First Glance: “Angel Has Fallen”

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Ooooh Boy! First Olympus fell. Then London fell. So what has fallen next? Gerry Butler himself. Yes he is back as Mike Banning, the secret service superman who spits out as many one-liners as he does bullets.

“Olympus Has Fallen” was a fun tongue-in-cheek throwback to the 80’s action genre. “London Has Fallen” was a lame, sloppy, ill-advised sequel. At first glance “Angel Has Fallen” looks more like the second film. The trailer shows Banning (somehow) framed for an assassination attempt on the president. Of course no one can hold Gerry down . He escapes law enforcement and sets out to find who set him up.

Look for lots of bullets, lots of blood, and tons of cheese. But knowing Butler’s track record, don’t expect much more than that. The film drops August 23rd. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or giving it a pass.

First Glance: “Ad Astra”

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Talk about something that brightened up my day. The much-anticipated first trailer for James Gray’s “Ad Astra” dropped yesterday and let’s just say it helped solidify the science-fiction drama as one of 2019’s movies I’m looking forward to the most.

Gray’s last film, 2016’s “The Lost City of Z”, was an underseen gem. Before that was the fantastic period drama “The Immigrant”. With “Ad Astra” (Latin for “To the Stars”) he heads to space and takes an intriguing cast with him – Brad Pitt, Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Donald Sutherland, and Liv Tyler. What’s most fascinating is the story co-written by Gray and Ethan Gross. Time travel, family drama, space sequences – I’m 100% in with this one.

“Ad Astra” hits theaters September 20th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or giving it a pass.

 

REVIEW: “The Wandering Earth” (2019)

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The Chinese science-fiction mega-hit “The Wandering Earth” is quite the movie. It’s a massive visual spectacle that stands as China’s second highest grossing film of all time. Just as impressive, it sits among the top 25 highest grossing science-fiction films ever made. That’s quite an accomplishment for director Frant Gwo. Now Netflix has picked up the global streaming rights making it accessible to a broader audience around the world.

“The Wandering Earth” is based on the 2000 short story by Liu Cixin. It’s set in 2061 and follows the desperate attempt of mankind to avoid having the earth incinerated by an aged and overactive sun. Scientists declare the catastrophe unavoidable and estimate the Earth will be gone in 100 years, the entire solar system in 300. Needless to say the situation is pretty grave.

So what do the citizens of earth do? Every nation joins together to initiate The Wandering Earth project. The idea is to build a huge network of massive thrusters (called Earth Engines) along the planet’s surface to essentially push the earth away from the sun and eventually out of the solar system before its all destroyed. Large underground cities are built to house a portion of the world’s population. Many of the rest die from cataclysmic tides and freezing cold, a result of the earth ceasing to rotate and pulling away from the sun.

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All of that is basically the setup for the film’s story and as you can probably tell your first and unquestionably biggest challenge will be getting past the preposterous central conceit. Let’s be honest, it’s utterly ridiculous. But Gwo and his team of seven (yes seven) writers do something kind of amazing. They make this batty and fairly basic disaster movie idea into something exciting and thoroughly entertaining.

The story is told from two different locations. The first is aboard a navigational space station where an international collection of scientists and astronauts monitor the earth’s progress as it pushes across space. Liu Peiqiang (played by Jing Wu) has been on the station for 17 years and nearing the end of his stint. His hopes are to head back to earth and pick up his relationship with his son Liu Qi who was 4-years-old when his father left on his mission.

On earth an irreverent Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao) and his adopted sister Han Duoduo (Zhao Jinmai) sneak their way to the surface by using their grandfather’s security clearance. Their mischievous antics lead to them being arrested and thrown into jail. Then things really take a bad turn.

As the earth approaches Jupiter scientists plan using the gravitational pull of the bigger planet to propel ours past it and beyond. But when Jupiter experiences a gravitational spike, it throws off calculations and begins pulling the planets together. Earthquakes break out across the earth’s surface resulting in numerous malfunctioning earth engines. Humanity on both the space station and earth scramble to reignite the engines to avoid a catastrophic collision.

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The film features several things that are easy to pick apart – tons of information dumps, cheesy rah-rah moments, a garden variety of typical disaster movie characters. Yet somehow, despite routinely treading on familiar ground, “A Wandering Earth” never feels like a rip-off or becomes a punchline. It clearly and unashamedly borrows ideas from “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Gravity”, and even Michael Bay’s “Armageddon”. But it’s pacing is so snappy you never have time to dwell on it, only to enjoy the ride.

And then there are the digital effects. I don’t know if there is ever a scene where I wasn’t in some way wow’d by what I was seeing. It’s literally one scene after another of digitally rendered locations and set pieces all of which look absolutely stunning. This may be the biggest reason the movie works. It sucks you into its world through the sheer strength of its visuals.

“A Wandering Earth” is both ludicrous and routine yet I had an absolute blast with it. It’s truly a wacky concoction that’s hard to even describe. It’s impossible not to mention the familiar tropes and second-hand characters. But this is science-fiction escapism at its very best and can easily get behind the fun and craziness this movie provides.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

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The Throwdown : USS Enterprise vs. Millennium Falcon

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Just what is The Throwdown you ask? It’s a feature where we take two movie subjects and pit them against each other and see who’s left standing. It could be actors, actresses, movies, genres, scenes, and so much more. You play a big part in this. You get to vote and determine who comes out on top. I’ll share my take and then open up the polls to you. Vote to decide the true winner!

Last time you unusually cruel people broke my heart by choosing Star Trek over Star Wars as the better franchise by a pretty decisive margin – 66.7% to 33.3%. Today we’re sticking with the Star Wars versus Start Trek theme.

USS Enterprise vs Millennium Falcon

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Just like the franchises themselves, I have a deep appreciation and love for both the Enterprise and the Millennium Falcon. Both are iconic starships, not just in the realm of science fiction, but in world-wide pop culture. Both are easily recognized by legions of fans, but also by many people who wouldn’t call themselves followers of either franchise.

For me the choice is pretty simple. While I love the USS Enterprise and have spent many big screen and small screen hours on the bridge, in the captain’s quarters, on the holodeck, etc., it just can’t beat “the fastest hunk of junk in the galaxy”. The Falcon has so much history and character. In fact, it has often been called a Star Wars character itself. Also there has only been one Millennium Falcon. While I truly love most versions of the Enterprise, it has been decommissioned and even destroyed on multiple occasions. The Falcon has always been that “bucket of bolts” we’ve seen in the majority of the Star Wars films.

Now it’s up to you. Which iconic starship is the best? Which one is your personal favorite? Vote below and see which one comes out on top. Make sure to make your choice and then click the VOTE button so that your vote counts.

 

First Glance: “Rambo: Last Blood”

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I happily admit it – John Rambo was a pretty big part of my teen years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve watched his “First Blood” trilogy of movies. They came out during the heyday of the 80’s action genre and I still enjoy popping them in from time to time. I can’t say I was as thrilled with 2008’s grittier, edgier installment simply titled “Rambo”.

Well it looks like Sylvester Stallone is taking one last turn in one of the roles that made him a household name. “Rambo: Last Blood” sees the much older but ever lethal John Rambo living the quiet life in a remote country farmhouse. That is until a group of baddies with yet unknown ties to his past show up. Obviously the results are sure to be violent and bloody.

Minus the hideous song choice, I’m into the newly released teaser trailer as a fitting farewell to an iconic 80’s character. But can they pull it off on a satisfying way? We will know when it hits theaters September 20th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or giving it a pass.

First Glance: “Annabelle Comes Home”

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I’m a huge fan of the two “Conjuring” movies which focus on the paranormal adventures of Ed and Lorraine Warren (so perfectly played by Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga). But there are other films considered to be part of the Conjuring Universe that are always interesting but a bit hit-or-miss when it comes to quality. The “Annabelle” films are a good example.

The first “Annabelle” movie fell flat while the second was a step in the right direction. Now we get a third installment titled “Annabelle Comes Home”. The second trailer has dropped and it doesn’t leave the best impression. Aside from the brief moments with the Warrens, it looks pretty uninspired. From what we see, Annabelle is unleashed through an eye-rolling act of stupidity and a lot of horror movie box-checking follows.

“Annabelle Comes Home” hits theaters June 26th. Check out the trailer below and let me know if you’ll be seeing it or giving it a pass.