SCOTT’S FILM GEEK JOURNAL #64 – Smoke and Mirrors



A couple of recent DVD releases for you in today’s Journal. I’ll be taking a look at the summer heist hit NOW YOU SEE ME and the blockbuster sequel G.I. JOE: RETALIATION. And the disparity in quality between the two depends entirely on the idea of knowing the value of a good illusion.



The Best – Reserved for the absolute cream of the crop.
Highly Recommended – Very good. Far better than your typical film and one that I will remember for some time. 
Recommended – Just what it says. This is a good film and earns a recommendation. Don’t think that because it’s not one of the top two categories that these films aren’t worth your time. The “recommended” tag is a winner and nothing to sneer at.
Barely Recommended – The middle of the road. Those films where I didn’t feel it was a complete waste of time, but it didn’t set my world on fire either. Not bad, but leaves me feeling bored and/or apathetic.
Disappointing – Close but no cigar. Does a few things right but is ultimately a whole lot of wasted potential. Not recommended.
Awful – A bad movie. Pure and simple. Not worth your time. 
The Worst – The Britta Perry of ratings, though not as entertaining. The bottom of the barrel.


What was the film trying to accomplish and how well did it meet those goals?
In addition to (or sometimes despite) that, how does the film hold up on sheer entertainment value?






gi_joe_retaliation_ver14G.I. JOE: RETALIATION (2013) – In the cliffhanger for G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA, those pesky nanobots or whatever they’re called managed to screw things up again. The President of the United States has been replaced by Zartan, who is able to emulate the president perfectly. It doesn’t take him long to frame the Joes for international crimes and order a strike against G.I. Joe headquarters. All of the Joes, including Duke (Channing Tatum) are killed except for a handful. The only ones remaining are Snake-Eyes (Ray Park) and a bunch of people we’ve never seen before: Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson), Lady Jaye (Adrianna Palicki – FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS, RED DAWN), Flint (D.J. Cotrona) and Jinx (Elodie Yung). Working as fugitives, they seek to expose the imposter president and clear their dead comrades’ names.

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA was not a very good movie. I did enjoy it when I first saw it, but it does not hold up as well on repeat viewings. Why I did enjoy it the first time however was that it was silly. It had a sense of fun to it, knowing that it was a popular toy, cartoon and comic book series come to life. Hence, there was some legitimate action but with such self-conscious buffoonery that it was impossible to take too seriously.

With G.I. JOE: RETALIATION, we have the difference between silly and stupid. They have tried to make a grittier film by taking several characters out of their comfort zone. It’s as if they looked at how silly the original was and felt it needed a Daniel Craig-type makeover. The problem is that this is a long way from James Bond and they fumble the ball every step of the way. Did you have any attachment to the heroes of the first film? Forget it, they’re all dead, not only leaving a bad taste for this film but for any films to come in this hopefully short-lived franchise. So, start from scratch? Oh no, they keep the same dumb plot that started in the first film. Only now, the audience is expected to take everything 100 percent seriously. People continue to scowl at the screen, as if they are silently scolding the view saying, “Cut it out, this is serious.” There are lots of speeches about fallen comrades, the fate of the world, the need to serve, blah blah blah. There is no humor to the villains anymore, so no goofy scenes of Cobra Commander (who has been recast, naturally) squealing “Kiiill the Joes!”

This is a film that they are very earnest about, which is a problem since at its heart, it’s even dumber than its predecessor. Much of the film hinges on a meeting of nations that no one would be able to swing, resulting in momentary Roland Emmerich disaster porn and a “to the rescue” twist which is ridiculous both in its timing and execution.

The film jumps around like a kid on Ritalin. And yes, they even manage to get Bruce Willis in for a supporting role in which he picks up yet another paycheck, barely concealing his contempt for his latest film role. You want characters? Forget it, you get faces instead. Characters are nonexistent, particularly Cotrona’s Flint which is so lightweight, he might as well not even be in this film. Occasional high points such as a legitimately well-executed mountain scene can’t cover up this film’s many flaws.  Awful





now_you_see_me_xlgNOW YOU SEE ME (2013) – Four magicians each get cards, directing them to a meeting place. This is how four people who are at odds together begin working together as an immensely popular magic team called the Four Horsemen. One year later, they stage the first of three big shows. At the first show, they seemingly teleport a man to France in order to rob a bank. This naturally peaks the interest of both the FBI and Interpol, who assign agents to the case. The agents try to solve the mystery of how they will strike next and why, but they always seem to be playing into their hands. And this trick seems to be getting more elaborate all the time.

Casting a mystery with magicians is something Hollywood has seen the value of in recent years. Casting a heist film on top of that seems like such a natural choice, it’s a wonder more people aren’t doing it. NOW YOU SEE ME is an entertaining film, where we watch the mystery unfold, never quite sure of where it’s going. The biggest problem is in the ending, which I will not spoil here. Suffice to say that although the resolution is a satisfying one, it goes on for too long and does not seem to hold up to post-viewing scrutiny.

They’ve gathered a great ensemble cast for this one too, including Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fischer, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. While keeping in mind that the a certain amount of mystery is important to the film, I would have liked a little more interplay between these characters. Most of the emphasis is on the investigation but little time is spent seeing how the Horsemen themselves interact.  Recommended



Number of films covered in the Journal so far: 284

Miss any of the previous Journal entries? Check them out here!

And tune into my new web series, Moviocrity!


Categories: Scott W. Davis, Scott's Film Geek Journal

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