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Olympus Has Fallen, a Partial Un-Biased Review

I will preface this review by stating that I am a bit biased. Mind you, I am completely aware of the inconvenience I am placing on the very nature and rules of critical assessments, but, as it were, I don’t care. Furthermore, I think a biased review is sometimes entirely necessary. For you see, whether a movie, book, or song proves brilliant or not, certain audience members are going to dislike it; likewise, even if a movie is a steaming pile of wretched poo, certain citizens of society will find great entertainment in it. Thusly, I think it is important to classify some reviews based on audiences. Ergo this review.  Also, I’ve never claimed to be a movie critic.

How’s that for argument?

Olympus Has Fallen opens just as every other movie involving the safety of the President and the first family does: with a charming, heartwarming look into their “real” lives and love of one another.

And then things go wrong.

And then other things go wrong.

And then the whole country is in deep doo doo.

But the president is in really deep doo doo.

And then there’s the hero guy who somehow misses every gun shot and bomb; he knows things that nobody else in the world seems to know; he’s always one step ahead of the bad guy; always in the right place at the right time; and always spewing out the best one-liners.

Of course, there’s also the round table of other major political US players arguing over what to do, chatting with the bad guy via whatever the latest technological advancement in communication may be, and refusing to “negotiate with terrorists.”

So where am I going with this? Well, simply, this is a political action thriller as political action thriller fan’s love them; exciting, fast, explosive, violent, and completely outlandish. But directed by Training Day’s Antione Fuqua, who was less concerned about making a movie to compare to his former classics and more focused on creating a great movie to stand on it’s own,  any action fan could expect nothing but the best in terms of visual suspense.

Additionally, new comer screen writers Creighton Rothenburger and Katrin Benedikt were able to stay alarmingly true to the intricate details of what would enable a terrorist group to take over the White House. So much so that the attack scene reads as a bit of a “how to” book. Or maybe I’m just paranoid. Regardless, for the sake of entertainment, these details make this movie one hell of a ride.

An incredible cast rounds up this movie complete with Gerard Butler, Angela Basset, Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo, and of course, Morgan Freeman. Also starring in this film is the immaculate reconstruction of the White House as this movie was shot in Shreveport, Louisiana.

 

If you are confused as to whether or not this is a positive movie review, I assure you, I am too. But mostly it is. For you see, as a die hard action movie fan myself, I was less preoccupied and concerned with the predictable formula of the script and more so captivated and enthralled by the action unfolding on the screen.

And isn’t that what every action lover goes to see an action movie for?

I think so.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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Celebrities in Rehab

It is easy to get swept up in the trappings of Hollywood glamour. We see celebrities and think, ‘if only I could be them.’ The reality is that being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and the Hollywood life can be much harder to navigate then people think. As far back as Hollywood has been around so hasn’t celebrities who have addiction problems. Often these addictions are attempts to self-medicate and escape from a complex world mixed with excess and privilege, along with isolation and extreme pressures.

Matthew Perry

Matthew Perry recently went to rehab in an attempt to be proactive in his struggle with addiction to alcohol and prescription medication. It was noted that Perry relapsed after having been to rehab twice before. The first time was while he was a regular cast member on the show Friends in 1997.

Gerard Butler

The 300 star, Gerard Butler checked himself in the Betty Ford clinic and told US magazine in an interview that he “has a pretty addictive personality” and was becoming addicted to prescription drugs. He had the medication because of injuries he sustained from 3 of his films. But when he realized it was getting out of control he went to get help and become “a mental warrior”.

Kirsten Dunst

In an interview with British Elle Kirsten Dunst talks about her time in rehab at the Cirque Lodge. She said her time there was to deal with depression issues she had been struggling with. Ironically Dunst was able to use these personal experiences for a role in Melancholia which made her “the center of attention at the Cannes Film Festival”.

How Celebrities Stay Sober

Actor Martin Sheen told AARP Magazine that he works the AA program and credits his faith in Catholicism to staying sober for so many years. At one time Robert Downy Jr. could have been the poster child for celebrity addiction but it seems he has finally kicked the habit and he credits plenty of yoga, Kung Fu, and the support of his wife for keeping him straight. The types of methods that celebrities will encounter in these treatment facilities include the 12 step programs, care from medical professionals, private counseling and behavior modification, and other treatment that targets the brain imbalance of the addict.

Information about Addiction

According to Intercept Interventions although the US is only about 5% of the world’s population, two-thirds of illegal drugs are consumed here. Between 1995-2005 treatment admissions for addictions to pain killers went up more than 300%. Within the US, 1 in 4 children under 18 are exposed addiction in the family. If you or someone you know is struggling at all with addiction, you can go on sites like DrugRehab.org to find the right place to seek treatment.

With the US alone citing more than 100,000 deaths a year due to drug or alcohol dependence, it is clear that addiction is not something to mess with. Fortunately today there isn’t the stigma that used to be associated with rehabilitation. Now you can take the time to get the help you need with more support and understanding.

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Surprise! It’s the return of the end of week movie news dump.

I thought I’d shock everyone and do a post that’s not built around a trailer — there’ll be time enough for that on the weekend.

* Tom Cruise may or may not be many things, but I’ve never really thought of him as a rocker. Yet, that’s exactly what he will be in the promised film version of “Rock of Ages.” I’ve long had mixed feelings about Cruise as an actor — he can be very good in some things and disastrous in others — and I have mixed feelings about this project, too. To be specific, I like good movie musicals but strongly dislike eighties hair bands and what some of us used to call “corporate rock.”

On the other hand, Mike Fleming touts Anne Hathaway, who I have few or no mixed feelings about, as a possible costar. I wonder what she’d look like as a glam rocker…

anne_hathaway

* A star has been set — or at least gotten to the serious negotiation stage — for the long discussed “Jack the Giant Killer” coming from Bryan Singer and his old screenwriting cohort, Christopher McQuarrie, writes Mike Fleming. He’s that kid who was so great in 2002′s “About a Boy” grown-up into 20-something Nicolas Hoult. Hoult has also appeared on the UK “Skins” and will be turning up in the upcoming “Mad Max” reboot/sequel or whatever.

Mike Fleming, however, is not correct when he describes the tale as a “scary” variation on “Jack and the Beanstalk.” It’s an entirely different, far less commonly told, fairy tale. As Wikipedia tells us:

Jack the Giant Killer is a British fairy tale about a plucky Cornish lad who slays a number of giants during King Arthur’s reign. The tale is characterized by violence, gore, and blood-letting.

No wonder they’re making a movie of it.

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“The Bounty Hunter” to ride shotgun for “Alice”?

Karl Rove and Ken Starr in That seems to be the trend in Hollywood conventional wisdom this busy March weekend, at least as reflected by my only source for such matters right now, the thoughts of jolly Carl DiOrio and Greg Kilday of The Hollywood Reporter. It certainly seems fairly impossible to argue that “Alice in Wonderland” won’t continue to enjoy its ride at the top of the box office for another week, with the aid of all those extra-pricey 3-D tickets. If it makes less than $30 million or so, I’m thinking it would be a rude shock for Disney.

As for the #2 spot, the appeal of Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler seems to be working, as per the mysteries of “tracking,” for “The Bounty Hunter.” The film aroused some serious vitriol, however, from our own David Medsker, who has lost all patience with Ms. Aniston. It’s not doing much better with critics as a whole. Scott Tobias of the A.V. Club opines that:

Based on the onscreen evidence, not a single person in front of or behind the camera cared a whit about how The Bounty Hunter turned out…Some movies are passion projects; The Bounty Hunter is an inertia project.

That’s actually mild compared to the zinger Tobias ends his review with. As you might guess, it’s Rotten Tomatoes rating as of this writing is pretty bad, a very lowly 8%.

Jenifer Aniston, Gerard Butler, and the back of bald guy's head star in

Still, audience members may be lured by the film’s effective advertising. Its effective advertising promises a lively ride as a sort of two-fisted spin on “It Happened One Night,” though the PG-13 “Bounty Hunter” is apparently more of an attempt at a light-hearted actioner than the action-packed rom-com you’d expect from the marketing.

DiOrio and Kilday are guesstimating $20-23 million for Sony. Sounds doable to me, though the second weekend might have a huge drop if the film is as much of a creative misfire as it sounds.

Next up is Fox’s PG-rated “Diary of a Wimpy Kid,” based on a popular series of young adult “novels in cartoon.” (My pet peeve: why can’t we just call them comics?) I have to say that I hope the movie is much better than the trailer, which I found completely unfunny — just a collection of pale sub-”Wonder Years” jokes. The reviews seem to promise something at least a little better, with “Kid” dividing critics somewhat, though no one seems all that excited in either direction.

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Your Premium Hollywood Oscar Live Blog

GetCarloAllegri_oscar460

Yes, my friends, the action starts right here, right now, right after the jump.

New comments will go above older remarks, so if you’re reading this later and want to start at the beginning, you’ll scroll down to the end. Got that? Good. Let’s hope for an interesting night and don’t forget to keep refreshing — the page and yourself with the commestibles of your choice.

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Here’s the problem with “Law Abiding Citizen”

**SPOILER ALERT**

Well, after reading David Medsker’s review over at Bullz-Eye, maybe there’s more than one problem with “Law Abiding Citizen,” but I rather enjoyed it, save for one thing.

Can a good thriller still be good if it’s based on a faulty premise? In the opening scene — and again, I feel compelled to write **SPOILER ALERT** here — Gerard Butler’s character (Clyde) witnesses the rape and murder of his wife and daughter. There were to men who invaded his home — Clarence Darby (who actually committed the rape and murders) and his accomplice Rupert Ames.

Fast forward to the deal that Jamie Foxx’s character (Nick) struck, and I’m confused. If he has Clyde as an eyewitness, why would he make a deal with Darby when he was the one who actually committed the most heinous acts that night? If Darby was prepared to cooperate but Ames was not, why not go to Ames (knowing that he’s the “less guilty” of the two) and say, “Look, if you don’t testify against Darby, he’s going to testify against you, and you’re going to get the death penalty. We know Darby is a bigger sh*t than you, so why not do everyone a favor and testify against him?” Is there anyone that wouldn’t take that deal?

This, coupled with Nick’s decision to shake hands with Darby at the ensuing press conference (knowing full well that he’s a rapist and murderer) sends Clyde off the deep end. The entire movie is based on this faulty premise.

On a side note, is it just me or does Butler have one of the worst American accents of all time? Between “Law Abiding Citizen” and “The Ugly Truth,” the guy just seems to have a tough time swallowing his Scottish accent. I like him as an actor, but I find his American accent incredibly distracting.

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Movies for sale

I’m thoroughly fried this evening having done my Southern California thing and driven 180 miles basically to run family errands, but there is some more stuff going on that’s worth a mention.

* The American Film Market opens tomorrow. In case you haven’t heard of AFM, it is pretty much exactly what it sounds like: an event at which foreign buyers come to pick up the rights to mostly American films in various states of production. It’s an pretty important slice of the film financing process and one big event of the year in the foreign sales departments of film companies. (I actually worked in one of those myself in another life.)

One project on offer: a new version of one of the least performed of Shakespeare’s plays and one of the few this ex-English major has never read or seen: a contemporary “Coriolanus” being directed by Ralph Fiennes and starring Gerard Butler, who could use a little Shakespearian cred. Also, a film of an obscure classical play can definitely benefit from some star power. On the other hand, the script is being credited to John Logan of “The Last Samurai.” Ah, reminds of “Romeo and Juliet” … “with additional dialogue by Sam Taylor.”

* Not only “Scream IV,”  but “Scream V” and “Scream VI,” may actually be coming, says writer Kevin Williamson.

* Desperate for some more potent Oscar bait in the wake of the demise of “Amelia,” Fox Searchlight may apparently be moving up the release of “Crazy Heart” a country-music drama starring Jeff Bridges which, Steven Zeitchik writes, is being touted as “The Wrestler” goes country music. Sounds good to me, but in some ways that movie was already made back in ’73 with Rip Torn.

Okay, Mickey Rourke‘s character was a lot nicer, but the underlying spirit isn’t all that different.

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“Where the Wild Things Are” rides atop the box office.

Where the Wild Things AreAt least this week I have some company in being a bit off the mark.  The estimated grosses for Spike Jonze and Dave Eggers’ adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” overperformed the most optimistic assessments and nailed an estimated $32.5 million. So says jolly Carl DiOrio of The Hollywood Reporter, as the significantly less jolly Nikki Finke factually reminds us that Warners chose to push the film as more of an adult picture. The decision certainly seems to have paid off.

It seems likely that the approach widened rather than narrowed the potential audience (parents with kids were likely to show up regardlesss) and added to the “cool” factor, with Cinemascore indicating that younger adults actually seem to enjoy it more than those over 25. In any case, as past somewhat deceptive campaigns I can think of attest, a certain degree of honesty in movie marketing may actually be the best policy.

Also earning more than expected is Overture’s poorly reviewed violent thriller “Law Abiding Citizen.” The macho appeal of the revenge/serial killerish premise, bolstered no doubt by the familiarity of stars Gerard Butler and  Jamie Foxx, proved fruitful with roughly $21.2-3 million estimated, depending on which sites you read.

Colm Meany, Jamie Foxx, and Gerard Butler in

In the #3 spot, “Paranormal Activity” continued to do extremely good business for Paramount with the week’s highest per-screen average ($26,530), netting an estimated $20.1-2 million on only 760 screens, still a fraction of the number of theaters showing competing flicks. As for the small discrepancies in these figures, looking at the numbers provided by Finke, DiOrio, and the Box Office Mojo chart, it sure looks like the glass-half-full DiOrio is rounding up while the glass-half-empty-and-shattered-beyond-repair Finke is rounding down.

Jason Bateman and Kristen Bell in
Though it has precisely zero appeal for yours truly and got almost uniformly bad reviews, audiences are being kind to troubled Universal Studios and Peter Billingsley, the now grown-up star of “A Christmas Story,” with his feature film debut as a director, “Couples Retreat.” The relationship comedy held well and lost a very respectable 47.7% from its opening week, earning an estimated $17.9 million in its second week. Not too surprisingly, then, the #5 spot went to the PG-13 rated horror remake, “The Stepfather,” with an estimated $12.3 million. In this climate, it might have done a bit better if it held onto the R-rating of the original. Lesson for Sony: If you’re making a horror picture, throw in a few extra f-words and maybe a c-word if you can manage it, just for safety.

On the limited release front, “An Education” had a very good weekend. The Nick Hornby-scripted period memoir adaptation from Swedish Dogme alumna Lone Sherfig, making her English-language directorial debut, earned $505,000 in 19 theaters. The Coen Brothers’ adventure in domestic Judaica,  “A Serious Man,” performed its due box office mitvot with an estimated $860,000 in 82 theaters. The #2 movie this week in terms of per-screen average after “Paranormal Activity,” however, was the critically lauded Chilean drama, “The Maid.” True, that terrific $18,000 was on only one screen, but for a satirical drama from Chile, it’s a success worth noting.

Finally, I have to demand that my brothers and sisters in L.A., Chicago, Atlanta, Philadelphia, and Seattle get down to their local theaters and see the blaxsploitation parody par excelance “Black Dynamite,” post haste. The film earned what a less jolly Carl DiOrio termed a “mild” $2,014 average on seventy screens for an estimated total of $141,000 for Sony’s Apparition films.  Not horrible, but not what a powerful brother like Mr. Dynamite (absolutely no relation to Napoleon D.) so powerfully deserves! And if I read one more blog commenter saying this movie has already “been done” via the disappointing “Undercover Brother” or the pleasantly fun, but not nearly so brilliant, “I’m Gonna Git You Sucka,” I’ll know the Man is up to his usual tricks and it’s time to take back the movie theaters!

BlackDynamiteMovieStill

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Wild paranormal law-abiding stepdads to rule box office, almost for sure

Where the Wild Things Are

If you’re craving variety and unpredictability in your movie weekend, then this weekend is for you. Still, most of the smart money seems to agree that the week’s likely fiscal winner is Spike Jonze’s new PG-rated adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s multi-layered picture book classic, “Where the Wild Things Are.”  The family film boasts an outstanding cast, both onscreen and as voice talent, including Catherine Keener, James Gandolfini, Lauren Ambrose, and Forest Whitaker. It’s also got a director synonymous with high-quality and not-quite-mainstream fare and its hep cred is further bolstered by the name of bestselling author and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers on the screenplay. Best of all, commercially speaking, it’s based on a book that’s been read and loved by practically everyone. All told, it seems like a canny blending of mainstream recognition, family appeal, and more than a dash of arthouse appeal, but therein may lie the difficulty.

This is a film that really should bit a big hit with critics, and its advertising certainly sells the film’s visual beauty — always a plus with cinephile critics. However, it turns out our David Medskar’s very mild 3/5 star review is pretty typical of the critical reaction. Rating a good-but-not-great 68% Fresh on the Rotten Tomatoes scoreboard, critics are expressing sentiments similar to Dave, who found it “lacking in terms of emotional weight.” Since emotional weight — laughter and tears, etc. — not arresting filmmaking technique — is what most people are looking for at the movies, you have to wonder about whether the film will show any legs over the long term. Still, jolly Carl DiOrio’s prediction of a $25-30 million dollar weekend seems more than reasonable given the audience’s voracious appetite for strong family films with cross-generational appeal. On the other hand, Disney’s decision to extend the run of the 3-D double bill of “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2″ could cut into the “Wild” numbers just a bit with a terrific package of tried-and-true family fair bolstered by the appeal of 3-D.

Gerard Butler and Jamey Foxx in
For some decidedly non-kid-friendly fair, Director F. Gary Gray and writer Kurt Wimmer’s “Law Abiding Citizen” boasts two more or less A-list leads as Jamie Foxx portrays as a careerist D.A. pitted against against tragedy stricken family man turned imprisoned vigilante serial killer played by Gerard Butler. I think Butler has starred in like 200 million mainstream movies this year. None of those movies has been a hit with the critics so far, and “Citizen” is no exception.

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Holdovers nail Labor Day audiences

final_destination4_7

Sorry, I couldn’t not use the image above, since it graphically demonstrates what happens when the studios release a trio of unexciting-to-detested entries into a Labor Day market full of strong, and strongly violent, competition. It starts with this week’s b.o. winner. It might not be anything resembling a critical darling, but “The Final Destination” boasts the power of gimmicky horror added to the additional gimmick of 3-D, offering some pretty easy to sell ghoulish fun to audiences, who bought it to tune of an estimated $15.4 million over the long weekend.

Brad Pitt contemplates his masterpiece.And this year’s cinephile sensation is also a hit with audiences. “Inglourious Basterds” held beautifully in its third weekend and only came in a few points below its “Final” competition with an estimated $15.1 million. Word of mouth, or tweet, or whatever is obviously working in the long-awaited WWII-flick’s favor — as may be the fact that every film geek in the world is probably going to see it at least twice, if not thrice.

Variety‘s Pamela McClintock also reports that “Basterds” actually won the day on Sunday. She also mentions that with a domestic “cume” of $95.2 million, the wartime fantasia is now Tarantino’s second biggest earner after “Pulp Fiction,” which made just below $108 million back in 1994. Adjusted for inflation, that number may still be hard — though not impossible — to beat. Not adjusted for inflation is looking easier all the time to me. When you consider the near absolute certainty of at least two or three Oscar nominations (quite possibly several more at this point), I’m not sure when this thing stops earning signficant money. Also, THR reports “Basterds” topping the international charts in a slow overseas weekend.

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