This week Will Smith goes out of his acting comfort zone by starring in a sci-fi Summer blockbuster…oh wait. Nevermind. This weekend he and his son
Willow Jada Pinkett Carlton Jaden Smith take on a group of criminal magicians led by Tallahassee and Columbus from Zombieland. Will either of them be able to stop the brainless monster known as Fast & Furious 6? Read on to find out if they’re worth your time.
I was surprised at how many people did not know the following fact. After Earth is written and directed by Hollywood whipping boy, M Night Shyamalan. I don’t blame you for not knowing that. In promoting this film, they’ve done a great job at hiding his existence completely. I almost feel bad for the guy. Almost.
You can hardly blame the producers for making no mention of the former golden-boy-turned-hack, his name carries a bad aftertaste. I could probably write an entire feature on my feelings about Shyamalan, but let me just say this, he made 3 1/2 great movies and then made 3 1/2 of the worst movies ever. If anyone needs a comeback, it’s this guy. I would love it if he made a movie on the same par as The Sixth Sense, or even Signs. He’s had a rough decade.
After Earth begins with a very terrible Jaden Smith voiceover telling us that we destroyed the earth 1,000 years ago. Since then, we have populated another planet and lived there ever since. Kitai Rage (Jaden), yes that’s his real name in the movie, is training to become a “Raider” and impress his militaristic father, Cypher Rage (Will Smith). While in transit on a mission, their spaceship crashes on the abandoned Earth. Cypher is badly injured and must rely on his inexperienced son to track down the homing beacon, which is a hundred miles away. Kitai must traverse the dangerous landscape complete with savage baboons, cougars and even a massive alien beast that survived the crash.
Let’s go over the bad first. The movie has a very glossed over look. The amount of CG is overwhelming. You could compare this movie to Oblivion, except that Oblivion was absolutely beautiful because they used practical effects and real landscapes. After Earth feels like a giant sound stage at all times. The animals look a little too shiny and it takes you out of the movie when it shows them up close.
Beyond the poor special effects, there are some tense moments. I would have gladly seen Kitai run from several more animals, rather than just whine about his predicament, which is what it felt like.
This is actually a simple story about a father and son connecting for the first time in their lives. Granted, Cypher and Kitai are separated for the majority of the film, but Cypher is able to view everything Kitai sees and speak to him through their wrist-band communicator. The best moments between them are actually when they can’t communicate and can only sense what the other might be thinking.
So does this movie signify the return of M Night Shyamalan? Not quite. But it does break his terrible movie streak. He actually seems like a competent director this time around. I was waiting for the embarrassingly bad dialogue, but was let down. I wouldn’t say that the writing was memorable, but the actors pull it off.
Will Smith gives this movie some credibility. Though he’s completely absent from the action, he has a strong on-screen presence. It doesn’t hurt that his real son is playing his vulnerable on-screen son either.
Don’t expect a twist in this Shyamalan flick. Fortunately, he has left that trope behind. I was confused that the movie quickly glossed over the story of earth’s refugees populating a planet where war-hungry aliens already lived. This felt like the second movie in a series that will never happen.
This movie is geared towards boys ages 9-13. They will have no trouble putting themselves in the place of child protagonist. In the end, this movie was better than I expected it to be. It was decent, if not forgettable. Let’s just hope that Shyamalan is on the upward swing.
Overall, this is a rental. The effects are nothing special and does not need to be seen on the big screen. But you won’t be wasting your money or time if you wait till it comes to Redbox.
Now You See Me
After The Incredible Burt Wonderstone bombed earlier this year, I wonder if there is a market for magic movies. Magic works on stage because it’s live and it’s happening right in front of you. Because of our desensitization with special effects, magic just isn’t awe-inspiring on screen. Oh but don’t worry, they mix it up with a heist in this movie.
Now You See Me pairs 4 nearly-unrelated magicians, who are all specialists in their field. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is the most well-known of the gang and specializes in larger than life street magic. Merritt (Woody Harrelson) is a washed up hypnotist. Henley (Isla Fisher) is an escape artist. And Jack (Dave Franco) is a slight of hand expert. They are “recruited” to join together and pull off some amazing, yet illegal, magic tricks. As they seemingly transport a man to rob his own bank, they become legends, but are also wanted men (and woman). Their constant pursuer, Agent Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), is always one step behind them and seeks help from an infamous magic debunker played by Morgan Freeman.
The main thing this movie has going for it, is that the great cast never seems to take their roles seriously. It felt like they all knew how silly this magical heist movie would turn out, so they do everything they can to chew up the scenery. I had no problem with that. It actually made the movie more fun.
As the movie wore on, I did become annoyed that Ruffalo’s character became the focal point. I didn’t care about his investigation as much as the movie wanted me to. Instead, I wanted to see the 4 Horsemen, as they’re called in the movie, play off each other.
The more I see of him, the more I like Dave Franco more than his (I’ll take any job) brother James. He provided the charisma that Jesse Eisenberg lacked. And who knew 2013 would be the year of Isla Fisher? With her role in Gatsby, Arrested Development and now this, she seems to be on a comeback. Okay, year of Isla Fisher may have been an overstatement, but at least she’s working again.
The acting isn’t great and the story is kind of annoying in a 99 percenter sort of way, but I was entertained. You don’t need to think about the tricks shown in the movie too much, because they are explained directly after, but I was excited to see what kind of trick they’d pull off next.
I don’t think this should be a Summer movie. It would have been a very fun movie in February, and probably made much more money. It will disappear quickly. There is nothing special that you need to see on the big screen when it comes to Now You See Me. But if you are looking for a fun date movie, I’d recommend this.
Perhaps I’m being too kind, but After Earth and Now You See Me are both fairly decent. Neither belong in the overwhelming Summer blockbuster season. If I had to choose a movie of the week, it would be Now You See Me. Though, neither movie will defeat 6 Furious at the box office this weekend.