I saw two movies over the weekend. One new in theaters, the other recent on DVD.
I was underwhelmed with Olympus Has Fallen. It had been described it to me as “dumb fun.” I agree, it is semi-fun, in the vein of Air Force One or Die Hard. But -- there's far more emphasis on the “dumb” than I care for. And far too much of an assault on my senses. Some of that might fall on the writing, but this kind of movie will always have some stretches of credibility, and you accept them, to a degree, and go with it. Much of the issue (for me) was, I think, directorial. It's just pounding and cold-hearted, with people getting shot in the head about every eight minutes. But also, perhaps more to the point, since "assault on the sense" is more a personal choice, depending on one's sense, the reasons this fell more on the "dumb" side of "dumb fun" for me is that, unlike Air Force One or Die Hard, it had no great, enthralling set-pieces that I’d want to watch over and over again. And that tends to be problematic for my taste. The only really notable set piece is the carnage when the terrorists take the White House. It was impressively done, but seeing it once is plenty enough for me in this lifetime. With those others, when they come on TV, I can always say, "Oh, I love this sequence when the hostages realize they can parachute out" and wait for it -- or record it and fast-forward, if need be. With Olympus Has Fallen, I'd fast-forward through the whole movie to get to when they finally blow away the bad guy.
The other movie was released last year, but I never got to it in the theater. People Like Us, starring Chris Pine (who played 'Capt. Kirk' in the Star Trek reboot) and Elizabeth Banks. I was interested for the cast and was expecting it to be okay, but dry, and found it wonderful. Smart, intelligent, dramatic and emotional sequences handled believable, and wonderfully acted all around. The screenplay was by Alex Kurtzman, Robert Orci and Jody Lambert. It's "inspired by a true story" and about an edgy guy who discovers when his estranged father dies that he has a half-sister he never knew about, and has to make a huge decision fulfilling a request in the will that could have a huge impact on his life. I don't want to say anything more. But very nicely done, with very few false steps.
By the way, if you do decide to rent this, don't confuse it with the BBC mockumentary series, also titled, People Like Us. Not that you'll be disappointed if you do. It's absolutely hilarious, and bone-dry riot, sending up TV overly-sincere documentaries looking to bring insight from people's lives. It also does something remarkable from a writing standpoint, making an off-screen narrator become a real, rounded character who develops over the series..
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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