By Vernor Rodgers
Find out where it's playing
"ANGEL HAS FALLEN"
Secret Service Agent extraordinaire Mike
Banning (Gerard Butler) is back but this time he has to save his own
ass before he can conduct his duties of protecting the president of
the United States.
The trailers for this movie pretty well
reveal the plot. Banning, now lined up to become the chief of the
Secret Service agency, barely averts the assassination of President
Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) only to discover he is being framed for
the attack. So, while every U.S. law enforcement person is out
looking for him, he needs to stay alive and uncover the plot that
set him up.
One problem is that Banning is feeling the
effects of the wear and tear on his body that he endured in his
previous experiences in "Olympus Has Fallen" and "London Has
Fallen." He is an aging warrior, concerned about the breakdown of
his body while mostly engaging in denial that the years and the
mileage are taking their toll.
Happily married to Leah (Piper Perabo,
replacing Radha Mitchell in the role) with a toddler daughter, he
really is at the crossroads, knowing that moving up to director of
the service means more administrative rather than feet-on-the-ground
work that he loves. But all that has to be set aside so he can save
the president, and the world, once again.
So viewers can expect the usual action of
explosions, lots of bullets flying, unlikely alliances and Banning
again emerging beat up and bloody but still functioning amid
Nick Nolte nearly steals the movie as
Banning's estranged father Clay, who came back from serving in Viet
Nam decades ago a scarred man and abandoned his family. Mike is
understandably embittered but now must rely on his dad who sounds
crazy but may have on-target perspectives about the way things are.
Freeman, whose character has been moving up
the political ladder in this "Fallen" series -- he was Speaker of
the House in "Olympus" and vice president in "London" -- spends a
chunk of the movie in a coma but once he revives, his usual
portrayal of dignity and honor shines as usual.
Since it is a given that Banning will
survive, the main draw of "Angel" is seeing how many times Mike can
cheat death while dozens around him don't, and who is behind all
this destruction and why this person is engineering such carnage.
Because Danny Huston is in the cast, and he has been thriving over
the years playing villains, there is not too much surprise where he
aligns in this movie.
Nutshell: A typical summer movie with lots
of action that forces one to dispel disbelief. Although Banning is
not as colorful as other such heroes, he is a genius at turning the
tables on bad guys, and it is a delight to see him at work. Be sure
to stick around, as this movie, like the Marvel flicks, has a brief
"READY OR NOT"
A delicious and darkly humorous movie,
"Ready or Not" focuses on the eccentric elite and the big drawbacks
of making pacts that may be way too costly.
Scripted by Guy Busick and Ryan Murphy and
co-directed by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett, "Ready or
Not" has its macabre and gory moments, so take its R-rating
Samara Weaving, who bears a striking
resemblance to Emma Stone, is Grace, a young woman from a
foster-home background, who has married into the wealthy La Domas
family -- that made its astounding financial bonanza via production
of board games and such -- by being wed to Alex (Mark O'Brien), the
youngest son of the current patriarch of the La Domas clan, Tony
(Henry Czerny) and wife Becky (Andie MacDowell). Following the
marriage ceremony on the vast La Domas property, Grace is informed
by Alex that their wedding night must be postponed so the young
couple can participate in a family game at midnight. Grace thinks
this is screwy but realizes she is now part of this rich but goofy
and entitled group.
Alex's siblings are Daniel (Adam Brody), an
alcoholic married to humorously misnamed Charity (Elyse Levesque),
who freely admits she married Daniel not because of love but to
benefit from the family's fortunes, and Emilie (Melanie Scrofano,
good old Wynonna Earp herself), a cocaine-snorting screw-up married
to Fitch Bradley (Kristian Bruun), who like Charity seems to be in
it for the money. Emilie and Fitch so far are the ones offering
another generation of La Domas with their two sons although they
will not carry on the La Domas name. Also hanging around is the
scowling Aunt Helene (Nicky Guadagni ), who despite enduring a
tragedy at the hands of family tradition is the most loyal to
maintaining the status quo.
Although the earlier La Domas post-wedding
games were mild competitions like chess, Grace, who must draw a card
that reveals what game will be played, has to participate in Hide
and Seek, her being the one who must hide and not be discovered
Seems harmless enough. But what Grace learns
soon enough -- and the reason Alex is skittish and doesn't seem to
embrace the spirit of this routine -- is that the La Domas clan arms
itself -- with weapons that are an homage to the board game Clue --
and upon rooting out Grace must incapacitate the young woman for
some ritual that has to be conducted before dawn or they all will
By the time Grace realizes the total
nuttiness of this family and her potentially lethal situation, she
is pretty much on her own.
"Ready or Not" becomes a brutal
cat-and-mouse game and Grace suffers some cringing injuries along
the way. Also, she does not know who to trust. Even the servants in
the mansion might be in on the game.
There are a few twists and turns in "Ready
or Not" and it comes dangerously close to piling on too much on poor
Grace. But it wraps up with a gleefully nasty conclusion, a treat
for horror fans.
Nutshell: If you like black humor and don't
mind a lot of blood, this is a nice break from the summer superhero
"47 METERS DOWN: UNCAGED"
It is safe to say that shark movies, even
the tongue-in-cheek "Sharknado" adventures, have a solid base of
fans. The recent successes of "The Shallows" and "47 Meters Down,"
which incidentally feature women having to fight to survive hungry
sharks, have proven this. "The Shallows" in 2016 earned $119 million
worldwide while "47 Meters Down" in 2017 brought in $62 million on a
$5.3 million budget.
"47 Meters Down" director Johannes Roberts,
teaming up again with co-writer Ernest Riera, got the green light to
serve up another "47 Meters Down," and added a new element.
Unlike the "Jaws" series, in which the
besieged Brody family keeps encountering Great White sharks, "47
Meters Down: Uncaged" does not subject Lisa (Mandy Moore) and Kate
(Claire Holt) to yet another terrifying day with ravenous fish.
Instead, we are introduced to four teens who are forced to test
The first teen we meet is Mia (Sophie
Nélisse), who as the movie begins, is on the receiving end of
bullying. So we just know later on she probably is going to be the
one who musters the gumption to battle overwhelming odds.
Mia's stepsister Sasha (Corinne Foxx) just
idly stands aside while Mia is humiliated, using the rationale:
She's not my sister.
At home, Mia's father, Grant (John Corbett),
who is doing some work on a recently discovered underwater Mayan
city, has to cancel out on a promised outing with Mia and Sasha, and
as a consolation has secured passes for a glass-bottom boat tour for
the girls. Not too enthused, but Grant's wife and Sasha's mother
Jennifer (Nia Long), insists they will have a great time.
Grant drops them off at the boarding pier
and leaves, but then the usual bad-influence friends, Alexa (Briane
Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone, Sylvester's daughter), show up
and entice Mia and Sasha to ditch the tour and join them swimming at
a secluded spot.
Alexa knows about this secluded water inlet
because she has been fooling around with one of Grant's associates,
Ben (Davi Santos). Conveniently, scuba equipment is there and Alexa
tells the others that this inlet offers an entrance way to some of
the underwater Mayan structures and monuments. She talks them into
donning the scuba equipment and taking a short tour of the submerged
ruins. Just a quick swim then back out.
But once the girls go under water, things
escalate. They venture further into the catacombs and soon enough,
you guessed it, there are sharks. When the sharks' aggressiveness
causes a collapse of stones that cut off the route back to the
inlet, the ante is upped quite a bit.
"Uncaged" is surprisingly effective in
bringing chills. Not only is there the prospect of the shark
suddenly appearing, mouth agape and ready to shake and tenderize,
there is the claustrophobic element of confining tunnels as well as
the possibility of dead-ends and getting lost in a maze while the
oxygen tanks' supplies dwindle.
As if the sharks are not enough, there are
deadly currents, like underwater tornadoes, to be challenged.
The four actresses spend most of the time
submerged and have to convey terror as well as fighting off panic
and convincing themselves they will survive while they meet the
perilous obstacles testing their ability to survive.
I was particularly impressed by the score
composed by tomandandy. And kudos to the cinematography crew led by
Tom Silk, having to cope with cramped and underwater conditions.
Nutshell: Sharks, limited oxygen supply and
claustrophobic conditions -- a nice trifecta of terror.
METERS DOWN: UNCAGED"
"The Kitchen" is a crime drama, based on a
DC comic, that stands out because its main characters are women who
go into organized crime as a means of survival and find themselves
very competent in this endeavor.
Kathy Brennan (Melissa McCarthy), Ruby
O'Carroll (Tiffany Haddish) and Claire Walsh (Elisabeth Moss) are
wives of New York mob members, Irish branch, in New York's Hell's
Kitchen, circa late 1970s. When their husbands are nabbed in a
robbery and sentenced to three years in prison, the women are
assured by the local crime boss, Little Jackie Quinn (Myk Watford),
that they will be taken care of financially until their spouses are
released. This turns out to be only partially true -- they are only
given a pittance and barely can make ends meet. The women also learn
that this Quinn-run mob is not very good at providing neighborhood
protection despite charging fees for such a service.
Kathy turns out to be the one with business
savvy. She lines up a couple of guys to be the beef part of her
operation and they go full-scale business competition, promising and
delivering on what was previously lackluster service provided by
Quinn and company. Ruby turns out to be the ruthless part of the
operation, knowing that while Kathy may be good and brokering deals,
sometimes nasty things need to be done. Claire, meanwhile, has her
own domestic problems but hooks up with a former mobster gang member
and war vet, Gabriel (Domhall Gleeson), a near psychopathic killer
who eventually converts Claire into a lethal weapon / body disposer.
Of course the women encounter other issues
dealing with Jewish property owners and the Italian faction looking
to find construction jobs for union workers in the area. Then the
husbands are released, boosting the tensions
Basically, "The Kitchen" is a blueprint for
any business, legal or not, in that it shows the initial
brainstorms, early success and then the little details, sometimes
nasty, as well as the shaky alliances and sometimes unsavory
compromises needed to be made to keep the enterprise thriving.
McCarthy, initially known as a comedic
performer, once again shows her abilities in drama, while Haddish
displays the toughness needed to stay strong in such a brutal
business, and Moss offers a vulnerability that under a questionable
guidance cultivates into scary pathology.
Nutshell: A competent, though not too
compelling, detailing of the highs and lows of staying in business
when the stakes can be deadly.
"FAST AND FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS
The death of Paul Walker in 2013 knocked the
"Fast and Furious" franchise asunder although the series was
careening dangerously toward being ludicrous as Brian (Walker) and
Dom (Vin Diesel) and their gang of buddies and lovers expanded
unrealistically from local high-speed hi-jinks to outrageous plots
with worldwide implications.
So a decision was made to branch out,
leaving Dom and company to well-deserved time off, if not permanent
retirement, and letting secondary characters in earlier escapades
take the center stage.
Thus we have former U.S. agent Hobbs (Dwayne
Johnson) and high-class former criminal Shaw (Jason Statham), both
old adversaries of Dom and company as well as bitter enemies of each
other, having to team up to save the world.
Typically, the plot is secondary to the
interplay between Hobbs and Shaw as they engage in their macho
posturing while dispatching legions of bad guys and cheating death
about once every other minute. It's goofy but it's fun.
An added element is that we get enlightened
on these two guys' family lives that includes Hobbs' adolescent
daughter, a bitter brother and a strong family-oriented mother
backed up by Samoan loyalty. And with Shaw we meet has bad-ass
sister Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) and his mother Queenie (Helen Mirren)
who shows that Shaw may just be carrying on family tradition.
The villain here is Idris Alba as Brixton,
sort of a bad-guy Six Million Dollar Man. He's outstanding in the
role and gives Hobbs and Shaw a lot of trouble. Diminishing this
role is that he is just a puppet, setting up for yet another Hobbs
and Shaw smash-em-up, although judging by the box office returns,
this chapter of the "Fast and Furious" stories may not recoup its
cost, leaving us to wonder if this franchise should just run out of
Nutshell: Load up on the popcorn and enjoy a
noisy couple of hours of completely unrealistic chaos, enhanced by
two charismatic stars.
AND FURIOUS PRESENTS: HOBBS AND SHAW"
"SCARY STORIES TO TELL IN THE DARK"
Those not familiar with the Alvin Schwartz
novel on which this movie is based likely will be fooled into
thinking "Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark" is an anthology of
spooky stories, kind of like the old "Creepshow" and "Tales from the
Really it is more in the vein of the "Final
Destination" series in which young people are challenged to stop a
string of deaths or disappearances that have claimed friends or
family members before they too suffer a similar horrifying fate.
Directed by André Øvredal , who helmed the
creepy "The Autopsy of Jane Doe," and with Guillermo del Toro
producing and helping out on the script co-written by Dan Hageman
and Kevin Hageman, "Scary Stories" is a bit disappointing, light on
the scares with at least one of the creepy characters laughable
rather than terrifying.
"Scary Stories" relies on a standard element
of horror movies in that it focuses on kids who are social outcasts.
The main character is Stella Nicholls (Zoe Margaret Colletti) a teen
girl living in the small town of Mill Valley and plagued by guilt
that she was responsible somehow for the breakup of her parents'
marriage who finds some release in writing spooky stories though she
mostly keeps these to herself. She has two friends, also outcasts,
in Augie (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck (Austin Zajur).
On Halloween evening in 1968, the three
teens go out on the streets, not to trick-or-treat, but to carry out
a revenge prank on Tommy (Austin Abrams), the typical
Obviously the three have to flee because
Tommy just doesn't seem embrace the spirit of Halloween mischief
directed at him. The teens and up at a drive-in movie and seek
refuge in the car of Ramon (Michael Garza), an older teen who
appears to be pausing in Mill Valley as he travels to seek farm
Once they elude Tommy, the group of teens,
led by Stella, go to the old Bellows mansion, the home of the family
that created the business from which Mill Valley initially thrived,
but left suddenly under mysterious circumstances after deaths of
citizens in the area. The creep element is that the family included
a girl, Sarah who was rumored to be "a little off," thus a family
embarrassment and kept confined in a windowless room in the house.
Supposedly, Sarah in her solitary state, would write grisly stories.
Tommy catches up with the four teens while
they are touring the creepy old Bellows house and locks them in. But
they are able to escape. Meanwhile, Stella discovers Sarah's book of
writings that seems to be written in blood. She then foolishly
commits a sin of all ghost movies. She takes the book with her. The
rule is you NEVER take a book or other artifact from a haunted house
or one with a violent or unsavory past. Chances are this item has a
curse or a special evil power that latches onto you like a stray cat
you have fed. It never goes away.
To her horror, Stella witnesses a story
seemingly being written by itself in the book and then watches in
shock as the story with its hideous ending becomes true.
Now, much like the doomed "Final
Destination" characters who try to figure out a way to break the
chain of horrible deaths, Stella, with Ramon as her most reliable
ally, must unravel what is going on. But there is a deadline, as
each evening a new story is written that claims people close to
Stella, and she knows she and Ramon inevitably are going to become
Once Stella leans what is behind it all, she
needs to find a way to stop it before more people die or disappear.
While it is interesting to see Stella unlock
the mystery, the scary moments, as mentioned earlier, are not that
unsettling. With all the talent behind this movie, "Scary Stories"
should have been a better horror movie than it is. There are some
moments, and Colletti does a good job of making Stella a bright if
not always resourceful character and Garza is sympathetic as young
Ramon, dealing with a tragedy of his own.
Nutshell: Nice kids and dopey adults and
some justice on bad people, but otherwise a mild horror movie.