Thursday, August 22, 2019

Review: Angel Has Fallen

Release date: August 23, 2019
Running time: 120 minutes
Starring:   Gerard Butler, Piper Perabo, Morgan Freeman 

Gerard Butler and Morgan Freeman are back in the third movie in this trilogy.  This time, Butler will need to protect the President at an extreme disadvantage.  Not only is Butler facing insurmountable odds, but he also has to fight his aging body and inner demons. 

Angel Has Fallen gets a lot of things right. The action is pretty spectacular, especially some of the suspenseful, quiet scenes and an unconventional chase scene.  And as you would expect from a summer action movie, the effects are big and explosive. Additionally, Butler and Freeman have great chemistry, although the rest of the cast is adequate but slightly off.  The third film in this trilogy also manages to meaningful advances the characters that we have met from the previous films.  I did like what they did with Butler to humanize him and give him some choices that don't involve shooting.  

However, the problem with Angel Has Fallen is that the story makes no sense.  Now, I imagine if you are watching this movie you don't necessarily care so much about the story.  But at times, the nonsensical nature of the plot and character's choices just distract from the enjoyment.  The movie is good for the first third, but once the movie attempts to explain the character's motivations, the film falls apart. The antagonists make some ridiculous decisions that defy logic but do make for good action scenes.  Not that this film should be believable, but the ridiculousness is distracting at times. And there are several little details like characters accents or ages not lining up that distract as well.  

Angel Has Fallen is a fun action movie that suffers from summer movie ridiculousness.  If you can get past the story and just enjoy the action, then hop onto Marine One to see how far this angel has fallen.  It’s a fun ride to take, but maybe one that should be enjoyed at home (preferably with a good sound system for some of those effects)!

Rent it.

Review: Cold Case Hammarskjöld

Release date: August 16, 2019
Running time: 128 minutes
Starring:  Mads Brügger, Göran Björkdahl 

Cold Case Hammarskjöld is a documentary that looks into the 1961 death of Dag Hammarskjöld, the Secretary General of the United Nations.  Hammarskjöld's death came at a time when he was tirelessly seeking independence for African nations, a policy that was at odds with many of the traditional colonial powers.  His death seemed to happen abruptly with a lackluster investigation quickly concluding that it was an accident.  Almost half a century later, after 6 years of investigating the case, Göran Björkdahl uncovers many new clues and previously undocumented information about this case.  Together with journalist Mads Brügger, the pair try to shed some light on Hammarskjöld's death.

Cold Case Hammarskjöld has an unconventional style.  Instead of traditional documentary tactics, this film has Brügger dictating much of the film to two secretaries he hires to transcribe his words.  It is an odd choice, one that I think was there to provide some human interaction in the early parts of this film, but it comes off as just weird.  The director himself is quirky and some of that quirk shines through the film.  It can be funny at times, odd at other times, and occasionally slightly tone deaf .  That being said, it does provide for some entertaining moments in what could be a very dry subject.  Additionally, the film includes animated sequences that repeat often.  This gives a low budget feel to what should be an absolute highlight of the movie.

The film itself provides an interesting look at an old case that many may have not heard of.  It goes in depth into this case, but also uses that as a jumping off point to delve into a related conspiracy.  It seems far-fetched at time and outright insane at others.  Additionally, with the way the film was crafted, there are far too convenient characters that enter the story when they need to.  This was probably to keep the audience guessing, but the main reveal seems too fortuitous.  In any event, the film does raise a lot of new questions about Hammarskjöld's death, some of which are apparently being investigated to this day.  And the film does shed light on a topic that was a big deal when it happened, but many today might not have heard of.  

Overall it is a documentary that is either a complete fabrication or an insane conspiracy.  However, the long run time and odd directorial choices make this a film that could be enjoyed at home.  

Rent it

Friday, August 16, 2019

What to Watch This Weekend: August 16, 2019

In Theaters: Blinded By The Light
Blinded By The Light is the inspiring true story about following one’s dreams and unlikely passions.  Our review said that “[t]hose hoping to chase their dreams should watch this and just might find a Reason to Believe.”  

At Redbox: Avengers: Endgame
The culmination of this phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is finally available on disc and if you haven’t seen it, this is a good one.  It ties together innumerable story threads and perfectly tackles the unimaginable task of blending several distinct movie styles and very different characters into one coherent and amazing conclusion.  

Streaming (HBO): Widows
If you didn’t check out the Kitchen or did but want to see the movie that it is very similar to, check out Widows on HBO.  It is another strong female-drive crime film that shares many similarities with the recently released theatrical film.  

Streaming (Netflix): Ralph Breaks the Internet
The follow up to the strange, feel good movie Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph breaks the internet takes our friends to a whole new connected world.  It has some really funny moments involving culture today, as well as a very funny Disney sequence that should not be missed.  

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Review: Angry Birds Movie 2

Release date: August 14, 2019
Running time: 96 minutes
Starring:  Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Leslie Jones 

The popular Rovio mobile game turned movie gets a sequel in The Angry Birds Movie 2.  This time, the birds and pigs have an unlikely truce due to the discovery of a new island bent on the destruction of the home islands of both the birds and the pigs.  The film reintroduces us to the main characters of the first film, while adding several new fun birds and pigs to keep the movie feeling fresh.

The first thing you’ll notice in the movie is the animation.  It is really fun and surprisingly captures the style of the mobile game.  The characters are brightly animated, and the environments are varied and beautiful.  The voice acting is very good, with some funny cameos by recognizable actors making the characters instantly like able.  And the film has some good lessons for young and old alike.  

However, the film is a little too disjointed, with a sort of sketch comedy feel at times.  The characters cut back and forth between situations and some of them are funny, some of them are just odd.  That being said, there are definitely plenty of laugh out loud moments.  And although I enjoyed the jokes, some of the humor is a little inappropriate for kids and might lead to some interesting conversations.  Additionally, for a game released at the end of the first decade of the 2000s, there are a ton of 90s references.  I really enjoyed them but I also didn’t know why they appeared and contributed to the disjointed feeling of the film.

The Angry Birds Movie 2 takes the unenviable task of following on to the unlikely movie based on the mobile game.  It is a fun adventure that is at times laugh out loud funny, but also a little too disjointed.

Rent it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Review: Blinded by the Light

Image result for blinded by the light movie
Release date: August 14, 2019
Running time: 117 minutes
Starring:  Viveik Kalra, Kulvinder Ghir, Meera Ganatra

Blinded By The Light—based on a true story—follows Javed, a young British-Pakistani aspiring writer as he grows up in the city of Luton, England. The movie follows the problems of a young Pakistani boy in the 1980s, from racism to vandalism and even physical and mental harm.  Javed uses his poetry as a means to escape from all of these negatives.  Javed is joined by his best friend Matt, who in his eyes has the perfect life: a wealthy family, a rock band, and a girlfriend.  Despite their very different personas, the two find common ground in Javed’s lyrics, which are inspired by the challenges he sees around him.  Javed eventually finds his way to university and fortuitously discovers the artist that will change his life.  

The story behind Blinded by the Light is filled with emotion, good music, and chasing your dreams.  Javed channels the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen’s music to find hope, courage, motivation, and a positive consciousness.  Javed idolizes Bruce and uses his music to fuel his own ambition.  

Viveik Kalra in Blinded by the Light (2019)

Blinded by the Light really pulls at the heart strings and should appeal to those who hope to follow their dreams. Bruce Springsteen’s lyrics not only provide an amazing soundtrack but a message of hope for the audience. Javed’s true story is inspiring and watching this film might make you a fan of The Boss whether you are familiar with his music or not. 

Blinded By the Light is an inspiring feel good movie following an unlikely fan finding inspiration and meaning in his life.  Those hoping to chase their dreams should watch this and just might find a Reason to Believe. 

Watch it.
Nell Williams, Aaron Phagura, and Viveik Kalra in Blinded by the Light (2019)

Review: Good Boys

Release date: August 16, 2019
Running time: 89 minutes
Starring: Jacob Tremblay, Molly Gordon, Will Forte

GOOD BOYS tells the story of three childhood friends that go on an epic journey, and in the process they grow up.  Oh, and it also has a bunch of raunchy comedy, sex toys, and silly drug humor.  Basically what you would expect from the billing: "From the guys that brought you Superbad, Neighbors, and Sausage Party."  Think, Stand By Me but dirty.  

The main draw of the film is the friendship between the main boys, or "The Beanbag Boys" as they call themselves.  The interactions between the three are fun to watch, but each of the characters is essentially a kid stereotype and they don't stray far from those molds.  Although the characters do grow throughout the movie, their main personalities stay the same.  That being said, sometimes the interactions are laugh out loud funny, and other times it feels like the same old shtick that you've seen before.

The journey the kids go on does have plenty of twists and turns, with their convoluted journey leading to all sorts of absurd and ridiculous situations.  And although the locales are not exotic or particularly varied, there is enough variety that it keeps the film interesting.  The humor is funny if not particularly memorable and the other characters are not bad, but similar to the main boys, pretty one dimensional.  And on top of the one dimensional characters and jokes that feel like you've heard them again, the overall journey itself just isn't that memorable.  

GOOD BOYS is a fun journey with plenty of laughs that you won't be disappointed in taking from the comfort of your couch.  

Rent it.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Review: Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
Release date: August 9, 2019
Running time: 111 minutes
Starring:  Zoe Margaret CollettiMichael GarzaGabriel Rush

Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)Inspired by the iconic series of horror tales by Alvin Schwartz, Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark takes us to 1969 in the small town of Mill Valley, Pennsylvania.  The movie follows a group of high school kids led by Stella Nicholls (Zoe Margaret Colletti) and her friends Auggie Hilderbrandt (Gabriel Rush) and Chuck Steinberg (Austin Zajur).  The teens are preparing for their Halloween night, which involves a little bit of mischief and eventually a whole lot of horror.  Stella decides to explore the Bellows mansion, which leads to more of an adventure than any of the kids can imagine: the kids discover a mysterious book that makes a different scary story come to life every night!

If you grew up in the 80s and 90s, you know these stories.  The best thing about this movie is that it stays true to these books, which is an amazing feat since the filmmakers converted a series of short stories into a movie.  You will instantly recognize the illustrations that unnerved you as a kid, and those scary stories are augmented by an equally horrifying score.  And despite the horror and jump scares, this film manages to barely stay in the PG-13 rating.  

Austin Zajur in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)
Despite the great imagery that the movie invokes, the film does seem to run a bit long.  With a runtime of almost 2 hours, at times it seems like the movie focuses more on character development than on action and horror. Also, the horror might scare a teenager, but an adult might be underwhelmed by the scares this film provides.  If you are a loyal fan of the books, then you will want to check this movie out just for nostalgia purposes, but a casual fan might want to hold off and wait to see it on video. 

Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark brings the classic horror short stories to life on the big screen.  It’s a great feat, but the long run time and mild scares might make this a better story too tell at home. 

Rent it.

Zoe Margaret Colletti and Michael Garza in Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019)