Thursday, October 03, 2013

Olympus Has Fallen and It Can't Get Up

OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN: So some North Korean bad guys want some prisoners released, so they manage to put together a cargo plane equipped with enough weapons (defensive and offensive) to fend off fighter jets and surface-to-air missiles (!) and launch an attack on Washington D.C. and the White House. Meanwhile, semi-disgraced secret service agent Mike Banning (great hero name! Wasn't he the tough guy on Jonny Quest?), played by Gerard Butler, winds up being the last man standing inside the White House after the really suicidal terrorists manage to capture the President and his top aides.

Look, this sort of movie is what it is. I'm a big fan of 80's style style action movies so in the immortal words of George W. Bush, "bring it on!" But a couple of things:

First, this movie is amazingly blood-thirsty.  The filmmakers wanted to make the attack feel dangerous and visceral, so when the magical Korean gunship bears down on the Washington monument and opens fire, tourists and guards and hapless acres of sod are blown apart in an orgy of CGI blood spurts and dust pops.  That's followed by a ground assault where dozens of secret service agents (and bad guys) are blasted. This is not the "war is heck" version of a White House takeover. 

Second, as much as I love old style action movies, I find myself more fascinating post-viewing by contemplating the logistics involved.  There's an entire movie in showing these North Korean bad guys recruiting a disgruntled American secret service agent, buying a cargo plane and amassing the high tech arms used in the attack.  I have no idea if the missile defense system aboard the cargo plane exists or would actually work, but the planning and devising that went into building it would be compelling.  And there's a whole 'nother movie in how the bad guys managed to insinuate themselves into the Korean delegation, gathered their suicidal forces and got them into the United States.

But watching Mike Banning kick a lot of ass is fun too... 


King V.S. Kubrick

A writer at "The New Statesman" takes umbrage at the idea that Stephen King didn't care for Stanley Kubrick's adaptation of THE SHINING.  Internet flames ensue!

Me, I find the article's stance puzzling and irritating. In an effort to defend Kubrick's vision no matter what, the writer seems to forget that King was the creator of THE SHINING and has every right not only to be unhappy with the adaptation, but to have that opinion respected.  I take particular exception with this section of the article:

Despite these criticisms flying in the face of popular opinion, King is not being deliberately contrary. In fact, his assertions prove that his connection with these particular characters have rendered him incapable of appreciating a terrific piece of cinema.

Really?  Condescend much, pal?  The guy who wrote the novel and created the characters has been rendered "incapable" of critical thought because he doesn't agree with you?

But then the truth is, I agree with Stephen King on this one.  I consider Kubrick one of the few true geniuses of film, but everybody has a misfire from time to time and for me, THE SHINING was one.  I was riveted by the book and still remember going to the theater gleefully anticipating the first real no-bullshit Stanley Kubrick horror film.  But King's right -- THE SHINING is cold and withdrawn.  Where's the amazing moment from the book where Torrance rampages through the hotel, slamming a bloody axe against the walls as he descends into total homicidal madness?  How did that become a literally ice-cold chase scene through a frozen hedge maze?

Look, even average Kubrick is better than 99% of the stuff out there, so there is much to admire and enjoy about the movie version of THE SHINING.  But accusing King of just not getting it is taking Kubrick veneration a step too far.  (Which is also the long way of saying I'm looking forward to the next film adaptation of the book!)