Now You See Me 2

If anything makes a ton of money, a sequel inevitably follows. After racking in the dough in 2013, the ‘Now You See Me’ crew return for more magical hijinks. Think a magicians version of ‘Ocean’s 11’ and you’d be on the mark. Watching a group of people pull a heist is always fun, which ‘Now You See Me 2’ has in abundance. Full of the fast pace expected from such a movie, it should ensure viewers are bedazzled by this cinematic sleight of hand.

The Four Horsemen magic group, including Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) and Merritt (Woody Harrelson) are on the hunt for new adventures. This they find when blackmailed into carrying out another heist by tech wizard Walter (Daniel Radcliffe). Determined to gain the upper hand, the industrious foursome use their tricky guiles to grapple out of their latest dilemma.

‘Now You See Me 2’ is a cinematic confection not lingering much in the memory. It’s diverting while watching, but as soon as you walk out the door only a modicum of its story remains. The reason is mainly due to the threat levels our heroes face. Never for a moment do you think the Four Horsemen are in any danger as you know they’ll eventually win. Reaching the end game is delicious enough but not as satisfying as it should be. The cast give fine performances although most are simply playing to their already established screen personas.

What ‘Now You See Me 2’ has going for it is its sense of scale. Events move briskly around the globe magnifying the scope everyone faces. Locations such as China and London look suitably imposing with the action sequences handled with skill. Jon M. Chu directs with a degree of enthusiasm although the flair needed to make the story sparkle is missing. Watching the magic tricks is always a treat though with the ‘how did they do that?’ question going into overdrive.

‘Now You See Me 2’ is largely forgettable fluff even if it’s a perfect movie for a rainy afternoon. It doesn’t tax the brain-cells too much with the creaky plot feeling as familiar as a ‘rabbit out of the hat’ and equally as engaging.

Rating out of 10: 6

Money Monster

In this media age it pays to be a good orator. Those who know how to sell products are much in demand as the many home shopping networks attest. We live in an era of constant selling, whether it’s stocks, cars or other items. ‘Money Monster’ explores what happens when complete trust is put in such people. How one’s person’s belief in what they’ve been told leads to desperate acts showing the danger in accepting anything at face value. Directed by Jodie Foster, ‘Money Monster’ is a tense thriller hopefully making audiences think twice about what they see and hear.

Lee Gates (George Clooney) is a host of a popular finance TV show. Working with his producer Patty (Julia Roberts), Lee dispenses his Wall Street wisdom about which stocks and bonds to buy. Lee’s words come back to haunt him when he meets Kyle (Jack O’Connell), a viewer who followed his financial advice and lost everything. Kyle’s disgruntlement becomes Lee’s displeasure. Events spiral quickly out of control as Kyle takes the TV station hostage with his gun and fury putting Lee and his crew in the line of fire.

‘Money Monster’ is a very topical essay on how society is easily drawn into schemes. Seeing is not always believing with Clooney’s slick cash seller masking the deficiencies of the financial system. Perfectly cast as the sly shyster, Clooney excels in his character’s fluid use of the truth and determination to reach goals at any price. Roberts and O’Connell give equally strong performances as people desperately using skills at opposite ends of the crisis. They effectively convey the situation’s danger as they grapple to achieve outcomes suited to their characters.

Foster’s economical direction wrings the best from the thin premise. Tension is keenly felt through every frame with scenes crackling with bitter regrets and continuing rage. Although it’s easy kicking financial institutions, Foster ensures all sides of the argument are shown with illegal practices having a devastating emotional domino effect. The cinematography evokes memories of classic 70’s conspiracy thrillers to which recent films seem to be returning. The ‘in your face’ quality draws you into events, giving an immediacy in the increasingly volatile situation.

Another solid directorial outing from Foster, ‘Money Monster’ moves at a gripping pace. Money may perhaps be the root of all evil but falling for any old con is just as worse. ‘Money Monster’ also shows the art of research and discovery is something many in current society should adhere to.

Rating out of 10: 8