In Theaters This Week: Reviews of 'Angel Has Fallen,' 'Brittany Runs a Marathon,' 'Ready or Not' and More

8:30 AM 8/23/2019

by Lily Rosenberg

Gerald Butler returns as a Secret Service agent, a comedian uses marathon training as self-help, a bride plays a deadly game of hide-and-seek and late musician-composer Miles Davis takes the spotlight in new films hitting theaters.

'Brittany Runs a Marathon'
'Brittany Runs a Marathon'
Jon Pack/Courtesy of Sundance Institute

This week sees the release of the next installment in the Fallen franchise, Angel Has Fallen, with Morgan Freeman as the president facing a threat and Gerald Butler as the wrongfully accused Secret Service agent and his confidant who is trying to find the real source of the threat.

On a different note, Brittany Runs a Marathon has comedian Jillian Bell, who, after being hit with a reality check, tries to turn her life around by running a marathon.

Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles shows the origins and evolution of Fiddler on the Roof and the cultural impact the musical and the Oscar-winning film have made on society.

Give Me Liberty is based on Russian writer-director Kirill Mikhanovsky's earliest jobs as an immigrant in Milwaukee as a medical transport driver. The film follows the day of Vic as roads close and chaos begins for him.

From documentarian Stanley Nelson, Miles Davis: Birth of Cool takes a look at archive photos, videos and the life of legendary American trumpeter and composer Miles Davis.

Horror fans have Ready or Not to look forward to, in which a bride is surprised by her new family with a deadly game of hide-and-seek.

Based on Eileen Atkin’s play, Vita and Virginia tells the true love affair of the literary minds of Vita Sackville West and Virginia Woolf in 1920s London.

With a variety of films coming out, here's what The Hollywood Reporter critics though of this week's new releases. 

  • 'Angel Has Fallen'

    Release date: Aug. 23

    In the newest installment of the Fallen franchise, Angel Has Fallen stars Morgan Freeman as the President of the United States and Gerald Butler as his trusted confidant, Secret Service agent Mike Banning. After an assassination attempt is made against the president, Banning is wrongfully accused and taken into custody. After escaping the FBI, Banning goes on the run and tries to find the real threat to the president, outsmarting his own agency to do so.

    In THR's review of the film, Todd McCarthy writes that Angel Has Fallen “may not be appreciably better than the first two installments of this lower-middle-range Mission: Impossible wannabe franchise, but it's actually more fun — first and foremost because of a vastly amusing turn by Nick Nolte as Gerard Butler's eccentric Vietnam vet old coot father.”

    Director Ric Roman Waugh's “background is as a stuntman, and he no doubt put a lot of his old cohorts to work on this one; bodies go flying every 20 minutes or so,” McCarthy writes, adding, “No offense to Aaron Eckhart, who played the president in the first two Fallen installments, but how calming and reassuring it is to see Freeman as the leader of the free world.”

  • 'Brittany Runs a Marathon'

    Release date: Aug. 23

    Jillian Bell plays an eternal party kid and New Yorker who, after trying to score Adderall at the doctor's office, gets more than she wanted when he tells her she needs to get in shape. After realizing she must face reality, running a block turns into a mile, which turns into training for a marathon. The comedy was written and directed by Paul Downs Colaizzo, the prize-winning author of the 2013 play Really Really.

    In his review, Todd McCarthy writes that “Bell is a wonder in the role — self-effacing, tart, funny as hell and deeply sympathetic.”

    Despite the strong start, as Bell’s character begins to turn her life around, “Suddenly, a new chapter begins and it’s as if the script is being written by a different writer; this new Brittany is quiet, reflective and short on a sense of humor,” McCarthy continues, adding that “it’s suddenly a textbook for political correctness, deeply conventional in subscribing to every contemporary bromide.”

  • 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles'

    Release date: Aug. 23

    This film covers the origins and evolution of the 1964 Broadway musical Fiddler on the Roof, which was adapted into an Oscar-winning film and which focuses on a Jewish family in a pre-revolutionary Russian village as a milkman navigates marriage, his five daughters and his religion. The documentary features interviews with the original members of the creative teams, directors and casts of both the film and the countless stage revivals since and cultural historians on the impact of the story itself.

    In David Rooney’s THR review, he writes, "In terms of social context, the doc makes interesting points about this musical, and its depiction of a simple bygone way of life with few comforts beyond faith, being hatched in a cosmopolitan capital of culture, progress and wealth like New York in its heyday."

    He adds, "Just hearing an African-American teen discuss playing Golde in her 2017 Brooklyn middle school production speaks volumes, as does the triumph of an all-black and Hispanic school staging in 1970."

    Rooney also notes, "On a more amusing note, we get quick snippets of 'If I Were a Rich Man' covers in a range of styles, and while Gwen Stefani's 'Rich Girl' sampling is missing, there's a funkadelically cheesy Temptations version from their 1969 G.I.T. on Broadway TV special, and the 2005 metal-punk take by Australian band Yidcore is so wrong it's right."

  • 'Give Me Liberty'

    Release date: Aug. 23

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    Based on Russian writer-director Kirill Mikhanovsky's earliest jobs as an immigrant in Milwaukee, the film covers the day in the life of a medical transport driver. As protests close roads and he has to shuttle his Russian grandfather and emigre friends to a funeral while also helping a young woman with ALS, the day slowly becomes chaotic for the driver.

    THR film critic David Rooney writes in his review of the film: “Made on a microbudget with lots of invigorating rough edges, this distinctive movie is like an underclass daytime version of Martin Scorsese's After Hours, reaffirming the resilience of the American Dream even amidst spiraling disorder.”

    He adds that the pic is a “very satisfying film about real people living real lives, full of messy complications and sorrows yet illuminated by small pleasures, surprising connections and unexpected acts of kindness.”

  • 'Miles Davis: Birth of Cool'

    Release date: Aug. 23

    Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

    Stanley Nelson — who has had more documentaries play at Sundance than anyone else, earned a MacArthur “genius” grant and received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama — is back with his newest film about the life of late musician Miles Davis. Covering the musical and social impact of the jazz trumpeter, the doc shows the rise of Davis, his challenges with race along the way and his addictions.

    In John DeFore’s THR review, he writes, “Serious jazz fans, who know most of what they'll see here already, will wish Nelson had a Ken Burns-sized canvas, spending an hour or more on each chapter in Davis' life instead of fitting it all into a feature's running time.”

    DeFore also remarks that the film "contains more rare footage and photos than can really be digested in two hours, and much is left off the table; most fans will wish this very enjoyable portrait lasted 10 or 12 hours, at a minimum."

  • 'Ready or Not'

    Release date: Aug. 21

    This horror film follows a young bride, Grace (Samara Weaving), who on the night of her wedding must face her new in-laws' terrifying tradition of a deadly game of hide-and-seek. Trying to stay alive against her new family, who are armed with guns, crossbows and more, until dawn makes the idea of a wedding guest wearing to a ceremony pale in comparison. Adam Brody and Andie McDowell also star.

    In John DeFore’s review, he explains that the film by co-directors Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett “is not exactly subtle in its assertion that the rich are fundamentally different from the rest of us." He adds that the groom’s (Mark O’Brien) “coked-up sister Emilie (Melanie Scrofano) provides some shock-violent comic relief, and as the chase heats up, we realize that the only lives these people value less than Grace's are those of their assorted nannies and housekeepers.”

    The film overall “may have its tongue in cheek as it warns us that people with money will always, consciously or not, see those without it as less than human.”

  • 'Vita and Virginia'

    Release date: August 23

    Courtesy of TIFF

    Based on Eileen Atkin’s 1993 play with the same name, the film follows the love affair by the literary minds of Vita Sackville West (Gemma Arterton) and Virginia Woolf (Elizabeth Debicki) in London during the 1920s. With West the brash, aristocratic wife who thinks of marriage as a prison for woman and the mentally troubled and feminist writer Woolf meeting and suddenly becoming entranced with one another, the story follows their romance and the writing that it sparks.

    In her THR review, Deborah Young writes that the film “has hit on a topic that will draw in both literary and LGBTQ audiences, but it lacks the electricity to go the extra mile theatrically.”

    She adds, “Even if the dialogue can sound dull and pretentious ('I’m bewitched by your writing!'), tip-top cinematography and production design keep the atmosphere rocking between Vita’s aristocratic home full of stags’ heads and oil paintings of Sackville ancestors and Virginia and Vanessa’s (Emerald Fennell) more homey intellectual digs, punctuated by striking modern art.”