Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Sequel City

I've been writing a lot of double-bill posts - what does everyone think? Enjoying the compare-and-contrast? Too long; didn't read? Doesn't matter, I'm going to continue. Last weekend we saw a couple of sequels, both to movies that we enjoyed, but maybe weren't all that great.

London Has Fallen (2016) is the sequel to Olympus has Fallen, our least favorite of the two recent White House invasion movies. In this one, Gerard Butler is still bodyguard to President Aaron Eckhart. Even though his wife is about to give birth, he has to go to London for a state funeral. Because of all the dignitaries, London has decreed that each one gets a single bodyguard, and everything else will be handled by Scotland Yard. So when heads of state start getting shot, it's up to Butler alone to keep his president safe - from the terrorist whose family was destroyed by a Predator drone.

Lots of things blow up. Everybody is shooting at everything. There are car chases, helicopter crashes, Parliament is blown up, along with the Thames Bridge and a lot more (Roland Emmerich, are you watching?). Everyone shoots at Butler and Eckhart, but nobody hits them, ever. I think Butler gets a little stabbed. But in the end, he takes down the bad guys with pretty much no help from anyone. At least Scotland Yard figures out who the mole is (it's the guy who looks like Moriarty from Sherlock, duh).

All this would be bad enough, without the little coda when Vice-President Morgan Freeman gives a speech, saying, "Some say we could have avoided all this if we had minded our own business." Yes, not killing innocent children with drones might help... But he denies this, and promises to keep killing those foreigners - for freedom. I am not convinced.

Now You See Me 2 (2016) is a boring name for a sequel. Why not Now You Don't or something? Still, the original was kind of a guilty pleasure for us, so we queued it up. If you recall, that one ended with the four magicians being hunted by the FBI, while Agent Mark Ruffalo was secretly pulling their strings. He works for a secret organization of magicians dedicated to doing good in some way. Now they must come together again (with a new female member, Lizzy Kaplan) to fight:
  • Morgan Freeman, one of the bad guys from the original
  • Ben Lamb, high-tech exec (like Lex Luthor in BvS). Oh, in case you think he doesn't have a stupid name, he does: Owen Case.
  • Daniel Radcliffe, another, more evil tech exec
  • Sanaa Lathan (AvP), Mark Ruffalo's FBI boss
And they have to pull the biggest heist of their careers! A MacGuffin chip from a super computer.

But it's all just an excuse for wild feats of legerdemain. They jump in a chute in New York and come out in Macau. Jesse Eisenberg makes the rain fall up. Lizzie pulls the head off a pigeon. But our favorite scene is the card toss, when the group throws a playing card around to keep it from being found on them. It doesn't actually make much sense - someone who has already been searched (and should be safe) might pass it to someone about to get searched. But it is choreographed so sweetly done that about 10 minutes of card tossing never gets dull.

There are a lot of stupid things about this movie - how about Woody Harrelson's twin brother (credited as Brick Patrick, but it looks like Harrelson is playing both parts)? The implausible magic tricks, like the instant hypnosis gag. The secret society - what's up with that? But we didn't care, because it was fun - even if they only banged London up a bit, not destroyed it completely. 
The characters were basically fun - Jesse Eisenberg is a little bit of his usual unlikable egotist, but funny. Harrelson is goofy and Dave Franco is cute. Newcomer Lizzy Kaplan is the wise-cracking girl and plays it very well.

In fact, we want to see a Now You See Me TV series, with the improbable secret society giving our team a new assignment every week. Just play it for laughs and magic. We'll watch every episode. Or even just NYSM 3.

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