"The Weekend Rent offers quick-hit suggestions of what to watch at home to get psyched for new releases in theaters, on Friday."
If you're not going to roll the dice on M. Night Shyamalan's After Earth this weekend (we understand why…), your other choice in wide release is Louis Leterrier's caper film Now You See Me starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Melanie Laurent, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. The ensemble effort is about a team of illusionists who pull off heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the loot. Eisenberg plays J. Daniel Atlas—one of the "Four Hoursmen" whose illusion of choice is card tricks.
Eisenberg has been in the news recently for understandably losing his patience with a young "reporter" (aka wannabe video personality) who clowned around too much during their junket interview. The 29-year-old actor has been more generous on-screen and has grown considerably in diverse roles since his TV gig on the 1999 show Get Real. Let's look at some of the tricks up Eisenberg's sleeve over the years since then.
The Squid and the Whale
In his first film with director Noah Baumbach, Eisenberg plays 16-year-old Walt who is caught in the turmoil of his parents' separation. Walt ends up siding with his father, while Walt's younger brother aligns with their mother. Memorable moment: Walt's obvious cry for help comes when he performs Pink Floyd's "Hey You" at a talent show and tries to pass it off as an original song written by him. He wins first place (you'd think at least one of the teachers would have remembered The Wall).
This underseen horror film by director Wes Craven is sort of like Scream with werewolves. Eisenberg plays Jimmy Myers, the younger brother of Christina Ricci's character. After Jimmy survives a werewolf attack, he must learn how to adjust with his new lycanthropic tendencies. Memorable moment: Jimmy the nerd turns the table on his bullies after gaining secret werewolf strength by joining the wrestling team and handily defeating the three guys who tease him.
It's the summer of 1987 and Eisenberg plays James, one of the several employees featured in the titular Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania amusement park. James is a virgin who shares his first kiss with Em (Kristen Stewart) and then gets caught up in a bizarre puppy-love triangle with Em and another girl. Memorable moment: a heartbroken James wraps his car around a tree while drunk and blows his entire summer savings in an instant.
Werewolves? Check… Eisenberg covered that in Cursed. Now he's moved on to zombies in this horror comedy in which he plays Columbus—an uninfected college student who is traveling from Austin, Texas to Columbus, Ohio to see whether or not his parents are still alive after the zombie apocalypse. Along the way he meets a ragtag group of survivors who seek refuge in… Bill Murray's house. Memorable moment: all of Columbus' 33 rules for survival, including "cardio," "the double tap," "beware of bathrooms," "get a kick-ass partner," "don't be a hero" and more.
The Social Network
Eisenberg earned his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of hoodie-wearing Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in this critically praised drama by David Fincher. Zuckerberg is not the most likable character, but Eisenberg made you at least appreciate the guy's unwavering entrepreneurial spirit. Memorable moment: Zuckerberg faces off with the Winklevoss twins (both portrayed by Armie Hammer) in depositions. The epilogue reveals that the Winklevoss twins received a settlement of $65 million, but they come across as losers trying to match wits with Zuckerberg.
All of the films listed above are available on DVD and/or Blu-ray as well as various VOD services.
Follow Robert B. DeSalvo @zuulboy