Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

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

PG-13

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.

JM4_9003.NEF

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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Fin-tastic & For Real

All-star cast returns for more true-life dolphin aqua-drama

DOLPHIN TALE 2

Dolphin Tale 2

Starring Harry Connick Jr., Cozi Zuehlsdorff & Nathan Gamble

Directed by Charles Martin Smith

PG

Critics and audiences alike cheered for the first Dolphin Tale, the story of a bottlenose dolphin rescued off the coast of Florida and custom-fitted with a prosthetic tail after tangling and mangling hers in the wires of a crab trap.

The 2011 movie was based on true events, real people, and the actual place, the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, where the repaired and rehabilitated sea mammal, renamed Winter, became a star attraction.

DOLPHIN TALE 2

Nathan Gamble and Cozi Zuehlsdorff

Dolphin Tale 2 continues Winter’s remarkable (true) story and reunites most of the original cast, including Harry Connick Jr., Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman and Kris Kristofferson, along with teen actors Cozi Zuehlsdorff and Nathan Gamble, and the real-life Winter. Actor-director Charles Martin Smith (watch for him as the aquarium inspector) also returns as writer-director, and surfer-celebrity Bethany Hamilton, whose left arm was infamously bitten off by a shark, makes a cameo.

DOLPHIN TALE 2

Harry Connick Jr.

Once again filming on location at the Clearwater facility, this Dolphin tale involves a new predicament for Winter—and the interplay of emotions between humans as well as other creatures, including affection, bonding, celebration, loneliness, loss, anxiety, and the bittersweet pangs of goodbye. “We don’t know if dolphins feel emotions the way we do,” notes Sawyer (Nathan Gamble), Winter’s young trainer. No, we don’t—but the movie clearly wants us to think that they might…and believe that they can.

And you will believe, as well as learn a thing or two about dolphins—like how regulations prohibit keeping a dolphin in captivity alone, without a companion, and how even the most “trained” dolphin is still a wild animal that can seriously injure a human. You’ll also understand how Winter became such an inspiration for so many real-life visitors, from kids to war veterans, who had lost a limb, or more—as one scene (and even more so, the documentary footage that runs at the end of the movie) so movingly depicts.

DOLPHIN TALE 2Children especially will enjoy the antics of couple of non-dolphin characters, a pelican and a rescued sand turtle, that become unlikely buddies. (And grownups might also pick up a message about how the heart’s gonna do what the heart’s gonna do, without letting land, sea, air, species or anything else stand in the way.)

Like its predecessor, Dolphin Tale 2 is another wholesome, family-friendly movie especially good for younger kids and tweens, and it avoids playing down to its audience, or dipping into the crude humor that often creeps into fare for even the youngest viewers (although there is a blowhole emission, which sounds like a fart, that is clearly meant to get a laugh). There are thoughtful, smart plotlines about growing up, taking responsibility, making tough decisions, sorting out the blurry lines between jealousy and affection, learning lessons in unlikely places—and the drama of waiting to see what happens to Winter when her options appear to have run out.

There’s no explosive razzle-dazzle, and no splashy special effects—but lots of real splashes, some dandy, ballet-like, below-water swimming sequences, and plenty of emotion centered around one fin-tastic dolphin, Winter, whose true tale continues to uplift and inspire.

 —Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Wild Weekend

De Niro, Freeman headline all-star, over-the-hill ‘Hangover’

Last Vegas

Last Vegas

Blu-ray + DVD + Digital $40.99 (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)

Robert De Niro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline play grown-up childhood chums who reunite for a Vegas bachelor party weekend in honor of their last single pal (Michael Douglas). Will the wild, wanton ways of Sin City do these 60-somethings in, or can a wise, lovely lounge singer (Mary Steenburgen) keep them on the straight and narrow? Friendships are tested, Viagra jokes fly, smart-aleck young pups get their comedic comeuppance from old dogs, and Morgan Freeman pops some serious moves on the dance floor. Extras include several behind-the-scenes features.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Everything is Awesome

Sharp, smart writing, gonzo wit and the pursuit of special-ness

LEGO

The Lego Movie

Starring the voices of Chris Pratt, Morgan Freeman & Elizabeth Banks

Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller

PG-13, 100 min.

Since their introduction in Denmark in 1949, Lego construction toys have spread all over the world, across multiple generations and throughout the reaches of pop culture. In addition to almost endless varieties of play sets, characters and components, there are also Lego videogames, Lego clothes, Lego competitions, and Lego amusement parks in Europe, North America and Asia.

Now there’s a Lego movie—and more people have seen it than any other film in America since it opened earlier this year.

Clearly, Legos are immensely popular playthings. But The Lego Movie is also an exceptionally well-done, wildly entertaining piece of family-friendly fare, a rare piece of work that engages both grownups and kids with a sharp, smart writing, gonzo wit and a story that bridges cross-generational audiences.

000048.0027807.tifBrilliant digital animation creates a teeming, brick-by-brick Lego world—several of them, in fact—and a sprawling cast of Lego characters: Emmet (Chris Pratt), a everyday, by-the-book construction worker nubbin who may—or may not—be the fulfillment of a long-ago prophesy foretold by Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a blind seer; Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), a beautiful female resistance fighter; Metal Beard (Nick Offerman), a walking maritime junkyard of a pirate; Batman (Will Arnett), Superman (Channing Tatum) and the Green Lantern (Jonah Hill); Lord Business (Will Farrell), an evil control freak who wants to micro-manage everything and everyone; and Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson), a literally two-faced law-enforcement officer.

Co-directors and writers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, whose growing collaborative résumé includes the movies 21 Jump Street and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and TV’s How I Met Your Mother and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, weave themes of creativity, independence and cooperation into a story that runs on a crazy rail of nearly nonstop pop-cultural riffs and satirical references, understated comedic nuance as well as explosively absurd visual magic, and just the right tones of subversive cool for a movie that needs to appeal to children as well as parents.

LEGO

Early in the movie, Emmet gets in his Lego car, turns on the radio and hears a song, “Everything is Awesome.” It’s meant to be a big supersonic joke, an ironic mantra-like jab about conformity in a place where being mindlessly happy is mandatory. But it’s infectious as all get-out, and it becomes the movie’s theme. (It’s performed by the Canadian indie duo Tegan and Sara and the comedy-rap group the Lonely Island, and produced by Devo’s Mark Mothersbaugh.)

And like the interlocking pieces of the gazillions of Legos it would have taken to make this movie if it weren’t for the digital magic of computer animation, the song just fits. Yep, in this joyous, joke-filled parable about the joy of making stuff, the power of imagination and the pursuit of special-ness, everything pretty much is awesome.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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Long Shot

With five Oscar winners on screen, ‘Last Vegas’ should be more of a winner, too

LastVegasPhotoTûR[1]2Last Vegas

Starring Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Kline & Mary Steenbergen

Directed by John Turteltaub

PG-13, 105 min.

Advanced-age audiences have become a sizable movie demographic in recent years, one to which Hollywood has (wisely) been paying more and more attention.

Somebody wasn’t paying quite enough attention, however, to Last Vegas, which seems like a lazy exercise to cash in on the growing base of “maturing” ticket buyers using a cast of venerable, award-winning actors plugged into a story template clearly lifted from another successful franchise.

A buddy comedy about four 70-ish friends who convene for a bachelor-party weekend as the last single member of their group is (finally) about to tie the knot, it’s an over-the-hill Hangover with most of the ribald raunch of that 2009 blockbuster replaced with creaky jokes about achy joints, hemorrhoids and rapper 50 Cent sheepishly complaining to hotel management that the four horsemen of the AARP apocalypse are slammin’ and jammin’ so loudly he can’t sleep.

The movie counts on its all-star pedigree to carry its slender storyline a long way—and that’ll probably be enough for some folks, who’ll simply enjoy the precedent-setting spectacle of seeing Robert De Niro, Michael Douglas, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline sharing the screen as the childhood buddies now grown up and reunited for a geezer-fied fling.

K72A3158.CR2The quip-filled script by Dan Fogleman (whose resume includes Cars, Bolt, Tangled, Crazy, Stupid Love and The Guilt Trip) sets up the characters quickly: Sam (Kline), who’s had so many joints replaced that his friends jokingly call him “the Bionic Man”; Archie (Freeman), recovering from a stroke but dying a slow death under the suffocating care of his overly attentive son; and grumpy Paddy (De Niro), living under a cloud of gloom after the death of his wife.

All three come to Vegas from their far-flung corners of the country when Billy (Douglas), their slick, high-living, lifelong bachelor bud with a sexy 32-year-old girlfriend, decides to get married and throw himself a Sin City send-off.

As the guys acclimate to the glitz of their new surroundings, director John Turteltaub, who previously steered three National Treasure kid-centric adventures, has them run a gauntlet of geriatric jokes. Most of chuckles, alas, feel churned from cheap sitcom stock. Sam, who’s been given a weekend “free pass” (as unlikely as that sounds) from his wife, can’t wait to pop the single Viagra pill in his pocket. Archie tries to maintain his ruse from his son that he’s really on a church retreat. The doorkeeper at the hotel’s after-hours nightclub thinks the group’s paltry $5 tip to skip his long line must be a joke. A young inebriated woman asks them if they have any drugs. “Does Lipitor count?” they want to know.

“This may be the first bachelor party I’ve attended that could be covered by Medicare,” says Diana (MaryK72A7000.CR2 Steenbergen, Oscar winner No. 5), a lovely lounge singer who’ll become a major player in the way the weekend unfolds.

Other movies have plumbed the issues of growing older with grace, dignity and a real sense of the humor and humanity that can be found in the walk into the long shadows of the twilight years. The four old lions in Last Vegas don’t aspire to anything so profound as they rip, roar, rib each other and “party like it’s 1959.”

You might expect more from an assemblage of actors with a spread of six golden Oscar statues among them. Those seem like pretty good odds for a successful, can’t-lose movie, right? Sorry to report that payoff is such a long shot.

—Neil Pond, American Profile Magazine

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