Tagline: Danger Is Real. Fear Is A Choice.
Earth‘s future never seems to pan out well in the movies. The latest example is M. Night Shyamalan’s After Earth, which is set a thousand years after events forced humanity’s escape to a place called Nova Prime. Shyamalan, who hasn’t made a movie since 2010s The Last Airbender, directs not one Smith, but two. Will Smith plays General Cypher Raige, who has come back from an extended tour of duty to his estranged family. The General finally feels ready to be a father to his 13-year-old son, Kitai, who is played by Smith’s actual son, Jaden. But – and of course you surely knew there was a ‘but’ coming – when an asteroid storm damages the Smiths’, or rather Cypher’s, craft, father and son crash-land on the now unfamiliar and dangerous Earth. With Cypher not exactly in the best of health, Kitai sets off to recover their rescue beacon. And wouldn’t you know it: Kitai has waited his entire life to be a soldier just like his dad. Swap out ‘soldier’ for ‘actor’ and it’s almost like art mirroring reality.
But the reality of the reviews isn’t going to make for pretty reading for Team Smith (nor Shyamalan for that matter). “Basically, this is Smith and his real-life son Jaden (both affecting ridiculous mid-Atlantic accents) talking the audience to death for something like 90 minutes before the closing credits,” points out the New York Post. “Jaden is fine at running, jumping, fearful trembling, and affecting steely resolution. He doesn’t yet have his father’s charisma; perhaps to help him out, dad opted not to bring that charisma to the set,” is Variety‘s zinger. But the Chicago Tribune is more positive, claiming that “After Earth won’t change your world, but it’s attractive.” That’s hardly a ringing endorsement, but After Earth may need all the help it can get when it comes to putting favorable quotes on the poster.
Now You See Me
Tagline: The closer you look, the less you’ll see.
French-born director Louis Leterrier might be able to sympathize with Shyamalan when it comes to unkind reviews. His movies, such as Clash of the Titans and The Incredible Hulk didn’t exactly receive raves, but the tide could be turning. Starring the likes of Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo and Woody Harrelson, Now You See Me tells the story of an elite FBI squad going up against the world’s best illusionists, “The Four Horsemen,” in a game of cat and mouse. “The Four Horsemen” manage to pull off a series of audacious heists against corrupt business leaders during their performances. And in a twist Robin Hood would be proud of, they then shower audiences with their newly-found wealth.
While Leterrier isn’t exactly being showered with praise, he’s arguably not going to hear criticism such as “It isn’t a train wreck – a train wreck would be memorable,” which was part of New York magazine’s review of Clash of the Titans (which happened to be released the same year as The Last Airbender). And perhaps that’s down to the fact that he’s happier with the script – in fact, any script – if we go by this recent interview. Back to the present and the A.V. Club gives Now You See Me a solid B grade: “Moving so quickly its flaws barely register — the blockbuster equivalent of sleight-of-hand — Now You See Me fares best when simply relying on the no-illusions chemistry between its leads.” But Movie Nation can’t summon up the same enthusiasm, concluding that “For all its showmanship, Now You See Me has a lot less up its sleeve than it lets on.”
LIST: Richard Corliss Previews the Movies of Summer 2013
NewsFeed’s Flicks Pick: Neither of this week’s directors have the best of recent track records, but Leterrier’s latest looks to have more going for it. You may need to be quick to catch it on the big screen before it’s eclipsed by the summer blockbusters. Now You See Me? It could end up being a case of, Now you don’t.