Olympus Has Fallen (2013)


There’s a Reason I Never Voted for You.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)I took myself a little break, but when it came time to come back, I wasn’t entirely sure if my break was self-imposed or not.  I could not find anything in the theaters that interested me!  Whatever was I to do?!  But then I remembered an old friend that I don’t think I’ve spent any time with recently.  An old friend by the name of RedBox.  And there were a couple of movies to be found there that I wanted to see.  Not movies I wanted to see expecting quality, but movies I wanted to see expecting quality reviews to come out of them.  And by that I mean I expect them to suck.  But we’ll just have to wait a paragraph to find out after I tell you a little bit about Olympus Has Fallen, written by Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt, directed by Antoine Fuqua, and starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Rick Yune, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Finley Jacobsen, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, and Ashley Judd.

Secret Service Agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the head of the Presidential Detail.  While transporting President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart), First Lady Margaret Asher (Ashley Judd), and their son Connor Asher (Finley Jacobsen) to Camp David, a tree branch lands on the windshield, sending the President’s limo off the road.  Banning is only able to save the President and his son.  The most ungrateful POTUS in history then demotes Banning to the Department of the Treasury.  This turns out to be a great idea when a group of North Korean terrorists – led by Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune) – take control of the White House in order to use something called the Cerberus system to leave the United States defenseless from nuclear attacks.  But little do these Korean terrorists know that we’re still covered by America’s first line of defense: Gerard Butler.

I would give this movie credit for being better than I expected it to be.  My expectations were admittedly low, but it was better than them.  It’s just your fairly standard action movie.  I feel like I’d probably prefer White House Down since it seems almost identical without taking itself too seriously as this movie does.  This movie tries to do the same thing in a more heavy and emotional way that never really worked for me.  It started with the death of the First Lady.  I didn’t really care.  We hadn’t really spent enough time to get emotionally attached to her.  Plus I felt the whole situation was a little stupid, especially when the helicopters arrived right afterwards and I could just imagine everyone saying, “Oh man, that’s right!  We have helicopters!  We could’ve completely avoided this bad driving conditions and come through this situation with at least one more living First Lady!  Boy is my face red.”  And then you demote Banning because he only managed to keep you and your son alive but wasn’t quite able to go above and beyond the call of duty to save your wife too?  That’s some bullshit!  He’s clearly the best guy you have, as evidenced by how easily the Koreans waltzed into the White House.  It seemed like the movie was sending a message to Korea that, if they send enough men and garbage trucks, and if Gerard Butler is busy at the time, then they can take the White House down without too much effort.  Well, if he wasn’t available, then maybe we could settle for Maverick and Goose, ‘cause they never would’ve been taken down by that giant plane with the side-mounted Gatling guns.  They would’ve been flying upside down above that airplane taunting the enemy pilots and completely safe from side-mounted Gatling guns.  And who was aiming those things anyway?  Ah, never mind…

I also didn’t get the whole situation with Kang.  I guess I get his motivation and all, but how the government people not know who he is when they see his face when he’s the most wanted terrorist in the world?  They say that he’s never been photographed, but his picture pops up with his name pretty quickly for that to be true.  Well his plan seemed pretty solid though, at least up until the end.  ::SPOILER ALERT:: I thought his ruse with putting black hoods on everyone was fairly effective for not getting his people killed since they wouldn’t know which one was the President.  It would be effective for everyone but the girl in the crew, I suppose.  The sniper could probably feel pretty safe shooting the one person in the group with tits.  The problem I had with it was that I didn’t see the point of the ruse in the first place, beyond clearing out the rest of the unnecessary people before the climax.  Why bother killing off all your men to make everyone think the President was dead when you’d be activating the Cerberus system 2 minutes later, thus proving that both you and the President were still alive.  ::END SPOILERS::

One thing that I could say with confidence about this movie is that the cast did a great job.  Gerard Butler has made some shitty choices for movies in the past, but he can still bring it with the performances.  He’s a very believable badass, and that was the bulk of what was required of him here.  I did find it amusing that America was almost destroyed because Banning doesn’t use Twitter and doesn’t know what a hash tag is, or perhaps because the other douchebag decided to use “hash tag” instead of the more commonly understood “pound sign.”  I also took issue with the President of this movie, and not just because he demoted the man who saved his life.  …asshole…  I also took issue with the fact that he kept telling his cabinet members to give up their codes to save their lives.  I understand it would make the President look like an asshole if he let them die, but that’s about 5 people who might die as opposed to the millions that will die if they give up those codes.  Let them die bravely to protect the country and do the same yourself.  ‘MERICA!!  Also, Morgan Freeman is the man.  He should not only be the President in every movie, but he should be the President in real life too.

Olympus Has Fallen was roughly what I expected it to be: decent.  It didn’t impress, but it entertained.  And I guess that impressed me because it was more than I expected.  The story was a little over-simple, but the action was pretty good and the performances were better than I would’ve expected.  This movie doesn’t qualify with me as a purchase, but it’s decent enough for a rental.  Olympus Has Fallen gets “Newsflash asshole – I don’t work for you” out of “Why don’t you and I play a game of fuck off.  You go first.”

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The Wolverine (2013)


You Have Struggled Long Enough.  I Can End Your Eternity…

The Wolverine (2013)I was very excited to see today’s movie, but I was also a little suspicious.  There is a person at my job who I constantly engage in conversation about comic books movie, and I found myself shocked by the fact that she did not intend to see this movie.  But I also understood her logic.  The previous movie for this character was the ass.  I found it to be one of the most irritating comic book movies in recent history because of how poorly they handled some of my favorite comic book characters.  That being said, my argument for her was that none of these problems tied into today’s movie.  None of the same writers or directors were involved in this movie, so I had no reason to believe they’d make the same shitty choices.  And I never had a problem with the person playing the main character.  He’s played this character in five movies previously, and the greater majority of those movies were good, and he was good in all of them.  So I still had high hopes for The Wolverine, written by Mark Bomback, Scott Frank, and Christopher McQuarrie, directed by James Mangold, and starring Hugh Jackman, Haruhiko Yamanouchi, Rila Fukushima, Tao Okamoto, Svetlana Khodchenkova, Hiroyuki Sanada, Will Yun Lee, Brian Tee, Famke Janssen, Ian McKellen, and Patrick Stewart.

In 1945, the mutant known as Logan (Hugh Jackman), also known as Wolverine, saves the life of an officer named Yashida (Haruhiko Yamanouchi) from the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.  Years later, Yashida sends a precognitive mutant named Yukio (Rila Fukushima) to bring Logan to Tokyo to give Yashida the chance to repay his debt to Logan before he dies.  His offer: to negate Logan’s healing abilities so that he can finally live life as a mortal man.  Since that offer is so goddamned stupid, Logan refuses, but Yashida’s nurse, Dr. Green (Svetlana Khodchenkova), introduces something into him that negates his healing anyway.  And then Yashida dies.  Now Logan must try to protect Yashida’s granddaughter, Mariko (Tao Okamoto), from Yakuza and Ninjas without the use of his healing abilities until she is put in charge of Yashida’s company, as Yashida’s will states.

Sadly, I found myself pretty disappointed with this movie, but it did have its charms that elevated it far above Wolverine’s previous outing.  So it was an improvement and a disappointment simultaneously.  The story of the movie was fine, but I had problems with a lot of the writing.  There were so many occasions where they had the opportunity for a great line, but the one they chose just fell flat.  Like the part where the Yakuza guy tells Wolverine that he never talks.  That’s perfect for a great line!  Instead, Wolverine just stabs him and he talks.  And later when someone says, “Don’t hit my friends.”  That’s such a weak line where such a potentially great one could have been.  Instead it sounds like an elementary school student standing up to a bully.  Later, when someone asks Wolverine what kind of monster he is and he throws back, “The Wolverine,” I know what they were going for.  I assume they wanted me to get all excited because I had seen that on the poster before I came in, but I just wanted more.  They were able to set up fantastic lines, but completely unable to deliver them.  I found it to be quite a bummer.

I guess I was okay with the rest of the story though.  I was worried about the premise of the movie as I knew it going in.  All I really knew was going to happen in this movie was that Wolverine would lose his healing abilities.  That made me nervous that he wouldn’t be able to be as badass as I needed him to be.  It wasn’t as bad as I expected.   He was noticeably diminished, but he maintained a great enough deal of badassitude.  His friend Yukio could’ve been a little more helpful though.  I mean, she was precognitive, but was never really forthright with her information.  She tells Wolverine that she has some important information for her, but is cut off when he says she needs her to drive him somewhere, and then she tells him after they arrive.  You showed us some of that long car ride.  We know you had time to tell him.  That was information he could have needed.  As for more information that someone could have needed: we later find out that the Silver Samurai is made mostly from adamantium.  If only he had known that before he chose his name.  There were also a few things that I need to say, but I need to hide them in a ::SPOILER ALERT::  When Yoshida says that Wolverine should not look so shocked that he was in the Silver Samurai outfit, he was right.  No one should have been shocked by that.  Also, the movie bummed me out by not giving Wolverine his adamantium claws back by the time the movie ended.  The bone claws are lame.  I don’t want him to have to start another movie with those.  Couldn’t they just have decided that Mariko used the company’s obvious knowledge of how to shape adamantium to give them back?  It’s not like they didn’t have some spare adamantium lying around after the Silver/Adamantium Samurai was destroyed.  ::END SPOILER::  I would have to say that I liked the after credit sequence, and that you should make sure you stick around for it.

The cast in the movie was very strong.  Especially Hugh Jackman.  He looked so goddamned strong in this movie.  There was not a vein in his body that was not on display.  At least not north of the belt line.  He was awesome though.  Maybe not the most awesome person though, and I’m basing that mainly on his relationship with Mariko.  I know Wolverine has the tendency to knock the bottom out of some lucky lady, but this girl was already married AND in love with that Japanese Hawkeye guy, and Wolverine still had to get his dick wet.  And right after that came another problem: why does anyone ever sleep next to Wolverine?  He has the terrible habit of stabbing people that sleep next to him.  He stabbed Rogue in the first movie, almost stabbed his girlfriend in Origins, almost stabbed Mariko, dream-stabbed Jean Gray.  Stop sleeping next to him!  If you want the sex; get it and get out!  After him, I didn’t really think that much about anyone else in the cast.  Hiroyuki Sanada was fine.  Tao Okamoto was cute and did well.  Rila Fukushima caused no complaints.  I guess I was never really on board with Svetlana Khodchenkova’s performance.  Just didn’t do it for me.  She was hot though, so she doesn’t really need to act that well.

The Wolverine disappointed me with a decent story riddled with mediocre dialogue that could’ve (and should’ve) been so much more awesome than it was.  But I felt like the action was able to keep a good enough pace even though Wolverine himself was diminished by the story elements for a good part of the movie, and the performances mostly did a great job.  Overall I suppose I’d say that I enjoyed the movie, and certainly a lot more than I liked Wolverine’s previous outing, but I just wanted this movie to be more.  Definitely worth watching, but you can probably wait for a rental.  The Wolverine gets “Is that all the men you brought?” out of “It’s an honor to meet the Wolverine.”

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The Conjuring (2013)


There’s a Lady in a Dirty Nightgown That I See in My Dreams.

The Conjuring (2013)I had just gotten myself all prepared to see The Wolverine when I realized that I had made an appointment to get my air conditioning unit looked at right when the movie was going to start.  I didn’t even need it anymore!  It had taken so long for them to come out that the temperature had just cooled down naturally!  Oh well.  Instead, I had made plans with Friendboss Josh and his lady friend the Whitneybird and, even though I of course wanted to see The Wolverine more, I am a man of my word.  Josh is practically brought to the point of suicide every time he’s not in my presence, and I’d hate to see how he’d react if I had plans with him and changed them for Hugh Jackman.  Being the fantastic person I am, I decided to keep my word and go see The Conjuring with him, written by Chad and Carey Hayes, directed by James Wan, and starring Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Lili Taylor, Ron Livingston, Shanley Caswell, Hayley McFarland, Joey King, Mackenzie Foy, Kyla Deaver, Shannon Kook, John Brotherton, Sterling Jerins, and Joseph Bishara.

The Perron Family – father Roger (Ron Livingston), mother Carolyn (Lili Taylor), and daughters Andrea (Shanley Caswell), Nancy (Hayley McFarland), Christine (Joey King), Cindy (Mackenzie Foy), April (Kyla Deaver), and Evita I think – move into a peaceful and isolated house in the country, complete with a creepy black tree in the back and an inexplicably hidden cellar.  Even though nothing bad could possibly happen here, it does.  Paranormal events start occurring all over the house.  They’re tame at first, but then they amp up to the point where Andrea is attacked by what appears to be the spirit of an elderly woman.  In order to save their family, they call in Ed Warren (Patrick Wilson), an acclaimed demonologist, and his wife Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga), a clairvoyant, to help.  Also, there’s an Asian guy (Shannon Kook) and a cop (John Brotherton).

Though I did like this movie, I don’t credit much of it to the writing.  As I was typing the recap of the story, I started to think that I could probably create a template for reviewing ghost movies that would save me a lot of time.  *BLANK* moves into a house.  At first it’s peaceful, but then strange things start happening.  Harmless at first, but then they amp up until *BLANK*.  They call in experts, shit gets real for a little while, then either happy or sad ending.  The end.  I would also say that not too much credit could be given to the story because this movie was said to be based on the actual investigations of Ed and Lorraine Warren.  That being the case, I couldn’t give this movie much more credit than I could give the Amityville Horror movies, which were also based on the Warren’s investigations, and I suspect followed a similar pattern.  Perhaps I’ll be able to use this template if I ever review those movies.  I also took issues with a few things in the story of the movie, although I suppose I also can’t take that much issue with it because it could have happened in real life for all I know.  The death of the dog early on, for instance.  Josh pointed out to me that dog made a huge error in judgment by deciding not to come into the house.  I know they were trying to indicate that the dog sensed something and was too afraid to enter the house, but the dog got killed outside anyway.  Lot of good that did you.  At some point in the movie, someone also remarks that the spirit hasn’t done anything violent.  Really?  You obviously mean it hasn’t done anything violent EXCEPT for attacking Andrea and pushing the mom down the stairs.  Besides that, it’s completely tame.  But the biggest error in judgment is that they leave the kids alone with the mother just moments after announcing that she’s possessed.  I don’t even have a joke about that!  It’s just dumb!

Though I was underwhelmed by the story of the movie, I would still give the movie credit for being pretty effective in its delivery.  It built suspense very well and did pretty well with the startling moments.  It was pretty suspenseful on the two occasions that the parents investigated the cellar with only a box of matches, but it made me curious because I was pretty sure they had invented flashlights by the 1970s.  When they later actually used flashlights, it confirmed my suspicions that it was dumb for them to not decide to use one.  Later in the movie, it was pretty damned startling when the sheet blew off and stopped on a ghostly figure.  It reminded me of the scene in one of the Paranormal Activity movies when dust fell on a ghostly figure.  There wasn’t much gore in this movie (which I appreciate), but when they used it, they used it well.  When they had the birds flying into things and breaking their necks, they were really convincing.  I guess the most gore they got was around the climax of the movie, but they never went overboard.  They also used the sound pretty effectively.  There was a point in the movie where the bass was so low that it shook my seat like I don’t ever recall happening in a movie before.  Maybe the theater is more to blame for that though.

I felt like the performances were pretty effective in this movie.  I feel like I haven’t seen Ron Livingston since Office Space, so I was happy to see him here.  He didn’t really do anything to blow my mind in this movie, but he was good.  Lili Taylor did pretty well.  She was kind of a non-entity when she was just normal as the mother, but when she was inhabited by another entity, she did a complete turn.  Excellent performance.  Of course, her performance as a mother left a little something to be desired, and not just because she tried to kill the children at one point.  I also mean the fact that she not only let the kids play a game of blindfolded hide and seek in a house with stairs, but she also participated.  I didn’t think much of anything of any of the children in the family.  The only thing I kept thinking was why there were so gundamned many of them, and why were they all girls?  I suppose it’s a real thing that could happen, but it also should’ve been a reason not to move to the country.  I mean, if all of those chicks in the household get their periods all synced up then demons will be the least of their worries when their house is surrounded by bears.  Also, there were so many girls that I couldn’t really tell them apart.  None of them really did much to stand out except the youngest one that liked talking to a music box.  Beyond those people, the only thought I had was about Shannon Kook, but only because it was so stereotypical that the Asian dude would always be so ready with a camera.

The Conjuring didn’t really do much for me by way of story, but I don’t think anyone really cares that much about the story of a horror movie.  It’s really more about how effectively the movie can creep you out, build your anxiety, and make you jump in your seat.  This movie did that pretty well.  And the performances were all pretty good as well.  I would still say that it leaves me a bit on the fence when it comes to a recommendation.  It’s definitely not a bad movie, but it didn’t feel like it was good enough for me to say you need to go see it in a theater right away.  You could wait to rent it.  I guess I would say you should get to the theater if you have a hankering for a scary movie, because you probably won’t have a better opportunity until around October.  The Conjuring gets “The devil exists.  God exists.  And for us, as people, our very destiny hinges on which we decide to follow” out of “There is something horrible happening in my house.”

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Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)


Jim, There is a Historic Opportunity Here

Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)The time has finally come for me to complete the original series of Star Trek movies.  It’s been a fairly decent run thus far.  Though I’ve really only found two of the movies to be fairly disappointing, I still don’t think I’ve seen one of these movies capable of making me understand how a Trekkie could possibly consider this series to be superior to Star Wars.  Even the best ones I’ve seen so far pale in comparison to the best Star Wars movies, in my opinion.  But they still have one movie left, and that movie is Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, written by Nicholas Meyer and Denny Martin Flinn, directed by Nicholas Meyer, and starring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Kim Cattrall, Christopher Plummer, DeForest Kelley, George Takei, James Doohan, Walter Koenig, Nichelle Nichols, David Warner, Rosanna DeSoto, Iman, Brock Peters, and Michael Dorn.

One of the Klingon moons explodes, throwing the Klingon Empire into turmoil and causing them to call the United Federation of Planets and suggest that they enter into some peace negotiations.  Spock (Leonard Nimoy) recommends Captain James T. Kirk (William Shatner) to escort the Klingon Chancellor, Gorkon (David Warner), to the negotiations.  Kirk resents the assignment, still harboring a lot of resentment for the Klingons because they killed his son.  After a tense meal with the Klingon’s on board the Enterprise, the Enterprise appears to inexplicably fire upon the Klingon ship and, while the gravity is down, two Enterprise crew members beam on board and kill most of the Klingons, including Gorkon.  The Enterprise is blamed and Kirk, along with Doctor Leonard McCoy (DeForest Kelley), is sentenced to life imprisonment on a mining planet.  Kirk and McCoy have to try to survive imprisonment while Spock and the Enterprise crew try to find out what happened to clear their names.

I wasn’t really feeling this movie, but I suppose I’d relent as far as to say that it was an acceptable sendoff for the original Enterprise crew.  It just felt so uneventful.  I guess there were technically a lot of things happening, what with the peace negotiations, the framing of Kirk, the attempted assassination, etc., but I’m also not that interested in watching interstellar politics.  I found it mostly boring and did not inspire me to give it too much attention.  I think one of the things that kept annoying me is that they wouldn’t stop quoting Shakespeare.  That stuff barely keeps me interested when it’s an actual Shakespeare play!  And they just do it way too much.  I get it, you all like Shakespeare, and we’ve all cumulatively agreed to not pay attention to how the Klingon’s would get that interested in Shakespeare, but you can knock it off already.  And then, when they got bored of that, they started quoting Peter Pan, which is basically the same thing, I guess.  And when they end their movie with Kirk telling them to fly toward the “second star to the right and straight on till morning” made me think that it was their intention to have Star Trek VII take place in Neverland.  They’ve done more ridiculous things in the TV show.  But, best I could tell, I had not misplaced another movie, so they may not have made that movie.  Some of the non-classical quotes were also irritating.  The biggest one for me was when Spock decided that whoever they were looking for (the two killers) were still on board the Enterprise.  Yeah, they would logically still be on board the Enterprise … IF they didn’t teleport off already, as they’ve proven themselves able to do.  I also got annoyed at the end when they said they wanted to decommission the Enterprise again at the end of the movie.  Why does Starfleet have such a hard-on for getting rid of their most effective vessel?!  This is the second time they’ve tried that in these movies.  And after they said they wanted to decommission it, it got destroyed, and then they STILL rebuilt it!  Make up your mind!

This was the best looking Star Trek movie that I’ve seen until the J.J. Abrams joints.  It looked really good.  It started off really well too with that giant energy wave thing that looked great, even though it was very, very pink.  I guess I didn’t like it because I didn’t really see the point of it.  I understand that the Klingons needed some reason to talk peace with the Federation, but they didn’t really need something so elaborate.  The action was decent enough when it happened, but I got to thinking that the shields are nowhere near as effective as they should’ve been.  They announce that the shields are in the process of weakening, but then they show the hull and there’s physical damage on it.  So the shields when only slightly depreciated are only really good enough to keep out 10% of incoming damage?  And after that, I thought that it was cute that the movie ended with the signatures of the main crew before the credits began.  It’s a nice little finishing touch.

The cast still brings it to the best of their ability, but the bulk of them are showing their age at this point.  I guess I can’t really blame them for that.  Not everyone can age as gracefully as I have.  I did feel like it didn’t really fit the character of Kirk to have him mutter some insult about one of the Klingon’s resembling Hitler under his breath without having the balls to repeat it when he was called on it.  I also thought it was a little over the top for DeForest Kelley to jump up on the Klingon and straddle him as he pounded on his chest to revive him.  I don’t know if I could call it cliché since I don’t know if this movie was one of the first to do it or not, so I’ll just say it was a little much.  I also thought Iman was good in the role of Martia, but mostly because she was hot.  It was a little strange that she still talked in her own voice in all the different forms she took until she took the form of Kirk, but I didn’t care that much.  Then I got really confused because Michael Dorn plays Colonel Worf in this movie, the Klingon that defends Kirk and McCoy at the trial.  This didn’t seem to make any sense chronologically for me since the same actor plays a Klingon with the same name hundreds of years later in The Next Generation, but they had already finished airing The Next Generation by the time this movie came out.  I guess they just never had the opportunity to explain it.  Had they mentioned it in this movie, it would’ve been predicting the future.  And TNG was already done, so they couldn’t mention it there.  Maybe just not worth the trouble.

Though I found myself somewhat bored with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, I felt as if it was an acceptable way to send off the series.  The story was a little boring and based mostly around interstellar politics, but the action and the performances were all good, and the story did succeed at what it wanted to do by closing out the original series with a nice little bow.  I wouldn’t recommend this movie on its own, but I would recommend the whole set of the original series movies.  They’re more good than bad, and overall worth watching.  Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country gets “Once more unto the breach, dear friends” out of “Let them die!”

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