“Thor: Ragnarok”: well, imagine a civilization built from landfill trash, among other things

I’m not an aficionado of comic plots or of Thor particularly, but it seems like “Thor: Ragnarok” (directed by Taiki Waititi) gives us a tour of the inhabited universe, where space travel takes us to ancient-like worlds of 50s Fox Ciinemascope spectacles (the film is from Marvel and Disney).  The director himself will play the voice of the fiery giant Korg at the end.

The Asgardian civilization resides on a planet I’ve seen before, with a huge spectacular harbor and a long “boardwalk” out into the sea for the spaceport.   I want a room in a Wyndam hotel with a harbor view.  Sorry, the spire palace will be destroyed.

From a distance, the planet looks like an annulus, so the physics of it isn’t very probable. The planet seems tied closely to another planet where the entire civilization (even the big cities) is built from landfill  trash and toy parts.

The film is a vehicle for a lot of big stars. The centerpiece, not necessary deserving, is Chris Hemsworth as Thor.   He’s all fit for a centerpiece gladiator battle in an amphitheater that could come from Rome (“Demetrius and the Gladiators“) or maybe from “Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome”. That battle is with a new enemy, the Hulk (Bruce Banner) who in his other life is played by an aging Mark Ruffalo. But the arch enemy is the empress Hela (Cate Blanchett) who wants her fill of executioners.

There’s one scene, two-thirds the way through, where the maidenhead women prep Thor for his final battles by prodding his chest with hot irons to remove any hint of chest hair.  Such indignities for a man who will never be a 40-year-old virgin. But does he need to become a clone of Victor Mature?

The giant wolf appears on the boardwalk, without the loving care of Loki (Tom Hiddleston).

The movie is also grounded with some scenes in the Big Apple, like an earlier scene at a Bleeker Street bistro set up to look like La Poisson Rouge (one of my favorite haunts) and where Benedict Cumberbatch plays Dr. Strange, approprirately geeky and a seeming caricature of pianist-composer Timo Andres.  The people who made this movie have watched a lot of young stars rise.  The actual music score is by Mark Mothersbaugh and doesn’t seem that remarkable.

There is a piece by Ashkey Nkadi in The Root, shared on Facebook, “Why is society intent on erasing black people in fantasy and Sci-Fi’s imaginary worlds?” and she discusses the tokenizing of Idris Elba as Heimdall.  I’m not sure she accurately characterizes what goes on in comics or fantasy movies, but I need to be mindful of this in my own future writing.

Wiki of Yggdrasil and the nine worlds of Asgard .

Typical rocky extrasolar planet (wiki).

Name:  “Thor: Ragnarok
Director, writer:  Taiki Waititi
Released:  2017/11/3
Format:  2.35:1 Imax 3-D
When and how viewed:  2017/11/8 Regal  Ballston Quarter daytime small audience
Length:  130
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studios
Link:  official 

(Posted: Thursday, Nov. 9, 2017 at 2:30 PM EDT)

“The Evolution of Digital Comics” (Guest Post)

The Evolution of Digital Comics” by Amy Boyd

One of the reasons why comic books remain popular is because of their appeal across ages. Not only do younger people appreciate these stories, but even older audiences as well. This is why even if comic books have already evolved over the years, they remain relevant.

These days, actual comic books are no longer that popular. You don’t see people flocking to magazine shops just to get the latest copy of a superhero story. This does not mean though that the culture is dead.

In fact, it is more alive than ever. The reason why it stays popular is because everything was brought to an entirely different platform. Digital comics or webtoons are now a big deal. They are a mix between reading from a real comic book and watching a video.

You are still reading the story, but you can see better images and you can also add sound effects. You need to scroll from one page to another just like how you to do it in a comic book. You can also read the content wherever you go, even if you don’t have Internet access.

The whole concept might seem like a step back from the idea of just sitting down and watching a video. However, a lot of people have become really interested with this concept and this paved the way for the popularity of webtoons.

In short, the comic book fever will remain for a very long time. Check out the infographic below and find out how digital comics were born.

The Evolution of Digital Comics

(Posted: Thursday, November 9, 2017 at 9 AM EST)

“Spider-Man: Homecoming”: Tom Holland plays the perfect teen nerd hero

“I am Spider-Man.  With great power comes great responsibility”.

An earlier film where Tobey Maguire played Spider-Man ended that way.  This time, with the new Marvel film “Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017), directed by Jon Watts and written by Jonathan Goldstein et al, the franchise presents a teen super-hero who might be comparable to Clark Kent in the WB “Smallville Series”.

Peter Parker is played by young British actor Tom Holland, now 21 but probably 19 when the film was shot. We get to see his ultra-lean body a couple times when he changes into the spider suit (I though about Milo Yiannopoulos saying fat people hate thin people like Milo).  His best friend in his nerdy hdgh school science crowd is Ned (Jacob Batalon), the same age as an actor, but rather pudgy.  Ned does all the computer hacking and shell-scripting.

The film opens with its own embedded short film, as “A Film by Peter Parker”, in the old 1.37:1 aspect projected onto the much wider screen, of Peter’s boyhood.  Then we see Peter living in Queens with his Aunt May (Marissa Tomei) playing with his superpowers and accompanying his classmates on  a trip to a Washington DC hotel for an academic decathlon.  The physics an calcolus teacher (Tony Revolori, as if right out the “Art of Problem Solving” videos) seems to be their mentor up to a point.   When the vulture (Michael Keaton) threatens terror on New York and Washington (a not so subtle political hint) Peter spins his web into action (sometimes recalling Captain America), rescuing his classmates from the Washington Monument (remember the 2011 earthquake), and then from the Staten Island Ferry when the boat breaks in half.  There is a closing climax over Coney Island, perhaps near the old Seaside Courts on the boardwalk.

Peter turns to the Iron Man (Robert Downey, Jr) as a kind of “mentor”, despite multiple detentions from school system that doesn’t understand he Peter can save everybody.

Holland seems to be creating a combined persona of some clean-cut youthful science heroes now in their early twenties, such as Stanford undergraduate Jack Andraka (who has been called “nano-man” in a little comics series on Twitter), and Taylor Wilson, who invented a fusion reactor at age 14.  (Peter says he is 15.)  The body language and speech similarity of Holland’s character and Andraka is quite striking.  Jack wants everybody to have nanobots in their bloodstreams to detect and knock cancer before it can start.  Is that the premise of another Marvel movie?  (Echoes of “Fantastic Voyage”).

Name:  “Spider-Man: Homecoming
Director, writer:  Jon Watts
Released:  2017
Format: 2.35:1, 3-D, Imax-compatible, prologue is 1.37:1
When and how viewed:  Tyson’s AMC, 2017/8/16 late fair crowd
Length:  133
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Marvel, Columbia Pictures (Spider-Man Marvel productions are distributed by Sony)
Link:  official

(Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2017 at 2:30 PM)

“Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”: Life in the ultimate model world populated by aliens; De Haan shines

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets”, directed by Luc Besson (“The Fifth Element”) tells us what we have to look forward to as a species if we survive Donald Trump, North Korea, and Putin, and take civilization to the stars.  The movies is based on graphic novels and comic books by Pierre Christin and Jean Claude Mezieres.

Unfortunately for the 3-dimensional space city of Alpha, it has a leader who is like a combination of Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, played by Clive Owen.  “Foreigners” whose desert planet (“Dube”) he had once destroyed, played by “Pearls” (like the beings in “Avatar” (2009))have infiltrated.  They seem to have placed a radioactive core “tumor” in the heart of the city.  It’s up to special operatives Major Valerian (Dane De Haan) and girl friend Lauraline (Cara Delevingne) to find and destroy.

De Haan, with his boyish skin and looks (he is 31) plays the role with great charisma, a real hero.

Alpha has many physical spaces, inhabited by all kinds of creatures.  AI bots looking like flies make up the computers.  The humans live in a vertical city sort of like a Hong Kong.  Toward the core there is a red district where no foreigners are allowed (hint: Trump) but drag queens are,  that looks like an open air gay bar running for blocks, embedded into a Disney theme park.  You expect to run into Sean Spicer in leather at any moment.

The desert planet was also interesting before it got blown up, with its own lego-city underground and rather bizarre lake beaches.

The film was shot in studios in France (Toulouse) and Quebec.

The title of the film makes me think of the “Valley of 1000 Smokes” in Alaska.

Here is an imdb image of what Alpha looks like.

Name: Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
Director, writer:  Luc Besson
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 3-D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Quarter, sneak, small auditorium, fair audience, 2017/7/20
Length:  129
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  STX, Europa  (French Canadian production, in English)
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, July 21, 2017, 8:30 PM EDT)

“Wonder Woman: Rise of the Warrior”: who needs (cis, virile, manly) men anymore?

Patty Jenkins gave a passionate interview on, as I recall, ABC’s “Good Morning America” to explain her new DC Comics action film, “Wonder Woman: Rise of the Warrior”, from Warner Brothers.  She wanted to show a female heroine who was the equivalent of a Christ figure (my analogy), not “just” a Virgin Mary.

Indeed, the Amazonian society shown in the early 20th Century as the film starts seems to be all female (parthogenesis, perhaps), that doesn’t need men. The future wonder woman Diana (Lilly Aspell, then Gal Gadot as an adult) grows up as a warrior.  It looks like it came right out of the Burroughs Tarzan series, with women warriors.

There is some pagan mythology here.  Diana’s mother Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen) wants to protect her daughter, who is determined to become a hero worthy of a future Star Wars. The overlord god Zeus loved mankind, but Ares considered man corrupt and let man play “survival of the fittest tribe” with increasingly destructive wars.  Finally, Antilope (Robin Wright) convinces Hippolyta that daughter Diana can become the comic world equivalent of a Navy Seal. (I recall Hippolyta as a name in high school.  A high school friend once mailed me a huge post card of little tunes and signed it Hippolyta.  I wonder if the card is somewhere in the attic.)

The story starts moving when  Diana rescues a British spy Steve Trevor (Chris Pine) from drowning. There’s a little skin shown here, and it looks like the encounter with her  laser-emanating “lasso of truth” costs Steve his chest hair.  Steve educates her about World War I, the War to End All Wars, or The Great War.

The remainder of the plot seems to deal with a desire of the British (David Thewlis) to make an armistice with Germany to stop the war, while a villain (Elena Anaya), with a mask to cover a burn-scarred face that would scare off crows and inspire Hannibal Lecter, concocts an unprecedented deadly poison gas that dissolves everything.

So here we have alternative fact history.  Wonder Woman and Steve’s interventions keep the Allies together until the Americans enter (although nobody gets into the politics of Woodrow Wilson, the draf, and his sedition laws) and in the end, England celebrates victory, only to brace for battles to come in two more decades, needing a wonder gay man (Alan Turing) to save them with “brains over brawn” (like “The Most Dangerous Game”)

This film has been popular in the gay community the week before Capital Pride.

Generally, I’m not as interested in the alternative comic book world presenting history as the real history itself.

The symphonic poem during the closing credits by Rupert Gregson-Williams was interesting.

Name:  “Wonder World: Rise of the Warrior”
Director, writer:  Patty Jenkins
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1, 3-D, Imax
When and how viewed:  AMC Courthouse Plaza, Arlington,, 2017/6/8, late, moderate audience
Length:  141
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Warner Brothers, DC Comics
Link:  official

(Posted: Friday, June 9, 2017 at 2:45 PM)

“Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2”: can a young man be a god and not know it for a little while?

Can a young man first born in the American Midwest to a seemingly average pair of young lovers find out that he is supposed to become a god and be immortal?  Can one be a god or angel  (or human-looking alien from another planet) and not know it until some initiation in young manhood?  Maybe Chris (or Christian, like in the Sibelius King Christian Suite) is the best name for such a character or the Hollywood star who plays him.  Donald Trump would never suspect a thing; his travel bans won’t apply to UFO’s from other planets.

That seems to be the gist of the new franchise sequel, “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2” written and directed by James Gunn (based on the Marvel comics series by Dan Abnett).

Minnesota-born (from the Iron range) Chris Pratt (remember him as the teenager “Bright” in the WB Series “Everwood”) plays the archtype superhero Peter Quill, or Star-Lord.  Chris, approaching 38, does look a little more weathered, and as I recall had at one time gained weight, which he shed. Now, well post-adolescence, there is a mop of hair decorating the middle of Chris’s chest, which is at risk from the laser probes through his bod toward the end.  (That also happened to the young Clark Kent on Smallville near the end of Season 2, resulting in a keloid scar for a few episodes.)  Chris’s character needs to add some art to his people skills: how about singing bel canto, playing piano, directing plays, and making short films.  He does carry others on his back.

After a prologue set against the disco radio music of 1980, we jump to 2014, when Peter (who, without relativity, would be the same age as Jesus during his ministry) visits the High Priestess (that was the name of a friend’s cat when I lived in NYC) on a golden throne in a golden palace in a city on some other planet looking like Dubai.  He’s sent on a quest to find his father and his ancestry. How he gets past the speed of light barrier is not explained.  Does he rent a digital holographic replica of his body from Hertz when he streams instantly to a new planet?  Oh, they show in him spaceships with a co-pilot Rocket, a talking raccoon with voice of Bradley Cooper.  And there is a little wood spirit (whose learning abilities play a critical role in the resolution at the end) with voice of Vin Diesel.

There are some other planets, like one with an open market in what looks like a town in Siberia, but he finally meets his real father, Ego, played by a foppish but aging Kurt Russell.  Ego has created his own living planet in his name, the size of the Moon – making us wonder how it has near Earth gravity. (Ever notice how these planets all have the same atmosphere as Earth?)  Ego wants to expand, so that the entire universe (or at least Milky Way Galaxy) becomes him.  The planet has wonderful scenery:  organix spires of plant material, with red and violet colors as well as the more common photosynthetic green.  Are any of these planets tidally locked?

We do see planets explode at the end, at least Ego.  And there is a scene where a blue mass (remember “The Blob”, which was pink) encroaches on a town (is that back in Missouri?)

And finally, after Peter is reassembled one last time it seems like he will become a god whether wants to or not.

Remember the pretext of the NBC series “The Event”, where Jason Ritter’s character saves everyone but doesn’t know he is an alien?

Wiki chart of sizes of exoplanets known so far.

Name:  “Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2
Director, writer:  James Gunn
Released:  2017/5
Format:  2.35:1, 3-D, IMAX
When and how viewed:  AMC Potomac Mills, Woodbridge, VA, 2017/6/4, late, small audience
Length:  136
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Marvel, Walt Disney Pictures
Link:  official

(Posted: Monday, June 5, 2017 at 6:15 PM EDT)

“Logan” does his Run, in a comics film that, after the fact, pans the alt-right

After reading the (libertarian) Foundation for Economic Education op-ed “’Logan’ eviscerates War and Demographic Planning” by Dan Sanchez, I “gave in” and saw a late show of the Marvel film last night. Yes, even Anderson Cooper like the “X-men” franchise.

Sanchez summarizes the plot pretty well, and I’m not sure all of his parallels hold.  But it’s true, that the “corporate state” (Transigen) had created the mutants as weapons and now regards them as threats the way the all-right views both Hispanic and Muslim migrants.

Hugh Jackman(now 48) looks grizzled, and maybe ready to return from exile or retirement.  The plot of this 135-minute bash concerns Logan’s road trip to rescue his 12-year-old daughter Laura (Dafne Keen) with Wolverine-like powers.

Structurally, the film is a bit like my “Tribunal and Rapture” manuscript, a long road trip (finally leading to planetary evacuation on a spaceship) by a retired FBI agent, who finds he has some subtle powers of his own – I finally decided that this sort of story works better for me when told through the eyes of the younger heroes, whose “powers” aren’t usually obvious and whose appearance is wholesome (even if that idea betrays my own erotic prejudices).

The film journeys into Oklahoma, then sidetracks to Reno (I wanted to see Taylor Wilson make a cameo and pitch his plans to save the power grids), before getting to North Dakota, with some scenery that resembles the Teddy Roosevelt badlands – but actually a lot of the film is shot in New Mexico, with mountains in the background.  The mixture of old and new technologies is interesting (like the winch and pulley in the North Dakota scene.  The mutants, by blowing liquid nitrogen breath, can freeze opponents’ limbs and break then off.  So heads, arms and legs roll in this film. (In Dallas, Joe Bob would have said “check it out.”)

To appreciate the film, you have to know some of the pre-history, of characters like Trask, with their pre-occupation with the alt-right notion of “demographic winter” and the idea that “majority” people don’t have enough kids now.  (That’s why Vladimir Putin allows the persecution of gays.)  I’m reminded of Representative Steve King’s (T-IA) doubled-down comments that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” (story).

Patrick Stewart seems to impersonate me (as he usually does) as Charles, and Boyd Holbrook is notable as Pierce.

I’m reminded of another escapist adventure, “Logan’s Run” (1976), set around the Zale Building on Stemmons Freeway in Dallas, a building in which I worked in the 1980s, where you wonder how the twenty year-olds know think they can eliminate the thirties without facing the same fate themselves soon.

I guess that “Logan”, directed by James Mangold with story by him, was largely developed before Donald Trump won the election, but it seems well conceived as a response to the growing appearance of the alt-right during the 2016 campaigns.  The distributor, Fox, is probably closer to Ayn Rand-style conservatism.

The show opens with a “short film” (“Deadpool: No Good Deed“) about a Logan-like man challenged by a nearby mugging and a telephone booth, in the City.  I’m reminded of Joel Schulmacher’s “Phone Booth” (2002), and even of Timo Descamps and his “Phone Call” or even “Like It Rough” videos.  the 20 Century Fix fanfare then follows, along with TSG and Marvel, before the “feature” starts.  This sort of reminds me also of Dimension Films’s “Grindhouse” in 2007 (embedded double feature and connecting short).  The two short stories in my “Do Ask Do Tell III” book (2014) could be presented this way in film.

Name:  “Logan
Director, writer: James Mangold
Released:  2017
Format:  2.35:1 and Imax
When and how viewed:  2017/3/14 Regal Ballston Quarter, late, low crowd after snowstorm
Length:  137 including short
Rating:  R
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Marvel, TSG
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 11 AM)

“Assassin’s Creed”, based on the game franchise, seems genre-silly, but poses one interesting question

Assassin’s Creed”, directed by Justin Kurzel, is a genre sci-fi fantasy film based on the video game series, and the filmmaking style is perhaps reminiscent of comic book franchises.

After a prologue set in 1492 Spain, where there is a presentation of the idea that the disbanded Knights Templar was trying to unleash the “Apple of Eden” and end free will for mankind, justifying the need to assassinate its members, the film moves to present day, first in 1986 where Callum Lynch is growing up in Baja California and witnessing family violence, to 2016, where the adult Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is being executed by lethal injection in a grim chamber at the Huntsville, TX penitentiary.

But Lynch goes through an interesting NDE, and wakes up to a new existence in a laboratory in Madrid, run by Abstergo, where he will be fed the memories of his ancestors, and sent back to 1492 to rescue humanity.   The lead scientist is Sophia (Marion Cotillard).  The lab, which picks up Lynch with huge pincers and throws him around in a simulator, is rather hard to describe, and the depiction of 1492 Granada is standard video game stuff, not terribly interesting.  It’s also unclear often whose side the Abstergo minions are on.  The complicated plot (it’s on Wikipedia ) leads to a showdown in London where the Apple is presented and mankind must be saved from being changed into obedient surfs – envisioning a world that crosses between Donald Trump (a convenient coincidence) and Mr. Snow in Hunger Games.  Some autocrats or groups believe that it is their purpose to impose moral on the world (a “final solution”) and remain as combative as necessary to do so.

There’s a good question embedded in the movie:  how could someone experience the memories of another, after some sort of reincarnation?  Is the brain, with the neuronal microtubules  a receptacle for consciousness that already exists?  (link)  If so, is there some link to others through the DNA (through genes) of biological lineage?  That would actually have real significance for “family values”.

Name:  “Assassin’s Creed”
Director, writer:  Justin Kurzel (wr. Michael Leslie, et al)
Released:  2016/12/21
Format:  2.35:1, 3-D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, 2016/12/28, late. small audence
Length:  115
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  20th Century Fox, Regency
Link:  official, game

A comparison could be made to Paolo Barzman’s TV-mini series “The Last Templar”, January 2009 on NBC.  The Templar, of course, appear in Dan Brown’s novels and movies, especially “The Da Vinci Code” (2006).

Wikipedia panorama of Granada, Spain, link.

Wikiepdia picture of Huntsville, TX prison, link.

(Posted: Thursday, Dec. 29, 2016 at 11:30 AM EST)

“Doctor Strange”: a neurosurgeon gets to see the Multiverse — and it’s a good thing that “he’th’mooth”

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Name: Doctor Strange
Director, writer:  Scott Derrickson
Released:  2016/11
Format:  2.35:1  Imax 3-D
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common 2016/11/16 small audience
Length 115
Rating PG-13
Companies: Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Productions
Link: official 

 

Doctor Strange” (or “Dr. Strange”,directed Scott Derrickson), as another Marvel franchise initiator, seems to rework some story concepts from “Inception”, along with some space-time ideas we just saw in “Arrival”.

This 115-minute fantasy follows the screenwriting conventions of a distinct middle, beginning, and end.  After a rather superfluous prologue where dark angels demonstrate they can make the streets of London fold over (Inception-style), we’re thrown into modern New York City, where a suave neurosurgeon Stephen Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch) plays Ben Casey a lot in a Greenwich Village emergency room.   Now Strange, even at 40, looks appropriately smooth (or “thmooth”), his arms almost hairless from repeated scrubdowns, and this will prove convenient later when he needs other operations.

Strange has a Trump Tower pad, and is quite cocky about his skills.  One night he goes on a call up the Hudson and flips his sports car after some distracted driving.  The resulting operations on his hands and arms mean his career as a surgeon is over.  His girl friend Christine (Rachel McAdams) tries to talk him into “changing” and he resists, when she demands an apology.   He meets a companion in a basketball playground who urges him to go to Nepal and learn meditation.

The middle section of this ternary movie takes place in Katmandu, filmed on location, and made to look like L’Himby in Clive Barker’s Third Dominion (if “Imajica” finally gets filmed).   Rescued from street robbers by Mordo (Chiwetel Ejiofor) he is led to a sanctuary run by guru “Ancient One” (Tilda Swinton, forced to go bald herself).  Pretty soon he finds himself in “The Library”, where certain Sanskrit books are off limits until he reaches certain stages.  The books, along with other magic devices (one looks like an astrolabe) can open up floating rings into the “multi-verse”.  There is also a concept of a room surrounded by mirrors.  Like events in dreams, events inside these rooms are not supposed to affect the outside world, but (as in “Inception”) these events certainly have a “Hawking radiation” effect.  One of the techniques to reach cosmic consciousness and obtain super-powers (maybe like Clark Kent’s self-teleportation) ironically is total submission, in the sense of Rosenfels-like psychological growth,

The “multiverse” is presented quite effectively, in 3D special effects, as a collection of floating dark spheres and illuminated channels.  Strange will revisit the Multiverse after returning to New York and then visiting Hong Kong (the third alpha city, besides New York and London, protected by the Guild) for a final showdown with the “Great Satan”, or whatever.

In the middle, in a multiverse scene, the script seems to refer to Lucca Rossi’s novel “The Branches of Time” (index).

And, oh yes, I saw the black-and-white “Dr. Strangelove: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb” with a hairy Peter Sellers, by Stanley Kubrick (1963), in 1978 at a theater on 8th St. in the West Village with a friend.

(Published: Nov. 17, 2016 at 10 AM EDT)

“Now You See Me 2” is another grand romp

Vistas_de_Macao,_2013-08-08,_DD_02

 

Name: Now You See Me 2
Director, writer:  Jon M. Chu
Released:  2016/6
Format:  2.35:1
When and how viewed:  Regal Ballston Common, large auditorium, late, 2016/6/15, very small audiene
Length 129
Rating PG-13:
Companies: Summit
Link: official site

Now You See Me: The Second Act”, directed by Jon M. Chu, continues the party, go-go atmosphere of its 2013 predecessor, with the “Four Horsemen” taking control of large, adoring crowds with their extroversion and magic tricks.  Let’s enumerate them: Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), J, Daniel Atlas (a most extroverted version of Jesse Eisenberg), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), presented as clean-cut and the best looking with a not so subtle implication that he’s a “masculine gay”. Thaddeus Bradley Morgan Freeman), double crossed and out of jail (seems to play moderator.

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The plot this time concerns the “Robin Hood” gang’s outwitting super hacker Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, very much a grown man now but with still a trace of Harry Potter’s gentleness), who wants to use a super-computer and special circuit (fit onto a playing card, like a Joker) in Macau, China (near Hong Kong) to reverse-engineer all the encryption in the world and spy on everyone himself.

It gets hard to tell what’s magic and what’s supernatural, especially when the Four wind up in Macau (China’s Las Vegas) .  One of the most interesting sequences in the film occurs where the Four (and a couple of accomplices) outwit security in the computer room in Macau by sleight of hand, passing the card around among one another while undergoing groping and “pat-downs” by security that borders on homoerotic.

The other great sequence occurs on New Year’s Eve in London (no snow), where Atlas manipulates the weather (making it rain upside down).  The spirit of the scene reminds me of the conclusion of Kathryn Bigelow’s “Strange Days” (1995), where the conclusion is set in LA on Y2K as 2000 enters.  In that movie, remember, there had been presented the idea of “prescient goggles” with their own magic.

The orchestral music score by Brian Tyler is often opulent, starting a concert overture just before the closing credits, then introducing some hip-hop, before going back to a full Sonata-allegro, with Straussian opulence, ending triumphantly (A major).

Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Macau by Diego Delso, under CCSA 3.0

Other films for comparison: “The Illusionist” (2006, Neil Burger), and “The Prestige” (2006, Christopher Nolan)

(Published: Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 3:15 PM EDT)