Film Review: GOING IN STYLE (USA 2017)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival: http://www.wildsound.ca

going_in_style.jpgDirector: Zach Braff
Writers: Theodore Melfi (screenplay), Edward Cannon (based on the 1979 story by)
Stars: Joey King, Morgan Freeman, Ann-Margret

Review by Gilbert Seah

GOING IN STYLE is an updated remake of the 1979 caper movie of the same name that starred Oscar winners George Burns, Art Carney and Acting Coach Lee Strasberg . The main difference is that in the 1979 original, two of the three old cronies actually die in the film, making the title more appropriate. No one dies in the remake.

The three seniors in director Zach Braff’s 2017 version, are Joe (Michael Caine), Albert (Alan Arkin) and Willie (Morgan Freeman). The story is told primarily from Joe’s point of view. When the company they had worked for is bought out, their pensions become a casualty of the restructuring. When Joe meets up with the bank manager regarding the foreclosure on his house, he is inspired by a bank robbery that takes place during his visit. The three seniors decide to take back what is rightfully owed to them by the bank holding the company’s pension funds.

The script by Theodore Melfi gives each character their place in the story, Willie needs the money to visit his family more than once a year. Albert develops a love interest with Annie (Ann-Margaret). Joe has his separated daughter and granddaughter , Brooklyn (Joey King) live with him, so he cannot lose his house to the bank. FBI agent Hamer (Matt Dillon) pursues the trio with the clues he gets from the CCT. The three get caught in the original GOING IN STYLE, but the three here might just get away (no spoiler in this review.) They wear Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davies J. (sorry, Peter Lawford) masks as compared to the Groucho Brother masks in the original during the heist.

The film works better in the first third with a looser plot. Director Braff, who has more acting than directing in his resume (he was the main actor in GARDEN STATE; GOING IN STYLE is his directorial debut) proves himself more apt at comedy and getting the most out of his cast. The robbery scene is done more for comedy that suspense, which is clearly lacking during a typical robbery scene. Good thing too, is that sentimentality is kept to a minimum.

GOING IN STYLE is the typical inoffensive comedy (except for a bit of swearing thrown in clearly for good measure) with old people for old people. It is also good to watch these 3 Oscar Winners (Freeman, Caine and Arkin) together for the first time. Ann-Margaret still looks as stunning as ever and BACK TO THE FUTURE’s Christopher Lloyd is sufficiently funny as a forgetful senior. John Ortiz deserves mention as the dodgy character who helps the trio plan the robbery.

Though Michael Caine almost succeeds in pulling the film off, the film suffers from a weak narrative with the story going into three directions resulting in too many distractions. The film succeeds in delivering a few laughs. Another good thing is that no one can remember the original which was only a mediocre movie, so the 2017 movie should not disappoint many, especially when the target audience are seniors. (If the last statement is offensive to any senior, it should be noted that this film reviewer will be a senior pretty soon. Maybe I should start planning my own bank robbery.)

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcdTN5soeQw

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Movie Review: NOW YOU SEE ME 2

now_you_see_me_2NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Jon M. Chu

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman

Review by Gilbert Seah

NOW YOU SEE ME 2, the sequel to the unexpected hit NOW YOU SEE ME has the same 4 horsemen return for another round of magic trickery to astound audiences, whether they love magic or not.

Except for Lizzy Caplan taking over the female role from Isla Fisher, most of the original cast returns. Jesse Eisenberg plays the main role of Daniel “Danny” Atlas, the group leader followed by Woody Harrelson as Chase, Dave Franco as Jack Wilder, Caplan as Lula and Mark Ruffalo as the FBI mole. There are two sets of bad guys here. One is the FBI – a favourite target organization hated by (most) Americans and non-Americas alike. The other is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) an unethical magnate that the Horsemen want to expose for unethical tactics, together with his father, Arthur Tresslr (Michael Caine).

Performances are key to a movie like this. It is not surprising for the filmmakers to assemble such an an impressive cast, all of whom inject sufficient seriousness and energy into the venture. But Radcliffe (HARRY POTTER) looks ill at ease at playing a bad guy as does Michael Caine.

The magic tricks performed in the film are especially outlandish. The are also performed really quickly with the solutions provided ever quicker. When the horsemen first appear again in public, they chose the most famous venues in London such as Trafalgar Square. The tricks include making rain disappear and people transported by plane. But the trickery is explained with the solution often so simple. The disappearing rain is accomplished through rain machines and strobe lights.

The best trick on display involves the horsemen forced to flee from their enemy. They leap off a rooftop through a chute and land up in China. If this act appears impossible, the revelation of how this occurs illustrates the power of imagination in a script that writer Ed Solomon constantly impresses. Though the film runs more than 2 hours, it is too long even though one hardly feels it.

Just as magic often uses doubles, the script cleverly adds a component of Merritt’s evil twin brother, again played by Harrelson, hamming it out the best he can in two different roles.

The business aspect of the film? NOW YOU SEE ME 2 hopes to pull in some big bucks for the flailing Lionsgate, the studio responsible for HUNGER GAMES and the TWILIGHT films, now in dire need of a big hit after the shares took a plunge last earnings session after a drop in quarterly revenue. But the bottom line is that this film provides just more of the same tricks – nothing more, nothing less. The first film was a surprise hit taking the box-office by storm. Lionsgate has lumped a larger amount of $90 million into the sequel, a sort of ‘we need a hit regardless of expense’. The film is up against stiff competition with WARCRAFT and CONJURING 2 both opening this same weekend. Looks like Lionsgate needs some magic on its own.

Happy Birthday: Morgan Freeman

morganfreeman.jpgHappy Birthday actor Morgan Freeman

Born: June 1, 1937 in Memphis, Tennessee, USA

Married to: Myrna Colley-Lee (16 June 1984 – 15 September 2010) (divorced)

Jeanette Adair Bradshaw (22 October 1967 – 18 November 1979) (divorced) (2 children)

Read reviews of the best of the actor:

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Movie Review: LONDON HAS FALLEN (2016)

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

london_has_fallenLONDON HAS FALLEN (USA 2015) **
Directed by Babak Najafi

Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman

Review by Gilbert Seah

Audiences are always awed when world famous landmarks are demolished on screen. But when these are done by CGI, it loses its effect and even more when too many, as in this film tumble to the ground. The single sight of a bus crashing at Piccadilly Circus in AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON one without CGI is so much more exciting than anything seen in LONDON HAS FALLEN.
For those who have forgotten the film OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, LONDON HAS FALLEN is a sequel to that 2013 film in which terrorists attacked the White House In LONDON, the terrorists are shifted from the Koreans to the Muslims. All the actors in the first film reprise their roles in the sequel. Aaron Eckhart plays the U.S. President, Benjamin Asher with the same lead character the super U.S. Secret service Agent, former Army Ranger, Mike Banning, again played by Gerard Butler. Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Robert Forster Radha Mitchell and ours reprise their roles.

Swede director Babak Najafi takes over the directing reigns from Antoine Fuqua. Nahafi’s only credit is the sequel to EASY MONEY called EASY MONEY 2 that never got a release in North America.

The simple plot involves the British Prime Minister dying under questionable circumstances. When all the world’s most powerful leaders including President Benjamin Asher and Manning travel to London for the funeral, all the leaders including the Canadian P.M. are assassinated.

There can be little suspense less excitement in a film where the lead character like this super security bodyguard is invincible. No matter how low the odds on survival, no matter how much enemy firepower or enemy numbers there are, the audience knows he will get through with hardly a scratch. The script attempts to up the angst by having his wife (Mitchell) deliver a baby while he is on assignment in London, but with little effect.

There is little to praise in a script that follows the rules of an action flick without much imagination. It begins with the set up, the main staging of the falling of London and the saving of the U.S. President at all costs. And of course, the mastermind villain is taken down at the end. The dialogue is also run of the mill. President: “What if you don’t come back (for me)?” Butler: “Then you are f***ed. Don’t jinx me” President: “That was encouraging.” At least in the first OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, the First Lady (Ashley Judd) gets killed – a major surprise. No twists in the plot or surprises in this one.

Gerard Butler is too eager to be seen in blockbuster 5-star films. In these two weeks, he has been over-exposed in GODS OF EGYPT and LONDON HAS FALLEN. 5-star movies? Apparently London is not the only thing that has fallen.
Compared to OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, LONDON HAS FALLEN is more of the same. But mostly, recycled material that the audience has seen already once too often.

 

Also, Free logline submissions. The Writing Festival network averages over 95,000 unique visitors a day.
Great way to get your story out: http://www.wildsound.ca/logline.html

Deadlines to Submit your Screenplay, Novel, Story, or Poem to the festival:http://www.wildsound.ca

Watch recent Writing Festival Videos. At least 15 winning videos a month: http://www.wildsoundfestival.com