film London Has Fallen

Some Movies to See This Weekend, March 4, 2016

Friday, March 04, 2016 Rob Samuelson

This weekend looks downright fun no matter your taste in movies, folks. There’s a sequel to an action movie regarded as dumb but blissfully so, a film in which one of our finest comic performers gets to stretch out a little in a dramatic direction, and the latest release from an animation giant. It could be the first largely pleasing movie weekend of the year. Let’s take a look.

London Has Fallen
Director: Babak Najafi
Writers: Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt, Christian Gudegast, Chad St. John
Starring: Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman

There is a quality to this burgeoning franchise that feels a little off, but in a pleasing way. To be fair, I have yet to see the first movie in the series, Olympus Has Fallen, but nothing seems correct. Gerard Butler as a Secret Service guy works in theory because he’s a beefy guy with action chops, but his believability as an American is another story. Aaron Eckhart as the president of the United States feels equally like a stretch because, for all of his movie star good looks, there’s something unnerving about him -- he’s slippery like a real politician, not a movie one. And Morgan Freeman as anything but the most authoritative person in the room is simply unthinkable. But it all seems strangely fitting, plus I have it on good authority that people tend to get stabbed in the head, like, a lot.

And now it gets to happen in London during a giant international summit. Aaron Eckhart’s slimy president gets kidnapped and his terrorist captors plan to murder him on live television. Butler has to save him again because the smug jerk just can’t stop getting himself in trouble with the world’s seedier elements. And Morgan Freeman gets to sit in the White House Situation Room and look horrified. It all sounds like gravy to me.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Writer: Robert Carlock
Starring: Tina Fey, Margot Robbie, Martin Freeman, Alfred Molina, Billy Bob Thornton

Despite her place as one of pop culture’s most talented figures, Tina Fey’s movie career has been a little spotty. Her work on Saturday Night Live, 30 Rock, and The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, along with her book Bossypants, made her an icon. But on the big screen she has yet to really break out with a character as lovable and memorable as Liz Lemon. This has partly been due to being let down by the writing, but for Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, about a war correspondent’s experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan, she has her writing partner, Robert Carlock, onboard to script the thing. Even better, the writing team that gave us Bad Santa, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who have since moved on to direct other good-to-great movies like I Love You Phillip Morris and last year’s Focus, are guiding everything.

This crew have a talent for making “the thinking adult’s” movies. There are jokes in the trailer, but they’re tied to larger ideas about sexism and fish-out-of-water situations. And that’s just a couple minutes. There’s romance, some danger, and likely some action given the setting. The cast outside of Fey is full of ringers who can do both comedy and drama, plus the reunion between Ficarra, Requa, and Billy Bob Thornton could be something special.

Directors: Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush
Writers: Jared Bush, Phil Johnston, Byron Howard, Jennifer Lee, Josie Trinidad, Jim Reardon, Dan Fogelman
Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba, Jenny Slate

This one is getting quite good buzz around the internet, which is probably to be expected in the current era of computer animated Disney movies. Since John Lasseter (Toy Story, basically everything great about Pixar) became the czar of everything Disney animation a few years back, things have gone pretty well overall, both creatively and financially, for the studio. Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6 have all been pretty stellar. Now there’s a chance for them to make it five-for-five with a story about an animal-inhabited city’s first rabbit police officer (Ginnifer Goodwin) trying make good on her first case with the help of a fox (Jason Bateman) who isn’t always the easiest guy to get along with.

If there is any cause for concern, it’s the trailer’s scene of a Godfather-referencing mafia scene that feels like something from a different studio that makes movies about green ogres who do nothing but make dated pop culture references. If it’s a small part, then who cares? It’s an early-year Disney release. That’s something to celebrate.

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