Series continues with ‘Angel Has Fallen’

By Tom Von Malder | Dec 08, 2019
Photo by: Lionsgate Entertainment Nick Nolte stars with Gerard Butler in "Angel Has Fallen."

Owls Head — Angel Has Fallen (Lionsgate, Blu-ray or standard DVD, R, 121 min.). In this third film in the series centering around Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), assigned to protect the president, the latest assassination attempt has the wrinkle that Banning is set up to have been the perpetrator. While the bad guy is easily guessed, and probably the one pulling the strings as well, the film has enough brisk action to warrant sticking with it for the ride. The film follows 2013’s “Olympus Has Fallen” and 2016’s “London Has Fallen.” Each film also stars Morgan Freeman as, in succession, Speaker Trumbull, Vice President Trumbull and now President Trumbull.

This film sees a weathered Banning, with physical ailments, including headaches, insomnia and possible PTSD. He believes President Trumbull will appoint him the new head of security, but is unsure he wants to accept the position. During a fishing trip, an attack by dozens of drones leaves all of the president’s Secret Service detail dead, except for Banning, and Trumbull remains in a coma. With planted evidence and the fact that he survived, Banning is accused of being behind the assassination attempt and has to go on the run. This brings in Nick Nolte (“The Mandalorian”) as Banning’s estranged father, Clay, who has been hiding out in the hills himself for a couple of decades.

One of the best action sequences is a chase through traffic, but the film nearly ends with a dumb hero versus villain scene. In general, the film moves briskly and Nolte is a breath of fresh air.

There are several bonus features, including a look at the story (8:35); a piece on director/co-writer Ric Roman, who is new to the series (13:02); a look at the supporting actors (18:13); the attempts to make things authentic (12:47); recreating Washington D.C., as the film was shot overseas (6:25); and a behind-the-scenes look at two of the bigger action sequences (8:38). Grade: film 3 stars; extras 2.75 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Mary (RLJE, Blu-ray or standard DVD, NR, 84 min.). This film is literally a boat ride to nowhere. Released to video only a month after its theatrical release, the film stars Gary Oldman (“Sid and Nancy,” “Darkest Hour”) as a struggling, blue-collar excursion ship captain, who wants to strike out on his own, so he buys a recently discovered abandoned yacht, called Mary. Coincidentally, that is the name of his younger of two daughters.

The film’s poem at the beginning gives everything away, as it talks about a witch put out to sea to perish. Obviously, that witch’s spirit inhabits the Mary, which David Greer (Oldman), his wife Sarah (Emily Mortimer) and daughters Mary (Chloe Perrin) and Lindsey (Stefanie Scott) will soon find out. Also on the ill-fated voyage – through the Bermuda Triangle, no less -- are Mike (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), David’s friend who helped him buy the boat, and deck hand Tommy (Owen Teague of “It Chapter Two”), whom Lindsey has a romantic interest in.

The film’s structure also is a problem. It was written by Anthony Jaswinski, who also wrote the much, much better “The Shallows.” The film opens with Sarah having been rescued from the sea. While she is presumedly still in shock, she is interrogated by investigator Lydia Clarkson (Jennifer Esposito) who suspects her of murder and sabotage after Sarah, and presumedly her daughters, escaped the explosion that destroyed their yacht. David, obviously, did not survive.

Clarkson is not buying Sarah’s story that the boat was possessed. Sarah, at one point, says, “Evil needs a body to exist. That body was the boat.”

Instead of being a really creepy story set in the small confines of a boat, the film, like the boat, goes nowhere. It takes 67 minutes of the 84-minute run time to finally present a scary scene. Way too late. It then compounds that with a stupid ending that gives no clue to what was supposed to have happened.

Extras include a photo gallery; a making-of featurette with lots of film clips (6:07); and a clip-heavy look at a family at sea (4:38). Grade: film 2 stars; extras 1.5 stars

Lost City of the Jungle (1956, MVD Visual Blu-ray, NR, 265 min.). This 13-chapter serial was the next-to-last serial to be produced by Universal Studios. While the relatively new television did not affect films that much, it did signal the end of the serials. The opening chapter here is 26 minutes, but most run about 19 minutes, with only about 12 minutes of new material in each. The black-and-white presentation looks very good, having been remastered in 2K from the original 35mm fine grain.

The setting is after World War II, with Rod Stanton (Russell Hayden of many a Western), an agent of the United Peace Foundation, based in San Francisco, trying to hunt down war monger Sir Eric Hazarias (Lionel Atwill of “Son of Frankenstein,” “Captain Blood,” “Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon”). Hazarius, who has faked his own death and is now operating under the name of Geoffrey London, is being sought as a war criminal. Hazarias is now operating in Pendrang, a mythical jungle kingdom among the Himalayas. There, Hazarias hopes to find the element meteorium 245, which can be used as a shield defense against the atomic bomb and is reported to be located in the lost city, the location of which is guarded by the Glowing Goddess.

In his i9nvestigation, Stanton is aided by Pendrang native Tal Shan (Keye Luke, who often goes shirtless) and Marjorie Elmore (Jane Adams), who stowed away on Stanton’s plane. Stanton is a pilot too. Marjorie is the daughter of scientist Dr. Elmore (John Eldredge), who is unwittingly helping London find the lost city, not knowing he is Hazarias.

As with all serials, there is a cliffhanger at the end of each episode. Perils include Stanton being forced to crash land his plane, an avalanche, an earthquake, being caught in a lion pit, falling into a fire pit after a car chase and being trapped in a room filled with deadly gas, just to mention a few. In film historian Patrick McCabe’s liner notes, he points out that some of the burning sulfur pit scenes were borrowed from “Son of Frankenstein” (1939), with a hint of the Monster’s eyes themselves in the background. Some of the plane material and the aerial search were lifted from “Lost Horizon” (1937).

This would be the last film work for Atwill, who was suffering from bronchial cancer and became increasingly ill during the production. Not too long into it, he was forced to quit, requiring a stand-in to be used in scenes were Hazarias is only seen from behind (body double George Sorel filling in), and because he was unable to shoot many scenes, Hazarias’ assistant, Malborn (John Mylong of “Robot Monster”), had to become the true puppet master behind Hazarias. Atwill, who nonetheless is the acting standout here, died at age 61, only one day before the theatrical release of “Lost City of the Jungle.”

The serial was directed by Lewis D. Collins and Ray Taylor, with Taylor having previously directed the Universal serials “Raiders of Ghost City” (1944) and “Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe” (1940). The only extras are the original trailer and a photo gallery. Grade: serial 3 stars; extras 1.25 stars

Game of Thrones: The Complete Series (2011-19, HBO, 33 Blu-rays or DVDs, TV-MA, 75 hours + extras). And so, the most talked about and most honored HBO series has come to an end, an end that upset many fans of the show. In general, the response to the show grew rockier once the producers and writers moved past author George R.R. Martin’s original five-book series, “A Song of Ice and Fire,” as they could not wait for Martin to finish his book six, let alone book seven. (Martin’s last book in the series come out in 2011.) The show won 59 Emmys out of 161 nominations, and helped launch the careers of Kit Harrington, Emilia Clarke, Maisie Williams and Sophie Turner, among others.

Well I cannot image anyone not knowing at least the barebones about the series, it takes place on the fictional continents of Westeros and Essos, with a dynastic war among several families for control of Westeros and its Iron Throne. In the north of Westeros, there is an increasing threat from the Others, while from Essos comes the dragon-controlling Daenerys Targaryen (Clarke), the deposed king’s exiled daughter who wants to wrest back the Iron Throne.

This set includes all eight seasons, with the controversial eighth season also released individually. Overall, there are more than 15 hours of bonus features. The complete series box set has a three-disc mini-set of bonus features. New to the complete set and season eight are “The Last Watch,” a two-part documentary by filmmaker Jeanie Finlay that chronicles the making of the final season (112 min.); “When Winter Falls,” showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, along with major stars and behind-the-scenes players, break down all that went into filming the colossal “Battle of Winterfell” in episode three of season eight (29:13); “Duty is the Death of Love,” a look behind the series finale (31:36); 10 audio commentaries with cast, crew and the creators; five deleted or extended scenes (8:28); and the usual animated pieces on histories and lore background information (6, about 26 min.). Also, only in the complete sets is the two-part “Game of Thrones Reunion Special,” which is hosted by Conan O’Brien and features both past and present cast members, including Sean Bean who was featured in the first season.

In addition, all the extras, including behind-the-scenes pieces and audio commentaries for the previous seven seasons are carried over into the box sets. Additionally, the complete series also is available in collectable packaging – a wooden shadow box case with multi-layered panel designs by Robert Ball (“Beautiful Death” series). This collectable edition also comes with a “Hand of the King” pin clasp. Grade: series 3.75 stars; extras 4 stars

The Handmaid’s Tale: Season Three (20th Century Fox, 4 Blu-rays or 4 DVDs, , NR, 659 min.). The third season of the Emmy, Golden Globe and Peabody Award-winning series is driven by titular handmaid June’s (Elisabeth Moss) resistance to the dystopian regime of Gilead, in which she finds herself once again after opting not to flee to Canada with her baby at the end of the second season. Now, she will struggle to strike back against the regime despite overwhelming odds.

The season features startling reunions, betrayals and a journey to the terrifying heart of Gilead that will force all of the characters to take a stand, guided by one defiant prayer: “Blessed be the fight.” After two intense seasons, the women of Gilead are ready to strike back at the twisted fundamentalist regime that rules Gilead. They are armed with a plan and will band together to pull off a bold and daring attack.

With an exclusive bonus feature, “Power Play: Gilead’s Women Fight Back,” we get a look at how these women have come into their power and what this means for the future of Gilead. Serena Joy is done trying to be the dutiful wife and goes against her husband (and Gilead) in order to get what she truly wants (her daughter Nicole) and June is done playing by Gilead’s rules. She has made alliances with her new Commander and the Martha network in order to save the children living in Gilead.

Season three includes Emmy Award winners Cherry Jones and Bradley Whitford, who won in the Guest Actress and Guest Actor categories for their performances in season two. The third season also welcomes Commander and Mrs. Winslow to the series, played by Christopher Meloni (Syfy’s “Happy!” and NBC’s “Law & Order: SVU”) and Elizabeth Reaser (“The Twilight Saga” and Netflix’s “Easy”), joining series regulars Moss, Joseph Fiennes, Yvonne Strahovski, Alexis Bledel, Madeline Brewer, Amanda Brugel, Ann Dowd, O-T Fagbenle, Max Minghella and Samira Wiley.

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