LONDON HAS FALLEN [PG-13] D+
Iranian filmmaker Babak Najafi has already made a name for himself stepping in for the second installment in the international urban thriller “Easy Money” series, so it shouldn’t surprise those in the know that he jumped at the chance to enter the Hollywood action ring with “London Has Fallen,” taking over for Antoine Fuqua, who departed after “Olympus Has Fallen.” Gerard Butler returns as the designated go-to Secret Service agent protecting the president (Aaron Eckhart), this time traveling to England to attend the funeral of the British Prime Minister during a perfectly timed terrorist strike that takes out several key world leaders. As in the first iteration, the agent and the commander-in-chief form an unlikely tag team in a couple of tight situations that allows them to upset the balance of power. Thanks to the serviceable execution in the frames and what passes for a narrative, there’s never any doubt about the outcome here, which harkens back to the inevitability when Chuck Norris played second fiddle behind Stallone and Schwarzenegger. Hollywood seems to be holding its breath to see if Butler might prove to be a worthy successor to Liam Neeson or if he’ll fall to the wayside and become a “Texas Ranger” down the road.
WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT [PG-13] C-
Managing expectations is a terribly real aspect of the critical game. As a fan of film, I go into screenings just like anyone else sitting in the audience. I know what I’ve seen about the movie via its marketing campaign (posters, trailers, etc.) and it could be argued that I might be a bit more cynical because I understand that the PR team spins a narrative that might not have anything to do with the actual movie. In the case of “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” those behind the scenes decisions helped to derail audience engagement a bit. The Tina Fey-starrer wanted us to believe it was all about a female reporter leaving a bad relationship behind for a crazy fish-out-of-water experience in a war zone. Truth be told, this loosely based on a true story tale is more dramatic than the movie pitched in those trailers and teasers, but directors Glenn Ficarra & John Requa (“Crazy, Stupid, Love” & “Focus”) struggled to find a steady and cohesive anchor. Fey acquits herself nicely enough in the midst of it all, but she’s not quite ready for the dramatic prime time in the way that say, Kristen Wiig proved to be when she transitioned into the sad clown role that she now owns.
ZOOTOPIA [PG] A-
In this urban jungle, where animals rule, a sly fox of a con artist named Nick Wilde (voiced by Jason Bateman) must team up with Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin), an eager by the books rookie bunny cop to unravel a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top of the food chain. From start to finish though, the story belongs to Judy, an underdog who simply will not give up, which in and of itself is a great lesson for kids, but “Zootopia” goes further, exploring the tricky topicality of diversity and acceptance with a simple wisdom and charm. Disney knocks off these kinds of animated tales with sure-handed aplomb, and with vocal talent like Idris Elba, JK Simmons, Jenny Slate, and Octavia Spencer in support, “Zootopia” appears posed to rule the roost with all members of the family as we sprint free of the Oscars.