Stay Down

Angel Has Fallen

by George Wolf

Olympus, then London, now Angel. They keep Fallen, must they keep getting up?

To be fair, Angel isn’t nearly the dumpster dive we took in London. It sports comic relief from Nick Nolte, a fun mid-credits stinger and a truly impressive performance from a baby.

Surrounding all that, though, is a pedestrian and all too often obvious gotta -clear-my-name frameup that underdelivers on the action front.

Gerard Butler is back as Secret Service hero Mike Banning, with Morgan Freeman returning to the franchise as now-President Trumbull.

Mike has headaches and insomnia after years of action, but debates leaving the field for a desk promotion. He is still great at knocking out all the baddies who are nice enough to walk blindly past a corner he’s hiding behind, but when there’s a drone attempt on the President’s life, Mike can’t keep his entire team from being wiped out.

Suddenly, mounds of incriminating evidence point to Mike as the would-be assassin, who then must leave his wife (Piper Perabo) and child (that baby is good, I’m telling you) and go full Bourne fugitive guy to root out the real villains.

Who wants the President dead? And why?

If the answers are supposed to be surprises, someone forgot to tell director Ric Roman Waugh (Snitch) and his co-writers, asAngel is telegraphed from many preposterous angles with all manner of heavy handed exposition.

And once Banning takes refuge with his long lost, off the grid, battle scarred Dad (Nolte), the attempts at debating the morality of war land with a thud of pandering afterthoughts.

Hey, if your just here for some mindless action highs, that’s fine, but Angel skirts them, curiously settling for repetitive shootouts and nods to first-person gaming enthusiasts.

Like Mike, this Fallen seems mostly tired. Even if it can get up, maybe it should reconsider.

Just Breathe

Asthma

by Hope Madden

A bruised, muscular romanticism – a nostalgia for a hipper, more rebellious and gorgeous reality – informs Jake Hoffman’s Asthma.

The beautifully damaged Gus (Benedict Samuel) can’t claim a place in the generic uniformity of the modern world. He longs for the grittier and richer reality he believes came and went before his time. So he steals a Rolls, picks up the girl he admires, and attempts the kind of tragically restless road trip you might find in a Godard film.

All of which would feel precious were it not for erratic but solid performances, and a revelation that unveils Gus as the poseur we knew he was. Surprisingly, Hoffman and Samuel are able to mine that late-film revelation to connect the lead with the ordinary Joe in the audience, and still make his troubles resonate because of the genuine pain in the performance.

For all the film’s showy quirks – Nick Nolte, for instance, is the voice of Gus’s Guardian Angel/Wolfman – Hoffman’s abrupt manner with both camera and soundtrack keep things from feeling frivolous or pretentious.

The slew of peculiar folk Gus meets along his journey nearly chokes any hint of authenticity from Asthma, although the great (and appropriate) Iggy Pop is like a needed and timely punch in the gut to a film just about to topple over with its own quirkiness.

For a hyper-masculine road-type-picture, Asthma boasts a surprisingly nuanced female lead. Yes, Krysten Ritter’s Ruby looks like the typical off-beat beauty, and her character is certainly the right combination of naughty and nice to fit the bill, but Ritter never lets the character off too easy. She makes poor decisions, kicks herself for them, hardens, and moves on – all with a grace that feels of this time and of another.

There’s an addiction theme that threatens to hold the film together, give it purpose and drive, but often feels like the least authentic piece of the movie. Without it, though, Asthma too often comes off as a nostalgic riff on another era’s nostalgic riffs.

Hoffman’s a confident first time filmmaker with a product that is great to look if purposeless – kind of like Gus.

Verdict-3-0-Stars

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHA7Lt_uQPs





Into the Woods

A Walk in the Woods

by Hope Madden

In 1998, Bill Bryson published the funny human adventure A Walk in the Woods – the tale of a man grappling with his morality by walking the Appalachian Trail. To stave off boredom he invites (perhaps mistakenly) a friend. Though it lumbers at times, the book is a fun odd couple account of human frailty and the vastness of the natural world.

It’s 2015, and Robert Redford has released a broad, uninspired treatment/vanity project. Redford plays Bryson, the travel writer bristling against age and stagnation. Nick Nolte is Stephen Katz, the overweight, gimpy recovering alcoholic eager to accompany him on his journey.

It’s hard to understand what made Redford want to create this wisp of a comedy road trip after last year’s gripping The Wild, a film that treads very similar ground. But where Reese Witherspoon’s Oscar nominated flick illustrated personal exploration and the redemptive power of nature, Redford’s is content with lazy gags and hollow attempts at profundity.

Redford and Nolte lack chemistry, and while Nolte entertains in several humorous moments, Redford’s utter lack of comic timing is itself kind of awe inspiring.

It’s also absurd casting, given that Bryson – in his 40s when he attempted the trail – was facing a midlife crisis, yet feared he may be too old to make the trip. Nick Nolte is 71 and Robert Redford is 79, for lord’s sake.

At least you can expect a breathtaking view, though, right? Wrong. Director Ken Kwapis misses every opportunity to exploit the sheer gorgeousness of the AT, providing no more than 3 lovely, if brief, images of natural beauty. Nor can he authentically express the passage of time, articulate the grueling nature of the journey, or build tension, and he and his writers (Rick Kerb and Bill Holderman) utterly abandon the enjoyably creepy representation of the South you’ll find in Bryson’s text.

An early draft of the script came from Michael Arndt, whose work on Little Miss Sunshine and Toy Story 3 suggests the kind of playful humor and storytelling skill the project deserved. Unfortunately, the end product came from the keystrokes of Redford’s regular contributor Holderman, which may be why Redford so rarely makes decent movies anymore.

Verdict-2-0-Stars





An Irishman in New York

Run All Night

by Hope Madden

Who wants to spend St. Pat’s with a badass Irishman? Run All Night is just your latest chance to see Liam Neeson show off his particular set of skills.

An aging thug and unrepentant lush, Neeson’s Jimmy Conlon relies heavily on the good will of his best friend from the neighborhood, Shawn (Ed Harris). Shawn runs a business that used to be shady – maybe still is – but Shawn’s legitimate. Shawn’s son is strictly shady, and when Jimmy’s estranged son sees something he shouldn’t, the dads have to sort things out. With bullets.

After Non-Stop and Unknown, this marks the third time director Jaume Collet-Serra has filmed Neeson as the damaged, aging loner with regrets and a bunch of people to shoot – but at this point, who hasn’t? While this film certainly doesn’t feel fresh, it’s a more accomplished movie than their last two collaborations, offering emotional pull and fine performances.

Neeson’s haunted tough guy Jimmy is one of his more memorable action movie roles, even if the father/son angle telegraphs the redemption theme from up the block. Full of regret and just barely daring to hope, Jimmy’s last attempt at fatherhood is a complicated, bloody affair.

Ed Harris is characteristically excellent as well, and the two veterans invest in their characters and the history they share. Because the relationship feels honest, the payoff maintains some emotional punch.

The supporting cast is solid from top to bottom. From Vincent D’Onofrio’s good cop down to an uncredited Nick Nolte, they’re not flashy, but they are committed enough to their characters to keep the drama tight.

Collet-Serra’s film begins as a Seventies’ style gritty NYC street drama, but as the night wears on, little glints of modern action flick start to tear through that fabric. It’s too bad, even if it is inevitable. Contrivances pile up, and wildly obviously plot twists appear only to resolve in exactly the way you expect them to.

Much of Run All Night – too much, really – is familiar and predictable. It’s a credit to Collet-Serra’s pacing that the film can keep your attention, and a nod to the talent of his cast that you can feel caught up in their dysfunctional family drama regardless of the threadbare script.

Verdict-3-0-Stars