Action fans have been crying out to Hollywood for years to deliver something as gritty, heartfelt, and rip-roaring as 1988's Die Hard. Director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day, Shooter) has heard those calls and responded with Olympus Has Fallen, a close quarters, man-vs.-an-army thriller that gets it mostly right, thanks to star Gerard Butler's mix of swagger and innate brutality. Why it can't live up to Die Hard (what could?) is in the sensationalism of the scenario: in this version, an office building is the White House, the maniacal Hans Gruber replaced by an endless force of North Koreans bent on America's destruction. Fuqua makes the stealthy techniques of Butler's Agent Mike Banning exhilarating, but pads it with blockbuster-sized bookends and more bloodshed than your typical Saw flick. Think of Olympus Has Fallen as Die Too Hard.
After a routine mission goes horribly wrong, Secret Service agent Banning is relieved of his position as head of security for President Benjamin Asher (Aaron Eckhart). Years after the debacle, Banning finds himself thrown back into action when a group of North Korean terrorists strike D.C., hitting the White House from every direction. The introductory mayhem is one of the more gruesome set pieces in recent memory: a Korean plane swoops over D.C., firing hundreds of rounds into unsuspecting pedestrians; tourists photographing the White House rip off their coats to reveal machine guns, a frontline for the home invasion; unmarked vans throw open their doors, functioning as makeshift tanks that clear a path. It's all out war and Fuqua doesn't hold back in the reality department. The front row of the theater is a splash zone.
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When the action finally hones in on Banning — who shoots his way from behind the gun-toting Korean soldiers to gain entry to the White House — Olympus Has Fallen uncovers real thrills. Butler sells the punches, the stealth, the one-liners, and the gruff patriotism — he's more Jack Bauer than John McClane, a guy who can and will do anything to accomplish the mission. You never doubt him, and even when Olympus swerves in the wrong direction — oh no, a kid lost in the White House subplot! — Butler forcefully grabs the steering wheel and drives it back on course. His character builds to make any absurdity fit the movie's mosaic of action, building with close combat attacks and an interrogation scene straight out of the 24 playbook, and escalating all the way to a bazooka shootout.
If only there was more of Butler in the movie. Olympus splits its time pretty evenly between Morgan Freeman and Angela Basset, government officials spouting every "My… God…" variation imaginable while managing the crisis from a boardroom, and Eckhart's President Asher, who spends a majority of the movie handcuffed to a railing. The terrorists bark threats of nuclear apocalypse, the suits in Washington react. It's all padding to Butler's main quest. Melissa Leo manages to light up the screen momentarily as the captured Secretary of Defense; at one point, she's dragged across the ground by her hair. Her response? Scream the Pledge of Allegiance in an act of defiance. As the movie often does, the scene crosses the disturbing line to circle all the way back to bizarre fun.
In front of the wrong pair of eyes, Olympus Has Fallen could be a provocation of jingoism. For fans looking for a slight actioner with slick production value and a Hungry-Man serving of machismo, it's passable fun. Just don't take the image of the Washington Monument being shot to bits, smashing into helpless American citizens into puddles of blood, as a call to arms.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
[Photo Credit: Film District]
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Sheen's estranged wife won a restraining order against him last week (ends06Mar11) after alleging the Two and a Half Men star had threatened her.
The court order temporarily stripped Sheen of all custody rights for the former couple's young sons, Bob and Max, and the children were subsequently removed from the actor's care.
Sheen and Mueller were due in court on Friday (11Mar11) to discuss the matter, but on Thursday night (10Mar11) they released a joint statement confirming a deal had been reached and the court date cancelled.
The statement reads, "Brooke and Charlie have reached an agreement that resolves their differences. For the benefit of the children, the terms of their agreement will not be disclosed. They ask the public for privacy on this matter."
The news came on the same night Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) officers raided Sheen's Los Angeles home, after reportedly receiving a tip-off the star was keeping a gun at the property - a move which would violate Mueller's restraining order banning him from possessing weapons.
Officers discovered an antique rifle from the 1800s and "a few bullets", but no other weapons were found, according to Sheen's lawyer Mark Gross.
LAPD spokeswoman Norma Eisenman tells Usmagazine.com, "We were there to investigate the possible violation of a restraining order. It came to our attention that Mr. Charlie Sheen is a registered owner of firearms so we were making sure there were no firearms or ammunition in the home.
"We are not releasing any findings. Mr. Sheen was very cooperative and the investigation is complete. We are done with it."
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
The identity of 'The Stig' - resident racetrack guru on hit British TV show Top Gear - has remained a closely-guarded secret for years.
But he was finally named on Wednesday (01Sep10) as racing driver and stuntman Ben Collins, after an extraordinary court case in London.
Collins' main role on the show is to coach celebrity guests on how to tackle a racetrack as part of the Star In A Reasonably Priced Car sequence - which sees famous faces bidding to beat their showbiz rivals' previous lap times.
Grant, Wahlberg, Diaz and Dame Helen Mirren are among stars who have taken part in previous programmes, and Cruise is currently heading up the leaderboard after an impressive display of driving when he appeared on the show in July (10).
Collins keeps his identity a secret by refusing to remove his dark-visored crash helmet on the show - but now the truth is out after the BBC failed to obtain an injunction banning publication of The Stig's autobiography, in which he reveals his real name.
Broadcasting bosses took the case to London's High Court this week (beg30Aug10), insisting The Stig's name should be kept under wraps to "protect the character".
But the judge, Mr Justice Morgan, refused to grant an injunction on Wednesday after hearing legal arguments. His reasons for the decision had not been made public as WENN went to press.
Reports on Tuesday that Clear Channel Communications, the nation's biggest radio station chain, released a list to its partner radio stations of songs they might want to avoid playing on the air is simply a rumor.
"The songs that made the list were supposedly handpicked by program directors on the West Coast," Pam Taylor, a spokesperson for the Texas-based company told Hollywood.com on Wednesday. "It is a rumor. We never banned any songs from airing on our radio stations."
Clear Channel Communications issued a statement today, as a result of numerous media reports, concerning an alleged list of banned songs on U.S. radio stations following last week's tragedy in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
"Clear Channel believes that radio is a local medium. It is up to every radio station program director and general manager to understand their market, listen to their listeners and guide their station's music selections according to local sensitivities," the statement read. "Each program director and general manager must take the pulse of his or her market to determine if play lists should be altered, and if so, for how long."
"In the wake of this terrible tragedy, the nation's business community is responding with a degree of hypersensitivity," explained Mark P. Mays, President and Chief Operating Officer of Clear Channel said.
James Cameron, acting general manager of Clear Channel Communications in its Aberdeen, Texas, affiliate, confirmed to Hollywood.com that he had next seen a list of this kind. "Our station has no intent in releasing such a letter or banning any songs from being played," he said.
Various Web sites posted copies of the list on Tuesday, showing that the songs had more than likely been picked because of their titles, Reuters reported.
Among the songs included were hard-rock group AC/DC's "Highway to Hell," the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," Soundgarden's "Blow Up the Outside World," and even the Led Zeppelin classic "Stairway to Heaven." Surprisingly, Neil Diamond's "America" also made the list.
Even mellower tunes--such as "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas, "Imagine" by John Lennon, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel, "Peace Train" by Cat Stevens, "Leaving on a Jet Plane" by Peter, Paul & Marry, "Crash Into Me" by the Dave Matthews Band, and "Ticket to Ride" by the Beatles--made the list.
Taylor added that the rumor was actually cleared on Tuesday night, saying that Clear Channel Communications would never avoid playing the songs on the air. Furthermore, she said that a program director at one of their radio stations, which she did not name, will play all the songs on the list in a special show this weekend.
Clear Channel represents about 1,200 stations and broadcasts in 47 U.S. markets, ABCNews.com reported. One out of every 10 radio stations across the country broadcast under Clear Channel's banner.