Tag Archives: Jesse Eisenberg

Reappearing Act

Do-gooder magicians return for more hocus-pocus hijinks

Online Poster - Caplan, Franco, Eisenberg, Harrelson_small

Now You See Me 2

Starring Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman & Daniel Radcliffe

Directed by Jon M. Chu


The magic of the movies sometimes makes for some nifty tricks, and this “reappearing” act is a good one—a sequel to the 2013 hit about a foursome of infamous crusading magician tricksters whose large-scale, steal-from-the-rich stunts have made them worldwide rock-star Robin Hoods.

Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Dave Franco return as three of the so-called Four Horsemen, with Lizzy Caplan (Virginia Johnson on TV’s Masters of Sex) coming aboard to replace Isla Fisher from the original. Mark Ruffalo is back as FBI agent Dylan Rhodes, whose “reveal” as the Horsemen’s hidden-in-plain-sight mastermind was the first movie’s final bit of hocus-pocus.


Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman again rounds out the ensemble as Thaddeus Bradley, a former master magician-turned-trick-debunker who was framed and sent to prison for the group’s last big caper.

Joining the cast is former Harry Potter star Daniel Radcliffe as a megalomaniacal tech billionaire who hijacks the Horsemen to coerce them into heisting a new super-high-tech computer chip that, if delivered into the wrong hands, would compromise the privacy of every computer—and every computer user—in the world.

The only problem is, which hands are the wrong hands, and which are the right ones? In a movie about magic and misdirection, it’s awfully hard to tell.

Director Jon M. Chu, whose resume includes two of the Step Up dance flicks, keeps things moving along briskly with a sense of fun, fizz and sizzle as the do-gooder scamps zip from New York to China to London, trying to stay one step ahead of the law. The plot gets bogged down a bit as it tries to layer on detail and backstory, but when the Horsemen get down to business, things really come alive—like in an absolutely stunning sequence in which the purloined computer chip, attached to the front of a playing card, is masterfully flipped, flung and flicked from Horseman to Horseman to avoid detection while they’re each being searched. It’s the movie’s centerpiece trick, a sexy, super-slick bit of slight of hand, and a showpiece of computer-assisted “card-istry.”

Woody Harrelson

Woody Harrelson

In one of the movie’s best running gags, Harrelson has a ball in a new, “surprise” role—in addition to the smooth-talking hypnotist Merritt McKinney, he also plays his sibling-rival twin brother, Chase, who sports a head of curly hair and a mouth full gleaming white chompers.

One of the coolest things about Now You See Me 2, like its predecessor, is how it shows the audience how its trickery is done—after the razzle-dazzle, it pulls back the curtain to reveal the nuts-and-bolts explanation behind each jaw-dropping effect, the trap doors, the trickery, the switcheroo, the behind-the-scene hustle-bustle that made the illusion possible.

Magic, it lets us know, requires practice, hard work, concentration, planning, patience and super skills. That doesn’t make it any less amazing, or any less wondrous. “The best tricks,” says Morgan Freeman’s character, “work on many levels.” Now You See Me 2 is a multi-leveled magic show, heist caper, comedy, drama and globetrotting action-adventure romp with characters whose company you’ll find most enjoyable.

Now you see them, now you don’t. And you’ll all but certainly see them again—in Now You See Me 3.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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Dazed and Conspired

Wild stoner spy comedy is a mashed-up head trip

American Ultra - Comic Con Poster crop

American Ultra

Starring Jesse Eisenberg & Kristen Stewart

Directed by Nima Nourizadeh


Mike (Jesse Eisenberg) is an underachiever pothead, working the overnight shift at a mini-mart and doodling comics in his sketchbook. Mike doesn’t care much about anything, except Phoebe (Kristen Stewart), his his live-in girlfriend, who’s pining for the getaway trip to Hawaii that Mike’s airport panic attacks always seem to derail.

Nothing much happens in their sleepy little hamlet of Liman, W.Va. Nothing, that is, until Mike looks up into the sky one night and American Ultra kicks into to crazy high gear with deep government ops, lunatic hit men and two young lovers caught in the middle.

Everything revolves around Mike, who’s more complicated and skilled than he realizes—or remembers. And Phoebe turns out to have a surprise or two of her own, too.

Soon, we’re up to speed on what Mike pieces together slowly: He’s a high-level government “experiment” genetically programmed with deep, long-dormant classified intelligence and lethal self-defense abilities. And higher-ups in the program are worried that he might go rouge, or haywire—or, most problematic of all, expose their body-and-brain games.


It’s a weird, wacked-out, sometimes wonderful mash-up of stoner comedy, spy-conspiracy spoof and hyper-violent teen-romance fantasy—think of Eisenberg and Stewart’s characters several years down the road from their 2009 collaboration Adventureland, caught between The Bourne Conspiracy and Pineapple Express, and spattered with Oliver Stone’s bloody overspray from Natural Born Killers.

Connie Britton from TV’s Nashville plays a government operative determined to help Mike evade the efforts of her devious counterpart (Topher Grace), who has marked him for elimination. Walter Goggins from Justified is a cackling killer, Laugher, sent—along with an army of other exterminators—to take him out. The versatile John Leguizamo trades his shirt for a torso swathed in fake tattoos as a local lowlife. Bill Pullman is a Washington suit none too happy that one of his “lab rats” is making such a big, noisy mess in the white-trash hills of West Virginia.

John Leguizamo

Director Nima Nourizadeh, whose only previous movie was the teen-debauchery flop Planet X (2012), sets up the crazy story, but has a hard time getting it out of the grindhouse. He stages some sock-o action pieces, however, and one of the coolest things is watching Eisenberg, typically cast as an obsessive-compulsive nerd, break out his license to kill. He’s deadly with a spoon, a cup of instant noodles or a package of frozen hamburgers, even if he doesn’t realize exactly how, or why. The humor is dark, the body count high and the blood abundant. But there’s a tenderness and a love story behind the mayhem, too, and one final surprise—when Mike and his relentless stalker, Laugher, finally come to blows—will hit you hard in a soft place, in a way you won’t see coming.

“Do you feel sick?” Phoebe asks Mike at one point. “No, I feel kind of amazing,” he says, reveling in his newfound abilities. In the way-out American Ultra, those two extremes—sick and amazing—somehow don’t seem so very far apart.

—Neil Pond, Parade Magazine

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