Tag Archives: Die Hard

London Has Fallen (2016)

london has fallen

I don’t care what anyone says; Olympus Has Fallen is an awesome action movie, warts and all. It may be outrageous, egregious, preposterous, but it’s still a damn exciting, all guns blazing, all balls baring popcorn thrill ride that deserves its nickname, “Die Hard in the White House.” Die Hard, by the way, is in my opinion the best action movie of all time.

And so I ignored the naysayers and forked out my money on the sequel, London Has Fallen, notwithstanding its 25% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 28% score on Metacritic. I’m telling ya, there are people out there like me who enjoy these kind of stupid movies, or else they wouldn’t have made a sequel for US$60 million. Oh, and for those who say White House Down was better, where’s the sequel for that?

Okay, first the bad news. London Has Fallen treks perilously close to the edge. There will no doubt be people offended by this movie, and I don’t doubt there are those who call it racist, xenophobic and fear-mongering. It doesn’t take anyone’s feelings into consideration for the sake of  cheap entertainment, nor does it apologise for having the fall to kill hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people, including major world leaders.

Secondly, if you thought the first film was ridiculous, then you are in for a real treat. London Has Fallen takes the insanity to a whole new level, and there are no words I can conjure up from my shitty vocabulary that can do it justice. Suffice it to say it won’t be winning any awards for realism, adherence to gravity, and lack of plot holes.

Thirdly, the special effects, I’m afraid to say, aren’t first class. There’s no shortage of destruction and explosions in this film,   though a good chunk of it looks too fake for a movie made in 2016. I’m not talking Sharknado territory, but for a moderate Hollywood budget it’s a little on the weak side. While I can let some of the architectural collapses slide, the billows of black smoke are obviously CGI. Hey, at least they’re eco-friendly.

Now that I’ve gotten the negatives out of the way, I’m going to come out and admit that I also enjoyed this sequel a lot. It’s actually refreshing to see an action film these days that doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks, that doesn’t bow down to political correctness or sensitivities of the modern world. While it goes contrary to my personal feelings on terrorism (to be fair, it does touch the surface of the complexities on the subject but remains unapologetically Team America), I applaud how it doesn’t let such considerations get in the way of delivering some of the most batshit crazy action I’ve ever witnessed on the big screen.

The premise is delicious: the British Prime Minister carks it, prompting leaders from around the world to congregate in London for the funeral. And what’d ya know, terrorists unleash absolute mayhem on the city, hell bent on revenge against the US President (Aaron Eckhart). The only man who can save him? Of course, the dude who did it last time, Mike Banning (Gerard Butler), a one-man wrecking crew who is basically Jack Bauer, Jason Bourne, Liam Neeson and King Leonidas all rolled into one.

Returning to reprise their roles include Morgan Freeman as the US Vice-President, Radha Mitchell as Banning’s poor wife, Angela Bassett as the director of the US Secret Service, Robert Forster as the head of the Joint Chief of Staff, and Melissa Leo as the Secretary of Defense. That’s a heavy duty lineup right there, and I haven’t even mentioned the welcome additions of Jackie Earle Haley and Charlotte Riley. However, most of them don’t get to do much and are just there to bear witness to Banning’s epic rampage.

After the initial set-up, London Has Fallen speeds up and never takes its foot off the accelerator. It’s one car chase after another, one shootout after another, one hand-to-hand combat scene after another, one explosion after another, and one totally impossible situation after another. It’s basically two climatic episodes of 24 rolled into one (after the writers all had 10 beers each and just went “f&@$ it”).

Stylistically, the execution by Iranian-Swedish director Babak Najafi is pretty good. He’s not as well known as Antoine Fuqua from the first film, but I do like that he prefers to use moderately long cuts as opposed to rapid ones so we can actually see what’s going on. Despite all the mayhem on screen, I never once lost track of who was who or what was what.

If it’s a sin to find enjoyment in that sort of reckless entertainment then I’m guilty as charged. And it’s not like the film was taking itself that seriously — there are plenty of cheesy one-liners to remind us that they just want us to go along with them on this ludicrous escapist adventure. If audiences can accept the over-the-topness (that’s a word now) of say the Fast & Furious franchise then I don’t see why they can’t do so here.

My top qualm apart from the CGI is that, despite upping the ante from American politics into a global affair and escalating the stakes to go along with it, London Has Fallen doesn’t have quite the same amount of tension or intrigue as its predecessor. This is largely because Banning is rarely alone left to fend for himself and therefore we don’t get that same feeling of isolation and vulnerability. In Olympus Has Fallen he was doing his best John McClane impersonation, whereas this time he’s almost always got someone alongside him, whether it is the President or some MI6 operatives. That lone wolf quality we’ve seen with Jason Bourne and Jack Bauer and Bryan Mills and even John Wick just isn’t there this time, and it takes away one of the main reasons that made the original so awesome.

That said, while London doesn’t quite reach the heights of Olympus, it’s nonetheless a damn fun time at the cinema. Let go and embrace it for what it is. There’s no way anyone who goes in to see this film expects some kind of slick, intelligent action thriller that delves deep into the consequences of America’s war on terror. What you’re going to get is copious loads of crazy action, big stars, a healthy dose of cheese, and a movie experience that does the opposite of make you think. And we all need movies like that sometimes.

3.75 stars out of 5

Extraction (2015)

Extraction

I watched a bunch of movies lately and have been working hard to catch up on my reviews. There was one movie, however, that completely slipped my mind: Extraction.

Bruce Willis has been an action hero for as long as I can remember, and after phoning it in for a few years now, I suppose it is time for him to starting hanging up the gloves. And hence Extraction, where a retiring CIA operative (Willis) is kidnapped by terrorists and it is up to his son (Kellan Lutz) and his ex-girlfriend (MMA artist Gina Carano) to, um, “extract” him.

In theory, the film isn’t a bad idea. Willis is getting long in the tooth and Lutz is doing his best to be a new-generation action star. After the failure that was A Good Day to Die Hard, I didn’t mind another attempt at it with someone other than “charisma black hole” Jai Courtney, and without the pressure of having to live up to the name of the Die Hard franchise.

Unfortunately, Extraction is a pure vanilla action-thriller that offers nothing new or creative for fans of the genre. Willis doesn’t get to do a whole lot other than collect another paycheck, while Lutz gives Courtney a run for his money in the “zero charisma” stakes. Don’t get me wrong, I like Lutz — even after The Legend of Hercules — because he seems like a nice guy who is working hard to make the most of his opportunities from Twilight, but no matter what he does here he can’t save the film from being an epic bore.

The action is stock standard, there is virtually no tension, the plot is uninteresting and the characters lack personality. I can’t really be more specific because, to be honest, there’s not much to remember about it. I do recall a particularly stupid pub scene, a moronic strip club scene, wondering why parts of the plot made little sense, and feeling like they completely wasted Carano’s martial arts talent. She was also a mismatch, chemistry wise, for Lutz.

The result is yet another stale and forgettable action flick that’s not necessarily horrendous but just so lame and uninspired that it falls below any reasonable expectation of what a Bruce Willis film should be.

1.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

olympus_has_fallen

Olympus Has Fallen has been called “Die Hard in the White House”, and for once this description is apt. Of course, it’s nowhere near as good as (what I believe is) the greatest action movie of all time, but all things considered it’s about as good as you could reasonably hope for given the insanity of its central idea — the White House getting taken over by terrorists.

Gerard Butler plays Mike Banning, a former Secret Service agent who gets reassigned to a desk job after a tragic accident. The South Korean president visits and somehow the White House gets overrun by a mysterious terrorist. The US president, played by Aaron Eckhart, is held hostage, and Banning becomes the only man who can save him — and the world!

The premise is as corny as described, but to be honest I didn’t find it all that hard to swallow, thanks to director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter), the man with the coolest surname in Hollywood. Fuqua doesn’t make Olympus Has Fallen realistic (that’s impossible), but he allows us to sufficiently suspend disbelief through clever misdirection and never giving the audience time to think about the plot’s deficiencies by bombarding them with non-stop, blazing action. I just kept thinking, “Yeah, that could happen,” and went along for the ride.

Contrast that with another film I reviewed recently, Red Dawn, also about a foreign invasion of the United States (and one of the worst movies of 2012), and you too will appreciate Fuqua’s supreme filmmaking skills. Though both films have lots of guns and explosions and Americanism, Red Dawn bored me to tears, whereas Olympus Has Fallen had me mesmerised.

The film essentially copies the Die Hard template but ups the stakes about a hundred fold. A capable dude caught in a situation he didn’t expect to be in — but instead of a commercial building you have the White-freaking-House. One man against a whole army of badasses. A mysterious and brutal villain determined to weed him out. Epic gun fights, skilful hand-to-hand combat, exploding helicopters, falling from high places, sceptical allies on the outside, no friends on the inside. Awesomeness.

I’ve never really liked Butler outside of 300,  but here he makes an excellent Secret Service guy because he looks the part. Aaron Eckhart won’t be remembered as one of the best on-screen presidents, but he’s certainly not one of the worst either. He doesn’t get to do a whole lot in this film but he makes the best of what he’s got.

The rest of the supporting cast is stellar. As usual, there is the omnipresent Morgan Freeman in the type of role we have seen too many times; Angela Bassett and Robert Forster as anxious government officials; Aussie Radha Mitchell as the wife; Ashley Judd as the First Lady; and Melissa Leo — the standout — as the feisty secretary of defense.

The weak link was Dylan McDermott, another ex-Secret Service guy. It was probably more how the character was written than his acting, but he came across as totally unconvincing and lacking in personality. His story arc was also poorly conceived and concluded. Just crap.

Also crap is some of the pitfalls of the action film that Fuqua just couldn’t avoid, such as blessing our hero with obvious insights that somehow escape the common man (and all of the president’s staff), the usual America “f*%k yeah” moments, as well as the the odd annoying cliche. I also found it strange that a number of the more interesting plot points were either not explored or wrapped up prematurely. I can’t go into details without divulging them, but those who have seen the film will have an idea.

Nonetheless, Olympus Has Fallen turned out to be far better than I expected. Stylish, explosive and rarely a dull moment, it’s the action film that Die Hard 5 could have and should have been (instead of that silly Russian story). Actually, it would have been a pretty good premise for a 24 movie too, if they ever decide to make one. This is a movie I would definitely keep watching if I happen to stumble across it on TV in a couple of years.

4 stars out of 5!

PS: One of the best decisions the producers made was to make this a R-rated film (MA15+ in Australia), which allowed all the violence it needed to be effective. It will be interesting to see what type of film White House Down (which looks like exactly the same film except with Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx), set for release in the summer, will be with what is expected to be a tamer PG-13 rating. My guess is it won’t be as good, but you never know with Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) at the helm.

The 20 Most Rewatchable Movies of All-Time

There are some films that, for one reason or another, have an extremely high ‘rewatchability quotient’ (as I like to call it).

You know, one of those movies that you happen to come across one night on TV when you have nothing better to do, and you end up watching till the end (even when there’s something else on that you haven’t seen before) – and you still found it enjoyable and not a waste of time.

Or if you have it on DVD, you might whip it out every now and then and put it on for whatever reason, and then find yourself sitting there two hours later, still captivated despite having seen it 10 times already.  The freakiest thing is that some of these movies actually get better the more times you watch it.

Following an agonising culling process, I have finally come up with my top 20 most rewatchable movies of all time.

Let’s count them down.

(click on ‘more…’ to continue)

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