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Olympus has Fallen Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Rick Yune, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo, Radha Mitchell, Robert Forster

Olympus Has Fallen: international terrorists have seized a building of importance, are holding the resident workers hostage, and issuing fake demands – meanwhile a wise-cracking, off-duty, security guy is taking them out one-by-one, communicating to a black guy outside. Wait, is that not identical to Die Hard?! Yes! Yes it is – there’s even a scene where a villain meets the hero and pretends to be a good guy – come awn Hollywood. Must. Try. Harder. The initial hostile takeover of the White House is a 15 minute onslaught of bullets, blood, brains, explosions, headshots, slumping bodies, flying limbs, and shaky-cam R-rated mayhem. It feels like an intense level of any FPS war game. Most of the remaining fights/deaths are gory enough to be from a Tarantino flick. The film is also ridiculously patriotic: deliberately baiting the audience by reveling in the Korean’s destruction of the Washington monument, white house, the stars and stripes, and more generally ‘freedom’. Could have saved time by simply having the Koreans piss on a M*A*S*H DVD box set. Most scenes feel like green-screen / GCI, especially when cheap-ass looking gun turrets, helicopters, explosions and the bullet-ridden american flag appear. Despite all of these downfalls the action is big, loud and above average. Butler is entertaining and there’s a lot more laughs than your typical disaster film. Given that the real North Korea are kicking up a fuss at the moment, it’s also far more relevant than the Ruskies / Chinese standard baddies. Overall, Olympus has Fallen is a fairly entertaining Red-invasion B-Movie with A-budget and A-cast, however it also happens to be wrought with scenes, characters and twists you’ve seen a hundred times before.

Score: 5/10

JSA: Joint Security Area: focuses on the investigation after a fatal shooting at the highly sensitive North/South Korean border. The police-procedural investigation element is done very well, and as the story unfolds you’re drying to find out what really happened. It also does a good job of explaining the tensions between North & South Korea and most interestingly – shows a neutral account from both sides. The two main solders are outstanding Byung-Hun / Kang-ho; I couldn’t recommend both their filmographies enough. From Park Chan Wook, this is a sensational international debut, well-shot, showing a master craftsman in the youth of his career. The final shot is phenomenal, smart and pretty unforgettable. I’m glad this was made with ‘global’ in mind, aiding its travel and success – some English dialogue and title cards etc. The sleeping on the job / army bromance goes a little too far, but other than that, the film is a great drama piece, with characters that you fully invest in. Perhaps it’s that we only get the best released in the UK, but I genuinely believe that South Korea has some of the best talent in the film industry both in front of – and behind – the camera, and this is a great example.

Score: 7.5/10

Die Another Day: A mission in North Korea is sabotaged, goes tits up, and 007 is captured! After a prisoner exchange, losing his 00 plates, and going dark James Bond is determined to find the traitor, and investigate a newfangled millionaire with a history that’s too good to be true.

Another Day... of pointing guns at things

Die another Day starts fantastically: huge hovercraft action sequence (well handled, superb choreography, definitely cool), Bond gets captured, tortured to shit, ends up looking like The Dude then gets released back to a country that turned its back on him – so he goes off the grid again. M herself says “You’re no use to anyone now”, letting us all know that even James Bond, at the end of the day, is an expendable commodity.

14 months in prison and he comes out looking like Jeff Bridges?!?

I remember that with rumours circulating of another James Bond hitting the screen in the new millennium you were genuinely uncertain as to whether Brosnan’s Bond would make it back from Korea, if he’d live long enough to go on an adventure, or simply be replaced, mid-film for the first time…

A new super-group of villains... or ABBA tribute, I can't remember.

Looking back, a mid-film replacement would have been amazing for several reasons. It would have freshened up the films and their now standardised formula. It could be used to shed some light on the identity of “James Bond”. Most importantly, it would have saved Brosnan from looking pretty awkward for a lot of the movie. As Bond, Brosnan brought a lot of sides to the character, but his key feature was undoubtedly his sophistication, suaveness and confidence no matter what he was doing. Here however, after the opening he can only play it from one angle; dark, tortured, jaded Bond – and being honest, it just doesn’t work. I can’t tell if it was solely the Broz, or the B-movie script he was given but some of the scenes were absolutely shocking – watching him try to seduce Halle at the bar is cringe-inducing. It’s a shame because he has the best actor track record – to date.

What EVERYONE in Cuba looks like... not just their leader... everyone!

As 007 follows the leads we end up in Cuba, and – as always – the exotic nation is represented accurately and with taste: apparently everyone just samba‘s their way around town, has grey Castro-beards, smokes Cuban cigars and drinks Mojitos… Once Bond’s fucked up a health club in style he heads back to London, and the blades club. The first swordfight of the film is an absolute master-class in action, with loads of nice little innovations, both actors putting their back in to it, and a gradual build up – it really is gripping stuff. So far, this film’s surprisingly fresh, with an intriguing story that we want to see through…

This scene was so good it could have been a grand finalé

Then some problems start appearing in the as soon as we pass the halfway mark because – as we all know – people in the 2000s use to get bored after 60 minutes of good storytelling, so someone in production decided to turn everything up to eleven. The film starts throwing dozens of ridiculous things at the audience… virtual reality, invisible cars, a war suit, a dream machine, switchblade mini planes, a tiny ring that breaks any glass… Then there’s an onslaught of CGI that makes the film look like a low-budget affair; buildings, waves, icebergs, ice and hundreds of explosions!!! That can’t be boring at all, right?!?! Wrong! The film makes two supercars drifting on ice, firing rockets and machine guns at each other boring. It makes two scantily clad chicks having a swordfight to the death boring. It even makes an airplane perilously breaking up and exploding in the air… boring. The aforementioned CGI doesn’t help either – looking like it’s been drawn with crayons – the old-school rear-projection would genuinely look better than this.

Whoa!! Two supercarsszzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Hale Berry’s character Jinx is pretty poor, literally waddling into the film and constantly quacking some of the most generic American lines with absolutely zero tact or timing – yo mama jokes, in a Bond film? Really? What’s the point in even having a US-UK sparring match, it’s 007, we all know he’s the best. Plotline redundant! Gustav Graves is a rubbish character, but sub-standard acting only makes him cheesier. And that’s it… nobody else really of note.

Kinky Jinxy gets stuck in her Bondage Bed - 007 has to bust her out. zzzzzz

Other unhealthy titbits are: ‘saved by the bell’, rubbish theme song (sounds like it was thrown together in an afternoon), credits that are integrated with the story (worked for me), an actual appearance by Madoga, “Sex for dinner, death for breakfast” (So good they say it twice!), and electricity manifesting itself in the form of 1980s blue lines, like it totally does in the real world.

Save christmas trees, lick wall sockets - zzzzzzzz

This film is what the word Bi-Polar was actually created to describe: the first hour is a solid, well-made classical Bond film with modern twists. The second half IS memorable but for all the wrong reasons, worst of which being the terrible CGI – my rule on this; if you can’t do it in-camera with a Bond budget, don’t bother!

Score: 4/10

Too many special effects makes this guy puke... (zzzzzzzz)

TOP TRUMPS
Villain: Bad actor – overly smug, diamond merchant. 4
Henchmem: Diamond-faced Zao – strong, smart, athletic, good match. Fiji guy – laser face. 6
Bond Girl: Hale Berry,  pretty. Fencing chick, ultra hot at the end. 7
Action: Hovercraft. Health Centre blowout, fencing/swordfight, MI6 break-in, Ice car chase, plane fight. 6

What a cool multicoloured face ma-zzzzzzzz

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