London Has Fallen Official Trailer

London Has Fallen

The White House under siege film Olympus Has Fallen from 2013 was a surprise hit and pretty much took the prize in the match-up between it and the bigger-budgeted White House Down starring Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx. What the latter didn’t have was the presence of Morgan Freeman, the steadfastness of Aaron Eckhart and the utter badass that is Gerard Butler. Olympus Has Fallen had all three and thus was the better of the two films.

It didn’t take long for the studio who made Olympus Has Fallen to start on a sequel with the three core figures from the first film (Freeman, Eckhart and Butler) back to fight the evil of terrorism on all freedom-loving citizens. I think the studios just thought the audience who saw the first film loved just how much Gerard Butler’s character kept stabbing people in the face.

Here’s to hoping London Has Fallen didn’t try to fix what wasn’t broken…and more Gerard Butler stabbing people in the face.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #104: Phone Booth (dir by Joel Schumacher)

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First released in 2003, Phone Booth is a good film.

Now, I know that you’re probably thinking, “Okay, that’s good, Lisa.  There were a lot of good films released in 2003.  I can’t think of any off the top of my head but let me go look on Wikipedia and I’m sure I can come back with a few dozen good films and…”

Well, before you go over to Wikipedia and do a search on 2003 in film (and I even included a direct link to make it easy for you because I like to be helpful), allow me to point something else out about Phone Booth.

Phone Booth is not only a good film but it’s a good film that was directed by Joel Schumacher!

That’s right!  There are several online film critics who will tell you that Joel Schumacher is one of the worst directors of all time and, to be honest, there’s actually a pretty good argument that can be made in support of that.  However, Schumacher did direct both The Lost Boys and Phone Booth.  So, he’s directed at least two good films and that’s two more than Uwe Boll.

In Phone Booth, Colin Farrell plays Stu, a slick publicist who has both a wife named Kelly (Radha Mitchell) and a girlfriend named Pam (Katie Holmes).  When Stu steps into the last remaining phone booth in New York City in order to call his girlfriend, he’s shocked when a pizza deliveryman shows up and attempts to give him a pizza.  No sooner has he gotten rid of the pizzaman (and, seriously, who turns down free pizza?), the phone rings.  Stu answers and is told by an unseen sniper (voice by Kiefer Sutherland) that, if he leaves the phone booth, he will be shot.  The sniper goes on to order Stu to tell the truth to both Kelly and Pam or to risk being shot as a consequence.

While all of this is going on, a group of prostitutes demand that Stu get out of the booth and let them use the phone.  When Stu refuses, their pimp approaches the booth and is promptly gunned down by the sniper.  Soon, under the assumption that Stu has a weapon, the police — led by Forest Whitaker — have surrounded the booth and are demanding that Stu step out.  The sniper, however, reminds Stu that he’ll be shot if he leaves the booth.

As a crowd of onlookers (including Pam and Kelly), police, and reporters surround the booth, Stu finds himself literally with no escape…

Telling the story in real time and keeping the film largely focused on Stu’s increasing desperation, Schumacher actually does a pretty good job with Phone Booth.  Colin Farrell gives a great performance, making Stu into a character who you like despite yourself.  While Kiefer Sutherland never appears onscreen, his sexy growl of a voice works wonders and he even manages to sell the point where his character starts to maniacally laugh.  Reportedly, screenwriter Larry Cohen came up with the idea for Phone Booth way back in the 1960s.  It took nearly 40 years for the film to be made but Schumacher, Farrell, and Sutherland made it more than worth the wait.

Quickie Review: Olympus Has Fallen (dir. by Antoine Fuqua)


“The most protected building on Earth has fallen.”

Die Hard has become it’s very own subgenre of action films since it was first released in 1988. It was a simple enough story that combined the “one against many” type of story with the “siege tale”. It was a perfect combination that has since been copied, imitated, but truly never duplicated to the highest level of success the original film had upon release. There’s been a few films that added their own unique take on this action film template. There was “Die Hard on a boat” with the underappreciated Under Siege. Then we have Air Force One which was “Die Hard on a plane”. The latest action film to try and put a new spin on the Willias-McTiernan classic is Antoine Fuqua’s latest film, Olympus Has Fallen.

The film pretty much takes what worked with the three films before it that’s been mentioned above and combines them to make a film. We have a lone, highly skilled operative in the form of Secret Service Agent Mike Banning in the role that made Bruce Willis famous and, for a time, resuscitated Steven Seagal’s career. Then we have the Presidential angle but instead of Air Force One it’s the White House this time around. The plot of the film is simple enough that even a person not well-versed in film could follow it. A group of dedicated and highly-trained North Korean terrorists do a surprise attack on the White House as the President of the United States and his South Korean counterpart try to find a way to defuse a situation that’s been growing in the DMZ between the two Koreas. It’s now up to Agent Banning, on his own, to try and stop whatever plans the terrorists have brewing with the President as hostage while also dealing with an inept group of higher-ups trying to deal with it far from the action.

Olympus Has Fallen doesn’t break new ground with the way it’s story unfolds and it’s characters develop. The film was pretty much beat-for-beat and scene for scene lifted from the three other films mentioned above. The characters may be different and the circumstances they find themselves in somewhat different, but the screenwriters played everything safe except the action sequences part of the film. It’s these action scenes which brings Olympus Has Fallen to a new level of violent artistry that the previously mentioned films never reached.

To say that this film was violent would be an understatement. Where other films of this type a certain cartoonish tone to it’s violence this time around Fuqua goes for a much more serious and, at times, disturbingly difficult to watch level of violence to make the film stand out from the rest of it’s kind. The assault on the White House itself and the surrounding area has less a look of a fun action film and more of a war film. People die in droves and it doesn’t matter whether they’re Secret Service, police, terrorists or innocent civilians. All were fair game in this film.

Even the action once we get to Banning playing the Willis role looked more brutal than what Willis and even Seagal ever got to do. Gerard Butler may not have had the charisma and wit of Willis in the same role, but he convincingly played his role as more Jack Bauer than Officer McClane. Butler as Banning was all business and efficiency while Willis as McClane was more the witty, smartass who just keeps finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Olympus Has Fallen won’t be hailed as one of the best films of 2013. It won’t even be talked about as one of the top action films this year, but despite the story being a derivative of every Die Hard and it’s clones before it the film does succeed in being a very enjoyable piece of popcorn flick. It was full of tension and big action setpieces (though the CG effects looked very cheap at times) that Fuqua has gradually become known for. The characters in the film were just a step above being one-dimensional and the story itself becomes less eye-rolling and more worrisome considering the real tensions coming out of the Korean Peninsula at this very moment.

One thing I’m sure of is that of the two “Die Hard-in-the-White-House” films this year (there’s the bigger-budgeted White House Down later this summer from Roland Emmerich) I have a feeling that Olympus Has Fallen might be the more fun. It’s probably going to be the more violent of the two and that’s an assumption I’m willing to make without even seeing how Emmerich’s film turns out.

Trailer: Olympus Has Fallen


I’ve always wondered why Gerard Butler hasn’t been tapped to be an action hero star since his turn as Leonidas in 300. He definitely has the looks and physicality to pull off such films and do so without being snarky about it. He has instead been stuck doing romantic comedies and the brooding anti-hero roles. This pattern may just change depending on how well his next film does.

Olympus Has Fallen is the next film from Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, King Arthur, Shooter) and looks like a new take on the Die Hard template of “one against many” that’s worked well with some films and turned out bad with others. This time around the film looks to be “Die Hard in the White House” type of story with Gerard Butler in the role of Bruce Willis. Though from some of the dialogue shown in the trailer it also sounds like a version of Under Siege (one of the better Die Hard clones)

The White House used as a setting for a siege has rarely been used (though the tv series 24 did it in it’s later seasons). The trailer show’s a bit of back story to Butler’s Secret Service character and what brings him back to the fold after a tragedy in his professional past puts him on ice.

Olympus Has Fallen is set for a March 22, 2013 release date.

Review: The Crazies (dir. by Breck Eisner)

While remakes of older films have a tendency to fail in terms of storytelling and just overall quality, for some reason most remakes of George A. Romero’s films seem to do quite well. The Tom Savini-directed remake of the original Night of the Living Dead wasn’t better than the first but was very entertaining and stood on its own merits. The next Romero film to be remade was another of his horror classics, Dawn of the Dead. Another first time director in Zack Snyder handled this remake (despite howls of protests about the attempt to remake a film many consider one of the greats) and what he ended up making didn’t disappoint and has become of the the last decade’s best horror entries. While the remake of Day of the Dead ended up becoming a huge pile of crap I am happy to say that the remake of Romero’s bio-terror flick, The Crazies, under the directing work of Breck Eisner ended up better than I expected and, in my opinion, surpassed the original.

The film adheres pretty close to the original with just the setting having changed from Evans City, PA to Ogden Marsh, Iowa. Using this Midwest backdrop the film quickly establishes that Ogden Marsh is the prototypical Middle America town with everyone in the town of 1260 knowing everyone. They town even celebrates itself as the friendliest town in America. This all changes when a seemingly random and tragic event at a high school baseball game shatters the thin edifice of the town’s neighborly facade. The town’s sheriff (played by Deadwood’s Timothy Olyphant) knows that something is not right when another inexplicable murder happens the following day. The final clue which reinforces this hunch of his is when a trio of local hunters stumble upon the decomposing body of a pilot who died attempting to parachute and landing in a creek marsh close to town. The plane of the said dead pilot is later found. Not knowing what exactly was being ferried (later discovered to be a bio-weapon code-named “trixie”) on this plane the sheriff and his deputy (played by Joe Anderson) soon find the town’s phone lines, cellphone signal and network connection down.

The middle section of the film happens occur with the arrival of “help” in the form of biohazard-suited soldiers forcibly taking all accounted for townspeople from their homes and herding them in the local high school. It is in this section of the film where the remake deviates somewhat from the original. The story never truly establishes just exactly why the soldiers were using extreme tactics and protocols to contain the town and the surrounding area. The film seem to set the military as a faceless machine doing things by-the-book to the detriment of the town and it’s population. The original had the infected and uninfected civilians trapped between the military apparatus trying to contain the outbreak by any means necessary and the scientists flown in to try and find a cure. Writers Kosar and Wright keeps the film centered on the Sheriff Dutton, his pregnant wife (played by Radha Mitchell), his deputy and the his wife’s assistant.

By keeping the film focused on these four individuals the film loses the epic, grand-scale Romero was trying to do with the original and instead we get a more intimate, personal film about survival in a world that suddenly has gotten apocalyptic overnight for these four. It helped the film and Eisner that his two leads in Olyphant and Mitchell were up to the task of giving their husband and wife characters some gravitas in what could’ve easily been just a paycheck performance for them. Olyphant as Sheriff Dutton was especially good in his performance. He kept his character grounded throughout most of the film. Never did he play his character false in that one-minute we get a confused, desperate husband searching for his wife and then next minute we get a badass action hero who can’t get hurt and always coming up aces. Joe Anderson as Deputy Russell Clank who added just a tad bit of levity to an otherwise very tense film from beginning to end.

The infected townsfolk were not zombies as others might like to say. They have a certain similarity to Danny Boyle’s “Rage-infected” but while those seem to get a boost in strenght and speed in The Crazies those who become infected seem to just go all nutfuck crazy. While physical changes occur the longer a person was infected (veins beame inflamed and show up visibly) the “trixie” bioweapon does to those infected what the title says: crazy. Some behave in a crazy non-violent manner with uncontrollable giggling. Some would start rambling for no apparent reason while others become homicidal. It’s the last example which becomes the film’s second danger to the film’s leads in their attempt to survive the night and find safe haven.

It’s from the viewpoint of these four individuals that the audience experiences the night when Ogden Marsh must survive not just the “crazies” but also the government sent in to “help” contain the situation. As stated earlier this time around we do not know the motivations of those sent in to help. The government and the military force sent in are not just faceless, but mechanical in their handling of the situation. People were gathered en masse from their homes and paraded through a series of checkpoints to be checked, prodded and separated from those infected. We hear random bits and pieces of radio communication amongst the soldiers and the scientists controlling the situation, but not enough to know what their true agendas.

As the film progresses the danger posed by the “crazies” themselves seem to pale in comparison when we finally see the final solution the military and the government has come to in dealing with the outbreak. An outbreak caused by an accident and one which happens to occur near this small Iowa town. Just like in Boyle’s own 28 Days Later the solution which the military has come up with to deal with both infected and uninfected ends up being the craziest and horrific action by any and all in the film. There’s a sense of detached horror in how the government decided to truly contain the trixie outbreak.

The film was by no means a great one, but director Breck Eisner does a good job of keeping the film moving forward at a brisk pace right from the start then turning things up the farther in the film we get. By the time The Crazies hit the midway point the film the pacing has gone from brisk to unrelenting. There’s barely a chance for the audience to take a breather from the tension and terror before another one comes along. The decision by the filmmakers to just show the film from the point of view of the sheriff, his wife, the deputy and the assistant keeps some of the moral questions brought up by Romero in the original. Just like with Snyder’s remake of Dawn of the Dead, Eisner goes for the easier route and concentrates on making a thriller instead of trying to push complex social and moral commentaries. While this  might disappoint some fans of the original in the end it makes the film more accessible for the wider audience.

In the hands of a more capable filmmaker and writers would this compromise to simplify the film have been avoided. Sure it could’ve but for what Eisner and company ended up creating was still quite engaging and entertaining. In the end, The Crazies was a remake of a horror master’s earlier film that more than hold it’s own against the original and actually surpasses it despite a storyline which had been simplified. It’s not one of the best films in the early part of 2010, but it definitely wasn’t the trainwreck may think horror remakes always end up being.