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Granger at the Movies: ‘After the Wedding,’ ‘Angel Has Fallen,’ ‘47 Meters Down: Uncaged’

By Susan Granger

Special to WestportNow

Julianne Moore and Michelle Williams are talented, versatile actresses which is why it’s a shame that they’re saddled with “After the Wedding,” a moody, highly improbable melodrama.

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It begins with an American expatriate, Isabel Williams), running an orphanage in the slums of India. Clad in a sari with a bindi on her forehead, Isabel serenely leads meditations, distributes meals and comforts the needy, especially 8-year-old Jai (Vir Pachisia), who is obviously her favorite.

Eager to raise money to care for these children, Isabel is summoned to New York for a promised multimillion donation. That’s where she warily meets her benefactor, entrepreneur/philanthropist Theresa (Moore), who is preoccupied with the upcoming weekend wedding of her daughter Grace (Abby Quinn) — to which Isabel is immediately invited.

Arriving late to the extravagant ceremony at their woodsy home on Long Island, Isabel is shocked when she spies Theresa’s sculptor husband Oscar (Billy Crudup) and he recognizes her. Obviously, they knew each other before.

Ludicrous secrets and lies subsequently surface, involving not only the three of them but also Grace and Theresa/Oscar’s young twin boys (Tre Ryder, Azhy Robertson).

There’s little originality in this glossy-but-gauche, gender-reversed remake, written and directed by Moore’s husband, Bart Freundlich, tracing its antecedents back to Susanne Bier’s 2006 Danish-language drama with the same name and, before that, Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Celebration.”

Having met in 1997 while making “The Myth of Fingerprints,” this is the fourth film on which Moore and Freundlich have collaborated, following “World Traveler” and “Trust the Man.”

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “After the Wedding” turns out to be a less than festive 5. Too bad it falls flat.

“Angel Has Fallen,” the third installment in this generic franchise, starring Gerard Butler as gruff Secret Service agent Mike Banning, is saved by Nick Nolte’s performance as Clay, his Vietnam vet father.

Three years after “London Has Fallen,” Mike Banning could be promoted to director of the Secret Service under U.S. President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman). Despite his dependency on painkillers and devotion to his wife Leah (Piper Perabo) and toddler daughter, Banning isn’t sure about a desk job.

But when a flock of lethal drones with face-recognition software target the president on a fishing trip, leaving him in a coma, and Banning is his only security detail survivor. FBI agents Thompson (Jade Pickett Smith) and Ramirez (Joseph Millson) suspect Banning, who is arrested for the assassination attempt.

Escaping from custody, Banning is determined to uncover the truth and clear his name. That involves domestic terrorism and dealing with mercenaries employed by Salient, a Blackwater-like contractor firm, headed by Banning’s Iraq War buddy, Wade Jennings (Danny Huston), who claims: “War is deception.”

Meanwhile, there’s Russia’s alleged election involvement by Vice President Martin Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson), who becomes acting president, asserting that he wants to “make America strong again.”

When Banning goes off-the-grid, he winds up with his estranged, gun-toting, geezer father in the woods of West Virginia. Scruffy survivalist Clay is so paranoid that he’s booby-trapped the surrounding forest to fatally deter unwanted visitors.

Cowritten and directed by former stuntman Ric Roman Waugh, it’s filled with fast-paced action. Problem is: the predictable plot — by Robert Mark Kamen, Matt Cook and Waugh — is not only implausible but often incoherent. Yet there’s a fanciful Butler/Nolte scene during the concluding credits.

On the Granger Gauge, “Angel Has Fallen” is a forgettable 5, except for its Eisenhower-era warning about America’s never-ending wars and reliance on mercenaries … i.e.: the military/industrial complex.

Perhaps every summer needs a sharksploitation movie, a monster emerging from the murky deep, but the sequel “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” is just a silly splasher!

Set on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, the aquatic thriller introduces stepsiblings, daughters of an American archaeologist, Grant (John Corbett), and his wife Jennifer (Nia Long).

At the International School, Grant’s shy, awkward daughter Mia (Sophie Nelisse) is bullied by a Mean Girl (Brec Bassinger), embarrassing Jennifer’s outgoing, popular daughter Sasha (Corinne Foxx). “She’s not my sister!”

Chiding, “You guys have to look out for each other,” Grant plans a weekend trip for the bickering girls but work interferes, so they’re sent on a shark-watching excursion in a glass-bottomed boat.

Instead of taking the planned tour, they join Sasha’s friends — Alexa (Brianne Tju) and Nicole (Sistine Stallone) — to explore a picturesque lagoon that’s connected to part of the submerged Mayan archaeological site that Grant and his team are investigating.

Using scuba gear they found floating on a raft, the bikini-clad girls descend into the first chamber of the catacombs to see the spooky temple statues. But — after being startled by one of the cave fish — one diver accidentally knocks over an aged stone relic.

Then a ravenous, blind albino shark, alerted by the swimmers’ frantic flailing, causes the entrance tunnel to collapse, trapping them inside. The only way they can escape is by diving deeper into the labyrinthine submerged city, accompanied by mask-muffled shrieking.

Working from a minimalist script he wrote with Ernest Riera, director Johannes Roberts relies on claustrophobia, slow-motion and jump scares, completely ignoring the fact that the girls’ oxygen tanks had already dropped from 100% to 40% during the first skirmish. Logic gets lost along the way.

FYI: Corinne Foxx is Jamie Foxx’s daughter; Sistine Rose Stallone is Sylvester Stallone’s daughter. Both were Miss Golden Globes.

On the Granger Gauge, “47 Meters Down: Uncaged” is an implausible 3, running 89 minutes, including credits.


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(Editor’s Note: Westport resident Susan Granger grew up in Hollywood, studied journalism with Pierre Salinger at Mills College, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. In addition to writing for newspapers and magazines, she has been on radio/television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic for many years. See her reviews at www.susangranger.com.)

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