Ashley Judd

Olympus Has Fallen

olympus_has_fallen2013

Millennium Films

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Produced by Gerard Butler, Alan Siegel and Mark Gill

Written by Creighton Rothenberger

Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is the agent of charge of the Secret Service’s Presidential Detail. And as such he enjoys an usually intimate relationship with The First Family. He calls President Asher (Aaron Eckhart) by his first name while they work out together at Camp David. He advises First Lady Margaret (Ashley Judd) on what earrings to wear at state functions. Their son Connor treats Mike as if he were his favorite uncle. That all comes to an end when there’s a horrifying car accident and Mike has to make a choice between saving The President or Margaret. Mike chooses President Asher.

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Mike is transferred to working in the Treasury Department as Asher doesn’t want Mike around to remind him of that night. Mike’s boss, Secret Service chief Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) tells Mike repeatedly that nobody blames him for what happened as he did his job of protecting The President. But it doesn’t make it easier for Mike who hates his desk duty, seeing it as a demotion.

Mike’s chance for redemption comes when The White House is attacked and captured by the brilliant terrorist mastermind Kang Yeonsak (Rick Yune) who takes President Asher and most of his top aides hostage. His goal is to use them as leverage to force U.S. military forces to withdraw from Korea’s DMZ. Kang also is after the access codes for Cerberus, a computer system that will allow him to detonate all of America’s nuclear missiles in their silos, turning America into a nuclear wasteland.

During the ferocious assault, Mike joins the Secret Service agents defending The White House and manages to get inside. By the time military backup arrives, the terrorists have slaughtered all the Secret Service agents and secured The White House. It’s up to Mike Banning to go full-blown John McClane to save the day single-handedly. Can he rescue Conner Asher before Kang’s men find him? Can he save President Asher? Can he deactivate Cerberus before the countdown hits zero and the United States goes ka-boom?

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If you have to ask, then you must not be familiar with action movies of the 1980’s which is what OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is an unashamed throwback to. In fact, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is so committed to its 80’s Action Movie roots that for me it’s a better “Die Hard” sequel than “A Good Day To Die Hard.” The story is totally preposterous of course, but then again, what action movie doesn’t have a preposterous premise to begin with? And the movie has more than its share of plot holes such as; why does Kang waste time executing hostages to force Speaker of The House/Acting President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) to order U.S. troops to withdraw from Korea when he could have simply used the threat of Cerberus to do so? Why does Asher wait until his Vice President (Phil Austin) and Secretary of Defense (Melissa Leo) are beaten damn near to death before ordering them to give up their codes while he gives his up without putting up any kind of resistance?

But OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN, despite the plot holes is a pretty solid action thriller. And I liked how it didn’t go down the usual route of this genre of movie. Thankfully, Mike doesn’t turn into a burned-out, alcoholic mess who screws up his marriage after his demotion. He’s actually a pretty well-adjusted guy with a solid marriage. He just needs to spend a little more time with his wife (Radha Mitchell in a really boring and uninspired performance) and get from behind that desk.  I figured that the only purpose of the President having a son was so that at a crucial point he’d be taken hostage and we’d get yet another tired scene of the bad guy holding the gun to the brat’s head and telling our hero to drop his gun. That doesn’t happen here and I was so glad for that.

The casting of this movie is really first rate, full of A-list actors who I was quite surprised to see in what is essentially a big budget B-Action Movie. Besides Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Rick Yune and Morgan Freeman we’ve got Dylan McDermott as Dave Forbes, ex-Secret Service agent and best friend to Mike, Robert Forster as the Army Chief of Staff and Cole Hauser. That’s one impressive line-up of talent for any movie and they all do their usual professional work here. I can’t really single out any performance that I didn’t like. Except for Radha Mitchell and I’m willing to chalk that up to her character really being underwritten and never really getting a chance to do much.

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And I really enjoyed seeing Gerard Butler back doing what he should be doing: making kick-ass action movies. Hopefully this won’t be his last one and he’ll stay away from making crappy romantic comedies. And I can’t close out this review without a special nod to Melissa Leo whose character takes one of the most excruciating ass-whoopin’s I’ve ever seen in a movie.

So should you see OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN? If you’re an action movie fan, yeah. The spectacularly gory violence and sheer level of destruction in this movie is gleeful and plentiful. This movie has got one of the highest body counts I’ve seen in recent movies and the CGI guys were apparently given full leave to go nuts, which they do. There’s nothing in OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN that will really surprise you as the director, Antoine Fuqua is not out to reinvent the Action Movie genre here. He has produced a solid piece of entertainment designed to do nothing more than put asses in seats, sell popcorn and provide two hours of carnage. If that’s all you’re looking for, OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN is your huckleberry.

Olympus-Has-Fallen

Rated R

180 Minutes

De-Lovely

2004

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

Produced and Directed by Irwin Winkler

Written by Jay Cocks

DE-LOVELY is a good example of the way musicals are made nowadays.  Audiences have to have a ‘reason’ for why the people in the movie suddenly break out in song and dance.  I myself have spoken with many people who hate musicals because as they put it: “Why are the people singing?  Where’s the music coming from?”  Well, where does the music come from in a comedy or an action movie?  It’s not real, people.  None of it.  It’s the movies.  Musicals is a genre where you take it on faith that they’re set in an alternate universe where people express their feelings by singing and dancing to music that comes out of thin air. Jezzly. Pay your money and check your sense reality at the door.

In DE-LOVELY, the conceit is that a man named Gabe (Jonathan Pryce) who may be a guardian angel is taking the old, crippled Cole Porter (Kevin Kline) on a trip back through his life before he dies.  Naturally, Cole’s life is shown to him and us as a stage musical.  Gabe occasionally goes up on stage to give direction to the various characters in Cole’s life, including his wife Linda (Ashley Judd)

The story here in DE-LOVELY is quite simple.  The movie mainly concerns itself with Cole Porter’s amazing music and his complicated relationship with Linda.  Cole Porter is bi-sexual.  Linda had an abusive first marriage that left her uninterested in sex.  She’s content to be the wife of the world famous songwriter and composer.  And it doesn’t hurt Cole’s career that she’s wealthy and socially connected.  As well as willing to ignore Cole’s relationships with other men and women.

The movie depicts the emotional love between him and Linda as real and genuine but physical love between them isn’t all that important.  They sleep in separate bedrooms, only occasionally coming together such as when Cole gets a sudden urge to be a father.  Linda seems to be satisfied with being Cole’s muse and helping direct his career.  It’s Linda who persuades Irving Berlin to come to Venice to offer Cole a job.  The Porters then move to New York where Cole Porter’s Broadway shows are huge smash hits.  It’s Linda who talks Cole into moving to Hollywood where he goes to work for MGM and Louis B. Mayer (Peter Polycarpou) But the move to Hollywood backfires on Linda when Cole gets pulled deeper into the gay subculture and they end up being blackmailed.

DE-LOVELY quickly settles into a routine:  there’s a musical number.  Then we get a scene where Cole and Linda discuss his affairs with women.  Then we get another musical number.  Then we get another scene where Cole and Linda discuss his affairs with men.  And then we get a musical number.  Then we get another…oh, never mind.  I think you get the point by now.

If there’s any reason for you to see the movie it has to be the musical numbers.  Cole Porter wrote some of the greatest songs ever.  “Anything Goes” is one my Ten All Time Favorite Songs and the gimmick in this movie that many contemporary artists appear in the movie in some really terrific numbers singing his songs.  Robbie Williams tears up “It’s De-Lovely” which is sung at the wedding of Cole and Linda.  Elvis Costello performs “Let’s Misbehave” and I really loved the hell out of Alanis Morrisette’s version of “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall In Love”

“Torchwood” fans will get a real charge out of John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) singing “Night And Day” and while I appreciated Caroline O’Conner’s version of “Anything Goes” where she appears to be channeling Ethel Merman it doesn’t match up to the lavish Kate Capshaw version in “Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom”  There’s also Sheryl Crow doing a really magical version of “Begin The Beguine”, Vivian Green tearing the raw emotion out of “Love For Sale” and many other wonderful performers including Natalie Cole.

I’ve never been impressed with Ashley Judd as an actress.  Remember back in the 90’s when she was doing suspense thrillers and it seemed like she was remaking the same movie every year?  But here she’s not bad.  She’s a contemporary actresses who looks like she could have been a 30’s/40’s actress and she wear the clothes of the period well.  She inhabits the world of the 30’s/40’s as though born to it.  It’s not an Academy Award performance at all but it is an interesting one.  She goes through some remarkable character development during the film and I appreciated what she was doing while she was doing it.

Kevin Kline is…well, he’s Kevin Kline.  The guy looks like he was born in a tuxedo and I’m convinced he had to have lived a previous life in the 1930’s.  He just looks so comfortable and classy inhabiting that world.  It’s an effortless performance that brought a smile to my face.  But Kevin Kline has that effect on me.  He’s just such a good actor I’d watch him in anything.  I’ve seen him in better movies than this but it’s hard for me to say anything bad about an actor who obviously has so much fun doing what he’s good at.  His huge “Be A Clown” number is in the best tradition of classic movie musical numbers.  And what is really interesting is this:  Even though he’s an excellent singer, Mr. Kline deliberately does not sing as well as he normally does since the real Cole Porter wasn’t that good of a singer.

So should you see DE-LOVELY?  It’s not a movie I say you absolutely have to see.  But it’s very interesting in that it’s less of an examination of the life of Cole Porter and more the story of a woman married to a man who prefers anonymous sex with strangers than with her.   But if you’re a fan of Kevin Kline or Cole Porter music it’s most definitely worth a viewing.  And as a further temptation there are those really great musical numbers.  It’s an okay movie if you’re in the mood for a musical.  Enjoy.

PG-13

123 Minutes