Law Abiding Citizen (mild spoilers): when his wife and kid are murdered and the legal system fails him, a disgruntled everyman with nothing to lose spends years engineering his quasi-legal revenge. Gerrard Butler (Shut up, Butt wad), WTF are you doing man? You’re all over the place and why the fuck did your character get nude when you were arrested? The Fantastic Mr Foxx is OK, doing what he does (normal guy in a moral quandary) but his character’s role is unbelievably wonky: supposed to be a prosecutor, but does loads of detective work. The film starts off interesting – and the opening in particular is powerfully violent – the set-up is theatrically gruesome, but once Butler is in prison it turns absolutely ridiculous – and when you hear about his previous employment it’s like being slapped in the face with a big silly stick. However, it’s quite funny and enjoyable despite being so bizarrely cheesy and shockingly stupid. Deliberately 18-rated, over-the-top B-movie with an A-list cast.
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.
Butterfly on a Wheel (AKA Shattered. AKA Desperate Hours): A perfect couple with the perfect life have their world turned upside down when a madman jacks their car and forces them to obey him for 24 hours. The three main actors are all OK – but have major accent issues, Broz (doing an Irish terrorist a la ‘Blown Away’) and Butler (doing a… I’ve no idea what he was trying). The main issue is, with such a big ‘taaa daaaa’ at the end, it leaves the majority of the film with too much ambiguity and not enough plot / direction – hardly anything makes sense and every time the story advances you’re sitting there thinking ‘WTF did I just see?!!?’ In the words of comic book guy… Worst. Ending. Ever. Particularly it’s retrospective ridiculousness. The only real plus I can think of is that it’s very well shot – framing and camera movement are far more impressive than any of the story. All in, this is a stupid film which hopes that by putting all its cards on the table in the last 5 minutes, that it will save the day. A very low rent Man on Fire, Taken, Ransom scenario – and the fact that a film with big stars needs three titles is very telling.
How to Train Your Dragon [Blu Ray]: a teenage viking wants to follow in the dragon-slaying tradition of his tribe, but comes up with an unorthodox plan when he doesn’t have the heart to kill one. As the story plays out it’s clearly well-written, with lots of details and nice touches – the father/Son angle in particular is very well-played, and the swash-buckling finale delivers more than your standard Statham flick. The voice cast is amazing, star-studded and everyone’s distinct – despite every Viking speaking in a ‘krrrayy-zzeee’ Scottish accent – annoyingly the whiny voice of main character is one of the weaker performances. The BD picture detail is jaw-dropping: barnacles, hair, fur, water will drop your jaw, and the colours are extremely vivid and vibrant – sound wise, everything from explosions to ambience punches through – no questions, it’s a must-own Blu Ray. You’d like to think that a film as solid as this would have been a warning shot at Pixar, but being followed by Megamind and a bunch of sequels/spin-offs it feels like more of a fluke – which is disappointing, as it showed progress for DreamWorks Animation. Pitching to both children and adults How to Train Your Dragon makes for a great kids film, but will also entertain the big kids!
Rock ‘n’ Rolla [Blu Ray]: Guy Ritchie introduces another bunch of dodgy geezers that you would find in ‘everyday Britain’… honestly! There’s a huge section of Basil exposition at the start; although goes with the territory of having 20 storylines and around 400 characters. There’s more narration by a LANDAN GEEZA – and the script’s full of more cockney slang / gangster limericks; I wouldn’t blame non-Brits for requiring subtitles. (Ewe go’ mo’ feet on thu street van coppas on thu beat – etc). There’s more Tarantino-esqué styling with wipes, swipes, fast cut editing, dialogue in boxes. There’s more people acting trivially when surrounded by or cut between senseless violence – which is becoming old hat. There’s also more dark comedy elements, which are quite good: a homosexual sub-plot, S&M, botched robbery, comparing scars, indestructible Russians… Where this succeeds is the stunning Brit cast; Hardy, Strong, Elba, ‘Superhands’, Butler, Kebbell, and Newton. The Blu Ray’s worth the extra pennies, with a slick picture and some tasty HD-audio. If you can’t tell from the above, Rock ‘n’ Rolla is more of the same ol’ Guy Ritchie tricks, although it’s all totally passable, and in the end, quite entertaining & watchable. It was planned to be the first of three films and – surprisingly – I’d like to see the other two.
Gamer: (Blu Ray) it is the future (!) and computer games have reached the next level with humans controlling prisoners in a live PPV bloodsport called Slayers. The film opens with such a WTF battle – guns, explosions, slow mo, blood and teabagging. More generally the action’s scenes feel totally anarchic – good for conveying confusion, bad for having any idea of what’s going on. It takes sci-fi to the next level of ridiculousness with 1980s pseudo science; Butler being mind-controled in a game by some Justin Bieber lookalike through a fake brains… So many parts of the film reek of “This scene / character would be totally LOL” – let’s have the fattest, ugliest, stereotype computer geek – LOL; let’s have butler get drunk, then piss and puke – LOL; let’s get a rapper in it, LOL; Dexter as a baddie would be so LOL… by the end it’s trying way too hard, especially that ridiculous dance number. The story’s a carbon copy of films like Running Man / Condemned / Death Race – and it has a vibe somewhere between cyberpunk and goth S&M freaks The BD picture’s very good throughout (camerawork and cinematography are great) but the soundtrack is on a whole other level – much like War this works the entire system… would be a great demo, if your shop was for over 18s. All-in, Gamer’s a pretty broad genre-spanning punky type film that doesn’t taking itself too seriously. There’s a good punt at a story, and enough action to keep everyone interested. I got the feeling that Gamer was just a really fun project for the people involved to be working on. Made by video gamers for gamers, while stereotyping their culture and the media… bizarre.