REVIEW: Now You See Me

Remember when Paul Daniels was on TV, sawing his wife in half (matron) and generally making magic seem like the least cool thing ever? Fast-forward to 2013 and this is not the world in which the internationally-renowned Four Horseman occupy. For them its all sell-out tours, car chases and magician groupies, and that’s before you take into account being fugitives on the run from the FBI for robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.

It’s all very exciting, and it has to be, because frankly magic in the movies doesn’t quite have the same appeal as in reality. After all, watching Isla Fisher fly around an auditorium in a bubble is all well and good, but it doesn’t provide that “How are they doing that?!” moment that you get from actual illusionists.

Of course that doesn’t mean a magician-based movie can’t be a hit (The Prestige anyone?) – it just means the narrative and the characters have to deliver – and by Jove, Now You See Me gives it one hell of a go.

Running places incoherently is central to the Now You See Me plot.

Running places incoherently is central to the Now You See Me plot.

The Four Horseman comprise street magician J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), ‘mentalist’ Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and all-round cheeky chappy Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), all of whom have been brought together by a mystery figure who’s motives are unknown.

From there the Four Horseman take to the road with the show planned meticulously by their inconspicuous boss, with the first of which involving an apparent bank robbery. Why they would place themselves at the centre of an FBI investigation (headed up by Mark Ruffalo’s Dylan Rhodes) all on the say-so of someone they haven’t met or know the identity of is one of many questions that you will be asking during Now You See Me, but fortunately Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is on hand to provide the answers to many of them.

Bradley is a magician-debunker; explaining how they pull off their tricks armed with nothing more than a glamorous assistant and a couple of cameras. He’s essentially a professional party-pooper, but he comes in particularly useful for the FBI who require his services for understanding how exactly the Four Horseman might be pulling it all off.

It’s rather convenient really, because if he hadn’t been about we’d have been left needing the narrative to explain the various twists and turns, which to be honest would have been bloody complicated.

Just say it was your card and we can all go home.

Just say it was your card and we can all go home.

In the end that’s pretty much how it goes for the entirety of Now You See Me. In one moment it sets up an intriguing premise, and in the next gets Morgan Freeman to explain how its actually all very simple, and it’s a level of exposition that is actually pretty patronising and distracting.

It’s a shame because there are some interesting ideas in there – some of which are even socio-economic of all things – and you can see the potential for a really twisting, turning and intriguing film, but it never gets there and ends up wavering dangerously close to dull.

During his police interview Atlas explains that the first rule of magic is to always be the smartest guy in the room. Unfortunately for Now You See Me it isn’t anywhere near as smart as it thinks it is.


 

Tales from the Other Side: Coasters, corpses and a shit load of pancakes

For the many satellite television customers up and down the country there are somewhere around 700 channels to feast the eyes upon. A veritable cornucopia of programming output that tragically, though quite often understandably, barely enjoys the warm fuzzy feeling they get when they realise someone might actually be watching.

Well as far as Think Outside the Box is concerned it simply isn’t right, and in Tales from the Other Side I will be venturing into the darkest corners of the TV guide so you don’t have to, and reporting back the full extent of the horror that I bare witness to.

And that horror starts with Tommy Walsh of the 1990s in Tommy’s Fix it Yourself over on Discovery Shed. Fortunately the connotations of that particular title (presumably it was decided on before Jimmy Saville turned out to be every bit the paedophile he appeared to be) aren’t replicated in the actual show, as the ever-affable Tommy helps home owners complete big DIY projects while saving a bit of money in the process.

Tommy Walsh

Tommy Walsh: Chatting man stuff with real men.

This episode sees Tommy giving Dave and Corinne a hand with their loft conversion, utilising his standard combination of cheeky cockney charm and sensible polo shirts to give the impression of a man who you would both share a pint with and trust to lay some paving slabs, and its got Dave’s heart all of a flutter. He can’t hide his love for the man as he insists that he just doesn’t want to “let Tommy down”, embarrass himself with his shoddy spirit-levelmanship or let Tommy discover the false wall that leads directly to his Ground Force fetish room.

Despite all the homo-eroticism its all very manly, and speaking of men being men, Man v Food on Home doesn’t get much more masculine. Despite the show being tucked away down the listings I’ve actually heard quite a lot about Man v Food before without ever having watched it. This time out Adam Richman (the ‘Man’ in question) is taking on a serious amount of pancakes and, should he finish them within an hour, he’ll be only the fifth face on the Wall of…. people who have eaten a lot of pancakes.

Man v Food

Man v Food: Not at all gratuitous or offensive masses of food.

The show left me with two conclusions. Firstly that America has too much food and secondly that Adam will be dead in about 5 years.

If he does finally succumb to that heart attack he’s been working towards then perhaps he’ll end up on the mortuary slab of Dr. G: Medical Examiner (Home & Health). It’s a show all about finding out how people’s loved ones died and is presented in a similar tone to that of Gordon Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.

Tonight Dr. G is looking into the case of Natalie, a wife and mother who has been found mysteriously dead in her bed, and it is her job to get to the bottom of it with all the gleeful abandon of a Bargain Hunt antiques expert.

For all its flippancy though it is at least mildly exciting – if you’re into watching corpses have their heads cut open – which is a lot more than can be said for Insane Coaster Wars on the Travel Channel.

The premise of the show is for a group of roller coaster enthusiasts to ride some of the most exciting coasters in the world and then choose a winner, and if you thought watching strangers ride roller coasters before deciding which inanimate collection of steel was their favourite sounded dull, wait until you watch it for five minutes.

The eventual winner was Cedar Point’s Millennium Force, for reasons that no one has ever cared about, ever.