Four street magicians answer a mysterious summons and within a year have been transformed into The Four Horsemen, a big, new glitzy Vegas act that promises to rob a bank in France while standing on the stage. As in all works of illusion, nothing is really what it seems. But in the film Now You See Me, the talented cast pulls off this scam in a very enjoyable manner. The Four Horsemen are played by Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco… yes, James Franco’s younger brother, Isla Fisher, and Lebanon’s own Woody Harrelson, in what is probably his best performance since The People vs. Larry Flynt. Working for the law we have Mark Ruffalo as an FBI agent, who is saddled with a novice partner from Interpol, played by Melanie Laurent who gained worldwide attention in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. And naturally there has to be a couple of elder statesmen to follow the action, comment on and drop clues to what’s going on. Or so we think. Those roles fall to hard-working old pros Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
In 2006, talented Canadian actress Sarah Polley took a chance on making her first feature as a writer-director. The film was Away From Her, a sad yet hopeful story about a woman with Alzheimers, which managed to nab Oscar nominations for both Polley for her screenplay, and her star Julie Christie for Best Actress. Now Polley is back with another journey of discovery, but more about her than anyone else, in Stories We Tell. Polley’s mother died early, and as she grew up, kept hearing rumours that her father might not actually be her father. Both parents had been actors and stories abounded. Dad was an introvert, who could do well without a lot of people around. Mom was a loving, living free spirit who needed to express herself.
You would think any movie franchise with the number 6 after its title would have ended up on my screening list along the way. Not so with Fast & Furious 6. I have never seen entries one through five. So at least I can report from a reasonably fresh perspective, instead of just more of the same.
Sometimes a film that may seem derivative from other, better films can be totally redeemed by just one thing. In the case of The Iceman, it may remind you of Goodfellas, but what makes it almost as good as that classic mob movie is the stunning performance of Lexington, Kentucky native Michael Shannon. Shannon is no slouch as an actor, and was Oscar nominated for his supporting role in Revolutionary Road. But in The Iceman he gives a so-far career best performance.
I have not been a fan of director Baz Luhrmann from day one. I was completely underwhelmed by Strictly Ballroom; managed to miss his take on Romeo and Juliet; and his epic Valentine to his home country, Australia, was as turgid and unwatchable as just about anything can be. Until I got to Moulin Rouge, which was thoroughly annoying to the point it was one of the few films that had me heading to the exit long before it was over. Needless to say, that track record had me anticipating The Great Gatsby with the same joy as a day at the dentist. Imagine my surprise when I watched the entire film without a twitch, or a fidget, or a glance at the time. I really liked it.