Movie Review – Angel Has Fallen

Movie Review - Angel Has FallenI did the Peetimes and reviews for the previous two movies in this series. (And by the way, you don’t need to see or remember the other movies to appreciate this one. It stands on its own pretty well.)

I checked the archives and I gave the first movie Olympus Has Fallen a B+ and the second London Has Fallen a B-. Two very respectable grades for this genre. My memory of the movies is a little vague. I remember the plots, but I only saw them once so I don’t remember the details.

This movie deserves at least a B+. I’m tempted to bump it up in the “A” range, but the villain is a little shaky.

What I liked most about this movie, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, is Nick Nolte’s performance. Let’s just say I’d give Nick an A+ and the rest of the movie a B. Nick doesn’t have a large role, but what he has he owns with some heart tearing monologs.

I have an odd comment about another part of the movie. There’s a scene with Banning driving a semi truck, pulling a trailer, over a curvy two lane road while being chased by police. (This is actually the Recommended Peetime.) What’s odd about it: during the movie I fully expected some wildly fantastic action where Banning would evade the police. That “Hollywood” action that is fantastic, but totally unrealistic. But that’s not what they did. They kept it simple and believable.

Overall, that’s what each of the movies in this series has: a mature script that feels real enough to cover up the unrealistic premise.

Grade: B+

About The Peetimes: I don’t know how you feel about chase scenes, but personally I would highly recommend the 2nd Peetime. It’s one very long chase scene, no dialog, and hardly any action. The tension really builds during the last Peetime. Only use it as an Emergency.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of Angel Has Fallen. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Rated (R) for violence and language throughout
Genres: Action

Movie Review – London Has Fallen

Movie Review – Olympus Has Fallen

Quiz – Morgan Freeman – One of the World’s Greatest Actors

Morgan Freeman will go down in cinematic history as a great actor and the voice that could calm a tsunami. Let’s see how much you know about the career of MG; I’ll describe the movie, you’ll guess the answer.

Quiz – Morgan Freeman

Hope you enjoyed this quiz; I made it especially for you. Here’s a great idea — maybe you could share it with a friend who thinks they know everything. 😉

Movie ReWatch Review – RED

bruce willis and morgan freeman in RED
Retired, Extremely Dangerous

To start with, the title RED in this film is an acronym for Retired, Extremely Dangerous. As retirees, we see these characters don’t have much of a life anymore. That’s the set-up, starting with Bruce Willis’ Frank Moses, lost in an empty house devoid of personal decor. I can see where it would be tough for such deadly folks to ease back into American suburbia, after a career of honing themselves into CIA weapons.

[pullquote]What do you do, after a rough life of adventure and government-condoned murder?[/pullquote] Make bogus government paycheck calls in a desperate attempt to connect with someone, like Bruce Willis’ infamous black-ops character? Pine away over lost love, like Brian Cox’s Russian spy; live in a bunker, like John Malcovich’s crazy bomber; or make flower arrangements and bake like a Martha Stewart clone, as Helen Mirren’s wetworks expert is reduced to?

These are good questions, and I don’t know how the real-life ex-agents manage to “transition,” as Moses puts it.

In RED, it’s nice to see the connection — and grudging respect — growing between Karl Urban’s ambitious young agent, in contrast to Willis’ older, jaded Moses. Urban’s Cooper is well on his way to becoming just like the people he’s hunting, but we start rooting for all of them somewhere along the way. [pullquote]There’s a lot of care to establish these characters as gifted, yet fallible people, and not impervious superhero agents.[/pullquote] They take bullets, make costly mistakes, love the wrong people, and — in spite of the pain —  they miss the old days.

Make no mistake.[pullquote position=”right”]This is a clever, funny movie. It doesn’t shy from violence, but there’s a lot of discretion shots and it’s not gory. The soundtrack is absolutely affable, with the whole affair as slick and stylish as Pulp Fiction — or even better, an older and more lethal version of Ocean’s 11. [/pullquote]When Freeman gleefully announces, “The band’s getting back together,”  I wanted to cheer.

These actors are known for their authentic character roles over decades of work, and the ensemble meshed like magic. I couldn’t get enough of their amusingly tense sparring, and can’t wait to see the sequel I somehow missed the first time around. I’ll catch RED 2 next and see if the story picks up right where it leaves off.

Helen Mirren’s Virginia reminded me of a gleeful, older Xena: Warrior Princess. She has the same focused, deadly, competent joy in her work; she just seemed grateful to get to murder with the other kids again. You go, Dame Mirren!

Even though this movie came out in 2010,  the actors haven’t aged at all. Morgan Freeman and Mirren both just headlined a brand-new fantasy feature this week (The Nutcracker and the 4 Realms), and honestly, they look the same. Good genes, I guess. (I don’t think Morgan Freeman ages. He did play God once…)

Usually the villains in CIA/FBI shoot-em-up movies are lame, with the MacGuffins fungible. Here, I felt invested in the stakes and cared about the outcome. The Vice President was a sad figure in the end. That worked.

Richard Dreyfuss’ self-titled Bad Guy was a bit over the top (not in the good way), and detracted somewhat from the otherwise graceful “execution” (lol) of a really enjoyable thriller. Dreyfuss is usually an extremely competent actor. But his was the only off-key note in RED. Maybe I can  blame the director for that.

Basically, this is darn good movie that holds up nicely over time. I’m excited to view the sequel tonite, and will post a review to the link soon.

Movie Grade: A

Movie Review – The Nutcracker and the Four Realms

Movie Review - The Nutcracker and the Four RealmsI’m giving Nutcracker and the Four Realms an A. It was simply stunning; an absolutely gorgeous film the entire family will love. The only reason it’s not an A+ is because the Sugar Plum Fairy was really awkward to watch. She’s played by the normally fantastic Keira Knightly, who is completely unrecognizable here. I have no idea why the director had her act in so annoying a fashion. And not the cool kind of annoying; just irritating. She was the only real blight in this otherwise glorious adventure fantasy.

Special kudos goes to the girl who played Clara, and the charming fellow as the Nutcracker himself. They had honest chemistry; their scenes together were sweet, funny, and amiable.

Morgan Freeman played his somewhat patented role of the kindly, yet slightly mysterious elder, and it worked well for the part. Hellen Mirren was less fortunate; she wasn’t given much to work with, and I found the “transition” scene a bit unlikely. It was as abrupt as a similar scene with Sugar Plum.

Basically, this is an extremely likable film, and everyone who loves the Christmas season will get a real kick out of it. The magnificent dresses, elaborate hair styles, the lush set designs, and fantastical landscapes were worth the ticket price right there, and seeing this in 3D was absolutely the way to go. Take my advice and see this on the best screen you can find. It’s so darn pretty, in every way.

In another note, there are, of course, some ballet scenes — it’s based on the iconic Nutcracker Suite, and the music should be familiar to anyone with ears. I remember attending an actual Nutcracker performance, as a child in New York City. The show I saw featured Mikhail Baryshnikov… which was a real treat. But honestly, I enjoyed this movie more. A ballet performance can get weary to a youngster, but this film was a very accessible way to follow the story. Just a great holiday experience, where you can relax, let go of stress, and enjoy all the pretty flowing by. Don’t wait for the DVD — see it now.

Grade: A

About The Peetimes: I recommend using the 1st Peetime proactively if you can, since it’s a nice long one with nothing important happening for the plot. The other 2 Peetimes are perfectly acceptable, and you won’t miss the real action or plot development at all.

There are extra scenes during, or after, the end credits of The Nutcracker and the Four Realms. (What we mean by Anything Extra.)

Through the Wormhole – Are We All Bigots?

Morgan Freeman has a Science Channel series called Through the Wormhole. I highly recommend the series for those interested in learning about a broad range of topics from is the universe a simulation to is privacy dead.

One of my favorite episodes is about the nature of racism: Are We All Bigots? In this episode Freeman comes at this question from a number of angles, as he does the topic in every episode. Below is, what I think, is one of the most important segments.

If you like that clip then I highly recommend you watch the entire episode. You can buy it on YouTube for $1.99 (No affiliation with RunPee.)

Opinion
I have to accept that part of my brain is bigoted. It does things (and sometimes gets away with it) that I don’t like.

That may sound like an odd thing to say: my brain does things that I don’t like. What am I if not my brain and it’s decisions? I think its clear, especially if you watch the entire episode of Are We All Bigots, that our brain instinctively makes decisions without the consent of our brain’s rational consciousness. (Not that consciousness is always rational.)

What researchers have proven is that we are not always in control of our thoughts and actions. It’s not an excuse for bad behavior, but it’s a reality we have to deal with. For instance, when someone is addicted to gambling, or food, a drug, whatever, you can’t attribute that to poor character, or weakness.

Our brains evolved to cope with many situations we no longer face. In this modern age we can manipulate those situations in ways that were never possible while the circuitry in our brains was evolving to help us survive. When we eat carbohydrate-rich food — bread, rice, cake, sweets, etc. — our brain says, “OMG, this is great. More please.” That’s because during our evolution there was hardly a chance that we could overeat those things because of their scarcity. That part of our brain doesn’t understand that we now have unlimited access to calories, and don’t need to overeat at each opportunity. The only way to stop ourselves is to use our rational consciousness to intervene and put the breaks on. Again, the rational part of our brain isn’t always in control — much as we might wish it.

It’s the same for how our brain reacts to people who are different from us. Generally speaking, for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, people from outside their tribe wasn’t always a good thing. Like a dog barking at a stranger, we evolved to be wary of different than us. It’s only through life experience that we can retrain our brains. Essentially, we need take that part of our brain that makes snap judgments and pet it, and say, “Hey, it’s okay. These different people are okay. Don’t get worked up.” Over time, that part of our brain will relax. But, we must recognize that it’s always there, ready to wake up again and bark at the next different person that passes by.

I want to make racism go away; from myself and my country and all of humanity. I believe the only way this will be possible is to acknowledge that part of our brains evolved to be wary of different people — because it gave them an edge in survival.

When we see racism, in ourselves or others, we need to make an effort to retrain us/them. And just like training a dog, the best method is positive reinforcement. Because when you yell at someone for being bigoted it’s about as effective as yelling at a dog — pointless and counterproductive. (Even though it feels as good as eating chocolate cake dripping with melted fudge and covered in icing.)

Movie Review – LUCY

lucy“Lucy” is like two movies mashed together: one is enjoyable and explores interesting questions; the other is lame and hyper-violent. Rating this movie is a question of how to balance these two.

Where this movie really fails is in it’s brevity. Not including the credits it’s only an hour and twenty-two minutes long. That’s far too short a time to do any substantial character and plot development. At least one of them will have to be sacrificed. In this case, it’s the characters who get the short shrift.

The movie begins just minutes before Lucy goes through her transformation. It would have been nice to have just a brief scene with her in her normal habitat – who she is, what she’s doing, what her dreams are. But we only get the tiniest of glimpses into that portion of her character.

I may be slightly biased – and that’s an understatement – but I thought Scarlett Johansson did a wonderful job of evolving her character as she went through the transformation. One thing she does particularly well is act without speaking. She can say a great deal through facial expressions and body posture without overdoing it. For instance, some actors have their “surprised face” but they overdo it. Scarlett is great at expressing both surface and subsurface expressions simultaneously: being surprised, and yet trying to comprehend what she’s surprised about.

Morgan Freeman was his usual awesome self. The gravitas he brings to his role was essential for this movie, since there was zero character development for him to work with. We’ve seen Freeman playing the authoritative role often enough that we can easily form an amalgamation of his previous characters in our minds, to help define his character in this movie. That’s poor story telling, but at least Freeman can pull it off.

In the end I wish I could give the screen writers and director a D and the actors an A. I guess I’ll average them out and give it a C+, or a B- because Scarlett is my favorite actress.

Movie Grade: B-