The Valdosta Daily Times
“After Earth” (Action: 1 hour, 40 minutes)
Starring: Jaden Smith, Will Smith and Sophie Okonedo
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Rated: PG-13 (Intense scenes, disturbing images and violence)
Movie Review: Sometimes, a screenplay can be too straightforward. This is especially the case with Director Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense,” 1999) at the helm.
Cadet Kitai Raige (Jaden Smith) travels with his father, Gen. Cypher Raige (Will Smith, who concocted this story), who is a famed member of a military group called Rangers. After their spaceship is crippled, the father-son duo land on a wildly dangerous planet. The planet is Earth, 1,000 years in future. The likelihood of survival on this planet is small, but the father-son team is determined to endure.
“After Earth” is a serious science-fiction production, but its plot is an impractical science-fiction piece. Its great fault is that it is too simple of a story, told in a monotonous format. This aspect leaves little room for sensitivity for the predicament of characters and plot development.
The audience has no emotional attachment to the cast. Again, the plot is thin; it does not allow characters a true chance to expand. The characters exist, but their lives are not intriguing. This is not the fault of either of the Smiths, who were first paired in 2006’s “The Pursuit of Happyness.”
“Happyness” actually allowed father-son Smiths to act. “After Earth” has them interacting without emotive elements. Jaden and Will Smith are like mannequins via this script. You observe the characters, but care for them is not a concern. This is shameful when both Smiths are talented actors.
“After Earth” was a nice attempt, but its lackluster script leaves room for plenty of improvement. Jaden Smith and a few visual effects make this film interesting. However, the plot’s straightforwardness allows for little development, leaving characters distant from each other and audiences.
Grade: D+ (An after-thought.)
“Now You See Me” (Action/Crime: 1 hour, 56 minutes)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine
Director: Louis Leterrier
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, sensuality and profanity)
Movie Review: J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Franco) are The Four Horsemen, a team of the world’s greatest illusionists. They are sponsored by the very wealthy promoter Arthur Tressler (Caine), who plans to make plenty of money from the magicians’ shenanigans. The Four Horsemen manage to steal money from a bank in Paris and give the money to their audience. The trick is how they got the money from Paris to Las Vegas.
This sets up a competitive clash between The Four Horsemen and an elite FBI squad, led by Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) and Interpol detective Alma Dray (Laurent). Unable to prove The Four Horsemen are magically stealing money via daring heists, the FBI enlists the help of Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman), a magician-turned-investigator who proves how illusionists accomplish their tricks. Still, The Four Horsemen are always one step ahead of law enforcement.
Nothing is more terrible than a good film with a very terrible conclusion. This is case with this entertaining film.
In the first 10 minutes, some films get your attention, letting observers know they are in for a treat. “Now You See Me” easily ensnares its audience with clever moments that leave you anticipating the next scene. This works excellently until the film’s last 15 minutes.
At that point, the film ruins itself by trying to explain what transpired. Those last few scenes drastically dissuade prior ones because of the impracticality presented. The plot introduces too many implausible variables. Even more, the last two scenes leave an even bigger gap in the story.
The cast is a large group of talented performers. The film easily manages to make each a pivotal part of the story. This is good as it makes one wonder who is who when mysteries start to unravel. Each actor gives a great performance and makes his or her character interesting. This is a plus for the movie. The characters are more entertaining in many ways than their actions for the overall plot.
If one is part of this film’s audience, enjoy it for the entertainment value it presents and cleverly written trickery. This is where the film scores points, despite the plot’s farfetched and improbable elements as major distractions.
Grade: C+ (The illusion is engaging but not compelling.)