Oblivion Review (Kirk Haviland)


oblivion-movie-directed by Joseph KosinskiOblivion

Starring: Tom Cruise, Andrea Riseborough, Olga Kurylenko, Zoe Bell, Melissa Leo and Morgan Freeman

Written by Joseph Kosinski, Karl Gajdusek and Michael Arndt

Directed by Joseph Kosinski

New in theaters this week is the new Science Fiction action/thriller from the director of Tron: Legacy starring Tom Cruise, Oblivion. The first of many apocalyptic earth films to be unleashed in theaters this year, this summer’s After Earth and fall’s Snowpiercer still to come; Oblivion is a beautiful looking epic that despite a small cast is very grand in scale. The question is will the film be original enough to outshine its competition?

oblivion-movie-72077: Jack Harper (Cruise) serves as a security repairmen stationed on an evacuated Earth with his partner Victoria (Riseborough) who monitors his action from their own command center. Part of a massive operation to extract vital resources after decades of war with a terrifying alien threat who still scavenges what’s left of our planet, Jack’s mission is almost complete. In a matter of two weeks, he and Victoria will join the remaining survivors on a lunar colony far from the war-torn world he has long called home. Jack’s soaring existence is brought crashing down though after he rescues a beautiful stranger named Julia (Kurylenko) from a downed spacecraft. Drawn to Jack through a connection that transcends logic, Julia’s arrival triggers a chain of events that forces him to question everything he thought he knew.

oblivion-movie-clip-julia-wakes-up-in-the-skytowerOblivion is the blended offspring of “Prometheus” and “2001: A Space Odyssey”, with copious amounts of “Independence Day” and “Moon” also in the mix. The film features all the gorgeous imagery of Ridley Scott’s epic from last year mixed with a literal interpretation of HAL from 2001 and a ‘mothership’ straight out of Independence Day. The first hour of the film, while establishing our breathtaking setting, does not feature a lot of action or plot as it is used for world and character building almost exclusively. The second hour marks the arrival of Julia and the film shifts dramatically to a more intense action piece. The film features more than one area where the story could have finished but continues past these on its way to the eventual ending,

oblivion moragnCruise is decent here in typical Cruise ‘good guy’ fashion, closely resembling his “Minority Report” John Anderton mixed with a bit of his “War of the Worlds” Ray Ferrier. Point is we’ve seen this performance from Cruise before and its good enough without pushing any boundaries. The real star of the film may be Riseborough and her performance as Victoria. Riseborough maintains a meticulous, calm and by the book outside veneer, but the audience cannot help but feel an underlying menace in her tone and actions. Kurylenko is decent, and other than the occasional appearance of Melissa Leo via a video com and Morgan Freeman appearing as a survivor, the rest of the cast is merely window dressing as most have next to no dialogue.

tom-cruise-oblivion-wallpapers-9The film has a lot of green screen CGI vistas mixed with some real locations to create some stunning visuals. The setting is captivating, with devastated cities and barren wastelands surrounding the planet to Jack`s own ‘garden of Eden’ type getaway, the camera gives the audience plenty of lush imagery to watch as the film proceeds. The effects and stunt work is also very well done as the ships and drones Jack work with and the home that Jack and Victoria live in feel very tangible. The setting and surroundings are by far the biggest reasons for audiences to experience the film in the grand scale that a movie theater provides.

oblivion-movie-stills-8-of-201Oblivion is a pure joy visually to watch, but the story is a smorgasbord of other films that have come before. Borrowing liberally from other material, Oblivion plays all of it straight up without any nods to the audience that they may have seen this material before, which may have helped play off the `déjà vu` nature of the viewing experience. Still the stunning visuals on display here make the film worthy of a recommend.

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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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