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 ~ “JOHN WICK” (2014) Lionsgate

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It’s been quite sometime since I sat at a movie and completely & totally rooted for a character so much so as I did John Wick. Even though you know he’s really not a ‘good guy’ per se’ you really truly can’t help doing so in this movie. But before you even head into this movie you know it’s going to be in-your-face non-stop, kick-ass, kill ’em, violent. And it is..I mean the trailer tells you this..what it doesn’t tell you is how much fun it’s all going to be. Not funny ha-ha..but just plain fun – entertaining -go for it – good time action packed movie. Betcha ya didn’t expect all that now did you?!!  Because I didn’t, but I really enjoyed myself at this movie and coming from a someone like me who loves movies, but can be super picky..this film was a nice surprise for me.

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First of all can we talk about Keanu Reeves for just a quick moment.  No one ever said he’s the best actor, but damn this is his movie..no if’s, and’s or but’s..it’s all him and his wooden acting style fits this movie like a glove, as let’s face it,  it’s always best when Keanu doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and the amount here is just perfect for him to carry out and boy does he do it well, in probably his best performance in a decade or so. He performs so well as the cool, calm demeanoured “John Wick” a retired assassin code named “The Bogeyman” and moves with such ease during this super fast-paced, heavy stunt-fest so smoothly, that you will never even realize that hey..Keanu is now FIFTY yrs. old, no way..not a chance.

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So to set it up, in his hey-day the now retired, Wick/Bogeyman was the ‘go to’ guy if you…well..needed someone assassinated. And within minutes of the start of the film, the stage is set for what exactly John Wick can do, when the son “Iosef Tarasov” (Alfie Allen) of Russian mob boss “Viggo Tarasov” (Michael Nyquist), runs into Wick as he’s just randomly pumping gas in his badass Mustang and Iosef likes the Mustang, offers to buy the muscle car, which John politely refuses. Next thing you know, the Russian thugs break into his home to steal the car and take the one thing that he could share his grief with, a dog his wife “Helen” (Bridget Moynahan) gave him before she passed, AND then kick the crapola out of him to boot. Well that’s all it takes to reeaally piss Wick off as we ALL know..you don’t hurt an assassins dog for chrissakes, so off he goes to his basement with a sledge hammer and breaks up the floor and unearths a clearly long forgotten stash of weapons and some odd gold coins. Then things get ugly – for the mob that is.. Word gets back to his former boss, Viggo, from chop shop car owner “Aureilo” (John Leguizamo), who’s recognized his friend Wick’s Mustang.  Viggo informs his son in no uncertain terms that he’s royally screwed up, then sends in in a dozen or so guys to meet the threat head on. But you’re gonna need a lot more than that against John Wick!! And that my friends is when the non-stop action and fun really start.  This is pure high-energy, in your face, revenge flick and ladies and gentlemen, hold onto your hats as you’re in for a rollercoaster of a damn good time. john wick 4

Along with Keanu’s great action spin, there are many fun supporting roles here and one of my favs is the hit-mans hotel of choice, Continental’s manager “Charon” (Lance Reddick) This is a ‘special’ hotel where you can check in only with those ‘special’ gold coins Wick had in that cache he dug up. You’re not supposed to do ‘business’ at this hotel but Viggo entices our one female hit’man’ “Ms. Perkins” (Adrianne Palicki) to do just that and go after Wick for an extra payday. There is also the wonderful Willem Dafoe as “Marcus” a former colleague who is taking names and kicking some ass for a short time here with Wick, the always fun Ian McShane as the Continental owner, “Winston”, Dean Winters as “Avi” the wimpy-ish inept sideman to Viggo who can’t understand a word of Russian and there entails a few funny moments with his lack of ‘understanding’, and Clarke Peters as “Harry” the old-school assassin. All of them add loads of flavour to this movie, but again, make no mistake..this is Keanu’s movie and he kills it..john wick 3

This film rocks and this film rolls..all in the right ways and it’s truly loads of fun!  Of course there are plot holes, like how is Wick even functioning after what he goes through, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re too busy cheering for John Wick!! There were times I wanted to just scream out a big WHOOOO HOOOO! And you will too. I take ’em as I see them and I had a great time watching this movie. Enjoy people..enjoy!!!

Grade:  B-

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Grading Scale:  A = Oscar-worthy;  B = Above average – must see;  C = Average – should see;  D = Don’t waste time or money, VOD or cable at best; F = yeah, don’t see the movie under any circumstances  (+ or – gives it an edge up or down)

REVIEW ~ “THE GUEST” – PREMIERE: SUNDANCE NEXT FESTIVAL

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Ever wonder what happens after you leave ‘Downton Abbey’  as one of it’s most popular characters of the show..’Matthew’?’  Well this movie might answer some of those questions for you.  From the get go you wonder to yourself..’what happened to that pasty-white Brit who played as one of the Brit’s upperclassmen so very well.. cuz let me tell you..THIS Dan Stevens is definitely not that guy. THIS Dan Stevens looks amazing, someone clearly got a tan, worked out & came over to the dark side..hahahaha  This character he plays here is such a far-fetch than what we are used to seeing him in, I wouldn’t think they are even one and the same person.  Now did I love this movie..well…I will admit to being confused for a bit if they actually meant it as a serious movie, sorta like the pitch/trailer was, or what exactly it was meant to be.  It starts off creepy, goes to serious, goes campy, goes silly, goes action-y, goes just plain stupid, goes horror.  After a while you get the jist that it’s just supposed to be B or even D movie campy as anything..and if you can realize that from the beginning you will probably enjoy it more than I did the first hour because it will make much more sense.. It wasn’t till the Q & A afterwards with Director: Adam Wingard & Writer: Simon Barrett that I actually gleaned this important fact. ha!  They wanted a ‘Terminator’ meets “Halloween’ type vibe..

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Serious part of the plot starts off with “David” (Dan Stevens) showing up at the front door of the of family of his deceased Army buddy Caleb’s house and within the blink of an eye, he is invited to stay by the mom, “Laura” (Sheila Kelly) in her son’s old room no less. Well Dad “Spencer” (Leland Orser) comes home to find this all out and of course has a freak out moment, which quickly passes as they share some beers, cause you know..you can trust people after you’ve shared a few beers! ha!   Luckily the daughter, “Anna” (Maika Monroe) figures out that all is probably not on the up and up with this guy, his behaviour, as she takes him to a party with her is really off..her friends start disappearing, the local gun dealer in a cameo from Ethan Embry & town dealer “Craig” (Joel David Moore)  – whoosh! gone.. her dad’s boss, boyfriend “Zeke” (Chase Williamson) gives her trouble..have no fear he gets busted after being set up by David.. NO ONE is safe it seems. Her brother “Luke” (Brendan Meyer) thinks David is great after he kicks the school bullies asses for harassing him..so the only person who ‘gets it’ that David is a complete & utter psychopath is Anna..  After she calls the military admin to check on him and they send out basically, a hit squad led by “Carver” (Lance Reddick) after David.  What ensues for the next 45min is just so over the top, though some of it was funny..but mostly it was just ridiculous as it turns out David aka “The Guest” is really part of some secret military operation so when he annihilates the whole team plus 1/2 the family in some of the most bizarro scenes of pure mayhem..I had to shake my head a few times as this was a major sub-plot that was pretty underdeveloped as it just gets sorta sprung on you..The following whole Halloween carnival scene where it Anna & Luke are fighting against David is probably the best and worst part of the movie, if that makes sense at all.. 🙂

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As for Dan Stevens performance.. some are hailing it as really good..I mean I guess since we are so used to seeing him playing these completely different Brit period piece roles… so yeah..seeing him up on the screen looking so damn good, while it could be considered well..distracting to say the least..but of course in a good way, I didn’t think the performance was great..as he played it in a restrained kinda way..when it seemed as though it should be more over the top..following in the genre of the movie, but it’s definitely not a bad performance and shows he can make his mark doing some other fun stuff, hence the reasoning behind leaving Downton.

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Lastly, the soundtrack was given kudos by some..I guess you really have to like and be familiar with speed/heavy metal, which I am not as there were times it almost overpowered the scenes for me. I like soundtracks to be part of and enhance the movie..not be the movie.. Thankfully also the Q & A afterwards cleared up many points about this movie for me at least.  It was moderated by Nicolas Winding Refn of “Drive & Bronson” fame,  who while he might think out of the box as a director at times, clearly thinks he is the cat’s pajamas..(sunglasses in a movie theatre..just stop) and while I liked Bronson..well.. let’s just say I like a fun, bantering Q & A, not one where the moderator actually seems rude and is putting down the Writer: Simon Barrett & Director: Adam Wingard while moderating. Not cool guy..not cool.  Overall judgement of this movie.. I liked it, mostly because of the campy silliness, but I didn’t love it as for a supposed horror/action thriller as it was really neither and never lived up to full satisfaction of either..

Grade: C

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Grading Scale: A = Oscar worthy; B = Above average – must see;  C = Average;  D = Don’t waste your time or money;  F= Don’t see the movie  (+ or – gives it an edge up or down)