Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Spring Action! - Movie Reviews

A Good Day to Die Hard

This is the fifth instalment of the ageing blockbuster franchise that began way back in 1988 and made an action star out of a not-yet-bald Bruce Willis. Here our hero NYPD Lt. John McClane takes a “vacation” to Moscow [it took the Police Academy goons seven movies to get that far I might add] in the hope of reconnecting with his estranged son Jack [Jai Spartacus Courtney]. The younger McClane however is now a CIA agent and has been undercover in Moscow with handler Collins [the underrated always-guaranteed-to-die-early-in-a-movie-where-he’s-not-a-lead-character Cole Pitch Black Hauser]. John is successful in finding his son but naturally gets caught up in an evil terrorist plot threatening to…  ah bollox you get the picture, it’s only important that there’s a lot of shooting, explosions and a fantastic vehicular chase scene – oh and a very silly bit with a helicopter that I can’t spoil.

As wonderful as it is as a thoroughly enjoyable action-movie blockbuster, I'm disappointed to say this movie is so far removed in tone, substance and geographical location from it’s progenitor that it doesn’t really deserve to carry the name Die Hard. Willis doesn't bring McClane's trademark wisecracks and appears somewhat jaded in the role that made him. Had this been called: Generic Blockbuster Action Movie 5: Huge Fuckin’ ‘Splosions then I’d be slapping 5-Stars onto the end of this paragraph and proclaiming it as undoubtedly one of the decade’s best action movies. But when a movie carries the Die Hard name, and Bruce adopts the mantle of John McClaine one has a certain expectation that sadly was notably sorely lacking here.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****

G.I.Joe: Retaliation

Zartan is The President Of The United States and so Cobra have The White House but Cobra Commander and Destro have been captured and incarcerated. If you didn't know all this then you've forgotten G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra, but that's OK, I've just recapped it for you. 

Despite the incredibly bizarre release-schedule debacle which delayed the movie for 9 Months after it was finished so it could be converted to 3-D, Retaliation is surprisingly direct sequel considering that less than half the cast returned. The loss of  Dennis Hawk Quaid, Rachel Scarlett Nichols, Sienna The Baroness Miller and Christopher Destro Eccleston was worth it not to have to listen to the "cosmic yelping" of Marlon Ripcord Wayans for another hour or so. Channing Tatum does return as Duke, as does Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow, Ray Park as Snake Eyes and Jonathan Pryce as The President but the real magic happens with the new cast.

That's right, this movie [and likely more if the franchise continues] is now a Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson vehicle - and that's a good thing - The Rock with D.J. Cotrona and Adrianne Palicki brought an energy that perfectly balanced the brevity and drama with just the right amount of humour  required to do justice to G.I.Joe and the writers Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick tapped to deliver had success before on the flip side of that precariously balanced formula with Zombieland. Bruce Willis brought more smirking and charm to his cameo as General Colton in 10 minutes than he did in the entire Die Hard movie reviewed above. 

In retrospect, by comparison - while Rise of Cobra did well enough to capture the spirit of G.I.Joe - it was was stuffed with too much cheese and Retaliation corrects most of what went awry before. Retaliation's Joes themselves acted more like a cohesive military unit, the ninja action was lifted directly from the source materiel and flawlessly directed as you'd expect by a man known only for filming dance movies, 33-year-old Jon M. Chu. Thankfully he understood that the general pace and tone for a good G.I.Joe movie should mimic the superior comic book rather than the cheesy cartoon series that Stephen Sommers obviously watched a little too much of.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****

Olympus Has Fallen

A rogue group of North Korean terrorists take over The White House with the intention of forcing the U.S. to withdraw from South Korea, so that the North can reunify the country - on their terms - as well as detonate the entire U.S Nuclear arsenal so there'll be no interference. "We were very lucky with the timing actually" said Gerard 300 Butler when promoting the movie last week :)

Butler plays former Army Ranger Mike Banning who also once worked on the President's [Aaron The Dark Knight Eckhart] protection detail, now in a shitty desk-job in the Treasury Department. When the rogue North Koreans led by Rick Die Another Day Yune attack it's up to Banning to save the day because director Antoine Training Day Fuqua cast Cole Hauser [see the Die Hard 5 review above] as the head of the White House Secret Service.

It's from this point on that the movie melds so much so with Die Hard and Under Siege it's fucking insane. We have a lone good guy on the "inside" having free communication and feeding intelligence to people on the outside, represented here by Morgan Freeman as the Speaker of the House Trumball, Angela Basset as Jacobs the director of the Secret Service and Robert Forster as the Army Chief of Staff. Banning is as endearing a character as John McClane and in fact does a far better job at being John McClane than Willis did in Die Hard 5 [see above again]. However he's as ruthless as Casey "Fuckin'" Ryback and does practically EVERYTHING Segal does in Under Siege, only again a little better as he appears more human.

Not to be confused with White House Down the bizarrely timed Channing Tatum and Jamie Foxx movie by disaster-movie director Roland Emmerich out later in the summer, Olympus Has Fallen is a no-holes-barred near constant action movie and feels very much like something that should have been made in the 1990's only thankfully wasn't - because it wouldn't have been half as good as this shit! Yes this is shit, but it's so incredibly enjoyable despite being somewhat formulaic, has more plot holes than bullet holes and so utterly predictable that no-one cannot dislike it.

Colonel Creedon Rating: *****+

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Protect the Earth? Not with this budget!

"If it's coming in three weeks, pray. I can't do anything in 
the next three weeks because for decades we've put it off.”

The word “can’t” is not a word you’ll commonly find in a Marine’s lexicon especially when reporting to his superiors; so you can imagine the frustration that burned inside NASA director Charles Bolden [below] when congress asked what his agency is doing about the threat of near-Earth asteroids. Florida’s Republican Rep. Bill Posey, had asked the former USMC general what NASA would do if a large asteroid headed on a collision course with Earth was discovered today with only three weeks before impact.

Experts have stressed that February 15th’s meteor strike in Russia's Ural Mountains and the unrelated close asteroid 2012 DA14 flyby on the same day were a coincidence and that the chance of a catastrophic asteroid impact to Earth any time soon is remote. Nevertheless, members of Congress asked NASA, The White House, Air Force officials and even UNETIDA what they're doing to combat the threat of near-Earth asteroids during a hearing on Capitol Hill.

"The odds of a near-Earth object strike causing massive causalities and destruction of infrastructure are very small, but the potential consequences of such an event are so large that it makes sense to take the risk seriously," John Holdren, science advisor to President Barack Obama, told the Science, Space and Technology Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. Texas’ Republican Rep. Lamar Smith, committee chairman, said that it was "not reassuring" to learn that NASA has so far detected only about 10 percent of the near-Earth objects that are wider than 87 miles across. Holdren estimated that there may be hundreds of thousands of such objects within one-third the distance from Earth to the sun that remain unknown.

In 2005, Congress directed NASA to detect, track and characterize 90% of these space rocks. Bolden said today that NASA was unlikely to meet that deadline given its current budget and that if current budgetary levels were maintained then that number would not be met until 2030. He criticized the lawmakers for limiting NASA’s abilities with budget cuts. "You all told us to do something, and between the administration and the Congress, the bottom line is the funding did not come," Bolden said. Furthermore, he said the goal of finding a way to respond to asteroid threats has been repeatedly put off by lawmakers who cite a lack of money.

Those same budget concerns also hamstring the militarys mandate to monitor near-Earth objects and other space threats, such as orbital debris. Gen. William Shelton, commander, U.S. Air Force Space Command, told the committee that under sequestration they are even less capable than before. He added that any further budget cuts could have dire consequences. "Our dependence on space, not only for our way of life but also for military operations, is very high, so we would sacrifice that."

Lieutenant General “Stomper” Santorno, Director of UNETIDA/UNPASID said that budget cuts by the US and other previously generous nations internationally have “slowly castrated” the emergency protective and defensive service that UNETIDA provided in space. He said that as the United States, once the international leaders in space technology, were now seen as to not be taking the threats from space seriously, it has led other countries to follow suit and divert funding elsewhere. In an outburst before storming out of the meeting Santorno slammed his fist on the table yelling “Asteroids won’t kill us all, our governments will!”

Source: Fox News

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

The Iron Lady passes. RIP Baroness Thatcher 1925-2013

The only woman to so far achieve the position of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, The Rt Hon. The Baroness Thatcher, LG, OM, PC, FRS has died peacefully following a stoke in London Monday, she was 87.

Born Margaret Roberts in Linconshire, daughter of a grocer, she studied as a research chemist before entering politics as a member of the Conservitive Party for Finchley in 1958 and became an MP in the following year. She began making a name for herself in 1966 by attacking the Labour Government’s policies which she described as socialist and bordering on Communism.

Thatcher was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Science in 1970 and instituted a number of education reforms but when the Conservatives were later ousted she replaced Edward Heath as leader of the Conservatives in 1975 and thusly became leader of the opposition. As opposition leader she continued her stand against communism and socialism and became the face of the movement opposing the welfare state. Her scathing attack on Russia at a town hall speech earned her the moniker of “The Iron Lady” from the Russians something she gladly adopted.

After a series of devastating labour strikes in the winter before the election of 1979, James Callaghan’s government collapsed and the Conservatives were voted into power with Margaret Thatcher as the UK’s first female Prime Minister. The Conservative Party was re-elected twice leading her to serve as PM until 1990.

Thatcher limited the number of immigrants into the UK, increased interest rates to lower inflation, reduced expenditure on social services and cut higher education spending. Her “Poll tax” reform of local government met widespread condemnation despite leading the British economy into recovery. She reduced the power of trade unions which she thought undermined democracy through their constant strike action. She refused to give into their demands and had dozens of coal mines closed devastating communities and leading to much of her unpopularity.

Thatcher privatised utilities like BT and British Gas and many industries which were previously owned by the government. She encouraged growth in finance and service sectors to reduce reliance on the failing old style manufacturing industry and made the City of London one of the world’s most successful financial centres.

Thatcher took a hard-line stance against convicted hunger-striking IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland who were seeking to be classed as political prisoners. She refused to give into their demands and upon dying the prisoners became martyrs for the Republican cause inciting widespread unrest and an increase in IRA recruitment. The Brighton Hotel bombing was carried out as an assassination attempt on her life in 1984, in defiance she made a galvanising speech at the Conservative Party conference the following day.

Thatcher’s distrust of communism led her to become a staunch political ally of then US President Ronald Reagan and assisted him in bringing an end to the Cold War by accepting reformist USSR leader Mikhail Gorbachev.  She was a prominent supporter of NATO and permitted the US to station 160 cruise missiles at an RAF base. She tripled the UK’s nuclear forces despite opposition from the CND.

In April 1982 Thatcher sent a Royal Naval Task Force to retake the Falkland Islands which had been invaded by Argentina. The resulting Falklands War was the largest British military campaign since WWII and the Naval Officers who took part in the conflict liken her to Churchill such was the respect they had for her resolve. Her decision to have the HMS Conqueror torpedo and sink the cruiser ARA General Belgrano killing more than 400 of her crew was met with controversy but victory came 6 weeks later and the “Falklands Factor” let to Thatcher’s relection in 1983.

Due to the “poll tax” and her stance on the European Exchance Rate Mechanism in 1990, Thatcher’s supporters in government either resigned or dropped support and initiated a leadership challenge. Her cabinet persuader her to withdraw from opposing it and she left Downing Street after an unprecedented 11 and a half years in office.

Thatcher continued to serve as an MP until 1992 when she retired at 66. She wrote memoirs and books, established a foundation and worked as a consultant for a tobacco company. She didn’t shy from public speaking and was vocal against the Serbian assault on Gorazde and Sarajevo in 1992 and criticised the Maastricht Treaty. In recent years she made fewer public appearances due to ailing health and the onset of dementia. In accordance with her wishes she will not receive a state funeral, but will be honoured by a church service at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, where she will be accorded military honours.

Baroness Thatcher along with President Ronald Reagan and An Taoiseach Charles J. Haughey are the three individuals, albeit quite different, who awakened my own political views and with which whom I most politically identify with. While I may not entirely agree 100% with her actual decisions I held nothing but respect for her rejection of the political U-Turn - probably the most reprehensible factor in modern politics.

"The Iron Lady" was also not a practitioner of caving in under political pressure even if to save her own career. I wish for a day where people are in a position to vote for a person with the strength of character as the great Margaret Thatcher and not the spineless corrupt freeloading scumbags we're forced to choose between today.