Tag Archives: Morgan Freeman

Miles Ahead (2015)

The 53rd New York Film Festival came to a close Saturday night with the world premiere of Miles Ahead, Don Cheadle’s longtime passion project about the late great Miles Davis. An actor of Cheadle’s caliber attached so fully to a single film might be a rarity, and in this case it’s the lead role, the directing, and the writing that all fall in the man’s wheelhouse…and he co-produced and wrote original music for the film. And he was in Avengers: Age of Ultron just a few months back.

Interestingly, the similarities between the vigilante War Machine and the musician Miles Davis make it evident what Cheadle saw in both charac…just kidding. Miles Ahead is the best thing Cheadle’s done since Hotel Rwanda, or at the very least the most substantial role since then, and thus an overdue reminder that Cheadle is a fantastically likable leading man. He’s likable even when he’s playing Davis at his lowest point, a five-year creative drought fueled by cocaine and loneliness that makes up the majority of Miles Ahead, and through all the stubbornness and figurative horn-tooting (sorry) Cheadle still conveys the fact that Davis was overflowing with passion for his art. It’s fitting that the actor, who took eight years to craft Miles, matches the musician in passion for his own art.

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Alex Cross (2012)

Seeing Tyler Perry in a mostly-dramatic role in David Fincher’s Gone Girl last week prompted a visit to 2012’s Alex Cross, the most recent big screen incarnation of James Patterson’s famous detective previously played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. Appearances to the contrary, Alex Cross ended up being more of a comedy than a drama after all.

Perry’s brilliant Detective Cross faces off against Matthew Fox’s bonkers serial killer known as “Picasso” after the former foils the latter’s assassination attempt and the latter retaliates by killing the former’s wife. The latter realizes his nemesis is The Guy From Madea and uses the opportunity to hone his stand-up routine by exchanging some truly side-splitting dialogue. The game of cat and mouse comes more to resemble a game of mouse and cheese, and the former and the latter eventually decide to duke it out in an abandoned building because cliché. Edward Burns is also in this movie, as is Jean Reno.

Are you excited yet? Well just wait until you witness that final fight scene, whoo boy. Keep in mind that we see Picasso manhandle an impossibly jacked MMA fighter with ease early on in the film and beat the ever-lovin’ out of pretty much everyone else along the way, only to lose in a half-assed scuffle with Madea when his fighting skills actually matter. And you know that cliché moment in 95% of movie fight scenes where the hero seems beaten and is bent over, breathing heavily as blood drips dramatically onto the floor, only to suddenly surge up again with a wicked punch that knocks the bad guy out and gets the music going again? There’s a moment like that, but it isn’t a punch. It’s a kick. It’s in slow motion. The buildup and everything is there and the dude kicks his freaking nemesis in the groin in slow motion. Make sure you’re not drinking Cristal when you watch this scene because you will spit it out laughing and that would be such a waste.

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Lucy (2014)

Lucy is a pretty ambitious girl. Granted, her ambition only comes after massive quantities of a powerful superdrug allow her the use of previously uncharted regions of her brain, which in turn morphs her not only into the smartest kid in school but into the most powerful being in the history of the universe. Her quest to use 100% of her brain’s capacity and thus unlock the secrets of life sends her on a mission around the globe – and beyond.

So that’s the plot of Lucy, but don’t worry if it’s still a little unclear – Morgan Freeman is here to explain everything with some hand-holding exposition throughout the first acts of the movie. Still iffy? Never fear. A feature-length biology lesson ensues, emphasis heavy on the first part of “science-fiction” while largely disregarding the second part.

I’ll say that Lucy is a hell of a lot better than the trailers make it look. There’s a good filmmaker somewhere inside Luc Besson and Lucy is a more grounded, “realistic” kind of sci-fi flick than the gonzo Fifth Element, which of course isn’t saying very much about realism. The believability factor hovers around 5% when Lucy herself crosses 20% brain capacity, but someone in the peanut gallery at the Morgan Freeman lecture already said that we’re just simply hypothesizing here, so roll with it. The hypothesizing has fun parts, and Besson has a nearly-sure hand for long and exciting stretches.

The problems are probably inherent to the story, then. For instance: how can the stakes go higher as the movie progresses if Lucy has more and more control of her world? Okay, she’s dying at an accelerated rate, and okay, there’s a policeman along for the ride in order to highlight the fact that there is danger here. But a mid-film car chase (which happens to be pretty thrilling and inventive as far as car chases go) still lacks a major something in the believability department. There is no chance that Lucy will lose control of the car, and thus instead of engaging in the chase and flinching every time the car veers narrowly we’re really just waiting for the chase to end.

We also don’t see enough (or any at all) of the actual Lucy, i.e. the pre-superhuman person, i.e. the character that we could actually feel for. Zombie computer-brain Lucy, we got. Johansson pretty much nails the role, but it would have been nice to have something a little more relatable to latch on to at the very beginning of the film.

And what else is there to say? The stakes, again, are basement-low by the ersatz climax of Lucy. Choi Min-sik, South Korean actor known primarily for Oldboy, is in the villain role here and is his usual spellbinding self – but unless you’re a massive fan of his (like I am) or a Luc Besson completist (those exist?) or a bored teen looking for a Transcendence-level sci-fi flick, Lucy just doesn’t have a whole lot else to say. That may be a bit harsh, but given the galaxy-sized ambition of both Lucy the film and of Lucy herself, there’s certainly a whole lot of territory left to conquer.