MOVIE: Now You See Me 2 (2016)

Now You See Me 2 Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 129 minutes / 2.15 hours Sometimes the enjoyment of a particular film almost guarantees I’ll go to see the sequel. Now You See Me 2 (2016) is no exception. I really liked Now You See Me (2013) because the genres of “magic” and “heist” merge so easily together. Now three years later, and I certainly looked forward to this sequel, despite not knowing how the plot could advance any further than it had at the end of the first film. While the sequel did not disappoint, with numerous illusions, plenty of action, and loads of comedy, it felt like it was the same old gimmick as the original. Sure, there was a little more exploration into “the Eye”, but most of the plot of the second film centered on the consequences of the robberies from the first film (almost weighing it down, in my opinion). The addition of Daniel Radcliffe as a winking nod to...
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MOVIE: Now You See Me (2013)

Now You See Me Year: 2013 Rating: PG-13 Length: 115 minutes / 1.92 hours The key to a great heist film comes in three stages: the pledge, the turn, and the prestige. Wait, that’s the key to a great magician’s illusion. Actually, here’s the real trick: both are very similar in structure. Each requires a setup of events which lead to an amazing reveal, followed by an explanation of how the heist/illusion was performed. In Now You See Me (2013), both the heist and magician genres are found to be so closely related that it was nice to see them meld together so well. In a page ripped straight from Robin Hood, the main characters justify their thievery by stating that their actions are to right the wrongs done to the general public. Of course, when a movie uses CGI to enhance the magic of the actors, it’s just that much more fun to see how they are able to pull off each heist using...
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MOVIE: The Legend of Tarzan® (2016)

The Legend of Tarzan® Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours After watching The Legend of Tarzan®, the one unanswered question I had was, “Why was this film even made?” If this was to cash in on the plethora of live-action reinterpretations of Disney animated films, it might have held closer to that story. If this was to make a point about racism, it was making the wrong point. If this was because it’s a recognizable name with a hunky-looking protagonist, then I think they probably hit the mark. While the scenery is certainly immersive in this adaptation of an Edgar Rice Burroughs character, much of this film pulled me out of the illusion of the African jungle. Right off the bat, the “registered trademark” that appears after in the title reminds you that there is already plenty of media about Tarzan, and another movie probably doesn’t add to it. Secondly, while a star-studded cast is a good way to get audiences...
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MOVIE: Road to Morocco (1942)

Road to Morocco Year: 1942 Rating: Not Rated Length: 82 minutes / 1.37 hours It’s unfortunate that many people who might be familiar with this film only know it through the homage done on Family Guy. The unfortunate part of this is that most wouldn’t recognize the origin of the bit and go watch the reference material, which is much funnier than Family Guy could make it. Buddy films have been around for a long time, so it’s nice to see how one of the founding films of this comedy sub-genre succeeded at it. The success of a Buddy film comes from the talent of its two main characters. In this case, Orville "Turkey" Jackson (Bob Hope) is the lovably dim partner to Jeff Peters (Bing Crosby), the snarky singer and brains of the operation. Those who might be looking for a pure slapstick comedy are bound to be slightly disappointed, because the gold of this film is in its repartee. Verbal jabs, wordplay, and double entendre...
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MOVIE: Independence Day (1996)

Independence Day Year: 1996 Rating: PG-13 Length: 145 minutes / 2.41 hours While most people just roll their eyes at the mention of Roland Emmerich as a director, many forget that he essentially started the revival of the "destructive action" film. What used to be common in the seventies, with movies like The Poseidon Adventure (1972) and Towering Inferno (1974), films showing catastrophes had taken a bit of a back seat until Independence Day. This revival on a globally-catastrophic scale brought about such films as Armageddon (1998) and Deep Impact (1998). Granted, Emmerich continued to make world destruction a part of his directing career, which is why films like this almost seem hokey today. Godzilla (1998), The Day After Tomorrow (2004), 2012 (2009), and White House Down (2013) haven't been the most critically-acclaimed films of all time, but they certainly carry Emmerich's penchant for demolishing cultural landmarks. One does wonder why Independence Day stands out amongst his other films, almost as an anomaly. While later films by...
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MOVIE: X-Men – Apocalypse (2016)

X-Men: Apocalypse Year: 2016 Rating: PG-13 Length: 144 minutes / 2.4 hours I’ll admit that I was excited for this film, mostly because I was somewhat familiar with its premise. I grew up on the X-Men: Evolution TV show, so I knew that the defining arc of that series was none other than the Apocalypse arc. This may have actually spoiled the movie for me, because it wasn’t quite in line with the plot I knew. Sure, Bryan Singer returned to direct this penultimate piece of the X-Men franchise, but there were just a few things that bugged me about this movie. First off, one of the elements of the previous prequel films I liked and appreciated was the inclusion of historical events and people into the storyline. This way it felt like an alternate reality not so far removed from our own. While there were loose elements of this present, it wasn’t nearly as integrated as it had been done in the past. Add...
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MOVIE: X-Men – Days of Future Past (2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past Year: 2014 Rating: PG-13 Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours One of the more difficult plots to pull off in a film is that of the simultaneous prequel/sequel. Perhaps the most famous of this plotline is The Godfather: Part II (1974). However, I would argue that X-Men: Days of Future Past perfected it. Just like X-Men: First Class (2011) before it, Days of Future Past takes the retro stylings of its decade (this time the 1970’s) and places a plot intertwined with the well-known figures and events of the time. It also simultaneously puts the X-Men in a dire and hopeless situation in a distant future, thus driving the need to go into the past to fix the initial conditions that got them into this quandary. Plus, most of the film is driven by Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), which just shows how vital he is to the series. In a return to form that was sorely missing in the previous two...
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MOVIE: X-Men – First Class (2011)

X-Men: First Class Year: 2011 Rating: PG-13 Length: 132 minutes / 2.2 hours While prequels always hold the distinction of being the one type of movie that you know how it will end, seeing how they get there is certainly entertaining. Much like the Star Wars prequels gave us a point before the original trilogy to learn more about the background of the characters, the X-Men prequels manage to do this, but with a much better result. My only major qualm with prequel trilogies is that, while the mainstays of the franchise were there in terms of characters, the only ones who maintained their actor from the first set of movies were relegated to cameo appearances. This is only heightened by my opinion that the original X-Men trilogy’s cast was perfect in almost every way. That being said, with the prequel trilogy now complete, the younger cast has definitely grown on me as well, James McAvoy’s Xavier being my favorite of the prequel group. Because X-Men: First...
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MOVIE: X-Men – The Last Stand (2006)

X-Men: The Last Stand Year: 2006 Rating: PG-13 Length: 104 minutes / 1.73 hours What a difference a director makes. While the previous two films in this franchise used Bryan Singer, the choice to go with Brett Ratner in this final film of the trilogy was a mistake. There was a tone and style to the previous X-Men movies that was just never quite captured in this one. The comedy seemed unnatural, the plot wasn’t taken quite seriously enough, and the new characters were never given enough time to really fully develop. Perhaps some of the weakness of this film can be blamed on the previous two films being strong, independent storylines, thus not giving much to tie into a conclusive chapter of a trilogy. Despite X2 (2003) not holding to the traditional form of “the trilogy conundrum”, the fact that X-Men III has to start with some very main characters missing is a plot point that requires viewers to have seen the previous film. The...
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MOVIE: X2 (2003)

X2 Year: 2003 Rating: PG-13 Length: 134 minutes / 2.23 hours I’ve often held that the sequel of a superhero film is better than the original. Most superhero film franchises start out with an origin story, so by the time the second film comes around, all the “exposition” is out of the way and the heroes can really take on some powerful villains. However, since X-Men (2000) didn’t have much of an origin story, its sequel, X2 is almost relegated to the fate of a “flashback” sequel. Still, the darker tone does help set it apart from its predecessor, which is nice. Granted, the choice of exploring Wolverine’s (Hugh Jackman) past was a good one, considering the strength of the character. Heck, he got two more movies outside the main X-Men saga, so clearly he’s a fan favorite. What’s nice about the superhero sequel is that most comic book story arcs are short enough that they can be incorporated into a single film. In this...
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