Thursday, June 23, 2016

Now You See Me 2

Dinner and a Movie

By Steve Herte

Now You See Me 2 (Lionsgate, 2016) – Director: Jon M. Chu. Writers: Ed Solomon (s/p and story), Pete Chiarelli (story), Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt (characters). Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Isla Fisher, Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou, Sanaa Lathan, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, David Warshofsky, Tsai Chin, Ben Lamb, William Henderson, Richard Laing, & Henry Lloyd-Hughes. Color, Rated PG-13, 129 minutes.

Although this movie takes place one year after the first installment, it’s been three years since the first one was released. For those who did not see the previous film, a little background information may be necessary. (For the full review of the first film, click here.) 

Four incomparable amateur magicians are formed into a team by an unknown benefactor and call themselves the “Four Horsemen:” J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Harrelson), Jack Wilder (Franco), and Henley Reeves (Fisher). They perform in an elaborate Las Vegas show funded by Arthur Tressler (Caine) and their final trick is to empty the vault of the Crédit Republicain Bank in Paris of its recent delivery of euros and then shower the Las Vegas crowd with the money. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) is assigned to investigate them. He turns to former magician, now magic debunker, Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman) for help. In a later spectacular trick, they steal millions of dollars from Tressler’s private account and plant the money on Bradley, thus landing him in jail as well as making an enemy of Tressler. We learn that Dylan is the son of famous magician Lionel Shrike and he leads them to an elite and secretive group of magicians called The Eye.

A year later, Henley Reeves has left the infamous quartet and the remaining three are keeping under the public radar. But nature abhors a vacuum and illusionist Lula (Caplan) finds Atlas begging to be the fourth (and first woman) horseman. Dylan, still working for the FBI, and still unknown as the fifth horseman, inducts her into the group with a special mission. It seems that Owen Case (Lamb) has created a major bit of malware which can steal identities not only from computers, but from phones and other electronic devices. The Four Horsemen are assigned to discredit him. However, in the middle of their presentation, the scheme is thwarted by a mysterious intruder and the four run for their escape plan.

But instead of winding up in the truck they had waiting for them, they wake up in Macao. Asian thugs lead them to Walter Mabry (Radcliffe). Not only is he the one whose high-tech brilliance interrupted their show, but he’s the illegitimate son of Arthur Tressler. He wants the chip from Owen Cases’ machine (which just happens to be the same size as a standard playing card) for his own corporation’s uses.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director Natalie Austin (Lathan) and Dylan are seeking out the Four Horsemen to eventually arrest them, but the group’s public appeal as modern day Robin Hoods make it extremely difficult. Dylan breaks Bradley out of prison and, following the clues, wind up in Macao, where Bradley vanishes.

The first movie was spectacular, but the sequel easily outdoes it. There are several “Wow” moments, great dialogue, superb special effects, acting that makes you care about the characters and a super soundtrack. It was like watching a Penn and Teller show with a fantastic Mission Impossible story (virtually all the tricks performed are explained). It opens with the back-story between Dylan and Bradley when Young Dylan (Henderson) witnesses the death of his father, Lionel Shrike (Laing) in his final illusion – escaping an inescapable safe at the bottom of a river. Morgan Freeman’s performance was so slick you didn’t know if he was a bad guy or a good one. Daniel Radcliffe makes a greasy villain as compared with Michael Caine’s suave exterior. And I loved Lizzy Caplan as the new member of the team. She provides a lot of the comic relief, but you know she’s dead serious. And Woody Harrelson gets to play two parts, as the serious Merritt McKinney and his wacky twin brother, Chase.

I didn’t see any children in the audience but I’m sure they would be amazed, even without the first film. The language is kept clean almost throughout (only one goof and it’s a small one) and the short violent scene is bloodless. I came out of the theater almost tired. That’s entertainment!

Rating: 5 out of 5 Martini glasses.

The Perfect Pint
123 W. 45th St., New York

Casual is this Irish pub with the unusual menu items from Asian places. If you can’t locate The Perfect Pint by the pint-shaped neon sign three stories over the door, you might find it with the six-foot-high, three-dimensional one just above the faux-thatched awning over the entrance. 

Once inside, I confirmed my reservation with the hostess and she led me upstairs to a long, cozy room with perhaps 20 tables total. I sat at a central table about midway in the room and chose to face the bar. A true pub, none of the tables had tablecloths, but there were both charcoal and cream colored cloth napkins.

With a selection of 40 brews on tap, I was not about to order a cocktail. With Meabh, my server, I chose a three-course meal and the order in which each dish was to come. To start I chose The Perfect Pint Irish Red. This red beer had the creamy flavor and minimum bite for a refreshing start to my meal. 

As I mentioned before The Perfect Pint is an unusual pub in that interesting Asian dishes are mixed in with the standard Irish pub food. For my first course I chose the chicken lemon grass dumplings with ponzu (soy based) dipping sauce.

The dumplings were light, tender and aromatic with ginger and only a light flavor of the lemon grass. With it was a sprinkling of what only could be called kim chee, but not as spicy as the Koreans would make it. It was remarkable. With it, I chose the Magners “Angry Orchard” beer, boasting that 17 varieties of apple go into its brewing. It delivered the apple experience in spades.

I had considered the Newcastle Brown Ale to be perfect with my second course, the Irish onion soup – caramelized onions, stout, chicken broth, sage derby croutons and, of course cheese. It is sweeter and less salty than French onion soup and uses mozzarella instead of gruyere. The sage and the stout made it uniquely delicious.

On to the main course: crazy plum shrimp lo mein. I found it to be unlike any lo mein I’ve ever had in a Chinese restaurant; more like the Vietnamese would make it. The noodles were almost translucent with julienned green, red and yellow bell peppers, and the sauce was both spicy and sweet. The shrimp were cooked to that crunchy tenderness shrimp lovers enjoy.

To accompany it I chose Duvel Green – a full-flavored Belgian golden ale. Its spicy after taste almost interfered with the dish but it was an exciting combination.

Meabh then asked me what would my next choice of beer would be before dessert. I chose Hoegaarden – a white, Belgian wheat beer, spiced and fermented in the medieval fashion. It was rich, hoppy, and almost malty, but a good precursor to dessert.

While the Irish cream cheesecake was tempting, the Mississippi mud pie won me over. In addition to the rich, dark chocolate topping the normally cocoa/chocolate filling was imbued with Bailey’s Irish Cream and Jameson, making it irresistible on a chocolate, graham cracker crust.

Meabh was ready with my check, but I saw that they had specialty coffees. I asked if could have a cup of regular coffee. “Yes.” And I noticed that there were two single-malt scotches I’ve never tasted, Clynelish and Middleton. I ordered them both. Meabh identified which was which and I started my comparison. The Clynelish is smooth and unassuming, a good scotch for the non-scotch-drinker. The Midleton was my favored one; it had the character and the slight bite of a good scotch.

When I had paid the check and was ready to leave I asked Meabh how long the two Perfect Pints (there’s one on the East Side as well) have been in business and she responded, six years. I had a great time and I look forward to the chance of dining there again and trying more ales or beers.

For the Dinner and a Movie archive, click here.

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