Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

“Going in Style”



There’s no much substance to “Going in Style,” the latest in a long line of forgettable films from actor-turned-director Zach Braff. It’s light, airy, and inoffensive, a big screen version of a movie that really should’ve been relegated to network television. There’s zero creativity in this wholly unmemorable movie and not only does it not go in style, it goes nowhere.

In this remake of a 70s era film starring George Burns and Art Carney, three old farts (Michael Caine, Alan Arkin and Morgan Freeman) decide to rob a bank to take back their stolen pensions. It’s a classic heist story that’s as boring as they come. The entire project needs a jolt of energy to liven it up, and not even Braff’s trademark obnoxious hipster indie soundtrack helps.

There’s not much acting at all from anyone except Freeman, and the leads feel like they are just sitting around riffing about being old as the elderly often do (at least they have a decent chemistry playing longtime friends). Arkin brings back his shouting curmudgeon act and Caine is bumbling around like he has no idea where he is most of the time. These are all likeable legacy actors but even 80 year olds deserve better material.

Everyone loves a “let’s give the big, bad bank a what-fer” plot, but this generic, by-the-numbers heist story doesn’t yield any surprises and has very few laughs. It’s not really a drama and it’s not really a comedy, and it’s as forgettable as they come.


“Now You See Me 2”



Most moviegoers weren’t clamoring for a follow-up to 2013’s smart magic heist thriller “Now You See Me,” but here’s one of the rare instances where the sequel is actually better than the original. While viewing the first film would be helpful before seeing “Now You See Me 2,” it’s not necessary. Even newbies can follow along with this slick magic show.

The Four Horsemen are back, this time fighting the powers that be with even greater illusions. Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and Jack (Dave Franco) are now joined by Lula (Lizzy Caplan, a welcome replacement for Isla Fisher as the “girl Horseman”). Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) plays a tech nerd who forces the Horsemen to steal a chip so he can control all of the computers in the entire world — but who is really pulling the curtain? Mark Ruffalo is back as FBI agent and magician Rhodes. Here he still aids the Horsemen (and seeks to find some closure with Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman), a man Rhodes blames for the death of his father). Yes, there’s a lot going on in this convoluted plot, but it is exciting from beginning to end.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of the movie is the elevated performances. I love the trend of casting accomplished actors in fun summer movies; I think audiences get a better movie for it. These are talented actors who visibly enjoyed working together; they play off each other with an effortless believability. Their repartee is lively and their visible enthusiasm for their roles (and the film) is contagious and as a result, I was smiling throughout the whole movie. Harrelson will probably be taking some jabs for his partially silly turn (I don’t want to say how because I don’t want to spoil it), but I thought he was ridiculously amusing. No matter how you feel about the film, you have to agree that these characters are a hoot to spend a few hours with.

As with the first film, this one is packed full of entertaining twists and fun “gotchas!” A lot of it is, of course, ridiculous, but interspersed throughout the flashy trickery are some truly funny and memorable moments. Most of the stunts are CGI animation but even though they are fake, they’re still pretty damn cool. The big finale may be predictable but that makes it no less fun. I love the all of the misdirection this film includes (it’s the perfect homage to real magicians and tricksters), and it’s done in a witty and skilled fashion. Is this film as clever as it thinks it is? No. But so what? It’s a fun, wild ride.


Now You See Me,” which told the story of a group of sensational illusionists that call themselves “The Four Horsemen,” was a sleeper hit in the summer of 2013. What worked so well about the first movie was that it used the illusion / magic angle to tell a twisty heist drama that kept the audience guessing. Attentive theatergoers who like to figure out whodunit found themselves challenged not only by the mystery of who, what, and why, but also the how. How, as in, how did they do that?

I’m pleased to report that the movie’s sequel, “Now You See Me 2” works just as well as the first film. As in, if you enjoyed the first movie, you will probably like this one, too.

“NYSM2” is effective because it doesn’t try to simply rehash the first film. As it opens, the Horsemen — Daniel, Merritt, and Jack (played by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and Dave Franco) have separated and Henley (Isla Fisher) is nowhere to be found. Their principal benefactor brings them back together to respond to a growing threat, and brings along new Horseman Lula (Lizzy Caplan) to help as their fourth. The tables are quickly turned on the Horsemen, and they find themselves challenged by a new threat. This cast has great chemistry; they are all likeable, they work well together and they are a ton of fun to watch. Caplan is a great addition, adding an outsider’s viewpoint to the group combined with a healthy dose of humor.

The illusions are not necessarily bigger or better, but they are different from the ones we saw last time. They are just as spectacular and fun to watch, and it’s just as enjoyable to try to figure out how you (and the other characters) are being misdirected. The movie keeps you guessing, which I absolutely love.

“NYSM2”, like its predecessor, rewards the attentive. Don’t bother trying to watch this film while multitasking with something else. You won’t be able to follow it and consequently, you might not like it as much as I did. But if you’re willing to put away all of your devices and distractions and get lost in a movie for a couple of hours, this one would be an excellent choice.


“London Has Fallen”



Gerard Butler is back as tough-as-nails secret service agent Mike Banning, protector and best friend of U.S. President Ben Asher (Aaron Eckhart). After a massive, impeccably orchestrated terror attack in London leads to the assassination of nearly every world leader, it’s up to our hero to protect and defend the President at all costs. If this “Die Hard” style plot excites you, keep reading: you are the target audience for this preposterous yet entertaining film.

“London Has Fallen” is full of so many plot holes that I lost count at well over a dozen, and many of the situations that our heroes face are unquestionably absurd. Some of the one-liners are cringe-worthy, yet they are delivered with aplomb. The special effects are laughably dismal; I’m talking some of the worst I have ever seen in any disaster movie, period. I laughed out loud at some of them, most notably the scene where the Tower Bridge in London is bombed and it gradually falls apart. It’s a master class in terrible computer-generated animation (CGI).

But is any of this really worth criticizing? This movie never promises to change the world and it doesn’t hold itself out as one of the highest examples of the art form: it’s a satisfying, old-fashioned action flick and it delivers! You’ll quickly find that all suspension of disbelief is easy because it’s such an overstuffed bag of boisterous fun. This hard-R rated movie is an energetic commotion of blood soaked violence. Like its predecessor “Olympus Has Fallen,” it is also elevated with some truly touching dramatic elements, earnest performances from a very talented supporting cast (Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, and Melissa Leo), and plenty of edge-of-your-seat nail biting excitement. The violence on display is brutal and bloody: we get scene after scene of creative kills as the good guys wipe out the terrorist thugs one by one.

I have been criticizing Gerard Butler a lot lately (most notably for his poor choices in acting roles, including his recent performance in “Gods of Egypt“), but this tough secret service agent who is made of “bourbon and poor choices” is the role I would love to see him play forever. He’s perfect in the part and his rapport with Eckhart is credible and engaging. It was great to see him back in action and kicking ass. Of course his character breezes through the most dire of situations with nary a scratch so he’s also one lucky SOB.

A lot of people have criticized the movie for being “racist” against Arabs. I say the complainers are nothing more than victims of the hyper-politically correct environment that’s currently controlling our society. A fictional movie needs good guys and bad guys. To these folks I say: Get over yourself. This is a fictional piece of entertainment!

I think you already know if you are the target audience for this film and if you are, you will not leave the theater disappointed.


“London Has Fallen” is the cinematic equivalent of junk food: there’s not much substance and you feel guilty enjoying it, but in a single serving, it’s oh-so-satisfying.

I enjoyed the hell out of the first movie in this series, “Olympus Has Fallen,” and as a sequel, this one lives up to its predecessor. It’s a bit slow out of the gate — there is a little too much focus on the personal life of Gerard Butler’s character, Mike Banning, and on the reason why Banning and President Asher (Aaron Eckart) are in London — but when it starts rolling, the momentum stays consistently strong throughout. As in the first film, the relationship between President Asher and Banning is a convincing one, and their reactions to the imminent peril they are facing are believable, for the most part.

That’s not to say that this movie is built on a strong foundation of logic — it’s not. You absolutely need to be willing to suspend disbelief in a BIG way to enjoy “London Has Fallen.” The manner in which the terrorists are able to attack the capital city, their apparent omnipresence on the city streets, and the lack of a credible and appropriate response from a British government that has seen their largest city fall victim to a massive and coordinated attack are all plot points that you will have to just accept at face value.

If you’re able to go with it, you’ll have a good time watching this movie. There are some nice moments that effectively use its “R” rating without being over-the-top in either gore or violence. There are plenty of fun (if not particularly inventive) ways that we get to see the bad guys get their comeuppance. Butler makes for a likable action hero in Banning, and his single-minded focus on keeping the President safe and secure is sympathetic and compelling. There are plenty of moments to cheer here, and really, that’s all I ever hope for when I go to see a movie like this one.

For what it is and what it’s supposed to do, “London Has Fallen” does the job very well, which makes for a fun night at the movies.