London Has Fallen

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2016

Millennium Films/Focus Features/Gramercy Pictures

Directed by Babak Najafi

Produced by Gerard Butler/Mark Gill/Matt O’Toole/Alan Siegel

Screenplay by Christian Gudegast/Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt/Chad St. John

Story by Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt

Based on characters created by Creighton Rothenberger/Katrin Benedikt

We’re all busy people here so I’m going to cut right to the chase: there is absolutely no reason for you to see LONDON HAS FALLEN.

Let me explain: it’s not that it’s a bad movie. In fact, much like its predecessor;  2013’s“Olympus Has Fallen” it’s a satisfying throwback to 1980s Action Movies. It’s a B-movie with A-list talent and budget. Both “Olympus Has Fallen” and the other White House invasion movie of 2013, “White House Down” turned out to be better “Die Hard” movies than the actual “Die Hard” movie that also came out that same year; “A Good Day To Die Hard.” In addition, LONDON HAS FALLEN manages to also pull off the job of being a pretty good “Die Hard” knock-off. This is why I’m telling you that there’s no reason for you to see it. You’re not going to see a movie that’s wildly innovative in plot, character, visual style or storytelling. LONDON HAS FALLEN does not in any way, shape or form re-invent The Action Movie. It is the filmic equivalent of a Big Mac with a large Coke and fries. Not that that has to be a bad thing. Sometimes all you want is a Big Mac with a large Coke and fries.

But if you did indeed see “Olympus Has Fallen” and enjoyed it as I did then you’ll probably want to check out LONDON HAS FALLEN. And you’ll probably have a good time watching it as I did. I went in with full knowledge of what I was getting and I was satisfied with that.

Top Secret Service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are getting ready for the birth of their first child. Mike is seriously contemplating resigning from The Secret Service to devote his time to his family. That decision is put off by the sudden death of the British Prime Minister. The President, along with about fifty other prominent world leaders all travel to London for the state funeral. Mike naturally goes along, with Secret Service Director Lynne Jacobs (Angela Bassett) as well.

Turns out that the entire funeral is a massive death trap. Armies of mercenaries attack the world leaders and their protective details as well as bombing various London landmarks such as Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and Buckingham Palace. The terrorists hack into London’s computer and power network, effectively shutting the city down. London is cast down into utter chaos as civilians are massacred in the streets and the terrorists run riot. It’s up to Mike Banning to get the President (Aaron Eckhart) to safety before the terrorists capture him as they intend to kill the President online while the world watches.

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Sounds like a pretty exciting set-up, don’t it? And it is. The special effects guys have a field day going nuts destroying London’s most beloved landmarks. They do their job of convincing us that London really is being blown to smithereens. Back in Washington D.C. Vice President Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) Joint Chiefs Chairman Clegg (Robert Forster) Secretary of Defense McMillan (Melissa Leo) and White House Chief of Staff Mason (Jackie Earle Haley) watch the carnage on jumbo sized 4K monitors and spend most of the the movie wringing their hands in agony and muttering “son of a bitch!” every two minutes. Seriously. They take turns saying it. Except for Melissa Leo, who I honestly believe didn’t have a single line in the movie. She has some terrific reaction shots, though.

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Back in London, Mike makes contact with an old buddy of his, MI6 agent Jacqueline “Jax” Marshall (Charlotte Riley) who hides him and The President in a safehouse until a Delta Team can extract them. However, when a group of terrorists show up, Mike realizes that the danger to The President’s safety and London is even greater than anyone thought as there has to be a mole inside the British government working with the terrorists.

While I’m glad to see Gerard Butler once again back in Action Hero mode, I can’t help but wish that he hadn’t wasted all those years making braindead romantic comedies. He’s equally as good with the obligatory wisecrack after breaking someone’s neck as he is in the quieter scenes he has with Eckhart, Mitchell and Bassett before the mayhem starts. Aaron Eckhart, Angela Bassett, Morgan Freeman, Jackie Earle Haley, Robert Forster and Melissa Leo are all way too good actors for this material but they’re game to play along and they do. And when you have actors of this quality in a Action Movie they can’t help but give the story an added depth. They’re just hardwired that way.

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The movie is directed competently and effectively by a director I’m not familiar with by the name of Babak Najafi and he really doesn’t go out of his way to put a visual stamp all his own on this movie but he does do something I’ve never seen before in an action movie and it’s really quite remarkable. Remember the long tracking shot in “Goodfellas” where Henry Hill takes his girlfriend through the Copacabana? It lasts about three or four minutes, right? Well, Najafi does something similar here in a scene where Banning and the Delta Team are trying to rescue The President from the terrorist stronghold. It’s a vicious, savage firefight done in one long tracking shot that has to last at least two or three minutes and it’s a really badass piece of work.

So should you see LONDON HAS FALLEN? Didn’t I answer that question at the beginning of this review? Go back and read it again.

Rated R

99 Minutes

 

Lucy

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2014

Universal Pictures

Written and Directed by Luc Besson

Produced by Virginie Silla

I know quite a few people who have said that they’re not going to go see LUCY because it’s “scientifically inaccurate.” You see, the plot of the movie hinges upon the long held belief that human beings only use 10% of their brain capacity and that if we ever gained conscious control of our entire brain then the results would be unimaginable. It could be that we would possess godlike abilities such as telekinesis, telepathy, matter reconstruction, time travel, levitation. The 10% thing has long been debunked as myth and I can’t understand why just because LUCY uses it as a MacGuffin that would keep anyone from seeing it. After all, it’s scientifically inaccurate that a high school student can get bitten by a radioactive spider and suddenly gain the ability to climb walls but that didn’t stop people from enjoying Spider-Man movies. It’s scientifically inaccurate that there are hundreds of alien races so close to humanity that they can breathe our atmosphere, mate with us and in general are configured much like humans but that didn’t stop people from enjoying the various Star Trek movies and television series.

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Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is going to school in Taiwan and after a night of wild partying with her new boyfriend of a week is tricked by him into delivering a locked briefcase to Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik) a Korean crimelord. The briefcase contains a package of CPH4, a synthetic superdrug that increases brain function. Lucy is drafted into being a drug mule and the package is sewed into her abdomen. There are three other mules, all with identical packages inside their abdomens, heading for different European cities where they will be met by Mr. Jang’s people and the packages removed.

But due to a vicious assault, Lucy’s package leaks and releases CPH4 into her system. It begins expanding her brain functions and she finds herself with greatly enhanced physical capabilities and mental abilities such as telekinesis, telepathy and total control over electronic devices. Due to her now hypergenius status, Lucy realizes she needs the other three packages to continue to expand her capabilities and elevate herself to the next stage of human evolution.

She contacts Professor Samuel Norman (Morgan Freeman) whose research into higher brain functions may be able to help her. And she enlists the aid of a French policeman, Captain Del Rio (Amr Waked) to find and capture the other mules. In the meantime, Mr. Jang is not far behind as he still wants his merchandise and Lucy’s head as well. And he’s bringing an army to get both.

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Now despite what you may have seen in the trailers, LUCY isn’t as much of an action film as you might think. Oh, sure there are gun fights and car chases but this isn’t start-to-finish-punch-punchy-run-run-kiss-kiss-bang-bang which you certainly have a right to expect from Luc Besson. LUCY actually spends quite a bit of its short running time speculating on neuroscience, biology, evolution, philosophy and metaphysics as Lucy struggles to understand what is happening to her and what she will do with her new found knowledge before she ascends to another level of existence.

It’s a lot of fun watching Scarlett Johansson turn from a giddy party girl into Dr. Manhattan from “Watchmen” with a splash of V’ger from “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” added for flavor. As her intelligence and her powers increase, she loses more and more of her emotions but Scarlett Johansson still makes us care for this poor girl who certainly didn’t ask for this to happen to her but desperately wants to do the right thing before she becomes too omnipotent to care.

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Morgan Freeman quite frankly made me crack up because I have never before seen an actor who plainly knows that his one and only function in the movie is to provide plot exposition do it which such gusto. For most of the movie, Freeman is explaining to us what’s happening and what’s going happen and damn if he doesn’t do it in an entertaining manner.

LUCY is a movie that thankfully doesn’t take itself seriously and if you go into it with that attitude that it should be Serious Science Fiction then you’ll be robbing yourself of a solidly made, entertaining thriller than is full of enthusiasm and fun. Luc Besson has yet to make a movie that disappoints me and LUCY is no exception.

Rated R

90 minutes

The LEGO Movie

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2014

Warner Animation Group/Village Roadshow Pictures

Directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Produced by Dan Lin and Roy Lee

Screenplay by Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Story by Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, Phil Lord and Chris Miller

Based on Lego Construction Toys

The only people I can see having a problem with THE LEGO MOVIE are the same Batman fans who had a problem with the animated TV series “The Brave and The Bold.” Like THE LEGO MOVIE, “The Brave and The Bold” wasn’t afraid to poke fun at Batman and lighten up the character. Plenty of Batman fans absolutely detested “The Brave and The Bold” as they thought it was outright blasphemy that any trace of humor or comedy should or could be associated with Batman. Those are the ones who need to stay away from this movie, then. Me, I got a kick out of a Lego Batman who flies around in a Lego Batplane with his girlfriend composing heavy metal songs about how cool it is to be Lego Batman.

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Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) is a construction worker living in Bricksburg, a Lego city that apparently is one huge construction project. He cheerfully follows the instructions for his daily routine as laid out in his instruction manual and goes to work singing the only song that exists in this world; “Everything Is Awesome!” I song I guarantee you will absolutely not be able to get out of your head once you’ve heard it.

One day at work Emmet finds a mysterious red brick that seems to speak to him and gives him visions. He passes out and upon awakening finds the brick attached to his back and himself in the custody of Bad Cop/Good Cop (Liam Neeson)  the chief henchman of Lord Business. (Will Ferrell) Lord Business has possession of The Kragle, a superweapon that he intends to use to freeze the various realms of The Lego Universe in place forever. The only thing that stands in his way is a prophecy that was spoken to him eight and a half years ago by the wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman) that a person called The Special would use The Piece of Resistance to stop The Kragle.

Emmet is rescued by Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) from the clutches of Bad Cop/Good Cop and takes him to Vitruvius who explains that there are Master Builders fighting against Lord Business, so named because they are capable of building anything they need out of Legos without need of an instruction manual, simply using their own creativity. Other Master Builders are Lego versions of characters we’re familiar with such as Batman (Will Arnett) Superman (Channing Tatum) Green Lantern (Jonah Hill) Wonder Woman (Cobie Smulders) Shaquille O’Neal (Shaquille O’Neal) Abraham Lincoln (Will Forte) William Shakespeare. (Jorma Taccone) And a few other characters we’re meeting for the first time such as Metal Beard the Pirate (Nick Offerman) Benny The Space Guy (Charlie Day) and Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie) a unicorn/anime kitten hybrid whose unrelenting optimism and upbeat cheerfulness borders on the frightening.

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Can Emmet overcome his lack of creativity and come up with a plan to unite The Master Builders into a team and defeat Lord Business? What is The Piece of Resistance and how exactly is it supposed to be used to stop The Kragle? And what is the secret of The Man Upstairs?

Finding out the answers to these questions is a delight for the audience to find out as the characters do and you’ll have a good time doing so. A movie like this walks a fine line in entertaining kids while keeping adults engaged and the adults at the showing of THE LEGO MOVIE Patricia and I attended sounded like they were having just as much fun as their kids. I know we were.

The more cynical among you would say that THE LEGO MOVIE is simply a 100 minute commercial to sell toys and you’d be wrong. The filmmakers have actually taken their time to tell a real story about creative freedom. Lord Business wants to lock everything into a set form, following a rigid set of rules and instructions while The Master Builders want everybody to be free to explore whatever it is they can dream up and create. But it doesn’t beat you over the head with that message and never forgets it’s supposed to be entertaining and funny as well. Chris Pratt is utterly charming as Emmet. Between this and “Guardians of The Galaxy” 2014 was a good year for him. Will Arnett walks off with the voice acting honors in this one as his Batman is so wickedly pompous. And Jonah Hill is right behind with his Green Lantern who so desperately wants to be Superman’s best bud and is constantly rebuffed by the Lego Man of Steel.

But it’s not really fair to single out one or two because everybody gets a chance to shine with their characters and get their funny lines or scenes as the rollercoaster plot takes us through various Lego worlds and to the final confrontation with Lord Business that definitely did not end the way I thought it would.

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So should you see THE LEGO MOVIE? By all means. It’s got terrifically colorful animation and and an outstanding voice cast. The story is simple enough for kids to grasp but witty enough that it doesn’t insult the intelligence of adults. This is the best kind of movie. One that does not want to do anything but entertain, make you feel good and send you home with a smile on your face.

Rated PG

100 minutes

Last Vegas

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2013

Good Universe/CBS Films

Directed by Jon Turteltaub

Produced by Laurence Mark and Nathan Kahane

Written by Dan Fogelman

If you saw the trailer for LAST VEGAS you probably thought like me: that it would be a raunchy, senior citizen version of “The Hangover.” I imagined that Michael Douglas, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman and Kevin Kline got together after seeing the “Hangover” movies and said; “Let’s show these guys how it’s really done.” And you’d be forgiven for thinking that way because that’s precisely how the trailers sold the movie. Nothing could be further from the truth. LAST VEGAS is two things: a Lifetime movie made for men and a 105 minute commercial for Las Vegas.

Michael Douglas is Billy who decides at a funeral for a friend that he wants to get married and proposes to his girlfriend. He contacts his three best friends: Paddy (Robert DeNiro) Archie (Morgan Freeman) and Sam (Kevin Kline) who decide to throw him the best bachelor party ever in Las Vegas. They also think they can talk him out of marrying a girl young enough enough to be his granddaughter.

The situation is complicated by a couple of things: Paddy is still mourning for his wife who passed away a year ago. And he’s still pissed off at Billy for not coming to her funeral. Archie has to break out of his own house as his overprotective son won’t let him do anything since Archie had a minor stroke. Sam is bored to death living in a retirement community and sees the trip to Vegas as a way of getting back his zest for life.

This aging wolfpack heads to Las Vegas where they quickly become friends with lounge singer Diana (Mary Steenburgen) and she joins the guys on their last big adventure while becoming attracted to both Billy and Paddy and the two of them find themselves really becoming attracted to her.

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Trust me on this, I’m making LAST VEGAS sound a lot more than it really is. Considering the star power in this movie I expected a really outrageous comedy but what we get is a predictable, flat product. I’ve watched episodes of “Everybody Loves Raymond” that were raunchier than this movie. Which is really disappointing. I’ve seen these guys cut loose and get crazy in other movies and I was hoping to see that here. Nope. This is a movie made for senior citizens who don’t like to see violence, sex, drug use or a lotta cussin’ in their movies. It’s as bland as white bread with butter. And not that that’s a bad thing. I’m glad to see that Hollywood is acknowledging that there’s an audience out there who isn’t interested in seeing superhero movies, CGI blockbusters and hyper-violent action thrillers and are making movies for them so that they can get out and enjoy an afternoon or evening at the movies like everybody else. It’s a good thing.

To give them credit, Kevin Kline, Robert DeNiro, Morgan Freeman, Michael Douglas and Mary Steenburgen all look like they’re having fun working together. I only wish that Joanna Gleason had more to do here as she’s a very talented actress and what she has here is little more than an extended cameo as Kevin Kline’s wife.

The guys spend the movie flirting with young cuties, showing the kids how to get down and party, drinking, playing blackjack, teaching life lessons to a bully (Jerry Ferrara) judging a wet bikini contest and just hanging out in Vegas, making it look like a really hip and fun place to be. Like I said earlier, it’s a commercial for Las Vegas and on that level, it’s a pretty good one.

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Of course by the end of the movie, the guys have all resolved their personal problems, Paddy and Billy have kissed and made up and Diana ends up with one of them. There’s not a single surprise in the movie and it’s so structured by the numbers that you can safely predict what is going to happen and when. That’s not to say it isn’t amusing or cute. It is fun seeing DeNiro, Freeman, Douglas and Kline working together and they do their jobs. They’re just not stretching themselves. They’re basically doing riffs on their patented screen personas and they do it well. It’s an entertaining time-waster with some old pros just having fun.

105 minutes

Rated: PG-13

Now You See Me

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2013

K/O Paper Products/Summit Entertainment

Directed by Louis Letettier

Produced by Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman & Bobby Cohen

Screenplay by Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin

Writing a review of a movie like NOW YOU SEE ME is a tricky proposition. It’s a movie about magic and illusion and like a well done illusion, it spoils the trick when you know how it’s done. NOW YOU SEE ME is put together like an illusion and the best way to see it is by knowing as little about it as possible. But let me take a whack at it. *Derrick cracks his knuckles*

Daniel Atlas (Jess Eisenberg) is a David Blaine type of street magician, preferring performing his illusions as close to his public as he can. Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is a master escape artist. Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is also a street level magician but he’s more of a hustler/con man than Daniel. Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is a mentalist/hypnotist. They’re all contacted by an unknown benefactor who turns them into team of performers called The Four Horsemen. Sponsored by billionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) within a year they become the toast of Las Vegas, known for spectacularly mind-boggling illusions. And then they pull off a real trick: during a performance in Vegas and with the assistance of an audience memeber they rob a bank in Paris, apparently by using actual teleportation and then give the money to the audience.

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FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Vargas (Melanie Laurent) are assigned to investigate the case. The Four Horsemen can’t be arrested for the crime because there is no way that the theft could have been accomplished except by using real, actual magic. And the FBI is not about to cop to that. Enter ex-magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) who now makes a lucrative living revealing how illusions are performed. It’s a job that doesn’t make Bradley very popular with magicians but he doesn’t care. He agrees to help Rhodes figure out how The Four Horsemen pulled off the robbery and the ones that they’re going to do next as Bradley is convinced they aren’t finished.

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He’s right, of course. But is he right about there being an unseen, unknown Fifth Horseman working behind the scenes, pulling all their strings? And are The Four Horsemen just very skilled, very creative illusionists or are they performing real magic? And why steal all that money just to give it away? Are these heists just parts of a larger, grander illusion The Four Horsemen are planning or are they elaborate initiations into a secret society of magicians known as “The Eye” that The Four Horsemen seek to join?

That’s a lot of questions and the whole fun of NOW YOU SEE ME is watching as they’re answered one by one. Here’s the attitude you should adopt when you pay your ticket and sit in your seat to watch the movie: don’t even try to figure it out as it’s happening. It’s like watching David Copperfield at work. It’s best to just sit back and enjoy as the illusion is performed. Try to figure it out after it’s over but don’t burn up your brain cells trying to pull apart how it’s done while it’s being done. You won’t figure it out. Trust me.

There’s a lot of star power at work here and they’re all fun to watch. Watching Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine go at it toe to toe is nothing short of wonderful and I loved all their scenes together. By now Jesse Eisenberg can play a hyper-arrogant snotty intellectual in his sleep but that doesn’t mean I don’t like to see him do it again. Isla Fisher doesn’t have a lot to do but look good but she does it awfully well. Dave Franco gets to shine in an amazing fight scene with Mark Ruffalo. Woody Harrelson sorta surprised me as he’s really laid back in this movie. He works as part of an ensemble and stays there. Mark Ruffalo is an actor who’s a lot better than he gets credit for and he once again demonstrates it in this movie. Michael J. Kelly and Common also appear in small but pivotal roles and Elias Koteas has a brief and unaccredited cameo. Keep your eye out for him as he shows up in the last place you’d think to look for him. Everybody is on their ‘A’ game in this movie and the only thing I can say is lacking is the characterization. It’s awfully short on that but long on plot. But the energy of the direction by Louis Leterrier who also directed two of the “Transporter” movies, “The Incredible Hulk” and “Clash of The Titans” more than makes up for the skimpy characterization.

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But the bottom line is that NOW YOU SEE ME is all about the unexpected. It’s a heist/caper movie, which I love and it takes place in the world of magicians and illusions which fascinates me to no end because it’s all about misdirection and deception. And making you think you’re seeing one thing while something else entirely is happening. And that’s exactly what going on in this movie. I had an awful lot of fun watching NOW YOU SEE ME. It’s an entertaining, professionally made summer movie. Enjoy with my blessing.

115 minutes

PG-13

Oblivion

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2013

Universal Pictures

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

Produced by David Fincher, Peter Chernin and Ryan Kavanaugh

Screenplay by William Monahan, Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt

Based on “Oblivion” by Joseph Kosinski and Arvid Nelson

I get what OBLIVION is trying to do. Or at least I think I get what it’s trying to do. Watching OBLIVION I felt myself squinting like Fry from “Futurama” in one of those “Not Sure If…” memes. OBLIVION makes a noble try at being a Science Fiction movie with some action in it rather than an Action Movie with some science fiction. If that makes any sense to you. It started out to make sense to me but the longer the movie went on, the more I squinted. The movie’s leisurely pace gave me time to think about what was going on and yep, start doing the “Not Sure If…” thing.

After a devastating war with a race of aliens known as Scavengers, The Moon is destroyed and humanity’s Hail Mary use of nuclear weapons has all but destroyed the Earth’s ability to continue supporting life. Technician Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) and his communications officer/partner/lover Victoria (Andrea Riseborough) are part of a massive operation to extract water from Earth to use on Titan where the human race has relocated. Jack and Victoria get their orders from their commander, Sally (Melissa Leo) who communicates with them from The Tet, a gigantic space station that resembles an upside down pyramid.

Now all of this information is conveyed to the audience in a voice over by Jack in the first ten minutes of the movie. I kid you not. I gave you the short version but just about everything you read in the paragraph above this one is relayed in a voice over, along with the information that Jack and Victoria had their memories wiped five years ago as a security measure in case they’re captured by Scavengers. Do I really have to tell you that any character in any science fiction movie who’s had their memory wiped is not to be trusted? Or that at some point in the movie, everything the characters in the movie have been experiencing will turn out to not be real? Didn’t think so.

Jack’s job is pretty much being a glorified maintenance man as he keeps the weapon-laden drones running. They protect the ginormous water extraction machines from those Scavengers that still remain on Earth. But Jack is conflicted in his job. Unlike Victoria who has no desire at all to go down to the surface, Jack feels more at home there than in the mile high tower complex they live in that looks as if it were designed by the same architect who designed the spire where The Jetsons live. He has reoccurring dreams about being on Earth before the war. He’s on the 86th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building with a woman he knows he has deep feelings for but cannot remember her name or why he has these dreams. The answer comes one day during his routine patrol when a sixty year old spaceship,  The Odyssey, crash lands near the ruins of the Empire State Building. The ship contains a number of hibernation capsules carrying humans. One of them is Julia (Olga Kurylenko) who is the woman in Jack’s dreams. Defying direct orders from Sally to bring Julia to The Tet, Jack and Julia begin their quest to discover what The Odyssey’s mission was and how it is connected to the war with The Scavengers.

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OBLIVION has some good things going for it. It’s a gorgeous looking movie with some really cool gadgets and gizmos to ‘ooh’ and ‘ahh’ over. I really dug Jack’s flier which is one of the coolest flying machines I’ve seen in movies recently. The special effects are appropriately amazing but in this day and age of computer wizardry do we ever see a movie with bad special effects anymore?

I really wish I could tell you to go for the acting but Tom Cruise doesn’t do anything to stretch his acting muscles in this one. And Tom Cruise can act when he wants to. I point at “Tropic Thunder” “Magnolia” “Collateral” and “Valkyrie” as just a few examples of what Cruise can do when he takes himself off autopilot.

I’ve seen Olga Kurylenko in three movies now and the more movies I see her in, the less I want to see of her. Didn’t like her in “Hitman” and actively disliked her in “Quantum of Solace.” She’s not much better here. And Andrea Riseborough is just plain dull. And despite what you see in trailers, Morgan Freeman isn’t a major character in this movie. His character’s name is Malcolm Beech but it should have been Malcolm Exposition as that’s the main purpose Freeman serves here.

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So should you see OBLIVION? Are you a Tom Cruise fan? If so, you’ve probably seen it already or have plans to see it and so nothing I say will change your mind. And that’s okay. Believe me, I understand. But for the rest of you I say wait for OBLIVION to come to Netflix.

124 minutes

PG-13

Olympus Has Fallen

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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.

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Rated R

180 Minutes