Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Prophecy 3: The Ascent (2000)

So we finally come to the end of the original run of "The Prophecy" series with "The Prophecy 3: The Ascent." I can't say my expectations we exceedingly high for this one, despite the intriguing ending of "The Prophecy II" and the return of Christopher Walken for his last outing as Gabriel. I guess at this point I'm just expecting a steady decrease in quality as sequels continue. That's probably a healthy attitude to have.

Were my lowered expectations required for this one? Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is that it wasn't as bad as I had feared. At the very least, it didn't make me mad while watching it. Most of the time. The bad news is that the only reason it wasn't as bad as I feared was because I was expecting something along the lines of "The Touch of Satan," only without Mike Nelson making it hilarious. So anything would have been a step up from that.

That may be a little harsh, to be perfectly honest. It's not that "The Prophecy 3" was a train-wreck, it's just that the train made an uneventful trip across the country without any major delays or problems. It arrived at it's destination on time, and nearly every passenger slept for the majority of the journey. And when they're asked by relatives waiting at the station "How was your trip?" they will say "It was fine. They had good sandwiches at the food bar." That's the level of enthusiasm I have with this thing. It's right up there with the inane small talk you're forced to make in polite company you can't swear in front of. True, the train didn't go off the rails, but at least that would have been more interesting.

Shockingly, no. Not even this bit of randomness makes for an entertaining film.

If you couldn't tell by that tenuous analogy, the problem with this film is that it was not very memorable. It's only notable for how bland it was, and the fact that I can use the word "bland" to describe a movie starring Christopher Walken is probably the biggest offense of all. And to my surprise, one of the biggest reasons for it being bland is a direct consequence of the ending of "The Prophecy II," which I was a fan of. But I'll get back to that in a bit. For now just remember that Christopher Walken is no longer a powerful angel.

The third film picks up about 18 years after the end of the second one. At the end of that film, Gabriel was turned into a human by either God or Eric Roberts (it was hard to tell), as punishment for his hubris and betrayal. In the time since then, he's learned how to drive, learned to kind of like humanity, and has learned how to grow hair like that witch in "Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves." So he's just chilling, enjoying being a human. He has also been (kind of) looking after Danyael (Dave Buzzotta), the human/angel child from the end of the second movie. His mother Valerie, the main character from the that film, has died in the time between after a seemingly random mob burned down their house, leaving her dead and him unscathed since he's impossible to kill unless you remove his heart, being half angel.

Now we find that the forces of heaven are still at war, and they once again need an ace in the hole to turn the conflict. Enter the fray Zophael (Vincent Spano), an angel who's loyalty is obviously to the side of "Kill All Humans," but whose motivations I never really got apart from "He's the bad guy." From what I gather he's attempting to resurrect Pyriel, the Angel of Genocide, who will arise to eradicate mankind. Pyriel was the angel who lead God's army against Lucifer in the first war. How Pyriel died, how he has risen, who if anyone is responsible for that, why he is now on the side of the rebel angels, why they never tried this before if he's so powerful, and why apparently only Danyael can stop him is left completely unexplained, at least for as much as I understood the plot here.

Just a couple simple questions, here, buddy. Who are you? What are you doing? How did you get here? And why is this the first I've heard of you?

So what it all boils down to is that Danyael goes to the desert to stop Pyriel, while Zophael kidnaps Danyael's girlfriend Maggie, lies to her that Pyriel's resurrection is a good thing, and gets her to give him a ride to try and stop Danyael from stopping Pyriel. So much like the other two films, "The Prophecy 3" is a chase movie featuring an angel being chauffeured around in a car out to the middle of nowhere by someone who hates their guts. Says something for consistency, I guess.

And while it was kind of a neat thing that angels in this series can't drive cars since it's just not their thing, a pretty big question I had since the first film has to be addressed at some point here: Why don't the angels fly? They have wings. I don't know where the angels hide them under their black trench coats, but I've seen them. Wouldn't flying be much faster than driving? Why is Zophael even running after Danyael when they're on foot? Danyael doesn't have wings. Zophael does. If you want to stop him, just fly and catch up to him. Whatever. Stupid nitpick, I know, but it's still irritating to me.

In the background doing essentially nothing throughout all this is Gabriel, who just drives around in his convertible. And then he stops by that diner from the first film and orders a big breakfast. At least I understood that bit, although there's probably a deleted scene somewhere with a prophecy about whether he was going to order the buttermilk or blueberry pancakes.

"And lo! it was foretold that he of Doc Brown hair and saggy face would feast upon the Grand Slam and a pot of half-caf." GEN 15:27

And finally, we reach the end of the movie. Danyael confronts Pyriel in a showdown that had the potential to be cool and visually interesting. But unfortunately it winds up seeming more like a fighting game tutorial teaching you how to do your finishing move for as one sided as it is and for as long as it lasts, while looking like the background glitched out and was just solid black. And then, because that wasn't unsatisfying enough, Danyael is literally saved by a bolt of lighting out of the sky, sent directly by God to help Danyael defeat Pyriel.


Well, if God always had the capacity to do that, then why in the name of holy crackers didn't he do that from the get-go? And you can't tell me that old "His ways are mysterious" story because that makes no sense. They say at the end of the movie that Pyriel's defeat signals the end of the war. If striking Pyriel down was always an option, why go through the whole rigamarole of thousands of years of horrible conflict and countless deaths and destruction? What an ass!

And you can't tell me that humanity had to be the ones to do it because Danyael is not fully human, and even if he was, they didn't because at the end God strikes down Pyriel anyway. I'm not even going to get too into the issue of no human soul reaching heaven before that point because of this conflict. But I'm just saying that when you consider that, according to the mythology, God went through all that trouble to send Jesus down to absolve humanity of its sins, only to have another easily fixable situation arise to throw a wrench into the whole plan, it kind of makes God look either lazy, incompetent, or like a big jerk. But that's just me.

It makes him seem less like a divine creator and more like a crappy roommate who never does anything. He never takes out the trash, never cleans the dishes, never buy groceries, never walks the dog, and always leaves his excess weed trimmings all over the living room table. And then one day he takes down a phone message for you in overly exacting detail and expects that to make up for the time he left a bowl of mac n' cheese in the sink for two weeks until it crusted over and attracted ants.

"Dude, come on. I left a post-it note on the fridge. You're welcome, by the way. Hey, could you give me a ride to and from work tomorrow? They got me working the night shift. I need to be there at 3 AM. Thanks, bro. You can pick me up at 10."

That's always been my biggest issue with this series. The story makes absolutely no sense, and I seldom follow the plot while watching it. It's only afterwards when I hop on Wikipedia and read the synopsis that I say to myself "Is THAT what was going on here? Dang, religion makes stuff dumb and confusing." I say that without trying to be offensive to anyone, but you can't argue that the insane amount of contradictions, self-fulfilling prophecies and nonsense explained with the catch-all "God is mysterious" excuse does not make for a very cohesive narrative. This is doubly so when one does something stupid like apply logic to something that is by its very nature illogical.

At this point I'd like to return, finally, to what I was saying earlier about what I felt was the biggest issue with "The Prophecy 3," which was what they did with Christopher Walken's character. The worst offense this movie did was to take Gabriel's powers away and make him a good guy. It's not until you've seen a movie in this series without the madcap antics of crazy, evil Walken that you realize how important that is to the entertainment value of these films. Let's be honest, these were never fantastic movies, but the character of Gabriel was such a memorable badass that he made the first films worth watching by himself alone.

Now what do we have? Gabriel has been relegated to being a side character who doesn't do anything because he can't do anything. He can't even offer assistance in a fight apart from running into someone with his car, which he does, but after that he immediately gets his ass handed to him by Zophael, who doesn't kill him for the sole reason that he's so pathetic that it's not worth either his time or energy. And Gabriel just sits there and smiles like he's managed to accomplish something by becoming meeker than Zophael when he used to be the Angel of Death.

Oh yeah. Serene and contemplative. That's how I like my Christopher Walken. I also like to garnish my pizza with a single saltine cracker.

It's not that Gabriel's redemption is a bad character arc, because it's not. It's just not something I'm interested in seeing in this film. Or at least they way it was done here. Had I been in charge of the script I would have kept Gabriel human, but he'd still be attempting to eradicate humanity by resurrecting Pyriel. Had he been the villain instead of Zophael the plot could have been nearly the same, and his redemption could have been slowly building throughout until the end, when he could fully realize the error of his ways. That way his character development could have actually been seen during the film as opposed to off screen between movies.

Honestly there wasn't a good thing I can say about anyone else in the cast, either. Christopher Walken is wasted, Dave Buzzotta is a poor man's Edward Furlong, and Vincent Spano does his best to come off like Gael Garcia Bernal, but again it's just not working that well. Although Spano isn't honestly that bad, especially when he is forced to act next to the worst actor in the film, Kayren Butler as Danyael's girlfriend. She reminded me a bit of Shannon from "Lost," only with less talent than even Maggie Grace and the bizarre ability to seemingly teleport in and out of scenes at random due to the power of bad script writing and confusing editing.

And by the way, any movie that casts Brad Dourif as a crazy person and kills him off after 5 minutes and about 3 lines can officially kiss my ass. I don't care if there's a scene later where a dude licks his corpse's eyeball. If Brad can't react to it, I'm not interested.

Danyael is the only 32 year old 18 year old in the world.

Oh, and Moriah 'Shining Dove' Snyder is back as Mary. She's a bit more grown up now. She still isn't a good actress, but she's only in it for 25 seconds. She has a little speech that barely has any context to anything we've been seeing, doesn't do a damn thing, and basically wastes our time. But hey, this thing is only like 80 minutes long already. I guess something had to pad it out. I'm sure she wasn't doing anything else as these movies have been pretty much the only thing she's ever been in.

And who in the blue hell ascended in this movie subtitled "The Ascent?" It wasn't Danyael, because he's still on Earth. It wasn't Pyriel because his ascent was stopped cold. Was it Gabriel?  I guess that makes sense, but that seems an odd choice because he's not even the main character, or even that important to the story. And his ascent and forgiveness is only the last 20 seconds of the movie. Seems an odd thing to subtitle your movie after. That'd be like calling it "Star Wars Episode IV: Luke Gets a Medal."

Of course the real answer is that it's a cool word that sounds ominous but means jack-diddly. I think that's a requirement for naming sequels in Hollywood. I still don't know why they couldn't just leave it at "The Prophecy 3." Or why they used the number 3 instead of Roman numerals considering the last movie did. Or why this is the last film in the series to be numbered at all. I guess it's really easy to tell which comes next chronologically - "The Prophecy: Uprising" or "The Prophecy: Forsaken." Come on, isn't it clearly obvious which one comes next? What are you, dense?

Does nobody put forth the slightest bit of effort with this stuff? And why am I constantly surprised by the fact that they don't?

Want to see something funny? Watch that chick attempt to act in the trailer. And then despair. She's in the whole movie.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "The Prophecy 3: The Ascent" is clearly a big step down from the sequel, which in itself was just okay. Despite some interesting imagery it never manages to become more than the same stuff we've seen before, only without the benefit of having a good cast or giving Walken fun things to do, and it's just a boring movie. Considering that the plot is nonsense anyway, I don't even know if I'd recommend watching it to finish the story, because hell if I know what just happened.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Prophecy II (1998)

For as bad of a reputation as direct-to-DVD sequels deservedly have, every once in a while one surprises me. Foremost among those diamonds in the rough include the "Tremors" sequels, all of which rule your face, and a sequel to the almost-bad-enough-to-be-awesome atrocity "Dungeons & Dragons," which was called "Dungeons & Dragons: Wrath of The Dragon God" and was surprisingly good, particularly when one considers what came before it.

"The Prophecy II" may not be as good as those, but I'd still have to put it up there as one of the more respectable horror sequels, particularly when the direct-to-DVD aspect is considered. It maintained the dark, dreary tones of the original while expanding on the story, and doing enough things differently as to make it seem like more than just a rehash of the first movie despite having a fairly similar plot. And it doesn't even look cheaper than the first movie like you might expect it to. To be perfectly honest, had you told me "The Prophecy II" had been released in theaters I would have seen no cause to doubt you. This is a decent looking film with a neat style to it, and playing it back-to-back with the first one wouldn't seem clashing in the least.

Much like the first film, "The Prophecy II" is essentially a manhunt picture. Since the joint isn't big enough for both him and Lucifer, Gabriel (Christopher Walken) is sprung from Hell and then sets out to find a women who has unwittingly become the vessel of a half-human, half-angel child, who will be the one to turn the tide of the unending war in Heaven in favor of the loyal angels. This has all been orchestrated by Michael (Eric Roberts), who is pulling strings from a distance while our main "good side" protagonist, Danyael (Russell Wong) does his thing and tries to keep her safe. For the climatic battle they end up in Eden, which has apparently been renovated into an industrial complex. And it's in the United States. Who knew?

Since Gabriel needs a helper to assist him with annoying human things like driving and using a computer, he enlists recent suicide Izzy (Brittany Murphy) by keeping her alive, because being the Angel of Death, he can do that. These are probably the most memorable bits for me of "The Prophecy II," as the chemistry between Walken and Murphy is fantastic. And despite Brittany Murphy kind of becoming a joke since she died she was a pretty good actress. I've got to admit that even though I'll always remember her as that hot redhead from "Clueless" since I grew up on that movie, had I seen this first my mind would probably go here because she was awesome.

And we get totally timeless lines from her like "You're keeping me alive because you don't know how to use DOS?" Timeless!

My favorite bit is a scene in a diner which showcases the three things this film does best: Brittany Murphy's acting, Walken being funny, and Walken being a badass. After Gabriel absconds with a cop's gun and radio (the technology of which blows his mind) and sits down with Izzy to ask her how they work, Izzy immediately grabs the gun and shoots herself. Of course this does nothing which makes her even more depressed. Walken dryly responds in his trademark Walken way, "Are we having a communication problem?" It's fantastic.

When Izzy tearfully asks him why he's doing what he's doing is when the scene turns from surrealist black comedy to awesomely badass. Much like the first film, "The Prophecy II" contains some truly phenomenal dialogue, most all of which is saved for Gabriel. When asked about the "why" of it all, Gabriel responds by softly growling, "Let's understand each other. I sang the first hymn when the stars were born. Not that long ago, I announced to a young woman, Mary, who it was she was expecting. On the other hand, I've turned rivers into blood. Kings into cripples. Cities to salt. So, I don't think that I have to explain myself to you." All of this is happening while he's putting the metaphorical screws to her by turning her hands black with decay.

 In fact, don't take my word for it. Check out the scene for yourself.

The ratio of lines of that nature to humorous ones for Walken in this film tends to be slanted a bit more towards funny, which is fine because of course he's hilarious. What's interesting to me about that is that despite Walken getting some outright guffaws out of me, "The Prophecy II" is nowhere near a comedy. The reason for that is that Gabriel is simply a sadistic being who is having a lot of fun tormenting these "monkeys," and he's enjoying himself. So in that way the comedy almost makes it more intense, because it's illustrating how heartless Gabriel is. It's not enough to make you not laugh at it of course, but upon reflection it's a very interesting dynamic.

And you can't convince me that Walken didn't have some ad-libs that made it in the final cut. One of the lines I'm positive was off the cuff was one of the biggest laughs for me, which came during a chase scene when back-seat driver Walken irritatedly reminds Brittany Murphy "Don't hit the dog." Why Gabriel cares about a dog when he's the Angel of Death is beyond me, but it's funny. That all comes back to the reason to watch these movies - Seeing Christopher Walken having fun. It's infectious.

"Your soul tastes delicious."

There are a few short comings with the film, though. It's clear they didn't have the budget, which means there are a few moments which smack of unsatisfying. Foremost among them is when Danyael reveals that he's an angel to our female lead, Valerie (Jennifer Beals). All we see is the shadow of his wings on the wall as he unfurls them, and her gape-mouthed reaction as she sees what the movie didn't have the cash to show us. On the other hand, the scene when Gabriel rises from Hell in a parking lot is fantastically well done and looks incredible using what appears to be only practical effects. So I don't know. Maybe they blew their F/X budget on that. Priorities, I guess.

There's also an issue with the camerawork, particularly at the end. When we arrive in Eden, nearly every scene is filmed in a Dutch-angle, meaning the screen is slightly tilted to the side like you're cocking your head at 45 degrees. It's an old technique used to convey unease which dates back nearly a hundred years, but it's an easy thing to abuse for no good reason, and this movie is guilty of some overindulgence. The best uses of the Dutch angle go completely unnoticed. When you realize the film is doing it, they've probably used it too much.

"Hi, I'm Eric Roberts. Why are you tilting your head?"

And while I praised the casting, they could have done better than Russell Wong. He's not bad really, he's just a bit bland and unmemorable, particularly when he's essentially taking over for Eric Stoltz from the first film, while also being Christopher Walken's counterpart. That's a tall order to fill, and he's nowhere near as good as Stoltz or Walken.

And it's too bad Elias Koteas and Viggo Mortensen didn't reprise their roles, even though Daggett is only in it for 15 minutes and Lucifer has one line, but it still would have been nice to see some consistency. But I do have to hand it to our Daggett de jour, Bruce Abbott for two things: doing a respectable Elias Koteas impression, and looking a lot like Adrian Brody. Well done, sir.

Another issue that arises is that all the angels, good or bad, look the same. They're all beefy dudes with long hair and black trenchcoats, all of whom look like either a terrorist from "Die Hard" or Glenn Danzig. And imagine my surprise when I look at the credits and find out that Glenn Danzig was actually in the movie as one of the angels. I don't know how I was supposed to spot Glenn Danzig in a crowd of Glenn Danzig impersonators, but sure, why not. I'm just saying that Henry Rollins had better be in the next movie. At least I'll recognize the voice.

Why do I have the horrible feeling that Marilyn Manson is going to show up in "The Prophecy 5?"

Actually, come to think of it, a movie based on religious mythology which casts rockstars would be pretty awesome. I'd have David Bowie as the Devil and force him to wear his Jereth costume. Iggy Pop would be God. He still wouldn't wear a shirt. It would be glorious.

Quick, get Alice Cooper on the phone. This project would be a huge step up from "Dark Shadows."

THE BOTTOM LINE - "The Prophecy II," despite being a tad under budget, is a respectable sequel to a frankly underrated film. The ending is surprising enough to make me really curious as to what's coming next, and Christopher Walken is so damn entertaining that it would be worth watching even if everything else around him sucked, which it didn't. This is a decent flick, although I'm growing a little apprehensive as to what's coming next in the series, as this could go downhill quickly.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Prophecy (1995)

You know, if all evil creatures were as entertaining as Christopher Walken, I don't think the Forces of Darkness would be that unappealing. Just think about it. You'd probably be in a army of warriors headed by Walken, Christopher Lee, Jeremy Irons, Gary Oldman, Brad Dourif, Willem Dafoe and Vincent Price. That would be awesome. I'd sign up for the entertainment value alone. I mean, who's going to be on the side of Good? Morgen Freeman? True, it would be more soothing to the ear, but come on. The shenanigans wouldn't be nearly as fun.

"The Prophecy" is a film from 1995 with arguable "cult" status that launched a franchise that is currently at 5 films so far, with all of them but this first one being direct-to-video. I'm not sure as to the reason behind that, as it seems to me that there are far worse franchises that are still getting theatrical releases. I'm not saying this is a fantastic bunch of movies, but for the most part they are a cut above your average straight-to-DVD affair. And hey, the first 3 have Christopher Walken! What's not to like?

The plot concerns a second war in heaven between angels. Half of the angels stay loyal to God while the other half, led by the Angel of Death, Gabriel (Christopher Walken) rebel against their creator, and want to eradicate mankind. The reason for that is because they are envious of humans, who are seen as elevated over all other creatures, including angels, in God's eyes. This war has been raging for thousands of years, and because of it no mortal soul has ever yet reached Heaven.

In a bid to turn the tide of the conflict, Gabriel comes down to earth to find the darkest human soul on the planet, in the form of a recently deceased Army officer who did very, very bad things in what I'm guessing was Vietnam. The reasoning is that angels, being pure creatures, don't have it in them to be as brutal and knowledgeable in warfare as humans do, so to win the war they need a human to lead them. Of course the scenes of angels beating the feathers off each other in hand to hand combat and ripping out and then eating their enemy's heart suggests otherwise, but in context of the film it kind of works. I don't think you're supposed to think too much about it.

Before they can come to fruition, Gabriel's plans are ruined by an angel on the "good side," Simon (Eric Stoltz), who finds the soul first. Gabriel spends the rest of the movie chasing after Simon and the soul, which becomes doubly hard to find after Simon takes it and hides it in the body of a young girl in a scene that's totally not creepy at all and in no way makes me need an adult.

No, seriously dude. There has to be other ways of transferring a soul. I'm calling "bad touch."

That's all happening in the background as we are following our main character, Thomas Dagget (Elias Koteas), a cop and expert on angels who was going to be a priest before a horrific vision of the war in Heaven made him quit. Incidentally that's one of my favorite things about "The Prophecy" - the fact that Dagget's character lost his faith not because he doesn't believe, but because he knows for a fact that it's true, and he's horrified by what he has seen.

Dagget becomes involved with the whole debacle while investigating a crime scene where Simon had killed another angel. Upon seeing the very strange and medically impossible body of the dead angel and translating the angel's bible, which is the oldest in existence and contains an additional chapter in Revelations which tells of the second war in Heaven and prophesies future events, Dagget realizes what is going on and heads out to find the soul.

Elias Koteas is unsurprisingly great in the role, since he's awesome in pretty much everything he does, although it's a trip seeing him with hair, I'm not going to lie. He and Eric Stoltz add some great acting chutzpah to the movie, but the guy who pops up at the end to steal the show in whatever scene he's in is an actor who at that time was still relatively obscure - Viggo Mortensen. This was some 6 years before "Lord of The Rings," and get this - here he plays Lucifer. And it's a really good portrayal as well. He's got this cutting quietness to his delivery, as is Viggo's style, but he injects it with this fantastic, slimy evil which really pops when he sneers great lines like "God? God is love. I don't love you."

 Also, he eats someone's heart. There's that, too.

But when it all comes down to it, there's only one real reason to watch "The Prophecy": Christopher Walken. Few things in life are as fun as watching an actor like Walken having an absolute blast doing his job. He's hamming it up magnificently here, but the great thing about Walken is that even when he's being an absolute nutjob and seeming like he's on another plane of consciousness with the wackiness he's emanating, he's still capable of being really creepy and surprisingly badass.

His trademark brand of manic, wide-eyed, oddly inflectioned performance full of grand gestures and alternating higher-pitched vocal burnouts and subterranean growls is capable of inciting a lot of laughter, especially when he's given lines like "Study your math, kids. Key to the Universe." But just as often as he makes us laugh, the admittedly top-notch dialog in "The Prophecy" hits us with Walken sneering lines like "I'm an angel. I kill firstborns while their mamas watch. I turn cities into salt. I even, when I feel like it, rip the souls from little girls, and from now till kingdom come, the only thing you can count on in your existence is never understanding why."

Damn, son.

Following him around are the other two people who make "The Prophecy" come off as something of a dark comedy at times: Jerry (Adam Goldberg) and then later in the film Rachael (Amanda Plummer). They're both people who have recently died whom Gabriel brings back from the dead to drive him around and use any kind of technology, since Gabriel being an angel has no concept of how to use a car or computer or radio or anything like that. And they are not big fans of Gabriel. Both of them, but particularly Jerry snarks back to Gabriel all the time, wearily asking if he can just die and be done with it, and taking pleasure in whatever is currently causing Gabriel grief. This makes up most of the funnier parts of the film, which are honestly pretty funny. Rachael mostly just cries. She's not exactly hardcore like Honey Bunny, unfortunately.

If the characters walk into a diner in this series, it's going to be a great scene. Dead serious.

The acting isn't all great though. Moriah Shining Dove Snyder playing Mary, the little girl who is carrying the soul around inside her, isn't the worst child actor I've seen, but she's not very good. She does have her moments, particularly a scene when the soul's words are coming out of her mouth and giving a creepy monologue about cutting off heads, but for every one of those scenes we have to watch 10 minutes of her just standing there with this weird, buck-toothed, open-mouthed expression which is just annoying to look at. She reminds me of that terrible kid actor who played Danny in that horrific TV version of "The Shining," if anyone was unlucky enough to see that travesty. But she's not nearly that bad, and I guess she was better than Virgina Madsen. At least I'm remembering Moriah's performance, which is more than I can say for Virgina.

There's only a couple real issues I have with "The Prophecy." The first is that the story gets a little confusing as it winds down, and I never quite understood why it was that Lucifer ends up helping Dagget. It had something to do with Heaven becoming another Hell (which obviously is something Lucifer won't tolerate), but that aspect of the plot never really solidified for me. The other thing is that there were a couple scenes that seemed a little out of place and never followed up on again, almost like there's missing bits. The most notable one that comes to mind is a scene where Simon and Dagget meet and start talking, only to have the scene suddenly end, with Dagget never mentioning that he talked to an angel afterwards.

And what exactly happens when you kill an angel? Do they just go back home?

Does all that ruin "The Prophecy?" Naw. It just makes it a movie you're not supposed to think about all that much. But then again, that can be said for nearly any film involving angels and devils and whatnot. None of that stuff makes any sense to begin with, so why should the movies? What's important here is that "The Prophecy" is a good time - which it is.

And hey, it's a healthy dose of Walken. That's delicious and nutritious!

By seeing this image, your soul is now the property of Christopher Walken.

Man, check out that 90's cheesiness. They don't make trailers like that anymore.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "The Prophecy" is a fun time which makes for an awesome late night quasi-horror flick. The cast is top-notch and the quality of the film-making and special effects are above what one might expect from a movie of this genre. Required viewing for Christopher Walken fans, as I consider it to be one of his most memorable performances.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Evil Dead 2 (1987)

I got exposed to a lot of great films when I went to college. I had always been a fan of movies, but it really wasn't until then that I found some of the weirder stuff that became some of my favorites. Every once in a while me and my friends would pile onto a couch and watch whatever we happened to come across, and it was on one of those occasions that I was first exposed to "The Evil Dead."

It was a good night. Me and my buddy Joel decided that the group of us should have a zombie movie marathon, and so he went out to the local video rental store and hit up the cheap older movie rack, bringing back the original "Night of The Living Dead," the original "Dawn of The Dead" and finally came "Evil Dead 2," which isn't actually a zombie movie, but he hadn't known that at the time.

At that point I hadn't seen any of those films. Needless to say, it was a fun and eye-opening experience, what with the creepy, cold seriousness of "Night of The Living Dead" setting the mood and the intestine-pulling gore of "Dawn of The Dead" going balls-out and raising the bar for disgust. But the real show-stealer was "Evil Dead 2" - a film that is both horrific, hilarious and badass all at the same time, and was unlike anything I had ever seen before.

"Evil Dead 2" quickly became one of my favorite movies. The experience of it, and I would indeed call it an experience, is only enhanced if you're surrounded by friends all looking for a goofy, bloody, borderline disgusting good time. There were cheers, shouts, laughs, and too many high fives to recall on that couch during our first dealing with Ash and the Deadites. It was a fantastic time.

We rewound "Swallow this" at least 12 times. It's arguably the most awesome thing ever recorded.

For those of you uninitiated, "Evil Dead 2" is the 1987 remake/sequel to "The Evil Dead," a 1981 film by aspiring director Sam Raimi, starring future B-movie god Bruce Campbell. It's about a group of people out in a cabin in the woods who become the victims of an evil spirit released by an ancient flesh-bound book called The Necronomicon. The spirit possesses the characters and makes them turn on each other with sadistic and bloody results. Both films have essentially the same plot, but "Evil Dead 2" does enough different things to make it obvious that it's more than just a remake.

You could go online and find nerd-wars that rage for days about whether or not "Evil Dead 2" is a sequel or a remake, but the general accepted conscious is that the first 10 minutes or so is a heavily condensed remake, continuing past the point where the first film ended after the main character Ash (Bruce Campbell) gets attacked and presumably killed by the unseen evil spirit. "Evil Dead 2" then continues the story past that point, showing that Ash wasn't killed, but was possessed by the spirit, which is fighting for control of his body and mind.

What most people will initially notice about "Evil Dead 2" is that it's a pretty raw film. This is not polished. This is not crisp. This is not pretty looking. The effects aren't even good to be perfectly honest. It looks like it was made for about $500, which may seem like nothing until you recall that the first "Evil Dead" looked like it had been shot for roughly $13.75, so it's a notable step up.

Still looks better to me than "Avatar," though. Just saying.

But that also is a significant factor in it's charm. For as whacky, gross and occasionally disturbing as it is, I can't see anyone watching it without a smile on their face. It's like a puppy that pukes on the floor and eats it. While you're cleaning up the whole affair it may be gross, but then it'll walk up to you with a big toy in its mouth, tail slowly wagging as it looks up at you with those big eyes and you just have to melt and say "D'aaaw."

One of the things I like most is the pacing, particularly in the first half. A good chunk of that time is spent with Ash in the cabin as he battles not only the reanimated corpse of his girlfriend he was forced to behead with a shovel when she became possessed (hey it happens), but also his own severed hand which is still trying to kill him after he cut it off with a chainsaw (hey it happens). Throughout all this insanity we watch Ash spiral ever-downward into a realm of madness. By the time the other characters arrive to ground the movie in some minor form of sanity, it has devolved into something like a "Tom & Jerry" cartoon if it was written by Pinhead and directed by Moe Howard.

I'm waiting for Bugs Bunny to show up after making a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

This part is also arguably the most fun the movie gets. When it's Bruce Campbell by himself doing his own thing and acting alternatively badass and pathetic, there's just something so ingratiating about the whole affair. Foremost among the reasons why is because at that point in the movie, "Evil Dead 2" is a comedy. I can't recall a film so expertly and seamlessly switching between horror and comedy as well as this film does. It's the blueprint for how every film of that genre should be, because it's flawless in that regard. It starts off scary, slowly taking that slow left turn into comedy as Bruce goes more and more crazy and does his admittedly impressive slapstick routine until it's practically "Looney Toons," only to take a radical and jarring shift back into horror once the rest of the fresh meat, er, cast arrives.

I think that's the reason the comedy/horror pairing works so well in "Evil Dead 2" - the comedy is mostly relegated to the parts where Ash is going nuts by himself, and it's easy to argue that most everything we're seeing at that point is actually inside his head. That keeps the comedy separate from the horror, perhaps on a subconscious level, but it's separate none the less because it's easy to imagine it not actually happening. That's what makes it so natural when the tone shifts back to horror, because it's like we never left.

I must admit to preferring that first act in a lot of ways. Although I love the last act of the movie where Ash straps a chainsaw to the stump of his hand and grabs a shotgun to become a total badass, you have to get past the second act of "Evil Dead 2," and I'm not as big of a fan of that bit. It's not so much that it's bad, but I really don't like the supporting cast of this film, and the second act is when we see the most of them as they get picked off one by one. And that's admittedly satisfying, but we still have to watch them before they die.

This is why you don't cast your friends in your movie. Unless you're friends with Bruce Campbell.

Dan Hicks as Jake, the overall-clad hillbilly is probably the most tolerable one, although he is slightly grating and unsurprisingly tends to be one of the more stupid characters. But I've got to give credit to him for having some pretty great lines, which Hicks delivers superbly well. I'm particularly fond of him replying "Hell no. You're the curious one." to the order that everybody go into a spooky dark room together to investigate something terrifying. His far-too-hot-for-his-ass girlfriend Bobbie Joe, played by Kassie Wesley isn't too bad, but she does come off as trying a bit too hard to be tough, until stuff gets crazy and she loses it worse than anyone else. That's actually a pretty good character arc, but she could have been played a bit better.

Richard Domeier as the Fred from "Scooby Doo" stand-in Ed didn't have enough screen time to be particularly irritating as he's the first to get taken out, but he's paired up with the absolute worst of the bunch, Sarah Berry as Annie. I can't stand this chick, either her or her character. Annie would be annoying no matter who played her but Sarah Berry is simply a horrible actress. Her mechanical, uninterested screaming and dead-pan delivery of lines are one step up from either porn-level acting or Jessica Alba. Take your pick. One is slightly better than the other but I'm leaving it to you to decide which.

It's fitting that the only other movie she was in was "C.H.U.D. II."

All of this is made more evident by the presence of our main character. Of course it goes without saying that Bruce Campbell is amazing in this movie. Ash is a fantastic character, being very flawed and very relatable despite fighting demons and having a chainsaw for a hand by the end of it, and Campbell plays him as nobody else possibly could have done. Regretfully Bruce isn't going to win any Oscars, but in terms of what he does, he's a master. The pure majesty with which he balances goofy, hammy, dead-pan and badass is stuff of B-movie legend. There's a reason why he's a cult movie idol, and there's a reason why the image of Ash Williams is known even to people who have never seen the "Evil Dead" movies.

I remember seeing this as a kid. Fast forward some 15 years later as I'm watching "Evil Dead 2" for the first time, synapses in my brain start firing and I say "Is THAT what they were spoofing in that episode of "Reboot?" That's awesome!"

I mentioned before how good the comedy aspect of "Evil Dead 2" is, but I most admit also that when it's trying to be scary, it's pretty damn scary. At least it was for me under certain circumstances. I laughed my ass off at it the first time while watching it with friends, but a few months later when I watched it again by myself in the middle of the night in a dark basement, it was pretty intense. The skill with which the atmosphere is crafted tends to be lost on us at times, what with all the fun we're having, but I defy anyone to watch the scene when Henrietta first appears and tell me that's not creepy as hell.

True story - I can do a spot on "Someone's in my fruit cellar!" impression. I had a girlfriend who would get super freaked out by it. She hated it. It was awesome.

I think the reason this movie, and indeed the "Evil Dead" series as a whole has stood the test of time and become a legendary series, not only among cult movie affectionados but also horror movie fans in general, is that this is a film that is first and foremost a good time. It's not trying to horrify you or disgust you or make you sick to your stomach. We're just here for the fun. When throwing it in it's not difficult to imagine Bruce Campbell sitting at a piano, casually plunking out a melody as he says to you:

"Hey kid. How the hell are ya? Pull up a seat. Take a load off. I mixed you up a gin and tonic. Splash of Sprite, right? I know how you like it. Anyways, listen up. We're gonna have a good time tonight, you got me? Not gonna take this too seriously. Not gonna freak you out. A little weird, maybe but hey! That's just part of the beauty of life, am I right? Just a groovy time, baby. You feel me? Now, for my first number, I'd like to play something from my debut album. It's called "We Just Cut Up Our Girlfriend With A Chainsaw."

::Dm7:: "Ooooooh Linda..."
::Ddim:: "You were so very lovely..."
::C7M:: "Till I haaaaaaaad to decapitate you..."
::Jazzy run:: "Using a shovel..."

And that's why the "Evil Dead" movies have always been fun. They've always stuck to that philosophy. Right?

Check out the trailer for "Evil Dead 2" It's cheesy!

THE BOTTOM LINE - I love "Evil Dead 2." Few movies can put a smile on my face like it. Perhaps "Army of Darkness" is funnier and "Evil Dead" is more scary, but "Evil Dead 2" walks the tightrope between the two genres the best, and so it's my favorite of the franchise. And it introduced me to the awesomeness that is Bruce Campbell, so it will always hold a special place in my heart. It's a weird time, to be sure, and perhaps it's an acquired taste, but if you've never seen it you're missing out.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

I'm getting really sick and tired of all this crap. I'm getting so weary of never liking anything I'm supposed to think is amazing, that everyone tells me is amazing, that the consciousness says is amazing, and that the Academy Awards decides is amazing. I'm sick of it. I'm done, son. This was the last straw. From now on I don't care what the Tomatometer says - if it's rated at 90% or above, I'm just going to go ahead and assume it's not going to be very good.

What else am I supposed to think when a boring piece of clap-trap like "Zero Dark Thirty" gets a 93% while awesome movies like "The Last Stand" got a measly 59%,  "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" got 65%, and "Django Unchained," one of the best movies I've seen in years, is at an 88%?

Are you kidding me with this? Really, everyone? "Zero Dark Thirty" was rated better than "Django Unchained?" I'm not saying an 88% is something to be scoffed at, but was the fact that Quentin Tarantino makes enjoyable films such a turn-off to some of you? Or were you all so shaken in your ultra-PC, easily offended little bubbles by the dreaded "n-word" being used? Maybe you could explain why you called black dudes getting tortured in "Django" to be "in poor taste" whilst calling an Arab dude getting tortured in "Zero Dark Thirty" to be "provocative" and "powerful?"

Isn't it interesting where the line is drawn?

ZD30 is a plodding, self-fellatiating exercise in testing the limits of how far the audience is willing to blindly accept the notion that everything Kathryn Bigelow makes is fantastic, simply because that's what they've been told. All it has going for it is the fact that it's about terrorism, it shows waterboarding, and it attempts to paint both sides with multiple shades of grey. But the terrorism aspect is barely seen, the waterboarding lasts about a minute, and while it tries to be morally ambiguous it's clearly just as much American chest-thumping as any random Michael Bay movie is. Oh, and it's over two and a half hours. Because that was necessary.

Am I saying that "Zero Dark Thirty" is a bad film or that Kathryn Bigelow is a bad director? Well no, it's not techincally a "bad film," I am saying that it's boring and that she's severely overrated. Take that for what it's worth, and if you enjoyed this or "The Hurt Locker," then by all means don't allow me to detract from the entertainment you get from either film, since you're clearly in the camp that finds her work sublime. I just think you're all nuts because I found both films to be insufferable.

I could attempt to describe the plot of ZD30, but honestly I started blanking out pretty early on in the film in terms of what I was seeing and what anybody was talking about. I happen to be in luck, though, since the film is extraordinarily easy to sum up, because all that essentially happens is that:

1) Jessica Chastain works for the CIA. She wants to get Osama bin Laden.

2) They interrogate a metric crap-ton of Arab gentlemen in order to find bin Laden.

3) They find bin Laden. They shoot him in the face. Jessica Chastain has nothing to say. The End.

"Man, you guys. I sure am glad we're only in the last 20% of the movie, and that the previous 80% is talking. Otherwise that might have been exciting or something."

All that takes over two and a half hours. And despite its simplicity, throughout the entire affair I had little to no idea what was going on. The endless conversations which make up a vast amount of the run-time almost instantly devolve into a never-ending cycle of Arabic names that sound utterly alien to my ears, therefore making the connections impossible to follow. This of course is a problem since the whole point of the movie is to follow Jessica Chastain on her investigation, uncovering threads as they are revealed.

But how am I supposed to understand any of it when it's just a swirling cloud of names that all sound like "Abdul Al-Aldebwah," all connected to angry looking bearded men that all look identical to each other in their black and white surveillance camera mugshots, which is usually the only time we see their faces since we never actually meet any of them? I have no idea who any of these people are. And that's not limited to Arab people, either. I didn't even know who in the blue hell any of the Americans were. There were roughly 5 American characters in this movie who all looked alike, again, under their beards. These characters also acted nearly identically and liked to drift in and out of the film so often that I had no idea who I was looking at half the time.

 Ah yes. My three favorite characters: Beard, Beardy and um...Beard.

The film does such a poor job with clearly identifying characters that it dissolves into a mess of "Well that Arab dude wasn't helpful. Hey Random Bearded American #3, there's another Arab dude. Let's ask him. Oh good. That info might be useful. Make sure to tell Random Bearded American #2. Jessica, could you please stop being a bitch? We know you're upset we haven't caught bin Laden. We're working on it. You're adorable when you try to act tough, though."

That brings me to Jessica Chastain. You know, it's one thing to have to sit through a very long film you're not enjoying. It's quite another to sit through a very long film you're not enjoying with a main character you can't stand. I found Jessica Chastain's character Maya to be grating and one-dimensional, that one dimension being "obsessed with getting bin Laden." This is her one defining character trait, and the only thing we ever know about her.

And she's also kind of a bitch and swears at her boss, since that's professional. I guess that's supposed to make her a "strong female character," but seeing little Maya standing at the numerous briefings with her arms crossed, lips pursed, and eyes glaring out under furled brow came across more like a toddler holding its breath until it got to watch more cartoons. I'm not saying that for a women to be tough she has to be Briene of Tarth or anything, but with as instantly confrontational and puffed up in her bravado as Maya is while being a shallow as hell character, she comes across more like the demon fiance in any random romantic comedy who is holding back the male love interest from being with probably Katherine Heigl and will end up falling into a pool with a wedding dress on or get a cake dropped on her head or something by the end of it.

I don't care how cool her shades are. She's still boring as hell.

The only redeeming quality I found in ZD30 was the last 40 minutes or so, which shows the raid on bin Laden's compound. It's the only part of the film in which it feels like anything of substance is happening, which makes sense because it IS the only part where anything of substance happens. And to be fair, it is a very well shot and surprisingly tense scene, despite the fact that we know what's going happen. But it's less about any kind of surprise in the plot and more about watching the process with which the SEALs carry out the assault. Of course, I had no idea who any of these people were, so I felt nothing for them as characters, but hey, that's been par for the course for 2 hours leading up to it. Why start now?

Ah yes, the run time. It always seems to lead back to that, doesn't it? Here's the deal, and the last thing I'm going to say about "Zero Dark Thirty":

"The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" is 2 hours and 49 minutes. Everyone bitched and moaned and griped and whined about it being far too long, which admittedly it was. But you know what? Stuff happened in "The Hobbit." They fought goblins. And trolls. And wargs. And orcs. They flew on eagles. A ring of ultimate power and unimaginable evil was found. We saw 13 dwarves and a wizard cut their way through an army of goblins. We saw a goddamn dragon burn down a fortress built into a mountain. But no, that's "padded and overblown."

"Zero Dark Thirty" is 2 hours and 37 minutes long. That's only twelve minutes shorter than "The Hobbit." And you know what happens in that essentially identical amount of time? They water-board a guy, some car bombs go off, Jessica Chastain scowls at her boss a lot, and a bunch of Arabs get shot. We have all learned a valuable lesson. What is that lesson? F@#k if I know, but it's very important and you should give this movie Oscars. Roll credits.

How hard do you think I can type SYMBOLISM on my keyboard before it breaks something?

And by the way, what in the hell does "Zero Dark Thirty" even mean? I'm just wondering because the film never mentions it. That would have been nice.

Come to think of it, I don't care. It's probably military code for "pretentious."

Here's the trailer to "Zero Dark Thirty." Enjoy Jessica Chastain being uppity and Metallica's music actually becoming worse.

THE BOTTOM LINE - An insanely overrated piece of plodding, confusing garbage that is banking on the hope that you'll consider it a masterpiece because of who is directing it. Kathryn Bigelow has once again made a dull, full of itself snooze-fest that managed to irritate me even more than "The Hurt Locker," something I didn't think was possible. I miss "Point Break" Kathryn Bigelow.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen (2013)

Clearly the Movie Gods are reasonably appeased. In the time since the burst hemorrhoid that was "A Good Day to Die Hard" sloshed it's reeking mass through theaters a little more than a month ago, I may or may not have offered up a blood sacrifice. I'm not saying I did, but I could have. Had I done so, it would have been in exchange for their mercy and benevolence by giving us a film that could, at least in some small way, compensate for the death of one of the greatest action franchises of all time.

I'm not saying that "Olympus Has Fallen" was of the quality of the classic "Die Hard" films, but you can at least imagine in your mind that this would have been an alright one had it stared Bruce Willis. It's like the chintzy coffee mug your work may give you in exchange for cleaning the bathroom floors with your face for 15 hours on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It's not really much of anything, and far too little too late after something nightmarishly horrible but hey, it's something.

So, to whatever dark deity accepted whatever sacrifice I may have hypothetically made, I offer my thanks. Be sure to leave your business card so I can properly worship you in the future. But next time do you think you could perhaps manage to do a little bit more than remake "Air Force One?" It's just going to make me want to watch "Air Force One" again. Not "Olympus Has Fallen." Hell, you even ripped off scenes like the "shooting the secretary" bit. I feel like I'm already watching "Air Force One," but without the awesomeness of Harrison Ford.

It is more subtle, though.

I realize that it may sound like I'm coming down too harshly on "Olympus Has Fallen." I don't want to make that impression, because this isn't a particularly bad movie by any means. As far as ridiculous, patriotic chest-thumping action movies go, it was fine. I've seen it done worse, although as one could infer from the previous paragraph, I've also seen it done better. At least I've seen it done with a far more memorable villain, which counts for a lot. But that's getting ahead of ourselves.

"Olympus Has Fallen" follows Mike (Gerard Butler), a former Secret Service agent who is forced to single-handedly save the President (Aaron Eckhart) and therefore the world after the White House comes under attack by North Korean insurgents. Of course there is hostage taking, executions, frantic conference calls as generals try to get some GODDAMN ANSWERS, torn American flags flapping in the wind, nuclear missiles, some one-liners, and all the other things we except from a movie like this involved. It's all pretty by the books, which doesn't make it bad, but as one could probably tell by looking at the poster, this most certainly is a movie that feels like it belongs in the late 90's.

"Happy birthday, Mr. President..."

And as much as that may sound like a slam, 90's action movies were awesome, so there's no issue there. By all means, remind me of something staring John Travolta or Christian Slater or Nicolas Cage. I will not complain. Hell, "Olympus Has Fallen" would actually make a decent double feature with something like "Under Siege" or maybe "Broken Arrow." Hell, even "Crimson Tide" would be a nice pairing.

Once the film gets going with the ridiculous plot, which gives "Red Dawn" a run for its money in terms of "That's dumb," bullets are flying and things are exploding with such rapidity that it almost overrides the fact that none of what we're seeing makes any sense or could feasibly happen. But really, in a movie like this when it's one man against an army of terrorists, there does come a certain point when logic does have to take a back seat to entertainment. After all, that's why we invented Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Just what part of "I'm going to shoot down this jet with a pistol" is problematic to you?

The action is acceptably frantic and reasonably well-shot, although it does suffer a bit from our old friend shakycam - The bane of the modern action film. And it may have just been the theater I saw it at (I'm looking at you, Emagine Canton) but the movie also seemed exceedingly dark, making it difficult to follow, particularly when about 3/4's of the movie takes place at dusk or night in a building with the power cut. So that was fun. But I can't deny that it was action packed, and I was never bored.

But for as much as the action counts, films like "Olympus Has Fallen" really depend on the charisma of their star, and while Gerard Butler isn't fantastic, he's not bad. He's just not that great. He certainly has the badass factor down pretty solidly, but for some reason the extra oomph to push him into full blown action movie star isn't there. Butler kind of falls in a weird place for me, being that he's like Jeremy Renner without the charm or Karl Urban without the acting chops. And though even a watered-down version of Renner or Urban is still good, after a while it does become a bit noticeable. And for me, I just start wishing that either one of those guys were in the movie instead.

I can't be the only one to be annoyed by his face, can I?

In a smart move, the film surrounds Butler with some heavyweights in the acting department, including not only Aaron Eckhart and Cole Hauser but also Morgen Freeman and even freaking Robert Forster. And while they barely (if ever) have any direct contact with Butler, he's talking to them for a good chunk of the film. Unfortunately we also have Angela Bassett sitting in the same room as Freeman and Forster sucking some of the talent out, but it still works as long as she's not talking. But one wonders what they're doing when they have not only a great actress like Ashley Judd in the film for just the first 15 minutes, but also Radha Mitchell, who has a do-nothing part we barely see her in. For shame.

I only have four complaints about "Olympus Has Fallen" that really irked me enough to really stand out. Everything else was an acceptable action movie pâté which was enough to satisfy my post-"Die Hard 5" malaise. Does that sound like a good time? Then I say go for it. You could do far worse. But me being me, I gotta vent. Here goes.

The first one is an admittedly minor complaint, made even less so by the fact that I got a pretty good laugh out of it. I found Melissa Leo's character, the Secretary of Defense, to be borderline unwatchable. I think they were trying to go for a tough Hillery Clinton type (unsurprisingly) but Leo plays it with such teeth-clenched, steel-jawed machismo that it's a bit much. But it gets ridiculous after she gets the patriotic snot beat out of her by the villain, and gets dragged away to what she assumes will be her death. As this is happening she starts belting out the Pledge of Allegiance through her broken mouth at the top of her lungs. While this is obviously meant to be stirring and resolute, I couldn't help myself and had to laugh, since due to her slurred and half-conscious speaking she sounded less like a patriot bravely meeting their end and more like Calamity Jane from "Deadwood" on another one of her bourbon fueled rampages.

"AH PLESH AHLEEJANCE TO DA FWAGADA YOONITID STaate...ah HELL! I pished mahself 'gain!"

The second issue I took was that for as much as this is supposed to be an "America! Yeah!" movie, it sure does love to make our army, air force, police force, NORAD, secret service, and overall level of preparedness look really, really bad. I know the whole point of the film is that Gerard Butler is forced to save the day, but there is a serious lack of any kind of general competence going on with everyone else. During the initial attack the only thing the men guarding the White House seem willing to do is discourage the enemy by dying at them.

You know, I'm no military strategist. I'm not a genius when it comes to tactics. The best battleplan I usually manage to come up with in D&D is "The fighter hits it with his sword." I won every battle in StarCraft by building 12 of the biggest air units available and pounding the other side into the dirt from above. But were I put in a situation where I had a large, massed group of enemies advancing towards me over open ground, and I was standing outside a heavily fortified building with numerous places to hide and to take cover, I can tell you without equivocation that my first instinct would NOT be: "Stand out in the open so the enemy can clearly see and shoot you."

"Quickly men! Stop the bullets with your bodies! Forth, Eorlingas!"

I know it's a convention of the action movie, wherein the bad guys need to appear as a viable threat, but for the love of Crom, the secret service looses roughly 80% of their strength before they even think that perhaps, just maybe it might be a good idea to duck behind a pillar or something or simply GO INSIDE. It doesn't make the terrorists look scary so much as it makes the Americans look really dumb.

Speaking of dumb, there's a pretty hackneyed twist in "Olympus Has Fallen" involving Dylan McDermott's secret service agent revealing himself as a traitor who was helping the North Koreans the whole time. And like usual in these films, his reasons for doing so are never explained more than a silly little "America is bad!" speech. It's just like Xander Berkley in, again, "Air Force One." And it was stupid then, too. I've never liked the plot device of a traitor in the midst of a ridiculously selective group of elite soldiers. I can never figure out how nobody figured him out, and why he's secret service anyway when he was capable of turning heel to the point of blowing up the United States. Which is the place where he lives. It's where he keeps all his stuff.

Oh geez, look out everyone. Bobby Donnell is locked and loaded.

And lastly the villain Kang, played by Rick Yune, just wasn't up to par when it comes to baddies in movies like this. This kind of movie needs a Gary Oldman. A Christopher Walken. A Dennis Hopper. I'm not saying that Rick Yune is bad, but he's not up to the task of being an intimidating villain, at least as the character is written. He's not memorable, he doesn't actually do much, and he's not any fun to watch.
 "Nice suit. John Philips, London. I have two myself."

He doesn't say anything clever. He's not intimidating physically aside from some random kung-fu he pulls out of nowhere, and he doesn't really do anything besides beating up an older women and a dude who is cuffed at the wrists. And his big fallback plan is to hide after sacrificing the rest of his men. Norman Stansfield he is not. He's just a weaselly scumbag who isn't any fun. That's honestly the biggest problem, as I am of the firm belief that the quality of an action movie is directly proportional to how entertaining the villain is.

Don't believe me? Think back on "Die Hard" and "Die Hard With A Vengeance." Alan Rickman and Jeremy Irons were great, right? Now quick. Without checking IMDB, who was the villain in "Die Hard 2: Die Harder?" What about "Live Free or Die Hard?" How about "A Good Day to Die Hard?" What? You don't remember? Hmm. I do wonder how those movies stack up against the other two.

I rest my case.

Check out the trailer. What you see is pretty much exactly what you get.

THE BOTTOM LINE - "Olympus Has Fallen" is alright. Just alright. I've seen way worse action films, and for a hybrid of "Die Hard" meets "24" meets paranoid right-wing gun nut conspiracy theory 'MERICA! propaganda, it's serviceable. I'm just surprised it wasn't made 15 years ago. Well, it was. Several times, but you know what I mean. It's worth a rental at least, if you're feeling the urge for bloodshed.