REVIEW: “GREENLAND” (2020) STX Films

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Gerard Butler is back in action mode in “GREENLAND” and me going in with a certain amount of skepticism on this one isn’t going to shock anyone. Surprisingly enough, considering the last years of his career haven’t given us the best of films, here Butler gives us some of his best action acting in years as “Greenland” is quite an entertaining motion picture for the most part.

The movie begins with John Garrity (Gerard Butler) a Scottish-born structural engineer visiting his estranged wife Allison (Morena Baccarin), and their son Nathan (Roger Dale Floyd). John and Allison are separated but working towards a reconciliation. Nathan is fascinated by the stars and the comet nicknamed ‘Clark’ that is shooting ‘small particles’ towards earth and the story being told across the news is there will be no major disaster effect from the comet. While getting ready for a festive neighborhood gathering the Garrity’s have a room full of friends over, when a presidential alert appears on their TV and phone telling them to pack some bags and drive to a close by airfield. This is when the film kicks it up a major notch in the tension as things start to go awry immediately with not only the neighbors, but the whole question of why they were picked. Even the drive to the airfield is building up to something we aren’t sure of but as they are ushered in and just before they are about to board the plane the separation plot kicks in and admittedly it’s not as silly as one might think as it’s actually told very logically why.

Now this might sound like your typical disaster movie but trust me it’s not quite. “Greenland” is smart in how it handles it’s characters and the plot is not always straight forward. The movie tries less to create tension with the looming disaster but rather does so through the human element and the different characters the family members meet on their way. From the seemingly ‘helpful’ couple Ralph (David Denman) and Judy (Hope Davis), to Colin (Andrew Bachelor) they both encounter a number of harrowing experiences in order to hopefully meet up again at Grandpa Dale’s (Scott Glenn) house. The whole separation journey to find each other again is wrought with a great edge of your seat tension as we get to experience what each of the family members do and would do in order to be together again. As well, even when they’re separated, the Garrity’s stay the focus of the movie even as they meet both the good and the bad in the people they meet along the way.

Unfortunately the second half of the film seems as it was unprepared for what it was supposed to become after the excitement of the first half. The tension level drops to low digits and it just never picks back up again. CGI takes over and it loses it’s edge it created for us in the first hour. Acting wise again, Butler gives us a his best effort in a long time, and Baccarin is good. The supporting characters they all met on the journey were all very well done, my only iffy is with child actor Floyd who just doesn’t seem to change the dramatic expression on his face for a good half of the film which at points of seriousness, gave to moments of giggles.

Though it’s definitely a worthwhile entertaining watch, ‘Greenland’ is a raw, tension-filmed disaster film that showcases both the noble and dark sides of human nature, when disaster strikes and ultimately doesn’t come together with it’s two halves, into a completely satisfying package.

Grade: C+

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Review screening: Courtesy oSTX FILMS

“GREENLAND” IS NOW AVAILABLE IN THEATERS WHERE AVAILABLE AND ON VOD

“BLACKHAT” (2015) UNIVERSAL PICTURES

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blackhat

Ahhh Michael Mann.. First off, I am a fan..have been for ages, so many good movies & fashion statements in your TV & film work ~ and “Blackhat” is not the massive fiasco that it could be but it’s hard to know where to begin analyzing it. First off there’s the screenplay by Morgan Davis Foehl, which alternates between dull, rushed and an utter disregard for reasonable logic at times.

But let’s not rush ahead of ourselves here with all that. Chris Hemsworth stars as “Nicholas Hathaway”, the world’s greatest computer hacker who also happens to look a lot like Thor (thankfully). Currently serving 15 years for cyber-crimes, he gets furloughed from jail at the behest of his old MIT roommate “Lien Chen” (Leehom Wang) who is now a big-time higher-up in the Chinese military. Chen is working with FBI agent “Carol Barrett” (Viola Davis) to track down a hacker who put the whammy on both an Asian nuclear reactor and the American commodities exchange using malware code created by Hathaway & Chen in their college days. blackhat 1

The pursuit of the villain takes our team — which includes Chen’s sister “Lien” (Wei Tang), who falls in love with Hathaway in one of the most random, chemistry-free onscreen romances in recent memory — to Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Indonesia, but in all this globe-trotting studio money can buy, it’s no substitute for things little things like oh..character development, suspense and motivation. Hathaway’s character concept is lacking, and he’s one of the film’s better-written roles, and it seems only Davis can make filet mignon out of the ground beef of this material, turning vague and clunky dialogue into gold with just one or two quick quips and a sardonic glance over her sunglasses.
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The screenplay, mocks us at times, with the fact that we are not supposed to take notice the bad guys’ inability to hit with directly aimed bullets, key characters – aka “The Good Guys” -despite constant flutters of automatic weapons fire, or the fact that an FBI agent asks another a personal question based on a phone call to which he was not privy to, or one of my favourite aspects, the fact that blond, six-and-a-half-foot Hemsworth is supposed to blend in with the crowds in Asia like he’s not head & shoulders above them all..literally..and attracting no second glances whatsoever as he’s on the run in airports or sneaking into computer facilities or engaging in gun battles in the middle of crowded street festivals. Lastly, that a computer hack with huge mayhem & destruction imminently pending, within a matter of hours to be precise, but curiously so, the lead characters have time to fall completely in love and plan a future relationship and as cyber-hackers they just pick up guns that they immediately know how to use truly made me shake my head as in ‘okey dokey then’. blackhat 2

But to best describe what truly underscores the problems with some of the filming, which oddly enough looks at it’s worst whenever there’s some type of light source on screen, whether it be a lamp or a car headlight or just the sun; so where does the big finale happen? Well…amongst hundreds of people carrying torches, but of course (insert facetious sarcasm here). Because not only is it weird and completely off base, but that these guys are carrying huge automatic weapons and no one out of all these thousands of people notice it. NONE! Come on now.
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Given Sony’s recent ‘issues’ with hacking, the timing couldn’t be better for a movie about the vulnerability of international computer networks, but “Blackhat” isn’t that movie..though I’m not going to say it couldn’t be plausible, because despite what you might think, the actors are believable enough as their characters, it’s what the plot makes them do at times that isn’t. I’m thinking that pretty much no matter how you slice it, this is one hack-ity hacker pic that just hasn’t really cracked it’s own code of how to make a movie about computer espionage that doesn’t come down to scene after scene of people sitting at keyboards and making clicky-clack noises with their fingers. To his credit, Michael Mann does try to jazz things up with cool tracking shots through microchips (it’s like the express lane to Tron’s house) or even putting the camera inside a thumb-drive slot or under a keyboard that’s being typed upon, and though it has it’s entertaining moments for sure, in the end it’s to little avail in saving the film from some of the other things that make it a no go.

Grade: C-
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(See grading scale)