Nicholas Barber's the Watch List: Magicians
Sunday 27 October 2013
In Now You See Me, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco star as magicians who pull off bank heists with the same ease that they put on Las Vegas conjuring shows. It’s just one of the many recent films to feature stage magicians and, like two of the others, it co-stars Michael Caine.
The best known is Christopher Nolan’s moody steam-punk blockbuster, The Prestige (2006). Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play bitter rivals, and David Bowie cameos as Nikola Tesla. The Prestige overshadowed a similar 19th-century thriller, The Illusionist, which came out the following year, but in its smaller, more intimate way, the latter film has more genuine magic to offer. Edward Norton stars as a lovelorn Viennese magician. Paul Giamatti is the dogged police chief trying to spot what’s up his sleeve.
Just three years later, there was a film with the same title – 2010’s The Illusionist, a gorgeously hand-drawn, almost-silent cartoon directed by Sylvain Chomet (Belleville Rendezvous) and based on a previously unproduced script by Jacques Tati, who is revived in animated form as an ageing conjurer in 1950s’ Edinburgh.
Michael Caine was back again as another ageing conjurer in Is Anybody There? (2009), a witty and wistful comedy set in an old folks’ home in the 1980s. And in 2007, David Mitchell and Robert Webb played an estranged end-of-the-pier double act in Magicians. The screenplay, by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain (Peep Show, The Thick of It), makes the mistake of keeping Mitchell and Webb apart for most of the film, but it’s funny enough. Still, it’s not as funny as Presto (2008), one of Pixar’s most hilarious ever short films. Now that’s magic.
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby of them all could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Ben Affleck asked TV chiefs to hide slave-owning ancestry, new hacked Sony emails published by Wikileaks claim
- 3 Driving while dehydrated can be just as dangerous as drink driving, study suggests
- 4 Farmer told to tear down mock-Tudor castle after hiding construction behind hay bales
- 5 One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
Better Call Saul creator Peter Gould on the creative concerns of a prequel, season 2 and the mind-numbing realities of the small courts
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
One Direction: Louis Tomlinson launching his own record label, has already 'signed two acts'
Tidal CEO leaves Jay Z's music streaming service only a month after it launched
Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens: Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill admits he was suspicious of 'Star Trek guy' JJ Abrams
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate