Olympus Has Fallen Review (Paolo Kagaoan)


Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Starring Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Dylan McDermott, Ashley Judd, Radha Mitchell, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo, Robert Forster, Morgan Freeman and Ricky Yune

Directed by Antoine Fuqua

Olympus Has Fallen is not just an action movie as much as it is one about a president, and because of that we, the audience, begin this experience with a score that seems derivative of a mid-90’s Sorkin movie. The rest of the movie has Antoine Fuqua’s muscular film-making but the score is one of many details that give away this feeling that he palpably does not have full control of it.

In Camp David, the virile US President Benjamin Asher (Eckhart) and his wife (Judd) prepare for an event that doubles as a Christmas celebration and a reelection push. Asher’s Secret Service handler Banning (Butler) reminds them how much time they have left, and the fictional FLOTUS asks Banning which earrings she should wear. She chooses a different pair, and because of this she has to die. Actually what happens is a bridge accident that forces Banning to choose to either save Asher or his wife.


Eighteen months later Banning gets demoted – doing the right thing means that he still reminds Asher of the tragedy. The latter tries to move on with his second term, going through the routines after the Fourth of July. He talks policy with a selected few, and we know that someone within his inner circle (Leo) is his Defense Secretary because of the inter-titles, one for every major character.

This adds a layer of plausibility to the movie, which it shall desperately need when one considers what happens next. A North Korean paramilitary troop, led by a man who has infiltrated the high levels of the South’s government, invades of the White House – Secret Service Code: Olympus – the first invasion of its kind since we did it in 1812. The troop has wiped away most of America’s defenses except for Banning, who wants to rescue Asher, the latter held hostage by the North Koreans in the White House bunker. The troop’s attractive leader Kang (Yune) has political and personal history driving him to this point. He takes Olympus so he can demand the removal of American vessels and weapons within the international waters near North Korean territory. Living after 9/11 I kept reminding myself that again, all of this is plausible, but the CGI work here is so blatant and unseamless that it makes the premise seem like an insult to video games.


What seems like the surface of a big budget action movie is really what could be the year’s best half-unintentional comedy. The movie earns big points for casting over-actors and putting them in the same bunker. Leo stretches out her words and suffering more than Shatner could, showing off as much of her imperfect skin as decently possible, reminding her audience that she won an Oscar. Eckhart, going through that frat-bro phase in his career that began with Battle LA, twitchily turns his head in all directions, constantly looking like he’s trying to pass stool. Bassett – who is outside the bunker as Banning’s friend and right hand woman to the Speaker and Acting President (Freeman) – punctuates every sentence with the word ‘dammit’ as she has done for the past few years. And McDermott’s lines and deliveries seem like we might as well be watching another episode of American Horror Story. Some of you might know that I like my actors. And they bring laughs but they are so ironically bad here that they deserve ironic applause, too. Their uproarious performances have a way of making us feel something special in what could have been a boring Gerard Butler shoot ’em up movie.


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Home Video Spotlight Mar 12-18: Disney Classics, Life of Pi, Hitchcock and more

Blu-Ray and DVD releases for the week of Mar 12 – 18

Here’s a rundown of this week’s highlighted releases with links to full reviews on all of them.

Disney Dual Pack Blu-rays

Disney released three dual pack Blu-rays for three of its animated films this week with Mulan 1 and 2, the Hunchback of Notre Dame 1 and 2 and Brother Bear 1 and 2. These are the first time these films have been released on Blu-ray as a dual pack with their direct to video sequels included.

Mulan Collection

Mulan 1 & 2

Disney’s classic tale of the Chinese fable that sees young Mulan secretly take her father’s place when he is conscripted to the Emperor’s army comes to Blu-ray with a beautiful looking transfer. Mulan 2 takes Mulan and her now fiance Shang on a secret mission from the Emperor himself delivering his princess daughters to arranged marriage designed to strengthen China.

Mulan is one of Disney’s classic tales from Disney’s very fertile mid 1990s which also produced another one of the packs released this week and other classics like The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. The film looks glorious on Blu-ray and makes some of the more special scenes pop even more. Mulan 2 is actually one of the better direct to video sequels, even without the return of Eddie Murphy, as the animation is still solid and the story, while goofy, still retains some fun. The Blu-Ray pack is a must buy.


Hunchback of Notre Dame Collection

Hunchback of Notre Dame 1 & 2

Disney’s interpretation of the classic Victor Hugo tale of the deformed orphan Quasimodo also comes from the 1990’s era of Disney animation but is usually criminally overlooked and features one of the more dastardly Disney villains in Quasimodo’s master Frollo. Hunchback 2 tries to bring in a love interest for Quasi in the form of circus girl Madeline and also introduces her scheming and thieving boss to the mix.

The original Hunchback is a very underrated achievement with some gorgeous animation and a loveable hero at its core. Often lost in the crowd of the titles mentioned earlier, Hunchback is a title that deserves a lot more credit and spotlight. Hunchback 2 however should be forgotten. The step down in animation is terrible, even our main character Quasimodo looks different between the two films, and its story is pretty lame. The Blu-ray pack is a recommend based on the strength of it first film alone.


Brother Bear Collection

Brother Bear 1 & 2

Brother Bear was released during the leaner years of Disney’s animation in the early 2000s when Pixar had really taken over. In fact the film about a young man being transformed into a bear to learn a lesson was bumped from the traditional Disney summer slot for Finding Nemo that year. Brother Bear 2 also tries to find our protagonist in a love story situation, this time even throwing the supporting characters in to situations of their own to boot.

Brother Bear is one of the lesser of the Disney animated films, and Pixar has since done a similar tale in Brave that has a much better story and moral attached to it. Brother Bear 2 unfortunately does not fare any better, having to replace the non-returning Joaquin Phoenix with Patrick Dempsey as the lead Kenai and working in non-credible ending, even for a film involving such mystical elements. The Blu-ray pack is a non-recommend.


Life of Pi Blu-ray

Life of Pi Blu-ray

The Oscar winning Life of Pi makes it Blu-ray debut with an impressive looking pack. The tale of PI, the sole human survivor of a shipwreck,  lost at sea with only the company of a 450lb Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker has been captivating audiences and readers ever since the book debut back in 2001. Many felt the book to be un-filmable until director Ang Lee came along and delivered his award winning adaptation this year.

The film looks amazing and Lee’s determination to make the scenes look like living pieces of art really comes through on the home screen. The performance from Irrfan Khan as the older Pi is brilliant; it’s the true heart of the film and totally engaging. The effects work here is some of the best put to film last year and why Lee won the best director Oscar become crystal clear when you realize just how well these elements come together and that it was all shot in front of a blue screen. Lee’s imagination is on full display and the audience is the benefactor. Life of Pi on Blu-ray is a must own.


Hitchcock Blu-ray

Hitchcock Blu-ray

Hitchcock also hits Blu-ray this week. The tale of the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and the relationship between Hitchcock and his wife Alma was met with a mixed reaction last year upon its release. Focusing more on a lighthearted treatment of the story than a hard hitting, 100% accurate biopic, the film is much more about the relationship between Hitchcock and his beleaguered spouse and features a strong turn from Helen Mirren in the role of Alma.

Hopkins does a decent turn as Hitchcock, not completely morphing in to the character but assuming the tone and essence of the man pretty robustly. The film does play better on the smaller screen that it did in the theater, but still has its issues and Hitchcock aficionados are likely to have strong feelings about the films outcome. The film itself looks excellent on Blu-ray and the disc is packed with special features galore. Hitchcock on Blu-ray is a recommend.


Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps DVD

The newest Gerard Butler rom/com Playing for Keeps is out this week on DVD and Blu-ray. The film about and former soccer star who has blown his relationship with his son and former flame trying to make amends features an all-star cast. Of course Butler’s George can’t simply sweep into town and save the day by coaching his son’s soccer team and has to contend with a group of lonely, aroused and attractive soccer mom’s determined to get a piece of George for themselves.

Playing for Keeps is sadly bland and unoriginal and quite frankly we’ve seen this before from Butler far too many times. The film is not terrible; it’s just very average. Jessica Biel and Judy Greer managed decent performances while the rest of the cast seems content to toe the line and phone it in. The DVD is also without any additional features; just the film itself is included. Playing for keeps is a mild non-recommend.


Till Next Time

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Chasing Mavericks Blu-ray Review (Kirk Haviland)

Chasing Mavericks Blu-ray

Chasing Mavericks Blu-Ray Review

Starring Gerard Butler, Jonny Weston, Elisabeth Shue, Abigail Spencer, Leven Rambin

Written by Kario Salem based on a story by Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper

Directed by Michael Apted and Curtis Hanson

New to Blu-ray and DVD from Fox Home Entertainment is the ‘inspired by a true story’ surfing movie Chasing Mavericks. The troubled production saw star Butler injure his back during filming and the movie split between two directors after Curtis Hanson fell ill with complications following heart surgery and the final two weeks of principal filming were finished by Michael Apted. So with all the personal issues on the production, is the final product worth the purchase?

Chasing Mavericks 2

Chasing Mavericks is the inspirational true story of real life surfing phenomenon Jay Moriarity (Weston). As a child Moriarity becomes fascinated by the ocean and the power of the waves. Years later, as a 15 year old, Jay discovers that the mythic Mavericks surf break, one of the biggest waves on Earth, is not only real but exists just miles from his Santa Cruz home. After sneaking aboard the truck of local legend Frosty Hesson (Butler), he sees first-hand the massive destruction and beauty of Mavericks and enlists Frosty to train him to survive it. As Jay and Frosty embark on their quest to accomplish the impossible, they form a unique friendship that transforms both their lives, and their quest to tame Mavericks becomes about far more than surfing.

Chasing Mavericks 1

Chasing Mavericks was made with the help of some of the biggest names in the surfing world, and features some of the most mind-blowing real wave footage ever captured on film. The camera work is stunning and the effects works to put the actors on the boards is fairly seamless. Despite the fantastic camera work though, the film cannot escape the overbearing presence that it is merely a TV movie of the week in nicer packaging. The script is very straightforward and formulaic with Frosty representing the only father figure Jay has ever had after the line of mine his borderline alcoholic mother, played by Shue, has brought home over the years. And of course the film continues on to its climax of Jay vs the big wave that only he manages to surf.

Chasing Mavericks 3

Butler is decent here, you can tell he really believed in the project especially after he injured himself to make it happen, but can only go as far as the script can take him. Newcomer Weston is wide-eyed and cocksure with a goofy grin that works well for the character, but his acting ability is very unpolished and limited and it shows. The rest of the cast is not given a lot of material to work with here, Shue does not appear in much and it feels like her character may have been the one most lost to the cutting room floor or in the script editing phase. And while Rambin is quite beautiful and likeable as the target of Jay’s affections her role is not much more than eye candy.

Chasing Mavericks 4

The Blu-ray features a handful of deleted scenes and an audio commentary with Apted and writer/producers Jim Meenaghan and Brandon Hooper. The disc also contains four featurettes that cover aspects of the filming as well as talk about the real Jay Moriarity with the people that knew him best including the real life versions of Frosty and other characters from the film.

Chasing Mavericks works better on the small screen that it did in theaters because this is probably where the story belonged all the time. Overly sappy and predictable as it is, the film does manage to remain charming enough to stay watchable throughout. Worth a rental at the least, Chasing Mavericks is a mild recommend.

Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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