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Soul (2020) Review

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Soul

Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner
Tina Fey as 22
Graham Norton as Moonwind
Rachel House as Terry
Alice Braga and Richard Ayoade as Jerry
Phylicia Rashad as Libba Gardner
Donnell Rawlings as Dez
Questlove as Lamont “Curley” Baker
Angela Bassett as Dorothea Williams
Director: Pete Docter

Joe (Jamie Foxx) is a middle-school band teacher whose life hasn’t quite gone the way he expected. His true passion is jazz — and he’s good. But when he travels to another realm to help someone find their passion, he soon discovers what it means to have soul.

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I knew of Soul as an upcoming animated movie from the same people who made Inside Out, that was put on Disney+. At first I wasn’t really sure about it, beyond that the fact is a Pixar movie. I saw the first trailer however, it got me very interested with the premise. It turned out to be quite great and I was impressed by it.

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I do think that it’s worth going into the movie without knowing much about it beyond the initial premise and setup. I went in having only seen one of the trailers and I enjoyed the movie quite a lot for that. There are some story aspects that are quite typical of that of other animated movies, especially with the general structure. On the whole however, the story is captivating, and it hooks you straight into it. It really takes you on a journey that make you think about life along with Jamie Foxx’s character Joe Gardener and Tiny Fey’s character 22. It’s a beautifully told story, that’s full of sincerity, honesty and heart. It is a very human story about what it means to be alive and the purpose of life. It brings so much life to its very existence in its messages of purpose and the real intent behind our purpose in this life, what sparks us, what we live for and what we do that really matters. There’s some good humour in there, which surprising considering the premise, and there are even several lough out loud moments. The characters are great, even the brief characters who only have a few minutes of screentime have fully defined personalities and you feel like you know them. It is Pixar’s most mature movie by far. In fact, I do wonder how younger people would react to this movie honestly, as I definitely see older audiences getting much more out of the movie. I’m not sure if anyone has complained about the ending but it’s a bit abrupt, however I really like the point it ends on.

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The voice cast from everyone was great. Jamie Foxx and Tina Fey play their lead roles very well. There is also a very good supporting voice cast that works well, including Daveed Diggs, Richard Ayoade, and others. The highlights among them for me were Graham Norton and Rachel House, House particularly channels her character from Hunt of the Wilderpeople to great effect here.

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Pete Doctor directed this very well, as to be expected from the director of Up and Inside Out. The movie is beautifully and stylishly animated. Many of the locations are quite good. From The Great Beyond, the You-Seminar, to New York City, all of them look so beautiful and gorgeous. One of the surprising aspects was how much it was actually largely based in New York City, as many Pixar movies go for more fantasy/adventure settings. The stylised photo-realism approach in those scenes are great to watch, from the way they use light, to the way they use the camera. The score is from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross and is nothing short of transcendent, and really was a huge presence in the movie.

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Soul is greatly animated and directed, very well voiced, and has a lot of things to say in it. I wouldn’t say it’s my favourite Pixar movie and I probably wouldn’t rewatch it a whole lot, but I think it’s one of Pixar’s best, as well as one of their most clever, poignant and honest films. It’s among the best movies of the year and is worth checking out for sure.

Mission Impossible: Fallout (2018) Review

Time: 148 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt
Henry Cavill as August Walker
Ving Rhames as Luther Stickell
Simon Pegg as Benjamin “Benji” Dunn
Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust
Sean Harris as Solomon Lane
Angela Bassett as Erica Sloane
Alec Baldwin as Alan Hunley
Vanessa Kirby as White Widow
Frederick Schmidt as Zola
Michelle Monaghan as Julia Meade
Director: Christopher McQuarrie

Two years after Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) had successfully captured Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), the remnants of the Syndicate have reformed into another organization called the Apostles. Under the leadership of a mysterious fundamentalist known only as John Lark, the organization is planning on acquiring three plutonium cores. Ethan and his team are sent to Berlin to intercept them, but the mission fails when Ethan saves Luther (Ving Rhames) and the Apostles escape with the plutonium. With CIA agent August Walker (Henry Cavill) joining the team, Ethan and his allies must now find the plutonium cores before it’s too late.

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Mission Impossible: Fallout was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. This action franchise has been running for over 2 decades, and since the 3rd instalment, every film was better than the last. Along with Rogue Nation (originally the best film of the series) director Christopher McQuarrie returning, we have the additions of Henry Cavill, Angela Bassett and Vanessa Kirby. At the very least I was expecting a solid action flick with Tom Cruise doing great stunts and some entertaining action. It certainly was that but it was much more than I thought it would be. Greatly directed, acted and executed, Fallout is not only by far the best instalment in the franchise, but also one of the best action movies in recent years.

One criticism that Fallout might get from some people is that it’s not really not the most unpredictable of stories. If you’re familiar with the Mission Impossible movies or any similar movies, you’re very familiar with these kind of spy plots and it doesn’t really do anything vastly different. You’ll be able to pick up most of what’s going on before it happens. There’s particularly one twist that was being built up throughout the story that audiences will be able to figure out within the first 10/20 minutes. With that said, there was a handling of a repetitive Mission Impossible plot point that I’m very happy was subverted here. Outside some of the predictability of the movie, the story really works for the movie. This is the longest Mission Impossible movie yet, at just under 2 hours and 30 minutes and yet from start to finish I was engrossed. This movie is tonally dark and the stakes are really high, both in terms of scale and on an emotional level. I feel like this movie really utilises the characters really well, at least the main team. Something that separates Ethan Hunt and his team from other action movie characters (particularly in Fallout) is that they are only just pulling off what they set out to do, barely scraping by and making it up as they go along. I lost track of the amount of times I heard phrases like “I’ll figure it out”, “I’m working on it”, and “We’ll make it work”. The plot also challenges the characters, not just Hunt, but also Benji, Luther and Ilsa, putting them in seemingly impossible situations. At the same time it does have a lot of well timed and utilised humour. Fallout does tie back to all the previous Mission Impossible movies (except for the second film, unless I missed anything). However, you don’t have to watch all the previous movies to understand Fallout. As it’s a direct sequel to Rogue Nation however, I think it’s a good idea to watch the 5th movie beforehand at the very least. And if you’re a Mission Impossible fan, I think you’ll be very satisfied with some of the things that happens in this movie. As for the way that the movie ends, it doesn’t necessarily end it on a cliffhanger or do any sequel baiting, but there’s room for future movies and some loose ends that have yet to be tied up, and I’m completely on board for more Mission Impossible movies.

The cast all do very well here. Tom Cruise once again plays Ethan Hunt and as usual he’s great. While Hunt doesn’t have the greatest depth in terms of character, he is effective enough in the movies. Also this is the first time since Mission Impossible 3 that there’s been a movie that has personal stakes involving him. This movie allows Hunt to show his age a little, and really acknowledges that he’s been doing this for a long time. It really does give the character much more depth. Cruise’s commitment, charisma and everything is on display. That’s not even mentioning all the stunts that he takes part in, the running, the driving, the fighting, the flying, every time Ethan Hunt is doing something on screen, it really is Tom Cruise doing all of that. Hopefully future MI films will continue to have stories more personal to Hunt because it really makes the movie stand out, and Cruise is great at it. The rest of the returning cast is great as well. Ving Rhames and Simon Pegg again are good, with Ving as Luther getting to do the most out of the whole franchise, and Simon as Benji doing more field agent work than before. You do feel the lack of Jeremy Renner here (who’s not here because of Avengers 4 filming) but he’ll not doubt be back for Mission Impossible 7. Rebecca Fergusson like in Rogue Nation, stole the show as Ilsa Faust. She’s great in her action scenes and makes a very strong impression as her character. Alec Baldwin is good in his role as the new IMF director and also returning is Sean Harris as Solomon Lane, who’s now the only Mission Impossible villain to appear in more than one movie. Once again he’s great and truly sinister, one of the best villains in the Mission Impossible series (however that’s not saying a lot). We’ve also got some new additions to the Mission Impossible cast. Angela Bassett gets to have some solid moments (although being rather underutilized), and Vanessa Kirby is fantastic in her role, even though she’s very much a supporting actor in the movie. The stand out new actor however is Henry Cavill, as a CIA agent that Ethan Hunt and the IMF are forced to work with. I do wish that his character had a little more depth than what we got but he was really good. His character of August Walker really stands out as being distinctly different from Ethan Hunt, he’s much more intense and ruthless, and he really was a force of nature. As Angela Bassett puts it, Hunt is a scalpel, whereas Walker is a hammer, with him being younger and physically more imposing and stronger. This role really showed a different side to Cavill as an actor, yes he’s great as Superman and as Napoleon Solo in The Man from UNCLE, but he’s proved here that he’s also solid with darker characters, and I do hope he gets more roles like this as well.

The Mission Impossible series usually have the tradition of having different directors for every film to feel distinctly different, Fallout breaks this tradition with Rogue Nation director Christopher McQuarrie returning for the sixth instalment. Despite him directing the previous film, Fallout feels like it was done by a completely different director, McQuarrie really upped his game here. In a lot of good action movies, there are usually a few great action scenes and the rest of the action scenes are decent enough. Here though, pretty much all the action sequences are absolutely fantastic, and had any of them been placed in most other action movies, it would be the best action scene of that film. Whether it involve motorcycles, running, helicopters, cars, you name it, McQuarrie, Cruise and co. perform them wonderfully well. A big part of why they work so well is the cinematography. Along with the movie just generally looking great, during the action sequences there are no unnecessary close ups and no jarring cuts during fight scenes, instead we have wide shots, tracking shots, the cinematography really helped showcase the action and we can see all of it unfold. All the Mad Max Fury Road comparisons that Fallout has been receiving make sense when you watch the movie. I’d say that 90-95% of the movie is practical, and as we know, 100% of Tom Cruise’s stunts was done by Tom Cruise. I wouldn’t know how to really talk about the stand outs action sequences because I’d just end up listing all of them, but some highlights include a brutal and excellently well done fight which takes place in a bathroom, a HALO jump performed by Tom Cruise and a helicopter flying scene. Lorne Balfe does the score and it really adds something to the movie. The constant feeling of uneasiness in the movie comes mostly from the score, giving the film a heightened sense of tension. It does feel like a Hans Zimmer score but that really worked for the movie.

Mission Impossible Fallout takes all the great elements from the previous movies in the series to create a fantastic, thrilling and intense movie, that had me gripped from start to finish. This is definitely the best film in the series and one of the best action movies of recent years. Although I’m not even sure how they would top Fallout, I’m completely on board for future Mission Impossible films. Even if you’re not a big fan of the series, I strongly recommend checking Fallout out, you won’t regret it.

Green Lantern (2011) Review

Time: 114 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Ryan Reynolds as Hal Jordan/Green Lantern
Blake Lively as Carol Ferris
Peter Sarsgaard as Dr. Hector Hammond
Mark Strong as Thaal Sinestro
Angela Bassett as Dr. Amanda Waller
Tim Robbins as Robert Hammond
Temuera Morrison as Abin Sur/Green Lantern
Taika Waititi as Thomas Kalmaku
Director: Martin Campbell

Sworn to preserve intergalactic order, the Green Lantern Corps has existed for centuries. Its newest recruit, Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds), is the first human to join the ranks. The Green Lanterns have little regard for humans, who have thus far been unable to harness the powers of the ring each member wears. But Jordan, a gifted and cocky test pilot, may be the corps’ only hope when a new enemy called Parallax threatens the universal balance of power.

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2 years before the DCEU was started with Man of Steel, WB tried to create a DC cinematic universe with 2011’s Green Lantern. It had all the makings of a good comic book movie, you have a great cast including Ryan Reynolds and Mark Strong and on top of that, its directed by Goldeneye and Casino Royale director Martin Campbell. Green Lantern however ended up being way worse than it should be, it fails to entertain or interest on any level, and just feels like wasted potential in the end.

First thing to note is that Green Lantern has a very silly tone. It feels like WB was trying to replicate the Marvel films with DC, and with the MCU running a good few year at the time of GL’s release, that could very well be what happened. It’s quite comedic and ridiculous at some points oddly. Unfortunately despite the light and almost cartoonish tone, it’s not very entertaining, not even on a so bad it’s good level. On top of it being too silly, it’s also not very interesting. Despite it being an hour and 45 minutes long, Green Lantern drags a lot. I’m not sure what happened with the script. It just feels empty, they throw a lot of lore at you but none of it really sticks, there’s nothing about the way that the film told the backstory of the Green Lanterns that made me interested in them. Honestly they sound more interesting on paper than how it’s presented in the actual movie. There is no emotional connection to what’s going on, things just happen, and you watch them happen but you don’t care about any of it. By the end it didn’t feel like much has happened. There is a lot of wasted opportunities as well, for example a big part of the film is these Green Lantern rings which allow the people who use them to create anything they can imagine, however nothing that creative even comes of that. It’s such a shame that Green Lantern really doesn’t get much right, it’s not entertaining, it’s not interesting, it’s rather empty and feels much longer than it actually is.

There is a lot of talented actors here and many of the casting decisions are great. Unfortunately they aren’t enough to elevate the film in an immense way. Ryan Reynolds to be fair is actually a great pick for Hal Jordan/Green Lantern and Reynolds does his best with what he was given. He is however let down by the material given to him. The supporting actors with Blake Lively, Angela Bassett, Temuera Morrison, Taika Waititi and others are fine enough but really don’t give that great performances, it’s not on them though and they are fine enough. Mark Strong is a perfect casting choice for Sinestro but he’s not even the main villain, and he doesn’t get as much screentime as he should. I guess he was being set up to be a villain in later movies but as sequels didn’t happen he just feels wasted. He was really good in his scenes though. The actual villains were really bad. Peter Sarsgaard I’ve heard is a good actor and I don’t blame him for his performance here. In short he’s some random guy who gets a big head and powers and is over the top and goofy, terrible performance, again not putting this on Sarsgaard. He’s not even the main villain, it’s this CGI creature thing called Parallax. I’ve seen many bad comic book movie villains, from Nuclear Man, to Poison Ivy to Incubus. But I think Parallax is the worst comic book movie villain I’ve ever seen. The CGI on him was awful but also there’s absolutely nothing to the character and we don’t see too much of him anyway.

This film is directed by Martin Campbell but you wouldn’t be able to tell by watching the movie. The filming of the action sequences is fine enough but it’s not that great. It doesn’t help that the CGI is so awful it’s actually unbelievable, everything from the CGI suits, to the backgrounds, Parallax and beyond, everything looks bad. The decision to have the suits be CGI was particularly poor, they even gave Ryan Reynolds a goofy CGI eye mask. Nothing feels real and I know that most of what happens can’t be created in reality but they could’ve at least made it better so that the special effects don’t constantly feel artificial and fake.

I personally think that Green Lantern is the worst comic book movie of the 2010s thus far, though there are worse comic book movies that have been released overall. Some aspects are fine like most of the actors are well cast and do the best they can in their roles but they are ultimately let down by the writing and material given. The vast majority of the story aspects falls flat and all the potential with all these characters and the world is wasted. Not only that but it’s not even entertaining, even the technical aspects such as the CGI are astoundingly poor. Green Lantern was an unfortunate misfire and really didn’t work at all. Let’s just hope that the DCEU’s version of Green Lantern is solid (though it will likely be much better by default).

Black Panther (2018) Review

Time: 134 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Violence
Cast:
Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa/Black Panther
Michael B. Jordan as Erik “Killmonger” Stevens
Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia
Danai Gurira as Okoye
Martin Freeman as Everett K. Ross
Daniel Kaluuya as W’Kabi
Letitia Wright as Shuri
Winston Duke as M’Baku
Angela Bassett as Ramonda
Forest Whitaker as Zuri
Andy Serkis as Ulysses Klaue
Director: Ryan Coogler

After the death of his father, T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returns home to the African nation of Wakanda to take his rightful place as king. When a powerful enemy suddenly reappears, T’Challa’s mettle as king — and as Black Panther — gets tested when he’s drawn into a conflict that puts the fate of Wakanda and the entire world at risk. Faced with treachery and danger, the young king must rally his allies and release the full power of Black Panther to defeat his foes and secure the safety of his people.

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Black Panther was one of my most anticipated films of 2018. Not only was it a Marvel movie and one focussing on Black Panther (who became one of my favourite MCU characters after Civil War) and not only does it have a fantastic cast, Ryan Coogler directed it. Coogler had already established himself as a director to pay attention to after Fruitvale Station and Creed, so naturally I was excited to see him work on a comic book movie. Black Panther definitely had the potential to be one of the best MCU films and having seen it, I can say that it didn’t disappoint.

Black Panther is yet another Marvel comic book movie and there are aspects of it that feel like a Marvel movie but yet it feels quite fresh and new. After the first few scenes, I was riveted with Black Panther through to the very end. The characters were really memorable and established very well. The themes explored in the movie was really effective and the social commentary was applied well and didn’t feel forced at all, they were very well integrated into the story. The MCU often had a problem with its humour, but Black Panther’s was effective for the most part and most importantly didn’t kill any dramatic or emotional moment just for a joke. Black Panther also doesn’t feel like it’s too connected to the rest of the MCU, there are character’s like Martin Freeman’s Ross and Andy Serkis’s Klaue who were in other Marvel movies and there may be a brief reference to the MCU but on the whole it’s standalone. On another note, there are a couple of post credit scenes, I liked them both but the first of them really should’ve been part of the actual movie itself. I’ve noticed that recent MCU movies such as Thor Ragnarok and Captain America Civil War have post credit scenes which don’t just tease the future movies but are also important to the actual movie itself, so when these scenes are placed after the credits it feels like they just didn’t know where to put the scene. I just wished that they would handle these scenes better.

The characters in Black Panther are great and Coogler has a fantastic cast playing them. Chadwick Boseman is once again great as T’Challa/Black Panther. T’Challa is quite a different character compared to the other MCU heroes, he is more serious and isn’t a constant humorous quipper like some of the more recent characters like Ant Man, but he does have moments of levity. More importantly though, he is a king and so it feels very fresh and new watching this type of character in the lead role. With his solo movie, T’Challa once again shows himself to be one of the best characters in the MCU and Boseman again killed it. The supporting cast with Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Martin Freeman, Forest Whitaker, Angela Bassett and others do quite well, Letitia Wright was particularly a stand out as T’Challa’s sister. It’s common for Marvel villains to not be that great, every so often you’ll have a Loki or a Vulture but on the whole, they just end up being passable. Thankfully, not only is Michael B. Jordan’s Erik Killmonger great, he is one of the best villains in this cinematic universe. He is very well established and written and you can really understand why he does the things he does and maybe even agree with his views, even if you don’t agree with his methods. Aside from an early scene though, he’s mostly just in the second half of the movie, however he absolutely steals every scene he’s in. The other villain is Andy Serkis as Klaue (who was established in Avengers Age of Ultron in a rare motion-capture-less role) and he is very entertaining when he’s on screen.

Ryan Coogler once again shows himself to be a really great director. The action scenes were great, very well shot and choregraphed. Coogler also portrayed the fictional country of Wakanda greatly, from the production design to the costume design, everything feels different from anything you’ve seen. There are some truly great cinematography at times. The music was also really good, one of the more memorable score of the MCU movies. There were some action sequences that took place at night that were difficult to see and the CG as times looked a little fake, especially with some of the big action sequences, however they aren’t close to being the worse CG ever. Despite these aspects, most of the direction was great.

Black Panther was really great and surpassed my expectations. Yes it’s entertaining and watching the action sequences are enjoyable but it’s really the story and characters that stood out the most to me. It separated itself from other Marvel and comic book movies and is really something special. I don’t know yet if I’d call it the best MCU movie but it’s at least in the top 2, and after many movies since Captain America The Winter Soldier, that’s saying a lot.

London Has Fallen (2016) Review

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London Has Fallen

Time: 99 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence and Offensive Language.
Cast:
Gerard Butler as Mike Banning
Aaron Eckhart as Benjamin Asher
Morgan Freeman as Allan Trumbull
Alon Moni Aboutboul as Aamir Barkawi
Angela Bassett as Lynne Jacobs
Robert Forster as Edward Clegg
Melissa Leo as Ruth McMillan
Radha Mitchell as Leah Banning
Charlotte Riley as Jacqueline “Jax” Marshall
Jackie Earle Haley as DC Mason
Sean O’Bryan as Ray Monroe
Waleed Zuaiter as Kamran Barkawi
Director: Babak Najafi

After the death of the British prime minister, the world’s most powerful leaders gather in London to pay their respects. Without warning, terrorists unleash a devastating attack that leaves the city in chaos and ruins. Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) springs into action to bring U.S. President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart) to safety. When Asher falls into the hands of the sinister organization, it’s up to Banning to save his commander in chief from a horrible fate.

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Olympus Has Fallen was a surprising action movie, it really was the Die Hard that we deserved in 2013 (and unfortunately was a better Die Hard movie than the actual Die Hard we got that year). However I didn’t feel like it needed a sequel and after seeing London Has Fallen, I can say that I was pretty much right. London Has Fallen is still enjoyable with reasonably fine action scenes and a pretty good cast involved. However, it definitely feels like a step down compared to the previous movie.

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Let’s get this out of the way, even if you cared about what happened in Olympus Has Fallen, you likely won’t care about what happens in London Has Fallen. Even though the previous film’s focus wasn’t really on the story, you could at least feel tension for what’s going on. The sequel tries to recapture it but it doesn’t really achieve it. The writing is significantly lesser in comparison, I can’t really describe it, it feels like its missing something, it was probably Antoine Fuqa’s direction from the first film, which really made the first film work. The humour and dialogue is also a little off. Overall though this movie is fine, it’s just really forgettable, typing this review out was hard actually because I was trying to remember what happened in the movie.

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Gerald Butler really worked in the movie, he was great in the action scenes and you bought him in this movie. I also liked Aaron Eckhart who was also really good in this film. I really liked how Butler and Eckhart played off each other, you can actually buy that they are friends. The acting in this movie for the most part is fine, nothing spectacular, nothing horrible, it just works fine. The villain in the first film worked pretty well for the film, the villain in London Has Fallen however isn’t interesting. He worked fine I guess, but there wasn’t anything compelling about him.

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This film definitely feels like it’s missing something, especially when compared to Antoine Fuqua’s direction for Olympus Has Fallen. The direction for the most part is fine though. The action is decent, reasonably entertaining but aren’t anything special. There’s not much tension and it feels more in line with a normal above average action movie (which is really what this movie is). The first film felt a little gritty, but aside from the blood there really is nothing gritty about Olympus Has Fallen. There are some moments which are noticeably CGI and fake. Direction wise this film was quite a significant step back from the previous movie.

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Overall London Has Fallen is entertaining but I’m not sure if I can call it good. I know that it’s a mindless action movie (much like the first film) but even so, the writing isn’t really good and the direction feels like its lacking. I think the main thing missing was Antoine Fuqua’s direction. He made the first film way better than it could’ve been. Still, the action in this film is fine enough and Gerald Butler was great so I can say that I enjoyed the movie. If you liked Olympus Has Fallen, you might like the sequel but know that it’s not as good as the first film. It was fine overall.