Weekend Roundup Reviews: Now You See Me & The Kid With a Bike

First weekend of June and apparently the box office came crashing down after a strong Memorial weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, Fast & Furious 6 fell 65% to about $34 mil, but yet it still took the top spot with Now You See Me ($28 mil) and After Earth ($27 mil) rounding up the top three. I had no interest in seeing the Will Smith (& son) movie, so even with two press screenings, I didn’t attend either one of them. Anyway, here are my reviews of the two I saw this past weekend:

NowYouSeeMePosterNow You See Me (2013)

An FBI agent and an Interpol detective track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.

This movie wasn’t even on my radar until I saw the trailer in front of Oblivion last month. It looks like a fun caper with a pretty decent cast, though I was mostly amused by the fact that Christopher Nolan’s Batman alums Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are together again on screen. Well, after seeing the movie, I actually find this interview of the two of them where Freeman dozed off right in the middle of it far more entertaining, ahah.

The movie started off promising enough, with a brief ‘origin’ story of sort how the world’s most popular team of illusionists The Four Horsemen came into being. Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Woody Harrelson made up the four of them, with Harrelson being the most amusing of them all by a small margin. The first magic trick that takes place certainly piques your interest and makes you go, ‘how the heck did they do that??‘ If you’ve seen the trailer, you might’ve seen the clip of thousands of dollar bills showering the audience of a live magic show. Well, the trick is a pretty cool one involving a French guy being teleported to his bank in Paris! A theft this big surely gets the attention of the FBI and the agent assigned to the case, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is hot on their trail. He gets help from pretty Interpol agent Alma (Mélanie Laurent) and there’s a hint of romance in their interaction which falls flat to me.

NowYouSeeMeStills

The last movie by French director Louis Leterrier was the horrible Clash of the Titans. Now this isn’t as bad as that one but really, that’s not saying much. I usually like caper action films and with the whole magic theme interwoven in it, the story is definitely promising. But Leterrier’s direction is so scatterbrained that the movie elicits eye rolls and gaping yawns [no wonder Freeman dozed off promoting this movie, ahah]. A few times during the movie I whispered to my hubby that this movie has a serious identity crisis. I mean, it’s trying to hard to be a mystery thriller, fast-paced action, romance drama, but it fails in all fronts. It also shifts its focus from the various characters in such a frenetic fashion that I barely care just who’s tricking who and what’s really at stake here. Then, as the heists gets even more daring and the action more bombastic, the film throws this big twist at the end that’s supposed be this huge shocker. Unfortunately, I’ve stopped caring by that point. The climax just isn’t all that rewarding after all the disconcerting ride this movie’s put us through. Plus, the flashback reveal is so lame and preposterous I practically threw my hands up in the air.

There are some cool scenes here and there but overall Now You See Me‘s is such a big waste of talents and material. I don’t care about any of the characters either. I mean, the fact that I kept referring to Freeman and Caine’s characters as Lucious Fox and Alfred should tell you just how memorable these characters are. I only remember Ruffalo’s character’s name as it’s cool enough to be a superhero alter ego, but Rhodes is so daft that his superiors must’ve been in a trance when they hired him, ahah. Apart from some cool scenes of the magic show that made me feel as if I were actually in Vegas watching a show, there’s barely any cinematic magic to speak of here. Even the action scenes are nothing groundbreaking, even the rather long car chase scene is nowhere near as exciting as the one Leterrier did in the first Transporter movie. Eisenberg’s character said that the first rule of magic is always be the smartest person in the room. Well, seems like such a person went ‘poof’ in the making of this movie!


2 out of 5 reels


TheKidwithaBikePosterThe Kid With a Bike (2011)

Abandoned by his father, a young boy is left in a state-run youth farm. In a random act of kindness, the town hairdresser agrees to foster him on weekends.

This film came highly recommended by a few of my closest bloggers. The story definitely appeals to me and right of the bat it reminds me of one of my favorite indie Dear Frankie as the protagonist is also abandoned by his father. The difference is, the 11-year-old Cyril doesn’t have a mother either and he reluctantly lives at a foster institution. Kids like Cyril are so broken that a life of delinquency seems inevitable, even if the stubborn and impulsive boy is actually a good kid at heart.

Seemingly by chance, Cyril runs into Samantha [literally!] as he was running away from his foster counselors. He’s been looking for his missing dad and his bike. Samantha (Cécile De France), a hairdresser in town, somehow finds out where his bike was sold and buys it back for Cyril. Her kind gesture doesn’t end there, she even offers to take Cyril with her on weekends, and she even agrees to take Cyril to find his dad.

What strikes me about this French film is how matter-of-fact the story goes right from the beginning. It doesn’t pull any punches on showing the pain and despair Cyril (Thomas Doret) goes through in his young life, and the cruelty of his own father in when he gives him up in order to start a fresh new life. Even as someone who grew up without a father myself, I don’t think I could fathom being deserted by my own parent in this manner. The scenes of Cyril and his dad who’s now moved to another town and works at a restaurant is heart-wrenching. It’s not just painful to see how his dad blatantly rejects him, but more so because Cyril refuse to accept that fact and is denial that his dad no longer wants him in his life.

TheKidwithaBikeStills

It’s almost inevitable that a kid like Cyril would fall into a bad crowd. So when a charismatic gang leader known as The Dealer practically recruits Cyril, I was terrified for what’s in store for this young boy. Thankfully, the film didn’t descent into some real sinister territory, and the resolution proves to be quite a turning point for the young protagonist. Even though it has an open-ended finale, I think we could guess just which path Cyril is finally on to. It’s nice to see something of substance after the vapid one I saw days before. It’s a simple film with barely any frills, but the story is really the *star* of the film.

I must admit though, that I didn’t quite connect with Cyril as much as I had hoped I would. I find myself quite frustrated with Cyril as he doesn’t warm up to Samantha despite her kindness towards her, and Doret’s not an expressive performer (I guess this being his first film is understandable). I do appreciate the fact that the filmmaker is perhaps presenting his character just the way he is, without manipulation or making him to be a sympathetic character. As with Samantha, I wish there’s more background on her character as there could be more time spent on why she was so adamant to help Cyril.

That said, I’m curious to see more from the Belgian filmmaker duo, brothers Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne. Since making films in the late 70s, they’ve been garnering numerous awards and multiple Palme d’Or honors. This film won the Grand Prix at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe in Best Foreign Language Film. The cinematography of the city of Seraing (which happens to be the birthplace of the Dardennes), a French-speaking region in Belgium, is pretty scenic. Now, the use of music is so sparse that when it appears it almost took me out of the movie. From what I read about the filmmakers, they apparently rarely use music in their films which I find quite odd.

According to Wikipedia, the screenplay had a structure inspired by fairy tales. No wonder Samantha is portrayed like a fairy godmother. Yet the message of humanity in this film is quite inspiring, we could use more people like her in this world.


4 out of 5 reels


Have you seen either one of these films? I’d love to hear what you think!

47 thoughts on “Weekend Roundup Reviews: Now You See Me & The Kid With a Bike

  1. So glad you loved Kid with a Bike. I loved it and I thought De France was brilliant. I like what you said about more background to her character.

    I’m seeing Now You See Me tomorrow. Consider my expectations a bit low.

    1. Yeah, I really like De France’s character, probably more so than the kid, ahah. It’s a bit frustrating that we know so little about her though.

      Ahah yeah, lowering your expectations might help… not sure how much though 🙂

      1. Oh, and as a devoted Flixchatter fan I noticed your jab at Clash of the Titans which wasn’t your first one. You just may give me a hard time during a future Public Movie Defender post! (Hint Hint, Wink Wink). 🙂

        1. Ahahaha, glad you caught that. Sorry Keith, and I’ll be sure to give you a hard time when the PMD post on that one is up 😉

    1. Hope you do Michael. As a parent I think the story would appeal to you, suffice to say, Cyril’s dad won’t ever get any Father’s Day kudos, ahah. Yeah Now You See Me is such a wasted opportunity.

  2. Good stuff here Ruth. Shame that Now You See Me doesnt live up to it’s impressive cast. It actually sounds good on paper.

    I really fancy The Kid with the Bike as I’ve heard many good things. I’m even more intrigued now that you mention Dear Frankie along with it. Fine reviews Ruth.

    1. It certainly did sound good on paper, and even the trailer promised so much. Alas, it just didn’t work out as well as it could be.

      As for The Kid with a Bike, I do think it’s a good film but to be honest with you, I still prefer Dear Frankie (and not only because of GB), but I feel like as a whole, it’s a more compelling film to me. I was more involved with all the characters, and I like how in the end, Frankie ends up changing The Stranger’s life as much as the other way around. I also love the use of music in films and DF did a much better job in that regard, even if it’s perhaps more ’emotionally manipulative.’

    1. Hi Erik! Was it really overlooked though? I think it garnered lots of kudos all over, though it wasn’t nominated for an Oscar.

        1. Ah I see. Yeah, it’s too bad that indie films just don’t get a decent theatrical showing in our cinemas. I missed out on a few indies because it just wasn’t showing long enough.

  3. Ted S.

    Too bad about Now You See Me, I was mildly interested in seeing it after I saw the trailer but with so many negative reviews, I might just rent it when I’m bored some day. It’s strange that we don’t get to see a good caper film these days, I ended up watching Ocean’s Eleven again for the countless times since I was in the mood for one. It’s still probably the best caper film Hollywood has made the last 20 years or so.

    The Kid With a Bike sounds interesting, I’ll give a it a rent someday.

    1. Yeah I like caper flicks too, but this one is just trying too hard to be clever but the story is so thin that it wasted all those great talents. I like the first Ocean film, but can’t remember the rest, ahah.

    1. Glad to hear, I think you’d appreciate it Cindy. Yeah I like Freeman too, he’s still awesome to watch even in so-so movies. But yeah he really needs to be more selective.

  4. Oops, and about Morgan Freeman. I love the man. He’s proven himself. So why does he pick every script thrown at him on the table? I wish he’d be less commercial and more choosy about his projects.

  5. Well, now I feel validated in skipping on Now You See Me. Maybe I’ll give it a watch someday, but I’m glad I didn’t shell out the money for the theater ticket. I was interested in it, but I just had a feeling it wasn’t quite going to measure up. It seems like a really cool concept though.

    1. I’m glad at least I didn’t pay for Now You See Me. It’d be worth a Redbox rental at best. The concept IS cool and the cast was great, but they didn’t add up to much.

  6. I heard about Kid with a Bike. It looks interesting enough … the promotion around Now You See Me gave me pause. Based on your review that pause was for good reason.

  7. Great reviews. I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Kid with a Bike, so I’ll definitely check that one out. I really thought Now You See Me would be better, though.

  8. Really great reviews Ruth. I was hoping a little more from Now You See Me, I thought it had a really interesting concept and that’s a pretty great cast. And I’ve seen a few reviews of The Kid With a Bike and they’ve all praised it, so i’ll have to keep an eye out for that one.

    Oh and that video of Morgan Freeman falling asleep is brilliant! 😀

    1. Thanks Chris! Yeah me too, I mean the concept and the cast had so much going for it. But The Kid With a Bike is very good, as to be expected with smaller films like that. I’d also recommend Dear Frankie which is in a similar vein but I still prefer that one.

      Ahah, he’s a hoot wasn’t he?

  9. I am on the fence about checking out Now You See Me as I have been hearing some mixed reviews. Might be best to wait to check it out when it is streaming and save my hard earned cash.

    I have been putting off seeing The Kid With the Bike as it looks like a bit of a downer. I am sure I will check it out at some point when I am in the right frame of mind. Sometime right after I check out Blue Valentine.

    1. Hi Adam, I’m surprised actually that the rating wasn’t lower. I thought it was terrible and a wasted opportunity. I don’t think The Kid With the Bike is a downer, I think Blue Valentine is much more so, ahah.

  10. Sorry to hear Now You See Me is a waste, but I’m thrilled you liked The Kid With a Bike. Yeah, the Dardennes use little music, and their style is very naturalistic. I think it works for the stories they tell though. Hope you check out some more of their work.

    1. Well, it seems that some bloggers enjoyed Now You See Me more than I did, Josh. I still think it’s only worth a rental though. That’s interesting about the Dardennes’ use of music, I guess I’m a big fan of movie music so the lack of it kind of bothered me a little, well it took me out of the film a bit when it actually came on, ahah.

  11. I’ll have to seek out Kid with a Bike. It’s a bummer that you didn’t like Now You See Me. It seems people are a little split on whether they liked it or not, but no one really seems to think it’s very memorable. I’ll have to check them both out.

    1. I hope you do! Kid with a Bike I mean. As for the other, well, see it at your own risk, ahah. I’m just glad I didn’t pay for the ticket to see it.

    1. It’s perhaps one of the lamest twists in recent memory. If I decide to do a year-end ‘best and worst’ list, it’ll probably end up in my Worst list.

      The Kid with a Bike is good, but my recent watch of The Kings of Summer just tops that one.

    1. You mean ranking the performances in that particular film?? Or just in general? Sorry I’m not sure I get your question 😀

  12. So glad you were able to check out The Kid With a Bike. That one caught me by surprise with its efficient simplicity. I know a lot of people didn’t like Cyril so much, but I empathized with him immediately. I can only imagine how hard it would be to grow up like he did, and it makes sense that he would lash out even to those showing him affection. Being loved is basically a new concept for him, so it’s natural that he would be abrasive at first. I agree with you on wanting to learn more about Samantha though. That’s a great observation.

    1. Hi Eric! Oh I empathized with Cyril too, I just expected more somehow. What you said is absolutely right, he just didn’t know how to respond to Samantha’s affections. The stark simplicity works well I think, though for me, the minimal use of music took me out of the experience a bit when it did come on. Overall it’s definitely a worthy film more people should check out.

      Btw, if you really like this one, I suggest checking out Dear Frankie as it has a similar theme and perhaps a similar shoe-string budget. I adore that one.

        1. Trust me, it’s not only because GB was in it, though arguably it’s still one of his best, most understated roles. I also love the kid who played Frankie and Emily Mortimer as his mom 😀

  13. I agree that Now You See Me suffers from an identity crisis. I loved the cast, but the plot twists and surprises are messy. I do love Melanie Laurent in it.

    Glad you loved The Kid With A Bike, but I only gave it 3,5 stars because it’s too ‘dry’ for me.

  14. Pingback: DVD Court: ‘Now You See Me’, ‘The Ice Man’ | The Cinematic Katzenjammer

  15. Pingback: AUGUST 2015 Viewing Recap + Movie of the Month |

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