The Jungle Book

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2016

Walt Disney Pictures

Directed by Jon Favreau

Produced by Jon Favreau and Brigham Taylor

Screenplay by Justin Marks

Based on “The Jungle Book” by Rudyard Kipling

I am honestly not a fan of 3D at all. I consider it a novelty, a gimmick. Most of the time it’s distracting me from what I really want to do. Which is to get into the movie and enjoy it. I don’t get the fun of having things flying off the screen at me. On top of that, I wear glasses and I really don’t like to have to wear another pair just to watch a lousy movie. And I’ve really been pissed the past couple of years with what I perceive as a deliberate effort on the part of movie theaters to force people to see a movie in 3D. You know the scam: a theater will schedule multiple showings of the 3D version of the movie that you want to see and relatively few showings of the same movie in 2D (is that the correct term?) Nine times outta ten I opt to walk away from the movie or go see something else rather than be forced to see the movie in 3D.

Now, I say that to say this: if you can, then see THE JUNGLE BOOK in 3D.

As a baby, the man-cub Mowgli (Neel Sethi) is found wandering the savage jungles of India by the majestic black panther Bagheera (Ben Kingsley) who acts as his teacher/mentor. Bagheera gives Mowgli into the care of a wolf pack led by Akela (Giancarlo Esposito) and his mate Raksha (Lupita Nyong’o) and Mowgli is raised in the ways and laws of the wolf. But try as he might, Mowgli cannot quite keep up with his wolf siblings and has to resort to his human ingenuity at building tools to even things up.

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During the dry season, there is a truce called during the seasonal drought. This means that all the jungle denizens can gather at the local watering hole to drink in peace without fear of being eaten by the predators. It is here that the viciously bloodthirsty Bengal tiger Shere Khan (Idris Elba) learns of Mowgli’s existence. Shere Khan hates all men since they know the secret of making fire, which the animals call The Red Flower. Shere Khan’s scarred face is the result of his being burned by men. Shere Khan vows to keep the truce but only until the drought is over and then he will kill Mowgli.

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Not wishing to place his adoptive family in danger, Mowgli elects to leave on his own. Bagheera volunteers to escort Mowgli to the nearest village of men where he will be safe among his own kind from Shere Khan. But the wily tiger has anticipated this move and follows the pair. He ambushes them and while Bagheera holds off the tiger, Mowgli escapes. While waiting for Bagheera he falls under the hypnotic spell of the giant python Kaa (Scarlett Johansson). Mowgli is rescued by Baloo the bear (Bill Murray). The two become fast friends and Mowgli agrees to stay with Baloo. Life is good until Bagheera shows up and convinces Baloo that he can’t protect Mowgli from Shere Khan. While they bark and bite over the fate of the man-cub, Mowgli is kidnapped by the Bandar-log (monkeys) who take them to their leader, the Gigantopithecus ape King Louie (Christopher Walken). The panther and the bear set off to rescue Mowgli. But even if Bagheera and Baloo can save their human friend from King Louie and his army of monkeys, Shere Khan is waiting for his opportunity to take his revenge…

You wanna know how much I enjoyed THE JUNGLE BOOK? Would you believe I actually forgot about the 3D? For one of the very few times I was watching a movie where the 3D did the job it’s supposed to do and pulled me into the movie and immersed me and enabled me to truly get lost in the story. And the CGI is spectacular. There’s just no other way to describe it. Visually this is one of the most impressive imaginary worlds I’ve seen on screen.

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Neel Sethi is a wonderful young actor. Although I’m sure he must have been reacting to a lot of things that weren’t there, this young man sells it without blinking an eye. He’s charming and looks as if he’s having a lot of fun and his expressive face works with his dialog in communicating to us at all times exactly what Mowgli is thinking and feeling.

I’m curious as to why such a big deal was made of Scarlett Johansson’s role as Kaa since it amounts to nothing more than a glorified cameo. Idris Elba steals every scene he’s in as Shere Khan and makes the character a truly terrifying, unpredictable force to be feared and reckoned with. And even though the movie isn’t a musical, I mean, c’mon…how can you not have Bill Murray sing “The Bare Necessities” and Christopher Walken sing “I Wan’na Be Like You”? Some will complain that the songs throw off the tone of the movie but I don’t think so. They’re lighter, whimsical moments that are nice homages to the 1967 animated “Jungle Book” as well as giving us a break from the more serious, darker elements of this version.

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So should you see THE JUNGLE BOOK? If you’re a fan of the original (and breathes there a living soul who isn’t?) then don’t waste anymore time. Go see it. People BMW about remakes but if they’re done with as much respect for the original as this one and with this level of technical, artistic and creative talent they can truly be a joy to watch and great way to spend an afternoon at the movies. Enjoy.

106 Minutes

Rated PG: But parents, be advised…there’s still some stuff here that might frighten the little ones, especially the scenes with Shere Khan. But then again, kids are pretty jaded these days and watch far more violent stuff at home so what do I know? Anyway, just thought I’d let you know.

Hardcore Henry

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2015

Bazelevs/Versus Pictures/STX Entertainment

Written and Directed by Ilya Naishuller

Produced by Timur Bekmambetov

The concept of telling a movie’s story from the perspective of the protagonist isn’t exactly as new or as revolutionary as HARDCORE HENRY would have you believe. You go back to 1947 and you’ll find one of my favorite movies to use this gimmick; the film noir classic “The Lady In The Lake” starring and directed by Robert Montgomery who plays Raymond Chandler’s iconic private eye Philip Marlowe. We see Montgomery at the beginning of the movie where he explains the gimmick. With just a few exceptions, such as when Marlowe looks in a mirror, the entire movie is told from the viewpoint of Philip Marlowe. In essence, the audience is playing Philip Marlowe.

The technique is handled cleverly in “The Lady In The Lake” because there’s an actual story being told there with characters we care about and a mystery to be solved. In fact, watch it long enough and you’ll forget the gimmick. That never once happened to me while watching HARDCORE HENRY. The movie relentlessly and unmercifully goes out of its way to bash you over the head with the gimmick from start to finish. The result is that for 96 minutes what you’re doing is watching a first-person shooter video game. And as anybody can tell you, there are two activities that are usually more fun to do than to watch: sex and playing video games.

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Henry (You) wakes up in laboratory with his memory gone and missing his left arm and left leg. A cyberneticist named Estelle (Haley Bennett) claims to be Henry’s wife and outfits him with bionic limbs. She informs him that due to a horrible accident, much of his body has been replaced with bionics, granting him superhuman strength, stamina and agility. Before she can explain much more (that happens a lot in this movie) the lab is attacked by a group of mercenaries. They’re led by the psychotic Akan (Danila Kozlovsky) who demonstrates fearsome telekinetic abilities that Henry’s bionics are no match for.

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Henry and Estelle escape the lab which is on a gigantic airship by escape pod but are ambushed by Akan and his men and Estelle is taken. Henry is rescued by Jimmy (Sharlto Copley) who plainly knows more than he is telling but before he can tell Henry, he’s killed. But don’t worry. Jimmy shows up repeatedly in the movie. Every time he’s killed, another Jimmy shows up. His function in the movie is to more or less get Henry to the next level of the game with hints, clues, and information. Henry makes his way through various levels such as a hi-tech whorehouse, a foot chase through Moscow, and an abandoned hotel before reaching the final level: Akon’s skyscraper where he has to fight his way to the top through an army of cyborg super-soldiers. And naturally he has to fight the final boss, Akon himself.

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Let me just say that I fully realize that I’m not the audience for this kind of movie. The action sequences are all done in shaky-cam which is a technique I despise thoroughly. I’ve seen maybe three of four movies where it used effectively and this ain’t one of ‘em. I think it’s a lazy way to make a movie and I don’t go for that excuse that it’s a way for the director to make the audience feel like they’re part of the action. If I want to feel like I’m part of the action I’ll show up at a Klan cookout with a couple of white women on my arm. I’m paying my money to see the action up on the screen, thank you very much. I consider it a waste of my time and money to get action sequences that consist of the camera wildly whipping around and everything is a blur.

I will say this: if you’re looking for violence then this is definitely the movie for you. I’ve rarely seen a movie with this much profanity, blood and carnage. The violence is incredibly nasty, brutal and downright pornographic. And mind you, I enjoy profanity, violence, and carnage as much as any of you. I just prefer that it have a reason to be happening, is all.

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The acting (haw!) in this is nothing to cheer about. It continually baffles me how Sharlto Copley showed so much promise, character and charisma in “District 9” and “The A-Team” has never demonstrated it since in anything he’s done. He works his moneymaker off trying to give his Jimmy character some coherent reason to keep the movie’s plot together but he’s sabotaged by the fact that HARDCORE HENRY is built around a gimmick that goes on for far too long. HARDCORE HENRY plays as if a 15 year old first-person shooter enthusiast was given ten million dollars and told to go make a movie. It gets my vote for worst movie of the year so far. And remember, I’ve seen “Deadpool” and “Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice.” Go see at your own risk.

Rated R

96 Minutes

Breakin’

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1984

Canon Films/MGM/UA Entertainment Company

Directed by Joel Silberg

Produced by Allen DeBevoise/David Zito

Screenplay by Charles Parker/Allen DeBevoise/Gerald Scaife

Music by Michael Boyd/Gary Remal

Those of you who have listened to episodes of Better In the Dark where Tom Deja and I talk about 1980s movies already know how I feel about BREAKIN’. I’ve called it the “Gone With The Wind” and the “Citizen Kane” of breakdance movies. Not that there’s a whole lotta breakdancing movies as a genre to compare it to. But there’s many reasons why we still remember and love BREAKIN’ for what it does. Because what it does it does extraordinarily well and does it with no pretension whatsoever.

Kelly (Lucinda Dickey) is struggling to make it as a dancer in L.A. Along with her friend Adam (Phineas Newborn III) she studies jazz dancer under the tutelage of Franco (Ben Lokey) who believes in strict discipline and classicism when it comes to dance. He also has the hots for Kelly. Kelly wants to be a success and become a professional dancer but there are lines she will not cross. But she does cross one line when she becomes friends with street dancers Ozone (Adolfo “Shabba Doo” Quinones) and Turbo (Michael “Boogaloo Shrimp” Chambers). They may not be classically trained dancers but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the best. And they most certainly are. Except when it comes to battling their dance rivals Electro Rock.1428808894_4.pngOzone and Turbo could more than handle Electro Rock when it was just Poppin’ Pete (Timothy Solomon) and Pop N’ Taco (Bruno Falcon). But then they add a chick, Lil’ Coco (Vidal Rodriguez) and that changes the whole game. It changes it even more when Kelly offers to team up with Ozone and Turbo, forming a group called TKO that incorporates her jazz dance/classic moves with their street dance/breakdance. The results are a whole lot of fun to watch.

And make no mistake; there a solid reason why BREAKIN’ has lasted this long and is so highly regarded as a dance film. Well, by me at least. It’s just downright Fun to watch. And a large part of that is because I was there when all this was going on and it’s a way for me to revisit my past. My friends and I must have gone to see BREAKIN’ at least half a dozen times in the theaters (remember this is 1984. You could see a triple feature on Manhattan’s 42end St. for three bucks) breakin mar %2811%29

I will admit a large part of the reason why we went back to see it repeatedly was Lucinda Dickey. No great actress, she. But damn, she was smokin’ hot. In fact, none of the leads in BREAKIN’ were great actors. But they were authentic and honest and they had charisma and chemistry. Adolfo Quinones and Michael Chambers are like the Green Hornet and Kato of breakdancing. I love the fact that they unabashedly dress like superheroes. Because in their minds, that’s exactly what they are. And they made me believe they were. The relationship between the three characters is what drives a lot of the movie and they sell it. Not through their acting but through their personalities. That gives BREAKIN’ an almost documentary feel at times.

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But then there are other scenes such as Boogaloo Shrimp’s dance with a broom that is a homage to a similar scene Fred Astaire did in one of his movies. Boogaloo Shrimp’s breakdance homage to that scene is just as exhilarating and vital as the original. It’s the very definition of how one piece of art can influence another.

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This is the movie that infamously has Jean-Claude Van Damme as an uncredited dancer. And Christopher McDonald wins the “Who The Hell let HIM In This Movie?” award for this one.

That’s not to say that I can’t find any fault with the movie. Lucinda Dickey and Adolfo Quinones can’t sell the heavy emotional scenes between their characters. And I chalk it up to their simply not having enough experience to do so. But there is one scene where they do sell the emotion. Ozone takes Kelly to watch some street dancers. One of them is a kid on crutches. Despite the fact he does not have the use of his legs, he dances. Ozone points to him and says; “THAT is what dancing is all about. Look at his face.” A face that expresses nothing but pure joy. And that is exactly what BREAKIN’ is about. It’s about the pure joy of dancing. You want to honor what BREAKIN’ represents? Then get up and dance while you’re watching it. When the sound track plays a piece of music like Al Jarreau’s“Boogie Down” or Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody”? get up and dance your ass off.

Rated PG 
1 hr. 30 minutes

 

 

Sugar Hill

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1974

American International Pictures

Directed by Paul Maslansky

Produced by Elliot Schick

Written by Tim Kelly

Here’s the brilliant thing about SUGAR HILL. It’s not just a Blaxplotation movie. It’s a very good one, in fact. And it’s a good horror movie that also merges the revenge movie genre as well. But here’s where SUGAR HILL really takes the cake as it’s also a superhero origin story as well. SUGAR HILL takes four different genres and seamlessly blends them together and makes them work without a hitch or bump.

Diana Hill (Marki Bey) cautions her boyfriend to sell his club to a powerful gangster, Morgan, (Robert Quarry). When the boyfriend refuses, Morgan has him killed. In turn, Diana seeks the assistance of Voodoo Queen Mama Maitresse (Zara Cully). Mama Maitresse invokes Baron Samedi (Don Pedro Colley) The Lord of The Dead. Baron Samedi is tickled by the arrogance of Diana and agrees to help her, giving her power to raise up zombies to do her bidding. Diana uses the walking dead to gain her revenge on the Morgan and his crew.

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And that’s it. There’s not a whole lot of plot in this movie. Oh, there’s a tease of a subplot with a police detective named Valentine (Richard Lawson) investigating the mysterious murders of Morgan’s gangsters. He gets involved because it seems as if there’s a mysterious tall black man with striking eyes that just happens to be near whenever these guys gets killed. Now see, we know it’s Baron Samedi but Valentine doesn’t.

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Okay, so we got our Blaxploitation and our horror movie and our revenge movie elements. But where does the superhero element come in? Here it is:Whenever we see Diana Hill, she’s got straight processed hair and dressed in regular clothes and speaking in a nice, calm voice. But when she’s in her Sugar Hill, Queen of The Dead mode she’s sporting an Angela Davis ‘fro and wearing a white skintight jumpsuit showing off cleavage that Teresa Graves would be jealous off. And she speaks in a voice that would give Batman pause.

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And by the end of the movie, Baron Samedi passes on a gift to Sugar Hill that bestows upon her his power on Earth. She’s now the Queen of The Dead and can summon them to do her bidding. So there’s our superhero element.

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We’re not going to go into the acting of this movie as there really isn’t anybody to point to as a standout except for Richard Lawson and Don Pedro Colley. The two of them are always standouts in anything the do and they really shine in this one.

So should you see SUGAR HILL? Absolutely. When anybody asks me what Blaxploitation movies they should see, SUGAR HILL is always in the Top Ten. It’s a movie that embraces a lot of genres and it’s simply just a helluva fun movie to watch.

91 Minutes

Rated PG

Miracle Mile

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1988

Hemdale Film Corporation

Written and Directed by Steven De Jarnatt

Produced by John Daly/Derek Gibson

Music by Tangerine Dream

Okay. Two things before I get into the story synopsis and summery part of the review. Bear with me for a bit, okay?

First off, I do not care a poobah’s pizzle about spoilers. Really, I don’t. I’ve been watching movies and TV shows long enough that I really can predict where the plot is going and what the characters are going to do. So it takes whole lot to surprise me. That’s not to say that I advocate people spoiling movies and TV shows for others. Which bring me to MIRACLE MILE. Despite it being made almost thirty years ago, the emotional power of the movie rests on you not knowing what its about. And so, unlike other movies made during that year such as “Scrooged” or “They Live” or “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” which everybody knows and is familiar with, MIRACLE MILE absolutely depends on you seeing it with a fresh eye and not knowing what is going to happen next so that you have that “Oh, Shit.” feeling you’ll have when the end credits roll. And if you see it for the first time, trust me…you’ll say, “Oh, Shit.” when the movies ends. If you don’t, you have no soul.

Those who have seen MIRACLE MILE who are reading this are now nodding in agreement with me.

Second, MIRACLE MILE is a movie that comes to my mind when people ask me about my favorite horror movies. You can keep your “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Friday The 13th” as they’re nothing more than gore porn. And if that is your thing, Odin bless you and may Heimdall make your way clear to Midgard. But for me, MIRACLE MILE is the a prime example of the real deal when I talk about horror movies. Because it’s something that could actually happen and something I wonder about and ponder how I would behave if I were in that situation.

MIRACLE MILE begins with a sweet romance between Harry (Anthony Edwards) and Julie (Mare Winningham) who meet up at the La Brea Tar Pus Museum and fall in love at first sight. They spend the day together and make plans to have dinner and go dancing after Julie gets off work at the all-night diner where she works. Due to a power outage, Harry oversleeps and misses the date. He races down to the diner and finds out she’s left for home. Harry goes outside the diner to use a pay phone to call her. The phone rings and Harry picks it up. What he hears changes everything as he thinks it’s a panicky message about how nuclear missiles have been launched and World War III is only 60 minutes away. Harry attempts to find out more is cut off by machine gun fire and a voice on the phone telling him to go back to sleep.

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Harry returns to the diner and informs the other patrons of what he’s heard. Most of them are folks you would expect to find at a diner at 1AM and they don’t believe him. That’s until the chick at the end of the counter (Denise Crosby) who is dressed like a lawyer takes her satellite phone out of her purse, calls a few numbers, asks Harry a few questions and confirms that everybody important in Washington, DC from the President on down to the janitor who cleans the toilet at The Washington Monument is leaving town and heading for everywhere nuclear missles can’t reach.

Everybody immediately scrambles to try to get out of Los Angeles before the missiles hit. But here’s the thing that makes MIRACLE MILE so brilliant: we’re never really sure if what we think is happening is really happening. Are nuclear missiles really coming to turn America into a radioactive wasteland? And does that make any different when we’re so willing to turn on each other and become brutal, bloodthirsty monsters just to survive?

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As far a apocalyptic movies go, MIRACLE MILE is right up there with the best of them. It goes so fast from from being a sweet romance to a horror survivalist movie it’ll make your head burst. I have never been much of an Anthony Edwards fan but damn if he doesn’t nail it with this one. Harry spends most of the running time of the movie trying to to save the life of a girl he’s only known for a few hours but he sells that shit. 90% of the movie rests on his shoulders and he carries it with no problem at all.

And as for for Mare Winningham…sigh…this is an actress who should have enjoyed a more successful carreer. No, she’s not what we could consider conventionally pretty but she’s sexy as hell. And she can act. Mare Winningham can do more with a look than Demi Moore or Courtney Cox can do with three pages of dialog. She’s nothing less than remarkable in MIRACLE MILE

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And if you’ve never seen her in any other movie, watch her in this one.

So should you see MIRACLE MILE? Absolutely YES. It is at once one of the sweetest romantic movies I’ve ever seen and one of the most horrifying movies I’ve ever seen and there ain’t a lot of movie I can say that about.

Rated R

87 Minutes

Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice Guest Review by Sean E. Ali

This is a landmark for THE FERGUSON THEATER as for the very first time I’m featuring a Guest Review written by none other than Sean E. Ali, the insanely talented graphic designer and illustrator who is currently the Director of Art & Design for Pro Se Productions. He’s also the talent responsible for the current look of Dillon on the covers of  the new editions of”Dillon and The Voice of Odin” and “Dillon and The Legend of The Golden Bell.” He’s also an avid movie fan and when I read his review of BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE on Facebook I immediately asked if I could repost it here. That was simply a courtesy because the review was so good I’d have posted it anyway if he’d said no.

So read and enjoy and if you like it then let Sean know. Maybe if we encourage him enough, he’ll write more reviews I can showcase here. Mr. Ali, the podium is yours…

From the “Batbland V Superbland” File…

So…

Twelve things I learned tonight watching BATMAN v SUPERMAN…Oh and just assume spoiler alert was said somewhere, my feelings are such that I know blabbing details won’t stop it from being number one this weekend…

…but I do what I can to save folks money so I took this bullet for you…

Let’s begin if you’re still here.

1) It’s a great movie…

…if by great you mean the part where Wonder Woman shows up in costume and does something warrior like in a full on battle. In fact, just hang out in the lobby for roughly one hour and forty-nine minutes and then go right in and it’ll be the best damn superhero fight scene…

…nah, the fight scenes are okay, but Wonder Woman made it so more than any of the others.

Also, it’s the only part of the film where someone cracks a smile…

…even if it is because she’s fighting for her life at the time.gallery-1449140319-batman-v-superman-3

2) Zack Snyder secretly hates Superman’s guts.

I don’t exaggerate, that guy just doesn’t get the character even when he’s riffing off of every overdone comics event events ever…

We get “The Dark Knight Returns” and the first half of the Doomsday saga, some Superman Godhood stuff…

…but not in the same way you do in a Marvel flick where you’re excited to see echoes of great old comic stories done with the same sense of adventure and humor that made them work in print.

This was kind of the diet root beer version of that: it kinda tastes right, but then there’s that horrible aftertaste…

However Ben Affleck might be able to bring Batman up to scratch if he does another one.

Preferably a film with an actual plot and better editing.

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3) The film cameos other characters with potential films from the DC movieverse…

…and I appreciate the advance warning on what to miss if BATMAN v SUPERMAN is the baseline for these films.

The Flash looks like a mess and he was on the screen for seconds…

However, I’m still onboard for Wonder Woman, DC may want to reset around her…

4) Ben Affleck Batman = Captain Ahab.

In fact just go read “Moby Dick”, you’ll thank me later.

5) I was in a near full theater, at the end of the film about ten folks clapped…

…and believe me, there was a pause like they had to think about it first.

6) When the credits roll? Leave.

This ain’t a Marvel flick, what you saw is all you get.

And folks who waited until the end were not thrilled about that after what they got.

7) Ben Carson has strong competition in the sleep inducement department.

8) The Batman Superman fights?

Much more exciting if you stick with the trailers.

Really, the Batman scene that got me in seat seen in context to the rest of the film?

I felt kind of gypped.

9) As a general rule, fans shouldn’t cheer Superman getting his ass kicked by Batman.

That just seems wrong when the actual villains still haven’t shown up.

Plus, the whole thing could’ve been solved if Batman had actually listened to Superman when he said “we need to talk”…

…But nooooo, he just goes all “old guy sucker punching at a Trump rally” because no reason.

10) The most basic origin story in comics, the death of Batman’s parent is finally made as confusing as any other superhero on the block.

No, you didn’t read that wrong.

…or maybe you did, whoever edited this film really muddied the waters.

11) There was no emotional connection at all.

Seriously, when what happened to Superman happened…

…folks were noticing that they just ran out of popcorn or shooting selfies and such.

I think some of us were glad Henry Cavill let that part go as is in case there is no longer a need for “Man of Steel 2”

12) Jenny, the most important intern in the history of the Daily Planet, is alive and well and still getting paid to maybe replace Jimmy Olsen but no one knows…

And to make it a Baker’s Dozen (that’s tossing in one extra over 12)…

13) I finally understood the film I saw when we got to the credits and saw that the two creative consultants and comic talents being thanked at the outset for their assistance were…

Frank Miller and…

…wait for it…

…Dan Jurgens.

See if they had run that first, I could’ve gone home early…

So to sum up…

…Marvel’s got nothing to worry about here.

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London Has Fallen

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2016

Millennium Films/Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures

Directed by Babak Najafi

Produced by Gerard Butler/Mark Gill/Matt O’Toole/Alan Siegel

Screenplay by Christian Gudegast/Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt/Chad St. John

Story by Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt

Based on characters created by Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt

We’re all busy people here so I’m going to cut right to the chase: there is absolutely no reason for you to see LONDON HAS FALLEN.

Let me explain: it’s not that it’s a bad movie. In fact, much like its predecessor;  2013’s“Olympus Has Fallen” it’s a satisfying throwback to 1980s Action Movies. It’s a B-movie with A-list talent and budget. Both “Olympus Has Fallen” and the other White House invasion movie of 2013, “White House Down” turned out to be better “Die Hard” movies than the actual “Die Hard” movie that also came out that same year; “A Good Day To Die Hard.” In addition, LONDON HAS FALLEN manages to also pull off the job of being a pretty good “Die Hard” knock-off. This is why I’m telling you that there’s no reason for you to see it. You’re not going to see a movie that’s wildly innovative in plot, character, visual style or storytelling. LONDON HAS FALLEN does not in any way, shape or form re-invent The Action Movie. It is the filmic equivalent of a Big Mac with a large Coke and fries. Not that that has to be a bad thing. Sometimes all you want is a Big Mac with a large Coke and fries.

But if you did indeed see “Olympus Has Fallen” and enjoyed it as I did then you’ll probably want to check out LONDON HAS FALLEN. And you’ll probably have a good time watching it as I did. I went in with full knowledge of what I was getting and I was satisfied with that.

Top Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are getting ready for the birth of their first child. Mike is seriously contemplating resigning from The Secret Service to devote his time to his family. That decision is put off by the sudden death of the British Prime Minister. The President, along with about fifty other prominent world leaders all travel to London for the state funeral. Mike naturally goes along, with Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) as well.

Turns out that the entire funeral is a massive death trap. Armies of mercenaries attack the world leaders and their protective details as well as bombing various London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. The terrorists hack into London’s computer and power network, effectively shutting the city down. London is cast down into utter chaos as civilians are massacred in the streets and the terrorists run riot. It’s up to Mike Banning to get the President (Aaron Eckhart) to safety before the terrorists capture him as they intend to kill the President online while the world watches.

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Sounds like a pretty exciting set-up, don’t it? And it is. The special effects guys have a field day going nuts destroying London’s most beloved landmarks. They do their job of convincing us that London really is being blown to smithereens. Back in Washington D.C. Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) Joint Chiefs Chairman Clegg (Robert Forster) Secretary of Defense McMillan (Melissa Leo) and White House Chief of Staff Mason (Jackie Earle Haley) watch the carnage on jumbo sized 4K monitors and spend most of the the movie wringing their hands in agony and muttering “son of a bitch!” every two minutes. Seriously. They take turns saying it. Except for Melissa Leo, who I honestly believe didn’t have a single line in the movie. She has some terrific reaction shots, though.

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Back in London, Mike makes contact with an old buddy of his, MI6 agent Jacqueline “Jax” Marshall (Charlotte Riley) who hides him and The President in a safehouse until a Delta Team can extract them. However, when a group of terrorists show up, Mike realizes that the danger to The President’s safety and London is even greater than anyone thought as there has to be a mole inside the British government working with the terrorists.

While I’m glad to see Gerard Butler once again back in Action Hero mode, I can’t help but wish that he hadn’t wasted all those years making braindead romantic comedies. He’s equally as good with the obligatory wisecrack after breaking someone’s neck as he is in the quieter scenes he has with Eckhart, Mitchell and Bassett before the mayhem starts. Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster and Melissa Leo are all way too good actors for this material but they’re game to play along and they do. And when you have actors of this quality in a Action Movie they can’t help but give the story an added depth. They’re just hardwired that way.

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The movie is directed competently and effectively by a director I’m not familiar with by the name of Babak Najafi and he really doesn’t go out of his way to put a visual stamp all his own on this movie but he does do something I’ve never seen before in an action movie and it’s really quite remarkable. Remember the long tracking shot in “Goodfellas” where Henry Hill takes his girlfriend through the Copacabana? It lasts about three or four minutes, right? Well, Najafi does something similar here in a scene where Banning and the Delta Team are trying to rescue The President from the terrorist stronghold. It’s a vicious, savage firefight done in one long tracking shot that has to last at least two or three minutes and it’s a really badass piece of work.

So should you see LONDON HAS FALLEN? Didn’t I answer that question at the beginning of this review? Go back and read it again.

Rated R

99 Minutes