September 2, 2019


Mike Banning’s father lives off the grid

He may be a fictional character, but Mike Banning has a huge following. In the latest movie in the Fallen franchise, Angel has Fallen, hero Mike Banning is reunited with his dad, played by Nick Nolte living in a remote forest in Virginia.

When a well-coordinated drone attack decimates the POTUS’s heavily-armed security detail, Banning’s razor-sharp reflexes once again save the leader of the free world from … well, let’s just say that in the latest instalment in the Fallen franchise, the bad guys are a little closer to home.

Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), who was Speaker of the House in the original film and VP in the sequel, has been promoted to President in Angel Has Fallen.

But its Nick Nolte who steals the film as the woods-living, gun-toting hermit named Clay Banning.

As the surname suggests, he is our hero’s long-estranged father. On this level, Nolte also brings some much-needed emotional depth to the movie.

But it’s the comic side that is worth waiting for. It’s a treat every time Nolte is on the screen. I doubt it will happen but he deserves another Oscar nomination for this role. He’s had three so far — for Prince of Tides, Affliction and Warrior — without a win.

A man of deep integrity, Trumbull is a West Wing kind of president; the sort you wish you had. But after being pulled unconscious from the freezing lake into which he and Banning dive to evade the drone attack, he remains in a coma.

On the basis of damning evidence that links Banning to what appears to be a Russian Government-funded assassination attempt, Trumbull’s hawkish Vice President (Tim Blake Nelson) gears up for WWIII.

Banning’s colleagues also swallow the frame-up story hook, line and sinker. Let’s hope nothing happens to this seasoned operative — presidents may come and go, but without Banning at their side, democracy doesn’t stand a chance.

With the US law enforcement authorities in hot pursuit, Banning sets off across the country to simultaneously clear his name and arrest Armageddon.

The action is fast, furious and without unnecessary frills. The firepower is impressive and the multiple explosions would light even Michael Bay’s fuse.

There’s also an attention-grabbing sequence, in remote forest in Virginia, in which Banning is reunited with the father who abandoned him — a crusty old war vet with a yellowed moustache who lives off the grid and is played by Nick Nolte.

ANgel has fallen ** 1/2 Rating: MA15 + Running time: 121 minutes Director: Ric Roman Waugh Starring: Gerard Butler, Morgan Freeman, Jada Pinkett Smith – Democracy doesn’t stand a chance without Mike Banning

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You CAN use your phone as a walkie-talkie

Apple let it be known over the weekend that they have cancelled a planned feature on the new iPhone allowing it to be used as a walkie talkie – thereby annoying the phone companies by diverting call dollars and user data.

But off-gridders would find such a facility very useful and there have, for a long time, been ways of using your phone as a walkie talkie – two-way communication without using the phone network.

Apple’s cancelled project was very limited – it would have allowed people with iPhones (not Android) to communicate over short distances without the need for cellular coverage, proving handy in remote locations. But it only applied to texts not phone calls.

Several smartphone apps mimic the walkie-talkie experience of instant push-to-talk communication.

(Free: iPhone)

iPTT is one of the App Store’s original push-to-talk apps. It’s just like a walkie-talkie. It provides one-to-many group communication, one-to-one communication within a group channel (called “whisper”) or straight one-to-one communication with a friend. If you want that kind of capability, it doesn’t get any simpler.

TiKL Touch Talk Walkie-Talkie
(Free: iPhone, Android)

Another simple but great push-to-talk app. With TiKL, all you need are a contact list and a data plan. It supports group messaging and push-to-talk calls. For users who want to skirt voice and data plan restrictions, a simple app like this one could be the answer.

(Free: iPhone, Android)

Ever wanted to leave a friend a voice message but didn’t want to call them? They might actually pick up the phone and then you would have to, you know, actually talk to them. That can be awkward. “Yeah, I was just going to leave a voicemail…” Voxer functions like a walkie-talkie except that it sends messages rather than real-time dispatches. The app runs on iPhone and Android, it’s free, and it works over any data connection, from Wi-Fi to EDGE and everything in between. It allows you to send text messages, location messages and photos.

(Free: iPhone, Android, Windows Phone)

HeyTell is a lot like Voxer but with more customization (and it runs on Windows Phone as well as iPhone and Android). It has three levels of privacy, allowing you to add or block friends from Twitter and Facebook depending on how open you want your communications to be. It is ad-free but has a decent list of in-app purchases to change notification alert sounds, enable group messaging and add emojis to your name. Like Voxer, it works on any type of data connection. HeyTell is extremely concerned with privacy, going out of its way to give users options to opt into functions including sending location data.

(Free: iPhone/iPad, Android, BlackBerry)

Zello (formerly LoudTalks) offers both push-to-talk apps and an application programming interface (API) and software development kit (SDK) so developers can add push-to-talk functionality to their own apps. The enterprise capabilities …

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