REVIEW: “ANGEL HAS FALLEN” (2019) Lionsgate

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First Olympus fell, then London, and now we have the third in the ‘has fallen’ series with “ANGEL HAS FALLEN”.  First wave of thought – did we need really need another?  Apparently so, though don’t hold your breath for something completely different than the first two as this one certainly isn’t going to raise that bar any.

Naturally as with all films in this series, this one starts with our man Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) in a violent body crashing, training session with his buddy Wade Jennings (Danny Huston).  Changing up the beat a bit from the first two films to the tune of making Banning seem less superhero here by adding a bit of humility to his character, as during the session we see a pill-popping Banning seemingly having a lot of issues with blacking out, suffering migraines etc., from previous acquired concussions and thinking of taking a more desk type position.  As it turns out, his buddy Jennings is actually serving under Vice President Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) to plot a mutiny against new President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), by framing Banning and spoiler alert –  they give us the audience, this pertinent fact quite early on basically taking away any mystery about the movie at all.  As a full scale drone attack ensues when Banning is supervised to watch over the President while on a fishing trip, and the entire detail is killed minus Banning, who is subsequently arrested by FBI Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett-Smith).  Trumbull has slipped into a coma during said attack and VP Kirby comes into play by trying to start a war with Russia whom he is pretending to place all the blame on.

While all this plays out during the attack gone wrong on the President, Banning becomes the most wanted man in the country as to the surprise of possibly no one ever, he escapes and goes on the run out in the middle of nowhere West Virginia.  But just when you think he won’t be able to clear his good name and get out of this mess, he leaves a message in a truck for a man, whom turns out to be (again to the surprise of no one) his father Clay Banning (Nick Nolte), who left him years ago and has been living off the grid in these exact mountains!! Wow.. how convenient you say. But actually, this is where the film starts ramping up.  Nolte is a splendor to watch here as he steals many of the scenes in which he’s in and provides the only real wild card comic relief and action to the film.  As in possibly the best set piece of the entire film is when they are at the point of being found, and Clay it turns out, has had his entire cabin compound rigged to blow.  It’s a fun, fantastic portion of the film that definitely livens it up.  He also goes on to have some rewarding scenes with Banning’s wife Leah (Piper Perabo), when meeting her and his grandchild for the first time as well

Despite all this, the whole time the audience well knows what’s going to happen next as the predictability factor of this film is off the charts, even without all the help provided by director Ric Roman Waugh.  Seriously, everything from the set up of Banning to the who is setting him up, to when the President will realize what is happening and put the kibosh on it.  This is what really lets film and the whole plot/story down, as had this reveal been kept secret say until the 3rd act of the film instead of the way-to-early-reveal, took away any tension points the film might have had going for it. Instead of keeping the audience engaged and on the edge of their seat wondering who did what, they give it all away and that is why the story and film fail to deliver.

Grade: C-

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Media Review Screening: Monday, August 19, 2019 ~ Courtesy of Lionsgate

“ANGEL HAS FALLEN” HITS THEATERS THIS FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 2019

REVIEW ~ “BIG EYES” (2014)

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“Big Eyes” is the story of the very famous tale of 1950’s art sensation “Walter Keane” (Christoph Waltz), known for painting waifish children with large, eerie eyes, and was scandalously revealed to have been stealing recognition for the work which was actually painted by his wife, “Margaret Keane” (Amy Adams), the whole time.
(Note: Release date for this film is 25th of December, 2014)

2 things of note here: 1. This is not your typical Tim Burton movie. If you want another ‘Beetlejuice’ or ‘Nightmare before Christmas’ type movie, this isn’t it. Maybe a little ‘Ed Wood’, but then no..not really!! It’s a completely off the map of his usual as it’s a biography/drama. 2. Oddly enough I could not get the chorus of the Cheap Trick song “Big Eyes” out of my head while watching this movie. It fit it so perfectly..yeah I know..it’s just me. 😀
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This story is narrated throughout by real-life San Francisco Examiner columnist “Dick Nolan” (Danny Huston) many times noting his own personal thoughts/feelings from ‘behind the scenes’ so to speak. Beginning in the what I presume to be the early 1950’s, we see Margaret walk out on her first marriage, with her young ‘muse’ daughter “Jane” (Delaney Raye) in tow. She meets fellow-artist Walter while selling her works and drawing caricatures in the park in San Francisco’s North Beach area. They start dating and she becomes intoxicated by him with his stories of all his travels along with the fact that he’s lived in Paris where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and drew inspiration for his many Montmartre street scenes and was an considered an ‘acclaimed’ artist there though he’s actually in real estate – go figure. In order to keep her ex-husband at bay as concerns about custody rights arise (since single mothers of the era weren’t treated kindly in the court system), she decides to marry Walter, despite the unease of her close friend “DeeAnn” (Krysten Ritter) who is only to aware of his womanizing reputation that proceeds him. A mistake leads to Walter taking credit for Margaret’s work, and before long, it’s a lie they are both complicit in feeding at the beginning.
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With a shotgun Hawaiian wedding & honeymoon behind them, we see Walter back to shopping his paintings around town using his talent not only as a salesman, but his adeptness as a showman and self-promoter shopping not only his own work per-se’, but Margaret’s as well. Finally convincing local big-shot club owner “Enrico Banducci” (Jon Polito) to show the paintings at the famous nightclub “The Hungry i” where it seems the patrons finding themselves more inclined towards Margaret’s work rather than his. As all the works are signed “Keane” you see where this story is heading as the lie becomes harder & harder to expose as Margaret’s art is becoming a complete world cultural phenonmenon like nothing ever before seen in the art world. Walter is giving away special originals to everyone from movie stars to politicians & dignitaries and biggest coo of all, Andy Warhol gives him a shout-out compliment. Although all along we can see his true agenda is he just wants to be around the famous and be famous. Before we can blink, we see Walter opening his own gallery across the street no less from a rather hipster-for the time-local gallery curator “Ruben” (Jason Schwartzman) selling prints, posters, postcards..being interviewed on TV explaining the creation process, his ‘motivation’ behind the portraits. All of this is being watched by Margaret as she sits in her studio painstakingly painting away. big eyes 4

As we watch the lie slowly but surely start to unfold, we also see that while Walter is as charming as can be on the outside, his inside reveals what a smarmy character he really is as Margaret finds out about lie after lie he’s told. His whole past is truly just that, one big lie as he was never an artist and seemly stole someone else’s paintings even before they met. Margaret, on the other hand seems almost helpless to stop it as the betrayal is not only shocking to her and her now almost grown daughter (Madeleine Arthur steps in as teenage Jane) who has figured out the big picture here also. But seemingly they are both to frightened of Walter at this point, whose drinking exacerbates his rollercoaster moods, to reveal the true painter behind as her paintings are now monopolized to the tune of a very large enterprise, labeled as “an infinity of kitsch” by new York Times art critic “John Canaday” played wonderfully by Terence Stamp, one of the major influences of the art world at that time.
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As Margaret finally runs away again from another bad marriage, she finds herself back in Hawaii painting without an outlet when comes a knock at the door in the form of Jehovah’s Witness ladies. Now I always thought though they were always friendly enough, it just never failed that they came at the most inopportune of moments like when you just poured milk on your cereal & such and were mostly just tolerated. I never though it actually worked as a recruitment strategy, but alas I am proven wrong as that is just how Margaret finally gets the wherewithall to stand up for herself. They move on to an all out confrontation with an over-the-top circus quality type trial lead a bit humorously by James Saito as the judge. In the end it all comes down to a ‘draw-off’ which as we know only Margaret can win and does as she is finally recognized as the true artist behind “Big Eyes”.

The performances are strong here by both Waltz & Adams though not as strong for me as say American Hustle in which she was pure gold in. Though with Best Actress category being rather light this year, I can definitely see Adams getting another nomination for this role. Big eyes panel

– Seen on November 14th, 2014 at Academy Screening with Q & A following the screening: Tim Burton, Amy Adams, Christoph Waltz, Larry Karaszewski, Scott Alexander, Lynette Howell

Grade: B-

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(see grading scale)