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: *****+

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