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Flick Nation 2016-05-19T06:44:30Z http://flicknation.net/feed/atom/ WordPress Dennis Willis <![CDATA[The Bandit (Review)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6804 2016-05-19T06:44:30Z 2016-05-19T04:25:09Z Jesse Moss’ feature documentary The Bandit tells a numb […]

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Jesse Moss’ feature documentary The Bandit tells a number of stories, the most obvious being the story of how a stuntman persuaded execs at Universal Studios to give him $5 million to make a trucker comedy when he’d never written or directed before. But it’s also the story of wild ambition, unchecked ego and the eternal friendship between two men so similar, they became lifelong mates.

THE_BANDIT_WEB_900This is the story of Hal Needham and mega-star Burt Reynolds. Needham was the son of a dust farmer, with life options that led him straight into the military. As it turns out, he was pretty good at jumping out of planes, which led to a career as a Hollywood stuntman.

There is nothing that Needham would not do: jump out of plane onto a moving horse, fall three stories into a pile of rubble, get lit on fire, drive a rocket car going 600 miles an hour, or jump a vehicle from land to a moving barge. He started a very successful stunt player company and found himself in demand. But what he really wanted to do was direct.

Reynolds started out making bad TV, but his rugged good looks would turn him into the biggest movie star on the planet. Despite the fact that he was capable of doing most of his own dangerous stunts, Needham doubled for the really crazy stuff. Two men, one legacy. Flatmates and best friends. When one of them needed the house for a 3-day date, the other one just found another place to be.

Hal_Needham_remembered_featured_photo_galleryAnd when Hal Needham came up with a cockamamie plan to write and direct a movie about illegally transporting Coors beer across state lines, he was told there was no way in hell he would get Smokey and the Bandit made unless it featured a big star. Lucky for him, his best friend was Burt Reynolds.

Reynolds yearned for another life as well. He was a classically-trained actor but always seemed to settle for playing a slightly dangerous good ol’ boy instead of challenging his image. He found his way into John Boorman’s harrowing classic Deliverance. But because of a recent nude appearance in Cosmopolitan magazine – a stunt he instantly regretted – Reynolds found himself on the pre-Kardashian side of tabloid fodder instead of being celebrated for his powerful performance.

smokey posterAnd so it went, for a decade. For every Deliverance or Starting Over, there were five Cannonball Runs and Stroker Aces.

To be fair, only the broad strokes of Smokey and the Bandit are covered here. We learn the genesis of the story, which came from a weird loophole that prohibited Coors beer from being sold east of Texas.

There is a little tale about how Jackie Gleason (brilliantly) made up all his lines and created the character of Buford T. Justice out of thin air. And of course, the unexpected cultural impact of Smokey, not to mention it’s stunning box office, at one point second only to Star Wars.

There is a touching story about an onset romance, and a scary tale about a stunt gone wrong. It’s all the stuff of bonus features on the DVD.

But one moment which is practically glossed over is particularly illuminating: why did the competitive Reynolds refuse to appear in any more scenes with Gleason after that the one classic exchange in the “choke and puke?”

 

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Reynolds knew how good he could be but he must have sensed his limitations against a master such as Gleason.

And even though the movie never comes out and says it, ego’s eternal and wicked bedfellow is insecurity. Burt had the confidence and the swagger, but was it all an act? His frail appearance now is almost shocking – a combination of pancake makeup and plastic surgery that bear no resemblance to the cocksure stud who always had a devilish twinkle in his eye.

If Burt Reynolds overthought it, Hal Needham went the other way. Stardom came easy to Reynolds, but respectability did not. Needham had the opposite problem: he was the best in the world at what he did but never became a household name on his own. The less said about that failed line of action figures, the better.

The Bandit only scrapes the surface of this enduring lifelong duality, but the eternal truths are inescapable. Needham’s frothy comedies were always best when they were grounded by two guys with an unshakeable bond.

smokeybandit_031pyxurzIn Smokey and the Bandit, it was Bo Darville (Reynolds) and Cledus Snow (Jerry Reed) – lifelong brothers who knew each other so well that even a 28-hour caper to steal beer turned into a push-and-pull over each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

So, yeah – Jackie Gleason and dimwitted Mike Henry were hilarious together. The movie added “sumbitch” to the lexicon. But maybe there was something universal about the Bandit and the Snowman that still resonates 40 years later. Maybe that’s why grown men have watched this film hundreds of times (guilty as charged).

Maybe it’s really just the story of Hal and Burt.

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Dennis Willis <![CDATA[X-Men: Apocalypse (Review)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6782 2016-05-10T05:05:30Z 2016-05-09T22:57:23Z Once Upon a Time, the X-Men movies were about what it m […]

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8597c6f8d30a096991f53d0e8081feadc1f43dedOnce Upon a Time, the X-Men movies were about what it meant to be human.

Those were the heady days of X-Men (2000) and X-Men United (2003). And even though Bryan Singer also directed those early films, I’m sad to report there is barely anything resembling human behavior in Singer’s unpteenth sequel X-Men: Apocalypse.

I get it. Kids today want more explosions and CGI with their premium 3D admission. But the X-Men, at their best, have always been analogous to other aspects of the human condition. That is why the comics and the early films resonated so strongly with fans. Guided by heavyweights such as Patrick Stewart (Professor X) and Ian McKellan (Magneto), one got the sense that these frenemies had a lot of road behind them.

And even though these new films are doing their damnedest to create the same dynamic between James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender in the same roles, the scattered pacing and over-reliance on FX-driven mayhem fail their strong performances. Once my mind started wandering, I spent a good deal of the film trying to mentally connect the 20 years of screen-time that have passed between X-Men: First Class (2011) and this one, and the 20 years it will take to get to the Patrick Stewart era.

And yet, there is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) with another scene-stealing nonsensical appearance that has nothing to do with anything except the fact that he is Hugh Jackman playing Wolverine. That’s the problem with Apocalypse. It’s all sound and fury with very little meaning.

I didn’t like Future Past either. It was a bold idea getting both full casts together but in the end, it felt bloated and rushed at the same time. But … BUT … it was the highest grossing X-Men flick to date, which is why we find ourselves here, only with more explosions. Granted, this sixth entry – or is it the eighth? – is more streamlined in that we are only following one cast of mutants but I still needed a flowchart to keep everybody straight.

462-film-page-largeThe movie is named after Apocalypse (poor Oscar Isaac, buried under absurd makeup) – the first mutant – who ruled as a god 5000 years ago and has been awakened to reclaim his place as The Ultimate Power. But there is a fundamental problem with a villain who’s basically omnipotent: there is no logical way for even the most powerful mutants to exploit that weakness.

You know it’s going to come down to some unforeseen loophole that has nothing to do with anything as much as it has to do with bad luck. And that’s not a case of heroes winning the day so much as screenwriters lazily unpainting themselves from a corner. Regarding the global destruction, beyond a certain point, it’s hard to care. It’s the Man of Steel effect. Too much really is too much. You think humans had a right to be mad at Superman after all the destruction in Steel? The level of destruction here does not bode well for future human/mutant relations.

Oh, and what’s the point of setting it in 1983, aside from a montage set to a Eurythmics song? Where was the wall-to-wall 80s soundtrack used ironically? Aside from Jennifer Lawrence’s hair, Nightcrawler’s Thriller jacket and a picture of Ronald Reagan, setting it in the 80s is pointless. Cute joke about how “third movies are always the worst ones,” but they may regret including that line.

Fassbender, McAvoy and Lawrence can be very compelling in these roles, but once all the FX kicks in, it becomes a storm of whizzing energy, crumbling buildings and actors screaming into wind machines. But hey, at least we know how Professor X went bald now.

jennifer-lawrence-x-men-days-of-future-past-promotional-photos-3-_3Lawrence doesn’t play a shape-shifting blue mutant so much anymore as she plays Jennifer Lawrence. When Rebecca Romajn played the same role, she committed with blue body paint and creative angles hiding her girl parts. Not only is Lawrence considerably more covered up, she clearly played the movie star card so she didn’t have to be slathered with all that blue shit anymore. Or maybe the producers just wanted more Jennifer Lawrence onscreen. Either scenario is possible.

I rather enjoyed Matthew Vaughn’s prequel reboot First Class, which created a compelling narrative that connected Charles Xavier / Professor X (McAvoy), Raven / Mystique (Lawrence) and Erik Lehnsherr / Magneto (Fassbender). That one was a grounded, human film that explored the blessings and curses of mutant abilities and the responsibility one has when touched with said power. I remember more about Vaughn’s movie from 2011 than I do this film, and I just walked out of it.

To be fair, Fassbender has a few really strong scenes and Olivia Munn checks both the “sexy” and “badass” boxes.

What the hell happened to Singer? As the soulful voice behind the first two films and with Vaughn’s equally elegant First Class building on Singer’s themes, it’s as if he stopped looking up to Steven Spielberg and started worshiping the cinematic stylings of Zack Snyder instead.

ew_x_men_apocalypse_cover_no_text_by_messypandas-d91otlwMILD SPOILERS

Remember how the previous film Days of Future Past managed to create an ending so tidy that it completely nullified every previous X-Men film, including the Wolverine spin-offs? Writer Simon Kinberg (working off a story written by Bryan Singer, Kinberg, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris) does the same thing here.

It’s bad enough when a beloved brick and stone building is blown to bits and the last-minute rescue of its occupants is treated as an extended joke. It’s worse when mutant magic puts the pieces together again. It would have been more believable if they just had Superman fly backwards and wind back time.

They’ve already announced the next film will take place in the 90s.

My prediction: Somehow, the Earth will be restored to perfection by then, there will still be some vague darkness in Fassbender and underlying distrust for mutants. And all the students at Charles Xavier’s School for the Gifted will be wearing plaid. Would it be too much to ask that we get a nice scuzzy grunge soundtrack to distract us from whatever the big threat will be? And where do you go after battling a god?

A little Pearl Jam and Nirvana would go a long way.

 

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Dennis Willis <![CDATA[Captain America: Civil War (Review)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6768 2016-05-03T19:53:16Z 2016-05-03T19:47:25Z It’s almost impossible to consider Captain Americ […]

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It’s almost impossible to consider Captain America: Civil War without the long shadow of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Yes, they are two separate films in two separate universes. But they must be compared not just for their close proximity to one another’s releases, but because they are extremely similar in intent. A cynical and heartbroken hero disapproves of another (more optimistic) hero’s philosophies to the degree that it causes a rift and allows evil to flourish. At least that’s what BvS was supposed to be. It’s fair to say that whatever lofty ambitions the much-maligned Zack Snyder film had, they were squandered for reasons already covered in detail.

Civil War has the luxury and depth of it’s own Marvel Cinematic Universe canon, a blessing and a curse. When these things curdle or become bloated machines – as they did in the most previous Avengers flick Age of Ultron – it’s easy to become bored with armies of CG creatures wreaking havoc on animated humans.

But as with Anthony and Joe Russo’s previous Captain America chapter The Winter Soldier, there are many shades of grey at play and that ambiguity, as well as a little psychological heft, is what lends Civil War its power. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., still superb) is haunted by the death of his parents and the choices he’s made. He’s trying to do the right thing, both altruistically and as a mentor, but his demons won’t let him sleep. Side note: casting Mad Men’s John Slattery and his 70s stache as Tony’s industrialist papa Howard Stark was brilliant.

Captain-America-Civil-War-Team-Iron-Man-posterThe Big Idea here isn’t an alien invader (thank the maker) but the idea that heroes unchecked are as dangerous as the bad guys. An early action sequence that ends with a poor decision and fatalities inspires the Slakovia Accords (named after the fictional country wiped out in Ultron), a decree signed by 117 nations that seemingly have forgotten about that time the Avengers saved the planet from inter-dimensional giant worms. But hey! That’s how democracy works. Once signed, the Avengers would operate as per the will of the United Nations, and guilt-ridden Stark agrees.

Of course, misplaced WWII hero Captain America/Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) feels differently. Also, his allegiance to his fallen and misunderstood frienemy Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) makes it impossible for him to sign. Bucky’s been named the culprit in a recent, shocking attack and Cap thinks it’s all too convenient.

Team Iron Man has Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), the newly-created Vision (Paul Bettany), Rhodey / War Machine (Don Cheadle), and the badass Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), also the fierce king of Wakanda. Team Cap has Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner, better with each film), Bucky Barnes (natch), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Wanda / Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen), Sharon Carter (Emily VanCamp) and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd).

Critic Fail: it’s taken me this long to realize that Renner and Mackie first fought side-by-side in the Best Picture winner The Hurt Locker (2008).

captain_america_civil_war_ver39_xlgI won’t spoil any details because there are many joys to behold, but it all comes down to the big airport fight scene heavily teased in the trailer. And let me tell you, especially after the darkness and brooding of Batman v Superman, this is what a superhero smackdown looks like. With characters faithful to themselves, motivations solidly in check, and tongue firmly in cheek, this is a comic lover’s nirvana: Funny, thrilling, and surprising.

And did I mention Spider-Man is there too? Considering Sony’s long-contentious relationship with Marvel and diminishing results for it’s own Spidey flicks, it’s almost mind-boggling that this even happened. Tom Holland creates a spot-on Peter Parker. His Spidey is sarcastic, clever, and vulnerable. It also makes perfect sense that Tony Stark is his mentor. Thankfully, we don’t have to endure his origin story anymore, but there is the issue of elderly Aunt May now being played by smokin’ hot Marisa Tomei.

Oddly, even though the movie is called Captain America, the most important character journey belongs to Tony Stark. Downey is subtle at times, arrogant at others, always imbuing Tony with a streak of fairness that cuts through his wildly inappropriate personality. When things get emotionally heavy, Downey delivers. For as much as the actor tries to parlay his Iron Man box office into Oscar-bait roles, he’s really doing the best work of his career in these.

To pick a few nits: the Russo Brothers lay the action on a little thick in the first act. The action is so kinetic, it almost reminded me of Hardcore Harry, the ridiculous first person action film that came and went. Once the movie settles down, it comes alive beautifully. As is often the case with Marvel adaptations, some of the most thrilling scenes are when the heroes are without their weapons or costumes.

A word to the casual moviegoer: you can’t have just seen previous Captain America films. You have to be versed in the past few MCU movies to know what the hell is going on.

Also, keep in mind there are two post-credit sequences. One happens about halfway into the credits, and the other one happens at the very end. Neither one is earth shaking, but both are very satisfying. Marvel is also confident enough to never have these movies end with a pretty bow on top. They always leave us wondering what’s going to happen next, and if nothing else, that’s what an interconnected series is all about.

Also worth noting: At no time is a life-changing, world-altering decision made because two characters’ mothers have the same name.

 

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Dennis Willis <![CDATA[Snowden (Trailer)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6766 2016-04-29T17:48:27Z 2016-04-29T17:48:27Z Academy Award winning director Oliver Stone, who brough […]

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Academy Award winning director Oliver Stone, who brought Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, Wall Street and JFK to the big screen, tackles the most important and fascinating true story of the 21st century.

Snowden, the politically-charged, pulse-pounding thriller starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Shailene Woodley, reveals the incredible untold personal story of Edward Snowden, the polarizing figure who exposed shocking illegal surveillance activities by the NSA and became one of the most wanted men in the world.

He is considered a hero by some, and a traitor by others. No matter which you believe, the epic story of why he did it, who he left behind, and how he pulled it off makes for one of the most compelling films of the year.

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Dennis Willis <![CDATA[Keanu (Posters)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6764 2016-04-29T17:33:47Z 2016-04-29T17:33:47Z The post Keanu (Posters) appeared first on Flick Nation.

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Dennis Willis <![CDATA[The Duel (Trailer)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6739 2016-04-29T17:02:49Z 2016-04-29T17:02:49Z In the Great Plains during 1880s, Texas Ranger David Ki […]

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In the Great Plains during 1880s, Texas Ranger David Kingston (Liam Hemsworth) is sent to an Old West frontier town Helena to investigate a series of murders and disappearances of local people. In the town, preacher Abraham Brant (Woody Harrelson) is keeping all the townsfolk in some kind of fearful grip.

Liam Hemsworth, Emory Cohen, Woody Harrelson, William Hurt and Alice Braga star. The Duel opens June 24, 2016.

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Dennis Willis <![CDATA[The Founder (Trailer)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6756 2016-04-29T17:21:30Z 2016-04-27T17:20:12Z The Founder is an upcoming 2016 American biographical f […]

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The Founder is an upcoming 2016 American biographical film directed by John Lee Hancock and written by Robert Siegel. The film portrays the story of Ray Kroc and his acquisition of the McDonald’s fast food chain. The film stars Michael Keaton as Kroc and Laura Dern as his wife Ethel Fleming. The additional cast includes Nick Offerman, John Carroll Lynch, Patrick Wilson, Ric Reitz, and Wilbur Fitzgerald. The film is scheduled to be released on August 5, 2016.

Chronicling the rise of McDonald’s fast food empire, The Founder tells the true story of how Illinois salesman Ray Kroc met brothers Mac and Dick McDonald, operating a hamburger restaurant in southern California in the 1950s. Kroc subtly maneuvers himself into a position to take control of their company, which grows into one of the world’s best-known brands after he buys the chain for $2.7 million in 1961.

McDonald’s is the world’s largest chain of hamburger fast food restaurants, serving around 68 million customers daily in 119 countries across more than 36,000 outlets. Founded in the United States in 1940, the company began as a barbecue restaurant operated by Richard and Maurice McDonald. In 1948, they reorganized their business as a hamburger stand using production line principles. Businessman Ray Kroc joined the company as a franchise agent in 1955. He subsequently purchased the chain from the McDonald brothers and oversaw its worldwide growth.

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John Stanley <![CDATA[The Trials of Jimmy Rose (Review)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6730 2016-04-27T22:44:49Z 2016-04-27T15:49:27Z   Just stare into the face on the cover of this Br […]

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Just stare into the face on the cover of this British DVD set and you know that Ray Winstone, in order to play titular Jimmy Rose, knows what a long-term convict should look like on the day of his release from prison.

Hey, Ray himself went through some personal hells as a professional boxer before he became an actor, winning as many as 80 slam-wham medals and awards for the British Empire. And wasn’t it fitting that his first professional attempt at acting should be a play called “Scum”? Since then he’s earned 15 acting nominations and has won 12 awards having brought his special tough-guy persona to such works as The Departed, Sweeney Todd, Nil By Mouth and 44-Inch Chest. So you know he’s more than ready to give a grizzled edge to his latest crime-world related role.

775-4733_PI_1000025MNAs for one-time armed robber Jimmy Rose, it’s been 22 years of being locked up in the joint, and now he’s free. Well, not quite. There’s going to be ample problems at home, most of them ironically touching the break-down of law within his own family, the one he unwillingly deserted more than two decades ago after crushing the law almost to death.

First there’s the matter of his beautiful blonde wife Jackie. (It’s no coincidence the producers chose Amanda Redman to play Jackie because she and Winstone first scored together in the 2000 crime thriller Sexy Beast.) But don’t hold your breath thinking Ray is gonna score with Jackie, who thinks of herself as a prison widow. He got himself thrown into the slammer, leaving the family vulnerable to serious social problems, and she’s been having this affair with . . . but hold it, more about Jackie’s climactic rendezvouses later.

Right now we’re dealing with Jimmy’s return to civilian life. Okay, he accepts a job working in a large hardware store, and at least nothing is wrong with his son Joe (Tom Cullen), except for the fact Joe utterly hates his father and wants nothing to do with him. But there is a serious problem with his granddaughter Ellie (Montanna Thompson), who was once high on drugs and, though recovered, is living in squalor with a drug dealer, who seems sweet on enough, except for the fact he owes the drug syndicate more money than he’ll ever be able to pay.

Enter some pizza parlor guys connected to some gangsters Jimmy Rose once knew and our ex-con is trapped in new criminal complications. And when Jackie’s car is blown up, you can bet the look on Winstone’s face toughens even greater than before. And Mr. Nice Ex-Con completely goes to hell when he finds out that the plainclothes officer (John Lynch) investigating the explosion is the guy . . . ahem, Jackie’s been hanging out with. You know, those secret rendezvouses . . .

What it all finally comes down to in three one-hour episodes is whether Jimmy Rose can find a way to juggle the good forces and the evil forces in order to avoid going back to prison. The acting, especially by Winstone, is consistently excellent thanks in part to a well-trained director, Adrian Shergold, and the scripting by Alan Whiting.

REDMAN-AMANDA2One more note about Amanda Redman. For ten seasons she portrayed Detective Superintendent Sandra Pullman in 84 episodes of New Tricks (2003-2013), a superb British series in which she headed up a squad of retired policemen who have volunteered to come out of retirement to solve “cold cases” – old crimes that were never solved but which have been reopened through circumstantial evidence. She demonstrated incredible finesse in handling all the personal issues surrounding her co-workers, and showed a sexy side that has made her memorable to a generation of world-wide TV watchers. In The Trials of Jimmy Rose, she once again demonstrates her special talents as she maneuvers cautiously through a male-dominated world.

THE TRIALS OF JIMMY ROSE
Acorn Media / $21.99
Not Rated
16.9 Widescreen
British
143 Minutes

www.us.RLJEntertainment.com

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Dennis Willis <![CDATA[The Magnificent Seven (Trailer)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6762 2016-04-29T17:28:09Z 2016-04-21T17:27:12Z Director Antoine Fuqua brings his modern vision to a cl […]

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Director Antoine Fuqua brings his modern vision to a classic story in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures’ and Columbia Pictures’ The Magnificent Seven. With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the desperate townspeople employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns – Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.

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Dennis Willis <![CDATA[Independence Day: Resurgence (Trailer)]]> http://flicknation.net/?p=6758 2016-04-29T17:23:15Z 2016-04-20T17:21:49Z Twenty years after the events of the first film, the in […]

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Twenty years after the events of the first film, the international community recovers and the United Nations creates the Earth Space Defense (ESD), a united global defense program that serves as Earth’s early warning system and the main defense force using technology salvaged from remains of the alien forces, with some military forces assembled on the Moon. However, the aliens were able to send a distress signal to their other battalions before their final defeat while others went into hiding elsewhere around the world. The aliens in deep space receive the signal and send a larger and more powerful battle fleet, threatening the human race once more.

Jeff Goldblum, Bill Pullman, Judd Hirsch, Vivica A. Fox, and Brent Spiner reprise their roles but Will Smith is nowhere to be found…

Directed by Roland Emmerich

Visit Warof1996.com: http://www.warof1996.com

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