Weekend Movies: Hocus Pocus

Not every summer weekend will contain the blockbusters that audiences want to race out and see. While this weekend may not appear so great at first glance, it has at least one promising title… but it’s definitely not the one from M. Night Shyamalan.

As expected from a Shyamalan film, ‘After Earth‘ has many twists. However, none of them are within the actual movie. These twists pose unanswerable questions, such as: How in the hell does Shyamalan still have a studio-backed career? How is it that ‘After Earth’ is the widest release of the week on more than 3,000 screens? Did Will Smith read the screenplay before signing on? If so, did he only sign on under the condition that his son be given the lead role? Even if you once loved Shyamalan’s early movies, you still won’t like this boring adventure flick. Set in the distant future, over one thousand years after mankind was forced to leave an over-polluted Earth, Smith and son crash-land their spaceship on the deadly planet. Daddy’s leg is broken, so son must travel 100+ kilometers to ensure their survival. Not a single entertaining moment ensues. Shyamalan’s latest is pretty much dead on arrival.

The second widest release of the weekend is Summit’s playful ensemble thriller ‘Now You See Me.’ Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Melanie Laurent and Dave Franco, the movie tells the story of four stage magicians brought together to create an unmatched magic show that will make its audiences giddy while enraging the powerful and the police. While the film may not be particularly original or well made, you can expect a fun ride with plenty of twists and turns. Compared to this year’s earlier magician flick, the incredibly bad ‘Incredible Burt Wonderstone’, ‘Now You See Me’ is pure gold.

One of this week’s limited releases also has my attention. In ‘The East‘, an anarchist group inflicts terrorist attacks on evil corporations and the executives who run them. An undercover agent makes her way into the secretive organization, only to begin sympathizing with those she once considered her enemies. From the director of ‘The Sound of My Voice,‘, the film stars Brit Marling, Ellen Page, Shiloh Fernandez, Jason Ritter, Julia Ormond and Patricia Clarkson.

I saw the second could-be-great indie release at Sundance 2012, but can’t remember much about it other than that it made me want to fall asleep. ‘Shadow Dancer‘ stars Clive Owen, Gillian Anderson and Andrea Riseborough. In this ’90s period drama about the Irish Republican Army, an agent of MI6 convinces a struggling single mother to rat out her family IRA organization for the shady promise of giving her son a better life. Just thinking about ‘Shadow Dancer’ makes me drowsy again. Great premise, poor execution.


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