Flashback Friday: Now You See Me

A word before we get into this week’s Flashback Friday selections. Someone pointed out to me that, more and more, Friday openings are, in fact, Thursday openings. So, by the time Flashback Fridays hit the site, many have already seen the film in question. Additionally, just telling you about the movies you may want to see that day the movie opens does not give anyone much time to actually watch them if they want to see the new movie the weekend it opens.

Thus, changes. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes, (turn and face the stranger) Ch-ch-changes, don’t want to be a richer man, Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes (turn and face the stranger) Ch-ch-changes Just gonna have to be a different man.

Come on come on. I see no changes.

Where’s your shame. You’ve left us up to our neck in it.

We gotta make a change… It’s time for us as a people to start making some changes. Let’s change the way we eat, let’s change the way we live.

I watch the ripples change their size but never leave the stream. Changes are taking the pace I’m going through. Pretty soon you’re gonna get a little bit older. Time may change me, but I can’t trace time.

And still I see no changes. Can’t a brother get a little peace?

I said that time may change me, but I can’t trace time.

Umm….right. So anyway…

Next week there will be a Flashback Friday on Monday for THE INTERNSHIP and, possibly, THE PURGE and/or THIS IS THE END, because time is but a plaything to me! Then, going forward I’ll be a week ahead. So on June 7th, I’ll be Flashback Friday-ing June 14th and so on. So you’ll have a full week to prep!

Never say I’m not responsive to the needs of my readers. NEVER SAY IT! NEVER!!!!!!!!!

And now onto this week’s big release NOW YOU SEE ME.

CONFIDENCE

I am sucker for stories that involve teams, especially criminal teams. (Except in comics when I tend to not like team books as much as solo ones but I have no idea what that’s about and it’s an outlier so let’s just ignore it here, shall we?) I dig on the assembling of a diverse group, the way, in fiction, each member seems to have a particular skill and/or quirk that differentiates them from their teammates and comes into play and key moments. Or, once those skills and personalities are established, what we know is turned on its head and the physical member (the hitter, per the TV show Leverage lingo) needs to be a mastermind or the tech head (the hacker, again per Leverage) has to work in the field to save his or her teammates. The tropes and narrative tricks just work for me.

Additionally, I love twist-y films; that is films where what you know at one moment is revealed to be false later in the film, often because the characters are pulling one over on their antagonists and, thus, you at the same time.

Which brings us to CONFIDENCE, a film that employs both and employs both, I would argue, well. Name checking Leverage above was no accident as this film often feels like a big budget, big star infused, slightly less moral version of that show. And yes, I do mean this as a compliment. It employs the same sort of structure—the story unfolds, then we back up and see how things were really working, then more story, then another flashback that reveals EVERYTHING and lets you see how even what you knew to be true via the first flashback led you to make incorrect assumptions. The team works similarly with a seemingly emotionally removed planner (in this case, Edward Burns, employing his somewhat cipher style to strong effect) pulling the strings in such a way that makes you think that he doesn’t much give a damn about anything but himself and/or pulling the con and his subordinates chafing under his rules, bickering, and perhaps looking to seize power for themselves while still being a pretty strong group.

"Who you callin' stoic Stevens? Are these the lips of a stoic to you?" (picture from blind.com)

"Who you callin' stoic Stevens? Are these the lips of a stoic to you?" (picture from blind.com)

I’m hesitant to disclose too much, plot-wise, so let me just spit some quick actor notes here: Rachel Weiss is an, unsurprisingly, effective femme fatale who nicely carves a role out of what could have just been a walking plot point, Dustin Hoffman starts off so high I was nervous but he nicely modulates as a crime boss as the story progresses and ends up with a fairly creepy performance, Andy Garcia, as a dogged cop, once again leaves me wondering why he never really crested, and Paul Giamatti is, well, Paul Giamaitti and that’s great.

Definitely recommended. It’s no THE STING as con artist movies go but it works and it plays it honest with the twists.

"See, kid, first I take this coin from you. Then I take everything...EVERYTHING. Run now, but I'm coming for you. I'M COMING FOR YOU!!!!" (picture from industrialscripts.co.uk)

"See, kid, first I take this coin from you. Then I take everything...EVERYTHING. Run now, but I'm coming for you. I'M COMING FOR YOU!!!!" (picture from industrialscripts.co.uk)

THE PRESTIGE

This is the film Christopher Nolan made in between his first two Bat-flicks that found Batman and Wolverine battling for magician superiority and the love of the Black Widow with special guest appearance by the Man who Fell to Earth (boom! Second Thin White Duke reference of the piece!). Oh, and it’s a period piece!

To speak in non-movie lingo, Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are rival magicians in 19th Century England. Jackman’s are silver spoon type and Bale’s all working class charms. Think David Copperfield versus, I don’t know, an attractive and interesting David Blaine. Actually don’t. There’s really no modern equivalent in the magician world now. How about Ryan and Luke competing for Marissa in The OC or Mayda and Gloria fighting for Richie Rich or Blane and Ducky in PRETTY IN PINK but with magic and not competing for love. Does that work better?

They used to be friends and fellow protégés of a fella named Milton, but Jackman comes to blame Bale for the death of his wife during a water tank escape. Over the years they “prank” one another’s acts with lost fingers and maimed audiences along the way. Eventually, Bale unveils a trick that Jackman just can’t solve, so he goes to everyone’s favorite underappreciated inventor Tesla (BOWIE!) for a technological edge. And that’s where the story really begins.

Also Scarlett Johansson is in it. She plays a woman who’s motives are unclear.

With this movie, in my mind, Nolan officially announces he will never make a movie less than two hours again. The tight filmmaking of MEMENTO and FOLLOWING? Gone! Now it’s all epic all the time and he’s got the running time to prove it.

Unfortunately, he’s not quite there in terms of pacing. By THE DARK KNIGHT and, even moreso, INCEPTION, he’ll have that down. But here, he’s still working it out, hence the long prologue before we get to the central conflict of the story: Bale has THE trick and Jackman wants it. That being said, the journey is still well told and very pretty to look at it.

I recommend it wholeheartedly anyway, but be aware of yourself. If you are not a patient film watcher, you may get frustrated early on and miss some details that really make the film’s ending pop. I’m a guy who doesn’t mind spending some time absorbing the scenery and watching some character study, but I recognize not everybody feels the same.