Greetings! Have you ever wondered if a movie's worth blowing the money on to see at the theater or what to add next to your NetFlix queue? Then you've come to the right place! Enjoy!

"Now You See Me" Review

Now You See Me's trailer (see below) sort of promises Ocean's 11 with magicians and the movie starts with a rapid-fire series of scenes introducing us to Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and James Franco's Jim Belushi of a brother Dave as they do their respective acts, some bordering on criminal. They are summoned to an apartment with a mysterious puzzle inside and then the story jumps ahead a year where they're The Four Horsemen and are doing a Vegas show where their big finish is to appear to teleport an audience member to a French bank upon which the contents of a vault are showered upon the crowd.

This naturally attracts the attention of the FBI led by Mark Ruffalo, a pretty Interpol agent (Mélanie Laurent) and a James Randi-style debunker (Morgan Freeman) who is wondering what this gang is up to. They have a Very Wealthy Benefactor (Michael Caine) who appears to be bankrolling their activities, but there appears to be a twist in their relationship which then sets up a weird class warfare/Robin Hood caper which sails past the bounds of reasonable disbelief suspension.

While Now You See Me starts off slick and flashy - I was wondering how many SteadiCam operators director Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, the pretty good Ed Norton one; the first two good Transporter movies) burned through with all his sweeping shots - it starts to bog down halfway through as we cope with unnecessary romance and the increasingly ridiculous and convoluted plot which ends up in downtown WTFville. The overstocked cast deserves better, like a coherent, non-gimmicky script; that'd be a nice trick.

Score: 6/10. Catch it on cable.

"Ted" Unrated Blu-ray Review

Usually "unrated" versions of comedies add in more raunchy bits, but in the case of Ted (original review here) which was plenty raunchy to start with, the additional 7 minutes actually water down the overall flow of the movie, adding mostly superfluous material or alternate scenes. (e.g. the reason for the hooker poop changes) It's still funny, but more time away from Ted isn't an improvement.

The making-of extras are brief, but satisfying as they show how they shot the movie with Seth MacFarlane performing in a special motion capture rig while off to the side of the live actors. The hotel brawl gets its own feature and there are a bunch of really unfunny, best-deleted scenes with the exception of the last two involving Joel McHale - the first which hints at a radically different take on the character while the other makes him even worse than in the final film, but it's funny.

Score: 8.5/10. Buy it.

"Casting By" Review

Taking a break from anti-science, fear-mongering propaganda films like Gasland 2, the Monday night HBO Documentary series has something fact-based, thus interesting, this week: Casting By, a fascinating documentary about the under-appreciated but oh-so-important heroes of filmmaking, the casting directors who match actors with parts and and who gave tomorrow's superstars their big breaks yesterday, but who knew?

Focusing on Marion Dougherty (who kept pushing Jon Voight even after he stunk up an early TV gig) and featuring interviews with Jeff Bridges, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Clint Eastwood, Al Pacino, Robert Redford, Richard Dreyfuss, Danny Glover, Diane Lane, Paul Rudd, John Travolta, Ned Beatty and many more, we learn how casting evolved into a specialized profession for talent spotters, but still doesn't have parity with other creative departments; it's the only category in opening credits without an Oscar category and a drive to get Dougherty and Honorary Oscar spearheaded by Eastwood failed.

It's available to watch on HBO GO. Definitely cherkitert.

Score: 9/10. Watch it. 

"Cop Out" Maximum Comedy Mode Review

Let's get this clear up front: Cop Out was a terrible movie; the worst thing Kevin Smith had done until Red State. In fact, here is the entirety of my review from almost three years ago to the day:
This movie sucked. The end.

Score: 1/10. Skip it.

OK, why did it suck? Because it's unfunny, has a sloppy story, it's unfunny, Tracy Morgan is unfunny, it's tedious, boring, and unfunny. Oh yeah, it's not funny, either. Kevin Smith - directing from someone else's script for the first time, though you can tell he stuffed some of his childish humor in - must've thought he was making a homage to Eighties cop-buddy flicks like Beverly Hills Cop, but as Cop Out painfully proves, Morgan ain't no Eddie Murphy and having Harold Faltermeyer do the score doesn't put it in the same league. I laughed a few times at total throwaway gags, but so what? I'm a fan of Kevin Smith, but if I meet him, I'm going to punch him in the junk and demand my two hours back for wasting my time.
Jeez, dude, tell us what you really think.

So, why did I actually BUY a copy of the "Rock Out With Your Glock Out" (nice Iggy reference there, Kev) edition Blu-ray? A: Because I'm an extras fiend and I occasionally pick up a movie I hated just to see if in the extras they cop to knowing they made a bad flick. They never do, like with Green Lantern, but it's fascinating to see the self-delusion that went into failure. Also, it was $2 used at Family Video.

Amazingly, but not really surprisingly since Smith is still a witty raconteur despite having totally lost the plot as a filmmaker, watching Cop Out in this renamed "Maximum Comedy Mode" (rather than Maximum Movie Mode as used on other Warner Bros. titles like Watchmen, Sucker Punch and Terminator Salvation) is a much more enjoyable experience because Smith is funny in his usual way while discussing how the movie took shape in editing and reshoots to get to its final (awful) form.

There's a neat way they manage the deleted scenes and additional footage of alternate takes and improvs: When a deleted scene is happening, the letterboxing bars turn red and improvs have blue bars. Smith pops up in a PIP box occasionally to mock how the main version of him is yammering on. There is also a silly PIP "feature" called "Wisdom of the Sh*t Bandit" in which Stifler pops up to give some weird Jack Handy-esque bon mot.

While there are a couple of hints of the drama that working with Bruce Willis entailed, it's not surprising that Smith doesn't lay into his star in the middle of this splashy MCM production. (For that, you'll need to slog through his endless fixation on his wife's butthole in the occasionally enlightening Tough Sh*t: Life Advice from a Fat, Lazy Slob Who Did Good) The MCM experience run over three hours with all the extra stuff and Focal Point side trips, so if you've got a PS3 or BD player that can playback at 1.5X speed with subtitles on, it only takes around two hours.

What makes the Maximum Comedy Mode experience of Cop Out work is that you don't have to watch much of the lousy movie itself during it. Smith keeps things moving along in his trademark style and if you're a filmmaking nerd like me, you'll learn a few things. You just won't learn how all the good intentions resulted in such a miserably lousy movie.

Score: 8/10 (MCM mode ONLY! The movie itself still blows) Rent it.

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