their choices to leave and warn them they will be shunned.
For all of them, it’s their first time being at an airport let alone flying in a plane. It’s a bumpy ride, and Byler has a mini panic attack but makes it through okay. The group takes a taxi to a hotel where everything is new to them. When Byler and High first enter their room, Byler is amazed by the electricity, a phone in the bathroom and a toilet. Similarly, Schmucker can’t stop turning the sink water on and off and loves that there is a refrigerator and TV in the room.
Throughout the show, members choose to do as they wish, and some do more than others. Some indulge in alcohol for the first time, try dating and change the way they dress. There is also some conflict within the group. When Raber took Schmucker to a strip club, Schmucker opposed it out of respect for Byler, who he was dating.
A problem arises with the females of the group since Byler, who is underage, can’t drink and has to put up with Stoltzfus and High getting drunk and in trouble often.
There are many twists in the show as well. Just when you think you know the characters, their secrets begin to unfold.
“Breaking Amish” is entertaining to watch especially if you’ve never observed those who may be more sheltered than you or me. It’s amusing to see their reactions to things most of us take for granted such as riding an elevator or seeing the beach. The question is whether they will go back to their previous lives or choose to live outside the Amish community.




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