Fallen Into A New Regime

Angel Has Fallen Poster

            Epic action flicks are always a riot to see because they promise excitement, fun, and potentially some legendary sequences. The army of stars who have portrayed heroic figures continues to grow and in some cases those heroes drop into multiple installments that vary in quality.  Tonight is an example of one such franchise that continues to push that hero to new heights in an attempt to squeeze every dollar out of the franchise.  Could a third installment of the legendary Secret Service agent Mike Banning be one of those movies that is all about the cash and less about the quality?  Well Robbie K is back again to give some thoughts as we finish up the weekend with what will hopefully live up to hopes and expectations I have for it.  Tonight we look at:

 

Movie: Angel Has Fallen (2019)

Director:

Ric Roman Waugh

Writers:

Robert Mark Kamen (screenplay by), Matt Cook (screenplay by)

Stars:

Gerard ButlerPiper PeraboMorgan Freeman

 

LIKES:

  • Constantly Moving
  • Gets the Intensity Starting
  • Nice Use Of Characters
  • The Ending Battle
  • Nick Nolte

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Loud
  • Mystery Lacking
  • Not As Much Exciting Acting
  • Morgan Freeman’s Character Semi Lacking

 

Summary:

 

Like its predecessors, Angel Has Fallen is back in the habit of making a story that is all about moving from danger site to danger site. Banning’s latest journey does not take long to get things moving, bringing the incident to full, explosive power to get the antics going.  The new tale then takes that intensity and tries to run with it the full time, finding few times to quiet down before the next set of problems sets in.  Angle Has Fallen surprisingly does a nice job of integrating the characters, most of them, throughout the film, keeping them involved in the developing plot and having them contribute to find the solution.  Jada Pinkett Smith’s character is there to act as the cat chasing the proverbial mouse, all while helping dig into the mess that Mike has fallen into.  His wife played by Piper is working on her own components and rather than being left to make casual appearances, she actually gets decent inclusion in this film. Yet, it’s the living legend of Nick Nolte who takes the cake for the character of the film for me.  The rugged, rough voiced actor really brings the bitter humor to life, somehow saying so little , but doing so much.  I thoroughly enjoyed this character in what he brought and how he was an attempt to break up the Fallen series monotony.  Yet despite who you grip onto in this sort of action, mystery, crime feature, the ending is my epic conclusion I was hoping to see in this film.  Angel Has Fallen is all about those special effect frenzies that are littered with gun play, explosives, and one man defying all odds.  You won’t be disappointed with the final sequence, as it captures the spirit of the first two after the long wait.

 

In terms of areas of improvement though this reviewer notes that the predictability and lack of surprise makes the hidden/mystery element of this movie a little lame.  You know who is pretty much behind this operation, how they are going to try to execute the plan, and what will most likely happen to counter it.  In fact the only thing to question is who is going to make it to the end.  Had a few more surprises been thrown in, this movie could have had the nice twist to make it stand out.  Sadly, the story and plot were geared more towards the character inclusion and loud antics of the movie.  The Fallen series always struggles with volume control for me and if you have sensitive ears like mine, the intensity of all the high-octane scenes might take its toll on you hearing so look for ear plugs or folding your ears.  The minor things aside, the movie surprisingly does not do much with Morgan Freeman, and if you remember the previous films the president kind of has a big role in each of the films  Maybe due to scheduling or maybe trying to be different, it’s not until the end where the man in charge is finally brought back into the story in an attempt to wrap things up.  And speaking of action, I seem to remember the first two films having much more action than this instalment.  It seems that this film toned back on the action in an attempt to give us a little more story and mystery, which is a shame as I wanted the adrenaline fest these films are.  Certainly there are “exciting” moments, but they swapped many of their guns for some new spins that did not have the same suspense or quality of the memorable moments from the first two.  If that’s up your alley then you’ll love this, but remember the ending has the battles we love, you just got to make it there.

 

The VERDICT:

 

            Overall Angel Has Fallen is starting to settle down and try out new venues for telling their story.  Certainly the speed of the film series continues, and the intensity gets things moving quickly to keep you into the film as almost all characters are brought into this chapter of Secret Service agent against the world.  Sadly, the same formula of fighting with lots of guns and ambushing via covert attacks seems to be resting for much of this movie, again trying new gimmicks to make it stand out and reserve the usual techniques for the ending.  It would have worked more for me had they kept the mystery/surprises going to add on to the intensity and leave your jaw dropping.  Still, it’s a fine addition to the franchise and one most will be wanting to see in theaters due to the special effects and speaker shaking loudness. My scores are:

 

Action:  7.5

Movie Overall: 6.5

 

 

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Nuts On Visuals, Cracked On The Story: A Nutcracker And The Four Realms Review

The Nutcracker and the Four Realms Poster

 

The holiday season has begun and with it comes a number of specials and big budget movies to cover the anticipation.  Tonight marks the first of a long list of big films to grace the silver screen, with Disney attempting to go strong with a retelling of a legendary, immortal piece of the Nutcracker.  Will it be the light hearted, poetic fantasy that the ballet has captivated audiences for years on, or will it be the dark, foreboding tale of war?  Robbie K back with a written review to help determine what tale lies in store.  Let’s get started.

 

Film: The Nutcracker and The Four Realms (2018)

 

Directors:

Lasse HallströmJoe Johnston

Writers:

Ashleigh Powell (screen story by), Ashleigh Powell(screenplay by)  | 2 more credits »

Stars:

Mackenzie FoyKeira KnightleyMorgan Freeman

 

 

LIKES:

 

Acting:  Foy is the center of the Four Realms universe and blows the part out of the water.  A model example of the girl power, modern woman role, she has grown much past her cinematic days of Twilight.  Graceful, fierce, creative, and more importantly human, Foy played the balanced character well and made the most of the dialogue. Knightley hits her part on the mark as well, using that lighter pitch to bring the sensational sweetness of the fairy in her attempts to capture the hearts of the younger group.

 

The Ballet:  Paying tribute to the most famous form of this story, Four Realms makes time to portray the art at the nexus of the four areas. A beautiful display of the dance form, the ballet Misty Copeland’s form was splendid to watch as she pirouetted and leaped amidst a wonderful stage that felt much like attending the ballet.  For aspiring dancers of this form, this will be the favorite part.

 

The Music:  Classic and modern meet together in this wonderful soundtrack, utilizing the theater technology to blast your ears with a symphony of sweetness.  All the famous pieces are there for you to enjoy, whether it be the classical Nutcracker Suite to the wonderful balance of the Rat King’s theme.  Fans of the music should be fulfilled with Disney’s use of these tracks and how it supports the visuals.

 

The Visuals:  To save room, I’ll combine everything together in this like. The Four Realms is gorgeous, a true feast for the eyes at seeing everything come to life in a bountiful display of color, texture, detail, and magic of the world.  Settings were dynamic representing high rich culture of the real world, and the whimsical wonder of Clara’s own world as each realm utilized a different countries architecture as a basis.  Once the world was built, the computer animation came in and cleaned up the designs, bringing smooth transitions, realistic looking creatures, and that same Disney magic we love to be wrapped up in.  Finally, the costumes and makeup are stunning themselves, crafting some of the most unique, fun, and curious characters to come out of the Disney woodwork. Expect lots of copying of their designs in future Halloween costumes my friends, because Four Realms deserves big praise and awards for makeup and wardrobe combining into this magical display.

 

DISLIKES:

 

Mice Design Choice:  Okay, this is a small dislike, but one nonetheless. The mouse king and his subjects have a creative utilization, and are cute as a button when the field mouse design comes into play (in fact he is the most humorous and adorable part of the film). However, the letdown is that the mice are almost a carbon copy of the ones from Cinderella and quite simplistic compared to the rest of the visuals this movie held.  Disney’s got the money and the imagination so I would like to see them use it more than this.

 

Under Utilization of Characters:  This one is pretty self-explanatory, but after going through the motions to design all the wonderful characters, the studio did a lackluster job of using them.  The denizens of the Four Reams disappear in the background, stifling their potential to tell a fantastic story, remain involved in the full movie, and really bring characters that we can grip on to. So while they sine bright in their 15 minutes on screen, there was so much more for them to bring to the table.

 

Story Presentation: The Nutcracker’s complex plots and multiple portrayals mean rich lore to dive into and immerse oneself in.  Shame that Disney could not deliver on that story in this movie.  While geared towards the target audience, Four Realms splendor is skin deep as much of the tale is lost like the fourth realm.  Backstories are incomplete, questions are left unanswered, character development is surprisingly weak for most groups, and even worse those characters left out feel even flatter.  The major saving grace is Clara whose girl power, dream big princess that will inspire the key demographic, but outside of that, the preachy morals cannot save the skimming and predictability this story focuses on, so can’t say I was impressed in this aspect.

 

The Action:  No surprise, the action has been diluted for the key demographic in this group.  Four Realms battles are really small skirmishes, that are cute, simplistic dances of choreography that lack any real bite to them.  While this might be good for younger members, Four Realms needed more suspense to break through the predictability of the film.  Some of the battles are also difficult to follow, due to dark settings, odd angles, and the speed of the film.

 

 

THE VERDICT:

 

            Four Realms continues to prove why Disney reigns high on the imagination train of visual perfection.  Costumes, setting, ballet, and characters shine bright in this film, helping to bring one into the realms and root for Clara to succeed. Sadly, the movie’s focus on visuals and effects means that the story took hits, with only one story really holding any spark to net my interest.  Disney didn’t utilize their characters to the full effect, and sort of robbed us of the complete experience that they were going for.  Worth a trip for aspiring princesses, ballet artists, and the target audience of girls, but otherwise outside of visuals you can hold off on this one.

 

 

MY SCORES:

 

Adventure/Family/Fantasy: 7.0

Movie Overall: 6..0

Going Back To Traditional Style

Going in style

 

The age of comedy has certainly changed over the years, transitioning from the classic slapstick to a simpler, straightforward approach that today’s youth loves. Yet, every once in a while, the legends from the past return in an attempt to bring some whit back to the silver screen.  Tonight, my friend and I head back into the trenches of the local theater to give some insight into Going in Style starring the legendary trio of Morgan Freeman, Alan Arkin, and Michael Caine. Let’s get started!

 

LIKES:

  • Classic comedy
  • Good chemistry between actors
  • Cute
  • Nicely tied together story

Summary: If the intro didn’t spoil it for you, Going in Style is true to its name, as the trio brings the classic comedy back into style.  Fans of the slapstick of yore are going to bust a gut at this film as the timeless styles of the leads continue to shine bright. Caine and Freeman have comedic timing and delivery down, with clever lines craftily intertwined in the serious dialogue that put today’s writing to shame.  Arkin on the other hand is all about the banter and complaining, which for the most part is balanced and well-placed. The trio have great chemistry together, and sell that they are best friends who have faced the challenge called life.  They sell the struggles and praise the joys, and do it with such class and minimizing the stupid, mindless banter famous today. And in addition to being funny, the lack of crude comedy also makes this movie cute. Watching older men trying to rob a bank, while also getting their lives in order makes for an adorable adventure as my friend commented.  Of course, this reviewer likes a story to his comedy, and Going in Style gets this right too.  It’s a hardy story for most ages, and one that won’t have the older audience members shaking their heads in shame.  This may also surprise you, but there were a couple of twists that fooled me, which isn’t easy in the comedy genre. 

 

DISLIKES:

  • Predictable
  • Depressing at times
  • Old jokes get a bit stale

Summary:  With a simple story as this, it’s not surprising that much of the story is predictable. Given the theme of the movie, you should be able to predict most of the ending, and certainly can guess where things are going to go wrong.  Therefore, the uniqueness of this movie takes a hit in the story department. And no surprise, the comedy is also predictable and therefore loses the comedy edge they wanted to deliver…at least to me. While the trailers do promote the more fun atmosphere of the movie, don’t let it fool you that it is all happiness and rainbows (that’s the Smurfs!).  Going in style emphasizes the end of life generation, highlighting the less than glorious problems of getting older. Thank goodness for the consistent comedy, because otherwise this could have been a much harder movie to watch.

Of all the comedy this movie has in its folds, they certainly stuck with the old theme of this movie.  Positives, there are plenty of quips and class to the punches they throw. Bad news, the quips get older than the actors delivering them.  How many insults about difficulties getting up can you make, or metaphors for being poor and not having a check.  It’s good political awareness (nice work there writers), but it would have been nice for a little more variety to work its way into the vaudeville.

 

The VERDICT:

Going in Style is one of the classier, wittier comedies to end up in the theater this year.  Both this reviewer and his friend, enjoyed the trade of simplistic one-liners and innuendos for a less aggressive comedy style that shows the traditional style has not been lost quite yet.  Despite the trade up though, the movie is still very predictable and simplistic enough to still be stuck in the mediocre territory.  As much fun as I had in the movie, there isn’t much to warrant it for a movie theater visit, unless you are a fan of the traditional comedy and looking for a fun group/date movie.  My friend though gives this movie three thumbs up and states it is an entertaining, fun flick that will keep you laughing. 

My scores are:

Comedy/Crime: 7.5

Movie Overall: 6.0

The Stunts Draw the Eye, but The story Asks Why

now you see 2

Robbie K back again, and this time with the third review of the week. This installment focuses on yet another sequel to grace the silver screen and one I never expected, or wanted, to come. My review is on Now You See Me 2, as you can guess from my posting, an attempt to follow up on the successful thriller from 2013. But can this film follow a truly great act? Or is this merely another money making scheme whose name overshadows the quality. Let’s get to the review to find out.

If you remember the first movie, it was a crime/thriller with an underlying mystery that came to a well-concluded end. How do you top that?  Naturally, come up with an even more intriguing mystery and throw in a little vengeance on top of that. Now You See Me 2 takes place merely a year after the last installment and focuses on uncovering the mystery of the Eye, the organization that recruited our “heroes” in the first installment, who may have set them up for failure. The plot is certainly intriguing, and the team manages to throw those famous curve balls we saw in the first film. While the mystery isn’t quite as good as the first one, and the thrills are a bit stale, it makes for an intriguing story nonetheless. My mind was constantly trying to decipher how deep the rabbit hole went and just who was in cahoots when it came to dismantling the team. In addition, they added some of the character development that the last installment lacked, some of which was good and some of which was cornier than a corn maze at a harvest festival.

Outside of the mystery, the vengeance part is so-so in terms of quality. Multiple people have a vendetta against our crew and they go through extraordinary lengths to get it done. However, one of the new characters Walter (Daniel Radcliffe) was not the villain to do so and was more annoying than menacing. Regardless the plot against them wasn’t as suspenseful and a mediocre attempt to try and keep you on your seats as if there were harm to your characters. I applaud them at the good attempt, and appreciate the somewhat emotional twist at the end (which made some of the events in the first movie irrelevant), the vengeance plot was merely a scaffolding for impressive stunts.

But it’s the stunts and magic that really draw the eye in this film. Like the last installment, number 2 has plenty of convoluted plans that show some serious imagination and cleverness. Fans will be pulled into the confusion of how the gang ended up where they were, only to be wowed by the thorough explanation of how the trick was pulled off. When you pull in the fantastic use of CGI, the stunts only get more impressive as our magicians disappear in ways you only dream about. But again the realistic factor sometimes gets drowned out when a convenient opening appears for our group to take (e.g. a box magically collapsing, a trap door in the middle of a crowded street, or a mirror suddenly appearing). These moments are again cool, but a bit eye rolling when they wrap it up with one sentence, which boils down to “we wanted something cool, but we could only do it sloppily.” Overall though, these stunts prove imagination is not dead, and that originality can come in the simplest forms.

In terms of the casting, this is another major strength of the movie. Eisenberg reprises his role as Atlas who still has the chip on his shoulder and ego issues. The snarky comments are fun and funny, but for once I felt it was a bit diluted compared to some of his other roles. Woody Harrelson as the hypnotist was a grand addition and provided some of the funniest moments on the screen with his banter and dialogue. The jokes get a bit tired, but all in all his role in this film has greatly improved. Dave Franco took a bigger role in this one, bringing humor, looks, and a charming story that I really enjoyed. And Mark Ruffalo, well a little sappier and less humor, but it works on a different level than his original character. As for newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), at first she was annoying and too over acted (an attempt at using the shallow comedy for laughs), but then she grew on me and started becoming a much more integral cog into the mix. As for Radcliffe, the actor is still solid in his abilities, but the direction of his character was more whiny brat than anything else and somewhat of a waste of his talents (think Deathly Hallows Part 1 and 2 movie). Despite the flaws though, the cast really supports one another and makes for an entertaining team.

Overall Now You See Me 2 is a fun, entertaining sequel that I enjoyed. The stunts are exciting, the plans convoluted, and the acting is top notch on most grounds. While the story isn’t quite as thrilling, and there are components that didn’t work for me, it still outshines most of the stuff that hits the theaters these days. I recommend a theater visit for this one as well, but you’ll probably get the most out of your money if you rent in about three months. Regardless, enjoy the show and may it be as entertaining to you as it was for me.

 

My scores:

Action/Comedy/Thriller: 8

Movie Overall: 7

An Adrenaline Pumping Sequel of Chaotic Violence

London

 

Better late than never I always say, and therefore I’m back in the trenches again to bring you another movie review. Today’s film is London Has Fallen, an unexpected sequel to ever popular action film Olympus Has Fallen. If you remember the first film, things like explosions, action, and that it was the Gerard Butler version of Die Hard should come to mind. And while adrenaline junkies (like myself) enjoyed the thrilling stunts and explosions, I certainly didn’t expect enough ground to make a sequel. Nevertheless, let’s get down to another review.

 

Like its predecessor, London Has Fallen is about one thing: action. Within the first thirty minutes the excitement breaks out, flashing guns, detrimental explosions, and extras flopping violently in the streets. From there, the violence only escalates, amplifying the action and intensity with each passing minute of the film. The fights are well choreographed and somewhat diverse to keep the gunplay “fresh”, and utilized different styles of warfare to bring some variety to an otherwise straightforward combat approach. In terms of the quality of these scenes, the production team did their jobs well again with very stable camera work and sound effects to bring you fully into the stunts.

 

With all these flashy sequences though, one might wonder if there is more to this blockbuster, popcorn flick. In terms of story, London has Fallen is not bad. It is another tale of revenge brought about by the overzealous use of weapons and warfare. As a result, the multiethnic bad guys create an elaborate trap to bring our heroes to London to execute them. The simplistic motive, although unoriginal, certainly worked with the movie and gave a realistic explanation for all the violence. Only problem was the execution. Where the first movie gave a little insight into the set up, London forgoes the planning stages and jumps right into the chaos. While certainly realistic, all of the targeted deaths happen in the blink of the eye with everything going conveniently well. It made the whole introduction to all the officials rather pointless and robbed the movie of some potential suspense. At least the emotional connections of Butler’s character help bring some edge to the movie…though some of these moments are a bit too convenient.

 

Speaking of Butler, let’s talk about the acting. Despite being the action thriller, London Has Fallen does a decent job with the acting. Butler again leads the cast with the same gruff, heroic demeanor we’ve come to know and love. His delivery of bodyguard jargon and witty one-liners (many sounding similar to Die Hard and Arnold Schwarzenegger quotes) was very humorous.   Yet he had some deeper moments in this movie that smoothed the rough edges and give him a broader emotional spectrum. Eckhart reprises his role as well and his sullen, calm poise is perfect for the presidential role. Together the two make a wonderful brotherhood that is very entertaining to watch, which is good since they take 85% of the screen time. Our supporting cast deserves a shout out as well, each playing their part (no matter how short) to the fullest with only a few trudging into the cheesy side of things.

 

In terms of weaknesses of this movie, London Has Fallen has a few limitations that need to be addressed. First is that it is a very simplistic story, devoid of twists or surprises in favor of more action. I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always hope for a shocking twist to vamp the story up instead of a predictable mess. Second is that some of the characters were rather pointless to begin with when you see the theme of the movie, even some of the bad guys who were built up died quite plainly. With regards to some of the stunts, well they crossed from impressive into incredibly cheesy, the overuse of CGI alongside bending reality too much instead of realizing its limits. A final note is that some of the violence was a bit graphic for my taste, or at least was done without much point. Seeing extras suffocate or be slowly stabbed to death does not bring much satisfaction to this reviewer, but those who like edge will be elated to see what London has in store for you.

 

Overall London Has Fallen is one of the better action movies of the year. It’s exciting, its flashy, and it has great special effects that keep you engaged in the movie. The acting is decent for the movie and brings a fun friendly relationship that brings you further into the film. But you can’t deny what it is and that is a simplistic, popcorn flick devoid of any real meaning or substance, outside of people are greedy and war sucks (shocker there right?) Yet the special effects itself, alongside Gerard Butler, are more than enough reason to recommend seeing it in theater. Despite all this good though, the limitations do drop this movie in the mediocre category overall.

 

My scores are:

 

Action/Crime Thriller: 8.0

Movie Overall: 7.0